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Resource Development in Canada

    July 25, 2017

     “The Panel is convinced that the Tsilhqot’in cultural attachment to Fish Lake (Teztan Biny) and the Nabas areas is so profound that they cannot reasonably be expected to accept the conversion of that area into the proposed New Prosperity mine.” – Report of the Federal Environmental Review panel that led to the 2014 rejection of the proposed “New Prosperity Mine”

    Amnesty International stands with the Tsilhqot’in people in calling on the BC government to immediately rescind work permits that would allow destructive mineral exploration activities in the vitally important Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and Nabas areas.

    April 20, 2017
    Sign in the Peace Valley shows potential flooding impact of the Site C dam

    Two things need to be said up front about British Columbia’s Site C dam.

    The first is that flooding more than 100km of the Peace River Valley and its tributaries will be profoundly harmful to lives and well-being of Indigenous peoples in northeast BC, which is why there has been such strong opposition to the dam from Treaty 8 First Nations.

    The Peace River Valley is a unique ecosystem supporting plants and animal populations crucial to Cree and Dene-Zaa cultural traditions. It is also the location of countless graves and historic sites. On top of that, the valley is also one of the few remaining areas in the northeast that have been largely protected from the impacts of pervasive resource development in the region.

    The independent panel that conducted the environmental assessment of Site C on behalf of the federal and provincial governments called these impacts severe, permanent and irreversible.

    January 24, 2017

    This week's Federal Court of Appeal decision leaves unanswered the critical question of whether the construction of the Site C hydro-electric dam in northeast British Columbia violates the Constitutionally-protected Treaty rights of the First Nations who live in and depend on the Peace River Valley.

    The court accepted the federal government’s argument that, because the Canadian Environmental Act doesn’t explicitly require consideration of Treaty rights, it was “reasonable” to approve the project without first determining whether it would cause unjustifiable harm to the exercise of these rights.

    If the decision stands, it has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for rights protection in Canada as it effectively allows the terms of an individual piece of legislation to trump wider Constitutional rights protections.

    November 28, 2016
    Jerry holding a sign saying 'Save the Arctic, It's my home'

    It’s been almost 20 years since the Supreme Court of Canada first ruled that the Constitutional protection of Indigenous rights requires governments to consult in “good faith” with Indigenous peoples so that their concerns can be “substantially” addressed before decisions are made that could affect their rights.

    While the federal, provincial and territorial governments now all accept that there is a duty to consult, their interpretation of this duty is often so narrow and impoverished that serious concerns over the impact of planned development are simply ignored. Rather than being a source of reconciliation and rights protection as intended in decisions like Delgamuukw (1997) and Haida Nation (2004), the duty to consult as applied by governments in Canada has been a source of ongoing conflict with projects like Northern Gateway and the Site C dam all ending up in court at tremendous cost to Indigenous peoples.

    October 26, 2016

    In an extraordinary victory for Indigenous rights and environmental protection, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador has agreed to measures to reduce immediate risks to Inuit health and culture from the Muskrat Falls dam.

    Following almost two weeks of protests, including a hunger strike, occupations of the dam site and a journey to Ottawa, the government met yesterday with Inuit and Innu leaders. The result was an agreement to:

    October 24, 2016
    Muskrat Falls hunger strikers at Human Rights Monument, Ottawa

    A hunger strike by three Inuit land defenders - Billy Gauthier, Jerry Kohlmeister and Delilah Saunders – is a powerful symbol of the tragic choices that will face Inuit hunters and fishers if planned flooding for the Muskrat Falls dam goes ahead.

    Flooding will release deadly methylmercury into the water system where it will accumulate in the fish, seals, duck eggs and other wild food that are central to the diet of Inuit people living around the downstream Lake Melville Estuary.

    The provincial government plans to monitor the fish and issue warnings when the mercury levels become unsafe.

    A government MP summed it up this approach in a facebook post: “Just measure MeHg [methylmercury] levels, eat less fish.”

    What this approach means for Inuit families is an impossible choice between abandoning the food that sustains them and their culture, or risking the devastating impacts of mercury poisoning.

    “I come from a very large family that couldn’t get by without country food,” Delilah Saunders explained.

    September 23, 2016

     “Ninety-five percent of my food is what I eat off of the land.” – Inuit hunter quoted in Harvard University study of potential health impacts of the Muskrat Falls dam 

    In a matter of days, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador could begin the first phase of flooding for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam. Doing so will set off a chain of events that will threaten the health and culture of downstream Inuit hunters and fishers for generations to come.

    Threats to food and culture ignored

    A 2015 peer reviewed scientific study concluded that the Muskrat Falls dam would increase levels of deadly methylmercury flowing into the downstream Lake Melville estuary by at least 25 percent and potentially by as much as 200 percent. 

    A follow-up study released earlier this year warned that  almost half of the Inuit community of Rigolet would be exposed to methylmercury levels in seals and other wild foods exceeding Canadian health guidelines, with exposure increasing by up to 1500% for some individuals.

    July 12, 2016

    by Craig Benjamin, Indigneous Rights Campaigner
     

    Imagine this: 

    Hundreds of people - First Nations, Métis and non-Indigenous - out on canoes and kayaks to celebrate  the  beauty of the  Peace River and show their determination to protect the land from the massive destruction that would be caused by the Site C dam.

    This was the scene last weekend at the 11th annual Paddle for the Peace in northeast BC. The event brought together people from throughout the province, across the country, and indeed around the world. Our colleagues from KAIROS even brought an entire busload of paddlers from Vancouver Island and the lower mainland.

    360 panorama photo -- click and drag to view the full scene

    February 19, 2016

    Before and after images show destruction that has already occurred as construction of Site C dam presses ahead
     

    Indigenous activist explains the importance of halting the Site C dam

    When Helen Knott talks about the importance of the Peace Valley, she inevitably also talks about her grandmother. About time spent together out on the land, learning the stories that have been passed down through the generations. Learning the skills of how to live on the land. And trying to ensure that this knowledge can be passed on to her own son.

    “All my grandmother’s stories are connected to land,” says Helen. “It’s like that for our elders. You have to be on the land to be able to share those memories.”

    February 11, 2016

    Organizations from across Canada are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take immediate action to halt construction of the Site C dam in north-eastern British Columbia

    In an open letter released today, more than 25 organizations, including Amnesty International, the David Suzuki Foundation, and Sierra Club BC, denounced the project for violation of rights protected under Treaty 8, the Canadian Constitution, and international human rights law.

    Although promoted by the government of BC as a “clean” source of renewable energy, the joint federal-provincial environmental impact assessment panel concluded that the Site C dam would severely and permanently undermine Indigenous peoples’ use of the land and destroy important cultural sites and a unique ecosystem.

    January 07, 2016

    The province of British Columbia is pushing ahead with construction of a hydro-electric megaproject in the Peace River Valley despite unresolved legal challenges from First Nations. A camp set up by community members at an historic site in the path of BC Hydro's efforts to clear the planned reservoir has led to a temporary halt in logging. But the community members now face the risk of arrest for their actions.

    The rapidly evolving situation highlights the urgent need for the federal government to honour its Treaty commitments by suspending all federal licenses and permits for the project so that the underlying issues of Constitutionally-protected rights and due process can be addressed.

    The following is a press released issued by the community members.

     

    First Nations Prepare for Arrest to Stop Site C Dam
    Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land call on Trudeau to stop megadam in B.C.'s Peace Valley

    November 24, 2015

    Respect for Indigenous peoples' right of free, prior and informed (FPIC) must be a matter of urgent priority for any government committed to a respectful relationship with Indigenous peoples.

    This is part of a message to the the new Prime Minister and his Cabinet from Indigenous peoples' organizations, human rights groups, environmentalists and others.

    In an open letter sent today, 16 organizations from across Canada called on the federal government to collaborate with Indigenous Peoples’ governments and organizations to ensure that:

    November 24, 2015

    Dear Prime Minister,

    Our organizations welcome your public commitment to a renewed relationship between the federal government and Indigenous Peoples in Canada based on the rights guaranteed in Canada’s Constitution and enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We hope that this vision of cooperation and partnership will shape your government’s actions and priorities from the outset.

    We are encouraged that, as a “top priority”, you have mandated the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to support reconciliation and implement the UN Declaration.

    In particular, our organizations believe that there is an immediate and pressing need for your government to collaborate with Indigenous Peoples to institute the crucial human rights safeguard of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) in the laws, policies and procedures of the federal government.

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