FORT ST. JOHN, TREATY 8 TERRITORY–(Marketwired – Jan. 26, 2017) – On Monday, January 23, 2017, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal brought by West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation challenging Canada’s environmental approval of the Site C dam under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
The First Nations maintain that the Site C dam infringes their rights under Treaty No. 8 and cannot be justified. The federal government’s own environmental impact assessment process found that the Site C dam would cause significant, permanent and irreparable harm to First Nations’ use of their traditional lands and the destruction of sites of unique cultural and historical significance. Despite this, Canada refused to address whether the dam would be an infringement of Treaty No. 8, a position upheld by the Court.
Prophet River Chief Lynette Tsakoza expressed the First Nations’ frustration with the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision. “We are profoundly disappointed in the outcome of our appeal. Unfortunately, it has become clear that the environmental assessment process is just a vehicle to approve projects. It is incomprehensible that Canada can say in one breath that the dam will cause immitigable adverse impacts on our Treaty rights, but in the next, say they don’t have to address if they are violating the Treaty and of the constitution when approving the project.”
Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nations questions the utility of any First Nation entering into treaty, in light of the Court’s decision. “Yet again, the Crown has failed to honour the Treaty and we are disappointed the Court is not going to hold Canada to its solemn promises. Why would anyone enter into a treaty if the promises are meaningless? The Court is saying that treaty rights are unproven rights and the Crown can ignore its Treaty obligations when approving the dam and then fight us in court until the dam is already built. A decade of court actions and a trial to prove infringement of our Treaty rights will financially cripple the First Nations, it won’t stop the dam from being built, and perpetuates the cultural genocide of our peoples.”
Chief Willson stressed that the First Nations will continue their fight to stop the Site C dam. “We are reviewing the decision with our legal counsel and considering our options and next steps.”