Updating racist West Vancouver land covenant could cost over $1 million

May 27 2022, 8:18 pm

A recently launched petition raised some questions about a land covenant in the District of West Vancouver that contained racist remarks, and righting the historic wrong could prove to be costly.

The land covenant dates back several decades and includes racist language that angered some members of the West Vancouver community.

It contains a line that states, “No person of the African or Asiatic race or of African or Asiatic Descent (except servants of the occupier of the premises in residence) shall reside or be allowed to remain on the premises.”

racist covenant


Over a million dollars

In a statement to Daily Hive Urbanized earlier this month, a District of West Vancouver representative said that the process involved in making these changes is a long one.

“This is outside the jurisdiction of local governments. The resources required to pull, review for discriminatory language, and update land titles are significant. An actionable solution is yet to be identified.”

West Vancouver City Council will be discussing the matter at a meeting on Monday, May 30. You can see the full agenda available online here.

According to a report detailed in the agenda, an initial estimate of the cost of making changes to the covenant totals over $700,000.

The agenda goes on to state that costs would actually exceed that estimate.

The estimate of $735,531.15 does not include costs associated with staff time. District staff do not have the specialized training and experience required for this task and there is no capacity within current staff resources to conduct a project of this magnitude,” the agenda states.

The cost to undertake such an extensive review (searching over 17,000 titles) would be prohibitive, and would likely total in excess of $1,000,000.

Who would’ve thought removing racist language from an old legal document would cost over $1,000,000? According to the agenda, the problem is that “municipalities do not have the resources or expertise” for such an undertaking. 

The agenda states that West Vancouver staff reached out to the Land Title and Survey Authority, who said that when discriminatory language is identified, it will merely “strikethrough, but not delete” the offending item.

The conclusion of the agenda item suggests a solution that involves an intergovernmental approach, which would involve bringing it to attention at the next UBCM Annual Convention.

There’s also a line in the agenda that states, “The discriminatory language is legally void and of no effect,” thanks to an amendment in the ’70s.

While it might be “of no effect” legally, it has had great effect emotionally.

“Appalled and disgusted”

A West Vancouver resident discovered the racist language after she was asked by the City of West Vancouver permitting staff to submit a restrictive covenant for her property.

In her petition, she stated that the discovery left her feeling “appalled and disgusted.”

She told Daily Hive Urbanized that she needed the document to be approved for an improvements permit. The process to obtain the document was a long and arduous one, but she eventually found a way around it and got a friend who works in real estate to help procure it.

“She sent me the document which had these awful words about no Asians/no Africans allowed to reside on the property covenants,” she added.

“We came below farm animals.”

Daily Hive Urbanized has reached out to the creator of the petition for a response to the new information.

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