The provincial government has ordered a stop to any further disturbance to part of a proposed development in Marpole. But the Musqueam Indian Band, which has protested for more than a month at the site on the Marpole Midden by the north side of the Arthur Laing Bridge, says the decision doesn’t go far enough.
The move halts an information-gathering archeological dig being performed on a subsection of the area known as Lot 9, where, according to the band, the remains of two infants were discovered.
"We're happy that they recognize that those remains should not be removed, however, it's just one area of the entire site," said Musqueam spokesperson Wade Grant.
The land was known to have once been occupied by the Musqueam and was recognized as a Canadian heritage site in the 1930s. The current owners, Fran and Gary Hackett, are working with Century Holdings Ltd. to build a condominium project on the site, but were met with a vocal protest from the band who urged that the land not be disturbed. The protest has attracted interest from First Nations groups across the country and last week led to protesters shutting down the north end of the bridge. The band is hoping to acquire the land through a complex land swap that would grant the Hacketts another piece of land elsewhere in the city. Bob Ransford, spokesperson for the owner and the developer, called the current situation a "stalemate."
The province's decision requires that the dig be halted immediately and the "area be returned as close as possible to its original condition," according to a June 8 press release from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
The decision also extends the expiry date of an alteration permit for the area. Such a permit potentially allows for the removal of remains or artifacts from the site. Grant said that although he doesn't believe any further digging should occur, the extension of the alteration permit will allow the band more time to file information in support of their plans for the site.
Musqueam organizer Cecelia Point was unsatisfied with the changes.
"They've only been sort of offering us partial compromises," said Point. "They haven't said, well, we'll kick this owner out."
She said the Musqueam want the bodies to remain where they are.
"So, for me personally, if they are only talking about saving part of the site, that's still a non-starter, because we know anywhere they dig here they're going to find more bodies, and more artifacts."
Ransford said the owner and developer trust that the process laid out in the Heritage Conservation Act will resolve the dispute.
"[They're] fully aware of what our position is, and it hasn't changed, let's put it that way," said Ransford.
The City of Vancouver did not comment before press time.
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