Fighting for people over profits
What if you found out that the burial site for your ancestors was going to be dug up to make an underground parking lot for multi-million dollar condos?
Right now, the Musqueam First Nations people of Vancouver are battling against a major condo development on a their traditional land. The complex would destroy a 4,000-year-old village and cemetery – a Canadian National Heritage site containing one of the oldest archaeological finds on the Pacific Coast of Canada.
The development company, Century Group, could have easily taken a land-swap deal proposed by the Musqueam – a deal that would give them a different piece of land in exchange for the sacred burial site. But Century Group has continued to stall the process and wants compensation that exceeds the value of the land. To honour National Aboriginal Day today, let’s send a strong message now to stop Century Group from paving over thousands of years of sacred history before it’s too late.
Use the form on the right to sign our urgent petition to Century Group to immediately stop their proposed development on an ancient First Nations burial ground.
For over 150 years, it’s been common knowledge that this land is home to an ancient village and burial ground with countless priceless cultural artifacts. That’s why local business has never been allowed to dig here before. But Century Group managed to get approval, and immediately uncovered human remains, and dug up partial remains and artifacts. They didn’t even inform the Musqueam — one of the Musqueam’s own archeologists discovered the remains two months later. In May, they dug up more remains still — this time infant remains.
The Musqueam and Century Group began negotiations last week. This is a critical moment to send send a strong message to Century Group to let Musqueam ancestors rest in peace, not in pieces.
Use the form on the right to sign the petition to Century Group to stop its condo development immediately. We will deliver the petitions directly to Century Group’s offices.
What is the history of the land?
The Musqueam ancient village and burial site is called Cusnaum or c̓əsnaʔəm. Dating back at least 4,000 years, it is located in present-day Vancouver in the heart of Musqueam’s traditional and unceded territory. It is commonly known as the Eburne Site, Marpole Midden or Great Fraser Midden, which is part of the ancient village and cemetery. Currently, there is a 108 unit residential condo development planned for the site without prior consultation with the Musqueam people.
Cultural objects and ancestral remains were first uncovered as early as 1884, and in 1933, the Historical Sites and Monuments Board of Canada declared the site as a Canadian National Historic Site. A cairn was placed in a nearby park, marking “the site of one of the largest prehistoric middens on the Pacific Coast of Canada.”
In January, the Musqueam discovered a 108 unit residential condo development was planned for the site without their prior consultation. In March, the Musqueam met and corresponded with the Provincial Archaeology Branch to persuade them to protect the site and to not issue permits for archaeological “investigation” and “alteration” of the site under the Heritage Conservation Act. Despite Musqueam’s stance, permits had already been issued under the Heritage Conservation Act in December of 2011. So far, the Musqueam have written to the provincial and federal governments, to the City of Vancouver, and to Century Group attempting to resolve the matter.
In January 2012, an intact burial was found and in March its intended removal prompted Band members to protest at the site to halt construction and protect their ancestors. In addition to the uncovering of an intact burial of an adult ancestor in January, two partially-uncovered infant burials were discovered in May. Just this week, the government acknowledged the presence of additional remains. Century Group has applied for permission to remove these remains. On May 3, 2012, in response to this development, over 100 Musqueam and supporters marched to c̓əsnaʔəm to demonstrate commitment to the appropriate and respectful care of their ancestors and to demand action. Musqueam protestors and supporters continue to maintain a vigil around the clock.
Musqueam has proposed a land swap – at no cost to taxpayers – and the creation of a public commemorative park and interpretive centre in recognition of Musqueam cultural history. This park would ensure the long-term protection of c̓əsnaʔəm, and provide a space for citizens of Musqueam and Metro Vancouver to proudly welcome visitors through the celebration of their ancient roots.
Currently, Century Group is trying to recover costs for 108 pre-sold condos. The Musqueam do not believe they should have to compensate Century Group for condos that will be built elsewhere. The Musqueam people are buying back land they never sold or ceded.