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  • Kristina Lium

    Beacon Hill Park camping

    By Kristina Lium, in Letters,

    What is it going to take for Beacon Hill camping to be banned?
    WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE before you shut Beacon Hill Park down for overnight camping?
    Is it going to be the death of an elderly person? A child playing with a hypodermic needle? Someone being raped?
    I am not being dramatic. I am being serious. Things are getting out of hand. I should know. I have a full frontal view of it from every window. I see a park being destroyed. Laws being broken.
    My home is being threatened daily. There were two break in attempts yesterday. Our doors were tagged. Anything left unlocked is getting stolen. 
    My fiance and I have been verbally threatened on multiple occasions.
    Very sane, kind, intelligent people are losing their marbles in reaction to this craziness.
    Here is what is crazy:
    1. We are not only allowing laws to be broken, but we are also enabling and emboldening people to break even more laws.
    2. Tax paying home owning citizens are needing to spend their days now calling police, and or the bylaw department simply to have a sense of participation—even though, and this is really the crazy part—the police and bylaw officers cannot enforce the laws we have in place for the safety and well being of everyone.
    What is wrong with this picture? Everything!
    3. Allowing chop shops to exist in plain daylight—there’s one at the corner of Park and Heywood in case you want to check it out.
    4. Having people urinate and defecate in public? Really…that is compassionate? To whom?
    5. Having kids watch men wash themselves in the ponds and fountains.
    6. Feeling scared to walk in my own front yard. Feeling afraid to walk in the park.
    7. Watching and knowing the police are not able to do their jobs. This is like living in some futuristic dystopia.
    8. Paying for security guards to follow the City workers to ensure that they are not going to be hurt.
    9. Asking nothing of or from the people we are busy giving our city away to. I am talking about normal accountability.
    10. Continuing on under the guise of fluffy liberal philosophical rhetoric. Theory and real life are not the same thing.
    I understand that we need to deal with our “vulnerable.” I am all in. I always have been. It is in my DNA.
    Allowing laws and trusts literally and figuratively to be broken is not the solution. Not even a partial one.
    It would be like using the gauze part of the bandaid to stop a leak in your perimeter drain. Wrong tool for the job.
    We are all paying too much for too little.
    Please please stop this nonsense before someone gets seriously hurt.
    Kristina Lium

    Jennifer Houghton
    An invitation to be part of necessary changes to our relationship with forests.
    THERE IS A GROWING GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT IN BC to resist the logging of old-growth forests.  BC residents are coming together in a virtual summit, BC Forests: The Peoples Convergence, to discuss the future of forest management and old-growth protection.  Communities are uniting to create a new forest framework that respects nature and  Indigenous systems and gives power back to communities on the front lines of logging.
    Speakers in the summit include Indigenous and non-Indigenous scientists, activists, eco-foresters, educators, union members, forestry workers, and youth, as well as former Minister of Forests, Bob Williams.  Webinars will be shared on social media and Youtube from September 10 – 15, 2020.
    I am the lead organizer of the summit, a flood evacuee from the interior Boundary region. Community groups across the province are uniting to push for changes to forest management.  Industrial logging is destroying our old growth forests, wildlife habitat, and water. Legislation gives private corporations authority over public land. Communities have no power.  We are losing local jobs. This must change.
    Summit presenter, Registered Professional Forester and forest ecologist, Herb Hammond explains, “As a result of industrial forestry… hundreds of species of plants and animals have been locally extirpated and many face extinction, like the iconic woodland caribou, and timber exploitation has turned forests into our largest source of greenhouse gases.  Over the past 10 years, British Columbians have subsidized timber company profits at the rate of $365 million per year.”
    Goals of the summit:
    To unite and empower BC communities located on the front lines of forestry by creating a network of engaged resistance plus solidarity for nature-based management of BC forests. To establish a movement of lobbyists for BC legislative reform which represents community views, promotes nature-based forestry, and ensures more local forestry jobs. To tell the BC government citizens expect forestry legislation to ensure: Ecosystem health is a top priority (including protecting old growth). Formal involvement of front line communities in the management of public land. Prohibition of private corporations from having any level of authority over public land. Learn more and register:  https://www.forestmarchbc.com/the-peoples-convergence-bc-forest-summit
    Jennifer Houghton, Lead Organizer
    Forest March BC + BC Forests: The Peoples Convergence

    July 26, 2020
    Dear Premier John Horgan, Minister Doug Donaldson, Sheila Malcomson, Doug Routley, and all Members of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia,
    Out of our deep concern for British Columbia’s old-growth forest and the species that are disappearing with them, we will go on a hunger strike until Premier John Horgan implements a ban on the logging of old growth forests across BC. The hunger strike will begin on July 27th, 2020 when we, James Darling and Robert Fuller, will stop eating.
    Globally, we are facing a crisis so terrifying that it’s almost beyond description. We are at the beginning of an exponentially worsening climate catastrophe and living through a human-driven mass extinction. Science predicts that the globe would still experience at least a 4 degree Celsius average temperature increase, even if every nation did everything it pledged under the Paris Accord.1 At the same time, human actions are being described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as “biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction.”2
    In a November 25, 2008 letter to the B.C. Auditor General requesting an audit, the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria states: “...habitat loss is the primary threat to BC’s at risk species. Habitat destruction and degradation threatens 86 percent of species at risk in the province. Therefore, this government’s failure to properly identify and protect critical habitat for such species is an egregious failure to steward a key public resource. It is a failure to operate ‘economically, efficiently and effectively’ as per s. 11(8) of the Auditor General Act...
    A recent comprehensive assessment of BC’s biodiversity estimated that there are approximately 1600 species at risk in BC today and that approximately 43 percent of BC’s assessed species are at risk.”3
    A decade later, thirteen eminent BC scientists report in The Narwhal that 1,806 BC species are at risk of extinction and call for a law to protect their habitat.4 Protecting endangered species was a pre-election promise from the BC NDP. Not a square metre of land in BC has been protected from industrial development for endangered species thus far.
    The dire state of BC’s old growth was described in a recent scientific report prepared by three BC forest experts. They explain that “over 85 percent of productive forest sites have less than 30 percent of the amount of old forest expected naturally, and nearly half of these ecosystems have less than 1 percent of the old forest expected naturally. This current status puts biodiversity, ecological integrity and resilience at high risk today.”5
    No job, no industry, and no business is more important than the continued existence of old-growth forests in our province. They have been shown to sequester far more carbon than the seedlings that might replace them.6 The planet desperately needs them alive right now.
    Old-growth logging is inherently unsustainable since the practice destroys ecosystems that take thousands of years to develop. So the question is how much old-growth forest will be left when we finally stop cutting it down? Do we have to destroy all of it just to postpone making unavoidable, difficult decisions?
    We ask that you do the right thing for the world our children will inherit.
    James Darling
    (250) 816-4321 james0darling@gmail.com
    Robert Fuller
    (250) 591-1062 bevnbob@gmail.com
    1 Climate Tipping Points—too risky to bet against: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019- 03595-0
    2 Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction: https://www.pnas.org/content/114/30/E6089
    3 Request for an audit of Ministry of Environment’s Failure to identify critical habitat for species at risk: http://www.elc.uvic.ca/publications/request-for-an-audit-of-ministry-of-environments-failure-to- identify-critical-habitat-for-species-at-risk/
    4 BC has a whopping 1,807 species at risk of extinction—but no rules to protect them: https://thenarwhal.ca/b-c-has-a-whopping-1807-species-at-risk-of-extinction-but-no-rules-to-protect- them/
    5 BC’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand For Biodiversity https://veridianecological.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/bcs-old-growth-forest-report-web.pdf
    6 Rate of tree carbon accumulation increases continually with size: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature12914

    If you live in Saanich with more than three roommates, you could be evicted from your home. That is straight. up. wrong.
    But, this week, we have a chance to fix it.
    For decades, students and other tenants have been evicted from their homes because of an outdated, discriminatory bylaw that prevents more than four unrelated people from living in the same dwelling.
    Does this bylaw seem absolutely absurd and unjust to you? We think so too.
    Saanich Council has proposed an amendment to Zoning Bylaw 5.20, increasing the number of unrelated people that can share a home from four to six. On Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 10 am, students and tenant advocates will show their support for this change at a Saanich Council public hearing .
    It typically costs over $1500 a month to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Saanich, if you can even find one. That’s simply out of reach for the majority of single people in this municipality. Since the onset of the housing crisis, local renters have been increasingly burdened by housing costs, with many paying as much as half of their incomes for a room. This bylaw amendment will help lower the cost of shelter by sharing the cost of rent across a greater number of residents.
    When students are unable to afford to rent legally, they are forced to live above occupancy limits, leaving them without tenant protections, at increased risk of domestic or sexual abuse, vulnerable to predatory landlords, and living in unsafe or illegal spaces.
    Many Saanich homes have more than four bedrooms, however the current bylaw bars more than four unrelated tenants from legally filling those rooms. Students are forced to either cross off those options in a tight market, waste money and rooms by living with fewer people, or live in violation of the bylaw. In the face of coronavirus-related economic turmoil and a local housing crisis, this is inefficient and simply unacceptable.
    Some opponents of this necessary, inclusive increase have relied on unfounded stereotypes of students as disruptive to neighbourhoods, citing issues such as noise and crowding. But this bylaw is not about parking, noise disturbances, or unsightly premises. Saanich has many other bylaws to keep those individual issues in check. A bylaw that keeps many homes in this municipality off-limits to residents based on marital and family status is unnecessary, discriminatory, and disproportionately impacts the lives of students and low-income renters.
    The UVSS urges all Greater Victoria residents to express their support for this Bylaw amendment by sending an email to council@saanich.ca by Friday, June 19 at noon. A coalition of students and the Victoria Tenant Action Group will be attending the meeting to advocate for changing the Saanich Zoning bylaw 5.20.
    All residents in Saanich deserve to feel safe and secure in their homes—stop the criminalization of roommates in Saanich.
    The University of Victoria Students’ Society Victoria Tenant Action Group

    Amalgamation Yes
    ON JUNE 1, Saanich Council reviewed the 2019 Saanich Audit Findings Report for the Year Ended December 31, 2019. The report included Appendix 1: Residential Tax Burden per Capita that indicates Saanich has historically lower taxes than the average of other CRD municipalities.
    Residential Tax Burden per Capita is a flawed measure, and is not used by the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in assessing property tax burden.
    The true calculation of property tax burden used by the Province is Taxes and Charges on a Representative House. This is because each 'resident' doesn’t pay property taxes and fees, but each 'representative house' does. A per capita analysis doesn't account for the impact of demographics, such as residents in rental and seniors housing, and age composition.
    Using the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing's Taxes and Charges on Representative House measure, a completely different picture emerges. In the case of Saanich and Victoria, the past seven year average of Municipal Taxes and Charges for Saanich is $3,506, versus that of Victoria at $3,480, – a negligible difference of less than 1%, with Victoria slightly lower.
    Why is this important? Because inaccurate measurements of tax burden can be used to provide erroneous and misleading information to the public before and during the forthcoming Saanich – Victoria Citizens' Assembly (CA) process. It creates the impression that the tax burden in Saanich is lower. It is not.
    Once the COVID-19 concerns have subsided, an independent consultant’s review via the CA will compare Saanich and Victoria 'apples to apples'. Through this process, the CA will make a final recommendation based on factual data.
    We look forward to the deliberations of the CA to assess options for future municipal governance for the 2/3 majority residents of the Greater Victoria region.
    James (Jim) Anderson, Chair

    Michael Madrone
    Dear Dr. Henry,
    First of all, thank you for the work you and your staff are doing during this pandemic.
    In your June 1st address to the public you announced that this is the start of Seniors Week. You said, “Taking care of those who are older is incredibly important…We know and we have said this many times over the months…our seniors and elders are vital to the well-being of our community, they are the keepers of our history… Let’s take the time this week to honour our seniors by doing all we can to care and protect them.”
    These are noble thoughts and words, but unfortunately for the seniors and elders of the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood in Victoria not only is this not happening but to the contrary, the actions of governments (federal, provincial and municipal) have actually done the opposite. By suddenly, and with no warning, placing hundreds of tent city homeless people in motels in the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood, (on top of the great number of “supportive housing” sites, etc. already there) governments have caused a health crisis among the seniors and elders in Burnside Gorge whom you say should be protected and cared for. You have said, and statistics show, that seniors and elders are at the greatest risk during this pandemic, yet these risks are being greatly increased by well-intentioned, perhaps, but failing government policies and a shocking lack of support for Burnside Gorge.
    Burnside Gorge is not a NIMBY neighbourhood. Only a little more than a year ago the Ministry of Housing signed a written promise to the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood to not place any more supportive housing in Burnside Gorge, due to the fact that the neighbourhood already is the location of 80-90% of all the supportive housing in Greater Victoria. That agreement was broken, without any warning at all to residents.
    As we know, stress is a major health risk. The seniors and elders (and others) in Burnside Gorge are being subjected to the extreme stress of the risk of living in a neighbourhood where crime and the threat of violence are suddenly skyrocketing out of control. Theft, gross public indecency of all manners, needles, prowlers, graffiti, garbage, noise, harassment, and even threats of violence and death. (see Times-Colonist, May 28, 2020 “Neighbours Report More Disruptions After Homeless Campers Move Into Hotel.”) This is not hyperbole. This is the lived experience in Burnside Gorge today. Many seniors and elders now live in fear of not only going out their door, but also of who might come in.
    This whole issue is a major health risk for these seniors who have up to this point only received continuous buck passing and noble words from government officials. Community leaders have repeatedly contacted and called for all levels of government to intervene to save these vulnerable seniors and elders (and others). All to no avail.
    In my own case, while simply walking outside on Gorge Rd. on a sunny afternoon a few days ago, getting the fresh air that you yourself have repeatedly advised us to take to maintain our health, I encountered a man who suddenly pulled out a three foot long silver, shiny, curved sword and began waving it wildly and slashing in the air. Terrified, I escaped to a wooded area across the street. An isolated case? I later learned that a woman had been confronted with the same terrifying experience just one hour before, in the same block. The man was never located.
    Weapons confiscated by Victoria Police from one car two blocks from where I was accosted:
    Even though you live in Victoria, I wonder if you even know that all this is happening. After all, Victoria’s famous double-decker tour buses don’t include Burnside Gorge on their city tours and the media has virtually ignored this situation. I can’t imagine you would know about a major health issue such as this, and deliberately turn a blind eye and do nothing and say nothing. Please reassure us that you have not known about this local health issue and ignored it, but that now you will act immediately.
    As I watch and listen to your public updates, I hear lots of questions from reporters asking about when hockey will return and when will camping be allowed in the parks. I have yet to hear one single question about the health crisis governments are causing among Burnside Gorge seniors and elders. It is a neighbourhood health crisis which never shows up in the daily statistical updates. I sincerely hope that the journalists who are allowed questions will raise this important matter so everyone knows what is going on in Burnside Gorge and to give you ample opportunity to reply.
    I know you are not in charge of policing. I know you are not in charge of housing. But you are the Provincial Health Officer and as such, you have great powers in matters of  public health, especially in the middle of not one, but two, officially declared medical emergencies currently in B.C. But more importantly, in my opinion, is the position of moral leadership you now hold in this province and some would say, indeed, around the world. Many people trust you and listen to you. The public and even the government have expressed confidence in you in many ways. Your words count more than probably any other person in B.C. during this health crisis. Burnside Gorge seniors and elders now live under a double threat to their health: corona 19, and public safety.
    Please use your position to immediately do what you can to end this dramatic and serious health risk that Burnside Gorge seniors and elders are living under on a daily basis. Governments have failed in this regard. Burnside Gorge needs your immediate attention. Until then, it cannot be truthfully said that all seniors and elders in B.C. are being honoured and protected as you have repeatedly called for.
    This is Seniors Week. Noble words are not enough in this case. Quick intervention is needed now.
    Help. Please. No one else is listening. You are the last hope.
    Michael Madrone
    Burnside Gorge, Victoria

    Charles Campbell et al
    THE HORRIFYING MURDER of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police two weeks ago has galvanized communities around the globe in actions of protest, demanding racial justice and police reform. The violence and racism targeted at Mr. Floyd and so many Black and racialized people is a distressing reminder of the deeply ingrained systemic inequities that persist in our society. These systemic inequities persist in Victoria as they do elsewhere.
    The structures that uphold white supremacy have existed since the emergence of the concept of a racial hierarchy in the 17th century. Throughout the colonial period these concepts were used to justify the enslavement of black bodies and theft of Indigenous lands. Police violence, mass incarceration, and the state’s disregard for Indigenous sovereignty are but a few demonstrations of our adherence to the systems built around this long-debunked, 400-year-old European pseudoscience.
    It is appalling that more than 50 years after the Civil Rights actions and achievements of the 1960s, we are once again forced into this level of protest. It is our deepest hope that the work that has been done to analyze and understand the origins, mechanics, and seeming intransigence of white supremacy and systemic racism, has provided the tools to dismantle them once and for all.
    The concerns of Open Space, an artist-run centre in Victoria, British Columbia, might seem very far away from the rage-filled responses we are seeing in urban centres across the USA. However, not that long ago, our commitment to Indigenous curatorial and cultural practices and BIPOC artists and communities came under direct attack. The work that Open Space had undertaken in order to dismantle the colonial structures at its foundation elicited, for some, a response founded in fear and a threat to their unacknowledged privilege.
    While Open Space has recovered admirably from the events of 2018 there remains a rift in Victoria’s cultural sector. Through the situation at Open Space, it became evident that there is a stark divide in Victoria’s artistic community between those who are committed to dismantling white supremacy, and those who would rather maintain the privileges they experience because of it. Some engaged in this actively; for those who claimed neutrality and remained on the sidelines or looked the other way, we hope you are starting to understand the insidious nature of systemic racism and the necessity to combat it at every level.
    In the face of the horrific images of the violent abuses towards Black and other racialized bodies we see of late, it is nearly impossible for people of conscience to argue with the cries for justice. We ask that everyone take the time to think through how their silence, disregard and/or resistance to change has contributed to upholding the systems of oppression that have led us to this grievous and unbearable time in our history.
    Respectfully yours,
    Hunter Boucher, Charles Campbell, Eli Hirtle, Michelle Jacques, Doug Jarvis, Megan Quigley, Sabrina Williams

    Rick James
    IT JUST CONTINUED TO ROLL ON AND ON month after month, well, that is, up until COVID 19 appeared on the scene.  Prior to that, it was all the media’s attention focused on climate action protests; crowds out in the street or demonstrating in front of our legislature demanding action!! Action!! Stop the pipeline!! No LNG plants on our coast!! Keep them oil tankers out of local waters!! etc. etc. And so it rolls on, all of us peasants’ attention totally devoted to the supply side of this burgeoning disaster. What makes it particularly sad and distressing is that we have yet to examine this cultural development more thoroughly, say, by stepping back and looking at ancient history.
    Like if we go back a few centuries, it certainly comes across—what with climate change well underway—how we are most likely headed for civilizational collapse. This is what happened with the Maya and Sumerians after they overworked and trashed their local environment in order to maintain their overly sophisticated cultures and ever-growing populations. So that being said, it is not the supply side of the equation we should devote all our energy to in order to slow it all down, what with us overloading our atmosphere with carbon, but the demand side!!
    Whether it is alcohol, tobacco, cocaine or fentanyl, if there’s a big demand for a particularly addictive consumer product, some entity, whether legal or otherwise, will be most eager to step forward and feed that habit in order to reap a danged good dollar! So it is with the oil and gas extraction industries, which have been most delighted to step up to the plate to garner excellent returns. Yup, they are there for us to ensure we continue on with our addiction to fossil fuels. Like it is with highly addictive drugs, it is a total waste of time trying to rid ourselves and punish the producers of these products. Yes, the oil and gas industry does operate on the legal side of this demand, but you can bet your bottom dollar that both our provincial and federal ministry offices remain well- booked with appointments with lobbyists working for the industry to keep it that way.
    That all being said, it is far past time for all of us to get serious and dry out from our addiction to Shell, Petrocan, and Chevron. Still, it’s going to be tough since our identities are so tied into our vehicles what with car makers having designed them so they would morph into extensions of our personalities in order to pull off good sales. With all the millions upon millions of infernal (internal) combustion engines being fed by the global petroleum industry, we will continue to roll on with ever increasing warming of the atmosphere. The lead cause of climate change can be laid directly at the feet of all the tons and tons of carbon pouring out of our exhaust pipes daily.
        Still, it might be too much to ask what with our total cultural dependence on our motor cars in maintaining our society. So maybe we should start off by takin’ it slow. So if we were to make a commitment to drying out, let’s start with: no more gas powered garden and lawn equipment. You know, them noisy neighbourhood mowers, weed eaters and rototillers. Yup, we gotta go back to using ole push mowers, lawn clippers and shovels! I mean, when you think about it, the exercise will be good for us all what with so many out there these days so obviously overweight and out of shape. Then we will move onto our gas-powered recreational toys; play things like gasoline- and diesel-powered recreational boats. I mean it’s far past the time we got back to strictly oar and sail out there on the water. Then all those noisy off-road four wheelers which are so invasive and intrusive for all of us who head out for a quiet hike or pedal bike tour out in the woods.
    And then what’s with Joe Average living here in suburbia on the island, having to own and drive an oversized four-wheel drive Dodge Ram crew cab truck powered by one massive 5.7 liter hemi engine? Rather pathetic, too, since one never, ever sees a spot of dirt on their shinny paint jobs, like strictly used for drivin’ to the mall, liquor store and golf course.  Like an old bud of mine that used to live out in Mitchell Bay at the far end of Malcolm Island drove back and forth into town (Sointula) ten miles over a beat up gravel logging road in all sorts of inclement north island weather.  Looking back to those years, he said he could never figure why everybody and his dawg these days just has to own a 4x4  since he managed just fine with his rusty old two wheel drive pickup out in the sticks. Then there’s all the young folks today who continue on following in the path set by their elders. 
    Like just this past summer, there was that big demonstration by all our high school students down there at Filberg Park up here in Courtenay. More chanting and screaming: Climate Change!! Climate Change!! Government do somethin’!! Oil and gas industry: Cease and Desist!! Cease and Desist!! Cancel Trans Mountain Pipeline!! So, yeah, totally focused on the supply side of the equation while they continue to follow their parents’ bad behaviour by becoming majorly addicted to fossil fuels. Don’t believe me? Just check out the traffic pile ups in front of all our local schools at the start and finish of the school day. Like there’s mom after mom after mom…driving up with little Johnny or Joanne to drop them off or pick ’em up. And what’s with that? So my suggestion, another demonstration but this time demand action now: “More school buses!! More buses!! More side walks and bike lanes!!”
    I mean back in Jurassic times when I was going to school down in Victoria back in the 1950s and ’60s, all of us either walked or biked to Doncaster Elementary with some of us doin’ one or two miles one way a day. Like even when I finally got to attend Oak Bay’s plumy high school, which had some 1,200 or so students enrolled in it back then, there might have been only five or ten of us that were ever dropped off by car at the door. And today? Man, it’s the exact bloody opposite!!  Five or ten young folks might walk or bike to our local high schools while all the rest get driven there by mommy.
    Anyway, enough ranting for now.  Gotta jump in my car cuz its time to head off to Chevron and gas up my 1968 Buick Riviera with high test Supreme needed to drive its 430 cubic inch!! V-8. Man, she goes like bat outta hell but not only that, I really look like somebody when drivin’ around in the Valley in this gorgeous old land yacht!!

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