On Monday morning, community members from the Treaty 8 territory in northeast BC set out on an historic a cross-country journey to focus public attention on their urgent struggle for justice for their people and for the Peace River Valley.
When a federal-provincial environmental assessment concluded that the Site C hydro-electric dam would cause severe, permanent and irreversible harm to the culture and traditions of Indigenous peoples in the Peace Valley, the federal and provincial government should have put the project on hold and looked for alternatives. They didn’t.
The federal and provincial governments didn’t even stop to examine whether building the dam over Indigenous opposition would be consistent with their legal obligations under Treaty 8.
As a result, the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have had to embark on a long and costly legal process in an attempt to hold the federal government to its word that it will uphold the treaties, the Constitutional protection of Indigenous rights, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The latest step in this process is a hearing before the Federal Court of Appeal in Montreal on September 12.
There’s a lot at stake. The legal challenge the best chance to stop the destructive Site C dam. Not only that, it is crucial that the courts send a clear message that treaty rights cannot simply be ignored when political interests are at stake. Otherwise the treaty promise becomes meaningless.
Amnesty International supports the Justice for the Peace River Caravan and is urging its members and supporters to great the Treaty 8 community members as they travel across Canada. Follow the cross-country journey on facebook. The caravan itinerary with list of upcoming public events can be found here.
We are also continuing to urge the public to take this opportunity to send a strong message to the federal and provincial governments by signing, and promoting our on-line petition.