Peace Valley, British Columbia: Respect for Indigenous Rights Can't Wait
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
ROCKY MOUNTAIN FORT CAMP, BC, Jan. 7, 2016 /CNW/ - First Nations members camped out at an historic fort site slated for destruction by the Site C dam say they are prepared to face arrest to protect their traditional territory.
Joined by local landowners, Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land say they will not permit BC Hydro to proceed with plans to clear-cut forests around the Rocky Mountain Fort site on the west side of the Moberly River. The site, selected by explorer Alexander Mackenzie, was the first trading post in mainland B.C. and is situated in the traditional territory of Treaty 8 First Nations.
The $9 billion Site C dam would flood 107-kilometres of the scenic Peace River and its tributaries, including the traditional hunting and fishing grounds of Treaty 8 First Nations. In late December, despite three on-going First Nations court cases against the dam, BC Hydro built a bridge across the mouth of the Moberly River in preparation for logging in the proposed reservoir area.
In addition to its legal, economic, political and archaeological significance to indigenous and non-indigenous people, the camp is the gateway to the rest of the threatened Peace Valley. BC Hydro has served notice that the camp must be dismantled.
"Logging and flooding this part of the Peace Valley will irreversibly harm our ability to hunt, fish, trap and exercise other constitutionally-protected Treaty Rights, especially since much of the rest of Treaty 8 Territory has been devastated by other hydro-electric, oil and gas and industrial developments," said Art Napoleon, "To have any meaning, these treaty rights require a land base and waterways where there are wildlife and fish, and which is capable of supporting a diversity of plant life. Treaty rights also include management level decision-making to protect moose calving grounds, medicine harvesting and berry picking, and spiritual practices – all of which will be obliterated by Site C."
A delegation of First Nations chiefs told Prime Minister Trudeau's key Cabinet members in December that suspending federal approval of the Site C dam is a critical litmus test of his government's promised new relationship with Indigenous Peoples.
"The Prime Minister says that Canada's most important relationship is with its Indigenous Peoples and that he promises to uphold and respect Treaty Rights," said Helen Knott, "This is what we are trying to do at a grassroots level. I speak as Great Great Granddaughter of Chief Bigfoot, the last to sign Treaty 8 in 1911, and I am trying to honour my Grandfather's original intent and uphold those rights he meant to protect. I ask Prime Minister Trudeau to also honour that original intent."
"We applaud the court cases being brought by West Moberly, Prophet River and others, but they take time to wind their way through the courts. Meanwhile, before the court cases are even heard, BC Hydro is destroying the very valley that these court cases are intended to protect. The way I see it, they are stealing from future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. We are not here just for us but for the ones that will come after us," said Helen Knott. "As individual Treaty 8 First Nation members, we cannot stand by. Do I want to be arrested? No, I am here peacefully doing what I believe is right and needed but this land is a part of who I am and I will take a stand for it. Prime Minister Trudeau can stop BC Hydro from destroying the Peace Valley. Until he does, we will".
SOURCE Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land
For further information: Helen Knott, Prophet River First Nation member and Treaty 8 Steward of the Land, at (250) 280 2277;
Art Napoleon, Saulteau First Nations member and Treaty 8 Steward of the Land, at (250) 818 5626
For more information on Amnesty International's support for the call to stop Site C, please see: bit.ly/1PQeNs6