Site C Tests Trudeau’s Commitment on Climate, Aboriginal Rights
A proposed third hydroelectric dam on British Columbia’s Peace River puts Prime Minister Justin Trudeau between his commitments on climate change and his promises to Canada’s First Nations, and could lead to violence, iPolitics columnist Michael Harris suggests.
BC Hydro is seeking a court injunction allowing it to remove an encampment protesting its $9 billion plan to construct a dam at Site C on the Peace River. The Harper government quietly issued 14 federal permits for the dam’s construction during last year’s election campaign.
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British Columbia promotes the Site C project as a climate-friendly addition to Canada’s clean energy portfolio, and a contribution to meeting Trudeau’s climate commitments. But critics sharply dispute that description.
“Site C is the very opposite of a climate solution,” said Ana Simeon of Sierra Club B.C. “It would power the expansion of the LNG industry based on fracked gas, a fossil fuel every bit as dirty as coal. At the same time, it would obliterate a uniquely productive food oasis in the North.”
B.C. Premier Christy Clark has called for stronger grid interconnections between her province and Alberta, and energy analysts suggest British Columbia’s hydro could provide ‘clean’ energy for tar sands/oil sands extraction.
First Nations have filed no fewer than four court challenges asserting violations of constitutional and treaty rights, Harris observes. The groups are calling on BC Hydro to suspend construction until those cases are settled—thereby testing Trudeau’s commitment to a new relationship with indigenous Canadians.
“If clearing the Rocky Mountain Fort Camp is authorized by the courts,” Harris writes, “Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land could be facing arrest. They may not go gently. There is the ugly possibility of violent conflict here.”