February 22, 2016 3:26 pm
Updated: February 22, 2016 11:44 pm

David Suzuki, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip lend support to Site C protesters

WATCH: Environmentalist David Suzuki and Grand Chief Stewart Philip join a protest to stop the Site C dam project. John Hua reports, and Keith Baldrey looks at the debate raging in the B.C. Legislature.


A prominent scientist and First Nations leader are lending their support to protesters opposing the construction of the Site C dam near Fort St. John.

Environmentalist David Suzuki and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, held a press conference this morning in support of a camp of protesters at the Rocky Mountain Fort on the Peace River, who have been blocking construction since the beginning of this year.

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“The hydro power of Site C is not for families or communities here in B.C.,” said Phillip. “It is for proposed mining projects in northern B.C. and for customers in California. The actions of BC Hydro in court today is to purposefully target, censor, intimidate and silence the peaceful camp of Treaty 8 members and landowners at Rocky Mountain Fort Camp.”

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs says it continues to denounce what it calls BC Hydro’s “deliberately provocative and thuggish efforts” to fast track construction on the proposed Site C project.

Phillip called the Site C proposal Premier Christy Clark’s “make-work project in the demise of her LNG pipe dream” and an archaic notion that he stands in vehement opposition to.

“This is a complete abuse of power, democratic process, and treaty and legal rights of all the parties involved,” said Phillip.

He says he is humbled by the courage of the Rocky Mountain Fort protesters, who, he says, have been harassed and intimated.

The protesters claim the construction of the Site C project should be put on hold while court proceedings are still in place and until the proposal is properly vetted and reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission.

The newly created reservoir would be about 83 kilometres long and two-to-three times wider than the current river, flooding 5,550 hectares of land.

Suzuki says the federal government committed to a “hard” target at the climate change talks in Paris last November, but it’s not changing its ways when it comes to the Site C project.

He says his concern lies in the fact that, the food that Canadians eat is grown, on average, 3,000 kilometers from where it’s consumed and requires fossil fuel to be transported.

“It seems crazy to put farmland in the north under water when that valley could be the breadbasket of the north,” said Suzuki. “We need time to reconsider the way we do everything. This, to me, is one of the great contradictions of a commitment to meeting the Paris target and the apparent lack of concern for a development like the Site C.”

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the Site C dam

Meanwhile, B.C. Supreme Court is expected to hear an injunction application from BC Hydro to remove the camp in the way of the Site C construction site.

The proposed Site C hydroelectric dam on the Peace River cleared major environmental hurdles in October 2014 as the federal and British Columbia governments granted environmental certificates, and a final go-ahead for construction was granted a month later.

In August, two courts rejected attempts by a pair of British Columbia First Nations to halt the construction of the Site C hydroelectric dam. A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled against issuing a stop-work order for the first phase of construction. The federal court also dismissed the First Nations’ challenge of the environmental approval process.

Last week, over a thousand people lined up at job fairs in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John.

BC Hydro says the nine-billion dollar mega-project will create 10,000 person-years of employment during its construction, and workers are needed in a number of trades.

When finished, BC Hydro estimates it would provide about 5,100 gigawatt hours of electricity each year. Current forecasts have B.C. needing new sources of electricity by 2028, and Site C would move that date well into the future. It’s estimated it would take eight years to build the facility.

With files from Justin McElroy and the Canadian Press

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