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Land defenders at protest camp to stop Site C dam

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(L-R) Esther Pedersen, Arleen Boon, Verena Hoffmann. Photo by Donald Hoffmann

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Solidarity with Treaty 8 members and allies who have set up a protest camp at Rocky Mountain Fort on the Peace River to oppose the Site C dam.

Site C is a proposed 60-metre high, 1,050-metre-long earth-filled dam and hydroelectric generation station on the Peace River between the communities of Hudson's Hope and Taylor on Treaty 8 territory in northeastern British Columbia. It would create an 83-kilometre-long reservoir and flood about 5,550 hectares of agricultural land southwest of Fort St. John. It would also submerge 78 First Nations heritage sites, including burial grounds and places of cultural and spiritual significance. Logging and land clearing for the dam began this summer, without consent from Treaty 8, but major construction on the dam is not yet underway.

On Dec. 15, the Alaska Highway News reported, "As of December 14, it was not known how many people were living at the camp. ...The area is slated for clearing, which will take place through the first three months of 2016 [and] at some point, boat traffic will be restricted, making site access an issue... [Peace Valley Landowners Association activist Ken] Boon said it remains to be seen whether there will be a confrontation over the site. 'I guess we'll see,' he said. '[Hydro] keeps saying they're going to put [construction] buoys in, and I see they say that initially, boats will be able to pass through that area. So I guess we'll see what they decree.'"

In a Facebook post, Helen Knott says, "I cannot think of a better way to ring in the New Year then spending it actively reclaiming the inherent right to be in my territory, on the very land my ancestors lived upon, along the river that is a main artery in the body that sustains us in the North. It is ours. It is a part of who we are as Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw, Tse Keh Dene people. It is a river loved and fought for by Non Indigenous people who have connected with it and lived in the valley for generations as well. Together we can make a change. I will not stop believing that the right thing will hold out, it is not in my nature to accept defeat or stand silently by waiting for the worst to happen. I remember my ancestors voices, I remember their strength. I am a warrior."

This week, Knott posted, "Arrived to camp to find a sign saying B.C. hydro intends on removing the camp and all of its contents tomorrow [Jan. 1]. I wonder if that includes Indigenous members of Treaty 8 who are exercising their rights on their territory. We are on crown land to boot with court cases pending. There were no trespassing signs put up today while our guide was picking us up on snowmobile but I ask you.. Who is trespassing?"

The dam is opposed by 23 First Nations across British Columbia, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories. Four years ago five First Nations asked the United Nations to defend their rights under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples against this project. Treaty 8 First Nations have Title to the Peace River Valley and the Supreme Court of Canada decision on the Tsilhqot'in Title case means their consent for this project is needed. Grand Chief Phillip has stated, "If Canada's new federal government wants to pass the critical litmus test that it set for itself in the lead-up to the recent election when it promised a new, more respectful relationship with First Nations, saying no to Site C is a great way to begin."

Solidarity with Helen Knott, Trenton Fox, Emily Gardiner, Ken Boon, Arleen Boon, Verena Hoffmann, Esther Pedersen and all others supporting the camp.

For further updates, please see the Facebook page Say NO to Site C dam!

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