At a news conference on Tuesday, B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced that the government has approved the controversial Site C dam project on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia. The decision ends months of speculation following a joint provincial-federal environmental review of the mega-project, which found it is unclear if power from Site C is even needed now. The review also raised doubts about whether the price tag for Site C, currently estimated at more than $8 billion, truly reflects the project's full costs.
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In addition, the review panel agreed with First Nations and environmental groups, including the David Suzuki Foundation, that the environmental impacts of Site C are substantial and — when looked at in the context of historical and ongoing cumulative effects from other development in the region, such as fracking and logging — would have serious consequences for First Nations' ability to continue to exercise their legal treaty and Aboriginal rights, such as hunting and fishing.
It is distressing that the government has ignored the alarming economic, social and environmental problems with the Site C dam and given it a green light. Peer-reviewed scientific research by the David Suzuki Foundation has shown that industrial activity, including two pre-existing large dams on the Peace River, have fractured the region on a scale unprecedented in Canada.
More than 60 per cent of the Peace Region has now been disturbed by human land use, such as fracking, logging, mining, pipelines and other activities. Site C must be considered in the context of this enormous cumulative industrial footprint, which is destroying farmland and wildlife habitat at a blistering rate, and negatively affecting First Nations and farming communities that have inhabited the region for generations. If built, Site C will add unacceptable stress to an already overstressed environment.
Incentives and programs to encourage energy conservation, along with alternatives such as wind, solar and geothermal energy, would serve all British Columbians better than this expensive and destructive mega-project.
In moving ahead with the Site C dam, without support from First Nations, the B.C. government is ignoring the outcomes of recent higher court decisions, such as the Tsilhqot'in decision, which have reinforced the fact that governments can no longer run roughshod over First Nations when it comes to approving industrial projects on their lands and territories.
Treaty 8 First Nations have consistently opposed the Site C dam given its enormous social and environmental impacts, and are taking the B.C. and federal governments to court to stop it from being built.
The David Suzuki Foundation continues to support local farming and First Nations communities in their opposition to the Site C dam. The Peace Region is home to irreplaceable ecosystems and wildlife and has been home to the Dane_Zaa First Nations for millennia. When they signed Treaty 8 in 1899 with Queen Victoria, it included the following words, which were meant to describe the strength of the new relationship being forged with Canada's First Peoples: "for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow..."
Our politicians must remember that these words have real significance for the Dane_Zaa people, who continue to have stewardship over their lands and territories and do not want them harmed by political decisions.