The Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) passed several resolutions at its annual gathering this week calling on BC Hydro and the BC government to stand down on construction of the controversial $9 Billion Site C Dam, pending more review and consultation regarding the impacts of the project.
“We are very happy to hear that that the UBCM will be calling for work on Site C to stop until there’s a proper review by the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) and the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC),” said Joe Foy, National Campaign Director with the Wilderness Committee.
Clearcutting set to begin
At the same time, local landowners and First Nations are warning that feller machines are now on the island where the dam would be located – at the confluence of the Moberly and Peace Rivers – and that clearcutting “is set to begin any moment now”, according to the Wilderness Committee. The island is home to several eagles’ nests that were recently slated to be cut down until Hydro representatives agreed to hold off on this work as part of the resolution of a recent injunction hearing. Yet, despite increasingly loud calls from a wide array of prominent voices, Hydro now appears intent on proceeding with early construction work.
“Clearcutting islands in the Peace River would eliminate important wildlife habitat,” said Foy.
[quote]We are calling on the BC government to heed the UBCM resolutions and stop work so that a proper investigation by the BCUC and the ALC can occur. This independent oversight would have already happened were it not for the provincial government’s actions to prevent proper lawful assessment.[/quote]
Site C faces growing list of opponents
The UBCM is just the latest organization to add its name to the list of individuals and groups who have publicly challenged the project, including:
The First Nations Leadership Council, which represents the three big provincial First Nations bodies – the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit and the BC Assembly of First Nations
You’d hope we’d come a long way since the crises of Gustafsen Lake and Oka . You’d hope.
This is, after all, 2015. Post-Tsilhqot’in decision. Post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission – out of which the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada used the words “cultural genocide” to describe the treatment by the crown of generations of aboriginal peoples.
To top it all off, we’re in the midst of a federal election – hardly the time for strong-armed tactics driving forth federal energy policy.
And yet, in the recesses of the ivory tower that is the PMO in Ottawa, there has likely been a running conversation in recent days and weeks about directing the RCMP to dismantle a First Nations-led encampment on the Morice River, wherein indigenous titleholders to those lands and waters are peacefully denying access to surveyors from TransCanada Pipelines who want to build a natural gas conduit to the coast.
If there is any need to cut down those nests, it won’t come for years into the future, when the dam is raised and the valley flooded. But permits were issued by the Clark government to begin cutting them down in a few days. Why? I’ve thought long and hard about this and can’t find any other good reason than out-and-out provocation of First Nations.
They dare to gum up the cogs of the progress machine? Hit ’em where it hurts. Show ’em who’s boss.
The same can be said for TransCanada’s survey work. All summer we’ve been hearing a familiar, frustrating tune. The company tries to enter this contentious stretch of territory – occupied for years now by members and supporters of one of the five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, the Unist’ot’en. They have made their position clear: No oil or gas pipelines through their territory. They are backed up by the hereditary chiefs of all five clans. They have not been ambiguous in any way.
Under intense pressure from social media and concerned citizens, groups and prominent leaders, the RCMP issued the following statement on Friday evening:
[quote]To clarify, the BC RCMP has no intention of ‘taking down the camp’ set up by the Unist’ot’en…Despite what is being portrayed by some media and on social media, the BC RCMP would like to emphasize that we remain impartial in this dispute. We understand that there has recently been progress made and we are very pleased with these developments. Our Aboriginal Policing Members continue to remain in contact directly with the Unist’ot’en and we will continue to assist in any way we can. [/quote]
If this is true, it’s a step in the right direction and an indication that public pressure is working.
But it would be foolish not to take such a statement with a pound of salt. After all, we’ve seen this before, all too recently, in New Brunswick, where members of the Elsipogtog First Nation stood up to unwanted shale gas exploration in their territory. Rubber bullets, tear gas, jack boots, German Shepherds. Ugly, ugly stuff.
Moreover, note how the above RCMP statement does not preclude arresting the members of the camp – only “taking down” the camp itself. It will be very interesting to see their next move.
What’s the rush?
What this issue has in common with the eagles’ nests in Peace Country is the unnecessary haste. Wherever you stand on LNG, nothing real is happening anytime soon. Not because of protest – though that’s certainly an important factor – but because the market is simply not there. Heck, it was bad at $50 oil and China bailing out in favour of cheaper Russian pipelines. At $40 oil (Asian LNG spot market prices are indexed to oil prices), with Japanese nuclear plants firing back up, the Chinese economy in trouble, and the Malaysian government imploding, you could not pick a worse time to be developing BC LNG.
So when you hear about Petronas’ contractors carting in geotechnical instruments to Lelu Island, near Prince Rupert, or TransCanada barging into Unist’ot’en territory for survey work, we’re talking early, early, wishful, whimsical, shot-in-the-dark work here. What we are not talking about is anything closely approximating an LNG industry actually being built in BC.
Which brings me to my point: What’s the rush? If this stretch of the Morice River is so sacred to and so forbidden by the First Nations who hold title to it, and meaningful development of a hypothetical plant in Kitimat is so far off in the distant future – not to mention bloody unlikely, period – then why risk provoking another ugly chapter in Canadian colonial history?
Hydro forced to stand down…for now
In another piece of encouraging news – depending how you look at it – an injunction hearing brought this month by Treaty 8 First Nations over the eagles’ nests and other early work by Hydro yielded some progress with a ruling Friday. While the court declined to issue an injunction, as a part of the proceedings, BC Hydro committed to stand down for now on some of this contentious work – until current cases before the courts have been decided.
“We went to court to protect our old growth trees, eagle nests, beaver dams and our traditional way of life”, said Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nations. “As a result, BC Hydro will not be destroying the forests or removing eagle nests and beaver dams in the Moberly River valley [which runs into the Peace River at the dam site]. We asked for those areas to be protected”.
Broader concerns over the legitimacy and constitutionality of Hydro’s work permits for Site C will be decided at a judicial review hearing in November. Yet these temporary concessions from Hydro are cold comfort amidst the Clark government’s obsessive drive to build a $9 Billion-plus project that we plainly don’t need and to which First Nations and farmers and many supporters around BC are steadfastly opposed.
What’s Harper driving at?
It’s not terribly surprising that Clark continues pushing forward her LNG and Site C pet projects while she faces little opposition from an absent NDP and her next provincial election is a ways off yet. But the RCMP’s enforcement of pipeline construction is a federal matter that, knowing how the Harper government operates, must be micromanaged from the PMO. This in the midst of a federal election campaign.
Which begs the question: What is Harper up to?
The logical conclusion is that he sees an opportunity to prove his point on Bill C-51 – to offer up an example of the kind of “radical” protest of “critical infrastructure” for which he designed it. If the RCMP were to push their way into the camp and things went badly, in his twisted mind, this would provide fodder for his campaign. “See, I told you. These are the kind of radicals you need my protection from.”
If this is what he’s thinking, I submit he’s wrong. The Unist’ot’en have indicated their intention for peaceful, title-and-rights-based opposition. Nothing good can coming of provoking this sort of conflict. And as I say, there’s simply no need for it at this stage in the game. Meaningful LNG development is miles away, if it ever comes.
Time for a Time-Out
So, to TransCanada, I say, you’ve got 1,000 km of survey work to do. Leave the Unist’ot’en alone.
To Stephen Harper, you just polled 23% to Mulcair’s 40% in a major national poll, partly because of this very attitude you continue exhibiting. I suggest you worry more about staying in office than beating the policies of your last term over the heads of the Unist’ot’en and other First Nations and concerned citizens. Canada needs to grow up, not regress to the travesties of Gustafsen Lake and Oka.
And to Christy Clark, I say, your own election campaign is not really that far off. Should you stay this course, your fiscal recklessness, disrespect of the courts and First Nations will come back to bight you in the you-know-what.
A flash of anger came over me when Ian Jessup of CFAX 1070, Victoria, asked me to come on his show and talk about so-called independent power producers (IPPs), euphemistically referred known as “run of river”.
No, I sure as hell wasn’t mad at Ian – he’s is one of the few bright lights left in radio who is not afraid to do the tough subjects and to call it like it is. I congratulate CFAX for having the balls to do the show.
What angered me was that no one in the mainstream media has touched this subject from the beginning.
IPPs: a shockingly bad policy for ratepayers, environment
When Gordon Campbell, in 2002, changed the energy policy of the Province, he made it unlawful for BC Hydro to create any more power, except through Site “C” – which had already long been on the books –and decreed that all new power would come from private producers. This led to the most extraordinary results that one gasps when one thinks that the Liberals got away with this without a scratch.
If environmental matters don’t concern you, how about this?
BC Hydro has been compelled to buy all the power produced by IPP’s, whether they need it or not, at over 3 times what it would cost them to buy it on the open market and many times more their own cost to produce it. This ruinous policy, uncriticized by the media, is bankrupting the power company you own that used to supply hundreds of millions of dollars yearly to the Treasury.
Can you imagine what the Vancouver Sun and Province, in particular Vaughn Palmer, would have said if this had been the NDP?
The sad part of that question is that timely, tough questions might have stopped the policy in its tracks or at least stopped it from increasing once the damage became obvious.
Getting away with murder
This is not by any means the only failing of the mainstream media. In a broad sense, this Liberal Campbell/Clarkgovernment has got away with blue murder.
Not only have they gotten away with murder, the Postmedia papers, the Vancouver Sun and Province, have done virtually nothing to criticize them from the beginning. There is some criticism in the columns but it is usually muted and confined to one narrow aspect of the issue. This free ridehas been even more egregious under Christy Clark.
When was the last time you said, “Hey, Honey, you should see this Sun (or Province) article! They really give Christy (or the Liberals) shit! Palmer/Smyth is brilliant!”?
And how often did you say that when the NDP were in power?
It’s the same with the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant. The owner, Sukanto Tanoto, is, not to put too fine a point on it, a crook plus an environmental catastrophe – facts that somehow have escaped the local media’s attention.
One would have thought that apart from everything else, the management of WFLNG, being the excrement of Enron, would have itself been the matter of considerable journalistic investigation.
One can understand how Clark and her inarticulate henchman Coleman wouldn’t care, considering they’re as dumb as a sack full of hammers, but whatever Postmedia is,it’s not stupid. Are they saying to us that the fact that the owners of our proposed partners are criminals doesn’t matter?
LNG tankers too dangerous for Howe Sound, Fraser
We have demonstrated in this paper that Howe Sound and the Fraser River are far too narrow, by acceptedinternational standards – indeed, by rules now the law in the US – for LNG tanker traffic. Now, in days of yore, had this been an NDP government, you could be sure that Palmer and Smith would’ve been all over this and the minister involved would’ve had his political life in serious jeopardy. Today, from the mainstream media, zilch!
Is not this flagrant favouritism of no interest to Vancouver papers, especially the one that bills itself as “Seriously Westcoast …”?
Media’s double standard for Liberals, NDP
The Ministry of Children and Families has fallen not only into disarray but into such a state that our children are actually being seriously damaged. Has the minister, roundly criticized by the courts for her management, or more accurately lack of it, been put under the slightest pressure by the mainstream media to resign?
Of course, no one has to resign under the Liberals, not even a premier who gets jailed for drunken-driving, but you would surely think that Postmedia, especially given their longevity, would be front and centre reminding the government of parliamentary tradition. They sure were good at that in the NDP years!
Let me pause here for a moment to make this point: The NDP years were pathetic. By and large it was probably the worst government, if not BC history, certainly in living memory. The criticism levelled at them in those days by the media was more than justified. My point is that the Campbell/Clark Liberals are not really a hell of a lot better.
Credit where credit is due, Vaughn Palmer and Mike Smyth have covered the health scandal reasonably well, though it’s hard to conceive that they could have avoided this issue, what with admitted illegal firings and a suicide. Still, they have covered it and pulled few punches.
I think readers will know that I could go on and on. I would rather ask this question: Why is this so? Why is the mainstream media silent on these major issues, indeed scandals? Where has tough radio gone?
Media and industry partner up
Most of us can remember the NDP days and the preceding ones of Bill Vander Zalm and the day-after-day hell given them by the media, as if it were yesterday.
This was justified. Not in every case and to the extent it took place but, in the event, more than justified by the revelations of utter incompetence in those governments. Those of us who remember that are bound to ask the question, why is the Liberal government exempt from the same treatment?
UntilI uncovered the fact that the Province – thus the Sun and the National Post by extension of law as well – are partners with Resource Works, an out-and-out tireless shill for Woodfibre LNG, while learning that Postmedia virtually supports the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) uncritically, I would not have dared ask this question.
Has Postmedia got some arrangement whereby favourite advertisers are guaranteed good treatment in their newspapers? It has been suggested – and not denied – that the Province has a “backscratching” arrangement with Resource Works, otherwise why would a newspaper take formal sides in a public dispute? I don’t ever recall that happening before.
I acknowledge that were it not for the Resource Works issue and the Postmedia-CAPP matter, this could be regarded as a most irresponsible question. But given the fact that these matters have not been explained, surely it’s a reasonable question to ask.
LNG issues ignored
Let’s just take the LNG issue, bearing in mind the Province’s partnership with Resource Works. When was the last time you saw a serious investigation of LNG, especially the “fracking” that would supply the industry, their contribution to global warming, the dangers involved, and the tanker traffic issue, raised here and, I might add, The Globe & Mail?
When have you seen in our media any discussion, much less a serious one,about the integrity of the ownership of the LNG companies we’re going to be partners with?
When was the last time you saw any discussion, much less a serious one, about the permitted width of channels and rivers for LNG tankers?
When was the last time you saw any discussion in the mainstream media about the plethora of tankers which will come from proposed pipeline expansions and LNG plants?
I have already mentioned the indefensible indifference of the media press to the IPP scandal, with its consequent environmental catastrophe and bankrupting of BC Hydro.
I cannot and do not say that there is some sort of arrangement, either formal or nudge-nudge-wink-wink, between the mainstream media and their advertisers – however, I can say this:All of the above and much more sure as hell raise questions that the media must answer.
Many long years ago, there was a lawsuit in England where a barrel of flour rolled out of a second-story window and flattened a passerby. The flour company claimed that the victim could not prove its negligence.
The learned judges, however, stated that there are some circumstances where there is no other obvious explanation but negligence and that they onus is on people with barrels of flour to explain why one rolled out a window. This is called Res Ipsa Loquitur – “the thing speaks for itself”.
Under the circumstances, are the media in British Columbia not subject to Res Ipsa Loquitur and obliged to defend themselves?
Such large segments of the province’s population have made their opposition to the proposed Site C Dam known, that this has become a defining moment of our “democracy.” Premier Christy Clark appears to be willfully ignoring the will of the people. She saw fit to put Vancouver’s $2.5 billion worth of transit improvements to a vote, so doesn’t a $9 Billion dam – whose need has not been demonstrated – merit the same direct democracy? If her government truly believes it is acting in the public’s interest, BC should hold a plebiscite on Site C.
Many voices oppose dam
To a large extent, the people appear to have made their opinion known.
Richard Bullock, who was Chair of the supposedly “independent” BC Agricultural Land Commission until the government fired him so they could put in someone more obedient to their bidding, will be one of the speakers at this year’s “Paddle for the Peace.”
The Metro Vancouver board, which represents the majority of the province’s inhabitants, called for a two year moratorium on this project.
Treaty 8 First Nations are vehemently opposed to this project – having launched 6 legal challenges against it – as it would violate their treaty rights and flood or disrupt over 30,000 acres of their territory.
Ms. Clark still has the option of taking this decision to the people with a plebiscite.
When push comes to shove
The people of BC also have a choice. We can either allow the government to proceed to trample the rights of its’ citizens or, hopefully in a non-violent manner, resist. Though Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, was speaking on behalf of First Nations in his recent press release, his comments apply to the democratic rights of all British Columbians:
[quote]If construction begins on Site C, it will be an obvious message that this government has deliberately ignored constitutionally protected Aboriginal Title, Rights, and Treaty Rights. The BC Government is hoping either Treaty 8 First Nations expend all of their energy and means to defend their territories in the courts or concede their rights for agreements that minimizes any benefits to Treaty 8 First Nations and absolves the government of any and all liabilities. UBCIC will always support Treaty 8 First Nations and if necessary I personally pledge that I will stand with the peoples of Treaty 8 and of the Peace Valley in front of bulldozers and dump trucks to prevent this project from proceeding.[/quote]
The following letter was written by the Paddle for the Peace Planning Committee in response to an article in the Toronto Star which stated that events like the upcoming Paddle for the Peace (July 11th) were on terrorist watch lists.
According to the Toronto Star (March 30, 2015), the Federal government has included the Paddle for the Peace on a terrorist watch list. And here we thought we weren’t getting any attention. We are in good company, though. Also on the list is a physicians’ group opposed to child poverty, Mother Theresa, and a senior’s quilting group from Bugtussle, Saskatchewan. In an effort to save our government security agencies time, not to mention the Canadian taxpayers a great deal of money, we’d like to present a brief resume of some of the key players on the Paddle for the Peace planning committee. It is a rogues gallery indeed.
Retired primary school teacher Ruth Ann Darnell is the Chair of the Peace Valley Environment Association. She has been working to save the Peace Valley from Site C since the 1970s. Back then, Ruth Ann’s subversive activities were hampered by the fact the Internet was decades away from being created. After a long day of teaching five year olds to read, she just never had the time or energy to trudge down to the Fort St. John library to research DIY incendiary devices.
After teaching her sixteen year old son to drive, local children’s clothing retailer Danielle Yeoman knew she was one of those rare talents every ISIS recruiting officer dreams of discovering. She desired to really put her nerves of steel to the test. But her terrorist career was over before it was started when she learned those torso belts packed with explosives add at least six inches to your waistline. I mean really, there are limits to what a girl will do to support a violent fanatical cause.
When she was a little girl, Diane Culling dreamed of becoming a pot-smoking tree-spiker fighting to save the rain forests of the Sudan. Unfortunately she found the required cannabis consumption affected her fine motor skills. She kept hitting her own thumb with the hammer. In the end, she was forced to limit her mind-numbing activities to sitting through endless BC Hydro consultation meetings.
Local business owner Wendy Crossland’s membership application was regretfully declined when the Al-Qaeda executive realized she never stops smiling and laughing. They might be a blood-thirsty terrorist organization, but they do have some standards.
And then there’s Tony Atkins. He was in from the start and in it until his untimely death from cancer a few weeks ago. Educator, tireless community volunteer, virtual saint, and all-round asset to Fort St. John. He won’t be there in the flesh at this year’s Paddle, but believe me, he will be there in our hearts.
So, that’s just a few members of the notorious PPPC (Paddle for the Peace Planning Committee). There are others, but they’re like Voldemort – we don’t even say their names out loud.
To our friends at Canada’s spy agencies – I hope this helps. If you want mug shots and finger-prints please meet us at our rendezvous site on the west side of the Halfway River bridge on Highway 29 on July 11th. Bring a spare shirt in case you drip pancake syrup. And don’t forget your life jacket; because, after all, at the Paddle for the Peace we are all about public safety.
BC Hydro is intent on bulldozing ahead with Site C Dam construction in the coming weeks, despite seven different federal and provincial court cases currently in progress over the $9 Billion proposed project. That attitude is rubbing First Nations leaders the wrong way.
Hydro above the law?
The First Nations Leadership Council, comprised of the three big provincial First Nations bodies – the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit and the BC Assembly of First Nations – came out swinging Thursday in defence of the Treaty 8 First Nations whose land would be flooded by the dam.
“The provincial government seems to have tunnel vision when it comes to building this project. Pushing ahead with construction activities at this time is premature and dishonourable,” said Robert Phillips of the First Nations Summit political executive.
[quote]All citizens of BC should be deeply concerned; by denying the Treaty 8 First Nations their day in court, the government is making an outright statement that they are above democratic rights and the judicial system. This approach is unacceptable and an affront to the cultivation of constructive government-to-government relations between the provincial government and BC First Nations.[/quote]
Dawson Creek councillor: lawsuits are like a lien
The statement comes on the heels of a 30-day notice from BC Hydro that work on the project could commence as soon as July 6, regardless of multiple ongoing court cases. The revelation baffled Dawson Creek Councillor Charlie Parslow, who confronted Site C Community Relations Manager David Conway at a recent council meeting. Conway told council he expects these cases “will be ongoing through the early stages of construction.”
According to the Alaska Highway News, “Parslow said he was ‘shocked’ that BC Hydro is not waiting on the outcomes before putting shovels in the ground.”
“I would have thought it’s like buying a house,” he told the local paper.
[quote]You don’t own it until there’s been some research on whether the title is clear, that there are no liens against it. In my naivety I thought these lawsuits were like a lien against a property. I thought it would be an impediment to them clearing land and blocking rivers.[/quote]
Hydro, province up to their necks in lawsuits
Two of the cases are being brought against the dam are by local farmers and landowners, while another pair are on behalf BC Treaty 8 First Nations, with their Alberta Treaty 8 neighbours pursuing their own federal and provincial cases. A final case, brought by the Blueberry River First Nation of northeast BC, is a wide-ranging challenge based on broken treaty promises which threatens all future development in the region.
Crown shut down
A recent attempt by the federal crown to gut key provisions from the BC Treaty 8 case was rejected by the court. The next phase of that case goes to court this summer, after Hydro’s planned construction start.
Scarring the land and relationships
“The provocative activities that the BC government is recklessly trying to advance are irreversible, and will leave an irreparable and permanent scar on the land,” said UBCIC President Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.
[quote]These deliberate actions will also indefinitely scar BC’s relationships with First Nations. If construction begins, it will be understood as a clear message that this government has absolutely no respect for the Treaty 8 First Nation people, and is blatantly disregarding constitutionally recognized Aboriginal Title, Rights, and Treaty Rights. Further, rushing ahead of the courts to build this project is an irresponsible and negligent use of tax dollars.[/quote]
Why don’t we just abolish the National Energy Board and all other boards like it and allow environmental projects to be judged strictly by the industry itself, with the customary pat on the corporate head from the prime minister?
At least this would make honest men and women of us.
[quote]It’s a rigged game … We’re getting the scope that supports Kinder Morgan. It’s a private sector, ‘How do we get to yes?’masquerading as a public interest review. [Emphasis added]
… decisions made by the Board at this hearing are dismissive of Intervenors. They reflect a lack of respect for hearing participants, a deep erosion of the standards and practices of natural justice … and an undemocratic restriction of participation by citizens, communities, professionals and First Nations either by rejecting them outright or failing to provide adequate funding to facilitate meaningful participation.[/quote]
Marc Eliesen, one of the most distinguished power experts in Canada, having served as head of BC Hydro, Manitoba Hydro and Ontario Hydro, was an intervenor at NEB hearings into the Kinder Morgan pipeline. He resigned last November in a scathing letter, a small part of which follows:
[quote]The evidence on the record shows that decisions made by the Board at this hearing are dismissive of Intervenors. They reflect a lack of respect for hearing participants, a deep erosion of the standards and practices of natural justice…and an undemocratic restriction of participation by citizens, communities, professionals and First Nations either by rejecting them outright or failing to provide adequate funding to facilitate meaningful participation.
… The National Energy Board is not fulfilling its obligation to review the Trans Mountain Expansion Project objectively. Accordingly it is not only British Columbians, but all Canadians that cannot look to the Board’s conclusions as relevant as to whether or not this project deserves a social license. Continued involvement in the process endorses this sham and is not in the public interest. [Emphasis added] [/quote]
A waste of taxpayers’ money
These hearings, whether on the grand scale of the National Energy Board, or merely a smaller environmental assessment of an IPP, are hugely expensive. Many involve travel across the country, staying in the best hotels, sipping the best, and by the end of the day stacking up a substantial tab for you and me to pay every April 30.
No one, least of all I, would object if this process were actually evaluating these projects and making recommendations based upon full and proper hearings with natural justice for all – the “judges” being totally independent of any of the parties involved and noted for giving unbiased advice to the government.
The reality is the opposite. Almost unknown for turning down anything from industry or ruling in favour of intervenors even on minor matters, the results of their deliberations are easily foretold and, in fact, relied upon by both government and industry.
A foregone conclusion
It was instructive to note that when Premier Clark recently made another of her absurd press announcements on LNG, the federal minister for energy, James Moore, had to correct himself after he had – with fulsome support resembling that of a suitor of the seductively smiling premier – suddenly had a flash of awkward memory as he mumbled, “Oh yes, there is an environmental process to go through yet”.
This should not be overlooked. The applicant companies don’t stop their planning or construction pending the outcome of these hearings – why would they when they’re foregone conclusions? The only thing to worry about are the likes of the courageous citizens of Burnaby and their gutsy mayor, Derek Corrigan.
Our leaders can no longer be trusted
All of the foregoing is tied into the phenomenon of this century, namely that those, in the words of the Anglican church, “set in authority over us”, can no longer be trusted for even so much as a word of truth if the contrary suits them better. I can tell you that, at the risk of appearing a cynic, when I hear a politician or an industrialist make pronouncements on anything whatsoever, I don’t believe a single word and I believe that experience proves my skepticism fully justified.
Let’s get back to the beginning.
Why not abolish the whole bloody business? Let’s rid ourselves this wasted outlay of money. It’s rather like the poor citizens of the late Soviet Union having to pay for their court system and it’s a plethora of “show trials”.
Won’t this leave us without any environmental protection?
If so, what’s changed?
Is it a better to have a fake process and an environmental travesty or to have the same result without having to go through the humiliation?
The reality is that we ought to have a proper system. In this country, however, where the far right rules, you would have to be smoking something questionable to think that that would ever happen.
At the end of the day (my favourite cliché I might say), it will be up to the public and environmentalists – which these days are almost one and the same thing – to expose the dangers posed by the undertakings proposed by those who couldn’t care less about the environmental consequences and, in order to put money in their own pockets in great gobs, pretend that they’re only doing it for the greater good of the public and that we should all be eternally grateful.
The federal government struck out in court Friday in its attempt to gut key passages of a Treaty 8 First Nations Judicial Review into the environmental certificate for Site C Dam.
After 3 hours of arguments on the crown’s motion to strike, brought with the support of the province, the presiding Prothonotary Lafreniere not only threw out the government’s argument – which he called “a very rare request” – but ordered costs be paid to the First Nation plaintiff. The decision presents another legal roadblock to the $9 Billion dam, on which the BC Liberal government and proponent BC Hydro intended to break ground this summer. The federal judicial review is now slated to be heard in July, with the nation’s key argument of rights infringement by the dam fully before the court. The Judicial Review is being brought jointly by West Moberly First Nations, the Prophet River First Nation, McLeod Lake Indian Band, and Doig River First Nation.
The right to be heard
At issue in Friday’s hearing was a highly technical but significant debate over whether a Judicial Review is equipped to deal with an Aboriginal rights-based argument. Both the crown and province maintained that in the past, the courts have refused to hear such arguments in a Judicial Review – referring them instead to full-on trials. The First Nation argues that the environmental review process and subsequent decisions by governments to award Site C its certificates failed to consider the infringement of its treaty rights to hunt, fish and trap on the land – unimpeded by development.
The crown countered that the matter of rights infringement falls outside of the scope of the environmental review – parameters that the government deliberately hardwired into the terms of reference for the Joint Review Panel. In other words, both the federal and provincial governments ensured that the questions of rights infringement never enter into the JRP hearings – even though the panel readily acknowledged the project would have adverse impacts on First Nations throughout the region.
“Put it to bed”
The crown argued that the plaintiff’s evidence and legal standing was “so utterly devoid of merit and hopeless that…it should be struck out and put to bed early on.”
Prothonotary Lafreniere disagreed. During the hearing, he challenged the crown’s argument that the rights issue couldn’t be adjudicated by a Judicial Review:
[quote]Why can’t you argue that in the hearing?…I’m very concerned about bringing a motion to throw them out before getting a fair hearing.[/quote]
Counsel: Govt totally ignored First Nations’ rights
In her clients’ defense, Lead Counsel Allisun Rana drew attention to the government’s carefully contemplated refusal to address meaningfully the Nation’s rights. While the JRP’s hands were tied from dealing directly with rights infringement – a loaded legal notion that goes deeper than merely observing adverse impacts – the government was supposed to consider the evidence gathered and deal with the rights issue later, before issuing its decision. It chose not to, whatsoever – a revelation that only came to to light through this recent motion to strike. Even the plaintiff seemed surprised to learn that no consideration was given at any point to the infringement by the dam on First Nations’ treaty rights.
The crown’s own consultation report on Site C contained a clearly-stipulated responsibility for the government to deal with rights infringement issues – as reflected in the report’s consultation schematic. Only later, without the nation’s knowledge, did the crown alter the language in the schematic to say “determining impacts” instead of “infringement“. Legally speaking, this one word makes all the difference as it speaks specifically to the breaking of legal promises made in Treaty 8 of 1899.
“[My clients] had a good faith belief that the governor in council would consider infringement and were led to believe that by the agency,” Rana told the court.
[quote]If the project is an infringement on First Nations’ rights and the governor in council approved it, then that’s a constitutional issue…that is a matter that needs to be heard before a full hearing.[/quote]
While the crown argued that the plaintiff is “trying to go through the back door” in raising issues at a Judicial Review which both governments have clearly sought to keep off the table, the court disagreed. “It’s good to have this behind us,” said Rana on Friday’s decision, “so we can focus on the Judicial Review.”
The decision, just one in a long list of legal developments currently surrounding the controversial dam, is another troubling sign for governments which seem in a real hurry to get construction underway.
Perhaps that’s because they can feel the judicial sands shifting beneath their feet. And like quicksand, the harder they struggle, the deeper they may find themselves stuck.
In all, the Site C would impact 31,528 acres of class 1-7 farmland, roughly half of which lies “within the project’s flood, stability and landslide-generated wave impact lines,” the former president of the BC Institute of Agrologists, Dr. Wendy Holm, told the 3-member panel last year. The other half will be permanently lost beneath the reservoir and access roads. Of the total land impacted and compromised, over 8,300 acres are class 1 and 2 soils – making it some the best farmland in the country.
“The Peace River Valley has extraordinarily high value for agriculture,” soil scientist Evelyn Wolterson added.
[quote]It is our opinion that the public interest is better served [by] agriculture and other uses for this valley, rather than a hundred years of power production…Power has other alternatives; agriculture doesn’t.[/quote]
Mayor Johansson agrees, especially in light of the dire drought conditions now plaguing California, on which BC depends heavily for imported produce. In fact, BC currently produces far less than half the food it consumes, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
“The severe drought in California and the resulting increase to the cost of food we import only reinforces the need to suspend this decision and allow time for the Agricultural Land Commission to provide an independent, open and transparent review of the exclusion decision,” commented Johansson in passing along the new interactive map to media.
The map enables users to compare the loss of land in BC’s Peace River Valley from Site C with what it would look like in other major farming regions in the province, includingRichmond, Victoria, Kamloops, Prince George, Kelowna and Chilliwack.
Said Johansson, “…this single land exclusion is equivalent to removing an area equal to 72% of all ALR land in Richmond, BC.” According Holm and Wolterson, the land being taken out of potential agricultural production could feed up to a million people – or close to a quarter of the province’s population.
The following is an open letter sent by lawyer Rob Botterell to the BC LNG Alliance, key BC Liberal ministers, and Treaty 8 First Nations. Site C Dam is being looked to as a possible source for the additional power required for proposed LNG plants on the BC coast.
Dear Respected First Nations, LNG Industry and BC Government Leaders:
In my capacity as a lawyer who has represented First Nations for many years, I am writing to you about the relationship between the planned Site C dam and the proposed new LNG export industry.
True reconciliation of First Nations, LNG Sector and BC government interests requires full respect for, and accommodation of, First Nations’ constitutionally protected treaty rights, title and interests. The Site C dam would adversely impact First Nations’ treaty rights, title and interests in a massive and irreversible way. This devastating impact is completely unnecessary when cost competitive, renewable and non-renewable energy alternatives to Site C exist.
Contrary to the Premier’s statements, these energy alternatives would also provide combined short, medium and long term economic benefits to First Nations’ governments, contractors and community members that far outweigh any economic benefits from Site C.
For those First Nations who are engaged in impact and benefit agreement (lBA) negotiations with LNG sector companies or the province, I respectfully urge you to insist on IBA provisions that require the use of electrical power sources other than Site C by those LNG sector companies.
For those LNG Sector companies and BC government ministries involved in such discussions, I urge you to respect the legitimate interests of BC First Nations and agree to incorporate such provisions in IBAs.
An energy future that respects First Nations’ treaty rights, title and interests in the Peace River Valley is long overdue.