FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – After BC Hydro said that they were proposing changes to the Highway 29 realignment after concerns brought forward to them by First Nations, those changes aren’t acceptable to First Nations Chiefs.
Crystal Sharwood from BC Hydro told Energeticcity.ca on June 21 that Hydro has plans to address the concerns brought forward by Treaty 8 Chiefs including lengthening a bridge by 50 metres to avoid ground disturbance of a potential burial site, and raising the height of the bridge to provide approximately two metres clearance above the specific site.
But Chief Roland Willson from West Moberly First Nations and Chief Lynette Tsakoza say that the solutions Hydro has put forward are a ‘Public Relations ploy’ and are not an accommodation.
Tsakoza said that after meetings with Hydro on June 22, it became more clear that they weren’t taking the problems of First Nations seriously.
“We sent our staff to hear them out, but it sounds like BC Hydro is just putting forward measures they know might look good to the uninformed. It’s a public relations ploy, not a serious solution.”
BC Hydro offered to move the realignment 8 meters further from the Sweat Lodge but Tsakoza says that isn’t good enough.
“Offering to go eight metres when everyone knows you need one-thousand. Does that sound like good faith consultation to you?”
First Nations also noted that they received a letter that offered to replace the sweat lodge with a new spiritual centre. Prophet River’s Chief Lynette Tsakoza also disagreed with that suggestion.
“Our ceremonial sites aren’t pickup trucks. You can’t trade them in for a newer model.”
The First Nations Chiefs also said at the most recent meeting, they asked BC Hydro representitives how they would feel if they were put in a similar situation.
“BC Hydro has also proposed lengthening the bridge at Cache Creek and raising it a littler so that the bottom of the bridge would be on top of the burial ground discovered last June, with two metres of clearance. At the meeting on Thursday, BC Hydro’s representatives were invited to raise their hands if any of them wanted a bridge directly on top of the gravesites of their own ancestors. “Their hands stayed down. Their eyes were on the floor, too”, said Jason Lee, Director of the Nun wa dee Stewardship Society.”
Chief Willson also called out BC Hydro for not being able to meet the requests of First Nations.
“There are a dozen reasons to cancel the Site C project. And that’s exactly what should happen after the BCUC cracks open BC Hydro’s books. But in the meantime, while work continues, is it really too much to ask that avoidable impacts be avoided? If BC Hydro can’t reroute a 9 kilometre stretch of road to avoid graves and sacred sites, why should anybody believe they can manage the other issues that will crop up on a $9 billion project?”