Highway safety concerns rise as second Tseshaht child struck by a vehicle in less than a year | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Highway safety concerns rise as second Tseshaht child struck by a vehicle in less than a year

Port Alberni, BC

A 12-year-old Tseshaht boy sustained broken bones and cuts after being struck by a vehicle at the Falls Road side of the Orange Bridge on Highway 4. The accident occurred about 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 11.

The incident raised safety concerns among the Tseshaht as this is the second time in less than a year that a child has been struck by a vehicle on the 3.3-kilometer section of highway that cuts through their main reserve.

According to Chief Councillor Ken Watts, a Tseshaht girl was struck by a vehicle at a crosswalk on the other side of the Orange Bridge near Tsuma-as Drive in the summer of 2022.

Both youngsters escaped with injuries but the accidents underscore the danger of having a heavily traveled highway cutting through their community.

According to Chief Watts, motorists seem to view the Orange Bridge as a divider between city streets and the highway. It’s like they hit the gas pedal as soon as they see the bridge, and some reach speeds as high as 90 kilometres an hour through the reserve, according to Watts.

On October 2022, c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) First Nation submitted a Specific Claim with the Government of Canada seeking compensation for the unlawful and unauthorized use of land within the Nation’s Tsahaheh IR 1 for the provincial Pacific Rim Highway 4. They stated that Tseshaht has always opposed the construction and operation of Highway 4 and has never been compensated for the use of its land.

But safety and maintenance is the responsibility of the provincial government and Watts says that while some improvements have been made, it isn’t enough.

“There’s more street lighting and speed radar signs but something more needs to be done,” he said.

He says that Tseshaht has been engaged in negotiations with the province about safety improvements for years. At one point there was a plan to install sidewalks but that never happened.

“The ministry wants to do a study and come up with a strategy,” said Watts.

Whatever happens with respect to safety improvements, Watts says he hopes that the province will come up with a better plan for the management and maintenance of the section of Highway 4 cutting through the reserve.

Tseshaht is waiting on a response from the federal government regarding their Specific Claim application. Filed in October, the federal government has up to six months to review the claim. If it meets criteria, they have three years to negotiate.

“We encourage Canada to expedite its review and acceptance of this claim so that we can get on with the work of righting this historic wrong,” said Wahmeesh (Ken Watts) said in a November 2022 interview with Ha-Shilth-Sa. “Meanwhile, our Nation is open to a separate conversation with the Province of B.C. about its role in the future of this roadway on Tseshaht land to better protect our people now and in the future and keep them safe from the damage it continues to cause.”

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