Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould should resign over Site C, says Treaty 8 chief

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould should resign her post over the federal approval of permits for British Columbia’s Site C mega dam, says the chief of West Moberly First Nation

(NDP MP Charlie Angus tries to get an answer from Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on Site C during question period Tuesday.)

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould should resign her post over the federal approval of permits for British Columbia’s Site C mega dam, says the chief of West Moberly First Nation, one of the Treaty 8 communities facing territorial destruction as a result of the project.

West Moberly Chief Roland Willson said Wilson-Raybould should follow her conscience and resign from her cabinet position because she is being forced to go against her “heart” and her “people” by standing silently by as the $9 billion project continues to clear bureaucratic hurdles.

“I think she is being, you know, muzzled. I think they told her not to say anything. I know Jody, she wouldn’t, at least I hope she wouldn’t, abandon us…She knows full well what is going on. They appointed her as the token Indian. She’s a lawyer so they put her there in the justice file and told her she can’t comment on stuff,” said Willson, in an interview with APTN National News Tuesday. “I have to have faith that is not who Jody is. My feeling right now is, if she had some integrity and if someone told her to be muzzled she should resign.”

Willson said if the minister is choosing, of her own accord, to stay silent, then Wilson-Raybould was a liar the day she stood next to him and stated the project was running “roughshod” over treaty rights.

“It would be sad because that meant she stood beside me and lied and she is just one of those ‘yes’ people,” he said.

The Justice Minister’s office said Tuesday evening Wilson-Raybould wanted to respond, but she was tied up in meetings and with affairs unfolding in the House of Commons.

The kilometre-long, earthfill dam will lead to the diversion of the Peace River and the creation of an 83 kilometre reservoir that would flood a swath of Treaty 8 territory. The province claims the 1,100 megawatt dam would eventually provide B.C. with clean energy for more than a century. But the province doesn’t need the energy yet, and it’s believe the project’s aim is to provide power for future large-scale projects.

Two dams have already disturbed about 70 per cent of the Peace River wiping out Treaty 8 hunting grounds and wildlife corridors, along with contaminating the fish and destroying cultural and spiritual sites forever. Site C will destroy half of what remains, according to Willson.

Treaty 8 has language that guarantees the right to fish and trap in specific locations threatened by Site C. The language in the treaty could be interpreted as guaranteeing commercial harvesting.

Willson made his comments about Wilson-Raybould shortly after the Justin Trudeau government again indicated during question period Tuesday it was washing its hands of the federal Crown’s duty to consult on the Site C saying it is now up to B.C. Hydro to conduct any further consultations.

The Trudeau government recently issued permits by Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans allowing for the destruction of fish habitat to construct the dam.

The Trudeau government, which has repeatedly claimed it would forge a new relationship with Indigenous peoples, finds itself defending and advancing the previous Stephen Harper cabinet decision to sign-off on the mega dam. The Harper cabinet approved Site C following a study on the project by a federal-provincial Joint Review Panel which found the dam would have a significant impact on the First Nations’ use of land and resources for traditional purposes.

With West Moberly and Prophet River First Nation challenging the Harper government’s approval of the Site C dam before the Federal Court of Appeal—on grounds cabinet didn’t consider the decision’s impact on the 1899 treaty—Wilson-Raybould’s department finds itself arguing the Conservative government did meet its duty to consult on the project.

“The Crown satisfied its duty to consult,” said Ottawa’s court filing with the Federal Court of Appeal.

A Federal Court Appeal hearing on the case was held last Monday in Montreal.

At one time, a mere four years ago, while she was a regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, Wilson-Raybould campaigned against the project saying it was “running roughshod over Aboriginal title and treaty rights” and threatened to tarnish Canada’s international reputation. Now, as the country’s top lawyer, she sits silent in the House of Commons while opposition politicians demand answers as to how the Trudeau government could allow the project to continue

Again on Tuesday, Wilson-Raybould watched on as Jonathan Wilkinson, Liberal parliamentary secretary for environment, responded to two questions from NDP MPs Romeo Saganash and Charlie Angus directed at the Justice Minister on Site C.

“The Minister of Justice has the constitutional obligation to ensure Indigenous people were consulted before (the federal government) issued the permits (for Site C),” said Saganash.

“What about the silence over there from the Justice Minister? I remember when she was a passionate defender of Indigenous rights against Site C when she said it would damage Canada’s international reputation, that it ran roughshod over Aboriginal title, but now that she has the legal responsibility to protect Indigenous rights, she has gone to ground, she is sitting there smiling away. Where is the moral courage?” said Angus.

Both times Wilkinson said B.C. Hydro would have to comply with conditions tagged onto the recently issued federal permits which include a duty to consult.

On Monday, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said it was up to the province to conduct consultation as a requirement for the federal permits.

“If you look at the whole gamut of conditions that have been put on the permit, B.C. Hydro has an obligation obviously to consult with Indigenous leadership,” said LeBlanc, during a scrum with reporters.

According to the existing record, Ottawa did not engage in any real consultation with the two First Nations before issuing the permits on July 27. The record shows the Trudeau government made little effort to engage with the two First Nations since taking power.

On Nov. 24, 2015, the chiefs sent letters to Trudeau along with Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. Only Bennett, on Dec. 17, and McKenna, on Dec. 23, responded. Their responses, however, arrived after the chiefs travelled to Ottawa between Dec. 10 and 12 in hopes of securing a meeting. While in the city they were told to attend the Liberal caucus Christmas party and meet with the ministers informally. They only managed to speak with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

Six months after their initial letter to Trudeau, and after several follow-up letters to other ministers, Tootoo finally agreed to meet with the chiefs on June 13. That meeting was cancelled after Tootoo resigned following his entanglement in a love triangle with a young staffer and her mother.

The chiefs finally met with LeBlanc on July 20 and, according to his statement to reporters on Monday, he “listened to them.”

Seven days later, on July 27, his department approved the permits.

All this has unfolded against a multi-pronged legal assault launched by the First Nations.

In addition to waiting on the Federal Court of Appeals ruling on its case, the First Nations are also awaiting a judgment from the B.C. Superior Court on a challenge to the provincial government’s issuing of permits for Site C. That judgement was expected by August, but has yet to be issued.

The First Nations also have a hearing scheduled for December before the B.C. Court of Appeal on a challenge against another set of permits issued by the provincial environment minister.

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11 thoughts on “Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould should resign over Site C, says Treaty 8 chief

  1. Thank goodness for politicians like Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Liberal MP, who is willing to stand up for what’s right and not let ‘politics’ rule his voice.

  2. It’d probably look better, in a perverse kind of way, for the Liberals to admit to whatever calculus they used to discount these First Nations’ treaty rights rather than looking like they’re doing the moribund BC Liberals, who are currently campaigning for a fifth-term-bid in May, a special favour to help them to get re-elected.

    What could the calculus have possibly been? Issue Site-C permits in compensation for losing the Northern Gateway pipeline project? Perhaps it was a replacement sop for the BC Liberals’ 2013 sop—an incredibly lucrative LNG industry with fifteen processing plants along the West Coast to liquify and ship-out natural gas; maybe it was considered rotten luck that absolutely none of that materialized, due to chronically low LNG market-prices, and therefore the BC Liberals deserve to be cut some slack on Site-C. Perhaps the Liberals are considering the importance of resource export to the nation as a whole, calculating in preparation for a federal assertion of provinces’ right to ship their resources to market, even through other provinces’ jurisdictions such as landlocked Saskatchewan and Alberta have to do.

    Such calculus would be tricky. BC and a number of eastern provinces have staked their respective sovereignties on blocking pipelines, earning the ire of the tar-sand industry in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but the details can be devilishly complex. For example, the BC Liberals have addressed criticism for building an unneeded dam purely for partisan advantage in the upcoming election (running on their atrocious record is not an option) by claiming the “excess power” will be sold in Alberta where it’ll help ween BC’s neighbour off of coal-fired electricity generation; Alberta responds by reminding BC that it’s blocking Alberta’s prime resource from getting to Pacific markets and rejects any commitment to buy Site-C electricity in retaliation. Despite the apparent standoff, wheeling and dealing is not off the table.

    Or maybe issuing accelerated earth-moving permits at Site-C just a few weeks before FNs seek injunction in federal court was simply a miscalculation the rookie government might be expected to make in its freshman year.

    It’s curious that the feds didn’t seem to recognize recently SCoC-confirmed FN rights—especially with regard resource development in the West— or to remember their minister’s pre-election criticism of Site-C nor, for that matter, the PM’s pre-election commitment to respect Aboriginal rights. And no Liberal MP from BC could be unaware of the fact that the BC Liberals do not deserve to win the next election, much less look like they’re being helped by their federal name-sakes—that is, ONLY in name since BC Liberals are actually a far-right party.

    One gets the feeling other factors are in play—we just don’t know what they are and that’s called back-room politicks.

  3. It appears that Catherine McKenna is keeping her mouth shut too and maybe Jane Philpott on the assisted dying legislation, and maybe Chrystia Freeland on the trade agreements. Did Trudeau appoint these women to high profile portfolios in order to shut them up?

  4. The Justice Minister is “tied up in meetings and with affairs” so has no time to comment. Anyone else agree how terribly sad and ironic that statement is ?

    1. How could she NOT have pre-written comments explaining the betrayal if she can explain it. I am more than disappointed in PMJT government to approve the 2 permits and I am appalled that it is in part Wilson-Raybould who delivered them. There is not one positive angle on this, if she was forced its shameful, if she agreed its shameful. Only one tiny ray of sunshine is from the conditions attached.
      ”… and where appropriate FN rights will be accommodated” Key words here where appropriate in other words when they feel like it.

  5. Le Blanc has been put in place to try and figure out why our government is involved in 45,000 court cases basically fighting the people that vote for them. This is one very large example as to the why Le Blanc. Are you listening and then again doing nothing but creating more reasons for more court cases?

      1. Only because i am addressing his wonderment at all the court cases. This was in the news recently.

  6. You are right. She should be standing up and making a lot of noise about this, since she knows it is against treaties. How much treaty destruction will it take until people have had enough? Or how much money does it take to turn someone from being honorable person to being a pig at the old trough?

  7. It is going to take effort from every single person in this country to lock arms and stop the destruction of the environment for profits, profits, profits–for whom? It’s shameful, to destroy land, territories, animals, water and fish for potential profits, particularly when renewable energy is getting better and better. Let’s lean into this fight because clean water is necessary for all life.

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