B.C. urged to pick up heritage protection costs

Critics say current law on discovery of aboriginal sites spurs developers to discard ancient finds

Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew is vice-chair of Metro Vancouver's aboriginal relations committee.

Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew is vice-chair of Metro Vancouver's aboriginal relations committee.

There’s growing concern that developers who unexpectedly uncover ancient aboriginal sites quietly discard archaeological artifacts and perhaps even human remains to dodge the cost and hassle of obeying provincial law.

B.C.’s Heritage Conservation Act makes the property owner responsible for archaeological impact assessments on undiscovered heritage sites and pay all related costs before construction.

But some observers say it’s time to revisit that requirement because the high costs deter proper reporting and compliance with the legislation.

“What happens now is artifacts get found on a project and they’re real quick to put them in a dump truck and get them the hell out of there,” Delta artifacts trader Tony Hardie said. “They don’t want to have a bill, have a delay or have to deal with all the politics and red tape of having the First Nation involved.”

Metro Vancouver’s aboriginal relations committee voted Wednesday to urge the province to ease or eliminate the burden of archaeological costs for private property owners.

The province so far insists it’s sticking to the “developer-pay principle.”

But Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew, the committee’s vice-chair, calls that a mistake.

“If you want to increase the possibility of protecting archaeological heritage then you need to motivate property owners to do the right thing in terms of reporting,” Drew said.

He said the current law has good goals but the huge downside of extra costs and delay actually spurs land owners to keep quiet and toss rare finds in the dump truck for disposal.

Manitoba and Alberta already pay the costs of archaeological studies and interment of found human remains on behalf of property owners.

Ontario property owners who uncover remains can ask to have their costs reimbursed if it’s deemed an undue financial burden.

A Metro report says offering the same option in B.C. would ensure human remains are treated with respect and dignity and the province would be able to ensure remains aren’t covered up, concealed or otherwise mismanaged by property owners.

Other options, according to Metro, are for the province to give property owners a tax credit to offset their heritage preservation costs.

Archaeological expenses can be huge – $400,000 in the case of one private property in south Vancouver in the Marpole Midden area, $300,000 for the owners of a Kamloops winery and $35,000 in the case of an elderly Parksville couple trying to get clearance to build a one-storey house.

Part of the challenge for property owners and developers, Drew said, is that those who try to follow the rules can still face long delays because the province doesn’t have enough staff to administer the Heritage Conservation Act.

“Provincially, at the moment there’s three people for the whole province.”

Drew noted it’s not just aboriginal heritage that can trigger conservation requirements and costs. Other heritage features covered under the act include old pioneer buildings, shipwrecks and even natural features like undiscovered caves.

The issue is also before the courts.

Victoria resident Wendi MacKay sued the province for $600,000 in costs, delays and lost value to her property after being ordered by the province to do archaeological work before she could build an addition to her house.

B.C. Supreme Court last year found in her favour – on the basis the legislation didn’t give provincial staff the power to make such an order – but the government is appealing.

A spokesman with the forests and lands ministry said the province is committed to protecting heritage resources, but no change in policy is under consideration.

“With the significant presence of First Nations and the extensive history of B.C., property owners and developers need to understand the potential of finding artifacts and archaeological sites when conducting new development,” the ministry said in an emailed statement.

Just Posted

The Parksville Civic and Technology Centre at 100 Jensen Ave. (PQB News file photo)
Parksville 2020 annual report now ready for public feedback

Documents can be viewed online; comments or questions to be submitted before noon on July 5, 2021

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased in Parksville

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read