Wilderness Committee to appear in court to answer Taseko's defamation charge
Courthouse gathering to show support for the right to comment without fear of prosecution.
VANCOUVER - The Wilderness Committee will appear in court starting today to defend against a defamation suit brought by Taseko Mines Ltd.
The lawsuit stems from comments made by the Wilderness Committee in 2012, during a public comment period for Taseko's proposed New Prosperity Mine.
The mine proposal, which risked harming Fish Lake ("Teztan Biny"), has since been turned down by the Government of Canada because of unacceptable risks to the environment and Aboriginal rights. The defamation hearing is expected to continue for two weeks.
"We say that this court action by Taseko Mines is meant to put a chill on public opposition. Like many others, we want to see the Fish Lake area protected and the company's mine plans abandoned forever," said Joe Foy, National Campaign Director for the Wilderness Committee.
"Lawsuits like these eat away at the very foundations of democracy and free speech, which form the basis of our society. We intend to stand our ground," said Foy.
There in support of the Wilderness Committee at the courthouse gathering will be Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
"The fight to protect Teztan Biny is not just about a mine, it's about upholding First Nations' title and rights. Taseko's proposed mine is within Tsilhqot'in territory and the UBCIC fully supports the Tsilhqot'in Nation Government's great opposition to it," said Grand Chief Phillip.
"The stated positions of First Nations and the carefully considered opinions of environmental groups like the Wilderness Committee are vital, and should never be allowed to be smothered by deliberate legal intimidation," he said.
Devon Page, Executive Director of Ecojustice, will also attend the gathering.
"All voices need to be heard in the continuing debate about environmental protection in this province," said Page.
"Using the court to stifle public discussion does not result in better government decision-making and it certainly doesn't result in better outcomes for the environment or for the people of British Columbia," he said.
Councillor Marilyn Baptiste of the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation will join the gathering by phone.
"A SLAPP suit against our friends at the Wilderness Committee is atrocious. The Wilderness Committee has shown longstanding support for the Tsilhqot'in and we stand in solidarity with them now," said Councillor Baptiste.
"The Tsilhqot'in opposition to both Prosperity Mine proposals was voiced by Elders, youth and leaders, and experts agreed in both CEAA panel reviews. Our voices echo this position every day at the thought of anyone destroying our wild rainbow trout or grizzly bear habitat and not considering our future generations and our Aboriginal rights and title," she said.
Supporters of the Wilderness Committee's right to freely comment about matters that impact the environment will gather at the Nelson entrance to the Vancouver courthouse at 8:30 a.m.
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For Immediate Release - January 19, 2015
For more information, please contact:
Joe Foy | National Campaign Director, Wilderness Committee
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip | President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Devon Page | Executive Director, Ecojustice
Marilyn Baptiste | Nits'il?in Yaz/Councillor, Xeni Gwet'in First Nations Government
Notice of Civil Claim filed by Taseko Mines Ltd. [https://www.wildernesscommittee.org/sites/all/files/publications/2012%2003%2001%20Notice%20of%20Civil%20Claim%20taseko-files_20120301.pdf]
Response to Civil Claim filed by the Wilderness Committee [https://www.wildernesscommittee.org/sites/all/files/publications/Response%20to%20Civil%20Claim.pdf]
The Wilderness Committee is Canada's largest membership-based, citizen-funded wilderness preservation organization. We work for the preservation of Canadian and international wilderness through research and grassroots education. The Wilderness Committee works on the ground to achieve ecologically sustainable communities.
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