The following message was read out at the recent event, “Site C: Treaty Power or Power Politics?”, held on July 5th at Douglas College Aboriginal Gathering Place in New Westminster.
Greetings, participants of the “Site C: Treaty Power or Power Politics?” Gathering,
Thank you for providing the Union of BC Indian Chiefs an opportunity to present to this vital gathering.
We need to do everything we can to stop this wrong-headed mega dam, and your presence here today is demonstrative of your commitment to doing just that. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs, represented by Executive members Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chief Bob Chamberlin, and Chief Judy Wilson, is deeply invested in stopping Site C. This destructive project represents an outdated way of thinking: we know that the approval and ongoing construction of Site C is in violation of Treaty 8 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and is contrary to the interests of all British Columbians.
Chief Bob Chamberlin, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, speaks at a petition delivery on the steps of the BC Legislature. Photo: Ali Harris.
When the BC Utilities Commission concluded on November 1, 2017, that there is an alternative portfolio of assets (wind, geothermal and conservation) that can meet BC Hydro’s forecasted energy demand at approximately the same price as completing Site C, we thought we had seen the end of this project. And as the price of alternatives has continued to decrease, we thought the choice was an obvious one. The budget for Site C’s completion has continued to increase, and we know that this nonsense must to come to a full and complete halt. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has recommended that the construction of Site C be halted until there is a full review of how it would affect Indigenous land. The UBCIC Chiefs Council has called on all British Columbians wishing to respect Indigenous Title and Rights and avoid billions of dollars of unnecessary debt to urge Premier John Horgan and all other MLAs to immediately terminate Site C and to pursue the alternatives recommended by the BC Utilities Commission.
The rich plant and animal life sheltered in the Peace River Valley is central to the health, well-being, traditional livelihoods and cultural integrity of the Indigenous Dunne-Za and Cree peoples. The Valley lies outside the boundaries of any designated First Nations reserves, but it is part of the traditional territory covered by the historic Treaty 8 and is used extensively for ceremony, subsistence, and traditional livelihoods, as well as to provide young people the opportunity to learn their cultural traditions. As a place to sustain and revitalize Indigenous cultures and traditions, the Peace River Valley is particularly important because it is close to a number of First Nations communities, and therefore more accessible to their elders and youth, as well as to the urban centre of Fort St. John where a great many community members now live. Extensive resource extraction activities in the region have left few other intact ecosystems capable of supporting Indigenous cultural practices and traditional means of livelihood and subsistence.
It is beyond dispute that flooding the Peace River Valley will be profoundly harmful to First Nations. The federal-provincial impact assessment found that the harm to First Nations’ use of the land would be severe, permanent, and irreversible.
We know that the approval and ongoing construction of Site C is in violation of Treaty 8 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and is contrary to the interests of all British Columbians
Without a change of position on Site C, how are we to believe that the Government of BC is sincere in its commitment to stop Kinder Morgan? Are the commitments to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Calls-to-Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission just lip service? The continued construction of the Site C dam is emblematic of a profound gulf between the rhetoric of reconciliation espoused by the Canadian government, both federally and provincially.
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs Secretary-Treasurer, Chief Judy Wilson, will look forward to paddling alongside many of you at the Paddle for the Peace in one week’s time! Thank you again for gathering here today to bring light to this pressing issue.
On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President
Chief Robert Chamberlin, Vice-President
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer