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Tribal Members Try to Stop River Road

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - Two members of a native Indian band sued British Columbia to try to stop a $1 billion road building project through burial grounds and other archeologically sensitive sites.

Bertha Williams and William Burnstick, members of the Tsawwessen Band of the Coast Salish Nation, claim in B.C. Supreme Court that the South Fraser Perimeter Road would "go through a number of burial sites that are of spiritual and sacred significance to the plaintiffs."

They say the government knew of the harm the four-lane divided highway would do to a 25-mile stretch of the Fraser River, but "did not consider the conservation, protection, preservation of social, cultural, economic and archeological values" of the land.

The government allegedly ignored an archeological report on the project and took no steps to modify the road's design to mitigate the harm.

If the project is not revamped, the sites will allegedly "suffer irreparable harm in that these ancient burial sites will forever be disturbed and altered," the complaint states.

The tribal members say the road "can be modified to take into account the sites of archeological significance and protect the spiritual and sacred sites and that there was no consideration given to these factors in the final design of the project and/or its ongoing construction."

Williams and Burnstick sued the Queen of England, and the provincial Minister of Environment, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and its Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

They are represented by Jay Straith.

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