Prime Minister Trudeau should not Rely on the Courts to Uphold his Promises to Indigenous Peoples
Treaty 8 First Nations and their supporters say an ongoing court battle over the massive Site C hydro-electric dam in Northern British Columbia wouldn’t be necessary if the Prime Minister simply kept his promises.
Yesterday, on the eve of the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations appeared before the Federal Court of Appeal in Montreal in an effort to overturn federal approval of the project.
“Anyone who reads the environmental assessment report can see that the Site C dam is an indisputable threat to our rights,” said Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly. “Our Nations are deeply grateful to all the organizations and individuals whose support has enabled us to continue this battle, but the fact remains that we wouldn’t have to go to these lengths if the Trudeau government would act on the promises it has made to uphold our Treaty, the Canadian Constitution, and the UN Declaration.”
In 2014, the federal and provincial governments approved construction of the dam despite the fact that their own environmental impact assessment process found it would cause severe, permanent and irreparable harm to First Nations’ use of traditional lands and the destruction of gravesites and other sites of unique cultural and historical significance.
Today, community members from Treaty 8 First Nations arrived in Ottawa after travelling across Canada to focus attention on their fight to save the Peace River Valley and the broader implications of the federal government’s actions for Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Helen Knott from the Prophet River First Nation, one of the community members who travelled with the Treaty 8 Justice for the Peace caravan said, “The Peace River Valley is one of the last places we can go out on the land with our elders and learn the stories and traditions that make us who we are. If governments can get away with simply ignoring our Treaty, we’ll soon be left with nothing.”
“The federal government’s actions in this case have eroded First Nations trust in regulatory processes that impact upon our rights,” said Chief Lynette Tsakoza of Prophet River First Nation.
The Justice for the Peace caravan was endorsed by the Assembly of First Nations, British Columbia, the First Nations Leadership Summit, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
Craig Benjamin, Indigenous Rights Campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, said, “Anyone concerned about justice and human rights should be outraged by the federal government’s claim that the wide array of serious harms to First Nations this project would entail are ‘justified’, especially given the fact that the need for the Site C dam remains in question and less harmful alternatives have never been properly considered. ”
Social justice and environmental organizations have now collected more than 85,000 signatures from Canadians calling for an immediate halt to the construction of the Site C dam.
Amara Possian, Campaign Manager for Leadnow, said, “The federal government’s public commitment to a new relationship with Indigenous peoples has clearly resonated with Canadians. But the public is demanding more than just words. The government’s promise to uphold the Treaties, the Constitution and the UN Declaration requires concrete action when these rights are threatened.”
For media requests or background:
Assembly of First Nations
Media and External Communications Officer
Amnesty International Canada