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By Robin J Miller, March 2015

Dance Victoria brings Compagnie Käfig to the Royal Theatre, March 13 and 14.

Compagnie Käfig is the second all-male dance company to arrive in Victoria as part of Dance Victoria’s 2014-2015 season. But do not expect this company to resemble the UK’s BalletBoyz in any way except for their explosive maleness. Unlike the (for the most part) classically trained Boyz, the 11 men of Compagnie Käfig come directly from the favelas—the notorious slums of Rio de Janeiro. And it shows.

Their movement is fiery and raw and full of personality: Each dancer is an individual with a story to tell. Yet they also work as a collective to move beyond mere physical virtuosity to present pieces with true artistic and emotional depth, and that is the work of the company’s French/Algerian artistic director and primary choreographer, Mourad Merzouki.

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, March 2015

A small house doesn’t have to be a big compromise.

Is it just my rose-coloured glasses or am I finally seeing some real incremental change in the way we do housing on southern Vancouver Island? I realize the sprawling mansions will always be with us—probably one day destined to repeat local history and be split into multiple units—but smaller homes seem to be gaining local favour.

Focus Readers, February 2015

Saanich spyware issue

On January 14 two conflicting press releases were issued regarding Saanich Mayor Atwell’s allegation of spyware software being installed on his work computer without his consent. The press release from Saanich claimed the installation is legal, but the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner suggests it violates privacy law.

The Saanich statement acknowledged that Spector360 software was purchased on November 21, 2014 (just after the municipal election while Mayor Leonard was apparently still responsible for the municipality).The software vendor says it is meant to “Deter, detect and detail harmful employee activity.” Basically it takes a picture of the computer screen every second and logs every keystroke.

By Leslie Campbell, February 2015

Green candidate Jo-Ann Roberts reflects on why a strong public broadcaster is important to democracy.

On the evening of January 28, a couple of hundred Victoria-area citizens were given a sneak preview of Peter Smoczynski’s film-in-progress about voter suppression tactics used in the 2011 federal elections—something which  journalist Michael Harris calls “the biggest unsolved crime in Canadian electoral history.” 

By David Broadland, February 2015

In their coverage of two stories, was the local daily concocting a case for an overturn of November’s election in Saanich?

Bill Cleverley, municipal affairs reporter for the Times Colonist, described his “favourite news story of 2014” in a December 20 piece called A gotcha moment on April Fool’s Day: “Working with Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard and Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, we concocted a story about them approaching the Province to rename the University of Victoria to the University of Saanich Oak Bay—USOB—to better reflect where the campus is located.” 

By Derry McDonell, February 2015 (Updated)

Will breaking into two groups create a consensus solution on sewage treatment? Or new unresolvable problems?

Last August Saanich councillor and CRD Director Vic Derman presented a motion calling for the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee, otherwise known as “the sewage committee,” to shift its focus away from a “one size fits all” approach. He advocated a best practices sounding of “individualized” solutions to sewage treatment. 

The motion failed to pass. The sewage committee remained wedded to the plan to put a single treatment plant at McLoughlin Point. 

Since then, however, the CRD’s failure to get the necessary zoning for McLoughlin—along with local elections in Greater Victoria— appear to have altered both the balance of votes at the sewage committee and the will to consider alternatives to the original plan. 

By Katherine Palmer Gordon, February 2015

The extraordinary potential of Vancouver Island forests to sequester carbon is being lost due to government inaction.

Vicky Husband, one of BC's best-known environmentalists and a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of BC, states the situation in her typical forthright fashion: “Our forests are being completely plundered. It’s a cut-and-run approach that isn’t providing local jobs, isn’t going into value-added products, and certainly isn’t seeing money coming back into the pockets of the people of BC. Forest management in BC, as it is practised today, is none of those things.”

It also isn’t helping preserve the capacity of BC’s unique coastal forests, world-famous for their huge and ancient spruce, fir and cedar, to absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and sequester that carbon in those giant trees. 

By Judith Lavoie, February 2015

The low price of oil is raising big questions around pipeline proposals, BC’s carbon tax, emissions, and consumer behavior.

Lineups materialized at the Costco gas bar as soon as the price of regular gasoline dropped below one dollar a litre. The prospect of a deal brought Greater Victoria’s avid bargain hunters rushing to Langford to fill their tanks—with some then returning later to fill the second family car. 

In the short term, BC consumers are revelling in the pocketbook bonuses provided by dropping oil prices. British Columbians are largely unaffected by the major concerns plaguing their Albertan neighbours who are looking at oil patch job losses, oil sands projects on hold and the prospect, according to Premier Jim Prentice, of this year’s projected $1.5-billion surplus turning into a $500-million deficit.

By Gene Miller, February 2015

This City has been managed by stewards, not visionaries…until now.

The CD liner notes state that only once in his career, a century ago, the German symphonic composer Engelbert Humperdinck transcended his own talents and reached a higher musical plane. Königskinder (The King’s Children) has “genuine qualities,” sniffs the writer, but it is in Humperdinck’s opera Hansel und Gretel alone that the “mysterious phenomenon occurs when talent becomes genius.”

What a succinct and tantalizing formulation: that “mysterious phenomenon…when talent becomes genius.”

Taking nothing away from the musical locus of this idea, I want to shift its thesis from artistic creativity to local civic leadership. In offering this narrative, I don’t have an especially credentialed viewpoint, only a 45-year resident’s perspective.

By Amy Reiswig, February 2015

In her most recent book, Sylvia Olsen tells stories of knitting relationships as well as wool.

February finds many of us curled up in a cosy sweater with a good story. For writer and longtime knitter Sylvia Olsen, one isn’t so different from the other. In her latest work, Knitting Stories (Sono Nis, November 2014), the award-winning historian and expert on the famous Cowichan sweater shows how knitting is about much more than techniques and materials. In a series of personal essays, Olsen takes us through her own 45-year journey in woolworking  to reveal how an ancient art provides opportunities to learn, listen and, in its own humble way, shape relationships between individuals and cultures. 

By Aaren Madden, February 2015

Using the fundamentals of gesture, line and colour, Gillian Redwood paints invisible energies into visible form.

Back in 1965, when she was attending the newly-opened Cardiff School of Art, a young Gillian Redwood brought some work home to show her mother. She held up a painting of a greyscale, much like dozens of others she had done. Her mother was…perplexed. Yet those greyscales and other simple exercises became the means by which Redwood, now 66, gives expression to intangible concepts. 

By Monica Prendergast, February 2015

This month the Belfry helps us explore the bonds and tensions between mothers and sons (with both laughs and tears).

Raising my two sons has been a fascinating experience for me as I had no brothers growing up. I had to learn as my husband and I went along how these small creatures were both the same as, and much different from, the girls and sisters with whom I was much more familiar. I have loved watching both of them morph from babyhood to manhood, and have tried to support them as best I can.

Yet it is true that no one can enrage you quite like your nearest and dearest. Likewise, no one can challenge you to overcome failures and to do better, try again, as does a mother with her children. These strong emotions often play out well in dramatic forms. 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, February 2015

How about a bucket list for the Earth instead?

A month into 2015, I’m still pondering New Year’s Resolutions and also Bucket Lists. I’ve always been a bit sceptical of the former, a tradition I learned about only at school since it was not part of my parents’ culture. Resolutions seemed designed to start the year off on a punitive note, like penance or a dour disciplinarian’s call back to the classroom after the holiday recess. I never really warmed up to the ritual. Who needs the added stress at an already exhausting time? 

Focus readers, January 2015

When voter suppression comes calling

The Harper Conservatives picked the wrong person to mess with when they rigged the 2008 election against Briony Penn. The fact that she is very articulate and bright has come back to haunt them in the form of her sharp observations of their sleazy undemocratic ways, and this is the silver lining of what went wrong in Saanich-Gulf Islands in 2008. I, for one, hope to attend the Focus/Open Cinema film preview and discussion on this subject on January 28. Thank you Focus for all your dedicated, smart writers. 

Mark Fornataro


By Leslie Campbell, January 2015

The use of robocalls and other “voter suppression” tactics suggests we can’t.

One of my greatest joys as editor of Focus is talking to people who call to request a subscription or talk about an issue near and dear to their hearts. It’s encouraging in all sorts of ways. I am always impressed by their intelligence, their concern for our community, and of course their heartwarming support for Focus’ work.

One reader who called this past month was Dave Morgan, a retired lawyer who now runs a sheep farm on Galiano Island. He called after reading Briony Penn’s story on voter suppression techniques used in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections and the new film on the subject that’s being previewed on January 28 in Victoria (see below). Mr Morgan wanted to share his own story from the 2008 election.

By David Broadland, January 2015

Will Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen and Victoria’s Dwayne Kalynchuk lead the region’s big issue back to a gunfight at McLoughlin Point?

The effort to locate a central sewage treatment plant at Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point has shifted into a new phase. After being temporarily shut down by Environment Minister Mary Polak’s refusal to force Esquimalt to host the facility, the McLoughlinuts now seem intent on a campaign to eliminate any other possibility.

By “McLoughlinut” I mean a person or organization that has repeatedly expressed the belief that any solution to Victoria’s treatment deficit must include a large secondary treatment plant at McLoughlin Point. The McLoughlinut mantra is that anything else is “too expensive.”

By Katherine Palmer Gordon, January 2015

Failure to protect First Nations graves on Grace Islet may lead to the first aboriginal title claim on private property in BC.

On November 10, Chief William Seymour of the Cowichan Tribes wrote a polite letter to  Premier Christy Clark. Attached to the letter was a formal notice of claim to aboriginal title over Grace Islet, a three-quarter-acre rocky knoll located in Saltspring Island’s Ganges Harbour. 

It’s not unusual these days for the provincial government to receive claims of aboriginal title over Crown lands in British Columbia. But this one is different from all the others: the claimed property, Grace Islet, is privately-owned. 

By Sonia Théroux, January 2015

Bring disengaged citizens back to the polls.

When I was first approached last May to run Lisa Helps’ campaign for mayor of Victoria, I resolved that the motivation for giving up several months of my life needed to be about more than electing Lisa. I saw there was an opportunity to effect a less tangible but longer-term change: inspiring citizens who have been estranged from the political process to become engaged. I happen to believe that in order to ultimately shift governments to be more inclusive and respectful of the governed, this shift needs to be modelled in the campaigns that elect the governors.