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    Solar plate etching, a polymer printing process, is a non-toxic, chemical-free process to easily transfer photos or drawings onto a zinc plate that can then be printed multiple times using the intaglio inking method. During this two day workshop we will be making two plates. One using a photographic transparency and one using a drawing or painting on mylar. We will be using the sun to print our plates or an exposure box if the sun isn’t available. Day two we will prep the plates for printing and print the intaglio plates using black and white and then some colour. The course runs September 15 AND 16 from 10am to 4pm. Costs are $225 for GZP members and $245 for non-members. There is also a $20 materials fee for 2 solar plates. Otherwise, most materials included. To register email Alain at gzpsbc@yahoo.com or phone at 250-382-2186 by September 6, 2018
  3. Goward House

    Portrait Painters

    Art Show and Sale by PORTRAIT PAINTERS August 31st to September 26th Viewing hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm hosted by: THE GOWARD HOUSE SOCIETY 2495 Arbutus Road Victoria BC V8N 1V9 (250) 477-4401 gowardhouse@shaw.ca
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  5. openspaceartsociety

    Bead by Bead: Beading Circle with Lindsay Delaronde

    BYOB—Bring your own beads to start a project, finish a project, or just sit in circle and share stories!Bead by Bead is a 4-session circle hosted at Open Space by Aboriginal Curator Lindsay Delaronde. We will come together to share techniques, ideas, and good laughs. Beading is our way to tell stories, to come back into grounding and focus. As an activity, it is therapeutic and healing and has strong ties to our cultural ways of knowing and understanding who we are as Indigenous peoples.All welcome! Come to one or all of the sessions. Some materials and snacks will be provided.--Open Space respectfully acknowledges that we are on unceded First Nations territory. The City of Victoria and the surrounding areas lie on the territories of the Coast Salish and Lekwungen-speaking peoples, including the Esquimalt, Songhees, and W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations. Open Space is not wheelchair accessible and is accessed by a flight of 23 stairs. There are two gender inclusive washrooms, one multi-stall and one single stall with a urinal. If you have any other questions or concerns in regards to accessibility, please contact office@openspace.ca or 250-383-8833.
  6. Victoria Adams

    Mile Zero Matters Conversation Cafe

    Mile Zero Matters Conversation Cafe, (host of monthly dialogues on topical urban issues in the City of Victoria), invites you to participate in a gathering to explore Victoria's vision, actions taken by Mayor and Council, and results achieved 2014-2018. Topic: Questions You Want Answered By City Council Candidates. Key issues? Priorities? Costs vs Benefits? Transparency & Accountability? What really matters to most taxpayers, residents, and businesses? For information email: milezeromatters@gmail.com
  7. openspaceartsociety

    Anti-Tourism Walking Tour

    Not your typical tour of Victoria! Join artist David LaRiviere for an anti-tourism walking tour of the city, stopping at sites featured in stories told by participants of his media arts project #everysordiddetail. The tour will begin at Open Space with an artist talk about the project from 2-2:30pm.An “anti-tourist” project opposing the touristic narratives of the city in favour of fragmentary or messy bits of real life, #everysordiddetail seeks to create an alternative and uncensored map of the city. While in residency from June 1st to July 31st, LaRiviere has been connecting with people living in Victoria and recording their stories of the diverse material of daily life in the city. Volunteer participants have responded to the simple question “What happened?”From these stories, LaRiviere has created an interactive map and audio tour, geo-locating interviews to the site where they occurred, and allowing those who take the audio tour to experience everyday surfaces imbued with a new sense. From August 2-25 the public is invited to engage in the anti-tourism tour and listen to the recorded interviews through the #everysordiddetail app. Open Space will also host an opening reception on Thursday, August 2 from 7 to 9pm to celebrate the gallery exhibition and launch of the app.--Open Space respectfully acknowledges that we are on unceded First Nations territory. The City of Victoria and the surrounding areas lie on the territories of the Coast Salish and Lekwungen-speaking peoples, including the Esquimalt, Songhees, and W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations. Open Space is not wheelchair accessible and is accessed by a flight of 23 stairs. There are two gender inclusive washrooms, one multi-stall and one single stall with a urinal. If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact openspace@openspace.ca or 250-383-8833.
  8. Leslie did a great job explaining the critical situation of affordable housing in Victoria. But this situation has been ignored for years , and it comes down to greed on the part of developers . Why would they build affordable housing (which by the waytheir workers require to live in ) when the can build million dollar condos for the million dollar retirees. So now what does the average working person in Victoria have to do to find accommodation . ? We are faced with bidding wars on apartments , there are 15 peole lining up to view any respectable apartment . Lack of foresight on behalf ofvthe province and the city 10-15 years ago could have prevented this crisis , and what is the region going to do in 10-15 years when all us poor working class renters need affordable senior housing . As you see it is not just a current crisis - it started years ago and it will continue if someone doesnt pick up the reins and take charge and think outside the box . There can be tiny home communities , manufactured home communities, that can be sustainable and affordable . Instead of spending taxpayers money going to China to buy steel , how about checking out Sweden and Denmark on how to build sustainable affordable housing . They have had it figured out for years . I would suggest each city councillor, each politician and each developer try apartment hunting, for affordable accomadation ( mot luxury accommodation) their eyes will be opened and I am sure a remedy will be forthcoming . Mary Howley Victoria
  9. openspaceartsociety

    Iroquois Social with Kanen'to:kon Hemlock

    You're invited! Artist and Aboriginal Curator Lindsay Delaronde is hosting another Iroquois Social at Open Space Tuesday, July 24 from 6-8pm. If you missed the last one (held in May), this is your chance to gather for a lively celebration of community, food, song, and dance. The evening will begin with a talk by Kanen'to:kon Hemlock, a Mohawk community Bear Clan Chief from Kahnawake. Kanen'to:kon Hemlock is a teacher of language, culture, and history at the Kahnawake Survival School and current grad student at the University of Victoria.The talk will be followed by a community potluck—folks are encouraged to bring a dish to share from their cultural background. After a hearty feast, Lindsay will lead us in songs and dances.Kids, elders, and everyone in-between welcome!--Open Space respectfully acknowledges that we are on unceded First Nations territory. The City of Victoria and the surrounding areas lie on the territories of the Coast Salish and Lekwungen-speaking peoples, including the Esquimalt, Songhees, and W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations. Open Space is not wheelchair accessible and is accessed by a flight of 15 stairs. There are two gender inclusive washrooms, one multi-stall and one single stall with a urinal. If you have any other questions or concerns about accessibility, please contact openspace@openspace.ca or 250-383-8833.
  10. REVISITING THE AFFORDABILITY PROBLEM: Leslie Campbell’s July/August editorial, Developers of luxury condos can’t fix the affordability problem, presents an informative, insightful assessment of Victoria’s housing affordability crisis, and offers options re the City’s future needs. Observations and Reflections: The recent gathering of prominent building-boom players and politicians who enable and protect their interests at the expense of the public good, is aptly characterized as simply a venting of grievances against new taxes and regulations standing in the way of ever-greater development. Like most risk-taking entrepreneurs who rely on leveraging other people’s money, they’re content when they can have their cake and eat it too! Not surprisingly, stakeholders had precious little to do other than hand over the City’s keys to those who build premium-priced homes; this, to fulfill a vision of perpetual growth, unlimited prosperity, and enviable progress. Their allies, from mayors to council members, premiers to prime-ministers, all sing the same song of praise about the glory of the Gilded Age. They play their parts well in this orchestrated pageantry of profit-making. By approving a stream of land use and development deals to guarantee lucrative housing projects, they keep the capital flowing. Behind closed doors, other experts launder the gains, or transfer their financial returns into off-shore safe tax havens, away from the prying eyes of Canada Revenue Agency. Commitment to public engagement, scrutiny and accountability seems only a fig leaf as politicians and property interests collude to keep the zero sum shell game alive and well for a handful in the winners’ circle. The growing list of losers in this profitable global housing market, includes not only the homeless of our society, but indebted households who barely make ends meet; many are renters facing eviction and displacement due to demolition of older affordable rentals and redevelopment of housing stock as expensive condos and townhomes beyond their ability to pay. What’s clearly revealed here is that none of the urban planning policies and strategies embraced by municipal politicians has yielded positive and enduring outcomes. Despite their campaign promises to build decent, affordable housing, the facts say otherwise. Their pledge is to protect and enhance property owners’ interests. They sacrifice the benefits of development to acquire needed public amenities, or provide millions of dollars worth of tax- exemptions to hundreds of downtown heritage property owners, all of which are paid for by the remaining taxpayers of the City. Likewise, Council’s decision to remove limits on housing unit size, reduce parking requirements, eliminate rezoning requirements to build garden suites, fast-track rental-housing approvals, or regulate short-term rentals to protect the existing affordable rental housing stock. None of these has eliminated homelessness or ended the housing crisis. As one irate taxpayer recently said, Council’s deliberations and decisions have more in keeping with the time-honoured skill of putting lipstick on a pig, rather than addressing the interests of the public whom they serve. Data Tells a Different Story Victoria’s Official Community Plan (2012) states, it is a “very compact and complete community” with the highest population density in the Capital Region. The provincial capital is also the seventh most densely-populated city in Canada, with 4,405.8 residents per square kilometer. In James Bay, one of its oldest neighbourhoods, it is three times the density for the City as a whole. The OCP (p. 25) indicates that: Over the next 30 years, Victoria is forecast to need designated housing capacity to meet demand for an additional 13,500 apartment units and an additional 2,700 ground-oriented housing units. Zoned land capacity analysis prepared for this plan indicates that there is sufficient zoned capacity in 2011 to just match this demand. In other words, increased densification and rezoning is not required to accommodate the anticipated long-term population increase. In fact, the 2009 Urban Futures Report, Managing Growth & Change in the City of Victoria 2008-2041, indicated that since the middle of the last century, Victoria’s housing stock has grown faster than its population, with an exceptionally high proportion of multi-storey, high-rise dwelling units in relation to the rest of the Capital Region. Far from a housing supply shortage, the City has increased the total number of residential dwelling units by 24.3% from 39,590 in 2001, to 49,212 in 2016. The City’s population increased 15.6% from 74,125 to 85,792 between 2001 and 2016. These figures suggest that the City has, in fact, been overbuilding to the point that according to the 2016 Census, there were 3,450 unoccupied dwelling units in Victoria (equivalent to 7% of the City’s entire housing stock). To put this in perspective: if these unoccupied homes accommodated the average household size of 1.8 persons, the City could house an additional 6,210 individuals (which exceeds the population increase in Victoria between 2011 and 2016). So who is on the short-end of the stick for housing in this City? The data also points out that the proportion of City tenant households has been declining from a peak of 63% in 2001 to 59% in 2016. For the past two years the City has not published housing statistics indicating the number of new housing units built—including affordable units and social housing units, number of demolitions, and the total number of tenant households displaced as a result of redevelopment. Nor has the City provided the latest homeless count conducted in spring 2018, or measured the negative impact of home-sharing businesses on the chronic shortage of affordable and available long-term rental units in the City. The absence of data portends a growing humanitarian crisis in which the majority of residents without title to property, are sacrificed in the name of prosperity made possible by the rental economy, or monopoly exploitation afforded by the sharing economy. In the meantime, the profitable building boom has been underway for eight years. Developers, helped by City politicians, have erected high-density downtown condo towers the City does not need. But housing is a profitable business for investors and government who are working hand-in-glove to ensure deregulation of the markets, preserving low interest rates, and doing little to stem growing household indebtedness. This is happening, while global capital finds new opportunities to satisfy the demand for luxury real-estate investment units and vacation homes which cater primarily to homeowners, corporations, and financial institutions. The data reveals and conceals this fact: the housing crisis is man-made. It reflects conscious choices taken by those in positions of power and influence to serve the interests of property owners and their aim which, before all else, is to maximize profit. Questions Without Answers When it comes to provincial government measures, residential property-owners receive annual home-owner grants; yet, tenants receive nothing, even though both pay property taxes. It remains to be seen whether all the new provincial levies, including property transfer taxes, foreign property surtaxes, speculation taxes etc., will be sufficient to meet the growing demand for both affordable market rental and social housing units. Neither providing easy financial credit to home-purchasers, nor tightening it, has solved the question of how to put a roof over everyone’s head. How is it that spending $75,000 to house a vehicle is considered a necessity, but providing a decent, safe lodging space for a modest-income person is beyond the ability of taxpayers? How is it that owners of multiple properties feel they should be exempt from paying their fair share of taxes, when those who own but one property or rent a unit, must bear the burden of the property-owners’ entitlements? If the City invites civic engagement, professes respect for the democratic process, and upholds majority rule, why is it that Council ignores the compelling needs of renters who comprise the majority of its households? To whom do they owe their allegiance? How does this conduct serve the public interest? Additional Food for Thought As French economist Thomas Piketty pointed out in his magnum opus, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the dynamics of wealth-making, the deep structure of capital hasn’t really changed since the 18th century. The only noticeable shift has been from a society of predominantly wealthy rentiers (those who own enough capital to live on the annual income from their wealth) to a society of managers, (who live on income from labour), many of whom form the backbone of a stable, income property-owning middle class. The components of the system have not changed, only their relative proportions. It wasn’t until the end of World War II, and the long period of economic stability, that the value of housing assets increased significantly to comprise almost half the national wealth of Britain, France, Canada and the United States. And, progressive taxation was as much a product of two world wars as it was of democracy itself. The most difficult challenge? How to balance competing demands and special interests. Consideration needs to be given to exploring these matters further, without demonizing those who do not share accepted assumptions—narrow points of view, and ways of doing business that fail to address reality, accommodate changing needs, or resolving apparent economic contradictions and social injustices. Repeated cycles of war, oppression, and exploitation mean that the time has come to regulate capital in the 21st century. If our democratic institutions are to survive, we need to rethink progressive income tax, a global tax on capital, the question of public debt, and the need for greater openness, transparency and accountability. Victoria Adams Victoria, BC
  11. Jillian Ridington

    Die Mahler Summer Concert: Haydn and Mozart

    Pablo Diemecke, Music Director, presents the Die Mahler Ensemble in its second summer concert at St. Mary's Church, 1701 Elgin St. Oak Bay. The concert will feature music by Haydn and Mozart. Tickets are $25 regular, $22.50 seniors, students by donation at Royal and MacPherson box office, at Ivy's Books in Oak Bay, and at the door. POSTER JULIO 2018.pdf POSTER JULIO 2018.pdf
  12. St Luke's Players

    Sleeping Beauty Auditions

    Sleeping Beauty, by Audrey Tyson, Adapted by David and Helena Hitchcock Directed by Heather Lee St. Luke’s Players presents the classic story of Sleeping Beauty - with a celebration of a new darling baby princess, a nasty curse from an uninvited guest and the banishment of pins from the land. Cheer and boo and be in on what happens next - Panto-style, as the day is saved with singing, dancing, lame jokes and silly good fun. A favourite for all ages and always a sell-out! PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS Freddie Foster – the narrator-male or female. Comfortable speaking with the audience. Scratchiquill — male or female. The king’s secretary. Played as a somewhat doddery, absent-minded senior! King – male. Henpecked by his wife and daughter. Queen – female. Dominant partner Royal Pages/Ladies in Waiting: Lady Purl, Lady Plain, LadyTwist – adult or teenage females Albert the Horse – panto animal. Requiring two persons, male and/or female. No lines, but requires some agility and coordination! Lady Titiana – act and speak as a man, but is dressed as a woman (traditional Dame). Large in personality and movements. Outgoing, eccentric, exaggerated, witty “over the top”. Good physical and comedic sense of timing. Fairy Clean, Fairy Lean, Fairy Green– Adult or teenage females Fairy Teen – Teenage female Fairy Mean – male or female. Definitely the evil character of this panto. Likes being bad. Enjoys the audience boing him/her Princess Magnolia – female. Must be believable as a 17 year old. Prince Charming – male or female (principal boy). Age must be compatible with Princess Magnolia. MINOR ROLES Can easily be played by members of the Chorus. Nursemaid (Nursey) – adult female Messenger – male or female Auntie Biotics – adult female CHORUS/PARTY GUESTS/ANIMALS Children, teens and adults, male and female. Auditions are Fri. August 24 at 7pm and Sat. August 25 at 2pm, with callbacks Tue. August 28 at 7pm. Actors may be asked to sing a familiar song. This play runs December 14 - January 1. For any questions, contact heather280@hotmail.com or visit our website at http://www.stlukesplayers.org/auditions.html
  13. St Luke's Players

    Sleeping Beauty Auditions

    Sleeping Beauty, by Audrey Tyson, Adapted by David and Helena Hitchcock Directed by Heather Lee St. Luke’s Players presents the classic story of Sleeping Beauty - with a celebration of a new darling baby princess, a nasty curse from an uninvited guest and the banishment of pins from the land. Cheer and boo and be in on what happens next - Panto-style, as the day is saved with singing, dancing, lame jokes and silly good fun. A favourite for all ages and always a sell-out! PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS Freddie Foster – the narrator-male or female. Comfortable speaking with the audience. Scratchiquill — male or female. The king’s secretary. Played as a somewhat doddery, absent-minded senior! King – male. Henpecked by his wife and daughter. Queen – female. Dominant partner Royal Pages/Ladies in Waiting: Lady Purl, Lady Plain, LadyTwist – adult or teenage females Albert the Horse – panto animal. Requiring two persons, male and/or female. No lines, but requires some agility and coordination! Lady Titiana – act and speak as a man, but is dressed as a woman (traditional Dame). Large in personality and movements. Outgoing, eccentric, exaggerated, witty “over the top”. Good physical and comedic sense of timing. Fairy Clean, Fairy Lean, Fairy Green– Adult or teenage females Fairy Teen – Teenage female Fairy Mean – male or female. Definitely the evil character of this panto. Likes being bad. Enjoys the audience boing him/her Princess Magnolia – female. Must be believable as a 17 year old. Prince Charming – male or female (principal boy). Age must be compatible with Princess Magnolia. MINOR ROLES Can easily be played by members of the Chorus. Nursemaid (Nursey) – adult female Messenger – male or female Auntie Biotics – adult female CHORUS/PARTY GUESTS/ANIMALS Children, teens and adults, male and female. Auditions are Fri. August 24 at 7pm and Sat. August 25 at 2pm, with callbacks Tue. August 28 at 7pm. Actors may be asked to sing a familiar song. This play runs December 14 - January 1. For any questions, contact heather280@hotmail.com or visit our website at http://www.stlukesplayers.org/auditions.html
  14. St Luke's Players

    Night Watch Auditions

    NIGHT WATCH, by Lucille FletcherDirected by Neville Owen & Janine LongyIs Elaine Wheeler really seeing dead people in the window across the way? No one believes her, including her husband, a psychiatrist and her old friend and house guest. Add an inquisitive and rather strange neighbour, and a nosy German maid, and the suspense and mystery deepen towards a riveting and chilling climax.CHARACTERS:Elaine Wheeler – 30-50 years old, elegant, fragile in demeanour, central character John Wheeler – 30-50 years old, successful stockbroker, self-containedBlanche Cooke – 30-50 years old, efficient, sophisticatedHelga – 40 +years old, German maid, strong personality Curtis Appleby – 50+ years old, effeminate Lieutenant Walker – 50-60 male , ambitious, solid old style police officerVanelli – 30+ years old , male or female, well educated Sam Hoke – 50+ years old, shabby, crusty, arch typical Brooklyn Dr. Tracey Lake – 30+ years old, professional, self assuredAuditions are Fri. August 17 at 7pm or Sat. August 18 at 2pm, with callbacks Sun. August 19 at 2pm. This play runs October 10-21.
  15. St Luke's Players

    Night Watch Auditions

    NIGHT WATCH, by Lucille FletcherDirected by Neville Owen & Janine LongyIs Elaine Wheeler really seeing dead people in the window across the way? No one believes her, including her husband, a psychiatrist and her old friend and house guest. Add an inquisitive and rather strange neighbour, and a nosy German maid, and the suspense and mystery deepen towards a riveting and chilling climax.CHARACTERS:Elaine Wheeler – 30-50 years old, elegant, fragile in demeanour, central character John Wheeler – 30-50 years old, successful stockbroker, self-containedBlanche Cooke – 30-50 years old, efficient, sophisticatedHelga – 40 +years old, German maid, strong personality Curtis Appleby – 50+ years old, effeminate Lieutenant Walker – 50-60 male , ambitious, solid old style police officerVanelli – 30+ years old , male or female, well educated Sam Hoke – 50+ years old, shabby, crusty, arch typical Brooklyn Dr. Tracey Lake – 30+ years old, professional, self assuredAuditions are Fri. August 17 at 7pm or Sat. August 18 at 2pm, with callbacks Sun. August 19 at 2pm. This play runs October 10-21.
  16. Version 1.0.0


    The full release by the City of Victoria of Jonathan Huggett's records related to the bolted-on plates.
  17. July-August 2018 Focus.pdf 4 LUXURY CONDO DEVELOPERS CAN’T FIX AFFORDABILITY PROBLEM Leslie Campbell | A lack of balance on a June housing forum provides food for thought as to where the community needs to look for answers. 16 CITY MISLED ABOUT REPAIRS TO NEW BRIDGE David Broadland | FOIed emails show engineers forgot about a serious flaw until it was too late to fix properly. They then forgot that they had forgotten. 18 WHO ARE THE REAL PIPELINE FANATICS? Leslie Campbell | The fuzzy thinking of Canada’s mainstream political establishment is driving some good citizens to despair. 22 THE PEOPLE AT THE DIRTY END OF THE PIPELINE Judith Lavoie | Indigenous communities in the path of the oil sands and its pipelines have been left with no good options. 26 THE 100-YEAR FISHING WAR Briony Penn | The recent renewal of fish farm tenures is just the latest in a long saga of denial of First Nations’ fishing rights. 28 VANCOUVER’S ROLE IN THE CHINOOK-SEWAGE-ORCA DEATH SPIRAL David Broadland | Is Fisheries & Oceans Canada ignoring Washington State research on chemical contamination from sewage treatment plants? 30 CELEBRATING LIFE AND COLOUR Kate Cino | There’s a lot happening in Grant Leier’s bursting-with-colour paintings. 36 SHARING THE WEALTH Aaren Madden | First Nations artist Calvin Hunt’s first solo exhibition celebrates family, culture and a giving spirit. 48 COMING FULL CIRCUS Mollie Kaye | Aerialist Kaelyn Schmitt plans to ignite the circus arts scene in Victoria. 52 A SITE-SPECIFIC PLAY WITH STYLE, SUBSTANCE AND SCARES Monica Prendergast | Theatre SKAM and a cast of young people present the award-winning Concord Floral. 54 WINDOWS INTO THE WEIRD AND WONDERFUL Amy Reiswig | Writer Eve Joseph stretches herself and her readers’ imagination and intellect in her new prose poetry book Quarrels. 56 SUMMER READING PICKS Amy Reiswig | Wild Fierce Life: Dangerous Moments on the Outer Coast; Listening to the Bees; Anna, Like Thunder 58 THE PLACE FORMERLY KNOWN AS VICTORIA Gene Miller | Would amalgamation lead to the creation of a place we care less about? 60 GABE EPSTEIN AND THE GORGE PARK COMMUNITY GARDENS Maleea Acker | Digging, planting and watering together produces food, strengthens community and helps the bees help us. 62 CONNECTING THE DOTS AT THE COUNTRY FAIR Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic | The heavy carbon footprint of most manufacturing processes gives added incentive for re-using material goods.
  18. A lack of balance on a June housing forum provides food for thought as to where the community needs to look for answers. DID YOU KNOW THAT VICTORIA is the “hottest” ranking “luxury primary housing” market in the world? According to Christie’s International’s Luxury Defined 2018 report, we beat out Paris and Washington DC and every other city due to our strong year-on-year luxury sales volumes and high domestic demand during 2017. At first blush this might seem rather exciting, something to be proud of. But earning this distinction means a lot of local homes are being bought up by wealthy folks from outside BC; Christie’s mentions an upsurge in buyers from the US and China. The building boom, here and elsewhere in BC, is obviously fuelling the economy: real estate is now BC’s largest industry by GDP, and construction is #2. Together they are about one-quarter of the economy—larger than Alberta’s oil and gas sector. But such glories come with a price. Besides being in danger of the bubble deflating, neighbourhoods and citizens are feeling squeezed as lower-cost units are demolished and replaced with taller buildings offering condos that most in the neighbourhood could never afford. The building boom corresponds with (some argue, has caused) a rise in all housing prices, from rentals through condos, from one end of town to the other. Victoria is now one of the least affordable cities in Canada. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the provincial government, besides funding non-profit housing, has brought in measures to “cool” the hot luxury real estate market. These include taxes like the foreign buyers tax, a school tax on properties over $3 million, and the poorly-named “speculation tax.” Promontory, one of several luxury condos in the Mariashes' 20-acre Bayview Place development in Victoria West. How those in the development and real estate industry feel about these taxes, particularly the speculation tax, was on full display at a June 12 luncheon presented by Kenneth and Patricia Mariash, owners of Focus Equities and developers of Bayview Place. It was misleadingly entitled The 2018 Global Issues Dialogue: Exploring the BC Housing Crisis. Marketing materials listed Kathryn White, CEO of the UN Association of Canada, as a host, and promised to “identify practical and realistic solutions that address housing affordability.” As it turned out, it was mostly a venting of grievances against new taxes and regulations standing in the way of ever-greater development. Even former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was there for some reason, telling us, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Enough people complained to the UN Association of Canada about its involvement in the event that it issued a series of clarifying tweets, one stating, “UNA-Canada did not sponsor the Kenneth W. and Patricia Mariash Global Issues Dialogue. Rather, we were the charity of choice.” THERE WERE ABOUT 300 IN THE AUDIENCE, which included many mayors, councillors and other big-wigs from the region. During the three hours we heard over and over again from the eight male speakers that the speculation tax was wrong-headed. Mariash said buyers were now “running scared” because of the Province’s new tax. BC now stands for “bring cash.” He also criticized the City of Victoria for years-long permitting processes, which he says can add $250,000 to a housing unit’s price. His most surprising remarks centred around how he first heard about Victoria many years ago in LA, and was told “Victoria is on the no-invest list” due to Councillor Pam Madoff. This was all before Mayor Helps gave a short “greeting” from the City of Victoria, assuring the audience that approval times are now down to 6-8 months in 90 percent of cases. One of the forum’s panelists, Jon Stovell, CEO of Reliance Properties (developer of the Janion and Northern Junk properties) and chair of the Urban Development Institute, rattled off all the taxes now faced by his industry: the transfer tax, vacant property tax, speculation tax, school tax, GST, along with the mortgage stress test, which itself is taking many out of the market, he claimed. Even with all these, he noted, we still haven’t done anything to fix the supply. One of the main speakers did at least mention what was needed to do that. Mike Harcourt argued that the lack of affordable housing is not a crisis so much as a permanent condition given global realities, including population growth and climate change. While he admitted city halls need to speed up approvals, and that the speculation tax “needed a second look,” Harcourt argued the solution is mostly about building affordable housing, and that the NDP government was on the right track with its commitment to build 114,000 new housing units over the next decade. No one on the panel offered any ideas on how to accomplish this beyond letting developers continue unfettered with what they do best. During the short Q&A, there was at least one dissenting voice. Nicole Chaland commented, “Many of us locals have noticed the intense building boom has corresponded to the greatest housing unaffordability…Increased supply doesn’t seem to be the most reliable way to meet the challenge.” Panelist Michael Ferreira of Urban Analytics attempted a response by pointing out the “compounding of demand” with people wanting to live in cities, investors wanting to get into the market, and people like him who want to jump in and buy another house to ensure their adult children have a place to reside. “Supply is part of the solution,” he concluded. But supply of what—more million-dollar condos? The developers’ own construction workers must find it difficult to afford decent housing here, not to mention the service workers in restaurants and shops. Even younger people with well-paying jobs fear getting permanently shut out of home ownership. NICOLE CHALAND WOULD HAVE ADDED BALANCE TO THE PANEL. The former director of sustainability at Simon Fraser (2007-2017) is so immersed in community activism right now, she’s put aside plans to start a business until after the civic elections in October. She sits on the Fairfield Neighbourhood Plan Working Group and on the steering committee of Cook Street Village Residents Network. I contacted her after the event and she sent me an op-ed she and Sheldon Kitzul penned in response to the forum and sent to the Times Colonist. In it they wrote, “This was not a genuine exploration of what possible policy solutions are available to solve the housing crisis. Far from it. This was a temper tantrum; a fist-bumping anti-tax political rally featuring an all-male panel of developers and former politicians. “At no point did any speaker give us the impression that they had actually read and understood how the speculation tax works. At no point did anyone explain that one could simply avoid paying the tax by renting out their second home for six months, by selling their expensive home and buying one that is less than $400,000, or by making BC their primary residence and paying income tax like the rest of us.” (Perhaps unsurprisingly, the T-C didn’t publish Chaland and Kitzul’s op-ed. The T-C’s before and after coverage of the Mariashes’ forum, along with three pages of puff pieces on the Mariashes last November, and a recent op-ed by Mariash, not to mention the big golf tournament the paper and Bayview jointly sponsor, all testify to the cozy relationship Mariash enjoys with the city’s daily.) Chaland does not believe there will be any leadership from the private sector in addressing the lack of affordable housing. She wants the Province to “stay the course” with the new taxes. She is also advocating that the City of Victoria demand more from developers in the way of “Community Amenity Contributions” in return for rezoning and density approvals. A draft report she’s written states: “From 2016-2017, Victoria’s approach to CAC’s generated $3,086,000. Some analyses suggest that, given our current building boom, we’re missing out on tens of millions of dollars. This would pay for affordable housing, new parks in the Downtown core and childcare—all amenities which are desperately needed in Victoria.” Chaland told me the City’s Director of Planning Jonathan Tinney seems overly cautious in his insistence that all such CACs must be voluntary. This is not the case in other cities, noted Chaland. IN OUR CONVERSATION, Chaland referred to research by John Rose, an instructor in the department of geography and environment at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He would have been another great addition to Mariash’s panel of speakers. Rose’s research paper “The Housing Supply Myth” seems hard to refute. Rose reviewed the rate at which housing cost increased between 2001 and 2016, alongside how wages increased. He did this for 33 cities across Canada, using Statistics Canada data. He found that in most cities during those years, the rate at which housing costs increased was never more than double the rate of wage increases—a situation that would still degrade affordability. But Victoria’s housing increases were almost three times those of wages. In Vancouver they were six times more. More number-crunching around building volumes allowed Rose to conclude: “the expensive markets are providing not only enough units to satisfy growth in the number of households between 2001 and 2016, but to also provide (in absolute terms) surplus units to the market at rates comparable to (indeed, slightly higher than) less expensive markets.” He continued: “In all of the seven ‘severely unaffordable’ markets where housing affordability degraded most significantly between 2001 and 2016, the relative amount of surplus dwellings, as a percentage share of total dwellings, increased in number.” Or, as he put it in a Globe and Mail interview, “Here [in Vancouver] we’ve had more than enough supply and yet the housing costs have gone crazy.” The same is true of Victoria. Here, as Chaland told the luncheon audience, over the past 15 years, for every 100 new residents, 113 new units of housing have been added. Other researchers looking primarily at Vancouver’s luxury housing boom have argued that a good number of new buyers of luxury homes are foreign buyers, some of whom are merely “parking” or laundering money this way. It is this global trend that is leading the Province to implement taxes and a just-announced public registry of who owns real estate in BC. Said Finance Minister Carole James, “Right now in BC, real estate investors can hide behind numbered companies, offshore and domestic trusts, and corporations. Ending this type of hidden ownership in real estate will help us fight tax evasion, tax fraud and money laundering.” It could well be that such regulations and taxes will not lead towards more affordable housing. But as the research of Rose and others makes clear, neither will unfettered development. The market has proven that, at least given the current global scene, it cannot be relied on to provide what is most needed by BC citizens: affordable housing. THE CRD RECENTLY REPORTED that this region needs 6,200 affordable units. Since these are unlikely to come from the private sphere, Mariash would have served his audience better by including in his speaker lineup some of the knowledgeable people building non-profit housing: Kaye Melliship, for instance, the executive director of the Greater Victoria Housing Society, an organization that has quietly been building non-profit housing for low-wage workforce members, people with disabilities, and seniors for decades. In 2018 the organization earned the “Non-Profit of the Year” Award. Among its 16 properties is Pembroke Mews, an apartment building geared to low-to-moderate income workforce tenants. Built in 2012, it is on the fringe of Downtown and offers 25 apartments on 2 floors above commercial space. Rents are pre-set and tenants are selected with an income no higher than $33,000. Other agencies in the non-profit housing sector locally include Pacifica Housing with 36 buildings on the Island, Cool Aid, which runs 15 supportive housing buildings, and Greater Victoria Rental Development Society (which built the Azzuro on Blanshard and the Loreen on Gorge Road E.) It’s in finding land for organizations like these, easing their approvals through local governments, and donating funding, that affordable housing will primarily be realized. But private developers can get in on the action too. If Mariash had included David Chard or a speaker from BC Housing, we might have heard how private developers could build something like Chard Development’s Vivid on Yates Street. Chard partnered with BC Housing to make the 20-storey, 135-suite condominium project affordable for lower-income and mid-income buyers: they have to have a household income of less than $150,000 and commit to being the primary tenant of their home for a period of two years. Its below-market pricing—condos start at $289,800—was made possible through favourable lending terms backed by BC Housing. Only a dozen units remain unsold. Another source of knowledgeable panelists is the BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA), an umbrella group that has produced an “Affordable Housing Plan” with a ten-year roadmap towards sufficient affordable housing across British Columbia. Its extensive research shows exactly what we need and how much it will cost. After dealing with the backlog of nearly 80,000 units in BC (2016), an additional 3,500 affordable units will be required annually on average. How much will that cost? An estimated $1.8 billion per year over the next ten years. It’s a lot, but according to the organization, the non-profit housing sector “can bring $461 million to the table annually through land contributions, leveraging equity from assets, private donations and financing. This requires the provincial and federal governments to each commit an average annual investment of $691 million over the next ten years.” It notes the governments’ portions are not dissimilar to what they already committed in both the 2016 and 2017. This sounds promising. But how is it working out as developers buy up more and more land for luxury housing and inflate land values? Are non-profits being priced out of the core area, thereby threatening the diversity that makes a city vibrant—and making it harder to solve long-term transportation and emissions challenges? Will Downtown be transformed into a resort town where more and more people are just passing through? BCNPHA’s Policy Director Marika Albert (formerly director of the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria) would have been perfect on the panel to address some of these questions. Finally, another obvious choice for any discussion of affordable housing in BC would have been either Carole James or Minister of Housing Selina Robinson. Either could have discussed the government’s 30-Point Plan for Housing Affordability, which includes building 114,000 units over the next decade, along with various measures to dampen speculative-type investment. The ministers could have enlightened us about the new Building BC Community Housing Fund to which municipalities, non-profit groups and housing co-operatives can apply for funding of their affordable housing projects. Ken Mariash is obviously a man of many talents. It takes a visionary with much business acumen to take on a project as large, costly and complex as the 20-acre Bayview site. But his dream project—and the projects of other luxury resort builders—are having the effect of driving up land costs. And they are taking up too much of the City of Victoria’s time and attention. Our civic leaders’ and workers’ efforts needs to be directed toward assembling land—at 100 units per acre, 70 acres would be enough—in parts of the City where denser, far more affordable housing can be created. The CRD accepts that 6200 affordable homes are needed. Let’s focus on that. Focus editor Leslie Campbell has lived through a number of real estate boom-times in Victoria. This one feels different.
  19. Leslie Campbell

    Letters to the editor

    Two sorts of truth Last month’s vote by City of Victoria council in favour of Abstract Developments’ 1201 Fort proposal at the former Truth Centre really solidified the neighbourhood’s sense of cynicism and despair about the development process and our representatives at City Hall. Abstract used the “community engagement” process as an exercise in public relations. They began with a proposed scheme of 6-storey and 4-storey condominiums and 8 to 10 townhouses. Then, for their official submission, they padded their proposal to 6-5-12. When, as anticipated, they were forced by council to make “compromises,” they conceded storeys and townhomes back down to their original 6-4-9 scheme. Even the concession on the townhome height was only the removal of a variance for extra height. By moving this proposal to a public hearing, council took the possibility of compromise off the table. As Councillor Madoff made clear, council was creating a win-lose situation where it didn’t need to. So rather than use its power to force a compromise between parties, City council created a crisis that it then resolved by being too worried about the terrible things the applicant might build. Despite hundreds of nearby neighbours asking for a compromise, Mayor Lisa Helps, joined by councillors Margaret Lucas, Marianne Alto, Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Jeremy Loveday, and Chris Coleman, sided with the developer’s windfall profits at the expense of the community. So if council is wondering about the source of Victoria citizens’ apathy, cynicism, and anger, it has an answer. These councillors helped to make the City like this. As neighbours and others stressed at several council meetings, under council’s current leadership, developers are cashing in by building expensive condominiums that most Victoria residents can’t afford. Abstract’s own presale video shows the development is for wealthier out-of-town folks who can afford these expensive condos and might move here. There’s a big mismatch between what Victoria citizens can afford according to their current income and what these expensive condos will sell or rent for. Councillors know this, but they keep approving these expensive condo developments anyway. 1201 merely adds to the problem. There is lots of evidence that just building more supply of these luxurious condos will not bring prices down. What many of us resent most about 1201 Fort’s approval is not the additional densification or the decision that ultimately went against us. We resent the way, intentionally or unintentionally, City Hall has stacked the deck in favour of rich developers and against local residents. We resent the way council has acquiesced to the City’s own Development Services unit in accepting their ludicrous explanation that no community amenity contributions or density bonuses were due for this application. Councillors seem to believe that the City will recoup costs through the municipal taxes paid by the new residents of the new units. But other cities do that too! However, on top of that, other BC municipalities ask for the developer to contribute to the true cost of the new amenities (bicycle lanes, parks, recreation centres) the new residents will expect. We watched with dismay as council struggled to find money for its many reasonable additional needs. Yet it sacrificed a source of income that would offset the true costs of this development, and others, in effect creating an upward redistribution of wealth. What nearby residents resented most of all is not that council made a decision against our wishes, but that council sold us out for so little: for the promise of only 10 slightly more affordable units somewhere else, in a deal that ties council to that later deal’s approval. Just weeks ago the Capital Regional District’s draft housing affordability strategy reported that we had a shortage of 6,200 units of affordable housing. Yet council traded the bonus density of this jewel piece of property for just…10 of them, maybe. In another city, the 1201 development might have entailed $2.5 million in community amenity contributions and a density bonus, and might have involved some public art for residents to enjoy. But our council sold us out for so little. A bench and a pathway. This experience taught us that rich developers can expect to manipulate neighbourhoods and council into building housing that current residents don’t need instead of building the housing we actually need. Council taught him and other developers that City Hall will not try to promote compromise densification, but will accept all kinds of rezoning for the purpose of personal enrichment—and that it can be backed into a corner through the development process led by Development Services, at which point council will feel forced to concede to the plan at the risk of the developer building a big ugly apartment block. And council has taught the rich-developer community that they can successfully stack the public hearing process with their developer pals, all scratching each other’s backs the next time round. Mayor Helps, and councillors Lucas, Alto, Thornton-Joe, Loveday, and Coleman have a lot to answer for. This process has made it clear that Victoria needs an external review of its community amenity contribution and density bonus policies. Council should pass a motion to have a couple of directors of planning from similarly sized BC municipalities come to Victoria in order to investigate the question of why our community amenity contributions and density bonuses are so atypical. Council is forgoing millions of dollars that might be used to build the amenities Victoria citizens expect and hold dear. Chris Douglas I thank you for the article “Two Sorts of Truth” by Ross Crockford. He said: “It’s debatable if 1201 Fort will be for ‘Everyone’: its one-bedroom units start around $400,000.” I would like to offer a correction. The website for 1201 Fort indicates that prices start at $600,000. A 1,298 square-foot 2-bedroom+den condo on the 4th floor in the 6-storey building is listed elswhere at $1,275,000. A two-bedroom+den penthouse is $3 million. These prices are before taxes, of course. Please add a monthly strata fee. Even for retirees who own an above-average house in Fairfield or Rockland, the selling price of the house will not translate well into downsizing into this particular development. The majority of our council approved a massive rezoning and numerous variances for 1201 Fort project’s sake. Who will benefit from this? Anna Cal Kinder Morgan link to Enron discomforting The latest issue of Focus was, in our opinion, the best. Everything from the fraudulent dealings with the (shall we say inferior) bridge; Horgan’s double-take on the LNG situation and Weaver’s waffle on that topic; the destruction being caused by Site C, another Horgan change of mind; the unhappiness in Oak Bay with the bid to build low-income housing on real estate which is the most expensive in the region; and, of course, the lies and falsehoods put out by our politicians about the Kinder Morgan pipeline, all of which makes us feel our province is going to hell in the proverbial hand basket. The fact that Richard Kinder was the past president of another infamous project—Enron—is discomforting. But what can we as ratepayers and voters do to combat all this mistrust and destruction? Many will fight, but sadly the majority of the population will assume that typical Canadian attitude in times like this—shrugging their shoulders and saying “Oh well, what can you do!” As long as we Canadians take this weak-kneed attitude, politicians will walk all over us. Ruth and Jason Williams Good candidates need to step up Ross Crockford has written a very accurate, appropriate and timely article. Well done and thank you. Chris Le Fevre If you’re not immersed in the minutiae of local political spats, you may be reflecting on the big picture—that which asks how a candidate serves the public interest? Where the common good lies in an economic and social environment dominated by private interests hungry for entitlements from the public purse? Who enjoys most benefit from an increasingly deregulated environment? Who bears the heaviest burdens? The loudest, most influential voices in municipal affairs are property owners (both commercial and residential). Although tenants may represent six out of ten households in Victoria, and pay taxes like homeowners, they can be ignored by decision-makers. Rental tenure remains insecure. The presence of tenants is now diminishing in a city that places greater value on high-end property owners and speculative investors. Ross Crockford suggests that “Victoria gets plenty of scrutiny in a town that eats and breathes politics.” If so, where’s the strong evidence of investigative reporting? Or even critical comment by the media in Victoria, other than Focus Magazine? That Victoria is home to the Provincial Legislature and City Hall is no guarantee any genuine public consultation exists. Or that openness, transparency, and accountability, which form the foundation of democracy, are upheld. Judging from the number of in camera meetings held, and stymied Freedom of Information requests, they are not upheld. What if we demanded that candidates or elected representatives reveal their monthly income and expenses? Their investments? Political donations? Potential conflicts of interest? Meetings with lobby groups or individuals? Those seeking public office might encourage public trust by disclosing such information. Crockford concludes as follows: “Victoria needs articulate people with common sense, experience handling employees and questioning consultants, practical ideas about how to improve the City, and the determination—and the time—to see them realized.” These important qualities are expected of an elected official. What is critical, however, is whom these elected officials intend to serve among the special interests and power brokers.Will such individuals disclose their personal beliefs and any biases that frame their choices? Have they ever disclosed publicly an error or misjudgment, and if so, what have they done to remedy the matter? Where are the candidates’ red lines? How easy it is—in our island paradise—to drift with the flow. What takes courage is challenging the City’s prevailing narrative, being open to criticism, and welcoming new ideas which may undermine our comfort levels. Individuals who can manage this kind of courage are rare. But they’re worth their weight in gold. We need elected candidates of this calibre if we are to build a healthy, inclusive and sustainable city. And, as informed and engaged citizens, we need to do our part to see that such candidates present themselves, earn our trust, and be held to account as valued members of Victoria City council. Victoria Adams Loggers harvesting ridiculously young trees Further to my letter to editor that ran in the past issue (“Why Bambi and Friends Moved to Town”), now I’ve learned that things have actually slipped farther down the tube here along the east coast of Vancouver Island. How? Well, after speaking with a few local residents here in the Comox Valley who are more up on what’s going down in the Oyster River Division, the local TimberWest private forest lands claim, word is that 40-year-old or possibly 30(!?)-year-old stands of timber have been harvested for some time now. Find this hard to believe? Then take a gander at the weigh station on the highway just north of Duncan. Perhaps if you are (un)fortunate enough you will catch a loaded logging truck just arrived from TimberWest’s Cowichan claim sitting on the scales stacked with what are no more than veritable sticks of trees on their trailers. You know, like the size of tree trunks in the cedar hedge you have planted along your property line. Rick James Electoral reform referendum The reaction from electoral reform opponents to last week’s report by Attorney General David Eby was as swift as it was predictable: “The deck is stacked!” and “it’s too complicated!” But is that really true? We find it normal that governments make many important decisions without holding a referendum, but now that we, the voters get to make the decision, the deck is somehow stacked? Really? The first referendum question will simply ask us whether we want to keep our current system, or move to a more proportional system. That is no more complicated than deciding which shoe goes on which foot. The second referendum question gives us the opportunity to express our preference between three voting systems. All three systems contain the principles which we find important: a local representative, more proportional election results, having (almost) all our votes count, a threshold of five percent to keep out fringe parties, no loss of regional representation, and little or no increase in the number of politicians or the cost of elections. BC had multi-member ridings in our history before 1990, when the last dual riding was abolished (without a referendum), so the Dual Member Proportional (DMP) system is not really new to BC. The Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system would give us one vote for a local candidate, much like what we have now, plus a second vote for a regional candidate. Is that so complicated? The Rural/Urban system proposes to use different voting systems in rural and urban areas because the Single Transferable Vote (STV) voting system works well when combining small urban ridings, but doesn’t translate to some of our already gigantic rural ridings, which instead would use the MMP system. Much information is coming our way, and we have five months before we vote in November to find a little time to look at these three systems, any of which could work just fine in BC. Then, should we decide for a new system, there will be another referendum after 2 elections in which we can decide to go back to our current system. This is about our democracy, about how we choose our governments. We are very lucky, because we, the voters get to make the decisions every step of the way. Considering the many benefits which introducing proportionality in our voting system could bring, a little effort to get informed is a small price to pay. Sjeng Derkx The business case for proportional representation Successful corporations prosper because they spend valuable time building “goal congruency” for both short and longer term corporate goals. This is achieved by working as a team with all levels of management and their employees in the annual budget and planning process. Corporations that are divided, adversarial and do not spend time discussing short and long term goals will be outmanoeuvred by their competitors. These benefits of goal congruency and objective setting can certainly apply to a country as well, especially if it has a proportionally elected minority government. A system where every vote counts makes voters feel more responsible. Coordination and cooperation are encouraged between parties to act in the interest of the people—goal congruency. Proportional representation ensures the most effective and economic use of labour, capital and energy in the long term. Countries that have adopted proportionally representative electoral systems, such as the Scandinavian countries, Germany and New Zealand, seem to have more success in developing progressive common goals. Sweden, a country of only 10 million, tops the Global Green Economy index and is among the top ten countries in World Competitiveness. Germany is phasing out nuclear power by 2021, with an emphasis on energy conservation and green technologies. New Zealand has successfully settled the majority of Maori treaty claims with both right- and left-leaning minority governments since 1996. Achieving common goals does not happen as naturally under “one party” government for they are essentially adversarial and there is very little opportunity to discuss common goals with other parties. For Canada we just have to think back to the composition of our recent federal parliaments, that have been dominated by the two traditional parties with 40 percent or less support of the voters while holding absolute power. Not only do these parliaments neglect to hear the voices of other parties but they continually lurch from each other’s polarizing economic and social policies with all the consequences of correction that entails. For instance, the present Trudeau government (39.5 percent support) spent their first year in office changing taxation and immigration legislation that a Harper government (39.6 percent) had enacted, just as Harper had removed Chretien’s earlier legislative initiatives. Probably the most important aspect of proportionally representative government is the more congenial style of party leadership, for any prospective premier must show some team-building skills and be able to work with other parties in the legislature. Government formation normally takes about a month and this a crucial time for all parties to review their positions on common goals in order to see what “goal congruency” exists between them. After having survived 150 years of “one party” government under the present system, surely we can take this unique opportunity to catch up with over 60 percent of the world. BC would be the first Canadian jurisdiction to try a Proportionally Representative electoral system in North America for electing our politicians. Colin Mackinnon Gene Miller: to laugh and/or cry? I want to thank you once more for producing such an important magazine for our times; it never fails to inspire me to continue social and political activism, no matter how dire the future appears. Speaking of which, Gene Miller outdid his brilliant dark self in the May/June issue; sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry (usually both) when I read his column. Because of the volunteer work I do at our local school, I was especially taken by Gene’s comments on how modern technology puts us at odds with our biology (and our better human instincts, surely) by supporting solitude and putting us all in states of anxiety, fear, depression and anger. Researchers like Dr Lucy Suchman at Lancaster University in the UK sounds similar alarms in her work, urging us to pay attention to what is happening to the parts of civil society that are being handed over to artificial intelligence. She gives examples like Google rebranding its research division as Google AI, and the fact that AI now controls important civic functions such as road safety, scholastic grading, health care and aspects of policing. All of this goes to support Gene’s final comment in his most recent column: think community. Yes, that is where our only hope of activism can make a difference—with people we know and with whom we can (as Mother Jones said) organize, and not just mourn. The warrior mentality does not work in groups where stories, music, art, and projects for the public good are a priority. With gratitude for all the work that goes into Focus. Susan Yates Alan Cassels’ articles appreciated Thanks to Focus Magazine for providing the public with well researched articles on pharmaceuticals. There are limited reliable sources for this type of information and good resources are invaluable to the public in forming decisions about drugs they may be prescribed. I’m not suggesting a person would refuse to take a drug as a result of an article in your magazine, but more likely be able to ask better questions of the medical profession and pharmacy staff before ingesting something. It’s good to know more about true efficacy rates, potential side effects etc. The articles provided by Alan Cassels are always helpful in raising awareness on drug testing, marketing, efficacy of drugs, and side effects, and where else are we going to get such well researched data? We can google until the cows come home, but would likely not be able to draw good conclusions from what we individually might glean from internet sources. Judy Spearing Editor’s note: Alas, in light of a new job with BC’s Therapeutic Initiative, Alan Cassels has penned his last Focus column for the forseeable future. We already miss him but congratulate him on his important new role. Tar sands operations = ecocide When governments cross a line and start destroying their own populations, we have words to label these actions: “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.” These words tell the rest of the world that something is not right, and that action must be taken. As of 2013, 715 square kilometres of boreal forest had been destroyed by the extraction of bitumen from the tar sands in Alberta. As of October 2017, 242 square kilometres (The Guardian) stand in poisonous, sludge-filled tailing ponds. Less than one percent of this land has been certified as reclaimed. Alberta has destroyed much of it boreal forest (and plans to destroy more), poisoned its water, and accelerated climate change. Now, with the support of the federal government, it wants to extend its ecological destruction through the mountains and to the coast of BC, where the wreck of only one of a fleet of tankers would have disastrous consequences for the vital inland Salish Sea. While the logging and mining industries have modernized their practises to be more eco-friendly, the petroleum industry has not. Perhaps this bitumen should be left in the ground until a less destructive way of extracting it has been developed. (In the late 1950s, it was seriously being considered to use underground thermonuclear explosions to extract the oil. The proposed project was known as Project Cauldron. The Diefenbaker administration put a stop to it in support of an underground test ban that the USA and USSR were negotiating at the time, and aren’t we glad it did!) In the meantime, we need a word to describe the situation when a state supports methods of resource extraction that endanger the common good and exceed an acceptable degree of environmental degradation. Perhaps the word “ecocide” should be used to alert other countries that what is happening in Alberta is wrong, and that action must be taken. Arnold Porter Hit the pause button on Crystal Pool Hold on! Now we hear that the Crystal Pool rebuild in Central Park plan has morphed into “Let’s add in affordable housing.” The rebuild-instead-of-renovate choice by council was misguided to begin with. There was no consideration for the outdoor recreation facilities that the new pool would displace by moving from the northwest corner to the southwest corner of the park. No thought for the Steve Nash basketball court, the tennis court, the newly installed exercise equipment, the kids’ playground—all popular and necessary elements to the park. Instead, we were to get a parking lot with 140 spaces on the site of the current pool. When the optics in an election year of paving a park became obviously embarrassing, the tune changed to underground parking with affordable housing on top. Does council not see the increasing value of green space in an increasingly dense core? How is it that the City hasn’t done a full survey of its City-owned properties and offered up land for housing on suitable lots? How is it acceptable to, first of all, come up with a plan that ignores all but the pool structure and increased parking, leading to a bad decision to rebuild that jettisons the amenities already there? It looks to me like the agenda was hijacked by the regional swim clubs using the pool. Council went along with it, decided it didn’t need a referendum to spend the money [that may change given recent statements by the Province], and focused on the pool structure, ignoring those who use the green space and outdoor recreation facilities. Next thing you know we’re asked to consider building housing in the park, increasingly valuable in a city becoming more congested with development and traffic. Parks provide respite and space to breathe. We need parks to remain parks. It’s time to hit pause and do a complete rethink, starting with the extravagant decision to rebuild a grander structure offering something for everyone in the region—the price tag: over $69 million. Is this starting to sound like the Blue Bridge debacle? Never mind the Di Castri-designed current pool that would be consigned to the landfill. Never mind the need to protect every bit of green space we have. Allan Gallupe City aids Chinese bike companies at expense of locals As a long-term tenant of the City of Victoria at various locations and most recently at 685 Humboldt Street, and as President of Cycle BC Rentals, I recently wrote Mayor Helps and councillors to voice my concerns and objections in regards to the dockless bicycle program that has spread throughout Greater Victoria. I’m sure the mayor and council were full of good intentions when they headed to Asia, at local taxpayer expense, to attract foreign investment. However, they either didn’t do their homework or they didn’t care how their actions might affect local businesses when they rolled out the red carpet for U-bicycle, the Chinese company behind the green dockless bikes spreading throughout Greater Victoria. A quick check with cities such as Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Austin, Dallas, Beijing, Shanghai and on and on, would have shown that there are many problems associated with dockless bikes. We now have Greater Victoria councillors and mayors actively promoting the U-bicycle company within their municipalities, bylaws are being changed to accommodate U-bicycle, and to top it off, free rent is provided throughout Greater Victoria for their equipment. Who could wish for more!? I know we’re not the only bicycle business in Victoria that would have appreciated a visit from the mayor, a councillor or anyone else from City Hall. The cost to the Chinese company to buy and import the bicycles, using low-cost Chinese labour and Chinese steel, is less than what we pay the City of Victoria in annual rent, let alone what we contribute through local employment, taxes and community support. Within a two-year period we pay the City of Victoria in excess of $100,000 while a Chinese company, importing bicycles made and assembled in China at a cost of less than $100 / bicycle, can flood the City’s streets with over 1,000 bicycles for less investment. The City should understand the adverse effects their actions have not only on bicycle rental businesses like ourselves, but on many other bicycle-related businesses. Bicycle retailers will be adversely affected by the thousands of dockless bikes scattered throughout the city, and many bicycle tour companies will not be able to compete against U-bicycle tours departing from City-owned land. U-bicycles can park their equipment in areas that are unavailable to the rest of us, including but not limited to, the cruise ship facilities at Ogden Point, Fisherman’s Wharf, front of the Empress, Ship’s Point, Harbour Air, Provincial Museum, etc—pretty much any prime area in Victoria. U-bicycles brochures are being offered through Tourism Victoria, offering day rentals on bicycles at a fraction ($10/day) of what any of the competing bicycle rental companies can offer. Existing cruise ship bicycle tour companies are being forced to cut their tour rates due to undercutting by U-bicycles. Easy when you don’t have to pay real estate rent, don’t have to pay property taxes, don’t have to pay local wages, don’t buy locally, and effectively have the City looking after marketing. Clearly it’s not a level playing field. Think the U-bicycles are green? Do a Google search on “dockless bike piles” and you will see the only thing green is the colour. I am asking that the City reconsider its position on dockless bikes, and that it consult with existing bicycle rental and retail businesses throughout Victoria. The dockless bicycle program is resulting in serious financial losses for many of the existing businesses, and if left unchecked, will likely result in the loss of several businesses that depend on the summer tourism trade. Was the intent of introducing dockless bicycles to Victoria to provide short-term commuter transportation, as is the case with most docked bicycle programs, or to flood the streets with thousands of bicycles that will destroy many of the existing bicycle businesses and ultimately result in discarded bicycles clogging our waterways, sidewalks, parks and public spaces as has occurred throughout hundreds of other cities around the world? Doug Turner / Cycle BC Rentals The Malahat and the E&N Premier Horgan suggests that a bridge from Mill Bay to North Saanich would be a better idea than the E&N to provide an alternate route to Highway 1 over the Malahat. I don’t think so. After paying for feasibility studies, environmental studies and interchanges on both sides, building a bridge across Saanich Inlet, widening secondary roads and purchasing land, we will be left with the Pat Bay Highway being more crowded or West Saanich Road being straightened out and widened, but only after successfully convincing three First Nations that this would be in their best interest. Green Party MLA Adam Olsen improves on Horgan’s idea by suggesting a car ferry to cross to the Peninsula. On the west side of the inlet, the ferry will start at Cowichan Bay thus ruining that area with car traffic, and end at the Pat Bay float plane dock. Ferries will have to be purchased and terminals built; infrastructure will have to be provided to park and stage cars at each of the ferry terminals and to accommodate passengers. This idea would be good for anyone going to the airport, but how many would be doing that? While it avoids the construction costs of the bridge, where do the cars and passengers go from there: West Saanich Road? Pat Bay Highway? Where do cars line up to board? Where do the 50 cars that arrive at the same time go? Horgan and others have suggested replacing the Mill Bay Ferry with one of a larger capacity. This would require replacing the docking and loading infrastructure at both ends to accommodate the larger ferry. Would the streets in Brentwood be able to handle the increased traffic when a ferry lands? Those vehicles would then have to use West Saanich Road or any of the cross-peninsula roads that were not designed for heavy traffic. We know from the Pat Bay Highway experience that ferry traffic puts a heavy burden on the roads for only a short period of time but they need to be able to handle it safely. If there is going to be a ferry, picture what would happen when the Malahat was closed: hundreds of cars would immediately be diverted to a ferry that carries a maximum of 50 cars and would have a round trip of close to an hour. Of course, this is the same problem with roads: they have to be designed to handle rush-hour traffic, but for most of the time they are overbuilt for the amount of traffic they carry. The above ideas assume that everyone using the Malahat is going to, or coming from, downtown Victoria. In reality, traffic will also be going to Esquimalt naval base, Royal Roads University, Langford, Colwood and Sooke. If those people have to take the bridge or a ferry to North Saanich, they will then increase the traffic on the connecting roads leading to those destinations. Finally, both ideas seem to ignore the fact that there is a considerable amount of truck traffic and some bus traffic on the Malahat, which will be more difficult for the infrastructure to accommodate than cars. Another idea that has been suggested is to put a road through the catchment area for the reservoir that provides Greater Victoria with its drinking water. Victoria has a safe, secure supply of water that requires a minimum of treatment for drinking. Why would we want to build a road through that area to introduce pollutants that would then have to be removed from the water? An idea that I haven’t heard proposed yet is to tunnel through the mountain. It’s what the Swiss would do. Every time there is an accident on the Malahat, ideas for an escape route abound. So far, the solution has been to widen portions of the highway and put in abatement barriers in an attempt to eliminate accidents. However, we know from experience that even the best designed roads have accidents, usually because of human error, so it is unlikely that road improvements are going to eliminate them. I don’t see any of the above alternatives being better or cheaper than the E&N which would run on a frequent daily schedule, giving Islanders an alternative to driving the Malahat. They will learn to appreciate the safety and convenience of rail travel. Diverting vehicle traffic from the Malahat to an already traffic-burdened Saanich Peninsula is not a good solution. Let’s face it: the problem is cars; there are too many of them and they go too fast. If you make the roads easier to drive on, there will be more cars, and they will go faster and they will cause more accidents. Errol Miller
  20. FOIed emails show engineers forgot about a serious flaw until it was too late to fix properly. They then forgot that they had forgotten. AFTER STALLING FOR SIX MONTHS, the City of Victoria finally released documents that provide details about why the lifting section of the new Johnson Street Bridge had to be repaired before it was even installed. “Repair,” by the way, is the word used by the engineers involved. The records the City released include emails from Ryan Andrews, PCL’s project manager, to private consultant Jonathan Huggett, whom the City has been paying about $300,000 a year to watch over Victoria taxpayers’ interests on the project. PCL is the Edmonton-headquartered company the City contracted to build the bridge in 2013. The released records show Huggett and another engineer misled public officials about the circumstances that led to the need for the premature repair. In turn, those public officials, including Mayor Lisa Helps, misled the public. As you may recall, our January story pointed out that a one-metre by one-metre steel plate had been bolted to the underside of each of the new bridge’s 50-foot-diameter rings at the 12 o’clock position. The plates were not part of the intended design, and appeared to be a last-minute addition needed to reinforce some structural weakness in the rings. For our story we contacted Huggett and Helps for information about what had necessitated the plates. A close-up of the large bolted-on plates that made a last-minute and unexpected appearance on Victoria's brand-new $115-million bridge Huggett’s response to our questions at the time produced little factual information. Mayor Helps ignored our questions about whether she and council had been advised about the plates. Following publication of our story, Helps issued a statement through facebook claiming our story “contained serious factual errors and inaccuracies.” Her statement had apparently been created by then acting City Manager Jocelyn Jenkins, with Huggett’s guidance. Keith Griesing, a professional engineer with Hardesty & Hanover, the company that engineered the lifting section of the bridge, wrote a letter to the City explaining how the problem that led to the repair had been discovered. Griesing denied any responsibility for the circumstances that led to the bolted-on plates and blamed the Chinese fabricator. In the six months since then, Helps and the City were unable to provide any examples of “factual errors and inaccuracies” in our original story. However, after receiving the records we requested by FOI, I am able to report that I did make a factual error. The size of the plates are actually six feet by six feet—almost four times as large as we reported. But the emails from Andrews to Huggett paint a rather different story than that told by Huggett, Helps, and Griesing. In two emails from Andrews to Huggett, Andrews appealed to Huggett to intervene with Hardesty & Hanover to hasten resolution of a serious issue that became known as “NCR 155.” That referred to four weld access holes in each ring described in a non-conformance report (NCR) by Atema dated January 4, 2017. Atema was the company performing PCL’s quality-control inspections at the steel fabrication facility in China where the lifting section was built. Atema’s report recorded that the weld access holes were “discovered” on December 9, 2016. The concern about the small holes, not openly stated in the Atema report, was that their location and physical nature would concentrate stress and could eventually lead to the formation of fatigue cracks in the rings. Such fatigue cracks could threaten the structural integrity of the bridge’s superstructure. In Andrews’ first email to Huggett about the issue, which he sent on March 31, 2017 following a meeting with Hardesty & Hanover that day, Andrews wrote: “For a brief recap, you heard H&H mention this has been a known issue for over a year, yet it wasn’t communicated to PCL…until December 2016 at which point the NCR was initiated…” I’ve added the italicization in that sentence to draw your attention to that point. It shows that Andrews told Huggett on March 31, 2017 that the problem created by the weld access holes “had been a known issue for over a year.” That would mean the problem had been evident to Hardesty & Hanover before March 31, 2016. Both Huggett and Griesing have, in their separate public explanations of the issue, implied that the problem was discovered in December 2016 as a result of Atema’s diligent inspection and quality control. So what’s the big deal about the eight months missing from both Huggett’s and Griesing’s explanations? During those eight months, as well as during the four months between rediscovery of the problem and the date when Andrews emailed Huggett, work had continued on the rings. That year of work made it more difficult to fix the problem properly. Neither Huggett nor Griesing responded to requests for an explanation of why those eight months had disappeared from their public accounts of what happened. Perhaps there is no reasonable explanation for why the problem wasn’t addressed as soon as it was first identified. It appears the problem was simply forgotten. Did someone then wake up in the middle of a dark, December night and have an OMG! moment? How embarrassing this must be for those involved: Engineers forgetting that they forgot. But that’s not the full extent to which Huggett and Griesing misled the City and the public. Andrews’ March 31, 2017 email to Huggett continued: “Now it also needs to be noted that this so called ‘non-conforming’ condition has no design details and no comments were made on the shop drawings. We have not raised issue of this prior due to our interest in just getting it repaired and over with, but being that it continues to linger it now has significant impacts for both PCL and the City—those being time and money.” Andrews, then, disputed that the weld access holes were the fault of the fabricator. He believed they were a result of design details and comments not being provided by the designer—Hardesty & Hanover. Indeed, Atema’s NCR 155 included notations that pointed out the lack of clarity in the shop drawings for the weld access holes. Ultimate responsibility for approving those shop drawings lay with Griesing. Martin Bache, a 40-year veteran of the heavy steel fabrication industry in Canada, described the proper procedure required for approval of weld access holes: “Weld access holes in fracture-critical members must be designed by the Engineer of Record [Griesing]. Competent detail draftspersons would be expected, during preparation of the shop drawings, to identify closed chambers where the Engineer of Record may have forgotten to show on his plans weld access holes without which the required welding cannot be performed. They would then issue an RFI [request for information] pointing this out, and asking the Engineer of Record how they should proceed.” According to Bache, then, Griesing would ultimately be responsible for the completeness of the design of every weld access hole that was required, since every steel member in the rings was designated “fracture-critical.” But in January 2018, after publication of our original story, Griesing wrote the City of Victoria and stated, “There was no ‘design flaw’ by Hardesty & Hanover nor any other of the City consultants involved; it was assembly by the fabricator that did not conform to the design plan requirements nor to the applicable detailing and fabrication standards required in the specifications.” Andrews’ email to Huggett calls that claim into question. And now we come to the nub of why Victoria got a new bridge delivered with such highly visible repairs. Andrews’ email to Huggett continued: “I’m requesting your support by having a separate conversation with H&H/MMM on this subject and resolution thereof. Having to remove the cover plate to do these repairs should be the item challenged as this is what will create the delay expressed above. Or in other words, give me a repair that requires no removal of the cover plate.” There were three general approaches that could have been taken to address the potential for fatigue caused by the weld access holes. PCL’s fabricator proposed a welded repair limited to the weld access holes themselves, but Hardesty & Hanover rejected that approach. A second approach was to add steel to the outside of the rings, and that’s the approach that was eventually taken. The third approach would have been to remove steel plate (“the cover plate”) from the rings in the area around the access holes and rework the problematic area. That would have preserved the intended design. But Andrews lobbied Huggett to steer away from this latter course. Removing the cover plate at that point in the project could have created a problem that he outlined to Huggett in a second email a few days later: “[T]he whole reason the [cover] plate was installed was [because] it was continually discussed between all parties that all welding needed to be complete before proceeding [in March 2017] to vertical assembly due to concerns of the heat induced from welding causing the shape of the rings to change.” The implication was that if the choice was made to remove plating and rebuild the problematic area of the ring, the fit between the rings and the other major bridge components—obtained during the month-long trial vertical assembly that had just been completed—couldn’t be counted on. Andrews estimated that taking the route of removal of plate and doing an internal fix would add a “week or more” to the schedule. Compare that “week or more” to the year that had passed between the time the issue first became known and the point when trial vertical assembly had been completed. In that context, Griesing’s explanation to City council that “impact to schedule” was an important factor in the choice of bolted-on plates is…laughable. Remarkably, the record of Huggett’s communications released by the City doesn’t include any communications coming from Huggett. He appears not to have responded to Andrews’ emails and not to have consulted with Hardesty & Hanover or with MMM as per Andrews’ request. Neither did he inform anyone at the City of Victoria about the issue or the options. It’s clear that an alternative to bolted-on plates was possible and would, by Andrews’ estimate, have added only a “week or more” to the schedule. But, according to the records released by the City, Huggett didn’t advocate for any outcome with anyone. Let’s reflect on the absence of any emails from Huggett in response to Andrews’ appeals. Huggett is not a City of Victoria employee. He operates what appears to be a one-man project management business in the Vancouver area. His contract with the City does not require him to use the City’s email server, which automatically backs up all City employee emails and preserves them for the purpose, among others, of being available for access-to-information requests. When Focus requested Huggett’s communications on this issue, the City had to ask him to go through his emails and find relevant records. In other words, the City created a situation where a private contractor could, in effect, decide what emails to provide. The problem here should be obvious. The City has no way of knowing what interactions took place between Huggett and employees of Hardesty and Hanover, PCL or MMM. The product these companies delivered was seriously defective, yet Huggett, when questioned about the bolted-on plates, provided little more than an airbrushed account of why that had occurred. From what I understand, the City has now entered into a similar arrangement with Huggett regarding the City’s plan to build a new $75 million swimming pool. What is that definition of “insanity” again? Does the City have any legal recourse to seek compensation as a result of the delivery of a defective bridge? As I noted in my story in our May/June edition, in April 2016 the City agreed to “release and forever discharge” PCL, MMM and H&H “from all debts, claims, demands, damages, expenses and costs (including without limitation, legal costs) of any nature or kind that are in any way related to the Project and either known or which ought to be known by the [City] as of [April 23, 2016].” According to PCL’s Ryan Andrews, the defects that necessitated the bolted-on plates were a “known issue” at the time the City signed away its right to seek legal recourse for anything related to known issues. David Broadland is the publisher of Focus. The City of Victoria's full release of documents related to the bolted-on plates can be downloaded here. (9.1 MB file size) Related stories: Bridge design flaw hidden for a year, then given quick-and-dirty repair Victoria City Hall continues cover-up of bridge design flaw Why are Victoria City councillors accepting a world-class bodge? The Wounded White Elephant
  21. The fuzzy thinking of Canada’s mainstream political establishment is driving some good citizens to despair. DAVID DODGE, a former Bank of Canada governor, recently gave a speech in Edmonton in which he predicted “there are some people that are going to die in protesting construction” of the Trans Mountain pipeline. As reported in the Edmonton Journal, he was warning his audience to be prepared, that the deaths would be a test of will for the Canadian government and its people, but certainly not a reason to stop the pipeline. “It’s going to take some fortitude” to face the deaths and continue, he said, but continue we must: “We have to understand this is a resource where the long-term viability isn’t there, not because we’re running out of muck in the ground, but because we actually, collectively, as the globe, are going to have to stop using as much of this stuff.” Dodge obviously understands the dictates of global climate change. His response is to urge Canadians to continue to exploit the main source of the problem in the closing window of time we’ll be allowed to. Even if it means people die. Meanwhile sensible, caring people who try to stand in the way of such exploitation are viewed as fanatics and felons. MURRAY REISS, an award-winning poet who lives on Salt Spring Island, is 72 years of age, just a few years younger than Mr Dodge. Arrested on March 23 for standing in front of the entry gate to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion construction site, he told BC Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck: “nothing less than the impending end of the world gets me to put my body on the line. I wish I was exaggerating. Tripling the Trans Mountain pipeline’s capacity will recklessly escalate tar sands extraction. James Hansen, who knows as much about the science of climate change as anyone, has stated, repeatedly: maximum tar sands exploitation puts civilization at risk.” Murray Reiss “The laws of physics are non-negotiable,” continued Reiss, “the notion of selling more fossil fuels today to pay for climate action tomorrow is sheer delusion. By that ‘tomorrow’…runaway global warming will be locked into the system. Already every year—almost every month—sets a new record for heat, for flooding, for wildfires, drought.” Lisa Baile of Pender Island, also in her 70s, had a long career as a medical researcher. The long-time mountaineer, wilderness educator, and author of the book, John Clarke, Explorer of the Coast Mountains, told Judge Affleck: “Knowing that climate change is reaching an irreversible tipping point, I cannot stand by and allow this pipeline to be built knowing that it will be contributing to a local and global catastrophe. I have to stand up for my home, the coast of BC and the planet—to do my utmost to leave a better world while there is still a chance—for my three-year-old granddaughter, my two grandsons and for all the youngsters and unborn children in the world. To do nothing would be irresponsible.” She is doing her 25 hours of community service at an alternative transportation organization. Lisa Baile Reiss and Baile are among the 203 people arrested and charged, mostly with criminal contempt of court, for protesting on Kinder Morgan’s construction site after the court granted the company an injunction—an injunction that now covers all BC work sites related to the pipeline. Criminal contempt is a step up from civil contempt. According to BC Civil Liberties Association, criminal contempt is “where a court order is breached, but the nature of the conduct interferes with the public’s interest in the ‘proper administration of justice.’” Kris Hermes works with Terminal City Legal Collective and Protect the Inlet Coalition, helping to demystify the legal system for the protesters. He’s in court every day taking notes and reporting by email to arrestees what the judge is saying so people are more aware. He feels that from the beginning there seem to have been problems with the administration of justice. For instance, notes Hermes, “Despite being told by the RCMP that they were being charged with civil contempt of court, and signing a PTA [Promise to Appear] to that effect, arrestees were surprised to find out [later] they were being prosecuted for criminal contempt of court.” He also notes that “people of colour and indigenous land defenders were often treated with a heavier hand, with some being violently arrested by the RCMP.” Unlike other criminal court cases, arrestees are not being given access to “duty counsel” to make sure they understand the process and what pleading guilty means. As well, the vast majority of those arrested, says Hermes, fall into an income bracket that makes them ineligible for legal aid—which has a high threshold these days—yet unable to afford a lawyer. Thus many people are representing themselves, which makes for interesting court sessions, says Hermes. They are given a bit of latitude by the judge but “they are often pleading guilty without advice of a lawyer on how to defend themselves.” “A lot of people are struggling with this process,” says Hermes. “This has been raised numerous times…but the court seems not to care.” One defence lawyer complained in court that defendants were being subjected to a “factory cookie-cutter process” geared to expediting the 203 cases through the courts. Judge Affleck admitted he was aiming for an expeditious, though fair, process and added, “the issues are narrow, and on issues of whether the pipeline is an environmentally wise structure, I will not hear that evidence.” Instead, the judge has ruled that people’s defence is limited to consideration of the evidence put forth by the Crown—were they standing or sitting at the gate or not? Despite that, says Hermes, there have been attempts to use unorthodox defences—“the necessity defence” for instance. The judge, however, ruled against it as there wasn’t evidence of “imminent peril,” and defendants had not exhausted all of their legal defences. They could, for instance, challenge or appeal the injunction (a costly process, no doubt). The statement made in court by Barbara Stowe, a writer and movement teacher who lives on Pender Island, illustrates the gulf between the expeditious legal process and a citizen’s moral sense: “Coming to this court with no criminal record, never having been arrested before, I have been overwhelmed by this process and had much need for guidance. I recognize the fortunate position I am in, having legal counsel, and perceive that many have none and are at a disadvantage.” In pleading guilty, Stowe told the judge “if such a plea were allowed, nolo contendere would more accurately reflect what I feel in my heart, which is that I am guilty, but acted solely to oppose a greater crime. When doctors, professors, politicians and faith leaders start committing civil disobedience, it begs the question: who and what is the real danger to our society, to all that we hold dear? Are people sitting in front of a fence, putting their freedom at risk, willing to pay fines and do community work service or go to jail, displaying a greater contempt for the law than those riding roughshod over the rights and safety of tribes, communities, cities, this province, and the environment that sustains us all?” Barbara Stowe Stowe’s brother, a physician, also protested and was arrested. He was fined $500, while Barbara will serve 25 hours of community service. She and her probation officer will determine where. WHILE WE HEAR ALL SORTS OF STORIES that give the impression that our justice system is terribly bogged down and slow, they are moving through the pipeline protesters’ cases quickly. The efficiency is due in part to a Crown-approved roster of sentences issued on May 23. The document shows how sentencing is being used to deter those charged from pleading not guilty, and to discourage others from further protesting. As time wears on, penalties increase. Those arrested in the early days of the protest (prior to April 16) who pled guilty quickly, received a $500 fine or 25 hours of community service. That escalates to a $4500 fine or, if unable to pay, 225 hours in community service for later arrestees, as long as they plead guilty quickly (usually meaning by the first day of their trial). That latter proviso meant that the sentence for Victoria resident Gordon Bailey, a retired Capilano College teacher, was ten times that of other protesters arrested on the same day as he was. Says Bailey, “I was sentenced to a $5000 fine or 240 hours community service or jail time. If I hadn’t been sick earlier and had a medical test for which I’d waited three months, I might have had the earlier sentencing. Interesting.” (He is now volunteering 10 hours a week at Our Place in order to meet his November probationary deadline.) Gordon Bailey Bailey, who has written books and articles on social theory, ideology, education, and a trilogy of eco-detective fiction, also finds it “interesting” that “the historic concept of civil disobedience carries no power or sway in the hallowed halls of our judicial system. To protest and resist injustice is now seen as not only civil contempt of a court injunction but also as criminal contempt. It’s as though the judge and the Crown prosecutors are historically illiterate. Tolstoy, Gandhi, Thoreau, and such celebrated people as Rosa Parks are deemed irrelevant to the modern intelligent consciousness.” Those arrested after May 8 who plead guilty face a mandatory seven days in jail—and likely higher if they plead not guilty, go to court, and are found guilty. The escalating sentencing appears to be giving the Crown what it wants: Few have protested since May 8. On June 19, however, 69-year-old grandmother Laurie Embree from 108 Mile House sat at the Westridge Terminal gate and was arrested. She said she wanted to tell the government: “We have the technology to make the change and to stop using fossil fuels and transition to renewables. We have the people to make these changes and there are jobs in making those changes. The only thing lacking is the political will.” She will likely be going to jail soon. The escalating sentences, along with the sweeping expansion of the injunction to cover all BC worksites, says Hermes, mean that “Essentially the company is using the courts to stifle meaningful protest.” (After the sale of Trans Mountain is finalized in late summer, it will be the Canadian government.) IN ALL THE STATEMENTS I READ, people alluded to their concern for First Nations. Sentenced on May 29 (the day the federal government announced it was buying the pipeline), Nan Gregory, a retired storyteller, children’s writer and lay chaplain of the Unitarian Church, told Judge Affleck: “I’ve never before been an activist…I’m here to stand up for a just and honourable reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.” Murray Reiss, mentioned earlier, asked, “How could I not oppose this pipeline, whose sole purpose is to gouge ever more bitumen from the ancestral lands of Lubicon, Mikisew and Beaver Lake Cree, Athabasca and Prairie Chipewyan First Nations? Whose existence would make a mockery of Canada’s pledges of climate action in the Paris Agreement and decolonization in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Whose construction would mean turning our back on negotiating free, prior and informed consent with First Nations, with whom we must learn to share this land.” George Rammell, a sculptor (who assisted Haida artist Bill Reid for 10 years) and retired art teacher, told the judge, “We were there because we saw a multitude of injustices perpetuated by our prime minister and Kinder Morgan to push this reckless pipeline expansion forward at the expense of Aboriginal nations, animal species and the environment. Our actions at Kinder Morgan’s gates were necessary to help press the pause button until real justice is restored.” He noted, “It was under [the] Canadian apartheid system that the first pipeline was built from the Alberta tar sands to Burrard Inlet in the early 1950s. The Tseil-Wauthuth were vehemently opposed to it then as they are to Kinder Morgan’s current proposed expansion. Many Aboriginal Nations in BC were not adequately consulted or warned of the dangers of the proposed massive increase in dangerous diluted bitumen moving through their territorial lands and waters. These people’s rights are being violated by our own Federal government that espouses to be championing reconciliation, yet we’re expected to stand idly by in complicity.” FOCUS CHOSE TO GIVE THESE CITIZENS a little space here, not just because of the strength and eloquence of their words, but because of the resounding lack of coverage in the mainstream media of what’s happening to them in the courts. With the exception of the arrest and court appearance of Members of Parliament Elizabeth May and Kennedy Stewart, Victoria’s local daily hasn’t covered the protesters’ court cases at all. In fact, the Times-Colonist’s editorials have been consistently in favour of the pipeline. On May 30 it wrote: “We don’t believe [MP Elizabeth] May should lose her seat…but she should perhaps consider what would happen if everyone decided to be selective about the laws they obeyed.” This is over-simplifying things in a way that would rule out any cases of civil disobedience ever. An earlier T-C editorial, shortly after Kinder Morgan threatened to pull out, urged the federal government to “fight for the pipeline.” In June, the paper ran a highly partisan op-ed on the subject by Gwyn Morgan (retired founding CEO of Encana Corp) in which he stated, “the battle has been zealously joined by [MLA Andrew Weaver’s] many local ground troops and international NGO professional protesters who share his fantasy that the end of fossil fuel era is nigh.” I think the protesters would protest: it’s not a fantasy; it’s a moral imperative if we want to prevent death and destruction from climate breakdown. Gordon Bailey wrote an op-ed, as yet unpublished, in which he cited H.L. Mencken’s observation on the subject of civil disobedience: “The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime: he is a good citizen driven to despair.” Leslie Campbell is the editor of Focus.
  22. Indigenous communities in the path of the oil sands and its pipelines have been left with no good options. IN NORTHERN ALBERTA AND BC, anger at environmental damage and fears that traditional cultures are disappearing are competing with economic pragmatism as Indigenous leaders struggle to decide where the future lies. Is it more beneficial to fight, or take a place at the negotiating table in hopes of mitigating damage? It’s a complicated and sometimes soul-crushing balancing act. First Nations have little faith that their objections will have any effect on development decisions, given the history of approvals. In Alberta, out of more than 170 oil sands projects, almost none have been turned down, despite First Nations investing years of research and spending millions of dollars on court cases. “There has been 50 years of mining and there is still no protection of our rights. Governments don’t seem to care,” said Lisa Tssessaze, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation lands and resource management director. Around Fort Chipewyan, a hamlet on the banks of Lake Athabasca, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Mikisew Cree are preparing to fight the massive Teck Frontier project. The Teck Frontier mine is a $20-billion development, which the company says would provide 7,000 construction jobs and 2,500 permanent jobs. Buffalo in northern Alberta (Photo by Louis Bockner) It would sit 110 kilometres north of Fort McMurray and 30 kilometres south of Wood Buffalo National Park, a World Heritage Site which a UNESCO report says is already under threat from rampant oil sands development and other pressures. If approved after joint federal-provincial review panel hearings this fall, Teck Frontier would rip up 292 square kilometres, with much of the development on land where the buffalo roam. Not just any buffalo, emphasized elder Roy Ladouceur, who, for more than half a century, has lived off the land at the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s Poplar Point reserve, which is 16 kilometres from the Teck site. The area, explained Ladouceur, includes calving grounds for the Ronald Lake Bison Herd, the only disease-free, genetically-pure wood bison herd in the area. The herd is already in trouble because of proximity to the oil sands and poaching. He believes that, if Teck goes ahead, it will be the end of the Ronald Lake Bison Herd. Roy Ladouceur (Photo by Louis Bockner) “They say they can find ways and means of preserving the habitat and I just can’t see it happening, no way, no how,” said Ladouceur. Ideas of relocating the buffalo and caribou make no sense and are likely to result in the animals contracting diseases, he said. “You can’t do that to any animal. You are breaking Nature’s law and Nature has its own way. It’s not their home,” Ladouceur said. Freddie Marcel, another Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation elder, concurs with this judgement. He talks with sad resignation about the future of the land where generations of his family have hunted, trapped and fished. “That Teck Frontier development is going to happen regardless of what we say and whether we fight. The buffalo are there and the caribou are there, but that’s right where the mine is going to be,” shrugged Marcel. THE AREA HAS BEEN EXPERIENCING the environmental impacts of industrial development for decades now. Around Wood Buffalo National Park and the Peace-Athabasca Delta, pollution and dropping water levels are evident and problematic. Much of the pollution is traceable to oil sands development. The dropping water levels are largely attributable to dams on the Peace River, climate change, and industry withdrawing water from the Athabasca River. Together they have changed centuries-old lifestyles that relied on the land and water for food, medicines, clothing and shelter. Simultaneous with the environmental damage, however, has come a steady flow of oil money into communities, which is altering attitudes and forcing First Nations communities to examine priorities. Indigenous communities in both provinces are increasingly looking at benefit agreements with companies in hopes of having their voices heard and bringing injections of cash and jobs to their bands. Fort Chipewyan Metis Local 125, for instance, has already signed a participatory agreement with Teck Frontier in return for economic benefits and opportunities to negotiate traditional land use and environmental stewardship. Teck Frontier spokesman Chris Stannell said the company has signed similar agreements with 11 Indigenous groups. “These agreements identify economic and social benefits and opportunities—such as employment, contracting and training—and include environmental stewardship planning,” Stannell said in an emailed response to questions. Even Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, though offically opposed, is involved in talks with the company on topics such as buffer zones and protection for wildlife. Matt Hulse, the Nation’s regulatory affairs coordinator, admits the question of how to deal with projects such as Teck Frontier is complicated. He said, “There’s a lot of grey. Everyone realizes the jobs are down there [in the oil sands] and that’s where the money comes from. People don’t want the [Teck Frontier] mine to go ahead, but, because we have so little confidence in the regulatory process, Indigenous communities are forced to find ways to benefit from the project to offset the impacts. There isn’t any good option.” THAT AMBIVALENCE IS UNDERLINED by a surprise announcement last month that Athabasca Tribal Council—made up of five First Nations, including Athabasca Chipewyan and Mikisew Cree—is considering buying a stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline in an effort to obtain Indigenous control and ensure the environment is safeguarded. The controversial pipeline, opposed by many British Columbians, was purchased by the federal government from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion to ensure a planned expansion goes ahead. The Athabasca Tribal Council move caught pipeline critics and some community members off guard, particularly as Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam, who is also president of the Tribal Council, has been known for campaigning against the pace of oil sands development alongside such celebrities as Jane Fonda, Leonardo DiCaprio and Neil Young. Athabasca Chipewyan elder Alice Rigney, who has lived off the land all her life, blames the oil industry for destroying the delta and the lifestyle that has sustained her family for generations, and she wants no part of a pipeline. “I could not believe that my community wants to be part of this pipeline. They have forced us into a corner where we have nowhere else to turn,” Rigney said sadly. “Just think 100 years from now what this planet will look like. They are destroying the land.” Ironically, the Trans Mountain pipeline is likely to transport oil from the Teck Frontier development, although Stannell said that, if the project is approved, the first oil is not expected to flow until 2026, so shipping plans have not yet been determined. So why would First Nations, who are continuing to fight oil sands projects, want to buy a piece of pipeline? Winds of change are blowing through First Nations communities, said Mikisew Cree Chief Archie Waquan. In Fort Chipewyan, where many young people take fly-in-fly-out shifts in the oil sands, a new affluence is taking hold and traditional activities, such as a moose-hide tanning workshop, are failing to appeal to the new generation. Waquan, who describes himself as a former tree-hugger, believes he must lead efforts to modernize the economy for the sake of the younger generation. “Do we remain the same and be anti or get on the boat and deal with industry and be able to be part of what is happening there? I look at what is happening south of us in the tarpits and the oil sands and, if we don’t partake in it, we will be left behind and I will be to blame,” he said. Chief Archie Waquan (Photo by Louis Bockner) If the pipeline purchase plan goes ahead, it will be the second foray into the industry for Mikisew Cree, who, last year, together with Fort McKay First Nation, bought a 49 percent interest in a Suncor Energy storage facility. A pipeline share is a logical next step, said Waquan, acknowledging that there are continuing concerns, but insisting that participation will help mitigate problems. “I have to look to the future, beyond my time on Earth. Times have changed and we have to realize that. We need to go to a modern lifestyle—which I think my First Nation wants—and that means we have to deal with industry. We have to keep them in check,” he said. Waquan believes that, despite the scars left by oil and gas extraction, the land is resilient enough to recover. “You can’t reverse it now, but in time, when all the development is gone from this territory, our land will always come back to where it used to be,” he said. Others see it differently and say Indigenous communities are being coerced into deals. Eriel Deranger, Indigenous Climate Action executive director, believes that economic benefit agreements, with companies promising to transfer millions of dollars to communities, amount to bribes. “I have watched government and industry work very diligently to wear down the leadership—the way we are allowing this to happen is absurd,” she said. “Our communities are not making decisions freely, free of intimidation and free of coercion and free of bribery. Let’s be real, these impact benefit agreements are bribes,” she said. Projects are approved despite admissions of irreversible and adverse impacts on the people and the land, and that can destroy the spirit of the people, Deranger said. “They are saying, in order for you to survive in the economic system we have imposed on you, you have to join us. There’s no choice any more. The rights of industry and corporations have taken precedence over Indigenous rights,” she said. Judith Sayers, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president, said the same story plays out in BC, and companies regularly try to coerce First Nations into signing agreements by telling them that they will get nothing if they don’t sign on. “So you sign on to make sure you get money and jobs and benefits for your community,” she said. But communities should realize that they do not have to sign agreements, especially given the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) by the federal and BC governments, and recent emphasis on the need for free, prior and informed consent, Sayers said. “Losing your right to fish and hunt as opposed to having a job is no contest. There are other ways of making money and having meaningful economic development without selling your soul,” she said. When Kinder Morgan owned the pipeline, the company signed 43 mutual benefit agreements with Indigenous groups in BC and Alberta, but some chiefs have since said that they do not support the pipeline expansion project and felt signing the agreement was the only way to either get benefits or ensure there was funding to clean up spills. “It’s not really support. If we opposed it, we would have no way of addressing spills because we would be disqualified from funding from Trans Mountain,” Ditidaht Chief Robert Joseph told the Times Colonist in 2016. Chief Bob Chamberlin, Union of BC Indian Chiefs vice-president, said the history of Canada is that government makes the final decision over lands Indigenous people have never given up. That, he said, has resulted in a sense of resignation that, whatever you do, someone else is going to make the decision. “As much as we object, as much as we point at case law and the constitution, Canada’s long history of disregarding all that is still alive and well,” Chamberlin said. “We are waiting for free, prior and informed consent to become real, but, until it’s real, First Nations are still faced with ‘the government’s going to do what it’s going to do. We might as well get what we can.’” Now, with the underpinning of UNDRIP, it is up to Indigenous communities to shed those feelings of resignation, and for other Canadians to educate themselves on those rights, Chamberlin said. “We are talking about human rights and that’s a big evolution for Canadians to understand,” he said. Judith Lavoie spent eight days in June in the communities of Fort Smith and Fort Chipewyan reporting for The Narwhal on how Alberta oil sands projects and the Site C dam are affecting the Peace-Athabasca Delta and Wood Buffalo National Park. An overflight of the delta was funded by Sierra Club BC.
  23. The recent renewal of fish farm tenures is just the latest in a long saga of denial of First Nations’ fishing rights. IN 1930, a group of First Nations fishermen gathered around a fire to wait out a storm on Langara Island. They were sheltered by their rowboats pulled up on the beach as the storm set in. Salmon prices were so low, gas so high, and federal policy so targeted to support commercial companies, the fishermen had abandoned motors and returned to hand-trolling to make ends meet. Visiting them that night was Haida elder Alfred Adams, Nangittlagada. He had come with an idea that he had picked up in Alaska—he wanted to form a Native Brotherhood (and Sisterhood) for increased recognition of aboriginal rights in hunting, fishing, trapping and timber harvesting in off-reserve traditional lands. And he wanted to meet with Ottawa officials about these matters. The BC Native Brotherhood was founded in 1931. Another leader of the Brotherhood, Guy Williams (Haisla), who went on to become a senator in 1971-82, wrote, “The men listened long into the night, no one noticing that the fire had gone completely out and the great rollers were still pounding the beaches heavily from the grey cloud wall at the edge of the world…” Ninety years later, at the edge of the world, the Brother and Sisterhood still fight on against a metaphorical grey cloud wall: that of the corporate fish industry, morphed into its latest permutation of farming Atlantic salmon. Three Dzawada’enuxw First Nation Hereditary Chiefs, including Willie Moon (r), deliver an eviction notice to workers at a Cermaq/Mitsubishi fish farm in 2016. (Photo by Tamo Campos) When the NDP government recently announced their decision to continue to allow open net-pen salmon farms until 2022, it was no surprise to the activist descendants of the fishermen on that Langara beach. Dzawada’enuxw First Nation Elected Chief and Traditional Leader Okwilagame (Willie Moon) of Kingcome Inlet stated, “We’ve been fighting fish farms in our territory for over two decades, and that battle does not end with today’s announcement. We will fight it in court through the various legal tools at our disposal…” Fighting fish farms is just one chapter in a century of fighting for aboriginal fishing rights, a battle where traction has only been gained through the courts. Politically, there has been little progress, federally or provincially. The pattern of pushing on ahead with ever more aquaculture, followed by token slow-downs, usually in the form of moratoriums, is all too familiar. The provincial government has no real jurisdiction for regulating the federal fisheries other than the granting of land tenure permits for the farm itself. It has only ever used slow-down-and-study approaches to fish farms over the last 30 years. In the 1980s, a Namgis fisherman, Chris Cook, joined the board of the Brotherhood right about the time the fish farms were being brought into his territory around Alert Bay. He was one of the first to warn his community about the impacts of the farms. He had already experienced the devastating social impacts of the 1971 Davis Plan, which implemented a fishing license buy-back program. The commercial fishing fleets were blowing locals out of the water, at the same time that stocks were declining. The buy-back program was the final nail in the coffin for small-scale native fishermen; it favoured those with capital who could improve the efficiency of their boats to meet increased operating standards. Through the buy-back program, the DFO reduced the number of boats; those who couldn’t afford to upgrade had no alternative but to sell. DFO further consolidated the fleet by giving larger boats the ability to obtain rights to fish in other areas. A token grandfather clause provided a special Native licence, but it only provided a right to fish, not the ability to sell the licence. The Brotherhood had some influence on the Indian Fishermen’s Assistance Program, in which capital was made available to upgrade equipment, but again it favoured existing boat owners who had the down payment necessary to get in on the scheme. Fishing policy did not change substantially when, in 1996, the federal Mifflin Plan replaced the Davis Plan—and neither did the results. Corky Evans, then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for BC, summed up the two world views of fisheries at a standing committee on fish: “If you’re an economist, you would say that the Mifflin Plan to reduce the fleet to increase the viability of the remaining operators was a perfectly rational response to a changing technology and market conditions. If, however, you were a resident of Ahousat, or maybe a lot of the people in this room, you would say that it’s the elimination of half the jobs in your community.” Atlantic salmon open-net fish farms arrived on the coast in the early 1980s as mom-and-pop operations around Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. There were just 10 farms in 1984, but within a couple of years, the industry had consolidated and grown ten-fold, and started shifting from farming local species of salmon to Atlantics. In the north, only the tiny remote village of Klemtu brought fish farms in. The village didn’t have much choice: it had lost all its fish boats through the Davis and Mifflin plans. It had a fish processing plant standing empty and few other options to sustain its community. Cook says Indigenous bands were left with no choice but to turn to aquaculture because of erosion of their fishing opportunities. He speaks about the divide-and-conquer tactics and his people “being used as pawns by the aquaculture industry.” A moratorium on further expansion of fish farms was put in place in October 1986, after pressure from fishers following a massive bloom of phytoplankton on the Sunshine Coast that killed an estimated 100,000 fish. That same year, a commission led by David Gillespie explored some of the stickier issues of growth. Again the Brotherhood raised alarms on the impact to their own salmon fishery, the commercial fishery, and the environment. But many fishing families had already lost their fish boats and livelihoods and so were left with no alternative to get any fish. The recommendation of the Gillespie commission was to lift the moratorium but introduce stricter, clearer guidelines. The moratorium was lifted in 1987 by the Socreds. During the early 1990s, salmon farms became increasingly owned by transnational corporations and more operating processes became automated, resulting in fewer jobs. Farm locations became concentrated off the coasts of the mainland and east Vancouver Island. In 1995, the NDP instituted a moratorium on the issuance of new salmon farm licences. Production at existing sites, however, was allowed to intensify. During this time, aquaculture companies ramped up their operations, forging an agreement with some Native villages, and increasing tension between neighbouring First Nations who had placed their own moratoriums on the farms. By 2000, the aquaculture industry accounted for 15 percent of BC’s total agriculture production. In 2001, fish farm expansion once again hit the pressure valve. The federal Auditor General’s Report came out, followed by the Standing Senate Committee, and the David Suzuki Foundation-funded Leggatt Inquiry. Not one of the three inquiries gave green lights to fish farms. Stuart Leggatt, a retired judge, was given independence to hear and review the evidence. Leggatt gave a definite red light and recommended a permanent moratorium and switch to closed-containment, land-based operations. Cook spoke at its release: “I’m tired of sending letters. I’m tired of talking. I hope my people stand up and start to fight.” The Standing Senate Committee recommended the precautionary approach, while the Auditor General reported that DFO was “not fully meeting its legislative obligations under the Fisheries Act to protect wild Pacific salmon stocks and habitat from the effects of salmon farming.” It recommended keeping the moratorium while more public review was conducted. In 2001, a Liberal government was elected provincially. Despite the recommendations of the three bodies, the moratorium on new locations for fish farms was lifted in 2002. The south was now wide open for expansion, while a battle was waged in the northern communities where there were still livelihoods to be made in the wild salmon fishery. By 2008, a total ban was placed on open-net fish farms on the north coast (north of Klemtu). In 2012, the $37 million Cohen Commission reported on its examination of the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River, making 75 recommendations, most still unmet, though a moratorium on fish farm tenures around the Discovery Islands was put in place by the Province. In 2016, Chief Bob Chamberlin noted to the press, “The part I find disingenuous with freezing [licences] of the farms in Discovery [Passage], is that just up the coast, five or ten miles from there, they’re expanding the industry and creating new farms.” In 2017, Chris Cook was still fighting in his territory on Vancouver Island for a southern moratorium. His First Nation, the Namgis, led the way in setting up the first closed containment, land-based fish farm. At age 75, Cook told the press: “What happened to us, the coastal First Nations people? My words would be ‘economic assassination.’” Most recently, on June 20, 2018, BC Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham announced that any fish farm will need approval of local First Nations to operate beyond 2022. Fish farm operators will also have to “satisfy Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) that their operations will not adversely impact wild salmon stocks.” Is this a true turning point, or just another twist in the tale of fish farms destroying the wild salmon fishery? Does it spell the end of open net-pen salmon farming on BC’s coasts? What happens if the NDP government gets defeated? How much damage has already been done? While the Union of BC Indian Chiefs views the new plan as “an initial step on the pathway to preserve and safeguard the future of wild salmon,” others are disappointed and wary. Chief Willie Moon of the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation is leading the legal challenge. The Dzawada’enuxw First Nation is not waiting around for another four years of negotiation with the fish farm operators while fish stocks continue to decline. The Nation’s lawyer, Jack Woodward, said, “What the Dzawada’enuxw require is legal rights now, not political promises four years from now, when there may be a new government in power with no obligation to follow its predecessor’s policy.” Meanwhile, six Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations, including the Dzawada’enuxw, continue their occupation of a Broughton Archipelago fish farm, which they began on August 24 of last year. As for the requirement that fish farms show they are not harming wild salmon stocks, many of the Indigenous salmon protectors of the north island have no trust in what they see as a politicized scientific community. Yet another standing committee has formed, and the prospect seems probable that the struggle over salmon fish farms on BC’s coast will become a 100-year war. Briony Penn is currently working with Xenaksiala elder Cecil Paul, Wa’xaid on Following the Good River, Stories from the Magic Canoe of Cecil Paul. Rocky Mountain Books, due out in 2019.
  24. Is Fisheries & Oceans Canada ignoring Washington State research on chemical contamination from sewage treatment plants? ARE THREE LARGE SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANTS located on the Fraser River estuary contributing to the decline of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population? Between them they discharge 1.1 billion litres of effluent every day of the year into the estuary and nearshore marine waters. The largest, Iona Island, provides only primary treatment and has been permitted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to continue at that level until 2030. We now know that the reproductive health of the orca population depends heavily on the availability of Fraser River chinook salmon, but, according to fisheries scientists, chinook runs on the Fraser are now only 25 percent of historic numbers. Recent research in Washington has found a strong link between the survival rate of juvenile chinook salmon and chemical contamination of their natal estuary. Is the survival rate of Fraser River juvenile chinook being similarly impacted by contamination from the Annacis Island, Lulu Island and Iona Island wastewater treatment plants? Currently, these three plants provide treatment for over 1.8 million people, and that population is not declining. Vancouver’s three largest sewage treatment plants all discharge into critical chinook salmon habitat. The physical processes involved in this chinook-sewage-orca death spiral have become better understood in recent years thanks to research by Dr James Meador, an environmental toxicologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, and Dr Samuel Wasser, a research professor of conservation biology at the University of Washington. Since 2013, Meador and his team of researchers have published three studies that considered the impact of chemical contamination on juvenile chinook salmon during the period they reside in their natal estuary. Meador’s first study found that the survival rate of juvenile chinook that smolted in contaminated estuaries of rivers flowing into Puget Sound was cut in half compared with juveniles coming from a relatively uncontaminated natal estuary. Let me repeat that: Survival rate is cut in half. In his second study, Meador analyzed the discharge from secondary sewage treatment plants, located upstream from chinook estuaries, for the occurrence of 150 “chemicals of emerging concern,” or CECs. These are chemicals associated with pharmaceutical and personal care products, as well as industrial compounds. Many are known endocrine disruptors, which can affect hormonal balance and result in developmental and reproductive abnormalities. The researchers also analyzed the tissue of juvenile chinook and resident sculpin in the estuary for the presence of the selected CECs. That study became widely publicized in 2016 because cocaine and antidepressants—and many other chemicals—were found in both the treatment plants’ discharge and in fish tissue. Indeed, Meador’s team found unexpectedly high levels of certain CECs in the treated effluent. The study’s findings suggested that chinook juveniles have a significant vulnerability to bioaccumulation of CECs. Many contaminants that were found in juvenile chinook tissue were at concentrations below detection limits in the estuary waters. The scientists also observed higher levels of contaminants in juvenile chinook than in resident sculpin, even though the latter were permanent residents of the estuary. Meador’s team observed that the contaminants found in chinook tissue, although present in sub-lethal concentrations on a chemical-by-chemical basis, were, in some cases, present at levels that would be expected to cause detrimental physiological effects. The scientists noted the potential for a drug-cocktail effect: “The fact that we observed multiple pharmaceuticals capable of interacting with a variety of molecular targets in our two fish species, leads to the potential for mixture interactions on critical physiological processes. These interactions can be additive, synergistic, or inhibitory.” Meador noted that these effects could be responsible for the two-fold reduction in survival rate found in his earlier study. In a third study (click link below to download), released this past April, Meador’s team found that the contaminants were also causing metabolic dysfunction, which “may result in early mortality or an impaired ability to compete for limited resources.” Again, Meador noted that metabolic dysfunction induced by CEC contamination could contribute to the two-fold reduction in the survival rate of these juvenile chinook, compared with chinook migrating from the uncontaminated estuaries, that he had found in his first study. Adverse metabolic effects in fish exposed to contaminants of emerging concern in the field and laboratory.pdf The US EPA has listed Puget Sound chinook as a “threatened” species, and the decline of those runs has been even more profound than the Fraser decline. Historically, according to Jim Myers of the Northwest Fisheries Science Centre in Seattle, Puget Sound’s chinook runs were about 25 percent greater than the Fraser River’s. But by 2010, Puget Sound chinook returns had collapsed to only six percent of the size of the greatly-reduced Fraser River returns. Although the link between the abundance of chinook salmon in the Salish Sea and the physical health of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population has been known for some time, Wasser’s seven-year-long study, published in 2017, provided the first confirmation that low availability of chinook is suppressing the population’s birth rate and endangering the health of reproductive female orca. Wasser’s team collected orca poop and analyzed it for hormone measures of pregnancy occurrence and health. The scientists also looked for chemical indicators of nutritional and disturbance stress in the poop. By making the same measurements over time, they were able to distinguish between nutritional stress caused by low availability of chinook salmon, and disturbance stress caused by the presence of nearby boats. Wasser’s team correlated periods of nutritional stress with the timing and strength of the two main chinook runs that are keeping the southern orca alive: the Columbia River early spring run and the Fraser River summer and fall runs. They found that—depending on the timing of those runs, and how many fish were in them—the southern resident orca experienced more or less intense famines through the winter months and between the spring and summer runs. The scientists observed: “Low availability of chinook salmon appears to be an important stressor among these fish-eating whales as well as a significant cause of late pregnancy failure, including unobserved perinatal loss.” The scientists surmised that “release of lipophilic toxicants during fat metabolism in the nutritionally deprived animals may also provide a contributor to these cumulative effects.” Not only are the orca being periodically starved, but when a starved, pregnant orca begins burning off her fat reserves in response to the lack of food, toxins bioaccumulated in her fat reserves—such as PCBs and PBDEs—begin to have more of an impact on her health, such as a reduced ability to fight infections. This could contribute to the demise of the fetus and increase the risk to the mother’s life. As a consequence of these conditions, the study noted, “the 31 potentially reproductive females in the Southern Resident Killer Whale population should have had 48 births between 2008–2015. Yet, only 28 births were recorded during that period. The 7 adult females in K pod have not had a birth since 2011, and just two births since 2007. The 24 females in the remaining two pods (J and L) have averaged less than 1 birth per pod since 2011, with no births in 2013, but had 7 births in 2015. One of the two offspring born in 2014 died.” As of this writing, with the presumed death of “Crewser,” the population has dwindled to 75 whales. As recently as 1996 there were 98 orca in the 3 pods. Wasser noted, “Results of the Southern Resident Killer Whale study strongly suggest that recovering Fraser River and Columbia River chinook runs should be among the highest priorities for managers aiming to recover this endangered population of killer whales.” Let’s make the obvious connection between Meador’s and Wasser’s findings. Meador’s research strongly suggests that the chemical contamination in Puget Sound rivers that’s quickly bioaccumulating in juvenile chinook is coming from sewage treatment plants discharging into their natal estuary. Removing that contamination could double the number of chinook returning to those rivers as adults. Wasser’s study shows the Southern Resident Killer Whale population’s decline is strongly correlated with the availability of chinook and he recommends, for one thing, that managers of the Fraser River fishery make chinook recovery amongst their highest priorities. A rational conclusion, based on the two groups of scientists’ extensive research, would be that Fraser River fisheries managers should be determining whether the impacts Meador measured in Washington estuaries are at play in the Fraser estuary. But that’s not happening. DFO recently published “A science based review of recovery actions for three at-risk whale populations” that listed 98 specific actions. DFO acknowledges that only 2 of the 98 measures are “specifically directed toward recovery of chinook salmon stocks in Canada.” None of those 98 actions include examination, let alone reduction, of the impacts of chemical contaminants on chinook juveniles in the Fraser River estuary. DFO paper on SRKW recovery efforts.pdf DFO has been caught flat-footed on chemical contamination of the Fraser River estuary in the past. The Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River produced a technical report in 2011 that stated: “There is a strong possibility that exposure to contaminants of concern, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and/or contaminants of emerging concern has contributed to the decline of sockeye salmon abundance in the Fraser River.” Despite that, the technical report noted, “Due to limitations on the availability of exposure data and/or toxicity thresholds” it could provide only a “qualitative evaluation.” Cohen Comm report on chemical contaminants re sockeye decline.pdf That was in 2011 and the information gap was related to sockeye. With chinook runs on the verge of collapse, you would think that Meador’s published research on chinook estuary contamination, only 200 kilometres away, would have prompted DFO to narrow the gap in their knowledge. We contacted DFO, but as of our press deadline a spokesperson had been unable to confirm whether or not any DFO-affiliated scientist was investigating the impact of the Fraser River estuary wastewater treatment plants, or other sources of chemical contaminants, on the survival rate of juvenile chinook. The presumption may be that because sewage effluent is being discharged into the Fraser River estuary through outfalls that achieve legally required dilution ratios, no further consideration is required. But the rivers Meador considered in Puget Sound are meeting similar if not higher requirements, and he found chinook survival rate is being cut in half. Meador has said it’s unlikely these contaminants can be effectively filtered out of the huge volume of wastewater that’s being flushed into Puget Sound. In the case of the Fraser River it seems possible that the three plants could be connected to a super outfall that diverts the discharge away from the estuary and into deeper marine waters. But without any examination of chemical loading of Fraser chinook juveniles being conducted by DFO, there will be no public pressure mounted for such a measure. Mr Floatie ought to find a new costume (Cocaine Man?) and relocate to Vancouver. Victoria’s deepwater marine outfalls, by the way, are located about 70 kilometres away from the nearest chinook estuary. While DFO wasn’t certain about what research is being done, it’s more certain about the magnitude of the chinook decline. In its 2018 outlook for the six different populations of chinook in the Fraser Basin, fisheries managers found that only one was at a level considered necessary to maintain a healthy population. David Broadland is the publisher of Focus. Related stories: The orca famine and Puget Sound's poisoned rivers Washington's phony sewage war with Victoria
  25. There’s a lot happening in Grant Leier’s bursting-with-colour paintings. ARTISTS AND PARTNERS Grant Leier and Nixie Barton live in Nanaimo. Their home on a hill resembles a small castle and certainly holds many treasures. Artwork and wondrous paraphernalia, collected over their 30-year relationship and careers as full-time professional artists, enliven each room. In 2015, the couple received an Excellence in Culture Award from the City of Nanaimo, recognizing their community involvement and national reputations as exhibiting artists in North America. In 2005, The Romance Continues, an illustrated hardcover book by Goody Niosi, featured their art and gardens and offered a wealth of details about the couple’s exceptional artistic journey. During July and August the public can view a number of Grant Leier’s paintings at Victoria’s West End Gallery. His education in graphic and textile design is evident in these large—five-foot square—cheerful multi-coloured artworks. Colour and texture are woven together in an eye-catching assortment of patterns and shapes, and they each provide an astonishing amount of visual information. “I incorporate imagery from many sources, and then reinvent and reposition,” says Leier. Grant Leier It’s no wonder Leier’s paintings are enduring favourites with collectors. Look closely at “Quilt” and you might see: a Chinese vase sprouting flowers, a burgundy crow, a pink camel, sparrows on the wing, a baby blue warthog and a polka dot horse. By overlapping the shapes and patterns, Leier creates a sense of depth. Textural interest is added by a variety of detailed brushwork. Long sweeping strokes define the flower petals, meticulous hand-drawn circles radiate outward, and spirals swirl. Completing a large painting like “Quilt” takes hundreds of hours. “It’s a good thing I love my work,” says Leier. He’s in the studio at 5am each morning, and often paints eight hours a day, six days a week—happily. Always working towards the next deadline, the artist stays on track about delivery dates to galleries. Leier believes that discipline and longevity are important for building a career, noting, “it takes stamina and determination to be a professional artist.” When mentoring emerging artists, he urges them not to be precious about their work, and to keep moving along with new ideas and images. Connecting up with commercial galleries in a small country like Canada is very important. “All the dealers know each other,” he says, “so they’ll know about you.” "Quilt" by Grant Leier, 60 x 60 inches, acrylic on canvas "Display Turquoise" by Grant Leier, 48 x 48 inches, acrylic on canvas "Tulip Koi" by Grant Leier, 30 x 30 inches, acrylic on canvas For Leier, making a painting has many steps, and demands much patience. Each painting begins with a detailed ink drawing on the canvas. A few coats of liquid acrylic seal the drawing. Shapes and patterns are delineated with undercoatings of acrylic in cool colours. Overpainting involves several layers of opaque paint in warmer tones. “The fun begins when I start positioning colours side by side,” says the artist. “Sometimes the shades clash and I have to repaint.” Leier’s skills as an expert colourist become evident when the pigments start to sing and the canvas comes to life. After all his expended energy, this is a gratifying moment. But Leier has a variety of styles and subject matter in his repertoire. On his studio wall during my visit is an acrylic painting called “Prince.” “Prince” is a glowing ochre horse resplendent against a gritty distressed background. The horse’s noble head and attentive ears are clearly defined, but more gestural brushwork suggests the body and legs. “Prince” sports an electric blue mane. His flank, muzzle and belly are outlined with single strokes of crimson paint. Drips of paint add an atmosphere of casual disarray, or energy unleashed, whereas the shiny resin surface is all about control and containment. “These paintings only take a couple of hours to complete,” Leier says, “and are a wonderful change of pace.” A new series of animal portraits may be coming soon. “A small home well filled is better that an empty palace.” This is Leier’s favourite maxim and it’s evident during our house tour. One room holds a series of red-painted shrines with shiny blue doll faces. The artist’s love affair with shrines goes back many years. He’s intrigued by their role as ritual objects and memory keepers. The shrines offer a creative repository for his vast array of found objects: jewellery, knick-knacks and shiny bobbles. “Junk” is in the eye of the beholder for Leier. He enjoys playing with the idea that a tacky plastic toy, when mounted on a painted surface and placed in a gallery, can morph into “fine art.” The artist extols the “beauty of everyday things” and finds pleasure in the natural world of gardens and growth. Grant and Nixie downsized in 2014 to their current Nanaimo home from a nine-acre property near Yellow Point, where they had lived and worked since 1994. It’s a big change, but all good. Their former destination property featured an on-site gallery and grounds to wander. Visitors delighted in the whimsical creations, architectural follies, and tangled greenery. They and their garden were even featured on the Guerrilla Gardeners TV show. Two hardcover books (Artists in Their Gardens and Artists in their Studios) also showcased their fantasy retreat. Though not as large or lavish, their newer home’s backyard garden is a lovely green oasis. A fountain burbles, statuary stands guard and pots overflow with cascading abundance. Off in the distance, Departure Bay gleams. “We like to sit out here,” says Leier. Not having to run a gift gallery or manage extensive gardens means more time to focus on the things they love doing. Like painting. Leier was born in Lloydminster, a prairie town on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan, in 1956. His drawing skills were evident and encouraged from a young age. At the Alberta College of Art, he excelled in textile design and illustration. After graduation in 1978 he worked as a commercial artist receiving major commissions for the Calgary Winter Olympics and Expo 86. Leier has an astonishing 36-year connection with the West End Gallery of Victoria and Edmonton. In 1982, the family-run gallery booked shows for him in Edmonton. In 1984, the artist moved to Victoria. Nixie Barton was an art student at that time and they began to share a studio. This was a formative time for Leier. After 15 years of graphic design (painting smiling women and ducks) he looked over Nixie’s shoulder at her lively brushwork and fell in love. A series of paintings of alley cats and bull terriers evolved, simple shapes to hold the bright colours he arranged on a flat washed background. These paintings became more refined and complex as his skills grew. Thirty years later, it’s a treat to view his more recent dog series on the Barton Leier website. These confident gems of swirling colour and form capture the essence of canine energy with effortless charm. Effortless charm combined with hard work, a winning combination summing up the life and achievements of Grant Leier. To see more of Grant Leier’s work, go to www.bartonleiergallery.com or visit West End Gallery’s Summer Salon, throughout July and August. 1203 Broad Street, Victoria, www.westendgalleryltd.com, 250-388-0009. Kate Cino writes about the arts for Victoria publications and her own website, www.artopenings.ca.
  26. Aaren Madden

    Sharing the wealth

    First Nations artist Calvin Hunt’s first solo exhibition celebrates family, culture and a giving spirit. CALVIN HUNT WAS BORN IN 1956 in Alert Bay into what has become a dynasty of renowned figures in Northwest Coast First Nations art and culture. Descended from the celebrated Tlingit ethnologist George Hunt, he is the youngest son of Kwagu’l (Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw) Hereditary Chief Thomas Hunt, and Emma, daughter of the celebrated Mowachaht (Nuu Chah Nulth) Chief and Shaman, Dr Billy, from Yuquot (Friendly Cove). His grandfather, Mungo Martin, is known to anyone who has visited the Royal BC Museum’s Thunderbird Park: from 1952, he worked there as a carver demonstrating Indigenous methods, teaching other First Nations carvers to carry on, and creating artworks, including prominent totem poles in and beyond Victoria. Two years after the potlatch ban was lifted in 1951, Martin held the first potlatch at Wawadiťła (Mungo Martin House), which is on the park grounds and is still in use for such purposes. Calvin Hunt’s family played a key role in many potlatches and celebrations. His father was a great singer and orator who had retained knowledge passed down from his elders. “Any time there was any kind of culture going on in the city, they would phone my father to help,” Hunt says, “because a lot of families had lost that. So my father was always willing to help—with names, with singing songs, with doing dance presentations.” Calvin Hunt The family moved to Victoria when Calvin was young. Being among friends and family of the First Nations youngsters who would hang out at Thunderbird Park, he was carving by the time he was 12—and making a bit of money to boot. “We could get 25 cents for a paddle,” he grins, “which was big money back then.” Two paddles sold equalled a ticket to the Saturday matinee, plus popcorn, pop, and money for the bus ride home. “We were rich! We just thought it was so cool,” he laughs. It was more than that, though. Every summer, his family returned to Alert Bay for potlatches. “As a child growing up, and you’re seeing this great big mask, and some of these phenomenal dancers you just think, ‘wow, this is so cool. I want to be a part of this,’” he says. While his three older brothers would become seine boat skippers, Calvin, at age 15 years, announced to his parents that he would become a full-time apprentice to his second cousin Tony Hunt at Arts of the Raven, a thriving Victoria gallery in its day and another of his favourite haunts. To his mother’s initial chagrin, he spent the next ten years learning from his second cousin Tony Hunt and adopted Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw carver John Livingston. They travelled all over Canada, the United States and Europe, working on countless projects and demonstrations. He enjoyed interactions with curious locals in various places: “It was just sharing. It was really pretty easy. We’d get somewhere and just start talking to people,” he relates. In 1981, he and his wife Marie followed his parents back up Island and, just outside Port Hardy, opened a workshop called The Copper Maker, expanding it into a gallery in 1989. He has carved original poles significant to his family and community, restored aged poles and re-created historical works for important exhibitions that continue to celebrate and expand understanding of Northwest Coast First Nations artwork and culture. With his nephew Mervyn Child, he has carved several canoes as well. For 30 years, he has performed locally and worldwide with the Copper Maker Dancers, for which he also creates masks. All while also creating original contemporary artworks that celebrate the continuum of his culture. Busy is an understatement, but Hunt is still generous with his skills and time. “A lot of people over the years have asked me to make something for a potlatch and I will gladly do that, because not everybody has a carver in their family,” he says. “It’s a really good feeling in your heart at the end of the day that you’ve helped them. Watching my parents do that growing up, it’s just my way of giving back, as my father had done.” The joy he derives from sharing the accumulated skills of a 47-year carving career and a lifetime of cultural knowledge will be evident in the works he has done for his exhibition at Alcheringa Gallery (remarkably, his first solo show anywhere). There will be power boards, traditionally used to spectacular effect in a potlatch dance, but compelling works of art in their own right. There will be masks, including a large round moon bound in cedarbark rope, the velvety smooth curves and planes of its face adorned with the formline image of a raven. Ovoids and u-forms in sage green, black and red circle around the face of a moon with mirrored eyes. “It’s the raven releasing the sun and the moon,” Hunt explains, adding that the mirrored eyes were “just something that I wanted to try” based on a historical Tsimshian mask he always found intriguing. The rim of the moon’s glow is painted with images of salmon. “I just thought it would be appropriate to do,” he says, given the ongoing issues with fish farms and salmon habitat we are facing. Cougar Mask, by Calvin Hunt Komokwa Mask, by Calvin Hunt Mourning Mask, by Calvin Hunt The formline, colour and content are a marriage of traditional and contemporary Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw style, but as we know, Hunt’s ancestry is diverse. A Nuu Chah Nulth “spin-top” mask depicting a serpent exemplifies the flat-planed style and vivid, swirling designs distinct to the western Vancouver Island group. Giving context, Hunt explains, “In the dance presentation, when they come out to bless the floor, the wearer would pull a string that would spin the top and release eagle down, which would float up into the air and land on the floor. What it would do is bless the floor.” The mask celebrates this side of his family; in 1998, he became fourth primary chief of the Mowachaht, the hereditary chieftainship coming from his grandfather Dr Billy. His chief’s name is Nas’am’yus (Nas soom yees), meaning “the waters are always calm around you.” Hunt’s Tlingit side are present in a large paddle and, among other works, a mask painted the blue of a September sky with delicate black formline, adorned with bear fur and synthetic hair. A feather duster replaces the traditional plume of feathers that emerges vertically from the centre of the mask for some contemporary whimsy. Called a Gitakhanees, meaning “intruder,” it represents the visitors to a potlatch. “I’ve worn this a number of times,” Hunt says, explaining, “this is the chief singer, so he would come in with other masks, strumming and singing a song, coming from another tribe for the potlatch.” For Hunt—father of four, grandfather of eight (and counting), great-grandfather of two—the carvings, prints, masks, drums, and other unique works on offer are another opportunity to share his heritage, his culture, his family, and his art practice. His pride in doing so is expressed succinctly by the exhibition title: Yuxan’s K’is’o, a Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakword meaning, “these are our treasures.” Yuxan’s K’is’o: These are our Treasures is at Alcheringa Gallery from August 25 to September 22, 2018. 621 Fort Street, 250-383-8224, www.alcheringa-gallery.com. Aaren Madden feels incredibly wealthy, having learned from and about so many interesting and inspiring people by writing for Focus Magazine for over ten years. This is her last assignment for the time being, and she will miss it dearly. It has been her absolute privilege.
  27. Mollie Kaye

    Coming full circus

    Aerialist Kaelyn Schmitt plans to ignite the circus arts scene in Victoria. I PLUG THE METER ON HERALD STREET and head into the Union Pacific. Winding my way past the people and pastries I spot a young blonde woman who must be Kaelyn Schmitt, sitting quietly with her latte. The only giveaway of her profession—aerialist, acrobat, and founder of Ignio Circus Company—is her unusually strong-looking shoulders. I wonder if anyone else in the cafe realizes she’s capable of amazing feats—flipping, contorting, and suspending herself by one foot from a trapeze, flying through the air. Like Elastigirl from The Incredibles, Schmitt looks like a regular person, but has hidden superpowers. She spends six months of each year in Europe, performing at hundreds of shows for rapt audiences. But her goal is to base her personal and creative life in her beloved hometown, and help establish Victoria as a centre for circus arts. Kaelyn Schmitt (Photo by Warren Zelman) Growing up, Schmitt didn’t dream of running away and joining the circus, but that’s how it turned out. All four kids in her family were extremely athletic; she started competing as a gymnast at age 10, training exhaustively and travelling far and wide. “Like any kid, I wanted to go to the Olympics,” she recalls. “At 14, I started to realize I wouldn’t be going.” The repetitive requirements to perfect the same moves wore her out. “I loved gymnastics,” she says, “but I just wanted to keep learning acrobatics, new tricks. That’s not the way it works—you do your routine.” When Schmitt “retired” in grade 11, she went from “25 hours a week of training, to ‘what do I do with myself now?’” Like most teens, she partied on the weekends and got into trouble here and there. To stay active, she played rugby, and started working as a gymnastics coach. She found out about circus school in grade 12, and something clicked. She would train, audition, and get accepted into a class of 30 students at the intensive, three-year circus college École Nationale de Cirque (ENC) in Montreal. Since graduating from ENC, Schmitt has performed as a professional trapeze artist for 10 years in 27 countries. Though it’s been exciting and rewarding, she yearns to put down roots and be closer to her family here. At 29, she also knows she’s got about five years left of doing daily shows on a trapeze for months on end “or I won’t be able to walk when I’m 50.” To make her living here, though, she must create a professional context for herself. Not a lot exists in Victoria, as far as contemporary circus goes. “There’s Cirque du Soleil every year or two years, but not a lot of professional shows for people to see,” Schmitt observes. Contemporary circus, in her view, is a mix of dance, acting, and acrobatics, offering opportunities for myriad artistic collaborations and thought-provoking social commentary. “I think it’s extraordinary, and I want to share it and make it more accessible on Vancouver Island.” Schmitt was behind the scenes of the launching of two brand-new circus schools here. Island Circus Space (ICS) at 625 Hillside, which she co-founded with performers Jake West, Lisa Eckert, and Coral Crawford, offers classes for students aged 6 through adult, and aims “to build a contemporary circus infrastructure for Victoria.” Because of her overseas commitments, Schmitt advises and teaches at ICS, but can’t be consistently present for all the practical aspects of running the business. She is grateful to Eckert and Crawford, “talented, hardworking women, who did incredible job of setting up a beautiful space.” Then there’s the Victoria Centre for Circus Arts (“The Rising”) at 1047 Langford Parkway, offering classes for everyone from toddler to adult. It was founded by Sarah Scheunhage, who shares Schmitt’s passion to bring circus arts to her hometown after performing worldwide. “It’s super exciting,” Schmitt enthuses. “Now there’s two places in town for people to learn…and we can grow that community. Both are excellent schools, with excellent teachers. They’re really well-set-up, safe environments, very professional.” Last winter in Berlin, stationed as a performer and artistic supervisor of a long-running show, Schmitt saw a performance at a theatre she’d once performed in. “I wasn’t impressed,” she says, “but before I can talk down someone else’s work, I should try it myself—do a whole show. So I thought, ‘Let’s bring circus to Victoria, let’s build a circus community here in Victoria. I can perform, and also build the [production, direction and management] skills at the same time, to be ready for when I can’t perform anymore.” Schmitt founded her brand-new production company, Ignio Circus, to create cutting-edge, contemporary local circus shows. In early July, Ignio (Latin for “ignite”) is offering their first production, “Eyes Up,” examining smart-phone culture and how we connect with each other. International performers are being brought in to join Schmitt and other local artists and musicians. “Often we use technology as a vehicle for communication, but when we take it away…there is awkwardness and beauty,” she explains. “Each of us has an inner desire to connect…it’s becoming a lost art, face-to-face interactions. ‘Eyes Up’ is exploring what it is to be human, what it is to communicate with technology, and without it.” Working with youth, Schmitt has found that circus arts provide powerful healing for many emotional issues. “Circus is physically denying what you think is possible,” she says. “Everyone has similar potential from birth to do something physically extraordinary. Circus is a neat little reminder to push the limits of what you’re capable of.” Some of the troubled or disabled kids she’s coached “couldn’t catch a beanbag, and had been written off by society.” Soon, though, they learned to juggle, even though “they thought they were never going to accomplish anything physically.” While they had a slower learning curve, it was “profoundly humbling to witness them progress, to see how much confidence and enjoyment they had learning. Circus is a powerful tool.” On Saturday, August 11 at 7:30pm, Ignio Circus is staging “The Open Hearts Gala” at the Metro Theatre to support NEED2, a Victoria nonprofit providing live online chat and in-person suicide prevention support every day through counselling, workshops, and education to youth in grades 8-12. The evening will showcase international circus professionals along with new local talent, offering an “awe-inspiring evening” of acrobatics, magic, comedy, music, and dance. All proceeds benefit NEED2 Suicide Prevention Education and Support. All-ages tickets are $25 and available at www.ticketrocket.com beginning July 3. In 2004, performance artist Mollie Kaye relocated to Victoria. As the then-mother of two young children, she was disappointed there wasn’t a circus school here. She is delighted this is now being remedied.
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