Wah’nah’juss Hilth’hooiss (Meares Island) contains spectacular ancient rainforests that make Clayoquot Sound legendary around the world.
Woodland caribou are an ancient part of the fabric of mountain landscapes, but in Treaty 8 territory their very survival is in doubt. There is hope for caribou though, and Indigenous Nations are leading the way to their recovery.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan can’t ignore recommendations of United Nations anti-racism committee
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 23, 2019
A new statement from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) has underlined the urgency of immediately suspending construction of the Site C dam.
“The UN’s top anti-racism body has recognized that continued construction of the Site C dam is a serious threat to fundamental human rights,” said Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations. “This latest statement from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination makes it clear that the federal and provincial governments have no claim to being human rights champions so long as they continue to ignore the impacts of Site C on our Treaty rights.”
UNCERD first called for a halt to construction of the Site C dam in August 2017 during a regular review of Canada’s human rights record. The independent, expert committee has now underlined the urgency of its recommendation by issuing a new statement under an emergency procedure meant to prevent serious violations of human rights.
In an open letter released today, the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are supported by downstream First Nations, and by 16 Indigenous peoples’ organizations, human rights, environmental and social justice groups across BC and Canada, in calling on the federal and provincial governments to immediately comply with CERD’s recommendations.
“The fact that the UN’s top anti-racism body takes the potential impact of the Site C dam on Indigenous peoples so seriously should be a wake-up call to the federal and provincial governments and indeed to all Canadians,” said Galen Armstrong, Sierra Club BC’s Peace Valley Campaigner.
UNCERD is an independent, expert body appointed to oversee state compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, a legally-binding human rights treaty ratified by Canada.
The Committee’s latest statement on Site C follows the decision of a BC court to allow construction of the dam to continue even though a fundamental Treaty rights challenge is still before the courts.
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson said on behalf of the executive of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), “The federal and provincial governments have been getting away with ignoring Treaty rights in the short term. Eventually, however, they will have to deal with the fact, recognized by this expert body, that the Site C dam violates rights that are legally protected and which both levels of government are obligated to uphold. Any sensible government would stop throwing good money after bad on a project that it’s clear can never be completed.”
In addition to calling for a halt to construction of the Site C dam, the UN Committee also called on the federal and provincial governments to seek independent expert advice on implementation of their legal human rights obligations, including the responsibility to respect and uphold the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples.
Craig Benjamin, Indigenous rights campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, said, “These human rights experts have clearly recognized that there is an unacceptable gap between the promises made by the Trudeau and Horgan governments and the appalling reality of their actions trampling the rights of First Nations who depend on the Peace River. The UN Committee is giving the federal and provincial governments an opportunity to correct course on their disastrous support for the Site C dam. They should seize this opportunity.”
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Chief Roland Willson
West Moberly First Nations
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson
Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Peace Valley Campaigner, Sierra Club BC
Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Amnesty International Canada
(613) 744-7667 (ext 235)
On March 1, BC Hydro was given an injunction authorizing removal of a First Nations cultural camp at the historic site of Rocky Mountain Fort near the proposed dam site. Now BC Hydro is in a rush to finish clear-cutting a large portion of the riverbank on the Peace River before the migratory songbirds come back in March and logging has to stop.
This is not yet actual dam construction, which still requires months and even years of preparatory works. But this kind of razed-earth landscape will become a reality for the whole of the Peace valley if Site C is allowed to proceed.
Migratory birds should be the least of BC Hydro’s worries. A couple of weeks ago, we learned the B.C. auditor general’s office is investigating whether the government’s decision to build Site C is “supported by sufficient information and analysis to demonstrate that it would meet government’s economic, social and environmental goals.”
On top of that, West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are vigorously pursuing three simultaneous legal challenges to Site C.
Site C has also been brought before a key U.N. human rights body, and is the subject of a UNESCO inquiry into the downstream impacts on the Peace Athabasca Delta, a World Heritage Site. A UNESCO delegation will be visiting the Peace region in May-June 2016.
Yet the B.C. government is not listening. Premier Christy Clark told assembled mourners at former premier Bill Bennett’s funeral that she will do everything she can to rush Site C “past the point of no return” – despite the fact that there are a total of 5 legal challenges to Site C before the courts. Premier Clark’s tactic of flooding the valley first, and letting the courts worry about damages later, is disrespectful of the role of courts in Canadian society as well as First Nations’ treaty rights.
Now is the moment for Prime Minister Trudeau and the federal government to step in and stop this colonial-era violation of First Nations rights.
Prime Minister Trudeau has promised a new relationship with First Nations, based on respect for treaty and aboriginal rights. Write to Prime Minister Trudeau today and ask him to fulfill this commitment by halting work on the Site C dam.
Site C, the biggest project in Canada, is proceeding on the strength of a 2014 federal cabinet decision that never even looked at how the project would infringe treaty rights. Although the Joint Review Panel found that Site C would have severe and permanent adverse effects on traditional uses of the land by First Nations, the Panel was explicitly barred from making any findings as to how this would affect treaty rights.
Energy projects that violate human rights are not clean or green. In this day and age, there are far less damaging and less costly methods that could be used to meet British Columbia’s energy needs – many of which would create more jobs than Site C.
Please take action now and stand in solidarity with West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations, and other people of Treaty 8.