Amnesty International Canada

UN: canada must fix Mount Polley harms

Serious concerns about long-term health impacts of the Mount Polley tailings pond failure on Indigenous peoples

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Call on Canada to ensure the rights of Indigenous peoples are respected in the context of resource development.


Prime Minister of Canada
Liberal Party of Canada
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When a disaster happens, the world watches to see how governments react and tend to the needs of people who were harmed. Redressing harms, changing laws where needed, punishing those responsible, and trying to prevent future similar disasters are the measure of a government’s responsiveness. In the case of the Mount Polley mine disaster, Canada’s ongoing reluctance to hold those responsible to account, implement necessary regulatory changes, and see to peoples’ long-term health sends a terrible message that Canadian authorities aren’t willing to put people before mining profit.

On August 4, 2014, the Mount Polley gold and copper mine in central British Columbia failed, releasing over 25 million cubic metres of water, toxic materials and mine waste water into Quesnel Lake, a pristine fjord lake and home to wild salmon and other species. The tailings pond breach, in the heart of the Secwepemc Nation’s traditional territory, is considered one of Canada’s largest environmental mining disasters. The company has never been fined, charged or sanctioned. In fact, it has enjoyed tax breaks, new mine permits, and amendments to its water discharge permit which allows it to dump mine waste water into Quesnel Lake.

The tailings from the disaster sit at the bottom of the lake near the mouth of Hazeltine Creek. Scientists have revealed that, as a result of the disaster, lake water near the disaster site contains bacteria and metals not found in other parts of the lake. Many residents are still afraid to eat fish and drink water from the area.

Government Ignoring Indigenous Concerns

Two important United Nations bodies that monitor discrimination and the activities of companies have called upon Canada to hold those responsible for the disaster to account, provide remedy for the harms caused by the disaster – such as loss of health food and drinking water – and to release studies crucial to understand the impacts of the disaster on the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples and surrounding communities.

But Canada has failed to act.

While the Government of Canada says that criminal charges could be laid at any time, it has failed to lay charges or give any indication that it will. People deserve justice. Quesnel Lake deserves justice. 

Will you join Amnesty International in calling on Canada to ensure justice for the Mount Polley mine disaster?



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