The Mack Laing Heritage Society received two pieces of good news, which fully vindicate what it has been saying for the past two and a half years. Heritage BC has issued a public statement in which it designates Mack Laing’s original home, Baybrook as “significant heritage site” for British Columbians and all Canadians. Additionally, it has received a legal opinion by a well-known BC jurist, which confirms the legal foundation of its proposals, and seriously questions the Town of Comox’s handling of the trust. (Both documents can be found at macklaingsociety.ca).
For eight months, MLHS has been publicly vilified by insubstantial claims made by parties who placed their personal interest above the interest of Canadian heritage and history. They have repeatedly cherry-picked and distorted the evidence laid out in the reports. Unworthy personal attacks in the press even falsely claimed that the architect’s report did not find that Baybrook had heritage value. The Canadian citizenship handbook notes that it is the obligation of all Canadians to protect their heritage. Clearly these people should be invited to sit – or re-sit – a citizenship exam, when they advocate the destruction of Baybrook.
Based on the two false claims, that Baybrook had no heritage value and that there is no legal grounds for transferring the trust to Baybrook from Shakesides, these parties also circulated a bogus petition which is misleadingly entitled: “ Commercialization and Development of Recently Acquired Parkland….” This is preposterous since the reports repeatedly state that the MLHS is interested in the house only, as a walk-in only facility open to the public, and has no interest in “the Parkland”. There was no “development” only restoration to heritage standards. Malicious and defamatory claims were made that MLHS wanted to appropriate the house as a private club, expand it as a “convention centre,” and that a digital “communication hub” (meaning: “1 laptop”) meant an physical influx of thousands of physical tourists, and that the project would cost Comox taxpayers.
Particularly odious was the claim that if MLHS were to have to apply for provincial or federal grants, this would be an imposition on Comox taxpayers. When any other party receives one of these grants, that is celebrated by the community as a positive influx to the local economy that reduces taxes. That claim was therefore tantamount to hate propaganda and discrimination against a particular cultural group – and that is a criminal offense in this country.
Also reprehensible is that fact that the petition’s reasoning, and disingenuous claims, became the basis of the “staff report.” Just as the upright citizens, who circulated and signed this petition, refused to meet with MLHS, so staff never invited MLHS to comment either on the opposition’s submission, or on its own contemptible report. (Comox held kangaroo court at Town Hall.)
So, as I have said before, MLHS has simply accepted the political decision to turn down its offer to save and manage Baybrook as a heritage site, at no cost to Comox. MLHS had about $200K available to do that work, volunteer support, and pay for trust transfer. The reports showed that the site can be operated with minimal impact – using common funding techniques commonly used by other heritage properties. Shamefully, this inconvenienced influential citizens, who simply used every bogus and biased argument to further their intent to demolish Canadian heritage.
Now, MLHS has fully accepted that its proposal has been rejected. MLHS hopes that Comox will find a better fit with the generous offer made by Heritage BC. However, what I will never accept is that the Town of Comox has any right to wantonly engage in the reckless destruction of Canadian environmental and cultural heritage to satisfy the whims of a few nabobs. Nor should anyone accept the suggestion that the trust which a venerable and generous Canadian historical icon placed in municipal government officials can be breached, as MLHS’ legal opinion indicates it was.
A conservative calculation suggests that between the principle left by Laing 33 years ago ($55K), “to be invested”, and rents from Shakesides (@$400/month), trust money should have grown exponentially to between $400K and over $1 million! When Comox representatives tell us that they have increased the trust from $55K to $72K in 33 years, as a humble taxpayer, I think it is time to follow the money, have a forensic accountant look into this, and refer the matter to the Attorney General, as recommended by MLHS’ legal counsel.
Wishing everybody a Happy Canada Day, and reminding everybody that Canadian heritage is our birthright. It should never be bartered away this shamefully.