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TFN government never opposed highway
The Tsawwassen First Nation band is distancing itself from a lawsuit one of its members has launched against the provincial government.
TFN member Bertha Williams and William Burnstick of the Cree Sioux First Nation—not the TFN as the Leader originally reported—filed a claim against the province this week seeking a court injunction to halt work on the South Fraser Perimeter Road in order to protect ancient burial grounds and archaeological sites.
The pair allege the government was aware the $1.2-billion, 40-kilometre highway would harm the Glenrose Cannery and St. Mungo archaeological sites, but "did not consider the conservation, protection, preservation of social, cultural, economic and archaeological values."
Williams and Burnstick claim that, unless the road is redesigned, the sites will "suffer irreparable harm in that these ancient burial sites will forever be disturbed and altered."
But an official statement from the band says "at no time did the Tsawwassen First Nation government or any of its authorized representatives ever oppose the SFPR."
It says the band believes the highway is a key transportation corridor for stabilizing and enhancing the Lower Mainland economy, and adds that Bertha Williams is "not an authorized representative of the TFN government."
The statement says the TFN has been consulted by the B.C. government throughout the planning process. While the band "did have some initial concerns with the SFPR," including archaeological matters, "those concerns were met and addressed in the environmental assessment process."
Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Kate Trotter said in an email that the province is "committed to ensuring that the design, construction and operation of the South Fraser Perimeter Road avoids or minimizes potential impacts to known archaeological sites. For almost a decade, we have worked closely with interested First Nations to protect this archaeological resource."
Trotter said it would be inappropriate to comment further as the issue is now before the court.