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120,000 Canadians stand with the Peace River

Citizens’ groups, human rights organizations and environmental movements are asking British Columbia Members of Parliament to take a message to Ottawa.

MEDIA STATEMENT | Apr., 27, 2017

Citizens’ groups, human rights organizations and environmental movements are asking British Columbia Members of Parliament to take a message to Ottawa.

“British Columbia’s Site C dam is one of the largest mega-projects of our generation,” says Andrea Morison, executive director of Peace Valley Environment Association. “Our political leaders cannot continue to ignore the devastating impact it will have on our waters and on the rights of Indigenous peoples.”

More than 120,000 people have signed petitions, postcards and letters calling for an immediate halt to construction. Petitions were presented to BC MPs today as they prepared to return to the House of Commons after a Parliamentary break.

Organizers include Amnesty International Canada, LeadNow, Sierra Club BC, the Peace Valley Environment Association, KAIROS, Keepers of the Water, Peace Valley Landowners Association, Alliance4Democracy and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

They are calling on parliamentarians of all parties to press for clear answers on why this project is proceeding, despite established harm to the natural environment, farmlands, and the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Photo: Darcy Shawchek

Last week, a detailed study published by the University of British Columbia Program on Water Governance concluded that proceeding with Site C would be “uneconomic.”

The study points to lower future electricity demand than stated by BC Hydro during the project's review process, higher project costs than previously estimated, and falling cost of alternative sources of energy.

“Even before Site C was approved, the environmental assessment process raised serious doubts about the claimed economic benefits that supposedly justified the terrible harm that would be done by flooding the Peace Valley," says Candace Batycki of Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. “Now that this report from UBC has declared the project uneconomic, it’s clearly time for both levels of government to give this project some sober second thought.”

The federal and provincial governments acknowledge they approved the dam without consideration of whether doing so was consistent with their legal obligations under Treaty 8, which protects the right of the Cree and Dane-Zaa to use their traditional lands.

Despite a series of judicial reviews of the approval of Site C, Canadian courts have yet to render a verdict on this fundamental question.

“Site C is a disaster in the making,” says Brittany Smith, campaigner at LeadNow. “Canadians deserve to know why our governments have continued to back such a disastrous and costly project in the face of serious, unresolved legal challenges from First Nations.”

The dam also seriously threatens water flows in the Peace-Athabasca Delta, part of Wood Buffalo National Park. A recent UNESCO report strongly criticizes Canada for failing to protect the park, the country’s largest World Heritage Site. Wood Buffalo risks being added to the List of World Heritage in Danger unless the Canadian government acts immediately to address these threats, which endanger the ability of the Mikisew Cree to practice their way of life.

“The UNESCO report shows the Site C dam should have never been approved in the first place. Now, it is damaging the relationship between First Nations and Canadian society,” says Galen Armstrong, Peace Valley campaigner for Sierra Club B.C. “It is time for the federal government to stop abdicating its responsibility and immediately suspend its approval of Site C.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs says, “The future of Site C has become a hot topic in the current provincial election. Whoever forms the next provincial government after May 9, it is going to be very hard for them to continue ignoring the impact of this unnecessary mega-project. The missing piece is for the federal government to break its silence on this crucial issue.”

Jennifer Henry, executive director of KAIROS, says, “Our organizations are grateful to the Members of Parliament who have already spoken out on Site C. We hope that MPs of all parties will agree that a project that is of such concern to so many Canadians deserves closer scrutiny.”

This week at a United Nations meeting on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the federal Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett once again set out her government’s promise to fully uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This includes the right of Indigenous peoples to say no to unwanted development on their lands.

Craig Benjamin, who is attending the UN meeting on behalf of Amnesty International says, “The federal government has never explained how it can reconcile its claims to champion the rights of Indigenous peoples on the world stage while turning its back on those same rights in the Peace Valley."

For further comment please contact:  

Candace Batycki, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, BC and Yukon program director, 250-352-3830 |