Category Archives: WATER

UBCM calls for delay to Site C construction as clearcutting set to begin

Location of proposed Site C Dam - slated for imminent clearcutting (photo: Damien Gillis)
Location of proposed Site C Dam – slated for imminent clearcutting (photo: Damien Gillis)

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:

Moreover, while a number of lawsuits challenging Site C have been dismissed by the courts, there are still several active cases and appeals in the works.


Harper and Clark: Quit goading First Nations with premature LNG, Site C work

Unist'ot'en Camp leader Freda Huson denying access to RCMP on July 15 (Youtube video screen capture/Stimulator)
Unist’ot’en Camp leader Freda Huson speaks to RCMP on July 15 (Youtube video/Stimulator)

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.

Christy Clark's LNG-fueled Fudge-it Budget
Premier Christy Clark (CP)

Meanwhile, in the province’s northeast, BC Hydro has been preparing to cut down eagles’ nests sacred to local Treaty 8 peoples. Why? Because in 7 or 8 years, the Peace River Valley may be flooded yet again for a third dam, billed Site C. That is, if the project survives multiple, constitutionally-grounded legal challenges, horribly flawed economics, the absence of any real need for it, and criticism from all corners – including a former Hydro CEO and the head of the Joint Review Panel that examined the dam – plus about a dozen other good reasons not to build it.

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.

Pushing buttons

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.

Yet the company returns, with predictable results. Then, they turn to the police – pitting members of the camp against armed law enforcement.

Now, in recent days we learn, from alarm bells being rung from the camp and supporters around BC and the world, that the RCMP have booked out hotel rooms in nearby communities and may be preparing to descend upon the camp.

RCMP backtracking?

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?

Lelu Island and Flora Bank (foreground) - site of controversial proposed LNG plant (Skeena Watershed Conservation Soc.)
Lelu Island and Flora Bank (foreground) – site of controversial proposed LNG plant (Skeena Watershed Conservation Soc.)

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

Treaty 8 drummers above proposed Site C Dam (Damien Gillis)
Treaty 8 drummers above proposed Site C Dam (Damien Gillis)

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?

Harper slashes federal taxes for BC LNG industry
Stephen Harper announces the Government’s intent to support the creation of BC’s LNG industry in Surrey, BC (PMO)

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.

The world, as they say, is watching.


Rafe: Media let Liberals get away with murder on IPPs, now LNG

Construction of a private power project on the Ashlu River (Photo: Range Life)
Construction of a private power project on the Ashlu River (Photo: Range Life)

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.

The finance minister of the day, Colin Hansen, published a piece on the Internet outlining all of the benefits of “run of river”, every one of which was an outright falsehood, which I stated and demonstrated publicly, many times. The private companies have ruined the rivers, destroyed fish runs, wiped out much habitat, thus depriving wildlife of their food source, and depleted the water levels dangerously.

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/Clark  government 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 ride has 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?

Goverment in bed with shady folks for LNG

Malaysian prime minister promises $36 Billion for BC LNG plant
Embattled Malaysian PM Razak and PM Harper (AP/Lai Seng Sin)

A good example of this is LNG. Because he had no alternative there, Palmer spent a good deal of time and did a reasonable job talking about the inadequacies of Clark’s deal with Petronas. There was, however, no talk about who runs this partnership, namely the Malaysian government, and that it is corrupt from top to bottom with a president now charged with stealing $700,000,000 – a minor peccadillo that’s not taken terribly seriously in Malaysia!

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 accepted  international 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!

The federal government has blocked LNG  tankers from plying the East Coast of Canada but can’t wait to have them flooding out of Vancouver and other ports by the hundreds.

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?

Until I 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?

Have you seen any discussion about the obvious bias of government environmental commissions, including the National Energy Board, in either of the Postmedia papers? Bear in mind that tougher and fairly-enforced rules are not in the interest of fossil fuel companies. An energy expert who has headed up three public power companies and another who was President of ICBC resign from the NEB hearings into Kinder Morgan, yet where the hell are the once-vaunted media critics?

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?            


Why British Columbians should get a say on $9 Billion Site C Dam

Part of the 80 km stretch of the Peace Valley that would be flooded by Site C Dam (Photo: Garth Lenz)
Part of the 80 km stretch of the Peace Valley that would be flooded by Site C Dam (Photo: Garth Lenz)

Reprinted from the ECOreport.

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 damwhose 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.

  • The Peace River Landowner Association has launched legal actions against this project in both provincial and federal court.
  • 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.
  • The First Nations Leadership council – representing the three biggest provincial First Nations leadership groups –  passed a resolution calling on the Federal and provincial governments to halt construction while these court cases are in progress.
  • 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.
  • Even the retired Chair of the Joint Review Panel for Site C, Harry Swain, has raised grave concerns about the project and process by which it is being pushed ahead.

Premier won’t let courts decide

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip is among the BC First Nations leaders demanding a halt to Site C Construction (Damien Gillis)
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip is among the BC First Nations leaders demanding a halt to Site C Construction (Damien Gillis)

Premier Clark is not willing to let the courts decide whether the government can legally break Treaty 8 and proceed with a project that many believe is against the public’s interest.

The recent press release announcing 24 “authorizations” for the project was accompanied by the hypocritical statement, “consultation with Treaty 8 First Nations began in August 2014 and concluded last month.”

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]


Peaceful Paddle lands Site C opponents on terrorist watch list

2012 Paddle for the Peace (Damien Gillis)
2012 Paddle for the Peace (Damien Gillis)

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.

Dear Editor,

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.


Paddle for the Peace Planning Committee


Halt Site C construction until courts have ruled, First Nations demand

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip is among the BC First Nations leaders demanding a halt to Site C Construction (Damien Gillis)
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip is among the First Nations leaders demanding a halt to Site C construction (D. Gillis)

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]

The BC Treaty 8 First Nations leading these court actions are currently in the midst of a funding drive to support their legal activities. They have already raised over $50,000 towards these efforts, while their farmer neighbours raised well over $200,000 over the past year.


Rafe Mair’s Modest Proposal: Scrap environmental assessments

The 3-member NEB Joint Review Panel for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline (Damien Gillis)
The 3-member NEB Joint Review Panel for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline (Damien Gillis)

Do you enjoy being a raw hypocrite?

Well, if you’re a taxpayer in Canada that’s what you are because you support raw hypocrisy every day in the various hearings on environmental matters that take place.

I’ve written in the past, from personal experience, about environmental assessments of independent power projects (IPPs), the environmental disgraces of British Columbia, and how they are so biased in favour of industry that it defies all but spluttering language of anger.

Let’s call the whole thing off

Economist Robyn Allan
Economist Robyn Allan

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.

The recent resignation of economist Robyn Allan as intervenor in the TransMountain pipeline hearing, coupled with the earlier resignation of former BC Hydro head Marc Eliesen from the same hearing, have made plain that these so-called environmental assessment boards are making mockery of the notion of natural justice and idiots of us who pay for it.

“A rigged game”

Let’s hear first of all from Robyn Allan, economist and a public servant who was a once the president of ICBC

[quote]It’s a rigged game … We’re getting the scope that supports Kinder Morgan. Its 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]

Unnatural justice

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.

Why not?

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.



Site C Dam: Crown strikes out with attempt to gut First Nations’ Judicial Review

Location of proposed Site C Dam (photo: Damien Gillis)
Location of proposed Site C Dam (photo: Damien Gillis)

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]

A big decision

Land impacted by Site C Dam (Wilderness Committee / Google Maps)
Land impacted by Site C Dam (Wilderness Committee / Google Maps)

“This is a project that will take up half of what remains of the Peace River in BC,” Rana added. “There are no First Nations in support, no impact benefit agreements in place…This is a big decision.”

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.

New interactive map reveals largest farmland exclusion in ALR history for Site C Dam

New interactive map reveals largest farmland exclusion in ALR history for Site C Dam

New interactive map reveals largest farmland exclusion in ALR history for Site C Dam
Screen capture from

“On April 8, 2015, with the stroke of a pen, the BC Government made the largest exclusion of land from the Agricultural Land Reserve in BC history,” said Hudson’s Hope Mayor Gwen Johansson, upon the release of a new interactive map which visualizes the enormous loss.

“Without Agricultural Land Commission review or public hearings, 3715 hectares (9180 acres) of ALR  land was removed from production for Site C dam.”

Peace Valley farmland, ecosystems worth $8 Billion a year-study
The Peace Valley is one of Canada’s most fertile regions

Yet the overall impact of the dam on BC’s increasingly scarce agricultural land base is even worse than that, according to two expert agrologists who presented their findings to the Joint Review Panel on the $9 Billion proposed project.

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.

While the BC Liberal government has approved the project and stands by its goal of starting construction this summer, Site C is currently facing no fewer than seven legal challenges from First Nations and farmers.


New book asks: Can civilization survive unprecedented climate crisis?

Water scarcity and resulting wars will be a key consequence of the climate crisis

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that human-caused climate change is already responsible for 150,000 deaths annually. If we continue our current trajectories of “business as usual” as our response to climate change, the WHO expects that between 2030 and 2050 climate change will cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year.

According to the WHO, the yearly death rate will include, “38 000 due to heat exposure in elderly people, 48 000 due to diarrhoea, 60 000 due to malaria, and 95 000 due to childhood under nutrition.”

Once “tipping points” occur, non-linear changes will emerge, and the death toll will be much higher.

As author David Ray Griffin demonstrates in his book, Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive The CO2 Crisis?, we are facing a constellation of unprecedented, intersecting threats that are leading humanity to increasingly severe catastrophes, and possibly even extinction.

The unprecedented, lethal threats identified by Griffin are these:

  • Extreme weather
  • Heat waves
  • Droughts and wild fires
  • Storms
  • Sea level rise
  • Fresh water shortage
  • Climate refugees
  • Climate wars
  • Ecosystem collapse
  • Extinction
  • Food shortage

Reservoirs in the sky

Glacier National Park in BC's Kootenays has seen decreasing snowpacks in recent years (Sesivany/Jiri Eischmann/Wikipedia)
Glacier National Park in BC’s Kootenays has seen decreasing snowpacks in recent years (Sesivany/Jiri Eischmann/Wikipedia)

A closer examination of just one of these threats shows how they are inter-related:

Author Lester Brown explains in “Rising Temperatures Melting Away Global Food Security” that we are losing our “Reservoirs In The Sky” – glaciers and snowpack – and that these reservoirs are melting in all the world’s major mountain ranges.

Melting glaciers and snowpack deliver less water for drinking and agriculture. Once these “reservoirs in the sky” – also called “natural water towers” and “frozen water towers”- are degraded and disappear, food scarcity and drought impacts are amplified. In the winter of 2015, for example, California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack was measured at 25% of its average depth.

“Deglaciation” also contributes to sea level rise and regional hydrological changes. In Western Canada and elsewhere, for example, it impacts freshwater fisheries; once the glaciers are gone, the fisheries will become extinct.

Disappearing water drives instability

Since deglaciation impacts food and water security, it also contributes to desertification, and this in turn creates “climate refugees”, as people are forced to leave for more habitable locations. A report by the Environmental Justice Foundation claims that, “on average, 27 million people are displaced by climate and weather-related disasters each year.”

Increased scarcities of food and water, and the growing displacement of peoples due to climate change – and de-glaciation – will likely be casual factors of so-called “water wars” as well.

Radical change: our only hope

Canadian communities to rally for climate as BC, Alberta pen pipeline deal
Citizens rally against pipelines in Victoria (photo: TJ Watt)

Our collective response to catastrophic, human-caused climate change, is inadequate on many levels. Griffin argues that our failures and challenges are also “unprecedented”. He shows that the status quo/business-as-usual approach to climate change will accelerate catastrophic consequences, that a “wait and see” attitude would be even more cataclysmic, and that the only reasonable approach is radical change.

Radical change means full scale societal mobilization and the rapid decarbonisation of the economy, all with a view to reducing the global temperature increase by less than 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, since we literally face the real prospect of human extinction if we do not radically change our approach now.

Critical failures that must be addressed

Griffin identifies the following unprecedented challenges and failures that are currently preventing radical change:

  • Climate change denial
  • Media failure
  • Political failure
  • Moral challenges
  • Religious challenges
  • Economic challenges

As with the iteration of unprecedented lethal threats, the aforementioned list of challenges and failures share intersecting trajectories as they meet, overlap, and create common ground. Consequently, a closer examination of one failure sheds light with others as well.

The industry of Climate Change/Global Warming Denial, for example, is closely linked to, and sometimes a causative element of, the other challenges and failures.

The denial industry

Despite the fact that the scientific debate is closed, and the scientific consensus is that humans cause global warming, the Climate Change Denial Industry spends vast quantities of money to promote unreasonable doubt about this scientific fact.

ExxonMobil, for example, launders money through organizations, foundations, think tanks etc. to create unreasonable doubt about human-caused global warming.

Increasingly, money is being laundered through Donors Trust. A Greenpeace analysis reveals that Donors Trust has laundered $146 million in climate denial funding from 2002 to 2011.

False Balance

Corporate media also amplifies disinformation. One particularly effective strategy is a technique called “false balance.” Editors will “balance” science-based global warming articles with articles that deny global warming, with the effect that readers become confused and doubt the scientific reality of human-caused global warming.

Politicians invariably exploit the fabricated confusion and endorse policies that serve the narrow interests of Big Oil. An extreme example of this is the Tea Party movement.

This seemingly grassroots movement endorses policies that align with Big Oil interests – low taxation, high profits, de-regulation. Evidence suggests, moreover, that it was created with a view to make it appear like a grassroots movement, when it was actually fabricated by Big Oil to serve Big Profits rather than the interests of those who support the party. The term used to describe the process is “Astroturfing” (i.e. fake grass roots).

In terms of morality and religious propriety, the use of deceit and subversion to advance a civilization-killing agenda is repulsive.

It’s also bad for the economy.

False economy

A 2011 article by Joe Romm,  IEA’s Bombshell Warning: We’re Headed Toward 11°F Global Warming and “Delaying Action Is a False Economy” cites the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) assessment of the economic cost of delaying action.

[quote]Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.[/quote]

What is to be done

The complexities of “What is to be done?” to confront our dire circumstances can be reduced to three momentous actions.

First, we need a mass mobilization of people prepared to respond to the global warming emergency. Second, we need to transition immediately and completely to clean energy. And finally, we need to abolish dirty energy.

David Ray Griffin’s extraordinarily comprehensive and well-researched book, Unprecedented, should serve as a foundational guide for our needed mobilization.

This article first appeared on Whatsupic