Standing with the People of the Peace

One of the first acts of the recently elected provincial government of British Columbia was to order an independent review of the economic case for and against the massive Site C hydro-electric project. After releasing an interim report in September, the BC Utilities Commission held a series of public meetings across the province. The final report is due November 1 after which the decision on the fate of the project – and the Peace River Valley – will rest with the provincial government.

Gary Ockenden, the Vice President of Amnesty International Canada shared this note from a hearing that he attended:

The Chair and three Commissioners of the BC Utilities Commission came to Nelson, BC on September 26th and held a public hearing on the Site C project. I was fortunate enough to get a five minute slot to present to them as a BC ratepayer.

The BCUC mandate to review the project is limited and doesn’t include looking at how Indigenous rights or environmental concerns have been dealt with. That said, I was able to speak to Indigenous rights in the Peace, and also tied it to the BCUC mandate by showing how the failure to respect Indigenous rights will likely lead to significant financial liability for BC Hydro and for British Columbia.

The room was full and there were about 15 presenters. Oonly one spoke in favour of the project.

Several focused their comments in support of the people of the Peace Valley. One young woman emotionally asked, “When will we settlers stop taking and taking and taking – and finally recognize indigenous rights!” There was lots of applause. It’s fair to say the people of Nelson are with the first people of the Peace.