Tag Archives: Treaty 8

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

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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.


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.