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Trudeau grants permits to block Peace River for Site C dam

Vancouver-based Council of Canadians political staff AJ Klein and Emma Lui express their solidarity with Treaty 8 land defenders opposed to the Site C dam.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has approved a Navigation Protection Act (formerly Navigable Waters Protection Act) permit and Fisheries Act permit for the construction of the Site C dam. For months First Nations and civil society groups – including the Council of Canadians – have been calling on Trudeau not to do so. We had hoped his commitment to a “nation to nation relationship” had some meaning.

CBC reports, “Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government has granted two crucial federal permits for Site C, a controversial mega dam project in northeastern British Columbia.  The permits allow B.C. Hydro to continue construction work on the giant dam on the Peace River near Fort St John. B.C. Hydro says the permits were issued this week by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada and relate to fisheries and navigable waters.”

The article highlights, “Site C opponents hoped Trudeau, with his interest in treaty rights and the environment, would support their cause. …Opponents still hope to stop the dam through court action, including a treaty rights case to be heard by the Federal Court in September.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says, “The honeymoon is over! Treaty 8 has just been granted a hearing in the Federal Court of Canada this September. Rather than respecting the treaty rights of Prophet River First Nation and West Moberly First Nation and the legal process by pausing or even slowing down site preparation and construction, the Trudeau Government, like cowardly, thuggish thieves in the dark, quietly issued federal permits before a long weekend to allow for the acceleration of construction.”

Green Party leader Elizabeth May is disappointed the permits were approved before the court hearing. In a Green Party media release, May comments, “This project is in clear violation of treaty rights for Treaty 8 First Nations. Site C is an avoidable environmental mess and a failure on the part of this government to shift away from destructive energy projects and towards cleantech, sustainable energy solutions.”

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 last summer.

Grand Chief Phillip has previously stated, “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 Trudeau government has now enabled that work to proceed.

We agree with Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nation who says, “The era of destroying rivers should be over.”

The Council of Canadians continues to call on the Trudeau government to “protect every lake, every river” through this action alert.