An environmental group critical of the New Prosperity Mine Project says it is celebrating a win for free speech and the environment.
B.C. Court of Appeal handed down their decision Wednesday morning confirming the Wilderness Committee’s win against Taseko Mines defamation suit.
“It’s been a 5-year long process where Taseko has claimed that we had defamed them. We had won the original court case and then they appealed,” says Joe Foy, National Campaign Director for the Wilderness Committee.
“Now with this appeal, we get a solid win for people’s rights to speak up when they see a big industrial project that they don’t think is right and they think should be stopped. We have maintained people’s right to do that and so we’re really, really happy.”
In terms of moving forward, Foy says to their dismay they have found that free speech is not free and that there is nothing to stop companies like Taseko from dragging you into court and costing a lot of money.
“For us for instance even though we were insured our estimate is it costs well over $20,000 and those costs continue to climb,” he explains.
“Even with this ruling Taseko has been relieved of some costs of paying us so it means our costs go up even though we won.”
Foy says that is why the Wilderness Committee would like to see the Province have legislation to prevent Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits.
“It’s when a big rich company essentially drags you into court and even though you’re innocent they essentially drain your bank account in your defense. We say that’s wrong.”
“Ontario and Quebec have anti-SLAPP legislation. We say BC should have it too,” he says.
In 2012, Taseko Mines served the Wilderness Committee court papers claiming that the environmental group had defamed the mining company for what the organization had written on their website about Taseko’s proposed New Prosperity open pit mine, located west of Williams Lake in Tsilhqot’in Nation territory.
Although the Wilderness Committee was exonerated from Taseko’s defamation charges in January 2016 by B.C Supreme Court, Taseko Mines appealed their loss with a place and date of hearing in the Court of Appeal in Vancouver on June 7 and 8, 2017.
Taseko was unavailable for comment.