British Columbia

West Vancouver makes racist land covenants history

Language found in land titles for the British Properties neighourhood in West Vancouver prevented people of "African or Asiatic descent" from living in or buying homes there.

Council motion passed unanimously with an amendment calling for action from higher levels of government

West Vancouver, seen here from Stanley Park, had several discriminatory land titles that were voided by the municipal council Monday. (Nadia Yong/Shutterstock)

In West Vancouver, B.C., there are several homes in the British Properties neighbourhood with historic covenants declaring people of colour can't live there.

"They are hard to read and hard to listen to," West Vancouver Mayor Mary-Ann Booth at a meeting, as she struggled to read a section of just one of the many covenants.

"No person of the African or Asiatic race, or of African or Asiatic descent, except servants of the occupier of the premises and residence ... shall reside or be allowed to remain on the premises," she quoted from an example.

Those decrees have long been ruled void — but district council wants to go one step further.

Coun. Marcus Wong put forward a motion to work with the provincial government to try to formally remove the land covenants across the entire district. It passed unanimously.

He said many people he has talked to still remember the legacy of those rules.

"Some folks would tell me they would go to open houses in West Vancouver, and while the sales reps were very friendly and let them in, they would be gently reminded that there were neighbourhood rules, and I quote, 'that they had to remember before they left the house,'" he said.

District staff will now begin the process of identifying covenants that discriminate based on race, ethnicity, gender, ancestry or religion, and will work with B.C.'s Land Title and Survey Authority to determine how they can be removed. 

British Pacific Properties — the developer behind the original British Properties neighbourhood — said it supports Wong's motion.

Council also approved an amendment from Coun. Craig Cameron calling on higher levels of government to look into removing similar clauses from other neighbourhoods in B.C.

This type of discriminatory practice was not unique to West Vancouver, with such clauses found across Canada. 

Section 222 of British Columbia's Land Title Act makes such covenants void. Since 1978, the Land Title and Survey Authority has also allowed landowners to remove discriminatory clauses from their titles free of cost. 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said West Vancouver council had voted to void racist covenants and would begin the process of removing them. In fact, those covenants were already void; council voted to affirm this and work with the provincial government to formally remove them from land titles.
    Jan 28, 2020 11:36 AM PT

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