Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Treaty 8 Nations Welcome Site C Review Panel with Symbols of the Land

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Treaty 8 Nations Welcome Site C Review Panel with Symbols of the Land

Article excerpt

Treaty 8 Nations welcome dam panel


FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. - Environmental review hearings into the massive Site C hydroelectric dam proposed by BC Hydro began Monday with a welcome to panel members from area First Nations and a reminder for them to listen with their hearts, not just their heads.

Dozens of aboriginal elders, community leaders and youth presented the panel with symbols of the land, from jars of wild berries to moose antlers and animal skins.

Gary Oker, of the Doig River First Nation, said the assessment process has been all about the dam project and what it has to offer, but the "cultural feast" presented to the panel serves as a reminder of what the land already offers.

"While you're here these are the things we want to talk about," Oker told the three members of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel that will conduct the joint federal and provincial review.

The panel will spend December and January travelling to hearings in communities throughout the region.

The $7.9-billion hydroelectric dam would be built seven kilometres downstream from Fort St. John in northeastern British Columbia and flood an 83-kilometre stretch of the Peace River upstream. It would also flood 10 kilometres at the mouth of the Moberly River and 14 kilometres of the Halfway River that both feed into the Peace River.

The Crown utility estimated that 30 homes will be flooded, and several landowners in the Peace River valley have formed an environment association to fight the dam.

Some member bands of the Treaty 8 Nations have yet to make official decisions for or against the project, but the Monday welcome left little doubt that many members of the aboriginal community are concerned.

"This project is in the midst of our traditional territories and this project will affect our treaty rights," Tammy Watson, a councillor with the Saulteau band, told the panel.

"Our community is not ready yet to take a stance on this project but we continue to meet constantly in our community to better understand how this will affect our treaty rights. I welcome you and I hope today you listen with your hearts, as well as your minds."

The dam would provide enough power for the equivalent of 450,000 homes and is the centrepiece of BC Hydro's plans for meeting electricity needs over the next 20 years, when the Crown utility anticipates a 40 per cent increase in demand. …

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