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By Brian Burchill, March 1, 2016

Is it time to head to Ottawa to discuss Victoria’s mistaken and expensive risk classification for sewage treatment?

Justin TrudeauCRITICS OF OUR EXISTING sewage treatment system seem to be unaware of, or unwilling to accept, the sound scientific evidence that certain regions of the ocean are sufficiently rich in oxygen and microbes to subject sewage effluent to the same processes of degradation and oxidation that occur in land-based sewage treatment plants. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is one such region of the ocean.

By Briony Penn, March 1, 2016

Reflections on the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement cannot leave out Chief Qwatsinas.

Chief QwatsinasWITH AN ASSIGNMENT TO SUM UP the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement in 1500 words, I thought of Steinbeck’s quote. “It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.” He was talking about the meaning of life but figuring out the Great Bear Rainforest  Agreement is about as baffling and existential. The metaphor is also a good one to establish my limited credentials. 

By Amy Reiswig, March 1, 2016

Set in a US community in conflict over civil rights and the Viet Nam war, Tricia Dower’s novel explores the essential fight for self-expression.

Tricia DowerIN SOME WAYS, being authentically oneself should be the easiest thing in the world. But as most of us know, it’s rarely that simple. Whether dealing with peer and parental pressure, cultural expectations, shifting social values or traumatic events that can strike hard at a sense of justice, safety and even self-worth, we all navigate our little ships through treacherous waters that threaten to swamp us. How can we keep our courses true, our captain’s hats on tight?

By Maleea Acker, March 1, 2016

Nurturing native species, young farmers and the land.

Kristen and James MiskellyOFF THE PAT BAY HIGHWAY, on Saanich’s Haliburton Farm, James Miskelly points to a clump of lime green leaves poking out of the rich earth. “That’s sea blush,” he tells me, proudly. The small-leafed annual, usually a rare sight in Garry oak upland meadows in mid spring, smatters the soil like a groundcover. The more I look, the more I see. Kristen Miskelly, James’ wife, wades through the wetlands at the western edge of their plot while telling me about the area’s tree frog song in spring. “It’s deafening!” she says, with glee.

By Aaren Madden, March 1, 2016

Wildlife artist and environmentalist Mark Hobson’s arrival at his beloved, secluded floating studio has been a lifelong journey.

Mark HobsonTHE DAY I SPOKE BY PHONE with painter Mark Hobson, it was one of those soft, still, misty winter days in Victoria. But where he was—on the west coast of Vancouver Island—it was decidedly different. The wind blustered angrily and scooped the waves right up and into Hobson’s 16-foot Boston Whaler as he and his border collie cross, Wicklow, made the perilous commute from his float home studio up in Clayoquot Sound to Tofino.

By Mollie Kaye, March 1, 2016

Last call for this season’s Sunday afternoon “tribute” concerts at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Maureen WashingtonJAZZ IS A GENRE defined by collaboration, creativity, interaction, and improvisation. While attending any musical performance can counter the isolating effects of our screen-driven culture, jazz’s unique alchemy reliably provides a sense of being in the flow of creative energy. Performances are influenced by whatever is happening in the moment. The internal landscape of the musician’s mood and the external landscape of the space and spectators can inspire shifts in melodies, harmonies, repeats and time signature, providing a you-just-had-to-be-there experience which, like a dream, can be difficult to describe after the fact.

By Monica Prendergast, March 1, 2016

Some upcoming plays are designed to shake us down to our middle class roots.

Escape From HappinessIN PREVIOUS COLUMNS I have tackled topics of gender equity and the portrayal of race on stage. A number of  spring productions address the equally contentious yet vital issue of social class. 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, March 1, 2016

When the world seems crazy, chopping and stewing conserve sanity and the Earth.

Illustration by April CaverhillI'M MAKING SOUP TODAY, with the last of the pumpkins we bundled into the garage last fall. The art of soup making—originally using meat leftovers and foraged bits of grains and greens, and long before the concept of recipe—no doubt began evolving eons ago when food was scarce and sporadic, and people were practical and hungry. Today more than ever it’s a primal and satiating ritual for both body and soul—the gathering and preparation of ingredients on hand, the stirring as wonderful fragrances are released, the ladling of elixir into the bowl.

By Alan Cassels, February 2016

The likely cost of the unjustified firing of eight Ministry of Health researchers is staggering, yet no one has been held accountable.

Mike de JongNEXT MONTH WILL MARK four years since  whistleblower Alana James raised concerns to BC’s Office of the Auditor General about contracting and drug research irregularities in the BC Ministry of Health. Her complaint ignited a tiny fuse that led to a powder keg within the Ministry of Health. Thus began a truly unprecedented and bizarre chain of events that included the botched firing of eight employees and researchers, numerous investigations, a suicide, apologies, settlements and reinstatements.

Focus Readers, February 2016

Super Intent City

An excellent article by Leslie Campbell on the homeless camp. Perhaps we should all be grateful to the Intent residents for forcing this issue onto the front page instead of languishing among everyone’s “to do” lists. Six weeks of mud and cold are more than most advocates could—or would—endure for a cause. Maybe we should give them a medal!

Instead of spreading fear, Central Middle School and its parent advisory council should be seizing this opportunity for education. Almost every camper, from military veteran to outdoor enthusiast, has a story to tell if teachers have enough courage to cross the street and take their classes to meet them. What could be more important to our children than learning that we are all citizens, we all have rights and we all have something to share. It is up to us to make this issue our issue, not just “their” issue.

Alison Acker


By Gene Miller, February 2016

Local politicians are bumbling toward a multi-billion-dollar sewage treatment plan the community doesn’t need.

SewercideWITHOUT INTENTIONALLY WISHING TO set a fecal tone throughout this column, I have to say that Chris Corps, a local capital projects financial strategist, scares the crap out of me. By the time he finishes one of his patented rants about the long and still continuing history of CRD misstep on the wastewater treatment file, I’m left with the impression that we are being governed and managed, and our precious money sluiced down the drain, by Financial Limit Deniers.

By David Broadland, February 2016

Fisheries Act requirements for sewage treatment in Victoria could be met for less than $200 million.

Option 10 @ Macaulay PointARE POLITICIANS BETTER AT solving problems or creating them? After following Victoria’s billion-dollar sewage treatment issue for several years, I’ve concluded they’re awfully good at creating them. The failure to find a reasonable solution to the treatment issue seems to stem from local politicians not being able to decide whether the problem they’re trying to solve is an environmental question or a question about how to meet funding deadlines.

By Leslie Campbell, February 2016

After 28 years as a monthly print magazine, we’re going to begin to decarbonize.

Focus editor Leslie CampbellIN 1988 I STARTED the pre-cursor to Focus, a monthly magazine called Focus on Women. Those were the days when a person with no money, a friend’s Mac Plus, a waxer, a bit of moxie, and a lot of help from friends, could start a magazine. And survive. Although when I think of producing page layouts on that six-inch screen, I am not sure how we did it. 

By Judith Lavoie, February 2016

Shawnigan Lake residents dig in for a long fight to protect their water from a controversial contaminated soil landfill.

John HorganUNDER ROCKS COVERED WITH SNOW, between a barbed wire fence and a sign warning of potential contamination, water is running underground and emerging in a small stream. The sound of flowing water, combined with an eerily empty settling pond behind the fence at a controversial contaminated soil landfill, reinforces the absolute conviction of Shawnigan Lake residents such as Cliff Evans that untreated contaminated water is flowing from the landfill into Shawnigan Creek and, ultimately, into Shawnigan Lake, the community’s source of drinking water.

By Briony Penn, February 2016

How the National Energy Board found itself under attack by everyone in January.

Humpback in Haro StraitJANUARY 2016 WAS full of news around Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. As dozens of intervenors gave their final arguments in the closing days of the National Energy Board’s hearings, the federal government made moves towards living up to their pre-election promises.

By Amy Reiswig, February 2016

The Climate Nexus calls for a transformative discussion on adapting our life-support systems to climate change.

Jon O'RiordanMOST PEOPLE I KNOW would never say “I support ocean acidification” or “I support soil degradation” or “I support drought and food price increases.” Many of us pledge to fight these and other effects of carbon emissions—as if we can, like Superman, step out on the tracks and stop the runaway train. Yet often, through our actions, we unknowingly support the very things we say we stand against.

By Maleea Acker, February 2016

Knowing our fellow creatures inspires Ann Nightingale’s passion.

Ann NightingaleWHEN LIFELONG Vancouver Island resident Ann Nightingale started birding in the 1990s, she had in her head American naturalist Ken Kauffman’s words. If people could name 50 plants and animals in their own area, said Kauffman, it would fundamentally change how they fit into the world. A chance opportunity with a co-worker took Nightingale out to Skirt Mountain (now Bear Mountain) on her first birding trip. “It knocked my socks off,” she tells me. Within a year of studying, she could identify most of the birds in the Capital Region. 

By Aaren Madden, February 2016

Barbara Callow uses light to bring life to the painted form.

Apples in a Wooden BowlWHEN BARBARA CALLOW is at the grocery store or the farmers’ market making produce selections, she has a larger set of criteria than most. Fruit and vegetables in particular need to meet standards not just of freshness and nutritional value, but of aesthetics as well. Such is the case for many a still life painter like herself. “An artist is always looking at the world in terms of what they can paint,” she says, admitting, “Quite often I will buy something just because I like the look of it, then I will bring it home and take photos, then eat it later.”