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By David Broadland, September 2013

Was Victoria City Manager Gail Stephens' "resignation" actually something else?

When Victoria City Manager Gail Stephens resigned in late June, a couple of pieces of apparently conflicting information caught my attention.

First, in a news story on Stephen’s resignation, the Times Colonist revealed that Victoria’s council had voted 5 to 4 in support of Stephens after a group of 12 citizens requested an inquiry into her conduct.

Juxtaposed against that, in the reporting on the resignation were a number of councillors who publicly expressed great surprise that Stephens had resigned, as though a 5 to 4 vote was a resounding show of confidence.

By Briony Penn, September 2013

Government’s reluctance to limit logging in wilderness areas makes no sense when you do the math.

Somewhere around July of 2005, the tourism sector in British Columbia, for the first time in history, outstripped the forestry sector in GDP—in fact it outstripped all sectors including oil and gas—and hasn’t relinquished that position. 

During the 10 years between 2001 and 2011, the GDP of forestry only increased 6 percent while tourism increased 23 percent. Vancouver Island and Vancouver Coast and Mountains regions attracted most (79 percent) of that tourism activity for BC, so the hot spot is right here on the coastal islands. In 2011, tourism on Vancouver Island increased 4 percent in just 12 months alone, beating all other industries hands down. 

By Ray Grigg, September 2013

The latest deadly threat to BC’s wild salmon.

If the research recommendations of the Cohen Commission Report are to be implemented, then the study of pathogens emanating from net-pen salmon farms would be a useful place to begin. Indeed, Justice Cohen is quite explicit that rigorous testing be undertaken on “the hypothesis that diseases are transmitted from farmed salmon” to wild species.

By Katherine Palmer Gordon, September 2013

BC Reconciliation Week, September 16 to 22, allows Canadians to bear witness to the devastating legacy of residential schools.

Archie Little, his stark words muffled by tears, his shoulders shaking from the memories, says, “The only reason I survived residential school is because they made me so full of hate and so angry, that gave me the power to live.”

Archie, now 64 years old, was just a small boy when he was taken away from his Nuchatlaht family and incarcerated at the now-infamous Christie Residential School on Meares Island near Tofino. In April 2012, Archie and many other courageous Aboriginal men and women like him attended a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) event held in Victoria, to speak openly and candidly about their residential school experiences. 

By David Broadland, September 2013

Sebastien Ricard Fuming?

The only set of artist renderings ever done for Victoria’s $100 million new bridge were made back when the $63 million price tag included rail. Even as the bridge diminished in size, scope, and quality—and the cost of project management went through the roof— the project was always depicted by those same original renderings.

But new construction drawings obtained from the City by FOI show the bridge that’s actually going to be built will have only a passing resemblance to those time-worn renderings.


By Stephen Andrew, September 2013

How politicians avoid journalists’ and voters’ questions.

What you are meant to be reading in this space is an article on one man’s quest to revisit the City of Victoria’s bylaw pertaining to skateboarding in the Downtown core. As the bylaw currently exists, it’s against the law to ride a skateboard and if you do, police and bylaw officers can issue a $75 fine and confiscate the skateboard. But, according to Victoria’s Mayor Dean Fortin, it’s an inappropriate topic right now.

By Dorothy Field, September 2013

Our forests, our minerals, our fish, and our clean water come from Crown land, that is, unceded territory.

I recently returned from my second trip up to the Action Camp hosted by traditional elders of the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. The camp is on the path of the Pacific Trails Pipeline as well as the many other pipelines that intend to use that route from the Alberta tar sands and BC’s fracking fields out to Kitimat. Several Wet’suwet’en families have moved onto their traditional clan land, determined to protect the pristine Morice River and their salmon run, their moose and their wild berries from the inevitable spills and seepages that will accompany the oil and gas bonanza.   

By Simon Nattrass, September 2013

Upping our 2-3 day food supply

Victorians have been repeatedly warned about The Big One, the apocalyptic earthquake which threatens at any moment to engulf our fair city and send it sliding into the sea. But while engineers and safety-conscious citizens are busy building life-line bridges and packing granola bars into their emergency kits, it turns out the rest of the Island is in no position to deal with even a minor catastrophe—that is, if it affects our food supply. 

For over half a century, the amount of food produced on Vancouver Island has steadily decreased in proportion to the population. In 2011, a study by the Local Food Project stated that 85 percent of food was imported, leaving locals with only enough to support ourselves for two or three days in the winter season.

By Gene Miller, September 2013

Victoria just needs to turn itself inside-out to be ready for a great future.

I turn—likely turned, by the time you read this—70 on August 2nd. Let me assure you, in this era of wishful and delusional thinking about graceful aging, that 70 is the new 70. Everything hurts or misfires a bit. Whatever noble or sexualized fantasies of remaining good looks I concoct as I strike poses at the bathroom mirror evaporate on the street when everyone under 40 walks by me like I’m wallpaper. I survive off my pension, refunds from deposit containers, petty crime in the bulk food aisle at Thrifty’s, surreptitious and profitable fast-change capers when the Sunday church donation plate comes by. Whatever its outrages, aging offers one consolation: the conquest of shame. Look for me next at Denny’s publicly taking out my dentures so I can gum a full stack. 

By Amy Reiswig, September 2013

The journey to—and through—teenage alcoholism and racism is the focus of Monique Gray Smith’s new novel.

There is great power in gentleness. It can disrupt expectations and disarm with its humility, genuineness and generosity, and it therefore has the power to build strong bridges across the deepest waters.

Such is the approach in the new book Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience (SonoNis, July 2013) by writer, consultant and motivational speaker Monique Gray Smith. A woman of Scottish, Cree and Lakota heritage, Gray Smith offers a fictionalized yet still highly personal version of her own life’s journey. She guides us with grace across the turbulent water of alcohol addiction and the deep underlying currents of racism and Canada’s colonial history to solid ground of understanding.

By Aaren Madden, September 2013

By holding and guiding the gaze, landscape painter Steven Armstrong conveys both place and presence.

There is a certain old, gangly arbutus tree that grows along the Songhees Walkway. Most of the time it is majestic enough, but in the early evening, when the sun’s rays strike it just so, this tree has the power to stop people in their tracks: it appears illuminated from within. For a few moments, it emanates an essential magic that provides passersby with a visceral, personal interaction with that particular place. It’s a feeling of complete presence in the landscape. 

By Chris Creighton Kelly, September 2013

Some of the most innovative theatre involves an interactive collaboration between artist and community.

What am I doing? Here is a clue. I am in a mall. I am walking in a labyrinth with eight strangers. We encounter some people sitting at a large table with a generous portion of cherry tomatoes on it. Before we have a chance to taste one, a man with a mask starts to eat them all for himself.

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, September 2013

We have more holistic ways to measure our wellbeing than the GDP. Let’s use them.

In July I surmised on this page that the Gross National Product (GNP) is a clumsy tool for determining our wellbeing since it only keeps track of our economic activity and assumes that all growth is good. As the economy gets bigger, life gets better, goes the logic. Never mind that the GNP is currently being bolstered by the forensics, funerals, rebuilding, environmental clean-up and psychological support happening in Lac Mégantic, site of the horrific train derailment this past summer. You can see the limitation.

By Michael Elcock, September 2013

While it involves a host of international talent, this opera is rooted firmly in Victoria.

If Marilyn Monroe were still with us, she would have turned 87 in June. Idolized, misunderstood and often misrepresented, she will be the subject of an opera that will have its world premiere in Victoria on September 13. Produced by Victoria-based Aventa—with a musical score by the well-known English (and new Canadian) composer Gavin Bryars, and libretto by Marilyn Bowering—the work has generated serious interest in New York, Australia and the United Kingdom.

By David Broadland, July/August 2013

With questions about her own conduct still unanswered, is the City manager the best person to approve a Code of Conduct for her staff?

(NOTE: A few hours after this story had gone to press, Victoria City Manager Gail Stephens sent a letter of resignation to Victoria City councillors)

Such delicious irony: In late March a group of 12 Victoria citizens, including a former mayor, petitioned City councillors to hold an inquiry into the conduct of City Manager Gail Stephens around a report she gave shortly before the last civic election. Their request was openly supported by councillors Geoff Young and Lisa Helps, who called for Stephens to provide a written explanation of her conduct.

By Leslie Campbell, July/August 2013

Healthy democracy is more critical than secondary sewage treatment.

The CRD has spent $50 million towards planning the area’s liquid waste treatment facilities, and the most obvious thing they have to show for it so far is a distrustful, angry public. Perhaps it’s time for an intervention—in the form of direct democracy.

I attended a couple of the recent open houses the CRD hosted about the Biosolids Energy Centre component of the plan. CRD bureaucrats were out in force, explaining the pros and cons of the Hartland vs Viewfield sites. So were citizens from Esquimalt and Victoria West who feel victimized by the possibility of a large sewage plant in the midst of their family-friendly neighbourhood. Councillor Shellie Gudgeon described the situation as “an issue of social justice.”

By Rob Wipond, July/August 2013

Ruling on BC Police Chiefs contradictory and confusing.

In May, Acting Deputy Registrar of Lobbyists Jay Fedorak issued a decision that the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) and Municipal Chiefs of Police (BCAMCP) do not need to register as political lobby groups under BC’s Lobbyists Registration Act. Unfortunately, rather than providing clarity, Fedorak’s reasoning has merely fuelled questions swirling around the secretive activities of our police chiefs.

By Gene Miller, July/August 2013

Can Victorians afford—literally—to let the CRD build a sewage treatment facility that’s based on outmoded thinking?


Oh, do not wake the sleeping tempests; beneath them Chaos stirs!” wrote the Russian Romantic-era poet Fyodor Tyutchev in Silentium.

You nailed it, tovarich.

By Simon Nattrass, July/August 2013

From dishonouring treaties to fostering inauthentic relationships, colonialism hurts us all.

In late May, a crowd of several hundred people gathered to watch as members of the Tsawout, WSÁNEC, and Songhees people reclaimed the traditional name of PKOLS for what has been called Mount Douglas. The mood was both celebratory and somber. Speakers at the event drew upon the current swell of support for indigenous peoples across Canada, but throughout the day conversation inevitably returned to the forgotten history of the mountain. Over 150 years earlier, Sir James Douglas signed a treaty with indigenous peoples on the site of the day’s celebration. The broken promise of that treaty—that colonists were not to interfere with local clans’ lands or way of life—was to become the theme of a century and a half of colonization on the South Island. 

By Briony Penn, July/August 2013

A recent symposium of whale researchers examined the progress we’ve made in understanding these once-reviled creatures.

As a child in the 1930s my mother saw a rare pod of what she called “blackfish” from her rowboat in Haro Strait and was terrified. The conventional wisdom of colonial society then was that they were “killer” whales, rejected by the whalers for not being oily enough and shot indiscriminately as ruthless killers. 

By 1955 there was still nothing that could dispel the aura of fear around these marine mammals. And fear unleashed brutality: A machine gun was mounted on Quadra Island near Ripple Rock, ready to shoot the killers as they passed by. Coincidently, that same year, Murray Newman, fresh from a doctorate in ichthyology at UBC’s zoology department, was hired as the first director of the Vancouver Aquarium, at the time hardly more than a series of fish tanks.