On August 4, 2021, the Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake marked the seventh anniversary of the Mount Polley mining disaster with a special blog series: 7 Years, 7 People, 7 Stories. Amnesty was asked to contribute a personal reflection, and you can read mine, below, and all the essays contributed to this series on their blog.
DAY 5: JUSTICE
Like most people, I know the story about how money ensures the already powerful maintain their wealth and privileges, even when they break the law or hurt innocent people. My entire working life has been spent supporting people harmed by the decisions of the powerful and helping them obtain justice for those harms. This is how I came to meet the good people residing in Secwepemculew and around what is now known as Quesnel Lake.
In my home province of British Columbia, money talks, especially mining money. Until the Mount Polley mine disaster in 2014, the province’s mining laws hadn’t changed very much since the gold rush era. And mining companies like Imperial Metals and Teck were among the largest donors to the political parties that were supposed to protect the lake and its residents. It’s a pretty convenient feed-back loop when you think about it.
All of this was in the back of my mind when I made the trek in 2015 from my home on Vancouver Island to Likely, BC near Quesnel Lake. I was part of a small Amnesty International research team sent up to scope out the extent of the disaster and determine whether human rights had been abused by the company or violated by the provincial government. I was also there to listen and determine whether the people harmed by the disaster wanted our support and would work with us.
We’ve now been working together for 6 years. I’ve been to the shores of Quesnel Lake in the heat of summer and at the turning of the season when a toque and mittens are absolute necessities. Two of my children came up with me in 2019 and my teenage daughter’s shock at the state of devastation, 5 years on, was captured in a video clip she recorded at Hazeltine Creek. “Its disgusting that nothing has been done to clean this up,” she said, “People need to know”. We delivered hundreds of solidarity messages from people across Canada to let residents know that they are not alone.
At the same time, over the last 2 years my daughter has talked regularly about returning to Mitchell Bay, one of the many pretty bays tucked into the shores of this mighty fjord-like lake. She longs to swim in the crystal waters of the lake, to smell the trees along the edge of the water, and to feel cocooned by the silence of this great, interior rainforest.
While I return again and again for the people I’ve met and to support their human rights cause, she wants to return for the lake and its creatures. We are grateful to the individuals and families who have opened their hearts and homes to us, who have shared their stories and struggles to protect the lake, who have travelled with us, and who continue to stand strong for Quesnel Lake. We stand with you.
To learn more about the campaign for justice and accountability for the Mount Polley mine disaster >>>read our report
To take action >>> sign our petition
Call on the province of British Columbia to reform BC’s mining laws >>> please sign our BC Mining Law Reform petition