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Dig at B.C. shopping mall reveals Indigenous artifacts, and evolution of archeology



Time changes everything — including the way archeology works.

It’s a point illustrated by the recent discovery of Indigenous artifacts at the site of a shopping mall renovation in Williams Lake in central British Columbia, a process that involved collaboration and oversight by the Williams Lake First Nation.

Whitney Spearing, rights and title manager for the First Nation, said it’s a stark contrast to the approach taken almost a half-century ago, when 13 human skeletons were found at the same site during the original construction of the Boitanio Mall.

Those remains were taken away in a truck and dumped over an embankment.

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“When we talk about the 1970s, there wasn’t a lot of respect for First Nations people, there wasn’t a lot of respect for archeology as a discipline,” Spearing said in an interview.

“It was like, ‘oh, it was just stones and bones,’ kind of sweeping it under the rug and throwing it in the ravine, and no one will know.”

A roasting pit, a projectile point made of fine-grain volcanic rock, and other artifacts have recently been unearthed at the site, which has been under excavation since Oct. 11 to repair a sewer pipe. The work is in connection with the ongoing renovation of Boitanio Mall, and the construction of 82 rental units and 164 parking spaces.

To avoid a repeat of the 1974 incident, Spearing’s team approached Janda Group, owner of Boitanio Mall, hoping to be involved.

Representatives from Williams Lake First Nation, along with the nation’s archeological services corporation Sugar Cane Archaeology, and the Archer Cultural Resource Management Group are taking part in the dig.

The nation said in a statement that the work conducted in 1974 was done without the involvement of Williams Lake First Nation or other Indigenous communities.

Before doing actual digging work this fall, Spearing’s team spent four years researching, gathering information and documents about the site.

She said all findings would be examined and analyzed with bulk samples being sent to a lab located at the Williams Lake Nation for flotation work, an archeological technique that involves using water to extract light organic materials like seeds and pollen from the soil.

“Now we’re taking the time to do it in the right way and do everything to make sure that we’re gathering as much information as we can,” said Spearing.

This time, the dig is being documented by professional photographers. A photo shared by Spearing shows the roasting pit — shaped like a large bowl the colour of charcoal — used to allow people to steam their food inside slowly.

Spearing said it was amazing to discover so many different types of artifacts from such a small area, which is only big enough to allow a pipe to be placed.

“And it means that it was a really densely occupied and heavily used site and that’s where the primary village for Williams Lake First Nation (was),” said Spearing.

The Williams Lake First Nation announced an agreement earlier this year with the federal government, settling a 160-year-old dispute for $135 million.

In the mid-1800s, the federal government allowed settlers to move into the nation’s reserve, forcing them off their land. The area is now the of the City of Williams Lake.

The nation took the case the Indian Claims Commission, the Specific Claims Tribunal, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada over a 30-year period before the claim was resolved.

Spearing said discovering and preserving the significant items isn’t the end of archeological work. She said it was important to educate the public about the finds to show why archeology matters.

“Because archeology still has a bit of a bad name in terms of (the perception), it will slow down the process,” said Spearing.

She said she hopes a public venue can be found in Williams Lake to display their discoveries, allowing people to learn about them, as well as other recent archeological expeditions in B.C.

“So, I really would like to see an interpretive centre where it’s not just about one site, but it’s about all of these sites and all of the archeology, the culture and the heritage and how it all ties together,” said Spearing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.


Nono Shen, The Canadian Press


‘Bumbling and stumbling’: Alberta’s UCP caucus votes for changes to sovereignty bill



'Bumbling and stumbling': Alberta's UCP caucus votes for changes to sovereignty bill

Alberta‘s governing United Conservative caucus says it wants changes to fix a bill that grants sweeping, unchecked powers to Premier Danielle Smith and her cabinet to pass laws behind closed doors without the scrutiny and approval of the legislature.

Smith, meanwhile, is facing Opposition demands to explain to Albertans whether she is authoritarian or incompetent, given the way her signature sovereignty bill has rolled out.

“She either got caught in her attempt to seize power and is now desperately scrambling to cover that up, or she literally didn’t know what was in her bill and very possibly still doesn’t,” Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said during question period Monday.

“She’s lost people’s trust with this bumbling and stumbling.

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“Her bill is beyond saving. Why won’t she just withdraw it?”

Smith responded that she welcomes the changes.

“I want to make sure that we get this bill right and I’m grateful that my caucus is going to propose amendments to do that.”

Smith said over the weekend that amendments were in the works to reverse provisions of the sovereignty bill that grant her cabinet the unfettered powers.

Smith told her Saturday morning radio talk show that the unchecked powers were never supposed to be in the bill, but she didn’t explain how they got there.

“You never get things right 100 per cent right all the time,” she said on the show.

Smith’s United Conservative caucus said in a news release Monday that it voted to propose an amendment to clarify that any changes cabinet makes to laws under the act can’t be done in secret, but must instead come back to the house for the normal process of debate and approval.

The caucus also voted to change the act to more narrowly spell out when cabinet can take action.

Under the current bill, cabinet has wide latitude to respond to whatever federal law policy or program it deems harmful to Alberta’s interests.

With the amendment, harm would be defined as anything a majority of the legislature deems to be an unconstitutional federal intrusion in provincial areas of responsibility.

“These proposed amendments reflect feedback we’ve received from Albertans who want to see aspects of Bill 1 clarified to ensure it gets across the finish line,” government whip Brad Rutherford said in the release.

The release does not contain suggested legal wording of the amendments and the amendments have yet to be presented to the house.

The bill is now in second reading.

Political scientist Duane Bratt said the proposed amendments represent a major climbdown.

“Both of those were flagged early and often by critics of the bill. Those were two of the most outrageous things in there,” said Bratt, with Mount Royal University in Calgary.

He said the outstanding question is how did these clauses end up in the bill in the first place.

“Either they meant it that this is something they wanted to do … meant it and didn’t think anyone would notice, meant it but didn’t anticipate the backlash or they were just cut-and-pasting legislation and they didn’t think it all through.”

Either way, said Bratt, “it looks incompetent.”

Smith introduced the bill a week ago, characterizing it as a deliberately confrontational tool to reset the relationship with a federal government that she accuses of interfering in constitutionally protected areas of provincial responsibility from energy development to health care.

The bill has been widely criticized by political scientists and legal experts as constitutionally questionable and a threat to the checks and balances that underpin a healthy democracy.

Indigenous leaders have called it a heavy-handed trampling on treaty rights. Business groups, including the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, warn the legal uncertainty surrounding the bill is not good for investment.

Concerns remain over the provision that would grant Smith’s cabinet the right to order provincial entities — municipalities, schools, health regions, city police forces and others — to flout federal laws.

Under the bill as it currently is constructed, once cabinet identifies a federal harm, it would send a resolution to the legislative assembly spelling out the nature of the harm and the remedies to fix it.

If the Legislature gives its approval by majority vote, cabinet takes over and can pass laws and direct provincial agencies.

The current bill says cabinet “should” follow the direction of the house but doesn’t mandate it.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

— With files from Colette Derworiz in Calgary

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Canada imposes more sanctions in Haiti, targeting country’s wealthiest people



Canada is imposing more sanctions on Haitian elites it accuses of empowering gangs in the Caribbean country. The new sanctions freeze Canadian assets held by three of the country’s wealthiest people.

They include Gilbert Bigio, who is often called the richest person in Haiti, as well as Reynold Deeb and Sherif Abdallah.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly accuses the trio of providing “illicit financial and operational support to armed gangs” through money laundering and “other acts of corruption.”

Gangs have paralyzed Haiti by blocking access to roads, fuel and essentials, leading the government to call for an international military intervention, which Ottawa is considering leading.

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But some Haitians fear that will only help parts of the government, which they say is responsible for corruption and a worsening cholera outbreak, stay in power.

Joly is also asking countries “to follow our lead and impose sanctions against gangs and their supporters.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

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Polytechnique announces 2022 Order of the White Rose scholarship recipient



A Quebec environmental engineering student intent on researching solutions to the global climate crisis is the latest recipient of a $30,000 prize established in honour of the 14 women killed 33 years ago at Montreal’s École Polytechnique.

The engineering school announced Sophia Roy is this year’s winner of its Order of the White Rose scholarship, which was established in 2014 to commemorate the victims and survivors of the shooting on Dec. 6, 1989.

Roy says she is extremely honoured to receive the award, adding it encourages her to continue to fight prejudice and break down barriers that limit women from pursuing careers in science and engineering.

The scholarship is awarded annually to a female engineering student who wishes to enrol in graduate studies in engineering at any institution of her choosing, in Canada or elsewhere in the world.

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Roy’s mother, Nathalie Sioris, began her studies at Polytechnique a year after the shooting, and now her daughter will be pursuing an accelerated PhD in chemical and environmental engineering.

Roy, 23, graduated in chemical engineering from McGill University, and Polytechnique says her recent internship at Quebec’s Department of Environment and Climate Change yielded data instrumental to the province’s rejection of a proposed multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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