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Canada The Almighty Buck Science

Canadian Couple Charged $5k For Finding 400-Year-Old Skeleton 601

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-found-it-you-bought-it dept.
First time accepted submitter Rebecka Schumann writes "Ontario couple Ken Campbell and Nicole Sauve said a recent fence installation led them to discover what is being labeled a historical find. Sauve, who said the duo originally believed the skeleton to be from bones of an animal, called the Ontario Provincial Police to investigate; Forensic Anthropologist Michael Spence confirmed the bones were that of an aboriginal woman who died at age 24 between the late 1500s to the early 1600s. In spite of reporting their find and Spence's evaluation, Suave and Campbell were told they were required to hire an archeologist to assess their property at their own expense under Ontario's Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act. The act, which requires evaluation for all properties found to house human remains, has the Canadian couple stuck with a big bill."
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Canadian Couple Charged $5k For Finding 400-Year-Old Skeleton

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  • by Jabrwock (985861) on Monday June 17, 2013 @10:33AM (#44029115) Homepage
    The Act allows for them to apply to the minister for an exemption, upon granting the state will pay the cost.

    The law as written was meant to ensure companies are responsible for the archaeological costs incurred from digging up their land instead of saddling the taxpayer.

    The Star is just ginning this up as their usual "GOVERNMENT BAD" drivel.

  • by Jabrwock (985861) on Monday June 17, 2013 @10:44AM (#44029275) Homepage
    The local band is raising the money to have the skeleton re-buried at their cemetery.

    The issue is that they are required to also have an archeological survey done to ensure there aren't other artifacts buried there too.

  • Re:How t f (Score:4, Informative)

    by CyberSlugGump (609485) on Monday June 17, 2013 @11:01AM (#44029443)

    "an aboriginal woman who died at age 24 ;

    How did an Aboriginal woman manage to travel all the way from Australia to Canada 400 years ago ?

    Aborigine [wikipedia.org] does not just refer to people in Australia. See Aboriginal_peoples_in_Canada [wikipedia.org]

  • Kennewick Man (Score:3, Informative)

    by PPH (736903) on Monday June 17, 2013 @11:10AM (#44029577)

    Be careful you don't find artifacts that might conflict with Native Americans assertions about their history. Kennewick Man [wikipedia.org], the remains of a person found in Eastern Washington State dating back over 9000 years but not anatomically similar to the natives of the time caused quite a bit of controversy. The Indian tribes of the area claimed the body as their property in spite of scientific evidence because it could conflict with their oral history. Not stated in the Wikipedia article: The site of the find was destroyed to prevent further archeological finds that could challenge tribal mythology. Where's the First Amendment when we need it?

  • by Jodka (520060) on Monday June 17, 2013 @11:18AM (#44029641)

    ... property owners frustrated with the US's endangered species act find it's easier to hunt and kill such species on their property, rather than lose access to that property.

    The term for this is "shoot, shovel and shut up." [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:OH CANADA! (Score:5, Informative)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday June 17, 2013 @11:33AM (#44029855)

    I uhh, didn't mean for this to be 'funny'. I'm deadly serious: The law of unintended consequences is working overtime here. This is another classic example of how strict liability laws cause grave injustices. In the ideal case, nobody should ever be punished for trying to do the right think, contacting proper authorities, and generally taking personal responsibility for reporting a possible crime or public safety concern, or in cases where there is immediate threat to life, taking action -- even if such action in hindsight is later determined to have been unnecessary, incomplete, etc.

    Laws like this take away a person's incentive and motivation to do good by others. To take personal responsibility. To be good citizens.

    While its intent may have been to protect burial sites, etc., a noble idea... the actual effect has been to punish a living, responsible, contributing member of society for disturbing inanimate objects with no intrinsic value. It is, in effect, a form of religious bigotry -- not everyone believes that the remains of the dead have value, and nature doesn't give a damn... it recycles you when you're dead. And the judges' hands are tied on this because in strict liability cases, mens rea can't be considered -- that is, your motivation is totally irrelevant. I mean, even if it's to save lives, you're still just as guilty as if you'd done it out of pure malice and hatred.

  • What is property? (Score:4, Informative)

    by HalfFlat (121672) on Monday June 17, 2013 @11:41AM (#44029937)

    It is by no means clear that anyone has a fundamental right to own land. Indeed, few individuals own land outright — in common law states, real property is typically held fee simple.

    If all land were owned and its use restricted to private individuals, how could one live without being a property owner, or being beholden to one? Land exists independently of human art, and our literal existence demands that we at the very least reside in it, breathe the air on it, and so forth. Morally, the private, exclusive use of land must come with an obligation that that ownership benefits our society more than a lack of ownership would — there is an obligation of stewardship, if nothing else.

    The system whereby our governments enforce property ownership is almost certainly better than one where individuals maintain the exclusive use and benefit of land by force. Yet it is by no means a natural system, and those who benefit by it to the exclusion of their fellows should not be divorced from the obligations associated with it.

  • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Monday June 17, 2013 @11:49AM (#44030061)
    I was there talking to the actual safari guides. It's what happens.

    And the 'future revenue stream'? Seriously? They kill the rhino to get the horn in the first place...you can't exactly take it off them without doing so, or are you so dense to think the poachers would have tranquilizers and be 'nice' about it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @11:54AM (#44030143)

    That's nonsense. There are countless examples of government simply doing the wrong thing and overreacting badly.

    Of the following three scenarios, which do you think is most likely to work and which is most likely to destroy archaelogical finds?

    1. The landowner must report on any archaelogical finds and pay to have the site investigated. Any items will not belong to the landowner.
    2. The landowner must report on any archaelogical finds and pay to have the site investigated, but the items found will belong to the landowner, who may sell or donate, but not destroy them.
    3. The landowner must report on any archaelogical finds. The government will pay to have the site investigated and will be the owner of any found items.

    To me, the second option is the fairest and most likely to prevent the destruction of the items. If we make it profitable, it is not only fair, but it encourages people to find these items. The third option is less fair in that it doesn't account for the opportunity costs lost due to the investigation, but at least the landowner isn't having to foot the bill. The first option is completely unfair and leads (demonstrably) to lost artifacts.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday June 17, 2013 @01:28PM (#44031399) Homepage

    Somebody has to pay for society. I'm not particularly keen on it being the landowner, but if the government pays as a matter of course, the door's wide open for exploitation. A reasonable system (in my opinion) would be to have the government pay for major expenses, and private entities pay for minor things, where the definitions of "major" and "minor" are determined by an appropriately-uninterested third party.

    That sounds pretty similar to what's happening here:

    Bob Bailey, the MPP for the area, saw her story in the local newspaper and his staff did some research into the couple’s predicament. He found out that Sauve can make a request to the Registrar of Cemeteries to determine if paying for the excavation would be considered an “undue financial burden.” The registrar will then either reimburse her or pay the bill directly.

    Bailey said he has spoken to the minister of consumer services (the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act falls under her purview) and her staff, and intends to make sure Sauve won’t have to pay.

    An unexpected $5000 bill to a residential homeowner is pretty likely to be undue, but it's up to the registrar to decide. We could of course wait and see, but since this is Slashdot, we're never going to get the resolution. Even if the registrar pays the whole bill, Slashdot won't report on it. Instead, the next anti-government story that can be spun into a revolutionary frenzy will make the front page.

    If I dig up inuit bones, it's meaningless to me. If the inuit feel what I find is valuable, THEY can flippin' pay for it. If it's not worth them sinking $5000 into the 'site evaluation' plus whatever I want to charge for the inconvenience of delaying my project, then screw them and grind it to dust.

    And this is why we have government in the first place. Society as a whole has determined that the cultural and scientific value of the bones is worth more than any "inconvenience" to you, so society's government has declared it illegal to knowingly (or negligently) "grind it to dust". If you're building a new multi-million-dollar complex, and your preliminary survey encounters some artifacts, the few thousand dollars extra it costs you to comply with the law is an insignificant price. In the colonial cities on the United States' east coast, this is a routine occurrence, and there are grant programs available specifically to pay for such things.

    Even scarier than the unexpected bills to citizens is the opportunity for fraud against the government. If the government's policy is to simply pay all excavation and exploration bills, anybody with a few old bones can drop them on a planned construction site, and have the cost of construction subsidized by the taxpayers. If the government's also required to pay for "inconvenience", the fraud can set whatever price he wants, and effectively hold history for ransom. Through the indirect process of representative government, society has said they'd rather have occasional unexpected bills.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Monday June 17, 2013 @01:31PM (#44031429)

    Well, if the public wants something, it should pay for it (through taxes). It shouldn't try to stick random bystanders with the cost, not just because it's unjust, but because it doesn't work: the predictable consequence of such laws is that what you consider valuable now just quietly disappears altogether.

  • by barc0001 (173002) on Monday June 17, 2013 @01:32PM (#44031449)

    Why should this be on the insurance company. The intent of the law is the artifact is culturally important and belongs to "all", so why should its recovery only be subsidized by a small portion of the "all" (i.e. the customers of that particular insurance company)? The only thing this article has taught me to do is if I dig and find remains on my property, fill them back in and forget it ever happened. I don't have 5K lying around for this shit.

  • by OldSoldier (168889) on Monday June 17, 2013 @06:09PM (#44034261)

    if "the law" wants to require people to do something that costs money, then "the law" needs to pay for it. otherwise "the law" can go bugger itself.

    Stupid building codes, driver's permits, garbage collection, always making ME pay for them.

    Usually codes like the one the OP cited only apply to new construction, retroactively requiring a tornado shelter on an existing building is hardly ever done in the US. However, stupid shit still is done... we remodeled our house and even though we didn't change the number of plumbing fixtures we had to bring our septic system up to current code. To make matters worse, the county did not certify the old drain field because "the soils were disturbed" ... no duh, there's a SEPTIC field there. So at great expense we had to completely install a new septic field.

The 11 is for people with the pride of a 10 and the pocketbook of an 8. -- R.B. Greenberg [referring to PDPs?]

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