Premier Horgan, where were you on Mount Polley?

Bev Sellars was Chief of the Xat’sull First Nation, people affected directly by the Mount Polley disaster. In March 2018, Prince George Citizen — a Glacier Media newspaper — published a guest editorial by Ms. Sellars. It is worth our attention:

So B.C. will finally review its sadly weak Environmental Assessment process. About time! But, can First Nations trust the NDP government to really work with them to address the glaring problems and make real and meaningful changes.

The B.C. process has been a bad joke. Travesties like B.C.’s repeated approval of the soundly discredited and federally rejected Prosperity/New Prosperity proposals and the approval of the unsafe and ultimately disastrous Mount Polley tailings dam have long made clear to many that the process is designed to help mining companies, not to truly protect the environment and Indigenous rights.

I would like to believe the NDP government intends to live up to its word in terms of respecting Indigenous rights and protecting the environment. First Nations have been given reason to hope the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be implemented, together with a requirement for free prior and informed consent for mining or other natural resource developments affecting First Nations.

But recent events have raised doubts as to the government’s sincerity. So I have the following question: Premier Horgan, where are you on Mount Polley?

I was acting chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) Nation on Aug. 4, 2014. when the dam failure at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine unleashed the largest mining disaster in Canadian history. I watched while the provincial conservation officers took three years to investigate the disaster and failed to lay any charges.

I remember when you, fresh to the job of premier, called their failure shocking, even disturbing. And I went to court on Aug. 4, 2017, the last day in the provincial limitations period, to lay private charges which held the door open for your government – giving you a bit more time to hold Imperial Metals accountable.

But your government’s prosecutors took over my private prosecution and dropped the charges…


Since this opinion piece, a further four months has passed without federal charges against the operators of Mount Polley. Both the Horgan and Clark governments chose not to charge Imperial Metals.

Compare the passage of 4 years without a charge against Mount Polley operators to the quick response when a rude 19-year-old released an adult-sized blow-up doll over West Vancouver’s Ambleside beach. He was arrested within two weeks and faces a charge of mischief under Canada’s Criminal Code.

The Mount Polley event occurred on August 4, 2014. Independent experts investigated the tailings dam breach and the panel, chaired by a respected 79-year-old engineer, delivered its final report in January 2015.

The experts determined the disaster occurred because of “foundation failure.”

In 2014, BC’s Inspector of Mines had reported numerous deficiencies in working conditions at Mount Polley, including:

  • Portions of the site contaminated by human sewage;
  • Unsafe working conditions because of inadequate ventilation, chemical leaks and improper storage of dangerous chemicals and other hazardous materials;
  • Workers exposed to harmful chemicals including lead;
  • Inadequate documentation, testing and management of electrical power systems, including high voltage relays;
  • Deficient rigging, lifting and other operating equipment;
  • Out-of-date Underground Mine Emergency Response Plan;
  • Inadequate emergency egress from underground sites.

Not the sort of company most of us would choose as our employer. Nor does it seem to be a company that should have been trusted to operate where important bodies of fresh water were at risk.

mount polley before breach

Trust was a critical issue in this situation and it is clear the Ministry of Energy and Mines placed too much confidence in reports of professional engineering companies.

Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, spoke after government commissioned an independent professional reliance review:

In recent years, professional reliance has played a significant role in the loss of public trust in decision making around industrial activity. It is incumbent on the B.C. government to take urgent steps, as outlined in this report, to begin to rebuild that trust.

The following is taken from a report written by AMEC Americas Limited a few months before breach of the tailings storage facility.


This rather similar conclusion is from a report by BCG Engineering Inc. and is signed by a Senior Geotechnical Engineer:

Polley engineer 450

Unfortunately, both engineering firms are among the many employed on the Site C project where building safe foundations are problematic, perhaps even impossible.

Financial Information Act reports show BC Hydro paid $330 million to AMEC in fiscal years 2011 through 2017. BGC received $7 million from the public utility in the same period. The numbers may explain why many in the engineering community wanted Site C construction to continue, regardless of environmental and cultural harms or associated costs to the public.

BC Liberals and pay-to-play

13 replies »

  1. It is starting to look like the same policy is everywhere. We are getting very disappointed in Hogan and inability to deal with meaningful issues, like environmental issues, transportation issues, and getting us proportional representation. It is time to get busy and start checking off the promises made!


  2. .. Before Gordon Campbell went off to London, England as High Commissioner to the UK.. he sold out BC by giving away Stephen Harper’s government – the Environmental Oversight rights to BC (pertains to pipelines, and pollution etc) Did BC ever regain those rights after the reign of Christy Clark, or not?

    Rona Ambrose and her rodeo boy were aboard the super yacht of the Mount Polley owner, who was never charged, either provincially or federally when she lambasted Trudeau, who was also holidaying in the Carribean, tho with the Agha Khan

    What is with this corruption and complicity ?
    Earth to Trudeau.. this will not go away, tho Rona Ambrose went away
    Horgan et al need to grow a pair.. before this becomes nasty
    Christy Harper got away too & is starting to collect payoffs

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nothing is going to happen with the Mount Polley disaster. It didn’t happen in the O.K. or the Lower Mainland. who cares? those who do are in the minority.

    My suggestion: quit focusing on Horgan. Focus on the Minister responsible. go after those who took over the private charges. Keep at them until they tell us what we want to know. Focusing all our attention on Horgan, isn’t the way to go. He has a cabinet and its time we start holding Cabinet Ministers accountable. If they can’t do their job and it gets enough traction, they maybe replaced. Going after Horgan for every failure of the government, isn’t going to work.

    As to the Greens, we have one of their MLAs making one statement, but what have they done recently? Being an MLA is a full time job and there isn’t much evidence that the 3 Greens are doing much on “green issues’ on a full time basis. If they want to make like they could ever be even the official opposition, they need to start working full time on these issues. You’ve been able to put this article together, but what have the Greens done along these line? Not much, in my opinion. Yes, they have their constituencies to deal with, but really they have people in their offices who handle most of that.

    Its time for the Greens to stop talking Green and start working Green. Its very good and well to hold Horgan responsible for everything, but there are others who might start doing some work. How about those Greens have real questions for Wilkinson about what the B.C. Lieberals did or did not do. At least if there were decent attack questions the media would cover it. As it stands now, there won’t be any media attention because there isn’t enough interest or “production value”.

    The fact some of the same players are involved in Site C. ought to have everyone a tad concerned. if Site C is built and then collapses, that will be the mother of all floods. So where are the Greens on this? Where are the individual NDP MLAs on this.
    Perhaps its time this were passed to Mr. Eby. At least he knows how to look at the criminality of things.

    As to the question of where is Premier Horgan on Mount Polley? About the same place the B.C. Lieberals were. Mount Polley might be important to those who live there, but to the rest of the province, not so much. No dam is going to collapse on them. The Lower Mainland is concerned about health/doctors; commuting-roads, and more schools. That is what I see the NDP focusing on because that is where the votes are. If the people are concerned about Mount Polley, they will have to work a whole lot harder to force the government and the mining company to answer the questions. The various groups need to work as a team and the Greens need to get on board. As I’ve written in the past, the leader of the Greens, in my opinion is just a B.C. Lieberal in a slightly shabby suit making like a professor. At the current rate of things, he might want to turn over the leadership to Sonia Furstenau, Cowichan Valley MLA. Weaver may have a PhD in Applied Mathematics, but he doesn’t seem to have figured out to become a leader of the opposition or premier you’re going to need more than 3 votes and you’re going to have to work a whole lot harder than he is now, on Green issues and if Mount Polley isn’t a Green issue, than I don’t know what is.

    This province may be vast on some levels, but the continued environmental destruction of it will render a lot of it useless. those who will suffer will be the grandchildren and great grandchildren of those voting today.

    WE need to understand the roots of the NDP were never in the environmental ground. Although as years went by, they became more concerned with the environment, it has never been the true focus of the Party. Its been social and labour issues. Some may argue environmental issues are part of that, but in the minds of those who still control things, not so much. we can argue how can social justice be provided to those who have been injured by Mount Polley, but those in the driver’s seat, haven’t gotten there yet. Their focus is on more hospitals and schools. That is what get the votes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. John Horgan, like all those before him, is owned. Lock, Stock and Barrel. He’ll do as he’s told in order to hold on for as long as he can, that pension is just too good to let go! Unfortunately, it’s not the voices of BC citizens he’s listening for, never has been.

    Also like those before him, he’s not even slightly embarrassed by his reversals and forgetfulness. He has no reason to be, after all, there are NO consequences in BC for the corruption and outright criminality of government officials. We’ve had that proven time and again. Starting in 2001.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. All the studies of what they said was happening at Mt. Polly wasn’t true when the tailings pond failed. It was shocking.
    A major mistake of credible science which is now no longer credible when framed in the professional reliance model.
    No peer review here, or a impartiality in observing the truth.
    Questioning this model is now happening but that is all. Questioning.
    It’s social vagueness spreading like a toxic gas cloud throughout all the political parties.
    At least we have accurate journalism here to keep us alive.


  6. The engineering “firm” (pun intended) stated that performance of the embankment is meeting it’s design intent. We need to know who wrote the design and just what was their intent…….I am weary of PEng’s sporting their rings at social events yet never seeming to be held accountable for mistakes….or even admitting them. Every report is signed. Who signed this one, did they or their “firm” make any political donations…..and….what are they doing now? Are we (the taxpayer) still employing them on other projects?


      • Like all groups today, the only thing you need to do is defer, defer, defer. there are no accountabilities in any profession from law to engineering to politics. Simply ignore, and wait for the next event to move the public awareness to something else and the truth is lost in the mists of time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I see here AMEC is working on Site C…..good grief Charlie Brown. C’mon Horgan, bloggers and commenters can critique these engineering reports and their buzz words better than your staff is doing. Norm states the two reports are “rather similar”. Outright plagiarized more like it. Any amount of due diligence would result in a fair amount of trepidation hiring the same people to do more work on even more unstable substrate…..or…..is it just a “business opportunity” like the article says? Will the new rules regarding these unethical (from an unbiased truly professional engineering point of view) election donations make any difference, or will it just result in government engineering contracts getting awarded on the understanding all reports would be wishy-washy in wording and non-committal? It’s all fun ‘n games until someone loses an eye.



  7. “But your government’s prosecutors took over my private prosecution and dropped the charges…”

    Which gives us an indicator of how successful a private prosecution would be if a case involved potential charges against some fine folks in the Attorney General’s ministry itself. A ministry that is twenty years overdue for a very good housecleaning but has enjoyed a lack of courage by those we elect to do it.

    Democracy requires more than fronting it in the title of your party.


Leave a reply but be on topic and civil.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s