Assembly of First Nations Supports First Nations Calling for Rejection of Site C Dam Project on Peace River, BC

OTTAWA, Jan. 17, 2014 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn-A-in-chut Atleo today stands with all First Nations rejecting the Site C Dam proposal on the Peace River in northeast British Columbia. First Nations in Treaty 8 territory have been telling a Joint Review Panel currently holding hearings into the project that they are already experiencing damaging and adverse effects from development and the Site C Dam proposal will further harm their lands, waters and territories, including their traditional fishing grounds.

"First Nations along the Peace River are demonstrating leadership, standing up for their rights and fulfilling their responsibilities to their traditional territories," said National Chief Atleo. "There are real and serious concerns about the effects of this project on the people and their traditional territories. Government and industry must respect the inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights of First Nations, including their right to a say on any developments that could affect their lands, their lives or their people. The AFN stands with First Nations in Treaty 8 and the Peace Athabasca and Mackenzie watersheds."

The Peace River is the traditional territory and an historical transportation route for First Nations in the region. West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson informed the Panel about the concerns around potential impacts from several development projects that are already leaching pollutants into the rivers. His submission referenced 17 rivers that have been polluted by mercury, methyl mercury, selenium and other contaminants from resource development activities. The effect of the cumulative impacts of the project on fish, water flows, water levels and overall watershed protection are not clear and are a major concern for First Nations in the area.

National Chief Atleo said: "Respectful implementation of our rights is necessary for sustainable development and there will be no compromise where our rights are concerned. Development can only proceed based on the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations. Their voices must be heard and their position respected."

The AFN has resolutions supported by Chiefs across Canada calling for comprehensive and meaningful consultations with specific reference to Treaty, Aboriginal title, rights and jurisdiction. In 2010, a resolution was passed mandating AFN to advocate on this specific project for a process which assesses "the traditional, environmental, social and economic interests of Treaty First Nations, and mitigation to ensure that there is no net impact on Aboriginal and Treaty rights - or denial of approval of the dam if such impacts cannot be mitigated".

The CEAA began public hearings on the Site C Dam project in December 2013 and will end those sessions on Jan. 23rd, 2014 and start writing the report by February 3, 2014. The recommendations will be presented to the Federal Environment Minister in late April.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.

SOURCE Assembly of First Nations

For further information:

Alain Garon AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382; 613-292-0857 or agaron@afn.ca

Jenna Young AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401; 613-314-8157 or jyoung@afn.ca