By Roy L Hales
One would have thought democratic governments have a duty to look after the interests of all their citizens, even First Nations. Canada’s current Prime Minister initially promised the indigenous population a new deal. Justin Trudeau is quick to offer bail outs to oil corporations like Kinder Morgan, but the Feds neglected determining whether Site C violates Treaty 8.
Feds Neglected Determining Whether Site C Violates Treaty 8
When local First Nations surrendered title to the Peace River Valley, they were given the right to continue with their traditional ways of life in that area “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow.” This includes the land that will be submerged if the Site C dam is built.
In their response the Civil Action brought forward by the Prophet River and West Moberly Nations, government lawyers admitted treaty rights had not been considered.[1. Attorney General of Canada, Response to Civil Claim, para. 38] They alleged First Nations needed to prove their case in court[2. Attorney General of Canada, Response to Civil Claim, para. 1.] or“in other contexts beyond litigation.”[3. Attorney General of Canada, Response to Civil Claim, para. 3.]
“We have always maintained that Site C is an infringement of the Treaty, and that it shouldn’t go ahead while the issue of infringement is unresolved. We will defend the Treaty in the courts if we must. But we remain ready and willing to discuss alternatives to Site C with the B.C. Government,” said Chief Lynette Tsakoza of Prophet River First Nations in a press release.
Canada Takes “No Position”
In court documents filed last Thursday, the Attorney General of Canada took “no position” and filed no evidence in response to an injunction application to suspend construction, brought by West Moberly First Nations.
Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations, responded:
“Canada has laid down its weapons. Now it’s time for BC to disarm. Let’s try diplomacy. If the Premier truly wishes to respect the constitution and the Treaty 8 rights it protects, he shouldn’t be encouraging BC Hydro to destroy those rights before the courts have the chance to weigh in. The Premier can meet with us and our federal counterparts to work out how best to wind down work on Site C until the question of Treaty infringement is finally decided.”
The hearing is scheduled to start on July 23, 2018.
BC Hydro suspended all clearing and road building in “critical areas,” until the issue is resolved, as of February 16, 2018.
Top Photo Credit: Parliament building in Ottawa from the National
Gallery by Jen Wright via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)