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Tsilhqot’in v. Taseko and smart litigation

December 4, 2011

West Coast Environmental Law congratulates the Tsilhqot’in First Nation on its most recent court win in its efforts to protect Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) from the development of Taseko’s Prosperity (now called “New Prosperity”) mine.  Last week lawyers for the Tsilhqot’in and Taseko tangled in court, with the Tsilhqot’in coming away with the main prize: a court order preventing Taseko’s mining exploration activities related to the “New” Prosperity mine.  Justice Grauer of the BC Supreme Court agreed with the Tsilhqot’in’s lawyers that the First Nation had not been adequately consulted before the exploration permits were granted by the BC government and that the exploration activities would impact the environment and the Tsilhqot’in’s Aboriginal rights.  The court order is good for 90 days, with the possibility of renewal, during which time the Tsilhqot’in are seeking a judicial review of the validity of the permits themselves.

In the Tsilhqot’in’s press release, Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste said:

Much good will has been wasted with this attempt to bring this terrible project back from the dead, but some of that might be restored if the Province were to end its efforts to help the company bulldoze more than 20 kilometres of new roads and drill dozens of new holes in pursuit of an option everyone knows it worse than the plan we defeated last year. The government and company need to prove, not only to the Tsilhqot’in, but to the public, that this destruction is even necessary for the EA process.  In this regard we’ll continue to stand strong and united.

Click here for the full press release

West Coast’s support for the Tsilhqot’in

We’re proud to have been supporting the Tsilhqot’in in fighting the Prosperity Mine proposals.  That support has included several blog postson the topic, but, probably more significantly, our Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (funded by the Law Foundation of British Columbia) also provided funding to the Tsilhqot’in National Government to have their lawyers:

·         Make submissions to the federal government’s panel conducting the environmental assessment of the original Prosperity Mine.  This panel issued a “scathing” report which convinced the federal government to reject the proposed project. 

·         Try to convince the federal government to refuse to initiate a new environmental assessment of the “New” Prosperity mine, on the grounds that an option which is essentially the same as the revised proposal had already been examined, and rejected, in the original environmental assessment; and

·         Initiate a legal challenge of the province’s permits for Taseko’s recent exploratory drilling.  The judicial review of these permits formed the basis of the Tsilhqot’in’s (successful) application for an injunction. 

It is gratifying that our funding has been able to help Chief Baptiste, the Xeni Gwet’in and the Tsilhqot’in Nation as a whole protect Teztan Biny and the surrounding ecosystems.

By Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer

Update - December 9th: The reasons of the Honourable Mr. Justice Grauer in granting the injunction to the Tsilhqot'in Nation are now available here