LETTER: Removal of racist covenant doesn’t rewrite history, says homeowner

Today this kind of racial discrimination is illegal in Canada…

To the Editor,

Re: Social Justice students remove racially restrictive covenant from Port Alberni home.

The sums of $7,846.34 and $4,483.34 are sizeable amounts today and a young professional person might choose to spend this money many ways. A better car, a newer boat, a special adventure for the family or paying down their student loan.

But in 1909 and 1912, a young Port Alberni professional, Alan Webster Neill, who would eventually serve as MP from 1923–45, chose to spend the equivalent of these sums placing racially based covenants on properties that he owned in Port Alberni.

When I purchased his house, this came as quite a shock. When I first read of the covenant on the property, I thought does the covenant cover something architectural, archaeological, or does it have something to do with local floral or fauna? But no, there it was, a racial based covenant, tied to the property, for every new landowner to view when purchasing the house and land.

Today this kind of racial discrimination is illegal in Canada. But making the behaviour illegal did not remove the covenants. In order to have the racist covenant remove the homeowner or their representatives must make special application to have the covenant removed.

Enter Justin, Kate and Sara, three students from Anne Oswald’s Social Justice class at Alberni District Secondary School. With time and determination, they contacted the powers to be at The Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia and had the “Discriminating Covenant Cancelled Pursuant to S.222 LAND TITLE ACT. SCC FB 519579.” And an act of social injustice as been righted.

For those of you that are concerned that a piece of history is lost, it is not. What has happened is on the original document lines have been drawn through the racial covenant and a statement added that the covenant has been removed, with the date. This will advise owners to come that what may have been legal in the past, though ethically questionable, is now neither legal or ethical and there were those who cared enough to ensure the change was made.

Valerie Harrison,

Port Alberni

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