Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, has released the following statement on the future of the Island rail corridor, in recognition of timelines set by the B.C. Court of Appeal:
“Our government understands and supports the need for a reconciliation-based approach when considering the future of the Island rail corridor. Through our dialogue with the federal government, I know this is a value shared by Canada as well. Both levels of government are committed to working with First Nations to develop and advance a shared vision, and will respect reversion of the reserve lands as part of the process.
“We recognize how important this corridor is and we would like to see it preserved as much as possible. If the corridor is broken up and built over, it will be lost forever, and future generations will likely be unable to assemble a continuous transportation corridor of land like this again.
“The Province also firmly believes that any potential future use of the corridor, whether it involves rail restoration or not, must involve First Nations participation and perspectives. Consideration for how the Island rail corridor might be used in the future, and commitment to reconciliation, are inseparable.
“As a province, we must be thinking about this corridor in the context of today and its potential importance in the future. By the early 2030s, Vancouver Island will exceed one million residents and with that growth we need to consider the future value of the corridor for the movement of people and goods. And as we were reminded during the 2021 atmospheric river event, when the south Island was cut off from the rest of B.C. along the Malahat, we need to ensure we are more resilient to climate change.
“To that end, we are committing $18 million to allow for future corridor planning involving affected First Nations and regional districts. The funding will also allow First Nations to assess identified concerns such as flooding, access, noise, or safety issues where the corridor crosses their land.
“There is much more discussion to be had around the future of the corridor and that must be done in collaboration with the federal government, First Nations, and local government. The provincial government is committed to finding the best use for the Island rail corridor as well as supporting First Nations’ rights, jurisdiction and interests in these discussions.”