CRD directors, First Nations leaders demand action on Grace Islet burial site

Flotilla around Grace Islet burial site

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.

Wayne McIntyre, CRD Director for the Saltspring Island Electoral Area, where Grace Islet is located, and Dave Howe, CRD Director for the Southern Gulf Islands Electoral Area, have endorsed the motion to the CRD Board.

"I am pleased to be a supporter of the motion going to the CRD Board," says McIntyre. "Should it receive support, the motion to suspend the Alteration Permit issued will signal that improvements to the developmental approval procedures are required to show more respectful First Nations relations as well as increase protection of their cultural heritage sites within the Capital Region."

The CRD Directors are working with First Nations leaders, the Islands Trust and residents throughout the region to build support for a solution.

"It's our way of life," says Vern Jacks, Chief of the Tseycum First Nation, whose traditional territory includes the Southern Gulf Islands. "We've got to protect our ancestors."

Eric Pelkey, hereditary chief and Treaty Officer at the nearby Tsawout First Nation on the Saanich peninsula, agrees. "Those islands were always sacred burial grounds. It means a lot to us what happens out there. We want to see the island left as is, and not destroyed or disturbed any longer."

The Grace Islet motion will be considered at the CRD Board meeting on Wednesday July 9th at 1:30pm at CRD Headquarters, 625 Fisgard Street in Victoria. Chief Jacks and Pelkey have requested to address the CRD Board, along with interim Green Party leader Adam Olsen, a member of Tsartlip First Nation.


For further information, contact:

Ben Isitt, Victoria City Councillor and CRD Director, 250-507-4257
Wayne McIntyre, CRD Director for the Saltspring Island Electoral Area, 250-888-7044
Vern Jacks, Tseycum First Nation Chief, 250-882-0825
Eric Pelkey, Tsawout First Nation Hereditary Chief and Treaty Officer, 250-480-8526


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