‘We’re going to court’: B.C. First Nation to proceed with Site C dam ‘megatrial’

Image result for the narwhal: ‘We’re going to court’: B.C. First Nation to proceed with Site C dam ‘megatrial’
Clearing along the Peace River in preparation for Site C dam construction, July 12, 2018. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

West Moberly First Nations will proceed with a Site C dam “megatrial” following six months of confidential talks with the B.C. government and BC Hydro aimed at avoiding litigation, chief Roland Willson announced on Tuesday.

“They’re not going anywhere,” Willson told The Narwhal. “It’s essentially kicking a dead horse. … They wanted to have discussions and now we’re not talking anymore. We’re going to court.”

In January 2018, West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation filed civil claims alleging that the Site C project and two previous dams on the Peace River unjustifiably infringe on their treaty rights.

West Moberly First Nations subsequently lost an application for an injunction to protect 13 areas of cultural importance for the Dunne-Za nations — including prime moose habitat, a rare old-growth white spruce and trembling aspen forest and two wetlands called Sucker Lake and Trappers Lake — from clear-cut logging for the dam.

But the judge ruled their treaty rights case must be heard by 2023, prior to scheduled flooding of the Peace River Valley the following year.

Tim Thielmann, West Moberly First Nations legal counsel, said the ruling leaves the door open for the court “to impose an eleventh-hour cancellation or injunction onto the project and to prevent the flooding of the Peace River if the First Nations are successful in their treaty infringement claim.”

Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nations. Photo: David Moskowitz

NDP government’s position a ‘profound conflict’ 

The Site C dam would flood 128 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries, about the equivalent distance of driving from Vancouver to Whistler.

It would destroy First Nations burial grounds and culturally significant areas, some of Canada’s best farmland, habitat for more than 100 species at risk of extinction and the last intact section of the Peace River Valley still available for Treaty 8 members to engage in traditional practices.

At trial, B.C. Premier John Horgan is expected to defend the 2014 decision made by former Liberal Premier Christy Clark to proceed with the Site C project, a decision West Moberly First Nations says infringed Treaty 8, according to a news release the nation issued on Tuesday.

“You have this surprising situation where the provincial government is finding itself on a path to a large trial in which they will be defending the position that they have been fighting,” Thielmann told The Narwhal.

 

Agreements mark ‘turning point’ for six B.C. caribou herds, but leave most herds hanging

Caribou maternity penCaribou cows and their calves from the Klinse-Za herd in a maternity pen in northeastern B.C. Photo: Jayce Hawkins / The Narwhal

A new southern mountain caribou protection agreement is being heralded as a landmark measure to protect six highly endangered herds in Treaty 8 traditional territory in B.C.’s northeast.

But scientists say a second, new conservation agreement aimed at protecting the rest of B.C.’s imperilled southern mountain caribou herds is “vague,” and some conservation groups are calling it a roadmap for the potential local extinction of herds already in sharp decline.

Both long-awaited draft agreements were announced Thursday by the B.C. government. The B.C. press gallery was given 30 minutes notice of a lunchtime technical briefing and news conference, and the government did not issue a press release.

A widely praised caribou partnership agreement for B.C.’s Peace region — forged among Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations and the federal and provincial governments — features habitat protection, including the designation of a new protected area for caribou and areas that would have interim moratoriums on industrial development such as logging.

It also includes an Indigenous guardian program, building on complex efforts by the two First Nations to save the spiritually important Klinse-za caribou herd — part of the Pine River caribou population unit — through a five-year-old maternal penning project. Details about the program, which West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations will take the lead in planning, have not yet been released.

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United Nations instructs Canada to suspend Site C dam construction over Indigenous rights violations

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The world’s foremost racial discrimination committee says Canada must work with Indigenous communities to find an alternative to the $10.7 billion hydro project in B.C.

In a rare rebuke, the United Nations has instructed Canada to suspend construction of the Site C dam on B.C.’s Peace River until the project obtains the “free, prior and informed consent” of Indigenous peoples.

Canada has until April 8 to report back to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination outlining steps it has taken to halt construction of the hydro project, which would flood 128 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries in the heart of Treaty 8 traditional territory. MORE