Narwhal - Water Doc DRONE-16

‘The coverup continues’: critics slam B.C.’s handling of Site C dam project

Panelists convened by The Narwhal for a webinar about the fate of the hydroelectric project included the former head of BC Hydro and the Chief of West Moberly First Nations, who described Site C construction work as an infringement on Treaty Rights

“The coverup continues. Site C should be cancelled.”

That sentiment from former BC Hydro president and CEO Marc Eliesen was the major takeaway from our panel discussion on Thursday about the future of the Site C dam, the most expensive public infrastructure project in B.C.’s history. 

We organized the event to address the influx of questions following our B.C. reporter Sarah Cox’s blockbuster investigation into the troubles facing the dam. Cox obtained freedom of information documents that revealed major problems with the project were kept from the public for more than a year.

“There’s been a great deal of secrecy and a lack of transparency,” Cox said, setting the stage for our panel of experts to talk about what lies ahead for the beleaguered project.

West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson spoke about how the revelations have influenced how he and his community think about the future of the dam. West Moberly First Nations have taken the B.C. government to court on claims that their traditional territory and burial grounds will be destroyed by the hydro project.

“This is an infringement on Treaty Rights … there has to be a reason to infringe and with Site C there is no reason,” said Chief Willson.

“We believe [Premier John] Horgan failed the people of British Columbia by allowing this project to go ahead.”

New title

Get The Narwhal in your inbox!

People always tell us they love our newsletter. Find out yourself with a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism

Judith Sayers, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president and a board member of Clean Energy BC, spoke about the conflict between the B.C. government and First Nations fighting the project. According to Sayers, the project has been a “huge disappointment” and “a slap in the face” to Indigenous people.

“The fact is, this is a bad investment for British Columbia.”

Eliesen likewise did not mince words when asked about the future of the project. “To continue is totally reckless. If [Horgan] continues, this will be his folly,” he said.

“Calamitous events can be avoided if [Site C] comes to a halt now.”

And so, attendees wanted to know how they could make their voices heard.

“People really need to rise up in the province and just say no,” Sayers said. “The whole issue has got to become a really hot potato that Horgan has to deal with in this new term he’s got in front of him.”

Echoing that, Eliesen added that a grassroots movement “can have impact.”

Read a full recap of the event below.

New title

You’ve read all the way to the bottom of this article. That makes you some serious Narwhal material.

And since you’re here, we have a favour to ask. Our independent, ad-free journalism is made possible because the people who value our work also support it (did we mention our stories are free for all to read, not just those who can afford to pay?).

As a non-profit, reader-funded news organization, our goal isn’t to sell advertising or to please corporate bigwigs — it’s to bring evidence-based news and analysis to the surface for all Canadians. And at a time when most news organizations have been laying off reporters, we’ve hired eight journalists in less than a year.

Not only are we filling a void in environment coverage, but we’re also telling stories differently — by centring Indigenous voices, by building community and by doing it all as a people-powered, non-profit outlet supported by more than 2,200 members

The truth is we wouldn’t be here without you. Every single one of you who reads and shares our articles is a crucial part of building a new model for Canadian journalism that puts people before profit.

We know that these days the world’s problems can feel a *touch* overwhelming. It’s easy to feel like what we do doesn’t make any difference, but becoming a member of The Narwhal is one small way you truly can make a difference.

We’ve drafted a plan to make this year our biggest yet, but we need your support to make it all happen.

If you believe news organizations should report to their readers, not advertisers or shareholders, please become a monthly member of The Narwhal today for any amount you can afford.

Josie Kao is a journalist currently based in Toronto but with loyalties to Vancouver. She has previously worked at The…

See similar stories

UN committee rebukes Canada for failing to get Indigenous Peoples’ consent for industrial projects

In a rebuke to Canada, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has expressed regret that work continues on the Coastal GasLink...

Continue reading

Recent Posts

Help power our ad-free, non‑profit journalism
Get The Narwhal in your inbox!

People always tell us they love our newsletter. Find out yourself with a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism