By Ben Isitt, Times Colonist opinion-editorial, August 13, 2014
Today, Capital Regional District directors will consider a proposal to acquire Grace Islet in Ganges Harbour off Saltspring Island for the public purpose of protecting the First Nations burial ground.
While the primary obligation to protect First Nations cultural heritage sites resides with the provincial government, it has become sadly apparent that the provincial government and Forests Minister Steve Thomson have no intention of exercising this responsibility, notwithstanding requests from WSÁNE´C (Saanich Nation) and the six nations in the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, the Islands Trust and the CRD board to suspend the site-alteration permit and halt construction of a private residence on the burial island.
In the absence of provincial leadership, I believe it is ethically responsible and legally appropriate for the CRD board to exercise its authority under the B.C. Expropriation Act and acquire title to Grace Islet.Read more
Listen to this CBC Radio interview where Ben discusses the strategy of acquiring Grace Islet in Ganges Habour, Salt Spring Island, for the public purpose of protecting the First Nations burial ground.
The government of British Columbia has refused to show leadership to protect the First Nations burial ground at Grace Islet in Ganges Harbour, Salt Spring Island electoral area, where construction of a private residence is underway;
Archaeological impact assessments confirm the presence of rock cairns and human remains at the site, consistent with the oral testimony of elders of the W̱SÁNEĆ and Hul'qumi'num Nations;
Local governments have the authority under the Expropriation Act to acquire property for public purposes and fairly compensate the owner;
THEREFORE WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, call on the Capital Regional District Board to show leadership and a genuine commitment to establishing a new relationship with First Nations by acquiring the property known as Grace Islet in Ganges Harbour, for the public purpose of protecting the First Nations burial ground, with fair-market compensation provided to the owner under the provisions of the Expropriation Act.
Today I participated in the Victoria Pride Parade and festival, joining City Council colleagues and thousands of residents in a celebration of equality, diversity and respect in our community. It is inspiring to see Victoria united around these values!
July 8, 2014
VICTORIA,BC — Capital Regional District Directors and First Nations leaders are proposing action at this Wednesday's CRD Board meeting to protect the First Nations burial site on Grace Islet in Ganges Harbour on Saltspring Island.
The site is currently the subject of a controversial development project to build a private residence on the First Nations burial ground. The Province's Archaeology Branch approved an Alteration Permit earlier this year, despite concern expressed by First Nations in the Capital Region and Cowichan Valley Regional District.
"We are calling on the CRD Board to stand with First Nations and request action from the Province to protect this First Nations burial site," says Ben Isitt, Victoria City Councillor and CRD Director, who has submitted a motion requesting that the Archaeology Branch suspend the Alteration Permit in order to permit negotiations to proceed between First Nations, the Province and the landowner to provide for the permanent protection of the site.
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Joining the board of the Island Corridor Foundation. Here is the group of radicals who are proposing to restore rail connectivity for the movement of people and goods on Vancouver Island, alongside trail and other improvements in the five regional districts and fourteen indigenous communities connected by the Esquimalt & Nanaimo railroad.
By Ben Isitt and Zeb King, Times Colonist opinion-editorial, April 2, 2014
Next week, Capital Regional District directors will decide on the next steps for the region’s kitchen-scraps program. We believe residents and taxpayers would be best served by making CRD land at Hartland Road available for a regional composting facility.
There are a number of benefits to this strategy, which the City of Victoria and District of Central Saanich have asked the CRD to explore.
First, it keeps the resource within the capital region, reducing the cost and environmental impacts of transporting the resource up-Island or to the mainland.
Composting close to home provides easy access for the end-product — by farmers, municipal parks departments, landscapers and individual residents — closing the loop for everyone’s benefit.
Composting at Hartland also minimizes the impact of odour and trucks on residents, since the CRD land is already zoned for solid waste, with adequate buffers from residential properties and established transportation routes (kitchen scraps have gone to Hartland for 40 years, mixed with garbage).
Community opposition to Foundation Organics in Central Saanich and the Fisher Road facility in Cobble Hill demonstrates the challenge of large-scale composting on private land, leading other landowners to shelve plans for new facilities.
Finally, composting at Hartland would save taxpayers money, since we already own the land. The cost is limited to the initial capital investment and operations. No money is required to acquire land or transport the resource elsewhere, providing a cost-effective option for municipal and private haulers.
We therefore encourage the CRD board to show real leadership by developing the in-region option now: authorizing the use of CRD land at Hartland and partnering with the private sector to build a compost facility without delay.
In the future, this facility can be updated to process kitchen scraps from Saanich and recover additional resources.
We encourage all residents of the capital region to contact their mayors, councillors and regional directors sharing their views on this strategy prior to the April 9 board meeting.
Ben Isitt is a Victoria councillor and CRD director. Zeb King is a Central Saanich councillor. They both serve on the region’s solid-waste advisory committee with representatives of residents and private industry.
CBC Radio Interview
Listen to a CBC Radio interview with host Gregor Craigie and North Saanich councillor Elsie McMurphy here.
Watch this video from the February 10, 2014 Food for the Future Rally to Save the Agricultural Land Reserve (link to Youtube)