The $8.8-billion Site C dam has run into a wall of opposition from scientists and legal scholars.
More than 250 of them from across Canada have signed a "statement of concern" about the regulatory review of the project on the Peace River in northeastern B.C."
"Based on evidence raised across our many disciplines, we have concluded that there were significant gaps and inadequacies in the regulatory review and environmental assessment process for the Site C Project," the statement of concern declared. "Our assessment is that this 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."
If construction proceeds, it will become the third dam along the Peace River and would flood 5,500 hectares. The B.C. government has claimed that the project will provide "affordable, reliable clean power for over 100 years", providing enough electricity for about 450,000 homes per year.
In a separate letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Royal Society of Canada president Maryse Lassonde outlined some of her organization's concerns about the regulatory process.
"Indeed, project approval goes against the Canadian government emphasis on evidence-based decision-making and how it must shape and inform government action," Lassonde wrote. "The three-person Joint Review panel, established by the two levels of government, appears to have been streamlined in order to expedite approval of the Site C project; it had to work under a short time frame with limited resources and powers, and was consequently challenged in providing a thorough and comprehensive review of the project."
The letter questions why the Site C dam wasn't reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission.
"That should have been a priority," Lassonde stated. "Why did the BC legislature pass an act to prevent this essential review? This failure to subject the project to rigorous scrutiny raises serious questions about whether the project should proceed until such time as a more thorough review is undertaken."
The letter noted that there are outstanding First Nation treaty rights and aboriginal rights that need to be resolved. Lassonde also questioned why construction is proceeding while First Nations are challenging the approval in the courts.
"That in itself would seem to be an infringement of Aboriginal interests," she wrote. "It also undermines all the goodwill over the past few years towards accommodation and reconciliation. This is not the blueprint for Canada in the twenty-first century, especially given Canada's recent decision to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Work on the Site C project should be discontinued for this reason alone."
In 2014, environmentalist David Suzuki wrote that the Site C dam would "obliterate hundreds of graves and ceremonial sites".
"If built, Site C would violate First Nations' rights under Treaty 8, rendering them irrelevant to the point of mockery," Suzuki claimed.
B.C. Hydro president and CEO Jessica McDonald, on the other hand, claimed in a 2014 B.C. government news release that Site C "is essential to keeping the lights on while maintaining low rates for our customers."