British Columbia

First Nations challenge of Site C permits denied by B.C. Supreme Court

The B.C. Supreme Court has rejected a petition by two B.C. First Nations to overturn provincial permits issued for construction of the controversial energy project.

First Nations behind challenge have 3 more pending

Construction of the Site C dam has an estimated cost of over $8 billion and has been the subject of widespread protests across British Columbia. (BC Hydro)

The Supreme Court of B.C. has rejected a petition by two B.C. First Nations on Monday to overturn provincial permits issued for construction of the controversial Site C dam. 

The Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations stand to have thousands of acres of their traditional land flooded in the construction of the dam.

They had argued that they were not adequately consulted on the permits already granted to the project which allow for timber removal, road building, and other construction preparations.

Part of the Peace River valley scheduled to be flooded in order to build the Site C dam in northeastern British Columbia. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

That claim stemmed from an agreement between the province and the Treaty 8 Tribal Association that a new consultation process between the two was necessary, one tailored specifically to the Site C project, as opposed to a general framework that already exists.

The Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations claimed that in discussing Site C permits with T8TA First Nations before that custom process was agreed upon, the province failed to properly consult them.

Justice Robert Sewell disagreed, saying in his decision that "The province attempted to engage [First Nations] in consultation on the permits over a prolonged period of time," and that as a result of Site C's environmental assessment process, the province did have an understanding of First Nations' concerns about the project.

First Nations failed to appear

He also noted that on more than one occasion the province and B.C. Hydro tried to hold consultations, and it was First Nations representatives who failed to show up.

Sewell also reinforced the importance of the custom consultation process, since the permits already issued on the project are the first of hundreds that will be needed over its years-long construction.

For now, the Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations have three other legal challenges against Site C pending — and they have 30 days to appeal this latest ruling.

With files from CBC's Andrew Kurjata