The Chief of the Malahat Nation on Vancouver Island has stepped down amid allegations he received money from the operators of a contentious soil remediation facility near Shawnigan Lake.
It is alleged Michael Harry was paid consulting fees by a joint venture of South Island Aggregates and Active Earth– One, the company behind the facility, and the other, the company paid to conduct an independent environmental assessment.
“We have no insight, no understanding of the relationship, scope, term, money, none of that kind of stuff.”
Malahat Nation CEO, Lawrence Lewis says Harry’s dealings were of a personal nature and has nothing to do with the First Nation community.
“Let’s be very clear here, the Nation knew nothing about these personal dealings of the chief, nor did my office.”
Lewis says that in the three years he’s worked for the chief, he always did what was in the best interest of the Nation.
“We don’t need to be distracted by these things. We are focused always on doing the most important, beneficial work in benefit to the Nation’s citizens and its community and its business partners, and I think the chief did the right thing here by stepping aside so we wouldn’t be distracted.”
The Shawnigan Residents Association filed allegations–none of which has been proven in court.
The group has been trying to stop South Island Aggregates from dumping toxic soil near Shawnigan Lake. Despite heavy opposition from the community, the BC Government approved the permit which allows South Island Aggregates to truck in and treat contaminated soil in an area close to the Shawnigan watershed.
Cook says the initial permit granted by the BC Government in 2013 received the support of then Malahat Chief Michael Harry.
“In order for the permit to be granted in the first place there had to be First Nations consultation, and there had to be a letter of endorsement supplied by a First Nations, and that was done so by the Malahat.
Cook says they have paperwork that shows Chief Michael Harry received money from the South Island Aggregates/Active Earth joint venture before the province granted the initial permit in 2013, and after.
Although the Nation is adamant it neither opposes nor supports the soil remediation facility, and “the science will prove out whether the site is in the best interest of the community.”
In the summer of 2014, the permit granted to South Island Aggregates by the BC Government was brought before the Environmental Appeals Board last summer, but ultimately it was upheld.
Cook says the strength of that decision was based on the so called “independent” study conducted by Active Earth.
“There should be arm’s length. If the government is relying on the science provided by Active Earth, there shouldn’t be any opportunity or impetus for that science to be biased in any way, allowing for profits to be taken out as a result of the permit being issued.”
Cook says they hope the judge will grant an injunction on the facility while these allegations are being investigated.