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Work stops at Hornby site after human remains found

UPDATE: KFN takes issue with province, not property owner, over process
The Thatch Pub is near the ferry terminal on Hornby Island. Facebook photo

The discovery of human remains at a site being redeveloped on Hornby Island has put a hold on work.

As to the process of how that happened, the situation is a little less clear. An earlier media report referred to issues the K’ómoks First Nation (KFN) had with the process for the project, as well as direction from the province for the work to stop following the recent archaeological discovery of a child’s remains. The report indicated the KFN had asked for the work to be put on hold for meetings with the province, adding that it had not given consent.

The project in question is a proposed redevelopment of the Thatch Pub, which is to include building 15 residential units. In response to the media coverage and social media comments, the pub posted a lengthy message on its Facebook page to give its side of the story.

“We normally refrain from posting on Facebook but we cannot take the mistruths and rumours that are being posted online or in the media any longer,” the March 24 post starts.

It outlines the timeline of its communication with KFN, starting with email notice in January 2020, which received no reply. The developer continued to reach out and met with KFN in September to discuss that project. At that time, the post says, the concern seemed to be more around the Islands Trust and provincial archaeological branch policies than with the project. Work started in January 2021 and members of the KFN visited last month at which point they and their archaeologist requested changes, including a designated reburial site, additional radiocarbon dating samples and the presence of a KFN member at all times.

“At no time during or after this visit were any issues raised about the site work not continuing on,” the post continues. “We feel we have gone above and beyond in complying with these late requests of KFN.”

KFN Chief Nicole Rempel said via email that they have no issue with the owner of the property.

“We are trying to draw attention to the province and specifically the [Archaeology Branch] to hold them accountable for the lack of enforcement of their Heritage Conservation Act, the Ministry [of FLNRORD] for not considering our concerns or requests to meet on top of not applying Bill-41 (DRIPA) in their decision-making. As well, there is Islands Trust, who ultimately have questionable processes in place when it comes to development on Hornby/Denman and little to no consultation with First Nations.”

Rempel also said there are more referrals and ancestral remains being found in other areas of the valley and homes being built right on registered arch sites.

“We need to take action at this point,” she added.

One of the points raised in the Thatch post was that there has been no order from the provincial government to shut down work and that the development permits are still in place. It stopped work voluntarily.

The Record contacted the province to clarify the situation around the work in light of Heritage Conservation Act (HCA) protection of burial places, and human remains or heritage objects associated with burial places, with historical or archaeological value to British Columbia, Indigenous peoples or other communities.

A spokesperson from the Ministry Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development responded that the province is aware of the proposed development at the Thatch Pub and that the proponent has received permits under the HCA for an archaeological assessment of planned development and construction within the protected archaeological site. This would be with oversight provided by archaeologists. The ministry did not specify either way whether the province ordered the work to stop.

“As of March 16, 2021, all work on site has ceased to allow discussions between the Ministry, the K’ómoks First Nation and the proponent to inform next steps,” the spokesperson added.

The Record has contacted Thatch Pub for further comment.