VICTORIA, B.C. - Adam Olsen, B.C. Green Party spokesperson for the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, today introduced the First Nations Heritage Protection and Conservation Act. Earlier versions of the Private Member’s Bill, which is aimed at protecting Indigenous sacred sites such as burial grounds and heritage objects, were introduced six times by former B.C. NDP MLA Maurine Karagianis.
“This bill is a first step towards recognizing that Indigenous burial and sacred heritage sites should have the same respect and protection as non-indigenous cemeteries and sacred sites,” Olsen said.
Olsen, who is the first W̱SÁNEĆ person to represent the constituency of Saanich North and the Islands, was involved in the effort to protect Grace Islet off the coast of Salt Spring Island from development atop a First Nations burial site.
“I saw firsthand how what happened on Grace Islet cost the provincial government a great deal of effort and a $5.45 million land purchase,” Olsen continued.
“The First Nations Leadership Council have identified a number of potential tools to address the current inequity. My aim in introducing this bill is to keep this issue at the top of the agenda so that what happened on Grace Islet never happens again.
“Both our caucus and the B.C. NDP have committed in words to support the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls-to-action and the Tsilhqot'in Supreme Court Decision. This is an historic opportunity act. It is through action that we are going to repair the broken relationship between Indigenous people and the B.C. government. Let’s seize this opportunity to do things differently by taking action so that First Nations burial and sacred sites finally have the equal respect and protection they have long been denied.”