British Columbia

Vancouver protest of Site C dam at Vanier Park

Meanwhile recent poll conducted by BC Hydro finds solid support for the hydroelectric project among British Columbians.

Up to 200 people paddle or march to oppose energy project and raise money for court challenges

Hundreds of people gathered at Vancouver's Vanier Park on July 9, 2016 to protest BC Hydro's construction of its Site C Clean Energy Project in northeastern B.C. (David Horemans)

Up to 200 people gathered at a Vancouver park Saturday to protest the construction of the Site C Clean Energy Project in northeastern British Columbia.

The event is part of the Grab a Paddle campaign, which is a series of events being organized across B.C. in solidarity with the annual Paddle for the Peace. The campaign hopes to raise money for the Treaty 8 First Nations legal challenges to the Site C dam.

Protest organizers from the group "Fight C" say the dam on the Peace River proposed by BC Hydro is a waste of taxpayer money and infringes on the rights of First Nations.

"The Site C dam is being built with taxpayer dollars to generate energy for expansion of fracking and the tar sands, contributing to life threatening climate change and destroying precious farmland and artifacts,"  said Audrey Siegl, Musqueam Band member and community organizer, in a release.

"Here in Vancouver, we understand that this is not clean energy."

The dam is estimated to cost upwards of $8 billion and will generate 5,100 gigawatts of energy each year — enough to power 450,000 homes.

An Abacus Data poll released on June 8, shows that a large majority of residents of B.C. support or say they can accept BC Hydro's Site C Clean Energy Project.

The province-wide poll found that awareness of the project has reached 77 per cent across the province, while 73 per cent of those polled either support Site C or can support it under certain circumstances. 25 per cent of those polled oppose the project.

This is the second poll commissioned by BC Hydro in the past year.

"Any major project of this sort will encounter healthy public scrutiny and debate, and it's not unusual to see growing resistance as these debates evolve," said Bruce Anderson, Chairman of Abacus Data, who designed and analyzed the poll.

"Given this, what stands out for me is the fact that people broadly believe that more power will be needed and that a new dam is probably one of the best ways to meet growing demand."

There are now 1,000 workers already active on the site according to the provincial government, but while the province approves of the project, the federal government must also give approval and people at the Vanier Park protest said there are hopes Ottawa will stop construction.

Those opposing the dam say the cost of the project will only add to BC Hydro's ballooning debt and the energy generated is unnecessary since excess energy from the province is already being sold to the United States.

Members of the Treaty 8 First Nations who were at the rally say they do not approve of the dam that will flood lands they rely on for hunting and farming.

While construction for the project has already begun with land clearing, protesters say the land can be salvaged if the project is stopped.

with files from Canadian Press