Continued Miscarriage of Government at Site C


The proposed $12 billion Site C Dam has been controversial since it was originally proposed, more than 50 years ago. This project appears to violate Treaty 8, which granted use of the land that will be submerged to local First Nations. The B.C. Utilities Commission turned the project down twice, because B.C. Hydro could not prove there was a need for the power. Many believe that is why Premier Christy Clark’s Government has not allowed the commission to review the project during her tenure. The Canadian Government is now deeply involved in this project, which means local landowners, First Nations and environmentalists are attempting to defend the Peace River Valley against the very people who were elected to look after their interests. There are new evidences of the continued miscarriage of government at Site C.

Running Roughshod Over Treaty Rights

Jody Wilson-Raybould, Canada's Minister of Justice, by Erich Saide via Wikipedia (CC BY SA, 3.0 License)
Jody Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s Minister of Justice, by Erich Saide via Wikipedia (CC BY SA, 3.0 License)

Prior to being appointed Canada’s Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould was a provincial Crown prosecutor, B.C. Treaty Commissioner and Regional Chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. She is understandably reluctant to publicly critics her government now, but gave Damien Gillis of the Common Sense Canadian her candid opinion of this project’s legality in 2012. The following quote starts at 0:35 of the linked video:

“The legal reality is that Aboriginal people have rights, and treaty rights, that must be respected. We, as First Nations, have the right to govern over our territories…

(from 1:26) ” … The country’s reputation is at stake with approval of these projects like Site C, like the Enbridge pipeline. Our reputation as a caring and considerate and environmentally friendly nation internationally is going to be questioned and running roughshod over Aboriginal title and rights, including treaty rights, is not the way to improve that reputation.”

Federal Government’s Failure To Act

September 20, 2015, Rally at the Victoria Legislature - Courtesy Sue Andrews/Sierra Club BC
September 20, 2015, Rally at the Victoria Legislature – Courtesy Sue Andrews/Sierra Club BC

Contractors working for BC Hydro started clearcutting the Peace River Valley, in preparation for construction of the Site C Dam, last summer. Before they could begin, they needed to obtain 14 permits from fisheries and Transport Canada. Some question the legality of these permits, which were issued after the writ for the last Federal election was called. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is aware of this issue as Green Party Leader Elizabeth Canada raised it during Question Period on February 23.

Justin Trudeau was elected on a platform that calls for a ” renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples, one that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation.”

On February 11, 2016, thirty-one NGOs – including Amnesty International, the National Farmers Union, and Oxfam Canada – wrote a public appeal to the Prime Minister stating, among other things, the Site C project “would violate fundamental rights protected by Treaty 8, the Canadian Constitution, and international human rights law.”

One of the signatories of that letter, the Peace Valley Environment Association, just sent out notice that:

“Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has replied to the February joint letter from Canadian NGOs. The Minister’s letter states that “we are determined to work with Canada’s Indigenous peoples to achieve mutually beneficial results for all Canadians and generations to come” and that the Minister has “heard [the Treaty 8 Chiefs] suggestions on how we can approach this new era of cooperation.” However, there is no acknowledgement of the call to rescind federal permits for Site C and there is no commitment to help protect Indigenous rights from the harm that the project will cause.”

No Need For the Power

Peace River Valley Residents - Courtesy Sierra Club BC
Peace River Valley Residents – Courtesy Sierra Club BC

Opponents of this project constantly point out that the power is not needed.

Harry Swain, chair of the Joint Review Panel that reviewed Site C, recently told Desmog Canada that, “In the rationale for building the dam, BC Hydro put forward load forecasts that included a fair amount of electricity for the LNG industry and continued growth in other industrial, commercial and residential demand. Well, the truth is that since 2008 demand has been falling, not rising.”

Premier Christy Clark as much as admitted this when she suggested the Albertan Government might be able to use the unneeded electricity produced by Site C during a recent interview with Johny Wakefield. (conservation starts 4:10)

“We are currently talking to Alberta about the potential for that and those discussions are underway now. I don’t know how they will end up. From a Canadian perspective, this could be a vital part of making sure we meet our greenhouse gas emissions targets and the commitments our Prime Minister made when he was in Paris. If Alberta was able to go from coal-fired generation, which isn’t clean, to hydro powered generation in one fell swoop, we could save three to six million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada every year. We could potentially electrify the oil sands,” she said.

Needed To Move On

Premier Clark also told Wakefield that, (starts 3:00) “This (project) has been in the process for a decade and at some point we needed to decide we are going to move on. After a decade of analysis and consultation and accommodation and all of other things that happen, we had to make a decision. My view of Government is that if you wait until everybody agrees with everything, you will never get anything done.”

In a previous interview on CKTZ, Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nation told the ECOreport:

“Their definition of consultation and ours are completely different. We believe consultation is a dialogue, where they listen and we listen. They take into consideration, and make accommodations, for our rights.”

“What happened in this process is they let us blow off steam and then went and made their decision. Actually, they had already made their decision and then they came to talk to us and told us what their decision was. We asked them to amend it and they said ‘No.’ Then they went on to go forward with their decision.”

“We offered them reasonable accommodation measures. We told them we would work with them with a geothermal plant; we would work with them on a gas fired power plant. Anything to save the valley, but they refused.”

Wilson claims the province had already made its’ decision in 2007, when Premier Gordon Campbell was at the W.A.C. Bennet Dam.

“They invited us the afternoon that he showed up. They called us up and asked if we wanted to attend. They had planned it for a month and waited until the last minute to call us. We went out there and they said they are moving forward on Site C,” he said.

“They had already made their decision they were building that. That is not consultation, that is information. They were informing us of their decision.”

Top Photo Credit: Sunset by Rick Phillips