WATCH: Emotional homecoming for two navy ships at CFB Esquimalt as Shawnigan protesters try to get defence minister to stop contaminated DND soil from being dumped at Shawnigan site. Tess van Straaten reports.
It’s homecoming day at CFB Esquimalt for two ships that have been part of an international anti-drug operation.
HMCS Saskatoon and HMCS Edmonton are back from a drug enforcement operation in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.
They’ve been gone for two and a half months and Canada’s defence minister was waiting on shore to greet them, joining the sailors’ families for the emotional home-coming.
“It feels great to be home!” says seaman Justin Swance.
“We’re proud of him and the job he’s doing but we miss him at home,” says Andrea Callaghan, whose husband is the commanding officer of HMCS Edmonton.
The ships were part of Operation CARIBBE — Canada’s contribution to the international campaign against drug trafficking by organized crime.
“We’re taking millions of dollars of contraband off the streets,” says Lt. Cmdr Lucas Kenward, Edmonton’s commanding officer. “Edmonton’s interceptions alone worth somewhere in the neighbourhood of $56.5 million so that’s $56.5 million that’s no longer operating in the underground economy.”
Shawnigan protesters want DND to stop dumping tainted soil
But it’s what’s IN the ground that drew a couple dozen protesters to the base.
“We’re asking the defence minister to help us defend our watershed,” says Shawnigan Lake area director Sonia Furstenau.
Shawnigan Lake Residents are hoping the Department of National Defence will stop dumping contaminated soil above Shawnigan Lake.
In March, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the controversial Stebbings Road site can’t be used as a landfill.
But six contracts — responsible for 106,000 tonnes of waste — can be fulfilled and the vast majority of the tainted soil is coming from DND.
“We want the federal government to respect the Cowichan Valley’s land use laws and not send any contaminated soil to our community,” Furstenau says.
Defence minister Harjit Sajjan says he was recently made aware of the situation and will look into it.
“It’s our job to make sure it lives up to environmental standards and I’ll be going back to look at this file a little more in depth to make sure everything has been done well,” Sajjan says. “Our government has been committed to supporting the environment.”
The case is back in court next month as the Cowichan Valley Regional District tries to have the partial stay lifted but if dumping continues, they’re asking court to order the site’s owners to put up a $12 million bond to cover clean-up costs.