In a new article published by The Narwhal, West Moberly Chief Roland Willson makes it clear that the goal of the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations is to protect the Peace River Valley, whether through litigation or negotiation.

Earlier this week, the province announced that it had entered into confidential negotiations with the two First Nations with the intent of settling a Treaty-rights case that is still before the courts.

The Narwhal quotes Chief Willson as saying, “Our position is that the dam should not go ahead.” And, “In the discussion we’re going to be talking about how they don’t have to destroy the valley.”

When the federal and provincial governments approved construction of the Site C dam, both governments ignored the clear position of First Nations that destruction of the Peace River Valley would violate Treaty-protected rights.

A civil suit launched by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations is currently set to be heard before the dam is scheduled to be completed in 2023. If the First Nations are able to prove to the court that protection of the valley is necessary to the meaningful exercise of their Treaty rights, the onus will be on BC Hydro and the province to prove that this serious breach of Constitutionally-protected rights can be justified. The actual need for the dam and the viability of alternatives would be at issue.

Requiring First Nations to go to embark on a long and costly court process just to have their Constitutionally-protected rights even considered is fundamentally unjust and contrary to the province’s commitment to reconciliation.

Meanwhile, the UN’s top anti-racism body, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), has already called on the federal and provincial governments to immediately halt construction in order to prevent human rights violations.

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