Century-old B.C. train station at risk of losing heritage status, being demolished
The Hope, B.C., station was a transport hub for Japanese-Canadian internees in the early 1940s
A group of concerned citizens is trying to save a century-old building in Hope, B.C., which is in danger of losing its heritage status and being demolished.
The Hope Canadian National Railway Station, known as the Hope Station House, was built in 1916 and served a key role in the development of the Fraser Valley. In 1942, it served a much darker role as the main station for transporting Japanese-Canadians to internment sites.
Christian Ward, who is rallying to save the building, said nearly 8,000 Japanese-Canadians were sent through the station to other camps and internment sites throughout the province.
"It's the last station of its kind in Canada," Ward said. "The history is so important … and demolishing this building, we are losing a tangible piece of history that relates to this time."
The Station House was designated a Municipal Heritage Site by the District of Hope in 1982. It was moved to a new site owned by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and leased by the district, in 1985.
This is where the issue became complicated.
According to the ministry, they had originally intended to transfer the land to the District of Hope for community purposes — but the deal fell apart.
"But after extensive consultation with stakeholders it was determined that this was not possible. As a result, the district and the ministry negotiated a settlement that included compensation for costs and damages incurred by the district, which included the need for the building to be removed from the property," a statement from the Transportation Ministry said.
The existing lease expires at the end of May, which means the building must be removed by then.
But in order to demolish the building, the District of Hope has to remove the original 1982 heritage designation.
Laura Saimoto, a heritage activist, said that move was very concerning.
"It would really set a dangerous precedent for any heritage designation in any municipality," Saimoto said. "I think we really have to look at what heritage means to us and the process that we use to really celebrate it and protect its value."
Ward, who is part of the Coalition for the Preservation of the Hope Station House, has garnered over 2,000 signatures on a petition to save the building, and the group has demonstrated in front of city hall.
They've also complained to the B.C. Ombudsperson — which ruled in their favour — and successfully applied for a 120-day stop-work order on the demolition through the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
"It's really important and we need to honour our history and communicate this to Hope District Council," said Ward.
Transportation officials and District of Hope Mayor Peter Robb say they are aware of efforts to save the structure.
Robb says moving the building may be too costly and there is no site available to move it to.
However, both he and the ministry say they are working toward some sort of mutually supported outcome.
"Both sides continue to find a viable solution," Robb said in a statement.
For Ward and others who want to save the building, time is of the essence.
"It's our history. Whether it's good or bad, it's a story that needs to be told for us and for generations to come."
Listen to the segment on CBC's On The Coast here:
With files from On The Coast