Site C Dam
March 21, 2019
OTTAWA – Whether it’s the devastating legacy of mercury contamination at Grassy Narrows, ongoing pollution from the Mount Polley mining disaster, or the looming threat of the Site C dam construction, Amnesty International says government decisions that ignore the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples must be recognized as a form of environmental racism.
“It’s no coincidence that three of our highest priority human rights cases in Canada all revolve around contamination and threats to the rivers and lakes on which Indigenous peoples depend for their livelihoods and ways of life,” says Tara Scurr, business and human rights campaigner with Amnesty International Canada. “Far too often, governments in Canada have demonstrated that they place little value on the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples and the revitalization of their cultures and traditions. That’s why we are marking World Water Day by renewing our commitment to support the Indigenous water defenders leading these crucial and inspiring human rights struggles.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan can’t ignore recommendations of United Nations anti-racism committee
A new statement from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) has underlined the urgency of immediately suspending construction of the Site C dam.
“The UN’s top anti-racism body has recognized that continued construction of the Site C dam is a serious threat to fundamental human rights,” said Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations. “This latest statement from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination makes it clear that the federal and provincial governments have no claim to being human rights champions so long as they continue to ignore the impacts of Site C on our Treaty rights.”
The United Nations’ top anti-racism body has stepped up its calls for an immediate halt to construction of the Site C dam.
In a letter to Canada’s ambassador to the UN, dated December 14 and now posted online, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calls for the massive dam project on the Peace River to be halted unless the free, prior and informed consent of the affected First Nations is obtained.
The Committee is an independent, expert body appointed to monitor state compliance with their human rights obligations under a core international human rights instrument, the binding Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The Committee’s call for an immediate halt to construction of the Site C dam was made under a special procedure intended to “prevent or limit the scale or number of serious violations of the Convention.”
West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have been forced to launch a court case to protect the Peace River Valley from the destructive Site C dam and uphold their Treaty Rights. By pledging to be a “Witness for the Peace”, you are letting the government know that you want them to uphold their Treaty obligations and that you care about what they argue in court on behalf of the "public interest". Site C Tabling Resources Included.
Amnesty International is deeply disappointed that the BC Supreme Court has decided to allow construction of the Site C dam to continue while an ongoing Treaty rights case proceeds.
In a decision released yesterday Justice Warren Milman set out a plan to ensure that the Treaty rights case initiated by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations can be heard before the dam is completed and the Peace River Valley flooded.
However, despite concluding that First Nations could face “irreparable harm” from forest clearing and other preparation activities planned to take place even before the trial begins, Justice Warren Milman turned down the application by the West Moberly First Nations for a temporary injunction to protect the Valley.
9 August 2018
The Honourable David Eby
PO Box 9044 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
By fax: 250 387-6411 and by email
Dear Attorney General Eby,
Amnesty International strongly agrees with and supports the Union of BC Indian Chiefs’ August 7th Open Letter in which their executive called on your government to denounce and formally apologize for the harmful and disrespectful arguments being made by BC Hydro in the current court hearings about the Site C dam.
This massively destructive mega-project was approved without prior determination of whether flooding the Peace River Valley would violate rights protected in Treaty 8, as was consistently stated by First Nations throughout the review process. In such a context, it is unconscionable that First Nations have been forced to take on the onerous burden on launching a civil suit just to have their Constitutionally-protected rights properly addressed.
As a BC court considers whether to grant an injunction to halt construction of the Site C dam, arguments by BC government lawyers threaten far reaching negative consequences, warns Amnesty International.
“The legal tactics being employed by the BC government amount to a complete disregard for the rights of Indigenous peoples in favour of building Site C at all costs,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “Not only would these cynical legal tactics deny First Nations the opportunity for a just resolution of the still unaddressed question of Treaty rights violations, the province’s position is brazenly at odds with the Premier’s repeated public commitments to reconciliation and respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples.”
The application for the injunction was filed by the West Moberly First Nation. West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have launched a civil suit arguing that flooding the Peace Valley will prevent the meaningful exercise of Treaty protected rights. Hearings with respect to that civil suit are not expected to get underway until the fall.
“A B.C. government, led by me, will officially adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples…I will work with you to align the actions of my government with the Declaration.” – NDP leader John Horgan, prior to the 2017 provincial election
“It is well established that statements by elected representatives do not fetter decision makers, nor do political speeches constitute legally enforceable promises against the Crown.” – the Government of British Columbia’s written submission to the Site C injunction hearing
BC Premier John Horgan has said many fine words about upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples. He made these promises while running for office and he has repeatedly affirmed them since becoming Premier. But in the most significant test to date of the veracity and integrity of these commitments -- the arguments now being made in front of the crucially important Site C injunction hearing -- Premier Horgan’s government has done the very opposite of what it promised.
UPDATED July 10, 2018
"To our allies, we say, 'keep fighting.' And to those of you just learning about this ruinous decision, don't stand for it...Call, meet, write, email, tweet." - Chief Lynette Tsakoza, Prophet River First Nations
We're at a crucial turning point for the future of the Peace River Valley.
On December 11, BC Premier John Horgan announced that construction of the Site C dam would continue despite his previous acknowledgement that "constitutional rights to practice hunting and fishing" would be "violated by this dam."
Critically, however, the fight to protect the Peace Valley is not over. The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have take the federal and provincial governments to court, alleging that flooding the Peace Valley would violate their Constitutionally-protect rights to hunt and fish as guaranteed by their Treaty.
Now, in an amazing victory of principle over politics, the federal government has told the court that it will not oppose the First Nations request to put the project on pause until the court case has been resolved.
Indigenous peoples’ organizations and social justice groups are welcoming the news that the federal government will not oppose a First Nations court application to suspend construction of the Site C dam.
“The impact of the Site C dam on First Nations Treaty rights must be addressed before it’s too late,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “Now that the federal government has done the right thing, and helped cleared the way for an injunction to be granted, Premier Horgan absolutely must ensure that the province and BC Hydro do the same. Anything less would make a mockery of the province’s commitments to reconciliation and respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples.”
The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have launched a civil suit alleging that flooding the Peace River Valley would violate rights protected in Treaty 8. West Moberly has asked the court to grant an injunction to protect the valley while the matter is before the courts.
UPDATE: The federal government has decided not to oppose the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations while they seek an injunction to suspend construction of the Site C dam in British Columbia while important, unresolved Treaty rights concerns are before the courts. We're urging Premier John Horgan to follow this example. You can learn more about this vital test case for Indigenous rights at a new website launched with coalition partners: www.witnessforthepeace.ca
The federal government ignored a direct question about the Site C dam and Treaty rights violations during a review of Canada’s human rights record earlier today at the United Nations in Geneva.
First Nations and human rights groups are questioning why lawyers for the government of BC and BC Hydro wanted to exclude important evidence about the Site C dam from an injunction hearing set to begin this July.
First Nations are seeking an injunction to halt destruction of their homelands by the Site C dam until the courts can finally address whether the dam should be cancelled for violating the Treaty rights of the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations.
In an oral judgment made on April 24 and publicly posted yesterday, the Supreme Court of British Columbia allowed applications by BC Hydro and the province to exclude some of the evidence First Nations had submitted for the injunction hearing, including sworn statements from Marc Eliesen, the former president and CEO of BC Hydro, and Harry Swain, who was the chair of the joint review panel for the project’s environmental assessment.
Organizations call for suspension of Site C dam; new website launches to monitor court challenge
“The fundamental issue is First Nations in the region have entrenched constitutional rights… to practice hunting and fishing as before, and that’s going to be violated by this dam.” - John Horgan, May 8, 2014
"People shouldn’t have to go to court to claim their rights." – federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, speaking at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, April 2018
The federal and provincial cabinets must support an immediate halt to the destructive Site C Dam while the crucial and still unresolved Treaty rights challenge is before the courts. Canada and BC must also act in good faith during this court case in a way that is in line with their commitments to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
OPEN LETTER TO THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA AND THE PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
"People shouldn’t have to go to court to claim their rights" – federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, speaking at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, April 2018
In the coming weeks, two governments that have repeatedly promised to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples will be in court to defend a massively destructive resource development project that they approved without ever once considering whether it would violate Canada’s Treaty obligations to the affected First Nations.
The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are asking the court to halt construction of the Site C dam which would flood more than 100 km of the Peace River Valley and its tributaries.
The environmental assessment of the project found that its impacts on First Nations cultural sites and way of life would be serve, permanent and irreversible. The United Nations’ top anti-racism body, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, has called for a halt to the project as a violation of the rights of Indigenous peoples.