Property rights and human remains

Blog, Aboriginal Futures, Joseph Quesnel

Finding human remains on any property is a sensitive topic.

The topic requires respect for all parties involved.

For one woman in southern Ontario, the discovery of an Aboriginal burial ground on her property led to 18 months of uncertainty, although a resolution is in view.

The construction of their home was put on halt and the family had to live with relatives pending resolution.

Now, the county has proposed fencing off the area – five metres long by five metres wide- as an Aboriginal cemetery.

A similar situation  affected the Burketts, a seniors couple from Vancouver, who discovered an Aboriginal burial site on land they intended to develop to build condominiums.

That project ground to a halt and the Burketts were out of luck.

The problem is that in each case, the private land owners must shoulder the burden of assessments, etc.

A proposed solution is for the government to take much more of a leadership role in shouldering the burden of what is really a public good.

We have an obligation to ensure that our common historic and archaeological heritage is preserved for future generations. However, we should not unnecessarily penalize land owners.

Governments must ensure there are streamlined processes that protect and properly compensate land owners. As much as possible, the impacts on the enjoyment of their property should be minimized.