“My major concern with the impact of Site C is that this is my home. This is where I want to raise my children and my grandchildren. And this is where my people are from.” – Helen Knott
BY ALEX NEVE, SECRETARY GENERAL, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CANADA
Wherever you live in this country, British Columbia’s Site C dam should concern you. At a projected cost of almost $9 billion and rising, the hydro-electric project in the Peace River Valley is one of the largest resource development projects underway anywhere in Canada. But more than that, the Site C dam shines a bright light on the fundamental injustices that – despite promise of reconciliation and a new relationship – continue to characterize the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
A joint federal-provincial review of the Site C dam came to these telling conclusions:
- The Site C dam would cause serious, irreversible harm to First Nations in the Peace Valley by flooding one of the last remaining stretches of land where they can still practice their traditions and connect to their cultures.
- There are too many unanswered questions about British Columbia’s future electricity needs.
- Alternative sources of energy were never properly considered.
With these conclusions, it should be inconceivable that such a destructive project would go ahead. But last year, the federal and provincial governments both gave the project the greenlight. And last fall, with legal challenges to the project still before the courts, BC Hydro plunged ahead with clearcutting old growth forests and other unique habitat in the valley floor.
As the federal and provincial governments have acknowledged, all this has happened without any consideration of whether the dam could be reconciled with their treaty obligations.
The construction of the Site C dam should matter to all Canadians because fundamental human rights are being violated. This includes the right of Indigenous peoples to practice their traditions and cultures and the right of all people to expect due process and fairness before the law.
These violations are not abstractions. The dam will profoundly affect the lives of women, men and children in the Peace Valley, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. And as First Nations ledership have been saying all along, ignoring the treaty rights of First Nations in the Peace Valley will set back the cause of reconciliation.
Among those communities most directly affected, there are powerful voices calling on governments in Canada to do the right thing. This new video features two of these powerful, moving voices, Helen Knott and George Desjarlais, from the Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations.
I urge you to listen to what they have to say. And then join us, and a growing movement of individuals and organizations across Canada, in demanding that the federal and provincial governments also listen and act.