Flags are in the ground as surveyors prepare for construction to begin on the Malahat widening project near Goldstream River, the problem is the flags indicate the road will be widened into the waterway which is crucial to the salmon population’s future.
Every fall, locals and visitors alike gather to see the salmon run at Goldstream Park, but some are worried that will become a thing of the past, should the Trans-Canada Highway be widened by the province.
A local man who is a part of the Tsartlip First Nation and volunteers at Goldstream Park, Carl Olson, has now taken the initiative to organize weekly protests to bring awareness to the salmon whose lives may be in jeopardy because “they don’t have a voice, and I do.”
“The plan that the highway has takes away spawning beds,” said Olson. “It’s interrupting the breeding grounds of the salmon that return there every year.”
“I think it’s important that we take care of the salmon and the trees that are there, because they’re planning on taking out 700 to 800 trees along the stream and that destroys habitats.”
In the below video, the highway renderings can be seen right up against Goldstream River.
The province proposed this project in efforts to improve road safety along the Malahat corridor back in 2018.
According to the province, the project has been developed since then to a point where it has been deemed constructable and they believe it will “limit environmental impacts,” but Olson believes otherwise.
To Olson, the red flags that have been placed by surveyors right in the stream are the literal red flags that prompted him to organize a group of protesters.
The province believes they’ve done their due diligence because they held online public engagement which closed on September 20th, 2020 — a turbulent time for Victorians when COVID-19 was the dominating factor in most people’s minds.
After years of funding salmon bed enhancements, Olson is dumbfounded that they would now be endangering the three species of salmon who return to Goldstream River every year.
“Tons of people go there every year to watch the salmon run,” Olson told Victoria Buzz. “If we start taking away their spawning beds, that’s not alright.”
“The government has paid millions of dollars for salmon enhancement programs and now they’re doing this.”
First Nations in the area including the Tsartlip Nation have relied on the salmon run for time immemorial, both as a food source and as a part of their history. Due to this, Olson believes the province is not holding up their promises of reconciliation to the W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations.
According to the Canadian government, the area and the W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations right to hunt and fish there are protected by the Douglas Treaty.
“We do harvest fish from there every year,” Olson explained. “Only after a certain number of fish reach their spawning beds.”
“If they’re really honest about doing reconciliation, this is a good place to start. They can’t just talk about reconciliation without doing anything.”
A start date for the Malahat widening has not yet been announced by the province, nor has the projected cost of the highway enhancements.
Olson and a group of volunteers can be seen on the side of the highway holding signs that are vouching for the salmons’ lives near Goldstream Park where they meet every Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.
They protest behind a concrete barrier for their safety and so they do not interrupt traffic.