Malahat chief resigns over allegations he worked for soil dump operator
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Wednesday, August 12, 2015 6:36PM PDT
The chief of a local First Nation has stepped down amid allegations he has been doing consulting work for the company accused of putting Shawnigan Lake’s water supply at risk.
Michael Harry, chief of the Malahat Nation, wasn’t present during the surprise announcement made Wednesday by the nation’s CEO, Lawrence Lewis.
“Due to the recent allegations of Chief Harry’s personal business matters, he’s decided to resign and step aside as the chief counselor,” said Lewis. “The nation was not aware, I was not aware of these dealings. They appear to be a personal matter between Chief Harry and the proponents.”
The allegations arise from documents recently filed as part of a legal battle brought by Shawnigan Lake residents. Those invoices show an “M. Harry” getting paid consulting fees by the groups responsible for the landfill.
CTV News was unable to reach Harry for comment on the apparent consulting fees, but reaction from those opposing the landfill has been swift.
“It troubles me,” said Al Brunet of the Shawnigan Residents Association. “It certainly puts a lot of questions in my mind, and questions that I don’t have any answers for.”
The group of concerned residents wants to shut down the controversial South Island Aggregates soil dump, which they say has been leaking contaminates into the community’s drinking water.
In a statement, Shawnigan Lake Director Sonia Furstenau said “These are troubling allegations, and they reinforce the many concerns that Shawnigan residents have had from the very beginning of SIA’s application to put a contaminated dump in our drinking watershed.”
Harry’s former fiancé, Georgia Collins, is also an active opponent of the landfill, and she expressed her concern in a statement distancing herself from the former chief.
"I called off our engagement on May 31st of this year due to growing ethical concerns,” she said. “My heart goes out to his family and community who are all impacted by this very troubling news."
Those who know Harry seemed willing to reserve judgment on the allegations -- and it remains unclear whether there is even any wrongdoing.
“I think chief has done what I’ve known him to do for the three years I’ve worked for him, to do always, and with some intent, the best thing for the Malahat Nation,” said Lewis.
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island’s Robert Buffam