MLA Gary Holman defends Grace Islet stand

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August, 29, 2014 – You can read more about Grace Islet here.

Protect Grace Islet

I have received several emails and comments online over the last few months, questioning my choice to stand with First Nations in their call to protect this sacred burial site. I believe a strong majority of my constituents share this view, but I appreciate those who have made the effort to express a different opinion, and they deserve a response.

I am committed to strengthening relationships with First Nations communities in Saanich North and the Islands, and to ensure their voices are heard, and my helping to protect Grace Islet is an important part of this.

The B.C. Liberal government has reneged on its responsibilities under the Heritage Conservation Act to protect this sacred site. I cannot support the construction of a house literally on top of burial cairns, any more than I would support a house being built over top the final resting place of non-aboriginal ancestors.

Along with the Islands Trust, the land use planning authority on Salt Spring, I objected to the renewal of the provincial ‘site alteration’ permit over one year ago. Not only do I believe the development of Grace Islet to be fundamentally wrong, but also the owner had clearly violated the permit by clearing the site with an excavator without proper monitoring. The Minister chose to ignore this violation and renew the permit. A number of professional archaeologists believe that the renewed permit is also being violated.

I have also repeatedly stated, that while Grace Islet needs to be protected, the owner should be fairly compensated. Since the Minister appeared to have washed his hands of the affair, and the owner refused to communicate with First Nations, I supported a proposal to the Capital Regional District (CRD) to expropriate Grace Islet at fair market value. The CRD Board has now declined this proposal, but this does not change my view about the need to protect this sacred site.

Governments at all levels need to chart a new path of reconciliation with First Nations people, whom we have repeatedly betrayed historically. The protection of Grace Islet would be a small, but positive step in that direction.

I understand that my views on this issue may not be supported by all of my constituents, but I hope that for those who disagree, this will at least provide a better understanding of it.