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Colonial courts kick Indigenous people off their land, while Trudeau does nothing

Hunger strikers and supporters defending Treaty 8 Nation lands
By: 
Bradley Hughes

March 23, 2016

Despite appeals to Prime Minister Trudeau and to BC Premier Christy Clark to respect Indigenous rights and the needs of local farmers, construction on the Site C dam continues. At the end of February the British Columbia Supreme Court issued an injunction to allow BC Hydro to remove protesters and to take down their camp at the Site C construction site.
 
The Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land have lived at the camp, preventing the logging of old growth forests that BC Hydro requires to build the dam. In a letter to the Prime Minister and BC’s Premier they demanded that construction be halted until the courts decide on several challenges by First Nations and local landowners, that permits for construction be suspended by the Federal government until there has been a review of the infringement of Treaty 8 rights caused by the project, and “an independent review by the BC Utilities Commission of the Site C dam project, with full procedural safeguards, as recommended by the federal/provincial Joint Review Panel and many others.”
 
By removing the Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land from their own land in favour BC Hydro, the courts once again sided with Canada’s continued refusal to deal with Indigenous nations on a nation to nation basis.
 
Earlier in the year, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and environmentalist David Suzuki travelled to the protest camp to show their support. Grand Chief Phillip said, "It is infuriating and deeply frustrating that we continue to be confronted with this provocative and aggressive approach from BC Hydro and the Province of British Columbia when Treaty 8's court proceedings have not even been completed and the Site C project has not been properly reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission. It is absolutely unacceptable that BC Hydro is relentlessly clear-cutting forests right now to prepare for the flooding of the Peace River Valley, which will destroy archaeological sites and eradicate prime farmland. The proposed Site C project will irreparably harm and adversely impact the environment and the Treaty 8 First Nations and all residents whose lives are entwined with the health of the land and waters.”
 
David Suzuki said, “Promises by government to uphold and respect treaty rights ring hollow when construction is given the green light before three on-going First Nations court cases against the dam are even finished. BC Hydro must stop its work immediately and allow the court cases to be decided.”
 
The protest has now become a hunger strike outside the BC Hydro headwaters in Vancouver. Kristin Henry is starving herself to try to stop construction on the dam. She last ate on March 13 and she has sworn not to eat until the Site C dam has been stopped. Her supporters have written to Prime Minister Trudeau, noting that, “During your campaign, you promised to build a 'renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples,' and we're holding you to that promise.” The letter calls “for an immediate halt to the construction of the Site C dam, until the Treaty 8 First Nations have been appropriately consulted, the current court cases by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have concluded, and the BC Utilities Commission has completed an independent review of the project.”
 
The continued construction and the recent court decision allowing BC Hydro to remove the Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land highlights how little respect our new Prime Minister has for the rights of Indigenous peoples. In a just world, Trudeau, Clark, and the CEOs of the LNG corporations who need this dam to provide electricity for their fracking nightmare, would be camped out in tents hoping the Treaty 8 Nations might meet with them and allow them to proceed with the dam.
 
Find out how to help the protest at hungerstrikesitec.weebly.com and visit the camp at the BC Hydro Building 333 Dunsmuir St. In Vancouver, B.C.
Join the conference Ideas for Real Change: Marxism 2016, including the sessions "Colonialism, climate crisis and Indigenous resistance," "Climate justice now" and "Racism, the security state and C-51." Register today and join/share on facebook.

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