Tag Archives: Cadboro Bay

Songhees claim for Cadboro Bay land compensation: update

There is a fairly progressive editorial in the Times-Colonist on the Cadboro Bay land compensation issue.  The editorial cites John Lutz’s excellent book Makuk:A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations, to boot.

Lawyer Rory Morahan, acting on behalf of the Songhees, says the Chekonein village sites and fields were never surveyed, reserved or protected as required by the treaty. “The colony, or the province, appropriated the lands and issued title to the lands to other parties — that is, non-aboriginal colonists,” he says. The statement of claim says the Crown never paid compensation for taking the treaty land between 1851 and 1871.

The case will be complicated, given the variety of historical documents that will be presented to the court. Some basic facts are not in dispute, since even Roderick Finlayson, an early chief factor for the Bay, mentioned the Cadboro Bay village in his memoirs.

Beyond what is written in the treaties, the court might need to consider whether the Lekwungen actually understood what they were agreeing to. Lutz’s research has raised questions about the communication gap between the aboriginals and the whites.

Douglas signed nine treaties with aboriginals on southern Vancouver Island and, as Morahan says, this lawsuit could set a precedent if successful.

The decision could have ramifications elsewhere in the province. The Lekwungen were the first aboriginals in British Columbia to be dispossessed by settlers, but similar actions — land grants given, then taken without compensation — occurred for decades.

If it is proven in court that an injustice has occurred, the governments should act quickly to make things right. After a century and a half, it’s time.

This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed a fairly progressive editorial slant down at the TC – good for them, as the comments on their pieces show, there is a lot of resistance to the notion of fair compensation.

Songhees claim to Cadboro Bay

Songhees claim to Cadboro Bay lands promised by Douglas. Source: TImes-Colonist.

The Douglas Treaties have stood up well in court but the fact remains that the rights to hunt and fish are severely compromised by urban developments.  Further, it is a widespread shameful pattern that the government went out of its way to reduce the sizes of the few, small reserves that were established and to eliminate some altogether.  It is very welcome to see the strong assertion of the Songhees Nation that they have the rights to 200 acres surrounding Cadboro Bay.

Lawyer Rory Morahan said the band is not trying to reclaim the land promised to it in one of the Douglas Treaties, but is asking for compensation and a declaration that it is Songhees land.

A statement of claim was filed in B.C. Supreme Court yesterday, but it is likely to be at least a year before the case is heard.

The key to launching the lawsuit was finding historical documents, Morahan said. “There’s oral tradition about the village site, but in the courts you need more than oral tradition. We have been working on this for about a year, getting the details down,” he said.

The treaty with the Chekonein people, ancestors of the Songhees Nation, specifies that they would have 200 acres (80 hectares) around their Cadboro Bay village site, adjacent to the beach, and about 40 acres (16 hectares) of camas and potato fields.

“Under the treaty, the Songhees ancestors were promised that their village sites and fields would be protected for their use and the use of future generations, and that their villages and fields would be properly surveyed,” Morahan said.

Clearly, the Songhees are not asking for the land to be returned, but for compensation for its unlawful and duplicitous preemption.  The were successful in obtaining compensation a couple of years ago for the land under the legislative assembly, ironically enough and I imagine they have a good chance of success with this case as well. There is certainly an inarguable case for the archaeological significance of Cadboro Bay.

The comments in the Times-Colonist article are some of the most pathetic, racist, ignorant drivel I have ever seen, though.

CRM Problem in Cadboro Bay

cadboro bay mess

Uncontrolled destruction of Archaeological Site in Cadboro Bay, Victoria.

This week saw an all-too-familiar case of human remains disturbed by residential construction, this time in Cadboro Bay close to the University of Victoria. There are two major known sites in Cadboro Bay and many others must be there as well (I haven’t checked to see what has and has not been recorded). In addition to these known very large sites, it has been known since the 19th century (e.g.,  Cadboro Bay: Ancient City of the Dead — 6 meg PDF) that the slopes leading down from the top of Gordon Head were favoured places for human burials. So, no one could be surprised to find human remains in this area and indeed this is what happened.

A twist on the usual story comes with the reporting that the landowner, identified as Henry Ravenscourt, had had an archaeological impact assessment done and yet then excavated out almost the entire soil and subsoil of the lot in question. According to the Times-Colonist:

The property had been designated an archaeological site in Oct. 2008 when an Archaeological Impact Assessment was conducted there. Under the Heritage Conservation Act, the landowner was required to obtain a permit before digging, however, it appears no permit was granted for the new-home construction.

The Globe and Mail reports that,

Provincial [sic – probably consulting] archeologists who had been monitoring the property alerted police last Wednesday after discovering that workers digging the foundation for a new home had unearthed a human skull, knee and leg bone.

VicNews.com has added information: the Police say the landowner was in possession of the Archaeologist’s report:

Sgt. Julie Fast with Saanich police said the homeowner could possibly face charges through the Heritage Conservation Act because an Archaeological Impact Assessment was done on Hibbins Close in October 2008. That assessment designated it an archaeological site, which means, before any digging or building takes place, a permit issued through the Provincial Archaeological Branch is required.

“From what I understand, the homeworker is supposed to be in possession of the (permit). We are determining if they were aware (of the Archeological Impact Assessment), and if they had the letter,” Fast said.

The permit would designate how deep digging can be done and where a structure can be built without disturbing any remains on the property.

It is hard to say what is really going on here. If an AIA was conducted in October 2008, then surely the landowner had a copy of the report. Were there archaeologists monitoring the site? That would be consistent with a development process whereby archaeologists routinely watch backhoes and then jump in when the skulls start rolling. But surely the archaeologists would not have allowed such complete removal of material in such an uncontrolled way? I visited the site last week and saw how several, perhaps 10, dump trucks worth of material from almost the entire lot had been removed and there were only token piles of backfill. Where did this soil go? It undoubtedly contains human remains and archaeological material.  I trust the Archaeology Branch is tracing its whereabouts.

It is very welcome that the Police are considering charges in this case and I certainly hope that if a landowner or developer ignores an AIA recommendations that they get the book thrown at them as firmly as possible. Contrary to what the newspapers are reporting that the owner is subject to a 2,000 dollar fine, there appears to be a contravention under Section 13(2) of the Heritage Conservation Act, for which the maximum penalty under Section 36(3)a is $50,000 and six months for an individual, and 1,000,000 for a corporation. It is essential that the justice system starts to deal with these people in a serious manner. By completely removing the archaeological material from the property a landowner could in effect raise the property value by more than 50,000.

I share Songhees archaeologist Ron Sam’s cynicism though:

“They know full well there’s bones under there and they just go ahead and do it anyway because they know there’s no penalty,” Mr. Sam said, adding that the band is seeking legal advice. “We can say what we want, but at the end of the day it’s private property and we can’t stop it.”

Perhaps not. But those charged with managing and enforcing the Heritage Conservation Act and those responsible for gathering evidence and laying charges must start to make examples of those who flagrantly destroy the collective heritage.

Also check out this busybody’s letter to the Times-Colonist complaining about the costs incurred and implying the archaeologists are just making work.  Chris Harker of North Saanich, you officially have no idea what you are talking about.

cadboro bay mess 2

Note how close the excavation is to the property line.