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BC Court of Appeals rules in favour of Saik’uz, Stellat’en First Nations over Kenney Dam harms

It was a big win in court for the Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations

In a unanimous decision yesterday, the B.C. Court of Appeal found the provincial and federal governments had a responsibility to protect the two Nations’ Aboriginal rights from the ongoing harm the Kennedy Dam caused on the Nechako River and their fish populations.

Both First Nations stated they have witnessed a drastic decline in sockeye salmon and Nechako white sturgeon because of the dam.

The Court of Appeal rejected Rio Tinto’s denial of wrongdoing—noting the trial judge had found “hugely negative impacts” on the Nations and affirming “ongoing detrimental impacts of the regulation of the Nechako River’s water flow on the appellants’ Aboriginal right to fish.”

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“Our Nation celebrates the affirmation that the Crown cannot wash its hands of impacts from major resource exploitation decisions when it continues to have a role in how that resource is managed. The Court of Appeal issued ‘declarations plus’ ordering the Crown to involve our Nations in decisions and to take substantive actions to manage the river to avoid unnecessary harm—harm that the Court said ‘occurs anew each and every year” – Priscilla Mueller, Saik’uz Chief.

Rio Tinto issued the following statement to Vista Radio:

Rio Tinto remains fully committed to working with the Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations, as well as other First Nations, to build mutually beneficial, respectful and transparent relationships in a spirit of reconciliation.

Improving the health of the Nechako River is a goal we all share and we are actively engaged with First Nations communities on this priority. Rio Tinto believes that governance of the flows on the Nechako River should be an inclusive process. We will continue to collaborate with First Nations, governments and other stakeholders in the watershed to review all aspects of the Nechako Reservoir management process.

Rio Tinto is pleased that the court recognized that Rio Tinto has operated within the scope of its licence and that lawful operation of its facilities does not constitute wrongful conduct. We cannot comment further until we have had the opportunity to fully review and consider the Courts’ decision. The decision will not affect how we engage with Indigenous Peoples in Canada, nor the plaintiffs in this case. Our goal remains to build meaningful relationships based on transparency, trust and respect.

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