Premier Sinks Billions More into Risky Site C “Fix” without Consulting First Nations or Public

On the last Friday in February, 2021, Premier John 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 NDP will plunge billions into a major redesign of the critical structures needed to support the proposed earthfill dam. The decision was made without any attempt to consult First Nations, downstream residents, or the general public. 

“We are not at all convinced that this project is safe,” said Chief Roland Wilson of West Moberly First Nations.  “The Premier’s decision has grave consequences for West Moberly and other First Nations. His government had a constitutional duty to consult us. That’s the law. It’s been the law for over 20 years. Yet the Premier hasn’t so much as acknowledged our existence on this issue. Is this what he thinks of Indigenous Peoples? Is this what he means by free, prior and informed consent?”

According to documents obtained by the Narwhal, problems with the dam’s “weak foundations” have been known to the government at least since May of 2019. But nothing was revealed publicly until a quiet news release over one year later on July 31, 2020, when it was announced that a special advisor had been hired to look into the “enhancements” needed to address instability on the south bank. The Government then refused to consult with First Nations or release any details to the public. It was only after the snap election last fall resulted in an NDP majority government that the Premier revealed there were safety concerns with the dam “fix” wanted by BC Hydro. 

The decision to proceed with Site C marks the second time Premier Horgan’s NDP government has chosen to add billions to the Site C budget rather than cutting losses in favour of cheaper, safer and greener options such as wind, solar and geothermal. 

Next spring, West Moberly will begin a historic 120-day trial to halt Site C and restore the Peace River valley to its natural state. Their civil claim alleges that Site C and the two previous dams on the Peace River infringe West Moberly’s rights under Treaty No. 8 to hunt, fish, trap and carry out their traditional lifestyle free from “forced interference”. 

“The court has promised us a judgement before any flooding of the Site C reservoir can begin. The trial preparation is intense and costly. It’s the last place we want to be, but we’ve never been more sure that Site C is a violation of our Treaty rights. If the Premier hasn’t been forced to cancel the project by the time our case is decided, the court will have the opportunity to do that form him.”

Chief Roland Willson, West Moberly First Nations

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