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Global head of Amnesty calls for immediate halt to Site C dam construction

    Looking out over the Peace River near Fort St. John, where BC Hydro has already begun clearing the valley floor in preparation
    November 19, 2015

    Amnesty International is calling for an immediate halt to construction of a massive hydro-electric dam on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia.

    In an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and BC Premier Christy Clark, the Secretary General of the global movement of Amnesty International expressed concern about "the violations of Indigenous peoples’ human rights that would result from the construction of the Site C dam."

    The letter states, "The harm caused by the Site C dam would deny Indigenous peoples the ability to exercise fundamental human rights protected under both Canadian and international law."

    The letter goes on to state, "Instead of meeting the rigorous standard of decision- making required by Canada’s obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of Indigenous peoples, the decision to allow the Site C dam to proceed was deeply flawed."

    The planned hydroelectric project would inundate an 80 km long section of the Peace River Valley. The area that would be flooded is vital to First Nations and Métis peoples in the region who continue to rely on the Valley to provide for themselves and to practice their cultures and traditions, including by hunting, fishing, and gathering berries and plant medicines. The Peace Valley is also the location of numerous cultural and heritage sites whose history spans some 10,000 years. The landscape is inseparable from the Indigenous knowledge and stories of the peoples who live in this unique place.

    The joint federal-provincial environmental assessment of the Site C dam concluded that many of the impacts on Indigenous peoples’ cultural heritage and contemporary land use would be of high magnitude, permanent, and irreversible. The Joint Review also concluded that the harm caused by the Site C dam would be compounded by the fact that extensive resource development in the region, including two previous dams on the Peace River and ongoing oil and gas development, has already severely curtailed the opportunities for Indigenous peoples to practice their cultures and traditions.

    The dam has been strongly opposed by First Nations and local landowners, including through a series of legal challenges now before the courts.

    Having been informed of the serious harm that the dam would cause Indigenous peoples – both through communications from Indigenous peoples themselves and through the Joint Review process -- there was a clear obligation on the part of the federal and provincial governments to take effective action to ensure that the rights of Indigenous peoples were protected. This did not happen. But it is not too late.

    Amnesty International is calling for current construction to be halted, all related permits rescinded, and no further permits granted, unless the affected Indigenous peoples grant their free, prior and informed consent.

    The letter concludes,

    "The Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia must act to ensure that the rights of First Nations will be respected, and that the Site C dam will not proceed against their wishes. Such an affirmation of the human rights of Indigenous peoples is indispensable for ensuring the well-being of Indigenous peoples in the Peace Valley. It also indispensable for the broader public interest in achieving reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous society in British Columbia on the basis of justice and respect for the rights of all.

    Recognizing and upholding the human rights of Indigenous peoples in the Peace Valley also has a global importance. Around the world, Indigenous peoples are subjected to extreme impoverishment and widespread violation of their human rights. It is crucial that all levels of government in Canada set positive examples that can help elevate the situation of Indigenous peoples – and not lower the bar by knowingly violating establishing international and domestic norms and standards for the protection of Indigenous rights."

     

    For further information  please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations, 416-363-9933 ext 332, bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca

     

    Open Letter to PM Trudeau and Premier Clark re: Site C Dam and the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Peace Valley