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Council of Canadians supporter visits land defenders opposing Site C dam

Site C camp

Photo: Marilyn Belak (right) and Ken and Arlene Boon (left-to-right) at the Site C camp, Jan. 25.

Dawson Creek, BC-based Council of Canadians supporter Marilyn Belak visited Treaty 8 territory on Jan. 25 to express solidarity with Indigenous and allied land defenders opposing the Site C dam.

Site C is a proposed 60-metre high, 1,050-metre-long earth-filled dam and hydroelectric generation station on the Peace River between the communities of Hudson’s Hope and Taylor on Treaty 8 territory in northeastern British Columbia. It would create an 83-kilometre-long reservoir and flood about 5,550 hectares of agricultural land southwest of Fort St. John. It would also submerge 78 First Nations heritage sites, including burial grounds and places of cultural and spiritual significance. Logging and land clearing for the dam began this summer, without consent from Treaty 8, but major construction on the dam is not yet underway.

Treaty 8 members and allies have set up a camp at Rocky Mountain Fort on the Peace River.

DeSmog Canada has reported, “Helen Knott, a Treaty 8 member and Fort St. John social worker, has been camping at the historic fort site since New Year’s Eve when she and other Treaty 8 members, along with Peace Valley farmers and business owners, set up a wilderness camp to maintain a presence in an old-growth forest on Crown land that is slated to be clear cut and flooded for the Site C dam.”

Knott has stated, “I cannot think of a better way to ring in the New Year then spending it actively reclaiming the inherent right to be in my territory, on the very land my ancestors lived upon, along the river that is a main artery in the body that sustains us in the North. It is ours. It is a part of who we are as Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw, Tse Keh Dene people. It is a river loved and fought for by Non Indigenous people who have connected with it and lived in the valley for generations as well. Together we can make a change.”

The Council of Canadians is opposed to the Site C dam and joins with First Nations and allies to demand that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau intervene on this issue.

The prime minister could choose to withhold needed federal permits. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip has stated, “With no less than three court cases underway in which First Nations, farmers and others oppose federal and provincial approvals of Site C, the federal government can slow down or halt the project outright by simply refusing to issue permits that must be in place in order for major works in the river to proceed. Contractors for B.C. Hydro cannot divert water and place millions of tons of fill into the river without first obtaining permits from the Fisheries and Transportation ministries.”

The prime minister could also choose not to challenge a Federal Court appeal. Grand Chief Phillip explains, “Treaty 8 nations challenged the Harper government’s approval [of the dam]. The Federal Court rejected their arguments. The decision is now under appeal by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations, who are opposed in court by the federal government. [If the Trudeau government dropped its opposition to the appeal that] would signal that Canada’s new government truly intends to do what it said it will: chart a new relationship with Canada’s indigenous peoples, ‘one built on trust, recognition and respect for rights’.”

The Council of Canadians stands in solidarity in the fight against the Site C dam.