B.C. Hydro's granted injunction infringes on Indigenous treaty rights

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Photo: flickr/ DeSmogCanada

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

On Monday, B.C. Hydro was granted an injunction against Treaty 8 land defenders and Site C opponents in Vancouver's Supreme Court.

The provincial utility company had filed the request against protesters who set up a peaceful camp near the Peace River Valley construction site last December. The camp's placement, however, prevented B.C. Hydro from continuing its area clearing safely.

"It's a really sad thing when it seems that treaty rights are nowhere in our court system," said Ana Simeon, Peace Valley Campaigner at Sierra Club B.C., in a phone interview with rabble. "The valley is being destroyed as we speak and there doesn't seem to be a recourse for established treaty rights to be respected in our legal system."

The $8.8 billion project has faced a lot of criticism from environmental, agricultural and Indigenous groups. Even so, this latest decision by the court allows the RCMP to arrest protesters interfering with the project's construction.

"When you look at Site C you have to look at how much this massive reservoir and all of its related infrastructure is going to further erode the First Nations' treaty rights," said Anna Johnston from West Coast Environmental Law.

Johnston explained to rabble over the phone that the joint panel report released by The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office in 2014 showed that Site C would lead to adverse effects on Indigenous fishing opportunities, hunting opportunities and traditional uses of land.

In spite of these findings, the project continued and, on Monday, the court took the side of B.C. Hydro's right to the land, over the Indigenous right to it.

"It was pretty difficult to sit in that courtroom and hear the judge, when he was offering up his reasons for judgment, say repeatedly that the Treaty 8 stewards of the land had no legal right or standing to be doing what they were doing," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs to rabble. "We know otherwise -- they were standing on their treaty rights."

When rabble contacted B.C. Hydro about the court hearing, particularly with regards to Indigenous treaty rights, a Site C Project Team representative responded stating that they "respect the right of all individuals to express their opinions about Site C when they do so in a safe and lawful manner" and that they "applied for an injunction because it is unsafe to do clearing work with people in the construction area."

Phillip suggested that this could have been a significant ruling if the judge had ruled in favour of the Treaty 8 land defenders and Site C protestors.

"We're disappointed. This could have been a game-changing judgment. It could have been the beginning of a paradigm shift in the way the courts handle these issues," he said. "It's pretty hard when you can't rely on the courts to deliver a more just decision. It's pretty hard to live in a world when you can't rely on the integrity of the political process. So that leaves one option and that's to occupy the land which is what the Treaty 8 stewards of the land and the land owners have done."

In spite of this ruling, Phillip said the oppositions to Site C will continue.

"I want to be clear. This battle is not over. In many ways, this was a minor legal skirmish," he said. "The war will continue."


To support the Treaty 8 land defenders against Site C, consider attending a rally on March 13 outside the B.C. Hydro corporate office in Vancouver, B.C.


Alyse Kotyk is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice and storytelling. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen's University and is excited by media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen's News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer. She is now rabble's News Intern.

Photo: flickr/ DeSmogCanada

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.