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Supreme Court of Canada denies appeal of First Nations challenge to Site C dam

    June 29, 2017

    Amnesty International is deeply concerned by the announcement that the Supreme Court of Canada will not consider a further appeal of a First Nations challenge to the Site C dam.

    The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations had asked that federal approval of the megaproject be overturned because the decision was made without first considering whether the harm that will be done by the dam would violate Canada’s Treaty obligations. 

    In earlier decisions, the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal had concluded that the provisions of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act meant that the federal Cabinet had no obligation to consider First Nations concerns over Treaty violations before approving the project – even though Treaty rights are protected in Canadian Constitution and international law.

    While the lower court decisions left unanswered the question of whether the dam would violate Treaty 8, the consequence of the decisions is that unless the federal government agrees to act of its own accord, affected First Nations would have to launch a much longer, and more expensive legal process in order to conclusively prove that their rights had been violated. Under the current timetable, there is a great danger that the Peace Valley could be destroyed long before First Nations could achieve the level of proof that the courts have said is required to compel the federal government to act.

    “The lower court decisions were profoundly flawed and the fact the Supreme Court has allowed them to stand only reinforces concerns long raised by international human rights bodies about access to justice for Indigenous peoples in Canada,” said Craig Benjamin, Amnesty International Canada’s campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  “Now there is much less hope of a timely resolution of First Nations concerns before the courts, there is even greater onus for the federal government to demonstrate the sincerity of its commitments to Indigenous rights and to reconciliation by withdrawing all support for the Site C dam until the failure to consider its Treaty implications is finally rectified.

    For more information, please contact Craig Benjamin at 613-744-7667 ext. 235 or cbenjamin@amnesty.ca

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