By Roy L Hales
As you can hear in the video below, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs passed a resolution in support of Grace Islet Burial site. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip made the announcement at a demonstration at the provincial legislature, in Victoria, yesterday. He said the vote was unanimous.
“We’re here to serve notice on the Clark Government once again that cultural genocide in this day and age is unacceptable,” said Grand Chief Phillip.
He led the crowd, gathered on the legislature lawn, in the chant, “Stop the cultural genocide!”
According to Gary Holman, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, ” … The resolution if this issue is very simple. It is very clear. The Minister needs to take leadership: sit down with the landowner, negotiate a fair price for Grace Islet and protect it forever.”
The Province recognized the ancient First Nations burial ground on Grace Islet, on Salt Spring as an archaeological site by the province of British Columbia in 1966.
Local First Nations assert that the government breached its duty to adequately consult in issuing permits, as they did not respond to repeated requests to not issue permits.
Grace Islet was zoned residential when Barry Slawsky purchased it in 1990.
Despite repeated protest, the province refused to intervene while Slawsky builds a house over the burial cairns.
The minister responsible, Steve Thomson, argues that Slawsky has the necessary permits.
There have been numerous protests since construction began, including a brief occupation of the site.
On September 17, Chief Don Tom of Tsartlip First Nation issued a Stop Work Order.
Slawsky responded by filing an injunction against Chief Vern Jacks of Tseycum, Chief Don Tom of Tsartlip, MLA Gary Holman, Salt Spring residents Joe Akerman and Phil Vernon for trespassing.
At the resulting September 23 hearing, the judge acknowledged that the case was not a simple case of trespass. There are First Nation’s rights issues involved. The Hulqumin’um group of First Nations could claim Grace Islet as a result of the summer’s landmark Tsilhqot’in decision. There are also implications from the Douglas treaties.
“Grace Islet cannot be considered in isolation from these broader issues, and thus the dispute does have wider implications for land use planning in B.C. and internationally,” John Borrows, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria, emailed the Gulf Island Driftwood.
The case was adjourned for one month to allow the defendants to prepare a proper defence.
(All images and videos made by Bill Warriner of Salt Spring Live)