ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN
The Halalt First Nation has begun regulating traffic through its main village, Indian Reserve #2.
Chief James Thomas said the First Nation signed a bylaw declaring that traffic will be regulated on all roads in the reserve, including provincial Highway 1A/Westhome Road.
Thomas said the bylaw is a “proactive measure to ensure community safety and the band’s enjoyment of its village.”
He said the First Nation wishes to extend notice of the new measures “in the spirit of reconciliation” towards the resolution of a “long-standing trespass” that has gone unaddressed by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“Residential traffic is welcomed on the condition that visitors respect our village and be courteous to our community members,” Thomas said.
“Industrial traffic is also welcomed, but on more stringent conditions which will be mutually agreed upon through the negotiation of a road-use agreement in accordance with our bylaw.”
Thomas said the band has yet to interfere with commercial vehicles travelling through the reserve and is currently engaging individually in talks with local forest companies, municipalities and other industrial users of the road.
He said the First Nation is discussing safety issues and plans for commercial users to pay a fee for the use of the road through the reserve.
Thomas said the main cause for the band’s action is an ongoing dispute with the province over ownership of the land the roadway is on.
He said the federal government has acknowledged the land belongs to the First Nation, but the province has yet to turn ownership over to the Halalt.
Thomas said the issue is separate from treaty negotiations.
“We’re not stopping any traffic, at least not yet,” he said.
“This has been going on for the last 40 years, and everyone seems to just be passing the buck.”
The band had blocked traffic on the highway through its reserve in previous years over the ownership issue, as well as safety concerns around the road.
A statement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said the ministry is aware that the Halalt First Nation has notified the local community that it plans to charge commercial-vehicle traffic on Highway 1A/Westholme Road where it passes through their territory.
The statement said ministry staff have been in ongoing discussions with the First Nation over its concerns, and will continue to work with them on a resolution.
“Ministry staff are closely monitoring this section of roadway and, should there be any disruption to traffic, will immediately advise the community and the travelling public of the alternative route that is available,” it said.
“This information will be provided through DriveBC and our social media channels, as well as with traffic advisories as needed.”