The St’at’imc No Coalition opposes BC Hydro

12 04 2011

April 8, 2011

Lillooet, St’àt’imc

For immediate release:

The St’àt’imc No Coalition opposes the St’àt’imc Settlement Agreement with BC Hydro and the province of BC.

The Coalition is concerned about the Ratification Vote tomorrow, April 9th, because voters are not fully informed about what is in the Agreement: meaningful consultation has not occurred.

“We advocate for a “no” vote on this Agreement because the deal is just so inadequate and unfair,” stated Roger Adolph, leader of the No Coalition and 21 year Chief of the Fountain Band near Lillooet. “A lot of people are voting no because the value of the water, land, fish and wildlife destroyed by BC Hydro facilities is so much more than the money they are offering to compensate us for those impacts.”

“But we are concerned that the voters are being manipulated because our people are being given misleading information designed to produce a yes vote.”

‘We are concerned that the St’àt’imc Chiefs Council has hired a public relations company to tell people it’s a good agreement, but they haven’t actually given us the information in plain language. Our people have not been fully informed of what is in that Agreement.”

“We know that does not meet the standards of consultation which are described as free, prior informed consent.” The St’àt’imc Authority, or St’àt’imc Chiefs Council, was paid $500,000 by BC Hydro as an interim payment in December of 2010. We understand this money was used to promote ratification. “Meanwhile, my own Band office changed the codes on the photocopiers so I can’t print flyers, and they fired the editor of our St’àt’imc newspaper when she printed our paid advertisement voicing our opposition.”

They have refused to show us the exact figures and how they will be distributed, they are distributing facebook messages and flyers that saythis Agreement will be worth $1billion but they don’t explain that is when you take into account the index to inflation and in 2061 dollars. They are blatantly denying the fact that this Agreement has St’àt’imc “releasing the Province, BC Hydro, and BCTC from any and all claims St’át’imc may have now or in the future for revenue sharing in relation to the Facilities” (pp.14). Instead the Chiefs Council mix their messages by saying this Agreement does not prevent us from revenue sharing with other projects.

Canada and British Columbia have the legal duty to consult and accommodate indigenous people here whenever they contemplate any action that may infringe aboriginal title. They have also recently joined the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which stipulates that the principles of free, prior informed consent must be met when entering an Agreement with anindigenous people.

In “community info sessions,” of which there have been several in every community and in nearby cities, people have been silenced for asking questions and stating opinions. We are hearing that people have been humiliated when they voice concerns about the Agreement or ask key questions. Many people report being unsatisfied with the answers to their questions in community sessions, and that their questions were not answered directly or answered incorrectly. Adolph says, “this is not meaningful consultation; it’s inadequate. Their presentation of the information is biased. There are manyexamples of conflict of interest in the hiring selection for the communications team and ratification team.”

“Right from the beginning BC Hydro has been paying St’at’imc Nation Hydro and we have never known how much, or what for. I think having that same organization oversee this vote must be illegal. SNH has not been accountable to us.”

The No Coalition will station people at each polling station tomorrow to try to get some oversight as to what will happen during the vote. They are concerned because the overseers of the vote are the St’át’imc Nation Hydro, which has engineered this agreement and is on the payroll of BC Hydro, and the Chiefs and Councils of the eleven St’àt’imc  communities – who have all publicly stated their enthusiasm for a “yes” vote.

Just as our ancestors stated in the Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe, May 10, 1911, “we have gradually learned how cunning, cruel, untruthful and thieving some of them (settlers and the colonial government) can be.” We are finding that in this they have not changed.

The Agreement, which would legally bind all eleven communities of the St’àt’imc, and their future generations, if ratified, will be determined by a simple majority tomorrow.

“The Ratification Officer told me there is no list of eligible voters,” Adolph. “She said that is not necessary because it will be a 50%+1 decision. And I think the mail-in ballots, which are addressed to the St’àt’imc Nation Hydro office and are currently piled up on their reception desk – has to be challenged. It looks like this vote is not being conducted properly.”

The St’àt’imc Settlement Agreement with BC Hydro assures the provincial utility of certainty of access to all its facilities, including access roads, substations, transmission and distribution lines, dams and reservoirs and water licenses. BC would guarantee the utility’s $210million settlement amount to the St’àt’imc. This compensation money is to release BC Hydro and the province from all past, present and future claims of the St’àt’imc as regards the existing facilities. The value of BC Hydro’s assets in St’àt’imc territory is several billion dollars. The utility estimates that 5% of BC’s total electrical output comes from facilities in St’àt’imc.

One of the exceptions of the “past present and future” claims related to “all existing facilities,”  is that, if ratified, St’àt’imc consents to and holds itself accommodated for the building of a fourth 500 kilovolt transmission line through the territory from Kelly Lake to Cheekeye.

“We feel that this Agreement is going ahead without the proper information having been provided to the voters. This is a contravention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

The No Coalition is contemplating legal action to resolve the problem.

“We’re giving them access to all their facilities and right of ways, and BC Hydro will consult with us, but the thing is we’ve already been accommodated – if the vote is yes.”

“I’m hearing that some people are voting yes for the money, they have been told there is a lot of money in the Agreement but it’s not as much as they think. They have not been properly informed of what has been negotiated and is included in this agreement.”

Media Contacts:

Roger Adolph, former Chief of Fountain Band for 21 years

Telephone: 250 256 7559   Cell: 250 256 9474

Butch Bob, former Pavillion Chief of fourteen years

Telephone: 250 256 0144       Cell: 250 256 3429

The ratification vote for the Agreement will take place at fourteen polling stations tomorrow, April 9. The Agreement has taken 17 years to negotiate, and the people have, in some cases, only recently received their copy of the five separate complex Agreements that make up the Agreement package. The Agreement was first made available to the voters in January.

The St’àt’imc No Coalition includes people from each of the eleven St’àt’imc communities. The No Coalition has formed in opposition to this Settlement Agreement with BC Hydro and theprovince.

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