A road closure and a broader conversation about First Nations jurisdiction has been prompted after two elders were forced to spend the night in their vehicle last week due to poor road conditions.
The elders got stuck on a portion of the Upper Dog Creek Road overnight between the area’s waste transfer station and Enterprise Road southwest of Williams Lake.
The Northern Shuswap Tribal Council posted photos of the road conditions and the closure “due to safety reasons” late Thursday evening.
The Tribune has reached out to representatives for the Ministry of Transporation and Infrastructure, but they have not returned calls for comment on the matter.
Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation Chief Patrick Harry did respond to questions, noting the road conditions at Brigham Creek is just another example why Stswecem’c Xgat’tem (SXFN) has been seeking meaningful engagement with both the Province and local proponents with regard to the road conditions within SXFN Territory.
“We face these type of road conditions on an annual basis unfortunately even more since fires ravaged the area in 2010. SXFN has spoken with B.C. with regard to the readiness of our nation to provide these essential road maintenance services. In the interim, at our expense our SXFN members have been providing these services through community member owned companies, such as grading, snow removal, dust control etc.,” Harry said.
Jason Hadath, operations and maintenance manager for the SXFN, said he believes it’s just a matter of time before people get hurt because of the road conditions in the area.
“In the last two weeks with the run off due to minor rain, SXFN has had elders stuck on the road overnight which is unacceptable,” Hadath said. “Our staff have been stuck trying to get to the community to provide services and critical deliveries are unable to get to SXFN. SXFN has had to support these delivery companies by using our own members’ graders and backhoes to get them towed out. There are currently two sink holes on the road which are jeopardizing the health and safety of our members, our staff and other users of the road.”
Chief Harry said the Province is aware of Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation’s ability and right to take on jurisdiction over these road systems within SXFN territory as they transition towards self government.
“As a semi-remote community these road systems provide our link to everything from emergency services to education. SXFN will continue to seek solutions through meaningful engagement with (the Ministry of Highways). But one thing we are certain of is the process we have been working with to date is not working and is putting our membership at risk.”