Site C Dam construction must be immediately halted: Union of BC Indian Chiefs

 THE Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) said on Monday that a new report by Premier John Horgan’s special advisor on Site C provides yet another reason why this massively destructive and massively over-budget project must be stopped.

“The province has all the reasons it could possibly need to shut down this boondoggle,” said  Grand Chief Stewart, UBCIC President. “After five months of study, it has been confirmed that the report of special advisor Peter Milburn, which still awaits cabinet and public scrutiny, could not identify any safe way to complete Site C. Furthermore, Premier Horgan has revealed that the province has hired two international experts to conduct additional reviews in light of Milburn’s lack of capacity to address safety challenges related to geotechnical issues. The continued search for and lack of solutions is highly alarming and confirms what First Nations have been saying all along: the integrity and validity of the Site C Dam is elusive and fundamentally imperiled. Construction of Site C is destroying the precious and irreplaceable Peace River Valley – and wasting billions of dollars that the province can’t afford – all for a project that will almost certainly never be completed.”

The West Moberly First Nations have treaty-protected rights to hunt, fish, trap and practice their traditional way of life in the Peace River Valley. A legal challenge by West Moberly, scheduled to be heard in court before the dam is completed, alleges that flooding the Peace River Valley is an unjustifiable violation of these constitutionally protected rights and therefore must be stopped.

Meanwhile, the United Nations’ top anti-racism body has once again reiterated concerns that construction of the Site C dam violates Canada’s international human rights obligations. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the independent, non-governmental expert body responsible for oversight of a binding anti-racism treaty ratified by Canada more than a half-century ago. In 2017 and 2019, the CERD called for an immediate halt to construction of Site C. In a November 2020 letter to Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, made public this month, the committee once again flagged its ongoing concern over the project and expressed “regret” over Canada’s misinterpretation of its human rights obligations.

Chief Don Tom, UBCIC Vice President, said: “In a move that betrays all efforts to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the federal and provincial governments tried to convince the UN anti-racism committee that destroying the Peace River Valley was consistent with Canada’s human rights commitments. The independent experts clearly weren’t fooled. This highly discriminatory and dishonest conduct of Canada may be a preview of what will happen if the province continues to fight for Site C in court. Additionally, we support the  widespread calls to suspend construction during the COVID-19 pandemic out of fear that an outbreak at the work camp could overwhelm local communities, including highly vulnerable First Nations. BC Hydro has already confirmed 35 separate cases of COVID-19 at the work site.”

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, UBCIC Secretary-Treasurer, said: “Site C isn’t a dam, it’s a money pit. It is inconceivable that BC Hydro is reportedly spending $100 million every month to continue construction, despite the countless critical concerns and the irrefutable fact that the dam may never be completed. The province continues to bleed cash for an unstable project that continues to endanger the Title and Rights of First Nations and the health and safety of many communities. It is evident the financial interests of British Columbia must be aligned with First Nation Title and Rights – aligned with the preservation and conservation of our environment and the continued stewardship of our lands and waters for generations to come. It’s time for Premier Horgan to do the right thing and shut this boondoggle down before any more harm is done.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The original statement sent by Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) stated an expenditure of “$100 billion” every month to continue the construction of the Site C dam. However, after a reader challenged that figure and The VOICE checked the UBCIC website, we found that figure was “$100 million”. That correction was not sent to The VOICE.]

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