The federal government quietly issued several major permits to the Site C dam project just before the long weekend, allowing the main dam work to begin.
The permitting documents were issued July 29 by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada authorizing BC Hydro to move ahead with the project.
The permit includes approval for the construction of the actual kilometre-long earth fill dam and also allows for construction of spillways, drainage tunnels and generating stations. Crews may also divert the Peace River and flood what will become an 83-kilometre-long reservoir.
The Green Party of Canada condemned the decision in a release.
"I am deeply disappointed that federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Hon. Dominic LeBlanc, and Transport Minister, the Hon. Marc Garneau, have issued permits to allow BC Hydro to destroy more of the Peace River. I really believed this new government would honour its word to First Nations," said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
"Now, the Peace River and surrounding pristine land is slated to be destroyed by the Site C dam, a hydroelectric project that will generate power far in excess of the province’s needs at an obscene price tag of $8.8 billion."
She added the project is in "clear violation of treaty rights for Treaty 8 First Nations" and is "a failure on the part of this government to shift away from destructive energy projects and towards cleantech, sustainable energy solutions."
May noted that the issue of Treaty 8 rights is scheduled to be heard before the Federal Court in September which could render the permits moot.
"It is agonizing to witness the starting gun for a race between bulldozers and justice," May said.
Some First Nations in B.C. were outraged with the decision.
"Rather than respecting the treaty rights of Prophet River and West Moberly and the legal process by pausing or even slowing down site preparation and construction, the Trudeau government, like cowardly, thuggish thieves in the dark, quietly issued federal permits before a long weekend to allow for the acceleration of construction," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
The union stated construction of the dam will destroy critical hunting, fishing and gathering sites as well as burial, archeological, historical and cultural sites.
While waiting for various permits and approvals, work on the project and a 1,600-person worker accommodation camp has been ongoing.
In July, the province announced over 1,500 workers are now at the site after a year of construction.
Work is expected to wrap up in 2024.