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

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

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

DOH
Provincial grant tapped to finance downtown project

Butler and 10th next on improvement list

RDBN. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Houston Soccer club. (Submitted/Houston Today)
Houston Soccer gets record number of registrations

Club will have a soccer season amidst COVID restrictions

District of Houston
Safe Restart grant spending firmed up

Will help cover losses from recreation fees

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. sees 1,006 COVID-19 cases Thursday, ‘alarming’ 502 in hospital

Vaccine bookings for people aged 60 and older set to start

Most Read