[Map showing West Saanich Rd., crossing South Saanich First Nation Reserve]
IMAGE CAPTION: Tsartlip First Nation Chief Ivan Wayne Morris walks along West Saanich Road with scores of others to Lauwelnew Tribal School, in Central Saanich yesterday. The well-traveled Saanich peninsula route was blocked for two hours between Mount Newton Cross and Stelly’s Cross roads.
Chief: ‘We want everyone to know the Saanich people are here’
Members of the Tsartlip First Nation blocked a portion of West Saanich Road yesterday afternoon to draw attention to what they say are treaty rights violations.
The road was blocked between Mount Newton Cross and Stelly’s Cross roads from noon to 2 p.m. as more than 100 people walked from Mount Newton Cross Road to the Lauwelnew Tribal School.
Band Chief Ivan Wayne Morris said the federal government has failed to live up to the terms of the Douglas Treaty, signed in 1852 which protects hunting, fishing and access to natural resources on ancestral land on the Saanich Peninsula.
“The government is making agreements with other tribes involving our land,” he said after the march.
“We want everyone to know that the Saanich people are still here.”
Pieces of land claimed by the Tsartlip First Nation, such as Woodwinn Farm, have been bought and sold without consulting the band, Morris said.
The closure caused significant delays. Central Saanich police and Sidney-Nord Saanich RCMP were on hand to divert traffic.
“It went well from [a police] perspective. The demonstrators were peaceful,” said Const. Dillon Sahota of Central Saanich police.
“Once you explain to [drivers] what the demonstration was about, they were understanding. We just diverted them down side roads so people weren’t too put out of their way.”
Shawn Atleo, national Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the disruption to motorists is minimal compared to the hundreds of years of disruption that First Nations people have faced in being driven out of their land only to live in poverty in one of the world’s richest countries.
“It’s a very successful day because people have the opportunity to express themselves and their confusion and anger at being shunted aside by the Canadian community.”
He said the federal government’s Comprehensive Claims policy is outdated and needs to change to honour previous treaty negotiations and to encourage dialog between negotiators and the various First Nations bands.
The march coincided with the Gathering of the Wsanec Nations at the tribal school, which celebrated the reclaiming of the Saanich territory in 1987.