Wednesday, February 28, 2024

BC Ferries halts construction after damaging ancient Indigenous archaeological site

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During construction of a new ferry terminal on Hornby Island, workers hired by BC Ferries cut down an arbutus tree at a culturally significant site and damaged an ancient archaeological site while trying to remove its stump. 

The site of the new BC Ferries terminal is on the site of a midden which is thousands of years old and was slowly formed by the early K’ómoks First Nations’ people. 

In this case, the midden in question was comprised of shell, bone, remains, ash and charcoal — evidence of the ancient site being used for hunting and gathering.

BC Ferries says that upon learning about the situation early on Friday, August 18th, contractors were instructed to halt any further work. 

Several senior officials with BC Ferries travelled to the Hornby Island site and the K’omoks First Nation was notified shortly after the situation emerged. A meeting was arranged for Wednesday, August 23rd with the First Nation and BC Ferries officials.


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“As a company that is deeply committed to reconciliation and respectful relationships with First Nations partners, we are not just concerned but also very disturbed by news that on Friday, August 18th, an environmentally and culturally sensitive site near Shingle Spit terminal on Hornby Island was disturbed,” said Brian Anderson, Vice President of Strategy and Community Engagement with BC Ferries. 

On Wednesday, BC Ferries met with the K’omoks and Qualicum First Nations leadership to walk the site and answer questions with more meetings on the way to ensure the matter is handled properly. 

Efforts will be made to remediate the midden site as best as possible without causing further disturbance. 

“Our expectation is that all work involving ground disturbance or tree removal must have a written project plan which includes a review of any potential cultural or archaeological significance which would be factored into the planning,” Anderson said.

“That did not occur in this situation.”

“We take our responsibility for safe and respectful stewardship of the lands and waters very seriously and we’ve taken immediate action to investigate how this situation occurred and what steps are necessary to prevent this type of situation from happening again,” he added. 

New processes will be introduced going forward by BC Ferries to try to mitigate similar situations going forward.

They say all terminal maintenance staff who are organizing any work involving ground disturbance or tree removal will have to have a written project plan signed off by their manager and director before proceeding. 

BC Ferries’ new process will also stipulate that the Regional Terminal Maintenance Managers and Director are to communicate with the Indigenous Relations team and Operations team regarding any work that is planned of this nature.


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Curtis Blandy
curtis@victoriabuzz.com

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