B.C.’s 150th anniversary provides an opportunity to right a historic wrong

B.C.’s 150th anniversary provides an opportunity to right a historic wrong

B.C.’s 150th anniversary provides an opportunity to right a historic wrong

BY PAUL MANLY, MP

As 2020 draws to a close, it’s become a cliche to say that it’s a year to forget. But we would be remiss if we did not recognize the progress we made this year as people took the time to reflect on the things that really matter. As COVID-19 shut down our world and the dramatic political divisions south of the border came to a head, we spent more time contemplating the changes needed to build a more compassionate, peaceful society.

In particular, one of the bright spots of 2020 was a much wider acknowledgement of the need to address systemic racism. We must now look for every opportunity to address our own history of racism and advance tangible reconciliation.

As the 150th anniversary of B.C. joining the Canadian confederation approaches in 2021, our federal government has an opportunity to advance reconciliation with First Nations on Southern Vancouver Island, while also protecting local drinking watersheds and endangered species, and fostering sustainable economic opportunities.

The negotiation of modern treaties in our part of the province is impeded by the lack of Crown Land due to the historic E&N Land Grant. The grant, which disregarded the rights and title of all First Nations in the area, is a legacy of B.C. joining the confederation. As part of the deal, the government awarded coal baron and government minister Robert Dunsmuir more than 20% of Vancouver Island, two million acres of land, along with $750,000. In exchange, Dunsmuir built the E&N railway, completing the rail link between Canada’s provincial capitals.

Today, the remaining undeveloped land is at risk due to logging and the potential sale of mineral rights. Local watersheds have come under threat from these activities, with communities being forced to invest millions on filtration and treatment plants to maintain their access to clean drinking water. Unsustainable development and resource extraction also threaten fish estuaries and animal habitats. Restoring the land to local First Nations could be done in a way that prioritizes vital conservation efforts, while also providing sustainable economic opportunities including selective forestry, recreation and tourism.

There are already programs in place to make this happen. The federal government has committed to protecting 30% of our natural areas by 2030 through Canada’s Nature Legacy program. A key part of this commitment is the creation of Indigenous Protected Conservation Areas (IPCAs), which fall under the jurisdiction and authority of the local First Nations.

Through a First Nations-led process the government could acquire a minimum of 30% of the existing forest lands that were privatized under the E&N land grant and place them under the jurisdiction and control of the affected First Nations. Land acquisition could focus on the critical habitat around rivers, watercourses and catchment areas for community drinking watersheds, with special consideration given to placing community drinking watersheds under co-management between First Nations and the cities and towns that rely on the water supply. Under the successful Land Guardian program, co-management could be coordinated between First Nations within the Hul’qumi’num, Kwakwaka’wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth territories of the land grant region.

The acquisition process could include the use of carbon offsets, land transfers, tax incentives and cash purchases to assemble the land. User fees generated by recreational use of the lands for activities such as camping, rafting and kayaking company tours, and parking fees for day use could also help fund ongoing land management through the Land Guardian program.

The acquisition of a portion of the E&N lands as IPCAs would be a significant step towards advancing reconciliation on Southern Vancouver Island. It can be done in a way that advances other goals that are important to Islanders, like protecting wild salmon, conserving the habitats of endangered species and preserving biodiversity, while also ensuring our communities have access to clean drinking water and outdoor recreation. This ‘rise together’ strategy has environmental, social and economic benefits.

If we take one lesson from 2020, let it be that honouring our history means looking at it with clear eyes. If we forget the full reality of our history, we are doomed to repeat it. So, what better way to celebrate the anniversary of our province joining the Canadian confederation than to address the historic wrong that was perpetrated as part of it? If we do, we can move forward together as a more just and sustainable province.

Paul Manly is the MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith. He wrote this version of his op-ed column for Decafnation.

 

 

MORE ABOUT DUNSMUIR AND THE LAND GRANT

A rail link between Nanaimo and Victoria had been planned as early as 1873, but no serious effort to start construction was made until December 1883 when the province transferred to the federal government sufficient crown lands for the project. To safeguard control of the island’s economic future, and prevent the possibility of the Northern Pacific Railroad gaining the contract, many businessmen and politicians urged Robert Dunsmuir to build the line.

Dunsmuir was reluctant to accept the task, thinking it of little benefit to his colliery operations. He submitted a proposal to the Canadian government, however, and despite the severity of his terms he emerged as the sole acceptable alternative to foreign builders. After much shrewd bargaining in Ottawa Dunsmuir agreed to construct the railway in return for a subsidy of $750,000 in cash and a parcel of land comprising some two million acres – fully one-fifth of Vancouver Island. Significantly, the land grant came with “all coal, coal oil, ores, stones, clay, marble, slates, mines, minerals, and substances whatsoever in, on or under the lands so to be granted.”

He received also all foreshore rights for the lands, all mining privileges (including the right to mine under adjacent seabeds), and the retention of all coal and other minerals taken from the land. Additionally, as contractor he was permitted to cut whatever timber and erect whatever structures he saw fit to build the line. To promote settlement, provision was made for the sale of farmlands to homesteaders at one dollar per acre. Squatters of at least one year’s residence were allowed to buy up to 160 acres, and those settlers with title were allowed to retain their holdings, but virtually all else would go to the contractor in right of performance.

It was, in short, a major give-away of British Columbia’s natural resources.

— From the website, Biographi

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Comox Valley receives $9.251 million to offset COVID-19 pandemic economic impact

Comox Valley receives $9.251 million to offset COVID-19 pandemic economic impact

The new Comox Valley Regional District offices in Courtenay  |  file photo

Comox Valley receives $9.251 million to offset COVID-19 pandemic economic impact

By George Le Masurier

The Comox Valley has received more than $9 million as its share of British Columbia’s Safe Restart Grant Program.

The province distributed $425 million under the federal Safe Restart Agreement to B.C.’s local governments. This federal/provincial funding is designated to support the reopening and operational costs of facilities along with funding local emergency responses. The province allocated funds to each of British Columbia’s municipalities and regional districts.

The City of Courtenay has received $4.149 million. The Town of Comox received $3.067 million. The Village of Cumberland received $1.312 million. And the Comox Valley Regional District received $723,000. In total, the Comox Valley received $9.251 million.

The CVRD board allocated its $723,000 to a variety of uses at its board meeting this week.

Emergency operations preparedness and community support – $200,000

Promoting local food security and supporting vulnerable populations through the Comox Valley Community Foundation – $100,000

Information technology resilience to support safe work, public engagement and effective service delivery – $100,000

Rural fire department support for increased preparedness and personal preparedness equipment – $40,000

Unallocated BC Safe Restart grant program funds, totalling $283,000, will be retained for future considerations as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the region. Unallocated funds would be primarily dedicated to the following projects: recreation services, rural community hall support and food aggregation and promoting local food security

“We are thrilled to see grant funding being delivered to the community level,” CVRD Board Chair Jesse Ketler said in a news release.. “Each local government received funding to invest back into community recovery and resiliency as we navigate these challenging times. At the CVRD we are focusing our efforts on supporting vulnerable populations, promoting food security and improving resiliency to deliver the services residents use daily.”

 

 

 

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Catch an Awe-Inspiring Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on December 21st

Catch an Awe-Inspiring Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on December 21st

Photo Caption

Catch an Awe-Inspiring Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on December 21st

By George Le Masurier

By DAVID DICKINSON, Universe Today

Dozens of planetary conjunctions grace our skies every year, as two planets seem to pair up as seen from our Earthly vantage point. Many are speedy affairs, as fast-moving inner worlds such as Mercury and Venus lap the sky, visiting the Moon, planets and stars along the ecliptic.

What’s more unusual is to spy a pairing up of the two slowest moving naked eye outer planets, Jupiter and Saturn. That’s just what happens next Monday, as Jupiter meets Saturn on the December 21st solstice. The two worlds will appear to be just 6.1 arcminutes (’) apart at ~18:00 Universal Time (UT) (1:00 PM EST), 30 degrees east of the Sun.

Though the two largest planets in the solar system lap each other once a generation (roughly once every 20 years), this conjunction is especially close: in fact, it won’t be topped until March 15, 2080 (6.1’). You have to go all the way back to July 16, 1623, to find one closer (5.2’ apart), though that particular conjunction was much lower in the sky and much more difficult to spot, at just 13 degrees from the Sun.

The last easily visible pairing of Jupiter and Saturn topping this year’s conjunction was on the morning of March 5, 1226 AD.

Though the timing of its closest approach favours longitudes centered on Europe and Africa, you can see the two getting closer night-by-night worldwide this week, going into this weekend. In fact, Jupiter and Saturn will remain less than one angular degree apart (easily close enough to hide behind your pinky at arm’s length) until December 30th, and closer than 30’ (the angular diameter of a Full Moon) from December 17th to the 25th.

The two planets will almost seem to touch on the evening of the 21st, though in reality, the two gas giants are 883 million kilometres (548.7 million miles) apart. Jupiter shines at magnitude -2, while Saturn is just seven times fainter, at magnitude +0.6. The razor-thin waxing crescent Moon just misses occulting the pair by three degrees on the evening of Wednesday, December 16th. (photo-op!)

Be sure to crank up the magnification, as you’ll have the rare opportunity to fit both solar system gas giants in the same field of view. You’re looking at over 90% of the planetary mass of the entire Solar System, right in one convenient view. Jupiter is 33 arcseconds (”) across on the night of the conjunction, while Saturn is 36” (with rings) from tip-to-tip. Be sure to check out the respective retinue of moons for each as they slide by one another in the sky.

Looking back from the local vicinity of Saturn, you’d see Jupiter slide just 7’ past the Earth, with both just three degrees from the Sun.
17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler placed great significance in the conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn. Kepler was the last great astronomer who also subscribed in part to the archaic practice of astrology, and he scrutinized at length what he termed as the ‘great conjunctions,’ or repeating patterns of conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn returning to the same astrological house every 60 years.

These ‘trines’ or triads of great conjunctions held great sway over Kepler’s thinking, leading him to suggest that the Star of Bethlehem was related to a close pairing of Jupiter and Saturn in 7 B.C. in Pisces the Fishes, a sign long associated with Judaism.

This year’s conjunction occurs on the border of the modern astronomical constellations of Sagittarius and Capricornus. With the conjunction falling just a few days before Christmas, expect the annual discussion of “what was the star of Bethlehem?” to come to the fore once again… though biblical and historical references to the actual event are so scant, we’ll probably never truly know for sure.

 

Looking Into the Far Future

Can Jupiter ever occult Saturn? Well, we looked at 20,000 years worth of conjunctions (it’s what we do for fun) and found 58 close (less than 10’ apart) conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn over 200 centuries, with only 11 in the 2000 year span from 1000 AD to 3000 AD… but only 5 that are closer than the conjunction in 2020.

Close (less than 10′ apart) conjunctions of Jupiter vs. Saturn over the span of 2000 years, from 1000 AD to 3000 AD. Credit: Dave Dickinson

One especially intriguing event ‘may’ occur on (mark your calendars) June 21, 7541 AD, when Jupiter may actually occult (pass in front of) Saturn. This will certainly pose a bizarre spectacle, as the moons of the two intertwine, and Jupiter dons Saturn’s rings!
We say ‘may’ because the precise position of the planets over extremely long periods of time are subject to tiny gravitational perturbations from each other, and those minuscule effects do add up to a small amount of uncertainty when we look out over tens of thousands of years.

To be sure, there’s not much in terms of scientific value behind next Monday night’s conjunction, but the spectacle offers a wonderful opportunity to show off the two worlds at the eyepiece, while we contemplate the clockwork universe and how it provides us with such rare views across time and space.

Fraser Cain, a Comox Valley native, is the publisher and founder of Universe Today, one of the world’s leading websites on outer space. It is headquartered in the Comox Valley.

 

 

 

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CVRD starts the process to create a regional parks service, it could take until 2022

CVRD starts the process to create a regional parks service, it could take until 2022

Graham Hilliar and Jen Alton examining trees tagged for logging in the Bevan Trails Recreation Area  |  George Le Masurier photo

CVRD starts the process to create a regional parks service, it could take until 2022

By George Le Masurier

With the possibility of losing several important large parcels of recreational land to logging, the Comox Valley Regional District this week moved a step closer to establishing a regional park service.

During its Dec. 15 meeting, regional directors voted to start what could be a lengthy process to create a regional parks service.

They directed staff to undertake a $25,000 background study and report back to the board.

A regional parks service that is funded by the entire Comox Valley would create the increased capacity to purchase large parcels of land, such as the 3L Developments Inc. property near Stotan Falls and the Bevan Trails Recreation Area higher up on the Puntledge River.

The only active parks service in existence now applies exclusively to the rural electoral areas and is funded by residents of those areas.

The vote occurred after directors heard a presentation from CVRD Parks Manager Mark Harrison on the history of parks services, the difference between regional and community parks and the benefits of creating a regional parks service.

In 1971, the then-Comox Strathcona Regional District developed a regional parks service that was funded in both 1972 and 1975, but the money was ultimately redistributed to the participating municipalities because directors could not agree on which parks to fund. The bylaw became dormant.

Harrison’s presentation offered the board several options for reactivating.

The first option would undertake a background study to include input from municipalities and the K’omoks First Nation, It would review best practices, funding models, examine local parks and greenway plans and more.

It’s a process that staff indicated could take until 2022 to re-activate the dormant parks service bylaw.

But several directors did not want to wait that long.

They preferred a second option to convert the dormant service into an active bylaw first and then engage the municipalities and KFN later. That would have enabled the regional district to start funding and possibly pursuing parkland more quickly.

“It (a regional parks service) is long overdue and the time is now,” Area C Electoral Director Edwin Grieve said. He urged directors to take a leadership role.

Area A Director Daniel Arbour agreed. “We’ve had 50 years to think about this,” he said.

But the rest of the directors voted to accept the staff recommendation with an understanding that it be completed as soon as possible.

 

BENEFITS OF A PARK SERVICE

Parks Manager Harrison told the board that the pandemic has shown the importance of natural areas for mental and physical health and social engagement. But, he said, it has also revealed the deficiencies in the existing parks service.

One of the deficiencies is a lack of clarity over what constitutes a community park versus a regional park service.

A community park service, he said, primarily benefits the rural areas that exclusively fund and operate them. A regional service benefits the whole region and is funded by all taxpayers in the Comox Valley.

Harrison said if the regional district chooses to collaborate and reactive a regional parks service it could accomplish many goals.

He said regional parks could consist of trails that connect our core communities. It could protect natural assets in perpetuity and make it possible to acquire large parcels of land that in the Comox Valley are often held privately.

A regional parks service could help combat climate change, enhance tourism. It would protect traditional recreation lands and the integrity of watersheds.

“These are all really good and just goals,” he said.

Harrison pointed to successes by other Vancouver Island regional districts that already have regional parks services. He noted the Englishman River park that includes a conservation area. The Elk and Beaver lakes areas in the Capital Regional District and the Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails.

In the Cowichan area, the regional district has protected swimming pools along the Cowichan River and created an extensive trail system for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

“It takes cooperation from a whole community to achieve some of these types of parks that are regionally significant and benefit the region as a whole,” he said.

 

CONSERVATION GROUPS SUPPORT

The 26 organizations of the Comox Valley Conservation Partnership and their thousands of individual members have encouraged the regional district to activate a regional parks service.

Speaking to the board on behalf of the partnership, Tim Ennis, the executive director of the Comox Valley Lands Trust offered to collaborate with the regional district because “we can achieve more together.”

He noted the Lands Trust and the regional district have worked successfully together in the past on projects like the Tsolum River Commons and the Morrison Creek Conservation Area. In the latter project, the regional district provided a third of the funding and the Lands Trust secured the remainder from sources within and outside the local community.

“A regional park service could expand our capabilities,” he said.

Ennis noted that there are several front-burner conservation opportunities before the community currently that could only be accomplished through collaboration. He said CVCP members have extensive experience and that they were available to help.

 

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More Government | Latest Feature

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The Week: We toss together the COVID virus, vaccine promises and new grimmer predictions

The Week: We toss together the COVID virus, vaccine promises and new grimmer predictions

You can’t travel to Tofino or Ucluelet to watch winter storms. But you can visit the Goose Spit  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: We toss together the COVID virus, vaccine promises and new grimmer predictions

By George Le Masurier

These last few weeks of 2020 may be the most confusing of a year when reality and insanity got tossed in an unappetizing and emotionally unhealthy salad.

Here we are, counting down the days to Christmas, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day and New Years with a longing to celebrate with family and friends. But we can’t. The COVID-19 virus is spreading faster than it did in March and April when public health orders locked everyone at home and turned our streets into ghost towns.

But we are also euphoric that science has produced effective vaccines. Is the world as we used to know it just around the corner?

These competing developments might create a strong temptation to take a sneak peek into our lost world over the holidays. Just a quick visit with family. Travel off this island rock. Invite some friends over — just our safe six — for some holiday cheer.

We’re so close to being liberated from our pandemic prisons and releasing our pent-up desires that some of us are already gnawing at the bars of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s cages.

So what’s the harm in bending the rules just a little? The vaccines are coming.

What the harm?

Well, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington predicts that new COVID infections and deaths will get much worse over the next few months and that vaccines won’t provide any relief until later next spring.

The IHME predicts COVID-related deaths will triple in Canada by April 1, 2021. The number of Canadians dying every day will quadruple into mid-February.

And the prediction gets grimmer. In British Columbia, COVID deaths will increase by 10 times! Daily deaths will leap to six times current levels until peaking some time in January.

Why will this happen? Because despite Dr. Henry’s tighter restrictions through Jan. 8 and her pleas for people to wear masks and keep a safe physical distance many of us can’t help ourselves. We’ll cheat a little and justify it because we’ve suffered for so long.

Also, our province has the lowest mask compliance (61 percent) of any province in Canada. Anti-masking demonstrations by groups of morons don’t help either.

Don’t you just marvel at people who, in the face of a worldwide pandemic that will eventually kill more than three million people, are able to conjure up some version of scientific rebellion or machismo? The virus won’t hurt me, “I’ve got west coast logger blood.”

If the death rate isn’t alarming enough for these people, maybe they should think about the long-term effects of a COVID infection.

Recent studies have discovered that 50 percent to 80 percent of people who survive COVID symptoms continue to suffer unexplained ailments — fatigue, body aches, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, inability to exercise, headache and difficulty sleeping.

There’s a new name for these people: Long Haulers.

Doctors don’t know yet how long these ailments will last. A few months, a year, several years? We won’t know until they stop, if they ever do.

And, so far, the BC Health Ministry doesn’t mention Long Haulers in their reports nor does Dr. Henry in her daily updates. But these unfortunate victims of the pandemic will be suffering long after the rest of us receive our vaccinations.

So, don’t be confused. Don’t be lured into thinking you can bend Dr. Henry’s public health orders. Don’t gather with family members that don’t live with you. Or friends. Or travel anywhere.

Stay home, wear a mask and rejoice, not just in the spirit of whatever religious holiday speaks to you, but in the knowledge that with a little caution, you can get through this infectious nightmare.

 

Should British Columbia restrict access to people who don’t take the COVID vaccine? In lieu of making vaccination mandatory, Ontario plans to issue a certification document to those who have been vaccinated.

People without proof of immunization may not be allowed to travel or enter communal spaces, such as cinemas, performing arts centres, art galleries or other public spaces.

Will that policy face a human rights challenge? Possibly, but by giving people a choice, the province makes it clear that there are consequences for potentially endangering other people’s lives.

 

Thank you, MP Rachel Blaney, for challenging Transport Canada’s order prohibiting passengers from remaining in their vehicles during BC Ferry sailings if parked on a closed deck.

That order never made sense to us. Why force people into situations that increases their exposure to the COVID virus?

In a letter to the ministry, Blaney questioned “the value and logic of using ministry resources to process and potentially punish people who are simply doing their best to follow public health orders and keep their contact with others to a minimum.

 

Does the Comox Valley need a regional parks service? Electoral Area A Director Daniel Arbour appears to think so.

At the regional district board’s meeting on Oct. 27, Arbour made the motion (second by Area C Director Edwin Grieve) to direct staff to present a draft property acquisition policy to fund a regional parks service. That report is expected at next week’s CVRD board meeting.

Meanwhile, the Puntledge River Forest Protection Society made an excellent presentation to the regional board this week.

 

A European art world magazine, Metal, recently featured a story about up-and-coming artist Andrew Moncrief, who was born and raised in the Comox Valley.

Moncrief’s solo and group work has been exhibited throughout the world, and recently at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. He was a finalist for Canada’s Salt Spring National Art Prize last year and won a Canada Council grant for the Arts on his first try. He is currently contemplating launching shows in Germany and other parts of Europe.

It’s an insightful and personally revealing article. Here are a few excerpts:

METAL: How much of your early life and adolescence in Canada helped shape you as an artist? Are there any memorable personal experiences or other artistic influences that inspired your approach to painting and drawing, or that motivated you to pursue a career as an artist?

MONCRIEF: As far as I can remember, I was always doing something artistic or crafty. I grew up with a mother who was extremely creative and a father who was dexterous. In order to keep me occupied as a kid, my mom used to plunk me down on the counter with crayons, pencil crayons, construction paper, scissors, and I would just make things.

I definitely owe this to my parents and I definitely think I got a solid balance of artsy creativity from my mother, and I can safely say that I owe my work ethic to my father. He was a logger who built four family homes himself; he was always building or fixing, even on the weekends. He had a love of pouring concrete and could never sit still. I definitely am the same though – less the concrete. My mom was extremely creative or crafty, as she would say, we were always doing artsy things after school from as far as I can remember – painting rocks, clay pots, pieces of wood that were laying around the many construction sites that I grew up in.

Briefly, I am mostly consumed with issues of identity, queer identity, masculinity, body dysmorphia, and the internal struggles in reconciling what these mean to me personally, and my struggles with accepting myself as a gay man growing up. I first started my Bachelor of Fine Arts at North Island College in my hometown, and then eventually landed in Montreal in 2009, where I was subsequently accepted into Concordia University’s Painting & Drawing program in 2010.

Drawing by Andrew Moncrief

 

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