Council reneges on deal, charges Tsawout leader

By Grania Litwin

   The Tsawout Indian band wants Central Saanich Council to follow through on a deal made in 1968.

   “The Indian people should be able to make a living off our land just like our non-Indian neighbors do,” said band councilor Gus Underwood Jr.

   “Or is it the municipality’s intention to force the Indians to a lifestyle of welfare and unemployment?”

   He was referring to a decision to stall a 92-unit trailer park development proposed by his father, Gus Underwood.

   Council’s Committee-of-the-whole voted to ask for a comprehensive development plan for the whole reserve before considering applications from individual landowners.

   But Underwood argued the municipality should “live up to its agreement with the Indian people.”

   “Development on the Tsawout Reserve was understood and accepted when the municipality of Central Saanich negotiated to put their sewerage treatment plant on our reserve,” said Underwood.

   That agreement, to construct a sewage treatment facility on band lands, was never signed although the plant was built in 1972.

   “If it was not for using Indian land, millions of dollars would have had to be spent to re-route the (sewage) system around the reserve to another site,” he said.

   Underwood referred to the Ross report, published in 1968, which details reserve land development plans.

   “Is the municipality going to live up to those terms and conditions originally agreed to when the lease was negotiated with the Indian people?”

   Underwood also said council is not fully aware of commitments, arrangements, contracts and contents of leases their predecessors made with the Indians at the time the sewerage system was constructed on Tsawout Reserve.

   “The Tsawout band has been and has made a major contribution to the overall community in helping resolve not only a major sewerage problem for Central Saanich but also Indian lands.”

   Underwood sent a six-page letter of complaint to council this week but it was not discussed because council did not have a quorum.

   Municipal clerk Gay Wheeler said aldermen Earle Tabor and Rod MacDonald were on vacation and Ald. Eric Lewis had business commitments.

   Unless acting mayor Ron Cullis calls a special meeting, which he says he may do, the matter will be held over until Nov. 19 – two days after the municipal elections.

   Ald. Eric Lewis recently charged the committee with “pussy-footing around” in not dealing directly with the Underwood development proposal.

   Ald. George Westwood said he is “appalled” that the Indian land-sewering question should have become a political issue.

   “We have always had marvellous relations with the Indians and there is no problem whatsoever.

   “They have always acted in good faith with us.”

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