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B.C. First Nations slam feds at UN anti-racism hearings over Site C dam

Canada grilled in Geneva on Monday over BC Hydro dam.

Members of Treaty 8 First Nations in north-east B.C. drum during the annual Paddle for the Peace against BC Hydro's Site C hydroelectric dam.

Contributed/Andrea Morison/Paddle for the Peace

Members of Treaty 8 First Nations in north-east B.C. drum during the annual Paddle for the Peace against BC Hydro's Site C hydroelectric dam.

Ottawa should expect an earful on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland.

Every four years the federal government has to answer questions from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as part of the country's obligations under international treaty.

This year, several First Nations advocates from British Columbia have followed bureaucrats to Geneva to take the government to task, particularly on the Site C hydroelectric dam that's currently under construction but poised to face a new provincial review under the B.C. NDP.

"We’re frankly sick of hearing about the Canadian government going to the UN and bragging about its human rights record when our rights are being violated on a daily basis," said West Moberly First Nations Coun. Robyn Fuller in a statement as she left for Europe. "The Site C dam will devastate a crucial natural environment on which we depend for our culture and way of life.

"When the government turns its back on the harm that Site C causing, the government is blatantly violating our Treaty and Canada’s international human rights obligations and should be held accountable.”

The $9-billion, 1,100 megawatt dam began under the former B.C. Liberal government, but the B.C. NDP minority government — with the backing of the anti-Site C Green Party of B.C. — announced they are sending it to the B.C. Utilities Commission, a regulator which previously rejected the project as unnecessary. It would flood nearly 10,000 hectares of Treat 8 lands.

A joint submission from 11 groups — including Amnesty International Canada, Assembly of First Nations, Sierra Club and Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs — asked the government: "If the displacement of Treaty 8 people from the Peace River Valley means that they cannot exercise their rights or continue these practices for future generations because of the construction of the Site C dam, will the government of Canada withdraw its approval for the dam?"

Canada is before the UN anti-racism committee Monday and Tuesday, including scheduled time for meetings with non-government organizations, and for the government to respond.

"Governments in Canada have a legal duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate when the Crown contemplates conduct that might adversely impact … Aboriginal or Treaty Rights," Ottawa's 2016 submission stated. "… Canada has a strong legal and policy framework to combat racial discrimination and to advance substantive equality."

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