The destruction of a historic mansion in Sooke raises a number of disturbing questions with very few answers.
During the past year, the classic English-style estate has been systematically vandalized and now stands as a shameful reminder that, like most communities, Sooke has some residents who lack the basic decency we assume as a common characteristic of our children, our friends, and our neighbours.
What may be most disturbing is that these vandals are not just wayward children and teens to whom we might ascribe a lack of maturity and understanding of the basic social contracts that create a healthy community. In fact, one neighbour described chasing belligerent 20 and 30 year olds from the house, people who know or should know, that their actions are wrong.
Of course, even a cursory reading of the prolific graffiti at the site is an indicator that these people are not Rhodes Scholars or even fully functional human beings.
But the situation raises other concerns.
Because the property is privately owned, the District of Sooke is at a loss to protect the historic mansion.
Neighbours report that police have responded to Deerlepe on numerous occasions but their efforts to date have been wholly ineffective. As well, the district has no way to require the owners to secure the property or provide adequate security measures to protect what is a part of Sooke’s history.
The difficulty of the situation is further compounded by the fact that the owners of the property are reported to be foreign buyers who, it can be assumed, don’t give a tinker’s damn about the history of Sooke or the importance of Deerlepe to the heritage of the community and are unlikely to be persuaded to incur any expense do what is needed to protect the house.
And, sadly, what has happened at Deerlepe will doubtlessly repeat itself at some time in the future.
But heritage is part of what makes a community special and Sooke district council needs to explore bylaws requiring appropriate security measures to be put in place for vacant houses of this kind. If the owners fail to follow those bylaws, the district should step in and do so at the owner’s expense.