Hornby Island Indigenous midden ‘desecrated’ in BC Ferries terminal construction

Hornby Island Indigenous midden 'desecrated' in BC Ferries terminal construction

Hornby Island residents say an Indigenous midden was “desecrated” this past weekend during construction for BC Ferries’ terminal expansion.

“I don’t know how you put back the midden. That site is sort of desecrated to some degree,” Julian Laffin, a resident of Hornby Island, told CHEK News.

A midden is a mound of shells, bones, and Indigenous artifacts. They are protected in British Columbia under the Heritage Act.

Laffin started recording on his phone as BC Ferries personnel arrived on the scene Monday at Shingle Spit on Hornby Island to assess the area, which is now cordoned off with caution tape.

The interactions between locals and staff were tense.

“I am speechless as to what happened here,” one BC Ferries staffer can be heard saying.

“But why are you even cutting here when there is a midden?” a local asks.

Laffin says BC Ferries staff told him contractors had been directed to trim an arbutus tree that stood on or near the midden.

“But for some reason, the contractor decided to remove the tree and disrupt the site,” said Laffin.

“We had a breakdown with our contractor, and that’s where we’re at fault,” a BC Ferries staffer can be heard saying in the video Laffin shot.

Tuesday, BC Ferries’ top brass claims it was a giant mistake, promising they’ll do better.

“I’m concerned and quite frankly disturbed this happened,” said BC Ferries CEO Nicholas Jimenez. “We’re obviously just absorbing this news and trying to understand ourselves what has happened and why and how we can prevent it from happening again.”

K’ómoks First Nation says Clack da oo (Shingle Spit) is a well-documented and significant archaeological site.

It was a major ancestral K’ómoks settlement and it is the largest shell midden on Hornby Island. This village site, like many others in our Territory, has suffered irreversible impacts in the past, including the recent disturbance of ancestral remains at a nearby private development,” K’ómoks First Nation Chief and Council wrote in a statement.

“We are very disappointed whenever we hear that work is being done in our Territory without following our Cultural Heritage Policy…At this time, we are still in the information gathering stage, working with BC Ferries to understand what exactly has happened at their ferry terminal on Hornby Island.”

As of now, construction has been stopped and BC Ferries has put in a new policy that any planned ground disturbance or tree removal needs a project plan and to be signed off by a superior to ensure this never happens again.

“The new process also stipulates that the Regional Terminal Maintenance Managers and Director are to ensure the Indigenous Relations team and Operations teams are aware of any work planned of this nature,” Deborah Marshall with BC Ferries told CHEK News in a statement.

At least one Hornby Islander is doubtful. Laffin is calling on the company to better listen to the residents and the land they service.

“Time and time again, BC Ferries seems to not follow again and say they’re going to consult with the community and again do what they’re going to do,” said Laffin. “They need to be a little more responsible to Islanders.”

An on-site meeting will take place between BC Ferries, K’omoks First Nation, and the community Wednesday.

READ ALSO: Coastal Renaissance out of service until at least mid-October: BC Ferries

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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