Site C campaign takes off with matching funds

Plus: court update from West Moberly legal team

When we first launched the Site C campaign, we braced for a lot of heavy lifting. Our goal of $200K felt, well, daunting – a bit like setting out on a multi-week trek over rocks and ice to climb Mount Waddington. 

The RAVEN community responded as it so often does: with solidarity, generosity – and speed. Within hours, the tally was clocking in the five figures; within a couple of weeks, it surpassed $40K.

Then, just as West Moberly First Nations was headed to court to argue their critical motion to compel B.C. to release key documents on dam safety and costs, a “Group of Seven” generous donors stepped up to offer $50K in matching funds. This further galvanized the grassroots donors. As of April 12, this incredible community has raised $186K!

Here’s what RAVEN donors have to say: 

“I hope West Moberly is victorious in their efforts to stop Site C Dam as yet another hard fought step toward the valid recognition of yours and other nation’s territorial rights, as well as towards protecting this land called Canada for future generations. As a settler, I thank you for your strength and bravery in fighting for the many justices your nation, other nations, and the land deserve.”

“Thank you all for all of this difficult and amazing work. I feel less helpless knowing I can follow your lead.”

“I want to support stand with the Indigenous Peoples to STOP the SITE C DAM project. I hope it’s not too late for my donation to be doubled. You are amazing and I’m pleased to associate myself with you for a better world.”

“We need to stick together in this battle and win it for future generations. Please keep fighting and stay strong.”

“I stand with you, West Moberly First Nation, and I want to see your rights to your lands respected.”

“Thank you for the exceptional work you are doing to fight to sustain the natural world our relations for future generations.”

“I hope that many small donations will build up to help you in the fight. Keep at it, good people.”

We’ve got just over 11 months  until West Moberly’s civil case is heard. Thanks to you, they are better equipped than we could have imagined to assemble a case that — unlike the slippery shales under Site C — is rock solid.

Meanwhile, West Moberly has been busy in court arguing their motion for production of documents and fending off the BC government’s attempt to strike a portion of the West Moberly case. Read on for an update from the West Moberly legal team on the hearings.

On March 29, West Moberly argued its motion for production of documents. Noting that the Nation has still not been provided with a full and unredacted copy of Peter Milburn’s report, or any of the underlying documents, West Moberly asked he court to confirm that the issues of cost and safety were both clearly relevant to the Treaty claim and that documents relating to such issues must therefore be produced.

This was necessary because the government of British Columbia and BC Hydro have been refusing to disclose not only the Milburn Report but numerous other important documents relating to the project’s escalating budget and geotechnical problems. 

“We were shocked to see BC Hydro claim that the court should not consider any evidence regarding the safety of the Project. The effect of this would be that West Moberly First Nations, in defending its constitutional rights, could not access documents showing why massive safety and budgetary risks of Site C have been neglected or dismissed,” said Tim Thielmann, West Moberly legal counsel.

March 30: Defendants’ Application to Strike Conspiracy Claim. In its treaty infringement challenge, West Moberly claims that B.C., BC Hydro and Canada  conspired to violate West Moberly’s Treaty rights through the approval and construction of Site C. Rather than allowing West Moberly to prove this claim at trial, the defendants asked the court to strike it. If that order is granted, it would prevent West Moberly from identifying documents or leading evidence about this alleged conspiracy.

On April 7-8 BC Hydro, supported by B.C., asked for an order to compel West Moberly to disclose highly sensitive and confidential transcripts of interviews conducted by WMFN staff with Elders and other knowledge-holders in the community. These interviews have always been carried out in strict confidence. Sadly, this is the third time British Columbia has gone to court in recent years to get such documents despite full knowledge of the cultural protocols that such non-consensual disclosure would violate. (British Columbia was denied nearly-identical applications in recent aboriginal rights cases by Blueberry River First Nations and Cowichan Tribes, precedents brought to the Court’s attention by West Moberly lawyers.)

In yet another disturbing maneuver, BC Hydro, supported again by British Columbia, also asked for an order to compel the disclosure of information held not by the West Moberly as a Nation but personally by Chief Roland Willson and all other individual West Moberly members. West Moberly lawyers described the application as a “fishing expedition” and an unnecessary one, as West Moberly has already produced over 75,000 documents, including over 10,000 emails from Chief Willson.  

If this order is granted, it would mean the personal emails and social media posts of any member of a First Nation could be routinely collected by the Government or third parties any time their First Nation was involved in a legal dispute. Pointing out that there isn’t a single legal precedent for such an order, West Moberly lawyers described the scope of the application as “absurd” and urged the court not to set such a harmful and unnecessary new legal precedent.

When can we expect a decision? The court announced that it would deliver its decision within a month.

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