A Place to Love and Protect: A Water Defender’s View

Many of us have special places in nature that we go to when we need to unwind or think.

These places may be dark forest trails that burst open into sunlit sandy beaches, tiny, hidden lakes, or rocky outcrops over-looking mighty rivers. Mine is a wide, sunny beach on the east coast of Vancouver Island. For Christine McLean, it’s a spot on her property in Mitchell Bay on Quesnel Lake, in central British Columbia.

Christine is a water defender from Alberta who, together with her husband, bought their dream retirement property on the pristine lake a few years ago. At the time, she had no idea what the future would hold: a mining disaster of previously unseen proportions in Canada in the hills above the lake. The Mount Polley tailings pond breach of August 4, 2014, sent 24 million cubic litres of water and toxic mine waste into surrounding waters and ultimately, into Quesnel Lake.

While in the midst of a fight with the province and the company for justice and remedy for the spill, Christine took some time to share her reflections on this beautiful spot on the Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake blog about sitting in her special spot to watch the lake she loves so dearly. She agreed to allow Amnesty to repost her reflections. 

February, 2017. I’m here on the lake at Mitchell Bay and just had to share with you what’s happening outside. I have never been on Quesnel Lake at this time of year; folks around here talk about how wonderful it is. This week I get to experience it myself.

Its deathly quiet at this time of year! Not many critters around; we’ve seen lots of rabbit and grouse tracks.  The snow is almost gone, either from rain or temperature. It’s quite nice out, lots of sunshine on the point! 

The lake is frozen over which we have only ever heard about. The guys are ice fishing in Mitchell Bay and it’s surprising how far out they trek to auger the hole and they are catching fish. 

The lake ice is really amazing to watch, because it keeps changing colours reflecting the sun, the snow, the ice and the shadows of the mountains! Sometimes when I look across the lake it looks like I can see open water, the colour of the ice is so dark blue.  It’s like a kaleidoscope, the colours changing constantly all day long. There is a warm water spring on the point and the ice usually doesn’t form here. If you listen, the lake comes alive with sounds… the closest I could compare it to is a Star Wars battle!  I’ve been told that the ice will start to crack when it thaws, I wish I could be here to witness that!

I’m writing today because from early this morning and for the whole day, if you stop outside and listen, you will hear wolves howling!  We can’t see them and my guess is they are a long ways off, but what a magnificent sound. And I just wonder why they are howling?

Every time I come to Quesnel Lake I’m overwhelmed with the unspoiled beauty of the Cariboo and wonder what it will be like to live out my days here!

To learn more about the Mount Polley mine disaster and communities’ search for justice, please visit our webpage