OPEN LETTER: BC Climate Leadership Team Must Oppose Site C

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs

[West Moberly, Prophet River, Fort Nelson, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, BC Assembly of First Nations, and First Nations Summit logos]

November 19, 2015

BC Climate Leadership Team:

Jordan Sturdy, MLA

Susan Laaksonen-Craig, Climate Action Secretariat

Nancy Olewiler, SFU

Dr. Thomas F. Pederson, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions

Dr. James Tansey, UBC and Offsetters

Linda Hepner, City of Surrey

Paul Ives, Town of Comox

Luke Strimbold, Village of Burns Lake

Tzeporah Berman, York University

Matt Horne, Pembina Institute

Merran Smith, Clean Energy Canada

James Gorman, West Fraser Timber

David Keane, BC LNG Alliance

Greg McDougall, Harbour Air

Tim Newton, Formerly BC Hydro; Power Ex

Chief Ian Campbell, Squamish First Nation

Chief Michelle Edwards, Cayoose Creek

Chief Zach Parker, Ulkatcho First Nation

OPEN LETTER: BC Climate Leadership Team Must Oppose Site C 

Dear Climate Leadership Team Members,

We are writing because you have been called upon to provide recommendations on climate action to the provincial government by the end of this month, when Premier Christy Clark is scheduled to travel to Paris to attend international climate change talks.  We are collectively advising you that the proposed Site C hydroelectric dam project is not “clean energy” and to remind you that Treaty 8 First Nations continue to oppose Site C, and we are calling on you to oppose the Site C project with us.

Your primary task is to advocate the “best actions” that British Columbia can take to keep the province on track in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But you have also been told that the recommendations you make should serve to improve relations between the provincial government and First Nations, not weaken or undermine them. This is a vital part of your mandate, and it cannot and must not be ignored.

All too often, provincial and federal government actions have caused harm to First Nations. There is a grave risk that if you, as committee members, are not careful you will legitimize climate actions that amount to an assault on constitutionally protected Aboriginal Title and Rights and Treaty Rights.

We are extremely concerned that a cornerstone of the province’s emerging and allegedly “clean energy” climate plans includes construction of the Site C dam, which would flood lands along 107 kilometers of the Peace River and its tributaries. This would result in the permanent loss of vital hunting, fishing and gathering sites and other areas that are of historic and cultural importance to the region’s First Nations, who actively oppose the dam’s construction.

Further underscoring our concerns is a discussion paper on climate action that was released in July by the provincial government and reviewed by members of your committee. The paper makes no mention of Site C. Because it fails to do so, there is no discussion about what uses the hydroelectric power from that dam might be put to. Our concern is that a substantial amount of that power could be used to support expanded natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations on First Nation lands, which could then result in the construction of new Liquefied Natural Gas processing plants on our coast.

If as committee members you are not already aware, you should know that First Nations in the Peace Region of the province have expressed grave concerns about the impacts that expanded natural gas drilling and fracking operations have had and will continue to have on critically important wildlife and water resources. Those concerns have recently resulted in successful arguments before provincial tribunals and courts opposing water and other resource allocations to energy companies involved in fracking operations.  Further, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, First Nations Summit, and BC Assembly of First Nations have respectively passed resolutions supporting Treaty 8 First Nations in opposition to Site C.

In May, 2015, when Premier Clark appointed you as members to the Climate Leadership Team you were tasked with making recommendations that “further the province’s government-to-government relationships with First Nations while constructively finding climate solutions.”  You will fail to meet your own mandate if you do not publicly and forcefully oppose the Site C dam and any expansion in natural gas drilling and fracking operations that would be made possible by increased availability of hydroelectric power. We formally request that you speak publicly on this issue prior to the Paris climate change talks, and underscore the importance of BC working directly on a government-to-government basis with First Nations.

Substantial progress in meeting our climate change goals is something we all strive for. But true progress cannot be made in the absence of strengthened relationships between BC and First Nations. That is the path to truly meaningful, socially responsible climate change policies.


[signatures in original]  

Chief Roland Willson                     Chief Lynette Tsakoza   Chief Liz Logan

West Moberly First Nation         Prophet River First Nation           Fort Nelson First Nation


Grand Chief Edward John             Robert Phillips                  Cheryl Casimer



Grand Chief Stewart Phillip                Chief Bob Chamberlin                           Kukpi7 Judy Wilson



Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson



CC:         Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

                Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

                Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs

                Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party

Honourable Christy Clark, Premier of BC

Honourable Mary Polak, Minister of Environment, BC

Honourable John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation

John Horgan, Leader of the BC NDP                        


Andrea Glickman

Senior Policy Advisor

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs

TEL (604) 684 0231

CELL (604) 842 2977

FAX (604) 684 5726



 5th Floor - 342 Water Street, Vancouver BC V6B 1B6