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NEWS: BC to respond to legal challenge against highway by June 14

The Journal of Commerce reports, “Two people are suing the British Columbia Government in an effort to stop construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) through sacred burial sites, and British Columbia’s oldest and most important archaeological site. …William Burnstick of the Cree Sioux First Nations…and Bertha Williams of the Tsawwassen Band, Coast Salish launched a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court on May 24 against the B.C. government, including the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.”

“The plaintiffs are seeking an interim injunction to stop the project and ongoing construction of the SFPR, so the sacred burial sites can be protected.”

“According to the notice of civil claim, the plaintiffs allege that ancient burial sites are being disturbed, altered and permanently harmed by the construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road. In addition, the plaintiffs claim the road construction project could have been modified to take these significant archaeological sites into account. However, these spiritual and sacred sites were not protected and no consideration was given to these factors in the final design of the project.”

“The provincial government didn’t release the Archaeology Impact Assessment to the public in 2006, but continued to move forward with the SFPR project. However, an Archaeological Impact Assessment produced for the Ministry of Transportation in 2001 by Golder Associates Ltd. reports there are four previously recorded sites existing within the proposed development area. Three of these sites, including St. Mungo and Glenrose Cannery, contain unique and highly significant archaeological deposits. The report said a number of activities related to road construction, such as excavation, demolition, clearing, grading, paving and the installation of subsurface utilities, have the potential to impact archaeological deposits. These activities were expected to disturb cultural deposits and features, damage artifacts, hinder access to archaeological deposits and destroy contextual information essential for interpreting site function and age.”

“Burnstick, who recently obtained a copy of the 2006 Archaeological Study, said it reports the road will cause irreparable damage to sacred grounds including undisturbed deposits dating from 9,000 years ago. All archaeological sites, whether on provincial Crown or private land, that predate 1846 are automatically protected under 1996 amendments to the Heritage Conservation Act. Certain sites, including burials and rock art sites, are protected regardless of age. There is also an obligation to protect human remains under the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act.”

The Vancouver Sun adds, “The pair are represented by lawyer Jay Straith, who is also representing the Burns Bog Conservation Society in a separate claim against the federal government.” The Vancouver Media Co-op notes, “Last November, the Burns Bog Conservation Society filed a legal claim against the Government of Canada stating the South Fraser Perimeter Road Project contravenes Federal legislation and fails to uphold the Conservation Covenant on Burns Bog. Both legal actions point to the failure of the governments of Canada and British Columbia to adhere too laws which protect key archaeological sites and critical habitats.”

On May 25 it was reported “the government has 21 days to respond” to the civil claim. That would mean a response could be expected from the provincial government by Tuesday June 14.

The Council of Canadians has been a vocal opponent against the South Fraser Perimeter Road. More on that at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?s=south+fraser+perimeter+road.