July 18, 2015 - 2:30 PM
VERNON - Members of the Okanagan Indian band are training to clear unexploded military mortars left littered on their lands decades ago.
Since the Boer War in 1906, the Department of National Defence used band land at Madeline Lake about 24 kilometres northwest of Vernon and Goose Lake to train soldiers in firing live mortars, grenades and other munitions including white phosphorous. The problem is many Unexploded Explosive Ordnances or UXOs are still there, and they are dangerous.
“They would fire the mortars from one range to the other,” Chief Byron Louis says in a release. “That’s over 12 km and poor aim by soldiers in training saw much of our land surrounding the ranges also polluted.”
During a clean-up last year, technicians found live mortars which were over 70 years old, Louis says.
Efforts to clear the land and make it safe have been ongoing, but now band members are receiving the required training to do the job themselves.
The defence department is funding the training for 10 members to become UXO Level 1 techs over the next three years. So far, three people have been selected to begin the training in Texas.
“The clean-up effort will take time and an ongoing commitment by our partners in Ottawa,” Louis says. “I’m proud of the members who came forward to be trained in this vital role. Their efforts will provide an opportunity for our future generations to enjoy our land safely.”
The Okanagan Indian Band loaned land to the defence department and this is what they left behind
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015