A public hearing will be held on Port Moody’s move to rescind the heritage protections of the Belcarra South Cottages.
Council were in unanimous support of repealing the bylaw protecting the cottages on Tuesday, Oct 10, as a gesture towards reconciliation efforts with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Indigenous peoples.
Coun. Diana Dilworth said she was proud of council’s support, describing it as the strongest commitment in her more than two decades on council.
“We’ve made some tiny steps and we’ve got some big further ones to make but we’re on an adventure and a journey and a program of commitment,” Dilworth said.
Concerns from heritage advocates followed the news that Port Moody had started the process to remove the heritage designation from the 90-year old cabins, which sit on the shores of Belcarra Regional Park.
The six cabins represent an early 20th century social tradition among upper and middle class settler families, who vacationed to the area until around the 1930s.
However, the park was also the first ancestral village of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and they maintain strong cultural ties to the area.
In 2020, Belcarra Regional Park was renamed təmtəmíxʷtən (pronounced “Tamm-tamm-eeuff-ton”) and Tsleil-Waututh Nation was officially recognized as a co-manager with Metro Vancouver, signing a cultural planning and co-operation agreement.
Tsleil-Waututh Nation requested the city remove the heritage protections in March, 2023, as part of ongoing restoration work.
“There was no consultation with our Nation when the cottages were first built nor when their heritage protection was established,” the Nation stated in a release.
The statement also explained that the cottages’ state of disrepair was a risk to cultural, environmental and archaeological heritage, and removing them will add additional access to all users.
The maintenance costs which would have been used on the cabins will be redirected back into the betterment of the park, the Nation added.
Coun. Amy Lubik said for much of Canada’s history, Indigenous peoples have had to follow the direction of colonial governments.
“This was a real opportunity for us to follow Tsleil-Waututh Nation,” Lubik said.
The largest cottage, known as the Bole House, will not have its heritage status removed, and will be restored along heritage guidelines and opened to the public as a multipurpose space with cultural, artistic, and educational components.
Coun. Callan Morrison said he was excited to see the Bole House restored, and what future programming or uses the cottage could be used for.
Metro Vancouver has had various plans in place since at least 1985 to remove the cabins and expand the public’s access to the area, but it has been met with frequent challenges.
Tenants who had leased the properties from Metro Vancouver for decades fought back when they were served with eviction notices in 2013, and the legal battle was not settled until 2021.
Staff said there was no specific provincial legislation in place outlining the criteria for removing heritage designations, but considering a public hearing was held to pass the 2015 bylaw, the same process should be followed.
A date for the public hearing has not yet been set.
Coun. Samantha Agtarap said the heritage protections were applied before the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was broadly recognized.
“I believe that when we know better, we need to do better, and rescinding the heritage designation in recognition of the significance of this area to the Tsleil-Waututh peoples is an important opportunity to advance the principles of reconciliation,” Agtarap said.
By Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 19, 2023 at 17:11