Cree elder reflects on one dam, worries about the next

Jennifer Poole has lost a home to resource extraction; a daughter to murder. She worries that she’ll lose more people she loves if the Site C dam project moves ahead near her home in northeastern B.C.

Meet Jennifer Poole. A 69 year-old Cree elder, Jennifer’s family and community were displaced from the land they lived on by the flooding to create the W.A.C. Bennett Dam in the 1960s. Jennifer has lost people, too — one daughter to murder, another daughter to drugs and two sons to drowning. Her teenage grandson has been missing since 2015.

September 12 marked the 50th anniversary of the dam, which still accounts for one quarter of BC Hydro’s total power. BC Hydro did not consult the affected Indigenous communities before construction and now acknowledges the physical and cultural impact. “It’s a terrible stain on the history of the province,” said Chris O’Riley, BC Hydro’s president.

With Site C’s potential to bring new transient workers and flood more land in the Peace River Region, Jennifer worries she won’t be able to protect the young women and children in her life.

A week after I spoke with Jennifer at Peace River Park in Taylor, B.C., I learned that her health had taken a turn for the worst and she is in the hospital. I’ll update once I learn more, but I’m keeping her in my thoughts.

“As long as I’m here, I will voice myself,” she told me. “And I will tell what I have to.”

In this video, she reflects on the flooding caused by the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and what Site C might mean for the vulnerable people in her community.

This is part of a broader investigation into the social, gender and cultural impacts of resource extraction. I’ll keep updating as I continue to learn, and will be releasing the full project in November. [end]


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