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VICTORIA An Amnesty International report calling for work to stop on British Columbia's $8.8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam will not affect construction on the project, says the Crown corporation building the project.
"Canadian and international law require a high and rigorous standard of protection to ensure that indigenous peoples, who have already endured decades of marginalization, discrimination, dispossession, and impoverishment, are not further harmed by development on their lands and territories," said the report by Amnesty.
The Amnesty International report said archeological evidence shows indigenous peoples have lived in the Peace River area for more than 10,000 years and many rely on the valley to hunt, fish, trap, conduct ceremonies and harvest plant medicines. Premier Christy Clark announced approval of the project in December 2014. Construction at the dam site started last summer and the federal government recently approved permits to allow work to begin on diverting water flows.
McDonald said Hydro has reached agreements with many of the First Nations to mitigate potential impacts of the project.
"To speak in general terms, we have been successful in reaching agreements that speak to respecting the interests and concerns First Nations communities may have regarding the project," she said. "I do feel that the report misses the mark."
Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett and Jessica McDonald, BC Hydro's president and chief executive officer, said the government and Crown corporation have consulted widely and meaningfully with area indigenous peoples since 2007 and those talks continue as the project proceeds.
Amnesty's report on Site C dam won't affect construction
The report, The Point of No Return, also said the project should only proceed on the basis of free, prior and informed consent of all affected indigenous peoples.
"The Site C project has been through an extensive review and approval process," said McDonald. "It's an approved project. It has its permits and it's our responsibility to continue construction and bring this project into operation on time and on budget."
"No amount of consultation is adequate if, at the end of the day, the concerns of indigenous peoples are not seriously considered and their human rights remain unacknowledged or unprotected," said the report.
At least two area First Nations are challenging the project in court.
"This group and many of the groups want to focus on the negatives, without ever acknowledging all the positive things," he said.
Bennett wasn't available for an interview, but he told radio station CHNL that the report ignores benefits associated with the project and an extensive consultation process.
The dam would be the third on the Peace River, flooding an 83 kilometre stretch of valley near Fort St. John.
Bennett Canada Goose Palliser Coat Nz Sale said the report does not properly acknowledge the jobs the project is creating, especially for indigenous people, and the long term power supply the dam will deliver.