A dozen or so people gathered on Tuesday (April 11) along the Malahat to flag concerns about the province’s widening of the highway and the impacts it’ll have on salmon in nearby spawning rivers.
Protests began in March and organizer Carl Oslen says the group’s numbers have fluctuated over the weeks since, but that support has been steady. Olsen is speaking for the salmon, raising concerns about how the highway expansion will impact the stream, the salmon and the trees in the area.
“Under the (Douglas) Treaty, this stream is protected because we have a right to fish in this stream, but we also have a right to protection. That comes first. I have the right to protect the stream because it feeds us.”
WIS-WAA-CHA (Kati George-Jim) says consultation ahead of the project was lacking and that’s something she says is commonplace on infrastructure projects that disrupt the environment.
“This is retroactively spreading awareness, which should have been done years ago. So I do think that it’s at least piquing interest. You kind of get everyone who drives on the highway – it’s not one demographic of people.”
But rather than open communication, WIS-WAA-CHA says they are often met with opposition.
“Every day, just those inherent responsibilities and practising them are criminalized. Then when Indigenous people stand up and say, ‘These are my inherent responsibilities or my inherent rights,’ that’s also criminalized.”
A group was out this morning along the Malahat near Goldstream Provincial Park, calling attention to concerns about the highway’s expansion and how it might impact the nearby rivers where salmon spawn @GoldstreamNews #yyj pic.twitter.com/fK935E1CLX
— bailey (@moreton_bailey) April 11, 2023
The province announced the widening project in 2018, and conducted a public engagement period which ended in September 2020, according to Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s (MOTI)’s website.
The project is for a 1.7-kilometre of road stretch near Goldstream Provincial Park and includes widening and minor realignment to accommodate the installation of median barriers, wider paved shoulders, roadside barriers and improvements to the Finlayson Arm Road intersection.
Olsen doubts whether the project will have the desired benefits.
“I drove this highway for 10 years every day. The highway is not the problem. It’s the drivers and not all drivers. Those that are in a hurry, and need to put the phone down.”
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