Site C Dam construction must be halted until B.C.’s Auditor General completes much-needed independent review, wide array of groups say

VICTORIA –First Nations, labour, environmental and legal organizations are calling on the B.C. and federal governments to suspend construction of the Site C dam pending completion and full consideration of an independent review by B.C.’s Auditor General.

Last year, the B.C. Auditor General’s office published a report noting that Site C was among the projects slated for 2016/2017. The investigation is underway with office staff looking into whether B.C. Hydro’s recommendation and government’s decision to build Site C is “supported by sufficient information and analysis to demonstrate that it would meet government’s economic, social and environmental goals.”

“This project must be paused immediately, before actual dam construction begins. Site C is an unnecessary project that will result in all of us, including the poorest among us, paying far higher hydro bills. The proposed megaproject is an obvious threat to First Nations’ Title, Rights and Treaty Rights and interests. We absolutely demand that a credible independent review is done before any further work on this project proceeds, ” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

“Site C is the very opposite of a climate solution. It would power the expansion of the LNG industry based on fracked gas, a fossil fuel every bit as dirty as coal,” said Ana Simeon, Peace Valley campaigner with Sierra Club BC. “At the same time, it would obliterate a uniquely productive food oasis in the North – and with it, B.C.’s best chance to build resilience in the face of climate change and the loss of agricultural productivity it brings.”

“Last week, we organized the First Nations Energy Forum and it became quite clear that current regulatory processes are not designed to fully meet First Nations rights under the Constitution and under international human rights standards,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. "We fully support West Moberley First Nation and Prophet River First Nation in asserting their right to say 'no' in accordance with the international standard of free, prior and informed consent. First Nations have rights and responsibilities to their traditional territories which must be respected."

If built, the 60-metre dam would be the single-most expensive megaproject in B.C.’s history and would flood more than 100 kilometres of river valley lands along the Peace River and its tributaries. In addition to destroying burial grounds, and important cultural, fishing and hunting sites of Treaty 8 First Nations, the reservoir would result in the loss of prime farmlands capable of growing sufficient fruits and vegetables to feeding one million people, according to expert testimony before the Joint Review Panel.

“The need for the dam has not been justified and less costly alternatives were not properly considered,” said Warren Williams, president of CUPE Local 15. “Despite the fact that land clearing has been taking place, stopping this project makes good economic sense by saving the citizens and ratepayers of BC a massive increase in public debt. We want and need the Auditor General to review this. BC Hydro’s own projections show that the power from this dam is not needed now or for many more years.”

In addition to the Auditor General’s review of the Site C project, many individuals and organizations have called on the provincial government to subject the project to even more rigorous review with full procedural safeguards.

“All of us would like to see the Site C decision evaluated by the BC Utilities Commission, which as the electrical utilities regulator has the expertise and the quasi judicial powers to ensure a thorough, public review. Absent that, the Auditor General’s review is both welcome and needed and the public would best be served by halting further work at Site C until such a review is done,” said Karen Campbell, a lawyer with Ecojustice.

For further information contact:

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs: 604-684-0231
Ana Simeon, Peace Valley campaigner, Sierra Club BC: 778-677-4740
Warren Williams, president CUPE Local 15: 604-879-4671.