Members of the Katzie First Nation and residents of Sheridan Hill protested on the steps of the provincial legislature on Monday, trying to stop a new quarry on the Pitt Meadows landmark.
They were part of a delegation that included Katzie Chief Susan Miller and Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker, who met with Mines Minister Bill Bennett and Environment Minister Mary Polak, asking the government to stop the proposed Meadows Quarry operation, which would lower the southern portion of Sheridan Hill by 30 metres.
The plan would see 240,000 tonnes of material removed from the site for each of five years, lowering the hill from an elevation of 75 metres to 45 m.
The protesters left with assurances that the quarry will be subject to a review committee process, and that both the municipality and Katzie will have representation on that committee, along with mines ministry officials and others.
“We will be fully embedded in the process,” said Becker.
Such direct involvement does not presuppose a result, he added, but does ensure the committee will hear the opposition viewpoint, and that local government and the Katzie can “frame the assessment.”
Becker will also argue there should be representation from area residents on the committee. Many have lived in the area alongside the existing Lafarge quarry on the north side of Sheridan Hill since the 1960s.
He said geotechnical studies, habitat assessment and a plan to deal with acid runoff from the quarry are the kinds of issues that the committee will deal with.
Becker, who lives by Sheridan Hill, will also push for the applicant to complete a full environmental assessment. He does not anticipate the committee will complete its work before the fall.
Miller said the Katzie’s message to government was that the quarry is not an issue for compromise or negotiation, because of the importance of Sheridan Hill in the genesis story of the band. About 75 band members made the trip to Victoria.
“The answer is no,” said Miller.
“We are not going away. We are not giving up our genesis site.”
They were joined by Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs in their meeting with government.
“Bill Bennett is acutely aware of Katzie’s stand,” she said. “We will be involved every step of the way.”
Rachel Robichaud, one of the closest neighbours of the proposed quarry, was one of about 15 residents who attended the rally. She said it was impactful, with everyone wearing red shirts and holding banners on the steps of the legislature.
“It was a really good day. I absolutely think it will make a difference,” she said. “People at the legislature who weren’t aware before will be now.”
Two NDP critics said they would raise the matter in the house – local government critic and Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson, and aboriginal affairs critic and Nanaimo-Cowichan MLA Jean Crowder.
Miller said it was an unprecedented step for the Katzie to protest on the steps of the legislature, and the band will continue to protest the quarry.
“We are very determined. We will continued our activities over the coming months.”