I want to thank First Nations and non-indigenous allies for their leadership demanding the protection of Grace Islet, and to the Government of British Columbia for doing the right thing and acquiring the islet in trust for First Nations. This is the beginning of a process to restore the islet and cemetery, remove the building and honour the ancestors, and also the beginning of a broader process to improve development approval procedures and amend provincial legislation in order to protect sacred sites across the capital region and the province.
Media Release January 15, 2015
Saanich First Nations welcomes the purchase of Grace Islet by the Province
WSANEC Territory – The four Saanich First Nations, Pauquachin, Tsartlip, Tsawout, and Tseycum welcome the news that the Province of British Columbia has purchased Grace Islet on Salt Spring Island.
Grace Islet has been a contentious issue for the past couple of years. A well-known burial site of high-ranking First Nations people, Grace Islet was zoned residential and serviced for a single family home.
First Nations expressed significant opposition to the project as the construction was a desecration of a sacred site on the Islet.
The Saanich First Nations thank all the supporters on Salt Spring, the Capital Region, community members, Elders who helped stand in solidarity to this issue and will work with the Provincial Government to decommission the site in the most culturally appropriate way possible.
Quotes from the Saanich Chiefs
Chief Vern Jacks Tseycum acknowledges the Provinces recognition of our Culture and Traditions, today the “Rest In Peace: for our Ancestors is respected. This is the beginning of a lot of work ahead of us in protection of our Sacred sites.
Chief Harvey Underwood Tsawout also welcomes today’s announcement that acknowledges our Inherent, Aboriginal Title and Douglas Treaty Rights, mainly the protection of our Sacred Sites.
Chief Rebecca David, Pauquachin acknowledges and appreciates the work to date on the Grace Islet matter. The importance of protecting our Sacred Sites is clear direction given by our people. We also acknowledge our Ancestors can rest in peace.
Chief Don Tom, Tsartlip also welcomes today’s announcement made by the Province of BC, we acknowledge the efforts of all those who stood in Solidarity. A Historical day for our People, we have inherited the “unfinished business: from our Ancestors and today feel accomplished in protecting this very important site. The collaborative work will continue in protecting our Rights and Sacred Sites.
For more information please contact:
Chief Don Tom (Tsartlip) 250 813 3315
Chief Vern Jacks (Tseycum) 250 882 0825
BC Government Newsroom: Partnership formed to acquire Grace Islet
January 15, 2015
VICTORIA - The Province is partnering with local First Nations and the Nature Conservancy of Canada on long-term conservation for Grace Islet, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson said today.
Grace Islet, a privately owned property off Saltspring Island, has special cultural and spiritual significance for local First Nations and contains at least 16 burial cairns. Building construction on the islet ceased on Dec. 18, 2014.
Through a partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which acquires properties with strong ecological values, a framework agreement to purchase has been reached with the landowner. In addition to its cultural significance as a burial site, Grace Islet is ecologically valuable for its plant communities, intertidal habitat and as a small component of the rare Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem.
If final negotiations close successfully, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, local First Nations, other interested parties and the Province will work together on a remediation and future management plan for the islet.
Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations −
“It can sometimes be challenging to balance the need to protect archaeological sites while respecting private property rights. I want to thank all parties for agreeing to work together on a solution.”
Linda Hannah, B.C. Regional vice-president, Nature Conservancy of Canada −
“The Nature Conservancy of Canada is honoured to be part of a solution that will see the protection and conservation of the significant cultural heritage and ecological values on Grace Islet. We look forward to working with the Province and First Nations on restoring and stewarding this very special place.”
William Seymour, Chief, Cowichan Tribe −
“I’m glad we were able to respectfully reach an agreement through negotiations. The partnership that was created to see this through means a great deal to our people in the view that our chiefs and the government were able to unite and reach a resolution. Most importantly, the ancestors at our sacred burial sites are able to rest peacefully as a result of our collective perseverance.”
Vern Jacks, Chief, Tseycum First Nation −
“Our ancestors can now rest in peace on Grace Islet. Tseycum appreciates the hard work of the Province, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the landowner in resolving the situation.”
- The Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem is a globally rare ecosystem found on southeastern Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, parts of the Fraser Valley and the Sunshine Coast.
- Totally only 256,800 hectares, the majority of this ecosystem, is on private land.
- The Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem is home to the highest number of species-at-risk in B.C., many of which are ranked globally as imperilled or critically imperilled.
Nature Conservancy of Canada, BC Region: www.natureconservancy.ca/bc
Archaeology Branch: http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/archaeology/
Ministry of Forests, Lands
and Natural Resource Operations