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Site C and Canada’s unsustainable environmental rhetoric

Site C Dam

Photo: Drainage tunnel on the south bank of contstruction on the Site C project of B.C. Hydro. B.C. Hydro

By A.J. Klein, Stewart Phillip and Craig Benjamin, published in the Vancouver Sun, July 16, 2018

This month, as the world’s diplomats gather in New York to review progress in implementing the United Nation’s vision of fair and sustainable economic development, Canada wants its own record front and centre. Last year, Prime Minister Trudeau told the UN that the sustainable development goals are “as meaningful in Canada as they are everywhere else in the world.” This year, Canada has put itself forward to be one of only a handful of nations that will be subject to a voluntary review during the UN’s High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

However, Canada’s efforts to paint itself as a champion of sustainable development are undermined by its own failures. In particular, the massive Site C dam project in northeast B.C. has become emblematic of the gulf between the progressive public rhetoric of Canadian politicians and the reality of how major investments by the federal and provincial governments often play out on the ground.

At a price tag of almost $11 billion and climbing, Site C is one of the largest energy development projects on the continent. Although B.C. Hydro continues to bill Site C as a ‘green energy’ project, nothing could be farther from the truth – a fact that is not likely to escape notice during the upcoming sustainable development forum.

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A.J. Klein is an organizer with the Council of Canadians. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip is president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. Craig Benjamin is Campaigner for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with Amnesty International Canada.