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Company owned by the McLeod Lake Indian Band awarded Site C contract

A company owned by a First Nation that was previously part of a lawsuit against Site C has been awarded construction work for the dam, court documents show.
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McLeod Lake Indian Band Chief Derek Orr, second from left, is seen here in this file photo.

A company owned by a First Nation that was previously part of a lawsuit against Site C has been awarded construction work for the dam, court documents show.

Duz Cho Construction, a company owned by the McLeod Lake Indian Band near Prince George, was awarded the work to prepare the south bank site for the dam on Sept. 10.

BC Hydro disclosed this information in a response to West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nations lawsuit to appeal the issuing of permits for early construction work. The response was registered in court on Monday.The value of the contract was not disclosed.

It is a separate contract from the south bank clearing work awarded to Paul Paquette and Sons, which is based in Chetwynd.

McLeod Lake has previously expressed concerns with the Site C dam.

“The Peace River has two other dams on it and this [third] dam is only going to leave a small amount of free river flowing, which is essential for wildlife habitat, fish and all the other species,” Chief Derek Orr said in 2013. “This just adds to challenges out there in the ability to practice our traditions to hunt and trap.”

At the time, Orr said it was too early to say what his band would do if the dam was given the green light to proceed, despite his community’s objections.

In late 2014, McLeod Lake signed onto a lawsuit with other Treaty 8 First Nations asking the court to set aside the decision of the provincial and federal governments to issue environmental assessment certificates for Site C.

McLeod Lake withdrew from the lawsuit in May.

Calls to the McLeod Lake Indian Band office asking for comment were not returned as of press time, nor were messages sent to Duz Cho Constructon.

However, the political and commercial arms of First Nations may not always be 100 per cent linked.

In July 2014, former Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom pushed to get Duz Cho Construction to become part of the project. Lekstrom noted at the time that band-owned companies like Duz Cho and the band's chief and council are separate entities.

"The commercial arms of the bands, for the most part, can engage in discussion, because if the project goes and you're not in those early stages, they're passed by," he said. "The commercial and political arms have to operate separately ... business is different than politics."

However, Lekstrom also said at the time that band-owned companies such as Duz Cho take direction from the chief and council, and Duz Cho would not participate in Site C construction should band leadership tell them not to do so.

According to the court documents, Hydro expects to awards 20 contracts worth $185 million for site preparation and service work in 2015. Hydro further expects 12 of these contracts to go to First Nations or related companies.

reporter@ahnfsj.ca