“The Columbia River Treaty” – after 44 years the dreaded words still put a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.
I was a child, living with my parents Roy and Frances Collier on eight acres, 300 feet of lake front property in East Arrow Park. My father was a logger; we had 28 producing cherry trees and 2,000 strawberry plants that my mother tended to, selling the fruit to help keep the wolf away from the door. Little did we know when the wolf came calling he would be wearing a BC Hydro uniform.
I give you credit Mr. Bennett for having the guts to admit that we were basically expropriated – sold us down the river (for the New High Arrow Dam) as the song goes. The people of the Arrow Lakes were devastated by what was to come – lives and families were emotionally and financially destroyed.
Hydro did some older people a favour by helping them relocate and more often than not – the match was struck on their home before they were driven off the property. Widows who had arrived as mail order and war brides, raised families there. I know how my parents felt and we were relative newcomers. I cannot imagine how the people I have read about in the local history books for that area must have felt. Many of them had actually come from the coal mines in the Crowsnest Pass to raw land, working it by hand to clear and grow crops, live off the land.
They moved there to make a better life for their families. One morning a group of us got up at 1 a.m. in time to drive to Castlegar to be at the dam site at 7 a.m. to
picket. My father ran for Independent, was on the Jack Webster Show. Nothing helped. The man in the BC Hydro uniform sat down with my parents and offered them $7,700 for our land and home – knowing my father, it was likely all he could do to keep from punching him (David Roy Collier, BC Featherweight Champion, 1932). They turned it down and a few days later the pot was sweetened with a new offer of $10,000. My parents were 47 and 55 and they were being forced to pack up and start over. Refusing the offer a second time was not an option. My father was quoted years later as saying that when BC Hydro showed up on our land he knew how Adam and Eve felt when Satan visited the Garden of Eden.
At that time, BC Hydro promised us the opportunity to buy or lease water front property on the new reservoirs, to date they have not lived up to their verbal promises. They also promised that the people who had property above high water, would be able to buy it back. Columbia Basin Trust was formed to mitigate the economic impact on the affected areas. To date they have done nothing for these areas. In your write up, Mr. Bennett, you quote that the region is very fortunate to benefit from the Columbia Basin Trust. In actual fact the impacted areas get nothing. My parents lived to be 89 years old; my father firmly believed that BC Hydro was just waiting him out. He went to his grave searching for the promised land – he was a man of his word and expected the same in return. A promise that if he could find available property, the government would sell it to him – He spent years walking crown land trying to get that little piece of paradise back that had been stolen. Even when he was legally blind – he continued his search. So, in closing, if you can find my family a few acres of waterfront (it doesn’t have to be a river or lake – I will settle for a nice creek) with some mature cherry trees for $10,000 – I will gladly write you a cheque today and my father can rest in peace.
Merle Dyck (Collier)