Statement of Concern

Statement of Concerned Scholars on the Site C dam project, Peace River, British Columbia 

(A supporting letter signed by the President of the Royal Society of Canada, addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, can be downloaded here.)

Based on evidence raised across our many disciplines, the undersigned scholars have concluded that there were significant gaps and inadequacies in the regulatory review and environmental assessment process for the Site C Project, a hydroelectric dam on the Peace River currently in the preliminary stages of construction. Our assessment is that this process did not accord with the commitments of both the provincial and federal governments to reconciliation with and legal obligations to First Nations, protection of the environment, and evidence-based decision-making with scientific integrity.

Accordingly, we respectfully call upon:

  • The federal government to revisit the Order in Council approving the Project[1] by directing the Department of Justice to complete an analysis of (i) whether the Project infringes upon the treaty and aboriginal rights guaranteed by the Constitution Act, 1982 (s. 35), and (ii) whether any such infringement can be justified under the framework established in Sparrow.[2] We expect the present government, with its strong commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, will make public the analysis received from the Department of Justice.[3] We ask that the federal government suspend the issuance of further permits or authorizations pursuant to the Order In Council until this analysis has been completed and publicized;
  • Both governments to explain why the unprecedented imposition of numerous significant adverse environmental effects is justified by a Project whose electricity output is presently unnecessary and for which less expensive and less environmentally damaging alternatives exist;
  • The provincial government to act on the recommendation of the Joint Review Panel, and refer the Project for review and recommendations under Section 5 of the BC Utilities Commission Act;
  • Both governments to delay issuance of any further permits or authorizations until the courts decide on the First Nations’ issues at stake, and until the BC Utilities Commission has completed its review.

Our assessment is based on detailed research that draws on government reports and studies; this research and its sources are publicly available in Briefing Notes accompanying this Statement. The issues that we have identified are elaborated further below and in supporting documentation that details serious concerns with respect to both procedural and substantive matters.

  1. The environmental assessment process chosen by the federal and provincial governments for the Site C Project did not consider or determine whether or not an approval of the Site C Project would constitute an infringement of First Nation rights under Treaty No. 8.

The same assessment process also did not comprehensively assess cumulative environmental effects and related cumulative impacts to First Nation rights under the Treaty. Given the large scale of development activity in the Peace River watershed, these matters are subject to ongoing litigation by two Treaty 8 First Nations, as well as a local landowner association. This has raised a range of significant issues, including whether any Treaty infringement resulting from the project could be justified according to the Sparrow test. Considering the importance of these issues, the Federal Government’s stated commitment to reconciliation with First Nations and the Supreme Court’s invocation of the honour of the Crown as a key element of Crown-Indigenous relations, it would be inappropriate to proceed with the Site C Project, including issuing any further permits related to construction and operation of the Project, before a full review by the BC Utilities Commission, and before decisions have been rendered by the courts.

  1. The number and scope of significant adverse environmental effects arising from the Site C Project are unprecedented in the history of environmental assessment in Canada.

The Joint Review Panel (commissioned by the federal and provincial governments) for the Site C Project determined that there would be a large number of significant adverse environmental effects associated with Site C (including aquatics, vegetation, wildlife, Aboriginal use of lands and resources, and cultural heritage). Our research shows that than the amount of significant adverse environmental effects arising from Site C are greater than for any project ever assessed under the history of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. As determined by the Joint Review Panel, the alternative portfolio proposed by BC Hydro for meeting the needs for electrical energy and capacity in BC would have a lower amount of adverse environmental effects, including in relation to greenhouse gas emissions.

  1. The Site C Project is large, costly and complex, which necessitates that it be subject to the highest level of review available provincially and federally. This did not occur.

In particular, the Project was entirely exempted from any review by the BC Utilities Commission and the Agricultural Land Commission. Moreover, the regulatory review was limited to an environmental assessment Joint Review Panel conducted over a compressed nine-month period by a three-person panel. The Joint Review Panel stated explicitly in its report that it did not have sufficient time or resources to properly assess certain key issues, including the costs of the Site C Project and greenhouse gas emissions, and thus recommended that the Site C Project be referred to the BC Utilities Commission, which has not occurred.

Taken together, we believe that these concerns provide sufficient justification for the recommendations made above. Thank you for your kind consideration of our recommendations on this urgent, precedent-setting issue.


[1] On October 14, 2014, the Governor in Council issued Order in Council P.C. 2014-1105 approving the Project.

[2]R v. Sparrow [1990] 1 SCR 1075 set out criteria to determine whether governmental infringement on treaty and aboriginal rights can be justified. How this functions in the context of treaty rights was set out in R.v. Badger [1996] 1 S.C.R. 771 and Mikisew Cree First Nation v. Canada (Minister of Canadian Heritage), [2005] 3 S.C.R. 388.

[3] Prior to the previous federal government’s approval of the Order in Council, it may have sought advice from the Department of Justice on the s. 35 issues involved. Any prior advice from the Department of Justice is secret (as a matter of solicitor-client privilege) and not available to the present government.



Dr. David Schindler, Emeritus (University of Alberta)
Dr. Charles Menzies (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Andrew Martindale (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Jessica Dempsey (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Philippe Le Billon (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Kate Neville (University of Toronto)
Dr. Mark Johnson (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Eduardo Jovel (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Karen Bakker (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Hannah Wittmann (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Carrie Bourassa (First Nations University)
Dr. Rauna Kuokkanen (University of Toronto)
Dr. Andrea Olive (University of Toronto)
Dr. Catherine Choquette (Universite de Sherbrooke)
Dr. Glen Coulthard (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Stephen Tomblin (Memorial University)
Dr. Sarah Martin (Memorial University)
Dr. Kara Shaw (University of Victoria)
Dr. Wendy Wickwire (University of Victoria)
Dr. James Rowe (University of Victoria)
Dr. Michael M’Gonigle (University of Victoria)
Dr. Oliver Brandes (University of Victoria)
Dr. Eric Higgs (University of Victoria)
Dr. Nancy Turner (University of Victoria)
Dr. Jeff Corntassel (University of Victoria)
Dr. Natalie Ban (University of Victoria)
Dr. Derek Kornelsen (University of Manitoba)
Dr. Juanita Sundberg (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Mary-Ellen Tyler (University of Calgary)
Dr. Pamela Wright (UNBC)
Dr. Eugene McCann (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Henry Harder (UNBC)
Dr. Taiaiake Alfred (University of Victoria)
Dr. David Gaertner (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Leila Harris (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Geoff Mann (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Gordon Christie (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Ana Maria Peredo (University of Victoria)
Dr. John Volpe (University of Victoria)
Dr. David Boyd (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Greg Albo (York University)
Dr. Andrew Biro (Acadia University)
Dr. Laurie Adkin (University of Alberta)
Dr. Byron Miller (University of Calgary)
Dr. Scott Prudham (University of Toronto)
Dr. Bill Burgess (Kwantlen University)
Dr. Ian Baird (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Dr. Peter Kulchyski (University of Manitoba)
Dr. Roger Keil (York University)
Dr. Meenal Shrivastava (Athabasca University)
Dr. Donald Schwartz (University of Toronto)
Dr. Joyce Green (University of Regina)
Dr. Angela Carter (University of Waterloo)
Dr. Darlene Juschka (University of Regina)
Dr. Emma Norman (Northwest Indian College)
Dr. Makere Stewart-Harawira (University of Alberta)
Dr. Ellen Bielawski (University of Alberta)
Dr. William Carroll (University of Victoria)
Dr. Jan Thompson (Kwantlen University)
Dr. Stephane McLachlan (University of Manitoba)
Dr. Martin Adamson (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Rita Wong (Emily Carr University)
Dionne Brand (Professor, University of Guelph)
Dr. Samir Gandesha (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Jon Gordon (University of Alberta)
Dr. Jackie Seidel (University of Calgary)
Sandra Semchuk (Emily Carr University)
Dr. Norah Bowman (Okanagan College)
Dr. Colin Browne (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Robert Budde (UNBC)
Dr. Clint Burnham (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Daniel Coleman (McMaster University)
Raymond Cusson (Community Researcher)
Dr. Petra Fachinger (Queen’s University)
Roger Farr (Capilano University)
Dr. Antonia Mills (UNBC)
Dr. Smaro Kamboureli (University of Toronto)
Dr. Jenny Kerber (Wilfrid Laurier University)
Dr. Ann McKinnon (Okanagan College)
Alex Phillips (Emily Carr University)
Dr. Trudi Lynn Smith (University of Victoria)
Louise St. Pierre (Emily Carr University)
Dr. Christine Stewart (University of Alberta)
Fred Wah, Emeritus (University of Calgary)
Dr. Lorraine Weir (University of British Columbia)
Amy Zhang (Yale University)
Dr. Tim Lilburn (University of Victoria)
Dr. Chris Lee (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Amber Dean (McMaster University)
Dr. Gregory Betts (Brock University)
Dr. Nicholas Bradley (University of Victoria)
Dr. Paul Huebener (Athabasca University)
Dr. Warren Cariou (University of Manitoba)
Dr. Astrida Neimanis (University of Syndey)
Dr. Jodey Castricano (University of British Columbia Okanagan)
Élie Jalbert (Concordia University)
Dr. Michael Murphy (UNBC)
Karolle Wall, Emerita (Emily Carr University)
Dr. Jo-Anne Lee (University of Victoria)
Dr. Leanne Simpson (Independent Scholar)
Dr. Benita Bunjun (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Leslie Sanders (York University)
Dr. Nigel Haggan (Independent Scholar)
Dr. Dai Kojima (York University)
David R. Anderson (York University)
Dr. Anna Zalik (York University)
Dr. Ellen Judd (University of Manitoba)
Julie Andreyev (Emily Carr University)
Dr. Stephen Collis (Simon Fraser University)
Jen Currin (Kwantlen Polytechnic University)
Craig Berggold (Queen’s University)
Dorothy Christian (University of British Columbia)
Hereward Longley (University of Alberta)
Beth Carruthers (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Len Findlay (University of Saskatchewan)
Dr. Johnny Mack (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Darlene Johnston (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Karen Drake (Lakehead University)
Dr. Signa A. Daum Shanks (York University)
Dr. Sakej Henderson (University of Saskatchewan)
Dr. D’Arcy Vermette (University of Alberta)
Dr. Larry Chartrand (University of Ottawa)
Dr. Kate Rigby (Bath Spa University)
Dr. Jennifer Blair (University of Ottawa)
Amber Dawn (Independent Scholar)
Heather Burt (Langara College)
Dr. Leonie Sandercock (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Carol Gigliotti (Writer)
Cynthia Flood, Emerita (Langara College)
Dr. Ray Hsu (University of British Columbia)
Jordan Kinder (University of Alberta)
Ian Fanning (Shabot Obaadjiwan Algonquin First Nation member at Queen’s University)
Peg Campbell (Emily Carr University)
Dr. Margery Fee (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Michael Truscello (Mount Royal University)
Dr. Rajdeep Gill (Independent Scholar)
Dr. Roy Miki, Emeritus (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Erica Grimm (Trinity Western University)
Douglas Sanderson (University of Toronto)
Dr. Kelly Bannister (University of Victoria)
Dr. Lorna Stefanick (Athabasca University)
Heather Nicol (Trent University)
Dr. Anne Salomon (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Louis Lefeber (York University)
Dr. Dayna Scott (York University)
Alex Latta (Wilfrid Laurier University)
Dr. Marie-Josée Massicotte (University of Ottawa)
Dr. Ilan Kapoor (York University)
Laura M. Lee (Independent Scholar)
Alec Follett (University of Guelph)
Dr. Judyta Frodyma (UNBC)
Bjorn Stime (University of British Columbia)
Dr. David JH Blake (Independent Scholar)
Dr. Mora Campbell (York University)
Dr. Pamela Wright (UNBC)
Dr. Franklyn Griffiths (University of Toronto)
Dr. Bryan Dale (University of Toronto)
Dr. Walter Whiteley (York University)
Dr. Sarah Martin (Memorial University)
Dr. Meyer Brownstone (University of Toronto)
Dr. Michael Gillingham (UNBC)
Dr. Rod Dobell (University of Victoria)
Dr. Brenda Gunn (University of Manitoba)
Dr. Peter (Jay) Smith (Athabasca University)
Tempest Emery (Independent Scholar)
Dr. Liza Piper (University of Alberta)
Kim Minkus (Capilano University)
Dr. Lorelei Hanson (Athabasca University)
Dr. Kit Dobson (Mount Royal College)
Dr. Denise Nadeau (Concordia University)
Dr. Randy Lee Cutler (Emily Carr University)
Dr. Max Haiven (NSCAD University)
Dr. Jan Zwicky (University of Victoria)
Dr. Robin Ridington (University of British Columbia)
Jillian Ridington (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Alannah Young Leon (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Gene Desfor (York University)
Dr. Matt James (University of Victoria)
Dr. Paul Wilkinson (York University)
Dr. Gail Fraser (York University)
Dr. Christopher Dunn (Memorial University)
Dr. Andrew Miller (First Nations University)
Lillian Allen (OCAD University)
Maria Kyres (Queen’s University)
Dr. Wilfred Greaves (University of Toronto)
Dr. Stephanie Kane (Indiana University Bloomington)
Dr. Laura Cranmer (Vancouver Island University)
Dr. Wendee Kubik (Brock University)
Dr. Marilyn Poitras (University of Saskatchewan)
Pearl Eliadis
Dr. Dylan Robinson (Queen’s University)
Daphne Marlatt (Poet-Scholar)
Dr. Richard Pickard (University of Victoria)
Armand Garnet Ruffo (Queen’s University)
Jin-me Yoon (Simon Fraser University)
Janine MacLeod (York University)
Dr. Jeremy Schmidt (Carleton University)
Dr. Si Transken (UNBC)
Ardath Whynacht (Mount Allison University)
Dr. Jeff Masuda (Queen’s University)
Dr. Keren Zaiontz (Queen’s University)
Dr. Kim Solga (Western University)
Dr. Heather DavisFisch (University of the Fraser Valley)
Patrick Nickleson (University of Toronto)
Dr. Selena Couture (McGill)
Gillian Jerome (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Aaron Franks (Queen’s University)
Vanessa Sloan Morgan (Queen’s University)
Dr. Maya Gislason (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Pamela Banting (Calgary)
Seema Ahluwalia (Kwantlen Polytechnic University)
Madeleine Sauvé (Artist/Public Educator)
Marian Penner Bancroft, Emeritus (Emily Carr University)
Dr. William Carroll (University of Victoria)
Dr. Ruth Beer (Emily Carr University)
Richard Harrison (Mount Royal University)
Dr. Leslie Main Johnson (Athabasca University)
Dr. Pat O’Riley (UBC)
Peter Cole (UBC)
Dr. Sarah Otto (UBC)
Dr. Keavy Martin (University of Alberta)
Dr. Rory Wallace (Independent Scholar)
Dr. Barbara Leckie (Carleton University)
Dr. Charles Schweger, (Emeritus, University of Alberta)
Melanie Dennis Unrau (University of Manitoba)
Dr. Emily Eaton (University of Regina)
Dr. Peter C. van Wyck (Concordia University)
Dr. Catriona Sandilands (York University)
Dr. Monika Kin Gagnon (Concordia University)
Baco Ohama (Goddard College)
Dr. Kirsty Màiri Robertson (Western University)
Charlie Peters (Independent Scholar)
Dr. Susie O¹Brien (McMaster University)
Dr. Jody Berland (York University)
Anne Simpson (St. Francis Xavier University)
Jeff Gailus (Independent Scholar)
Genevieve Robertson (Independent Scholar)
Claire Ravenscroft (Duke University)
Dr. Heather Davis (Pennsylvania State University)
Karolina Bialkowska (University of British Columbia Okanagan)
Dr. Jules Boykoff (Pacific University in Oregon)
Erin Moure (Writer, Translator and Scholar)
Dr. Kirsten McAllister (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Mark Winston (Simon Fraser University)
Hiromi Goto (Writer, Simon Fraser University)
Fatima Jaffer (Scholar, University of British Columbia)
Dr. Margot Leigh Butler (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Larissa Lai (University of Calgary)
Anna Grigoryeva (University of Cambridge)
Dr. Karis Shearer (University of British Columbia Okanagan)
Dr. Jasmin Zine (Wilfrid Laurier University)
Dr. Janet Conway (Brock University)
Dr. Margaret Kress (University of New Brunswick)
Dr. Gary Geddes (Writer and Scholar)
Dr. Jennifer Gustar (University of British Columbia Okanagan)
Cole Mash (University of British Columbia Okanagan)
Edward Chamberlin (Emeritus, University of Toronto)
Dr. Jane Munro (Writer)
Dr. Serena Chou (Academia Sinica)
Dana Claxton (Associate Professor, University of British Columbia)
Dr. Rachel Hung (National Sun Yat-sen University)
Ann Eriksson (Writer and Biologist)
Joseph Hall (SUNY Buffalo)
Irina Ceric (Kwantlen Polytechnic University)
Dr. Vicki Kelly (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Maggie Bowers (University of Portsmouth)
Dr. Juliana Spahr (Mills College)
Dr. Linda Russo (Washington State University)
Dr. Rita Deverell (Adjunct Professor, Mount Saint Vincent University)
Dr. Anna Willow (Ohio State University)
Rebecca Lawton (Independent Scholar)
Dr. Odile Cisneros (University of Alberta)
Dr. Joy Hendry (Emerita, Oxford Brookes University
Dr. Christine Elsey (University of the Fraser Valley)
Dr. Vikki Reynolds, Independent Scholar
Emily McGiffin (York University)
Dr. Niamh Moore (University of Edinburgh)
Robert Girvan (Author)
Dr. Joni Adamson (Arizona State University)
Dr. Rachel Stein (Siena College)
Dr. Annie Booth (UNBC)
Dr. Arthur Fredeen (UNBC)
Dr. Zoe Meletis (UNBC)
Dr. Ross Hoffman (UNBC)
Dr. Agnes Pawlowska-Mainville (UNBC)
Sinead Earley, Lecturer (UNBC)
Dr. Ellen Petticrew (UNBC)
Dr. Sarah de Leeuw (UNBC)
Dr. Stephen Dery (UNBC)
Dr. Patrick Maher (UNBC)
Dr. Samer Alatout (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Dr. Eldon Yellowhorn (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Marianne Ignace (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Annie Ross (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Rudy Reimer/Yumks (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. John Welch (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Faran Ali (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Nicholas Blomley (Simon Fraser University)
Tanya Harnett (University of Alberta)
Dr. George Nicholas (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Katherine Parker (UNBC)
Dr. Brenda Parlee (University of Alberta)
Dr. Janet Rubinoff (York University)
Dr. Aimee Craft (University of Manitoba)
Dr. Evelyn Pinkerton (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Hadi Dowlatabadi (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Charles J. Krebs, Emeritus (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Martin Krkosek (University of Toronto)
Dr. Janice Williamson (University of Alberta)
Dr. Lawrence Dill (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Jeremy Kerr (University of Ottawa)
Dr. Michael Healey, Emeritus (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Lynn Quarmby (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Leesa Fawcett (York University)
Dr. Lalita Bharadwaj (University of Saskatchewan)
Dr. Catherine Dauvergne (University of British Columbia)
Jocelyn Stacey (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Heather Castleden (Queen’s University)
Dr. Janet Sturgeon (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Paul Kingsbury (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Kirsten Zickfeld (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Margot Parkes (UNBC)
Dr. Charis Kamphuis (Thompson Rivers University)
Dr. Bradford W. Morse (Thompson Rivers University)
Dr. Roger Hayter (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Joseph Carens (University of Toronto)
Dr. Nicole Schabus (Thompson Rivers University)
Dr. Janna Promislow (Thompson Rivers University)
Dr. Sara Seck (University of Western Ontario)
Dr. Kate Parizeau (University of Guelph)
Martin Olszynski (University of Calgary)
Dr. Coll Thrush (University of British Columbia)
Michelle Daigle (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Mark Mac Lean (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Sharon Mascher (University of Calgary)
Dr. John Borrows (University of Victoria)
Dr. James Byrne (University of Lethbridge)
Dr. Barbara Rose Johnston (Center for Political Ecology)
Nejm Benessaiah (University of Kent)
Amber Abrams (University of Kent)
Colin Hoag (University of California-Santa Cruz)
Alana Springer (Stanford University)
Emily Hite (University of Colorado-Boulder)
Dr. Andie Palmer (University of Alberta)
Dr. Daniel Pauly (Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries)
Dr. Don Mavinic (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Rashid Sumaila (Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries)
Dr. Anne Marie Goodfellow (Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries)
Dr. Deborah Davis Jackson (Earlham College)
Dr. Jordi Honey-Rosés (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Leonora C. Angeles (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Tim Yakaro (Simon Fraser University)
Dr. Penny Gurstein (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Nick Kawa (Ohio State University)
Dr. Donald McPhail (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Brian Starzomski (University of Victoria)
Dr. Janette Bulkan (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Robert DeWreede (Emeritus, University of British Columbia)
Dr. Paul Sanbord (University of Northern British Columbia)
Dr. Dianne Newell (Emerita, University of British Columbia)
Dr. Arthur J. Ray (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Stephen Calvert (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Alan Lewis (Emeritus, University of British Columbia)
Dr. Helen Kopnina (The Hague University of Applied Science)
Dr. Amanda Vincent (Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries)
Dr. Julie Maldonado (University of California Santa Barbara)
Morgan Moffitt (University of Alberta)
Dr. Colin Macleod (University of Victoria)
Dr. Soenke Zehle (Academy of Fine Arts – Saar, Germany)
Khalil Walji (University of British Columbia)