Ana Simeon: B.C. Hydro must wait for the courts to rule on Site C dam

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      This week, a year almost to the day since the ground-breaking Supreme Court of Canada decision affirming aboriginal title in the Tsilhqot’in case, another B.C. First Nation will be in federal court trying to prevent yet another destructive project that is being aggressively pursued without aboriginal consent.

      The $9-billion-plus Site C, the third dam on the Peace River in northeastern B.C., would flood hunting grounds, contaminate the remaining Native fisheries, and obliterate literally hundreds of cultural and spiritual sites. It’s not like the First Nations have anywhere else to go. A study commissioned by the West Moberly First Nations earlier this year showed highly toxic levels of mercury in trout caught in the Williston drainage. Some rivers have high levels of selenium from coal mines. In a region scarred by two large dams and criss-crossed with oil and gas installations, Treaty 8 First Nations are rapidly running out of places to meaningfully exercise their rights, guaranteed by treaty “as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow”.

      In her ground-breaking ruling last July, Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin strongly affirmed aboriginal title which is vested in aboriginal communities and includes both present and future generations. This means that land may not be damaged in a way that would prevent enjoyment by future generations. On a scale of damage, flooding a 100-kilometre-long stretch of the Peace River and its tributaries equals pretty much total destruction.

      Yet B.C. Hydro, egged on by the provincial government, is itching to put shovels in the ground this summer, thus pre-empting the legal process. After the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, after the Tsilhqot’in decision—have we learned nothing?

      In their opposition to Site C, Treaty 8 First Nations are in good company. Local governments across the province are concerned about the threat to B.C.’s food security and the economics of the $9.5-billion project. Earlier this month, Metro Vancouver called on the B.C. government to put a two-year moratorium on Site C pending review by two independent watchdogs, the B.C. Utilities Commission and the Agricultural Land Commission. Metro Vancouver joins a number of other municipalities and regional districts across the province, representing a total of 70 percent of B.C.’s non-Native population.

      Native drummers at the Paddle for the Peace.
      Peace Valley Environment Association

      Meanwhile, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has initiated a monitoring mission to investigate threats posed by Site C to the wetlands of the Wood Buffalo National Park, and asked Canada to put on hold any resource projects that would cause irreversible impacts to this world heritage site. The decision was made in response to a petition from the Athabasca Chipewyan and Mikisew Cree First Nations to place Wood Buffalo National Park on the list of world heritage sites “in danger”.

      When the B.C. government approved Site C last December, it did so despite the findings of the Joint Review Panel that Site C would cause irreversible negative impacts to First Nations. It also flouted the panel’s recommendation that Site C be reviewed by an independent body, thus laying itself open to legal challenges by both First Nations and non-Native landowners.

      As the shock waves of the Dawson Creek fatality reverberate across the province, we are poignantly reminded that respect for the law is at the heart of our democracy; it is the foundation of the peace and safety we enjoy. The principles of aboriginal title and the duty of the Crown have been affirmed in the strongest terms by the highest court of the land. The least that the B.C. and federal governments can do is show respect, and wait until the courts have made their ruling on Site C.



      The Alternative

      Jul 21, 2015 at 11:54am

      Is what?
      Come up with a better way to generate power for a growing population and the protest might gain some more traction.

      Martin Cavin

      Jul 21, 2015 at 3:50pm

      A $9.5 billion dam in the best way to generate only 580 MW of power? That's the average power output of the dam. The BC Liberals say long-term interest rates could be 5% before the dam is completed. At max. energy output of 5,100 GWh/yr, that works out to $100 a MWh. Meanwhile the average N. American market price is $30 a MWh, due to the glut of cheap nat. gas and efficient combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT)plants. There's something wrong with this picture. No surprise that a Quebec gov't commission recommended that the Romaine hydro project be halted because it will never pay for itself with a power cost of $60 a MWh. Somehow Site C will be different? Why won't the Liberals let the BCUC review the financial viability of the dam, as recommended by the dam's Joint Review Panel?

      Meanwhile the BC gov't has no problem promoting the export of LNG for the rest of the world to burn. But it's not good enough for BC to burn at $30 a MWh? The proposed Petronas LNG export terminal will require 10,000 GWh/yr of energy just to liquefy the gas for transport. That's double the output of Site C. Gas will be burned to provide this energy, and the plant won't even be using CCGT technology!

      A gas power plant is a viable interim solution for providing cheap reliable power until technology provides something better. Another bonus is that gas burned domestically doesn't have to be liquefied first. Calgary just completed a CCGT plant for $1.5 billion (Shepard Energy) which will produce more energy (6,500 GWh/yr) than Site C.

      Susan Smitten

      Jul 22, 2015 at 10:03am

      People who wish to support Treaty 8 Nations - in federal court today to argue their treaty rights cannot be trampled by this development - can go to to either donate, become an online 'friend-raiser' or sign up for updates. The goal is $250K - and we're about a third of the way there. This case is headed for the Supreme Court - and since we all benefit from the outcome, it seems only fair we all step up to support the high cost of enforcing constitutionally-protected rights in court.


      Jul 22, 2015 at 12:11pm

      keep on protesting forever, because once it is gone it is gone forever, don't believe anything coming out of their mouths for they are all lies.

      Bill Horne

      Jul 24, 2015 at 5:30pm

      Note that most of the unions in the pro-Site C BC & Yukon Building and Construction Trades Council are so-called "international" unions. I think of them as transnational unions; their headquarters are in the US. Is this one of the reasons for their vocal support for Site C? And the virtual silence from the BC Fed?

      Murray Munn

      Aug 3, 2015 at 11:58am

      When I post about this anti-democratic plan by the BC government to abrogate treaty rights, farm plentitude and environmental beauty and purity, I get zero response except others agreeing it's beautiful and a nice place to drive past on our way south from the Yukon. One commenter, one friend, says "We need the power." What's not noticed is that it's not only for we power-wanters or for BC's Clarke to just grab it. There are agreements in place that a judge must rule upon. Shovels may not be just stuck in the ground, although in the real world that is exactly too often what happens. I think it's sad already what's happened to northern BC and Alta. with all the ugly powercut scars and ditches and the Tar Sands mess, as well as the 2 dams already in place that changed migration patterns forever and wild animal trails, but to not try much harder to decrease power consumption or to aggressively investigate other power sources is preventing the inevitable--be that world destruction or simply having to exploit wind, surf or other sources later. Remember how the wild used to be ... read books such as those by RM Patterson that describe the Peace and other rivers prior to the arrival of corporate greed and, yes, human need.

      Eva van Loon

      Aug 9, 2015 at 11:48pm

      Site C was a dumb idea decades ago and is even dumber now. When are we going to get around to looking at the carrying capacity of a given patch of Earth for ALL the beings who live on that patch before we permanently alter it? Site C will only hasten our own destruction, like other short-sighted gigantic projects that fail to look seven generations forward. There's abundant solar, wind and other free energy on the planet. We must not support projects that enslave people and kill other beings and entire ecologies, just to support the prevailing idiotic notion that a few humans have the exclusive right to extract resources and export them across the planet to make tons of money.

      Jim Berryhill

      Aug 15, 2015 at 10:24am

      Something really serious needs to be done by a large portion of people in B.C. (massive demonstrations) to stop the corruption of our existing Govt including this action that will involve loss of much more agricultural land .These Liberal scumbags put me through 3+ years refusing and red tape BS money costs to allow an 6 acre piece of gravel to be severed off my farm.YET over and over again huge tracts of arable agri land continues to be destroyed in pursuit of greed of developers etc.-(mainly connections of Liberals or MS Clarke I bet) !!!!