A court case against Rio Tinto BC Works by Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations has moved to Prince George for hearing this past week.
The 200-day trail began in Vancouver last month and continued in Prince George with five-days of testimony, stated a Nov. 18 media release.
The two first nations communities have launched legal action against Rio Tinto and the federal government, “to save the Nechako River and its Fisheries.”
Saik’uz alleges that the impacts of construction and operation of the Kenney Dam on the Nechako river, have affected its fisheries and the first nations protected aboriginal rights.
Chief Priscilla Mueller said it is important that part of the trial be heard in Prince George so that Elders and members of both communities can attend and observe the legal proceedings.
“The Nechako river sustained our communities and many others for thousands of years,” Mueller said.
“Very few British Columbians know how construction of the Kenney Dam devastated the Nechako rivers, its fisheries and our way of life.”
Rio Tinto diverts approximately 70 percent of water out of the Nechako every year to generate power in Kemano, B.C. for Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelter in Kitimat and for the sale of hydro power to BC Hydro.
“Since 1952, the project has resulted in enormous devastating downstream effects in the Nechako river, particularly the chinook salmon, sockeye and Nechako white sturgeon,” stated the news release.
The two First Nations communities held a “Rally for the River” at the Prince George courthouse on Monday morning.
Stellat’en Chief Archie Patrick said the rally provides opportunity for people to show their support for the court case.
“It’s heartening to know that we are not alone in holding Rio Tinto, BC and Canada to account for the devastation to the Nechako river,” he said.
Mayor of Vanderhoof Gerry Thiessen said the district were not actively participating in the court case.
“They are our neighbours and we are on their traditional territory and secondly we are looking for anything that will make the river a healthier river with a more natural river flow. We have not been involved with the case, but those two things are where our position is as a municipality.”