Heritage Conservation Act Transformation Project

Last updated on February 16, 2024

The Heritage Conservation Act Transformation Project (HCATP) aims to reform the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA) to align with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (PDF, 150KB). An updated and amended HCA will benefit all people in British Columbia.

Action 4.35 of the Declaration Act Action Plan (PDF, 3.7MB) commits the province to “Work with First Nations to reform the Heritage Conservation Act to align with the UN Declaration, including shared decision-making and the protection of First Nations cultural, spiritual, and heritage sites and objects.”

On this page

Project background

The purpose of the HCA is to encourage and facilitate the protection and conservation of cultural heritage in B.C. There are over 62,000 protected heritage sites in B.C. 90% of protected heritage sites are of First Nations origin.

For many years, Modern Treaty Nations, First Nations, and stakeholders (industry, landowners, professional archaeologists, etc.) have raised challenges with the HCA and its administration. Some administrative amendments were made to the HCA in 2019 but significant changes have not been made to the legislation since 1996. First Nations continue to call for increased protection of culturally important sites and implementation of the UN Declaration.

In 2019, the Government of B.C. passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, which requires that all measures must be taken to make laws in B.C. consistent with the UN Declaration. To this end, the Declaration Act Action Plan (PDF, 3.7MB) includes Action 4.35, which commits the Province to “Work with First Nations to reform the Heritage Conservation Act to align with the UN Declaration, including shared decision-making and the protection of First Nations cultural, spiritual, and heritage sites, and objects.”

The Province recognizes the need to transform the HCA to better meet the needs of all people in British Columbia. Transforming the HCA will provide for alignment with the UN Declaration and will support the provincial mandate of lasting and meaningful reconciliation. It will also aim to increase certainty and stability for First Nations, landowners, proponents, developers, and government, while supporting sound decision making.

Project design

The HCA transformation work is intended to ensure consistency between the HCA and the UN Declaration. This work is to be undertaken in consultation and cooperation with First Nations, including through continued partnership with the Alliance of BC Modern Treaty Nations.

The Joint Working Group on First Nations Heritage Conservation (JWG), which includes members appointed by the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) and the Provincial government, has been leading the HCA transformation process. The JWG serves as a forum for cooperation and dialogue between the Province and FNLC on heritage matters.

Given the need for broad and meaningful engagement with First Nations and stakeholders, the HCATP is envisioned to be a multi-year process.

Project updates

Phase 1 (2022): Phase 1 engagement took place in Summer and Fall 2022. All First Nations, as well as key stakeholders who interact with the HCA were invited to participate. To support meaningful engagement, a Backgrounder document on the HCATP was developed by the JWGFNHC to guide and inform dialogue:

Outcomes from Phase 1 engagement with First Nations and stakeholders are outlined in the following What We Heard Reports:

Phase 2 (2023): A package of proposed short-term legislative, regulatory, policy, and programmatic changes was developed in consultation and collaboration with the JWGFNHC, with input from the Alliance of B.C. Modern Treaty Nations. These proposed changes were informed by years of feedback, including feedback gathered during Phase 1 engagement.

In fall 2023, broad engagement on the proposed policy changes took place with First Nations, Modern Treaty Nations, and key stakeholders. The input and analysis from the engagement sessions helped identify priority areas and potential options for transforming the HCA and its administration. Feedback indicated that the proposed changes are focused in the right areas, but there is opportunity to conduct more engagement with partners to build out these proposals further.

Outcomes from Phase 2 engagement with First Nations and stakeholders are outlined in the following What We Heard Report.

Current Status (updated January 2024)

Given recent feedback, rather than introducing a near-term package of legislative amendments this mandate, the HCATP will instead work towards the development of a more comprehensive package. This means that changes will not be introduced this legislative session, but will be developed for future legislative sessions, which will allow time to ensure the proposed legislative amendments are more responsive to First Nations and stakeholder feedback.

The Province remains committed to aligning its laws with the UN Declaration, in accordance with s.3 of the Declaration Act, enhancing First Nations in B.C.’s management of their cultural heritage as set out in the Declaration Act Action Plan commitment 4.35, and transforming the HCA for the benefit of all people in British Columbia.

In the interim, as we work to transform the HCA, the Ministry of Forests’ Archaeology Branch will be directed by the spirit of feedback outlined in the What We Heard Reports and will continue to work towards government’s commitments to implement the UN Declaration.

Questions and input regarding the HCATP can be shared by email to EngageHCA@gov.bc.ca.

 

Contact Information

Do you have questions about the HCATP process?