Two Indigenous groups have launched a civil action that aims to stop construction of the Site C hydroelectric dam.
In a January 16 media release, the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations argue that Site C plus two other dams already operating on the Peace River “collectively infringes their constitutional rights”.
“The cumulative impact of the Bennett, Peace Canyon, and Site C Dams is to turn the Peace River into a series of reservoirs, destroying the unique cultural and ecological character of the Peace, severing the physical, practical, cultural and spiritual connection the Prophet have with the Peace, and infringing treaty rights,” reads a notice of civil claim.
The Site C dam is a B.C. Hydro project in the early stages of construction on the Peace River in northeast B.C., near Fort St. John. The W.A.C. Bennett dam and the Peace Canyon dam are both up river, about an hour and a half’s drive west of Site C.
Notices of civil claim were filed by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations yesterday (January 15) in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
They ask that the court finds approvals for construction of the Site C dam are “unconstitutional, void, and of no force and effect”, and that the court issues injunctions to stop further construction approvals from being issued.
In addition, the release states that the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations intend to apply for the disclosure of documents that they claim B.C. Hydro has thus far “withheld from public scrutiny”.
“We need more information about the project’s schedule, budget, and ongoing geotechnical challenges to accurately estimate the implications of suspending construction until our treaty infringement claims are decided at trial,” West Moberly First Nation chief Roland Willson said quoted in the release.
Prophet River First Nation chief Lynette Tsakoza is quoted calling attention to significant and repeated increases in B.C. Hydro’s cost estimates for Site C.
“We’re not just asking the court to save the Peace River valley, but to save British Columbians billions of dollars by scrapping this ill-conceived, outmoded, and unneeded boondoggle unravelling in plain sight,” she said.
The province's latest cost estimate is $10.7 billion. Back in 2009 when the Site C dam was suggested under then premier Gordon Campbell, the estimate was $5 billion to $6.6 billion.
Site C’s construction has remained controversial for decades. The dam was championed by the former Liberal government. B.C. premier John Horgan announced his NDP government would continue with the project on December 11.
“It's clear that Site C should never have been started," Horgan said on that date. "But to cancel it would add billions to the Province's debt—putting at risk our ability to deliver housing, child care, schools and hospitals for families across B.C. And that's a price we're not willing to pay."