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Injunction hearing vs Site C scheduled for July 23-August 4

The Council of Canadians Victoria, Cowichan Valley and Mid-Island chapters and organizer AJ Klein were at the Site C accountability and action summit in Victoria in January. One call to action from that summit included, “In response to the civil suits brought by the West Moberly First Nations, the Prophet River First Nation and the Blueberry First Nations, the Province of BC must instruct BC Hydro to stop work on Site C and walk away from the project.”

There are renewed hopes that the Site C dam on the Peace River in Treaty 8 territory in northern British Columbia could be stopped by an injunction.

A media release issued yesterday by the West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation indicates that the federal government has taken “no position” and filed no evidence for an injunction hearing that will be heard from July 23 to August 4.

It notes that the federal government did not make a legal determination on whether Site C infringes Treaty 8 and says the issue must either be “tested” by the court or resolved “in other contexts beyond litigation”.

The First Nations note that if the injunction is successful, a suspension of the construction on Site C would remain in place until a full trial and a binding determination has taken place, a process they indicate “could take 18 months to several years to conclude”.

Many had assumed the Site C dam was unstoppable after BC Premier John Horgan backed the project in December 2017.

But by February of this year, the two First Nations secured a “major work stoppage” on the dam in advance of presenting arguments for an interim injunction.

At that time, their media release noted, “On February 16th it sent logging contractors home that were in the process of cutting a stretch of old growth within three critical areas approximately 29 kilometers long by 80 meters wide (the Trappers Lake, Sucker Lake, and Peace Moberly Tract Critical Areas). The clearcutting and road-building were part of a 75-kilometer transmission line required for the project.”

The Globe and Mail also reported at that time, “[BC Hydro] has stopped logging along the western end of the transmission line corridor, to protect areas identified by the West Moberly as culturally and ecologically critical, to allow ‘an orderly resolution of these issues’.”

DeSmog has previously reported, “The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations filed a civil suit in the Supreme Court of British Columbia [on January 16] claiming the Site C dam, along with two other hydroelectric projects on the Peace River, unjustifiably infringe on their constitutionally protected rights under Treaty 8. The action also requests the courts find the approval of Site C ‘unconstitutional, void, and of no force and effect’. The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations now estimate damages caused by the completion of Site C could amount to $1 billion.”

In addition, CBC has reported, “The Blueberry River First Nation argues [in a civil case launched in 2015 that] the cumulative damage [from industrial development, including the Site C dam] is robbing them of their treaty rights to hunt and fish, as moose, marten, beaver, lynx and caribou disappear. The case will be heard in the spring of 2018 and watched carefully by all sides – to see if this First Nation can draw a line that truly protects treaty rights before industrial damage renders them meaningless.”

The Council of Canadians stands in solidarity with these legal challenges.

We first expressed our opposition to the Site C dam in October 2014.