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Land defenders maintain camp to stop Site C dam construction, allies arrested at peaceful protest

Treaty 8 First Nation Elder Jack Askoty standing on the stump of a 200 year old tree cut down during construction for the Site C dam. (Yvonne Tupper/Facebook)

Solidarity with Treaty 8 members and allies who have set up a camp at Rocky Mountain Fort on the Peace River to oppose the Site C dam.

Site C is a proposed 60 metre (18 story) high 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.

Late yesterday, CBC reported, “Three protesters at a construction site for the Site C dam near Fort St. John in northern B.C. have been arrested for blocking vehicles from entering the work site, RCMP said late Wednesday [Jan. 6] in a statement. Cpl. Dave Tyreman [says the RCMP first arrested a man] blocking vehicles. He said more protesters arrived at noon and were also asked to move aside, but two of them refused and were arrested.” CJDC adds, “Former Peace River Regional District Director Arthur Hadland and local artist Penny Boden were both arrested for mischief due to blocking traffic from entering or exiting the Site C work area.”

The Alaska Highway News highlights, “The protests against Site C are ramping up. Roughly a dozen people have occupied the historic Rocky Mountain Fort since mid-December, despite an eviction notice from Hydro [on Dec. 30].” The Victoria Times Colonist notes, “Protesters have turned back crews clearing the south bank of the river for construction on the $8.8-billion hydroelectric project. …Protesters maintain Site C should not move forward until lawsuits aimed at blocking the project are resolved. They also call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a fresh look at the dam [that was granted approval by the Harper government and the BC provincial government].”

Treaty 8 member Helen Knott, who is staying at the camp, has stated, “I’m not a ‘protester’ as media would like to define it. I am a treaty 8 member and I am actively using my right to be on the land. I am a visible reminder of those rights here. We are the land. I am the great great granddaughter of Chief Bigfoot who was the last to sign treaty 8 in 1911, he wanted to ensure that what was said was followed. I am of his blood, of the original intent of his signing for what were a proud and fierce people, the tribe that they were waiting to die off so they wouldn’t have to sign. We are still here. The land is sacred.”

Just hours ago, Knott posted, “Arlene Boon went out to the front line early today and was faced by 8 men and a piece of equipment, she said she was staying and they turned away. I came out and sat there alone by the fire, the hydro guys came by asked me if I was staying, I said yes. He asked me if I knew they were attempting to clear and I said I was attempting to use my treaty rights there. Then I sat and sang to myself, prayed, and though it would be nice to have a drummer. Sure enough a drummer shows up (it’s a twenty minute trek from camp to the front line) he sings for the land and I was so grateful.”

Treaty 8 members from the Prophet River First Nation, Blueberry River First Nations and the Halfway River First Nation have maintained a presence at the camp.

The dam is opposed by twenty-three First Nations across British Columbia, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories. Four years ago, five First Nations asked the United Nations to defend their rights under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples against this project. Treaty 8 First Nations have Title to the Peace River Valley and the Supreme Court of Canada decision on the Tsilhqot’in Title case means their consent for this project is needed. Grand Chief Phillip has stated, “If Canada’s new federal government wants to pass the critical litmus test that it set for itself in the lead-up to the recent election when it promised a new, more respectful relationship with First Nations, saying no to Site C is a great way to begin.”

For further updates, please see the Facebook page Say NO to Site C dam!