Canadian federal court dismisses First Nations case against 1.1-GW Site C hydropower project

Site C Hydropower Project

Canada's Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed a lawsuit that would have prevented work on British Columbia's controversial 1.1-GW Site C hydroelectric plant from advancing.

A suit filed by the Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations alleged that Site C's developer, BC Hydro, was infringing on treaty rights, and that any decision should be made by the Governor-in-Council instead of a court.

In Canada, Governor-in-Council appointees are selected by recommendation of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, and they act as advisors and advocates in the legislative process.

A three-judge panel from the Federal Court of Appeal argued, however, that the Governor-in-Council "does not possess any expertise and is not equipped to determine contested questions of law and complex factual issues", and that it "cannot exercise adjudicative functions."

The court then dismissed the First Nations' claim, saying "a full discovery, examination of expert evidence, as well as historical testimonial and documentary evidence" should be used to determine whether treaty rights were violated. The ruling did not, however, determine if those rights were violated.

The Prophet River and West Moberly bands were amongst four that filed suit against Site C in November 2014 as part of the Treaty 8 Tribal Association. Another of the groups represented in the suit, the McLeod Lake Indian Band, dropped out of the complaint after signing an agreement for "economic development opportunities and other benefits" with BC Hydro in July.

Site C, to be located on the Peace River, is intended to help the province meet what BC Hydro said will be a 40% increase in power demand over the next two decades.

HydroWorld.com reported last April that BC Hydro had selected Voith Hydro to design, supply and install hydromechanical equipment for the project.

Main civil works on the project began in June.

Site C will be the third hydroelectric project on the Peace River, joining 2,730-MW G.M. Shrum and 694-MW Peace Canyon. The site was chosen for potential development in 1976.

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