the Heritage Conservation Act

Heritage Conservation Act BC info and my data request. Until about 10 years ago there was not a lot of Realtors sending in data request, now almost all send in a request for every home or property listed.

This article was published by the BCREA and is worth reading if you are looking at buying on Salt Spring. The key is that these sites are not registered on the title. A simple title search will not guarantee there are no archaeological sites on the property.

How many licensees are aware that the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA),1 which replaced the Archeological and Historic Sites Protection Act (the Act) in 1977, extends the legislated protection of archeological sites on Crown lands, to archeological sites on private property, without requiring formal designation or notice being registered on the title? An archeological site by definition is a location where there is evidence of past human activity and may include shell middens, remains of ancient houses, campsites, ancient stone carvings, or other heritage objects.
Land that has been designated as heritage property is clearly protected under the HCA, but so is land falling within the definition of a heritage site. A heritage site is any land, whether designated or not, that has “heritage value” to British Columbia, a community, or an aboriginal people. This even includes land covered by water. Heritage value means the historical, cultural, aesthetic, scientific or educational worth or usefulness of a site or object. The consequences of licensees not being aware of the protection afforded to archeologically sensitive land can be significant. Consider the following example:
A buyer locates a beautiful piece of land listed for sale in Northern BC adjacent to a pristine lake. The land appears perfectly suitable for the buyer’s dream of constructing a multi-unit residential property. Unbeknownst to the buyer, his licensee, the seller, and his licensee, archeological research conducted in the 1970s under the Act generated a report identifying the property as an archeological site. The seller, who had inherited the property, never received the report, although he had found artifacts on the property. The title search does not reveal a notice that the property is designated heritage property.
The buyer decides to make an offer to buy the property, subject to the possibility of rezoning the property to accommodate his development plans. The buyer contacts the local authority, which provides verbal assurance that the buyer’s rezoning application will be favorably received. The buyer removes his subject condition based upon that assurance and completes the purchase.
Subsequently, in the course of seeking approval to rezone the property, the buyer learns that the property is protected by the HCA. The buyer then spends thousands of dollars obtaining an archeological impact assessment required for his application for a site alteration permit and based upon the report, no permit is issued and the rezoning is not approved.
The result? The buyer is out of pocket not only for the costs associated with the archeological impact assessment and rezoning application but also for the cost of the land, legal fees, and other development costs. The value of the land may also have diminished as a result of the development restrictions.
The outcome? Likely a lawsuit against:
a) The buyer’s licensee and his/her brokerage for failing to contact or recommend that the buyer contact, the Archeological Branch;2
b) The seller’s licensee and his/her brokerage for not investigating and ascertaining whether the property was protected under the HCA;
c) The seller for not disclosing that the property had archeological significance; and/or
d) The local authority for not contacting the Archeological Branch before giving informal approval to the developer’s zoning application.
Licensees should be familiar with archeologically sensitive areas in the communities in which they work and be aware of the silent arm of the HCA and its effect on the use, development, and/or value of any property it protects. To avoid claims or professional conduct complaints relating to archeological sites, licensees should:
Check to see if the property is listed on municipal or provincial heritage registers;
Contact the Archeological Branch or submit a BC Archeological Site Data Request Form3 to the Branch to determine if the property is protected; or
Shift that responsibility to their client (in writing).
Licensees should also review the Real Estate Council of British Columbia’s Professional Standards Manual section on heritage properties and become familiar with the subject clauses set out therein.
Jennifer Clee
B.A., LL.B.
“Copyright British Columbia Real Estate Association. Reprinted with permission.” BCREA makes no guarantees as to the accuracy or completeness of this information.

Here is a sample of what a data request

Data Request for Salt Spring Island

On behalf of all my future clients on Salt Spring Island, I requested all the site info for all the islands of Salt Spring to no avail.

First Request

Please note the date of March 26. Below is my first request for all of the data for Salt Spring.

Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2015 9:46 AM
Subject: Data Request: Scott Simmons –

Terms and Conditions AcceptedYes
NameScott Simmons
Citysalt spring island
Postal CodeV8K 1N5
Phone Number250-538-8316
Fax Number
Why Site Information is RequiredAll buyers and or sellers on Salt Spring go through Scott Simmons Salt Spring Realtors.
Third Party AccessAll buyers and or sellers on Salt Spring who go through Scott Simmons Salt Spring Realtors.
Information RequestedI request copies of all sites on Salt Spring Island and on the surrounding shores and or islets.
File Attachment#1
File Attachment#2
File Attachment#3
File Attachment#4
File Attachment#5
Format for Requested Text DataPDF
GIS DataNo

This is the first response almost took four months

From: “Ruskin, Jessica FLNR:EX” <>
To: Scott Simmons
Cc: “Cooper, Diana FLNR:EX” <>
Sent: Monday, July 13, 3:12 PM
Subject: RE: Data Request: Scott Simmons –

Good afternoon Scott;

Thank you for submitting a data request for information concerning all of the archaeological sites on Saltspring Island.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide archaeological information for the entire island.  This does not mean we cannot release archaeological data to you, just that the format will need to be a little more restricted.  I can supply archaeological site data for specific properties that are listed for sale.

I’ve attached a copy of our Access to Information Policy for your reference.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Kind regards,

Jessica Ruskin, MSc | Archaeologist/Heritage Resource Specialist
Archaeology Branch | Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

Phone:   250-953-3348 | Fax:  250-953-3340 |e-mail:

Unit 3 – 1250 Quadra Street, Victoria BC V8W 2K7 | PO Box 9816 Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, BC V8W 9W3

Visit our website at:

As you can see it can take months to get this info out of the government, if you are thinking of selling I would recommend putting in a request a year in advance.


Scott & June Simmons
The Salt Spring Team

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