Powerful and compelling words from Treaty 8 Elders at Rocky Mountain Fort Camp,but is anyone in government listening?

In reading some of the reports on the Treaty 8 campers and their supporters at Rocky Mountain Fort heritage site, one is left wondering who these people are, and why are they there?

In the following video an elder who is in camp, shares in his own words, compelling reasons and feelings about what is going on,what will be lost and what it means to him. ( video may take a minute to load. Be patient! :)  )

 

BACKPOSTS/HISTORY:

1) BC Hydro issues eviction notice under cover of  New Years Eve http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/

2) A litmus test for ‘Real Change’ : where is Justin Trudeau on Site C? Why isn’t new federal government investigating why Harper invoked cabinet secrecy on Site C decison? http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/04/the-litmus-test-for-real-change-where-is-prime-minister-justin-trudeau-on-sitec/

3) ( photos of demonstration here)  Separate demonstration at Site C BC Hydro gates results in three arrests, including Arthur Hadland- long time former Peace River politician http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/06/longtime-peace-river-politician-and-site-c-opponent-arthur-hadland-arrested-at-site-c-demonstration-today

4)  UBCIC issues press release one day after Treaty 8 does, asking BC Hydro to stand down.  http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/07/first-nations-prepare-for-arrest-to-stop-site-c-dam-ask-prime-minister-to-suspend-federal-approval/

5) Debunking Energy Minister Bill Bennetts misleading statment on Global BC http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/08/cutting-through-the-spin-of-energy-minister-bill-bennetts-statements-on-global-bc-news/

**The most telling comments from Bennett came in this Globe and Mail article from a while back. The last two paragraphs, are alarming.
bennettSiteC

Cutting through the spin of Energy Minister Bill Bennett’s misleading statement on Global BC News.

Sitting down with a cup of tea before bed last night, I watched a bit of TV, flipping through the channels before settling on the 10 pm news on Global BC 1. Early on, a segment came up on the arrests at the Site C demonstration outside the BC Hydro gates, and a brief mention of the Treaty 8 campers at the heritage Rocky Mountain Fort Site.

Next thing you know, a gruff Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy & Mines is onscreen talking about Site C.
This was his statement:

” We’re a duly elected government that took seven years to do our due diligence, to determine that this was the best way to acquire new electricity at the lowest price, clean electricity , uh, that is with Site C. We made that decision,uh, we’re going to have to get this project built on time,otherwise it will go over budget.”

It starts at the 1:06 mark  at this video segment, but do watch the entire clip – the energy lawyer at the end say this could still all go sideways : http://globalnews.ca/video/2441396/site-c-controversy

After so many years of writing this blog, or during the years I wrote the debate column in 24Hours Vancouver, the stuff that comes out of politicians mouths really shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but yet, it still does. I guess it’s just the optimist in me that still believes people who are elected should stand with a bit more integrity than this.

My outrage simmering again despite the vanilla chai tea,  I took to social media to quickly share why his statement- unquestioned- was just so outrageous:

And off to bed I went, firmly resolved to blog again in the morning.

Honestly Bill, just because you said it, doesn’t make it true. But of course for many politicians truth is highly subjective.

The truth is that in 2010, under former premier Gordon Campbell, the BC government made sure Site C and many other energy projects,would never face the scrutiny of the public or the BC Utilities Commission. Andrew Nikiforuk sums it up so well, right here:

Bypassing the public’s watchdog

Given the huge cost to taxpayers and so powerful arguments against it, such a project deserves to be adjudicated by an impartial body with the public interest as its mission. That would be the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC).

The specific public mandate of the BCUC is “to ensure that ratepayers receive safe, reliable, and non-discriminatory energy services at fair rates from the utilities it regulates.” The only time the BCUC vetted the Site C project was back in 1983, and it rejected it.

This time around, the B.C. government excluded the project for any such due diligence, explaining “only duly elected officials have a right to make” such monumental decisions and not regulatory bodies specifically designed to provide checks and balances on political decision-making.

Economist Marvin Shaffer told The Tyee that “In my view, the government didn’t want the BCUC to review the merits and in particular the timing of Site C because it could well have been rejected by the Commission.”

“Virtually every ratepayer group including large power users and the wide range of general (commercial) users as well as the Public Interest Advocacy Centre would argue against building Site C at this time,” added Shaffer, a professor at Simon Fraser’s School of Public Policy.

Long story short, if this government doesn’t like the rules of the game, they change them. And we will all pay the price if the federal government does not see fit to intervene and pull approval :

Panel warns of ratepayer hit

But even a 2014 joint federal and provincial environmental assessment panel couldn’t find any real need for the project. Their 473-page study dramatically concluded that the BC Hydro had “not fully demonstrated the need for the project on the timetable set forth… For a number of reasons set out in the text, the Panel cannot conclude that the power of Site C is needed on the schedule presented.”

The panel pointed out that in most places around the world, energy intensive liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals usually provide their own energy needs by burning natural gas. In addition the dam wouldn’t be generating power till 2024 or several years after most proposed terminals were to be built.

As a result the panel recommended that the BC Utilities Commission conduct a thorough review of the project as well as future provincial electrical needs and societal costs if the government decided to proceed with Site C.

The panel also made many other key points. For example, it concluded that a number of energy alternatives such as geothermal were “competitive with Site C on a standard financial analysis” but found the province hadn’t carefully explored the option.

The panel also noted that “a failure to pursue research over the last 30 years into B.C.’s geothermal resources has left BC Hydro without information about a resource that BC Hydro thinks may offer up to 700 megawatts of firm, economic power with low environmental costs.”

The panel added that the province’s Clean Energy Act gave the province and BC Hydro the mandate to investigate these matters.

The federal assessment also questioned the high cost of the project and the risks for ratepayers: “BC Hydro projects losing $800 million [from the dam] in the first four years of operation. These losses would come home to B.C. ratepayers in one way or another.”

There are outstanding court cases involving Treaty 8 members, who are currently exercising their rights at Rocky Mountain Fort camp, one of the oldest and most historic sites in the province, trying to prevent it from being logged. Rich in history for First Nations and non-indigenous people, history is again being made right now at that site. http://blogs.theprovince.com/2016/01/07/sarah-cox-with-site-c-protest-history-is-again-being-made-at-the-rocky-mountain-fort/  ( a must read, even I had no idea of the history of this site. )

But still, Bill says, we must move ahead and build this dam ( we don’t need) or it will be over budget. ( which history shows is likely to double by the end of construction http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-03-10/large-dams-cost-double-original-budget-oxford-researchers-say)

Why?

It is a legacy project, pure and simple. They knew it would not be approved by the independent review of the BCUC. They did nothing to pursue the alternatives suggested the first time it was rejected. And then they changed the rules, when the rules didn’t work in their favour.

This is not about good policy. It’s not even about clean energy anymore.  It’s about being able to say ” We built the largest infrastructure project BC has ever seen.”

 

 

BACKPOSTS/HISTORY:

1) BC Hydro issues eviction notice under cover of  New Years Eve http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/

2) A litmus test for ‘Real Change’ : where is Justin Trudeau on Site C? Why isn’t new federal government investigating why Harper invoked cabinet secrecy on Site C decison? http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/04/the-litmus-test-for-real-change-where-is-prime-minister-justin-trudeau-on-sitec/

3) ( photos of demonstration here)  Separate demonstration at Site C BC Hydro gates results in three arrests, including Arthur Hadland- long time former Peace River politician http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/06/longtime-peace-river-politician-and-site-c-opponent-arthur-hadland-arrested-at-site-c-demonstration-today

4)  UBCIC issues press release one day after Treaty 8 does, asking BC Hydro to stand down.  http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/07/first-nations-prepare-for-arrest-to-stop-site-c-dam-ask-prime-minister-to-suspend-federal-approval/

**The most telling comments from Bennett came in this Globe and Mail article from a while back. The last two paragraphs, are alarming.

bennettSiteC

 

*Update Jan.8th-First Nations prepare for arrest to stop Site C dam, ask Prime Minister to suspend Federal approval

UPDATED January 8th-2016 – new release by Grand Chief Stewart Philip 

NEWS RELEASE
January 8th, 2016

UBCIC Calls on BC Hydro to Back off from Peaceful Site C Protestors in Treaty 8 Territory

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C.- January 8th, 2016) The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is denouncing BC Hydro’s deliberately provocative and reckless attempts at fast tracking construction on the proposed Site C project despite the legal uncertainty of the project moving forward.

Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land have been camped out at the historic Rocky Mountain Fort Camp since late December to defend their traditional territory in the face of the proposed $9 billion Site C dam, which would flood 107 kilometers of the Peace River and its tributaries. Local landowners have also joined in the fight.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of UBCIC, stated, “We are absolutely outraged that BC Hydro is working at the proposed dam site when critical court proceedings are in motion and a decision on Site C proceeding has yet to be determined. Yesterday, BC Hydro moved equipment in toward the camp, despite publicly saying they are speaking with Site C dam protestors and local authorities to try to peacefully end the standoff. The RCMP made three arrests at the north bank entrance of the project yesterday morning including a former regional district director. We are deeply concerned that BC Hydro’s actions are increasing tensions on the ground.”

Through formal resolutions, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs fully supports the efforts of Treaty 8 First Nations to ensure that their Aboriginal and Treaty Rights are honoured and preserved.

Grand Chief Phillip concluded “We continue to urge the provincial and federal governments to immediately cease proceeding with the proposed Site C dam project until such time as the Site C court proceedings are complete and the Site C Dam proposal is properly reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission. Further provocations on the part of BC Hydro will only serve to escalate tensions in an already volatile situation.”

For further information, contact:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (250) 490-5314

January 7th,2016

http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/first-nations-prepare-for-arrest-to-stop-site-c-dam-564495361.html

Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land call on Trudeau to stop megadam in B.C.’s Peace Valley

ROCKY MOUNTAIN FORT CAMP, BC, Jan. 7, 2016 /CNW/ – First Nations members camped out at an historic fort site slated for destruction by the Site C dam say they are prepared to face arrest to protect their traditional territory.

Joined by local landowners, Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land say they will not permit BC Hydro to proceed with plans to clear-cut forests around the Rocky Mountain Fort site on the west side of the Moberly River. The site, selected by explorer Alexander Mackenzie, was the first trading post in mainland B.C. and is situated in the traditional territory of Treaty 8 First Nations.

The $9 billion Site C dam would flood 107-kilometres of the scenic Peace River and its tributaries, including the traditional hunting and fishing grounds of Treaty 8 First Nations. In late December, despite three on-going First Nations court cases against the dam, BC Hydro built a bridge across the mouth of the Moberly River in preparation for logging in the proposed reservoir area.

In addition to its legal, economic, political and archaeological significance to indigenous and non-indigenous people, the camp is the gateway to the rest of the threatened Peace Valley. BC Hydro has served notice that the camp must be dismantled.

“Logging and flooding this part of the Peace Valley will irreversibly harm our ability to hunt, fish, trap and exercise other constitutionally-protected Treaty Rights, especially since much of the rest of Treaty 8 Territory has been devastated by other hydro-electric, oil and gas and industrial developments,” said Art Napoleon, “To have any meaning, these treaty rights require a land base and waterways where there are wildlife and fish, and which is capable of supporting a diversity of plant life. Treaty rights also include management level decision-making to protect moose calving grounds, medicine harvesting and berry picking, and spiritual practices – all of which will be obliterated by Site C.”

A delegation of First Nations chiefs told Prime Minister Trudeau’s key Cabinet members in December that suspending federal approval of the Site C dam is a critical litmus test of his government’s promised new relationship with Indigenous Peoples.

“The Prime Minister says that Canada’s most important relationship is with its Indigenous Peoples and that he promises to uphold and respect Treaty Rights,” said Helen Knott, “This is what we are trying to do at a grassroots level.  I speak as Great Great Granddaughter of Chief Bigfoot, the last to sign Treaty 8 in 1911, and I am trying to honour my Grandfather’s original intent and uphold those rights he meant to protect.  I ask Prime Minister Trudeau to also honour that original intent.”

“We applaud the court cases being brought by West Moberly, Prophet River and others, but they take time to wind their way through the courts.  Meanwhile, before the court cases are even heard, BC Hydro is destroying the very valley that these court cases are intended to protect.  The way I see it, they are stealing from future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.  We are not here just for us but for the ones that will come after us,” said Helen Knott. “As individual Treaty 8 First Nation members, we cannot stand by. Do I want to be arrested? No, I am here peacefully doing what I believe is right and needed but this land is a part of who I am and I will take a stand for it. Prime Minister Trudeau can stop BC Hydro from destroying the Peace Valley. Until he does, we will”.

SOURCE Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land

For further information: Helen Knott, Prophet River First Nation member and Treaty 8 Steward of the Land, at (250) 280 2277; Art Napoleon, Saulteau First Nations member and Treaty 8 Steward of the Land, at (250) 818 5626

 

BACKPOSTS/HISTORY:

1) BC Hydro issues eviction notice under cover of  New Years Eve http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/

2) A litmus test for ‘Real Change’ : where is Justin Trudeau on Site C? Why isn’t new federal government investigating why Harper invoked cabinet secrecy on Site C decison? http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/04/the-litmus-test-for-real-change-where-is-prime-minister-justin-trudeau-on-sitec/

3) ( photos of demonstration here)  Separate demonstration at Site C BC Hydro gates results in three arrests, including Arthur Hadland- long time former Peace River politician http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/06/longtime-peace-river-politician-and-site-c-opponent-arthur-hadland-arrested-at-site-c-demonstration-today

 

Longtime Peace River politician and Site C opponent, Arthur Hadland arrested at Site C demonstration today

***Updated with demonstration photos below. 

Today, those opposed to Site C held a demonstration outside BC Hydro gates. Arthur Hadland was arrested and I’ll have more details as I get them later on.

http://www.alaskahighwaynews.ca/regional-news/site-c/former-prrd-director-hadland-arrested-at-site-c-protest-1.2145055

This is the view of the traffic backed up from that demonstration, largely Alberta vehicles with trailers.

IMG-20160106-01139

This is not the location of the Rocky Mountain Fort Camp where Treaty 8 members are exercising their right to be on the land. http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/

As reported earlier, that location is a 1793 heritage site the province has had no interest in protecting, that is scheduled to be logged. It is being reported that BC Hydro is evaluating the situation but campers vow to continue to exercise rights under Treaty 8 to be there. http://www.alaskahighwaynews.ca/regional-news/site-c/bc-hydro-evaluating-options-on-protest-encampment-1.2144933

These are three of the campers at that site-hope to have a story shortly on one in particular:

camperssitec

And this is another, Helen, the woman behind the post that resonated with thousands of Indigenous and non-indigenous people across North America: https://reclaimthewarrior.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/for-the-love-of-the-land-keeping-the-peace-river-from-the-site-c-bc-hydro-dam/

helen

Updates later. Shawnigan Lake also had a big demonstration today,very well attended, media tours of the contaminated fill site but I wasn’t able to attend- watch for those stories too.

But until then, check out these storified tweets. There’s a story here. And it’s not being told. BC residents deserve to know why Harpers cabinet invoke cabinet secrecy on the environmental assessment certificates. So why isn’t the new PM investigating this?  https://storify.com/lailayuile/why

The litmus test for Real Change: Where is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on #SiteC ?

realchange

The following public letter was issued November 19th, 2015. It is a plea for help, but it is also a factual accounting of the many failures of process the decisions for approving Site C has encountered.

To date, there has been no response or stance taken by either Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the new Environment Minister has been mum. 

This is unacceptable. In my post this weekend, I made it clear how urgent this is now that heritage sites are about to be logged. If every there was a time for our new Prime Minister to take a stance, it is now. Please share this post widely,send it to your MP’s and ask where they stand. There is no time to waste.  http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/

The full letter can be read here: http://theecoreport.com/restore-confidence-in-federal-site-c-decisions/

Excerpts:

November 19th, 2015

Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice
Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Honourable Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport
Liberal Members of Parliament for British Columbia

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Honourable Ministers and BC Liberal MPs,

At the outset, let me congratulate you on forming a government committed to making real, positive change both in what the federal government does, and how it does it.

Restore Confidence In Federal Site C Decisions

I am writing on behalf of the Peace Valley Landowner Association (PVLA) to urgently request the assistance of your new government to restore open, transparent and accountable federal government decision-making regarding the controversial $8.8 Billion Site C Dam project on British Columbia’s Peace River.

The decisions your government makes on Site C over the upcoming days and months present a once-in-a-mandate defining opportunity…

~snip~

What Immediate Steps Are We Urgently Asking Your Government to Take?

As non-indigenous citizens committed to the project of reconciliation, we request that:

  1. When deliberating on whether significant harm to the environment resulting from Site C is justified under CEAA 2012, Cabinet expressly consider and determine whether that harm would infringe the solemn promises made to Indigenous People under Treaty. In making such an important decision, we do not want our government to hide behind narrow technicalities to avoid confronting this fundamental issue. This does not further reconciliation.
  2. When Cabinet determines that environmental harm has a substantial risk of infringing Treaty promises made, then as a matter of federal policy, Cabinet will find the infringement is not justified. The circumstances where Cabinet finds such harm and such infringement justified, should be the rare exception, and the threshold should, as a matter of policy, be very high.
  3.  The federal government announce publicly by the end of this year that the practices set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 are:
    • (a)  adopted as part of its commitment to honour the promises made to Indigenous Peoples under Treaties, and to further the project of reconciliation in Canada, and
    • (b)  will be employed to conduct a further Cabinet review of the previous government’s Site C dam approval under CEAA 2012.~Snip~

       

      The federal government invoked cabinet secrecy to avoid disclosing the information Cabinet relied upon for its decision. In a Federal Court challenge, the Court upheld the Cabinet’s decision based upon a presumption of proper conduct in the absence of any record upon which the Court could conduct a review.

      As citizens we have no basis of knowing whether Cabinet even considered how a project that is not needed can justify the environmental harms that it will cause or how Cabinet reconciled these apparent contradictions.

      In the name of openness and transparency, we request that:

      4)  The federal government publicly release the documents upon which former Prime Minister Harper’s cabinet relied to decide that the benefits of Site C outweigh the significant adverse environmental impact

~snip~

 

Time is needed to correct the many flaws in current federal government decision-making processes and to allow for proper open, expert and independent review of Site C alternatives. We request that you:

  1. Place a 2 year moratorium on issuance of further federal permits required for Site C to allow time for a full review of the federal permitting and enforcement processes to ensure they fully respect Treaty Rights and minimize any permanent or temporary adverse environmental impacts.
  2. During the 2 year moratorium,
    • (a)  establish a joint First Nation/Federal Government consultation framework for major projects, including Site C, which complies with both Canadian law and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and
    • (b)  join the call for open, independent and expert review of Site C by the BC Utilities Commission and the Agricultural Land Commission with full procedural safeguards and cross-examination.
  3. Take measures, as necessary, in addition to those outlined above, to restore public confidence in federal government Site C decisions and oversight.
  4. Accept our personal invitation to attend the Paddle for the Peace in 2016 and see for yourself what is at stake.

CONCLUSION

It is 2015. Public processes for constructing a dam of Site C’s magnitude need to be rigorously open, transparent and accountable in order to obtain community social licence as well as avoid unjustified infringement of Treaty Rights.

Time is running out. Preliminary construction has started. The Peace Valley is beginning to be destroyed for future generations of indigenous and non-indigenous people. We would welcome an opportunity later this month to brief you and BC Liberal MPs on Site C in Vancouver or Ottawa.

We urge you to act immediately to restore public confidence. We urge you to do this not just for the farmers and residents of the Peace Valley, but indigenous and non-indigenous people, their children and grandchildren across British Columbia and across Canada so they have the opportunity to experience first-hand the benefit of real change in government and see the remaining Peace River Valley in its’ pristine state

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.59.51 PM
Ken Boon
President
Peace Valley Landowner Association

EXAMPLES OF ORGANIZATIONS & INDIVIDUALS DEEPLY CONCERNED ABOUT SITE C
– Dr. Harry Swain, Economist and Chair of the Site C Joint Review Panel
– Mr. Richard Bullock, Past Chair of the Agricultural Land Commission
– Union of BC Municipalities
– Greater Vancouver Regional District (Metro Vancouver)
– North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA)
– Association of V ancouver Island & Coastal Communities (A VICC)
– Peace River Regional District (PRRD)
– Gwen Johansson, Mayor of District of Hudson’s Hope
– UNESCO World Heritage Committee
– David Bond, Former Chief Economist HSBC Bank Canada
– Dan Potts, Retired Executive Director, Association of Major Power Customers of BC
– Robert McCullough, internationally respected energy economist
– Marc Ellison, Former CEO of BC Hydro
– BC Government Employees Union
– Canadian Union of Public Employees
– National Farmers Union
– Eric Anderson, Economist
– BC Northern Chiefs Alliance
– BC First Nations Summit
– Union of BC Indian Chiefs
– Assembly of First Nations
– BC First Nations Leadership Council
– West Moberly First Nations
– Prophet River First Nation
– Treaty 8 Tribal Association
– BC Women’s Institute
– Peace Valley Landowner Association
– Peace Valley Environment Association
– BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre
– Amnesty International
– BC Cattlemen’s Association
– Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition
– Sierra Club of BC
– Wilderness Committee
– Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
– Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
– Arlene Boon
– George Smith
– Rafe Mair
– Harold Steves
– David Suzuki

 

BC Hydro issues Rocky Mountain Fort Campers at Site C, a 24 Hour Eviction notice – on New Years Eve.

Rocky Mountain Fort site eviction notice

 

There’s a lot about this incredible province I know about, and still so much to learn. And in the Peace River region much of that will be lost forever if the project continues. Places like Rocky Mountain Fort, the oldest fur trade post in British Columbia that dates back to 1793 are going to be flooded.

Since mid December, campers have been set up at the site of the historic trading post and they don’t intend to leave. It is located on Crown land aka public land. A survival trailer was brought into the site and Treaty 8 First Nations have been staying along with other locals fighting to stop the construction of the dam.

The site is not just significant to the trading history of the region, but to local First Nations as well – the entire valley is a wealth of cultural and archaeological treasures,not that the province has been very interested in marking it. There’s very little to tell anyone where or how to get to the site and the province has shown no interest in protecting it – of course. Long story short, this site is scheduled to be logged this week, and on New Years Eve, when the world was celebrating or relaxing, a rather unofficial looking eviction notice was posted – the first photo at the top of this blog post.

A photo of that notice quickly made its way to me and I immediately posted it to Twitter,including BC Hydro’s twitter account in that tweet. How typical for any kind of action like this to be done in a cowardly manner, under cover of a major distraction, with 24 hours notice of intention to remove. Not unlike how government often unloads terrible news late on a Friday afternoon – particularly on long weekends, because three days is all it takes for people to forget and the media to move on.

But I digress.

The note was posted and quickly shared. And there was no eviction New Years Day, but security did show up and stop campers from going onto a bridge moved into the area to facilitate their work camp. They also gave the campers verbal notice, but Treaty 8 campers posted No Trespassing signs of their own.

I spoke with one of the campers who is only there this time for a few days, and she told me she was going to do a blog post on her experience there, and why this matters. When she sent it to me, I felt her words and pain truly as my own. I know what this area is like… was like before all this began. It hurts to look at these before and after photos. It’s just all wrong.  And it hurt me to read many of this courageous,brilliantly talented young woman’s words just the same:

“You remember that story that the elder told us? Down the way where the Pe1014188_10151512297076627_1280210942_nace River meets the Halfway River?” I asked her, referring to the camp we had over three years ago.

The camp was about reclaiming our right as young Indigenous people to be in our territory, in this Peace River Valley, tucked far into the North East corner of British Columbia. We did not want the proposed Site C Hydro Dam then, we do not want it now.

“No I don’t remember,” Emily replied.

We stood on the soft snow on our way back to camp. We had just put a sign up to notify Hydro workers that this was Treaty 8 Territory and they were trespassing.

“He told us about how when he was young he remembers camping somewhere while they were travelling by horse. At night they heard weeping coming from the forest around them and they didn’t know who it was,” I said, as I stopped to watch snow gently fall from the branches of a nearby spruce tree.

“He said that when they went back to that spot again, maybe a year or so later, that forest was gone. It had been cleared for a road. It was the forest crying because it knew what was coming.”

Emily nodded her head, “The forest is alive”.sunrise

“Yeah. Yeah it is.” I echoed her words.

We had just left where BC Hydro started to clear on the West side of the Moberly River. We walked over to the crude bridge that they had built to cross the frozen river with their equipment. I had to see it up close for my own eyes and I had to lay an offering of tobacco for the land, for its suffering and loss.

I know a lot of people don’t understand what all the fuss is about. It’s a dam, we need it, it’s clean energy after all, all you green tree huggers ought to love that, right?  No.

Because it’s not just wrong for all these very right reasons – this land is truly one of the most beautiful, wild and free places left. The Peace river has even been designated a Heritage river under the BC Parks and Conservation own website- which apparently, means absolutely nothing. Looks good on the BC government website, but not good enough to prevent flooding more of the valley.

heritageriver

It’s wrong because there is no need for this dam. It’s wrong because it’s being rammed through despite a very long list of opponents who have asked the province to stand down and send it to the BC Utilities Commission for the review it never had. Even the BC Union of Municipalities – representatives from every city in the province- called for a halt. But Victoria has deaf ears and eyes that are wide shut.

The Liberal government was so intent on pushing this project through,it exempted it from review from the BC Utilities Commission,the agency deemed with reviewing all projects to ensure they are in the best interests of Hydro ratepayers and the province:

bennettSiteCYet while Site C was exempted… the overdue repairs to the WAC Bennett dam still has to go through that oversight process, and rightly so,despite the blatant hypocrisy. 

 

I leave everyone at the bridge,and walk into the lost forest. .The tears are welling up in my eyes, I see, I feel how real this is and I am filled with a great sorrow. It is a sorrow your spirit feels, and a part of me wants to break down and sob into the earth. Let my tears mix with the soil. But a part of me says that doing so is acceptance of what they are doing, and what they are doing must stop.

~snip~

…as I talk, I watch the shock of the Native Lone Rangers face and he moves slowly behind the White man.

I don’t know if that shock is that I am there or that he feels that he is on the wrong sidehonour treatyand wants to hide. I feel sad for him, because I know that work is work and it puts food on the tables of our people. But for how long? Until the job lasts and then what? Our children and great grandchildren will feel the ramifications of these actions. I think of my Asu’s (grandma) words about how the Dreamers spoke about hard times to come and how he feels sorry for us that will be alive. What if that is preventable to some measure? This is not just about us and hydro and being right or wrong… it’s about the future we are stealing for those who come after us.

How deeply this resonated with me, I can’t say. I know all of my long time readers will recognize that feeling, that same sorrow and sentiment in so many things I’ve written.That connection to the land, the need to do things right because sometimes we only get one chance…

As of this blog post, the campers have still not been evicted. More signs have been posted stating no cutting allowed – hope to have more of those shortly. And as I write, I can’t help but think of the similarities between this and Shawnigan Lake, a story I’ll be writing about next week.

I can’t help but wonder whose backyard will be the next target when someone in Victoria wants to leave a legacy. Who will stand up for you, and with you, then?

securityonbridge

2015 ends with a bang… so it’s time for the Top ten posts of 2015, from LailaYuile.com

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For us here down on the southern West Coast, we’re shaking off 2015 with gusto, thanks to a short but rather violent jolting earthquake last night. Or was that the sound of Premier Clarks LNG Dream bubble bursting?

Ah well, 2015  has been a really interesting year for politics, for people and for the blog!

According to official WordPress stats, there were 94 new posts in 2015, bringing the total archive of this blog to 1,185 posts!! And that’s down from prior years, thanks to a busier than usual schedule and my former 24 Hours column.

Once again, the power of social media wins again with the top two referrers to my blog consistently listed as Facebook and Twitter. Some repeatedly like to say Twitter is for ‘Twits’ but sadly that’s just not true. It’s still a powerful forum for sharing links and information- well used it’s a valuable tool and savvy influencers know it.

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The top 10 posts of 2015

  1. Why exactly, is the Mars Bomber sitting idle?   39 comments- While the province burned,questions as to why the contract with the Mars Bomber wasn’t in use, led to a public campaign to get it back in the  air – and it worked.
  2. 100 + reasons the BC Liberals must go  244 comments – a long time favourite- watch for a massive update in 2016 as the never ending list of scandals under the Clark government continues to face a loss of public trust in her leadership
  3. 50 shades of wrong: Why the BC Liberal government has lost all moral authority to govern #resignChristy   44 comments – following the tragic suicide of Rod MacIsaac, it was revealed the government had misled not only the fired health workers, but the public and RCMP. I and others, called for Clarks resignation,asked voters to demand answers from their MLA’s and said this government had lost its moral authority to govern.
  4. Why I am ( still) voting No in the Transit Tax Vote   106 comments – I believe in good transit but I independently campaigned a No vote- and that didn’t go over well with fellow progressives!
  5. Who’s the Scrooge at Real Canadian Superstore?  106 comments – this post still hits home as food prices increase and Superstore faces ongoing accusations of trying to prevent card holders from redeeming points – something that even happened to me, more than once!
  6. It’s no longer enough to shake our heads and make concerned grimaces at the news  60 comments – an inspirational call to citizens to get engaged in their communities, and see how politics directly impacts their lives. Well shared and received across Canada.
  7. Sometimes losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding the truth II  40 comments –  Despite the incredible relationship with my readers at 24Hours Vancouver and years of developing that, I left this year, to protest PostMedias death of its own papers by a million little cuts. The story behind that.
  8. “Every absurdity has a champion to defend it.” ~ Oliver Goldsmith aka “The day politicians closed a bridge to do yoga.”  42 comments –  Sigh. All this scenery and the premier wants to close a bridge for yoga fo what seemed like a prime photo op for Lululemon,while an international event was staged nearby.
  9. BC Hydro says halting Site C would cost taxpayers $500 million? Not building it at all will save us over $8 billion dollars.  50 comments – we didn’t need Site C years ago and we don’t need it now. So why is it being pushed through despite not having been reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission? Because what Clark wants, Clark gets. Even if it makes no economic or environmental sense.
  10. Complicit… or incompetent? Questions continue to pile up for the premier who continues to ignore them all 27 comments – The premier continues to face questions,most recently for the hiring of Laura Miller who has now stepped down following charges related to a deleted records scandal in the Ontario government. But even before that, the premier was dodging questions and giving glib denials of everything and anything that’s gone wrong under her watch.

Who were my most opinionated readers?

commenters

2016 promises to be busier than ever as here in BC  political parties are already in campaign mode : The Liberals have been handing out cash at photo-ops like crazy in past weeks and the NDP are in full opposition mode – for once.

Federally Trudeau will be shortly on the hot seat as the silly season of Christmas and New Years passes and reality hits.

I’ll be back into the full swing of  things the first week of January with a post on the late Christmas gift given to the Clark government: The settlement of two lawsuits initiated by the fired health care workers. Non-disclosure anyone? Will we ever know the full details of the governments horrendous and callous actions that led one man to take his life? Somehow, I don’t think so.

We’ll also take a look at the Shawnigan Lake contaminated soil site and the truck parking proposal in South Surrey – both contentious and somewhat related for the manner in which residents concerns and objections have been completely ignored.

It’s been a blast and I’m very happy that so many readers from 24Hours follow along here now, on Twitter and Facebook. We’ve shared personal moments, struggles, challenges and successes – and I appreciate them all.

What these stats, my twitter analytics and the tremendous success of these stories in travelling far and wide tells everyone, is that this is a team effort. All of you, are the biggest force behind this blog, and these stories.

One cannot succeed, or make a difference the way we can, without  doing it together,particularly as an independent blogger and commentator. 2016 brings another chance to try and get it all right again. Thank you so much for being a part of it.

Happy New Years!

From: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2014/12/new-years-wishes-and-gifts.html  I couldn’t say it better myself. <3

neilgaiman

 

 

 

A tale of two fathers

I scanned the dining room for mess left from Christmas dinner one last time, but everything was tidy. Wiping the sink and setting down the dish cloth with a sigh, I stared at the card sitting on my desk that had arrived Christmas eve. I rubbed my forehead, and thought of a woman I know whose father was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and transferred into palliative care the week before Christmas. “I have to call him,” I thought, and before I could change my mind I opened the card and grabbed the phone.

It rang several times and thinking perhaps he was gone for the holidays I was about to hang up when I heard his voice.

“Hello?”

“Merry Christmas… it’s… Laila. ”

I could hear his gasp of surprise, and I could also hear the smile in his voice. The card in my hand was from my biological father,his email address, cell phone and home phone inscribed inside.After initial contact over 10 years ago, the heartache that ensued made me shut that door for a decade. Christmas 2015,I was ready to open it once again.

We talked. For over an hour. We made plans for him to come over Boxing Day with a family tree and his family history photo album. It just happened so fast and I was kind of freaking out a bit afterwards but excited to open another chapter of my life…

The phone call that changed everything

It wasn’t long after my Poppa( maternal grandfather) had died, that my Nani ( maternal grandmother) was diagnosed with breast cancer. A slow-growing cancer, it would be several years before she would pass on, even leaving hospice after being on death’s door at one point. It was sheer stubbornness on her part, I’m sure – her feisty German nature. But this particular day she had called me and was in tears at the thought that at her age, cancer was a death sentence. As we talked she told me that if it got to a point where she was going to die, she had  something very important to tell me, but she couldn’t tell me until she was about to die.

!!!!!

I was dumbfounded. If whatever she had to tell me was that earth shattering, she better not wait until deaths door to say it – and I told her so! She made me promise I would never say anything to my mom until after she passed… and I promised… and then she told me that my Dad wasn’t actually my father. She knew who my real father was, didn’t know where he was anymore,and that she was sorry no one told me before.

To be brutally honest, I wanted to believe she  must have been senile, but she wasn’t. The room was spinning and I leaned over the side of the bed with my head between my knees as her voice told what else she knew. I was numb.Her voice seemed a long ways away –  I felt like I’d been sucker-punched in the gut and I gasped. I couldn’t breathe. There I was, early thirties and suddenly my life as I knew it was blown out of the water.

I don’t even remember how long it was in terms of days or weeks or months of going through the motions of life, before in a moment of angst,I called a long time family friend to confide in her what I had been told and that I’d looked and hadn’t found any record of adoption.

 The silence on her end of the line brought yet another round of  disconnect as her voice seemed a million miles away when she told me she always feared I would find out like this.She told me what she knew, where he lived – he still lived in the Prince George area. I had two half siblings…more numbness,more tears. She called my parents, told them I knew and within moments they called me.

There were tears – on both sides. Questions, yelling and accusations on mine.That so many people had known left me feeling betrayed beyond words. It wasn’t a conversation to be had by phone but perhaps in hindsight it was for the best because I could just hang up when my anger and hurt took over. And I was devastated, completely and utterly devastated but even in that devastation I remember telling my Dad something about being thankful that he chose to love and raise me. The shock of finding out he was not my biological father was only tempered by the knowledge his love had been a choice, which in my view is as selfless as giving up a child so they can have a better future.

Is there an app for this?

So there I was, in my thirties trying to reconcile what all this meant to me and where to go from there. As I write this the feelings of that time are still so strong the tears are flowing. I waited a few years before reaching out for the first time because I wanted to be sure it was what I needed to do. Knowing my biological father was married with grown kids of his own, I  also wanted it to be as unobtrusive and gentle as possible, even clinical in nature.

The perfect opening came when in preparation for a potential surgery my doctor recommended banking blood in case it was needed. Because I have a fairly rare blood type, I wrote a letter to him introducing myself and asking if he might have the same.

A reply came immediately saying no, but included in that letter was a request for a DNA test, already paid for so he could be absolutely sure that he was my father.I didn’t know what to think but I willingly did so and within weeks the letter arrived confirming he was indeed my biological father. More tears, one baby step closer to… I don’t know. I didn’t know what I wanted,or why, I just needed to know who he was.

We met briefly once 11 years ago in a restaurant in Prince George on my way back from a visit with my Dad. He had the same blonde hair, wavy with a hint of strawberry. Instantly I thought ” Ah, that’s where that came from!” Everyone in my family was brunette and average height. He was tall. Great smile. Twinkling eyes. But it was awkward and tense and it was clear things were not well on his side.

And then…nothing. That was it for a long, long time. There was a lot of hurt on both sides and it was tremendously hard on his family to go through this discovery so late in life as well. I felt like my presence was a terrible secret no one wanted to talk about and it was not well accepted in his marriage.He halted all contact for many years as he went through a divorce. I felt rejected and wished that I had never reached out.

 I put all those feelings back into a mental box and carried on with life, not willing to reach out to be rejected again by someone I didn’t even know. I already had a Dad I loved in PG, I didn’t need another one.

Years passed and emotional scars began to scab over if not heal. I was to the point where I rarely ever thought of it,and then one day I received an email from a friend of his who said he wanted to get in touch with me again. His divorce was over, he was living on the coast and not that far from me.

But I was so fearful of letting all those feelings re-surface again. What if we didn’t like each other? How could I reconcile this man with my life? Did I need to?
More years passed. He showed gentle persistence by sending cards on my birthday sometimes – this always shook me to the core, deep sobs in the bathroom for the hurt it still brought back. He sent Christmas cards. I once mailed him back saying yes we should meet for coffee then never followed up…until the evening of December 25th, 2015 – the phone call that I started this entire story with.

Letting go and moving on

We spent the afternoon together yesterday. He confided he reads my blog sometimes and showed me the family tree, the family album,shared stories…and he spent a lot of time just looking at me with such a gentle expression that was so compelling. And we hugged,several times and yes there were tears. Time does not heal all wounds, but perhaps time can lend you the maturity to be able to confront the pain and push through it.

I’ve yet to reach out to my half siblings – this journey left many scars all around. It took me nearly 15 years in total from the time I found out until today – it’s possible there will never be an interest on their side, in meeting.There is no right, or wrong way to feel in these situations, but if they ever were to read this, I want them to know that I am sorry for all the pain and turmoil my appearance caused unintentionally, in their lives. I only wanted to know about the man who gave me life.I never thought about the pain it might cause them.

Lessons.

This journey is far from over – it goes without saying that there are likely to still be ups and downs as we figure it all out. I have no expectations of what should or must happen because it’s been such a painful,awkward journey. But even in the pain there have been tremendous lessons. The choice my Dad made to raise me as his own daughter, was a choice of love,not obligation and he has provided a lifetime of lessons and memories growing up in rural Prince George – I love him with every bit of my heart. He’s my Dad, my only Dad.

Finally connecting in a good way after so long with my biological father, just filled so many holes in my world I never knew I had. I slept so contently last night. How much of who I am is a result of the way I was raised and how much can be chalked up to genetics is amazing. Like pieces of a puzzle, there are indeed places he fits and places he does not. But he is a part of me and I am a part of him. It’s time for forgiveness, for new beginnings, for letting go.Just writing this has given me tremendous relief -if it helps anyone in the same situation at all,so much better.

And that the overwhelming pain of a friend who is losing her father right now, gave me the reason and courage to reach out to the man who gave me life on Christmas day, is divine.

 

 

“No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead.That’s the only way to keep the roads clear.”~Greg Kincaid,

2014-11-30 006Greg Kincaid is the author of the book: “A dog named Christmas”, that went onto become a TV movie. He has a wonderful way with words and the quote below really speaks to the tone of the past year – not only for myself, but for so many of us here that are engaged in community activism, politics and trying to find a better way. A better analogy would be hard to find.

The next couple of days are going to be a whirlwind as I start preparations for the holidays.There’s a turkey to be deboned and marinated for the BBQ (that’s how we’re rolling here this year) along with a dozen other things that need to be done. So this morning is the last you’ll see of me with the exception of a few tweets or FB posts by phone.

Some of the stories this year in BC politics have been overwhelmingly sad and appalling. When people take their lives, when kids in care see no other option but to end it all, we’re doing something very wrong. And when those in charge refuse to be accountable,in some cases misleading the RCMP in order to do so, something has to change. The stories keep coming, and we keep plowing through to keep the roads clear – if we stop, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And I strongly suspect we only know half of what’s really going on.

2015 was the year I had my own Kai Nagata moment, leaving both The Duel column I’d written for years,and then ultimately leaving 24Hours altogether in protest of Postmedia’s downward spiral. It was the year that pitted mainsteam media against independent and alternative media, and in some cases, mentors against students. I’ve always, from day 1, used my writing as a blogger,or a columnist to not only tell stories, but make changes happen. 2015 was the year that was used against me-a surprising moment that continues to define my choices moving ahead.

Yet while there is so much wrong to write about and try to change, there are many wonderful things to celebrate as well.After years of having an MP I couldn’t even find,who failed to appear when it mattered, I have an MP who not only answers calls, but actively engages with all in the community. (Shocking, I know!)

After years of Nimby-ism and a lack of political will to make it happen, the City of Surrey finally found a location for a winter shelter for the many people on the street. And while it doesn’t solve the bigger issue, it does provide reprieve for those who need it. There were several Christmas celebrations held for those living on the streets in Central City this year,and much care involved in all.

One local community leader, Jen, brought cards and stamps for those on the street who wanted to send a note to someone they loved, even offering to help find an address if they didn’t have one. Absolutely heartwarming.

David Dalley and the Newton BIA held the first and very successful Halloween community party in Newton, which also has it’s own art gallery now, Agent C.  The Grove still faces some challenges but is a space actively used by the community for things like Encylopedia House and free food planters. We sang carols there recently,as one of the big storms rolled in!

I’ve been witness to so many new people getting engaged in their communities all across the province-a move that signals a trend I hope will continue. I’ve met with many people who are actively trying to keep those people engaged and help others to understand why their participation in the process at some level, is vitally important for our democracy.

Through social media, we’re not only finding each other,but connecting all across the province and country! Despite all the trolls and partisan sniping, those connections are building bridges like never before among progressive people.The medium isn’t bad,it’s how many people use it.

We can build a better way. We will change how things are done. We will define the future of our province ourselves,we will not let wayward politicians define it for us. And we will not let those sparks of engagement go out once lit. The defining story of 2015 is not the politicians…it is the people who are making change with no spotlight all around us.And you are part of that story, and how it ends.

So as I am tugged by the arm to go string cranberries and popcorn for the critters outside, I leave you with these last thoughts. To my friends facing challenges right now, I wish you strength,courage and be easy on yourself – you are each in my heart and you know who you are.

And to all, however you celebrate, let go of expectations and demands,let go of the drama and simply enjoy. Find your voice. Live in the moment.Love as much as you can.Thank you for being a part of this,even when we don’t agree.

And remember… “No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead.That’s the only way to keep the roads clear.”

Merry Christmas !

Options picks up first delivery from Operation Backpack!

We were quite happy to have a break in the rain for the first pick-up of backpacks by Options Community Services yesterday! Senior Manager Joe Woodsworth arrived and we quickly loaded and counted 57 backpacks that will be given to welcome incoming Syrian refugee children and teens through Options, who are part of a community support response.

This load included all backpacks that have been either dropped off or picked up by yesterday, including empty ones that we loaded with supplies donated separately. Every backpack also contains a lovely stuffed animal courtesy of Cloverdale Rodeo and West Coast amusements,who we are very grateful to for their quick and generous donation. We checked each bag to ensure everything was safe and proper and labelled each bag with the sex and age of the child it would best suit to make it easier for distribution.

There are still backpacks being held over the holiday season by their donors ( 30 coming from the students at Peace Arch Elementary!!), that will be picked up by Options in January, and we are anticipating up to 100 more from an independent school and organization in Richmond by January 20th- I’ll have updates for both those deliveries. I can’t say enough how overwhelming it’s been at times, to see the care put into so many of these backpacks. When fear and ignorance was rife in the news and social media, all of you stepped up and pushed back with love and compassion to welcome these children and families.

I’d like to thank everyone who so generously bought and filled a backpack, donated supplies and volunteered – it was a pleasure meeting each of you!! I’ll post another update in January when the next delivery happens!

Until then, if you wish to assist the settlement of Syrian refugees in Surrey,Options is looking for donations of cash, Arabic speaking volunteers and anyone with leads on jobs for refugees. More information can be found at this link:  http://www.options.bc.ca/home/news-event/help-syrian-refugees

 

Backposts:

http://lailayuile.com/2015/11/26/operation-backpack-update/

 

http://lailayuile.com/2015/11/20/operation-backpack/