Clara London, whose third generation Bear Flats property would be affected by flooding, highway realignment, and statutory right of way access, emotionally told the panel about her husband Dale, who is in a wheelchair and hunts out of a custom-built hut.
“This hut will not be able to be used if the proposed project proceeds, as the highway realignment will bring the highway to within 80 yards of the hut, and the minimum is 440 yards to legally discharge a firearm,” she explains. “Dale cannot just go elsewhere to hunt as he is unable to walk to access land elsewhere.”
Ken and Arlene Boon, whose property would also be greatly affected, argued that it’s difficult to fully describe what the Peace River Valley means to its residents and those who visit it. They’ve found several artefacts like arrowheads, and regularly see encounter wildlife they argue could never be documented by a government or B.C. Hydro report.
“Our heritage, livelihood, way of life, and connections to this place will basically be wiped out or burned down as B.C. Hydro has done in the past,” said Arlene Boon. “The destruction of our home place will have grave impacts mentally and physically on us, our family, and our friends.”
Four of the members of the Treaty 8 Tribal Tribal Association presented a united front, along with Tribal Chief Liz Logan, against the project. Chiefs from the West Moberly, Halfway River, Prophet River, and Doig River First Nations all spoke up about the effects it would have on their communities’ treaty rights and way of life.
“Part of the treaty is an oral promise that there will be no forced interference on our mode of life, that we will be able to carry on a promised way of life after the signing of the treaty, as if we had never entered into the treaty,” maintained West Moberly First Nation Chief Roland Willson. “My son most likely won’t be able to hunt caribou in our own territory.”
The Saulteau First Nations, which maintains a neutral position, presented on Tuesday.
The public hearings continue Thursday with another general session in the morning and afternoon, followed by a short topic-specific session on atmospheric factors with a presentation by Brian Hobbs of Urban Systems on behalf of the City of Fort St. John.