Just off Ganges Harbour on Saltspring Island lies the small Grace Islet. Not even big enough to be considered a full island, this small patch of land was government property before Barry Slawsky purchased the islet in 1990 to build his retirement home. Recently, however, the islet has been the centre of a whirlwind of conflict. After an archaeological assessment of the intended build site found human remains in 2006, it was determined that the islet was home to a burial site belonging to the Coast Salish people.
Citizens of Saltspring are acting out, along with students here on campus. A group of students, including political science grad student Gabrielle Egan, are organizing a fundraiser to support the Grace Islet Indiegogo campaign.
Egan was at the courthouse on Sept. 23 during a hearing to determine if an injunction order against the protesters would pass, and is also one of the key organizers of the fundraiser. The silent auction and performance night will go to support the legal and transportation fees of those involved in the protest.
Several burial cairns were found on the build site; however, the British Columbia Archaeology Branch granted Slawsky a provincial heritage site alteration permit with the intention that the house could be build around the cairns in order to preserve them.
After several public demonstrations of protest and direct action, Slawsky filed for an injunction order, naming several key figures involved in the protests including First Nations chiefs and elected officials. The injunction would prevent those named, as well as any unwelcome visitors, from coming within 50 metres of the islet and, therefore, ceasing any protesting or direct action movements from occurring.
However, spectators and those who oppose Slawsky rallied outside the Victoria courtroom on September 23. Chief of the Tsartlip Nation, Don Tom, and his lawyer, Karey Brooks, requested that the case be adjourned for one month.Their request was granted by the judge who said that the issue could be more complicated than simple trespassing, and that extra time for legal preparation would be needed.
When asked about the support she’s seen from the community, Egan said, “People are really interested in donating. There are plenty of people who are directly affected and living in the region so we want to help them out.”
Despite the delay of the injunction, which many considered a win for the campaign, this issue is still a long way from resolution. While many members of the community remain hopeful, Egan commented that she doesn’t know how the issue will end. “It’s really hard to fight against people with shit-tons of money,” she said. “I think that if he does continue to build then people should continue to make his life hell.”