What about the groundwater?

Yesterday my eyes were opened to a whole new dimension of the implications of a contaminated landfill in our watershed.

From the beginning, there have been conflicting opinions of the experts who have weighed in on the geology and hydro-geology in and around the quarry that now serves as a contaminated landfill.  Important (and thus far unanswered) questions remain around potential impacts to ground water, and the flows of underground water in and around this area.  The surface water from this landfill site flows toward Shawnigan Lake, but there has not been adequate mapping of the aquifers in this area to determine the level of underground connectivity between the Shawnigan watershed and the adjacent Sooke watershed, which is the water supply for Greater Victoria.

The proponents’ Technical Assessment Report, produced by Active Earth Engineering, claimed that there was 250 feet of “low permeability bedrock” beneath the site.  However, this finding was disputed by Denis Lowen, who stated that he believed “that there is highly fractured soluble limestone prevalent at the Site. The issue with limestone is that it can be more porous and permeable than other types of rock and, therefore, act as a contaminant conduit into aquifers and drinking water sources.”

Geologist Colin Frostad also disputed Active Earth’s claims, and informed the EAB panel that he was “also concerned about the possibility of fluid flow through the fractured bedrock, and critical of Active Earth’s assumption that there is a 75 metre layer of impermeable upper bedrock beneath the Site.”  (See EAB decision, sections 211 & 212.)

Charly Caproff, a recent graduate from Simon Fraser’s Environmental Resource Management program, has taken an interest in this issue, and she is keen to investigate further the presences of limestone and karst caves in this area.  Karst caves are formed by the dissolution of soluble minerals like limestone, and they can form part of underground aquifers that are of high importance for groundwater.  (See more about karst here and here.)

Charly recently posted to her facebook page comments submitted by Doug Makaroff to the Minstry of Environment during the “public consultation period” after the draft permit was issued in 2013.


Charly included some maps showing limestone deposits in the area.

All of this brings us to yesterday, when Charly and her friend Reid Robinson (known in the Alberni Valley as “Karst Man”) joined a group of intrepid Shawnigan residents willing to brave heavy rains as we searched for limestone and karst.

We started as we often do at Stebbings Rd, where we paid a quick visit to a busy and very wet landfill site.  This liners, held in place by rebar stakes and rubber tires, remain in place, however the “impermeability” remains questionable, given the number of holes there are in them.


We proceeded first westward, walking toward the nearby limestone quarry.  No surprise to find lots of limestone on our short hike.

But it was our next destination that was extraordinary.  South of the landfill and just over the dividing line between CRD and CVRD, we found a karst cave.  Intrepid Charly scouted it out for us, and then we joined her in the beautiful underground world – which had plenty of water flowing through it.

Once inside we were awestruck by the beauty and mystery of the world we’d entered. (I learned from Charly that the giant bug is a cave cricket – crucial to the health of the cave ecosystem.)

We emerged with a renewed sense of determination, inspired by Charly’s and Reid’s enthusiasm and knowledge.


Evidence is mounting that the operators of the contaminated landfill are struggling to manage surface water at the site, as seen from events over the last few weeks.  (See Ministry of Environment’s October 12th Inspection Report, Pollution Prevention Order, and ongoing monitoring posted on their “South Island Aggregates – Cobble Hill Holdings” website.)

But the Ministry has not taken seriously the ongoing concerns about the presence of groundwater at the quarry site, and the implications of contaminants entering aquifers in and around this site.  (See Why are we doing this? and What will it take?)

For years, we have documented the “perpetual pond” at the bottom of the SIA quarry – a pool of water that never disappears, even in the longest and hottest of drought periods.


However, in a strange turn of events, Ministry of Environment (MoE) staff are suggesting that there is groundwater at this site, but not where we would expect them to say it is. When concerns were raised by citizens about dampness appearing underneath the liner that sits beneath the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of contaminated soil, MoE staff stated in an August 2016 compliance report that the moisture was not from water leaking out of the contaminated soil but from groundwater seeping up from beneath the quarry.


Have Ministry staff considered the implications of the presence of groundwater directly below the area where contaminated soil is slated to be left forever?

So where does this leave us?

  • A contaminated landfill site, uphill from both Shawnigan and Sooke Lake, has ongoing issues with contact water flowing off the site in surface water.
  • Ministry of Environment staff who at first believe the proponents when they say there is no groundwater at this site, now believe the operators when they tell them that there is groundwater at the site.
  • The presence of significant seams of limestone in the area – a mineral that is highly soluble and through which water can move underground
  • The presence of karst caves, which are indicative of underground flows of water

Adequate mapping of aquifers in the area between the Shawnigan and Sooke watershed basins has not been done, but I would suggest that it is becoming increasingly imperative that we develop a thorough understanding of the movement of groundwater in this area.

As we have said for years, this location is wholly unsuitable for a contaminated landfill facility.  Thus far, evidence just keeps piling up to support our position.

At what point will the Ministry of Environment begin making evidence-based decisions about this facility?

When will they make the  long-term safety of drinking water a priority?

When will they begin to consider all of the evidence and information that has been presented to them, rather than consistently agree with the findings of the “qualified professionals” who are paid by the landfill operators?

Enough is enough.

More rain, more concerns

It was the first heavy rainfall of the season – the kind of rain that roused us in the night with its persistent pounding on our roofs and windows.

It was the kind of rain that forced us to think of the 200,000 tonnes of contaminated soil sitting high up in our watershed.


For weeks we’ve worried that the water collection system would not be able to deal with heavy rain pouring off the slope of the giant pile of contaminated soil.


Let’s go back to the Environmental Appeal Board’s decision to uphold the permit issued to Cobble Hill Holdings.  Here are a few statements from the EAB’s 120-page decision about the “multiple layers of protection” that the highly engineered site would provide:






So how did the “multiple barriers” and “multiple layers of protection” fare in the rain today?

You decide.




Today’s rain was heavy, but in no way extreme.  And certainly not the 1-200 year rain event that this site was supposed to be able to handle, according to the EAB decision:


To their credit, MoE sent out a Conservation Officer to assess what was happening.  By the time he arrived, however, the operators had brought in a vacuum truck – so he did not witness the trenches filled with water or the flow of contact water being stemmed with hay bales.  (Strange – there was no mention of hay bales or vacuum trucks during the EAB hearings or in the EAB decision.)


The permit was upheld by the EAB in March 2015, and concerns of the citizens of Shawnigan Lake have mounted steadily ever since.  Over the last 11 months, MoE has issued nine public letters to CHH.  Minister Polak frames this as evidence that the Ministry staff are “doing their job” by “monitoring” the site.

I would argue that the ongoing issues at this site are evidence of what we have said from the very beginning: that this permit should never have been issued.  As one expert witness said during the EAB hearings, “this is crazy”.

And almost all of the actual monitoring at the site is done by committed community members who have refused to give up on protecting our watershed.

There is only one acceptable outcome to this story.  This permit must be revoked, and the soils that have been landfilled at this site must be removed.



Report from UBCM

Last week I attended the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) for the second time. UBCM is an annual gathering of locally elected officials from all over BC – mayors, councilors, and area directors – all hoping to achieve as much as they can for their communities and for the province in 5 intense days.

UBCM has many aspects to it – there are workshops, panels, plenary sessions, resolution sessions, ministerial meetings, speeches, lunches, and receptions – all of which offer the possibility for serendipitous meetings with the people who are in a position to help with issues or dreams that you have for your community.

For me, it’s a non-stop lobbying session for Shawnigan. Here are a few highlights.

On Monday, I attended a session on forestry practices in BC, based on a survey conducted by UBCM. The results of the survey showed consistent concerns and issues from around the province, with 85% of respondents expressing that they do not feel that there is adequate consultation of local communities around forestry practices. We have a significant amount of forestry land in Shawnigan, and I have heard many concerns from residents that echo this sentiment, and in particular concerns about impacts to water quality from logging in our watershed. I raised these concerns with the assembled panel, which included BC’s chief forester and several FLNRO employees. It was interesting to see consistency from local governments around the province on this issue, and the ultimate question from the session was, “How does local government get recognized as a legitimate force that actually knows what’s needed in our communities.” It was good to see representatives of the timber companies on hand, particularly Timberwest, and I appreciated the thoughtful discussion all around.


On Monday evening I went to the Forest Futures event, where we heard about the significant loss of old growth on Vancouver Island. On Tuesday I spoke at a rally for old growth, which was a way to raise awareness about a resolution that came to UBCM on Wednesday, which called for the protection of old growth forest on the island. The resolution made it to the floor, and was passed with a strong majority.

Meetings with ministers are an important component of UBCM – an opportunity for local government representatives to speak directly with ministers about concerns or visions they have for their communities. On Tuesday morning, we had a meeting with Minister Polak, attended by Chair Lefebure and four CVRD directors. I raised our ongoing concerns about the contaminated landfill site in our watershed, including the non-compliance issues identified by Ministry of Environment. Minister Polak’s responses were the same as they have ever been. I didn’t expect much more, but at the same time I think it is important that we continue to convey our deep disappointment with the provincial government on this issue.


On Tuesday afternoon, there was a session called “Soil Movement: Contamination and Invasive Species”. Ministry of Environment staff reported on their proposals for addressing these challenges. CVRD had already formally submitted a report identifying our concerns with the proposed changes to the rules and regulations around the movement of contaminated soil in BC, and I reiterated these to the panel and had a follow-up conversation with MoE staffer Kerri Skelly.

Contaminated Soils Intention Paper A  /  Contaminated Soils Intention Paper B CVRD Staff Report  /  CVRD Response to MoE

On Wednesday morning we heard a keynote speech from Dr Samantha Nutt, who founded the charity War Child. She was one of the most inspiring speakers I’ve heard in a very long time, and she had all of us riveted as she told us her “why”: stories of children living in war-torn regions who suffer in ways that none of us ever want to imagine. Then she brought it home. In the areas where mining is happening in regions of war-torn Africa, and in particular the mining of coltan (a conductive mineral that all of us have in our phones and computers), the incidences of violent rape are clustered around those mines, which are often controlled by warlords. The abuse of the mine workers (who are often children) translates to abuse of the girls and women who live in those regions. Dr Nutt reminded all of us that working for positive change is necessary in this world that is so replete with injustice.


On Wednesday afternoon I attended the “Panel on Responsible Resource Development”, which included Ministers Polak, Bennett, Coleman, Letnick, and Thomson. As I did the year before, I asked the ministers to do a review of the professional reliance model, given what we have seen play out in Shawnigan. And just like last year, they dodged the question. Afterwards, the mayor and councillors from Spallumcheen asked to speak with me – they have had similarly frustrating experiences with MoE, and were keen to discuss our shared issues.

Thursday morning I met with Line Roberts from Island Coastal Economic Trust to discuss potential economic opportunities for Shawnigan, and then it was back to the resolutions session, where we debated and endorsed a number of interesting proposals from local governments all over the province.

By this point, after four 15-hour days, I was starting to lose my voice. Fortunately, I wasn’t too hoarse on Friday morning to speak to the resolution brought forward by CVRD to call for a review of professional reliance in BC – I shared with the assembled delegates our four-year nightmare in Shawnigan, and the blatant conflicts of interest that have underpinned the entire process that has resulted in a contaminated landfill in our watershed. The resolution got resounding support, and will be sent to the provincial government along with all of the other endorsed resolutions of this year’s UBCM.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to attend UBCM each year, and to be there as a champion for Shawnigan. I am hoping to see some extraordinarily positive developments emerge from some contacts and conversations at this year’s conference – as things develop, I will keep everyone posted. I have returned home exhausted but optimistic, and excited for the incredible future we have as a community.

(I will be posting videos of my speeches soon – stay tuned!)

Save Shawnigan Water

To understand both the frustration and determination of the Shawnigan community, you need only watch this video.

Shawnigan Lake is a beautiful community with a bright future, and we will never give up our efforts to protect our water.


Public Meeting, May 31st: Invitation for community input on rezoning application

A public meeting will be held at 7 pm on May 31st at the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre to obtain community input on rezoning application 1-B-15RS.

The owners of 3170/3172 Shawnigan Lake Road have applied to amend the
zoning designation of 3170/3172 Shawnigan Lake Road to legalize an existing
non-conforming saw mill presently situated on the eastern side of the subject
property. The property is currently zoned Suburban Residential (R-2), a zone that
does not permit saw mill use.
The CVRD Board has directed that a public meeting be held to obtain community
input on the application before deciding if it should proceed to the bylaw
amendment stage.
At the public meeting, CVRD staff and the applicant will explain the land use
application. The CVRD will then facilitate a question and answer session, and
persons who deem their interests to be affected by this application will be given
an opportunity to provide comments. A summary of the proceedings will be
recorded and presented to the CVRD’s Electoral Area Services Committee. Written
submissions regarding the application may be submitted before, during, or up to
one week following the meeting by:
Fax: 250-746-2621
Email: ds@cvrd.bc.ca
Mail and/or deposit at CVRD office: 175 Ingram St, Duncan BC, V9L 1N8
Please note that all correspondence submitted to the CVRD in response to this Notice
will form part of the public record and will be published in a meeting agenda that is
posted online when this matter is before the Board or a Committee of the Board.
The CVRD considers the author’s address relevant to the Board’s consideration of
this matter and will disclose this personal information. The author’s phone number
and email address is not relevant and should not be included in the correspondence
if the author does not wish this personal information disclosed. Please contact the
Planning & Development Department at 250-746-2620 or 1-800-665-3955, or the
Recording Secretary at the time of submission. For more information on disclosure,
contact the CVRD FOI Coordinator at 250-746-2507 or 1-800-665-3955.
A staff report to the CVRD’s Electoral Area Services Committee regarding the
application is available online at:
The report is also available for viewing at the CVRD office.
Rob Conway, Manager, Development Services Division, Planning & Development
Department, by telephone 250-746-2620 or by email ds@cvrd.bc.ca

CVRD’s application to discharge stay dismissed

The BC Court of Appeal has dismissed CVRD’s application to have Madame Justice Kirkpatrick’s order discharged or varied.  CHH/SIRM are allowed to continue to operate until the Court of Appeal case is heard in August.

The CVRD was successful in its petition to the BC Supreme Court.  On March 21st, Justice MacKenzie declared the contaminated landfill to be a non-permitted use at the site on Stebbings Road.

The company applied for a stay of Justice MacKenzie’s injunctions, and they were granted a limited stay by Justice Kirkpatrick, which allows them to complete contracts that were in place as of March 21st.

CVRD applied to have that stay discharged or varied, but the Court of Appeal has dismissed that application, which means that the limited stay remains in place.

The stay order includes an undertaking from CHH/SIRM that they will remove any waste material imported after March 21st to the property if they are not successful in their appeals in August.

cvrd press release may 13th

Stay strong, Shawnigan.  Consider this image and remember, we’re on this journey together, and it’s not over until our watershed is protected.

iceberg illusion

CVRD files application to BC Court of Appeal

On March 21st, 2016, BC Supreme Court Justice MacKenzie ruled that the contaminated landfill located at 460 Stebbings Road in Shawnigan Lake is not a permitted land use, and he imposed a number of injunctions that prevent the importing of contaminated soil to the site.

The landfill site, which is also an active quarry, is owned by Cobble Hill Holdings (CHH) and operated by South Island Resource Management (SIRM), a subsidiary of Allterra Construction.

Justice Kirkpatrick of the BC Court of Appeal heard the stay application on April 6th, and issued a ruling on April 15th that granted a partial stay that would allow SIRM to complete six contracts – a total of 106,000 tonnes.

On April 27th the CVRD filed a court application to discharge or vary Justice Kirkpatrick’s April 15th order – it will be heard at the BC Court of Appeal in Vancouver on May 9th.

Discharge Vary Order News Release

Where are we at?

There has been a lot of discussion of the ruling that came down on April 15th from Justice Kirkpatrick, and it seems to have created confusion.  Did we win?  Did we lose?
The ruling allows SIRM to complete the contracts that were in place as of March 21, 2016. According to the documents submitted to the court, the volume of soil in those contracts is 106,000 tonnes. The company intends to resume hauling soil, and they have been actively working at the site and returning equipment.
Contracts allowed under the stay
How, exactly, could that be construed as a win?
Yes – it is only a partial stay of the injunction – but a stay that allows them to essentially double the volume of contaminated soil at the site.
Yes, the injunctions from Justice MacKenzie remain in place after the contracts from the stay have been fulfilled – but the company has permission from Justice Kirkpatrick to import soil until the contracts are complete or until the appeal is heard in August. That means four more months of truckloads of contaminated soil being dumped in our watershed.
For all of us in Shawnigan, every truckload of soil brought to that site is the opposite of a victory.
soil mountain
As I said many times after the MacKenzie decision, we have many more victories that we will need before this fight is over.
We await the Sewell decision on the Judicial Review.
We await action from the provincial government, which has ignored our community for four years.
We await the appeal hearing of the zoning decision in August.
The truth is that we are plunged back into uncertainty as a community, and that we face the grim reality of trucks continuing to haul – for now – contaminated soil to Stebbings Rd.
And we we continue to work hard, as a community. The teams we formed in December have continued to work together. We continue to support each other and take care of each other. We continue to act with kindness, generosity, and compassion towards each other.
And these are the most important things that we can do. We have won respect and admiration as a community for the ways in which we have chosen to pull together and care for each other throughout this horrible ordeal, and we’ve created a strong, loving community. A trusting community. Let us not allow that trust or compassion to be eroded.
We are all weary from this fight, but our greatest strength is each other – let’s remember to value what we’ve created in Shawnigan, and fiercely protect it.
We have known from the beginning that this will be a long fight, and it will be a hard fight. We are going down all avenues available to us, because we value our water so much that we do not intend to let the outcome hinge on a single court decision.
I intend to never give up with my efforts to protect our watershed, and throughout this entire ordeal, I have drawn my strength, my courage, and my determination from this community.

Not the news we were hoping for, but we will stay strong, Shawnigan

BC Appeal Court Justice Kirkpatrick has given a stay to two injunctions put in place with Justice Mackenzie’s March 21st ruling.

Her decision can be read here: Kirpatrick Decision to allow more dumping – Apr 15 2015

This is not what we had hoped for, but let us not forget that this is only a limited setback – the judge ruled the company can only proceed with contracts already in place, and not seek any further contracts.

This afternoon, I gave a speech at the opening of Shawnigan Lake School’s Model United Nations.  Here is an excerpt:

And so three years ago – when the Ministry of Environment issued its draft permit to South Island Aggregates, the question became, how do we think locally, and act locally?

We’ve done a lot of thinking, and we’ve also done a whole lot of acting.

We’ve written letters.

We’ve gathered vast amounts of information.

We’ve attended rallies.

We’ve generated hundreds of media stories.

We’ve attended protests.

And we’ve done things that I consider to be revolutionary, including:

We’ve gotten to know each other.

 We’ve decided to care not just about the water, but about each other, and about our whole community.

We’ve rooted our efforts in kindness, compassion, and love.

We’ve stood in front of trucks together.

We’ve sat in courtrooms together.

We’ve organized and attended fundraisers together.

We have imagined the celebration we will have – together – when this was all over.

In standing up against a company, against the government, and against a great injustice, we found ourselves standing together, and cultivating tolerance, compassion, and dignity while we affirmed our own human rights – and in particular, our right as a community to have safe drinking water.  All of those lofty goals from the UN charter – being worked hard for in our little community of Shawnigan.

Don’t forget, on a hard day like today, all that we have already accomplished.  And remember that our compassion and kindness for each other is essential.  Let’s support each other through this backwards step, and remember never to give up hope – indeed, we must insist on feeling hopeful, as that is what is required of us if we are to maintain the strength and determination that we need at this time.


The Beloved Community

It’s late at night on Easter Monday. It has been remarkable these last few days to see white blossoms on the plum trees, fat pink buds on the grape vines, and to bring in bright yellow daffodils from the garden. Life is bursting forth everywhere, which of course makes it the ideal time to reflect on the themes of renewal and rebirth.

Consider this: in the long, hard saga that our community has been through, three times pivotal moments have occurred right around Easter.

The week before Easter 2013: Ministry of Environment released SIA/CHH’s draft permit.

Two weeks before Easter 2015: Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) released its decision to uphold SIA/CHH’s permit.

The week before Easter 2016: BC Supreme Court ruled that CHH’s landfill is not a permitted use on the Stebbings Rd property.

(Not to read too much into the Easter theme, isn’t it interesting that on the third year, the Shawnigan community has experienced its own rebirth and renewal?)

For so many of us in Shawnigan, this last year has been one of the hardest years of our lives. Last spring, with the decision of the EAB to uphold SIA/CHH’s permit to dump 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil each year for 50 years in our watershed, felt like a kind of death for our community.

Hopes, visions, and dreams, which had been steadily building in Shawnigan, were set aside as the community galvanized itself around a single, unwavering goal: to have the permit overturned and to have our watershed protected from the risk posed by 5 million tonnes of contaminated soil left in it for perpetuity.

Three avenues of effort were embarked on simultaneously.

Firstly, the CVRD moved forward with its zoning bylaw case, which was filed in BC Supreme Court shortly after SIA/CHH announced that it was “open for business and accepting contaminated soil” – as this meant that the company was indeed in contravention of the CVRD’s zoning bylaw.

Secondly, the legal team representing the Shawnigan Residents Association moved forward with filing an application for a Judicial Review of the EAB decision. The application filed in May presented evidence to support the SRA’s argument that the EAB decision was “substantively unreasonable.” Bolstering SRA’s argument was the document that emerged in July 2015 that appears to show a 50-50 profit sharing agreement between SIA/CHH and their qualified professionals, Active Earth Engineering.

Thirdly, and in my opinion, most importantly, the people of Shawnigan came together and galvanized into a highly determined, effective, committed, capable, and passionate community. Have no doubt – the tireless work of the Shawnigan community has been incredibly valuable on so many levels. The people of Shawnigan have demonstrated what needs to be done in the face of a failure of democracy, a failure of process, a failure of a government agency to look effectively at science, facts, and authentic concerns. The people of Shawnigan have demonstrated the importance of active engagement in standing up for a future that we want to create, rather than accepting a future forced on our community by one company.

save shawnigan water 4

And the people of Shawnigan have shown that some issues transcend all political boundaries. Shawnigan has invited and worked with an incredible number of allies. In a province that has its share of political divides, consider this: people of all political stripes have joined and supported Shawnigan’s efforts.

During the 2013 provincial election campaign, the four Cowichan candidates – Steve Housser, Kerry Davis, Bill Routley, and Damir Wallener all agreed on one thing: that Shawnigan’s watershed is no place for a contaminated soil landfill. Over the past year, NDP MLA Bill Routley has stood shoulder to shoulder with Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver, and been joined by MLAs Doug Routley, Gary Holman and NDP leader John Horgan on Stebbings Rd, all standing in solidarity with the people of Shawnigan Lake.

horgan at protest

Bill Routley has given 25 (!) speeches in the Legislature on Shawnigan’s fight to protect our water; and both John Horgan and Andrew Weaver have asked several questions during Question Period over the last year, and repeatedly raised the issue in the media.

standing up nov 16

Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May, and both past and current MPs, Jean Crowder and Alistair MacGregor, have stood as allies with the people of Shawnigan Lake. During the federal election campaign, Green candidates Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi and Paul Manley, Liberal candidate Maria Manna, and NDP candidate Alistair all showed support and stood in solidarity with the Shawnigan community.  Alistair has recently taken his support right to the House of Commons, where he has introduced a private member’s bill that would protect Shawnigan Lake.


save shawnigan water 2

(Elected officials and candidates in this photo include: Doug Routley, Elizabeth May, Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi, Paul Manley, Steve Housser, Sonia Furstenau, Kerry Davis, & Gary Holman – and there may be more that I can’t spot!)

These political allies all agreed on one thing – that the protection of a community’s water source is essential, and far more important than politics. The Shawnigan effort to protect our water has not only transcended political lines and political boundaries, it has also been an example for how we can move beyond political divisions and recognize that we can indeed all work together for the greater good.

I am deeply grateful to all who have stood with us, and I hope that we will soon be coming back together for a momentous celebration.

There are so many who deserve to be acknowledged and appreciated for the efforts they have contributed.

Those who raised the alarm at the very beginning – who saw the danger coming and wanted to stop it in its tracks. SRA President Calvin Cook and the SRA Board members – who stepped up early as leaders and have led the community ever since. Former Area Director Bruce Fraser and the previous CVRD Board, which initiated the Supreme Court challenge and the EAB appeal. The incredibly hard-working lawyers, particularly Alyssa Bradley (CVRD) and Sean Hern (SRA) who have shown exceptional passion and commitment in their efforts. Cowichan Tribes First Nation, which has supported Shawnigan from the beginning, and Malahat First Nation, which came forward to support SRA’s application for a stay.  The administration, staff, and students of Shawnigan Lake School and Dwight School – both have been steadfast in their solidarity with the community.

protest 2015 2

All the people who wrote letters and showed up to protests even before the permit was issued. The people who organized events, rallies, endless meetings, and fundraisers – and all the people who attended the events, rallies, endless meetings, and fundraisers. The small group of people – led by Shelagh – who monitored the increasing truck traffic through the summer and fall. The people who got up early through the dark, cold, wet weeks in November and December to stand on Stebbings Rd. The hundreds who attended protests, the thousands who signed petitions, and the many dozens who raised their hands to be on a “team”. The dozens who worked together night and day to bring together Helicopter Day on January 6th. The hundreds who have tirelessly raised the profile of our efforts on social media (including two amazing and prominent Canadians, Raffi and David Suzuki!).

Also deserving of recognition are the researchers, the photographers, the hikers, the video-makers, the song writers, the artists, and the people who knew just when to offer a warm drink, a nourishing snack, a kind word, or a loving embrace. There are countless heroes and heroines, and what has been remarkable is that each and every person has been willing to give themselves to something greater, and in doing so, has contributed to creating something miraculous.

It has been a long hard journey – and one that is not over yet. An important victory has been won, but the permit has not yet been revoked and the soil that has been deposited has not been ordered removed. We will be on this journey together until these outcomes have been achieved.

The company has also filed for an appeal of this decision, and for a stay of the injunction that prevents them from bringing contaminated soil onto the site. We hope and pray that the courts will not see fit to allow continued dumping, and we also await Justice Sewell’s decision on a second injunction, based on the evidence heard during the Judicial Review.

I expect that many feel – as I do – weary from having to fight so hard to try to protect our water, but nonetheless determined to stay the course, no matter what.

I also feel that it’s valuable to take some time to reflect, and to consider all that we have learned and accomplished on this four-year journey.

We have learned vigilance, determination, steadfastness, and cooperation – particularly when it comes to protecting the water that we need for our community to thrive.

We have learned how catastrophically a “process” can fail. One person – a “statutory decision maker” with no ties to our community, who never visited the site applying for the permit, who did not adhere to the guidelines of his position, and who may not have even had the authority to make the decision he did – was able nonetheless to make a decision that has impacted the lives of thousands of people. And the Minister of Environment has chosen to hide behind this person for three long years – often dismissing the serious uncertainties, concerns, and evidence of irregularities that have been steadily accumulating the entire time.

We have learned of the pitfalls embedded in the “Professional Reliance” model, introduced by the BC Liberal government as a result of now Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett’s “core review”. It was this model that allowed for SIA hiring Active Earth Engineering to act as the “qualified professionals” throughout the permitting process.

We have learned how to come together, how to become highly organized, how to work together over and over again, how to never give up, no matter how tired, how exasperated, or how bullied we feel. We have supported each other, cared for each other, helped each other through difficult times, and continuously expressed the love we feel for our lake, our home, our community, and each other.

Recently, I read an interview with a long-time environmental activist Rebecca Stolnit, and her words resonated deeply:

“There’s this idea that political engagement is some sort of horrible, dutiful thing you do, like cleaning the toilet or taking out the garbage. But it can be the most fantastic thing you do. It can bring you into contact with hope, with joy, with a sense of deep connection, with what Martin Luther King called the “beloved community.” “

We have created a “beloved community” in Shawnigan.  It has made us strong, and as we continue to move through this journey, we must continue to nourish it, and to defend it from those who may want to damage it.  We must make it the one true legacy of this terrible situation that we have been forced to endure.

Let us remember, above all, to cherish and protect our beloved community.