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By David Broadland, July 6, 2015

Did a group of five Saanich councillors hold an illegal council meeting on December 4 last year?

That question has arisen as the result of documents obtained in an FOI request to the District of Saanich for communications between Councillor Judy Brownoff and other council members during the turbulent period at the District following November’s election. You may recall that Saanich councillors strenuously objected to the approach newly-elected Mayor Richard Atwell had taken when he proposed to replace CAO Paul Murray.

A December 3 email from Councillor Susan Brice to Brownoff and three other councillors (Leif Wergeland, Dean Murdock, Vicki Sanders) under the subject “Thursday meeting” stated, “Our appropriate [redacted] will be available for Thursday night so go ahead and let Donna know you are available to attend. Will keep you posted.”

Focus Readers, July/August 2015

The Whistle Blower’s Tale: Part 2 

I appreciated David Broadland’s article, “The Whistle Blower’s Tale: Part 2.” If the facts are accurate as reported I fail to understand: (1) why employees of the District of Saanich continue to be employed in light of their incompetence regarding the procurement and implementation of the software; (2) how these employees are allowed to disregard and violate their own regulations/ethics; and (3) why the IT employee is the only one showing moral courage by stating the obvious (rather than saying “I don’t know”) and is subsequently disciplined for telling the truth.

When will we as citizens insist on professional behaviour, ethical behaviour and moral comportment from those we put in office and those who are hired to do their bidding?

By David Broadland and Daniel Palmer

News of a secret investigation involving Saanich interim CAO Andy Laidlaw may throw the District into more turmoil.

In the Saanich spyware debate, either you believe that the senior manager who approved the installation of employee monitoring software on newly-elected Mayor Richard Atwell’s computer understood what she was approving, or you believe that a systemic disconnect from BC’s privacy law occurred and no one in particular was to blame.

That latter position was all that could be found in a report to Saanich Council on the issue delivered by the District’s interim CAO Andy Laidlaw and made public on June 24. In his introduction to the report Laidlaw noted, “I am acutely aware that my report will be subject to criticism by those who believe it does not confirm their perceptions.”

By Leslie Campbell, July/August 2015

Will Victoria take responsibility to provide safe consumption services?

Did you know that our fair city has the highest number of street deaths per capita in BC? I didn’t, until a panel discussion in June called Moving Forward: A Public Forum on Supervised Consumption Services in Victoria.

The panel made alarmingly, indisputably clear that a relatively simple measure would prevent those deaths and provide other benefits to individuals and communities. I’m speaking of safe consumption services (SCS), likely integrated into existing services. These have been endorsed by everyone from the Canadian Medical Association, numerous nurses’ associations, the Public Health Physicians of Canada to municipal and provincial governments, academic researchers and so on. Everyone it seems but the federal government.

By Briony Penn, July/August 2015

Eight planned cutblocks in the Walbran are raising the temperature among those concerned about BC’s old-growth forests.

In 1991, Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WC2) campaigner, Torrance Coste, was a three-year-old growing up in Lake Cowichan. Barrelling through his community at the time were logging truck loads of old-growth logs coming out of the Walbran Valley and buses of protestors coming in. “I even remember the hand-painted signs: ‘No raw log exports’ which I could just about read.” Coste adds, “Though I didn’t have a clue what they meant then, I do now.” 

By Ray Grigg, July/August 2015

If Vladimir Putin is politically “troublesome,” Stephan Harper is his environmental equivalent.

The agreement by the G7 nations to completely “decarbonize” their economies by 2100 is a watershed moment that deserves qualified celebration. While the details are sketchy and the language vague, the declaration is nonetheless official recognition by the world’s largest economies that the continued burning of fossil fuels is ecologically unsustainable and must end.

By Katherine Gordon Palmer

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report calls for a massive shift in how Canada conducts itself in relation to Aboriginal people.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report summary, released on May 31, pulls no punches over the impact of Canada’s residential schools. 

“For over a century,” it begins, “[a] central goal of Canada’s Aboriginal policy [was] to…cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy…[This] can best be described as cultural genocide.” 

By Gene Miller, July/August 2015

Contemporary circumstances, including shrinking governments, demand that we, the human family, be socially innovative.

So, we buy one of those old tubs that Ian Maxwell’s people are always working on at his Point Hope shipyard—you know, something that floats only because the paint skin on the hull is still intact—and then we promote a “Sea Cruise—Free Hot Dogs, Booze, Drugs and $100 Spare Change” and get all the homeless street people, and the panhandlers, and the aggressive craze-o’s, and the 7-11 sidewalk scruffs, and the doorway campers, and the shopping cart set on board, chug out about 50 clicks, pull the cork, and sink her!

Doneski!

I mean, you with me on this? I hate giving money to the Downtown lay-about scum and grubby panhandlers. Ever notice? They just waste it on survival.

By Amy Reiswig, July/August 2015

Two books expand the conversation on how, together, indigenous and settler people can create a new story.

When summer thoughts turn to books for the beach, cottage or exotic destinations, most readers don’t instinctively reach for academic authors. But like any other genre of good writing, scholarly texts take you places you wouldn’t otherwise go. 

By Aaren Madden, July/August 2015

Marika Swan finds personal guidance and artistic inspiration in her people’s spiritual connection to whales.

Marika Echachis Swan is a writer, curator, community organizer, collaborator, activist, art workshop facilitator, and, by no means least, mother to a young daughter. That she is also an artist is what makes it possible for her to be everything else that she is. 

She learned that this is so by going back to her beginning—specifically, the beach where she was born in 1982 on the island from which she received her middle name. Echachis Island is located close to Wickaninnish Island in Clayoquot Sound, about 3.5 km as the crow flies offshore from Tofino. This is Nuu Chah Nulth territory, where Swan’s Tla-o-qui-aht ancestors hunted for whales and were blessed by the multitude of gifts—food, oil, bone and sinew—they brought to the people. 

By Monica Prendergast, July/August 2015

Shakespeare, queer, the Goose, the Fringe and more.

The summer months mean the chance to catch a show staged in the great outdoors. There are a number of such local productions you might want to add to your calendar. Or, you might prefer some recommendations for summer theatre in a comfortable indoor seat, thank you very much. Fortunately, summer theatre offerings around town this year provide the choice to view a show either way.

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, July/August 2015

What’s happening on our roads is a microcosm of what seems to be ailing society in general.

I write with an angry undertone because three mornings ago my cousin and his wife were killed when their motorcycle was slammed by an oncoming car hell-bent on passing the car in front of him despite the solid centre line. According to a horrified witness the two vehicles seemed to be racing. The driver of the passing vehicle—just 20 years old—must have realized he’d set up a horrible scenario when he saw the approaching motorcycle. My cousin braked as best he could but was doomed nonetheless. He died instantly; she passed away a short time later. 

Focus readers, June 2015

Thoughts on the need for respect

On the evening of April 13, 2015, at a Saanich Council meeting, Councillor Judy Brownoff took the chair and addressed the standing-room only crowd of residents (average age 55+) about the need for respect, before any member of the public had spoken. Indeed, we were subjected to a total of four such lectures during the evening. While I respect Councillor Brownoff’s right to her opinion, I would respectfully like to express a different one.

By David Broadland, June 2015

The spyware installed on Mayor-elect Richard Atwell’s computer was only one of three IT strategies that targeted him.

New evidence brought forward by current and former employees of the District of Saanich’s IT department may create additional pressure on BC’s Attorney General Suzanne Anton to investigate whether, on the direction of senior Saanich officials, the communications of Mayor Richard Atwell were wilfully intercepted. Section 184 of the Canadian Criminal Code provides for punishment of up to five years in prison for the “wilful” interception of private communications between parties unless at least one of the parties agrees to the interception. Atwell has said he was never informed by the District of the interception. Saanich has provided no proof he was.

Before getting to that new information, let me remind you of what we already know.

By Leslie Campbell, June 2015

Whistle blowers, citizen activists and persistent journalists are the antidote.

On May 15 I attended a stimulating talk by David Barsamian, the award-winning founder of Alternative Radio, now in its 29th year. Barsamian has also co-written a number of books with Noam Chomsky. 

Green leader MP Elizabeth May introduced Barsamian to the crowd of about 80 people at UVic’s SUB lounge.

He was speaking on “Media and Democracy”—and had lots to say on both subjects, mostly from a US perspective. From my perch as the editor of a local magazine, I tried to apply his analysis to the local scene.

Both Barsamian and Elizabeth May highlighted the continuing growing concentration of media ownership as a key to understanding everything else that’s wrong with media today.

By Judith Lavoie, June 2015

While Mike Hicks fears the Regional Sustainability Strategy’s teeth will bite his community, others say those teeth aren’t sharp enough.

There’s an unabashedly optimistic vision for 2038 stated in the draft Regional Sustainability Strategy of the Capital Regional District. It states: “We contribute to a healthier planet and create a thriving, sustainable economy that optimizes individual and community wellbeing. Direct, innovative action by the CRD and cooperation with others achieves transformational change by boldly: shifting to affordable, low carbon, energy-efficient lifestyles; expanding the local food supply; stewarding renewable resources; and achieving greater social equity.”

The devil is in the details, of course, but the draft RSS is described as the “road map for how we will work together to reach a shared vision for the region”—a statement begging for a smiley-face emoticon.

By Katherine Palmer Gordon

You’d think Fisheries and Oceans Canada would be on the side of wild salmon. Think again.

May 6, 2015 was a great day for wild salmon,” says Margot Venton, staff lawyer at Vancouver-based environmental legal group Ecojustice. It was a good day for Alexandra Morton, too: The biologist and the wild fish both scored a potentially significant victory in court. 

Two years earlier, Ecojustice had commenced legal action on her behalf against Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Marine Harvest Canada Inc in the Federal Court of Appeal, contesting the fish farm company’s DFO-issued licence to transfer young salmon smolts from its hatchery into open-water pens in the ocean. 

By Leslie Campbell, June 2015

Do articulated tug barges, each carrying millions of gallons of hydrocarbon fuels, pose a threat to our coast?

Ingmar Lee has a mission born of serious worry. The long-time environmental activist has been trying to raise awareness about the “articulated tug     barges” that transport various fossil fuels through the Inside Passage to Alaska.

From his home on Denny Island, near Bella Bella, Lee maintains a facebook page (10,000 Ton Tanker) where he posts regularly. It started a few years ago, he says, when he began noticing and then tracking (via www.marinetraffic.com) the tugboat Nathan E. Stewart and its two 300-ft 10,000-ton capacity petroleum-tanker barges which run directly past Bella Bella, and on through BC’s protected Inside Passage and Great Bear Rainforest. 

By David Broadland, June 2015

The CRD is fighting to prevent release of a record that could show how badly it estimated one of the costs of sewage treatment.

Since an inquiry conducted by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is a quasi-judicial process, I suppose I’m breaking some quasi-law by disclosing the contents of the CRD’s and Stantec’s submissions before an adjudication is made. Maybe I’m headed for quasi-jail, but the information that the CRD and Stantec are trying to keep out of the public eye is central to a rational, community-based decision on the sewage treatment question.

In 2009 the CRD contracted Stantec to provide engineering consulting services for the core area’s sewage treatment program.