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XLAP Update: Results of Interviews with Landowners

 

One year ago, I had the privilege of spending July on Xwe’etay, speaking to islanders, sharing food and coffee, and enjoying a beautiful month in the sun. I’m happy to share that my piece of the Xwe’etay/Lasqueti Archaeology Project (XLAP) – understanding landowner perspectives on archaeology and corresponding policies – is complete, after more than thirty confidential interviews. Here’s what we found.

Landowners are typically knowledgeable about archaeology on Xwe’etay, and many said this knowledge had developed through XLAP’s work. Some landowners expressed feeling connected to the archaeological sites and history; a similar number expressed doubts about their significance. Most landowners had heard of the Heritage Conservation Act, which legally protects all archaeological sites, but few knew exactly what it meant for them; half of the landowners expressed some wariness around the Act, associated with stories of developments gone wrong.

Many landowners expressed concerns about the implications of archaeological sites on their property. One set of concerns centred on legal uncertainty impacting land use and ownership, with several landowners specifically fearing future legal changes allowing Indigenous governments to claim ownership of private property – despite the absence of legal precedent. The other set of concerns revolved around costs, both direct, from archaeological investigations, and indirect, from possible impacts on property value.

On the broader issue of government regulations, while some landowners opposed provincial regulations in general, most argued such regulations were ineffective for rural communities like Xwe’etay.         

 

Finally, landowners broadly aligned on policy preferences. Almost all felt that recorded archaeological sites should be on land title. Almost all felt that the Province should cover the costs of archaeological investigations. Landowners generally supported education and engagement over enforcement of regulations. Many identified components of social capital – the norms, values, and trust shared by community members – as more important and effective than regulations for Xwe’etay.

We recommend increased local engagement to improve landowner awareness, alongside greater integration of the local planning system with provincial regulations. For conservation to succeed on private property, landowners need to be considered and informed, proactively. A more collaborative system may lead to better outcomes for landowners, Indigenous peoples, and archaeological conservation. 

 

– Owen Wilson

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