Salmon Habitat & Killer Whales At Increased Risk Due to Ongoing Malahat Expansion: W̱SÁNEĆ Nation Member Protests

Carl Olsen – ZȺWIZUT, a W̱SÁNEĆ Nation member has literally taken to the streets. Every Tuesday since March, he stands along the Malahat Highway to raise awareness about the impacts of ongoing construction on the salmon spawning in Goldstream Provincial Park.

“Under the (Douglas) Treaty, this stream is protected because we have a right to fish in this stream, but we also have a right to hunt and fish as formerly as well as protect it. That comes first. I have the right to protect the stream because it feeds us.” Carl told the Goldstream News Gazette

“The reason I am doing this is because somebody needs to speak for the fish. I want to bring to the government’s attention that the stream there is a protected area.”

The W̱SÁNEĆ right to “hunt and fish as formerly” is enshrined in the Douglas Treaty. The right to defend against development that puts hunting and fishing “as formerly” at risk was enshrined in BC law by the 1987 BC Supreme Court ruling on Claxton v. Saanichton Bay Marina . This case states, “That (W̱SÁNEĆ people) have the right to resist…(development) as it would diminish in the extent the fishery contractually reserved to predecessors” of the original signatories to the Douglas Treaty.

Goldstream is an important habitat for the thousands of Chum, Chinook and Coho Salmon, who spawn here each year. Chinook Salmon are part of a delicate food chain that’s already in critical condition. The salmon who spawn here are not just a food source for W̱SÁNEĆ people, but also one of the only sources of food for the endangered KELŁOLEMEĆEN / South Island Resident Killer Whales.

The QENTOL, YEN / W̱SÁNEĆ Marine Guardians Program regularly monitors this habitat and works at the Goldstream Hatchery to assist in fin clipping, egg counting, feeding, salmon fry outplanting, and debris removal.  The health of the habitat at Goldstream directly impacts the number of Salmon that make it out to the Salish Sea and the KELŁOLEMEĆEN / South Island Resident Killer Whales ability to access enough prey.

In spite of these considerations, the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) announced its intentions to widen a 1.7–kilometre stretch of road near the Park in 2018. The project involves installing median barriers, widening paved shoulders, building roadside barriers, and improving the Finlayson Arm Road intersection.

During the construction, rock will be blasted to install the retaining wall structures, oil and more than 700 trees will be removed from the area. 

Olsen continues, “I think there have been some conversations between the province and the W̱SÁNEĆ communities, but they want us to accept their study of the effects of what’s going on, because they say there is not going to be any effects, but we want to do our own study as far as I am hearing, and compare. We want to make the public aware of what is really going to happen there.” 

Last week he was joined by ESKISELWET / Tracy Wilson Underwood who shares,
“Google the Goldstream highway improvement plan” and you’ll see the highway at the end of this is still two lanes. They want to put a structure into the water, but it’s not improving or expanding the highway.”

Continues another attendee, kQwa’st’not (Sharlene George), “Remember that everything is interconnected.  If one is gone, what happens to the other? What is bear going to do when bear can’t find food and comes to your house?

Humans think we are separate.  We are not separate, we are the same. We have to remember how to behave. This way of behaving and cutting things down is not the way. If you have to take a life there is protocol to do it correctly. This is a reminder. And if you make a mistake, how do you make reparations? That’s what we are doing – we are apologizing and doing our best and trying to make reparations.” 

Underwood continues If people want to support us, call MOTI, call the Minister of Transport, Rob Fleming at (250) 387-1978 and (250) 356-5013 and tell him you don’t agree with cutting down 700-800 trees, some of which are 300-500 years old. Tell him you don’t agree with disrupting the stream any more than it already has been.”

Carl will be on the Malahat Highway protesting every Tuesday from 10am – 12pm and encourages all who support him to attend. To join the protest, meet at the Goldstream washrooms at 9:45am. Signs are provided.