A dozen people gathered along the coast of Malahat on Tuesday (April 11) to express concern about the widening of the province’s highway and its impact on salmon in nearby spawning rivers.
The protests began in March, and organizer Carl Oslen said the group’s numbers have fluctuated in the weeks since, but the support has been steady. Olson, speaking on behalf of the salmon, raised concerns about how the highway expansion would affect the area’s streams, salmon and trees.
“Under the (Douglas) treaty, the stream is protected because we have the right to fish in the stream, but we also have the right to be protected. That comes first. I have the right to protect the stream because it feeds us .”
WIS-WAA-CHA (Kati George-Jim) said there was a lack of consultation ahead of the project, which she said is common in environmentally damaging infrastructure projects.
“It’s spreading awareness retroactively, which should have been done years ago. So I do think it’s going to at least spark interest. You’re kind of like everyone driving on the highway — it’s not a crowd. “
But the WIS-WAA-CHA said they often encountered opposition rather than an open exchange.
“Every day, just those inherent responsibilities and practicing those responsibilities are criminalized. And then when Indigenous people stand up and say, ‘These are my inherent responsibilities or my inherent rights,’ that’s also criminalized.”
A group of people set out this morning along Malahat, near Goldstream Provincial Park, to call attention to concerns about the highway expansion and how it might affect nearby salmon-spawning rivers@GoldstreamNews #yyj pic.twitter.com/fK935E1CLX
– Bailey (@moreton_bailey) April 11, 2023
The province announced the expansion project in 2018 and closed its public engagement period in September 2020, according to the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (MOTI) website.
The project is a 1.7 kilometer road extension near Goldstream Provincial Park and includes widening and minor adjustments to accommodate the installation of medians, wider shoulders, curb barriers and improvements to the Finlayson Arm Road intersection.
Olson doubts the project will yield the expected benefits.
“I’ve been driving this freeway every day for 10 years. The freeway is not the problem. It’s the driver, not all drivers. Those in a hurry, need to put the phone down.”
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