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TFN members sue province over SFPR
Two Tsawwassen First Nation members are taking legal action against the province to try and halt construction of a section of the South Fraser Perimeter Road.
Bertha Williams and William Burnstick have filed a claim in B.C. Supreme Court which states the four-lane, 40-kilometre highway would run through burial grounds and other archeological sites.
They say the government knew of the harm the road would do to a stretch of the Fraser River, which includes the Glenrose Cannery and St. Mungo archaeological sites, but "did not consider the conservation, protection, preservation of social, cultural, economic and archeological values" of the land.
The government allegedly ignored an archeological report on the project and did not take steps to modify the road's design to mitigate the harm.
Williams and Burnstick are represented by lawyer Jay Straith, who is also representing the Burns Bog Conservation Society in a claim against the province.
"I am quite sure that the province of British Columbia, if this was a Jewish or Protestant or Catholic cemetery, would make appropriate arrangements because doing this kind of thing is prohibited under the Cemetery and Cremations Act," Straith told the Leader.
"(The provincial government) just bury the (archeological) report and say 'Well, it's First Nations, who cares?' It's an insult to the public's intelligence and it's a hell of an insult to our First Nations," he said.
If the project is not redesigned, the sites will allegedly "suffer irreparable harm in that these ancient burial sites will forever be disturbed and altered," the claim states.
The First Nation members say the road "can be modified to take into account the sites of archeological significance and protect the spiritual and sacred sites and that there was no consideration given to these factors in the final design of the project and/or its ongoing construction."
Williams and Burnstick are seeking a court injunction to stop the project so the sites can be protected.
No one from the Ministry of Transportation was available to comment before the Leader's deadline.
Last week, executive director of the Gateway Program Geoff Freer gave a presentation on the SFPR and its future impacts on Delta at a Delta Chamber of Commerce business meeting. His presentation stated that extensive work continues with First Nations, including archaeological protection during and after construction and long-term management plans for archaeological sites.
Meanwhile, Delta South Independent MLA Vicki Huntington has criticized the Gateway Program for backing away from its environmental commitments and cutting corners on the SFPR through Delta.
In a press release, Huntington says Gateway wants to install culverts rather than bridges at North Delta watercourse crossings and has requested the clearing 1.2 hectares of Burns Bog forest.
"Gateway's proposal illustrates yet another attempt to subvert consultation and dilute environmental protection measures—for a project that is already disastrous for Delta," Huntington stated.