One week after the demolition deadline, the Hope Station House remains standing strong.
B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke said an investigation into the district of Hope’s handling of the Hope Station House has “revealed flaws in the District’s process.”
The B.C. Ombudsperson’s office investigates citizen complaints against government services and allegations involving public servants.
The Coalition for the Preservation of the Hope Station House filed a complaint against the District of Hope in early March, citing among other complaints a lack of transparency and the district’s due diligence to preserve the Station House. The complaint and subsequent investigation brought demolition work to a halt. Additionally, the province issued a 120-day stop work order under the Heritage Conservation Act. The Station House was originally scheduled to be demolished by April 9.
Chalke said the district “swiftly took steps” to rectify problems brought up in the Ombudsperson’s office’s investigation, postponing the demolition and reconsidering their approach.
“I am encouraged that they are initiating a new, more fair process that will determine the fate of this building,” he added in a a statement released Friday morning. “The broader lesson this investigation highlights is that when a public body has to choose a course of action from various options, fairness demands decision-makers are aware of all available choices. If our governments don’t know of and properly consider the options, they can’t show they acted fairly.”
During the most recent council meeting, district officials voted in favour of holding a public hearing on May 10 to consider the Station House’s future. The Council gave two of three required readings of a bylaw repeal that would strip the Station House of its municipal heritage site status – 1982 Town of Hope By-Law 633.
Station House supporters have planned several “honkathons” in the weeks leading up to May 10 to spread awareness and show support for preserving the building.
The Hope Station House was built in 1916. During the last council meeting, local historians said the Station House said it not only holds municipal historical value but that of provincial and national as well. It was the last stop for the 8,000-plus Japanese-Canadian internment prisoners before they were taken to Tashme.