A response to a slander suit against a former chief mine engineer employed by the Yukon Government was filed in BC Supreme Court. (File photo)

A response to a slander suit against a former chief mine engineer employed by the Yukon Government was filed in BC Supreme Court. (File photo)

Response to slander lawsuit against former Yukon mine engineer filed

Suit called strategy to stifle criticism of mine and company.

A slander suit launched by the CEO of a mining firm against a former chief mine engineer employed by the Yukon government is progressing.

A response to the suit filed against Paul Christman, the former mine engineer named as defendant, alleges the purpose of the suit was not to recover the executive and the company’s reputation but to stifle the public process by targeting him. It also denies many of the facts alleged.

The Yukon government is named as a defendant in the suit alongside Christman.

The initial slander lawsuit by Golden Predator Mining Corp and its CEO, Janet Lee-Sheriff, was filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court on May 14. It alleges Christman slandered them at a mining industry conference in Vancouver in January 2020.

The suit claims that Christman loudly and publicly called Lee-Sheriff a liar following a presentation she made at the mining conference. A heated disagreement in which the mine engineer is said to have intimidated Lee Sheriff and made defamatory statements is said to have followed. The subject of the disagreement that the mining CEO claims amounted to slander was the validity of the water and quartz mining licenses for the Brewery Creek gold mine site located east of Dawson City.

In the months between the suit’s filing and Christman’s response, Golden Predator joined business with Arizona Gold. The new combined firm, now going by the name Sabre Gold Mines Corp. is continuing efforts to restart production at Brewery Creek. A December 2021 news release from the company states they plan to restart production at the mine in the near term.

Lee-Sheriff is listed as an advisor to the company on Sabre Gold’s website.

The response to the suit filed by Christman and his lawyers on Jan. 24 states the plaintiffs did not commence the legal action for bona fide but rather to silence fair criticism or inquiry of Golden Predator Mining corporation. He says the suit is meant to punish and intimidate Christman for speaking directly and fairly on a matter of public interest.

The legal action against Christman is referred to as a SLAPP suit in the response filed with the B.C. Supreme Court. SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuits against public participation— B.C. passed a law in 2019 called the protection of public participation act that provides for the dismissal of lawsuits against individuals or groups who have spoken out about issues of public concern.

Along with the assertion that the lawsuit is meant to silence Christman for his criticism, the response denies most of the facts claimed. Christman denies making the statements attributed to him in the notice of civil claim and says that the material interactions he did have with the plaintiffs at the mining conference were limited, appropriate in all the circumstances and not within earshot of others.

It goes on to state that if Christman did utter any defamatory words, those words were not defamatory in their full context and were either true, subject to qualified privilege or were fair comment.

Licensing of the Brewery Creek mine was the subject of the conflict between Christman and Golden Predator that led to the allegedly slanderous exchange at the mining convention. Christman sued the Yukon Government alleging wrongful dismissal in May 2021, a year after his resignation from the chief mine engineer position. He alleged his resignation resulted from the circumvention of his authority and his removal from files related to Golden Predator and Brewery Creek. Christman and the Yukon Government would eventually settle the lawsuit in late 2021.

Christman’s response to the slander lawsuit says Golden Predator conflated the existence of water and quartz mining licenses with the ability to legally operate the mine. It states the licenses were issued in relation to the closure and reclamation of the Brewery Creek Mine and don’t provide for resumption of mining operations.

An Oct. 2021 news release from Sabre Gold Corp. notes the Quartz Mining and Water Licenses for Brewery Creek were set to expire on Dec. 31 2021. The Yukon Government shows no approved licenses or documents under review at this time.

The allegations in the lawsuit have not been heard or tested in court.

Contact Jim Elliot at jim.elliot@yukon-news.com