Dear John Horgan and Andrew Weaver,
This will be a very informal letter as I don’t dabble well in formalities but there are some words I need to share with you. As you know, the world is shifting, or at least the world within British Columbia due to the recent Provincial election and the alliance built between your respective political parties. When the Liberal government did not win majority, I did not allow my heart to do backflips. When the NDP and Green Party formed an alliance and stated they will be sending the Site C project for the BC Utilities Commission review, I smiled but I did not rejoice.
I have lived through and experienced bouts of hopes through these colonial political processes and the world so far has taught me to not trust these processes to actually serve our Indigenous peoples or women. The world has made me weary, and I have been born into this political life where I have to engage not by choice, but in order to ensure survival.
My first internal response to the Site C project being sent to the BCUC for Review was, “Why aren’t they asking for a complete halt during this process?”
When I brought this up the day you made it public, someone had said to me, “Well it will only be another 90 days for the review to take place. I suppose that’s good right?”
From what I know, and you can correct me or set out proper timelines for me as it would be appreciated, is that it will be another 90 days from the date of which the order for review takes place, which can take place as soon as the end June, beginning of July.
So what’s another 90 days?
What I can tell you is that when we did the Rocky Mountain Fort Camp and held the isolated tract of land for 60 plus days, we bought that land more time to live. There were old growth trees in that area as well as a multitude of animals that made their home there. It was a historic site for Indigenous and Non-Indigenous relationships and it had history. After our camp was removed the site was obliterated, cleared, wiped away, our camp weasel displaced, the cougars, wolves, and moose, pushed elsewhere as the work for the Site C Project continued. It was land that we grew to know intimately and it is gone now. These are real tangible places and real cumulative losses, they are not paper based nor fictional nor fantasy.
The point I am making is that a lot can be lost in the span of 90 days. Entire independent living micro-eco-systems can be wiped away alongside medicines, cultural sites, and other things will suffer and be lost out of not wanting to “push too hard”. Well I, alongside many other Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples in British Columbia, are asking you, the new government to be bold.
I read the letter released today where you, John Horgan, asked BC Hydro to not evict individuals that were recently given a one month extension and requested that no new contracts are issued unless they have a penalty free clause for cancellation. When I read that letter a weird thing happened and I could feel it from inside of my chest. It felt like an unravelling of my own internal barricades and I felt my faith expand for the first time in a long time.
When we did the Rocky Mountain Fort last year I had dared to hope and dream wildly only to watch it disappear and for Site C to continue. These events caused me to barricade my hope inside of my chest, only allowing enough light to come through just to keep going, just enough to get by and continue fighting. I know many other’s felt the same way I had. I kept it small because I needed to protect it in this world. I kept it small because I was continually going through waves of grief from the trauma and loss caused by Site C. The loss of the Rocky Mountain Camp literally took me a year to bounce back from fully on an emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical level.
So what’s another 90 days?
Well John and Andrew, another 90 days is the difference between loss and life for a lot. I watched much of the Peace River Valley be cut down and mulched away earlier this year, starting at Arlene and Ken Boons place, and moving upriver for the highway realignment in what seemed to have been a lot less time. We lost places we did youth and elders gatherings for many years when they did that. We have a sweat lodge frame standing in the middle of where they cleared for the potential highway realignment. We lost berry bushes where I’ve taken my family but also where I took families I worked with as a wellness worker who needed that vital reconnection to land. I was spending BC Family day in the Valley within the flood zone when I learned that on that very day, Hydro Employees were out searching for the mass burial site of our ancestors.
If you really want to start implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, this is where you start. You start with 90 days of giving the lands, waters, and territory of the Dane Zaa reprieve while this process takes place.
I am grateful for the moves you have made so far, don’t get me wrong, but I am asking you to be bold and be that first real and concrete example of what reconciliation looks like in this Country. It may seem as if I am asking a lot of you, but remember, Site C has taken a lot from us.
Prophet River First Nations Member
The main picture for this letter, those are all children from my family. We are all working for the people.