Site C: The BC government must do the right thing
UPDATED DECEMBER 11, 2017
"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
On December 11, BC Premier John Horgan announced that his government intends to turn its back on the human rights of Indigenous peoples in the Peace River Valley.
Before being elected as Premier, John Horgan publicly stated that "constitutional rights to practice hunting and fishing" would be "violated by this dam." As Premier, he publicly stated that this issue has never been resolved and may ultimately end up before the Supreme Court.
Despite these public statements, Premier Horgan now says construction must continue. And, he says, it's not his fault. The Premier says too much money has already been spent, making it too expensive to stop construction.
But that claim directly contradicts the findings of the recent independent review by the BC Utilities Commissions which found that - despite the money already spent on Site C - there are still affordable, less destructive alternatives.
Amnesty has called the Premier's decison outrageous and cynical. What's worse, he seems to be suggesting that it's ok to violate Indigenous rights if doing so might save the province money.
Despite what the Premier said, Site C is not past the point of no return. There's still time to stop construction and repair the harm.
The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have announced that they will continue their fight in court. A court victory could halt the dam, regardless of the Premier's decision.
But this is an unfair burden for First Nations to bear. Indigenous peoples should not have to go to court to make governments uphold the rights - governments should do so a fundamental principle of responsible government.
The provincial government should live up to the principles of reconciliation and human rights protection that it promised when it was elected. If it doesn't have the courage or conviction to stop the dam outright, it must ensure that no further harm is done to vital animal habitat, cultural sites and multi-generation family farms while the the outstanding issue of Treaty rights is resolved. It would be fundamentally unjust for the courts to rule in favour of the First Nations after the harm had already been done.
Please let BC Premier John Horgan know that he's wrong to ignore the human rights of Indigenous peoples in the Peace River Valley
Petitions are important and powerful tools for justice. But individual letters and phone calls can have an even greater impact on governments. The extra effort involved in delivering your own message demonstrates a level of awareness and concern that matters to governments – especially when they are concerned about their own re-election prospects.
Please write a short, courteous but forceful letter to the Premier
- expressing outrage over the claim that a small, short-term cost saving could ever justify the violation of Indigenous rights.
- pointing out the independent review carried out by the BC Utilites Commission confirmed that there are less destructive alternatives that, despite the money already spent, may still be cheaper in the long run.
- calling for the government to keep its promise to respect Indigenous rights and promote reconciliation, not just in some places, but everywhere in BC including the Peace River Valley.
- Point out the the Premier himself has previously acknowledge that flooding the Peace River Valley would violate rights protected by Treaty 8 and the Canadian Constitution and that this issue have never been addressed or resolved.
- Urge the government to at least ensure that no further harm is done while the issue of Treaty rights obligations remains unresolved.
In addition to sending an email, or sending a letter by post, you are also encouraged to phone the Premier's office and leave a message.
Premier John Horgan
PO Box 9041
STN PROV GOVT
Victoria, BC V8W 9E1
In addition to writing the Premier, please cc your letter - or write a separate letter - to Green Party leader:
Dr. Andrew Weaver:
PHONE: (250) 387-8347
FAX: (250) 387-8338
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4
Finally, be sure to share messages of solidarity and support for the ongoing struggle to save the Peace River Valley by using the hashtag #WithThePeaceRiver
Three reasons why the BC government must stop Site C
- The social and environmental impacts will be devastating.
Because of the massive scale of other resource development in northeast BC, including mining, logging and oil and gas development, the Peace River Valley is one of the few remaining places in the region where Indigenous peoples can still practice their cultures and traditions. Flooding the Peace River Valley will have a devastating impact on First Nations hunting, fishing and the gathering of berries and plant medicines. These are activities that are central to Indigenous identity and which continue to play a crucial role in the health and sustence of Dunne-Zaa and Cree families in northeast BC. The government-appointed environmental impact assessment concluded that the impacts would be severe, permanent and irreversible. This is in addition to the destruction of grave and numerous cultural sites dating back hundreds and thousands of years, as well as the loss of small farms that have been maintained for generations.
- There’s no justification for this needless destruction.
The province needs to invest in the long term needs of the people of northeast BC where social services and infrastructure have been neglected for too long. The SIte C dam is simply not the way to do it. On November 1, a government-appointed economic review concluded that even with the money already spent on Site C, continued construction offers little or no financial benefit to the province when compared with other, less destructive alternatives. Furthermore, in some scenarios, halting Site C could actually mean a considerable saving for the province, freeing up potential for more sustain investments in the province's future. Either way, it's clear that the destruction of Indigenous land and livelihoods is unnecessary and that the province could benefit Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike through a new strategy for energy conservation and development.
- Completing the Site C dam would be a blow to reconciliation with First Nations.
There’s good reason why international human rights standards, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, require the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples on serious decisions such as resource development on their territories. History tells us that if Indigenous peoples don’t have a real seat at the table, their rights will be swept aside. This is exactly what happened with the approval of the Site C dam. The federal and provincial governments have acknowledged that they never even considered whether the dam was compatible with their Treaty obligations, despite the many serious concerns expressed by Treaty 8 First Nations. Approval of the project under these circumstances was unjust. Allowing the decision to stand would be a further injustice. In contrast, stopping Site C is an important opportunity to send a message to all British Columbians and all Canadians that the lives, cultures and economies of First Nations matter.
We have lots of compelling, accessible information on why Site C must be stopped. Start here:
"The Point of No Return": Amnesty's 2016 report on the Site C dam
"Out of Sight, Out of Mind": Amnesty's case study on the hidden economic and social cost of current resource development in northeast BC
An open letter to the government of John Horgan, signed by the Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations, Amnesty International and many others