Statement on the BC Government Approval of the Site C Dam Project
Today the BC government has announced that construction of the Site C Dam project will proceed, describing the decision as making the best of a bad deal given that $4 billion dollars would be added to the public debt if the project was cancelled. In his announcement, Premier Horgan noted that this issue has been contentious and divisive, and that this decision will disappoint many people. The Premier recognized that this decision does not have unanimous consent from Indigenous Nations, and said the government will do their best to mitigate the impact of the project on the affected Nations.
We have experienced the divisiveness of this issue within our own federation: FPSE has 10,000 members, faculty and staff, at 18 public post-secondary institutions and several private EAL schools. Each of these locals are autonomous, independent unions. Our members include Indigenous educators, staff, and environmentalists who are totally opposed to Site C, as well as other instructors who support Site C.
In addition, all of the work done to date was under terms dictated by the previous BC Liberal government who pushed the project past the point of no return. Much of the work done so far has been done by non-union, non-BC workers.
FPSE members passed a resolution at our May AGM that called on the government to respond to the following conditions: immediately stop imminent land expropriations, refer the project to the BC Utilities Commission for review, and consult with Indigenous peoples in the affected area. We recognize that the BC government has met the first two conditions, but we remain committed to the principle of free, prior and informed consent as an inherent right of Indigenous peoples that helps ensure their survival, dignity, and well-being and do not believe the spirit of this principle has been met in this decision. Site C does not have the support of all Treaty 8 First Nations; the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have been opposed to the project. These nations have pledged to challenge the decision in court as a violation of Treaty 8 and have indicated that they will join the current lawsuit led by the Blueberry River First Nation regarding the irreparable damage to the land from large-scale industrial use.
Approval of this project also means the loss of productive farmland, and destruction of old growth boreal forests and one of the most important wildlife corridors in the Yellowstone to Yukon migration corridor chain.
We need to forge a nation to nation relationship between Indigenous peoples and the BC government and this decision does not further that goal. We are disappointed in today's decision.
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.