Category Archives: Politics

Why rural residents oppose the Juan de Fuca resort plan

A volunteer stands over a septic field test hole near the trailSeptic field test hole near the trail. Photo: Alysha Tylynn Jones

Public comments requested Thursday, March 3 at Edward Milne School, 6218 Sooke Road, Sooke. Hosted by the Capital Regional District.

Residents of Shirley, Jordan River, and other nearby communities are turning out in force to denounce a rezoning proposal that would permit 263 vacation homes, lodges, recreation buildings, septic fields, and roads within 100 meters of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, a popular wilderness destination west of Jordan River.

The seven properties in question are former Western Forest Products tree farm license lands south of West Coast Road and adjacent to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Park between China Beach and Sombrio Beach. The current zoning allows one home on each property.

The resort plan is widely viewed as a threat to the park and the tourism dollars generated by an estimated 300,000 visitors each year. Dozens of critics have also noted that the plan contradicts the Capital Regional District’s Regional Growth Strategy and promotes uncontrolled urban sprawl in designated Rural Resource Lands. Elders from the Pacheedaht First Nation have publicly stated their opposition to the project and their demands for a moratorium on development on the nation’s traditional territory.

West Vancouver real-estate developer Ender Ilkay and his supporters cite “economic development” as the main reason to allow this huge resort to go forward. However, Ilkay’s optimistic economic report fails to address negative impacts on existing tourism operators and park visitors. The report also ignores impacts on wildlife, the risk of damage to the park, increased demands on local volunteer fire and rescue services, and the increased infrastructure costs that would be borne by all tax-payers in the CRD.

Ultimately, five people will decide the future of this plan. A majority of CRD directors have serious concerns about the proposal, but the final vote rests with the CRD’s Land Use Committee A. The members are:

Mike Hicks, the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director (who also chairs the Juan de Fuca Land Use Committee and has the power to appoint its members)

Denise Blackwell, a Langford councillor and cheerleader for the failed Bear Mountain Resort

Janet Evans, the pro-development mayor of Sooke

Dave Saunders, mayor of Colwood, and

John Ranns, mayor of Metchosin.

Those opposed to the project include MLA John Horgan (Malahat-Juan de Fuca), MP Denise Savoie (Victoria), MLA Rob Fleming (Victoria), and MP Keith Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca), who has long advocated expanding the wilderness park.

Concermed? Send a letter to the directors of the Capital Regional District.

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Ender Ilkay: If you can’t trust smooth-talking millionaire real-estate developers, who can you trust?

Ender Ilkay

Real estate speculator Ender Ilkay, Marine Trail Holdings

Originally published in Focus Magazine.

Ender Ilkay’s proposal for a sprawling resort on top of the Juan de Fuca Trail draws heavy fire.

At his public presentation, West 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.

Now, Ilkay’s back, with an ambitious plan for a sprawling resort that includes a recreation centre, tourist lodge, and 279 cabins stretching along seven kilometres of choice land between Mystic Beach and Sombrio Beach.

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Dear Auntie Civ: Why are vegans so angry?

Auntie Civ

Ask Auntie Civ, the world’s only anti-civilization advice columnist!

Auntie Civ gives advice from an anti-civilization viewpoint. If you’d rather get advice from a vegetarian or techno-utopian, ask one.

Why do environmentalists eat meat? (part two)

Dear Auntie Civ,

You’re so old and senile, you’re not even making sense. Give a proper answer to the vegetarians, or give up and admit you’re losing it.

Another Vegetarian

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Activist Zoe Blunt Defends Canada’s Forests and Urges Us to Join In

Interview by Mickey Z, Planet Green

A self-described “journalism school dropout living in Victoria, British Columbia,” Zoe Blunt lives the eco-activist life and writes about it. For example:

Zoe Blunt. Photo by Tony Bounsall

“I’m standing at the base of the tree leaning back on my harness and peering at the platform sixty feet above. Ingmar is encouraging me to get up there. The press conference is supposed to start in forty-five minutes and we need to get into position. Ingmar’s fully informed about my slightly spastic condition and I can tell he’s not sure if I can still do this. I give him a thumbs up and start up the rope. By the time the camera crews arrive, we’re both up on the platform with our feet dangling down.”

Zoe likes to say she’s no action hero, but I say we could use a few million just like her. That’s why I interviewed her about old-growth forests, tree-spiking, direct action, and more.
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“You’re not crazy and it’s not your fault”

Derrick Jensen on coming to grips with this destructive culture

Deep ecology author Derrick Jensen won fame and notoriety with heavy works of non-fiction like Endgame, which compares western civilization to an abusive family where violence is a constant threat. He argues that we must bring down this culture by any means necessary. Since then, Jensen has published a searing exposé about zoos and captive animals with Karen Tweedy-Holmes called Thought to Exist in the Wild; Resistance to Empire, a collection of incendiary interviews with other activists; and What We Leave Behind, co-authored with Aric McBay – a heartbreaking polemic on the concepts of waste, life, and death.

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Stump broke

You ought to be taken out to the back forty and stump broke,” reads the message from a guy calling himself “Bronco.”*

The discussion was about a resort that went bankrupt, leaving hundreds of millions in debts. It wasn’t my fault – I just published information about it. Of course, it’s not the kind of information that the developers want the public to see.

Stump broke. I look it up. It means to tie an animal to a stump and rape it.

Turns out Stinger knows him by his business name. Bronco Excavating.* I find the number, a rural address in Saanich. I got a recording – a middle-aged woman’s voice, a cell phone number. The same woman answers the cell phone.

“I’m trying to reach Don Kringsborn*, please,” I say
“Who is this?”
“Zoe Blunt. I’m calling for Don Kringsborn, if he’s available.” I’m very polite.
“Where are you calling from? What do you want?” She’s knows my name and she’s upset.
I’ve blocked my number. “I’m calling from my home. Is it possible to speak to Don?”
“Not unless you give me more information!”
“How about if you give him a message. I need to know if I have the correct definition of ‘stump broke.'”
“Stump broke? Stump broke?” Her voice rises.
“Yes, I’m looking for the definition of ‘stump broke.'” I repeat.
“We’re not even in the country right now!” the woman exclaims, apropos of nothing.
“Tell him he can reach me on my cell phone. Thank you.” I hang up.

I find the postcard, a colour photo of an unfinished construction project that the resort was building until it ran out of money. “Greetings from Langford Bridge to Nowhere!” the card reads. I address it to Don Kringsborn at his Saanich address and inscribe it: “To my biggest fan! Love, Zoe.”

*Names and pseudonyms have been changed.

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Dear Auntie Civ: Why do environmentalists eat meat?

Auntie Civ

Ask Auntie Civ, the world's first anti-civilization advice columnist

Dear Auntie Civ:

Thanksgiving is here, which prompts me to ask about a matter that’s been bothering me for quite some time, namely, why are environmentalists and the social justice crowd not on board with vegetarianism?

To be fair, I’m not talking about people with allergies or sensitivities, whose eating options are narrowed for reasons not of their choosing. Instead, I’m recalling the countless environmental meetings where meat and dairy products are served without question, often at the expense of animal-free offerings.

As early as 1971, we had books like the Diet for a Small Planet, exposing the degradation and social injustice of mass meat consumption. There have been hundreds of books and documentaries highlighting the health, environmental, and social equity benefits of animal-free eating.

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Victoria city council candidate is a sex offender

Pedro Jose Mora

Pedro Mora served time for sexually assaulting a minor

This fall, Victoria residents have a unique opportunity to decide if a convicted sex offender should represent them on city council.

In a refreshingly-honest statement for an aspiring politician, Mora has confirmed he sexually assaulted a fifteen-year-old girl in Burnaby.

By his own account, Mora pleaded guilty and served 40 days in a “rehabilitation centre” in the Lower Mainland. However, he attempted to portray the offense as a minor one.

“I never had sexual intercourse with (the fifteen-year-old),” Mora said by email. “I never sexually touched the other girls” who complained to the police, he added.

Mora announced September 18 that he is seeking nominations for the city council seat vacated by Sonya Chandler. Acting on a tip, Victoria Indymedia published a summary of court records available online. The records showed that Pedro Jose Mora (born 1944) was ordered to stand trial on five charges of sexual assault in 1999.

After serving his sentence, Mora applied to have his criminal conviction sealed from public view.

“I have never denied the facts of my criminal record to any one who is genuinely concerned about the safety of women and children,” Mora said this week. He complained that the Indymedia story suggesting he is a child molester is “cruel and undo harassment” and that the publishers could face court action for  “liable.”

Missing from Mora’s statement is any indication of remorse for his actions or compassion for his victim. Instead, he lectured the reporter on the need for “identifying properly the real enemy which we both are fighting against, instead of tripping each other with unnecessary fear and hatred.”

However, social justice advocates who are “genuinely concerned about the safety of women and children” might include as “real enemies” those who participate in the system of male domination that rapes and murders thousands of women and girls each year.

Mora is a director of Vancouver Community Network and NowPolling.ca, two non-profit groups. He runs a website at Pasifik.ca and shoots video with Jack Etkin for Shaw TV community programs.

Mora previously ran for mayor of Vancouver in 2005 on a platform of “perpetual elections,” receiving 443 votes out of a total of 130,011. He now lives with his partner in Victoria’s North Park neighbourhood.

How groups can protect members from sexual abuse

Child abuse and sexual harassment are widespread, damaging, and under-reported in Canada. Non-profit groups and charitable societies are obligated to address the problem as a human rights issue, just as other institutions do. These tips can help.

  • Groups should create and implement guidelines to protect members, including safe-space policies, human rights policies, and sexual harassment policies. These will clarify the values of the society and put potential offenders on notice.
  • Directors, staff, and members should be be fully informed about these policies. A process for complaints should be clearly spelled out.
  • If a complaint is received, it must be given the highest priority. The group should bring in an independent investigator to initiate the process of interviewing complainants, witnesses, and the alleged perpetrators.
  • Followup is crucial. Once a complaint is validated, the society must take steps to protect and support the victim. This typically involves removing the offender and may include calling the police. Retaliation and threats to the victim and the group are common. Directors should consult with the group’s legal counsel for advice.
  • Be aware of legal liability issues. If directors ignore a problem, the group may be held partially responsible for subsequent abuse.

Have you been molested or raped by a candidate for public office? Contact the author for a private, confidential discussion: zoeblunt (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Let Them Eat Condos

Bilston Creek Estates

June 2009

Langford’s farmers, food lovers, and political decision-makers are struggling with the dilemma of farmland preservation

Along Bilston Creek, fat mallards flap and quack over a willow thicket and red-winged blackbirds perch on cattails to sing their spring songs. Nearby fields are dotted with blackberries, horse paddocks, and hay bales. But public notices on Happy Valley Road warn that new housing developments are on the horizon, and these farmlands and wetlands are getting squeezed by creeping urbanization.

For years, Langford’s fast-growth policies have put the city squarely at odds with local food and farming advocates. The current development applications may also violate provincial rules and Langford’s own land-use guidelines.

Critics of growth-at-any-cost are responding by forging their own vision for the future of farmland and appealing for community support to make it a reality. According to Ian McKenzie, owner of a small farm in Happy Valley, the strategy seeks to promote positive solutions, rather than more head-butting with Mayor Stew Young and Langford city council.

Home-grown solutions are needed. Vancouver Islanders are snapping up more local produce than ever before. Cheryl McLachlan, an avid local food consumer and Langford council-watcher, says demand at farmers’ markets is outstripping supply. “The joke is, at some of the weekly markets, you have to get there before 11:30 or there’s no food left.”

This spring and summer, local residents are flocking to events like Defending Our Backyard, a celebration of local food on May 31 at Fort Rodd Hill. The Island Chefs Collaborative expects over a thousand people to attend. Up in the Cowichan Valley, wine-tasting tours are a going concern. Across the South Island, restaurants compete for bragging rights about the advantages of their local, organic ingredients: superior flavour, freshness, and nutrition content. The popular Hundred Mile Diet has gained a huge following from books, blogs, and news stories in the past year. Grocery stores proudly market “BC Grown” and “Locally Grown” produce.

A harsh reality confronts this cornucopia, however: Vancouver Island grows only about five percent of its food. In the event of a crisis, the supermarkets and grocery stores would run out of many basic supplies in ten days or less. Farmer McKenzie notes, “At the moment, we depend on the transportation system and the economic system to get our food from outside our area. If Vancouver Island were hit by a tsunami—if, all of sudden, the ferry terminals were knocked out—it would take a month to repair the docks. So at some point, we’re going to have to accept we have to produce more of our food ourselves.”

Langford is taking steps to address the issue, at least on paper. Food security gets high priority in Langford’s new Official Community Plan. The guiding document for planning and development is peppered with sweeping statements promoting local food production and sustainability.

“Grow food everywhere,” the plan exhorts.

Easier said than done. Rhetoric aside, Langford politics have taken root in the farmlands like tenacious weeds. Most of Langford’s agricultural land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), a provincial program designed to protect local food production. Overseeing the ALR is the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), which considers applications to designate or remove properties from the ALR. The agency’s mandate for preservation means the rules for removal are strict. A successful application typically demonstrates a “net benefit” to farmland overall—a tough criterion to meet. With only 292 acres remaining in the reserve in Langford, and much of the arable land already lost to development, the municipality must find creative ways to pair removal applications with plans to intensify agriculture in other areas.

McKenzie has some ideas on how to do this. “We’re looking at more intelligent use of farmland, including parcels that are part agricultural and part other use,” he says. Rocky or sandy areas can be used to build housing for farm workers, while the remainder can be worked with the latest high-intensity farming methods. Marginal soils can be remediated. “That will fulfill the ALC requirement for net benefit,” McKenzie says.

Applying to remove land from the ALR without proposing tangible benefits to farmland, McKenzie says, “defeats the whole purpose of having local food production and food security.” And those applications are not likely to be approved by the province, according to other observers.

3616 Happy Valley

At times, Langford’s land-use strategies have clashed with the provincial agricultural commission’s requirements. In 2006, the city touched off a storm when it sent a letter to every landowner with property in the ALR, advising them that the city would help them apply for removal. That letter was followed by heavy backpedaling and a second letter clarifying that there would be no “blanket removals” of ALR land. Rob Buchan, Langford’s clerk-administrator at the time, stated that the offer was merely part of a process to create a neighbourhood plan for South Langford. He told the Times Colonist that the city would consider “supporting the removal from the ALR of those lands that are not useful for farming.” As for the future of the process, “It’s very much going to be driven by what the residents have to say,” Buchan said. Cheryl McLachlan supports that notion. “Langford is a growing community, therefore it has to do more due diligence to protect the ALR land that’s left.”

So far, efforts to achieve due diligence and citizen guidance have fallen on rocky ground. Residents were cheered when Langford city council appointed an advisory committee earlier this year to assist with land-use planning and accountability. The Agricultural Advisory Committee had to hit the ground running—currently, 11 landowners are applying to remove their lands from the ALR. In announcing the inaugural meeting of the committee in January 2009, Mayor Young promised, “It’s not going to be an easy process, but it’s going to be a fair one.”

Mayor Young may be half right. McLachlan attends most of the city’s committee meetings, and she and others are raising concerns about the advisory process. Citizens’ letters to the committee were rebuffed by city planner Matthew Baldwin, who politely but firmly told residents to write to the provincial Agricultural Land Commission instead, since “the decision whether or not land is removed from the ALR rests solely with the ALC, and not with Council for the City of Langford.”

Debra Harper, a local food advocate and Langford resident, was so irked by her exchange with Baldwin that she posted his “rejection letter” on her website. Baldwin later admitted that city council does, in fact, decide whether to forward applications to the province, and it can effectively veto the proposals, but he has failed to address citizens’ grievances about the way he handled the situation. Among the letters were submissions from local farmers with information about farming techniques, local soils and drainage conditions that could have helped guide the committee, which does not include any local food producers, McLachlan says.

Adding insult to injury, at least eight of those letters were also missing from the package given to city council for its final consideration of the ALR applications on April 20, 2009.

Another surprise awaited attendees at the April city council meeting. Reading the agenda, they noticed that one of the advisory committee members had the same last name and first initial as a landowner applying for removal of his land from the ALR. When questioned, Mayor Young confirmed that Mr Thomas Atherton of Happy Valley Road had, in fact, voted to bring his own application to council.

Turning farmland into housing developments typically brings a windfall profit to the landowner, and those responsible for advising governments on land-use decisions are expected to be impartial, with at least an arm’s-length distance between applicants and deciders. Langford’s terms of reference for the committee state emphatically that “no member of the Agricultural Advisory Committee shall have an active application before the committee.”

Even after McLachlan raised the point about this potential conflict, Mayor Young and Langford city council voted unanimously to forward seven applications—including Atherton’s—to the province for removal from the ALR. The final decision now rests with the Agricultural Land Commission.

Meanwhile, McKenzie is preparing a presentation for Langford council on the community’s vision for the future of farmland in Happy Valley.

“We want our kids to have food on the table and not to have to struggle for it,” McKenzie says. “We want our kids to have jobs, and that means a whole range of jobs, not just professional jobs, not just construction or manufacturing.”

Agricultural work is a big part of lots of people’s lives, he says. “We’d like to see urban planning that takes into account the importance of farming—the necessity of growing food. ”

McKenzie is hopeful Langford’s rhetoric will someday match up with its actions. “I think they’re sort of grudgingly admitting they have to have some sort of a plan for agriculture, but I think at the moment they don’t give it the same importance as other types of land development,” he says.

As you sow, so shall you reap. Chris Johnson, a local food advocate in Victoria, says disappearing agricultural land is an urgent problem. “At the rate things are going,” he says, “I hope our children can figure out how to eat carpet and plasterboard.”

Rezoning notice in Happy Valley

Zoe Blunt lives in Langford and loves local food.

Photos by Pete Rockwell.

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Land-Use “Bullies” Put On Notice

Update: Langford’s mayor has given in and scheduled a new public hearing. News report here.

When I don’t blog for a while, it’s usually because I’m out causing trouble for malevolent public officials or unethical developers. But it’s all good, because then I can come back here and dish the dirt with photos and video and all that happy shit.

I’m a founding member of Vancouver Island Community Forest Action Network (VIC FAN), a tiny non-profit group that’s challenging the big boys of Bear Mountain. This week, we scored some points in the mainstream media.


Here’s the VIC FAN posse backing me up at Langford City Hall, February 27, 2009. Photo: Edward Hill/Goldstream News Gazette staff

VIC FAN is challenging a public hearing where Langford’s mayor verbally abused and intimidated residents opposed to the Bear Mountain Parkway and South Skirt Mountain Village development. News reports from the hearing on February 23 show an angry Mayor Stew Young browbeating a retired schoolteacher, calling her remarks “negative” and telling her to “sit down.” Other speakers were repeatedly interrupted and confronted by the mayor, who had earlier told reporters that he believes the development should be approved regardless of the public’s objections.

My neighbours want to protect wildlife habitat and water quality for the enjoyment of the whole community, and the way they were treated at the hearing is absolutely appalling.

The media frenzy is still in full swing. Behold:

Critics of Langford Development Assail Mayor’s Conduct
(Times Colonist, front page — above the fold, February 28, 2009)

Activists seek fresh public hearing
(Goldstream Gazette, March 4, 2009)

Langford mayor tangles with citizens over Skirt Mountain development (Times Colonist, February 24, 2009)

VIC FAN has since learned that the city and the developers have failed to notify — let alone consult with — the Tsartlip First Nation, which claims SPAET (Skirt) Mountain as part of its traditional territory. For thousands of years, the mountain has been a shared site where families from the Esquimalt, Songhees, Tsartlip and other First Natons would gather for ceremonies and celebrations.

Now we’re demanding a new public hearing on the South Skirt Mountain development. A February 27 letter to Mayor Stew Young and Langford City Council spells out several violations of the Local Government Act, and warns that if Langford adopts the controversial Skirt Mountain rezoning bylaw, it could be quashed by the Supreme Court.

I went down to City Hall yesterday, gave the letter to a city staff person and told him, “We’re putting the City of Langford on notice that we won’t tolerate bullying citizens who raise legitimate concerns about environmental destruction.”

In the letter to Langford’s mayor and council, our lawyer Irene Faulkner notes that:

  • Pertinent documents, such as an archaeological report, were not made available to members of the public;
  • Some speakers were interrupted and berated by the Mayor;
  • Audience members heckled and jeered at speakers.

The letter continues: “Such conduct suggests that those charged with making the decision were not amenable to any persuasion, but rather went through the motions of holding a hearing with a totally closed mind.”

Provincial statutes and past Supreme Court cases set a clear standard for public hearings on land use, which are considered “quasi-judicial” and expected to maintain “courtroom-like decorum.”

The controversial South Skirt Mountain Village proposal includes 2800 housing units, a village centre and an ecological centre that will decimate the remaining native garry oak and arbutus ecosystems on the steep hillside east of Goldstream Provincial Park and south of Bear Mountain Resort. The west side of the development plan abuts the Florence Lake neighbourhood.

Mayor Young revealed at Monday’s meeting that the city is seeking federal and provincial infrastructure funding for the South Skirt plan, in addition to the Bear Mountain Parkway and the Spencer Road Interchange, which are already under construction.

The interchange project and Bear Mountain Resort itself have been dogged by protests from environmentalists and First Nations people since November 2006. Two caves considered important cultural sites were destroyed during the construction of the interchange and the resort’s second golf course in 2008. In February 2008, more than 60 RCMP officers raided a protest camp and arrested five people. Their charges were later dropped, and a Public Complaints Commission investigation is ongoing.

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