Province steps up with midden funds - Times Colonist
----- Original Message -----
From: Doug Kelly
Sent: Tuesday, June 06, 2006 5:46 AM
Subject: Province steps up with midden funds - Times Colonist
Province steps up with midden funds
$90,000 preservation cost was too much for View Royal alone
Rob Shaw, Times Colonist
Published: Tuesday, June 06, 2006
The provincial government has agreed to provide rare funding to the Town of View Royal to help pay the high cost of preserving a First Nations burial site on a public beach.
Tourism, Sport and the Arts Minister Olga Ilich -- whose ministry encompasses the archeology and heritage branches -- committed in a June 1 letter to NDP MLA Maurine Karagianis that the government would help pay for part of the costs to save the aboriginal midden.
View Royal has been struggling to come up with an estimated $90,000 to preserve the site on Portage Park beach. Mayor Graham Hill could not be reached for comment Monday but has previously said that amount of money would be a "big hit" to the small town,
The expense would either force a three per cent tax increase for View Royal residents or significantly reduce the town's capital works budget, Hill has said.
Previous to Ilich's letter, the province maintained it had no money or programs to help pay for the cost of preserving such heritage sites.
But Ilich's letter said because the damage was done due to the "forces of nature rather than land altering activities of View Royal, the situation does warrant different treatment and assistance."
The letter does not commit to a specific amount of money.
Windstorms in February eroded the beach midden, exposing artifacts and human remains estimated to be more than 1,500 years old. The Songhees First Nation sent members down to monitor the site, and said the midden was being scavenged by people for items to sell on EBay, an Internet auction site. In one case, a dog almost ran away with a human femur.
View Royal closed much of the beach. It has remained closed while politicians debate if a rock wall or filling in the beach with material is the best way to preserve the site.
Karagianis, the Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA, had been pressuring Ilich through meetings and letters to make an exception for the site and provide financial support.
"I'm certainly extremely grateful to the minister for viewing the situation as extraordinary," Karagianis said Monday. "I think that's very good news all around."
Karagianis is also hoping to develop support for a private member's bill that would force municipalities to follow a protocol and include First Nations in any discussions following the discovery of a heritage site.
First Nations groups complained to Aboriginal Minister Tom Christensen that the provincial regulations designed to protect such sites lack proper enforcement and allow developers to destroy culturally significant sites with little fear of penalty.
The Songhees First Nation is alleging a set of spiritual caves and burial sites are on Bear Mountain Resort property in Langford and asking the government to intervene and protect those sites as well. Bear Mountain insists the caves -- if they exist -- are not on resort-owned land.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2006
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]