The Site C Dam location is seen along the Peace River in Fort St. John, B.C., on April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Site C Dam location is seen along the Peace River in Fort St. John, B.C., on April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

First Nation calls for release of Site C report in open letter to premier

The letter says BC Hydro has withheld its two latest progress reports from regulators

A First Nations leader is calling on the British Columbia government to release several reports on the Site C dam, claiming details of escalating costs and safety concerns have been “shrouded in secrecy.”

In an open letter to Premier John Horgan, Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations says work on the hydroelectric dam in northeastern B.C. should be suspended immediately until cabinet makes a decision on the project.

“You can reject the madness of ploughing ahead with this unnecessary, unsafe, and unlawful project. You can choose instead to immediately suspend the project,” the letter says.

The letter says BC Hydro has withheld its two latest progress reports from regulators and the premier has refused to release a report prepared by special adviser Peter Milburn.

Although BC Hydro initially said the reports were commissioned by the government and referred comment to the province, it later clarified that the progress reports are its responsibility.

The Crown corporation said in a statement it is undergoing a re-baselining process for the project and will file its next progress report with the B.C. Utilities Commission after that is complete.

The Energy Ministry said in a statement it is reviewing Milburn’s advice and “will share the findings as soon as possible.”

In addition, government is awaiting a report from two independent international experts who are reviewing the measures proposed to address geotechnical challenges at Site C, the ministry said.

The ministry did not respond directly to questions about whether it would pause the project or respond to allegations that the project infringes on the First Nation’s treaty rights.

Willson said in an interview if the reports aren’t made public voluntarily, the First Nation will seek their release through court action.

The First Nation has already prepared a notice of application and served the parties with a motion but is awaiting scheduling availability before filing the document with the court, said Tim Thielmann, a lawyer for the First Nation.

If the documents reveal significant safety risks, costs or scheduling implications, the First Nation may apply for a second injunction against the project. When the B.C. Supreme Court denied an injunction in October 2018, it said a new injunction could be granted if there was “unforeseen and compelling change in circumstances,” he said.

“If we find out that there is a serious safety risk or financial implication that justifies another injunction, then the court has left the door open for West Moberly to bring a new injunction,” Thielmann said.

Soon after taking power, Horgan announced in December 2017 that the government would support completion of Site C, but said it is a project the NDP would never have started.

BC Hydro reported to the B.C. Utilities Commission in July that geotechnical problems found in late 2019 had created a “project risk,” requiring stability measures to be taken on the right bank of the dam.

The B.C. government appointed Milburn, a former deputy finance minister, in July to review the project. Energy Minister Bruce Ralston said this month he wouldn’t discuss its findings until they are reviewed by the premier and cabinet.

Willson said in an interview that the hydroelectric dam is an unnecessary infringement of the First Nation’s treaty rights and he doesn’t believe the community’s concerns have been taken seriously.

“It’s a shame we’re at this stage. We should have never gotten this far down the road. We should have sat at the table like adults,” Willson said.

The Peace River, where the dam will sit, runs through the heart of the First Nation’s territory, Willson said.

“We’re sitting here watching our valley get ripped apart,” he said. “Our spiritual areas are getting destroyed, our burial sites along the river are getting destroyed.”

Treaty members still live near the site and work should be halted if there are real safety concerns, he said.

Given the government’s stated commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Willson said he’s disappointed the government is allowing the project to forge ahead.

The First Nation has already asked the government to share the reports but decided to pen the open letter after hearing no response, he said.

“It’s ridiculous. We’re in an age of reconciliation. We wanted to sit down with them and have a conversation with them about how we can meet the energy needs of B.C. without flooding the valley,” Willson said.

“We want to give them a chance to do the right thing.”

BC Hydro said in a statement that since 2007, it has undertaken extensive and meaningful consultation and engagement with First Nations on Site C and reached benefits agreements with the majority of Treaty 8 First Nations that have been affected by the project.

“We’re committed to working with Indigenous communities and building relationships that respect their interests,” it said.

The project is designed to the highest recommendations of the Canadian Dam Association, it said.

“Safety has been — and will always be — our key priority.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Site C

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

File photo.
Vanderhoof Hospice Society is providing a peer support program for grieving adults

The program is being held in a partnership with Connexus Community Resources

Quilting event being organized in Vanderhoof. (Photo by Jeff Wade/ Unsplash)
Vanderhoof Department Store is hosting a quilting event

Mystery Block Exchange will start March 1

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Most Read