Concerned Vancouver Island locals are organizing a weekly protest against the proposed expansion of the Malahat Highway, which could negatively impact local salmon populations.
Dozens, including organizer Carl Olsen from the Tsartlip First Nation, were out this Tuesday on the highway near the Goldstream Campground, just west of Victoria. “To see the devastation they’re going to be causing to the stream is not acceptable,” Olsen told CHEK News.
The highway expansion was proposed by the B.C. government five years ago. It’s a critical route that sees 25,000 travellers daily and is also the site of frequent crashes, which can cause serious traffic delays.
But critics like Olsen claim that the expansion could destroy vital spawning beds for salmon in the Goldstream River.
“The reason I am doing this is because somebody needs to speak for the fish.”Carl Olsen
Songhees and Ahousaht Elder Diane Sam (səwəyələk) said there hasn’t been proper public consultation, telling CHEK News: “When incidents like this happen, [the government] should pause and re-engage.”
Concerns about the expansion project come at a time when critical salmon habitats are under threat across the province.
A 2021 report from the University of British Columbia found that in just the Lower Fraser River alone, up to 85 per cent of historical salmon habitat has been lost due to human activity.
Protesters will be out with their signs by the Malahat every Tuesday, calling attention to this expansion until government action is taken.
Provincewide wild salmon catches are down over 80 per cent, according to estimates from Indigenous elders and researchers included in a separate UBC report from last year. Last fall, a disturbing video of thousands of dead salmon on Heiltsuk Territory revealed the severe impact drought conditions are having on North Coast salmon populations.
To prevent salmon populations from being endangered any further, Olsen and his fellow protesters say they will be out with their signs by the Malahat every Tuesday, calling attention to this expansion until government action is taken.
“The reason I am doing this is because somebody needs to speak for the fish,” he told the Vancouver Island Free Daily.