A rock in the river: West Moberly shifts strategy on Site C

We know that pressing for rights in the courts is a strategic and powerful way to push back against unfettered development and to advance better laws benefiting future generations. You’ve stood with Indigenous Nations through some tough fights, and seen RAVEN celebrate the defeat of tar sands pipelines and open pit mines. 

But: sometimes, infuriatingly, the march of industrial destruction is faster than the slow grind of the courts. Although moral victory can still be possible, landscapes may be irreversibly damaged before treaty rights can be vindicated in court. 

This is exactly the scenario West Moberly First Nation faces. The construction of Site C has progressed to a point where it is very unlikely that any judge would order the dam dismantled. Because of this, West Moberly has reluctantly agreed to settle the portion of their case related to the Site C Project.

That decision was made at the end of a ten-year struggle, in which West Moberly’s community has consistently chosen to fight for their rights and culture. That has meant tough choices for the Nation, including forgoing economic and financial benefits — such as refusing construction and procurement contracts on Site C, worth over $100 million. 

As a RAVEN supporter, you knew what an unsafe, unnecessary, and unjust project Site C was and is. Thousands of people joined together to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to back West Moberly’s principled legal action. 

“West Moberly will now be negotiating from a position of strength largely owing to the legal action we filed in 2018 and continued with the support of RAVEN. We thank each and every donor for your generous support.” – Chief Roland Willson 

West Moberly’s fight is far from over. The rest of their civil claim focuses on the damage caused by the other two Peace River dams that were constructed without the Nation’s consent. In negotiations with the province, the Nation will be arguing that the cumulative impacts of W.A.C. Bennett and Peace Canyon dams have had a huge impact on the land and wildlife in their territory, and will be seeking redress. 

The trial has been paused, but the legal action has not been terminated. If it turns out that BC is not negotiating in good faith, the Nation still has the option to resume litigation.

“The decision to settle this part of the court case was taken with a heavy heart and with serious considerations of the best interests of our community. Our focus now turns towards efforts to heal what remains of our land, to heal our people, and to protect our way of life in the face of all the resource development in Treaty No. 8 territory.” – Chief Roland Willson

Just as their fight to resist the dam was fuelled by a sacred duty to their land and people, West Moberly will take the benefits of the Site C settlement and direct them towards revitalising its communities, culture and ways of life. 

We know that, whether it’s through support for legal challenges or acting as watchdogs to keep governments accountable, the RAVEN community will continue to stand with West Moberly. It’s an immense privilege to witness the strength of Chief Roland Willson and his community. Their resolve flows from their unbreakable connection to their lands and waters. It’s one that they continuously renew through ceremony, cultural practices and — when necessary — standing up to government and industry. 

Though they face exceptional pressure, like the mighty Peace River itself, West Moberly are on a path that transcends time. Their struggle is honourable, and their commitment inexorable. 

You can be certain that your support has been, and will continue to be, provision for that journey. 

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