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By Rob Wipond, October 2014

Victoria Police change policies on Mental Health Act arrests.

When arrested under the Mental Health Act, people will now be advised of their rights and allowed to make telephone calls “if reasonable and safe to do so,” according to new Victoria Police Department policies. Police will also leave written reports at the psychiatric hospital.

The changes came about after complaints by Gordon Stewart and Vince Geisler, and an article in Focus (see “An Overabundance of Caution,” December 2013). 

In Geisler’s case, a human resources manager fired him and then contacted police to express concern about his well-being. Geisler was surrounded at his home by heavily armed police officers. Even though Geisler was “calm and cooperative” according to police records, he was denied the right to contact a lawyer, taken to hospital, locked in seclusion, and drugged unconscious. He was released the following day. 

By David Broadland, October 2014

With everyone asking for more money, is the bridge project still “on budget”?

On September 11, Johnson Street Bridge Project Director Jonathan Huggett dropped a bomb on an already contentious City of Victoria council meeting. Huggett announced that on July 22, “serious problems” with the quality of work being done at the Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure Company (ZTSS) in Jiangsu, China, had brought a halt to fabrication of the project’s lifting span.

By Judith Lavoie, October 2014

It all depends on who you include, and there’s an affordability crisis that could lead to more.

Pale morning faces emerge from the shadows and chilly hands reach for a coffee, doughnut or first cigarette of the day. Many, with hoodies pulled tight or blankets wrapped around their shoulders, have spent the night under a bush or in a doorway while others have scored a shelter bed or crashed on a friend’s couch.

Some are too twitchy to hold a cup, others are ready to face another day on their own terms, and some need a hug even more than a smoke.

It’s 5:15 am and Reverend Al Tysick, founder of the Dandelion Society, is on his morning rounds of Victoria’s streets, handing out coffee, checking on those needing medical care and, as ever, pondering the homelessness conundrum.

By Briony Penn, October 2014

This summer’s marine life survey provides something to celebrate: resurgence.

On Bell Island off the northern tip of Vancouver Island this summer, I was restored to good health by, amongst other things, a wicked shot of vodka supplied by a passing group of Russians and Ukrainians wandering the coast on two small inflatable sailboats. They had an agreement amongst themselves not to discuss the war, while my own paddling companions—teachers—had an agreement to forget the strike for awhile. With the two dominant news items off the driftwood camp table, there was only our health and news of the coast to discuss around the vodka bottle at night. 

By Amy Reiswig, October 2014

A family and an ecosystem in crisis is the subject of Ann Eriksson’s latest novel.

"You know, Ruby, understanding a human being is as difficult as studying a killer whale. Every once in a while, you see a dorsal fin or the whale heaves itself above the surface, but where the whale goes when underwater, what it does, or thinks are anyone’s guess.” So says one of the whale researchers in High Clear Bell of Morning (Douglas & McIntyre, April 2014), the fourth novel by Thetis Island author and biologist Ann Eriksson. 

By Aaren Madden, October 2014

In a new series of paintings, Meghan Hildebrand offers visual delight.

A great way to experience a new city is to tuck away the map, forget about the must-see landmarks and museums, and just let the sidewalk take you. Let your eye get caught by an enticing window, some intriguing architecture, even a compelling stranger, and follow. The opportunities for delight and discovery can be multiple. The place becomes your own, in a way, and you share some of its secrets. You develop your own private narrative.

By Monica Prendergast, October 2014

Adaptations—from Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis and Mitch Albom—are on stage in October.

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, October 2014

Conjuring the magic of a healthy neighbourhood.

Have you noticed what’s different in neighbourhoods these days?” asked one of my elderly friends on a leisurely drive around suburbia. “You don’t see kids playing outside anymore. You rarely see anyone in their yard.”

It’s true. Children have largely moved indoors with their electronic devices or are being ferried to structured programs by parents too fearful to let them roam their own beat. Adults, when you do see them about, are always on the go, mowing or pruning or heading out to walk the dog. 

Focus readers, September 2014

The truth about dilbit

In your July/August issue, Katherine Palmer Gordon comprehensively addressed the question whether a dilbit (diluted bitumen) spill will or will not float. But there is a simple solution to the problem: Don’t send any dilbit down a pipeline, and don’t ship it by tanker. Instead, construct an Alberta refinery near the oil sands, or if you prefer, at the BC/AB border, and transport only refined westbound petroleum products by pipeline and then by tanker. The refined products float, are far easier to clean up than dilbit, and land or sea spills are appreciably less damaging to the environment than dilbit spills. 

By Katherine Palmer Gordon, September 2014

Is the Supreme Court of Canada’s declaration of Aboriginal title the death knell for proposed resource projects in BC?

Tribal chairman of the Tsilqhot’in National Government Chief Joe Alphonse, 46, was sitting in the Supreme Court of Canada on June 26 this year when it declared that the Tsilqhot’in Nation holds Aboriginal title to more than 1750 square kilometres of what is now former provincial Crown lands. “This decision will be remembered as a turning point in the history of Canada and its relationship with First Nations,” reflected Alphonse.

By David Broadland, September 2014

Decisive moments in the bridge and sewage projects illustrate the need for more politicians willing to work in broad daylight.

The Victoria region’s two largest public infrastructure projects are in deep trouble. The proposed $800 million sewage treatment program had already cost $90 million by the end of June even though the project didn’t have a site on which a central treatment plant could be built. Of that $90 million, $45 million appears to have gone up in smoke, and three month’s after Environment Minister Mary Polak backed Esquimalt’s right to decline hosting a central treatment plant, there’s no political agreement on how to proceed. 

By Leslie Campbell, September 2014

We can invest profitably in this community.

In Focus’ July/August edition I wrote about the divestment movement—the push to shift investments out of oil, gas and coal stocks into something less harmful to the human project on this finite planet. Given the effects of climate change, why nurture the development of resources whose emissions could make it impossible for future generations to live comfortably on Earth?

By Briony Penn, September 2014

Evidence of destruction of old-growth forest on Sonora Island appears set to shake up BC’s South Central Coast forest policy.

Over my years of reporting on TimberWest, there has been virtually nothing that could bring the company’s inexorable liquidation of their forestlands to heel. Being named in a case before the Inter-America Commission for Human Rights, for example, hasn’t slowed the company down; nor has being the focus of a wide-spread media campaign by Greenpeace in 2011. Nor has being challenged by shareholders. Nothing seemed able to slow TimberWest’s relentless pace. 

That is until two pairs of siblings, all born and raised in the shadow of the last of the old growth on the Discovery Islands, took to the woods of TFL 47 to investigate if TimberWest’s logging had transgressed rules protecting endangered old-growth ecosystems.

By Judith Lavoie, September 2014

Will Woodwynn Farm become an election issue in Central Saanich?

Parked in a meadow at Woodwynn Farm in Central Saanich are a dozen recreational vehicles donated by individuals who want to help ease Greater Victoria’s homelessness problem. Each RV could house at least two people, but, in an effort to conform to Central Saanich bylaws, only six of 30 available beds at the picturesque West Saanich Road farm are occupied.

Plans for a therapeutic community, housing 96 former street people, seem as distant today as when the Creating Homefulness Society bought the property five years ago. Executive Director Richard Leblanc, who wants to model Woodwynn on a successful rehabilitation centre at San Patrignano, Italy, says, “It’s a far cry from capacity. It was designed for a slow build-up and we should have been at about 48 by now. A lot of people on the street are not getting help.” 

By Gene Miller, September 2014

What can local citizens do that will truly make a difference on a local scale?

The Last Iceberg—An Eco-Tale for Kids.

 Iggy the Iceberg sat in a darkened bar, nursing his third Maker’s Mark, idly watching a rerun of The Big Chill on the silent, wall-mounted tv. Actually, the Maker’s Mark was almost nursing Iggy, who was now approaching tumbler-size. He slumped there, dripping, remembering the glory days when, massive and towering, he first calved from the Ross Shelf in…“Cut!” [Sounds of paper being ripped from typewriter and crumpled.]

Climate Wars: A Cautionary Tale for Eco-Hysterics. 

The Capital Regional District’s latest communiqué from the Global Warming Front: “We’re throwing our entire policy framework at them, plus the grass clippings bylaw, Captain, and it’s not even slowing them down.” “Cut!” [Ditto. Cursing.]

By Amy Reiswig, September 2014

Pat Bovey’s new book on the life of Pat Martin Bates, and the transformative power of her art.

The term “local luminary” usually means someone who shines in the community, but in the case of Victoria artist Pat Martin Bates and art historian Pat Bovey, it can also mean people who illuminate. These two women are both stars in their respective fields who also shine light on the importance of art in society through dedicated community involvement and a deep desire to share their sense of wonder and possibility.  

Bovey is currently shining a light on PMB (as Bates is often referred to) in the new book Pat Martin Bates: Balancing on a Thread (Frontenac House, April 2014). Born in New Brunswick and a Victoria resident since 1963, PMB is an internationally-celebrated printmaker, sculptor, painter and, as Bovey shows us, overall boundary-pusher. 

By Aaren Madden, September 2014

Painter Ken Campbell finds a journey by canoe can lead to a multitude of destinations.

In his book Path of the Paddle, the filmmaker, artist, conservationist, and legendary canoeist Bill Mason deems the canoe “the simplest, most functional, yet aesthetically pleasing object ever created.” He ranks paddling as among the great art forms of painting, poetry, music, and dance: varying conditions in water and weather lead to endless opportunities for developing skill with “poetry and grace.”

By Monica Prendergast, September 2014

The Belfry’s production of “The Rez Sisters.”

I moved to Saskatchewan from England in 1969 at the age of eight. My knowledge of Canada’s First Nations was close to nil, at best the stereotype of an “Eskimo” in an igloo. Growing up in Regina did not correct this ignorance. My home and school were in the middle to upper-middle class southern end of the city. Everyone in this neighbourhood knew that the northern end was where most Indigenous people lived, not that we ever went there. Nor were Aboriginal culture and history featured in my classroom instruction. In fact, my first significant lesson about Canadian Aboriginal people came from the theatre. 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, September 2014

Nurturing the glorious fight against food waste.

Every once in awhile an idea comes along that’s so brilliant in its simplicity it leaves you wondering why no one’s thought of this before. Among the latest is an avant-garde campaign against food waste created and launched by Intermarché, a grocery conglomerate with more than 1800 stores in France.