BC Hydro is officially seeking a court injunction to remove overnight campers outside its downtown Vancouver office who are protesting the controversial Site C Dam.
The Crown corporation filed its application with the B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday against a dozen or more environmental activists hoping to halt construction of the $8.8-billion hydroelectric project, currently underway by the Peace River in northeastern B.C. Upon completion, the company says the dam will produce enough power to light up roughly 450,000 B.C. homes per year, but the dam has sparked controversy, due to the flooding of Indigenous territory and farmland in the Peace Valley area.
"BC Hydro is seeking to protect public and employee safety, and regain safe access to its office for employees and customers," the company wrote in a press release. "The camp has grown in size and poses health and safety risks for members of the public and BC Hydro employees. It has also made it difficult for employees and BC Hydro customers to access the building."
Protesters have been camped out on the front lawn of the building since March 13, and have been occupying that space 24 hours a day, handing out leaflets to passersby. The utility company has already spent $30,000 replacing the door handles of the building to prevent campers from chaining themselves to entrances in protest, more than $45,000 on additional monitoring, and more than $30,000 on extra security.
They've accused the campers of bathing themselves on property pools, destroying the front lawn with stakes and gardens, and smoking marijuana on site. On April 7, BC Hydro distributed notice to the campers that they do not have permission to be there overnight, and advised that they set up in a designated area in front of the office from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily to express their opinions.
The campers were asked to remove their tents, tarps, wood structures and latrine, but to date, have not complied.
According to the protesters, the Site C Dam will do irreversible harm to more than 100 kilometres of river valley bottoms along the Peace River and its tributaries, and the precious habitat of at least 63 endangered, red-listed, blue-listed, at risk, threatened, and of special concern animal species. The project is also located on Treaty 8 Territory belonging to the Doig River, Halfway River, Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations, which have not given their consent to the project.
And they're not worried about the injunction — if they're evicted, they say it will only give their movement more momentum.
"We're not blocking the entrance, we don't oppress their employees or people who come here to pay their bills," said Gordon August, a daily protester and member of the shíshálh (Sechelt) First Nation. "If we have to leave, I think it will just get a lot bigger. People are seeing it on the news, and it's just going to make the camp stronger. People will open their eyes and see what's going on.
The Site C Dam is the current subject of at least two court cases — one by BC Building Trades and one by the Blueberry River First Nations. BC Hydro has been successful once in removing protesters from its regular operations, and in February, was granted an injunction to remove protesters blocking dam construction in Fort St. John, B.C.