Says David Williams, “I was the founding president of RAVEN until last year, when I resigned. Pat and I are the co-founders of Friends of Nemiah Valley where I was the executive director and she the secretary.”
His reasons for joining July 11th Paddle for the Peace are simple yet profound.
“The Site C project is a) unnecessary because there are fast developing alternatives for future needs and we do not need it now b) incredibly destructive of the environment and First Nations rights; it is proceeding without free, prior and informed consent. We are very concerned about that, and the courts have ruled that proceeding in this way is illegal. Human rights, environmental rights aboriginal rights … all are threatened. The dam is a very ill conceived project, so we want to help stop it any way we can.”
“We believe the prime purpose of Site C is to provide water and power for oil and gas development, specifically fracking. We’re opposed to fracking because we’ve seen the devastation to communities and ecosystems in northeast BC and Alberta. We’re afraid that with unlimited power and water, all the destructive consequences will come to the rest of BC.
All the converstations I’ve had with First Nations circle back to the fact that, due to fracking for LNG they are unable to hunt & trap, game disappears, fish and mammals… Site-C is part of a 19th century mindset of inevitable progress, and the myth we tell ourselves about Canada— that we are a wonderful country.”
Adds Pat Swift, his partner Iin paddling, etc…..“For me this case is important because it really will define who we are as a country, especially after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report. It will define Canada and B.C.’s relationship in an pretty obvious way with First Nations, and the land. Site C could be seen as a criminal act because it’s a theft: a theft THROUGH FLOODING of First Nations’ heritage and culture, a theft of First Nations’ inherent right to pass on to their children the knowledge connected to their homeland, the theft of a sustainable and healthy fishery and furthermore it’s a theft of productive farmland— which is only going to become more important with climate change. It’s essential to stop this project.”
The pair are travelling in an old fiberglass canoe they used to paddle the Yukon 15 years ago, through Carmax and Dawson. “We were 7-10 days on the river. We like to paddle. Canoes are wonderful: it’s how Canada was explored, and there’s nothing more intrinsically Canadian than a canoe,” says David.
“The citizenship test should include: can you make love in a canoe without falling out?” jokes Pat.
“In a larger context, the nations are in a David and Goliath battle,” continues David. “If we win, it will help make Canada a proper country. We have occupied and stolen land and destroyed cultures, and destroyed the environment in my beloved British Columbia… my own mixed heritage goes back thousands of years here too… it’s my place and this is my time, and I feel very protective of it. I deeply resent the people who are working so hard right now for the sake of private wealth. We are paddling for the future of BC and the future of the planet.”
David goes on to tell a story: “I have a friend who knows the people who were displaced by the WAC Bennett Dam. He’s been to their community a number of times as a tree planter. The story they tell him is that one day the RCMP came and said, ‘sinorry, you have to leave your homes you have lived in for thousands of years.’ The police loaded them into vans, set fire to their homes, and drove them to a place they had never been. It was assumed they would do just fine on a new Indian reserve. The new reserve was totally unknown territory. The move made them have to learn to hunt again, and they found that the fish upstream from the dam were full of mercury. Within the last years, their hunting territory was given to an American based outfitter whose moose hunting quotas meant that there was nothing left over for them to hunt or eat. So: that’s what will happen to the people in the way of Site-C: they will be displaced and dispossessed, both aboriginal and non.”
Says Pat: “It’s important for actions like this to recognize that we do have power: there’s an election coming up, and while the focus is on who will lead, there is very little talk about what it is to be a good citizen. Taking action for what you believe in is essential: ‘knowing’ about an issue is one thing, but knowing isn’t doing. With this fundraiser, we are inviting people to use their power to make direct change.”