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Three groups rejected as Site C intervenors

Three groups that hoped to speak in court about the Site C project have all been rejected. CanGEA, a geothermal energy group, groups represented by the B.C.

Three groups that hoped to speak in court about the Site C project have all been rejected.

CanGEA, a geothermal energy group, groups represented by the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre, and Amnesty International have all been rejected as “intervenors” for the proposed Site C dam in a decision released Thursday.

Site C, approved last December, is a dam that could cost around $8.8 billion, and would be built seven kilometers from Fort St. John.

Affected landowners and several local First Nations have attempted to challenge the project in court to keep it from going forward.

They are set to appear in court later this month to argue their cases in a judicial review that will determine whether it can or should go to court.

On Monday, various groups argued that they should be granted “intervenor” status in the judicial review.

An intervenor is a person who, even though they aren’t named as a plaintiff or defendant in a law case, wants to be added as a party to defend their interests which may be affected by the court case. 

CanGEA and BCPIAC wanted to be deemed intervenors in the landowner's case.

CanGEA wanted to intervene because they have offered geothermal as an alternative to the Site C project. This court case would affect whether or not that alternative would go through.

In a release last month, BCPIAC wrote that if granted intervenor status, their group “will highlight the perspective of BC Hydro ratepayers who are having difficulty paying their electricity bills amidst rising electricity rates.”

“We’ll focus on the need for a thorough review by the BCUC of the need for and cost of the Site C Project, as recommended by the federal/provincial Joint Review Panel, to ensure that low-income people, including seniors and people with disabilities, aren’t required to pay unnecessary costs for electricity service,” said Sarah Khan, a lawyer with BCPIAC who is representing certain anti-poverty groups. (These groups include Active Support Against Poverty, BC Old Age Pensioners’ Organization, Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of BC, Disability Alliance BC and Together Against Poverty Society.)

The third group, Amnesty International, wanted to intervene in support of Treaty 8 First Nations against the project.

They have spoken against the project in the past.

“The federal decision to approve the project flies in the face of the high standard of protection of Indigenous rights required by Canadian law and international human rights standards,” they wrote last November.

It was reported elsewhere that “The organization stated they wished to make submissions to the court regarding the international law standards that require respect for Indigenous rights in state decision making about resource development projects.”

A representative for Amnesty International said they would have an answer as to why they intervened and their reaction to the decision next week.

Maegen Giltrow, a lawyer representing the affected landowners, said the judge dismissed all three of these applications.

“In our case, he said … the main issue was what the minister considered and what the minister was bound to consider in issuing the environmental assessment certificate [for Site C], so the submissions of neither CanGEA or [BCPIAC] would be particularly helpful to that,” she said. “He said that the court’s not in a position or required to come to an opinion on the merits of the Site C project, but rather to examine the lawfulness and the integrity of the decision making process.” 

The merits of the Site C dam were not what Giltrow plans to make her case on, she said.

“We certainly didn’t come to court asking him to judge whether Site C was a good or a not good project; that’s not his job, that’s not our job,” she said. “He rightfully identified that the task before him was to make sure that the ministers followed the law in coming to the decision they did.”

reporter@ahnfsj.ca