The Tsawout Indian Band is prepared to go to the Supreme Court of Canada to prevent a 500-boat marina development in Saanichton Bay, says councilor Gus Underwood.
“We’re prepared to take whatever measures are necessary,” he said. “We’ll carry our fight to the highest court in the land to get justice.”
Central Saanich council con Monday issued a development permit for the marina.
The band claims the development on the 6.15-hectare site is contrary to the 1858 James Douglas Treaty, which guaranteed Saanich Indians hunting and fishing rights.
Underwood, who was out of town and unable to attend the council meeting, said the band’s lawyer is preparing an injunction application to halt development by Saanichton Marina Ltd.
Bob Wheaton, of Saanichton Marina Ltd., said an application for a building permit was made about four months ago, when the development permit was sought.
“We knew we couldn’t get the building permit until other hurdles were cleared,” he said.
Wheaton said the next step is preparation of detailed drawings for municipal staff.
“There’s an awful lot of work to do after we get a permit,” he said, adding that it could be at least two years before the first boat docks at the new facility – “that’s if there’s no court battle.”
Wheaton said he has three legal opinions on the treaty issue.
“We’re told the Indians’ interpretation of the treaty is wrong. I expect any action on their part would be thrown out of court.”
But Underwood said: ”We’re the ones who negotiated the treaty. We know what it says and its interpretation is clear to us.”
“The treaty is recognized and protected by the Constitution of Canada. Our people will not stand idly by and watch; we’ll take all and any measures necessary to protect the guaranteed rights of the treaty.”
Central Saanich municipal engineer Al Mackey said issuance of a building permit is “some time away.”
“We have yet to receive detailed drawings from the developer, and they will have to be vetted by municipal staff,” he said. “It could take some time before that is completed.”