PKols sign-Mt Doug, Victoria, BC

Atop Mount Douglas—PKOLS—Victoria, BC.

When University of Victoria anthropology and computer science students joined forces in 2011 with the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group out of Ladysmith and local Elders to develop a video game, they were furthering the concept that names confer power and presence.

In the game, players embark on a virtual journey through Coast Salish landscapes, and explore uses of the land, historic place names, and traditional knowledge through video, audio, maps and photographs. Based on an earlier board game developed by the treaty group, the game serves as a step towards reclaiming culture, history, and presence in the region.

It followed two significant events in which First Nations cultural geography on the coast was reclaimed. In 2009, B.C.’s Queen Charlotte Islands were officially renamed Haida Gwaii as part of a historic reconciliation agreement between the province and the Haida Nation, and in 2010, the coastal waters off the province’s south coast became known officially as the Salish Sea.

Last year, the progression towards reclamation took another step. Local First Nations publicly proclaimed PKOLS as the original name of Mount Douglas, a site of cultural significance. They held a ceremony on the mountain, and commemorated the mountain’s deep roots in their history with a carved cedar sign near the summit. They have submitted a formal request to B.C.’s Geographic Names Office to have the old name reinstated.

They also announced plans to reclaim Mount Newton within their historical and cultural geography of place names. The mountain, or ȽÁU,WELNEW (place of refuge) is sacred as the site where the Saanich people escaped a great flood about 10,000 years ago.

Names are much more than mere labels. They signify culture and history. They indicate relationships and responsibilities between people and provide glimpses into long-held knowledge. They denote connections between people and places.

Benign or otherwise, renaming causes what existed before to be filtered through a new lens. It can obscure prior relationships, and even erase them….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Pathway from Mildred Street to Wilkinson slips between backyards.A little-known network of shortcuts and passageways knits many of the region’s urban areas together.

These connecting pathways—they’re too short to be called trails—pass unobtrusively among municipalities’ houses and yards. They stitch residential streets to other residential streets, quiet parks to formal trail systems, seemingly dead-ends to pedestrian-only exits, and neighbourhoods to crescent beaches or rocky shorelines. They wind through neighbourhoods, linking a person’s travels into lines and loops through local urban geography.

Each of the region’s municipalities treats these access points and rights of way differently. Some, like Saanich, glory in their abundance, and chart their locations like chicken scratchings on trail maps. Some municipalities, like Victoria, make the most of the few no-vehicle passageways that century-old urban planning and decades-old development have left them, and have worked them into formal walking and even lazy-day cycling loops. Some municipalities keep quiet about them, leaving local explorers to scrutinize municipal maps for faint lines and other signs that may—may—indicate the little-used laneways amidst the bolder cartographic connections.

Regardless of whether they’re published or not, most of these passages seem to remain neighbourhood secrets, known primarily to those who live alongside them.

In fact, these rights of passage could be seen as rites of passage….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

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Colquitz Creek home-oil spill containment, May 2014. All rights reserved.

The B.C. government is seeking public comment on a proposed preparation and response system to protect the province’s environment from land-based hazardous spills.

It’s all part of Premier Christy Clark’s five conditions for blessing any new pipeline development through the province. As such, the proposed initiative currently focuses on industrial-scale transportation of heavy oil via pipeline or rail.

However, if fully implemented, the system will benefit B.C. even if the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects do not proceed. The system applies to spills of any hazardous material that could affect terrestrial environments, including lakes, wetlands, creeks, and coastal shorelines, regardless of where the spill originates.

This means it would apply to spills such as those that occur repeatedly along our own urban salmon stream, Colquitz Creek….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Owners of properties that are the source of hazardous spills are responsible for costs of containment, cleanup and remediation. All rights reserved.

Young girl in nature. Photo © Julie Morris,

Nature schools are popping up like mushrooms around here. The preschools and kindergartens immerse kids in local parks and green spaces for half-days and full-days at a time. The kids play outside. They stay outside. They learn about plants and animals, they look at bugs and pond critters, they make friends with trees.

Colwood’s Sangster Elementary program started the trend. Parents have even camped out overnight to register their children in the program.

Saanich’s preschool at Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary started September fully booked, and takes advantage of nature programs offered by sanctuary education staff. The Cridge Centre also started a nature preschool this year. Kiddie Kapers operates out of Commonwealth Recreation Centre, and Victoria Nature School runs out of Mount Doug park and Gordon Head Recreation Centre.

Programs like these put the kinder into the garten — the child into nature. They capitalize on the benefits of being active and outdoors on kids’ mental, physical and emotional health and development….

Read the rest of this editorial in the Victoria Times Colonist….

Child on park boardwalk. Photo © Richard Step,

Spring greens grow. Photo by James Mann,

As a child of Depression-era children, I experienced the annual toil of backyard gardening early on. Mostly reluctantly, and only because the alternative to spending summer Saturday mornings outside among the lettuces, carrots and beans was spending that time scrubbing toilets and cleaning the weekly hairball out of the shower drains.

Despite the eloquent persuasiveness of that choice, no under-18s in the household at that time considered weeding a privilege.

Now, however, older, wiser and much busier, we each find ourselves spending time mucking around in the dirt to grow our own fodder. Our kitchen gardens range from year-round herbs for seasoning, to seasonal salad fixin’s, to more ambitious items like vegetables and fruit.

Just having the time to muck around is a treat.

It also helps that produce you produce tastes better. Even a little garden parsley and rosemary in soup creates freshness for the taste buds. Potatoes, peas, corn and carrots cooked and eaten within minutes of being picked exist in taste categories on their own.

There’s also the feeling of moral superiority and self satisfaction of getting the ultimate scoop on the 100-mile diet. Footprints from garden plot to soup pot: 20. Carbon footprint: Zero.

You can’t get much more local than that.


Read the rest of this editorial in the Victoria Times Colonist


Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable

Forget the hundreds of millions of cherry blossoms in Victoria right now: the first wildflowers of the year are blooming on Knockan Hill Park.

Shooting stars, Knockan Hill Park, April 4, 2013

Shooting stars, April 4, 2013

Sea blush, Knockan Hill Park, April 4 2013

Sea blush, April 4 2013

Satin flower, April 4, 2013

Satin flower, April 4, 2013

Satin flower, Knockan Hill Park, April 4, 2013

Satin flower, April 4, 2013

Fawn lily, Knockan HIll Park, April 4 2013

Fawn lily, April 4 2013

Eastern grey squirrel, photo by TexasDarkHorse, flickr

When Nature Boy took down the backyard thicket of Himalayan blackberries, he gave little thought to what would come after.

Thousands of broom and Daphne laureola seeds that had lain dormant for decades sprouted. Ivy and periwinkle quickly spread into the gap.

These plants have no place in the ready-made Garry oak meadow Nature Boy envisioned. Quick to grow and become established, these species handily outcompete native sea blush, camas and ocean spray.

That’s what invasive species do. They reproduce easily and spread in new environments. They alter ecosystems within the new territories in unpredictable ways, often causing harm.

Continue reading….


Sources for this post include:

Saanich invasive species strategy process

Saanich Pulling Together program

Capital Region Invasive Species Partnership

B.C. Barred Owl cull

B.C. Spotted Owl info


Victoria Times Colonist, December 15, 2012—Before I moved to Saanich, I never thought a person could suffer from sidewalk envy.

But here I am, living on a somewhat busy street in a neighbourhood that shed its last rural traces decades ago. On one side of the street, a ditch drains stormwater and runoff. On the other side, a narrow, raised ribbon of asphalt separates a strip of tarmac from the roadway.

That strip is the sidewalk. It’s usually adequate. Thanks to “no parking” signs on every power pole, nobody parks on it for long anymore, but during storms, entire sections become rivers. Its narrowness forces users to step into traffic when they meet oncoming pedestrians.

city non-sidewalk, by Jay-P at

Kids and parents troop up and down that strip to the schools at the end of the street every school day.

I’m thankful for this bit of pedestrian-only tarmac, yet every time I step out my door and head down the hill, I covet the sidewalks of Oak Bay and Victoria—concrete sidewalks, sidewalks raised inches above real gutters, lining most streets, lining both sides of streets….

In the 2012 CRD Regional Pedestrian and Cycling Masterplan, which despite its title is largely about cycling, the authors state one of the reasons they don’t identify pedestrian-trail networks in the document is that most municipalities in the region lack detailed information about sidewalks, curb let-downs, and marked crossings.

Indeed, great disparity in pedestrian information and facilities exists here. Esquimalt, with its 2007 Pedestrian Charter explicitly committing the township to developing pedestrian facilities and networks, is a high point. Oak Bay and Victoria do well by their walkers, as well. View Royal also has some lovely pedestrian boulevards.

And then there are large areas of urban Saanich. The municipality is playing catch-up on decades of residential development that omitted sidewalks. Every year, engineers and crews now retrofit a few more kilometres of raised, curbed walkways along busier streets.

The masterplan’s authors provide a second reason for not dwelling on pedestrian matters: pedestrians tend to walk locally—on local streets, through local parks, to nearby banks, libraries, shopping—and in combination with other forms of transportation—to and from bus stops, bike racks and parking lots. With such foot-traffic patterns, the authors say, pedestrian-related efforts should focus on developing access to regional services, centres and transportation hubs.

That would be helpful.

However, among the 10 percent of regional residents identified as regular pedestrians, a small but significant number of people regularly walk four, five or six kilometres across entire municipalities twice a day to get to offices or appointments. I know individuals who walk or used to walk to work from near Oak Bay Village to Blanshard Street, from near Macaulay Point to the Inner Harbour, from Hillside Avenue to Cook Street Village, and from Carey Road to Fort Street. Why are people like these discounted?

It’s strange to live in a community where something so fundamental as walking is overlooked. If pedestrians in the region feel disenfranchised, well, they are.

It sometimes seems dogs, with their impassioned owners, have a greater voice around here than pedestrians do.

The region’s foot soldiers could learn from the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, formed in 1992 to advocate on behalf of cyclists. Instrumental in developing the Galloping Goose Trail, the organization is now providing input into the E&N Railway Trail. It actively solicits members for participation and comment on cycling-related issues and initiatives such as the Pedestrian and Cycling Masterplan and on road-safety improvements to routes such as the Shelbourne Street corridor and Admirals Road. It is involved in Bike to Work Week, it offers regular safety clinics to area cyclists, and helps keep cyclists’ interests on each municipality’s agenda.

Way to go! The coalition has earned its successes through hard work and clear vision.

So, pedestrians of Victoria, in these dark days of the year when your own are being injured and killed in marked crosswalks and fingers are being pointed and wagged at you, consider this: Are you upset enough with the current state of pedestrian matters to unite your disparate selves, find your collective voice, and begin advocating for your own safety, rights, interests and needs?

Including sidewalks.



A version of this article appeared in the Victoria Times Colonist.