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  • Gayle Baker

Salt Spring Divided. . . Is it the Province's Responsibility Bring Vision to Solve it?

June 3

Eighteen joined this ASK Salt Spring Zoom gathering welcoming our MLA, Adam Olsen. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Adam began by telling us about some of the things on his mind. He spoke briefly about the adjournment of the Spring legislative session and his transition to focusing undivided attention on constituent advocacy. He is looking forward to spending time on each of the islands in his riding. He is also looking forward to some travel in British Columbia to better understand some of the larger provincial issues.

Adam also spoke of his grave concern about the almost $800 million being spent by the province to rebuild the BC Museum, a concern he also expressed in our May 20 gathering: (https://www.saltspringcommunityalliance.org/post/welcoming-the-whole-gang-crd-s-gary-holman-trustee-laura-patrick-and-mla-adam-olsen). Differing from the commonly-held western view of museums, Adam brings a perspective of conflict and sadness concerning museum collections. While many see museums as a way to celebrate our histories, Adam sees the placement of important Indigenous ceremonial items behind glass as sad and misleading. These items are not relics of a distant past but are the important elements of culture and ceremony. Why are they not in the possession of those who would use them instead of being locked away for display?

Necessary for essential ceremonies, museums too often take these ceremonial items away, removing the culture, and even the language, of our Indigenous peoples. Shouldn’t we, instead, be having a conversation about the rightful ownership of these important items rather than about the design of a multi-million dollar display edifice?


Adam is also sad about the stories of acquisition of these items, too often one of tragedy.

For more detail about Adam’s comments on this issue, please see:

https://adamolsen.ca/2022/05/column-800-million-royal-bc-museum-plan-is-politics-masquerading-as-reconciliation/ .

With the onset of summer, Adam expects to begin again receiving many letters and emails concerning BC Ferries, often focused on overcrowded ferries and terminals. He is disappointed that the bill to change the relationship of the province and BC Ferries was not debated in this legislative session.( https://vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca/b-c-government-tables-changes-to-increase-oversight-of-bc-ferries-1.5793210).

When Adam was asked which ministry was responsible for BC Ferries, we learned that the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Rob Fleming, is most involved. He took this opportunity to acknowledge Minister Fleming for his deep understanding of the wide-ranging transportation issues on our islands as well as his willingness to listen to us. While transportation issues are extremely complex and cannot be solved quickly, Adam is very grateful for the good work Minister Fleming is doing to pave way for the solutions we need.

While the rest of our conversation was rich and complex, including the perils of capitalism, the deeply disturbing unbalance in our community, and the provincial responsibility to lead some very difficult conversations, the focus of many of the questions from participants was Islands Trust.

A participant asked Adam to meet with the new Minister of Municipal Affairs, Nathan Cullen, to ask him to use the province’s legislated authority to refuse approval of the hotly-debated Trust Policy Statement, still in draft form, unless it places protection of the environment as its top priority: (https://islandstrust.bc.ca/programs/islands-2050/). (Adam has already met with Minister Cullen and will continue to meet with him.)

Another participant cited a contradiction in the draft Policy Statement, in one section prioritizing the protection of our unique environment and in another section also prioritizing unique amenities but not defining them.


Adam was asked to discuss the Islands Trust Council provision that allows Local Trust Committees (LTC) to approve new bylaws that do not adhere to the Trust Policy Statement if that LTC feels that there is justification for not following this policy.

While Minister Cullen - as well as previous Ministers - are very careful not to meddle in the affairs of Islands Trust and its elected Trustees, it is Adam’s strong opinion that it is the province’s responsibility to address provincial legislation, review it, and update it as necessary.

Adam fully understands the Policy Statement debate and is focusing his advocacy on encouraging the province to review the almost half century old act, insisting that our realities today are far different from those of the 1970s. He cited the reviews of the Police Act and Mental Health Act, asking for a similar Island Trust Act review.

He is saddened that debate over the Islands Trust Policy Statement is creating division and fragmentation in our community. While he will continue to do his job advocating for the province to take responsibility for the review of the act, Adam also asked us to get involved in the upcoming local elections, October 15, 2022.

A participant reminded us of the value of the recently-released internal review of the Islands Trust: (https://islandstrust.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/SC_2020-12-01_Governance-Management-Review_RFD.pdf). It was noted that this report cited the lack of a comprehensive analysis of the Trust area’s capacity for growth as a serious concern.


Some participants maintained that this unanswered capacity question is critical before any Trust Policy Statement can be approved. Adam reminded us that our capacity for growth is complicated by old zoning laws: It is easy to build a traditional home on a large property but unbelievably complex to build needed housing for our workers or a home to accommodate multiple generations of a family.


Adam agrees that there needs to be a serious and respectful conversation about the growth capacity of our islands as well as the need to regain that lost balance in our community. While he recognizes that there is serious disagreement about the Trust Policy Statement and our capacity for growth, Adam maintains that there is strong agreement on one thing: something needs to be done to find a solution.


In Adam’s opinion, the province should not stand idle while this controversy boils and this need for a solution goes unmet. Instead, he suggested the province use tools such as a Citizens’ Assembly to create a safe space to have a robust discussion. He asked us to write to Minister Cullen to ask for provincial action, copying Adam so that he can also lobby for it. He reminded us that the provincial government that created the Islands Trust Act was both visionary and creative. Doesn’t our government have the responsibility to also be visionary and creative to address this controversy?


Adam spoke at length and with passion of the sacred cow of capitalism that sees no limits, just more and more growth made possible by engineering solutions. Why are we not having conversations about that myth of unlimited growth? The BC Green Caucus’ discussion about a sustainable economy must also question the sustainability of our old notions of capitalism, colonialism, growth, and debt. The province must begin to challenge the drive for unfettered growth, with the BC Greens’ commitment to our environment leading that conversation.


Adam concluded his time with us telling us of a story his paternal grandmother told him when he was a troubled youth. She told him that it was his responsibility to build bridges. She told the tale of the responsibility of all of us to Look after our relatives, relatives that were defined as our islands, natural resources, plants and animals, and all living in our community. Adam believes that it was this admonition of responsibility that led him to his life in politics. Noting that so many of us come from other places, he asked us not to be content simply appreciating the beauty and wonder of our island but to also embrace our responsibility for everything around us.


Despite sadness for the divisions and concerns in our community, it was on this note that we concluded our time together today, expressing our deep gratitude for Adam and the amazing conversations we have with him each month. (Thanks, Adam!)


Keep your fingers crossed for good weather next Friday, June 10, 11-1!

But, plan to Zoom if predictions for a chilly, wet day hold true.

If you want to confirm the ASK Salt Spring location for that week, go to asksaltspring.com,

Weather permitting, we will welcome CRD’s Gary Holman to the United Church Meadow. (If it rains or rain threatens, we will Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89745830131?pwd=S0dUUUtuZ0pTOU9haDBNMnhaR1M5dz09. (In case you need it, the passcode is 947504)

What do you want to ask him?

  • What can you tell us about progress with the Warming Space?

  • Can you tell us anything about PARC’s interest in giving management of the Saturday Market to a contractor?

  • Any updates on which nonprofits are leasing the Middle School?

  • What can you tell us about the Local Community Commission?

  • Will the HarbourWalk designs be initiated soon?

  • What can you tell us about CRD acquisition of the current firehall?

  • And?

See you Friday, June 10, 11-1 at the United Church Meadow and Zoom if rain threatens to welcome Gary!

Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

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

asksaltspring.com

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.

Cookie and coffee fixings are the result of the generosity of Country Grocer.

What a team!)


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