The Tseshaht First Nation in the Alberni Valley has lodged a claim with the federal government for what they call the “unlawful and unauthorized use of land” along Highway 4.
Starting at the orange bridge, Highway 4 runs through the Tsheshaht First Nation’s main community lands for 3.3 kilometres to the Tseshaht Market on the way to Tofino.
Nearly a million vehicles travel the route each year, but the First Nation has consistently opposed the highway.
“Since 1889, our community’s objected to this highway before it was even constructed. Our leadership at the time objected to this highway being placed through our territories,” said Ken Watts, Tseshaht First Nation’s Chief.
The First Nation says it has documentation to prove the opposition well before it became an official highway in the 1970s. This past week, they submitted a specific claim to the federal government.
“We’ve never been compensated for it to date. The province of B.C. also plays an important role in this despite specific claims being geared towards the federal government and our relationship with the federal government. We’re also calling on the provincial government to the negotiation table in a separate table to discuss these matters,” said Watts.
Watts says the highway has always posed a safety issue and that recently, a vehicle struck a Tseshaht girl in a crosswalk. Fortunately, she will make a full recovery.
“We have people who speed through it every day. You may see it in the background right now. This is a 60-kilometre zone right through residential neighbourhoods,” he said.
The First Nation says it has consistently expressed concerns about the impacts of the highway, including “increased pollution, garbage waste transportation, and vehicle accidents that disproportionately impact Tseshaht members.”
The federal government has three years to determine if it will accept the claim. The First Nation is hoping Ottawa will approve it and expedite negotiations.