By Roy L Hales
The Canadian and British Columbian governments may wish to ignore perceived treaty violations of the Site C Dam project, but this determined group of people will not let them. Their bus left Ken and Arlene Boon’s farm, in the Peace River Valley, Monday. They want to be present when a Federal judge hears the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations argue that this BC Hydro project infringes on their constitutionally protected rights to hunt, fish and trap the lands that will be submerged. The Treaty 8 Justice for the Peace Caravan will arrive in Montreal Sunday.
Treaty 8 Justice for the Peace Caravan
“It’s a high-profile caravan designed to raise the public profile of the widespread opposition and solidarity that exists across the country in support of the Treaty 8 people in the Peace River, but this is not simply an indigenous land rights or treaty rights issue. It goes far beyond that. (Site C)’s hugely opposed by pretty much every group: Amnesty International, environmental groups, private property owners being forced off their land. I don’t think the Trudeau government appreciates that,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, told Vancouver Metro,
“It’s a crazy day when the First Nations have to go all the way to Montreal to get justice for the Peace River Valley,” said Ken Boon, President of the Peace River Landowner’s Association.
B.C. Hydro has given the Boon family notice they must vacate their home, which is in the area to be submerged, by December.
“Some of us have been saying ‘no’ by writing letters to MPs, to MLAs, to the Premier, to cabinet ministers, to anyone who will listen. At the same time, we have been saying ‘yes’ to honouring the treaties that our ancestors have signed. We have been saying ‘yes’ to clean water that our grandchildren deserve. We have been saying ‘yes’ to agricultural land as well,” said Treaty 8 Justice bus spokesperson Helen Knott.
Around 60 people were on hand to listen to them, and the other speakers at the caravan’s send-off Sunday.
In previous correspondence, B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines spokesman David Haslam told the ECOreport, “The Site C project received federal and provincial environmental approvals on Oct. 14, 2014, which included the release of a Federal/Provincial Consultation and Accommodation Report … The report concluded: “that consultation has been carried out in good faith and that the process was appropriate and reasonable in the circumstances.”
To which Chief Roland Willson, of West Moberly First Nation, responded, “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 they came to talk to us and told us what their decision was,
Government Did Not Assess Treaty Violations
According to a Royal Society of Canada press release, “The government has not assessed whether the Site C dam would infringe Treaty rights, despite the fact that the Joint Review Panel jointly commissioned by the provincial and federal governments made findings that directly support the claim that infringements would occur.”
More than 250 prominent university professors from across Canada issued a joint press release claiming “this (Site C) process did not accord with the commitments of both the provincial and federal governments to reconciliation with and legal obligations to First Nations, protection of the environment, and evidence-based decision-making with scientific integrity.”
Site C Process Is Backwards
Former B.C. Hydro board member Gwen Johansson is among the many politicians calling for a B.C. Utilities Commission Review of this highly controversial project.
“Site C has always been a solution looking for a problem. We decided to build a dam and then we went looking for where we could use the power. It seems to me that the process is backwards,” said Johansson, who is now mayor of Hudson’s Hope, B.C.
Last September the Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a resolution calling for “the Province of British Columbia (to) refer the proposed Site C hydroelectric dam project to the BC Utilities Commission for review and consultation prior to any construction and development activities proceeding.”
Despite their pre-election promises of a new relationship with First Nations, and reform of Canada’s flawed review process, these are voices Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has chosen to ignore.
Caravan Crossing the Prairies
Federal NDP environment and climate change critic and Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan spoke at the Treaty 8 Justice rally in Edmonton Monday. She spoke of the Federal Government’s duty to protect indigenous rights, and enact the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Mikisew Cree First Nation Chief Steve Courtoreille and Beaver First Nation Chief Trevor Mercredi both expressed support for the caravan.
The Treaty 8 Justice For the Peace Caravan reached Saskatoon last night.