AFN chief to tour Peace River area Saturday

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde will be in Fort St. John Saturday to tour areas impacted by the construction of the Site C dam. 

The assembly has at least three resolutions opposing construction of the $8.8-billion project, which is the subject of numerous legal challenges by Treaty 8 First Nations.

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Leaders of the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations will give Bellegarde a tour of the Peace River and other areas impacted by the dam. The two nations are currently awaiting the results of a federal court appeal to halt construction of the dam. 

"I am looking forward to witnessing firsthand the beauty and significance of this threatened territory," Bellegarde said in a statement. 

"We know the proposed Site C Dam will devastate First Nations traditional territories, including sacred spaces and burial grounds. Flooding these lands tramples on their ability to exercise their inherent and Treaty rights."

BC Hydro says Site C is needed to meet its projected demand for electricity, with the dam scheduled to be completed in 2024. 

The project will flood around 83-kilometres of the Peace River Valley—including sites sacred to local First Nations—while also impacting Treaty rights to hunt and fish. 

BC Hydro has already signed some impact benefits agreements with regional First Nations for Site C , which include revenue streams and contracting opportunities, as well as land transfers and protected area designations to mitigate the losses. It has also signed agreements with First Nations in Alberta downstream of the dam.

Ahead of his visit, Bellegarde said the dam's construction is not in line with Canadian law and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He reiterated the need for First Nations to have greater input into resource development. 

"First Nations need an approach to planning and development that respects our rights, especially the right to free, prior and informed consent," Bellegarde said.

"I stand with Treaty 8 First Nations in upholding their rights and in their struggle to stop this development."

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