Owners of a Marpole property at the centre of a land dispute with the Musqueam Indian Band have passed a provincial government-imposed deadline to return their site to its original condition prior to the discovery of ancestral remains.
Gary and Fran Hackett, who are working with Century Group HQ Developments Ltd., were given a deadline of Nov. 1 to backfill their property in the 1300-block Southwest Marine Dr., which has sat idle for several months.
The Hacketts had plans to construct a 108-unit condominium complex on the property, which is near the Arthur Laing Bridge. But during excavation of the site, archeologists discovered the intact human remains of two adults and two infants, which the Musqueam believe to be their ancestors.
In a statement Wednesday, the provincial government said the “heritage investigation permit” has been extended until Dec. 15 to give the Hacketts and Century Group additional time to restore the site.
“The province is working with the Musqueam and the developer to facilitate a date for a reburial ceremony involving the Musqueam, who require formal permission to access the developer’s private property,” said Brennan Clarke, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, in an email to the Courier.
The holder of a heritage permit can recover any information at an archaeological site that could be lost if development occurs. An additional “alteration permit,” which expired Sept. 30, authorized the removal of archaeological material from the site.
Bob Ransford, a spokesperson for the developer, said Century Group understands the Musqueam want to participate in a burial ceremony but protocols have to be finalized before moving ahead with such an event.
“It needs to be spelled out exactly what that means,” said Ransford, when asked whether Century Group supported allowing Musqueam on the property for a ceremony.
When the provincial government announced in September that it was imposing a Nov.1 deadline for restoration of the property, it pointed out previous extensions of permits for the site did not help resolve the dispute between the two sides.
“The decision to allow the permits to expire after weeks of extensions is appropriate, given the lack of progress in the negotiations between the developer and the Musqueam Indian Band around the purchase of the property,” the Sept. 28 release said.
Ransford said Century Group and the Musqueam have not had any serious negotiations about the purchase and sale of the property. The two sides have not been able to settle on a fair price for the property, or agree to the owners’ request to be compensated for the preparation work, which included advertising and pre-sales.
Messages left for band members Wade Grant, the band’s primary negotiator in the dispute, and Cecilia Point, an organizer of a protest at the site, were not returned before deadline.
The discovery of the human remains earlier this year led the Musqueam to protest outside the property and call for a deal that would see the remains left untouched and the land turned into a memorial park.
The ongoing dispute comes as Musqueam chief Ernest Campbell decided he will not seek another term as leader of the band. A five-way battle for his job is underway, with an election scheduled for Dec. 3.