For Immediate Release
May 12, 2014
Victoria, B.C. – In a letter to Hon. Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Interim-Leader of the B.C. Green Party asked the Minister to seek a more respectful resolution to a residential development approved for a recognized Coast Salish burial site and designated archaeological site on Grace Islet (Salt Spring Island.)
Specifically, Olsen asked Minister Thomson to,
- Reconsider his decision to allow residential construction to proceed over a known Coast Salish burial site (cemetery),
- Designate Grace Islet as a heritage site, and
- Compensate the owner for loss of real estate value due to the designation.
- Instruct his Ministry to establish a collaborative process with First Nations, elected local officials and property owners to identify similar burial sites within the Coast Salish territory with an intention to,
- Recognize the challenges and proactively seek solutions for each unique site on a case by case basis, and
- Officially designate as a heritage site if applicable.
Despite deep opposition by southern Vancouver Island First Nations of the project, the Archaeology Branch has approved permits to proceed with the construction of a residence on a known Coast Salish gravesite and designated archaeological site.
Saanich North & the Islands MLA Gary Holman inquired about the issue in question period and Minister Thomson stated that after “extensive review” both the developer and the archaeology branch followed the appropriate process and received the required permits.
When asked a second time, Minister Thomson stated that the government is “committed to the protection of First Nations heritage resources,” but he failed to take advantage of his powers given in the Heritage Conservation Act to protect the grave. Further, he stated that permits “were issued in a way that ensured the protection of the First Nations heritage resources on that site.”
“This is a bad situation,” said Adam Olsen, Interim-Leader of the B.C. Green Party. “Government process and archaeological permits should not promote the destruction of ancient burial sites. A grave and a house are not compatible uses. I have yet to come across a scenario where building a house on top of a cemetery is acceptable. The site is a grave, and it should remain a grave.”
Olsen is committed to work on the file until a respectful solution can be found.
“I hope the Minister is not holding back on this because he doesn’t want to set a precedent by compensating a landowner for loss of real estate value,” said Olsen. “What about the precedent he is making right now? His decision is unacceptable, I have had a lot of feedback on this issue and people are deeply disturbed by the Minister’s inaction on this file.”
Olsen hopes to receive a timely response to his letter from Minister Thomson.
Interim Leader, B.C. Green Party