The Strathcona Regional District will gather input from First Nations before going ahead with a petition to designate three lighthouses as heritage buildings.
After a misunderstanding in August with the We Wai Kai/Cape Mudge Band over land titles and the Cape Mudge Lighthouse, the Regional District elected two weeks ago to include all First Nations in any decisions.
“There was some confusion this might have to do with land titles, but heritage protection has nothing to do with land claims as title, it’s just to make sure these buildings are not destroyed by the Coast Guard,” Jim Abram, vice-chair of the Strathcona Regional District Board said. “That confusion has been cleared up.”
But before proceeding with a petition – which would need to be presented to the federal government with 25 signatures – Regional District directors chose to refer the issue to local First Nations.
“It’s a matter of courtesy and respect,” Abram said. “It’s their traditional territories that these structures are in, even though they are owned by the federal government. We want to inform them of what the Regional District’s intentions are and we want their opinions.”
The Regional District intends to nominate the Cape Mudge, Chatham Point and Nootka lighthouses for heritage designation through the federal government’s Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. Three separate petitions would need to be sent to Parks Canada for consideration.
If successful, the designation would protect the lighthouses from demolition or sale, something Abram, a former lightkeeper, is very passionate about.
“It’s been a 25-year battle,” Abram said. “I’ve been at the front of the fight four different times and we’ve won every time.”
He’s eager to see the three lighthouses receive protection but at the same time wants to do what he feels is right.
“There isn’t a huge rush to do this – we have until next spring,” Abram said. “In the meantime, we’ll consult with the First Nations over the issue. It’s a gesture of respect and co-operation.”
Abram said it doesn’t have to be a local governing body nominating the lighthouses either, anyone who wants to protect the lighthouses can create a petition, as long as there are 25 people to sign it, it will be considered.
“We thought, as the Regional District, we could be a leader and it would make sense for us to do it and that’s why we came forward in the first place,” Abram said. “But if it doesn’t happen that way, it should happen in another way. There is a great deal of heritage there, a great deal of history and a great deal of usage by First Nations and non-First Nations.”
Cape Mudge, Chatham Point and Nootka lighthouses all remain staffed and active.