New video takes aim at Site C dam, focusing on Peace River area residents whose lives will be disrupted
Earlier this week, the nonprofit group DeSmog Canada released an evocative and compelling video about the $8.8-billion Site C dam project.
It opens with an authoritative older man's voice declaring that power from this hydroelectric project won't be needed for decades.
"Since 2005, domestic demand for electricity in B.C. has been essentially flat," Harry Swain, chair of a joint federal-provincial review for the Site C dam, says. "I think we're making a very big mistake. A very expensive one."
DeSmog Canada's executive director, Emma Gilchrist, is the next character to appear in the video. She says that the Site C dam in northeastern B.C. was first rejected in 1980s.
Gilchrist points out that the project would flood over 100 kilometres of valley land along the Peace River, "drowning prime farmland and First Nations hunting and fishing areas".
The video then introduces viewers to some of the people whose lives will be disrupted as a result of the B.C. government's decision to build the dam.
Third-generation grain and hay farmer Arlene Boon says the Site C dam means the end of everything her family has worked for. According to her, a highway will go right through her house.
"Like my grandpa said, I'll continue fighting until the water is up to my knees," she says defiantly.
Prophet First Nation member Helen Knott makes the point that people have lived in the area for generations. "I have to believe that the dam is stoppable," she says.
Gilchrist claims that the B.C. government's goal is to "get the project past the point of no return before the next election". But First Nations are trying to halt the Site C dam in the courts.
In 2015, a B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissed two Peace Valley Landowner Association's judicial-review applications, as well as two court challenges by First Nations. Three of these decisions are being appealed.
In the meantime, Boon's husband Ken hopes that the federal government will step in.
"The Trudeau government has to issue permits for this project," he says. "So, you know, we're hoping that they will honour their election promises and do a renewed relationship with aboriginals in this country."
Earlier this week, Alaska Highway News reporter Jonny Wakefield caught up with Premier Christy Clark as she visited flood-ravaged Dawson Creek.
Wakefield asked about the expropriation of land in connection with construction of the Site C dam.
"B.C. Hydro is on a really tight schedule to get it done," Clark responded. "This is an $8-billion project. The building windows are fairly narrow because we want to protect nesting birds and the environment—the ecosystem."
If you watch closely, you might notice an ever-so-slight smile crossing the premier's face when she gets to the "nesting birds" part of her answer.
The DeSmog Canada video includes the voices of those who feel the days of building huge hydroelectric dams should be over, given, the plethora of renewable-energy alternatives.
Their financial arguments have received a boost from recent disclosures about the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project and transmission link in Newfoundland and Labrador. It's an 824-megawatt facility with two dams.
The CEO of Nalcor Energy, Stan Marshall, told reporters this week that the cost has gone up by $4 billion to $11.4 billion, including interest, according to a CBC News report.
"It was a gamble and it's gone against us," Marshall said.
Last month, the president of the Royal Society of Canada, Maryse Lassonde, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, questioning why the Site C dam wasn't subjected to an independent evaluation by the B.C. Utilities Commission.
Lassonde also pointed out to Trudeau that construction has gone ahead in spite of the court challenges by First Nations.
"That in itself would seem to be an infringement of Aboriginal interests," she claimed. "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 a written response, B.C. Hydro disagreed with any suggestion that construction should be halted while the issue is before the courts.
The Crown utility maintained that it has an "obligation" to build Site C on time and on budget, given its "mandate to meet long-term electricity needs of its customers".
"Court challenges of major infrastructure projects are not uncommon in Canada and they do not stop construction from proceeding," B.C. Hydro stated. "It is up to the courts to determine whether there is any basis to the claims made by project opponents."
B.C. Hydro also pointed out that the Royal Society of Canada did not participate in a joint federal-provincial environmental assessment, which took three years to complete.