The Okanagan Indian Band is taking Ottawa to court over military explosives.
The band has filed a civil claim in the Supreme Court of B.C. against the attorney general of Canada, the official representative of the Department of National Defence, for what it says is 26 years of refusing remove unexploded ordnances from reserve lands.
“DND and Canada have neglected their duty to remove UXOs. Our band members aren’t able to safely use, or develop these areas,” said Chief Byron Louis.
“The affected lands are prime areas of value for commercial, residential and agricultural uses. We have been patient and made every effort to work with Canada on the timely removal of UXOs, but after nearly three decades of limited clean-up efforts, we are tired of waiting.”
DND used reserve lands for military training, including the firing of live munitions, at various times between 1939 and 1990. Canada
Louis says the lease agreements required DND to clean up and remove military munitions scrap and unexploded ordnances once military use of the area ceased.
Between 1944 and 1973, nine civilians have been killed and three injured from UXOs on the Goose Lake range, Glenemma range and other former ranges in the Vernon area. This August, an explosive was found during a wildfire near Predator Ridge.
“The contamination caused by decades of UXO and munitions scrap in the ground is another key concern; removal of these materials must be accompanied by remediation of the lands,” said Louis.
“Chief and council will continue to take progressive steps to resolve the issue of abandoned UXO on reserve lands in an effort to increase the safety and well-being of everyone living in the Okanagan.”