Stop Site C Dam

Unsafe. Unnecessary. Unlawful.

West Moberly First Nations is pursuing a legal challenge against British Columbia, BC Hydro and Canada for infringement of constitutionally protected rights under Treaty No. 8. West Moberly is asking the court to stop construction of Site C dam and order BC Hydro to restore the Peace River to its natural state.

By standing in solidarity with West Moberly, you can stand for justice, help stop the dam, and heal the Peace.

 

“Since adhering to the Treaty, we've been told constantly to go somewhere else: you can go over there or hunt over here. When you start looking at the habitats and the cultural rounds that we have, we are backed into a corner. We don't have another Peace River valley to replace this one. Once it's gone, it's gone.”

- Chief Roland Willson, West Moberly First Nations

 

“Just go somewhere else”

Site C dam, the costliest public project in B.C.’s history, threatens to eliminate the last portion of the Peace River, which is the main artery of West Moberly’s traditional territory. If completed, Site C will devastate this Indigenous Nation’s ability to live their traditional mode of life as promised by Treaty No. 8. 

Site C is unsafe 

BC Hydro has admitted publicly that there are significant geotechnical problems with the dam’s foundations, which caused them to designate the project health as “code red”. The B.C. government has had to initiate a project review to determine whether the dam can even be built and operated safely, and at what cost.

On February 26, 2021, Premier Horgan announced his government’s decision not to cancel the Site C project despite serious safety risks arising from bank instability at the proposed dam site. Instead, the government will plunge billions into a major redesign of the critical structures needed to support the proposed dam. 

The Peace Fractured

The destruction caused by Site C would deepen past and ongoing harms. West Moberly is still living with the damage wrought by the two other unlawful hydroelectric dams blocking portions of the Peace River upstream from Site C. Sprawling over 1,800 km², the W.A.C. Bennett reservoir flooded hunting grounds and obliterated burial sites, ancient gathering places and other spiritual areas. Unable to access their ancient migration routes, what used to be a “sea of caribou” dwindled to a few tiny herds. Methylmercury - from the decaying vegetation submerged by the dam - has now been accumulating in fish within the reservoir and surrounding watershed for over 50 years, making them unsafe to eat to this day. 

 

Read the Open Letter from West Moberly Chief Roland Willson to John Horgan, B.C. Premier, here. 

“The Crown has authorized so much industrial development in West Moberly’s traditional territory that we will lose any prospect of meaningfully exercising treaty rights if Site C is completed.”

-CHIEF ROLAND WILLSON, WEST MOBERLY FIRST NATIONS

First Nations vs. Site C:
A Timeline
  • April 2021

    BC SUPREME COURT ORDER 

    West Moberly wins motion for production of documents.

    BC Supreme Court orders B.C. and BC Hydro to disclose to West Moberly First Nations the full, unredacted Milburn Report and all appendices, as well as all documents relating to the projected final cost and safety of Site C dam.

  • March 2021

    HEARING 

    Hearing on West Moberly motion for production of documents.

  • February 2021

    BC MOVES AHEAD WITH $16 BILLION PROJECT

    BC government announces it is moving ahead with a new design of Site C, at a cost of $16 billion.

  • July 2020

    GEOTECHNICAL & SAFETY ISSUES IDENTIFIED

    BC Hydro reports serious geotechnical and safety issues at the dam site. BC government appoints Peter Milburn to conduct a review, and commissions two geotechnical reports.

  • October 2018

    INJUNCTION DENIED

    The court denies the injunction, but orders trial in the civil action to occur prior to Site C inundation of the Peace River. Trial date set for March 2022.

  • January 2018

    NOTICE OF CIVIL CLAIM FILED

    West Moberly First Nations file a notice of civil claim alleging treaty infringement, as well as an interim injunction application.

  • December 2017

    SITE C TO BE CONTINUED

    The B.C. government under John Horgan decides to continue Site C construction.

  • September-November 2017

    BC UTILITIES COMMISSION REVIEW 

    The newly-elected BC government initiates BC Utilities Commission review of Site C on the cost issue alone. The review found that costs of pursuing and terminating the project would be roughly equivalent.

  • May 2016

    OPEN LETTER 

    May 2016: A group of over 200 Canadian scholars signs a letter raising serious concerns about the process used to approve the Site C dam. The Royal Society of Canada writes a separate supporting letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

  • 2015-2016

    JUDICIAL REVIEWS FILED 

    West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations file applications for judicial review challenging the consultation process related to the environmental assessment. The courts direct the parties to resolve matters related to Treaty infringement by way of civil action.

  • July 2015

    SITE C CONSTRUCTION BEGINS

  • December 2014

    FINAL INVESTMENT DECISION 

    The provincial government under Premier Christy Clark makes a final investment decision, approving $8.3 billion for Site C.

  • May 2014

    JRP EA Report

    Joint Review Panel issues its Environmental Assessment Report which finds that BC Hydro did not clearly demonstrate the need for Site C, that it would cause a number of significant adverse effect.
    October 2014: The federal and provincial governments approve Site C.

  • December 2013

    JRP HEARINGS

    Joint Review Panel begins hearings on Site C

  • 2010

    CLEAN ENERGY ACT

    Clean Energy Act exempts large projects from BC Utilities Commission review. Premier Campbell announces plan to build Site C.

  • 1993

    SITE C DEAD

    BC Hydro CEO Mark Eliesen declares Site C “dead” because of cost and environmental impacts

  • 1989

    SITE C REVIVED

    BC Hydro revives the Site C proposal

  • 1983

    SITE C REJECTED 

    BC Utilities Commission rejects BC Hydro’s first plan for Site C and calls for an analysis of all power options

CAMPAIGN NEWS

Tranquil evening on the water for West Moberly First Nations.

Thank you to everyone who came out to our second floating concert in Victoria in support of the legal challenges of West Moberly First Nations!On July 29th, we hosted our second concert on the Gorge…

A flood of support to protect the Peace

When we planned to get together for a different kind of “Paddle for the Peace” this summer, we expected a smattering of supporters to float up for a mellow evening of music and friendship in…

A beautiful evening on the water for West Moberly First Nations.

Last night, at the first in RAVEN’s ‘Festival Afloat” concert series on Victoria’s Gorge waterway, we heard the Songhees story of Camossung and how the rocks in the the tidal inlet at the narrows were…

The Dunne-za have occupied the lands along Peace River and its tributaries since time immemorial. The Dunne-za seasonal round encompasses the Peace River and its islands, as well as the Finlay, Parsnip, Halfway and Moberly Rivers. The Peace River, Wochii in the Dunne-za language, is the main artery that tied Dunne-za territory together. 

The Dunne-za have practiced a “seasonal round” that utilizes dreams, prophecies, and traditional knowledge of the lands, waters, wildlife, and ecological processes in the Peace River Valley. Trails along the Peace River and its tributaries - including above where W.A.C. Bennett dam is now - were used to access hunting grounds, gathering places, and neighbouring peoples throughout this vast territory. The integrity of the Peace River is fundamental to West Moberly’s ability to maintain a traditional lifestyle.

 

Photo by Garth Lenz

 

Indigenous Rights at Risk

Indigenous communities rely on the Peace River watershed for hunting and fishing, gathering berries and sacred medicine, and for holding ceremonies. The severe impact Site C will have on Indigenous Peoples is beyond dispute. In their own joint environmental impact assessment, the Canadian and B.C. governments concluded that the dam would “severely undermine” use of the land, would make fishing unsafe for at least a generation, and would submerge Indigenous burial grounds and other sites important to First Nations.

 

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It may be impossible to build the dam safely

The B.C. government is scrambling to deal with formidable geotechnical issues on the Peace River’s unstable right bank. Geotechnical problems affecting the dam’s foundation structure - amounting to “code red” project risk according to BC Hydro - prompted the government to initiate a project review to determine whether the dam can be built safely.

There is no bedrock at Site C. The dam is being built “on the geological equivalent of billiard balls”, according to Harry Swain, former chair of the Joint Review Panel on Site C. In 2017 and 2018 alone, there were 6,551 earthquakes in the region.

watch videos

Photo by Garth Lenz

 

An Unlawful Project

The civil action will address not only the harms posed by the SiteC Dam but also the infringements of Treaty 8 from two earlier mega-dams, the W.A.C. Bennet Dam and Peace Canyon Dam. 

Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nations has lived with the fallout from two previous mega-dams in his territory.

“Cumulative effects of industrial development in our territories have been massive and can’t be mitigated. The dams have had an enormous impact on our treaty rights as First Nations people.”

- Chief Roland Willson