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‘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.”

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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.

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