MiningWatch Canada’s private prosecution against the Mount Polley Mining Corporation and the B.C. government over the Mount Polley Mine tailings breach has had its first hiccup.
In Williams Lake Provincial Court Friday, Jan. 13, Public Service of Canada prosecutor Alexander Clarkson said the Crown intended to enter a stay of proceedings.
However, after an in-camera session with Clarkson and MiningWatch Canada’s program co-ordinator Ugo LaPointe and lawyer Lilina Lysenko, Judge Karen Whonnock adjourned the case.
Both sides will now fix a date to come back to court and argue whether or not MiningWatch Canada should be allowed to present its evidence or not, LaPointe said.
Last October, MiningWatch filed the private prosecution, saying there is evidence of damage to fish habitat and violations of the Canadian Fisheries Act because of the Aug. 2014 tailings impoundment breach that warrant criminal charges.
Outside the courtroom LaPointe said he was disappointed the federal Crown wanted to stay the charges, but with the adjournment felt hopeful that MiningWatch still had a chance to pursue the private prosecution.
“It would be a lack of due process to not even have the chance to present our evidence in court and let the court decide if we have enough evidence, not the Crown,” LaPointe said.
Clarkson said the Crown wanted to stay the proceedings for two reasons.
“The first reason is because there’s no reasonable prospect of conviction against these two parties with the materials presented to us by the complainant Mr. Lapointe,” Clarkson said. “The second reason is because it is not in the public’s interest to continue a private prosecution at this time because there is an ongoing comprehensive investigation being conducted by three different agencies — the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, Environment Canada and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It is in the public interest that more comprehensive investigation be completed before a criminal prosecution.”
When asked how long the investigation is allowed to take, Clarkson said some offences have a three-year limitation, but the most serious environmental offences, including those under the federal fisheries act, do not have such a limitation.
Here local supporters from Kamloops, Williams Lake, Quesnel and Quesnel Lake, stand with MiningWatch Canada program co-ordinator Ugo LaPointe (third from right) outside the courts building in Williams Lake.