The Katzie First Nation is willing to physically block a new quarry operation on Sheridan Hill, Chief Susan Miller told a rally in Pitt Meadows on Wednesday night.
“We’re preparing our signs, and we’re preparing our drums, and if it means we have to stand on Sheridan Hill, then that’s what we’re going to do,” said Miller.
“We’re prepared to be very public, and very much protest.”
Pitt Meadows residents and Katzie First Nation held a rally on Wednesday night at the Pitt Meadows Recreation Centre to oppose the proposed quarry on the south side of Sheridan Hill.
The Meadows Quarry application would haul 240,000 tonnes of rock from the site each year for five years, reducing the elevation of the hill by 30 metres, to 45.
Miller and Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker are planning a trip to Victoria, where they will meet with Mines Minister Bill Bennett, they told the full house at the gymnasium at the Pitt Meadows Family Recreation Centre.
Becker will present the minister with the written opposition to the project, in the form of letters and a petition, “in hopefully a number of bankers’ boxes.”
They hosted the rally along with residents of Sheridan Hill, who are organizing opposition.
Tables were set up near the front door of the meeting, and residents were given samples of letters to be sent to Bennett and other government officials. A letter writing campaign is part of the strategy.
“Email is better than nothing, a letter is better than email,” said Becker.
Opponents have until April 18, the end of a 30-day period, to send in their written comments.
He said staff from the Ministry of Mines will also be at a Pitt Meadows council meeting on April 7 to discuss the proposed quarry.
So far, he said, the city has received nothing in writing to indicate that a public consultation will happen, said Becker.
Moreover, when Lafarge applied to extend its quarry operations on the north face of Sheridan Hill, the public consultation was not considered for long. Within 12 hours of that consultation, the go-ahead was granted, he said.
Becker warned that once a quarry has begun, the operation can be extended.
“Think of this application as the camel’s nose,” he said. “It would be Sheridan Hole, not Sheridan Hill.”
Miller noted that when the original Lafarge quarry on the north face of Sheridan Hill began operation, the native land claims process had not begun.
“We had nothing to say back then – we had no rights,” said Miller.
But she said the Katzie are the original people in the territory, dating back 7,300 years. The band is in negotiations with the B.C. Treaty Commission, nearing an agreement.
“We have never ceded our territory to anyone,” she said, but added that “we want to be good neighbours.”
She called the quarry “the decimation of our genesis story.”
“Sheridan Hill is where the Katzie as a people began,” she said. “We hunt there, we camp there, we have sacred ceremony there.”
Darcey Heath, a spokesperson for the residents and a neighbour of the quarry, noted that on Wednesday there was an enormous blast from the Lafarge quarry that everyone in the neighbourhood was talking about.
“I felt it in my whole body, and I’m not even that close,” she said.
The blast underlined for residents why Sheridan Hill is not an appropriate site for a new quarry.