Red Chris Mine- First Nations win round 1 with Imperial Metals in court

Red Chris Mine: First Nations win round 1 with Imperial Metals in court

Red Chris Mine- First Nations win round 1 with Imperial Metals in court
Tahltan and Secwepemc First Nations and supporters celebrate at the BC Supreme Court (contributed)

BC First Nations added a small but potentially significant notch to their legal winning streak yesterday, with a temporary victory over Imperial Metals in BC Supreme Court.

The company was seeking an interlocutory injunction and enforcement order enabling it to have Tahltan Nation protesters immediately, forcibly removed from a blockade of Red Chris Mine – Imperial’s lastest venture, in northwest BC’s Sacred Headwaters.

Red Chris Mine
Red Chris Mine under construction (Unuk River Post)

After hearing from the company’s lawyers and three First Nations women from the Tahltan and Secwepemc Nations, Justice Grauer refused to issue the injunction and enforcement order Imperial was seeking – instead issuing a non-permanent injunction, without the accompanying enforcement order. This means the blockade will likely remain in place until at least October 14, giving the defendants more time to respond to the temporary injunction.

The judge also agreed to a change of venue to Terrace court, allowing Tahltan elders from the region to participate in future proceedings.

Klabona Keepers’ successful track record

Red Chris mine was due to open in September but faces lingering concerns over its tailings pond design. In the wake of the company’s disaster at Mount Polley mine in the Cariboo region – the largest tailings spill history – a group of Tahltan First Nations began applying renewed pressure on Imperial. Known as the Klabona Keepers, the grassroots organization has a highly successful track record of blocking unwanted development in the Sacred Headwaters – including Shell’s planned coalbed methane development and Fortune Minerals’ proposed anthracite coal mine.

Injunctions take a hit

Yet despite this history and the legal strength of First Nations, injunctions have become a commonplace tool for corporations to remove protestors and are rarely refused or watered down by the courts – so Justice Grauer’s ruling is a significant, if small departure from this pattern.

Said the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade’s Arthur Manuel on the verdict:

[quote]Injunctions are one of Canada’s last colonial instruments used to dispossess Indigenous Peoples of their land but pressure from the grassroots community is causing the colonial government to retreat. Today’s decision puts the injunction in question as being a sure form of remedy for corporations like Imperial Metals acting with impunity and without consent.[/quote]

First Nations take on Imperial together

Kanahus Manuel
Kanahus Manuel addressing reporters

Manuel’s daughter Kanahus has been instrumental in confronting Imperial Metals over the environmental devastation of her traditional Secwepemc territory from the Mount Polley spill. She and other community members and supporters started a sacred fire and water monitoring program in the area and quickly offered their support to the Klabona Keepers in challenging the company’s tailings dam design at Red Chris.

This concern is shared by others, including US-Canadian conservation group Rivers Without Borders. In a recent op-ed in these pages, RWB’s Tadzio Richards noted:

[quote]In 2013, a third party review was done of Imperial Metals’ engineering designs for their tailings pond at Red Chris. The independent review concluded there was no guarantee that Imperial Metal’s tailings pond would hold toxic wastewater from the mine. Despite this conclusion, construction at Red Chris has been allowed to continue, and the mine is currently scheduled to open in September of this year.[/quote]

Soon after writing this, the Klabona Keepers instituted an initial protest against Red Chris – stalling the mine’s opening. They backed down temporarily once Imperial offered the Tahltan increased oversight over the mine’s tailings pond design. But losing confidence in the new arrangement, the Klabona Keepers erected a new blockade on Sept. 29.

“An incredible victory”

On October 3, Imperial filed initial documents announcing injunction proceedings for 10 AM yesterday.

“The defendants, through their physical blockade and their conduct, are interfering with Red Chris’s use and enjoyment of property,” the filing claimed.

 Yet Justice Grauer clearly didn’t feel the blockade needed to be removed with the same urgency Imperial had sought.

Said the Klabona Keepers in a statement following yesterday’s ruling:

[quote]Ultimately, this is an incredible victory – not only for the Klabona Keepers, but for all Indigenous Nations connected by the water and the salmon. [/quote]


About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

13 thoughts on “Red Chris Mine: First Nations win round 1 with Imperial Metals in court

  1. We aren’t being kept informed about the Mount Polley mess, to the point it almost looks like a deliberate cover-up. Why run the risk of a repeat at Red Chris, their tailings pond is a copy of the one which failed…I understand your frustration, Dan, but aim it at the provincial government which did not do “due diligence” and did not properly inspect the tailings pond dam, nor does it seem to have enforced the regulations. Aim at the federals who have scuttled the protection of all waterways, and tossed out generations of scientific studies. When we fight against each other we do “their” work for them. If governments won’t protect the land, air, and water, we’ll have to do it ourselves because otherwise we’ll destroy the planet, and thus ourselves. “Divide and conquer” works really well, don’t fall for the rhetoric and b.s., we have a constitution, we have too few treaties, and until we have adequate and fair partnerships we cannot claim to own or control this province. There has to be room for fairness, for honour, and for equality or we’ve lost our way completely. Peace!

  2. I refuse to be a 2nd Nation.
    In a 1,000 years, will this this one race still be telling the rest of us what we can and can’t do?
    They had a solution for that during the French Revolution.

  3. concept?
    I recognize First Nations and so does our judicial history and so do our governments
    If we hope to have something left of our environment for our children and grandchildren our only hope is with recognition of First Nations treaties and rights
    Re: injunctions: it is good to see the man building a house on a little Islet /Grace Islet in BC who took people to court with an injunction has now backed down
    We need injunctions against disrespectul people and businesses

    1. I agree, wholeheartedly. First Nations are our best hope for saving our Earth from total rape and destruction. The Treaties must be honored. As long as the grass grows….The law is on FN’s side. If you oppose them, then you are breaking the law. The Treaties must be honored. Period.

    1. It’s about time we recognized first nations as a legitimate group and negotiated honestly with them. We must also stop the rape of our province by corporations. Let’s have laws to jail the CEOs and directors when the corporations break laws or fail to act before a disaster

    2. Interesting, Dan…Do you recognize the “concept” of the Canadian constitution or the rule of law?

      PS even our BC government, after waging an all-out legal war against the Tsilhqot’in peoples, admitted defeat and now recognize their unceded title and rights:

      Maybe it’s time for you to get with the times…

        1. Keep in mind that “the rest of us” includes a great number who do recognize First Nations, and Dan, we don’t recognize your right to speak for us nor your apparent claim to represent our interests

        2. Sad quote from Hamlet speaking of his own suicide. Otherwise, this is a death threat and grossly offensive and illegal.

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