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First Nations take Site C fight to the United Nations

First Nations from the Peace River Valley are asking the United Nations’ top anti-racism body to help defend their Treaty rights from the impact of the Site C dam.

August 11, 2017 

First Nations from the Peace River Valley are asking the United Nations’ top anti-racism body to help defend their Treaty rights from the impact of the Site C dam. 

Robyn Fuller, a councillor from West Moberly First Nation, will travel to Geneva next week to speak to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination when the expert body carries out its regular review of Canada’s human rights record. 

“We’re frankly sick of hearing about the Canadian government going to the UN and bragging about its human rights record when our rights are being violated on a daily basis,” says Fuller. 

The Site C dam will devastate a crucial natural environment on which we depend for our culture and way of life. When governments turns their backs on the harm that Site C is causing, they are blatantly violating our Treaty and Canada’s international human rights obligations and should be held accountable.” 

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviews Canada’s record approximately every five years. In its last review in 2012, the Committee raised concerns over Canada’s persistent failure to uphold Treaty rights, and the many obstacles that exist for Indigenous peoples to obtain a just and timely resolution of land disputes. 

“In their efforts to push this destructive mega-project ahead at any cost, the federal and provincial governments have created a shocking example of the exact concerns previously raised by human rights bodies such as this Committee,” says Craig Benjamin of Amnesty International Canada. 

Amnesty International is one of a number of organizations that raised concerns about Site C in a written statement submitted to the UN in advance of next week’s review.

The joint statement points out federal and provincial governments are violating human rights protections by threatening lands crucial to Indigenous peoples and by failing to provide a timely remedy for still unresolved Treaty rights concerns. 

“Indigenous Peoples’ rights are being violated by this economic white elephant that is a hugely environmentally destructive mega project. The new B.C. government must set right the wrongs of the Christy Clark government and their shameless pandering to the cronies of big business,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. 

The federal and B.C. governments acknowledged in court that Treaty obligations were ignored in the decision to approve Site C. None of the court decisions to date have addressed whether or not Site C violates the protections provided by Treaty 8.

Efforts by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations to raise these concerns through a relatively expedient judicial review process reached a dead end this year when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the case. The only legal option remaining is a long and involved civil suit. 

“It’s more important than ever that we bring every possible pressure on our governments to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Peace River Valley,” said Candace Batycki of Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

“The fact that the federal and previous B.C. governments were successful in closing off the best option for a timely resolution of the legal issues surrounding Site C means that we must focus even more attention on the political front, including through international scrutiny at the United Nations,” she says.   

Organizations signing the joint statement: Alliance4Democracy,  Amnesty International Canada, Assembly of First Nations, Canadian Friends Service Committee, FightC, Force of Nature, KAIROS, Keeper of the Water, Peace Valley Environment Association, Sierra Club BC, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative 

For further comment please contact:  

Chief Roland WillsonWest Moberly First Nations250-783-0733 

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, PresidentUnion of B.C. Indian Chiefs250-490-5314 

Candace BatyckiProgram Director, B.C. and YukonYellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative250-352-3830 

Galen ArmstrongPeace Valley CampaignerSierra Club BC778-679-3191 

Craig BenjaminCampaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous PeoplesAmnesty International Canada613-292-5817