BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald: response to Dr. David Suzuki

Dear David,

Thank you for your letter outlining your concerns regarding BC Hydro’s recent filing for an injunction to remove the protest camp at the Site C dam worksite, and about the project itself.

I appreciate that the David Suzuki Foundation continues to hold the view that the Site C project should not be under construction, however your characterization of BC Hydro’s approach to First Nations and landowners is not accurate. BC Hydro respects the right of all individuals and groups to express their opinions about Site C in a safe and lawful manner. In fact, we have established a safe protest area near one of the gate entrances. The protest at the site of the Rocky Mountain Fort was taking place within an active construction zone and it was unsafe for all individuals involved to be in proximity to clearing activities. This left us with no other option but to pursue an injunction order, which has now been granted.

We treat our responsibility to build strong and trusting relationships with local First Nations with the utmost concern, and discussions with local First Nations are therefore carried out in a manner that respects First Nations governance, occurring privately and through the elected Chief and Council. To the best of our knowledge, none of the local First Nations supported this protest. Instead, it involved a small group of dedicated opponents of the project with participation from some individual First Nations members.

As a participant in the independent Joint Review Panel process, the David Suzuki Foundation will be aware that many diverse views were heard regarding the project from the public and stakeholder groups during the three-year federal-provincial environmental assessment process, including two months of public hearings. In its final report, the independent Panel recognized the importance of Site C when they stated: “Site C, after an initial burst of expenditure, would lock in low rates for many decades, and would produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy than any source save nuclear.” The independent Panel also concluded that “Site C would be the least expensive of the alternatives and its cost advantages would increase with the passing decades as inflation makes other alternatives more costly.”

Site C is an important renewable energy resource in a system that is already almost 98% renewable and clean. Our load forecasts project significant growth in electricity demand over the next 20 years due to population growth and expanding demand in our industrial, commercial and residential customer groups. The project is being constructed to meet the electricity needs of British Columbia, beginning in 2024 and carrying on for generations.

Thank you again for taking the time to express your concerns to us.

Sincerely,

Jessica McDonald

 

Original letter

Dear Jessica, 

I’m deeply disappointed with BC Hydro's heavy-handed tactics in dealing with Treaty 8 community members and their supporters, who had been camped at the historical Rocky Mountain Fort in the Peace Valley for weeks. I'm told efforts had been made to broker a discussion between people at the camp and you before Hydro sought a court injunction to remove them. 

Throughout the regulatory process and consultation with affected First Nations, BC Hydro has never been able to make the case that power from the Site C dam is needed or that the project is worth the enormous cost to Indigenous lands and livelihoods, not to mention prime farmland and wildlife habitat. 

Peer-reviewed research by the David Suzuki Foundation found that nearly two-thirds of the Peace region has already been devastated by human land use, from fracking to logging to mining, as well as earlier major hydro developments on the Peace River. The Joint Review Panel concluded that the cumulative impacts of this development are massive, and the negative consequences for First Nations and their treaty rights cannot be mitigated. 

With Treaty 8 First Nations still in court, these issues remain unresolved. And yet BC Hydro has chosen to steamroll forward, in the absence of proper due diligence and without social license to proceed. Expert after expert has concluded that halting development on the dam to allow these court cases to conclude will not come at a cost to BC Hydro but will in fact save money for Hydro's customers. 

I urge you to use common sense and halt work on the Site C dam and sit down with First Nations. The days of running roughshod over First Nations and local communities must end.

Yours sincerely, 

David Suzuki 

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