Archeology sites fall within the purview of the Province and are regulated under the Heritage Conservation Act. The Act endeavours to balance the protection of cultural resources and sacred sites with the rights of private land owners. Strictly speaking, local government does not have the authority to make decisions that are contrary to the Act, but can get caught in the middle of a conflict between the landowner and First Nations, when a site has been approved for development by the Province, but First Nations do not agree with the decision. This tension played out on Grace Islet in Ganges Harbour, Salt Spring Island in 2014 to 2015. The CRD was honoured to play a role in overseeing the demolition of the partially built home on the islet and the subsequent restoration of the sacred site, in partnership with 10 First Nations, the Province of BC and Nature Conservancy Canada.
The CRD acknowledges and respects the ancestors of these lands and is working to establish protocols with spiritual elders relating to identification, protection, and in the event of disturbance, respectful re-interment.
Throughout the deconstruction process, the CRD gained a greater understanding of indigenous cultural laws and has brought those teachings into our respective operations. Although the Heritage Conservation Act remains the overarching authority regarding archeological sites, there is a role local government can play in establishing communication protocols with spiritual advisors to ensure the ancestors are cared for, and referral protocols with First Nations monitors when undertaking earth moving activities.
Míqәn – Place warmed by the sun – Beacon Hill Sacred Burial Ground
The CRD and the City of Victoria, with the support of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, are working to restore the ancient burial site located in what today is known as Beacon Hill, but by the Lkwungen people, is known as Míqәn. Protocols for re-interment of ancestors disturbed as a result of construction activity relating to the sewage treatment project, have been developed under the tutelage of Lkwungen spiritual elders. The CRD wishes to acknowledge the teachings of elders Maryann Thomas and Elmer George for their ongoing friendship and commitment helping us with this important work.