Protesting the Site C dam in British Columbia

Share Button

The Treaty 8 Justice for the Peace River Caravan arrived in Montreal September 12 after travelling more than 4200 kilometres across Canada to protest the Trudeau government’s betrayal in granting approval to the Site C Dam on the Peace River in northwestern BC.

The grassroots campaigners were welcomed at a rally in Montreal September 14 outside the Federal Court of Appeal by a number of First Nations leaders, activists and allies, including the Regional Chief of the AFN of Quebec and Labrador, Ghislain Picard.

“Whenever there’s great adversity and challenges to Indigenous people, we will always come together and support one another,” Picard told the BC travellers.

The rally was an expression of solidarity with the Treaty 8 First Nations opposition to the federal Liberal approval for the Site C Dam. The approval contradicts Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s explicit promises during and after last fall’s election to respect the social acceptability of industrial projects that impact First Nations. If built, it would flood 5,550 hectares of land, destroying some of Treaty 8’s heritage and burial sites as well as infringing on their constitutionally protected right to subsistence hunting and fishing.

ken-and-arlene-boon-told-they-have-to-leave-family-farm-for-site-c-dam-road-construction treaty-8-youth-photo-by-gary-mcnutt courthouse-steps-protest

Earlier in the week, National AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde condemned the Liberal government for its approval of Site C. “Why don’t they follow their own constitution? Section 35. Existing treaty rights,” Bellegarde told the Canadian Press. “It really comes back to building a healthy, respectful relationship with Indigenous peoples and we just don’t see it happening here.”

The speakers at the rally included Picard, the Union of the BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Kanesatake’s Grand Chief Serge Simon. The speeches emphasized the need to come together as Indigenous Nations in support of one another’s struggles.

“If any Indigenous community asks for help, all the treaty allies have a responsibility to act on their behalf and ensure their voices are heard and their decisions are respected,” said Simon.       

“There’s an international convergence of Indigenous peoples coming together with a sense of common purpose,” Grand Chief Phillip told the Nation. “Collectively we have to stand up and challenge the way major resource development projects are being rammed forward by industry and government.”

Phillip, who attended the beginning of the trial, noted the tension inside the courtroom. “Three of the justices were asking a lot of questions, and that signaled to me they understand the gravity of the legal and constitutional issues at hand, and the ramifications their decisions will have,” said Phillip. “There’s a lot riding on this, no question about it.”

The problem, he said, is with inadequate environmental assessment, especially at the provincial level in BC where a right-wing government has been in power since 2001. A larger protest on the level of Standing Rock may follow if the bulldozers move in.

“The provincial environmental assessment legislation is a cruel joke – it simply rubberstamps all development proposals,” said Phillip. “Should the Federal Court of Appeal side with the federal Liberals, Standing Rock is the example we’re going to have to follow. We have no choice but to push back on these large-scale resource development projects that are not subject to any rigorous environmental oversight.”

But Phillip says it’s not to late for the Trudeau government to right the ship. “A retraction of approval by the federal government would go a long way in restoring our waning faith in the fulfillment of the promises made by the Liberals before last year’s federal election,” he said.


Share Button

Comments are closed.