Willows Beach Site Controversy

Archaeological site DcRt 10, Willows Beach, at 2072 Esplanade Avenue, in 2007. Source: Bruce Stotesbury, Timescolonist.com

Sorry for the lack of recent updates everyone, and also for jumping in with a “feel-bad” story, but since the Willows Beach site (DcRt-10) takes up a decent chunk of the most expensive waterfront near me,  I was interested to read the coverage of a recent court judgment with an archaeological focus.  The Times-Colonist‘s coverage is notable for an egregious misrepresentation in their opening sentence:

“An Oak Bay woman who built a house on an unregistered aboriginal midden has had her bid to recoup $600,000 from the provincial Archeology Branch struck down.”

This is true only for meanings of “unregistered” which include “a site recorded since approximately 1965, and subsequently the object of dozens of archaeological studies, including at least two on that very lot”.  Sheesh.

The Times-Colonist (pdf) and Vancouver Sun (pdf) both print the same article, the Globe and Mail (pdf) a different one which adds some useful detail.  The Sun is notable for having comments from readers, which are mostly depressing, but perhaps understandably so given the flawed articles as discussed below.  The Globe is notable for having tracked down Ila Willerton’s recent M.A. thesis on the site – a sign of journalistic initiative even if their story is also problematic.

The coverage, which is badly flawed, indicates that an elderly homeowner has lost her appeal over the process underlying an archaeological impact assessment on her property at 2072 Esplanade in Oak Bay, which is an affluent suburb of Victoria (map).  The story goes that she bought the property from her parents, the longtime owners.  She had the house removed and sought to build a new one.   The story implies she paid up over $600,000.00 (!!) for archaeological work, and was seeking a judgment for reimbursement, which was denied, although the judge was sympathetic:

In a decision made public Monday, Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick agreed with the arbitrator but said she has “great sympathy” for Mackay. “She and her late husband bought this property without any knowledge of its history and the potential impact of the Heritage Conservation Act on the property and her rights to develop a home on the property,” Fitzpatrick said. Mackay simply wanted to build a home “and was met not only with having to satisfy the usual development requirements, but also extensive, lengthy and expensive requirements under this act too,” she said. (Globe and Mail)

As I understand it, from the Globe and Mail article linked above, the owner had gone to arbitration and lost, and in so doing had agreed to forego her right to appeal.  The new decision reflects this legality, not the pros and cons of the actual dispute:

Ms. Mackay had argued in her original lawsuit that the archaeology branch incorrectly applied the Heritage Conservation Act, requiring far more extensive archaeological testing than necessary. She also argued the dispute constituted a nuisance – a legal claim that someone has interfered with the use and enjoyment of another’s property.  (…) Judge Fitzpatrick noted the law limits when an arbitrator’s decisions can be overturned, restricting such appeals to cases in which there are significant errors in applying the law. This case, Judge Fitzpatrick said, did not meet that standard.  (Globe and Mail)

The take home message for the casual reader is that citizens are getting screwed by archaeologists, that the government is pandering to First Nations, that property rights are under threat, and that the Provincial government, by not registering archaeological sites on title and by requiring citizens to pay the costs, is engaged in an underhanded displacement of costly responsibility.  I think that message is wrong, and carries unfortunate echoes of the recent Englishman River fiasco.

I haven’t done the research to really nail down what happened here, so I’ll just list a few questions that arise and maybe if there are any readers of this blog left they can chip in with some clarification.

1. Was the homeowner asking for reimbursement for the archaeological impact assessment or was she asking for damages for “nuisance”, legal fees or other items?

2. The issue matters because the reimbursement amount sought being mentioned in all the media coverage is a sizeable chunk of change: $600,000.00.

3. If it isn’t, then that is some serious misleading reporting.

4. If this is the actual cost of systematic data recovery for a single city lot, I am flabbergasted. Holy &%$#, I’m generally familiar with the results and find it hard to comprehend where the $600,000.00 went.  Think about it: that’s close to the $750,000 that the lot and house together sold for in 2005.

5. But with that in mind, presumably the homeowner signed a contract with the archaeologist which included a budget, thereby agreeing to the work scope and cost.  Why is this not reported?  This was the most under-reported aspect of the Englishman River case, as I recall.

6.  How can Oak Bay mayor Chris Causton be taken seriously when he says things like (from the Vancouver Sun):

“The homeowner becomes wholly responsible for all the costs but has no control over the expenditures or management of the project,” he said. Oak Bay is facing similar issues with new separate sewers in the Uplands, meaning residents there would be required to pay to connect that sewer.”We have no idea what the budget ramifications are from these heritage regulations,” Causton said. “It means that we’re unable to budget. And if we’re unable to budget, Oak Bay’s inclination is not to do it.”   [editor’s hint: to budget, you get cost estimates from professional archaeologists]

I mean, the Archaeology Branch has been liaising with municipalities specifically to educate councils like Oak Bay about this very issue – an issue about which, by reputation, Oak Bay has been one of the least co-operative and proactive in the province.  The issue might not have arisen with a bit of guidance and leadership from the entity which issues building permits in Oak Bay.  Pleading ignorance no longer flies, Your Worship.

7. Though I don’t necessarily disagree with him when he continues “And the province needs to step in and manage these projects. They need to take some responsibility for some of the cost control.”  Yes, the underlying issue is not one of communication only, it is one of fairness that the Province has downloaded all costs to homeowners instead of seeing archaeology as a collective treasure for all British Columbians.  Am I agreeing with the Mayor that we do, in this instance, need more and bigger government?!

8.  Does anyone have the legal judgment or the arbitrator’s decision, or know where they can be found?  Update: thanks to a little birdie for sending me Judge Fitzpatrick’s decision here (see comment below as well)

Anyway, I feel like I need more information to make sense of this story – and if I need that, then the public needs that so, so much more than I do.  My hunch is it is partially due to poorly informed reporting.  Now, that is not necessarily a knock on journalists – the Globe notes “Ms. Mackay, her lawyer and the province’s archaeology branch could not be reached for comment.” The former two I can understand, but surely the Archaeology Branch could have coughed up a statement on this story, especially considering one of the managers there wrote a thesis on DcRt-10 – in fact his excavations are reported by Willerton (2009:18) to have been on a parcel now known as  . . . .  2072 Esplanade Ave.

That aside, should the branch issue a press release clarifying matters – or have they?  The fact is, archaeology is losing the battle of public opinion in this province – as seen in the Vancouver Sun’s comments section.  Willows Beach is one of the most threatened major, urban village sites in the province.  While it would be nice to have better journalism, no one has a greater responsibility to address the public with accurate, accessible information about Cultural Resource Management than the Archaeology Branch itself.

26 responses to “Willows Beach Site Controversy

  1. I work in the building supplies business on the Sunshine Coast. As an “avocational archaeologist,” I’m pretty interested in what happens with sites here and have gone to great lengths to protect them — even calling in the Branch (fairly useless, by the way) and the RCMP on occasion. But a recurring theme with site protection is homeowners/builders either saying they looked the other way or *would* look the other way if anything indicated their building site showed First Nations activity. They simply don’t understand the importance of this — which brings us back to poor education of the public.

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    • Mike,

      I am conducting a coastal heritage erosion study in the Sechelt Vicinity and would love to get in touch with you to chat about your experiences. If you are interested, please contact me at richhutchings(at)hotmail.com

      Thanks, Rich

      Like

  2. Glad to see you posting again, hope it is not an anomaly.

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  3. Hello all,
    This is such a sad and crazy piece of journalism and the Mayor of Oakbay has sure put our Nation on notice. I was involved in this project from start to finish as our Nations Field worker and i must say that this story just doesnt make sense and it is being used to put Archaeology further down the list of importance and I dont get it?? The Arch Branch needs to speak up on this issue and let people know that such renegade attitudes like the Mayors arent going to be tolerated anymore. I could go on but will leave it at that for now as Iam heading out the door for work. But am open to anyone contacting me if they want to hear the true story of what happened at our Willows Beach Village Site. you can contact me at rdsam@shaw.ca anytime.

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  4. Mike – I agree that the fallout from cases like this may well be people looking the other way (often in violation of the Heritage Conservation Act, it should be said). This was discussed at length in the comments of the Englishman River post I referenced above and remains a huge problem which has, at its root I would argue, the disconnect between First Nations history and the perception of what constitutes valuable heritage in the mental map of the typical settler.

    JamesK – I might post once or twice a week, I’ll see how it goes. Thanks for your note.

    Hi Ron. From what I have gleaned since I posted, I am even more convinced that a serious investigative journalism inquiry into this matter would produce a story bearing very little relation to the one printed.

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  5. I updated the post to link to the judge’s decision disallowing the appeal of the arbitrator’s finding.

    It’s a dense little read, but the conclusions are of wide interest to archaeologists and might be considered a shot across the bow of the archaeological profession (government and consulting) or even an invitation or roadmap for legal action by other landowners. It might warrant a full post here in due course but for now here are two sections which caught my eye:

    35] Similarly, I would have concluded that the point of law was of general or public importance under s. 31(2)(c) of the Act, since the issue concerns whether public decisions of this kind, which are made for the common good, are appropriate to negatively affect a landowner’s rights of use and enjoyment of his or her land. The interpretation and application of the Heritage Conservation Act certainly affects not only Ms. Mackay, but the rights of other landowners in this province who may similarly own lands having heritage value.

    [36] Finally, but for the question of law issue, I would have found that the appeal had sufficient substance to warrant an appeal. As stated by counsel for Ms. Mackay, the issues in this appeal would have addressed the intersection and conflict of two very different but important concepts: firstly, protecting the interests of the public by statutory authority by ensuring the research and preservation of items of heritage value; and secondly, protecting the interest of a private landowner in having the right to control and enjoy her own property as she wishes, without interference from the state and without the state requiring that the landowner fund activities on the land in what can only be described as a public interest endeavour.

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  6. Glad to see you posting again!

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  7. Another short and also confusing news piece from CTV.ca :

    Snippets:

    There was nothing on the land title to indicate the property had any archeological significance and it wasn’t registered as a heritage site, but when Mackay’s architect checked with the provincial government, he was told the property was still a protected site.

    Really? the architect was the one who checked with the province? Why on earth didn’t this arise when the property was sold to MacKay? Surely “due diligence” in land conveyance requires a check of all possible burdens on the property, and the Heritage Conservation Act is not a deep secret – many realtors mention it on their web sites, for example.

    The province’s archaeology branch required Mackay to hire archeologists to conduct a series of extensive tests, which she says delayed the construction of her home by nearly a year and cost between $500,000 and $600,000 dollars.

    I would still like to know if this was the actual cost of the archaeology or if it includes secondary issues like a “loss of pleasure” from the inability to put in an underground hot tub, or something like that? Or, as I note above, lawyers fees and whatnot. Where does this 600k figure come from? The archaeologists would probably have a confidentiality agreement not to disclose the fee without permission of client. Could the media please say where numbers like that come from and verify them via a little journalism, please?

    Edit: ok I see that in the Fitzgerald judgment, the following (no reading comprehension awards for me):

    (s.7) ” In addition, she contends that she has suffered losses in the range of $500,000 to $600,000, being either direct costs associated with the s. 14 permits or indirect costs associated by the delay and increased cost of construction in her attempts to avoid or minimize the impact of the Act.”

    That is still a huge amount of money. Google street view doesn’t show a house on stilts or anything like that.

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  8. 600,000.00 bucks is over 120% of actual costs incurred for professional archaeological services. Contrary to the original article, the “archaeologists’ salaries” remain unpaid.

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  9. Correction…over 1200% of actual costs incurred. Forgot a zero.

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  10. yes quentin a whole lot of other expenses are being lumped into this figure like her lawyers and the design change of her house to prevent further impacts to the Archaeology. Extra machinery costs due to how she choose to build her house by driving piles etc… is another cost, if its broken down archaeology would barely reach 100,000. Songhees also helped out Ms Mackay in saving her money where we could, like dumptruck loads of unexamined midden being trucked to our reserve because she just wanted to spread it around her flower beds and we said no way once human remains became involved so we took it on at no cost to her and it was our people that processed the material at no cost also. Ms Mackay also bought this property from her father and it was her father that made some of the early reports to the arch branch about this property in the 70’s. This property and project was a mess from the beginning due to Ms Mackays attitude towards us and the Archaeology, this project was the only time I actually had to stand in front of a big machine and say no way you arent going any further. Despite all we went through at this site we still helped her out in the end and saved her from incurring alot more costs. And yes the last I had heard none of the Arch Companies have seen a dime from this project. She knew what she was gettiing into and she kept signing the contracts with the Consultant so how can she claim she didnt know etc… its crazy and frustrating.

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    • Ron, thanks so much for your perspective on this. It is really awful these ‘news’ organizations seem to have regurgitated inaccuracies to fitting a predefined storyline.

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  11. Thanks “trowel” – that means the landowner was asking for about 12 times the actual costs of the archaeology? One the one hand, I can see $50,000 being more typical for a deep shell midden data recovery project, on the other, the Globe and Mail clearly leads with “A British Columbia woman who spent more than a half-million dollars on archeological tests….” Could one really add up ca $550,000.00 of non-direct archaeological costs? Sometimes plaintiffs in other cases ask for a huge amount in the hope of settling for less. I wish the accounting of the costs was public – and maybe it should be, since the landowner was asking taxpayers to pay the bill.

    Ron – that’s interesting. I’m sorry, but unsurprised, there were human remains involved. Surely everyone who lives on Esplanade knows their houses are on top of a cemetery? All credit to the Songhees for going the extra mile.

    Also, if the parents had interacted with archaeologists in the 1970s then that has a weird parallel with the Englishman River case, where it turned out that those owners, who claimed ignorance of the site under their lot were listed as the informant on the 1975 site form!

    As for the archaeologists not being paid yet – that’s news to me. It would be useful if archaeologists could put liens on property in such cases, much like many other contractors can. Or, maybe they can, or maybe the BCAPCA should look into obtaining that power….

    Well, the more I hear, the more I realize these newspaper stories don’t pass the smell test!

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  12. Glad to see you back online!

    I find myself thinking that as shoddy as the journalism on stories like this (or Englishman River) is, it does serve to illustrate the facts that we work in an imperfect system, and that the level of education about that system in the general public is astonishingly low.

    Would it really be that difficult to implement a system whereby purchasers of property would be automatically notified if there is a known site on the land?

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    • Drew – hi, it’s a whole ‘nother story, but the BC government did initiate, with quite a lot of fanfare, a process to place notice of known archaeological sites onto land title.

      The archaeology branch has directly addressed this, for example in this memo:
      http://www.cbc.ca/bc/news/bc-100420-archaeological-digs.pdf
      “• The Province has examined the challenge of placing archaeological information on land title and found that this idea would not be effective approach because:
      o The information the ministry has does not cover all possible sites that may exist in the province, so the absence of a notation on title would not guarantee the absence of archaeological value requiring protection.
      o There are limitations in compiling this information since much of it is still on paper maps and has not been digitized, and may not be detailed enough to correlate with modern subdivision plans.

      The Archaeology Branch process went a long way down that road (and spent a lot of money) before it was decided that it was not viable. I’m not sure exactly why, but there are some general principles that could have underlain that decision (all predictable, in my opinion)

      Archaeologically, this would introduce the issue of defining site boundaries by a simple polygon that could be overlain property lines. As the government says, very few archaeological sites are known to that degree of precision – and the very premise of precise boundaries raises the question of “what is a site?”, a non trivial question in archaeological theory, if not law). Many of the sites in the existing government database do not have accurately plotted boundaries – that is, a field map from 1975, say, may not be accurately geo-located, even if the boundaries were accurate in the first place. The prospect of cleaning up the paper record went some way, but ultimately in many cases this would involve additional fieldwork, at considerable expense. And, of course, not getting a notice on land title would not in any way be a guarantee there was no site on your property which had the potential to create a lot of confusion.

      Politically, imagine tens of thousands of landowners, especially influential owners of waterfront properties, getting a letter in the mail informing them of an encumbrance on their property. As we’ve seen, it just takes one irate landowner and one superficial newspaper story to make a fair little stink.

      All this aside, I do think the Archaeology Branch could do a much better job of getting the message out that “due diligence”* in property conveyance includes checking for known archaeological sites or for their probability. If they did this proactively, and not in the middle of a tempest in a teapot such as this case, then their message might be heard. Further, obtaining a building permit, usually a municipal affair, should trigger the same diligence. And, a series of TV ads or something saying, “if you own property, check with the archaeology branch” could be a good idea.

      Getting the different levels of government to work togethe is a challenge I know the Branch is working on. (And doing it without adding a whole bunch of new fees which can be a deterrent, would be best in my opinion).

      *due diligence seems to be one of those usefully ambiguous phrases. Far better would be to make it explicit in law that applications for building permits and changes of titles of land must have the archaeological values openly and transparently considered at that time. The government could do this tomorrow through changes to legislation, if it wanted.

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  13. I find it difficult to identify what angers me more: the rapacious, over-litigious attitude and dishonesty of the landowner, the abysmal reporting, or the ignorance and bigotry that comes out of the comments on the Sun article. I think the golden raspberry goes to the reporting in this instance. An “unregistered midden” that has been the subject of such intensive study (two theses?) indeed! It would seem that we need some sort of Wikileaks-esque site where people who are knowledgable about a poorly/falsely/wrongly reported news story can post a rebuttle (aka. a smackdown), and that the keywords from the original story will result in the Wiki article popping up in the top two or three google options. Also, the factual site could be linked to in the comments section of the news article. That would sort of put journalists’ feet to the fire, if they knew that their facts would be checked and their stories mercilessly (and publicly) crushed if they print crap like this. We could call it http://www.wikijournalistsgetyourgoddamnfactsstraightorelse.com.

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    • Hi nwaber,

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t think it is fair to say the landowner is “dishonest”. There might be an argument made on current facts that they were “sloppy” but I personally would not want to read more into it than that at the moment.

      The idea of a wikileaks for archaeology is interesting. I mean, a lot of archaeology is legitimately confidential (location of human remains, for example) and leaks can be of any type for any motivation. I doubt this case has reached its final resolution. I am also still curious if records of the arbitration process are publically available. I feel they should be, since one of the parties to the process is the Provincial Government. It would make an interesting read and as you point out, serious journalism, if they engaged with this story, could probably make a series of actually informative stories on the macro-issue of who pays for archaeology in this province.

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      • I was thinking less wikileaks for archaeology (seems like http://www.lootmysiteandsellthe artifactsontheinternet.com would be a good domain name there), but rather a wiki watchdog for journalism. I am confident that we (archaeologists) are not alone in having facts skewed (and non-facts spewed) in the press, and that having some sort of forum -other than the quagmire of news site comment boards- where people who are either involved in the story or are particularly knowledgable on the subject can wade in and set things straight. The wiki format seems most appropriate as, in the case of wikipedia, it lends itself well to source citation and crowd-sourced editing. The model may fail if a posse of neocolonialists take it upon themselves to re-edit any page that asserts rights for First Nations, supports archaeological investigations, etc., but hopefully sound site administration could prevent that.

        I suppose my initial call for a wikileaks-esque site was based more on the idea that the presence/threat of wikileaks may force governments, corporations, etc. to toe the line a bit more closely lest they be embarrassingly outed in a public forum. This would provide that stick, but for news agencies.

        Here’s a link (a real one this time) to a cartoon that seems tangentially appropriate: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1623#comic

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  14. I like, many others found myself wondering what the 600,000 was spent on. That’s a decent budget for geological, much less archaeological investigation.

    I would suggest that someone contact Sandra Mculloch at the victoria times colonist and at least point her to this blog post. The article was one-sided, wildly innaccurate and unfair, and we as archaeologists, have a duty to keep the journalist honest.

    At the very least it should be pointed out that the archaeology was only 1/6th of the cost, and that the archaeologists bent over backwards to keep costs down.

    That alone would make so much critiscism die down.

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  15. nwaber – excellent cartoon!

    I see what you mean about leaks and wikis as ways of getting information out. I think shorter term, it wouldn’t be out of place for the Archaeology Branch to issue a statement of fact as they did for the Englishman River case (the cbc.ca PDF I linked a few comments up). The Branch could say, they were asked to reimburse xx$ for actual costs of digging and yy$ for redesign and zz$ for being a nusiance, or whatever the case may be. Making the basic facts public could not in any way be seen as somehow prejudicing future court actions; they should be a matter of public record; and serious journalists should be digging for it if it isn’t provided.

    FOI request, perhaps?

    CamArchGrad – but to play devil’s advocate for a moment – 1/6th, or $100,000, for the archaeology of a single city lot is, from the outside, almost unbelievable and will be no comfort to the average citizen. Clear and precise information about how much and why is needed by citizens who may be watching and reading and thinking, holy #$%#, $100k.

    I would be.

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  16. I know, $100,000 is no small change. But it’s more than the cost. It’s how this story has been spun as a heartless buearocracy coming down on the poor helpless citizen. It’s frustrating looking at the cumulative effect of such negative publicity does to the people who are on both sides of the equation. Developers and home owners feel hugely imposed, while archaeologists ( and archaeological sites) bear the brunt of this discontent. Perhaps we can at least put this in perspective, even $100,000 can’t be a run of the mill site investigation.

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    • You and I may know this but the sticker shock in the general public must be incredible.

      Let’s say you are planning a new house and are thinking of the nice things you can have, outside of the basic cost of construction, which will make a new house a “dream house”:

      fancy new washer and dryer: $3,000
      granite countertops: $5,000
      woodstove: $7,000
      hardwood floors: $10,000
      oak kitchen cabinets: $20,000
      slate shower stall: $10,000

      total budget: $55,000

      Oops, archaeology: – $55,000

      budget for nice things: $0.00

      Seriously, if the landowner is spending 55,000 on archaeology for a single (waterfront) city lot (which is a number I just made up for Esplanade, but its probably close) then they are going to be giving something else up near and dear to them, and other landowners are going to be scared mightily and nervous.

      So the elephant in the room from my perspective: is consulting archaeology too expensive? Is there an effort to think how to be more efficient? Not, “do more with less” but be smarter:

      – thoughtful sampling (see Brendan Gray thesis)
      – use of geophysics
      – direct, on the ground engagement with architects early in process

      I don’t know how these things usually pan out. The HCA must be respected, the Branch must be clever yet firm in its requirements, but the consultants must be creative in how they manage costs. Not to create a race to the bottom in terms of cost and quality, but a race to the top in terms of high quality yet cost effective archaeology.

      Let’s face it, the average landowner doesn’t care what the quality of archaeology done is – and by this, my bottom line metric of quality is what is learned divided by how much dirt is moved – they just want the job done and the building to start. It’s not like a contractor coming in to build their kitchen where squeaky hinges are a pissoff: quality of archaeology is pretty much defined by the landowner as cost + speed.

      When that is the priority of the client paying the bills, the consultant has to work hard (understandably) to consider their wider responsibilities to the archaeological record. So it is incumbent on the archaeologist to think past the bottom line, to a serious consideration of *what can be learned* with x amount of money.

      This then addresses the widespread concern, viewed in the comments section whenever these stories hit the paper, of “all they found was some deer bones and shells and a bunch of garbage”. Well yeah, not untrue! So lets all work to get the real story out of what we learned.

      I know this might sound condescending!!!! but having perused a fair number of site reports and especially ones on Willow’s Beach, its fair to say we still know very, very little about that site despite having spent, I would estimate, half a million dollars on archaeology on the site as a whole over the past 40 years. That bugs me.

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  17. Hello, great to find this blog going again (even if only intermittently), thank you Q! A few meager points from me:

    The burden of systematic archaeological data recovery is great but while it would be good to lessen this burden on private property owners (by tax reduction what have you), that would promote the development of these vanishing sites.

    The archaeology would be much less if management decisions could be made that avoid much alteration to the site. Unfortunately, construction
    techniques/architecture/building code/ bylaws have a lot to do with the burden. For example, if a foundation is proposed/required (and generally is), then the organics, which include the midden, must be removed.

    Prospective developers of archaeology sites which include the owner, architect and builder should be allowed to think outside the box a little and come up with innovative solutions to minimize impacts (possibly this is the reason for the 600K budget??) and which can be accepted by the building authorities.

    The management all seems a little gross at this point (with few facts available) and sad to know that the human remains of the First Nation peoples who occupied the site for thousands of years (must be some dates reported?) were disrespected in the process (may I assume disrespect was shown to the indigenous inhabitants/First Nations as well?).

    My last comment – anyone who is buying waterfront property (or anyone who is buying property) should make their real estate agent contact the archaeology branch or a consulting firm and find out if there is a registered site on or near the property. That’s easy to do and costs very little, if anything. The hard part may be finding an archaeologist to manage the destruction of the site.

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  18. Howdy Quentin,
    I can comment on questions arising as to the ASBC mandate from a Nanaimo Branch perspective and comment on the background case of the ‘Englishman River’ fiasco as it relates to the ASBC-NB.
    I should note here that each branch of the ASBC approaches things slightly differently.
    The ASBC Nanaimo mandate is to promote heritage conservation through education and awareness. We like to protect sites, and try to find ways to actively do this and encourage our membership to (we ask members to sign an ethics agreement).
    Notification of archaeological deposits at 866 Mariner Way was a result of an ASBC-Nanaimo member reporting it to the Executive of the Nanaimo Branch. The Nanaimo Exec contacted the Branch, Nanoose First Nation, the Regional District and while the home owner did not respond, their contractor was eager to get informed as to the process. That is one of the practical ways in which the ASBC-NB meets our mandate by being a group that facilitates protection of sites through notifying parties, providing information and sometimes through maintaining involvement in the archaeological management of sites. Locally the ASBC-NB has been involved in management of sites starting in the 1990’s at Departure Bay. There have been many reasons for this but we have found that sometimes we can fulfill a needed ‘intermediary’ role.
    In the past we have tried to make informative public statements regarding the significance of archaeology in our community only to have THE MEDIA report twist things by publishing contradicting quotes by local First Nation leaders.
    Typically, the ASBC-NB tries to promote the importance of archaeology through positive promotion, awareness campaigns (bones display, Chinatown project, Hands on Heritage) where we control the message. However, there needs much improvement in the story of archaeology and our present system hampers that on many levels.
    For instance, I have accessed the site form for the Willow’s Beach sites and am astounded at the findings and well-dated components. The site form is 16 pages long! This certainly is an important story waiting to be told, but is complicated by keeping confidentiality of sensitive cultural information.
    Re: homeowners vs archaeology, the system is deeply flawed as we all know, and the deep-seated racist attitudes that surface is so ugly. I certainly feel bad that homeowners get saddled with the colonial baggage and bear the cost for the ‘public good’. But I also feel bad for survivors of colonialism.
    One parting comment, it is astounding how much information is known about the Willow’s Beach site, this is an enviable archaeological asset. It is wise to remember that archaeological knowledge comes at a hefty price and without any real stewardship of our heritage it is just a bunch of disjointed holes in the ground and data fields on a site form.

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  19. Pingback: Sitchanalth – The Songhees History Cairn at Willows Beach, Oak Bay « burnt embers

  20. Pingback: Archaeological site on your land? Uh-oh! | Gabriolan.ca

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