Metro Vancouver plans could save artifacts from trash
Tony Hardie displays an artifact made of Jade in New Westminster, B.C. on Sunday April 27, 2014. Civic politicians are trying to figure out how to prevent more cases of property owners being fined for archaeological inspections in the case of heritage items being located on their property. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
"People didn’t want to get stuck with the bills. A lot of times they’re told they can’t develop the land as well, so their land value drops to nothing. It’s kind of a really weird system." — Tony Hardie, artifact trader
Metro Vancouver’s civic politicians are trying to figure out how to prevent more cases of property owners being charged for archaeological inspections when items of heritage value are located on their property.
According to artifact trader Tony Hardie, it’s a problem homeowners encounter all the time.
Twice a month, the proprietor of BC Artifacts property owners would call asking what to do with an artifact — such as an arrowhead — found on private property.
In many cases, the customers would be told nothing could be done with the discovery because of heritage protections, he said.
According to a Metro Vancouver report for a meeting on Wednesday, if findings are significant — and not located on known archeological sites — owners might be required to conduct studies and obtain a permit before taking on projects or property improvements.
The matter is being discussed after the provincial government decided to appeal a court decision last year that determined government couldn’t force a Victoria homeowner to pay for archeological digs.
In September, a Union of B.C. Municipalities motion was unanimously accepted following the decision to potentially amend the BC Heritage Conservation Act.
Hardie said the existing rules often pressured property owners to secretly dispose of artifacts in unregistered sites.
“It scares landowners, contractors, a lot of sites get destroyed now because if there’s any sign of First Nations, most contractors, they know about this act,” he said.
“That stuff is usually put in dump trucks and taken away so nobody knows the difference … they don’t want to be stuck with the bill.”
B.C. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said Sunday there’s been “a lack of commitment” in Victoria to make some of these amendments.
He pointed to how the Musqueam band in Vancouver was driven to a months-long “volatile dispute” in 2012 with developers over the protection of the Marpole Midden area before government stepped in.
First Nations groups say the property was a recognized heritage site since 1933 and contains human remains.
“My point is, obviously, if it were left up to them, we would’ve never known they had excavated skeletons of adults and children,” Phillip said.
Some proposals at Metro Vancouver include the provincial government shouldering full costs, provide funding to local government to take on the work, or to provide a tax credit to offset homeowner costs.