British Columbia

Taseko Mines in court to appeal defamation ruling

Taseko Mines will be in court today to appeal a 2016 ruling that an environmental organization's criticism of their mining project was not defamation.

Taseko Mines will appeal a 2016 ruling that an environmental organization did not commit defamation

Tasko Mines is back in court to appeal a ruling that the Wilderness Committee did not publish defamatory statements about them. At the initial trial in 2015, Wilderness Committee supporters protested outside the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (Tamsyn Burgmann/The Canadian Press)

Taseko Mines is in court today to appeal a 2016 ruling that an environmental organization's criticism of their mining project did not constitute defamation.

The Wilderness Committee, who won the case, argues the lawsuit was designed to silence critics of the company's proposed New Prosperity mine.

"We absolutely need legislation to protect citizens ... from being harassed from companies like this," said Joe Foy, national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee

In the original case, the alleged defamatory statements against Taseko Mines originated in three articles posted on the Wilderness Committee's website, claiming the open pit gold and copper mine would turn nearby Fish Lake into a "dump site for toxic tailings."

After Taseko filed a defamation claim against Wilderness Committee for those posts, the environmental organization posted two more articles, accusing Taseko of filing a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) lawsuit, which is a type of lawsuit intended to silence oppositional voices. 

Taseko Mines claimed these posts amounted to further defamation.

Today, Foy said he hopes Justice Gordon Funt's original 2016 ruling which dismissed the defamation suit is upheld. 

"The judge's ruling is quite fulsome," said Joe Foy in an interview on CBC Radio's The Early Edition.

"Justice Funt goes through our laws on what Canadians have a right to say and you have many defences. Truth being one of're allowed to say what you believe and the judge confirmed that."

Foy said cases like this could be prevented if B.C. had Anti-SLAPP legislation like Ontario and Quebec.

"We were dragged through a five-year, costly ... sometimes scary process. But at least we were an organization," he said.

"If you were an individual afraid of losing your home or your life savings, this would be a terrifying process. And at the end of it we have a ruling that we had done nothing wrong."

Taseko Mines did not respond to a request from CBC News for comment.

In the 2016 ruling, Justice Funt dismissed the defamation suit and issued special costs in favour of WC, which Taseko Mines decided to appeal. 

The appeal will take place at the BC Court of Appeal on June 7 and 8, and will be webcast live to the public as part of a new pilot project from the Court. 

With files from CBC Radio's The Early Edition