Site C will cause “unprecedented” environmental damage, say 250 academics

Machinery and equipment at the Site C project

University professors decry harmful effects, improper review process and disregard of First Nations’ rights

Researchers from universities across Canada as well as in the U.S., U.K. and Australia say there were significant problems with the regulatory review and environmental assessment process for the Site C project. The group, which includes 250 university professors, legal scholars, political scientists, water scientists and environmental scientists from across Canada expressed their concerns in a statement, which was echoed by the president of the Royal Society of Canada in a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau. The Royal Society of Canada: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada is the country’s senior collegium of distinguished scholars, artists and scientists, established by Parliament in 1883.

The researchers found that adverse environmental effects from the Site C project are “unprecedented in the history of environmental assessment in Canada”: not only would Site C affect dozens of species, aquatics, vegetation, wildlife, aboriginal use of lands and cultural heritage, but of more than 120 major projects assessed since 1992, Site C is one of only 10 to have major environmental effects. The researchers want the federal and provincial governments to explain how Site C can be justified when the electricity to be produced is currently unnecessary and for which there are less expensive and less damaging alternatives.

The academics also express concern about the review process, which was conducted over a compressed nine-month period by a three-person panel. The panel’s report stated that it did not have sufficient time or resources to properly assess certain key issues, including the costs of the Site C project, so it recommended that the Site C project be referred to the British Columbia Utilities Commission—which has not occurred. The researchers say that the provincial government should refer the project to the BC Utilities Commission for review as originally recommended by the panel.

The statement of concerned scholars also questions whether it’s appropriate to start construction of the dam before court cases brought by affected First Nations have been resolved. It recommends that the federal Department of Justice analyze whether the project infringes upon constitutional treaty and aboriginal rights.

The statement, which is addressed to the prime minister, the premier of B.C. and various cabinet ministers, recommends that neither the federal or provincial government issue further permits until the various issues are resolved.

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