By Pete Rockwell, January 2013
Is Victoria just too darn cantankerous for pipeline PR personnel...and review panels?
Energy giant Kinder Morgan wants to build a new pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands to Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet. This would facilitate pumping solvent-diluted bitumen over the Rocky Mountains and across southern BC to Westbridge Marine Terminal, where it would be loaded onto oil tankers. Oil tanker traffic—through Burrard Inlet, past Vancouver, across Georgia Strait, through the Gulf and San Juan Islands, past Victoria, and out the Strait of Juan de Fuca—would increase by 500 percent. Preceding their application to the National Energy Board for this project, Kinder Morgan is holding “public information sessions” in various places along the proposed route. I decided to attend the one held on December 5 in a back room of Saanich’s Cedar Hill Recreation Centre.
By Chris Creighton-Kelly, January 2013
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”—John Cage
The place is packed: it is a sold-out house. Theatre-goers, with nowhere to seat themselves, stand in the back, craning to get a peek at the celebrated composer. The set is bare bones—a wooden table, an old-fashioned round desk clock, a glass of water.
The theatre is all abuzz. Finally a tall man with an impish grin, 70-plus years old, walks out to sustained applause and sits at the table. He offers a short, yet complex, explanation about word fragments chosen from the bible using a strict methodology involving the I Ching. He looks up from his notes, grins again, and starts into it.
“Thddg ghat zooh frrrrrr dineeg wll nooi lask...” sound after sound after sound, sounding just like these sounds.
By Amy Reiswig, January 2013
The Garry oak meadows of southern Vancouver Island were shaped by more than nature.
Typically, January is a time for contemplating little life changes, when the expression “turn over a new leaf” is heard. While the saying refers to pages of a book—perhaps a blank page to write a new story, a new chapter for oneself—it might equally refer to the fallen leaf of a tree you’ve seen a thousand times but never taken the time to really notice, a leaf you turn over in your hand to experience fully and freshly for the first time.
Both of these meanings are apt for writer and ecosystem restorationist Maleea Acker’s new book Gardens Aflame: Garry Oak Meadows of BC’s South Coast (New Star Books, November 2012). In it she changes tack from a writer of poetry to non-fiction and explores a familiar and iconic local landscape that deserves a renewed look.
By Aaren Madden, January 2013
Portrait artist David Goatley believes everyone has a story that’s worth telling.
The Reluctant Sitter” is an oil painting by David Goatley depicting a common scene in the Montmartre district of Paris. A suited man sits awkwardly at an outdoor café table while a thin man with graying, long hair, large clipboard propped against his waist, looms over and sketches. His face is angled to allow his gaze to flit from paper to his unwilling subject’s face. Though his back is to us, we sense the sitter does not know quite where to direct his own eyes. His dining companion’s are cast down, intent on his meal, actively ignoring the unfolding drama. The crimson café sets off the two main characters by contrasting their cool grey clothing, thrusting the tension forward. The painting is about looking; specifically how we look at each other, and what we reveal or conceal in doing so.
By Joe Wiebe, January 2013
A diagnosis of MS may have slowed her down, but Sara Marreiros is back with fado nights, a new EP, and a new spirit.
Over tea at a quiet back table at Murchie’s, Sara Marreiros tells me, “Fado resonates deeply in my spirit. When I sing, it just takes me to my other home, which is Portugal. It’s like dropping into the earth there.”
Fado is a musical style that originated in the 1820s in Lisbon and has evolved into the quintessential Portuguese art form. Performed by a male or female singer who is traditionally accompanied by a musician playing Portuguese guitarra (a 12-string, pear-shaped instrument that resembles a mandolin), it demands extreme passion of its performers. Indeed, fado means “fate” in Portuguese, and many of the traditional songs are infused with a sense of melancholy and fatefulness. It is notoriously draining on the singer, both emotionally and physically.
By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, January 2013
26,000 tonnes of garbage vanishes.
You know the holidays are over when the resulting glut of garbage appears at the curb in the dying days of December. How quickly the sparkle of special foods and beautifully packaged gifts is reduced to a sodden mass of organic and inert trash. The sight of it all is tarnishing somehow, as depressive as stumbling upon a dirty dumpster and furtive cluster of smoking employees at the back door of your favourite restaurant. There’s no getting around the messiness of being human, but really, does it have to be this self-indulgent?
By Katherine Palmer Gordon, December 2012
The final report of the 3-year, $26-million Cohen Commission may signal the end of fish farming on BC’s coast.
In the summer of 2009, the number of Fraser River sockeye salmon reaching their spawning grounds could be counted in mere thousands rather than the ten million fish originally predicted to arrive in the river that year.
By then, steadily declining returns had already led to closures of the fishery for three years in a row. Bowing to vociferous public demand for action, in December 2009 the federal government commissioned BC Supreme Court Judge Bruce Cohen to investigate what was happening to the wild fish.
Cohen’s terms of reference required him to consider the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) policies and practices, investigate and make findings of fact on the state of the fishery, and make recommendations for improving its future sustainability.
By David Broadland, December 2012
The proposed Johnson Street Bridge has undergone a quiet transformation in cost and quality since the referendum. So have the records of who knew.
City of Victoria engineering staff spent the first half of November considering the contents of bids submitted by three companies vying to build the new Johnson Street Bridge before deciding which bid to recommend to City council. Then, at an in-camera meeting on November 16, councillors gave them permission to negotiate a fixed-price contract with PCL Constructors West Coast Inc.
We only know that slim piece of information about what’s going on with the bridge project because councillors voted at the secret meeting to “rise and report.”
By Briony Penn, December 2012
The Canadian Heavy Oil Association hopes a “factspill” will persuade British Columbians to support their pipelines.
Ian Anderson, CEO of Kinder Morgan, recently confessed at the annual fall business conference of the Canadian Heavy Oil Association in Calgary that “what I have come to understand is that consultation means something very different from handing out a bunch of baseball caps and nice dinners.” Dubbed by the Calgary Herald as a new breed of oilman with “hard-won wisdom,” Anderson admitted that those in the oil patch have misjudged and mischaracterized British Columbian’s opposition to their pipelines and tankers.
By Rob Wipond, December 2012
Effective activism takes dedicated volunteers who, even in the face of open hostility from authority and fellow citizens, can be relentlessly optimistic—often for years at a time—about the potential to make change happen. How do die-hard activists keep despair at bay?
I’ve been receiving more emails lately from people saying one of my articles made them feel despairing. One asked, “How do you keep going?”
Let’s see: In recent months, I’ve written about government corruption, genocide, toxic waste, police chiefs breaking laws, forced electroshock of our elderly… All right, I get the point.
By Leslie Campbell, December 2012
Rob Wipond wins a Jack Webster Award.
In the past couple of editions we’ve mentioned—okay, we’ve beat the drum loudly—that Focus writer Rob Wipond was one of three finalists for three different Jack Webster Awards for excellence in British Columbia journalism. Well, on November 1 he won one. No one is more deserving of this award than Rob, whose commitment to digging for the truth is unwavering. He’s also very talented at bringing his stories to life, which makes it easier for all of us to digest some of the complex information he dishes up. (Times Colonist reporters Rob Shaw and Cindy Harnett, and CBC Radio reporters Sara Darling, Sterling Eyford, and Peter Hutchinson were the only other Island-based reporters shortlisted for the 14 awards.)
By Simon Nattrass, December 2012
Young people on the streets are often denied support by the very Ministry that’s supposed to help them.
In 2008, a conservative estimate by the Community Social Planning Council placed the number of homeless youth in the Greater Victoria region at 616. Educated guesses place that number higher today. The Council readily admits—and most service providers will confirm—that many homeless youth are not visible enough to provide an accurate count, meaning that youth on or near our city streets could number over a thousand. With only 69 reliable beds and a handful of shelter mats, many young people survive by sleeping on couches and staying with friends before seeking shelters and doorways. Unsurprisingly, a good number of them seek help from the Ministry of Children and Family Development at some point in their lives.
By Gene Miller, December 2012
City Hall seems tone-deaf to the urgency of looming fiscal concerns.
Remember when Langford and Colwood—now backbones of the recently re-branded “Westshore”—were known as Dogpatch?
Seems like that page turned.
Now there’s an embedded impression that you can have a house and small yard in Langford for the price of a condo in Victoria; and in spite of the occasional rumblings in the national media about a coming major correction in real estate prices, nobody who’s selling in pricey Fairfield, James Bay, or the other central area blue-chip neighbourhoods has received the memo.
By Amy Reiswig, December 2012
Reality and imagination collide in Lorna Crozier’s latest book.
Dictionary: object of such adoration that a woman wraps her legs around it wishing she could say “My son, the dictionary.” Maintainer of comforting, “unbudgeable order,” it makes you younger, like a kid again, yet can also help one on to death like “the double-volumed Oxford that suicidal lexicographers rope around their waists before they walk into the ocean.”
By Aaren Madden, December 2012
Sandra Richardson believes knowing our vital signs makes us stronger.
There’s a young woman in Victoria who used to have a great fashion job in New York City. She was living the life. But then she started abusing drugs and developed a serious addiction. She ended up back in Victoria, her hometown—homeless. Eventually, with some support from her family, a counsellor and a program at the Victoria Cool Aid Society, she was able to turn things around: she started walking, then running—and now she’s in medical school.
By Chris Creighton-Kelly, December 2012
We all need a sanctuary from commercial interests.
A few weeks ago… I am seeing Red. And I am looking forward to it. Red, John Logan’s celebrated play about the American abstract painter Mark Rothko is playing at the Belfry. This Tony award-winning two-hander hones in on the relationship between Rothko and his assistant, Ken—just Ken, he is never given a last name. The pair verbally dance around the studio; around art ideas and issues; around, finally, the very philosophy of art practice itself.
A play about art practice—yeah! Kudos to Artistic Director Michael Shamata for bringing it to Victoria. His tight, unadorned, focus-on-the-actors direction is entirely appropriate for Logan’s script—the characters never leave Rothko’s confining art studio.
By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, December 2012
The quest for peace begins at home.
For many people, the wish for world peace has become almost reflexive, a clichéd afterthought on our more palpable list of longings. And it’s a hopeless wish anyway, as out of reach as the top rung of a giant ladder when all the other rungs are missing. We might as well be wishing for the moon.
Still, despair doesn’t sit well with us either, and in this coming season of hope, many people again find themselves daring to believe that we could make our browbeaten world a better place, if only we knew where to start. Well, take heart: it turns out our town is full of people committed to building rungs for that ladder. Here they share their insight and suggestions.
Posted by David Broadland, November 15, 2012
Three researchers, including Focus writer Rob Wipond, say they are encouraged by the findings of Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham's investigation into Victoria Police Department's use of an Automatic License Plate Recognition system.
Following publication of two articles in Focus by Rob Wipond (see here and here), which included research assistance from Christopher Parsons and Kevin McArthur, Parsons presented a brief to BC Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham on the use of ALPR in BC. In late July Denham announced her office would investigate. Her findings were released November 15.
In response, Wipond, Parsons and McArthur released the following statement:
By Rob Wipond, November 2012
An elderly woman, with the support of her family, has been struggling to avoid forced psychiatric treatment at the hands of Vancouver Island Health Authority doctors.
When I arrived at the prearranged location, Michelle met me at the door. “Sorry, I didn’t want to tell you on the phone,” she said. “Now we’re going to go to where Mia really is.”
By David Broadland, November 2012
Is freedom of information already roadkill on the City of Victoria’s shiny new misinformation highway?
On October 9—my birthday—the City of Victoria withdrew its Section 43 application to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC). Some gift. With only hours left on the clock for the City to produce whatever evidence it had to support its claim that Focus and JohnsonStreetBridge.org director Ross Crockford were working in concert to crash the Johnson Street Bridge project headlong into the City’s FOI office, it chickened out.