Site C dam decision a litmus test of government’s commitment to Indigenous reconciliation and rights
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 30, 2017
With a decision on whether to complete or cancel the Site C dam imminent, Sierra Club BC calls for the provincial cabinet to consider its impacts on downstream Indigenous communities.
Responding to an open letter from downstream Indigenous communities calling on Premier John Horgan to cancel the project, Peace Valley campaigner Galen Armstrong said, “If the provincial government’s commitment to reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is to mean anything, this government must cancel the Site C dam.”
The government was elected on promises of reconciliation and implementation of the principles of the UN Declaration.
“Site C threatens the land, waters and resources of downstream Indigenous communities with permanent, extensive and irreversible harm,” said Armstrong. “It’s easy to spout the rhetoric of reconciliation and rights, but now those words are being tested by a very real choice.
“This government cannot simply push title and rights aside when they are inconvenient. If it is serious about its commitment, there is no choice but to cancel Site C.
“Sierra Club BC stands with Treaty 8 First Nations and all downstream Indigenous communities who would be negatively impacted by this dam,” said Armstrong. “The people of this region are already facing negative impacts from existing dam development and to make this problem worse by building yet another mega-dam would be a terrible injustice. British Columbia needs to move forward in its relationship with Indigenous peoples, not backward.”
Site C would impact hundreds of culturally significant sites and important hunting and fishing grounds in the Peace River Valley and would threaten water flows downstream in the Peace-Athabasca Delta (protected by Wood Buffalo National Park) upon which the Mikisew Cree depend. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has called upon Canada to conduct an assessment of Site C’s impact on Wood Buffalo National Park, a World Heritage Site.
When the need for reconciliation with Indigenous communities is combined with the threats posed by the dam to vital farmland, the impact on wildlife and ecosystems, the horrendous cost to Hydro ratepayers and the dramatic reductions we have seen in the cost of renewable alternatives, the balance is decisively tipped in favour of cancelling Site C.
Ninety-four per cent of the province is designated public Crown land; much of this is unceded territory, subject to Indigenous title and rights. Reconciliation for historical wrongs is necessary and important and any plan for our common future must recognize and address the province’s painful shared history.
Sierra Club BC