'It puts a bad taste in my mouth': Councillor aims to make racist covenants history

A few generations ago, the only way Marcus Wong could have lived in the posh West Vancouver neighbourhood where he grew up was as a servant. 

And while that's no longer the case, land title documents for an unknown number of homes in the British Properties — a tony, hillside neighbourhood with panoramic views of Vancouver — still have covenants that say people of colour can't live there. 

Now Wong is trying to change that. 

Next week, the West Vancouver councillor will introduce a motion that will begin the process of identifying and removing any remaining covenants in the district that discriminate based on race, ethnicity, gender, ancestry or religion. The proposal also prohibits the creation of such clauses in the future. 

Coun. Craig Cameron will second Wong's motion.

On CBC's On the Coast on Wednesday, Wong read from one of the racist covenants he had tracked down.

"The first part says that the grantee shall not assign or transfer the set lands to anybody of African or Asiatic race or descent," Wong told host Gloria Macarenko.

"And, as well, no person of either African or Asiatic race or descent shall reside on the premises except as servants.

"It puts a very bad taste in my mouth."

'These covenants ... have no place in our society'

Wong views his work to remove discriminatory clauses from land titles as part of a greater project toward inclusiveness. 

"I think of, for example, the Order of Canada's motto: '[They] desire a better country,'" Wong said.

"This isn't just my country, it's not just your country, it's our country. So, if we truly want this country, Canada, to be better then we need to take all the measures possible to make sure that it is a better country."


In a statement provided to CBC News, British Pacific Properties — the developer behind the original British Properties neighbourhood — said it supported Wong's motion, along with any further steps the municipality might take. 

"These offensive, restrictive covenants are found on properties throughout the province, and although they are void and unenforceable, they have no place in our society," it said.

The family-owned business declined to be interviewed. 

This type of discriminatory practice was not unique to West Vancouver, with such clauses found across Canada. 

Section 222 of British Columbia's Land Titles Act makes such covenants void. Since 1978, the Land Title and Survey Authority (LTSA) has also allowed landowners to remove discriminatory clauses from their titles free of cost. 

Rather than trying to locate the covenants one by one, Wong hopes the district will work with the LTSA to streamline the process and remove racist clauses in large batches. 

Now is an appropriate time to get started, he said.

"The Asian Lunar New Year is coming up. It's a time for renewal, a time for turning a new leaf."