Vancouver’s poetry community came together Aug. 28 at Cafe Deux Soleils in support of B.C.’s Treaty 8 First Nation‚ which is at risk of losing more land along the Peace River Valley to a new hydro dam slated for 2024. The $8.8-billion Site C dam proposed by B.C. Hydro would be the third in the region‚ with two others – W.A.C. Bennett and Peace Canyon – already occupying 80 per cent of the valley. The project was granted permits from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada in July.
Poets for Peace‚ hosted by poets Rita Wong and Valeen Jules‚ raised $2‚000 to help fund a caravan bringing a group of First Nations elders to battle the project in federal court on Sept. 12‚ making stops in major cities along the way to raise awareness. According to Wong, the fundraiser was a success‚ with a line out the door and a packed floor for readings by indigenous poets and spoken-word artists such as Lee Maracle‚ Valeen Jules‚ Crystal Smith‚ JB the First Lady, Miss Christie Lee‚ and others.
“We wanted to send a message to the folks up north that they’re not alone and that we’re standing with them‚” Wong says. “About a third of the electricity that we use here in the lower mainland comes from the Peace River region already from the previous dams, which flooded a lot of indigenous people’s homelands and farmers’ lands.”
The land in question is currently used by locals to fish‚ hunt‚ and gather medicines as promised under the treaty‚ and is already dwindling in terms of plant and wildlife – it is the narrowest part of the Yukon to Yellowstone Corridor Initiative‘s re-wilding zone.
“It’s upsetting to see B.C. Hydro’s branding use language calling this a clean energy project. It’s not clean when you measure the greenhouse gases from flooding the area, because we need forests… it’s an area that actually needs to be expanded, not contracted‚” Wong says. “As a poet and somebody who works with words, I’m just offended by that abuse of language. You have to hold the language accountable for what’s actually happening on the ground for the people and the animals.”