There are six candidates running to become the next two Island Trustees for Gabriola in the next Local Government Election, on October 15, 2022.
The Sounder will be doing a weekly Q&A with the candidates.
1. How relevant is the current OCP to Gabriola now that the Declaration on The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) was adopted as a framework by Trust?
Tobi Elliott: Our OCP doesn’t mention First Nations, Indigenous cultural heritage or our responsibilities under the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA). A review is needed to ensure that land use planning is aligned with DRIPA to protect Indigenous right and title, cultural heritage sites, and First Nations knowledge as a framework to preserve and protect the land and ecosystems.
Erik Johnson: We are merely paying lip service to the UNDRIP and DRIPA. (Decisions on Gabriola and Salt Spring are proof of that). Our OCP has no current policy in regards to Truth and Reconciliation (T&R). I support the process of a ‘new’ Islands Trust Policy Statement being adopted and adding Council T&R policies to our OCP. I would broaden consultation with the whole community instead of just special interest groups.
Wendy Kotorynski: The OCP does reflect our mutual goal of preserving and protecting the special nature of Gabriola but falls short in including Reconciliation principles in the policies. These should be added throughout including overlay mapping to identify potential heritage and cultural sites. The Gabriola LTC has passed the Reconciliation Standing Resolution but a review of engagement processes for OCPs and bylaw changes should be undertaken.
Wayne Mercier: The OCP makes no provision for “control by indigenous peoples over developments affecting them and their lands, territories and resources” or the “urgent need to respect and promote the rights … affirmed in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements”. Our community is faced with cultivating a relationship that has suffered from neglect and contempt. We can’t speak nation to nation if we can’t speak neighbour to neighbour.
Lisa Webster: The OCP reflects the relationship that former LTC’s and protocol agreements created with Snuneymuxw First Nation. It doesn’t demonstrate a reflection of the Nation’s aspirations and interest and has limited ability to meet the intent of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. FN climate change concerns are absent from the OCP, as consultation has been lacking to date.
Susan Yates: Gabriola’s current OCP needs to be updated as soon as possible in order to honour Trust Council’s Reconciliation Declaration and Reconciliation Action Plan. Adhering to DRIPA includes working with First Nations throughout an OCP review. Whether this work is done separately or as a priority with a full OCP review will be determined by the Gabriola LTC working with Council, staff, First Nations, and budget considerations.
2. And a Declaration that we are in a climate emergency?
Tobi Elliott: The last time the OCP was comprehensively reviewed was 1997. We need to engage the community to update our OCP to include climate change adaptation, sea-level rise, increasing pressure on water use and requirements, long-range planning to support diverse housing and resource-use models, and increased protection of the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem.
Erik Johnson: Our current OCP acknowledges that climate change is acerbated by human activities. That is a fact worldwide, but we can minimize our On Island contribution to the problem by first keeping our population growth within carrying capacity. I support a moratorium on the creation of new densities. I would not support downsizing the Large Lot Residential properties to shift their accessory densities into urban concept housing.
Wendy Kotorynski: Provincial legislation requires local governments including the IT to have targets to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and include policies and actions to achieve targets in OCPs. Language and policies in our OCP that reflect climate change issues from an Indigenous perspective should be reviewed and updated and we should review development permits to include language on greenhouse gas emissions, water resources and energy conservation.
Wayne Mercier: The Declaration matters much less than the emergency. The current OCP has undergone no substantial revision in decades. The vision statement: “Gabriola is a peaceful, diverse, safe, rural community in harmony with a protected, natural environment. “ describes a world that is gone. Rigid structures break under stress and our plans must include more flexibility if we are to adapt.
Lisa Webster: The OCP contains Section 8 – Climate Change Adaptation and Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction, so is not lacking in initiatives, nor, in definable goals; however, the OCP does not reflect an adaptive management approach for assessing its ability to produce intended results, so its relevancy is limited as a response to ‘crises’.
Susan Yates: We live in a particularly sensitive ecosystem which has been severely and rapidly altered by human settlement during the past few decades. The climate crisis must be considered with every land use decision we make. All of us, everywhere. I believe that the 2 most important Declarations made by Trust Council over the past decade were made on Gabriola, in March 2019: one for Reconciliation and one for the climate emergency, both with Action Plans.
3. Given the potential scope involved for the OCP/LUB to be reviewed, how do you see any forward work being done to review and update the OCP/LUB? Also recognizing that Mudge and Decourcy islands have their own OCPs/LUBs also needing a review.
Tobi Elliott: Each Trust Area will go through an OCP review to update policies in the light of climate change and DRIPA legislation. If Executive Committee doesn’t approve funding for an OCP review for Gabriola, I would nevertheless engage in strategic planning of critical projects early in the term so there is a coordinated effort to get the work done.
Erik Johnson: The Islands Trust Act requires that “a bylaw cannot be approved ….if contrary to or variance with the Islands Trust Policy Statement”. I would not call for an OCP Review this term. Our partial OCP review was in 2018, and it pertained mainly to housing policies. Our current OCP is robust enough to make a complete revision redundant, until the adoption of the Islands Trust Policy Statement. The Governance Review Consultants recommended that a Trust Area should have only one OCP and LUB.
Wendy Kotorynski: For Mudge and Decourcy, first priority is citizen consultation to identify needs and issues. With all OCPs, we should concentrate on reviewing most pressing issues first. Housing is pressing on Gabriola. Our OCP already contains policies to permit co-op housing, tiny home communities, and other types of multi-family affordable housing for low and moderate-income residents, but specifications for these and definition of affordable need to be reviewed.
Wayne Mercier: The most important forward work we can do is to recognise in practice the perils we face, and the legacies of accumulation and exploitation which prevent us from addressing them. The Local Trust Committee can advocate, facilitate, organise, and coordinate but if the community does not take responsibility for its own engagement no plan can be adequate to the day. It’s up to us.
Lisa Webster: Dedicated staff with experience in Indigenous Relations to lead community education throughout the Local Trust Area must come first. Consultation bodies, beyond elected leadership, with residents and members of the FN’s could set the stage for the identification of shared priorities and direction of the OCP’s.
Susan Yates: Given the scope of an OCP/LUB update for Gabriola, I would press for both to be done as a special project (OCP first, immediately followed by LUB) with support from the Trust’s Regional Planning Services so that the best tools are applied from a true planning perspective. Every delay of a revised OCP/LUB results in reactive responses to development applications, which rarely serve the community or the mandate of the Trust well. Ditto for Mudge and Decourcy Islands.
4. What role do you think the IT has in preserving and protecting Indigenous cultural heritage sites?
Tobi Elliott: Trustees must exercise political will to ensure First Nations cultural heritage sites are respected in practice, as they are protected under law and through agreements. The protocol agreement between Islands Trust and Snuneymuxw First Nation details the IT’s responsibilities and measures we must take to protect Indigenous cultural heritage here.
Erik Johnson: Once identified, the Local Trust Committee can rezone to protect Indigenous cultural heritage sites that are outside the proposed 1000 acres slated to become Treaty Settlement Lands within the Snuneymuxw First Nation. Zoning can be and must be a “Preserve and Protect” tool, in complete partnership with our First Nations stakeholders and the people of this Island.
Wendy Kotorynski: IT has a strong role in achieving this goal through honoring the Declaration commitment to engagement principles and information sharing protocols for inclusive land use decisions. Specifically, continuing the collaboration initiative with First Nations to understand the importance of cultural heritage sites and through the utilization of Heritage Preservation Overlay Mapping to ensure bylaws and regulations and the development permit process will protect known or potential cultural and heritage sites.
Wayne Mercier: I think that the obligation of the Islands Trust to preserve and protect Indigenous cultural heritage sites is best met by building strong relationships of trust with the living and resilient cultures of First Nations within the Trust area. We cannot preserve and protect that of which we are ignorant. In this we have a long way to go, and many amends to make.
Lisa Webster: Under existing Reconciliation commitments, IT can demonstrate leadership, in conjunction with FN’s, by developing policies and programs to educate about and fund concrete efforts to preserve and protect these sites. An authority role exists within LTC bylaws which can centre biocultural resources in decision-making and potentially active create protected spaces.
Susan Yates: The entire Trust Area is in Coast Salish territory, unceded lands where over 28,000 Coast Salish people live, and have lived throughout the Salish Sea and A’tl’ka7tsem (Howe Sound) for at least 14,000 years. If we care about protecting the natural environment or lessening our ecological footprint, respecting First Nations culture is crucial. The Trust must address the inequity between serving development and preserving a cultural heritage whose foundation is stewardship.
5. What ways do you think IT can work with First Nations to collaborate on ecological stewardship projects?
Tobi Elliott: My dream is that the Trust co-develops ecological stewardship practices with First Nations – if there is interest – to mitigate impacts to designated park land, trails, shoreline, waters and cultural heritage sites. The Trust should be supporting capacity-building with Nations, using a holistic approach to ecological stewardship on the Islands.
Erik Johnson: We like to think we are listening to First Nations concerns, but pick and choose what ‘ecological Stewardship’ we want them involved in, then decide in advance what the outcome should be and what our timeframe is. First Nations are suddenly bombarded from all sides with land use referrals. The Trust must be patient, respectful and mindful. When effective, Islands Trust mandate of “Preserve and Protect” models traditional FN values.
Wendy Kotorynski: IT has responsibility, having adopted the Reconciliation Declaration, to create opportunities for knowledge-sharing and furthering community understanding through partnering with Indigenous Leaders to share Indigenous Ways of Knowing as it pertains to preserving and protecting the Gulf Islands. To help protect the natural environment under our OCP, IT should invite elders to various LTC meetings, and work together on initiatives such as naming, territorial acknowledgments, and climate change planning.
Wayne Mercier: There are at least 30 distinct First Nations in the Trust area. In general the Trust should work to develop nuanced ecological policy by means that respect and incorporate indigenous ways of knowing. Regionally, this means building consultative processes which include Indigenous voices from their inception. Locally it means balancing settler property rights with the need to consider deeply “how everything is connected and relates to one another.”
Lisa Webster: The IT needs to ask First N’s what projects are important to the Nations. Understanding where First Nations and LTCs share priorities will ensure greater collaboration. Projects proposed and initiated by First Nations have a greater success rate. IT can prioritize funding and advocating for funding for these projects.
Susan Yates: Collaborating with First Nations on ecological stewardship will occur if the Trust is true to its Reconciliation Declaration and Action Plan. Engaging with First Nations is not the same as consulting with them. I am encouraged by 2 good examples of collaboration: the Inlailawatash work on Heritage Overlay Mapping – a strong beginning for preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, and the work that the Trust Conservancy is doing with First Nations across the Trust Area.