Recent History – 2001-2003
August 27, 2002
By Mark Nielsen,Daily News Staff
A roadblock has been established in Kelly Lake by a group of Metis people who say they’re being unfairly denied access to jobs in the oil patch.
With the help of van parked halfway onto the road, the group has set up an information blockade midway along a one-kilometre stretch that connects B.C. and Alberta.
While they’ve already started to deny heavy commercial vehicles use of the road, they say that the real action will begin Tuesday when all vehicles related to oil and gas will be asked to take a different route.
Kurtis DeSilva, president of Metis Nation in B.C. said Monday that Metis-owned businesses are being shut out of work in the oil patch in favour of native-run operations — work he said Metis people are entitled to some work by the fact that the road runs through their community.
“It is an area that has been settled by the Metis people since 1820,” he said. “And now we have billions of dollars worth of oil and gas working up here, and these people have nothing to show for it. They have no work.”
He also said that the road is privately-owned, and that the amount of traffic on the road poses a safety problem, making the issue a complicated matter.
“It’s really hard to simply separate issues because they all contribute to one big issue — community,” he said.
The blockade will remain up, said DeSilva, until the government agrees to either negotiate or prove that the road is publicly-owned and secure an injunction. In addition to the road blockade, DeSilva said action through the courts is being pursued.
In the first four hours that the blockade was up, 46 vehicles passed through of which 15 were identified by logos from oil and gas companies. Two vehicles considered too heavy for the road were sent back.
The move also highlights the ongoing differences between the Metis and status Indian people who live in the community, and it did not sit well with the Kelly Lake First Nation (KLFN).
Spokesperson Corinne Shearer noted that only four people are operating the blockade and that none of them actually live in Kelly Lake, although they have relatives there.
She said that the group should consult with the KLFN first.
“What we’re saying is, shut the road block down, let’s talk. And if the community as a whole agrees that this is the action that they want to take, fine let’s put up the road block tomorrow and we’ll all be there,” she said.
Shearer estimates that about 140 people live in Kelly Lake, of which 74 have status.