Comox Valley Students ‘Stand up, Fight Back’ for Climate Action

Comox Valley Students ‘Stand up, Fight Back’ for Climate Action

Gavin MacRae photos

By Gavin MacRae

A jovial yet determined crowd of student strikers and adult supporters over 250 strong marched through downtown Courtenay Friday, to demand action on climate change.

The protest started with a rally at Courtenay City Hall.

SEE MORE COVERAGE OF THE YOUTH CLIMATE MARCH HERE

The crowd cheered as speakers said it was time to “stand up and fight back” against fossil fuel interests and insufficient government action.

“We are here today under a unified cause to protest climate change,” said Nalan Goosen, a co-organizer of the event.

Speaking through a megaphone, Goosen said investments in the tar sands and other fossil fuel infrastructure make Canadian banks culpable for climate change.

To showcase this, the demonstration traced a serpentine route through the downtown to pause and protest at CIBC, Bank of Montreal, and Scotia Bank.

Outside CIBC the crowd chanted, “No more coal, no more oil, keep the carbon in the soil!”

At Bank of Montreal the rallying cry was, “What do we want? Climate Action! When do we want it? Now!”

Finally, the Scotia Bank received, “Corporate greed we must fight, polluting earth is not a right!”

The crowd also made a stop at the office of MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard, where she and MP Gord Johns spoke with the demonstrators.
Both politicians gave short impromptu speeches on the importance of protecting the environment.

Students put questions to Leonard and Johns about increasing climate education in the school system, protecting old-growth forest and marine areas and fighting the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The answers met with some applause, and Goosen said he was hopeful Leonard would bring the demonstrators’ concerns about old-growth logging to Doug Donaldson, BC’s Minister of Forests. Goosen was also hopeful Johns would echo the students’ concern over the climate crisis in Ottawa.

The protest ended with a return to City Hall.

Students said all but two schools in Comox and Courtenay were represented among the protesters.

“The turnout was amazing,” said Mackai Sharp, a co-organizer of the protest. “The last two events had under 35 people.”

Sharp and Goosen are leaders of the Comox Valley-based Youth Environmental Action, which planned the protest. The group has a separate arm for adults named Adult Allies for Youth Environmental Action.

”This will not be our last protest, said Goosen. “We don’t have very long to solve the climate crisis, so this movement of youth empowerment is essential to our health and survival.”

Gavin MacRae is the assistant editor of Watershed Sentinel, which is a publishing partner of Decafnation

 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Decafnation newsletter.

More Civic Journalism Project | Environment
CVRD responds to 3L, racist comment denied

CVRD responds to 3L, racist comment denied

Regional District CAO Russell Dyson says a Human Rights Tribunal settlement agreement entered into by the CVRD and Kabel Atwall includes a clause that Area C Director Edwin Grieve did not make any racist comments

 

Comox Valley Regional District Chief Administrative Officer Russell Dyson issued an official statement Tuesday, Oct. 30, in response to a lawsuit filed by 3L Developments. The lawsuit, which came shortly after the CVRD denied the company’s application to amend the Regional Growth Strategy, asks the court to set aside the CVRD’s rejection among the multiple court orders it is seeking.

In his statement, Dyson reveals that in a settlement of a Human Rights Tribunal complaint, Area C Director Edwin Grieve denied making any racist remarks about 3L executive Kabel Atwall. The agreement, which includes a confidentiality clause, states “Grieve did not make any such comments,” according to Dyson.

The most recent 3L lawsuit claims Grieve did make such comments, which prompted the CVRD to respond.

Here’s the full text of the CVRD’s statement.

“On October 18, 2018 the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) was served with a petition to the Supreme Court of British Columbia that was filed by 3L Developments Inc., which is seeking nine court orders linked to the CVRD Board’s October 2, 2018 decision to deny the company’s application for a Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) amendment in order to create a new settlement node.

“The CVRD’s solicitors are actively reviewing the petition and accompanying materials and preparing to defend this claim. The CVRD has been committed to a fair, transparent process for the application and will continue to be respectful towards the court process and applicant’s options moving forward.

“Part of the petition filed by 3L Developments Inc. refers to an agreement that was reached following an allegation made to the Human Rights Tribunal in 2014.

“The CVRD received a complaint in January 2014 through the BC Human Rights Tribunal that Director Edwin Grieve, a CVRD Director, had made racist remarks about Kabel Atwall, 3L Development’s representative. The CVRD entered into a settlement hearing to respond to the allegations.

“Director Grieve refutes the claim that he made any such statement. The CVRD and Kabel Atwall entered a settlement agreement, which included a confidentiality clause and a clause confirming that Director Grieve did not make any such comments.

“Generally speaking, decisions to enter settlement agreements are oftentimes made to minimize spending public funds, come to terms with the individual who may have been impacted, allow the parties to move forward, and focus attention on delivering public services, ​as opposed to defending against such claims that could cost taxpayers significantly more money than a settlement agreement’s costs.

“The Human Rights Tribunal dismissed the complaint in May 2014. As the agreement contained a confidentiality clause, the CVRD intends to uphold the spirit of that clause and not discuss the matter further.”

Court will allow opposing evidence in Mack Laing case

Court will allow opposing evidence in Mack Laing case

A BC Supreme Court has granted the Mack Laing Heritage Society intervenor status in the Town of Comox’s application to alter the naturalist’s public trust. MLHS hopes the new council is open to out-of-court discussions

 

This article was updated Monday to include a quote from Mayor-Elect Russ Arnott

There’s renewed hope that the fate of famous Comox naturalist Hamilton Mack Laing’s public trusts and his heritage home, called Shakesides, might be settled out of court.

Over the objections of the Town of Comox, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas W. Thompson recently granted the Mack Laing Heritage Society intervenor status in a case to alter the late naturalist’s public trust.

The town applied to the court in 2017 to change Laing’s trusts so it can demolish Shakesides and use the money and property Laing left the town for other purposes. The Mack Laing Heritage Society (MLHS) has opposed the town’s application.

In a court hearing Oct. 16 in Nanaimo, Justice Thompson said he thought he had given clear instructions to the town and the BC Attorney General in mid-April to sign a consent order allowing the MLHS to present their evidence “with no restrictions” at trial.

The town has refused to sign several versions of the consent order because they want to exclude much of the MLHS evidence and limit the society’s time before the court.

This time, Justice Thompson directed the parties to sign a consent order, which he framed for them, and instructed MLHS lawyer Patrick Canning to write.

As of today, the Attorney General and MLHS have agreed to the terms, but the Town of Comox has not yet accepted the order as written.

The MLHS hopes Comox will sign the consent order soon. And, now that the municipal election is over, perhaps enter into talks that prevent further costly court appearances.

“We think the court did the right thing in making MLHS (an) intervenor, and if we get to court we have faith that the right thing will happen there as well,” said MLHS President Kris Nielsen.

“However, our true hope is that the new council will work with us instead of against us to realize the terms of Laing’s will, which Comox agreed to when they took his money in trust. To that end we have a business plan and generous support from many construction and heritage professionals.” he said.

Comox Mayor-Elect Russ Arnott has left the door open for talks.

“Given that there is a new council it will be something we will be looking at. I would hope to negotiate a suitable outcome for all parties involved and the community as a whole,” he said.

FURTHER READING: Read more on the Mack Laing case 

The justice also granted additional time for the MLHS to present new evidence, despite objections from the town and the AG. He gave MLHS until Oct. 30 to file the new evidence and gave the town and the AG until Nov. 30 to file responses.

MLHS has prepared a business plan for restoring Shakesides and transforming it into the nature house envisioned by the famous Comox naturalist. The plan includes commitments from about two dozen Comox Valley construction companies to supply materials or labor at little or no cost to the town.

“We just wanted to make sure someone spoke for Mack in court,” said Gordon Olsen, a former friend of Mack Laing. “And we hope Comox doesn’t waste any more taxpayer dollars on this unnecessary litigation. Instead let’s honour the legacy of this amazing and generous man.”

There is no court date set to hear the case. It would not likely get onto the Supreme Court docket until February at the earliest.

Nielsen said that delay gives the society and the town an opportunity to hammer out a solution by the end of the year.

Background

The Town of Comox has petitioned the court to vary the terms of Laing’s trust, including the right to demolish the famous ornithologist’s iconic home, called Shakesides. The society wants to present a business plan for a future use of Shakesides that honors Laing’s agreement with the town.

The society also wants a forensic audit of the Laing financial trust.

MLHS has argued for years that the town mishandled Laing’s funds. A private citizen, Gordon Olsen, commissioned an independent audit by a Campbell River firm that concluded Laing’s trust should be worth more than $400,000 today.

The town has admitted to claims by the MLHS, individuals and other organizations that it had misspent Laing’s money. In a Nov. 29, 2017 staff report, Town CAO Richard Kannigan presented a long list of inappropriate expenditures.

In December 2017, the Town Council voted to add back nearly $200,000 into the trust.

Meanwhile, the town has racked up additional legal fees by fighting the MLHS.

Who is Mack Laing

Hamilton Mack Laing (1883-1982) was one of Canada’s foremost naturalist-collectors; he was a photographer, artist, writer and educator whose output included over 700 journal and scientific articles.

He wrote a biography of his friend Major Allan Brooks, another well-known Canadian naturalist.

Laing left several unpublished manuscripts, journals and field notes, and hundreds of letters, papers and photographs. These are available for viewing at the Royal BC Museum, the Winnipeg Archives and the Canadian National Museum of Natural History.

Specimens he collected are still in the collections of many major Canadian and American museums.

Mack Laing belonged to the Brotherhood of Venery, a secret fraternity known as the “B.” This influential group of conservationists and naturalists included such notables as Percy Taverner, Kenneth Racey, J. B. Harkin, Ian McTaggart Cowan, John Muir and Aldo Leopold.

 

Area A candidates meet with Royston voters

Area A candidates meet with Royston voters

Candidates Daniel Arbour and Jim Elliott positions seem similiar

By Norm Prince

Area A candidates Daniel Arbour and Jim Elliott are on a four stop tour of the Comox Valley Regional District’s (CVRD) Area A, with scheduled meetings in Denman Island, Royston, Hornby Island and ending up at the Union Bay Hall at 7:00 pm on Oct.15.

Saturday’s Royston meeting had over 50 citizens in attendance, giving up part of their sunny afternoon to listen to and question both candidates. There was a twist to this all candidates affair, the moderator was ill, and there was no one willing to take his place, so both candidates were running the show, alternating recognizing questions from the floor.

From the opening statements, two things became apparent, especially if you read the responses to Decafnations’ questions to Rural Directors. Elliott has been busy with research and has answers to those questions he wasn’t able to respond to in the survey, and there are very few differences in their positions on many of the issues. That was pointed out more than once from members of the audience trying to decide who to support on Election Day, Oct. 20.

While many of the questions raised were specific to Area A, there were some Regional wide issues raised for candidate’s positions.

Development in the Comox Valley was raised more than once, both candidates supported the CVRD’s decision around the development at Stotan Falls, with both calling for developers to be paying the bills on the necessary infrastructure, and not passing those costs off to the local citizens.

Elliott said that in “all his years working for the CVRD, he never saw taxes go down after a new development went ahead.” Around the same issue, both called for the protection of watersheds, though they did have different approaches, Arbour would spend the time working with Island Timberland, moving them toward no logging in regulated areas, while Elliott indicated that the CVRD should write bylaws to protect the watersheds.That seemed to be Elliott’s line in the sand, watersheds need to be protected, and if necessary, he’d stand in front of logging equipment to insure the protection of those areas.

P3 projects were raised as part of the failed referendum over a sewer system to replace the septic fields that populate all the communities in Area A. Neither of them supported the concept, but indicated that the CVRD should work with the Union Bay developers to expand their sewer service, and should continue to work with the K’ómoks First Nation in the development of their Area A properties.

Again, the positions were very similar, and both agreed that there had to be a reasonable costed solution for the sewer system. Neither one of them wanted to see the sewer outfall in Baynes Sound.

Open burning and wood stoves were also raised as problems, and while both agreed that there had to be some changes, neither one called for a ban on wood stoves. Both agreed there had to be curb side pickup of garden waste to control the yard burning, both admitted that they had to conduct further research around the issue of industrial burning.

On the issue of residential wood burning, they both supported the replacement program in place, and felt that through education and retrofitting older homes, there would be less wood stoves in use. Both referred to replacement programs, but were thin on details.

Both Elliott and Arbour wanted to see the Island Corridor protected, with options to develop as a trail system for both pedestrians and bicycles. Though Arbour didn’t rule out a rail option in the future as the Island’s population grows.

Plastic pollution in Baynes Sound was raised, and here the positions were somewhat different to get the same result. Elliott was very clear that the shellfish industry had to take responsibility for the pollution, and if they didn’t, the CVRD should bring in Bylaws forcing them to take responsibility for the clean up. Arbour looked at the problem as “a canary in a coal mine” and if we didn’t take care of the Sound, we’d lose those shellfish jobs. He’d work with the industry and First Nations through the CVRD.

Problems with the new hospital were raised, but both of them indicated that they didn’t have the expertise to come up with a solution without more research.

As the meeting wrapped up, both candidates were pushed to come up with some differences in their approaches. Both had just outlined how they’d organize at the grass roots level to listen to their constituent’s concerns.

Arbour pointed out his success on Hornby Island, and Elliott, his experience stick-handling the water agreement in Union Bay. They outlined the difference as being one of approach to the issue, with Arbour saying he always looked for ways to bring people together,” and had to “be pushed really hard” to lose that focus. Elliott’s approach was more to taking a stand, persuading the group to his position. Consensus waters down the solution to any problem.

Lasting almost 90 minutes, the meeting ended on a sour note.

Members of the audience raised the issue of negative statements being sent via emails and statements by door knocking supporters of candidates. Both candidates quickly supported each other, indicating that any messages sent out would be signed by them, and from their accounts. Both stated that they couldn’t control what others said, but anything they organized hadn’t focussed on any negative statements about the other candidate.

Norm Prince lives in Royston and a contributor to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project.

City abandons 21st Street bridge, airpark leases still contentious

City abandons 21st Street bridge, airpark leases still contentious

PHOTO: Andreas Ruttkiewicz and student pilot land an ultralight at the Courtenay Airpark. Ruttkiewicz runs the Air Speed High Ultralight flight school at the airpark.

Courtenay abandons 21st Street river crossing thanks to Mayor Jangula, but city staff and council temporarily ground his proposal to give long-term certainly to airpark business owners at Monday’s meeting 

 

This article was expanded Tuesday (Aug. 21) morning to add a response from the Airpark Association suggesting that Councillor Lennox made an erroneous statement regarding the airpark’s tax status.

Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula took a conciliatory approach Monday night to concerns raised by members of the Airpark Association and successfully landed a unanimous agreement from council to abandon all discussions of a third river crossing at 21st Street.

But his attempt to address the larger issue of the airpark’s long-term viability crashed on takeoff.

A city proposal for a road through the airpark leading to a bridge through Hollyhock Marsh, and staff comments that all airpark leases would be converted to a month-to-month basis, has angered Courtenay Airpark Association members and aviation business owners.

FURTHER READING: Courtenay mayor fails to assuage airpark  closure fearsCourtenay airpark touts its economic, lifestyle benefits; Battle brewing over city’s transportation master plan; City bridge proposal would harm airpark, Kus-kus-sum

They see the two issues as an attempt by the city to shut down the airpark.

Jangula tried to calm the airpark association’s fears last week, but his comments fell short.

This week, Jangula stepped down from the mayor’s chair to clarify his position with a motion that City Council officially abandon all consideration of a bridge at 21st Street. It passed unanimously.

Then Jangula tackled the bigger issue and proposed that the city offer the Airpark Association and aviation businesses 25-40 year leases on the city-owned property.

That got applause from the standing-room only audience, but less support from city staff and several council members.

Chief Administrative Officer David Allen derailed Jangula’s intentions to give the airpark immediate long-term assurances by suggesting council wait for city staff to do a report on the viability of offering long-term leases.

Councillor Doug Hillian made a motion to direct staff to do such a report, preferably by the Sept. 4 meeting, which passed, but not without some hesitation by councillors David Frisch, Rebecca Lennox and Hillian.

Hillian said council has “a responsibility to consider the implications of long-term use of city-owned properties.”

Frisch and Lennox seemed more reluctant in their comments. At one point, Lennox even referenced the Airpark Associations “tax-free status,” which is an erroneous statement, according to association president Morris Perrey.

“She is totally wrong,” Perrey said. “The businesses pay land taxes and lease fees and all the fees that every business pays, all the city insurance costs, everything and the city still gets their fees.”

Perrey said because the Airpark Association is a society and not supposed to pay taxes, the city charges the association fees in lieu, which have increased about 15 percent in the last five years.

Earlier in the meeting, Frisch appeared opposed to taking a 21st Street bridge off the table, although he ultimately voted in favor.

“We still have to move people around,” he said, referring to growing traffic congestion around the 17th St. and Fifth St. bridges.

CAO Allen said one of city staff’s strategic priorities for 2016-2018 is to assess city-owned land, and they have already identified several properties to start the review. He said it would be a “long and rigorous” process, and that discussions have already taken place in-camera.

Besides Jangula, two other council members, Bob Wells and Hillian, apologized to Airpark Association members.

Hillian called the public document showing a bridge through the airpark a ”mistake.”

Wells apologized for “the angst, stress and uncertainty we’ve put people through.”

He said the city acted without full consideration of how the 21st Street crossing proposal impacted the aviation community.

CAO Allen said the bridge proposal was never expected to be a fait accompli, and a staff member said the idea arose from the public consultation process about the city’s transportation plan.

That staff member termed the consultation process a “success” because it got the strong reaction from the Airpark Association. That comment caused eye-rolling murmurs among the audience.

Finally, Jangula made a motion to break from the agenda and let Airpark Association spokesman Dave Mellin speak and respond to the council discussion so far. That required a two-thirds vote, which it received, with Lennox and Frisch opposing it.

Referring to the uncertainty of short-term leases, Mellin said jobs and job security were on the line. Up to 90 people are employed at the airpark, depending on the season.

He said several business expansion plans have been stalled by council’s lack of clarity, and that five-year leases are of no value to the aviation businesses seeking long-term security.

“People are hanging out on a limb here,” he said.

 

Courtenay mayor fails to assuage Airpark closure fears

Courtenay mayor fails to assuage Airpark closure fears

PHOTO: Dave Mellin inspects a de Havilland Beaver float plane being reconstructed at International Aeroproducts Inc., a widely known business in the aviation community located at the Courtenay Airpark

Courtenay Airpark Association members say City Council members don’t fully appreciate the depth of their concerns and were disappointed Mayor Larry Jangula didn’t “clear the air” and give them unequivocal support

 

The Courtenay Airpark Association told its story to City Council Tuesday afternoon, of how the aviation community benefits the community, as a means of ferreting out the city’s long-term intentions for the Airpark.

But council members either didn’t fully comprehend the association’s concerns or they are not as committed to preserving and supporting the Airpark as they were when writing the 2016 Official Community Plan (OCP).

Courtenay Airpark Association (CAA) President Morris Perrey hoped the meeting would give aviation business owners and private aircraft owners clarity about their future. Fears that the city is trying to close the Airpark run deeply through the association, and among pilots around the B.C. coast who use the airport.

He was disappointed that didn’t happen because of what appears to be a disconnect between council and city staff.

Council apparently thought the issue was only a third crossing proposal that would dissect the Airpark, when the real issue is what association members perceive as a broader, coordinated scheme of small steps to squeeze the Airpark out of existence.

FURTHER READING: Who is trying to close the Airpark?

In response to a presentation made by Dave Mellin on behalf of the CAA, several council members downplayed the so-called “Option B” in the proposed 2018 update to the city’s Master Transportation Plan.

That option shows a third crossing that runs a road through the Airpark and a new bridge through the middle of a provincially protected wetlands in the heart of the K’omoks Estuary, known as Hollyhocks Marsh.

Council member and mayoral candidate David Frisch said the 21st Street crossing idea was not much more than an arrow on a map.

“I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves here,” he said, referring to, in part, the concerns of an overflow crowd of Airpark supporters spilling out of the council chambers.

Councillor Doug Hillian said he was as surprised as the association’s members to learn about the 21st Street proposal, and said he had no intention of jeopradizing the Airpark or the estuary.

“Sometimes mistakes are made,” he said. “This is one.”

Council members kept their remarks brief so Mayor Larry Jangula could read a prepared statement, which he prefaced by saying it would answer all their concerns.

Except it didn’t.

Jangula addressed the third bridge crossing by saying it was only a study and that no part of the plan, including the 21st Street bridge, would become reality without extensive stakeholder process and council’s approval.

But he did not say that “Option B” was off the table.

And he added a claim that no commercial or private tenants on the Airpark had been converted to month-to-month leases. The city was merely trying to align all the various leases to expire at the same time for administration efficiency.

That caused rumblings in the audience and prompted Mellin to contradict the mayor.

“We have several people in the audience who are on month-to-month leases now,” he said. “I can have them come up (to speak).”

It was obvious the council had misjudged the mood of the CAA and its supporters.

“The mayor had an opportunity to clear the air and put this to rest,” said Dave Bazett, a land surveyor who owns a building in the 21st Street path and hangars two aircraft that he uses for his land surveying business. “But he didn’t do it.”

Bazett said association members wanted to hear council say they will protect and encourage growth at the Airpark, as per their OCP, and “despite what pilots may have heard from staff, council supports you.”

“Instead, we got a rather aggressive statement (from the mayor),” Bazett said, adding that it seemed like Jangula was blaming staff for the disconnect.

And Bazett said in an earlier private phone conversation with Jangula, the mayor said the Airpark was going to get developed sooner or later.

Decafnation asked Jangula about that conversation, but he has yet to reply. 

Several association members pondered whether city staff was going in a direction of shutting down the Airpark without the full consent of a divided City Council.

CAA President Perrey said that Courtenay Chief Administrative Officer Dave Allen told him, with two other association members present, that all leases were going on a month-to-month basis when their terms come up.

Allen is currently on summer vacation.

From the association’s perspective the monthly leases, the bridge proposal, denials of commercial building expansion and construction, red tape that has stalled float plane ramp reconstruction and other issues all add up to an effort to close the Airpark.

Perrey said the CAA didn’t get the clarity and unequivocal support they had hoped from City Council.

“This is going to be an election issue, for sure,” he said, reiterating a statement Mellin made during his presentation.

FURTHER READING: Battle brewing over transportation plan; City bridge proposal would harm Airpark, Kus-kus-sum