OTTAWA – An indigenous member of the federal Liberal caucus is breaking ranks with his colleagues on B.C.’s controversial Site C project, saying he is not convinced that two First Nations were properly consulted about the multibillion-dollar hydroelectric project.
Robert-Falcon Ouellette, MP for Winnipeg Centre, said Tuesday he still has questions about a July decision by the Fisheries and Oceans Department authorizing construction of the dam on the Peace River.
Ouellette said he plans to raise the issue with Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc when Parliament resumes next week.
“I’m hoping I will … find some reasoning behind this decision and why it was made,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“I’m not convinced that, after having spoken with some of the people who were travelling across the country, that they have been consulted and talked to and I’m not sure even that we meet the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Ouellette’s comments come after British Columbia First Nations leaders and activists condemned the federal government’s approach to the Site C dam project during a Tuesday rally on Parliament Hill.
The group travelled by bus to Ottawa from B.C., making stops along the way to raise awareness about their opposition to the project that would create an 83-kilometre-long reservoir and flood farmland along with traditional First Nations territory.
The Fisheries Department maintains the July permit approval followed “extensive First Nations consultations.”
“I recognize that there are those opposed to the B.C. Hydro clean energy project at Site C, but I also know that the regulatory process leading to the recent authorization to proceed was thorough and included comprehensive consultations with indigenous groups and other stakeholders,” LeBlanc said in a statement.
“The authorization also includes more than 40 conditions that must be adhered to by B.C. Hydro and our department will be monitoring compliance every step of the way.”
It is worth noting the approval requires B.C. Hydro to collaborate with indigenous groups, LeBlanc added.
West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson said Tuesday he strongly disagrees with the suggestion his community was appropriately consulted with prior to the approval.
LeBlanc held a meeting in Vancouver only days prior to the department’s decision, he added, noting the Liberals could have held off on an authorization while courts hear legal challenges on the project.