Condemnation of Site C Dam unprecedented
By Craig Benjamin
The president of Royal Society of Canada – a national association of Canada scholars – has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urge the government to "step back" from the Site C hydro-electric project. It's reported that this is the first time in decades that the Royal Society has taken a public position in opposition to a specific project.
The letter states that government approval of the Site C dam – despite numerous serious concerns identified in the environmental impact assessment process – "goes against the Canadian government emphasis on evidence-based decision-making."
The letter also condemns the failure to uphold the Treaty rights of First Nations in the Peace River region, stating, "That 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."
The letter followed a public statement against the dam, endorsed by 250 Canadian academics. That statement includes the following conclusion: "The number and scope of significant adverse environmental effects arising from the Site C Project are unprecedented in the history of environmental assessment in Canada."
The federal government gave the greenlight to the Site C dam while Stephen Harper was Prime Minister. Justin Trudeau has committed to to building a new relationship with Indigenous peoples, to ensuring evidence-based decision making processes are upheld, and to reviewing the previous government's actions to curtail the environmental assessment process. Despite these promises, a spokesperson for federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna responded to these two latest developments by saying that the government would not be "revisiting" its approval of the Site C dam.
In fact, permits necessary for further construction of the dam that are now before the federal Minister of Fisheries. In deciding whether to approve or reject these permits, the federal government has clear obligation to consider the evidence of the harm that will be done and to act to respect Indigenous rights.
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Craig Benjamin is the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples Campaigner at Amnesty International Canada. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Benjamin