MOBERLY LAKE, B.C – West Moberly First Nations has gained access to all Site C documents relating to safety and projected costs.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Warren Milman made the ruling on April 30th in response to an application submitted by the First Nations and Chief Roland Willson. The order comes after the First Nations announced plans in January to go after information on geotechnical problems and safety risks.
A 120-day trial is expected to start in March 2022 as West Moberly is suing BC Hydro along with the federal and provincial governments over the project. The information will be used as the First Nation seeks a permanent work stoppage and full reclamation of the site to its natural state. In addition, they claim the site violates their treaty rights and will damage their land along the Peace River.
West Moberly will receive Peter Millburn’s full report and any additional documents that touch on the projected final cost and the dam’s safety once completed. The First Nations was required to sign a confidentiality agreement before receiving the files.
Millburn, a former deputy finance minister with a background in civil engineering, was appointed by the province to conduct the report in July 2020. The information was submitted on December 12th, 2020 and was released to the public in February when Premier John Horgan announced the project would now cost $16 billion with a one-year delay.
BC Hydro and the province were against the First Nations application arguing the material was already made public or was irrelevant.
Justice Milman agreed with the First Nations reasoning behind wanting the documents. Milman says if the dam is deemed unsafe, then it is a treaty violation, and the court will need to weigh the risk of a catastrophic dam failure compared to the overall cost of the project.
“It would be premature for me to decide at this stage and in this context whether those will indeed be found to be relevant considerations in that analysis, as WMFN argue. That is an issue for trial. For the present, it is sufficient that they are raised by the pleadings and therefore at least potentially relevant,” says Millman.
Not all West Moberly requested documents were handed over, such as information on “possible shortcomings in the project’s oversite” and “geotechnical risks that were not adequately anticipated”.
“The answers to such questions are unlikely to shed very much light on the matters that are truly in issue in this litigation.”
There was no mention if the documents acquired would become public due to the public interest immunity principle. This will enable the NDP to refrain from revealing information that would damage the public interest.
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