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  • Gayle Baker

How Can Trust in Islands Trust be Rekindled?

August 19

Only eight joined this ASK Salt Spring gathering welcoming Laura Patrick, one of our Salt Spring Island Local Trustees for the Islands Trust. While the circle was small, the low numbers allowed a casual, but very rich, conversation. During her Territorial Acknowledgment, Laura spoke of the journey of Reconciliation, reminding us that Reconciliation begins with a personal journey.

The conversation about personal journeys prompted a participant to admit with sadness of long-held stereotypes and deep-seated racism, which unconsciously colours so many of our perceptions.

Laura knows there is much work to be done to build trusting relationships and to make space for First Nations within our decision-making processes. While this is easy to say, it is harder to do within a system that, when designed, did not consider Indigenous rights and title. Laura discussed the Development Permit approval process as an example. The Trust must cite a specific guideline that is not being met in order to legally deny a permit. Because the regulatory process is so old, neither archeological potential nor cultural heritage considerations are included within any of our Development Permits.

Laura believes the current Watershed Protection strategic planning process will help us with planning and decision making in the near term. This process is coordinating the work of several agencies. As we develop the plan, the Trust is asking appropriate questions, such as: Should we engage with First Nations on a project-by-project basis or on a watershed by watershed basis?

The Trust also hopes to apply a commonly-used traffic light approach. For example, green light projects may proceed without the need for further First Nations engagement, yellow light projects would require that First Nations be asked if they wish to collaborate, and red light projects would signal that First Nations need to be deeply involved at all stages of the project before proceeding.

Laura explained that, in order to truly be walking the talk on Reconciliation, the Trust must move toward co-planning with First Nations. Laura believes that the province should take an active role in funding pilot projects to further develop this co-planning process. Ganges Village planning is an ideal candidate project for a such a co-planning pilot. As a vital crossroads for Indigenous peoples, many nations have an interest in Salt Spring, and some have already requested to participate in co-planning the future of Ganges.

Laura said that the Trust Council Executive committee met with Municipal Affairs Minister Nathan Cullen, and he expressed interest in considering the Ganges Village project as a pilot. Our Local Trust Committee has asked the Executive Committee to continue to pursue this opportunity.

For examples of other communities’ experience co-planning with First Nations, Laura suggested we look the First Nation Municipal Land Use Planning Tool:

We shifted gears and began discussing problem solving techniques. At previous ASK Salt Spring gatherings, Laura has spoken with great enthusiasm about Solutions Labs, keen to trial them here. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation:

Solutions Labs are also called social innovation labs, design labs, or change labs. They’re an innovative community dialogue approach to tackling complex societal challenges that require systems change.

Laura is hopeful that we can soon run a Solutions Lab to guide us to creative, implementable solutions.

When Laura was asked why Islands Trust bylaws are not enforced, we learned that Trust Council allocated additional funding last year for another Bylaw Enforcement staff member. Participants shared their opinions that bylaws are largely being ignored, too many islanders living by the motto, It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission. Laura agreed that too often offenders agree to comply, merely waiting a short period before continuing the illegal activity. Some participants expressed the desire for a strong enforcement of all bylaws so that Salt Springers finally understand that a law is a law. Others suggested the Islands Trust reduce the plethora of bylaws.

Almost guaranteed when bylaw enforcement is mentioned, the dilemma of currently-illegal Short Term Vacation Rentals (STVRs) emerged. Laura told us that Bylaw Enforcement officers are actively conducting proactive enforcement on STVRs by responding to and investigating complaints.Despite this, Laura agreed that the current approach of simply declaring them all illegal is not working. In discussion, some participants favoured a ban on STVRs while others wanted them taxed.

Laura pointed out that the Trust needs cooperation from various other levels of government to change how we deal with STVRs, possibly considering business licenses. She reminded us that, however logical a solution may seem, without the cooperation of all governing jurisdictions, little can be accomplished by the Trust alone.

Laura asked the participants how many are frustrated with the Islands Trust? Every hand went up. She agrees that the Islands Trust and the kaleidoscope of other government agencies that have jurisdiction on Salt Spring have lots of work to do on this front. Trust Council has requested that the province conduct a formal independent review of the organization’s mandate, governance, and structure to determine what no longer works and how to improve things.

An area that is dear to Laura’s heart is challenging the province to legalize tiny homes on wheels for residential use. If other provinces can figure it out, why is British Columbia stuck in outdated and rigid building regulations? Laura, along with a tiny home contractor, and MLA Olsen have been lobbying the province to change its approach.

Our time together nearly over, Laura was asked if the community engagement for the Islands Trust Policy Statement had concluded. She confirmed that the engagement process had finished and was summarized in the June 2022 Trust Council agenda package (13320KB) which contained three engagement reports (pages 154-261) summarizing feedback from:

  • Phase 3 of public engagement (summary report)

  • Phase 2 of early and meaningful engagement with First Nations

  • Phase 1 of agency referrals

Before beginning to pack chairs, precipitants were vocal in reminding Laura that, while the trust in the Island Trust needs to be rekindled, it was not personal. Support for Laura was strong in this circle, all thanking her for coming to ASK Salt Spring every month and lauding her hard work in the face of daunting challenges, her tenacity addressing a plethora of complex issues, and her honestly looking at both the strengths and weaknesses of the Islands Trust. (Thank-you, Laura!)

Please join us this Friday, August 26, 11-1, in the United Church Meadow to welcome Fernando dos Santos and Rhonan Heitzmann to explore workforce housing challenges and successes.

What would you like to ask them?

  • What is the difference - if any - between the terms Affordable Housing, Subsidized Housing, and Workforce Housing?

  • Should we be using different terms?

  • Using Dragonfly Commons as an example, what are the challenges and benefits of a focus on worker housing?

  • With 20/20 hindsight, is there anything that you would have done differently with Dragonfly Commons?

  • What do you see as Salt Spring’s most promising worker housing projects. . .and the challenges they face?

  • And. . .

Please join us this Friday, August 26 for a rich workforce housing conversation.

Any question, anytime:

Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings?

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We love your receipts! Remember: #15

(Our Partners. . . .

Our rent - reduced through the generosity of our Library -

is being paid for byIsland Savings’ Simple Generosity grant.

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