Victoria, BC– The Capital Regional District’s (CRD) authority to expropriate Grace Islet could be subject to challenge and Directors have received advice that this is a matter that the CRD should continue to advocate for action by the Province. While the CRD provides a very wide range of services within the current authority granted by the Province and fully recognizes the interests that First Nations have in Grace Islet, the CRD is simply not able to proceed with initiating an expropriation process to acquire the Islet with any assurance of a positive outcome given the complex regulatory framework and interests of all the parties involved.
“The owner of Grace Islet has a building permit and Provincial Archaeological Branch approval to build a private residence on what First Nations have identified to be a cultural heritage site,” said CRD Board Chair Alastair Bryson. “In order to consider expropriation, the CRD would be required to take on service responsibility enabling the acquisition of land to protect First Nations interests.”
On July 9, the CRD Board adopted a motion to request that the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resources Operations Archaeology Branch suspend the Alteration Permit issued for Grace Islet, Salt Spring Island Electoral Area, to allow consultation and negotiations to proceed between First Nations, the Provincial government and the landowner.
The CRD Board also directed staff to convene an inter-governmental meeting in the autumn of 2014 with representatives of First Nations, the Archaeology Branch, the Islands Trust and the CRD to restore trust and identify specific improvements to development approval procedures that will increase protection of First Nations cultural heritage sites within the Capital Region.
“The previous action taken by the Board reflects the CRD’s commitment to building relationships with neighbouring First Nations, and that begins with showing the same respect for their ancestors as we do for non-indigenous cemeteries,” said Chair Bryson. “While we heard from First Nations that they consider Grace Islet to be a sacred burial site, and any development on that island is not acceptable to them, the Province has indicated that development on Grace Islet is legal and compliant, and that the owner has followed an extensive process over a long period of time to obtain the necessary Permits from the Provincial Archeology Branch.”
After careful deliberation, the CRD Board determined the purpose of the Notice of Motion is outside the scope of CRD’s authority.
“The CRD is committed to building strong and enduring relationships with neighbouring First Nations, and this unfortunate situation highlights the critical need to update the provincial legislation to better reflect the public’s expectations regarding the protection and respect afforded to First Nations heritage sites,” said Chair Bryson. “I am convinced that we can work to ensure that development can be done respectfully and look forward to learning from the issues raised in the Grace Islet development and with the help of First Nations, finding a new way forward.”
Through the CRD Aboriginal Initiatives office, CRD staff will reach out to First Nations and agency partners to co-develop a heritage protection and archeology protocol that addresses the jurisdictional complexities while meeting the needs of First Nations.
Chair Bryson is available for media interviews today from 10:30 am to noon. To arrange an interview, please contact Andy Orr.
The CRD is a local government that delivers 200+ regional, sub-regional and local services for residents of the region which includes 13 municipalities and three electoral areas within 2370 square kilometres on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Governed by a 24 member Board of Directors, the CRD is working to serve the public, and build a vibrant, livable and sustainable region.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Andy Orr, Senior Manager
CRD Corporate Communications