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NDP urges feds to consult First Nations on restoring Island railway as deadline looms

Deadline looms next month for a funding decision
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Abandoned train tracks adjacent to the Cowichan Valley Trail through Chemainus. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford NDP MP Alistair MacGregor demanded last Friday that the federal Liberal government make a decision on the Island Rail Corridor and actually listen to the First Nations who will be most impacted by the rail line.

As the deadline on a decision draws closer, the NDP says the Liberals have still not done a single consultation with any of the 13 First Nation communities, five regional districts or 14 municipalities impacted by the rail line.

MacGregor’s question was posed as follows:

“People on Vancouver Island have been left wondering whether this government deems public rail worth saving. A deadline was set by the B.C. Court of Appeals for this government to decide if the Island Rail Corridor should continue to exist. That deadline is next month, and this government hasn’t conducted consultation with the First Nations whose territories the rail line runs through.

“Being unable to keep the trains running on time is one thing but sitting by while infrastructure falls into disrepair is another. Why have the Liberals been asleep at the switch, and are failing to conduct appropriate consultation?”

Everything is dependent upon whether the federal and provincial governments choose to fund restoration of the line. If funding is not approved, the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation of Nanoose has a notice of civil claim filed in 2020 for the rail right of way to be returned to its lands that will proceed.

The most recent estimates peg the cost of restoring the line at up to $728 million.

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