The Council of Canadians Mid-Island chapter attended a Sacred Land & Sacred Waters ceremony on Sat. Feb. 27.
The chapter, the broader community and now the Malahat Nation oppose South Island Aggregates dumping contaminated soil at a gravel pit near Shawnigan Lake given it puts at risk the drinking water for 12,000 people. The site will receive up to 100,000 tons of contaminated soil per year for fifty years. The site itself is located on top of an aquifer, beside a creek leading to the community’s drinking water. The Malahat Nation reserve is close to the site. Shawnigan Lake is located about 48 kilometres north of Victoria in the Cowichan Valley Regional District. Both our Mid-Island and Victoria chapters have been active in defending the lake from this threat.
The outreach for the gathering this weekend noted, “Traditional Welcoming and Water Ceremony for Shawnigan Lake/Sooke Watersheds as Community Gathers to Stop Contaminated Soil Dumping. Join Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Canada’s youth ambassador to the United Nations, along with Pipe Carriers, Elders and CommUNITY voices who gather/stand in honour of the Lands and Water of our collective future.” The day included: (9 am) Ceremony beside Stebbings Road Contaminated Soil Dumping Site; (11 am) Water Ceremony and CommUNITY speakers; (1 pm) FEAST and Elder’s message about the COP21 climate conference; and (6 pm) Gathering to hear Ta’Kaiya sing.
In Dec. 2015., Malahat Nation Chief Caroline Harry began to raise concerns about the contaminated soil dump site. The Globe and Mail has reported, “Ms. Harry was elected [in] November, after former chief Michael Harry resigned after reports of payments being made to him and other Malahat members by proponents of the contaminated soil project.”
In May 2015, the Shawnigan Residents Association filed for a judicial review by the B.C. Supreme Court of the March 2015 decision by the Environmental Appeal Board to dismiss appeals against the provincial Ministry of the Environment permit, granted in 2013, for the soil to be dumped near Shawnigan Lake. On Feb. 15, 2016, the court proceedings, which could take up to two weeks, began. Central in this challenge is the concern that “proper, independent science” may not have been considered in the decision by the ministry or the board given an alleged profit-sharing deal between the engineering company that did the science and the owners of the site where the soil is being dumped.
Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, “In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. As a result, there are now three obligations that governments must follow: the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill.” The obligation to protect means, for example, that local communities should be protected from their drinking water being polluted by the dumping of toxic soil in their watershed.
Photos: The Mid-Island chapter at the Sacred Land & Sacred Waters ceremony.