When a canoe carrying several people capsized on the Peace River during the Paddle for Peace event on Saturday, David Suzuki rushed in to provide help.
“David Suzuki's boat with Shirley Ann Reiter was first at the scene and he pulled them out of the water and to safety. David then jumped into their swamped canoe [...] and paddled, alone, several kilometres down the river to an area called Bear Flats, where he gave the keynote address to hundreds of people who had gathered to oppose the Site C dam. Keep in mind the guy is nearly 80 years old,” said Dr. Faisal Moola, the David Suzuki Foundation's director general for Ontario and Northern Canada, who posted an account of what happened on his Facebook wall.
The Peace River is known for its frigid waters and boaters who fall in can quickly succumb to hypothermia, even in summer.
According to Moola’s Facebook, Suzuki capsized his own canoe on the Peace River and nearly drowned 40 years ago during his first struggle against the Site C dam.
“He was with Adriane Peacock who had asked him to come up and see the beauty of the Peace Valley firsthand by paddling the river. They had to swim to the shore and almost didn't make it,” said Moola in his comment.
A picture of Suzuki reunited with Peacock was posted on his Facebook, together with another photo of the couple whom he rescued yesterday.
“Well - that's probably the most interesting way anyone has met David Suzuki,” said Moola.
Suzuki rushed to the rescue at the 10th annual Paddle for the Peace event on July 11, billed as a celebration of northern BC’s scenic Peace Valley, currently slated for development by the Site C dam project.
The Site C dam, which First Nations and their allies were rallying against yesterday, is the third such dam to be built on the Peace River, according to the Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Conservation Initiative.
Four Treaty 8 First Nations bands, together with Alberta’s Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations, alongside Peace River area landowners, have launched both provincial and federal court suits to stop the project citing damage to downstream ecosystems as one of their concerns.
Despite their efforts, dam and reservoir construction is expected to begin this year, to the tune of $8.75 billion and will take nine years to build. Y2Y says that the dam will flood more than 62 miles of valley bottoms home to a rich variety of wildlife and some of BC's best farmland, forcing farmers and other people from their homes.
BC's provincial government approved Site C's construction despite the Joint Federal-Provincial Review Panel noting that a new dam would have "significant cumulative effects," on the environment, but Y2Y maintains that BC Hydro has not fully demonstrated its need for more electricity.
"Replacing a portion of the Peace River with an 83-kilometre reservoir would cause significant adverse effects on fish and fish habitat, and a number of birds and bats, smaller vertebrate and invertebrate species, rare plants, and sensitive ecosystems. The Project would significantly affect the current use of land and resources for traditional purposes by Aboriginal peoples, and the effect of that on Aboriginal rights and treaty rights generally will have to be weighed by governments. It would not, however, significantly affect the harvest of fish and wildlife by non-Aboriginal people. It would end agriculture on the Peace Valley bottom lands, and while that would not be significant in the context of B.C. or western Canadian agricultural production, it would highly impact the farmers who would bear the loss," states the panel's report.
In addition, the dam is expected to lose $800 million in its first four years of operation, according to peacevalley.ca, which further states that BC Hydro will raise rates even more to help recover project costs. As it stands, the government will set rate increases for the next two years at nine per cent and six per cent respectively, as part of its 10-year plan.
Nonetheless, the panel did note Site C’s potential benefits as a renewable energy project that would curb greenhouse gas emissions, offer an alternative to nuclear power, and provide jobs.
“Despite high initial costs, and some uncertainty about when the power would be needed, the Project would provide a large and long-term increment of firm energy and capacity at a price that would benefit future generations. It would do this in a way that would produce a vastly smaller burden of greenhouse gases than any alternative save nuclear power, which B.C. has prohibited. The Project would improve the foundation for the integration of other renewable, low-carbon energy sources as the need arises. The Project would also entail a number of local and regional economic benefits, though many of these would be transfers from other parts of the province or country. Among them would be opportunities for jobs and small businesses of all kinds, including those accruing to Aboriginal people,” states the panel.