FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is being observed today with the theme “Indigenous Peoples Right to Education”, and Amnesty International has chosen the occasion to publish a 20 page report entitled “The Point of No Return”.
It marks the beginning of a global campaign by the human rights organization calling for a halt of all work on the multi-billion dollar Site C dam project until all indigenous peoples in this area provide free and informed consent.
Claiming to already have more than 46,000 signatures on a protest petition, Amnesty argues the project illustrates the persistent gap between rhetoric and reality, when it comes to the rights of indigenous peoples through the Americas.
It adds rights protected under an historic treaty, the Canadian Constitution, and international human rights standards have been pushed aside in the name of a development project, which has no clear purpose or rationale, and doesn’t have the consent of the indigenous nations, which will suffer the construction consequences.
It goes on to say it’s not enough for governments to say they respect the right of indigenous people, they must also act to consistently uphold those rights, and anything less than that is a continuation of the same patterns of “Racism and discrimination that have led to centuries of impoverishment and dispossession for indigenous peoples throughout the globe”.
Amnesty also quotes Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations as saying “We’ve never said no to the production of energy…We said, let’s protect the valley, It’s the last piece of our backyard that’s relatively untouched.”
BC Hydro says it’s been consulting with area First Nations since 2007, but in an interview earlier this summer here’s part of what Chief Willson told this reporter was his take on that consultation process.
The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are still challenging the project in three different on-going court cases, and at last word the one before a federal court, appealing a lower court constitutional rights decision, was set to be heard in Montreal on September 14th.