By Roy L Hales
There were around 50 local residents and First Nations members gathered in front of the Old Fort Road entrance to the Site C Dam project. They arrived at 10 a.m. on Saturday, carried signs saying things like “Site C sucks,” “No Consent for Site C,” “Stop Site C, Run Burrard Thermal” and “Shame.” In the photograph at the top of this page, you see them blocking the gravel road, but this was a peaceful assembly and they moved aside when a truck drove up. The protests have begun at Site C.
Opposing the Site C Dam
Despite their small numbers, these people are speaking for many British Columbians. One has merely to look at the list of organizations opposing the Site C dam project to realize this:
- The Union of BC Municipalities recently passed resolutions stating Premier Christy Clark’s government should respect both the Agricultural Land Commission and BC Utilities Commission, which it bypassed to proceed with this project. Construction should cease and they should proceed in the proper manner.
- The National Farmers Union is calling for a two year moratorium of the project, and protests the flooding “7,000 acres of Class 1 and Class 2 (agricultural) land.”
- the BC Government Employees’ Union issued a press release stating, “When a government refuses to consider alternative energy sources, sidelines its own utilities commission, ignores environmental concerns and aboriginal people’s constitutional rights, citizens have a responsibility to speak out. The BCGEU is proud to lend our voice to the growing chorus of British Columbians who say no to this ill-considered project.”
- The Greater Vancouver Regional District Board asked for a two year moratorium on this project, until it is properly reviewed.
- Public figures like Harry Swain, (Chair of the former Joint Review Panel on Site C), Richard Bullock (former Chair of the Agricultural Land Commission) and Marc Eliesen (former CEO of BC Hydro) have all spoken against the way the provincial government is handling project.
- Local First Nations were given the use of the land that will be flooded “for as long as the sun will shine” according to Treaty #8, and are fighting this project’s infringement on their treaty rights.
- So is the Peace Valley Landowners’ Association – which could not officially take part in the protest yesterday, though its President (Ken Boon) came as an individual.
Organizing the Demonstration
Saturday’s demonstration was organized by the Green Party candidate for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies, Liz Biggar, who reached out to local community members that “have been fighting site C for years and years.” She asked them if “we should do something”; They responded “Absolutely.”
“Right now people are watching the four candidates to see what we are doing, so I thought I’d use that bit of power. I invited everyone who wants to be there and use any media it generates to send a message to Ottawa right before the election,” explained Biggar.
She added, “Site C was not brought up in any of the election debates unless I brought it up. It is going to be a billion dollars of our tax payer money to flood prime agricultural land to subsidize oil and gas. It is atrocious that this is going on and what is more alarming is that no one is talking about it.”
The protest was not an official Green Party event, though Biggar did inform Elizabeth May.
She also invited the NDP candidate Kathi Dickie, who had prior engagements.
“The RCMP were notified of the peaceful protest coming up. They’ve said this is BC Hydro property, which I don’t believe it is. It’s Crown Land,” said Biggar.
She was concerned that, as a result of the Harper Government’s passage of Bill C-51, Canadians no longer have the right to peaceful assembly before “critical infrastructure.” The protestors could be jailed for up to seven days “with no charges” being laid.
Biggar was one of the hundred protesters arrested on Burnaby Mountain last year and spent three days in jail.
“I do not want to go to jail again, it was horrible,” she said.
Asked if she was willing to go to jail again, Biggar replied, “Am I willing to stand peacefully with a group of people and express our dissent – that we do not want this to go through – ABSOLUTELY.”
Though the RCMP were present, there were no arrests at the demonstration.
A protestor named Verena Hoffman said “What is happening here, behind that gate is the criminal act. We have every right to stand up and say this is unjust.”
“Site C is not a done deal. One way or another we are going to stop this project. It is just wrong. One way or another we are going to stop this project. We have to, we have no choice,” said Ken Boon.
He added that there are two access roads to the construction site. The other one is by the Fort St John garbage dump.
“Stay tuned there may be more of these,” said Boon.
Bigger posted a description of the event on her Facebook page:
“Today was emotional. To stand with all of the Warriors, all of the Fighters, in front of the Gates to Site C. To tell our government once again that we do not want to destroy our environment for profit.
“Today summed up what I have been feeling during this election.
I feel like I am David and Goliath is Global Warming. And nobody is talking about it, except for a few.
“People have told me to drop out because I am splitting the votes. People have said to me that they can’t believe the Green Party would even run a candidate in this particular riding. For awhile I considered withdrawing with another candidate, to back the one most likely to defeat the conservative.
“But guess what? I stayed. I worked really hard to make climate change the most important issue, because it is. We live here.”