First Nations Dispute with BC Hydro’s Site C Hydroelectric Project

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This article from Vancouver Sun talks about the First Nation’s position against BC Hydro’s new $8 billion hydroelectric project. This project includes a damn and a generating station that operates on the Peace River First Nation groups are concerned with the environmental impacts of this project, including the destruction of farmland and wildlife. BC Hydro firmly believes that hydroelectricity is the clean and sustainable energy that should be used to support energy demands of the growing population.

For BC Hydro, the First Nations’s stance is a political factor that influences the company’s business model. BC Hydro is required to be aware of their actions on the First Nations community based on the government and court’s opinion on the matter. The firm has to be flexible and willing enough to cooperate with the ideas and opinions of the First Nations, which has always proven to be difficult in the past. For example, the Northern Gateway pipeline has had lots of backlash from the First Nations community because they were not fully consulted in its planning process. The First Nations are external stakeholders to these projects and to a certain extent, their position can carry quite a lot of weight. Why is this so? Well, British Columbia is First Nation land and we are to respect their traditions with their use of the land.Their biggest concern for the BC Hydro project is that the flooding of the land hurts their right to fish and hunt as well as carry out their ceremonial practices on their territory. However, they are interested in looking into other small projects using different sources of renewable energy like wind, solar, and geothermal power.

It is difficult to form a solid opinion on this matter as both sides have valid points that I can empathize with. Having done a project on hydroelectricity in the past, I believe that it is one of the most effective and efficient sources of renewable energy. With our population growing, energy demand will increase and we must have enough supply to counteract skyrocketing electricity costs. BC Hydro is a business, so obviously it wants to have a steady stream of profits from this project. This can explain the magnitude of their dam and why they would want to use Peace River. However, at the same time, I agree with the First Nations when they say that there will be detrimental environmental impacts that can outweigh the benefits of building the dam. I find that is equally important to respect the First Nations as it is to support the citizens of B.C.

The government walks a fine line here as they must please their voters in order to stay in office as well as fulfill the requests of the First Nations, of which they already have poor relations. It is a tense interaction because the B.C. Hydro project can bring in a lot of tax revenue for the government, create jobs, and strengthen our economy, which is great for Canada as a whole. Yet, the First Nations do not receive the same benefits. While they usually get a percentage of profits, it never seems to be enough to satisfy all their concerns because their culture and their land becomes endangered.

These types of debates between a business company and First Nations group always seem to happen and usually end with one party unhappy. It will be interesting how the case will be handled and if BC Hydro will make any alternations to their business model in order to work cohesively with the First Nations.