Category Archives: Archives

Everyone can help uphold local bylaws

Bylaw enforcement action in the Islands Trust Area increased nearly 25 percent from early 2006 to the spring of 2007 when there were 166 investigations underway.

In four years the average number of annual cases has almost doubled.

Most involve land use zoning contraventions, such as operating a business not allowed in a residential area. Other infractions include siting, density, short-term vacation rentals and development permits.

Three Trust enforcement officers work three days per week. Their priority is to achieve voluntary compliance through consultation with the property owner. If that fails, the owner will receive a letter from a Trust lawyer. Litigation is the last resort.

An investigation can be triggered by a written complaint from the public or an enforcement officer observes a violation, including an advertisement for an illegal use.

The goal of preserving the Gulf Islands can’t be achieved with weak or non-existent bylaw enforcement. Because they’re sometimes held to ridicule, unenforced bylaws are worse than having no bylaws at all.

To borrow a phrase: the only thing necessary for the triumph of the unlawful exploitation of the Gulf Islands is for good people to do nothing.

Individuals can file a complaint, either electronically by going to the Trust website at or by letter to the Islands Trust at #200-1627 Fort Street, Victoria, BC V8R 1H8, 700 North Road, Gabriola Island BC V0R 1X3 or 1 – 500 Lower Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2N8.

Trust asks how it can be more effective

In 2007 and 2008 the Islands Trust was navel gazing and wanted the public’s help doing it. It looked at possible changes to its structure so it could do a better job.

Here’s GIA’s report at the time on the governance review:

Because local government generally plays a bigger role in our lives than senior governments, it’s a time for us to be extra vigilant.

A consultant has released a 39-page report on ways the Trust might change. (It’s available at Open ‘Trust Council,’ select ‘Governance Task Force’ and then open ‘Islands Trust Governance Review Report.’)

Much attention is given the fact that the Trust is no sterling example of representation by population. Rather, its unique mandate is to protect a special area as much or more than be responsive to local wishes. Each of its 13 island areas, no matter how big or small their populations, elects two trustees. However, island populations and related demands on the Trust have grown substantially since the Trust was formed. Salt Spring, in particular, is feeling that pressure. Consequently the report considers whether more trustees should be added to Salt Spring’s Local Trust Committee or even to other LTCs, as well as whether the additional Trustees should sit on Trust Council.

The report also looks at how the Trust relates to the overlapping of jurisdictions of regional districts, such as the Capital Regional District.

The trust formed a 13-member governance task force last year in response to public demands for changes needed to “meet new challenges and better represent issues and concerns,” said Trust Chair Kim Benson.

If, for instance, the Trust wants to add a third and fourth trustee to Salt Spring’s roster and/or reduce North and South Pender’s complement from four to two, or adopt a ‘double direct’ election process which would enable more local trustees to be elected while continuing to send only two from each island area to Trust Council, it will need provincial legislative approval by next spring to be ready for local elections later the same year.

Because it won’t act without resident and property owner input, 11 public meetings were held this spring.

This month Trust Council will decide whether to recommend amendments to Trust Act.

Needless to say, governance is a complicated business. What may be suitable for a small island may not work well on a big one.

The Gulf Islands Alliance has one over-all concern – that no changes made to Trust governance lead to weakening the Trust’s preserve and protect mandate. At this point in our young life, we’ve reached no conclusions about what changes we can collectively support.

We sympathize with trustees from the more populous islands who cope with heavy workloads. We feel unease when fingers are pointed at perceived inadequacies of the Trust. We hear those who say a move toward municipal status would be a serious political and financial threat to the effectiveness, if not the very existence, of the Trust.

We encourage all Trust advocates to support changes that will sustain, even strengthen, the Trust and all its islands together.

Elevate ecology over economy: Neil Dawe

This provocative report by Neil K. Dawe, director of the Qualicum Institute, appeared in the spring of 2008 in Salt Spring Island Conservancy’s newsletter, the Acorn:

For unnumbered centuries of human history the wilderness has given way. The priority of industry has become dogma. Are we as yet sufficiently enlightened to realize that we must now challenge that dogma, or do without our wilderness? — Aldo Leopold

In March, 2005, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) was released. This report, based on the work of over 1,300 scientists, is the most comprehensive look at the state of the Earth’s ecosystems ever completed. It reports some significant conclusions:

“Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.

The provision of food, fresh water, energy, and materials to a growing population has come at considerable cost to the complex systems of plants, animals, and biological processes that make the planet habitable.”

After over a century of conservation efforts around the world, 60% of the 24 ecosystem services the MEA reviewed were either being degraded or used unsustainably; they noted that “Human activities have taken the planet to the edge of a massive wave of species extinctions, further threatening our own well-being.”

The 2007 IUCN Red List for Threatened Species supports the MEA findings, noting that over 20% of the species in the groups where most of their species have been assessed (Gymnosperms, amphibians, birds, mammals) are now in danger of extinction. And only 3% of the world’s 1.9 million described species have been assessed.

Other studies have shown similar results. The Global Ecological Footprint analysis to 2003 indicates that humanity exceeded the carrying capacity of the biosphere in the mid-1980s. The Living Planet Index, shows that we have eroded about 40% of our natural capital since 1970, a little over one human generation.

Now, consider this: today we have more wildlife professionals and environmental organizations and volunteers working on more ecological research, and environmental awareness, education, and stewardship programs than ever before; we have more rules and legislated regulations in place to protect biodiversity; more conservation and ecosystem restoration projects; and more protected areas than ever before. Despite all this effort, there is more environmental degradation than ever before. What conservationists are collectively doing is not working. And yet we keep doing it, environmental business as usual.

One of the main reasons we, at the Qualicum Institute ( believe this has happened is quite simple: for the most part we’ve only been addressing the symptoms of the problem rather than the root cause. We spend our efforts, acquiring habitats, cleaning streams, dealing with endangered species through recovery plans and so on, but we fail to address the root cause of these environmental problems. If we continue in this vein there is little doubt we’ll fail in virtually all of our conservation efforts.

So what is the root cause of these problems? A number of scientific and non-governmental organizations-including the Qualicum Institute-have concluded that it is economic growth. To understand this fully, one must have some appreciation of our conventional economic model and of economic growth itself.

Economic growth is an increase in the production and consumption of goods and services and is a function of increasing population and per capita production and consumption. Thus, it can also be considered an increase in throughput, or flow of natural resources, through the economy and back to the environment as waste.

This required throughput unavoidably results in the removal of structural ecosystem elements; the depletion of non-renewable resources; actual displacement of healthy ecosystems, their biodiversity and their life support services; and degradation of the remaining ecosystems with wastes. So, as the GDP continues to rise we know that somewhere, ecosystems are being degraded or displaced or both, along with their biodiversity and life-support services. Since everything humanity depends upon comes from global ecosystems, economic growth only occurs when natural capital from the economy of nature is appropriated for use by the human economy where it is converted to manufactured capital and consumer goods. Because of the tremendous breadth of the niche that we occupy, the human economy grows at the competitive exclusion of wildlife in the aggregate. This is fundamental to our understanding of the basis of our economy and biodiversity loss.

The conventional or neoclassical economic model, under which much of the global economy operates today, assumes that infinite economic growth on a finite planet is possible; the economy is considered to be the whole rather than a subset of the biosphere and is not governed by physical and ecological laws and principles such as thermodynamics and carrying capacity. The economy is seen as a perpetual motion machine that can run forever on its own output.

But the flow of economic throughput is not circular. It flows one-way from low entropy (useful) resources to high entropy (used-up-ness) waste, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. To grow, the economy must take more and more useful matter and energy from the finite biosphere to produce goods and services; wastes are inevitable by-products. Ultimately, all our goods become wastes as well. The economy cannot function simply by using only its own labour, manufactured capital, and waste as input.

While mainstream economists may think we can ignore carrying capacity and the laws of thermodynamics, “Facts do not cease to exist just because they are ignored,” as Huxley observed.

Biologist and ecological economist, Brian Czech, using an ecological analogy, identifies economic growth as a limiting factor to wildlife conservation. He shows that there is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecosystem health, including biodiversity and the ecosystem services on which we all depend.

As conservationists, we can no longer ignore the fact that an economic model based on infinite growth on a finite planet with finite resources-a model with no connectivity to the biosphere-is fatally flawed and is causing the loss of ecosystems, their biodiversity and the life support services upon which we all depend. Even many of our so-called “protected areas” are no longer providing secure habitats for the wildlife dependent on them as the effects of economic growth continue to impact them directly.

If economic growth is the limiting factor to biodiversity conservation, economic growth is what has to be addressed. Otherwise, everything else we do to try and conserve biodiversity will be for naught, as the economy continues to steamroll over more and more ecosystems further reducing biodiversity and the ecosystem services that support all life on the planet. That, appears to be what is happening.

There is a solution to this dilemma: we can choose to move towards a sustainable economy with a reasonably stabilized population and levels of consumption: an economy that ecological economist, Herman Daly, calls a “steady state economy.” He summarizes the concept:

The main idea of a steady-state economy is to maintain constant stocks of wealth and people at levels that are sufficient for a long and good life. The throughput by which these stocks are maintained should be low rather than high, and always within the regenerative and absorptive capabilities of the ecosystem.

The scale of the steady state economy must be sufficiently below the ecological limits so that enough natural ecosystems and biodiversity remain to allow the maintenance of the planet’s biodiversity which is integral to normal ecosystem functioning and the provision of the ecosystem services necessary for life.

So what can we do? Well first we have to choose to make the change from doing only the “sexy” tasks of dealing with the symptoms and start to include significant efforts to address the root cause. Once that choice is made, here are some other choices:

1. learn as much as you can about our current (neoclassical) macroeconomic model and its replacement model from ecological economics. You can do both by reading the excellent book Ecological Economics, by Herman Daly and Joshua Farley.

2. learn about the steady state economy. The Society for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) web site has an excellent resource centre with papers that discuss a number of aspects of this topic:

3. join the over 1,500 individuals who have signed on to the CASSE position statement on the fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecosystem health:

4. encourage all the environmental or social justice organizations you belong to, to adopt a position statement on the fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecosystem-and thus our own-health. Have them register their position with CASSE (to see position statements that other professional organizations and NGOs have adopted, go to: and publicize their decision.

5. talk to your local, provincial, and federal politicians/decision-makers about dealing with the fundamental conflict. Ask them, e.g., to explain how the economy-a human construct that is totally dependent on natural resources for its growth-can keep up its perennial economic growth when those resources are finite. Ask them to explain-if growth is so good-why the disparity between the rich and the poor keeps growing, why our taxes keep rising despite the growth, and why environmental quality worsens and biodiversity declines despite the fact that the GDP continues its astronomical rise.

6. talk about the fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecosystem health to the people you know who may be able to influence decision makers. 7. hold a dinner or dessert party and talk this topic up among friends and colleagues. Include the viewing and discussion of documentaries such as The end of suburbia or What a way to go.

8. work to have your community begin to prepare for the oncoming effects of peak oil, climate change, and biodiversity loss. What will these changes mean for your community if food no longer arrives from afar with regularity, if sea level rises a metre, if temperatures increase and precipitation decreases? What is the human carrying capacity of your region in terms of food and water, considering the experts views of the upcoming changes?

9. call into talk shows, write letters to the editor, and voice your opinion on the fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecosystem health. We need a critical mass of people to change from our fatally-flawed economy to a sustainable, steady state economy.

10. encourage invitations to the Qualicum Institute or others, such as conservation ecologists and ecological economists (e.g., Bill Rees), to speak on the fundamental conflict at conferences, chambers of commerce, etc. It is important to understand that Smart Growth concepts are good liveability concepts but they’re not sustainability concepts and that technological optimists are not speakers to effectively address these issues. Common sense tells us that we have more technological progress than ever before in the history of civilization and yet at the same time, the ecosystems of the Earth are in the worse shape they’ve been in recorded history. We all need a good dose of reality.

Finally, while we may know all these facts, that is not enough; we also need to act. Recall the words of Robert F. Kennedy: “It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly. The future will be shaped … by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task.”

GIA invites islanders to help save Gulf Islands


The Gulf Islands won’t be protected from uncontrolled growth and development without more help from residents and other property owners, says the Gulf Islands Alliance. In its campaign to rally island citizens, the Alliance has delivered information/advocacy packages to 7,300 households in the Islands Trust area.

“Preserving and protecting our islands is not a radical notion,” says Alliance Chair Christine Torgrimson. “In fact it’s the guiding principle of our unique governance system, the Islands Trust. While we think that most islanders embrace this Trust mandate and become upset when certain land-use activities threaten their natural and social neighbourhoods, too many believe nothing can be done. Well, they – and we — can do a lot. Our mail-out package explains how.

“For starters, it contains a simple guide to the Trust. It clears up many misunderstandings about what the Trust is and what it’s supposed to do, and helps people engage more effectively in their local government. We particularly want people to understand how unique the Trust is and how fortunate we are to have it, as it is one of the very few conservation-mandated governments in the world.

“Our letter to island residents explains why our group was formed just over a year ago – we already have about 250 members across the 13 major islands – and it dispels many popular misconceptions that discourage people from doing what’s needed to protect their local and islands-wide community.”

Torgrimson explained that the Alliance is a grassroots, volunteer group that has no affiliation with the Islands Trust or other government or private agencies.


Province must let Trust oversee private forest land

The Gulf Islands Alliance (GIA) is pushing to make sure a key initiative affecting land use on Galiano Island isn’t forgotten.

The non-profit grassroots group, along with the Residents and Owners Association of Galiano, have been pressing the province and Islands Trust to clear up the jurisdictional conflict between the Islands Trust Act and the Private Managed Forest Land Act (PMFL). The issue has been studied by Islands Trust for the past four years and needs to be resolved.

The effect of the conflict exposes Galiano to unregulated land use development and weakens the Trust’s mandate to preserve and protect the Gulf Islands.

“We wanted to have this settled by a provincial Order in Council,” said GIA’s chair Misty MacDuffee. “We have to make sure the good will and intent shown by the province and our trustees continues.”

Following a GIA presentation at the Islands Trust Council meeting in March, many trustees favored a pilot project to try the proposed Order in Council. This would give the Trust more land-use control over Galiano’s private managed forest lands, an area which could amount to roughly 40 percent of the island. The issue was then taken to the province by the Trust’s executive committee.

Background to the issue:

The Gulf Islands Alliance is a three-year-old grassroots organization of islanders who support the Islands Trust in achieving its legislated object of preserving and protecting the Gulf Islands.

The Act includes a policy statement to protect “natural processes, habitats and species including those of the old forests, Coastal Douglas-fir forests, Coastal Western Hemlock, Garry Oak/Arbutus forests … [and plan] for the cumulative effects of existing and proposed development to avoid detrimental effects on watersheds, groundwater supplies and Trust Area species and habitats.”

But this enlightened mandate is undermined by competing legislation, the Private Managed Forest Land Act (specifically Section 21) that prohibits a local government, such as Islands Trust, from doing anything “that would have the effect of restricting, directly or indirectly, a forest management activity.”

Section 21 also provides ‘extra-territorial’ power, a fact that “creates layers of uncertainty for a Local Trust Committee attempting to perform their statutory duties even outside the boundaries of the PMFL lands,” MacDuffee said.

The issue becomes further complication by Galiano’s imminent Official Community Plan (OCP) review. Trevor Swann, chair of the PMFL Council, has said that critical portions of the PMFL Act are inoperative for Galiano because the current OCP was adopted before the PMFL Act. Many residents are concerned that the ‘grandfather’ advantage will be erased when the new OCP is adopted.

“It’s safe to say that without a clear and unequivocal resolution to the PMFL issue, a comprehensive OCP review cannot be carried out, as community resistance will be too great,” MacDuffee said.

The majority of island voters during the last three-year term of Islands Trust endorsed the position that no legislated resolution of the Galiano Forest Lands controversy was possible without an OCP review. The former local trustees unsuccessfully attempted to pass an OCP amendment and land use bylaw without a review.

GIA has met with senior government officials over the past few months urging them to implement a section of the PMFL Act that provides a mechanism to resolve this situation. It allows the Lieutenant Governor in Council to “make regulations exempting a person, place or thing, or class of persons, places or things, from a requirement of this Act.”

Because circumstances may be different on other Gulf Islands, this current initiative applies solely to Galiano.

Pump it don’t dump it

By Howard Breen

In May 2007 federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon was expected to approve regulations for the prevention of pollution from ships.

They would legally authorize discharges of sewage sludge, blackwater and greywater effluent, incinerator ash, oily bilge and ballast waters from large commercial passenger vessels plying Canada’s inshore waterways. They will even occur within marine protected areas such as our National Marine Conservation Areas.

Million of gallons of pulverized, sprayed-with-chlorine crap is not what Canadians want off their shores.

BC citizens are urged to let Minister Cannon know that his regulations will do little to prevent cruise ship pollution and that he and Environment Minister John Baird must act immediately to jointly announce an immediate prohibition on all cruise ship discharging in Canada’s marine protected areas.

Please contact Cannon and Baird and ask them to take a stronger position on marine pollution from shipping. Let them know that Canadians treasure their three oceans and want the the Conservative government to honour its commitments to safeguard the environment.

They should be doing everything they can to end the abysmal cruise ship fleet practice of using Canadian waters as their en route toilet between two U.S. ports of call.

And if they can’t achieve this goal with the current regulations — which bundle yachts and fishing boats together with large commercial shipping vessels — they should pledge to enact new national cruise ship legislation.

Canada should adopt a regime similar to Alaska’s. It has the best statutory independent compliance monitoring (Ocean Ranger program), vessel disclosure, and enforcement in the world.

Canada’s new regulation is too timid to end harmful sewage and other effluents and emissions from the international cruise fleet traveling along the labyrinthine coastline of B.C., through grey whale migratory routes, past approximately 650 salmon spawning rivers, and over 20 threatened and endangered marine species.

We insist that the cruise industry’s free pollution pass be immediately revoked and that zero discharge become the new operating principle in new federal cruise tourism legislation.

Here’s some background:

The Canadian Marine Advisory Council (CMAC), an industry dominated consultation group crafted with Transport Canada the Conservative government’s new shipping pollution prevention regulations which will now legally authorize cruise ships to discharge sewage sludge and effluent, greywater, incinerator ash, crushed garbage, oily bilge effluent, and medical liquid wastes in Canadian waters.

There is no explicit regulatory exclusion for zero discharge within or near Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas, marine ecological reserves, and other marine protected areas, thus the integrity of the marine habitat and species of these areas are placed in undue harm by these new shipping regulations.

The new regulations are the marine effluent pollution equivalents of “intensity targets” that the Conservatives are proposing in its Green Plan for atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions. The cumulative discharge of a growing cruise fleet is not addressed.

Ocean pollution worldwide from cruise ships has fouled beaches and created a serious human health risk, contributed to lethal algae blooms, and the suffocation of sensitive ecosystems from hyper-nutrification. Where there is appropriate monitoring and enforcement in the U.S., the industry has among the highest felony fines ever imposed for recidivist environmental crimes.

Earlier in the spring of 2007 Cannon, in response to Senator Pat Carney and opposition critics in a Transport Canada parliamentary committee review, said stronger penalties and jail time awaited any cruise line that violated the new regulations. But the real statutory nature of these regulations undermines the Minister’s claims. For instance:

— Cruise Lines are not held to a ‘zero discharge’ precautionary operational principle, yet no other mode of public transit (rail, air, bus) is permitted to discharge human waste into its operating environment.

— The industry will remain largely self-reporting. Transport Canada vessel inspections are in such a sorry state that no pollution charge, let alone felony conviction, has ever occurred in Canada despite the industry chalking up some of the largest pollution felony fines in U.S. history. Most noteworthy, there is no provision for ‘in operation’ inspections at sea, only what vessel owners want inspectors to see while the vessel is moored in port.

— Cruise Lines are not expected to fit their vessels with holdings tanks large enough to permit their vessels to hold sewage sludge for shore side pump-out. Since most of the B.C. leg of the Alaska-bound route is less than twelve miles from shore, it is safe to presume that thousands of tons of sewage sludge will blanket the route each cruise season.

— In exemptory practice, vessels with so-called advanced waste systems can discharge once outside port. These vessel owners claim to treat sewage adequately for discharge. Transport Canada provides no data whatsoever to Canadians to substantiate these claims, and Environment Canada provides no studies to reassure Canadians that vessel discharges do not cause harm to sensitive habitat and species at risk.

— Provision for adequate disposal of certain contaminants, such as incinerator ash, seem to be absent from the regulations though vessels routinely burn medical, galley and other ship garbage, paint can residues, and other ship waste at sea.

— Cruise ship issues, such ocean pollution, plans for Canadian taxpayers to help finance the construction of a federal cruise ship terminal and provision of a fleet-wide, fuel subsidy and possible emission exemption from the Kyoto Treaty are certain to become hot topics in the next federal election.

(Howard Breen is former Environment Committee Chair of the Gulf Islands Alliance)

GIA’s Simple Guide to the Islands Trust

The Gulf Islands Alliance encourages islanders to know and participate in the visionary mandate of the Islands Trust. Facing pressures on the islands such as climate change and rapid growth, the Trust – a unique form of government designed to preserve and protect scenic and precious islands’ environment and communities – itself deserves preserving and protecting. We are fortunate to have one of the world’s few governments dedicated to conservation.

Here’s a quick look at the Trust (prepared by GIA):

Area and inhabitants – The Trust encompasses 13 major islands and 450 smaller islands in the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound in southwestern British Columbia. Home to 25,000 people, the Trust area attracts more than 1 million visitors annually and boasts an abundant biodiversity including many rare and endangered species.

History and Purpose – In the 1960s and ’70s, people who cared about the Gulf Islands became increasingly worried that poorly managed growth and development would one day overwhelm and ruin these islands. As a result, in 1974 the province created the Trust to safeguard ‘the Trust area and its unique amenities and environment for the benefit of the residents of the Trust area and of British Columbia generally.’ With a population growing at twice the provincial rate, the Trust continues to struggle to save the rural life and natural environment that attracts visitors and property buyers to the islands.

Structure – Every three years two trustees are elected in each of 12 island areas and in the Bowen Island Municipality, for a total of 26 trustees on the Islands Trust Council. Except for Bowen, where trustees are part of a municipal council, each pair and a chair person comprise a Local Trust Committee. Each chair is a trustee from another island area appointed by the Trust’s four-member executive committee.

Function – The Trust primarily plans and regulates land uses which must conform to the preserve and protect goals on the Islands Trust Act. Regional districts and other entities look after other local services such as roads, policing and fire protection.

Trust Council sets policies for the entire Trust area, directs staff, ensures bylaws and official community plans conform to the Trust Policy Statement, and interacts with provincial and federal agencies whose work affects the Trust area. Council meets at various locations four times a year, usually for three days.

Local Trust Committees hold public business meetings that often include Trust staff reports and land use regulations. These committees are guided by official community plans and bylaws that are reviewed for possible revisions about every five years. Changes are sent to the Trust executive committee for approval. The provincial Ministry of Community Services must also approve changes. Local trust committee meeting schedules are posted in island newspapers and on the Trust website and various community information networks and notice boards. Trustees also serve as community leaders who interact with other agencies.

Trust financing – Most of the Trust’s operating budget is from local taxes. The Trust is also funded through user charges, including application fees and provincial grants. Since the Trust started, provincial funding has dwindled from almost 100 percent to 2 percent today.

Islands Trust Fund – In 1990 the Trust created a regional land trust to work with island communities. The Trust Fund Board, through acquisitions and conservation covenants, has protects special natural and cultural features. Citizens can participate by making donations or contributing land or conservation covenants on their properties. For example, the Natural Area Protection Tax Exemption Program gives landowners on many islands a tax reduction on the portion of their property protected by a conservation covenant. See the Trust website for further information.

Get involved in Islands Trust

Elections – Having good trustees is one of the best ways to ensure that the islands are protected. If you don’t run yourself, you can still help by recruiting and electing candidates committed to the Trust mandate.

Committee and Council meetings – Comments by e-mails, letters, conversations with trustees and/or presentations at public meetings and hearings are welcomed on re-zoning and development-related applications and other land use matters brought to your Local Trust Committee. It can reject or amend any proposal before and/or during giving it three readings. Changes to official community plans or bylaws require an official public hearing. This process differs in the Bowen municipality. At quarterly Trust Council meetings, time is set aside for presentations and comments from the public. For more on how to have your voice heard, check the Trust website.

Official community plan reviews – Held approximately every five years, trustees guide these reviews, inviting extensive citizen input. Typically, citizens can participate by applying to serve on committees, by expressing views in writing and/or speaking at small group sessions or community meetings.

Bylaw compliance – Enforcement generally is complaint-based. Islanders who witness a bylaw violation can contact the Trust and speak to a bylaw enforcement officer.

How to contact the Islands Trust

Trust Website: gives the full story on Islands Trust, including how to contact your trustees. You can sign up for a subscription service to receive e-mails about the Trust.

Victoria Office:
(Serving Trust Council, overall Trust management, Islands Trust Fund, and the Galiano, Mayne, North Pender, South Pender, Saturna and Executive Islands Trust areas.)
Islands Trust
200 – 1627 Fort Street
Victoria, BC V8R 1 H8

Salt Spring Office:
Islands Trust
1 – 500 Lower Ganges Rd.
Salt Spring Island BC V8K 2N8

Gabriola Office:

(Serving the Denman, Gabriola, Gambier, Hornby, Lasqueti and Thetis Trust areas).
Islands Trust
700 North Road
Gabriola Island, BC V0R 1X3

Bowen Island Municipality Office:
981 Artisan Lane Box 279,
Bowen Island, BC V0N 1G0

Help save our precious place

Just over a year ago a handful of people across the islands launched the Gulf Islands Alliance. The organization grew out of two recent inter-islands gatherings of over 100 people each on Denman and Salt Spring Islands. Delightedly, we’re learning just how much people love and yearn to maintain the island environment and rural communities. We want to appreciate and encourage the remarkable talent and wisdom of these people.

The Gulf Islands Alliance is also learning that many community challenges are similar across the islands. We share information and strategies to meet these challenges. Our mission supports the mandate of the Islands Trust to ‘preserve and protect the Trust Area and its unique amenities and environment.’ The Trust was formed in 1974 and specially structured to recognize and keep the Gulf Islands as a unique and fragile treasure among the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

Because the islands are near major and expanding urban populations and vulnerable to intolerable damage from unplanned growth, the Alliance constantly reminds island trustees and Trust staff of their vital role and responsibility to honour the conservation goals of the Islands Trust Act.

The Gulf Islands Alliance believes that many people across the political spectrum view themselves as stewards of this beautiful place and want to protect it from harm.

Problems such as water contamination, forest clear-cutting and poorly planned subdivisions are often easy to identify. It’s more difficult to show how little abuses, such as bylaw breaches, can gather momentum and lead to unwanted results. With thoughtful planning and management, the downsides of growth and change can be avoided. Here are some popular misconceptions that, if believed, discourage essential public participation:

Misconception: There are no threats to the Gulf Islands.

Reality: The Gulf Islands are too attractive for their own good. Without land use precepts that carefully shape and limit growth, the serenity that attracts people here will disappear.

Misconception: The Islands Trust is weak.

Reality: This myth diminishes respect for the Trust’s noble goals and good efforts. The Trust must work harder to explain its purpose and authority. Some complain when their land-use ambitions are foiled by the Trust’s preserve and protect obligation. Some even agitate for a conventional municipal government with greater allegiance to economic interests. The Alliance commissioned a legal opinion that tells trustees that they are trustees, more than politicians, and their actions must comply with the spirit and letter of the Trust Act. Although the Trust has been criticized for lax bylaw enforcement, closer examination reveals that enforcement often founders on poorly-written or poorly-interpreted bylaws.

Misconception: There are more deserving things that need our attention.

Reality: Promoting peace and good health in distant places doesn’t excuse us from serving our community. Having a peaceful island neighbourhood inspires us to be better world citizens.

Misconception: What happens next door is none of my business.

Reality: Official plans and bylaws express each community’s vision. They interpret and give force to the Trust Act. By insisting on sustainability and separating incompatible land uses, they are instruments of civility. Just as you have the right not to breathe polluted air, you have the right to quietly enjoy your home in the islands free from disruption.

Misconception: I can’t make a difference.

Reality: Mother Teresa said ‘we can do no great things ­ only small things, with great love.’ Telling others of your love for these islands is a small thing that will make a positive difference. You may have thoughts about how to help preserve and protect this very special place. People listen and act on good ideas, especially ones from caring, thoughtful people. Just as it’s sensible to maintain your car, the islands need your attention.

If you haven’t done so already, the Alliance invites you to become part of a growing community of people who are actively working to preserve and protect the Gulf Islands’ unique and wonderful environment and communities. We welcome you to join us and become a member of the Gulf Islands Alliance.

Christine Torgrimson
Chair, Gulf Islands Alliance (2006 to 2008)