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. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

Visitor to Kamloops army club tests positive for COVID-19: Interior Health

The individual visited Anavets 290 Army and Navy Club between March 13 and March 17

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

CN suspending service between Williams Lake and Squamish, effective April 3

Rail traffic north of Williams Lake will be routed to Vancouver through Prince George and Kamloops

COVID-19: Interior Health orders closure of all fitness centres until May 30

The order is subject to revision, cancellation, or extension

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

Health officials had previously not recommended wearing them

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Most Read