On September 12, the Federal Court of Appeal in Montreal will hear the latest legal challenge to the massive Site C hydroelectric dam already under construction on Treaty 8 territory in northeast British Columbia.
First Nations community members from Treaty 8 set out on Monday to travel by bus across Canada to focus attention of the importance of this case to the rights of all treaty First Nations and to highlight Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promised new relationship with First Nations.
Northern Public Affairs is proud to be a co-sponsor of the final stop on the Justice for the Peace Caravan tour in Ottawa on September 13, celebrating the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The event will feature a rally and press conference with West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson and a live webinar on “Keeping the promise: Treaty rights, the UN Declaration, and the Site C dam,” featuring presentations from West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations’ legal representatives and experts on the UN Declaration and treaty rights in Canada, followed by a community feast. The panel presentations will be made available through Northern Public Affairs following the event.
The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have been opposed to the Site C hydroelectric dam project for close to five decades. The $9-billion BC Hydro project threatens to flood three of the largest rivers in the Nations’ territory, placing 107 kilometres of river valley and tributaries currently used for hunting, fishing, and ceremony under water. Amnesty International recently published a report showing that Site C violates the human rights of impacted First Nations.
In 2014, federal and provincial governments approved construction of the dam despite the fact that their own environmental impact assessment process found that it would cause serious, irreparable harm to First Nations traditional land use.
While the federal and provincial governments claim to have respected First Nations rights and consultation requirements, the question of whether construction of the dam was compatible with their legal obligations under Treaty 8 and the Constitutional protection of Aboriginal and Treaty rights was not considered.
Preparation for construction of the dam has proceeded since July 2015 while legal challenges by First Nations and local landowners work their way through the court system.
The Federal Court of Appeal on September 12 in Montreal will challenge Canada’s approval of the project on the basis that it infringes upon Treaty rights. The implications of the case will be far reaching, especially for other Treaty First Nations. Many also characterize the Site C dam as a litmus test of the commitment’s made by Canada to have a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations; a respectful relationship that honours Treaties and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Justice for the Peace Caravan
In the lead-up to the court appearance, a group of elders, youth, Treaty 8 members, and allies are travelling 4,432 kilometres from the banks of the Peace River Valley in BC to Montreal to make sure the voices of the Peace River Valley are heard in the Federal Court of Appeal.
A launch event was held in Fort St. John on Monday, Sept. 5 featuring remarks from Caravan Representatives, West Moberly & Prophet River leadership, Ken & Arlene Boon, and MP Romeo Saganash, who recently introduced a private member’s bill that would force Canada to adopt UNDRIP into domestic law.
The cross-country caravan will stop in communities along the way, sharing stories, connecting struggles, and building support for the just resolution of the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations’ case against the Site-C dam. These two communities have been fighting this project for nearly five decades.
Sept. 5: Justice for the Peace Caravan leaves Fort St. John, BC
Sept 6-11: Hosted by treaty nations across Canada, including in Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie
Sept 12: Court hearing in Montreal
Sept 13: Caravan arrives in Ottawa to celebrate anniversary of UN adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Photo: Supporters and members of Treaty 8 Peace Caravan in Saskatoon Sept. 7. Credit: Gary McNutt