As the Capital Regional District’s residual solids conveyance line moves up West Saanich Road towards W̱SÁNEĆ territory, members of the Tsartlip First Nation are asking for their seat at the table.
Community members drummed, sang and held signs outside the Hartland Landfill Tuesday afternoon in a peaceful demonstration meant to show their frustrations with the regional government.
The conveyance line is part of the CRD’s larger wastewater treatment project involving two pipes connecting the McLoughlin Point Wastewater Treatment Plant to the Residuals Treatment Facility at Hartland Landfill – running through W̱SÁNEĆ territory to reach the latter.
“They are now entering into our backyard – as we like to think of it – with their residual waste project, where they’re digging up the earth,” said Tsartlip First Nation Coun. Joni Olsen, who said the community was told they would be brought in for consultation when needed. “Part of our discussions with the CRD up until that point was that we wanted to be involved and have a cultural monitor on site on a daily basis. That hasn’t been anything they have taken seriously.
“Its getting closer [and] it seems our discussions have come to somewhat of a stop but the work continues.”
Covered under the Douglas Treaty, Tsartlip First Nations is protected both by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
|Members of Tsartlip First Nation drummed near the entrance to Hartland Landfill Tuesday afternoon in a peaceful demonstration asking for improved consultation on the CRD’s residual solids conveyance line project. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)|
Olsen points to portions of UNDRIP that guarantee the right to maintain relationships with traditional land and develop strategies and priorities for its development.
“So you have…things in place that protect our rights and encourage proper, thorough consultation, especially in today’s day and age and governance,” she said. “And it’s too slow. It hasn’t been sufficient for what our needs are.”
The worst case scenario? If the project plows ahead without further discussions.
“It’s not unheard of,” Olsen said. “We’ve lived the last 100 years that way.”
Archaeological structures could be impacted by the liquid waste project, but at the core of the demonstration is concerns around recognition. Tsartlip Chief Don Tom says consultation needs to be held to a higher standard.
“[The CRD] has done very little consultation. Neither with Tsartlip or any of the Saanich communities,” he said. “So I think we’re bringing larger awareness to the obligation that the CRD and the province has in terms of [including] First Nations who have Aboriginal and Treaty rights specific to the core territory.”
Tom added, “I think this has to go beyond note taking and trying to address or mitigate our concerns. There has to be recognition of rights, recognition of title. And once there’s recognition, then we play a part in the decision making process.”
In a statement, the CRD’s Wastewater Project team said it has been engaging First Nations “on wastewater management since 2006 and specifically on the Wastewater Treatment Project since 2013.”
“The CRD Wastewater Project Team is engaged with the W̱SÁNEĆ Nations and is aware of their concerns regarding the utilization of cultural monitors,” the statement reads. “The Wastewater Treatment Project has an archaeological and heritage advisor who provides advice respecting the planning and construction of all components of the Project.”
The CRD said it has a meeting with W̱SÁNEĆ Nations scheduled for September.