AFN National Chief Supports Calls for Effective Consultations and Full Review of proposed BC Hydroelectric Dam

OTTAWA, May 27, 2011 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today expressed support for First Nations working to raise awareness of the implications of hydro-electric dam development in British Columbia (B.C.), including calls for a full review for the forthcoming environmental assessment of the Site C project on the Peace River.

"We strongly support First Nations in upholding their constitutionally protected rights and their traditional territories," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo.  "First Nations are not opposed to development, but it must not be done at any cost. We need an approach that respects all interests and one that includes dialogue with local First Nations to ensure their rights, citizens and future generations are protected.  This also means protecting the environment and ensuring economic development opportunities are responsible and sustainable for the long-term."

Last Friday, the B.C. government endorsed BC Hydro's proposed Site C hydroelectric dam project, triggering the next stage of development (environmental assessment) for a proposed 1100MW hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in northeast B.C.  The proposed Site C project would be the third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River. 

In 2008 Chiefs from across Canada supported a resolution calling for comprehensive and meaningful consultations with all impacted First Nations, with specific respect to the Treaty and Aboriginal title, rights and jurisdictions of the Treaty 8 First Nations and other First Nations within the Peace Athabasca and Mackenzie watersheds.  At that time, Chiefs in Assembly also called on the governments of Canada, British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories to engage in a comprehensive joint planning process with the affected First Nations in connection with the operation of the W.A.C Bennett and Peace Canyon dams and the proposed construction of the Site C dam or any other proposed hydro-electric or energy projects within the traditional territories of the affected First Nations.  This includes the review and revision of the federal and provincial environmental assessment legislation to ensure the review processes include the Crown's obligations to impacted First Nations. 

Following the April 2010 announcement by the Government of B.C. to move forward with the Site C Hydroelectric Project, Chiefs in Assembly reiterated their call for "full consultation and accommodation of impacted Treaty First Nations through a fair, open and transparent process" - a process that would include sufficient resources to ensure potential impacts to the traditional, environmental, social and economic interests of Treaty First Nations are considered and/or mitigated to ensure Aboriginal and Treaty rights are protected.

"An effective dialogue could spark the kind of strengthened relationship that is required to continue our work together as governments and nations," said B.C. Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, further supporting Treaty 8 First Nation efforts in raising awareness of the impacts of the Site C project. "This approach is consistent with Indigenous rights, with Canada's own laws and with Canada's endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples." 

Treaty 8 Tribal Chief Liz Logan was at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York last week as part of her Site C awareness tour.  Tribal Chief Logan and other Treaty 8 leadership are seeking consultation with the Government of B.C. and B.C. Hydro on alternatives to the project.  The West Moberly First Nations and the Peace Valley Environment Association are hosting the sixth annual Paddle for the Peace Saturday July 9, 2011 near Fort St. John, BC.  For more information on this awareness event visit www.paddleforthepeace.ca

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

SOURCE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS

For further information:

Don Kelly, AFN A/Communications Director 613-241-6789 ext. 334 or cell: 613-292-2787 or dkelly@afn.ca

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

Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer (613) 241-6789, ext 382 or agaron@afn.ca

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