Letter to Minister Steve Thomson regarding Grace Islet

May 6, 2014

Re: Grace Islet Coast Salish burial site and residential development

Dear Minister Steve Thomson,

Please intervene and stop the residential development proposed for Grace Islet on Salt Spring Island. Efforts to meet with you in person have not been successful, I am writing because this subject is incredibly important to me and other British Columbians.

As you know, Grace Islet is a designated archaeological site, home to many Salish burial features. The Islet is a cemetery and should be designated a heritage site.

In 2006 the owner proposed residential construction over two-thirds of the Islet and both the Archaeology Branch and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) permitted the work to go ahead.

Why was a known archaeological site zoned for residential development?

I am disappointed by your decision to support the project and I am saddened by your responses to MLA Gary Holman (Saanich North & the Islands) in question period on April 7, 2014. It is hard to believe that bureaucratic process and procedure, (dotting i’s and crossing t’s) can be used to justify the willful destruction of a person’s final resting place.

You have all the powers you need to rectify this situation. You are empowered to designate heritage sites and compensate landowners for the loss of real estate value. For Grace Islet, the government has failed to protect this site as other cemeteries are protected in the province, would you allow residential development over two-thirds of Ross Bay Cemetery?

The precedent set by a lack of respectful action is far worse than the precedent set by compensating a landowner wronged by the decisions of provincial and local governments.

There are other sites similar to Grace Islet that require your protection. Working together with Mr. Holman, local government and First Nations leaders, we have the opportunity now to be proactive by investigating and taking positive action to protect these sites.

Minister, I respectfully request that you,

1.    Reconsider your decision to allow residential construction to proceed over a known Coast Salish burial site (cemetery),

a.     Designate Grace Islet as a heritage site, and
b.    Compensate the owner for loss of real estate value due to the designation.

2.     Instruct your 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,

a.     Recognize the challenges and proactively seek solutions for each unique site on a case by case basis, and
b.    Officially designate as a heritage site if applicable.

You can resolve the further difficulties now and send a strong message to First Nations people that their grave, burial and cemetery sites are highly respected and valued. This action will be very helpful as your government works to build strong relationships with First Nations in B.C.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

Adam Olsen

cc. Premier Christy Clark
Gary Holman, MLA Saanich North & the Islands
Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands
Andrew Weaver, MLA Oak Bay-Gordon Head
Islands Trust - Salt Spring Island
Islands Trust - Linda Adams
Cowichan Tribes
Halalt First Nation
Pauquachin First Nation
Penelekut First Nation
Tsartlip First Nation
Tsawout First Nation
Tseycum First Nation

Adam Olsen

Stellys Cross Road, Brentwood Bay, BC, V8M 1J7