Grizzly Bear Hunting Banned in British Columbia

There are about 15,000 grizzly bears in British Columbia

British Columbia has formally brought an end to grizzly bear hunting in the province.

The B.C. government says public consultations have made it clear that killing grizzlies is no longer socially acceptable.

On Monday the NDP banned all grizzly bear hunting in the province with immediate effect.

According to the government, 78 per cent of British Columbians recommended grizzly hunting be stopped entirely.

First Nations will still be allowed to hunt grizzlies for food, social or ceremonial reasons, or for treaty rights.

The government estimates there are about 15,000 grizzly bears in the province.

The grizzlies will now be protected province-wide from both trophy and regular hunting.

In August, the provincial government announced a ban on trophy hunting across all of B.C., which came into effect following the close of the fall hunting season on Nov. 30.

Around 300 grizzly bears are killed in the hunt every year, about 250 of which are taken by non-First Nations hunters.


Pipeline ‘Man Camps’ Loom over B.C.’s Highway of Tears

An industry camp for workers on a pipeline near Rainbow Lake, Alta. is shown on Jan. 27, 2013. Photo by Jason Woodhead on Flickr Creative Commons.

Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation is nestled on the banks of Stuart Lake in north-central British Columbia, surrounded by rolling foothills and tall trees.

It is a relatively remote community, breathtaking in scenery and dependent on economic opportunities in forestry, mining, and pipeline development. It is a community bracing for major change.

Over the next decade, as many as 6,000 new energy industry workers could descend upon the region. The prospect of such a big influx of workers living in nearby “man camps” has aroused fears of increased violence and drug use.

The influx could more than double the population of about 4,500 in the Fort St. James area, which includes the municipality, rural communities and First Nations. Nak’azdli has just 1,972 members living both on and off reserves. The nearest city, Prince George, is 160 kilometres away.

To get ahead of the documented challenges that accompany an influx of temporary workers from outside the region, the Nak’azdli and Lake Babine First Nations are creating two full-time positions, funded by the B.C. government, to help them prepare.

Nak’azdli Band Councillor Ann Marie Sam says if several industrial project proposals go ahead as planned over the next decade, as many as six new work camps, housing up to 1,000 workers each, could be built within 60 to 100 kilometres of the community.

Among the proposed projects are TransCanada’s: the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the North Montney Mainline pipeline and the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline. The company is reviewing the Prince Rupert project, however, because Pacific NorthWest LNG announced in July that it would not proceed with a proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal near Port Edward, B.C. due to economy uncertainty.

The Nak’azdli band had also expressed opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would have run through its territory had it not been rejected by the federal government last year.

The danger of bringing in “man camps”

The “man camps” are precisely what their name implies: work camps housing mostly male employees working on resource development projects.

There were more than four men for every woman working in the forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, and oil and gas industries in Canada in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.

The federal Liberal government is now reviewing Canada’s conservation laws and is expected to tackle this issue. In June, it recommended changes to environmental assessments to require a gender-based analysis of an industrial project’s impacts.

When the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project was under review, community members expressed concern about two camps slated for construction in the traditional territory of the nearby Lake Babine First Nation. The Lake Babine and Nak’azdli nations found common cause, as Nak’azdli’s traditional territory hosts mining and forestry camps already.

The two nations commissioned a joint report, funded by B.C.’s Department of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, with research by the consulting company Firelight Group. Statistics from the study, released in February 2017, indicate that industrial camps are associated with increased rates of sexual assault and violence against Indigenous women, along with addiction, sexually transmitted infections, and family violence.

“The potential for sexual assault, violence, disappearances, (sexually transmitted diseases), increases with the number of trucks on the road,” study author Ginger Gibson told National Observer. “There’s a whole whack of issues that don’t get considered until construction is happening and that’s too late.”

The final report recommends governments and agencies consider legislation, programs and services to address problems associated with industrial camps, and plan for integrated service delivery in advance of resource development projects. It also states a need for governments to allocate new financial and human resources to health, social services, and housing in the region.

Specific recommendations, from provision of addiction counseling to building recreational facilities, are designed to prevent problems and to address them when the do occur.

In an email, a spokesperson for TransCanada wrote that the company regularly engages with Indigenous communities and would continue to do so throughout the life of the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG project. Although TransCanada says it attended an info session during the research phase of the industrial camp report, it wouldn’t provide further comment on the findings.

The B.C. government didn’t respond to requests from National Observer for comment for this article.

A view of Stuart Lake in north central British Columbia. This area is home to the small Nak’azdli First Nation, which is bracing for challenges that can accompany an influx of energy workers. Photo courtesy of the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation

‘Rigger culture’ puts Indigenous women at risk?

The Firelight Group’s research included discussions with local community members about the experience of Indigenous women living near construction camps.

“There’s a ‘rigger culture’ that exists, where a lot of people are working together in a hyper masculine context and they’re not really taking care of themselves — they might be drinking and doing drugs, and then they’re blowing off steam,” said Gibson.

“They’re not in their home community and they don’t think about the (local) people as their family or neighbours so they don’t treat people very kindly.”

Following the findings of the study, Nak’azdli leadership is looking at ways to prepare for the next influx of workers. Community members talk about preparing to welcome newcomers to their territory. Industry representatives talk about working with Indigenous groups to provide local cultural competency courses to their employees.

The Nak’azdli Health Centre is assembling rape kits to gather physical evidence after assaults.

Coun. Ann Marie Sam says planning for assaults is an unfortunate necessity.

“When we started developing rape crisis plans the first question for me was, ‘Why do we have to tell our women we can’t protect you and sexual assaults are going to happen? And when they do, we’re going to have a plan for you,'” she said in an interview. “I thought it was so unfair for our community to have to do that.”

Community leaders worry that nearby women and children could be a target for workers who parachute into the area.

Sam recalled seeing an unfamiliar woman in town about a year ago when she was out walking with one of her daughters.

“I watched her, wondering who she was. One of the delivery trucks from the (Mount Milligan) mine was coming through town, driving fast, saw her, slams on the breaks, dust on the road and stops beside her. She gets in the truck and I don’t know whose daughter that was — if she was a mother, or whose sister that was. But that really struck me.”

Sam said she wondered if the driver solicited the young woman for sex. “Who do you report that to? I didn’t report it because I didn’t know who she was and I didn’t know what happened to her.”

Among risks identified in the Firelight report are increased rates of sexually transmitted infections. The Nak’azdli Health Centre is launching an awareness campaign and promotes STI testing for both workers and community members.

“We want to welcome workers to our town but we also want to let them know that these are the rules of our town,” community health nurse Liza Sam, the councillor’s sister, told National Observer.

“They (workers) don’t have any ownership to our town, so we really want to keep our community intact with less disturbances,” she explained. “If the mine’s gonna be here or other industries, we want them to be the best they can be for community members.”

The proximity of Nak’azdli to the infamous Highway of Tears only adds to the community’s safety concerns.

Since the late 1960s, dozens of women and girls — most of whom are Indigenous — have gone missing or disappeared along Highway 16, an east-west highway spanning northern B.C. that eventually leads through Edmonton and Saskatoon before meeting the TransCanada Highway at Portage la Prairie, Man. The “Highway of Tears” takes in smaller roads in the vicinity too, explains Highway of Tears Walkers co-ordinator Brenda Wilson.

Women reach for an embrace during the Nak’azdli Whut’en’s All Nations Gathering between Aug. 4 and 6, 2017. Photo courtesy of the Nak’azdli Whut’en on Facebook

Away from home with ‘a lot of money’

Mia is a First Nations woman in Alberta. A former sex trade worker, she said camp workers and sex go hand-in-hand. She worked in Fort McMurray for 10 years during the oilsands boom and was on call “23 hours a day.”

Mia’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

“I think the guys are maybe lonely,” she told National Observer. “They’re away from home, they have a lot of money — disposable income if you will.”

She came from what she describes as an abusive, broken home, and said adversarial circumstances led to the sex industry at age 17. She said she was encouraged to tell clients that she was Spanish or Italian, because Indigenous women were considered trash.

“The men became angry if they knew (you were Indigenous), and your value goes down significantly, so we didn’t reveal that.”

Mia described many dangerous encounters, including one with a client she said threatened to hang her in his apartment in Fort McMurray — a memory that haunts her. Employers know full well what’s going on, she added. But they don’t get involved.

“In that industry, nothing would surprise me. I can see people that may be running the camps turning a blind eye to this kind of thing.”

Mia said local women and girls in Alberta are recruited to the sex industry to service camp workers on a regular basis by pimps and escort agencies, and that locals in communities like Nak’azdli wouldn’t be passed by.

“We already know of cases where our young people have been recruited right off the reserve through the Internet. But if (a camp’s) in their own backyards, I would be very concerned,” she explained. “It’s scary. I hope that the communities are looking at ways of preventing and also educating on exploitation.”

Read full story here

September 21st 2017

Site C Threatens Indigenous Rights: Amnesty International Report


Amnesty International says indigenous human rights are being threatened by the Site C hydroelectric dam. (Photo: CP)

(CP) By Dirk Meissner, Posted: 08/09/2016

VICTORIA — An Amnesty International report calling for work to stop on British Columbia’s $8.8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam will not affect construction on the project, says the Crown corporation building the project.

The independent human rights advocate released a report Tuesday calling on the federal and provincial governments to suspend or rescind all construction approvals and permits related to the project in northeast B.C., saying the megaproject on the Peace River threatens the human rights of indigenous peoples.

The report, The Point of No Return, also said the project should only proceed on the basis of free, prior and informed consent of all affected indigenous peoples.

At least two area First Nations are challenging the project in court.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett and Jessica McDonald, BC Hydro’s president and chief executive officer, said the government and Crown corporation have consulted widely and meaningfully with area indigenous peoples since 2007 and those talks continue as the project proceeds.

“The Site C project has been through an extensive review and approval process,” said McDonald. “It’s an approved project. It has its permits and it’s our responsibility to continue construction and bring this project into operation on time and on budget.”

The Amnesty International report said archeological evidence shows indigenous peoples have lived in the Peace River area for more than 10,000 years and many rely on the valley to hunt, fish, trap, conduct ceremonies and harvest plant medicines.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced approval of the project in December 2014. Construction at the dam site started last summer and the federal government recently approved permits to allow work to begin on diverting water flows.

“It’s an approved project. It has its permits and it’s our responsibility to continue construction and bring this project into operation on time and on budget.”

“Canadian and international law require a high and rigorous standard of protection to ensure that indigenous peoples, who have already endured decades of marginalization, discrimination, dispossession, and impoverishment, are not further harmed by development on their lands and territories,” said the report by Amnesty.

McDonald said Hydro has reached agreements with many of the First Nations to mitigate potential impacts of the project.

“To speak in general terms, we have been successful in reaching agreements that speak to respecting the interests and concerns First Nations communities may have regarding the project,” she said. “I do feel that the report misses the mark.”

The dam would be the third on the Peace River, flooding an 83-kilometre stretch of valley near Fort St. John.

Site C approval violated obligations to indigenous peoples: report

The Amnesty report said Site C’s approval process violated Canada’s human rights obligations toward indigenous people on several grounds, including putting B.C.’s plans for the area ahead of indigenous peoples’ preferred use of the land.

“No amount of consultation is adequate if, at the end of the day, the concerns of indigenous peoples are not seriously considered and their human rights remain unacknowledged or unprotected,” said the report.

“This group and many of the groups want to focus on the negatives, without ever acknowledging all the positive things.”

Bennett wasn’t available for an interview, but he told radio station CHNL that the report ignores benefits associated with the project and an extensive consultation process.

“This group and many of the groups want to focus on the negatives, without ever acknowledging all the positive things,” he said.

Bennett said the report does not properly acknowledge the jobs the project is creating, especially for indigenous people, and the long-term power supply the dam will deliver.

Bus Service Coming To Notorious ‘Highway Of Tears’ By End Of The Year

Highway 16 near Prince George, B.C., is shown on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012. A bus service that links communities along a notorious stretch of highway in northern British Columbia will carry passengers by the end of the year, the province's transportation minister said Wednesday

Highway 16 near Prince George, B.C., is shown on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012.

June 17, 2016

Highway of Tears bus service to run from Prince George to Prince Rupert

In Canada since the 1970s, Eighteen women and girls have been murdered or gone missing, along Highway 16 and adjacent routes in northern British Columbia.

A bus service that links communities along the notorious stretch of road also known as the Highway of Tears will carry passengers by the end of the year, the province’s transportation minister said Wednesday.

First Nations, social service agencies and women’s groups have been calling for a shuttle bus service in the area for several years to provide regular transportation for people who live in communities along the 750-kilometre route.

The highway cuts through the centre of the province and follows rivers and mountains, passing through numerous small communities, including Houston, Smithers and Burns Lake. The route also provides the main transportation link to and from remote First Nations villages located off the main highway.

Most cases of murdered and missing women remain unsolved, though investigators don’t believe a single killer is responsible.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone says agreements between 16 communities along the highway will allow B.C. Transit to operate a scheduled bus service between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

“Absolutely, this initiative is all about safety,” he said.

He said the communities, the province and B.C. Transit must still develop service schedules and provide extra buses for the route.

Stone said plans for the Highway 16 area also include offering bus driver training programs for First Nations to provide transportation service from their remote villages to other major communities along the highway.

Chief Corrina Leween of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation said the bus service helps many living in towns on or near the highway, but it offers little comfort to those off the main road.

“The work they are doing for the core group on the corridor is good, but for us it really doesn’t work because we’re off the beaten trail,” she said.

Leween said the main Cheslatta community of about 300 people is located about 25 kilometres south of Burns Lake and getting to the highway requires a ferry trip and travel on a dirt road.

Five Cheslatta people, including a family of four and a male elder, have disappeared from the area over the years, she said.

New Democrat Maurine Karagianis, the Opposition’s critic for women, said area residents and local politicians have called for improved transportation services for years, but the government has been stalling while many people hitchhike for rides with strangers.

“I say get on with it,” she said.

First Nations advocate Mary Teegee said a decade ago, dozens of people walked from Prince Rupert to Prince George to call for better transportation service along the highway.

“It has been 10 years since of the Highway of Tears recommendations report came out and we are finally making progress,” she said in a statement. “I view transportation as a human rights issue in the north and we are working toward making sure everyone has access.”

These images are of 18 women and girls whose deaths and disappearances are part of the RCMP's investigation of the Highway of Tears in British Columbia. The women were either found or last seen near Highway 16 or near Highways 97 and 5. From left to right: (Top row) Aielah Saric Auger, Tamara Chipman, Nicole Hoar, Lana Derrick, Alishia Germaine, Roxanne Thiara; (Middle) Ramona Wilson, Delphine Nikal, Alberta Williams, Shelley-Anne Bascu, Maureen Mosie, Monica Jack; (Bottom row) Monica Ignas, Colleen MacMillen, Pamela Darlington, Gale Weys, Micheline Pare, Gloria Moody. (Individual photos from

These images are of 18 women and girls whose deaths and disappearances are part of the RCMP’s investigation of the Highway of Tears in British Columbia. The women were either found or last seen near Highway 16 or near Highways 97 and 5. From left to right: (Top row) Aielah Saric Auger, Tamara Chipman, Nicole Hoar, Lana Derrick, Alishia Germaine, Roxanne Thiara; (Middle) Ramona Wilson, Delphine Nikal, Alberta Williams, Shelley-Anne Bascu, Maureen Mosie, Monica Jack; (Bottom row) Monica Ignas, Colleen MacMillen, Pamela Darlington, Gale Weys, Micheline Pare, Gloria Moody. (Individual photos from

Source: The Canadian Press

Secwepemc ‘Women Warriors’ Stop Treaty Vote In Williams Lake (VIDEO)

(Facebook video of anti-treaty vote demonstration on the Williams Lake Indian Band reserve on Thursday.)

By Jorge Barrera | APTN National News

Secwepemc ‘women warriors’ stop treaty vote, force RCMP to release detained man

The RCMP was forced to release a detained man during a demonstration against a treaty vote Thursday on a First Nation reserve in British Columbia’s interior after a police truck was surrounded by Secwepemc “women warriors” demanding the man’s release, according to a spokesperson for the group.

The group of about a dozen women, children and men disrupted a vote on the Williams Lake Indian Band reserve Thursday to ratify an agreement-in-principle of a proposed modern-day treaty.

A ballot box was smashed and ballots were burned during the demonstration, forcing a cancellation of the vote.

A banner is unfurled during an anti-treaty vote protest on the Williams Lake Indian Band reserve Thursday.

A banner is unfurled during an anti-treaty vote protest on the Williams Lake Indian Band reserve Thursday. Facebook photo

The Williams Lake Indian Band vote will now be held on March 15, according to a statement released by the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw (NStQ) tribal council which represents four Secwepemc First Nations.

The NStQ First Nations are negotiating a modern-day treaty through the B.C. Treaty Process and held votes on ratifying an agreement-in-principle in all four member First Nations on Thursday. Only the Williams Lake Indian Band vote was disrupted.

The “yes” side in favour of the agreement triumphed in the other three Secwepemc First Nations of Canim Lake Indian Band, also known as Tsq’escen’, Soda Creek Indian Band, also known as Xats’ūll, and the Canoe Creek-Dog Creek Band, also known as Stswecem’c-Xgat’tem.

The four member NStQ First Nations have a total population of about 2,000 people and combined claimed traditional territory of about 5.6 million hectares.

The six-stage B.C. treaty process involves negotiations between First Nations, B.C. and Ottawa.

Kanahus Manuel, a spokesperson for the Secwepemc women warriors, said the NStQ’s proposed modern-day treaty will lead to the termination of Secwepemc title over a large swath of land in exchange for a small percentage of territory and cash.

Manuel said the whole Secwepemc nation, which includes a total of 17 First Nations, has never surrendered title to its territory, which she said is about the size of Florida.

“People across the nation are completely opposed to the treaty,” said Manuel. “What it will do is modify our collective rights we hold in our territory where we are able to walk freely…It is an extinguishment process where you extinguish your rights to the Crown and you are granted back modified treaty rights and fee simple land.”

Kanahus Manuel confronts an RCMP officer during an anti-treaty vote demonstration Thursday on the Williams Lake Indian Band reserve in British Columbia's interior. Facebook photo.

Kanahus Manuel confronts an RCMP officer during an anti-treaty vote demonstration Thursday on the Williams Lake Indian Band reserve in British Columbia’s interior. Facebook photo.

Video of the demonstration posted on Facebook showed an RMCP officer arresting a man while people shouted “no treaty” and “the RCMP has no jurisdiction” while a drum thumped in the background. The man, later identified as Williams Lake Indian Band member Darcy Kobelt, was then put into an RCMP pick-up truck which was surrounded by women chanting, “No treaty, let him go.”

The women stood directly behind the RCMP truck with a banner reading “No NSTQ Treaty, No Secwepemc Consent.”

The RCMP officer, clearly flustered by the demonstration, is then shown standing on a small patch of snow waiting for backup.

Photos posted to Facebook show that at least two RCMP cruisers and an SUV showed up to try and take control of the situation.

Manuel said Kobelt was let go after he signed—inside the police truck—a promise to appear in court on a charge of mischief in relation to the smashed ballot box.

“The women had surrounded the police truck and demanded that they released him and they did right on site,” said Manuel. “Our women are always sent to the front-lines. We say, ‘The strong hearts to the front,’ and it’s always the women, the women with the children. Women came out with their families because that is what we are defending, we are defending our children’s future.”

The Williams Lake RCMP did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

RCMP vehicles on the scene during anti-treaty vote demonstration on the Williams Lake Indian Band reserve on Thursday. Facebook photo

RCMP vehicles on the scene during anti-treaty vote demonstration on the Williams Lake Indian Band reserve on Thursday. Facebook photo

Chief Ann Louie, of the Williams Lake Indian Band, also known as T’exelc, did not respond to a request for comment.

Stswecem’c-Xgat’tem First Nation Chief Patrick Harry, whose community voted 113 to 72 in favour of the proposed treaty agreement-in-principle, said he did not respect the demonstrators because they tried to interfere with an internal T’exelc matter.

“Those types of actions they don’t reflect on what the Secwepemc nation, what its culture is all about. We like to deal with things in a more respectful manner than that. We don’t respect the fact there were kids put on the front-lines of that and elders were disrespected and people assaulted and in some cases lives were threatened,” said Harry. “We are operating through a democratic process….Everybody was given a choice to vote, we are not forcing anything on anyone.”

Harry said he disagreed with the claim his community, as part of the NSTQ process, is negotiating to extinguish its rights.

“We don’t see it as giving up anything. We see it as gaining. Also, I think that as First Nations, there are different routes and different paths to reconciliation and they are all challenging,” he said. “The treaty process is one path to reconciliation that our community has given us a mandate to follow through with.”

Harry said he would have liked the results to have shown more support for the yes side, but now, as talks head to a final agreement, the NSTQ negotiators will be pushing for a better deal.

Currently, the treaty would give the NSTQ about 24,500 hectares of land and over $45 million.

“We look forward to the offer being increased, we look forward to some of the recent case law being implemented into our process,” said Harry. “We look to the government to recognize the Tsilhqot’in (Supreme Court) decision and implement it into our process and increase the offer.”

The yes side at Tsq’escen’ won by a 125 to 84 vote margin. In Xats’ūll the yes side won 90 votes to 48.

On the same day as the vote, Yale First Nation, which sits along the Fraser River, announced it was pulling out of the B.C. treaty process.

B.C. Site C Dam Protesters Dig In And Prepare For Arrest

The Canadian Press

Long-time former politician Arthur Hadland among those arrested at the work site

First Nations protesting the construction of the $9-billion Site C dam in northeastern British Columbia are preparing for their own arrests while they implore Prime Minister Justin Trudeau intervene to stop the hydroelectric project.

Helen Knott of the Prophet River First Nation said in an interview from the protest site that she and six other demonstrators are camped at Rocky Mountain Fort, the former site of a North West Company fur-trading post established in 1794, near Fort St. John.

RCMP said they arrested three protesters on Wednesday who had been blocking an access road needed by BC Hydro crews to begin work on the dam, the third on the Peace River. The dam will create an 83-kilometre-long reservoir and flood the area where the protesters are camping.

Eviction notice issued

The BC Hydro and Power Authority has issued an eviction notice, warning protesters that all contents of the camp set up on Dec. 31 will be removed and delivered to the RCMP.

Knott said the protesters are hunkering down while weathering snow and temperatures as low as –20 C, awaiting the possibility of arrest.

“It’s not necessarily anybody goes into it with that idea, like, yeah, we’re going to be arrested, right? It’s that, yeah, we’re committed to saving this tract of land and to, you know, actively use our treaty rights here,” she said.

Knott said she would rather not be arrested but is willing to be at the camp and take a stand on the issue.

Protest camp to be logged

Site C spokesman David Conway said the protest is affecting a small clearing area, but all other construction work on the project continues. Contractors had been prepared to log the area where protesters are camped.

The utility hopes to resolve the situation through ongoing discussions with protesters and local authorities in order to resume construction, he said.

“BC Hydro respects the right of all individuals to peacefully protest and express their opinions about Site C in a safe and lawful manner,” he said in an email. “Our immediate concern is to ensure the safety of both Site C workers and the protesters.”

Several First Nations and local residents have filed legal challenges over the dam, raising concerns about flooding and the impact the lake will create.

Flooding historic and sacred sites

Art Napoleon of the Saulteau First Nation said in a phone interview from Victoria that the lake will flood the historic site and other sacred areas.

“That whole area was a culturally significant area for us, for hunting, trapping, fishing, gathering, a lot of history, all of our history, so that’s our cultural institution and it’s being raped, and it’s still not enough,” he said, adding he hopes Trudeau can get involved.

“Well, I don’t know what exactly he can do, but it’s worth a shot, isn’t it?” said Napoleon.

The protest camp is in a remote area. Knott said once protesters leave the main highway, they must drive on rough, secondary roads for 90 minutes to two hours before making another seven-kilometre trip by foot or snowmobile.

The timber needs to be cleared before birds move in for nesting in the spring, and provincial Energy Minister Bill Bennett said the delay would make the project more expensive.

“Government wants to be respectful of people’s right to express themselves and their right to protest. We accept that,” Bennett said in an interview. “We have to balance that with the right of the BC Hydro ratepayers to expect that this project would get built on time and budget.”

Moving forward despite court challenges

Bennett added that government agrees construction should proceed despite outstanding court cases. He said those in opposition appear to be using the legal system as a stalling tactic and also noted the courts have mostly sided with the utility.

Opponents have been stating their case for a long time, but “the fact of the matter is the majority of people in the province don’t agree with them,” Bennett said.

About 75 per cent of the 600 workers currently on the site are from B.C., Bennett added.

BC Hydro announced in December it would spend $1.75 billion to build the earthen dam, foundation, two diversion tunnels and spillways.


Forget Oregon, High-Stakes Standoff Taking Place Right Here In B.C.

Fort St. John RCMP arrest Arthur Hadland for mischief during a Site C protest Wednesday as fellow activist Penny Boden looks on. Photo by Bronwyn Scott/Alaska Highway News. Photograph by: See Notes / Direction , Vancouver Sun

Fort St. John RCMP arrest Arthur Hadland for mischief during a Site C protest Wednesday as fellow activist Penny Boden looks on. Photo by Bronwyn Scott/Alaska Highway News.
Photograph by: See Notes / Direction , Vancouver Sun

By Daphne Bramham | VANCOUVER SUN, Jan 6, 2016

Protesters here have their own battles in play

With its echoes of Hollywood movies, it’s not surprising that an armed uprising by white ranchers in the American West wanting free range over public land has gained international attention.

But while the ranchers and self-proclaimed militia are occupying an abandoned federal building in southeast Oregon, there’s a similar — albeit more peaceful — occupation taking place in northeastern British Columbia.

The unarmed British Columbians are refusing to leave the site where BC Hydro plans to clear-cut parts of the Peace River Valley and flood 57,000 acres of farmland in order to construct an $8.3-billion hydroelectric dam.

This is a massive infrastructure project touted by Premier Christy Clark for the nearly 2,000 construction jobs it will create and as a much-needed, clean energy alternative. In Oregon, it’s a dispute over rangeland versus parkland.

In July, RCMP shot and killed a protester outside an information meeting about the dam, known as Site C.

On Wednesday, RCMP arrested three people, including former Peace River Valley District director Arthur Hadland, according to local media. The Alaska Highway News stated he was among a group of protesters blockading two entrances to the dam’s construction site.

Hadland has long been a vocal opponent. But it is Helen Knott who is described on blog and Facebook posts as the “emerging leader and warrior.” Far from the camouflage-clad images of Bundy clansmen in Oregon, Knott’s Facebook photo shows a smiling, bespectacled young woman with a female elder.

(Knott is at the camp and did not respond to emailed questions before deadline. However, based on the photos and comments on Knott’s page, this protest appears to be an iteration of the Idle No More Movement — a peaceful protest movement largely driven by young First Nations people.)

Aboriginal treaty rights, land title, the loss of farmland and other environmental concerns sparked seven court challenges involving the dam.

Three remain to be heard or decided by the B.C. Court of Appeal. Those appeals were made by the Peace Valley Landowner Association and the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations.

(Two other legal challenges — both by First Nations — were either discontinued or the parties have withdrawn.)

Regardless, the B.C. government issued construction permits last July after the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the provincial environment minister’s discretionary right to approve construction without considering the recommendations of an independent environmental review.

That review panel’s 471-page report said the dam would be beneficial, providing enough electricity to power 450,000 homes a year.

But the review also noted that there would be significant negative impacts on the environment, wildlife, aboriginal people, farmers and other users of the Peace River Valley due to flooding of the valley to create an 83-kilometre-long reservoir.

The approvals also came within days of James McIntyre being shot dead by RCMP outside BC Hydro’s public consultation meeting in Dawson Creek.

Anonymous — the international network of hacktivists — claimed the Guy Fawkes-masked, knife-wielding McIntyre as one of its members and vowed to use vengeance if necessary to seek justice. Local environmental and farming groups opposed to the dam said at the time that they didn’t know McIntyre and that they oppose violence of any kind.

The province’s Independent Investigations Office has yet to make its report.

Site preparation work began in the fall of 2015 and protesters set up a camp at the mouth of the Moberly River in December. It includes a small cabin and hunting tent as protection against the -20 C temperatures for a rotating group of people including Knott.

On Dec. 31, BC Hydro gave protesters 24 hours to remove their encampment. But nothing happened until this week.

In the birthplace of Greenpeace, after decades of wars in the woods in British Columbia over timber cutting and after a year of protests involving pipelines that included arrests on Burnaby Mountain, what is happening in the Peace River Valley is all too familiar: First Nations people, local landowners and environmentalists pitted against private and public corporations in disputes over the use/misuse of public lands.

There ought to be a better way than this.

And there is. It’s supposed to be due process and the rule of law.

Yet when governments don’t wait for those processes to fully play out or when they rewrite the rules to their own advantage against the perceived public interest, it’s hard to condemn peaceful protests of frustrated citizens as long as they remain peaceful.

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Imperial Metals Granted Mount Polley Mine Wastewater Discharge Into Local Waterways

Video: Aerial footage of Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach 

By Red Power Media, Staff

Mt. Polley Permit Approved

The operator of the Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine can now discharge treated waste into local waterways.

The province of British Columbia has granted the operator a short-term application to discharge treated wastewater into Hazeltine Creek, which would then flow into Quesnel Lake.

The company is using a containment (Springer) pit, excavated to obtain ore, to temporarily store mining waste called tailings, while it comes up with a long-term plan to deal with the waste and water.

The permit was deemed necessary as water levels in the Springer Pit were expected to reach capacity next April.

Rising levels of water in the Springer Pit — and the potential it could overflow — had raised additional environmental concerns.

Earlier this month, Williams Lake mayor Walt Cobb and environmental groups expressed concerns that the pit was filling rapidly and the government was falling behind efforts to ensure environmental safety at the mine site.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said there were no concerns about another potential breach at the mine.

The government says any discharged water must meet quality guidelines for “aquatic and public health.”

The approval comes after consultation with First Nations, municipalities and residents affected by last year’s spill.

August 4, 2014, Mount Polley’s tailings dam collapsed, due to what was later found to be a design flaw. 24 million cubic metres of mine silt and water broke from the tailings pond and gushed into local rivers and lakes.

Clean water had to be hauled in so people could take showers, and local touring companies took a hit as the environmental disaster made headlines for months.

The Klabona Keepers set up roadblocks and halted work at the Red Chris Mine,  also Imperial Metals-owned — after the tailings pond breach at the Mount Polley mine raised concerns about a similar spill happening there.

Imperial Metals was granted a court injunction against the Klabona Keepers.

Documents On Highway Of Tears Open Old Wounds As Missing-Women Inquiry Looms


The Yellowhead, Highway 16, near Prince George, B.C., is pictured on October 8, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Canadian Press

VICTORIA – The small British Columbia Cheslatta Carrier Nation has a decades-long anguished relationship with Highway 16, or the so-called Highway of Tears.

Five people from the community of less than 350 near Burns Lake in central B.C. have disappeared along the route, including an entire family of four, says Chief Corrina Leween.

At least 18 women went missing or were murdered along Highway 16 and the adjacent Highways 97 and 5 since the 1970s. Most cases remain unsolved, though investigators don’t believe a single killer is responsible.

The sorrow deepened recently with a damning report over deleted Transportation Ministry emails about the highway and its missing.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone has insisted that locals don’t want a bus service, but recently released documents highlight the concerns of local officials and contradict the minister.

The controversy could be swept up in a call by the federal Liberal government for an inquiry into Canada’s murdered and missing women. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the inquiry during the election campaign.

“I would expect that because a number of women have gone missing, and or have been known to have been murdered along Highway 16, that Highway 16 will figure in the national inquiry,” said Stone. “Our government has been on the record for quite some time in supporting a national inquiry.”

B.C.’s Attorney General Suzanne Anton said she also expects an inquiry would focus on the highway.

“I’m not trying to second-guess the federal inquiry, but there probably will be an aspect about the north all across the country,” she said.

An RCMP report last year stated nearly 1,200 aboriginal women were murdered or went missing between 1980 and 2012.

Highway 16 stretches more than 700 kilometres between Prince George and Prince Rupert. It follows rivers and mountains and connects remote communities. Its route is dark, lonely and blood stained.

“Within (our) community, we have had an entire family that went missing, the Jack family,” said Leween. “One of our elders is missing.”

Casimel Jack, 70, was last seen a decade ago, walking along a road that connects to Highway 16 south of Burns Lake. He was hunting and carrying a rifle when he disappeared Sept. 18, 2005.

Ronald Jack, his wife, Doreen, and their two sons, Russell, 9, and Ryan, 4, vanished Aug. 1, 1989. The last anybody heard from the family was when Ronald called a family member from a Prince George pub to say he and his wife found jobs.

“They just simply disappeared. Mom, dad and the two boys,” Leween said.

She said successive B.C. governments have refused to move on First Nations’ requests to provide a regional transportation network. Leween described government consultations attempts as sophisticated stalling tactics.

“I, as a leader, don’t feel the government is doing enough to addresses the issue,” she said.

Leween rejected Stone’s claim that leaders across the north agree a large-scale transit service won’t work.

“It’s absolutely untrue,” she said. “The bus is desperately needed in our area. I go to Prince George quite often to meetings and I see the young women hitchhiking on that highway. It’s needed.”

Stone said the government is looking to develop shorter transportation connections between communities, but a region-wide transportation service is not workable.

“It’s difficult for many folks to comprehend, myself included, how a scheduled shuttle bus service across an 800 kilometre stretch of highway that’s very sparsely populated would meet the needs of people who live along the highway.”

Stone said his ministry is holding a transportation symposium in Smithers Nov. 24 to discuss practical, affordable and sustainable solutions for communities along Highway 16.

Opposition New Democrat Jennifer Rice, whose North Coast riding includes a section of Highway 16, said she has not been invited to the symposium but plans to attend.

“I’ve been here (in Victoria) two years, and I’ve been asking this question numerous times around improving the transportation and safety along Highway 16, and I’ve been shrugged off and told basically to move on and get a new idea,” she said.

Rice said two years ago when she accidentally locked herself out of her car on a stretch of the highway she felt the chill of being alone in the middle of nowhere.

“I was in a pull out, and I had no cell service and I was the only one there,” she said.

“I had just come back from Victoria and I had been asking questions about the Highway of Tears. Then this happened to me. I felt extremely vulnerable.”


B.C. Coroner Identifies Man, 22, In First Nations Office Attack

Investigators work inside the Bridge River Indian Band officer where one man died and 10 others were injured near Lillooet, B.C. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)

Investigators work inside the Bridge River Indian Band officer where one man died and 10 others were injured near Lillooet, B.C. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Press. Oct 16, 2015

VICTORIA — A 22-year-old man who went on a rampage and injured 11 people at the office of a British Columbia First Nation lashed out when life became too overwhelming, the band’s chief says.

Bridge River Indian Band Chief Susan James said band staff were working with the young man to try and find stable housing and a way to pay his rent.

He walked into the band office Wednesday morning and went around attacking people with a weapon. Two of the victims remain in critical condition and two others suffered serious injuries.

On Friday, the BC Coroners Service identified the man as David James, a member of the Bridge River Indian Band, also known as (Xwisten), located near Lillooet in the province’s Interior.

James was not related to Chief James.

“He had complex social and health needs that our staff did not have the resources or training to adequately respond to,” the chief said in a news release.

James died Wednesday morning inside the band office. Police said that when officers arrived, he was already restrained and had stopped breathing. They attempted CPR, but he could not be revived.

Investigations are underway by the RCMP, the coroner and the Independent Investigations Office, which looks into police-involved deaths and serious injuries.

Leaders of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, First Nations Summit and the B.C. Assembly of First Nations issued a joint news release Friday, offering sympathies to the families of those injured in the attack.

Assembly of First Nations regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson said the intergenerational trauma from residential schools is a significant and contributing factor in the tragedy.

“We, as First Nations, continue to face unbearable social conditions which directly impact community safety. We are the poorest of the poor and the most disadvantaged,” he said in the release.

First Nations Summit Grand Chief Ed John said the attack is a wake-up call that has exposed the fragile state of the social safety net for many First Nations.

Poverty, unemployment and mental health troubles are some of the long-standing issues that band members face, James said in an interview.

She said staff at First Nations administration offices are often tasked with implementing government-funded assistance programs that leave people feeling short-changed and blaming the office workers.

“The staff have to deal with forcing members to live under what was being imposed upon them (by government),” she said of social assistance programs. “These people work hard and they are committed to their jobs, and they are doing it not for the salary, which is poor, but because they believe in their community.”