The Saanich Inlet continues to be threatened by the industrial expansion of a quarry at Bamberton.
Despite Minister of Environment, George Heyman’s suggestion the environmental assessment (EA) process is working as it should, the only reason and EA is even being considered is because the Saanich Inlet Protection Society wrote the Minister demanding it. Even then the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) recommends against it.
This is all in the shadow of a study from 1996 that stated clearly that “the level of protection must be based on the most sensitive human or ecological use” and that the precautionary principle must be applied when questions or gaps exist.
The Douglas Treaty protects the right to fish as formerly, this government has a responsibility to protect those rights, recognize, and limit the cumulative impacts of industrial, commercial and residential development on that promise.
The Minister, his Ministry, the EAO, and our community know better. Our community deserves better.
Currently, there is a proposal to expand the Bamberton Quarry to extract nearly 500,000 tons annually of construction aggregate toxic soil dump and the expansion of a provincial foreshore lease. Like our ancestors, I, my relatives and our descendants rely on the Saanich inlet to harvest our food: salmon, herring, herring eggs, cod, cod eggs, snapper, crab, clams, mussels, prawns, ducks, oysters, sea eggs, urchins, octopus, seal, seaweed, deer and many other species.
In 1996, the B.C. NDP government published a 500-page study of the inlet. It found that the Saanich inlet is a highly valued place. The aesthetic, cultural, spiritual and environmental values have been diminished or degraded. Despite the degradation, it is still a viable ecological system.
The study recommendations are clear. The level of protection must be based on the most sensitive human or ecological use. The precautionary principle must be applied when questions or gaps in information occur, and “the assimilated capacity must not be viewed as a pollute up-to level, but rather as a tool to effectively direct protection and remediation efforts.”
The report was inclusive. It was collaborative. This government’s Ministers of the Environment, Mines and Forests are all pretending like it doesn’t exist. To the Minister of the Environment: is his environmental assessment office using this study to inform their decisions about whether an environmental assessment of the proposed industrial expansion in the Saanich inlet is acceptable?
Hon. G. Heyman:
I want to thank the member for raising the issue of the proposed Bamberton quarry expansion. I also want to thank the Saanich Inlet Protection Society for their determination to ensure that all issues related to the health of the inlet and related to the potential expansion of the quarry are on the table.
As the member knows, the Saanich Inlet Protection Society made an application to the environmental assessment office to consider whether this proposed expansion project should be subject to an environmental assessment. The EAO has gone out of its way to hear from people. It has, in fact, allowed the Saanich Inlet Protection Society, in an unprecedented manner, to participate directly in having a voice in public hearings and having input into those hearings.
There has been a period of time set aside after the initial report for public comment. In fact, the environmental assessment office has extended that public comment period to February 21 to ensure that there is adequate time for additional public input. At that point, the result of all of the input and all of the knowledge about the inlet will be applied to the determination about whether an environmental assessment should be ordered.
House Leader of the Third Party, supplemental.
I think it needs to be pointed out that it took a community organization to get this provincial government to pay any attention to this application at all. Otherwise, this application was just screaming through the process. This delay, which the minister has highlighted, is only happening because that community group raised this.
In light of all of the information, including the 500 page study that I raised previously…. In light of the information that this government has, the environmental assessment office has gone to the extent to say an environmental assessment is not recommended for this project, even though the 500 page study…. It was laid before this government back in 1997.
What it seems like is…. This process is just an enabler of the extractive industry, which is proposing to grind away a sacred mountain site and to threaten and damage all of the food sources that me and my relatives have harvested and fed our families with for generations and that we are standing up and hoping we can protect for generations to come.
It’s not just this situation that the Minister of Environment has turned his eye away from. There is the Hartland Landfill, which is spreading human waste on the top as a cap. That’s just on the other side of McKenzie Bight, another place where we harvest snapper.
There’s a proposal to build a highway, not beside Goldstream, where we harvest salmon, but right in Goldstream.
When will this Minister of Environment stop excusing the destruction of the Saanich Inlet and start protecting it?
Hon. G. Heyman:
Thank you again to the member for the question.
I’m a bit surprised that the member believes that I’m excusing destruction when no final decision has been made. I take the process seriously.
I think what the member has failed to recognize is…. When we revitalized the Environmental Assessment Act in 2018 and we put in place the Reviewable Projects Regulation, the new one, we included a provision that not only set thresholds to trigger assessments for new projects and expansions of existing ones. We put in place a mechanism to ensure that if certain projects came close to that threshold, they had to notify the environmental assessment office so consideration could be given as to whether an assessment should be ordered in a particular, specific case.
That is exactly the process that we are undertaking today. That is a process that we take very seriously.
Why is our environment taking second seat in this issue? Experts have agreed that is what’s happening. I know you have your own experts and panel but please do not rule out others.
It seems the majority are not being heard.