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More than $1 million to remove racist language in West Van covenants: Report

May 27, 2022

Removing racist language from West Vancouver land title documents could cost the municipality more than $1 million, according to a staff report going before council on Monday.
The report explores options on how the district can deal with outdated and discriminatory clauses on covenants, which restrict what an owner can do on the property.

If the district embarks on its own quest to remove the clauses, it would have to search through more than 17,300 parcels of land and inform the Land Title and Survey Authority (LTSA) of its findings. The office, located in New Westminster, would then cross out — but not delete — the offending language from the documents.

“The cost to undertake such an extensive review… would be prohibitive, and would likely total in excess of $1,000,000,” said the report.

It noted that the cost to pull a title for a parcel of land is about $10, and the cost to pull a covenant is $16.19, adding up to more than $735,000 in fees alone not including staff time.
The LTSA has refused the district’s request to waive search and retrieval fees.

Instead, the report recommends council sponsor a resolution at the upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention to get the provincial government to direct the LTSA to search, identify and delete any discriminatory language in covenants

“This proposed intergovernmental approach represents an opportunity for B.C. municipalities to confront the issue of discriminatory land title covenants collectively and in a systematic manner,” said the report, noting that the onus for “righting these historical wrongs” is on the province as they were the ones that allowed the registration of the covenants prior to 1978.
That year, legislative changes to the Land Title Act rendered the discriminatory clauses unenforceable.

But it is still upsetting for some residents to see they are part of official documents attached to their properties.

Michele Tung, a West Vancouver resident, was appalled to find a “special covenant” attached to her home in the British Properties that stipulates the property could not be owned by anyone of Asian or African descent.

“I was very angry. I wanted to get the awareness out that this is still happening,” Tung told Postmedia in early May. “My goal is to get rid of these covenants, because I don’t want to have to tell my children’s children that I didn’t do anything about it.”

She started an online petition calling for the removal of the discriminatory restrictive covenants. So far, the petition has garnered more than 4,300 signatures.