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West Moberly First Nations reach partial settlement over Site C dam

FILE. Workers at the Site C dam in northern B.C. held a touching tribute in solidarity with the victims of Kelowna's crane collapse tragedy. Courtesy: Troy Van Bostelen/Submitted

The B.C. and federal governments and the West Moberly First Nations have reached a deal to partially settle a lawsuit over the Site C dam project.

The First Nations filed the claim against BC Hydro and the provincial and federal governments in 2018, arguing that their rights under Treaty 8 had been violated and demanding the protection of the Peace River Valley.

A previous court challenge against the project failed in 2017.

Read more: First Nations seek injunction against work on Site C dam with lawsuit pending

“The Site C project has had major impacts on our community, and the flooding and operation of this dam will have effects that will be felt for generations to come,” West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson said in a joint media release with the federal government, the B.C. the ministries of energy and Indigenous relations and BC Hydro.

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“The decision to settle this part of the court case was taken with a heavy heart and with serious considerations of the best interests of our community. Our focus now turns towards efforts to heal what remains of our land, to heal our people, and to protect our way of life in the face of all the resource development in Treaty No. 8 territory.”

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B.C. government to go ahead with Site C dam – Feb 27, 2021

The settlement will provide the First Nations with financial benefits, contracting opportunities and the transfer of certain Crown lands, according to the release. The West Moberly First Nations will also participate in developing new recommendations for land management over provincial Crown lands.

The settlement includes benefits and contracting agreements between directly the nation and BC Hydro, as well as a triparite land agreement with the province as well.

“I recognize West Moberly First Nations have concerns about the impacts of the Site C project, that the negotiations to reach a settlement have been challenging, and the decision to release their claims against the project was difficult,” Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation Bruce Ralston said.

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Read more: Site C dam to be delayed a year, more than $5B over budget, B.C. says

“The agreements provide a way forward, built on respectful dialogue, that recognizes and helps to mitigate the impacts of the Site C project on West Moberly First Nations, while ensuring benefits from the project will flow to the West Moberly community.”

The agreement also pauses legal action on the remaining unsettled portion of the claim, which alleged “the existing hydroelectric dams on the Peace River and the cumulative impacts of resource development in their territory are an infringement of their Treaty rights,” according to the release.

The claim will be put in abeyance while the province and the West Moberly First Nations enter into confidential government-to-government negotiations to try and resolve the outstanding issues.

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