“There can be no lasting reconciliation while Indigenous peoples’ rights are being trampled upon, diminished, and frozen in the past. There can be no trust in your government while the words you say to the public ring false in the court rooms...” – Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
A recent court injunction hearing on the Site C dam shone a bright light on the government of British Columbia’s deeply flawed approach to Treaty rights in the Peace River Valley. During the injunction hearing, lawyers for the BC government and the crown corporation BC Hydro tried to redefine Treaty rights so that millennia of history and tradition in the Peace River Valley would not even be considered.
Before the Site C dam trial goes any farther, British Columbia must address the enormous gap between its public commitment to reconciliation and the efforts of its lawyers to undermine the rights of Indigenous peoples.
This narrow, one-sided interpretation of the Treaty is so harmful to the rights of Indigenous peoples throughout BC that the Union of BC Indian Chiefs has asked for an apology and a retraction.
In the name of justice and reconciliation, the province should, as a minimum, agree to halt construction while the case is before the courts, accept the evidence of First Nations elders that the Peace River Valley is crucial to the exercise of their Treaty rights, and seek independent advice on how to ensure its legal position is consistent with its human rights obligations.
UPDATE (Oct 25, 2018): The BC Supreme Court has now rejected efforts to halt the Site C dam while a crucial First Nations Treaty rights challenge is before the court. That case will begin early next year. In the meantime, this latest decision means that sacred sites and crucial wildlife habitat are at risk if BC Hydro moves ahead with plans to clear forests and other lands in the Valley. This urgent threat means we must redouble our efforts to hold the BC government accountable for respecting the rights of Indigenous peoples - exactly as it has promised to do.
Add your voice to this urgent appeal for justice; join us in urging the BC government to respect Treaty rights in the Peace River Valley.