The provincial government is the primary authority over heritage management in BC through three provincial bodies: the Archaeology Branch, the Heritage Branch, and the Ministry of Forests.
The primary body is the Archaeology Branch, who manages heritage through the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA). This Act is currently undergoing revisions through the Heritage Conservation Act Transformation Project to better align with the commitments in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA).
The HCA outlines the procedures and definitions for heritage sites and belongings, archaeological assessments, investigations, permits, and enforcement.
The provincial Heritage Branch primarily manages historic places such as historic districts, rather than archaeological sites. However, the domain of the Heritage Branch does overlap with the Archaeology Branch in the management of heritage wrecks and trails, and post-1846 burial places.
The Ministry of Forests also include some regulatory mechanisms relating to Indigenous cultural heritage through the Forest and Range Practices Act, excluding those that are protected under the HCA, such as culturally modified trees.
Local governments may also “recognize the heritage value or heritage character of a heritage property, an area or some other aspect of the community's heritage,” according the Local Government Act (599(1)). They also have the power to order heritage inspections and assessments, issue temporary protection approvals or development permits, and designate heritage protection bylaws. However, any of these practices must align with the Heritage Conservation Act and the local Official Community Plan and be approved by the provincial heritage minister.
First Nations with ancestral ties to Xwe’etay can develop their own heritage policies and work with local communities to ensure these are upheld. The provincial government is also required to support Treaty Nation heritage policies as per the HCA.
The Tla’amin and K’omoks nations are currently developing their own heritage policies. With approximately 13 nations whose traditional homelands include Xwe’etay, there is considerable opportunity to increase Indigenous self-determination over their heritage through policy formation.
Under the current provincial heritage system, the provincial Archaeology Branch is required to consult with the Tla’amin Nation prior to approving archaeological assessment, investigation, or alteration permits within their treaty area, which includes Xwe’etay.
In addition to First Nation and provincial heritage policies, the Islands Trust includes heritage commitments in their Policy Statement, which outlines the vision and goals of the Trust. These include the Commitment of Trust Council:
“Trust Council holds that the natural and human heritage of the Trust Area — that is the areas and property of natural, historic, cultural, aesthetic, educational or scientific heritage value or character — should be identified, preserved, protected and enhanced.”
As well as the Directive Policies:
“Local trust committees and island municipalities shall, in their official community plans and regulatory bylaws, address the identification, protection, preservation and enhancement of local heritage.”
“Local trust committees and island municipalities shall, in their official community plans and regulatory bylaws, address the preservation and protection of the heritage value and character of historic coastal settlement patterns and remains.”
The Lasqueti Island Trust Area also has an Official Community Plan (OCP) which outlines the local vision, goals, and bylaws for Lasqueti, including local heritage commitments. The 6 policies within the current OCP state that:
Policy 1 The Lasqueti Island Local Trust Committee recognizes the cultural and historical significance the Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation has made in the Lasqueti Island Local Trust Area.
Policy 2 The Lasqueti Island Local Trust Committee respects all people who have and will contribute to the social fabric of Lasqueti Island’s past, present and future.
Policy 3 The Lasqueti Island Local Trust Committee wishes to support proactive and mutually respectful interests by consulting with the Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation.
Policy 4 The Local Trust Committee recognizes that past, present and future generations have shared and will share experiences on Lasqueti Island and the Trust Area; it is encouraged that fair and reasonable discussion and action occurs to preserve the natural and human-made sites.
Policy 5 The Local Trust Committee will assist, when possible, the responsible Ministry in their efforts to establish and protect sites of archaeological or heritage significance or value.
Policy 6 The Local Trust Committee recognizes that treaty negotiations with First Nations continue to be unresolved and until the resolution of First Nation interests within the Lasqueti Planning Area relationship building and cooperation between the Local Trust Committee and other First Nations may be developed over time.
The OCP also includes 2 Advocacy Policies, which state that:
Advocacy Policy 1 The Local Trust Committee encourages and will assist the Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation, the responsible Provincial and Federal agencies and the public generally, in their efforts to establish and protect sites designated or valued for heritage and historical significance.
Advocacy Policy 2 The Lasqueti Island Local Trust Committee encourages both the Federal and Provincial Governments to assist the local community and the Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation with accurate and comprehensive First Nation assessments within the Lasqueti Island Local Trust Area.
Both the OCP and the Policy Statement must align with the policies set by the archaeology branch for anything relating to heritage, and both are currently undergoing review. The Policy statement review is in accordance with the Islands 2050 Policy Statement Amendment Project, and the OCP amendments are expected to be released in late 2022 or early 2023. It is unclear at this point how the Trust Policy Statement and the Lasqueti OCP will revise their heritage policies within the new amendments.
Canada officially endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2016, nine years after its adoption by the United Nations in 2007. Canada was one of four countries (along with America, New Zealand, and Australia) who initially voted against UNDRIP, while 143 countries voted in support.
Four years later, in 2019, the Province of BC released the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) as an action plan to implement UNDRIP. Article 31 of DRIPA states that:
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.
2. In conjunction with Indigenous peoples, States shall take effective measures to recognize and protect the exercise of these rights.
In addition to UNDRIP, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created in 2007 to determine the needs of those affected by residential schools. In 2015, they released their final report and 94 Calls to Action "to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation." Call #79 states that:
79. We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal organizations, and the arts community, to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration. This would include, but not be limited to:
i. Amending the Historic Sites and Monuments Act to include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and its Secretariat.
ii. Revising the policies, criteria, and practices of the National Program of Historical Commemoration to integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history.
iii. Developing and implementing a national heritage plan and strategy for commemorating residential school sites, the history and legacy of residential schools, and the contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canada’s history
It is our hope that these calls and commitments by the Federal and Provincial governments can be used to improve and transform heritage policies and uphold policies created by First Nations.