The fight to save the historic Hope Station House continues, as efforts to demolish it move forward.
The same day that the District of Hope council was set to remove the building from its heritage designation, they were issued a 120-day stop work order by the province.
Still, council moved ahead with two of three readings for the removal, which would allow them to demolish the building. They are required to move the building from its current site by the end of May, due to an agreement with the landowner.
However, that deadline will pass during the 120 days of work stoppage. And that has renewed hope for those who would like to see the building saved.
But that’s not the only action that’s been taking place behind the scenes.
The coalition hoping to save the building submitted a complaint on Feb. 28 against the District to the B.C. ombudsperson. And on Tuesday, that 10-page report became available.
“The B.C. ombudsperson launched an investigation into the District of Hope, reviewing the information we supplied, and requesting a great deal of further information from us as well as the District as the investigation progressed,” said Christian Ward of the coalition.
B.C.’s ombudsperson can review situations involving government offices, and provide reports.
Ward said they are still digesting the information from the report, but have found two key findings:
– There was a lack of fairness of the procedure that the district used to make their decision [to demolish the building], and the district did not consider all options available to them.
– The B.C. Ombudsperson has concerns about the council’s omission of any consideration of the impact of the Station House’s potential heritage status, [despite there being a heritage bylaw in place for the building].
Now, the district will have to look at alternatives, Ward said.
The stop work order was made due to the heritage status of the building. This week, Ward posted some collaboratively curated information on their Facebook page, Hope for the Station House. It includes historic photos of Japanese Canadians stepping off a train at the Station House and being loaded into trucks to be taken to the internment camp at Tashme, just outside of Hope.
“In collaboration with Sherri Kajiwara (Director and Curator of Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre) and Ryan Ellan of Tashme Museum, I have written this post to highlight one of the many reasons why this historic building should remain in Hope, and be preserved for generations to come,” Ward wrote.
“This building tells the story of our history good and bad, things to be proud of and things to learn from.”
“In 1942, the Canadian government designated Japanese Canadians as ‘Enemy Aliens’ and stripped these citizens of their freedom, property and assets. The government consequently ordered the forced removal of over 22,000 Japanese Canadians from the west coast of British Columbia. The town of Hope was inside the 100 mile exclusion zone, and the Hope Station House was the connector to the rest of the province and sites of internment to which those of Japanese ancestry were unjustly sent.
Hope Station House was often the first stop for these citizens, and nearly 8,000 of them stepped foot off the train at the Hope Station House where trucks were parked ready to transport internees to sites in other parts of the province. 2,644 of these citizens who were loaded into the back of trucks at the Hope Station House were transferred to the Tashme internment camp, 19km away. Men were separated from their families to live in roadside camps, for the building of the Hope Princeton Highway.
Sherri Kajiwara of the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre (for Japanese Canadian history and heritage) has voiced alarm that the District of Hope scheduled demolition of the Station House without due care for the history held within this site. The Nikkei National Museum has a mandate to honour, preserve and share Japanese Canadian history and heritage and they support the attempts to save this historic building and the heritage value within in. Sherri Kajiwara encourages the District to work together with those who are campaigning to save this building, to help preserve a key piece of this province’s history.”
A public hearing has been set for council to gather more information from the public. That will be held on May 10 and submissions can be made to the district until that day.
In the meantime, supporters have planned several “honkathons” where they will be driving around town and honking for support, with their vehicles adorned with messages for the community and the district. One such event was already held on Wednesday afternoon.
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