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Waterfront work halted after midden discovery
Work on a boat ramp near the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club has been stopped as the B.C. Archeology Branch looks into the presence of a First Nations midden at the site.
Elected Chief Vern Jacks of the Tseycum First Nation says there is a midden there, uncovered by the work, and that could mean the project will not proceed.
“The archaeology branch (of the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources) is involved now,” Jacks said. “They will have to hire a consultant and work with us to go through (the midden) and determine what’s there.”
Middens, Jacks said, are common throughout the area. They are, in general, deposits of shells and other artifacts indicating past human occupation of an area. Jacks added they can sometimes indicate a nearby grave site. An investigation of this area will now have to be done, he said.
The District of North Saanich was informed of the work and after visiting the site discovered the work was being done without a development permit and that some shells had been uncovered. Chief Administrative Officer Rob Buchan says the District issued a stop work order to the Oak Bay Marine Group, adding they will now have to work with the Archeology Branch to determine the scope of the midden. The company will also have to obtain the proper work permits from the municipality, should the project proceed.
Calls to the Oak Bay Marine Group for comment were not returned.
“The entire foreshore is a higher probability area for these sorts of things,” Buchan said.
Jacks is concerned the work was done without any consultation with the local First Nation. He said it seems that sort of thing is on the rise and has asked for a meeting with the minister or the Archaeology Branch.
“It’s starting again,” Jacks said. “No one is consulting with local First Nations.”
He added if developers were doing that, they would have better local information before they start digging.
While not a written policy, Buchan said it’s standard practice for the District of North Saanich to ask developers who are planning work in the foreshore areas to consult with the province. The District, Buchan continued, has a GIS map showing high-resource probability areas that workers need to know about.