B.C. Strengthens Protections for Heritage Sites, Introduces Mandatory Reporting Requirements

The British Columbia government recently introduced amendments to the Heritage Conservation Act (Act) to strengthen protections for heritage and archeological sites and objects in the province. Proposed amendments include a duty to report the discovery of a site or object that may have heritage value, which may impact both existing and planned property development and infrastructure projects. Failing to report such a discovery would constitute an offence under the Act. Other amendments include enhanced powers to amend, suspend or cancel permits issued under the Act, as well as expanded enforcement and compliance powers for authorized officials.

BACKGROUND

On March 6, 2019, the B.C. government introduced The Heritage Conservation Amendment Act, 2019 (Bill 14). Bill 14 amends the Heritage Conservation Act and makes consequential and related amendments to certain other acts, including the Local Government Act, Mineral Tenure Act, Oil and Gas Activities Act, and the Vancouver Charter. Such amendments aim to strengthen protections for heritage and archeological sites and objects in the province. Bill 14 is part of the provincial government’s response to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in B.C.

AMENDMENTS

Bill 14 introduces substantive amendments, including amendments aimed at aligning B.C.’s heritage legislation with other Canadian jurisdictions. Key amendments introduced in Bill 14 include:

  • The duty to report a discovery – Bill 14 requires a person who discovers a prescribed site or object that may have heritage value to report the discovery to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (Minister) within the prescribed period of time. Bill 14 also enables the Minister to specify the form and manner for the reporting of such a discovery. Failing to report such a discovery will would constitute an offence.
  • Liability to pay for a heritage inspection or investigation – Bill 14 clarifies the proponent in an application for a permit is the person liable to pay for any heritage inspection or heritage investigation set out in that permit.
  • Enhanced power to amend, suspend or cancel permits – Bill 14 expands the circumstances in which the Minister may amend, suspend or cancel a permit issued under the Act, including when:
    1. New information comes to light respecting the heritage value of a property that was not considered when the permit was issued or amended
    2. The Minister has reasonable and probable grounds to believe the application for a permit included false or misleading information relating to a material fact or omitted material information, or the permit holder has contravened a requirement or condition of the permit, Act or regulations (whether or not the permit holder is charged with an offence under the Act).
  • Enhanced administration and enforcement provisions – Bill 14 expands the compliance and enforcement powers of authorized officials. For example, Bill 14 allows:
    1. An authorized official to enter land, other than a private residence, for any purpose related to the administration and enforcement of the Act, regulations, permit, or order
    2. An authorized official to inspect anything, take samples and carry out tests and examinations, require the production of records, request identification, and make any inquiries the authorized official considers necessary
    3. The authorized official to request accompaniment by a peace officer
    4. A warrant to be issued to an authorized official to enter premises and search for and seize evidence of a contravention of the Act or regulations.
  • Expanded stop work orders – Bill 14 enables the Minister to issue stop work orders for existing or past alterations, as well as future alterations, and allows for a stop work order to be extended in specified circumstances.
  • Extended limitation period – Bill 14 expands the time limit for laying an information respecting an offence under the Act from two to three years after the facts on which the information is based first came to the knowledge of specified governmental officials.

IMPACT ON DEVELOPMENT AND INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS

Bill 14 introduces obligations that may require adjustment in both property development and infrastructure projects. The amendments to the Act in Bill 14 include an obligation on a person who discovers a prescribed site or object that may have heritage value to report the discovery within a specified time (where “heritage value” is defined to mean “the historical, cultural, aesthetic, scientific or educational worth or usefulness of a site or object”). Developers and sponsors of major public and private development and infrastructure projects in B.C. should consider how to address these obligations to the extent not already addressed in their project management frameworks.

Further, the Bill 14 amendments provide that the “person named as the proponent in an application for a permit” is the party liable to pay for such inspections and/or investigations. The Ministry stated that where parties are considering developing a site but there is little or no information available regarding the site, the parties may be required to obtain (and pay for) a heritage inspection and/or investigation in order to gather the required information prior to obtaining the applicable permit.  Again, to the extent not already anticipated and allocated between the parties on a project, developers and sponsors should consider how these costs may be best managed and allocated once the amendments in Bill 14 are implemented.

TIMING OF AMENDMENTS

Most amendments will come into effect when Bill 14 receives royal assent, which is expected in Spring 2019. However, changes to the reporting requirements, including the duty to report a discovery, will come into effect through regulation to be introduced by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, which is expected within the next year.

For further information, please contact:

Carrie Fleming                                      604-631-3367
Nardia Chernawsky                               604-631-4601

or any other member of our Environmental, Infrastructure or Commercial Real Estate groups.

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