British Columbia

Protesters block Vancouver building project

Musqueam Indian Band members have blocked development work at a site in south Vancouver, saying it's a burial site.

Musqueam First Nation members stop bulldozers on alleged burial site

Bulldozers were supposed to break ground on a new development on Vancouver's west side Monday, but protestors from the Musqueam First Nation put a stop to it.

Workers were asked to leave as they arrived at what's supposed to be a new commercial and residential complex in the 1300-block of Southwest Marine Drive.

The Musqueam Midden, as it’s known, has been designated as a Canadian Heritage Site.

In late January, intact human remains were discovered during the course of archaeological work being undertaken by the developer. 

"The owner of this property wants to dig up our ancestors who are buried at this site," said Cecilia Point, of the Musqueam Indian Band.

The five-storey residential and commercial building has development permits from the provincial government and the City's building permit is forthcoming, said Vancouver City Manager Penny Ballem.

"We're required to issue it if they meet the criteria and one of those criteria is not the archaeological issues because that's not within our jurisdiction," Ballem said.

Historical site

The federal government has recognized the area as a historical site but, it's up to the provincial government to protect it.

"We need to bring all parties to the table to look for the long-term management solution that'll recognize the private property interests there, but also recognize the important values the Musqueam have on that site," said B.C. Forests Minister Steve Thompson

Six lots are at the centre of the controversy and work has stopped on the one lot where the remains were found. 

Development work is supposed to continue on the other five with an archeologist in daily contact with Musqueam authorities.

"What we want is to stop any construction or any more digging, test digging or whatever,"  said Musqueam Chief Ernie Campbell.

In an email to CBC News, developer Gary Hackett said that his family has owned the property for more than 50 years.

"The land in question … has been built on and its soil disturbed over many years and there are existing structures on the property," Hackett said.

A meeting of all stakeholders is set for Tuesday.


With files from the CBC's Belle Puri