Tag Archives: Site C Dam

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.


Unmasked: The Face Of Anonymous Activist Shot Dead By RCMP

Unmasked: The face of Anonymous activist shot dead by RCMP

Unmasked: The face of Anonymous activist, James McIntyre, shot dead by RCMP

James McIntyre concerned for the land

CBC July 14, 2016

One year after a masked man linked to Anonymous was shot dead by RCMP in northeastern B.C., a relative wants to reveal the true face of James McIntyre.

McIntyre, 48, was killed on a sidewalk by officers responding to a call about a disturbance at an open house for BC Hydro’s controversial Site C dam project in Dawson Creek on July 16, 2015.

“Jim didn’t deserve to die in a brutal manner,” said McIntyre’s cousin, Keith LaRiviere, Sr. “The man lying on the ground was not a criminal. He was a victim of police violence.”

‘Gentle’ introvert loved model trains

LaRiviere described the cousin he grew up with as a gentle, innocent, intelligent man who stuttered, rarely conversed with people and loved model trains.

“He didn’t go out and play. He didn’t join the baseball team with us. He didn’t drink. He didn’t have a girlfriend. He didn’t drive a car. He wouldn’t cross the road except at a crosswalk,” said LaRiviere. “He was soft.”

Métis concerned for the land

LaRiviere said McIntyre’s “isolation and huge brain” drew him to computers and helped him connect online with model train enthusiasts across the United States.

He was concerned about the Peace country being destroyed by another dirty project.– James McIntyre’s cousin

He said he and his Métis cousin shared a concern for “the soil and our ancestral values.”

But he said he had no idea McIntyre was an activist with the online activist group, Anonymous.

After Anonymous claimed McIntyre as a comrade and threatened to avenge his death, the Dawson Creek man made international headlines. Until then, McIntyre had made the local newspaper just once for winning an employee award as a dishwasher.

LaRiviere said McIntyre thrived at his work in the dish pits in a local restaurant and casino, since it was a work station he could run alone.

Despite his introverted nature, McIntyre was extremely close with family, always sitting quietly at family gatherings, and only moving in to his own apartment a few years ago, said LaRiviere.

McIntyre’s family has asked for privacy and until now, McIntyre’s life — and death — were a mystery.

‘This is an environmental issue’

Now, LaRiviere is breaking that silence.

Keith LaRiviere at Paddle for the Peace protest

James McIntyre’s cousin, Keith LaRiviere, took part in a Paddle for the Peace protest near the Site C dam last weekend. McIntyre was shot dead outside a Site C open house in Dawson Creek one year ago. (Facebook )

“It’s not just a family issue, this is an environmental issue,” said LaRiviere.

LaRiviere said his cousin was concerned about the impact of the controversial Site C dam on local First Nations and landowners.

“He was worried about the Peace country being destroyed by another dirty project,” said LaRiviere. “If that’s Jim’s message, don’t stifle his voice.”

Masked man had a knife 

Initial reports to BC’s police watchdog alleged McIntyre was shot after a man with a knife “approached officers in an aggressive manner” outside a Site C open house in Dawson Creek on July 16, 2015.

Witness Mike Irmen said the man who was shot was wearing a mask, similar to the Guy Fawkes mask often used by Anonymous and refused to throw away his knife, even as he lay bleeding.

LaRiviere  believes his cousin was at the Site C meeting to make a statement, not to hurt anyone.

“Making a statement with that mask makes all the sense in the world to me for Jim, because he was alone in his life,” said LaRiviere.

RCMP declined to comment, as the fatal incident is still being investigated by B.C.’s police watchdog.

Watchdog’s review wraps up

“The bulk of the investigative work is complete,” said Marten Youssef, the Independent Investigation Office’s manager of strategic communications. Youssef said an internal review of the investigation still needs to be completed. Until then, there’s no official information about what happened or whether RCMP officers acted appropriately.

Youssef says he’s aware of reports of Anonymous’ interest in the case. But he says that’s had no bearing on the IIO investigation.

McIntyre’s cousin isn’t sure the truth about what happened — and why —  will ever come out.

“The truth is with Jim,” said LaRiviere. “The truth is with a dead man.”


SiteC Dam Is Waste Of Money And Infringes On First Nations’ Rights, Protesters Say

Protesters gather at Vanier Park to speak out against the construction of the Site C dam along the Peace River in northeastern B.C., in Vancouver on Saturday, July 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Linda Givetash

Protesters gather at Vanier Park to speak out against the construction of the Site C dam along the Peace River in northeastern B.C., in Vancouver on Saturday, July 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Linda Givetash

By Globalnews.ca, July 9, 2016

VANCOUVER – Dozens of people gathered at a Vancouver park on Saturday to protest the construction of the Site-C dam in northeastern British Columbia.

Protest organizers from the group “Fight C” said the dam on the Peace River proposed by BC Hydro is a waste of taxpayer money and infringes on the rights of First Nations.

The dam is estimated to cost upward of $8 billion and will generate 5,100 gigawatts of energy each year — enough to power 450,000 homes.

Those opposing the dam said the cost will only add to BC Hydro’s ballooning debt of over $78 billion and the energy generated is not needed since excess energy from the province is already being sold to the United States.

“I think this is a political agenda, it’s not for public necessity,” said Fight C organizer Caroline Brown.

While the province approves of the project, the federal government must also give approval and Brown said there are hopes Ottawa will stop construction.

A number of lawsuits led by First Nations and environmental groups currently underway could also kill the project, Brown said.

Members of the Treaty 8 First Nations, from the Peace River Valley, who attended Saturday’s rally said they do not approve of the dam that will flood lands they rely on for hunting and farming.

Connie Davis Brown, from the West Moberly First Nation, said communities around the site have not been properly consulted by BC Hydro or the provincial government.

“I feel like I don’t matter, my kids don’t matter, my mom doesn’t matter,” she said.

“They have no remorse for us at all.”

Preparation for construction has already begun with land clearing and new roads built leading to the site.

Brown said the development has caused berry bushes to disappear and changed grazing patterns of moose, making it harder for her family to find food.

Brown along with other protesters at the rally remain hopeful that the land can be salvaged if the project is stopped.


Fort St. John ‘A Dangerous Place For Our Women,’ Indigenous Activist Says

Women are shown walking through the snowy streets of Fort St. John. The annual Sisters in Spirit vigils for missing or murdered indigenous women and girls in Fort St. John always feature an astonishingly long list of names for a city with only about 21,000 people.

Women are shown walking through the snowy streets of Fort St. John. The annual Sisters in Spirit vigils for missing or murdered indigenous women and girls in Fort St. John always feature an astonishingly long list of names for a city with only about 21,000 people. RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C.—Helen Knott remembers only that she was in an overcrowded apartment, not far from home, with another young woman and about eight men, all transient workers from outside the community.

“My body, my choices, my rights, my voice, taken that night,” Knott, a social worker, activist and poet wrote in a personal essay online about the sexual assault — not her first — that was so violent she feared losing the ability to have more children.

She was struggling with sobriety at the time and continued to spiral downward, binge-using cocaine and eventually leaving the city — and her young son — to escape to Edmonton, where she knows how close she came to becoming another statistic, another indigenous woman dead from suicide, drugs or violence.

“I was in this place where I was ready to disappear and I probably would have hit street level and how long would my life span have been after that? I’m not sure,” Knott, 28, recalled one afternoon in Fort St. John, the heavy snowfall settling on her hood.

She credits a friend in Toronto with saving her life by encouraging countless supporters to flood her with text messages of love and light.

“My body, my choices, my rights, my voice, taken that night,” Helen Knott, a social worker, activist and poet wrote in a personal essay online about the sexual assault — not her first — that was so violent she feared losing the ability to have more children.

“My body, my choices, my rights, my voice, taken that night,” Helen Knott, a social worker, activist and poet wrote in a personal essay online about the sexual assault — not her first — that was so violent she feared losing the ability to have more children. RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR

She chose to live, to get treatment, to return home to her family.

She also chose not to be silent anymore, and devotes much of her time as an indigenous community activist to supporting other victims of sexual violence in and around Fort St. John, which she believes is linked to the fluctuating resource-based economy — and the transient, mostly male, workforce that comes with it — in this small city in northeast B.C.

“I see it as imperative to talk about things and start highlighting that, because it really does create a dangerous place for our women and our young women coming up,” said Knott, who has played a central role in leading protests against construction of the $8.8-billion B.C. Hydro Site C dam project.


“If you noticed the landscape around here, it is no trouble to go missing,” said Sylvia Lane, who runs the poverty law advocacy program at the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, where chaos reigns amidst the laughter and tears that come with serving a vulnerable population with never enough money or people to do so.

The annual Sisters in Spirit vigils for missing or murdered indigenous women and girls in Fort St. John always feature an astonishingly long list of names for a city with only about 21,000 people, especially since when people think of this issue in British Columbia they think first of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside or the infamous Highway of Tears.

That list includes four unsolved cases involving women of aboriginal descent who went missing directly from Fort St. John and have never been found. They are: Ramona Jean Shular, 37, in 2003; Abigail Andrews, 28, in 2010; Shirley Cletheroe, 45, in 2006; Stacey Rogers, a teenager who disappeared in the mid-1980s. There is also the suspicious death of Pamela Napoleon, 42, whose remains were found in a burnt-out cabin about a month after she was last seen in Blueberry River First Nation, about an hour north along the Alaska Highway.

There are other names of women or girls the local indigenous community counts as missing or having died violently, who were connected to Fort St. John or one of the nearby reserves at some point in their lives.

Connie Greyeyes, 44, who organizes the vigils and is connected in some way to many of the women on the list — including Rogers, who one day just stopped showing up at the pool hall they frequented together when they were both teenagers — says many families have felt the RCMP did not take their investigations seriously.

“Over and over again, that’s all we hear,” said Greyeyes. “Stories of families who were told they had to wait a certain amount of time, who were told, ‘She’ll be back. She took off. She was drinking. She was partying. You know how she is.’ The list is endless of excuses as to why they didn’t want to go and look for this person, right now.”

The RCMP did not make anyone from the Fort St. John detachment available for an interview, but Cpl. Dave Tyreman, a spokesman based in Prince George, said he could not comment on any of the unsolved cases — or concerns raised by families — except to say the investigations are still considered active and are routinely reviewed as new information or technological advances become available.

There is a perception in the community that Fort St. John is a training ground for Mounties at the beginning of their careers, a concern that was raised in a 2011 report by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

Tyreman, who also declined an interview but provided written responses to a list of questions from the Star, acknowledged “many” of the 60 police officers working out of the Fort St. John detachment come straight from training at the RCMP’s “Depot” Division in Regina, but noted “there is a wide range of experience to help mentor and train new officers.”

The circumstances surrounding each violent death and disappearance is as unique as the women involved. But when it comes to violence against women in Fort St. John in general, be it from strangers or spouses, there has been some local research looking at whether the nature of the extraction industry — with its high-paying jobs, transient workforce, isolating shift work, culture of hypermasculinity and boom-and-bust cycles — plays a role.

“Many of the social strains created by the regional resource economy, such as the shortage of affordable housing and the large wage gap between women and men, are among the established risk factors for violence against women and girls,” Amnesty International, which has been investigating violence against indigenous women in Fort St. John for a report due later this year, wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier Christy Clark last year outlining its concerns with the Site C dam.

The Peace Project, a three-year initiative funded by Status of Women Canada to end violence against women in Fort St. John, conducted local research on possible contributing factors. These included income disparity between men and women, an increase in substance abuse, the high cost of living, a lack of affordable housing and, perhaps most importantly, social services that are forced to provide for a much bigger population than might be officially recognized by their sources of funding.

“When you get an influx of money, you get the underside that comes with it as well,” said Lane, from the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, who often deals directly with homeless people, substance abuse and sex workers in the city, which she said has included young women forced into prostitution to pay for rent, or drug debts.

“It’s a small town, but big things happen here,” she said.

Adrienne Greyeyes, 27, said she has seen it growing up in the community, too.

“It was normal for 24-year-old oil workers to be at high school parties, essentially going after young girls,” she said.

“I feel that Fort St. John, because of the work, attracted that sort of lifestyle. . . You’re giving a lot of young people who have limited life experience such large amounts of money for doing this work and they end up wanting to party and have fun, but it’s our young women who are the ones vulnerable to it,” she said.

Ashley Watson, 25, said she experienced sexual harassment and racism while working in construction over the past few months, which included watching guys pinning up images of near-naked women in the lunch room, or hearing co-workers start singing “One little, two little, three little Indians” when they passed by her and two other female indigenous co-workers.

“I’d come home from work and I’d be crying,” said Watson.

Tracy Porteous, executive director of Ending Violence Association of B.C. (EVA BC), said companies are getting better at responding to impacts on the community, but her organization is calling for gender-based analysis, including a safety impact assessment, to be built into the environmental assessment process required for project approvals.

“I don’t think anybody is specifically hiving off the impacts on women and unless we specifically look at that, we believe that it is not going to get addressed,” she said.

The economy has shifted with the downturn in the oil and gas sector, in particular, but with the Site C dam promising to bring 10,000 new jobs to the area, people who cannot find work elsewhere in Canada, including Alberta, are making their way up — without always having the necessary skills and training to get a job, or a place to stay.

Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman said the municipality has reached an agreement in principle with B.C. Hydro on community measures to help mitigate the impact of the project, which includes funding for front-line services.

“We told them that our social fabric would be stretched,” she said.

David Conway, a B.C. Hydro spokesman for the Site C dam project, declined an interview, but emailed a statement that said these community measures included building a camp for workers that is self-sufficient and includes an on-site health clinic, as well as 50 new rental housing units in the city — 10 more than are needed for workers — to help relieve the shortage.


Sherry Dominic wishes she could have had the strength to go take a closer look at her family cabin, destroyed by fire, when the police were there with a dog that summer day two years ago.


Sherry Dominic says official search teams were only out for a day and a half looking for her best friend Pamela Napoleon, who went missing from a reserve near Fort St. John.

“To this day, I think: What if I would have went closer to the cabin? I keep that in my mind, you know, what if?” Dominic said in the kitchen of her home on Blueberry River First Nation, a reserve about an hour north along the Alaska Highway from Fort St. John.

She was too emotional about the fire that day — too many memories of her late brother associated with that cabin she had been so sorry to lose in an unexpected fire earlier that month — so she stood some distance away, smoking a cigarette, while the dog sniffed around.

The dog did not find the human remains found on the bed a few weeks later.

They belonged to Pamela Napoleon, 42, a childhood friend who had once lived a hard life, hitchhiking from one couch to another around B.C. and Alberta, before finally getting her own home back on the Blueberry reserve.

 Pamela Napoleon, 42. FACEBOOK

Pamela Napoleon, 42. FACEBOOK

“Sometimes we don’t know where you are and it would be nice if you could keep in contact with us, because one of these days we are going to be going around looking for you,” Dominic recalled a mutual friend telling Napoleon during those wandering years.

That was then, though, before Napoleon got her house in the community, where she would put her culinary school talents to use cooking up meals for her friends and her adult sons, who lived nearby.

“She just came home and stayed home. She stayed here because she had a place to call home. It was her own little cabin. She would go to Fort St. John to do her shopping or whatever, but she would always come home,” says Dominic, a band councillor.

That is why Dominic knew something was wrong when she had not heard from her friend in a while after receiving a final text message from her on July 8, 2014, when she was planning to head up to a ranch the band owns in Pink Mountain, about 180 kilometres away, to visit her boyfriend at the time.

“She never made it up there,” said Dominic.

Her family reported her missing to the Fort St. John RCMP, but then Dominic was thrust into the role of amateur detective, organizing volunteer search parties and feeling like she had to pressure the RCMP into taking a look at potential pieces of evidence.

There was the camouflage cap Napoleon had been known to wear that an elder from the community found lying in the ditch on the passenger side of a vehicle that had been abandoned on the side of the road.

There was the surveillance video from a gas station along the highway where she was sure Napoleon would have had to stop, but the owner was away and the RCMP said they could not access the footage — until it was too late.

There were the trips into Fort St. John, to put up missing person posters and to ask the street people with whom Napoleon had been friendly whether they had seen her around.

There was the trip up to the burnt cabin, where the police found nothing, but then a close relative of Napoleon found the bones on Aug. 4, which police were able to identify. But they were unable to determine the cause of death from her bones.

Throughout it all, there was Dominic, other friends and family having to insist to the police that yes, while Napoleon used to travel around a lot, she did not do so anymore.

The RCMP news release issued at the time of her disappearance noted this fact.

“They also advised that this is very out of character for Pamela not to be in contact with them for this long,” said the release, but then added another detail: “She is known to travel to Vancouver, Abbotsford, Prince George, Grande Prairie and Pink Mountain to visit with family and friends.”



Jody Ryan, 32, remembers reaching the height of happiness a decade ago.

Jody Ryan, the daughter of Shirley Cletheroe who went missing in 2006, says police are "waiting for someone to jump out in front of them and confess."

Jody Ryan, the daughter of Shirley Cletheroe who went missing in 2006, says police are “waiting for someone to jump out in front of them and confess.”

She had recently given birth to the first of her three young sons, she was in a loving and strong, stable relationship with the man who is now her husband and her close-knit family — especially her mother, Shirley Cletheroe — was there to enjoy it with her.

“Life was good. I remember being so happy and it was perfect. It was the cherry on top,” said Ryan, a bubbly but no-nonsense woman with an easy laugh — much like her mother, she admitted — in the dining room of her home in Fort St. John, B.C.

Cletheroe, 45, was the type of mother who would call her daughter several times a day, sometimes just to let her know her favourite program was on the television.

Ryan remembers the last telephone conversation, on June 10, 2006, when she put her newborn up to the phone and laughed as he looked around to see where the voice of his doting grandmother was coming from.

“Nothing was terrible, until it all happened,” said Ryan, who remembers it sinking in slowly over the course of a few days, that this was it.

They were going to be that family now — that family missing a loved one.

What exactly happened remains unclear.

Cletheroe, who raised five children, was staying with her sister for some time after having gotten into an argument with her husband, which Ryan believes was nothing serious.

The night of that last phone call with her daughter, Cletheroe headed to a house party across the street from where her sister lived, leaving her truck in the driveway.

She was never seen or heard from again.

RICHARD LAUTENS Jody Ryan's mother, Shirley Cletheroe, went missing without a trace in 2006. Ryan's home is filled with photos of her mother with her young family.

Jody Ryan’s mother, Shirley Cletheroe, went missing without a trace in 2006. Ryan’s home is filled with photos of her mother with her young family. RICHARD LAUTENS

Ryan is frustrated by the pace of the RCMP investigation, which in her experience has involved being contacted by one investigator after another over the years as each one starts from the beginning again after having been transferred the file.

“Oh, so you want me to tell you the same story, over again?” said Ryan, who said she was also annoyed by some of the stereotypes that seemed to guide the line of questioning.

“Every time the investigation was passed on: ‘Oh does your mom drink? How often does she drink? Was she drinking that night?’ Look, dude — it doesn’t matter if she was drinking. Find her!” said Ryan.

“It just gets frustrating. I don’t want to sound like I am against the RCMP or anything, but they are just not doing their job,” said Ryan.



Jo Gunning, 56, held his daughter, Rene Lynn, on the hospital bed as she mourned the loss of her prematurely born son and promised to turn her life around.

Rene Lynn Gunning's remains were found near Grande Prairie, Alta., in 2011.

Rene Lynn Gunning’s remains were found near Grande Prairie, Alta., in 2011.

“We had a real, close emotional bonding time then,” Gunning said of the conversation that followed a tense period in their relationship, when she had left home, pregnant for the second time, to be with a boyfriend that he did not like.

“She turned to me and said, ‘I know I’ve done a lot of bad things. . . I want to come home. I want to get my act together. I want to be a mother to (my son). I want to go back to school and get my education,’ ” Gunning recalled.

He told her she was welcome home any time and things were good for a short while, until one day, following a heated argument between her father and her boyfriend, she ran out the back door and started sleeping on couches again.

Sometime later, the 19-year-old hitchhiked to the West Edmonton Mall, where she spent the day of Feb. 18, 2005, before leaving to hitchhike back home to Fort St. John, B.C., again with 16-year-old Krystle Knott, who was from Dawson Creek, B.C.

Over the next five years, Gunning says he travelled to Edmonton at least four times, desperately hoping to find her somewhere on the streets, perhaps having gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd, or the sex trade, searching for her in the mall where she was last seen.

“Every time I would see somebody with long, black hair like hers, from behind, my heart would stop and I would pick up my pace and walk up, walk in front of this person to have a look. And it wasn’t her and my heart would drop to the bottom of my stomach again. I always kept my hopes up that I would find her,” Gunning said.

On May 21, 2011, campers found the skulls of both girls near Grande Prairie, Alta.

“It was the worst day of my life. I’d been dreading that day a long time. I was hoping it had never come, but it did. How I never went back to booze and drugs, I don’t know,” said Gunning.

The investigation is in the hands of the RCMP Project KARE task force, and while Gunning thinks they are doing the best they can, he believes they need more resources.

“They can only do so much with what they’ve got,” he said.

— Joanna Smith


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Site C Hunger-Striker Condemns Christy Clark Hours Before Hospitalization


Site C protester Kristin Henry has been camped outside BC Hydro’s office in downtown Vancouver since March 13, 2016, with little more than tea to keep her going. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.

National Observer, April 1st 2016

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark “will have blood on her hands” if she continues to move forward with the Site C Dam, said protester Kristin Henry on the 19th day of her hunger strike against the controversial hydroelectric project.

She uttered the words only hours before her hospitalization late Thursday evening, when the 24-year-old’s heart rate dropped to “concerning levels,” according to her protest’s Facebook page. Henry has survived only on water, tea, and vegetable broth since March 13. She admitted to feeling exhausted, dizzy, and light-headed, speaking with National Observer earlier that day.

Construction of the $8.8-billion “clean energy” dam started last summer on the Peace River of northeastern B.C., a river that flows right through the heart of Treaty 8 Territory belonging to the Doig River, Halfway River, Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations. Upon completion, it will produce enough power to light up roughly 450,000 B.C. homes per year, but its reservoir is expected to destroy more than 100 kilometres of river valley bottoms along the Peace River and its tributaries.

These First Nations say it would flood their burial grounds and other culturally important sites, and disrupt vital hunting and fishing activities.

“I don’t plan on living in a world that has the Site C Dam in it,” Henry said from her encampment outside BC Hydro’s office in downtown Vancouver. “I’m hopeful the government will come and engage with me because I think it would show a lot about the society we’re living in if they don’t.”

Beyond a short conversation with the CEO on Day 3 of her hunger strike, Henry said BC Hydro has ignored the presence of the campers on their doorstep. The company did not respond to National Observer’s request for comment in time for publication of this story, but in a Wednesday news release, said:

“Site C will provide clean, reliable and cost-effective electricity in B.C. for more than 100 years.”

“It’s a horrible project and Christy Clark said it herself — she’s trying to get it ‘past the point of no return,’” Henry explained. “I think it’s pretty disgusting that they’re doing irreversible damage to Treaty 8 territory while the legality is still being challenged.”

B.C. Premier Christy Clark addresses clean energy in the province at the 2016 Globe Series in Vancouver on March 2. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark addresses clean energy in the province at the 2016 Globe Series in Vancouver on March 2. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.

Beseeching the prime minister

The B.C. and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council (BC Building Trades) has already filed a lawsuit against BC Hydro for terms in the provincial Crown corporation’s request for proposals that prevent union members from striking during the construction of the Site C dam or recruiting other non-union members into unions.

The Blueberry River First Nations has also launched a court case against the province, alleging its Treaty 8 rights have been violated by decades of development on the territory. The lawsuit could impact construction of the dam as well as the expansion of mineral, oil and gas extraction in the province’s north.

A breach of Indigenous rights should be enough to put the project to rest, said Henry, whose group of out protesters have now appealed to the federal government for help.

“This is a matter of human rights and it is time the Government of Canada afforded Treaty 8 First Nations the same human rights afforded to the rest of its citizens,” reads an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau that has been sent to his office more than 1,000 times by protesters across the country. “Mr. Trudeau, will you keep your promise?”

The letters are currently being circulating outside the BC Hydro office in downtown Vancouver, where Henry said most residents who approach their occupation have never even heard of the Site C Dam to begin with. All it takes is a few moments of explanation, she added, before someone hastily signs a copy in opposition.

“We don’t need the energy but we need everything that the project’s going to destroy — the valley, the farmland, the water,” she insisted.

An artist rendering of the Site C Dam near Fort St. John, B.C. Graphic courtesy of B.C. Hydro.

An artist rendering of the Site C Dam near Fort St. John, B.C. Graphic courtesy of B.C. Hydro.

A symbolic hunger strike

The Site C Dam received federal and provincial environmental approval in October 2014, but the Joint Review Panel evaluating the project found that it would have significant adverse effects on rare plants, fish and fish habitat, put the fishing activities of local First Nations at risk, and threaten several species of birds, butterflies, and bats, and the western toad.

At least 63 endangered, red-listed, blue-listed, at risk, threatened, and of special concern animal species call the Site C area in the Peace River Valley home,according to the project’s protesters, and Henry said her hunger strike is against something far bigger than a single hydroelectric project.

“I’m sick of putting my health on the line to fight our government to do what’s right for us, not industry,” she explained, clutching her water bottle tightly. “The world can go in two directions — they can work with us, respect us, work with nature and we can have a bright future, or they can oppress us and destroy the environment.

“I think Site C is kind of this point — they can make that decision and go one way or another.”

Green Party leader Elizabeth May applauded Henry’s bravery but encouraged her to heed the advice of her doctors on her health. The federal Green Party leader was scheduled to meet her at the camp on Friday, an appointment she kept despite the 24-year-old’s hospitalization.

She said Kristen is needed alive and well in the fight against the “disastrous” Site C project.

Praise from Green Party

“It’s not too late to stop it,” said May, speaking with protesters outside the BC Hydro building. “That’s why I’m grateful to Kristen and all of you here for making the point that it’s not too late.”

The Green Party leader said the riparian zones can still be repaired and the clearcut trees can still grow back. Provincial and federal permits have already been issued for the dam, but more federal permits are required under the new Liberal government to make it a fully operational project.

May joined protesters in Vancouver in calling on the prime minister not to issue a single one of them, lest he break one of his most vital election promises:

“Activities that are treaty-protected will be violated,” she explained. “If the Liberals buy into that and allow it to continue, they will have violated their most fundamental commitment from the election campaign, the Throne Speech and the mandate letters from each of the ministers.”

In 2001, May also went on a hunger strike to successfully pressure the federal government to clean up toxic waste in the Cape Breton Sydney Tar Ponds. She said the commitment Henry has made by putting her health on the line represents the Site C views of thousands of Canadians, and prayed for her speedy recovery.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May greets Peace River Valley farmer Sage Birley at the protesters' camp outside BC Hydro on Fri. April 1, 2016. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May greets Peace River Valley farmer Sage Birley at the protesters’ camp outside BC Hydro on Fri. April 1, 2016. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.


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You Can’t Injunction Sacred

Photo by Darcy Sawcheck.

Peace River (Photo by Darcy Sawcheck)

By Christy Jordan-Fenton, special to Red Power Media

Arriving back at the Rocky Mountain Fort Camp the day after they managed to get their feller-buncher past our fire keepers was devastating. The corridor they rammed into the forest had the feel of a grisly murder scene. Trees older than Treaty 8 lay on the forest floor, separated from their mammoth trunks. I sat beside a large cottonwood tree and cried, the tears freezing to my face in the -20C weather and opened my heart to feel what had just happened. And that’s when the trees began to speak. All they could ask is how someone could cut them down without seeing them? Without pausing for even a second to think of their lives and honour them? Not for one moment was the more than a century of their lives given a moment of pause. They asked over and over why their lives didn’t mean anything. I had no answer. All I could do is lay tobacco and tell them that we saw them and we honoured them.

Trees are prayers from Creation that all living things may have shelter, and medicine, and food, and fire. But all that was likely on the minds of the contracted BC Hydro employees the day they rammed their heavy equipment through, was breaking past our lines. The day after, as I sat and listened to the trees, now dying having been severed from their roots, I made a vow that no matter what would happen to that forest, I would do all I could to honour the plant nation, the animal nation, the rock nation, and all the other spirits held in the forest at the apex of the Peace and Moberly Rivers in Northeastern BC.

It was a sentiment deeply shared by the other campers. And so we brought broad cloth and tobacco to the flat, praying in good ways for our generations to come to be able to enjoy this sacred place, and for the renewal of the forest, the land, the air, and our precious waters, and for our abundant eagles who were the very first targets of BC Hydro’s destruction.

We gave respect to our ancestors and the sacrifices they made for us to be here, asking them to guide us in good ways, and honouring this place where the spirits rest. We prayed for healing of the people, of the land, of the water, of all living things, of our hearts, of the hearts of those who can so easily and without conscience destroy such places. We prayed for the return of the bison, for our unity and synergy, and to remember the fortitude of the bison who face into the storm instead of turning away from it. And we prayed, each of us, for the personal ways we connected to the Rocky Mountain Fort. We gave thanks and we celebrated and we offered our hearts. We placed those prayers with tobacco in prayer flags. We placed them in mourning flags. We made prayer bundles of strings holding fifty specific prayers each. We made them in a good way with good intentions, and blessed them with pipe ceremonies— with sacred pipes given to the people by White Buffalo Calf Woman. And then by tying those to the trees, we offered them in a good way to the spirits. Children hung those prayers. Elders hung those prayers. People of all nations (indigenous and not) placed those prayers where the spirits called them to be hung.

Prayer flags. (Photo by Christy Jordan-Fenton)

Prayer flags. (Photo by Christy Jordan-Fenton)

And now that we have been forced to leave by court injunction, evicted from sacred lands and traditional territory that access and use of was guaranteed for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the rivers flow, BC Hydro and the RCMP are looking for a way to remove those prayers we offered. On Tuesday three RCMP members and one BC Hydro Safety and Security employee came to read the injunction to us, and give us their terms of eviction.

Let’s keep in mind that many of the elder Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land could recall coming with their families, as young children, to camp and hunt and gather medicines. One of our members retold the story of how her grandmother travelled across the Peace River to meet her husband on that flat. Our spokeswoman, Helen Knott, is the great-great-granddaughter of Chief Bigfoot, the last signatory of Treaty 8. And maybe a little more than ironic that the very spot where the RCMP stood reading the injunction to us, was the first place where contact with the white man was made for this territory.

To add insult to injury, there was much concern over what to do about the prayer flags. First, let me say that by their laws, trees that hold sacred prayers are considered to be culturally modified trees and are protected by the Heritage Conservation Act, which is Forestry jurisdiction in British Columbia, not the jurisdiction of the RCMP. Next, for those who do not know, by our natural law, to disturb sacred prayers offered to the spirits brings very bad medicine. It is not something to take as superstition or mess around with. These prayers were made in sacred Sun Dance ways and carry power.

Photo by Helen Knott.

Prayer flags. (Photo by Helen Knott)

So between legalities and worries of bad medicine, BC Hydro and the RCMP were interested in finding a solution to remove our prayers so logging can proceed, as 49 trees are currently held by prayers for the spirits.

As the only one in camp on that day who practices these ceremonial ways, it was for me to answer for these prayers. The entourage of RCMP included an Aboriginal Liaison NCO, who was full of questions and quizzes about the significance of our prayers. And so I patiently explained the teachings I have received in these ways, choking back all the emotion I could manage over having to concede this sacred ground in the first place. And then came a point in the conversation where the Sergeant looked me straight in the eye and said, “Look, this isn’t my first rodeo. If you can read between the lines, is there a way we can minimize the mojo of removing these.” What was being suggested was that an elder come in to do a ceremony to remove our prayers. ON SACRED GROUND. Now I understand the Sergeant felt in a precarious situation and was trying to mediate. But earlier that morning the RCMP were told by our community’s most senior Sun Dance elder that those prayers do not get moved. Both by their law and by natural law. It was made clear, those prayers can’t be moved. I couldn’t help but think as I was asserting the exact same as the elder had done that morning, that standing on soil that holds the bodies of more than ten thousand years of ancestors, where women journeyed to have their babies, where children made their first hunt, where the trees shared breath and recorded the stories of the ancestors into their own topography…in such a place, our prayers and the legal ramifications, in addition to the bad medicine stirred from removing them, is the least of their worries. Violating the sacred is violating the sacred. Stirring sacred ground is stirring sacred ground. There is no ceremony to make it OK to disrespect the spirits, and the prayers offered by those who stood in humility aligned in the sacred space between the ancestors and the descendants.

It is abhorrent that Treaty 8 members should be evicted from their sacred ground so that it can be mowed flat in order for BC Hydro to dump acid rock there, while four pending court cases are waiting to be heard, and any one of those cases could halt construction permanently. To say the desecration of this sacred ground is premature is a gross understatement. But now to be asked if there is some kind of loophole to remove our prayers made in honour of this sacred place, so it will be more convenient for BC Hydro to continue desecrating this ground is beyond insulting. I wonder if the RCMP would request if there was a way a church or a statue of a saint be moved, so a cemetery could be violated by the greed of a corporation. My guess is not in a million years.

In the words of the recently ascended, modern indigenous rights pioneer, John Trudell, “Sacred is sacred.” And it is. There is no wiggle room. No grey area. No loopholes. No pieces of paper to sign and then change the meaning of, or ignore all together. Unfortunately, we sorely lacked the numbers or any means to logistically hold the Rocky Mountain Fort Camp in a physical way, which has been unbearably crushing to us all, but we are not removing our sacred prayers from sacred grounds.

They can violate their own laws. They can remove us from the land with their injunctions, and threat of police force and $8 million civil suits. They can disrespect our prayers. But BC Hydro can’t remove the spirits. And may Creator have compassion and pity for anyone who seeks to violate the natural laws of the spirit world. We have offered sacred to sacred. There is no injunction that can steal stewardship of sacred, nor remove us from the place where we stand between the ancestors and the descendants.

At the time of this writing, it is not known if the prayer flags and bundles have been removed or disturbed, as entrance to the Rocky Mountain Fort is blocked by the RCMP and attempts made by press to document these prayers have been thwarted. The Fort St John RCMP detachment assures they are still looking into the matter, though no details have been given. You can report the existence of these culturally modified sacred trees to the BC Ministry of Forestry under their archeology department.

Watch for future actions from the Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land. We are far from done!

Christy Jordan-Fenton was an active member of the Rocky Mountain Fort Camp. She is the author of four books about Inuvialuit elder Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and her time spent at Indian residential school, to include “Fatty Legs” (Annick Press 2010) and “A Stranger at Home” (Annick Press 2011).

Protesters At Rocky Mountain Fort End ’62 Day’ Blockade Of Site C Dam Project

Opponents of Site C dismantle the remote protest camp that stalled BC Hydro dam construction work for two months. (Christy Jordan-Fenton)

Opponents of Site C dismantle the remote protest camp that stalled BC Hydro dam construction work for two months. (Christy Jordan-Fenton)

By Red Power Media, Staff

Landowners and First Nations protesters end 62 day blockade 

Protesters at the Rocky Mountain Fort camp ended their two-month occupation blocking Site C dam construction, after a judge ruled in favor of BC Hydro’s application for an injunction to remove them from the area.

Landowners and First Nations protesters had until midnight Monday, to vacate and make way for an $8.8 billion dam on the Peace River.

The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that the protest camp had prevented site-clearing operations by BC Hydro contractors since December 31, costing millions of dollars in project delays.

“BC Hydro has the legal authority to do what it is doing and the defendants have no legal rights to obstruct it,” an attorney for the province-owned utility told the court on Monday.

Today, Site C opponents told CBC News they are obeying the Court order  requiring them to leave the area.

“At this time, none of us are going to be arrested, because we are law abiding citizens,” said local farmer Arlene Boon, who has been camping in the snow at the protest site for 32 days.

Yvonne Tupper, a land occupier with the Treaty 8 Tribal Association, said the protest’s end was bittersweet. “We bought that small chunk of land another 62 days of life,” she said. “When you understand your relationship to the land, it tells you where your place is.”

Today, Boon said people in camp are crying and emotional, as they pack up and dismantle cabins, lean-tos, and tents and load supplies on to snowmobiles and boats.

Protesters said the RCMP gave camp occupants a few days grace to pack up and clear out.

This rendering shows the planned Site C Dam in the Peace River valley in Northeast British Columbia.

This rendering shows the planned Site C Dam in the Peace River valley in Northeast British Columbia.

Tupper says what can’t be moved straight away are some of the cabins, which will be airlifted out of the area at BC Hydro’s expense.

The Site C dam in Northeast British Columbia received both provincial and federal approval.

The Supreme Court ruling came as Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gets ready for this week’s meeting with provincial premiers in Vancouver.

On Thursday, Trudeau will gather with provincial and territorial premiers for a first ministers meeting — the second one he will attend since his Liberal government came to power last fall — to begin figuring out how Canada will live up to the agreement it signed at the United Nations climate conference in Paris last year.

Trudeau is expected to unveil a green energy initiative.

Judge Grants BC Hydro Injunction To Remove Site C Protesters

image (1)

An artists rendering depicts the proposed Site C dam and hydroelectric generating station on B.C.’s Peace River. (BCHydro.com)

The Canadian Press, Feb 29, 2016

VANCOUVER – A judge has granted BC Hydro an injunction to remove people protesting the Site C dam project at a tent camp near Fort St. John.

The ruling means demonstrators have no right to obstruct the hydroelectric project, which has regulatory approval from both the federal and provincial governments.

The utility argued last week that the actions of a group of Peace Valley farmers and First Nations were illegal and could cost millions of dollars.

BC Hydro lawyers told court the protesters set up camp in late December and have prevented workers from clearing the area for construction, even building camp fires near tree-felling and excavation operations.

Yvonne Tupper of the Saulteau First Nations said outside court that BC Hydro is violating Treaty 8 Tribal Association’s rights and that the project should be put on hold while legal challenges make their way through the courts.

The $8.8-billion dam will flood agricultural land and First Nations archeological sites, as well as hunting and fishing areas.


No Trudeau Veto For Site C


Alaska Highway News‎, Feb 24, 2016

Little evidence of a change in course

According to Alaska Highway News,The Liberal government looks unlikely to block the Site C dam, after months of speculation over whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would reverse the Conservative government’s decision to approve the project.

In the House of Commons this week, Green Party and NDP MPs prodded the new government to further review Site C, citing concerns from local First Nations and landowners. But so far, it appears the previous government’s decision to issue federal permits for the project will stand.

Two Liberal ministers were asked about the $8.8 billion dam in question period, but avoided mentioning the project by name.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who put a question to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, said the project was “highly controversial and manifestly opposed,” saying federal construction permits were issued quietly during the last election.

But McKenna gave little evidence of a change in course.

“In the fall of 2014, the former government approved the project and set legally binding conditions with which the proponent must comply,” McKenna said. “The project is now at construction phase and BC Hydro must meet the requirements set out in the environmental assessment decision as well as other regulatory requirements.”


BC Hydro Seeks Injunction Against Site C Dam Protesters


By Shelby Thom | CKNW

BC Hydro is seeking an injunction against demonstrators at the Site C dam.

The defendants include Ken Boon, the President of the Peace Valley Landowner Association, and Verena Hofmann with the Treaty 8 Tribal Council.

Court documents allege the protesters have built a camp, including a pair of cabins that were helicoptered in, are blocking site preparation work near the south bank of the Peace River.

The suit claims protesters are using the camp “as a base from which [they] have interfered with, and prevented BC Hydro employees from conducting work,” and have been both lighting campfires and standing in the paths of equipment and machinery.

BC Hydro claims the protesters are causing safety issues and are intentionally trying to cost BC Hydro and its partners by forcing them to miss a March 31st contract deadline to clear the land.

“As a result of such intentional interference, BC Hydro has suffered and will suffer, loss, damage, and expense.”

The suit also says the blockade may force the company to delay construction and modify plans for the nearly $9 billion power project.

BC Hydro is seeking to have the camp removed and the protesters blocked from the site.

None of the claims have been proven in court.

READ MORE: Union of BC Indian Chiefs demands new federal government stop Site C dam

War of words

BC Hydro spokesperson Dave Conway says the company would prefer for the protesters to move on their own.

“We’re hopeful that this can be resolved. Our top priority is to ensure the safety of both the Site C workers and the protesters, so we need to move forward with the clearing.”

And as for how much the demonstration is setting BC Hydro back?

“Those costs as far as I am aware haven’t been determined, we are looking into that, however I should be clear that this particular area where we need to get in to do some clearing, all other construction work on the site is continuing.”

But protester Ken Boon says the company is using heavy handed tactics on a “very peaceful, legal protest.”

He says the group offered to meet with Hydro as recently as Monday, and that “the reply to that evidently was to slap us with this civil claim.”

As to whether protesters will risk arrest, Boon says protesters are seeking legal help before they decide their next move, but will keep the camp standing for the time being.