David Suzuki, Chief Stewart Phillip and First Nations draw line in the snow against Site C
The harsh winter conditions, isolation and an eviction notice from BC Hydro to have the camp dismantled by Jan. 1 have done little to dampen the determination of those camped out.
“What we’ve been saying is, as long as the sun shines the grass grows and the river flows,” said Knott, when asked how long they intended to stay.
Conway would not specify whether BC Hydro would pursue an injunction to remove protesters and said only that “we are evaluating all options and will continue to monitor the situation. We are hopeful this can be resolved.”
Despite strong passions, both Knott and Tupper admitted that there have certainly been challenges over the course of their time at the Fort. But on Dec. 12,the camp received a high profile visit from Dr. David Suzuki and Grande Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
“I heard that the camp had been set up and figured wow, this is really going to get things going. So I just wanted to let them know that they are not alone,” said Suzuki.
Dr. Suzuki also expressed his frustration that after managing to stop the Site C Dam 30 years ago people now find themselves fighting the same project.
“It’s just amazing to me that the truth and reconciliation report has come out and Christy Clark is saying with recent First Nations court case rulings everything is going to change, when meanwhile nothing has changed,” said Suzuki.
Dr. Suzuki went on to say, “I’m asking what do treaties with Canada mean if Canada signs treaties do we mean it or not?”
According to Dr. Suzuki, the fact that this project has continued despite ongoing court cases meant that pro-business and pro-development politics overrode everything else including treaties signed with First Nations and described the situation as “shameful.”
Grande Chief Phillip echoed the frustration that the project has been allowed to continue despite continuing cases.
“I’ve had the honor and privilege to be up in Treaty 8 territory over the span of a number of years, I’ve participated in the Paddle for the Peace pretty much every year now for the last several years so I’ve seen first-hand the beauty of this land so to come back and see such horrific destruction and devastation is absolutely heart breaking,” said Grande Chief Phillip, when asked what seeing the site and visiting the Fort meant to him
Despite his expressed sadness, Grande Chief Phillip went on to say, “I’m so deeply honored to be here in this camp knowing what it represents and my heart goes out to the people that had it within their hearts to come out here in the dead of winter and set this camp up.”
The visit had a profound impact on the spirits of those at the camp, as Knott emotionally explained, “Honestly I was out there earlier and seeing the helicopter coming in I started crying because it’s really hard.”
Tupper said that her group had one male at the camp and they noticed that he needed a break so they started praying for men to come and support them every night.
“Today I looked at my friend Helen Knott and said your prayers have been answered look who you called for,” said Tupper.
Dr. Suzuki and Grande Chief Stewart Phillip expressed the hope that their visit would help to build support for the camp both across the province and the country. Grande Chief Phillip stressed the importance of building solidarity among all people stating, “We need to begin to organize people working in solidarity and unity.”
Dr. Suzuki then built on this point adding, “What excites me here is you see non First Nations people willing to go and get arrested and go to jail. It’s got to be more than just First Nations people.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip exclaimed, “It always takes the courage and integrity of a small group of people to bring about social change. World history has proven that and this is what this camp represents.”
Since the visit, support for the small group camped out has been pouring in on social media under the hashtag #NoSiteC., helping to capture the province’s attention. Organizers say that individuals everywhere are watching to see what unfolds at the Rocky Mountain Fort to determine the future of the Peace River Valley and BC’s largest public infrastructure project.