First Nations and the Site C dam

November 5, 2017

The Site C dam project represents a violation of rights guaranteed by Treaty 8 and a barrier to Reconciliation. Both the BC and Canadian governments have made strong commitments to Reconciliation between Canada and First Nations, most recently reiterated by Premier John Horgan upon taking office in 2017, and by the new government of Justin Trudeau who promised a new “nation to nation” relationship in 2015 but then issued a federal permit for the dam.

We support the Indigenous groups fighting the Site C dam, including West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations, Nun Wa Dee, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs led by Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

We also support Blueberry First Nation in its ongoing and solid legal case on the cumulative impacts of industrial development on Treaty 8 territory, which would include but not be limited to Site C. Site C, however, is considered by some legal experts as the straw that could break the camel’s back in terms of that case and its potential settlements.

Premier John Horgan himself recently acknowledged that Site C is likely to result in an expensive and precedent-setting Supreme Court case.

On November 1, 2017 Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nation spoke to the CBC:

“West Moberly First Nation Chief Roland Willson argued the only way to keep the government’s commitment to reconciliation and UNDRIP is to cancel the dam altogether. “If you’re going to talk about reconciliation… Site C should be scrapped, pulled off the shelf, burnt so it can never come back again and we move forward on the alternatives package,” he said.

The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations argue flooding 5,500 hectares of the Peace River valley for the Site C dam infringes on their constitutionally-protected treaty rights and destroys traditional hunting land as well as important cultural sites and burial grounds.

Willson said the BCUC’s findings on alternative energy options match something he’s been arguing for years: jobs can be created and energy needs met without flooding the Peace River Valley.”

Both the United Nations and Amnesty International have declared that the dam violates Treaty 8, Indigenous rights in general, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

The United Nations’ top anti-racism group condemns the Site C dam saying “the impact of this dam on Indigenous Peoples would be permanent, extensive, and irreversible.” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs stated to the UN panel that “Indigenous land rights and human rights are a constitutional and legal reality.” The Globe and Mail.

Amnesty International condemns Site C as clearly violating human rights: “The severe impact on Indigenous peoples is beyond dispute. A joint federal-province environmental impact assessment concluded that the dam would “severely undermine” use of the land, would make fishing unsafe for at least a generation, and would submerge burial grounds and other crucial cultural and historical sites.” Treaty 8 guarantees the right to continue traditional use of the land including subsistence fishing and hunting.. The Site C site encompasses significant fractions of the West Moberly and Prophet River territory.

We recommend finding out more about Treaty 8 by visiting the following websites:
Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Treaty 8 Tribal Association
Nun Wa Dee

Note: We would like to reiterate that our principle of the “commons” does not intend to bypass or dismiss First Nations rights to the land, but exists in support of Indigenous rights and of the protection of interconnected ecological networks for the benefit of all future generations.

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