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Local First Nations join the protest against Site C

First Nations lent their voices to the ongoing protests challenging the Site C dam proposal.

First Nations lent their voices to the ongoing protests challenging the Site C dam proposal. On Monday night a group of approximately 20 to 30 protesters waved signs that read "Save the Peace" or "Site C Sucks" and cheered honking supporters outside the Best Western Dawson Creek Inn, while BC Hydro held a Site C public consultation inside the hotel.It was the first time northeast First Nations groups from the Treaty 8 Tribal Association joined the recent protests that have coincided with the consultations, while the groups have long been outspoken about the project. Meetings have been held in Prince George, Fort St. John and Hudson's Hope."We've said it before and we're saying it again, because we're hearing it from our elders and community members, that there is a cultural attachment to the land that is down in the Peace Valley," said Liz Logan who later spoke with media on behalf of the Doig River, Halfway River, Prophet River, and West Moberly First Nations bands - four of the eight First Nations who attended the protest.Members made the two-and-a-half hour trip to Dawson Creek to unite in protest of the dam that would significantly impact the Peace River Valley."It is basically one of the last remaining - pristine, if you will - pieces of land left that we can continue to use, as we have historically."She said the way of life for First Nations has already been impacted by industrial development in oil and gas, forestry, and mining, and questions whether its members can sustain another blow."It is going to be the last straw that breaks the camel's back for us," said Logan."The river corridors have always been our main routes of transportation of getting around in our territory, of going downstream, going upstream, visiting relatives, exercising our way of life, hunting and trapping."These activities are part of the groups' cultural rights and will be threatened, warned Logan."When we talk about our rights, everybody thinks we are just talking about hunting and trapping. That's not the case - there are other interests."There is our way of life, our cultural attachment to our land, there are stories that are attached to our land, there are stories that are attached to islands in the valley, and if those islands are gone, what happens to our stories and our legends?"She explained that there are many ancestral remains in the valley that play a significant role in the groups' historical heritage. She added that the community as a whole is going to be affected as well by the loss of valuable farmland, and in some cases, displaced.The First Nations groups have met in the past with BC Hydro committees as part of the Consultation Agreement reached with BC Hydro in 2009, and their opposition to the proposal dates back nearly 50 years.Despite the opposition, BC Hydro welcomed the protesters."It's another form of expression, they have a right to express their views in whatever manner they choose. Peaceful protest is part of what we embrace as a society, so we welcome that," said Dave Conway, community relations manager for Site C. He pointed out that the protesters were free to enter the consultation and express their feelings, and there was no effort to prevent them from entering."They have a perspective of the things that they want to make sure that we hear, but my understanding is that they want others to hear that too, we understand that. They come in and express their feelings and we take that as part of the overall input into what we are doing here."Many of the same protesters joined an open forum with BC Hydro representatives following the consultation period, voicing a variety of concerns regarding the impact on the environment, habitat, land ownership, along with changes to highway infrastructure.Some of those present criticized BC Hydro for highlighting forthcoming recreational benefits as a positive outcome of Site C development.