Archeological excavations – important notes

In the spirit of reconciliation let’s not trample on the history of our Gulf Islands.

Article contributed by Doug Glaum, Manager Archaeology Branch, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

September 3, 2014, Times Colonist article Homeowners no longer face bills for archeological excavations – Local – Times Colonist concerning archaeological research and private property has caused some confusion with property owners.  Property owners should be aware of the following:

  • The Heritage Conservation Act automatically protects archaeological sites meeting the act’s heritage protection criteria. 
  • There are approximately 40,000 known sites that are automatically protected.
  • These sites continue to be protected after the 2013 B.C. Supreme Court ruling regarding archaeological research on private property
  • To alter a protected site, the property owner will require a Site Alteration Permit.
  • Where there is sufficient existing information regarding the nature of the site and proposed impacts to the site, the Archaeology Branch will consider site alteration permit applications.
  • If there is insufficient information in the site alteration permit application, the Archaeology Branch will not be able to process the application until the information deficiencies are addressed.  
  • The onus falls upon the property owner to provide the branch with the necessary information about the site and this may include the  completion of an archaeological impact assessment.  The Branch is not requiring that this work be done but it does require sufficient information before it can issue an alteration permit and the impact assessment is one way of obtaining this information
  • It is up to the property owner if they wish to undertake an archaeological impact assessment, but without the necessary information, the branch cannot issue an alteration permit and the property owners cannot alter the archaeological site on their property.
  • Property owners can use the Archaeology Branch online site data request form to find out if there is a protected archaeological sites on their property
  • Many people engage an archaeological consultant to research and prepare a site alteration permit application.  Archaeological consultants can be contacted through the British Columbia Association of Professional Archaeologists or may advertise independently.

Here is the legal case Mackay v. British Columbia  2011bcsc270

After the province bought back Grace Islet in Ganges harbour, this is timely information.


Scott & June Simmons
The Salt Spring Team

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