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The Site C dam fight: what keeps me going

By Galen Armstrong, Peace Valley Campaigner

March 2, 2017

Working for change can be tough. Last night I was on the phone with a hard-working volunteer, and she was feeling the pain underlying our mission to stop the Site C dam before the flooding begins, which is set to start in 2022.

Galen with photographer Louis Bockner (credit) and Peace Valley farmers Ken and Arlene Boon.

We were preparing to make outreach phone calls to new volunteers to ask them to join us at a weekly canvass. During a canvass, we talk to strangers on the street and tell them what a huge mistake the Site C dam is, and that it will impact each of us financially via our hydro bills—especially if we don’t cut our losses and stop it.

Last night, this volunteer wanted to talk about the grief she was feeling as she thought about the families who are literally facing the loss of their homes. The land of farmers Ken and Arlene Boon has already been expropriated, though they are allowed to remain in their farmhouse until May—just two months from now.

So we talked about it. We recognized that there’s a lot of grief in all of this. I can’t imagine how it must feel for the Boons, or for Yvonne Tupper or Julian Napoleon or other members of First Nations living near the Peace River Valley. We each have our own experience of what’s happening, and what could happen.

Last fall when I visited the Peace, I met a couple named Caroline and Derek, and their three boys. Recently, Caroline sent me this video of their oldest son, 12-year-old Xavier, who is facing the fact that his family’s home, which sits right next to the Peace River, will be lost if the dam isn’t stopped.

It’s important to recognize how hard this all is. For me, thinking of the people who are most directly facing the consequences of the Site C dam is what motivates me to keep going. Even when they’re people I haven’t met.

It’s not the only thing that motivates me—there is also the loss of species and ecosystems, the loss of culture, the loss of heritage, the loss of prime agricultural land, the impact on British Columbians everywhere who struggle to pay their bills—but these faces and their stories hit me in a uniquely visceral way.

The Beam family. Photo by Louis Bockner.

Even if it sometimes feels like the odds are stacked against us, I know what we are doing makes a difference, and I know it’s possible to stop the dam. I remember when the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline was approved by the federal government, and still it was stopped. It can be the same with the Site C dam.

So we took a little time last night to discuss those hard feelings, and then we got back to work. We called new potential volunteers. Some weren’t home. Some said “sorry, I can’t help.” And some said they would be there to join us on Monday, on Thursday, on Saturday.

I want to encourage everyone to take time to feel those hard feelings, and reach out for support when you need it. Then let’s shift that pain and sadness into anger and action. Let’s have it motivate us to work even harder to make a difference.

We need people to help make phone calls, to write letters to the editor, and to join us in the streets. Sign up to join our team of canvassers and volunteers—if we all do our part, we can not only stop the dam, we can stop the pain and suffering of families in the Peace Valley.

Please take action to stop the dam by sending a letter to the federal government and consider making a donation to Sierra Club BC. If you want to get more involved, you can always send me an email.

Thank you for everything you’ve already done, and that you’re doing now. It matters.

Pull Together 2.0: The People vs. Kinder Morgan

Both our federal and provincial governments have given the green light to Texas-based oil company Kinder Morgan to build a tarsands pipeline and increase oil tanker traffic on the BC coast by 700%.

Despite what Premier Clark says, BC is a long way off from having “world-leading” spill response capacity – on water or on land. Accidents happen and there’s no known technology to clean up toxic diluted bitumen.

Our elected representatives are standing up for Big Oil, so it is up to the rest of us to stand up for BC and defend our communities and our climate.

A number of First Nations along the pipeline and tankers route have already filed court challenges.

It was indigenous-led legal challenges that brought an end to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal. First Nations can stop Kinder Morgan in the courts also. Let’s not stand by and watch them go it alone.

That’s why we’re relaunching Pull Together. In partnership with RAVEN Trust and the Force of Nature Alliance, we’re supporting the Tsleil-Waututh and Coldwater Nations who are in court to overturn the federal approval.

There are lots of ways you can help. During our last Pull Together campaign, there were smoothie sales and pub nights, dance performances and poetry readings. Over fifty musicians played at benefit concerts across the province.

Will you host a solidarity event in your community?

It doesn’t matter how big or small – whether you raise $100 or $1,000, your impact will be amplified by the contributions of others.

We can help get you started. Just fill out this form and we will be in touch to provide you with support.

When we pulled together to stop Enbridge, we were overwhelmed by your response. All across the province, people stepped up. People like you danced, marched, sang, paddled, stretched and ate together to support the First Nations fighting Enbridge in court. Together we raised over $600,000 for the legal costs, thanks to unprecedented solidarity between Indigenous leaders and thousands of Pull Together allies.

Photo by Michael Beach.

Not a penny of the money raised went to Sierra Club BC. This campaign is a risky one for us financially, however we feel so strongly that it’s the right thing to do that we are doing it again! We believe that standing in solidarity with First Nations requires the courage to take risks and step outside our comfort zone.

We hope you will join us. Your ongoing support is what lets us take this kind of risk. And your involvement in Pull Together is how together we will stop Kinder Morgan.

Pull Together is not just about raising money, it is about pulling together in the face of governments bent on forcing the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tankers on an unwilling province.

Pull Together is about building strong communities of resistance. Pull Together recognizes that when it comes to moving away from fossil fuel dependence, we are all in this together. With Trump pushing his fossil fuel agenda, it’s all the more important that we organize here in BC to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

By stopping Kinder Morgan, we can build the type of future we want in British Columbia—one that moves toward renewable, clean energy and green jobs. One in which our communities are safe from the threat of oil spills.

Together, we can do this. Ready, set, pull!

Environmental groups applaud Ahousaht Land Use Vision

Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance supports Ahousaht leadership in conservation and community development goals announced today

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

January 25, 2017

TOFINO – This afternoon, the Ahousaht Hawiih (hereditary chiefs) publicly announced their nation’s new comprehensive Land Use Vision for their territory, which sits within the heart of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Representatives of the Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance (CSCA) (comprised of Greenpeace, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Sierra Club BC, STAND. earth and Wilderness Committee) were present to support and congratulate the Hawiih for this initiative.

“The Ahousaht Land Use Vision steps up to meet the environmental and social imperatives of the 21st century with solutions for rainforest conservation and community benefits within their famous territory, located in one of the most beautiful and ecologically rich landscapes in the world,” said Valerie Langer of Stand.earth (formerly ForestEthics), a member of the CSCA.

Under the Land Use Vision about 80 percent of Ahousaht territory will be set aside as cultural and natural areas “to conserve biological diversity, natural landscapes and wilderness, and to provide for Ahousaht continued spiritual, cultural and sustenance use.”

The new Land Use Vision was developed by the Maaqutusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society (MHSS) under the direction of the Hawiih, in consultation with the community of Ahousaht First Nation. It identifies different land use designations for their territory. The bold vision moves Ahousaht First Nation away from old-growth logging and other unsustainable industries in ecologically important rainforest areas while prioritizing low-impact, community-led economic development by and for the Ahousaht people. The vision follows the declaration of a moratorium on old-growth logging in Ahousaht territory, made by the Hawiih in 2015.

The organizations that form the Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance have been advocating for the protection of the region’s globally significant temperate rainforest for more than three decades.

Ahousaht First Nation traditional territory sits in the heart of Clayoquot Sound, which remains the largest area of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island.

– 30 –

Read the Ahousaht land use vision

For more information, please contact:

Valerie Langer, Strategic Projects, STAND.earth (formerly ForestEthics) (604) 307-6448

Jens Wieting, Forests & Climate Campaigner, SierraClub BC (604) 354-5312

Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner, Wilderness Committee (250) 516-9900

Jeh Custerra, Campaigner, Friends of Clayoquot Sound (306) 361-7855

Eduardo Sousa, Senior Forests Campaigner, Greenpeace (778) 378-9955

 

Feature image by Jens Wieting

BC communities say no to Site C Dam

By Galen Armstrong

December 1, 2016

Momentum is heating up across the province on Site C – and we’ve been tapping into it like never before with our Great Site C Roadshow.

In the span of just one month, eleven Site C awareness events were held in communities across British Columbia. From the Kootenays to the Cariboo, from the Okanagan to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, hundreds of citizens turned out to learn how we can work together to stop Site C Dam.

I want to thank every person who showed up, volunteered, spoke, donated, organized, and promoted these events in your community. I’d also like to thank our local partners including Yellowstone2Yukon Initiative, the Council of Canadians – Duncan Chapter, and the Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance.

We are inspired by this show of solidarity for Treaty 8 First Nations who are fighting the dam in court and for the farmers who are facing eviction from their lands. This dam is far from being past the point of no return, and we are energized by the knowledge that so many are standing together to stop Site C. In fact, over 70% of British Columbians now say they want construction paused for an independent review and investigation of alternatives.

Here are some of our favourite highlights from the Great Site C Roadshow.

Credit Louis Bockner

Louis Bockner showing a photography slideshow

In Nelson, Argenta and Kaslo, photographer Louis Bockner and I shared stories and photos from our recent trip to the Peace Valley. Major thanks to these communities for helping us raise over $3,000 for Treaty 8 First Nations’ legal challenges to the dam!

Credit Monica Lamb-Yorski

Credit Monica Lamb-Yorski

In Williams Lake, Quesnel and Prince George, Sierra Club BC’s Ana Simeon shared a panel with Yvonne Tupper of the Saulteau First Nation and Ben Parfitt of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Yvonne spoke of the importance of protecting Treaty 8 territory while Ben explained the disastrous bills that B.C. ratepayers will be faced with should the project proceed.

Julian Napoleon of Saulteau First Nation

Julian Napoleon

I would like to say a special thanks to Julian Napoleon of the Saulteau First Nation and the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty. Julian spoke passionately at six events across the province on the importance of protecting traditional territories and food systems.

Briony Penn speaking on Site C

Briony Penn speaking on Site C

Just last night, I spoke at an event on Salt Spring Island with author Briony Penn. Briony spoke about the impact of dams on people, flora and fauna. She also said that there should be an inquiry into government coercion of First Nations decision making processes.

It’s not too late to stop Site C. We’re building a plan to focus international attention on Ottawa to stop the dam and to make Site C a provincial election issue. Please chip in today to help us win.

Thank you.

Feature image by Louis Bockner.

Journey to the Peace Valley

By Galen Armstrong, Peace Valley Campaigner

November 2, 2016

About a month ago, I was asked to take up the mantle of Sierra Club BC’s Peace Valley Campaigner with the big goal of stopping the Site C dam (alongside many allies). The first thing I wanted to do was visit the Peace River Valley—to see it for myself for the first time, and to meet the people who have worked the longest and hardest to stop the incredibly foolish megadam proposal.

So I made a few arrangements and soon I was on the road. After a two-day drive through fall colours, I was in the spectacular Peace River Valley.

Yvonne Tupper of Saulteau First Nation. Photo by Louis Bockner.

Yvonne Tupper of Saulteau First Nation. Photo by Louis Bockner.

I spent a week in the area meeting First Nations and other community members, farmers and fellow activists. At the end of each day my mind was overflowing with information and I felt ever more disgusted that this project was even able to make it past the idea phase.

I met with Yvonne Tupper, a member of Saulteau First Nation. She welcomed me onto her Nation’s land and invited me to fish with her on Moberly Lake. West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are fighting Site C in court, and we are fundraising to support their efforts to assert their rights, which should be protected by Treaty 8.

Site C dam construction camp. Photo by Louis Bockner.

Site C dam construction camp. Photo by Louis Bockner.

Local pilot Bob Fedderly took me on a flyover of the Site C dam worksite. The white structure in the upper-right of the photo is the $470 million work camp. What we saw is ugly, but it’s far from being a dam. They’ve done some logging, they’ve built the camp, and they’ve brought in machinery. But, as many locals monitoring the project reminded us, it’s nowhere near the “point of no return.”

Site C dam construction. Photo by Louis Bockner.

Site C dam construction. Photo by Louis Bockner.

Fedderly, who has watched the project slowly creep along, explained that the excavators we saw below were struggling day after day to secure slipping and eroding silt banks. It’s obviously an uphill battle. Landslides have been occurring on an increasingly frequent basis in the area over the past two years, sending toxic heavy metals into the river and putting nearby homes at risk. Many residents are worried that the dam will further destabilize the area.

This beautiful topsoil is much better suited for growing food. Agrologist Wendy Holm estimates that the Peace River Valley, which is rare Class-1 farmland (the best), could grow enough food to feed over one million people. But not if the valley is flooded, of course.

Arlene and Ken Boon with Stakes for the Peace. Photo by Louis Bockner.

Arlene and Ken Boon with stakes for the Peace. Photo by Louis Bockner.

I spent the week at the farm of Ken and Arlene Boon. The Boons were given the deadline of October 31, 2016 to reach an agreement with BC Hydro to sell their land and allow a new highway to pass directly through their farm and farmhouse. For now, they are fundraising for the First Nations legal challenge to Site C. They are offering to drive a yellow stake with your name on it into their front yard for every $100 donated. Learn more and plant a stake!

There are many more stories to share from my trip to the Peace Valley. I gave presentations in the Kootenays, where we raised $3000 for the legal challenges. Thank you Argenta, Kaslo, Nelson and Revelstoke! All the photos in this blog were taken by my travel buddy Louis Bockner, and you can see more on his Facebook page.

Please help Louis and I to take our photos, stories and Site C-stopping strategy across the province. We need the entire province to know what’s going on and demand the project be stopped. It’s not too late, but it is urgent!

If you would like to organize an event, contact me at galen@sierraclub.bc.ca. Donations are appreciated – in fact, we can’t travel without them. Learn more, sign our petition and please donate today to help us stop this dam project.

– Galen Armstrong, Sierra Club BC Peace Valley Campaigner

Bella Bella Disaster a Reminder of the Need for a Strong Tanker Ban

The recent sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart tug near Bella Bella in the Great Bear Rainforest has underscored the urgency of a permanent, legislated oil tanker ban. Accidents happen and this disaster is a sobering reminder that oil spills are impossible to clean up.

Response crews took over 20 hours to arrive and the spill has still not been contained three weeks later. Beaches remain soaked with diesel and littered with debris. Clean-up efforts have been sluggish and greatly hampered by storms, which have caused containment booms to fail.

Members of the Heiltsuk Nation have consistently described the spill response as “totally inadequate.” Their nation’s waters have been polluted with hundreds of thousands of litres of diesel fuel. Their clam and seafood beds are closed indefinitely, costing them tens of thousands of dollars in the short-term as well as long-term damage to their economy. Video updates and ways to support can be found on the Heiltsuk Tribal Council’s Facebook page.

heiltsuk-bella-bella-spill_kyle-artelle_forweb

A contaminated beach leaches diesel back into the marine environment. Photo by Kyle Artelle.

Although many may see this as a relatively small spill, it has already and will continue to have a disproportionate impact on the Heiltsuk. Sierra Club BC and many other organizations stand in solidarity with the Heiltsuk Nation, who are now caught between a provincial and a federal government too busy blaming each other to make any concrete policy changes that could prevent another devastating spill.

This is a heartbreaking nightmare. Trudeau needs to wake up and take his election commitments for a tanker ban and for a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples seriously.

The Heiltsuk Nation are calling for an immediate implementation of a full and complete tanker ban. A strong tanker ban is the only sure way to protect B.C.’s coastal waters and wild salmon economy from a devastating oil spill. The federal government is about to make an announcement on a federal tanker moratorium, and we need to ensure it is strong, permanent, and legislated by Parliament.

That’s why we’ve set up an action centre where you can submit a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Garneau. Please send a message calling on them to implement a strong tanker ban on B.C.’s coast.

Coastal First Nations already have a ban on oil tankers, using their own laws. It’s about time we joined them to help put an end to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers project. Please donate to help us continue this fight.

 

Cover image of diesel-soaked beach by Kyle Artelle.

The Great Site C Roadshow

The Great Site C Roadshow is on tour with eleven stops across B.C.!

Please join us in your town for a gathering full of inspiration, solidarity and action for the Peace Valley. Learn why Treaty 8 First Nations and Peace Valley farmers are standing strong for the Peace, and how we can support them to stop Site C. Speakers from the Saulteau First Nation and from Sierra Club BC will be joined along the way by a roster of inspiring advocates for the Peace Valley.

October 26 – Argenta  7:00PM (6:30 silent auction)
Argenta Community Hall  Facebook event
Julian Napoleon, Saulteau First Nation and Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty
Galen Armstrong, Sierra Club BC
Louis Bockner, Photographer

October 27 – Kaslo  7:00PM (6:30 silent auction)
The Langham, 447 A Ave.  Facebook event
Julian Napoleon, Saulteau First Nation and Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty
Galen Armstrong, Sierra Club BC
Louis Bockner, Photographer

October 28 – Nelson  6:00PM
Nelson United Church, 602 Silica St.  Facebook event
Julian Napoleon, Saulteau First Nation and Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty
Galen Armstrong & Ana Simeon, Sierra Club BC
Candace Batycki, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

October 29 – Revelstoke  6:30PM
Okanagan Regional Library, 605 Campbell Ave.  Facebook event
Julian Napoleon, Saulteau First Nation and Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty
Ana Simeon, Sierra Club BC

November 4 – Quadra Island  7:00PM
Quadra Community Centre, 970 West Rd.  Facebook event
Julian Napoleon, Saulteau First Nation and Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty
Ana Simeon, Sierra Club BC
Bob Peart, Executive Director, Sierra Club BC

November 6 – Duncan  1:30PM
Somenos Room, Island Savings Centre, 2687 James St.  Facebook event
Hosted by Council of Canadians, Cowichan Chapter
Julian Napoleon, Saulteau First Nation and Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty

November 14 – Prince George  6:30PM
Room 7-212, UNBC, 3333 University Way  Facebook event
Hosted by Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance
Yvonne Tupper, Saulteau First Nation
Ana Simeon, Sierra Club BC
Ben Parfitt, Resource Policy Analyst, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

November 15 – Quesnel  7:00PM
St. John the Divine Anglican Church Parish Hall, 465 Kinchant St.  Facebook event
Ana Simeon, Sierra Club BC
Ben Parfitt, Resource Policy Analyst, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

November 16 – Williams Lake  7:00PM
Room 1261, Thompson Rivers University, 1250 Western Ave.  Facebook event
Ana Simeon, Sierra Club BC
Ben Parfitt, Resource Policy Analyst, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

November 26 – Kelowna 6:00PM
Unitarian Fellowship of Kelowna, 1310 Bertram St. Facebook event
Hosted by Feast for the Peace and Community Forum
Ken Boon, President Peace Valley Landowners Association (Via live video link )
Wendy Holm, Agrologist
Louis Bockner, Photographer

November 30 – Salt Spring Island 7:00PM
Salt Spring Island Public Library, 129 McPhillips Ave. Facebook event
Briony Penn, Author
Galen Armstrong, Peace Valley Campaigner, Sierra Club BC

 

Opposition to Site C is riding a huge wave of momentum. In September, Treaty 8 First Nations traveled across Canada to the federal appeal hearings in Montreal. As a result, Winnipeg Liberal MP Robert Falcon-Ouellette broke the party line, publicly calling out Prime Minister Trudeau for allowing Site C to violate Treaty 8.

Photo by Louis Bockner

Photo by Louis Bockner

In October, a UNESCO mission spent 10 days investigating the threat posed by Site C to the Peace-Athabasca Delta, a World Heritage Site. The feds must now face International scrutiny and repercussions if Site C is allowed to go ahead.

And the environmental destruction is only becoming more apparent. Scientists have discovered rare and vulnerable species in the dam flood zone that were missed in BC Hydro’s environmental assessment of the project. BC Hydro has applied for a licence that will allow it to demolish protected old-growth forest, migratory bird habitat and a rare wetland in the Peace Valley.

Harry Swain, who chaired the joint review panel on Site C, recently spoke out against Site C, calling it a very big and expensive mistake. In this video he explains why we don’t need Site C power.

Now is the time to take this wave even higher. Please donate today and join us in the fight to stop Site C.

UNESCO in the Peace: Shining an international light on Site C

October 7, 2016

The eyes of the world were focused on Site C this week as UNESCO visited the Peace River Valley. The international agency was there to investigate how Site C endangers a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Wood Buffalo National Park.

There is still time to stop the Site C Dam, and Sierra Club BC is fighting it with every tool at our disposal. We initiated the process that led to the UNESCO decision to send a delegation to investigate the impacts of Site C.

On October 3, Sierra Club BC campaigner Ana Simeon joined the Mikisew Cree, many prominent scholars and environmental organizations from BC and Alberta, and national groups in Edmonton during the 10-day UNESCO mission. Together, they held the undivided attention of the delegation for nearly four hours as they spoke out about the destructive impacts of Site C and tar sands development on Wood Buffalo National Park.

Peace River. Photo by Larry Peterson.

Peace River. Photo by Larry Peterson.

The Mikisew Cree are highly concerned about the growing threats posed by development to water levels in the Peace-Athabasca Delta, the world’s largest inland freshwater delta. The area provides critical habitat for fish, moose, bison, and migratory birds including the endangered whooping crane. The Mikisew Cree have depended on this area for their livelihoods for millennia. They have asked the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to list the World Heritage Site as “In Danger.”

Presentations and submissions by Ana Simeon, Candace Batycki of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and the Peace Valley Environment Association covered every angle on Site C – including the violations of First Nations’ rights, the impacts happening right now in the Peace valley, and the drying of the Peace Athabasca Delta. In the face of the federal government’s lack of vigour in protecting Aboriginal rights and the environment, we called for the mission to deliver a wake-up call that international obligations must be respected.

site-c-drummers

Action to protect the valley. Photo courtesy of Peace Valley Environment Association.

Ana Simeon told the delegates, “We believe Canada needs support in maintaining a strong and principled course on respect for Aboriginal and Treaty rights as well as international treaties and international law. We believe this support would be best delivered by the international community in the form of ‘tough love.’ This ‘tough love’ includes declaring Wood Buffalo National Park a World Heritage Site in Danger, as well as calling for an immediate halt to Site C construction until First Nations legal challenges have been heard and a full inquiry has been conducted into treaty rights violations.”

What happens next?

The mission will release its report in six weeks, and Canada will need to respond within six months. Based on the mission report, the World Heritage Committee will make a decision next July, which may or may not include the finding that Wood Buffalo National Park is a World Heritage Site in danger. We need your help in calling on our federal government to act to protect Wood Buffalo National Park.

Please, send a letter help protect this special region from further devastation. If you want to do more, consider making a donation today to support Sierra Club BC. We rely on contributions from supporters like you to keep up the fight. Thank you!

Feature image: Flickr Creative Commons.

Good news for Skeena salmon threatened by Petronas. Or is it?

In August, federal fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc announced a renewed commitment to acting on the Cohen Commission’s recommendations, as well as the government’s 2005 Wild Salmon Policy. He also confirmed that Ottawa will restore protections to salmon habitat that were removed by the previous government.

On the surface, this sounds like good news for B.C.’s wild salmon, including the Skeena population that is threatened by the Petronas liquefied fracked gas plant proposal.

But is it?

The devil is in the details—and LeBlanc confirmed this by revealing the government would take time to consult on how it would restore protections to habitat. It could be years before the resulting legislative and regulatory changes come into effect. And who knows how strong the protections will end up being?

The Wild Salmon Policy alone should provide ample reasons to reject Petronas. The policy dictates that:

  • Conservation of salmon and their habitat must be the highest priority in resource management;
  • Decision-making is to be an open and inclusive process that honours Canada’s obligations to First Nations;
  • Fisheries are to be managed sustainably so that future generations of British Columbians can continue to harvest salmon;
  • And human activities are to be regulated to avoid harms to fish habitat and maintain ecosystem integrity.

In any sane world, Ottawa’s Wild Salmon Policy would make the Petronas proposal a non-starter.

The plant would be right in the Skeena River estuary, which acts as a nursery for up to a billion young salmon during their migration to sea. There is an extremely high risk that destroying this critical habitat would collapse the Skeena population and the $110 million Skeena salmon economy.

Few coastal areas in B.C. are more critical to the survival of the Skeena’s salmon than the Flora Bank eelgrass beds. Situated right off Lelu Island, where the Petronas plant would be built, Flora Bank offers rare and critical habitat for more than 40 populations of salmon and other species such as halibut.

Lelu Island was already assessed and rejected as a development site in 1975 because this habitat is too important to risk.

First Nations throughout the watershed have already gathered together in opposition to the plant by signing the Lelu Island Declaration.

It’s always been clear that the right thing to do is to reject Petronas. If the federal government’s commitment to protecting wild salmon is real, it has no choice but to say no.

Prime Minister Trudeau’s watershed moment is coming in the coming weeks. He will need to choose: the profits of a foreign multinational versus B.C.’s iconic wild Pacific salmon, the economy they support and the future livability of our climate.

Featured image by Al Harvey.

Respecting aboriginal rights fiscally smart

By Site C Campaigner Ana Simeon

Published in the 100 Mile Free Press

August 11, 2016

By signing permits to allow continued Site C dam construction last week, federal fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc took a step that is seriously at odds with everything the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau government has said and done since October 18.

Yes, the federal government has been keeping a low profile on Site C and other controversies likely to land them in hot water with the provinces.

But now, for the first time, Minister LeBlanc’s move is a proactive step in violation of explicit commitments.

“No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership.”

The above paragraph figures prominently in the mandate letter of every minister in the Trudeau government.

There are a number of things the Cabinet could have done to honour this “sacred obligation,” as the Prime Minister put it, with regard to Site C.

The feds could have withdrawn their opposition to the First Nations legal challenges to Site C.

They could have hit “pause” on construction permits and conducted a full audit of how Site C dam would impact treaty rights – a step that was skipped under former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government, as federal lawyers have admitted in court.

Instead, Minister LeBlanc has aligned himself with Premier Christy Clark’s indecent haste to get the project “past the point of no return,” aboriginal opposition be dammed.

Build first, worry about court judgments later is a mantra we have come to expect of the B.C. Premier.

It doesn’t sit well with the “sunny ways” we were promised by Ottawa back in October.

Maybe, as Grand Chief Stewart Phillip quipped last week, the honeymoon is over.

If the permits were issued with the full knowledge and consent of Cabinet, and are not just a matter of the wheels of bureaucracy turning on their own (the actual signature on the document line is that of a senior bureaucrat), then the federal government will find that breaking their most solemn promises will carry a hefty price – and not just a political one.

Site C bears an eerie resemblance to Newfoundland’s Muskrat Falls project, the latest hydro dam to go bellyup in debt. Like Site C, Muskrat Falls was exempted from a regulatory review that would examine its financial viability and the public interest. Like Site C, a negative federal review was soundly ignored. The (new) Premier of Newfoundland is calling it a “boondoggle” and asking for a $4-billion handout from Trudeau.

If the feds don’t smarten up, they will find themselves bailing out another dam white elephant. When it comes to Site C, keeping promises to First Nations is also the fiscally prudent thing to do.

Featured image by Larry Petersen.