A West Vancouver city councillor is looking to remove racist language from the land titles of the multi-million dollar homes that line the streets of the British Properties.
Coun. Marcus Wong’s motion, which goes before council Monday, asks staff to explore the “cancellation and striking” of the covenants, which bar people of African or Asian origin or descent from living on the luxury properties.
It’s language that, if it had been enforced, would have prevented Wong and his family from ever settling in the community.
“I grew up here, and I certainly always knew in the back of my mind, it was dangling over my head that people like me at a certain time in history were not allowed to live here,” he said.
“It’s certainly unsettling. It’s quite offensive to think a person like me, who was born in Canada and is fluent in both official languages, would not be welcome.”
In the 1930s, British Pacific Properties began developing the area north of the Upper Levels Highway, spreading up near Capilano Lake. The construction of the Lions Gate Bridge, which opened in 1938, prompted further growth.
The upscale area was marketed to Caucasian buyers, who signed land titles with the following covenant:
“No person of the African or Asiatic race or African of Asiatic descent — except servants of the occupier of the premises in residence — shall reside or be allowed to remain on the premises.”
In 1978, section 222 was introduced to B.C.’s Land Title Act, which makes any covenant that discriminates based on sex, race, nationality, ancestry or place of origin void and not in effect.
But Wong says he’s been contacted by several homeowners who say the title they signed kept the racist language, despite it not being enforceable.
“Now that it’s 2020, I think it’s really timely to do something about that,” he said.
“We have a lot of new Canadians, a lot of Canadians who have been here for many generations in West Vancouver. We talk about an inclusive, vibrant society and community, and I think this is an important piece to address.”
Beyond the 200 to 300 homes within the British Properties, Wong says staff would have to look at amending land titles for homes in other communities as well, whose owners say similar language is included.
“We’re looking at doing it as a bulk number of properties, so we want to make sure we do this as efficiently and effectively as possible,” he said.
In a statement, British Pacific Properties president Geoff Croll said the developer “fully supports” Wong’s motion “and any other steps taken by the District of West Vancouver, to remove discriminatory language from the titles of properties.”
Wong says he’s hopeful the rest of council will support his effort to put a painful part of West Vancouver’s past behind them.
“I tell my colleagues, this community is not just mine, it’s not just theirs, it’s actually ours,” he said.
“If we want this community to be as great and inclusive as it can be, then we have to take measures to address this.”
— With files from Catherine Urquhart