CRM problem at Englishman River

Excavation of house foundations at Englishman River. Source: CBC

Hmm, I just noticed today is the first anniversary of this blog.  Mind you, it was a slow and intermittent affair at first but with more regular posting has come steady increase in readership.

But you know who else had a birthday on April 20th?

With that in mind, what better way to celebrate than by checking out the firestorm brewing on the Englishman River, where some landowners, perhaps wilfully ignorant, have had an unfortunate series of events transpire regarding an archaeological site on their property. The Archaeology Branch has responded to the story with a terse memo.

A little background to start:

All archaeological sites in B.C. dating to before 1846 A.D. are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act.  This is true whether or not they are known to the Archaeology Branch or unknown and unrecorded.  In some ways, then, it is not relevant that the site under these people’s house was first recorded, I am told, in 1975.  Even if it was first discovered by the application of a backhoe in April 2010, it would be accorded the same protection under the law. The fact that the landowners claim to have not known about the site until recently is an interesting issue that does not really materially affect the facts of this case. And, under the standard procedures in place, they are indeed responsible for paying the costs of the archaeological investigations, in this case reported to be $35,000.  Whether or not they have the money also doesn’t affect the facts of the case – incidentally, these people who self-portray as poor and unemployed are finding archaeology because they are building a new house on their property, which must be costing them several hundred thousand dollars.

So, these facts may not actually alter the legal responsibilities, but they do however very strongly affect the way this issue is seen to be unfolding.

Hostile and ignorant CBC comments. Note the number of "thumbs up" added by readers.

When stories like these break, I always make sure to read the comments associated with them.  They are a window into the vox populi and reveal just how much work remains to be done to educate the public on the value of archaeological sites, and on the legal circumstances surrounding the relationship between the archaeological record and their property rights and their title to property.

As usual, the comments are not pretty.  So much ignorance and racism – and such poor judgment by the CBC to allow those comments to stand.  I’d like to think some of this is fuelled or accentuated by the apparent injustice of the little old lady confronted with a bill for 35,000 – but surely such sentiments do not arise from thin air.

But we do need to address the trigger issue here: landowners are held financially responsible for archaeological remains on their property.  They have a general due diligence to find out about these remains, but as noted above, the remains are protected regardless of whether they are already known and recorded, or not.  So a simple call to the ministry might or might not get you a full answer.

Again, some background is warranted:

Sites are recorded both on a paper record, dating back to about 1960, and electronically.  Many sites were recorded before computer mapping and GIS were available and before the current 1:20,000 scale topographic maps were made.  This means that site locations and especially site boundaries may not be completely accurate.  On a 1:50,000 paper map, 1 cm on the map = 50,000 cm, or 500 metres in the real world.  This means a one millimetre error of plotting a site equals a 50 metre error, twice the size of most city lots.  A one millimetre error is the thickness of a pencil line, more or less.  Add to this the fact that many sites are polygons, and not points, and that the entire boundary of the polygon has these potentially large errors, one direction or the other, or both.  Another legacy issue are sites which were plotted before the introduction of Global Positioning, or GPS, handheld units which via satellite triangulation, can put your position to within a few metres.  In the older days, sites were plotted onto maps using dead reckoning you might say, and then a latitude and longititude were derived from the plot itself: a double source of error.  This latitude and longitude would then often be the source of the entry into the GIS.  A program a few years back helped with some digital hygiene on that, but if the site itself was not revisited since the earlier days – and many haven’t been – the boundaries and location themselves may be suspect.

So the natural response of commenters at the CBC – “put these sites on land title” – is legitimately hard and problematic to actually accomplish.  Is an error of commission preferable to an error of omission?  Or should landowners be educated in the need to do their own homework and find out what the legal encumbrances are on their own property?  In this respect, I bet a lot of the CBC commenters are of the right-wing  “man-up and take personal responsibility” school of thought and so, well, they should live up to their credo and take responsibility for educating themselves about their own property.  (Incidentally, the CBC reporter embarrassed herself with her factually incorrect comments on the factually incorrect story and the later invisible correction to the text of the story: shoddy journalism.  She also refers to the recent Cadboro Bay case without mentioning that the landowner in that case got off completely scot-free.  Some penalty there.)

This is no different than the ‘call before you dig’ idea: you can elect not to call, and you run the risk of getting electrocuted to death.  Your call.

A second issue is the core part of the story which alleges that a 4,000$ estimate turned into a 35,000$ bill with the landowner not knowing anything about this.  Not enough information to fully comment, but this does not pass the smell test and I suspect the landowner knew a lot more than they are saying.  In particular, the owner has lived there for 40 years, at the mouth of the Englishman River, on a site recorded 35 years ago, in the heart of one of the most densely populated part of aboriginal B.C., and supposedly  knows nothing about an archaeological site under her own house?  Or the possibility of one? So close to the Craig Bay fiasco?  I find that incredible, and ludicrous, and if true, pathetic.

A third issue which seems to me to be important, is the practice by which the landowner is held responsible for the costs of the excavation.  On principle, archaeology is a public good and part of our collective heritage – yes, collective, not just aboriginal – and as such the public should pay for its management.  I actually believe this!  This is part of the collective heritage that was celebrated at the Olympics, for example – and I don’t recall too much “send the box of culture and a bill back to Wayne” comments then.   Is it going to happen?  Well, probably not – because, I might add, people of the same political stripe as the CBC commenters resist government involvement in such things, and the government panders to this by restricting the funds available for archaeological management in this province.  Almost all archaeology done in this province is private sector archaeology conducted by for-profit firms.

One solution would be a small development tax which was put into a pool: say 1/10th of one percent of all development costs went into an archaeology pool, regardless of whether archaeology concerns existed at that particular development or not.  This money would then be withdrawn for specific projects such as this one, so that the landowner was not unduly burdened.  This would also create an arms-length relationship  between the developer and the consulting archaeologists.  This relationship, current case study aside, far more often falls into a perception that the archaeologist will keep the developer (who is putting bread on their table) happy by minimizing the amount of work to be done or by otherwise accommodating the client in the hopes of a long-standing financial relationship.  The Archaeology Branch of the BC Government has essentially no field presence and is under tight travel restrictions, meaning the information they have is the information they are given by the interested parties – an institutionalized weakness that did not happen by accident but was a political decision.  Furthermore, the only formal ethical guidelines constraining archaeologists are voluntary.

Hence we have a strange mixture in BC of a strong law, many talented archaeologists, some ethically-challenged ones, powerfully motivated but politically unpowerful (yes, unpowerful despite what you hear on C-FAX) First Nations, an unprincipled laissez-faire government, a (deliberately and strategically) underfunded Archaeology Branch, voluntary archaeological ethics, and an under-educated public with a broad streak of racist resentment and settler guilt.  The Englishmen River case exemplifies many of these underlying themes in the practice of archaeology in B.C.

Dog burial from the site in question. Source: CBC

47 responses to “CRM problem at Englishman River

  1. Karen L Church, BGS

    Unfortunately, due to the laws of BC being as they are, where the property owner must report archaeological sites found during development, and then pay for surveys to delineate the site and so on (the “and so on” can be huge) many archaeological sites may not be reported / are destroyed, deeply affecting the archaeological record.


    • Let’s just cut right through all of this BS and get straight to the point.

      * It’s not about preserving or destroying heritage
      * It’s not about NIMBY
      * It’s not about Racism
      * It’s about the landowners carrying the burden of the digging costs

      Our question is crystal clear: Why are the landowners forced to pay for these excavations? What do we get for our money? Nothing. Even worse, what does ANYBODY get for this expense? Are the First Nations benefiting? I don’t think so! So who is benefiting from a box of bones that now sits in the archival dungeons beneath the Provincial Museum? Come on, somebody answer me in plain english! WHO BENEFITS?

      I can tell you who DOESN’T benefit. I guess my kid doesn’t get to go to college now. I guess I can say goodbye to my emergency fund, my retirement fund, my holiday fund, my house repair fund, whatever. Instead I’ve just had a gun held to my head and had $35k stolen from me, and I get nothing for it. It’s just stupid and wrong. Just a box of bones that the First Nations now must re-inter.

      The only people who seem eager to defend this arcane law is the archaeologists themselves. Hiding behind the thin veil of justification that all of this is important historically, the archaeologists don’t mention anything about the juicy government-mandated goldmine of work that will keep them employed for decades, while landowners pay their bills.

      You are all entitled to your self-serving opinions, but none of you high-minded writers have just lost $35k.

      I don’t dispute that landowners don’t have any mineral rights to what’s beneath the ground, but let’s just say this was about oil. Someone says to the landowner, you’ve got oil on your property, and we’re coming to get it. Further, we’re going to send you the bill for the drilling.

      And that’s what has happened here. We’re getting the bill for the drilling.

      And it’s just a little irritating that while swarms of reporters come to do our story, that the First Nations people pull up in their Cadillac to say that their heritage is more important than anyone else’s. People have been dying and getting buried for as long as there’s been people. We’ve all been getting bullied by First Nation’s rights for so long, that now everybody is actually buying into the idea that their remnants have more historical significance than the rest of us.

      What a crock.

      Oh yes, whoever wrote that we didn’t know about the midden had better come and talk to me face to face. Don’t make things up because it’s convenient and makes good copy, because you don’t know your facts. This land was purchased by my parents in 1965 and this was long before any of this Heritage nonsense was known to anybody, my parents knew nothing about this until they applied for a building permit last year, so go blow it out your ignorant backside.


      • Hi Tim

        Thanks for giving your perspective.

        At least one commenter here is in possession of a document that lists J.H. Allix as the “informant” when the site was first recorded in 1975. Even in those days archaeologists did not go onto private property without the consent of the landowner.

        I have not seen this document and I take it you haven’t either, but the document might well be a matter of public record. It is entirely possible that the commenter “bottlenose” is wrong, in which case it would be valuable to see that evidence. Equally, it is possible J.H. Allix did not think much about, or even remember, the visit by the archaeologists so long ago.

        You do raise an important point about who should pay, and my reading of the comments here (as well as the first post, which I wrote since this is my personal blog) is that many posters are actually concerned and sympathetic to the dilemna that landowners find themselves in when faced with your situation — this is why there has been discussion of archaeology insurance, or other ways of spreading the burden. On TV, I noted this was an idea floated by the Allix family as well – that the cost be shared by all if there is social consensus that archaeology is important – and so I actually think that many archaeologists would be on your side, even if arriving at it from a different direction.

        Since this is an archaeology website, and since archaeologists also have a professional obligation towards conservation, this message may not have been clear as the commentors posted on the heritage conservation implications more than other angles.


  2. This is a prime example of “not in my back yard”, isn’t it?

    I wanted to leave a comment about how our capitalist ideologies and worldviews are so shortsighted, and how just one key discovery found in situ in a sight could have far-reaching consequences for indigenous populations over the entire continents of North and South America…but I already got flayed alive when I spoke in support of the anti-smoking bylaw in Vancouver.

    This type of issue is really, as the next generation of archaeologists and anthropologists, our responsibility. I don’t know if someone like me would ever be able to shift the view from stuffism to preservationism, but hey, we can dream, non?

    Archaeologists have the benefit of that ever-present large-picture view that many people seem to lack. If we could just somehow change what’s taught in schools from an early age, that might be a start.


  3. Hi Karen, yes that is a an unintended consequence of the privatization of archaeology and the collective heritage. At least I presume it is unintended.

    I see the CBC has now posted their TV piece:

    it is astonishing to me they didn’t talk to any archaeologist about this. The ministery puffs, the landowner whines, but what about the core issue? Lazy, lazy reporting.

    Also deceiving: while the voice-over talks about the dig, they show the foundations of the house, as if that were the dig that happened. Not the worst journalism I have ever seen, but not the standard we expect from the CBC.


  4. Another thing I just thought of…

    What about “archaeology insurance”? If people choose to purchase property in areas that have a high-likelihood of containing cultural material, if they’re too passive to look up whether or not their lot is actually a registered site or not, why couldn’t they purchase some form of insurance that could pay for this type of thing?

    I shudder to think at what might happen should the government be responsible for footing the bill. Besides, it’s already paying for their hip-replacements and cancer treatments. They should just be glad they haven’t lived in the United States for the past generations, where a single injury could cost them far more than $37000!


  5. Karen L Church, BGS

    Yes I think insurance could work, and also some stipends that would take the guess work out of developing.
    When it is a small time land owner who simply wants to build a home and garden, this kind of thing can be devastating. If there could be alterations allowed as well, then the archaeological record is preserved, and information gained for all, and towards better development practices in future.


  6. Horrid.

    Clearly, if these are society’s laws, then society has a role to play in preserving and/or documenting these sites, and the artifacts found.

    Difficult dilemmas.

    On a brighter note:
    Happy birthday NWA!
    One of the few blogs I visit on an almost-daily basis.

    As for who else’s birthday?

    My one and only son is 17 today. (I’m hoping he does well on the

    Begbie Canadian History Contest)


  7. Karen L Church, BGS

    To me, the main issues we face in archaeology in this province are being discussed here.
    Yes, I agree that we all “own”, or should have input to archaeology, not just FNs or representatives of FNs. Otherwise, archaeology may be used as a pawn in the development game, like the ancient old growth and other resources. If everyone knew more about the sites there would be more interest in archaeology overall, and then more money would be available to record, research and document. Archaeology is fascinating to most people until they begin to worry about how it may affect their interest. So, I believe the solution includes more archaeological digs open to public view and involvement, and more engaged media to tell the stories.


  8. I while back I made a comment on a guest blog that by George Nicholas that he made on Heather Pringle’s Time Machine (see link below). I have long been concerned that the First Nation strategy to assert exclusive ownership of “their” heritage will alienate and distance the general population from the majority of BC’s heritage.

    I think some of those chickens have come home to roost in the racist and ignorant comments on the CBC story. Its time to find a way for everyone in BC to appreciate all archaeological sites, regardless of cultural origin, as parts of BC’s heritage worthy of protection and study.


  9. It certainly is terribly unfair to private landowners trying to build a private house for their own residence. Especially, as we often see, when the adjacent lots have had recent redevelopment with no cost, even though the same issues were there but never came to government attention.

    The funny thing is, that the people who say that if the government thinks its valuable then the government should pay are the same people that probably supported the old Social Credit govt when it ammended the legislation and ended the practice of the government paying for archaeology when in conflict with private development (there wasn’t enough money to cover a fraction of what was needed, but it WAS done). In those days the philosophy for the new system was called ‘user pay’; this led to a chain of thought that if you could afford a waterfront home, and had the benefit of living there, you could afford to do the archaeology on the shell midden under it too. If you are big-time condominium or hotel/resort developer or mining company, you probably can easily afford it. But families can’t.

    However, the people that complain the loudest and rant about property rights never thought of a mining company coming onto their land for a little exploration (roads, heavy trucks, noise 24×7, drill pads, etc) or an oil and gas company drilling in their backyard. Unless they have the mineral and subsurface rights, they DON’T own whats under the ground. And there is minimal compensation for these cases.


  10. Please re-title the caption for the photo showing the ‘excavation’ in progress which appears to show the foundation of the new house being installed before the archaeological assesment has been completed.


  11. The comments on the CBC site are very ignorant as is the CBC report itself. I’m not sure why I am surprised at the latter as news is generally all “lies and propaganda”. Unfortunately the CBC also treads quickly into the realm of racism without much thought of the consequences. I bet the newscast would be more sympathetic if the site was an ancient hockey rink with ancient pucks and sticks.

    There is a deep history of racism in BC that is inseparable from archaeology and was not mentioned in fieldschool and is hard to reconcile. A Saanich First Nations fellow pointed out to me yesterday that he could remember not being allowed above the car deck on the ferry not that long ago.

    There has been discussion for years amongst the NWC archaeology community about beefing up public awareness about archaeology. I agree with Chris that this needs to start in our public schools. I also like the idea of a simple provincial tax for all developments that can be used to help landowners. There is also the idea of placing covenants on the properties that allow for a property tax break, which I am looking into for sites within the gulf island area as currently property owners can get a tax beak for placing covenants on areas with ecological importance. Also very important for our institutions to create media which captures the attention of the public in a positive way. The visuals and commentary on this site are a step in the right direction….


  12. Karen L Church, BGS

    I am honoured to read these thoughtful comments.
    In response to one of the things brought up in Jim’s comment, It is important I believe to state that many, many people have been oppressed within the colonial environment of decades past. As people work through the settlers guilt, which many archaeologists intimately experience, one MAY eventually come to recognize the oppression that some FNs may have also enacted during the pre-colonial times, and ask further questions of our tendancy to guilt as a motivation. The victim modality has been the operative mode for too long. The “victims” themselves a wallowing in it, incapacitated by it.
    Today, we need to move forward, to able to say that I love archaeology and I have a right to learn from it, because Canada is my home and native land, too.
    The oppressed include the Icelandic settlers, sent out of town to die on the cold shores of the interlake country of Manitoba, unable to cut fire wood effectively having come from a place without wood. The Ukranian settlers…, everyone put their oppressed hand up! Archaeology is a science and much more. It is our responsibility as archaeologists to make sure that the stories are told. haw.aa / Thank-you


  13. Further to Morley’s comment I remember being surprised by the large number of site forms from the 60s and 70s that were initially created on the basis of landowner reports of archaeology sites on their property. I reason that landowners felt free to report sites then because there was low chance of being penalized for doing so -with the possible exception of restrictive covenants. It might also have some basis in a prevailing view that the individual has a role in contributing to the public good which is a little harder to find in our modern communities but that might just be nostalgia on my part.

    The potential for the current policy approach and this kind of inflammatory story to negatively affect archaeological sites is distressing. It creates a fear around this issue and landowners and small developers will go even further underground (ironically).

    So how do we get to a culture of reporting finds and protecting sites? I think the idea of “archaeoology insurance” is actually pretty good…probably easier to implement than a development tax. If a landowner chooses to opt out of such insurance then they accept a risk…mind you it could be hard for some landowners to obtain insurance where a site is know to exist or the potential is high…regardless the idea has merit.


  14. Pooled across all developments in the province, the individual cost of insurance to cover an archaeological survey would be tiny, like a couple of hundred dollars. The government ought to simply mandate the purchase of insurance with a development permit and use the pool to pay for the surveys that need to be done.

    What are the approximate odds that any given property would have archaeological significance anyway? 1:500?


  15. I’ve been working in B.C. Archaeology for a long time and have worked in that general area, so have a bunch of related documents.

    Looking at the original (paper) site form, I see the informant for the site in 1975, when it was first recorded, is the landowner: one J.H. Allix.

    As this is the same last name as the current owners, it strains credulity to think they were not aware of this site, and casts doubt on their version of the story.

    If the CBC reporter has made a cursory attempt I am sure she could have obtained this information in about 20 minutes of work.


  16. and for those who may not know, ‘informant’ on those old site forms meant someone who told you about archaeological remains at a site. So it could be that the landowners had told the archaeologists about it….


  17. BCArchaeologist

    I’ve been asking around the profession and here is what I have found out. And please excuse me, but I feel a rant coming on.

    The $4,000 mentioned in the news item was the cost for the initial impact assessment. It was done under permit. The land owner signed the permit application as did the general building contractor. The contract price for the work was known to the land owner. The work was done on time within budget.

    The outcome of the assessment meant additional work was required, but it was decided the work could be done under an alteration permit without the need for an investigation permit as the site seemed largely disturbed. This reduced the red tape and associated costs for the land owner.

    The $35,000 cost mentioned in the article was consistent with the cost estimate in the contract for work to be done under the site alteration permit. The alteration permit application was signed by the land owners and held on their behalf by their building contractor. The contract was clear. The consultant went out of their way to reduce costs to the owner; they even arranged for the out of town crew to sleep at someone’s house to avoid accommodation costs for the owners.

    If the owners did not read the permit applications and the contracts before they signed them, then that is just too bad for them. Of course, what they want is for the taxpayer to pick up their tab, after going into all of this with full knowledge of the costs and of options to reduce costs. And, according to bottlenose’s information, then they knew about the site for 34 years before their development commenced and thus had lots of lead-in time to work on options and best approaches to developing this lot.

    There is no legal or ethical basis for trying to wriggle out of the costs of this one. They could have sited the house further back on the property and reduced their costs substantially. They could have built on fill and a slab foundation and reduced their costs considerably. They chose not to.

    Sure, it might have to be a different house, but why plan a house with a basement if you know there is a site on your property? And, if you need the square footage, and the lot is not big enough, then local governments are often willing to consider variances in these circumstances.

    And if someone thinks this impingement on their (largely mythical) private property rights is outrageous, they should remember it is no different than if they were building on, for instance, some low lying land subject to flooding risk. A basement would not be allowed and the local government would require the slab to be a certain distance above the 200 year flood level – this is a very common circumstance in BC. Or, if they had to site their house outside the archaeological site boundary, then its just the same as, for instance, the rules to keep development out of the riparian zone.

    This is nothing to do with First Nations or any of the redneck cr*p being spewed in the CBC website comments. Its to do with responsible management of resources that the people of BC, through their legislature, have chosen for protection and management. Just like fish, water quality, air quality, wildlife, flooding zones, or geotechnical hazards from rock fall near cliffs or avalanche chutes. Heritage values fall into the same category because they are important enough to the province to have been protected by legislators.

    The historical perspective is another thing missing from the CBC story. Heritage protection is not new and it is not unique to BC even though the journalist they would like their audience to suppose (indeed it is a necessary component to whip up the frenzy that particular journalist seeks as a matter of course). Heritage protection ccurs in the entire developed world, and much of the rest as well.

    In Colonial BC Indian Burials were protected in the 1860’s prior to confederation with Canada. That legislation was carried over after confederation. In the 1920’s the first Heritage Act was introduced into BC. This was not a product of pressure from First Nations, this was a recognition of the importance of sites to the provincial heritage.

    In about 1960 the modern era of legislation commenced, with protections extended onto private lands. This was done by the Socreds, not some looney tune left wing Indian huggers. Did First Nations people even have the vote in 1960? Surely this was not a response to First Nations pressure either, but again a recognition of the need to preserve BC’s heritage.

    The legislation was again amended and extended in the 1970’s, by the Socreds again. Then the Socreds decided it needed redoing in the 1980’s and launched a major public consultation process with a white paper, community forums travelling the province and so on. I think Kim Campbell led that project, she was later a Progressive Conservative Prime Minister. This process took something like 6 years and resulted in the wording in the current legislation.

    Introduction of the current legislation was delayed, but not by objections from the general public, but rather by objections from First Nations who did not like a number of its provisions which did not give them the control and influence they would have preferred. It was introduced, largely unchanged, in 1994 when the old legislation ran into trouble in the courts and needed to be replaced. Ironically this trouble was the Craig Bay development, just down the street from the current issue.

    Thus, the protections for heritage sites are not some whim of government suddenly dropped in the laps of unsuspecting land owners (“victims” if you believe the CBC). It is a piece of legislation that has evolved and grown with British Columbia society over the past century and a half. It reflects the values of the majority of British Columbians at the different times it was passed. If it did not the legislation would not have been passed and then strengthened and passed again several times by different generations of politicians – all of whom always had an eye on the next election.

    The major multi-year public consultation with British Columbians identified and addressed a wide range of concerns. The current legislation reflects that process, it reflects the values of the larger society. It is an appropriate and important outcome of a healthy democracy.

    So, lets not mess with the legislation. Its not the problem (imperfect as some find it). The problem is that some people face very large costs when building or renovating their home and the government has no mechanism to help them with the cost. This must change for issues like the current one to be avoided.

    Having said that, given what I hear about the circumstance of this current situation, it is not one where the taxpayer should be retroactively footing the bill. The landowner chose to build that house with all the information they needed as to potential costs and ways to reduce them. Their choices, their costs.

    Indeed, there is a pattern here. Most of the people that are in this situation and who turn to the press to scream their outrage prove to have had prior knowledge and involvement with the heritage conservation act. They made choices, reneged on legal contracts and then sought redress from the taxpayer. They find gullible journalists with a nose for a scandal willing to turn a blind eye to facts or lazy enough to take the story on a platter without checking it. The landowners use the press shamelessly, while the journalist is exploiting their situation to sell papers, (I picture them in the 69 position during information exchanges). I have learned to never ever believe what I read in newspapers about these archaeology issues.


  18. Great comments everyone! Thanks.

    bottlenose: thanks for that fascinating little titbit. If the Allix’s did indeed notify the archaeologists about the site in 1975 then this surely changes how their tale of woe should be seen.

    BC archaeologist: Wow. you can leave a comment like that here anytime. That would be “Project Pride” I think you are referring to, the 1980s consultation. DH Mitchell was on that panel. And yes, the history of heritage law and legislation goes back a long way in this province and has been enacted or modified but retained by every government, including Wacky Bennet and Bill “flypicker” vander Zalm. It is a pretty fundamental sign of a civilized society that they have such laws and we do have a very good law in BC – it could use more enforcement of course but the law is fine. The discourse is not fine.

    My take on the CBC story is that this is a reporter whose gig is to do “consumer outrage” pieces, and as such is a roving hit-woman for topics she has a superficial grasp of. I am sure she has moved on to someone who found a slug in their coke by now, but does she appreciate the damage to real history and the hurt to real people that she causes? A loose cannon, indeed.

    On the insurance issue: I might post about this in the next few days, but for now, I can find no jurisdiction or company in the world that offers such a thing. The closest is the development insurance I found against finding contaminated soil (ironically enough, that’s how most of the CBC commentors see archaeology). I have some thoughts on why insurance won’t work for archaeology though it is indeed superficially attractive.

    APM – I agree that a big part of the issue is that aboriginal archaeology is not seen as part of the collective human history and heritage of the province. Some of this is due to an understandable defensiveness on the part of First Nations, who have lost so much already. Some is due to ignorance and racism (can you believe that Vikings came up twice on the CBC comments?). And some is due to an understandable but probably counter-productive movement in the academy to attack all appearances of “cultural appropriation”. Yes, this is an issue, but by creating a PC wall around it the end result is the archaeology is devalued by default and languished in the crossfire of competing economic and political interests while archaeologists, natural allies, have been scared off from “appropriating” indigenous heritage. This is a thorny problem I haven’t really thought through all the way so I am reserving the right to change my mind!

    Dan — good luck to your son!

    Karen and APM — I have never been a fan of “archaeology as a resource” but yes, it has got caught up in the same extraction industry as all other resources in this resource province; the flip side of that is, as you say APM, that the widely accepted rules about positioning houses in relation to riparian zones or natural hazards should also apply to archaeology. No compensation if you bought a house under a cliff….

    Anyway, no new post today for the first time in ages because this post is getting a huge number of readers and I would like it to stay at the top of the page for a day or two.

    Thanks everyone – an eventful birthday!


  19. qmackie, your comment about “archaeology as a resource” should be addressed to Karen and BC Archaeologist, not Karen and APM. While I agree with a lot of BCA’s post, it would be better if I were not confused with that poster. Since you posted at 12:33am, I will forgive your confusion 😉

    Interesting that you mention looking around for insurance information. I too have been looking at that – I did hear something about insurance like that once from a developer in the UK, though I could never fathom how it would work. I have feelers out with UK contacts and if I find out anything will let you know.


    • Oops, well I’ll leave it the way it is or your comment won’t make sense. Yes it was late and I was scrolling up and down what has become a pretty long page.

      Yes, let me know about the UK insurance thing. It’s a hard thing to google for, not least because there is an unrelated branch of the insurance business called “insurance archaeology” which seems to be some kind of historical accounting procedure/reconciliation of old accounts. Fun times. No doubt.


  20. Karen L Church, BGS

    Once I read the comment indicating that the property owners were aware all this time I just shook my head and LOL.
    If we can put aside the various BS witnessed in the media report on the subject, the issue remains who pays and how much archaeology is destroyed or otherwise left unreported due to who must pay.
    BCArchaeologist – Well rounded and the full meal deal. Thanks for that.
    bottlenose – thank-you for your awesome blogging name.


  21. As the property owner in question, I feel I must put some facts straight here.

    My husband and I bought a house and three lots adjoining it in 1965. There was no indication that any heritage site existed then. We sold one of the lots many years ago, leaving two. The house we lived in for 45 years had many stairs, and we were both finding them difficult, so decided to build a new house on one level on one of our lots.
    The comment that we were aware of the heritage designation, either when we bought the property or at any time since is entirely false; we had no idea this was so until we had signed a contract with a builder to build the new house, and we were notified that an archaeological assessment was necessary.
    BCArchaeologist is entirely correct in that the initial impact assessment was done under permit, which was signed by us. It cost a little over $4,000.00, which was paid by us, and covered the coat of digging some test holes, and submitting the report to the Heritage Dept. The report said that although sea mammal bones were found, along with some artifacts, there was little chance human remains would be discovered. In spite of this report, we were told that a more thorough examination had to be carried out before a building permit could be issued. So we had to sign an alteration permit; without it, no house could be built. There was, however, no estimate given to us as to the cost. We knew it would be expensive, but had no idea it would be as much as $35,315.00. In spite of some rather snide remarks that I have represented myself as poor, I have never pretended to be anything other than reasonably placed financially; I am, though, on a fixed income and a very long way from being wealthy, and 35 grand is not a sum I keep in the back pocket of my jeans.
    I have no quarrel with the archaeologists (except for the size of their bill!); they were professional and thorough, and merely carried out what they were mandated to do. If you are hit over the head by somebody wielding a two-by-four, you don’t blame the two-by-four, and I have trouble with the costs of such examinations being the responsibility of the landowner. If anyone – heritage departments, First Nations or anyone else – shows interest in digging for artifacts, surely it is up to them to pay for it?
    The actual heritage site, it turns out, only covers a tiny corner of our lot, but apparently anything within 100 meters of any such site is subject to the same restrictions, so BCArchaeologist’s remark that we could have sited the house on another part of the lot is nonsense. As is his remark about choosing to have a basement – we don’t have one. We do have a crawl space, but the builder told us that any kind of foundation would still entail an archaeological assessment.
    To quote BCArchaeologist: “…….people that are in this situation and who turn to the press to scream their outrage prove to have had prior knowledge and involvement with the heritage conservation act. They made choices, reneged on legal contracts and then sought redress from the taxpayer”.
    I find this insulting. We had no “prior knowledge and involvement” with the heritage conservation act before, nor have we ever reneged on any legal contract. All we did is follow the rules, and look what that earned us – an enormous bill.
    And the suggestion that we, as the landowners, informed anyone about the heritage importance of the site in 1975 is nonsense since we didn’t know that it was.
    This whole thing delayed the construction of the house by several months. My husband was not in particularly good health, and was extremely upset and angry. He died last July, and there is no doubt in my mind that the stress hastened his death. He never got to see his new house


    • Hello Mrs. Allix,

      Thank you for posting and giving your side of the story. I just responded to Tim Allix above, so won’t reiterate the whole thing, but as I said – most of the posters here, and myself in particular for sure – are in agreement that landowners should not be stuck with extraordinary costs associated with archaeology. Their reasoning may not be to save you money, but that the costs may induce a fear of finding an archaeological site on private property and lead to the situation that was very commonly expressed on the CBC website – namely, “if I find a bone I am going to destroy it so what happened to the Allix’s doesn’t happen to me.” So I, for one, agree that we need a society-wide resolution and restructuring of how heritage is protected in this Province.

      I am not engaged in the Cultural Resource Management industry myself, so I can’t speak to the specific points of disagreement with posters which you raise. I hope some of them come back with more information. As I noted above, the specific 1975 document in question probably is on file with the government, the setback regulations would presumably be a matter of public policy, and you yourself must have a paper trail with the consulting archaeologist. So I hope that in the end the full story will come out – as it did not in the CBC piece and apparently it has not yet come out here, either.


      • As is the case with many projects, these archaeology projects generally move forward in phases with options and new estimates presented at the end of each phase. This may be similar to someone providing an estimate for evaluating the condition of your house before you try to sell it (analogous to the impact assessment valued at $4000), at which point recommendations are made and new estimates provided for various scenarios to fix it up to certain specifications. In the case of archaeology, complete avoidance generally means no further work is required (although as Morley points out monitoring may be required). Costs may also be reduced if efforts are made to partially avoid the site, change the design, etc. IN theory, this would have been made clear to property owners after the initial assessment. If it was not then I could certainly understand the shock of receiving the 35000 bill. If you imagine a septic field being inspected with a backhoe etc for a certain fee and then the septic field found to be in need of further work, possibly even moving it entirely, thus bumping the costs dramatically, and a feeling of loss of power over your own land.

        At any point, this is very onerous for most private property owners and that is why people destroy these non-renewable and significant resources on a regular basis.

        These sites are not everywhere, often on very special lands, and some people actually feel privileged to be living on them.

        I hope someone else will have the time today to relate the benefits of archaeology and museums to Mr Allix.


    • Mrs Alex
      To clear one thing up; in my experience the Province usually asks for an AIA to be done if a development is within 50m of a recorded site. But there are usually no further costs (or minimal monitoring perhaps) if there is a portion of a lot that can be built on with no impact to the site.


  22. It just amazes me that people are so quick to label us, I am paraphrasing here, as “wealthy whiners”. As my mother has written elsewhere on this thread, she is well-positioned financially, however some of us in the family are not. In my case, I stand to inherit the neighboring lot, however with my recent education about what lies beneath my lot, the $35k (plus the capital gains on the property, which is another enormous sum of money) that I will have to pay before purchasing my first stick of lumber is a deal-breaker. It means I have to sell the lot and go live somewhere else, because the extra $35k busts my budget, and it would go a long way towards construction costs if I were to build my own house (which was the plan before all of this happened). I also have to disclose to any potential buyer that the lot is an archaeological site, which devalues the lot considerably, again this doesn’t sit well. What started out as a wonderful gift from my parents has become a taunting nightmare right next door.

    As the webmaster of this site has pointed out, “it is possible J.H. Allix (my father) did not think much about, or even remember, the visit by the archaeologists so long ago” but I doubt very much if anyone also told him that if he built on that land that he would have to shoulder the costs to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. I would ask him, but unfortunately he has died.

    There seems to be a broad opinion here that a landowner should at all times be fully informed of all the legal intricacies and bureaucracies that involve their own land. My parents are just normal people who don’t read their land titles documents every morning over breakfast, and their agenda was very innocent and straightforward. Something like, we love it here, we own the land, the stairs are too much, let’s put up a single-level house. Never breaking the rules, they went ahead with the process, and the process became a big tangled-up, bureaucratic mess. That the cost would be $35k was never revealed until months after the construction had been completed, and this also is unforgivable. That figure should have been known before making the decision to build.

    I won’t get into the sacrifices that I personally made to come over here and prop up my mother during her period of grief, and to help her during the move, but let it be said that my sacrifices were considerable.

    From where I stand, all of this might have been prevented if the laws were fair regarding the extraction of heritage material and who pays for it. Who knows, my father might even be alive and enjoying his new house now.


  23. Tim:
    Are you not jumping to a conclusion here regarding your own lot? How do you know it is completely covered with archaeological material? If it is adjacent to your mother’s, it may be similar and have a large part where you could build with no conflict. An AIA (or a slightly less expensive ‘inventory survey’) could identify the areas where you could build unimpeded. This would cost you closer to the $4,500 mark with no followup costs if you built where there was no conflict. Still not cheap but potentially not a deal breaker if bundled with a mortgage.


  24. This whole thing just amazes me and it is quite sad and frustating on how this is all playing out. Mr Allix. It seems to me in the last post you continue to blame everyone but yourself, it seems you failed to get prices up front and only found out months after construction was complete the cost of 35,000, its sounds more like your contractor is at fault for not disclosing to you right away the costs and scope of work. And who in this day and age allows anyone to work or do things without having the costs known up front or at least approx costs. This is why it is dangerous for homeowners to rely on contractors to carry out this obligation. As stated in previous posts maybe you should have looked at a different location to build your house instead of ripping right thru the material that ended up costing you in the end. Simple, and easy then all of this would have never occured in the first place.


  25. Ron Sam, I was not actually involved in the planning process of the construction, but I wish I was as I might have been able to ask some of the right questions. I came onto the scene right after my father died, as I said in the previous post, by which time the dig had been completed and the construction was well under way.

    After I had moved to Parksville, I asked my mother how much the dig was going to cost, and she said nobody had told her. So I asked the contractor and he didn’t know either. I kept up my inquiries with the contractor for a couple months, at which time he finally showed me the bill. After overcoming my shock, I got quite angry and confrontational with the contractor. He then offered to knock off the 15 % that he was planning to tack on to the bill, which was little consolation. The reason that it may appear that I am lashing out is that it started looking like my mother was being exploited, and I wanted to prevent that, as any son would.

    My intent, in case it isn’t clear, is to try to get enough publicity that perhaps the law will be changed so that in the future landowners do not have to bear the burden of the digging. From what I can see as I go through these posts, most of the other writers, no matter what they may think of me or my family, agree that the burden should not be the property owner’s.


  26. Perhaps the MoTCA will read through this and also the Minister responsible.

    I will take up Jim’s “challenge” to express a small amount of the importance of Archaeology. For me, it is about knowing the ancient ways of the humans of the landscape in which I live, to begin to chart a better way forward that respects all of our residents. Even before I moved to the Northern archipelago 20 years ago, I have been deeply fascinated by the ancient art forms of the North West coast, in particular the work of Bill Reid, and its become deeply important to me to understand where that artform comes from in the spiritual sense. In addition to practicing archaeology, I am a student of Haida linguistics and language. These studies help me to understand and respect the landscape and the spirituality (and I am condensing this description for sake of time) of pre-colonial times in this place. My archaeological survey work began with culturally modified tree inventories on the Queen Charlotte Islands and is now moving into landscape archaeology, by which I mean interpretation of ancient pathways that have not been used for decades, and identification of archaeological sites associated with these ancient modes of travel and low-to-no negative impact resource extraction.

    Even in a less developed area like where I live here on the Charlottes, we have this issue with who pays, and for that matter, who “owns” and who will best protect the rights to understand, interpret, and practice archaeology.

    As I noted in the first comment to this post, payment for required surveys and mitigation by the developer / property owner is a problem for people and archaeology on at least a couple of levels, and this issue has brought out the need for more media involvement in this profession. If our government(s) is protecting these sites for perpetuity, then certainly there should be some movement forward to understanding the meaning of them, for all who pay into this. Otherwise, archaeology will, as we see in this case, be thought of as a useless thing; simply a costly and financially detrimental aspect of development with no benefits to anyone.

    Archaeology is part of our economy in BC, in the form of National and Historic sites, protected parks and conservancies. It seems to me that we will depend more on this “resource” economically in future. Thanks


  27. Oh believe me Mr. Allix your intent is very clear, and all’s I have to say is good luck…


  28. Thank you for the thoughtful discussion with a tone that is very different from the one on the CBC site.

    I can provide a more recent example where I think critical information was lacking. My family recently bought a property on a Gulf Island. At the time of purchase we were informed that there was a midden that extended for about 5o ft from the high water line. We were sent the archeological records and I called the BC Archeology Branch and was I told that it would not hinder future development. The sites is in the set back zone so all sounded good and we purchased the property. Now one year later another inquiry to BC Archeology and now I am informed “we really cannot be sure the extent of the site that needs protection so impact assessment may need to be much more extensive. This would have been nice to know before purchase. Also one of the previous comments in the blog indicates that development within 50 m of a protected site would likely need the involvement of an archeologist. In my review before deciding to purchase this information was not to be readily available. Partial disclosure can be worse than no disclosure.

    The buildings on our property are old with one being over 100 years old. It is a wonderful recreational property and we love it dearly. We intend to move to the island with family of two young children on a permanent basis. For this to happen we would need a new house (existing one does not have proper foundations), new septic system – all problematic now if impact assessments are necessary as budgets are limited. Even when trying to be inform before purchasing it is hard to get the necessary information – should we employ archeologist as part of due diligence before deciding to purchase. One outcome could be that properties like ours remain in the never-never land of recreational properties and this will limit the growth of thriving, sustainable communities on smaller gulf islands.

    History and heritage is important to me and is certainly part of the appeal of our hoped for future home. I am not sure what the solution is. Use these developments as a training ground for new archeologist, might work for some. Not sure that the tax payers should cover AIA so that I can get a sceptic field, a subsidy would help. Perhaps reduced property taxes or provincial tax assessment to help in the protection of heritage sites. Keeping cost low by having an archeologist on site during a slower construction excavation phase on the understanding that all would stop at the first sign of uncovering something important (lets better define what is important ).

    I empathize with the Allix family, I was partially informed which can be as bad as not being informed. The publicity surrounding there situation has been an important eye-opener for me.


    • Hi Kanga,

      Thanks for your comment and your informative and revealing personal experience.

      I am by no means qualified to speak to the areas of policy you raise. I do agree that the landowners should not be assigned an undue burden, although having some burden is in line with all the other kinds of restraints on propert development that do not seem to raise the ire of the emotional CBC commentors!

      When you say “proper foundations” and so forth — has there been consultation about what these might be? Houses can be built entirely above ground in many cases with limited ground disturbance and how this then affects the archaeological site I can’t say, but it might be there is a design solution to your problem.

      The “training young archaeologists” option that people raise is not realistic – apart from anything else, if we train all these people on projects that are then not being done by companies, why do we need any trained archaeologists at all? There would be no industry, and university capacity would have to expand by about one thousand percent (literally) in order to accomodate the amount of private archaeology that now occurs, and someone will still need to pay for it to happen – perhaps more when the academics get involved and refuse to compromise.

      The archaeologist-on-site model you describe does happen routinely, called “monitoring”.

      I think the bottom line though, is that some kinds of development will never be possible in some places on tops of some sites. In such cases, compensation may be called for. However, while the government can indeed give compensation (by buying the land or swapping for it) it has made the decision not to do so except in some extraordinary cases — I am aware of about 7 cases in the last 30 years. I think it would take a political sea change to alter this ideology, and judging by the CBC comments and the thumbs-up they received, this is not in the air right now. It is indeed ironic that the CBC commenters were asking for government intervention and a government solution to this problem – while it is indeed a provincial law (hence arguably the will of the people) people do seem to accept restrictions about nearness of construction to riparian zones, or floodplains, or cliffsides, or even such restrictions as height and setback, they are reluctant to adhere to similar restrictions stemming from archaeology. The Allix case has already faded from the news and those of us in the profession will see another one in a year, then another year — these are routine media events with, seemingly, never a generalized solution – hence the rush to cynical judgment on the part of some.

      In this regard, then, there is a big job to do so that people feel less afraid, and more celebratory, about the archaeological record.


  29. Thank you for your comments and insight. I certainly agree with your comments – at the risk of sounding cliche – we don’t really own anything, we just look after it for a while. I prefer this sentiment to the one from a contributer to the CBC website who referred to “a mans home is his castle” as a justification for a form of anarchy.

    You mentioned riparian – we are adjacent to one of them as well. This certainly increases our anxiety but at the same time makes our location that much more special and worthy of protection.

    Our existing cottage is old and would not be suitable for a permanent home. The foundations are post and pad which impacted the type of mortgage we could get and earthquake insurance was not possible, plus there is rot in the posts. Whatever we build will need foundations. Plan B will be have a smaller house and to use the same footprint so that disturbance will be minimal. Need to be philosophical, life is all about compromise.


    • I am preparing a list of “why insurance isn’t the answer” but your comment does point to an interesting possible/partial remedy. If getting earthquake insurance is an impediment to heritage conservation, then perhaps the government could, indeed, offer such coverage itself or somehow encourage private insurance companies to offer it to people in your situation. The cost would be marginal in the short term (which seems to be the political scale of relevance) and if the Big One does hit then you’re covered and the government is cleaning up a big mess anyway.

      A similar argument could be made about the mortgage.

      What I mean is, the political will to bail out the Allix’s post-hoc is hard to find. But encouraging heritage conservation through closely-targeted, cheap government intervention to allow building codes, mortgages, insurance etc. to work around this kind of property constraint seems do-able and do-able now.


  30. Further to my comment, Kanga, it seems to me that you really should contact the Archaeology Branch again, preferably the person you spoke to first. It would be completely reasonable to ask for clarity about the discrepancy in information you were given. It might well be that if you were to hire an archaeologist for a walkover it would help you know where you stand, and you’d be much better able to plan your new house optimally and with confidence in relation to the archaeological record. An ounce of preventation and all that – but starting with the Archaeology Branch and asking for clearer information would be in line and normal – and I actually think they would like to hear from you proactively, and work towards a consensual outcome, rather than another disputatious series of events!

    I should also add it is very welcome to hear from a landowner who, despite legitimate concerns about the possible impact an archaeological site might have to their use and enjoyment of property, is also able to express concern and appreciation for the cultural heritage under the surface. I hope future readers who come across these posts will take note of the simultaneous concern and respect I detect in your comments!


    • Thank you qmackie for the advice. I thought I should report back that I did follow up on your recommendation. I sent an email to the Archeology Branch asking why I got mixed messages. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the person that I spoke with before purchasing the property. It seems likely now that I did not provide the exact address but made my question more generic – like I am considering the purchase of a property and it has a midden – the response was stay off the midden and all will be OK. This is of course true, but in our particular case we were told, in the recent enquiry, (that now included the address) that the exact boundaries were unknown. So first message – when contacting the Archeology Branch with a question – be specific on the address.

      The response from the Archeology Branch to my email of last week was very fast and informative and as predicted there was the suggestion that an Archeological Impact Assessment was needed to determine the extent of the midden. I followed up on the authors suggestion and phoned for a more detailed conversation. We talked for about 30 minutes and I now I have a much better understanding of the process and the specific issues that might relate to my property. For example, probably not very wise to put a house on a midden if you want it to have a chance of surviving an earthquake. The process of an AIA now seems less onerous and yes I am still anxious about what might be uncovered but to be honest if the location is treasured by my family it is not surprising to know that it has had similar appeal back into antiquity. I can certainly encourage others to make the call to the Archeology Branch and to do it as early as possible. As they explained to me they are there to provide advice and it is for free.

      In spite of all this and, speaking as someone with some experience in Information Technology, it is certainly not beyond the capacity of the government to link archeological records to title documents so that all relevant information is available when considering a purchase. I was told about the easement on the property but not that there was a midden of unknown dimension (an easement under the property) that could have a significant impact on our future modest goals. As is often the case the efforts of many knowledgeable and well intentioned people is hampered by the ineffective systems that they have to work with.

      So my goal now is to get that Archeological Impact Assessment to determine the extent of the midden. It has also been suggested that I ask for quotes from three individuals (companies) who are registered with the Archeology Branch. Apparently it is important to check with the Archeology Branch to establish that archeologists are actually registered.

      I am happy to report back on my experiences in the hope that it will be helpful to others. Someone said to me in a discussion of this topic that forewarned is forearmed and that seems pretty good advice to me. I would rather know now about the issue and plan in accordance rather than get a big surprise after being committed to a particular course of action. From my perspective there have already been lots of lessons learned, particularly from the comments in this blog. Might take some months but happy to report back.


      • Hi kanga,

        Thanks for the follow-up information. I’m glad that there is some clarity emerging and fingers crossed that via dialogue and exploring all options early you can have a good outcome of a great house in a great place with minimal disturbance to archaeology. I think your comments will be read by many here, and will certainly help some strangers as they become aware of the relationship between their land and the archaeological record of the province.

        If you do get three quotes, be sure to evaluate them carefully, you might get what you pay for and saving a few hundred up front might or might not come back to bite you later. Size of company is also not a guarantee of quality of work: some of the best archaeologists run a small, personal shop (Boutique Archaeologists!!) in which you have the full attention of the Principal. On the other hand, not all the Boutique Archaeologists are of the same experience or nuance.

        Other more in-the-know readers are welcome to chip in here as well…..


  31. For those still following the story, the Mossback columnist at Seattle’s “Crosscut” website/blog/newspaper covers this story today from a Washington State perspective, including some interviews and thoughtful commentary on how things might unfold down there and a view on the events here as well. Worth checking out.

    (Mossback by the way, has covered a lot of great archaeology stuff over the past few years and I have a bunch of his columns on my list of things to link to….)


  32. Pingback: Archaeology: Not in my backyard! | Seattle News

  33. I just saw that “A News” has their news coverage of this story on youtube, worth a look.


  34. re: A-Channel News video

    Wow… a news story advocating the wanton and illegal destruction of archaeological sites on provincial land with no other perspectives offered…

    Another case of very pathetic reporting and another ‘triumph’ for the land owner’s self-defeating media campaign blitz.

    Tim might consider some self-reflection on his statement about who pays for archaeology:
    “The person paying that should be the person who want the artifacts out of the ground”


  35. The problem is public education on archaeology, and I recognize the issue with too much info on it, too. However, I think we have the potential loose a lot if we do not get on to this . There are many other examples of this kind of thing going on in Canada. Public education on the value of archaeology is something that is being looked at by the CAA, and they may set up a committee on this topic. I am concerned that archaeology is not taught in any fashion at our schools. The Manitoba Archaeological Society has a small book for teaching archaeology to young students, and perhaps we need to start getting more books like this out there for the schools to use. Thank-you for ongoing dialogue.


  36. The Act provides for property value loss compensation but the language firmly establishes that lost value is the only thing the government may disburse for in the matter of property that has been deemed an archaeological heritage site under the Act. Nothing for the cost of the excavating and sifting, that’s all heaped onto the hapless innocent land owner. Not to mention the moonscape the diggers leave behind when they are done.
    While I have the greatest respect for archaeology and I support the preservation of artifacts, the fact remains and hasn’t apparently changed, that a titular British Columbia property owner who has come by his property through the sweat of his brow, might discover to his or her dismay that he or she is unwittingly in a lottery not of his choosing or fore knowledge. The moment he wants to build something on it the owner just might find that, ta daaah!! The land might be deemed to have archaeological significance and thus be declared a First nations heritage site, and by opening this pandoras box by being so brash as to try to build. When that happens, as many archaeologists as someone else deems necessary will descend on his or her property and dig for as long and as hard as they wish, all on the unfortunate property owners dime!
    It’s not a matter of someone being stupid and buying land that has archaeological significance, the land may have been owned since before this Act.
    It’s not a matter that someone trying to build a house must therefore be rich and well able to afford the misfortune of the onslaught of a bunch of archaeological diggers writing their own paycheques on his head, the whole enterprise might be mortgaged to the max with little left for surprizes.

    Suggestions that all victims of this poorly thought out Act are wealthy and soulless developers, is an insult to common working people who are trying to reap the well earned reward of their labours and build themselves a home to live in.
    I don’t care about it in my ‘back yard’, I don’t see why it should all come out of my savings, or through a loan that I will have to try for!
    Why does the Act punish the owner for something he has no control over nor knew was going to happen?


    • Consulting archaeologists are not digging as long as they wish, they operate under a number of financial & temporal constraints, including ethical and professional standards and requirements. Consulting archaeologists and provincial officials and First Nations also recognize the difference between individual landowners and developers and the relative burden archaeological mitigation has. The onus is however, on both developers and property owners to not think about archaeological sites as an afterthought in their design plans or become intransigent about those plans once an archaeological site has been discovered. Rather, they need to be ready to consider a re-design that minimizes ground disturbance in certain areas of their property. Land owners who are “hapless” or “innocent” as you say will have many many more challenges (financial and otherwise) whether or not there is an archaeological site on their property in this regard.


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