FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Court documents filed last Thursday show that the Attorney General of Canada has taken “no position” and has not filed evidence to defend against an application by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations to seek an injunction suspending construction of the Site C dam.
In January, the two First Nations announced that they would be suing the provincial government and BC Hydro after Premier John Horgan announced last December that the government was continuing with Site C. As part of their lawsuit, the two First Nations are seeking an injunction to suspend construction of the dam during the trial. If successful, the injunction will halt work on the $10.7 billion-dollar dam for anywhere from 18 months to several years while the trial concludes.
In its Response to Civil Claim, which was also filed Thursday, the federal government admits that it did not make a legal determination on whether Site C infringes Treaty 8, and states that the issue must either be “tested” by the Court at trial or resolved “in other contexts beyond litigation.” The Treaty 8 First Nations opposed to the dam are now calling on the B.C. Government to follow suit.
“Canada has laid down its weapons. Now it’s time for BC to disarm. Let’s try diplomacy,” said West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson. “If the Premier truly wishes to respect the constitution and the Treaty 8 rights it protects, he shouldn’t be encouraging BC Hydro to destroy those rights before the courts have the chance to weigh in. The Premier can meet with us and our federal counterparts to work out how best to wind down work on Site C until the question of Treaty infringement is finally decided.”
This is not the first time the feds have followed a different path than B.C. government over a dispute with First Nations. Last summer, the federal government backed the Tsilhqot’in First Nation’s injunction against provincial permits for the New Prosperity mine, and even got federal injunction to stop the permitted work.
The decision from the federal government follows a work stoppage on Site C in February that the First Nations are claiming as a victory. Rather than oppose an interim, interim injunction threatened by the First Nations’ lawyers, BC Hydro abruptly sent home contractors that were in the process of logging a 30-kilometre tract of old growth forests for the project’s proposed transmission line. Hydro has said that the work will remain suspended until after the injunction is decided later this summer.
The injunction hearing is set to take place in BC Supreme Court from July 23rd to August 4th.