The B.C. government is pushing ahead with its Clean Energy Act despite strong objections from First Nations groups, raising the possibility of escalating conflict between the two sides.
The proposed act clears the way for dozens of independent power projects as well as the huge Site C dam on the Peace River in northeastern B.C., exempting many from review by the B.C. Utilities Commission.
Area farmers, First Nations and environmental groups say the proposed Site C project will destroy prime agricultural land, and many say much of the power from Site C is destined for export.
On Wednesday aboriginal leaders asked the government to delay passing the act to allow more consultation. But just hours later, debate on the act resumed in the legislature.
Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom said the bill promotes energy self-sufficiency, independent power production and will lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. He also said the consultation process has been completed.
“I think everybody had good opportunity to participate in the process,” said Lekstrom. “The Green Energy Advisory Task Force certainly had First Nations representation on that. We thought that was very important.”
But Stewart Phillip, grand chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, warns of trouble ahead.
“We are deeply and gravely concerned about the Campbell government riding roughshod over the legal duty to consult with us and everything that represents and we’re heading down the road towards further conflict and confrontations.”
Now with passage of the Clean Energy Act just days away, Phillip warns of conflict and confrontation, both in the courts and on the land.