Permits and Permitting

British Columbia’s archaeological sites are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA). The provisions of the HCA apply whether sites are located on public or private land. Archaeological sites are protected through designation as “Provincial heritage sites” (section 9), or through automatic protection by virtue of being of particular historic or archaeological value (section 13). Protected archaeological sites may not be altered, i.e. changed in any manner, without a permit issued by the Minister or designate. The HCA affords considerable discretionary authority in determining if, and under what conditions, such permits are to be granted (sections 12 and 14).

Heritage Inspection and Heritage Investigation Permits are issued pursuant to section 14 of the HCA subsequent to Branch review. The purpose of a heritage inspection is to assess the archaeological significance of land or other property. In this regard, the inspection determines the presence of archaeological sites which warrant protection, or are already protected, under the HCA. A heritage investigation is undertaken in order to recover information which might otherwise be lost as a result of site alteration or destruction.

Alteration permits are issued under section 12 of the HCA when the Branch has reviewed and approved an Application for Alteration Permit. The site alteration permit authorizes the removal of residual archaeological deposits once the inspection and/or investigation are completed; the current template includes a guide to complete the application.  A guide specific to Section 12 applications can be found here.

The branch requires 15 days to review permit applications where no further information or clarification is needed.

In addition, between 15 and 30 days is also required in order to provide an opportunity for those who may be affected by a permitting decision (e.g., First Nations) to have their comments considered.

Permit application forms are available on our forms and guidelines page. A table summarizing permit amendments is available on our Guidelines Transition Project page.