OTTAWA, Ontario — As a BC court considers whether to grant an injunction to halt construction of the Site C dam, arguments by BC government lawyers threaten far reaching negative consequences, warns Amnesty International.
“The legal tactics being employed by the BC government amount to a complete disregard for the rights of Indigenous peoples in favour of building Site C at all costs,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “Not only would these cynical legal tactics deny First Nations the opportunity for a just resolution of the still unaddressed question of Treaty rights violations, the province’s position is brazenly at odds with the Premier’s repeated public commitments to reconciliation and respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples.”
The application for the injunction was filed by the West Moberly First Nation. West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have launched a civil suit arguing that flooding the Peace Valley will prevent the meaningful exercise of Treaty protected rights. Hearings with respect to that civil suit are not expected to get underway until the fall.
In a commentary on the written legal submissions put forward by the provincial government to date, Amnesty International names five aspects of the government’s arguments as being particularly “insidious” and “corrosive”. These are the government’s assertions:
- That Indigenous peoples’ own history, culture, traditions and laws are not relevant to the interpretation of their Treaty rights;
- That the onus of upholding the Treaty must be born entirely by First Nations;
- That the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations’ appeal for an injunction should be disregarded because they sought to protect their rights by other means and while there was still reason to be optimistic that the Horgan government would take a different approach to Site C, before resorting to launching a lengthy and costly court case;
- That the “status quo” to be considered in this case should be defined as continued construction of the Site C dam, not protection of Treaty Rights or the Peace River Valley;
- That the Court should “defer” to the government’s determination that the project is in the “public interest” even though the government made its decision without ever considering their legal obligations under Treaty 8.
“The fact that we have a government in 2018 willing to engage in such cynical legal tactics is utterly shameful and entirely out of step with the Province’s human rights obligations and professed commitment to reconciliation,” said Alex Neve.