Musqueam protestors say B.C. permit change at Marpole site doesn’t go far enough
The B.C. government has amended an archaeology permit for a controversial development site in Marpole to halt any further work in part of the area.
But according to one of the Musqueam First Nation members who has been protesting at the site slated for condo construction, the amendment will only prevent further work on a small portion of the land they want to see preserved.
“They’re only dealing with one little section of the site,” Cecilia Point told the Straight by phone from the South Vancouver site.
“They’re still not saying that they’re going to move off the rest of the site.”
Musqueam band members have been protesting the development every day since May 3, shortly after intact remains were uncovered at the site. The Musqueam say the area is an ancient burial ground home to the remains of their ancestors, and want to prevent construction from taking place at the site.
The area referred to in the amended permit is a five-metre strip of land along the back of what is known as Lot 9, according to the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
“That portion of the lot that it applies to will be protected and will be returned to its original state,” Minister Steve Thomson told the Straight by phone.
Four burials have been discovered during archaeological investigation of the site, according to Thomson. That includes the remains of two infants that were found in April, and the remains of an adult that were uncovered in January.
A review of the archaeological permits, which included both the developer and the Musqueam Indian Band, took place from May 8 to June 5.
A five-storey, 108-condo residential and commercial development is planned for the site in the 1300-block of Southwest Marine Drive. The property is owned by Gary and Fran Hackett.
Bob Ransford, a spokesperson for the owners and the developer Century Holdings, said the government’s amended permit doesn’t impact the developer because they opted to halt investigative work in the lot after the remains were found.
“We haven’t done any work there since the protest started,” he told the Straight by phone.
Ransford said discussions are taking place between all the parties as to the future of the site.
The Musqueam have proposed a land swap that would see the Marpole Midden site preserved as a public heritage park. The midden, which contains the remnants of an ancient Coast Salish Village, is designated as a national historic site.
Point said she and other Musqueam members plan to continue protesting the development until that request is met.
“The only thing that we want is for them to move off the site, the entire site, and that’s why we offered them a piece of land in exchange, to make that happen quickly,” she said.
Thomson said “a number of options” are being considered in discussions between the developer and the Musqueam band, including a potential land swap.
“This was a decision made by the statutory decision-maker and an important step in the process,” he said of the amended permit. “It doesn’t resolve the overall issue, but it’s important to take the step.
“The next step is the continued discussion between the Musqueam and the proponent, and all parties that are involved,” he added.
He noted a representative of the B.C. Ministry of Aboriginal Relations is helping to facilitate the discussions.
Ransford said it will be “up to government” to make a decision about the future of the site.
“If the option is not to proceed with the site, then a proposal has to come forward to the owners explaining how they’re going to be compensated,” he said. “If the land swap is part of the mechanism to compensate them, then that needs to be laid out clearly and values need to be attached clearly, and we’ll consider it.”
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson called the provincial government’s announcement today “a good step forward”.
"I’m pleased to see the B.C. government taking steps under the Heritage Conservation Act to protect the Musqueam historic site,” he said in a statement.