New permit for Site C dam breaks federal government promises to First Nations
A permit issued this week by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans violates the rights of Indigenous peoples by allowing continued construction of a destructive and unjustified hydro-electric megaproject that does not have their free, prior and informed consent.
“The federal government had the opportunity to do the right thing and at least insist that First Nations legal challenges be given a fair hearing before construction of the Site C dam continues,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “Instead, in taking this step the government has broken its promise to respect Canada’s Treaties with Indigenous peoples and uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
The Site C dam will flood more than 100 km of the Peace River Valley in northeast BC. The land is crucial habitat for wild animals and plants vital to First Nations cultures and traditions. The land also includes hundreds of cultural and sacred sites, including graves.
A joint federal-provincial environmental impact assessment concluded in May 2014 that the dam would cause “severe” and “irreversible” harm to Indigenous peoples.
Despite that assessment, the federal and provincial governments gave the project the green light in 2014. However continued construction requires specific permits from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Ministry of Transport.
In Amnesty International’s assessment, flooding the Peace River Valley would violate Indigenous peoples’ rights to land and culture that are protected by Treaty, the Canadian Constitution and international law. The decision-making process surrounding the Site C dam has fallen far short of the rigorous standard of rights protection owed Indigenous peoples.
Legal challenges by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are still before the courts.
“The project should not have been approved in the first place,” said Alex Neve. “A government truly committed to upholding rights and promoting reconciliation would not have granted this latest permit allowing Site C construction to continue. We are now urging the federal and provincial governments to cooperate to bring construction to an immediate halt. The rights of Indigenous peoples must not be pushed aside any longer.”
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