As Site C Court Challenge Unfolds, Horgan Government Must Uphold Human Rights Commitments

In a strongly worded open letter to British Columbia Premier John Horgan, Amnesty International is urging the province not to fail the Indigenous peoples of the Peace River Valley a second time. The organization characterizes the Premier’s approval and rationale for the continued construction of the Site C dam as an abdication of his government’s fundamental responsibility to uphold the human rights of all without discrimination. Now that the Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations have launched a new legal challenge to the dam, Amnesty is calling on the province to ensure that its response is consistent with BC’s human rights obligations, including by ensuring irreversible construction activities are deferred or suspended until the legal challenge is resolved.
“When Premier Horgan decided to run roughshod over the rights of Indigenous Peoples by green-lighting continued construction of the Site C dam, he said that doing so would ‘disappoint’ Indigenous peoples,” says Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “But calling the decision to continue construction of Site C a disappointment does not come close to capturing the full gravity of the harm that will be done. What’s worse, the Premier has tried to justify a decision to deliberately and knowingly violate the human rights of Indigenous peoples with questionable claims about how it would help the province’s budget. If the Premier wants to make good on his promise to promote reconciliation, he needs to recognize that respecting Indigenous rights is in everyone’s best interest and act accordingly.”
The Open Letter notes that serious human rights concerns surrounding the Site C dam were clearly laid out by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination only four months before the Premier’s decision was announced. The UN Committee called for an immediate halt to the project due to its unjustifiable impact on the rights of Treaty 8 First Nations. The Open Letter from Amnesty International warns that the province’s outlandish claims that stopping Site C would jeopardize schools and health services cynically pits the rights of Indigenous Peoples against the interests of other British Columbians and risks further entrenching “longstanding harmful and racist rhetoric.”
Media Contact: Jacob Kuehn, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada; / 613 744 7667 x 236