New Malahat chief voices new stance for First Nation on SIA

The chief and her council asked Polak to take “immediate action” to respond to their requests.

The new chief and council of the Malahat First Nation have written to Environment Minister Mary Polak regarding “serious concerns that have been alleged about the scientific information” used to grant South Island Aggregates its permits to operate a contaminated soil treatment plant and landfill on Stebbings Road near Shawnigan Lake.

The letter, dated Dec 9, requests the original scientific information provided by engineering firm Active Earth in support of the application, subsequent scientific documentation, testing and information undertaken by the ministry and documentation and explanations of the most recent materials to be deposited at the site “as it has been alleged that those materials have the potential to leach into the water system.”

The letter goes on to say given the environmental impacts of the project, “an independent review process of the science that was submitted is critical to establish that the Malahat Nation and the broader community can trust the adequate steps have been taken to respond to the allegations and that sufficient information has been collected for proper consultation to occur.”

The chief and her council asked Polak to take “immediate action” to respond to their requests.

“If the ministry is unable to provide the requested information or had not undertaken an independent re-assessment, the Nation must reconsider its position on the permit,” Chief Caroline Harry and her council wrote.

The letter earned kudos from both the Shawnigan Lake Residents’ Association and at least one CVRD official.

“The citizens of Shawnigan Lake are extremely grateful to Malahat First Nation for their letter to Minister Pollack questioning the decision-making of her ministry with regards to the granting of the permit to South Island Aggregates,” SRA president Calvin Cook said. “The voices of the Malahat First Nation have been added to the chorus of complaint by Cowichan Tribes, elected officials, residents of Shawnigan Lake and over 15,000 citizens across this province demanding our provincial government review this decision.”

Shawnigan Lake Area Director Sonia Furstenau said she was grateful to the band for stating their concerns and asking for accountability from the ministry.

“The Cowichan Tribes have also made their concerns about this contaminated landfill clear to the ministry, and have been firm in their opposition from the beginning,” she said. “I would expect the ministry to take very seriously the many questions raised by the two First Nations on whose traditional territories this site is located.”