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By Linda Rogers, January 2011

150 films bring the world to Victoria.

It’s a wet Victoria morning and Victoria Film Festival manager Kathy Kay immediately offers tea. This is auspicious. It is the attention to detail and small graces that help events create community, which is what has happened for the festival, now in its tenth year. In a small city that hugs hard when it is properly embraced and discards when it isn’t, this is telling. The good times keep on rolling when Victorians feel the respect. After events like the Film Festival and the Fringe there is as much buzz about meeting people as there is about the onstage and screen performances. We are not a gaggle of spectators. The key to success is having Victoria feel the experience.

by Danda Humphreys, January 2011

On Vancouver Island, the name Sayward is synonymous with the lumber industry.

One name, three locations. A North Island community, a Saanich road, and a commercial building in downtown Victoria are all, in one way or another, connected to a family by the name of Sayward.

Patriarch William Parsons Sayward was an American, born to English parents near Thomaston, Maine in 1818. He left school at 17 and apprenticed as a house carpenter. In the late 1830s he travelled down the coast to Florida, working his way up to being a contractor and builder. In 1849, when news came of a gold find in California, Sayward journeyed to San Francisco, where he worked as a builder and carpenter. He soon moved on to Sacramento, but instead of digging for gold, he opened a bakery. Staples such as bread being in short supply, he quickly made a fortune feeding the hungry hordes. 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, January 2011

Current economic models need serious retooling.

In Kenya, like everywhere else around the globe, the natural landscape continues to erode under the relentless pressure of urban encroachment. From a safari van in Nairobi National Park, home of some of the biggest and grandest animals in the world, you can now see the high-rises of Nairobi shimmering in the distance. Such trespass is not easily curbed because the city is the heart and hope of the country’s struggling economy. As a result, the park seems destined to shrivel to a bleak inner city greenway with little more to offer than the novelty of a few caged animals bumping around in one corner.

by David Broadland, November 19, 2010

The numbers the City presented for the cost of a new bridge and the cost to rehabilitate the current bridge were based on estimates done by Advicas Group. Those estimates were peer-reviewed by Stantec's Andrew Rushforth, but analysis suggests the numbers have been tweaked so the City’s high-end rehabilitation appears to be more expensive. We un-tweak the numbers.

City Hall says it will cost $77 million for a new bridge without rail on it and $80 million for what is now known as the “gold-plated” rehab.

I’ve been asking myself 3 question about these two numbers:

• Where did they come from?

By Katherine Gordon, December 2010

British Columbia’s 32 indigenous languages were almost completely obliterated during the infamous reign of the residential schools. In 2010, they remain close to extinction. In a province where English predominates, does restoring them to active use make any sense? Overwhelming evidence suggests that the answer is yes—not only for the First Nations people from whom they were stolen, but for everyone.

"All our social problems stem from the disconnection of our young people to our culture because they don’t know our language,” says Renée Sampson, tears sparkling in her eyes. “Without that sense of cultural identity, they just don’t know who they are.”

By Leslie Campbell, December 2010

Language is the vehicle by which the soul of a culture comes into the world.

This month’s feature on First Nations languages by Katherine Gordon brought to mind an interview I conducted back in 2005 with cultural anthropologist Wade Davis. 

He told me that when I was born, 6,000 languages were spoken in the world, but since half of those aren’t being taught anymore, they are effectively dying. “Within a generation or two,” said Davis, “half of humanity’s intellectual, spiritual and social legacy will be lost.”

That’s because, as Davis so eloquently explained: “language is not just vocabulary and grammar. It’s the flash of human spirit, it’s the vehicle by which the soul of a culture comes into the world. Every language is an old growth forest of the mind, a sort of watershed of thought, an ecosystem of possibilities.”

By David Broadland, December 2010

Voters gave the City authority to borrow $49.2 million to replace the Johnson Street Bridge. But did they have all the information they needed to make this decision?

We’ll never know whether the Times Colonist’s last-minute, anonymous editorial endorsing replacement of the Johnson Street Bridge had any impact on the outcome of the November 20 referendum in which electors gave the City authority to borrow $49.2 million to replace the bridge. But it’s a fine example of the misinformation the paper provided citizens on the issue over the past year and a half.

By Zoe Blunt, December 2010

Developer Ender Ilkay’s latest scheme draws heavy fire.

At his presentation, Vancouver-based developer Ender Ilkay was calm and self-assured—until he got angry. Then the claws came out.

Ilkay and his company, Marine Trail Holdings, plan to develop seven parcels of forestland purchased from Western Forest Products—land that, until recently, was part of a publicly-managed Tree Farm License. In 2007, the province’s sudden decision to release 28,000 hectares of forestland from TFL status to WFP, without consultation or compensation, triggered a storm of controversy and court actions. Complications scuttled Ilkay’s earlier plans to develop two of the parcels.

By Rob Wipond, December 2010

Parliamentary committee members witness a dramatic confrontation over elder care.

Local MP Denise Savoie invited two representatives from the federal Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care to hear Vancouver and Victoria speakers in November. Developing recommendations on elder care, assisted suicide and abuse, the committee’s half-day session before 40 people at James Bay New Horizons broke down in a bizarre, foreboding fashion. 

By Gene Miller, December 2010

Could you have imagined even a decade ago that you were going to get caught up in such biblical, apocalyptic times?

As I walked back from the Four Seasons Hotel (Howe and West Georgia; $265/night; strategically located near the business and shopping districts) to the Quality Inn (Howe and Drake; $79/night; strategically located near Money Mart and Tim Horton’s), snowflakes the size of threenies (use your imagination) fell like water balloons and dissolved on the wet street. The ten-block walk had the quality of a metaphor (if you divide the retail cost of a new mattress by its use-life and throw in a shower) in the aftermath of Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s hour-long fulminations. Kennedy was the keynote speaker at the First Land Awards Gala hosted by the Real Estate Foundation of BC. 

His talk was a barn-burner, and I’ll turn to its themes in a moment. First, I have to talk about the dresses.

By Linda Rogers, December 2010

An art exhibit shows globalism at its best.

In ocean separates yet unites three artists now showing in the Pacific Currents show at the Alcheringa Gallery: Claytus Yambon, a senior master carver from the Sepik River in New Guinea; Ake Lianga from the Solomon Islands, now of Victoria; and John Marston from the Cowichan Nation. Their collaborative friendship is a bridge across the Pacific that not only speaks for the value of intercultural influence but also for the strength of collaboration in resolving the issues that face aboriginal peoples, the ocean itself, and ultimately all people.

Water is the dominant element in the exhibition, which includes Marston’s bentwood boxes and paddles, and paintings and prints by Lianga—both recognized worldwide for their technical mastery and interpretive genius—along with one very special canoe. 

By Amy Reiswig, December 2010

A new anthology offers an artful and therapeutic response to violence against women.

For many of us, December is a month of good cheer, a time for looking forward to celebration with friends and family. For others, however, it is a grim time of thinking back—to the suffering of friends and family and of how such suffering can be prevented in the future. 

December 6 is National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in memory of the 14 women murdered at Montreal’s École Polytechnique in 1989. December also marks the anniversary of BC predator Robert Pickton’s life sentence. Being from Montreal, I will never forget media images of the Polytechnique dead just as I can now never forget the details of Pickton’s crimes and the sad fact of his even greater number of victims—all killed simply for being women.

By Briony Penn, December 2010

Offsets could be used to save nature—but a lot can go wrong.

I am a carbon cowgirl. For the last three years, I’ve been riding the range on my pony Green Gold, trying to find out if carbon offsets can help us buy both time and threatened natural ecosystems (which function as carbon sinks) in the climate-change countdown. 

If ever there was a wild-west frontier, the carbon markets are it, with cowboys from Texas to Hamburg lassoing carbon deals. 

By Aaren Madden, December 2010

With Fiona Hyslop in charge, “Safe Harbour” would be our city’s guiding theme.

There are stories, and there is history. Stories feed history, animating dates and facts, defining moments, people, families, and places. “We all have histories—individuals and cities—that shape who or what we are,” says volunteer-extraordinaire Fiona Hyslop as we sit in a Pandora Avenue coffee shop. Her own history draws from far-reaching places and experiences, yet roots deeply into the history and geography of this city. 

By Mollie Kaye, December 2010

Performing on the street as a way to promote dialogue, connection and engagement.

On Tuesday, November 9, 2010, I became the Johnson Street Bridge. You could call it a retrofit of sorts. It wasn’t expensive, and didn’t involve any prolonged closures, but it was transformational in ways I didn’t foresee. I created a facebook account as “Johnson Street Bridge,” painted my face with makeup that I custom-tinted “Blue Bridge Blue,” strapped a replica of the Mayor onto my head, festooned myself with flashing signal lights, and hoisted a functioning bascule onto each shoulder. Then I hit the streets.

By Danda Humphreys, December 2010

The final resting place of Cedar Hill pioneers celebrates 150 years of history.

Reverend Canon Peter Parker calls it “the drive-by church,” because that’s what most people do—drive by it on their way to somewhere else. Yet at St Luke’s Church, there is history to spare. Celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, St Luke’s—and its equally historic churchyard—offer a rare glimpse into the lives of the first Europeans who settled the area called Cedar Hill.

Over a century and a half ago, Cedar Hill Road was a native trail, the route followed by up-Island First Nations people who traded with the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Victoria. Beaching their canoes at the eastern end of Cordova Bay to avoid the dangerous riptides around Ten Mile Point, they travelled along the east side of Cedar Hill (now Mount Douglas), then followed the hills and valleys south to the HBC settlement on the Inner Harbour.

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, December 2010

’Tis the season when the heart softens and the world yearns to be a better place.

Winter has arrived once again, painting gloomy beauty on the city and sealing it in with a varnish of rain. The landscape has dwindled to its semi-dormant state and muscled clouds hang low on most days. Night falls early, long before the last tired commuter has made it back home.

Sam Williams, November 19, 2010

The City's Engineering Department suppressed information provided to it by Delcan about the lifecycle costs for the Johnson Street Bridge.

In preparing data for a presentation to Victoria City councillors in April 2009, Delcan Corp provided the City of Victoria's Mike Lai with 4 lifecycle cost analyses. The analyses showed the least expensive path forward would be to seismically retrofit the bridge, repair it and then do continuous maintenance and repairs as needed into the future.

Lai chose not to present that option to councillors and instead presented the most expensive option, which was to seismically retrofit the bridge, repair it and then replace it in 40 years.

by Sam Williams, November 19, 2010

The numbers the City presented for the cost of a new bridge and the cost to rehabilitate the current bridge were based on estimates done by Advicas Group. Those estimates were peer-reviewed by Stantec's Andrew Rushforth, but analysis suggests the numbers have been tweaked so the City’s high-end rehabilitation appears to be more expensive. We un-tweak the numbers.

City Hall says it will cost $77 million for a new bridge without rail on it and $80 million for what is now known as the “gold-plated” rehab.

I’ve been asking myself 3 question about these two numbers:

• Where did they come from?

• Can they be trusted?

• Do they represent the only options the City could have considered when deciding what to put to a referendum.

I think these are important questions and I’m going to try to provide answers.

The “peer-reviewed” Advicas cost estimates

by Leslie Campbell, November 2010

Blue Bridge wants HER voice to be heard

Turns out the Johnson Street Bridge is a female of her endangered species—heritage bridges—and is taking to the streets to raise awareness of her plight.

Despite being 86 years old and a bit rusty, she’s still got a good strong voice and she's using it to sing out against her own impending decommission. 

Ms Blue

In the spirit of self-preservation, free speech, and creative fun, Ms.Blue will be singing for her salvation —watch for her on downtown streets during lunch hour.