Field Notes from the Great Site C Road Show
Featured image by Larry Petersen
Day 5 of the Site C road show and heading back West we turn for a last look at the Purcells and the Rockies in the early morning light. It has been an exhilarating, exhausting and deeply rewarding five days on the road. Tossing the ball back and forth between Julian and me, making sure we cover every angle, speak from the head and the heart, and most importantly listen and connect. Four different towns – Vernon, Kelowna, Kamloops, Golden – four distinct regional vibes, but sharing the same concerns. Stripped down to basics, stopping Site C is about food. And water. And how we live together, Indigenous and non-indigenous, with respect.
It was a privilege sharing this trip with Julian Napoleon from Saulteau First Nation, one of a number of Treaty 8 First Nations whose territories and food lands would be impacted by Site C. Julian grew up steeped in the traditional food practices and ceremonies of the Dunne-zaa people – hunting moose, fishing for bull trout, gathering plants. He is also a UBC student and a farmer. His work with the Working Group for Indigenous Food Sovereignty stems from his passion for reclaiming Indigenous food systems and working together with farmers in the Peace Valley to create a common vision for a food-based regional economy.
In Kelowna we were joined by Richard Bullock, former chair of the Agricultural Land Commission. Richard is a powerhouse unto himself – a room with Richard in it seems to pulsate with energy. First Nations singer/songwriter Kym Gouchie kicked off the event with a beautiful song about the morning sun calling us to arise. I can still hear Kym’s soaring voice, see her grounded and powerful stance, and feel the pulse of the drumbeat. Kym’s song brought us all together even before the first word was uttered.
Another highlight: a young girl in the audience (around 10 perhaps) raising her hand to talk about her love for animals and how she wants her children to be able to enjoy them. Another evening, a woman in the back row challenging everybody to take one action to Stop Site C every week … and then upgrade to every day!
And speaking of action: in the coming weeks the federal government will make decisions on permits necessary for continued construction of the Site C dam. If the government rejects or puts these permits on hold, it would buy time for important legal challenges by First Nations and local landowners to be addressed.
The Prime Minister and his Cabinet need to hear from Members of Parliament in ridings across Canada that their constituents care about the Site C and want the federal government to take action! Please take a few minutes to write to your MP here: http://realsitechearings.org/
What I’m taking away from the Great Site C Roadshow is that nothing raises grassroots energy like bringing people together in the same room. We can Facebook and tweet all we want – and we should, they are amazing tools – but to accomplish something together human beings need to see, hear and be with each other in physical space. So watch this space for more events – Vancouver Island and Vancouver in June, then the Kootenays in the fall!
If you missed the events, you can check out a recording from the Victoria Site C event in March. Thanks to to Ed Johnson for recording the evening and hosting it on his YouTube channel SaanichReport.
Much appreciation to all the partners who co-hosted the events – SENS in Vernon, Council of Canadians in Kelowna, Thompson Rivers University Human Rights Committee in Kamloops, and Wildsight in Golden!