Amendments to the Heritage Conservation Act, introduced on March 6, 2019, will mean greater protection for areas with heritage and archeological values in the province.
“The changes we are making today will enable us to take more decisive action to conserve heritage and archeology sites and objects,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “Strengthening protection for archeological sites also acts on our commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Under the proposed changes:
- People will be legally required to report discoveries of specified sites or objects with potential heritage value.
- A person may be required to obtain and pay for a heritage inspection or investigation prior to obtaining a permit to alter a heritage site in some circumstances. For example, if a person wants to alter a site to develop land, but there is little or no information about the site, they may be required to complete archeological studies to gather required information.
- The ministry will have enhanced powers to refuse, amend, suspend and cancel permits.
- Compliance and enforcement tools will be improved.
The purpose of the act has always been to encourage and facilitate the protection and conservation of heritage and archeological sites in B.C., but it has not been updated in 20 years. The changes announced make targeted improvements to the act in order to significantly increase its effectiveness.
The amendments also bring B.C.’s heritage legislation into alignment with other jurisdictions. While changes to reporting requirements will come into effect through regulation, expected within the next year, the remainder of the changes will come into effect when the bill receives royal assent.
- There are over 54,000 registered archeological sites in B.C.
- Each year, the BC Archaeology Branch processes approximately 500 permit applications.
To view progress of the bill through the legislature, visit: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/4th-session/bills/progress-of-bills