Letter: Precautionary principle argues against Coulter Berry

Dear Editor,

The history of our province and country is written not only in the pages of schoolbooks. It is also written in the lives of people who have come before us – who felt the wind blowing off the Fraser River, and who gazed at the same glorious vista of Golden Ears as we do today.

Those men and women once lived and loved at this unique juncture of the Salmon and Fraser Rivers, much as we do today – farmers, traders, merchants, citizens, and First Nations.

By what means do we honour these pioneers of an earlier era, remembered now (if at all) by an occasional street name, or school, or park?

We do so by preserving their legacy, and in preserving some small part of the history and places associated with their life and times.

We have few enough of such places in this young province. There is no debate over whether or not Fort Langley is such a place. Clearly it is, and it has been recognized, and designated as such.

Given this, we share a mutual obligation to ensure that Fort Langley is preserved as a place where we honour our provincial and national heritage. It is an obligation owed not only to the pioneers who came before us, but also to the generations who will come after us.

It is a heavy responsibility, and I would urge council, in considering any proposed development in the heritage area, to not dwell exclusively on the technical details. While those details are important, they obscure the broader issue.

The broader issue and the real question council faces is this: will it be the council that permits a fatal alteration to the unique heritage ambiance of the earliest settlement in B.C.

That is not overstating the case, for as it pertains to the historical village of Fort Langley, council’s primary responsibility is to ensure that this legacy is not lost.

As a civil society, we talk a lot about the “precautionary principle,” especially with regard to environmental policies, new medications, or new technologies. Under that principle, it is the responsibility of a proponent to establish that the proposed activity or act will not (or is very unlikely to) result in significant harm or damage.

That principle applies no less to preserving our heritage.

The mayor and council are custodians of our mutual heritage. They must modify or make amendments only if they can affirm with full confidence that such modification will not result in significant harm or damage to the heritage shared by all citizens of this province and country.

If they cannot affirm that, it is their civic duty as temporary custodians to reject any rezoning and amendments to the community plan or heritage guidelines until those criteria are fulfilled.

Alister F. Frayne, Fort Langley

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