N.W.T. Dene leaders call for halt to B.C.'s Site C dam construction

Dene leaders in the N.W.T. are calling for an immediate halt on construction of the Site C Dam in northern B.C., saying it violates treaty rights on their traditional homeland.

Water flowing from the dam area into Dene territory protected under agreements, says Bill Erasmus

Part of the Peace River valley scheduled to be flooded in order to build the Site C dam in northeastern British Columbia. Dene leaders in the N.W.T. are calling for an immediate halt on construction of the Site C Dam, saying it violates treaty rights on their traditional homeland. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Dene leaders in the N.W.T. are calling for an immediate halt on construction of the Site C Dam in northern B.C., saying it violates treaty rights on their traditional homeland.

In a news release, Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus said the federal government has an obligation to respect land agreements with the Dene, including the protection of water flowing from the dam area into Dene territory.

"This is directly upstream from our homeland," he said.

"There are modern-day land agreements between the Dene and the Crown that also protect the quality and the quantity and the rate of flow of the water."

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus says the federal government has an obligation to respect land agreements with the Dene, including the protection of water flowing from the dam area into Dene territory. (Pat Kane/CBC)

The release said Dene leaders met last week in Inuvik and voted unanimously to call for a stop of construction of the dam.

The $9-billion megaproject was permitted by the federal government in July and was quickly criticized by environmentalists and First Nations groups, calling it a betrayal by the Trudeau government.

Construction plans for the Site C project include a kilometre-long earthfill dam, spillways, drainage tunnels and permission to divert the Peace River and flood an 83-kilometre reservoir.

B.C. Hydro says the project will provide renewable and cost-effective electricity for B.C. for the next 100 years.

"Environmentalists, farmers and other First Nations are strongly opposed with what is being seen as a useless project," said Erasmus.

"The people within the jurisdiction of Site C are incensed with building such an expensive and huge infrastructure without an energy plan."

Erasmus citied the Bennett Dam at Hudson's Hope, B.C., that was completed in 1968, saying damage to environment and Indigenous livelihood by that dam was "irreparable" and still needs to be addressed and compensated for before talks on the Site C Dam can even begin.