Last week at First Metropolitan Church, RAVEN’s executive director Susan Smitten spoke to the crowd about the Site C dam project. The evening raised several thousand dollars for the Treaty 8 legal challenge that RAVEN is backing and provided some thought —and action— provoking messages. Here is what Susan shared that evening:
“Thank you. I want to acknowledge that we are here on Coast Salish territory and are grateful to be guests here.
For those who don’t know RAVEN: we’re based in Victoria and are the only non-profit charitable org in Canada that raises legal defence funds for First Nations who enforce their rights and title to protect their traditional territories.
RAVEN is supporting West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations in their legal run-up against BC and BC Hydro – both of which have unlimited legal budgets and a veritable army of lawyers working to defeat them any way possible.
Treaty 8 First Nations are going up against the province and BC Hydro because they know their legal actions can stop the dam AND set important legal precedents. They know they have rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. Rights that can’t be eliminated by putting them under water.
Bill Bennett wants everyone to think the dam is – in his words – ‘a done deal.’ This is not the case.
There are a number of misconceptions about the environmental approval process. One is that the federal government can’t stop Site C – even if it wanted to. This is incorrect. In order for Site C to proceed, the nature of the project requires approval from BOTH Canada (under the CEAA) and from BC under the Environmental Assessment Act.
If the project fails to receive approval from either Canada or BC, OR the courts declare one of the approvals already issued invalid, then Site C will not be able to proceed. AND any permits issued from previous authorization would be invalid. In a nutshell, striking down the federal approval would be enough, in and of itself to stop Site C.
I would like to turn around all of the “done deal” statements, and point to the lack of respect for the legal process and First Nations demonstrated by BC – Christy Clark recently stated that it was her goal to get “past the point of no return” – meaning it’s not there yet. That – in the face of Treaty 8’s rights, is offensive. Because basically she is saying she wants to get to the point where enough damage has been done through the construction that when the courts come out with rulings as to whether the project is unconstitutional it will be moot. So courts and constitution and First Nations rights be damned, as long as they can destroy the valley quickly enough, it won’t matter.
That’s not justice.
And RAVEN is about access to justice. Because as I said at the outset, BC and BC Hydro have deep pockets.
It’s going to cost several hundred thousand to see the multiple legal actions through – most likely to the Supreme Court. I was asked to point this out that part of the reason for the high cost is that the government tactics tend to be delay and outspend.
Another point on the cost is one that might seem a bit random but relates. I got a call a while ago from someone who heard about our fundraising campaigns for First Nations legal actions and phoned to challenge us, saying “Why should I have to pay for First Nations to go to court?” It stopped me for a second – but then the response came to me. “You don’t. It’s entirely voluntary. BUT regardless of where you sit on this issue, you WILL pay for BC and Canada to drag their heels through the courts. They are using your tax dollars.”
So – I assume that you are here because you care. Raise your hand if this is an issue you care about. And because you care, you may have liked a Facebook page or signed up for a newsletter.
Now I am asking you to act, to take your concern and turn it into meaningful action. Your donation in support of Treaty 8’s legal action will help to ensure they can see these court cases through. You can donate online at nosite-c.com. Or you can donate by cheque – made out to RAVEN with Treaty 8 in the memo line.
If you have already donated – thank you! If not, here’s your link. Then I would ask you to now lead the way for others – by setting up a fundraising page. You’ll be in great company, with David Suzuki, Caleb Behn, Holly Arntzen and Lynn Chapman. It just takes a few minutes. And that way you can invite all your friends to contribute to something you care about. If you want, you can call our office and we’ll talk you through it.
It’s one act of reconciliation we can all do. Stand shoulder to shoulder with the Indigenous Peoples of the Peace River Valley. Join the circle. Stop the dam-age.