South Fraser Perimeter Road opponents decry demolition and 'paving over our history'
Opponents of the freeway are concerned not only about the loss of the cannery itself but also what impact its demolition might have on an important Coast Salish archaeological site nearby.
The Glenrose Cannery, at 10453 River Rd., was built in 1896. Back then, it was called the Fraser River Industrial Cannery, and was a co-operative partly owned by fishermen before it underwent voluntary liquidation five years later and was reopened as the Glenrose Cannery in 1909.
Johnston Fishing and Packing has been tasked with demolishing the structure, which company representative Paul Edgett says has become somewhat of a safety hazard thanks to time, vandalism, and asbestos on site.
Nearby, on the banks of the Fraser River, stand remnants of log posts from a fishing weir dating back about 4,500 years. The Glenrose site, as it's known, is believed to be the oldest site of human habitation in the Lower Mainland.
Given the archaeological significance of the area, Edgett said First Nations representatives are being consulted in the "very controlled" process of demolishing the cannery.
"The vast majority of the site will be taken down by hand," he said. "It's a very methodical process. By the end of September it's going to be complete."
Opponents of the South Fraser Perimeter Road's construction issued a press release Monday noting that though the provincial government claimed no heritage properties would be touched by the SFPR, Delta municipality challenged that claim and a subsequent heritage study found 33 heritage properties in Delta alone would be impacted by the freeway, which will also run through a good chunk of Surrey.
"The Glenrose Cannery is an important part of Delta and B.C.'s history and should be preserved as such," said Richelle Giberson of North Delta.
"But even more important is the 9,000year-old archaeology site on which the cannery stands," she added.
Meantime, representatives of the Tsawwassen Band, Coast Salish Nation and Cree Sioux First Nations launched a lawsuit in May to stop construction of the SFPR on grounds the route contains ancient human remains and building the road will cause "irreparable damage to sacred grounds."
"This is the destruction of our past and future and has to be stopped," said William Burnstick, one of the plaintiffs representing the Cree Sioux First Nations. "A society that paves over its history and pollutes the planet has no future."
Burnstick says a provincial government document reveals that the Glenrose site is the oldest known archaeological site in Canada.
"It's older than the pyramids," he said. Eric Doherty, of StopThePave.org, laments the cannery's demolition, which got underway last week.
"To me it's symbolic," he said. "Salmon are disappearing and the history of salmon fishing is being dismantled at the same time. The freeway is responsible for a large part of that, paving over all these little creeks that are important to the salmon."