The closing remarks to a federal-provincial panel examining BC Hydro's Site C proposal were made by a grey-haired native leader who said bands in the area are determined not to let the dam get built.
Treaty 8 Tribal Chief Liz Logan told the Joint Review Panel, which wrapped up five weeks of public hearings on Friday, that Peace River native communities hope a treaty they signed over 100 years ago to protect their way of life will be honoured and the dam, which would flood more than 5,000 hectares in the valley, will not be allowed.
"We hope that we've demonstrated to you during this time together how important our historic treaty is and how we honour those rights and those promises that we agreed to between our ancestors and the government of Canada," she said, referring to Treaty 8, which was signed in 1899. "The elders tell us that this treaty was an agreement to share, co-exist, and to live in peace with the settlers. And we have done that.
"But we are currently being pushed off and out of our land, and we are now being told by our elders that enough is enough and to stand up and fight for it. And that's what we're doing," said Ms. Logan, whose tribal organization made detailed submissions to the JRP opposing the project.
The bands throughout the region object to the dam because they say it would flood traditional hunting and fishing grounds, ancient burial sites and locations where traditional medicinal plants are harvested.
Ms. Logan said bands are not opposed to development and that native leaders want to see activities that help "create economic certainty" for their people. "We just ask that there be a balance and development be done with as minimal impact as possible," she said. "In the case of Site C… this project and its impacts far outweigh any benefits."
The chief said water has always been considered sacred to aboriginal people, and flooding the last remaining wild section of the Peace River, which already has two hydro dams on it, is simply not acceptable to Treaty 8, which in northeast B.C. includes eight bands with a total of more than 3,000 members.
"We hope that we've demonstrated how important our relationship to the land is, and we hope that we are able to articulate to you who we are as people," she said. "Our people have a deep connection with this land because our ancestors told the stories and legends that are connected to that valley. And, most importantly, because our ancestral remains lay in that valley, and it is against our beliefs to disturb them in their final resting place."
"So it's been quite a show," Harry Swain, chair of the JRP, said in his final remarks, which he made shortly before Ms. Logan spoke. "It is now up to us to write a report, which will go to the governments on or about the 23rd of April."
If approved, Site C would have a capital cost of $7.9-billion, would create 10,000 jobs during construction and would generate enough electricity to power 450,000 homes a year.