By Roy L Hales
The First Nations that signed treaty #8, in 1914, were promised the right to continue with their traditional way of life “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow.” The antiquity of their presence site is evidenced by prehistoric chert arrowheads, burials and local tradition. It has continued into modern times as a summer gathering place. When BC Hydro dams the Columbia, on site C, they will be taking away lands on which these people have hunted, fished and gathered their traditional medicine plants. Of Course a century ago no one knew that this could become one of the most promising liquid natural gas fields in the world.
The land that is about to disappear is also home to about 20 threatened species. It is a migration route for fish such as the bull trout and arctic grayling, as well as home to the mountain whitefish. The islands are calving grounds for moose, mule deer & elk, habitat for red & blue listed neo-tropical birds.
A consultant, representing the Treaty 8 First Nations, has suggested that BC Hydro look at an alternate site on the Halfway River that would produce 25% of Site C’s power, but leave a substantially smaller environmental impact.
He suggested the utility build “smaller, incremental projects” corresponding to the province’s needs.
According to Canada’s best known environmentalist, David Suzuki, “There are already 16,267 oil and gas wells, 28,587 kilometres of pipeline, 45,293 kilometres of roads and 116,725 kilometres of seismic lines packed into the Peace Region.
“… The Peace Region has borne the brunt of our growing appetite for oil and gas, timber, minerals and hydroelectric power for too long,” Suzuki wrote. “At some point we must ask ourselves how much development is too much, and respect the wishes of local communities to say no to more mega-projects, like the Site C Dam, so they can finally live in peace.”
This does not appear to fit into the province’s plans, which are linked to Premier Christy Clark hopes to sell BC’s Natural Gas to China.
“We have more natural gas than just about anywhere else,” she told a reporter from the Globe and Mail. “They need it, we’ve got it, its a perfect marriage.”
Only BC does not have enough electricity to supply the LNG facilities that the Premier hopes to build in Kitimat and Prince Rupert. Clark’s solution is to build Site C.
BC Hydro started buying up properties in the site C area during the 1970‘s, when hydropower, rather than natural gas, seemed to provide a road to prosperity. Their first attempt to build a dam on site C fell casualty to a growing disenchantment from decline of BC’s fisheries and loss of productive farmland. Yet the utility currently owns 12% of the effected land and another 81% belongs to the crown.
Premier Gordon Campbell announced the resumption of this plan in April 2010.
Neither he, or any of his government, thought it necessary to attend when Chief Liz Logan, of the Treaty 8 Tribal Association, read out a response from the the Doig River First Nation, Halfway River First Nation, Prophet River First Nation and West Moberly First Nation.
Logan would subsequently tell the Vancouver Sun that, “Negotiating a benefits agreement for Site C is incomprehensible because this project and its impacts violate our treaty rights and you cannot attach a dollar value to that.”
Chief Logan summed up her opposition, in a joint declaration from the Doig River First Nation, Halfway River First Nation, Prophet River First Nation and West Moberly First Nation, three years ago: “We are opposed to the proposed Site C Dam; We vow to use all lawful means to stop the site C dam from proceeding; and We asset that the proposed Site C dam is not “green or clean.”
(Photo at top of page: Cow Moose – Veronika Ronkos, courtesy Wikipedia Commons)