Hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation are boosting opposition to the construction of BC Hydro’s Site C dam and hydroelectric generating station in the Peace River Valley.
The Office of the Wet’suwet’en has declared their support of legal challenges to the project put forth by neighbouring nations and provincial groups.
According to Wet’suwet’en Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale), provincial consultation with First Nations on the project has followed a strategy he calls “divide and conquer.”
“Any form of industry, that’s what they go through, the path of least resistance. Then they put it out there like it’s in the best interest of British Columbia,” he said, following a statement made by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and posted on the Wet’suwet’en website Aug. 2 calling the project “an absolute betrayal.”
“Our [responses] are getting put to the wayside. They continue on as if the decision has already been made,” he added.
The dam, a clean energy, multibillion-dollar mega project under construction near Fort St. John, recently received two federal permits allowing BC Hydro to ramp up development in the area which will create an 83-kilometre reservoir, flooding farm land along with hunting and fishing territory and cultural sites of First Nations.
Critics of the project are calling it a violation of treaty rights with the latest challenge from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs citing a contravention of Treaty 8.
Chief Na’Moks noted his concern that not all Aboriginal groups are being properly consulted on the project.
BC Hydro has, to date, signed deals with multiple elected First Nation band governments in the region though others have taken the project to court.
Spokesperson for BC Hydro, Dave Conway, said: “Of the 13 Aboriginal groups that BC Hydro is engaged with, only two First Nations remain opposed to the project in court — West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations.”
“BC Hydro continues to have positive discussions with the majority of First Nations affected by the Site C project,” he continued.
“Offers of accommodation have been made to all of the First Nations significantly affected by the project and we are committed to working hard with Aboriginal groups to address their concerns and identify opportunities for them to benefit from the project.”
Chief Na’Moks contended BC Hydro’s claim of positive discussions with First Nations.
“For them to destroy the land of the Treaty 8 people and the agricultural land for industry, it is nonsensical,” Chief Na’Moks said. “There is no guarantee that [large industry projects in the region] will go through, but they’re still bulldozing things, they’re still pushing the way forward and yet there’s no guarantee of any benefit to the people.”
The Site C project is scheduled to be completed in the year 2024.