September 2016

Too Little Too Late

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First Published on September 28, 2016 Written by Neryl Poole, LL.B.

The municipality recently released a ‘closing summary’ from the Ombudsperson’s office, concluding a complaint launched three years ago by a Bowen resident.  The complaint originated as a result of the 2011-2014 Council’s actions when making decisions behind closed doors about the dock applications at Cape Roger Curtis.  The summary closes this file and dismisses the complaint, but not without reminding Council and the municipality about the importance of openness in public decision making.  The failure on the part of Council at the time to be open about their decision-making around the dock applications resulted in the eventual approval of four docks.  These eyesores mar the “pristine coastline” of the Cape (quote from The Cape on Bowen Development Co. website).

The Ombudsperson complaint focused on a number of decisions of the previous Council relating to the dock applications.  In my view, one of the most significant decisions made by that Council was the decision to close a meeting on June 25, 2012. The information presented to that closed meeting, and an open debate with the public listening and responding, might have influenced Council to take a stand in clear opposition to the docks.  We only knew that Council discussed the dock applications at that closed meeting because of a brief press release issued soon after the meeting.  The press release merely stated the resolution to allow the docks with conditions but gave the public no idea as to why Council made that resolution.

What we did not know, as it was not released until one year later as a result of a Freedom of Information request, was that the municipal head planner had issued a report outlining the reasons for opposing the dock applications and recommending that the municipality communicate its clear opposition to these docks to the Province.  This report cited the environmental protection covenants along the coastline, the provisions in the Official Community Plan for protection of the Cape, the designated park area with public access to the beach, and the longtime public enjoyment of that coastline, etc.

The importance of releasing this report at the time when Council was debating the issue cannot be overstated.  The public had a right to know that its municipal staff had communicated to Council clear justification to oppose the docks, and that the planner was recommending this as a course of action.  This was not legal advice and therefore did not justify its non-disclosure to the public.  Council could still have chosen not to oppose the applications but if the meeting had been open to the public, the public might have understood the reasons why.

The Ombudsperson’s closing summary refers to the municipality’s process as “generally reasonable” and goes on to state that the Community Charter “provides significant latitude for municipal councils to decide whether or not some subjects will be discussed in a meeting that is open to the public.”

The Ombudsperson concludes that the Municipality “appears to” have been authorized to close those meetings to the public and states “We discussed with the Municipality some best practices with respect to the implementation of the open meeting provisions in the Community Charter and drew attention to a guide produced by this office.”  The Council of the day was not following best practices.

Why was this significant?  As many of us remember, there was considerable public opposition to the dock applications.  This opposition was met by statements from Council that they had “no jurisdiction” to do anything about the docks, and that the decision to issue tenures lay solely with the Province.

Why do we know these statements were wrong?  The grassroots ‘stop the docks’ protest group took the initiative to commission an independent legal opinion from an expert municipal lawyer.   This opinion demonstrated that the municipality had the legal jurisdiction to oppose the docks – it simply chose not to.  Not surprisingly, we now have a B.C. Supreme Court decision (Dong v. BIM 2016 BCSC 553), emphasizing that Council does have jurisdiction over docks, stating that the docks bylaw enacted by the current Council is consistent with the Official Community Plan and upholding the docks bylaw that now prevents any future docks at CRC.  Further, Mr. Justice Punnett emphasized that the provisions of the OCP were consistent with prohibition of docks at CRC, stating at paragraph 58: “The prohibition of docks is not incompatible with the objectives and policies . . . of the Official Community Plan.”  Bowen Council had the power, and we had an OCP that provided clear policy guidance to support this community’s opposition to the docks.

So too little, too late – but we still do not know why the previous Council did not oppose the docks.   We are left with the visible evidence of the previous Council’s failure – the broken docks at CRC scar the landscape and cannot be used.  Perhaps nature will have the last word with these docks.

Addendum:  B.C. Supreme Court heard a second case, Zongshen v. BIM  on Sept.1 and 2.  Decision reserved.  Zongshen, an investor in the Cape, abandoned the challenge to the docks bylaw and argued for the right to construct a dock on lot 14, next to the lighthouse.  More wasted, valuable time and public money that could have been avoided if the previous Council had exercised its jurisdiction to do the right thing and oppose the docks when the applications were made.

More Stories from Caring Circle


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First Published on September 14, 2016 Written by The Caring Circle

This article comes to follow-up Caring Circle’s article in the June Bulletin.  You may already know about some of our more visible activities like the Driver’s Program and our partnership in the Lunch Program.  We hope that you will watch for the launch of our Befriending Program this fall.    Caring Circle was founded to help people navigate the health care system.  Often this work is not visible except to those individuals and families whose lives are affected.  The following stories may help you to understand some of the positive impacts our work has in people’s lives.

One young woman in her early 20’s, who has had difficulty with ADHD, was becoming increasingly distressed around her inability to find meaningful work off the island. Caring Circle did some research and found an organization in North Vancouver that meets with people with disabilities.  They did an assessment of this young woman’s skills and interests and matched her with a job in the creative arts. She now has the first secure job she’s had in many years and she is delighted. Needless to say, so are her parents.

An elderly man was hoping to be discharged home from hospital despite his frailty and lack of family to tend to his care. Some close friends created a team of volunteers to support him and came into Caring Circle to get a sense of what needed to be in place to make this discharge occur comfortably and safely.  Caring Circle connected them to a local psychiatrist (who agreed to manage his care on island) as well as to paid companion support people, housecleaners, garden help, medical equipment, home grocery delivery, a private occupational therapist to make the house “walker ready”, and information about setting up an emergency fall button. Caring Circle also guided them to VCH home nursing support and the Geriatric Outreach Team in order to give them professional oversight around this pending discharge. His friends are relieved that he is able to return home and be their neighbor and that they can share the responsibility for looking after him with the network of professionals and care workers on the Island.

A very elderly woman and long time Bowen resident had become increasingly socially isolated. With much encouragement from a relative she finally agreed to attend a Community Lunch.  Once there, the Caring Circle Program Director helped others at the luncheon connect with this old friend whom many had not seen for years. Since that first lunch, this woman has continued to attend regularly and she now has a small circle of friends who visit with each other regularly.

A middle-aged man was very emotionally fragile after receiving a new and unusual cancer diagnosis. He came into Caring Circle just wanting to talk. When asked if he wanted to see a professional about his anxiety and depression, he wondered if it was possible to talk to another man who had the same diagnosis and was going through what he was going through. The Caring Circle Program Director called the B.C. Cancer Agencies’ Counselling Department and found a Counsellor whose work focused on this particular kind of cancer. That Counsellor in turn, found a man in Vancouver who had the same diagnosis and could act as a peer support person.  These connections supported this man through a long and difficult treatment regimen. He came into Caring Circle many months later to report his progress and to express how critically important it was to connect to psychological support through the BCCA’s Peer Support Program and without Caring Circle direction, he would not have known about this program.

These are just a few of the many ways that Caring Circle has supported Islanders. Since opening our doors three years ago, Caring Circle has had 1063 requests for support in accessing health or social services.

KKN AUCTION in support of Caring Circle:  As with every non-profit organization, funding is always a challenge and we are thrilled that the Knick Knack Nook Re-Use- It Society has chosen Caring Circle as the recipient of the proceeds of their large bi-annual auction. We feel truly honoured and want to acknowledge all the KKN volunteers who contribute to this Auction throughout the year.

Please put the Caring Circle KKN Auction date in your calendars now – OCTOBER 15th at Cates Hill Chapel.  And if you have any items of value that you no longer want but would be willing to donate to Caring Circle, please drop them off at KKN and tell them you would like them to be put aside for the Fall auction.

Please visit us at Caring Circle anytime Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 10 – 4 p.m. We’re behind the Library in the back room of the Heritage Cottage.

Phone 604 947-9100  – website:  www.caringcircle.ca

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