Shown is the Nechako River on B.C. Rivers Day held Sept. 22, 2019. (Aman Parhar photo)

Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations court battle against RioTinto Alcan to start next week

Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations are taking Rio Tinto Alcan to court over their functioning of the Kenney Dam that affects the Nechako River

Sai’kuz First Nation and Stellat’en First Nation are preparing to begin a 200-day trial against Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. set for next week over the diversion of water out of the Nechako River.

“This case is about the devastating impacts of the construction and operation of the Kenney Dam on the Nechako River, it’s fisheries and Saik’uz and Stellat’en’s constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights,” said Saik’uz Chief Priscilla Mueller, in a news release on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

“We are going to court to protect the Nechako River and the sturgeon and salmon that are suffering because of Alcan’s diversion,” Mueller said.

The ongoing legal battle against the company was first launched in 2011.

During the trial, both Saik’uz and Stellat’en will lead expert evidence about how Alcan’s Diversion has caused or is contributing to population declines and that environmental flows are needed to restore proper ecological functioning of the Nechako River.

The Nations are seeking a court order requiring that harm to the Nechako River and its fisheries and their rights cease, read the release. In January, a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted the First Nations permission to seek declatory relief if they win the court case.

The trail begins on Oct. 21 and Mueller said she is hopeful that the court will help restore the Nechako River and its fisheries for the benefit of future generations.

Kenney Dam diverts water out of the Nechako River to generate power for the company’s aluminium smelter in Kitimat and to sell to BC Hydro. The company diverts approximately 70 percent of the water that would normally flow into the Nechako resulting in enormous downstream impacts, as stated in the media release.

“The river is no longer acting like a river,” explains Mueller.

Additionally the First Nations are saying that the water that passes down the river enters the Nechako River 9 kilometres downstream of the Kenney Dam, after it is released through the Skins Lake Spillway located approximately 80 kilometres to the west of the dam site.

“The little water released into the Nechako fails to meet the basic environmental flow needs and does not mimic the natural flow patterns of the river,” read the release.

As per the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada’s fall report from last year, they recommended that the populations of Chinook and sockeye salmon that rely on the Nechako River and are impacted by the Kenney Dam, be listed on the Species at Risk Act.

The public proceedings will primarily occur in the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver and a portion of the hearing from Nov. 18 to 22 will held in Prince George to allow Saik’uz members to attend the trial and speak as witnesses.

Rio Tinto responded in a statement Oct. 17, saying they prefer to work in partnership with First Nations groups to build relationships that are mutually beneficial.

The statement further stated that they have sought to find ways to resolve the issue without proceeding to court hearings.

“Rio Tinto has always, and will continue to operate, with all of the required permits and approvals under applicable laws, including a 1987 tripartite agreement with the Canada and British Columbia governments that ensures protective flows for fish. Rio Tinto cannot comment further on this case while it is before the courts.”


Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express

aman.parhar@ominecaexpress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Masset Dance Troupe presents beachfront ‘promenade performance’

Troupe performed ‘A Mid Summer Day’s Dream’ for family, friends on July 4 and 5

UPDATE: Masset anti-racism rally postponed

The Yahk’ii event, which means ‘truth’ in Haida, will be rescheduled at a later date

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

Registration open for first-annual ‘NextIslandpreneur’ student business competition

Competition offers mentors, iPads, seed money, cash prizes to young entrepreneurs on Haida Gwaii

Haida Nation reminds ‘select few’ fishing lodges that Haida Gwaii is closed to non-essential travel

‘Upholding Haida law amid COVID-19’ release comes one day before Queen Charlotte Lodge plans to reopen

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

BREAKING: Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Northern B.C. First Nations call for reversal of grizzly bear hunting ban

Growing grizzly populations have led to fewer ungulates and increased fear of attacks says Chad Day

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

Most Read