News » Whistler

my currie road

Paving crews from Penticton are busy laying down blacktop on the Lillooet Lake Road through Mount Currie, but the issue to pave or not to pave still steams in the community. Paving plans were quietly put off until the last summer traffic raised dust on the road over the course of the Thanksgiving Long Weekend. When crews hit the road last Tuesday, they ran into a few problems, but the paving continues in earnest on the last remaining piece of gravel road on the Duffey Lake loop. The $1.5 million project was to start July 10, but growing tension in the community put off plans to pave as Chief Allan Stager and the band council held a number of open meetings to get consensus on the issue. The plans include guarantees that 11 kilometres of side roads on the reserve will be paved as well as the 10 kilometre unpaved portion of Highway 99. After two failed attempts to get a quorum, band members voted 66 to seven in favour of the paving at a June 29 meeting. With a population over 1,200 many residents of Mount Currie say the vote does not represent the wishes of a majority of the band and some are looking for answers. They are looking for answers from Stager, a former highways ministry employee, regarding future ownership of the road and the process through which the paving plans were approved. Repeated calls to the Mount Currie Band Office were not returned by Chief Stager and some band members say the band council has been instructed not to speak to the media. A vast majority of the Mount Currie population does not oppose the paving of the road, but they do oppose the fractious way in which the paving was approved and is being carried out. While Mount Currie's elected folks are not talking about the paving, some band members are still concerned about the road. Ray Pierre issued a press release Oct. 11 that outlined his worries. "The (paving) issue has not been dealt with by due process and that the people of the community have not been given the opportunity to express their opinions on the issues or to give their free consent to the matter of the Chief and Council of Mount Currie Band permitting the provincial government to conduct work and spend provincial monies on the Lillooet Lake Road, which is unceded territory of our people," Pierre wrote. While information from the band office originally indicated the paving project was going to be a great job initiative for the unemployment-riddled community, eight of the 25 paving crew jobs are held by band members. The rest of the crew is from the general contractor Peter's Brothers Construction Ltd., who are booked in at the Pemberton Hotel until the scheduled completion date for the project, Oct. 31. Harold Pascal, the traditional groundskeeper for the Lil'wat People, says no one has provided him with proof that paving the road will not cede title to the fresh ribbon of blacktop. Pascal was part of a group that blocked the Duffey Lake Road for four months in 1990. He says the issues are the same today as the day the RCMP moved in and broke up the roadblock. Under the Indian Act, the federal government maintains all native-owned gravel roads on reserve, once the roads are upgraded to blacktop they are given a different distinction and ownership is transferred to provincial government. "The (Lillooet Lake) road has been a disputed issue with us since 1948," says Pascal. "We don't wish to be assimilated, we don't wish to sell our land and that road is our land. Every time the Chief and Council talk about the road, they talk about money… they don't talk about the next generation." Pascal says one of the main reasons for paving the road is health problems created by the dust, now he feels the health problems will come from increased traffic going faster on a wider, smoother road.

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