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McLeod Lake Indian Band signs Site C benefits deal

Band pulled out of a lawsuit against dam in 2015

The McLeod Lake Indian Band has signed a Site C benefits agreement with BC Hydro guaranteeing regular payments for 70 years and contracting opportunities on the $8.8 billion dam project.

Members of the band, a Treaty No. 8 member with reserves near Mackenzie, voted on the agreement June 15, BC Hydro announced July 5.  

“We set out to negotiate agreements with BC Hydro and the province that recognize and address the adverse effects of Site C on our aboriginal and treaty rights," Chief Derek Orr said in a written statement. "The agreements were put forward to our members and supported in a referendum vote. We hope these agreements indicate the start of a long-term relationship based on trust and respect.”

The impacts benefits agreements are meant to compensate First Nations set to lose traditional territories to the dam, which will flood 83 kilometres of the Peace River valley.

The deal includes a lump sum payment, contracting agreements, a "tripartite" lands agreement, the transfer of Crown lands and a 70-year payment "stream."

BC Hydro would not disclose the dollar amounts, saying "the details of the (Impacts Benefits Agreement) are confidential."

According to a Vancouver Sun report, however a court filing showed McLeod Lake was initially offered up to 2,500 acres of Crown land, annual adjusted payments of $250,000 for 70 years and a $2 million lump sum payment. The band has a registered population of 551, according to a federal government database.

McLeod Lake withdrew from a lawsuit against the project with West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations in 2015. Those bands continue to pursue legal action against the dam, saying it will infringe on treaty rights.

Duz Cho Construction, a company owned by the band, won a land clearing contract on the project last year. The company was represented by former Peace Region MLA and cabinet minister Blair Lekstrom.

“We want to express our sincere gratitude to the McLeod Lake Indian Band for the opportunity to work together on a path forward, BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald said in an email. "These agreements reflect our deep respect and genuine commitment to a meaningful long-term relationship. As we move forward together, we will continue to listen and explore opportunities for mutual benefit and reconciliation."

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