The West Moberly First Nation just released an important update about the failure of their negotiations with the BC Government. The Site C Megatrial will begin in March 2020.
August 27, 2019 – Moberly Lake BC, Treaty 8 Territory. Discussions between West Moberly First Nations and the Government of British Columbia to avoid litigation over the Site C dam have ended. The megadam must now face a 120-day trial to determine whether Treaty 8 rights have been infringed.
At trial, the Horgan Government is expected to defend the decision made by Christy Clark’s BC Liberal Government in 2014 to approve Site C, a decision which West Moberly says infringed Treaty 8 and which Premier Horgan and his cabinet have themselves repeatedly condemned. In 2014, shortly before the Clark decision, John Horgan stated:
“First Nations in the region have entrenched constitutional rights. Not just the requirement for consultation and accommodation, which we always hear about when we’re talking about resource projects. But they have entrenched constitutional rights to practice hunting and fishing as before. And that’s going to be violated by this dam.”
In 2017, after internal briefings and the findings of the BC Utilities Commission, Premier Horgan announced his decision to continue the project but stated “It’s clear that Site C should never have been started”. A few months later, David Eby, BC’s Attorney General, described Site C in a public Facebook post as a “terrible situation of a massive public infrastructure investment without any apparent customer for the electricity it will produce.” Michelle Mungall, Minister or Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources, who was videotaped telling supporters on the campaign trail “We’re, like, gonna say no to the Site C dam”, has called the project “a 1953 solution to a 2016 problem”.
West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson is calling the Horgan Government’s handling of Site C a “self-induced catastrophe”. Chief Willson says, “We can’t disclose anything confidential from the discussions with BC, but I can assure you that there are dark days ahead for Site C. Watch the numbers climb and the dates slip. Wait for the excuses and the distractions”.
While previous cases have dealt with procedural issues related to consultation, the Site C megatrial will determine whether constitutional rights under Treaty 8 to maintain a traditional way of life have been infringed. If the court sides against the BC Government, court orders could impose further delays or cancel the project in order to prevent the Peace River Valley from being flooded.
Trial is scheduled to begin in March 2022.
Site C was already BC’s most expensive public project in history when the BC NDP took it over in 2017 with its original budget of $6.6 billion having jumped to $10.7 billion. The woes haven’t slowed. Last summer, BC Hydro paid a $325 million-dollar settlement to its main civil works contractor, who remains on the job. Landslides have placed human lives and livelihoods and mangled the project’s budget. Last fall landslides just north the dam site forced the evacuation of the entire Old Fort community, while landslides the previous year caused “tension cracks” that resulted in a one-year delay at the cost of an estimated $660 million.
“Stopping this dam has always been the right thing to do. It would have taken some courage and some leadership, but it could have saved British Columbia billions of dollars and produced a clear example of reconciliation with First Nations. Instead, the Horgan Government hooked themselves up to Christy Clark’s boondoggle and are watching helplessly as it skids out of control,” said Chief Roland Willson.