I sent this letter to the local media this afternoon. I really hope they print it! I appreciate these questions from Gary Holman in Question Period today!
I would like to thank my MLA Gary Holman for his question to Minister Steve Thomson on April 7th about Grace Islet on Salt Spring Island.
The Islet is a Coast Salish cemetery. The site is not accidentally a burial site; it is the equivalent to the Ross Bay Cemetery. Despite its status being known for a long time, it was zoned and permitted for residential development.
Mr. Holman asked Minister Thomson if he would protect the Islet? Thomson responded,
“All of that process was undertaken and reviewed, and the development and the process is consistent with the application of the archaeological and the Heritage Conservation Act.”
Then, Holman asked Minister Thomson if he would halt development? Thomson responded,
“We have followed the process. The permits were reviewed by the archaeological branch. Permits were issued to allow development to proceed, but they were issued in a way that ensured the protection of the First Nations heritage resources on that site.”
You can’t protect the “First Nations heritage resources” by building a house on top them. Minister Thomson defends a “process” that is offensive and seriously flawed.
This property has no business being zoned for residential. Minister Thomson please use your power to make this situation right. Please protect First Nations burial sites as cemeteries and undertake a review of regulations to protect other similar sites.
Monday April 7, 2014 – QUESTION PERIOD – Hansard Blues (1420)
G. Holman: Grace Islet, off Salt Spring Island, has long been documented as a burial island and a sacred site for south Island First Nations. Two years ago the owners of Grace Islet began preparing the site for construction. Despite the fact it was required by law, the owner did this without archaeological and First Nations’ monitoring. The Penelakut First Nation lodged a complaint with the archaeology branch and then with the RCMP. Charges were never laid, and First Nations’ concerns have not been addressed.
To the minister, will he commit to working with First Nations and ensuring that Grace Islet is protected?
Hon. S. Thomson: I thank the member opposite for the question. This situation is one that has had extensive review. It is one that has had the archaeological process and permits reviewed and issued in order to protect the archaeological values of that property. All of that process was undertaken and reviewed, and the development and the process is consistent with the application of the archaeological and the Heritage Conservation Act. The permits and the process that’s in place was followed by both the developer and the archaeological branch.
Madame Speaker: Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
G. Holman: If this was a cemetery, we wouldn’t be talking about permits to build a house on it. Grace Islet is a First Nations burial ground. Our current legislation is supposed to protect these sites, but it’s clear that political will is needed to make these laws effective.
Will the minister halt the development on Grace Islet, work with First Nations communities and with the Salt Spring community to resolve this issue?
Hon. S. Thomson: This government is committed to the protection of First Nations heritage resources. That’s the provisions under the Heritage Conservation Act, in this case and in many other cases. We have followed the process. The permits were reviewed by the archaeological branch. Permits were issued to allow development to proceed, but they were issued in a way that ensured the protection of the First Nations heritage resources on that site.