Mount Currie paving plans pose problem
Tension is running high in Mount Currie as a group of band members decide what to do about the proposed paving of the Lillooet Lake Road which runs through the native community north of Whistler.
Insiders within the community report last week's announcement regarding a plan to pave 11.2 kilometres of the road, the only unpaved section of the Duffey Lake circle route, are temporarily on hold as families that live along the road seek legal advice.
Almost everyone in Mount Currie agrees the paving plan, that would have the main road through the 1,600 member reserve and the side gravel roads blacktopped, is not a bad one, but some feel the process that led to the decision to pave was flawed.
Three general band meetings were held over the past two months in order to hold a vote of the general population regarding the paving project, but none of the meetings drew the required number of people to make a vote binding.
A vote was held at a general meeting in Mount Currie June 29 and 94 people voted in favour of paving.
Then the problems started. Families living along the road claim they were not properly consulted about plans to remove huge cottonwood trees in front of their property in order to widen the roadbed and make way for the paving crew. They also say the June 29 vote is void because there weren't enough people for a quorum. They also maintain any road construction that takes place will be considered trespassing.
The Lil'wat People want to insure the paving of the road does not imply ownership of the Lillooet Lake Road — until that ownership is guaranteed, no construction will take place. A number of band members have been spending time at the former roadblock site, informing motorists they will be travelling in a road owned by the Mount Currie Band.
The road dilemma is not a new one. It dates back to 1947 when the road was first constructed through the reserve and no guarantees of ownership were made to the Lil'wat People by the federal government.
Under the Indian Act, the federal government will not maintain any roads other than gravel roads on reserve. That leads some of the Mount Currie people to believe that the paving, and subsequent maintenance of the Lillooet Lake Road by the provincial government, would imply some type of de facto ownership — something the Lil'wat People will not let happen.
A May 1, 1995 letter to band members from Mount Currie Chief Allan Stager, outlines the position of Chief and Council regarding the paving of the road.
"The upgrading and blacktopping of roads on the Mount Currie Reserve would be expressly without prejudice to the outstanding title issues and further, would not be used to advance a claim to title to the road for the past or in the future," the letter reads.
On Monday, hand drawn and computer generated signs that read "No trespassing," "Hands off the tree" and "Do not touch this tree" were hastily posted on trees that line the Lillooet Lake Road as it winds along the Birkenhead River.
A series of meetings have been held by concerned band members at the site of a 1990 roadblock on the Duffey Lake Road — a four-month stand-off that raised the ire of nearby Pemberton residents and ended when 63 people were forcibly removed from the blockade and arrested by RCMP.
At least one of the informal meetings was attended by members of the Pemberton RCMP detachment who said they "just want to see if there was a roadblock or not."
It is unclear as to what will happen, but tree falling scheduled to begin Monday has yet to take place. Mount Currie Chief Allan Stager is in Merritt at the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs meeting and unavailable for comment.