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First Nations begin Site C legal battle

First Nations embarked on the first day of their legal challenge against the Site C dam, and also held a peaceful protest in Vancouver. On Thursday, representatives of three First Nations appeared in provincial court for a judicial review hearing.

First Nations embarked on the first day of their legal challenge against the Site C dam, and also held a peaceful protest in Vancouver.

On Thursday, representatives of three First Nations appeared in provincial court for a judicial review hearing. They include the McLeod Lake Indian Band, Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations.

The judicial review hearing will determine whether or not their case can go to court.

In their petition to the court, the First Nations said the government “failed to meet its constitutional duty to consult and accommodate the petitioners.”

“The limitations that [Site C] imposes on the Treaty rights are unreasonable, impose undue hardship, and deny the right holders, including [the three First Nations] their preferred means of exercising those rights,” their petition also states.

“Treaty No. 8 expressly grants hunting, trapping and fishing rights within the Treaty territory, which includes the area covered by the project.”

In their response, BC Hydro and the Ministry of Environment wrote that their consultation was “inclusive, timely, structured [and] well-funded.” 

They also wrote that the government considered the Treaty rights in the decision.

“[The determination] as to whether or not there is in fact and law an infringement of treaty rights is a matter for the courts,” the counter petition states. “And such a determination is not a proper matter for a summary such as a judicial review.”

The Joint Review Panel set up to make recommendations on the environmental impact of the dam found that resulting cumulative effects on First Nations treaty rights could “not be mitigated.”

First Nations are trying to prevent construction of Site C from going ahead this summer. A number of First Nations suits are challenging the project in provincial and Federal courts.

On the same day, a few dozen protestors peacefully protested in front of the Vancouver courthouse.

The dam, which could cost up to $8.8 billion, would be built seven kilometres from Fort St. John.

reporter@ahnfsj.ca