First protest at gates of Site C construction site (with photo gallery)

By on October 17, 2015
Protest at Site C construction site gates Oct. 17. Photo: Stacy Thomas

Ruth Ann Darnell and Arlene Boon at protest at Site C construction site gates Oct. 17. Photo: Stacy Thomas

FORT ST. JOHN – The first of what some participants said will be more peaceful protests took place at the gates of the Site C construction site Saturday Oct. 17.

About forty people, young and old, turned up to show their opposition to the BC Hydro project which many local residents, environmental groups and politicians—such as Green Party candidate Liz Biggar, who initiated the protest—say is proceeding illegally, without proper consent or review.

“I’m just using the last little bit of my voice before the [federal election on Oct. 19] to bring this cause out, because it wasn’t talked about in any of the debates that I went to, unless I brought it up,” Biggar said. “The government needs to be held accountable, we need to stop it. So that’s why I’m here, it’s not about me today it’s about you guys, and it’s about stopping Site C.”

As residents of the Peace Valley spoke, emotions ran high and a few tears were shed, while children looked on and a bonfire burned in the background.

Trucks continuously drove past the protestors until, notably, BC Hydro staff halted the traffic while speeches were being made.

“Growing up here in the Peace River region my whole life, and wanting to stay here and raise my own family, I get a real sense of heart and love and strength from all of you over the last ten years, this is what community is, this is what it means to me,” said Verena Hofmann of the Treaty 8 Tribal Association.

“It’s the river itself, and what it provides to us, naturally, but it’s the people that are part of this valley and want to hold on to it, that I feel most passionately and strongly for, and that’s what I’m fighting for, that we can all be together and be connected for as long as we want to be and deserve to be … everybody is watching, everybody is hearing us, everybody is still behind us, and us being here, in front of the construction gate, or any other time, standing up and using our voices, is not something that is illegal or criminal. That is within our right—what’s happening here behind that gate is the criminal act, is what’s illegal, is what’s theft. We as a people have every right to stand up and say this is unjust, this isn’t right, and we will put a stop to it, because it has to be stopped.”

Ruth Ann Darnell, who has been leading the charge to stop the dam as Chair of the Peace Valley Environment Association since 1979, commented that it was good to see younger faces in the crowd, such as Sage Birley, a market gardener whose family has lived in the Peace Valley for 100 years.

Birley made the case for the agricultural potential of the valley.

“As a young person, I think there’s no limit to what can be achieved if we use this valley for what it should be used for, and we could feed this region, and we could produce something that’s going to last a lot longer than some quick jobs, so this fight is so important.

“This region has given more than enough. I look at the sacrifices people make in their daily lives, and the industry in this region and how much it contributes to this province, and I can’t help but think that this is just one step too far.”

This may be the first of more peaceful protests to come, as was alluded to by Ken Boon, president of the Peace Valley Landowner’s Association.

“This is democracy, and that [the construction site] is not democracy. How this project has gone ahead is not what my folks went through the Second World War for,” said Boon.

“Stay tuned, there may be more of these … let’s just keep the pressure on, Site C is not a done deal. One way or another we’re going to stop this project, we have to, we have no choice, it’s just wrong. We just have to do the right thing and stop this project. There’s other ways to put these trucks to work.”

No BC Hydro staff were present to comment on the protest.

Two RCMP officers from Fort St. John attended the event for a short time.

Stacy Thomas

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