Thursday, December 07, 2006

A New Lowe

From sewage treatment to a safe injection site, how Victoria's "business friendly" mayor became more progressive

By Andrew MacLeod, Monday Magazine, November 23-29, 2006

He once banned bongos from the downtown core, but these days you're more likely to hear Alan Lowe drumming up interest for a safe injection site. Or lending his support to activists pushing the sewage treatment debate.
When engineer and environmental activist Stephen Salter went knocking on doors in Sweden to research how best to extract resources from our sewage, for instance, it was with a letter of introduction from Victoria mayor Alan Lowe in hand. Signing the letter wasn't something Lowe had to do, says Salter, but the activist was glad for the mayor's support and it helped him gain access to a number of people he wouldn't otherwise have had.
"He has definitely taken the lead on sewage treatment locally," Salter continues. "I think he's done a lot to build support for it municipally, provincially and federally."
And sewage treatment is just one of several issues where Lowe has proven to be surprisingly progressive since his election a year ago in November, 2005, to a remarkable third three-year term. He's also sat for the past year as chair of the Capital Regional District, a position that puts him on the front-lines of the ongoing sewage debate and gives his voice greater weight in regional discussions.
Take the contentious issue of a safe injection site. Philippe Lucas is the executive director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, which distributes cannabis to sick people, and a Green Party candidate who narrowly missed winning a seat on city council in last year's election. Lucas says Lowe has been a "champion" of bringing a safe consumption site to the region for people who are using intravenous drugs, and is a big supporter of harm reduction policies in general.
Then there's the homeless issue. City councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe, the council's downtown liaison, says Lowe has been supportive around finding ways to deal with the city's social issues in a compassionate way. A couple winters ago, she and police officer Rick Anthony came up with the idea for a cold weather shelter; they brought the idea to the mayor, who threw his support behind it. "It was open within 12 hours of us bringing it to him," she says. "He was the one who made the calls to make it happen." Without his support, she says, the shelter simply wouldn't have happened.

Making changes

The thing is, it's only recently that some have begun to suspect the mayor of wearing a Che Guevera T-shirt under his navy blue business suits. Back in 1996, when Lowe was leaving city council after deciding not to seek re-election as a councillor, the Times Colonist described him as a "conservative-thinking member of the Liberal Party."
And in 1999, when Lowe returned from political retirement to run for mayor, outgoing mayor and butcher Bob Cross-likely the most business-friendly, right-wing mayor the city has had in the past few decades-backed him as a successor. Another former mayor, Peter Pollen, told this magazine that Lowe was too deeply involved in development issues to make a good leader for the city. (Pollen endorsed Geoff Young that year, who ultimately came in third behind Lowe and Victoria Civic Electors candidate Bob Friedland.) Now, Lowe may not have been a single issue candidate-valuing business and development over everything else-but he was certainly seen that way.
But by Lowe's own account, it wasn't exactly a driving social conscience that drew him into politics. He'd always had an interest in government, he says, and while at Victoria High School he was prime minister of their 1979 graduating class. Then in the late '80s, after he'd been away at university in Manitoba and Oregon and returned to Victoria, the council of the day wanted to build a skateboard park across the street from his home. He now lives with his wife Grace and two teenage sons on a cul-de-sac in the tony Rockland area, but in those days his young family was on Green Street, a one-block road in the North Park area not far from the curling rink on Quadra Street. "I went to city council and had to wait until 11:30 at night to speak on the issue," he says, seated behind his big wooden desk at city hall, large windows looking out on Centennial Square.
At 45-years old, Lowe is a little greyer, but he still speaks and moves with an energy he seems to barely contain. He told the council that night, he recalls, that it was a good idea to have a skateboard park and that it was great the council had consulted with various interest groups. However, he says, "One group you forgot to talk to was the neighbours." (The skateboard park went in on a trial basis, but soon moved to a site near the Memorial Arena.)
For Lowe, it was a taste of what city council could do. The mayor and councillors make decisions that have real impact in people's neighbourhoods. In 1990, when the next election came up, he decided to run for a seat on the council.
"I was an unknown," he says. "I was 29." Lowe used contacts from friends and a number of associations in which he was involved and he did his best to network. "I took almost three weeks off of work and stood on street corners handing out brochures and worked very hard," he says. He attended every all candidates meeting. "They remembered my slogan, 'Aim high, vote Lowe,'" he says. "By the end, the other candidates would chant it out with me."
He won 6,744 votes, making him the fourth highest polling candidate, behind Bob Cross, Janet Greenwood and Geoff Young, but ahead of many in a field that included the likes of Laura Acton and Helen Hughes. David Turner, who some would dub "mayor moonbeam" for his alternative approaches to running city hall, won the mayoral race that year.

But is he genuine?

When Lowe won his first term as mayor in 1999, it was in a tight three-way race with strong candidates on both the left and the right. In 2002 his only serious competition came from Ben Isitt, a young activist and history student best known as an organizer of the Camp Campbell protest that had seen a group occupy part of the legislature lawn for several weeks. Isitt had a hard time getting the local media to take him seriously, but voters still gave him 32 percent of the ballots.
Then in a 2005 rematch with Isitt, Lowe adopted a platform that squeezed to the left. He told an all candidates' meeting in Fernwood that he supported legalizing cannabis use. He said he wanted to explore making downtown's one-way streets two-ways again, a move that would slow speeds and make the core more pedestrian-friendly. He argued that Victoria should take the lead on opening a safe injection site like the one in Vancouver. And he pledged support for sewage treatment.
"You would almost think I had an NDP card," Lowe says with a laugh.
The platform won him support from unexpected quarters, such as the Conservation Voters of B.C., and reduced the amount of room available on the left to Isitt. In his endorsements, Lowe also picked two incumbent left-wing councillors, Pam Madoff and Dean Fortin who were running for the VCE, the civic wing of the New Democratic Party. "They didn't appreciate it, but I did it anyway," says Lowe.
The endorsements were smart politics. They showed he was willing to work with councillors from across the political spectrum, and they were a jab at Isitt, whose relationship with the VCE was obviously strained.
Lowe squeaked out a victory, beating Isitt by fewer than 1,400 votes. Says Lowe, "It was closer than the time before. A little closer than I expected. There can be a lot of reasons for that." One reason he offers is there was a lot of bad media around the arena-which, despite delays, Lowe insists turned out to be a good deal for the city. (See page 10 sidebar.)
Another explanation would be that voters weren't sure what to make of the new left-wing, pro-environment Lowe. Was he serious or was it strategy?
When the question is put to councillor Madoff, she asks, "How do you ever know?"
She agrees Lowe's positions have shifted, and she hesitates to critique him directly. Instead she talks about what it's like to sit on the city council when tough decisions come up. There may be plenty of grey area on any given issue, but it always comes down to voting yes or no for a motion. "What gets me through is I have some pretty deeply held principles," Madoff says. "Leadership that has deeply held principles is valuable."
Without those principles, she says, you get leadership that holds a finger up to see which way the wind is blowing before settling on a position. "Right now it's the homelessness bandwagon. If you want to look progressive, take an interest."
Back in 1996 Lowe was one of a group of right-wingers on the council who voted to ban bongos and other drums from downtown streets as a way to deal with street issues. In 1991 he told the Vancouver Sun that re-developing areas of downtown such as Bastion Square would "help rid the area of 'undesirables.'"
Today Lowe talks of the need for mental health services, drug detox on demand and a range of housing choices. When the Open Door, which runs a drop-in centre for people in need, needed a temporary home while their new building is built, Lowe helped find space on Johnson Street . . . and worked to smooth things out with the neighbours. It wasn't the easiest thing to do for a politician rooted in the business community. He says, "The first meeting I had with retailers in that area, they were about to lynch me." And yet, for a mayor interested in downtown's social situation, it was the right thing to do.
"I think he's been able to understand the issues a lot more," says Charlayne Thornton-Joe, a city councillor who got involved in local politics because she was concerned about how social issues were affecting downtown. "I try to keep him up to speed on what I'm doing and who I'm talking with."
Asked if she knows what turned the mayor around, she says, "All I can say is for myself I may have come in with certain perceptions of things." There's a learning curve as you begin to grasp the issues, she says. "Sometimes what you come in with changes because of that understanding. I'm sure the mayor does that as each elected person does on a daily basis."
Sewage treatment activist Stephen Salter has little doubt Lowe is sincere. "It's obvious to me that he's sincerely working on a good outcome for the community," he says. And it's not like supporting sewage treatment has been the obviously politically expedient thing to do. Says Salter, "He's taken whatever flak that comes from the quarters that don't want it. It's not an easy thing to do."
So what happened? "I think he does see how this is part of a sustainable community and not just a bit of boring infrastructure," Salter says. A stained reputation has much more of an effect on the core, where much of the tourism dependent business happens. "Victoria was wearing this tag of being an unsustainable community with the lack of sewage treatment. I think he realized Victoria had to clear its name."

An injection of safety

Medical marijuana provider and former Green Party candidate Lucas has noticed the changes too. "I do think mayor Lowe deserves his due for coming around to these ideas," he says. "What we've seen over the last few years and terms of mayor Lowe is the evolution of someone who started out as a business-friendly candidate to someone who's taken real responsibility for some of the social issues this city faces . . . No matter your political stripe, you'd be hard pressed not to acknowledge a transformational shift in our mayor, if not in the whole council. Far more needs to be done, but this isn't the same guy I would have campaigned against in 2002."
On the safe consumption site, says Lucas, what seemed to make the difference for Lowe was a trip to Europe. "I think the mayor we had coming back from that trip to Europe was way different from the one who went out," says Lucas. Lowe saw that what was happening there-with safe consumption sites where people could inject drugs in a supervised setting and get any medical or counselling help they needed-worked, he explains. That's the great thing about being a pragmatist, he says. "You can't deny what you see with your own eyes."
Lowe himself acknowledges, "In 1990 I never would have thought I'd be out there championing a safe injection site or a safe consumption site or being out there being an advocate for harm reduction strategies." But then, he says, reflecting on the days when the city's drug policies began and ended with using police to enforce the law, "What we've been doing in the past has not been working."
Asked why his thinking changed, he gives a small smile and says, "Knowledge is dangerous." As he got familiar with the issues, he says, and saw what was working elsewhere, he became more and more convinced there was another way to go. The visit to Europe helped. So did discussions with Vancouver mayors Larry Campbell, Sam Sullivan and Philip Owen-a conservative who got tossed by his own civic party after supporting the Vancouver safe injection site. Besides, it just seemed to make sense to him. "If you just prevent 10 people from going to the emergency room because of overdoses, that's 10 extra beds that are available for a family member who might need that emergency bed."
"I couldn't get mayor Lowe to even say the words 'harm reduction' in 2002. Now he's bought in," says Lucas. "This isn't about one political party or another. It's about being pragmatic. I think that's what Alan Lowe has shown."
Now that Lowe understands the issue, says Lucas, he needs to act. Lives are at stake, he says, and "it's taking far too long."
With the recent election of Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, Lowe says, the opportunity to gain federal permission to open a safe consumption site in Victoria seems to have passed. "With the change in government, I guess, it has put something of a roadblock to us pushing for a safe consumption site in the city, but that doesn't mean we're going to stop pushing."

Looking for balance

While there's little doubt Lowe has come a long way, it's not like he's universally in support of every green initiative that comes through city council or the CRD. At a recent CRD board meeting he failed to support a motion that would have given $4 million in federal gas tax money to cycling infrastructure projects. And during his tenure, the police have at times stepped up enforcement of bylaws targetting the homeless, including steps to get shopping carts off the sidewalks in recent months. Another compassion club, Ted Smith's Cannabis Buyers' Club, has been raided several times under Lowe's watch. He pushed for using a public-private partnership, or P3, to build the new arena, and he supports using a P3 to deliver sewage treatment.
Then again, it's been a long journey and he may never have been as uni-dimensionally pro-development as his critics suggest. While it's well known that Lowe is a practicing architect-a profession that at its best blends business with aesthetics-many don't realize he also holds a bachelor's degree in environmental studies.
During the 1999 campaign Monday wrote, "Although Lowe is a police board member and has spoken forcefully about preserving safety on the city's streets, he says tougher bylaws aren't the answer to the panhandling problem. One idea he likes is adding an adult outreach worker to accompany police on their downtown rounds." The story quoted him saying, "We have to focus on the social concerns and deal with the root of the problem, as opposed to dealing with the problem itself." Andy Orr, who had been NDP premier Mike Harcourt's press secretary, was "very supportive" of Lowe.
"The key word is balance," says Lowe. "In order to be vibrant and for the city to grow economically, you have to deal with the most vulnerable in our society as well." Granted, he could govern as an ideologue and just ignore any problems he'd rather not deal with. Perhaps they'd go away on their own. "That's not going to happen," he says. "We do have to deal with the social, the economic and the environmental aspects of our city to try to build one of the most livable cities in the country."
Whatever he does, he adds, he won't please everyone. "Believe you me, there are people out there who don't believe I'm business-friendly enough, or strong enough on environmental issues, or strong enough on the social issues."
"None of us will ever know if mayor Lowe's conversion is one of politics or one where it's from the heart, but I don't think it matters to me," Lucas concludes. "If he's getting the city to look at issues we wouldn't have touched four or five years ago with a 10 foot pole, all the better."
He adds, "I'd like to see less talk and more action at this point. The talk around city council is far more encouraging than it was a few years ago. Whether that talk can translate into action remains to be seen."
For his part, Lowe won't say if he'll run for re-election in 2008. If he does, voters will have to take a close look at what he says, then judge him on his actions. M

Sacred Casino

Are Bear Mountain negotiators placing their bets on destruction?

By Andrew MacLeod, Monday Magazine, Dec 06 2006

First Nations on southern Vancouver Island will lose a sacred cave and gain a casino if a so-called agreement in principle goes ahead.

According to the November 21 “agreement in principle,” the Songhees First Nation, the Sencoten Alliance (which represents several Saanich bands), the province of British Columbia, the City of Langford and the Bear Mountain Corporation agreed that first nations will “hold [a] healing ceremony at Sacred Cave, after which development will proceed.”

In exchange, the first nations will gain, among other things, $2 million from the province, $6 million from the developer, the right to gather firewood on the developer’s property and “access to jobs in Bear Mountain casino.” The agreement later states, “A ‘First Nations Casino’ will be established at Bear Mountain as a joint venture between the Saanich tribes, the municipal government, Bear Mountain and the B.C. Lottery Corporation.

“Bear Mountain will build the Casino,” it says. “Casino will provide employment and training for First Nations.”

But John Brewer, an RCMP officer who has been mediating the negotiations, says the document was not an “agreement in principle,” despite the fact it has that heading. Instead, he says, “It’s a leaked document that’s not even a document. It’s a list of discussion items that don’t reflect what’s going on in the talks. There is no link between talks on a casino and preservation of any cultural sites on Bear Mountain.”

People came to the table with various ideas, he says, and the discussion has progressed from there. “It was a very preliminary meeting of that group . . . We’ve met many times since then.”

Asked about the casino plan during a December 1 interview, Songhees chief Robert Sam says, “That’s part of it, yeah, but there’s a whole lot more.” The cave will be lost, he acknowledges. “That’s sort of a trade-off.” He declined to say more, adding that Brewer is the spokesperson on the negotiation.

For several months the cave, located on Spaet Mountain, or Skirt Mountain as the settlers call it, outside Victoria, has been the subject of a disagreement between the Bear Mountain Corporation and local First Nations who say it is sacred. Two weeks ago a number of people gathered to block further destruction of the cave, which had its roof blown off and has been filled with tires.

The land manager for the Songhess First Nation, Cheryl Bryce, has lead the push to have the cave and other sacred sites in the area protected. She has not been allowed to attend the negotiation meetings, she says, and she is shocked to hear a casino is part of the discussion.

“I think it’s totally off-track. I can’t believe a casino’s being mentioned in the same breath as sacredness,” she says. “I didn’t know it was going to be this, and I think this is wrong.”

When she raised the issue of protecting the cave, she says, she expected the provincial government would take responsibility and enforce the law. “It didn’t have to be an agreement. It just had to be the government doing it. It just had to be them doing what’s right,” she says. “Why didn’t the government just go in and say we’re putting covenants on these areas?”

The discussion about a casino, money, land swaps and everything else is all a big distraction from the real issue, she says. “It really needs to get refocussed on protecting these sites. That was the what the stand was about.”

If people want to look at bigger picture issues, she adds, there are several that need to be addressed. The Heritage Act needs to be more clear, the archaeology branch of the government needs to work harder to protect the rights of first nations and someone needs to enforce the rules that are already in place. Also, she says, more people should be at the negotiations. “Maybe these meetings should be more transparent. Maybe they shouldn’t be closed.”

A spokesperson for the provincial ministry of aboriginal relations and reconciliation says the government won’t comment on the negotiations while they are ongoing, though she confirms representatives of the province have been at the meetings, including assistant deputy ministers and chief negotiators from the ministry. She referred questions to Brewer.

Nor were representatives of the B.C. Lottery Corporation, the government agency responsible for licensing casinos, returning calls. There are not currently any “First Nations Casinos” in the province.

Len Barrie, the principal with LGB9 Development Corporation, the company developing the Bear Mountain resort, did not return calls either.

“The main thing for me is it follows a pattern that’s been pretty routine in a lot of these matters,” says Taiaiake Alfred, the head of the indigenous governance program at the University of Victoria. Aboriginals will take action on something like the cave, he says, “Then the band councillors step in and use it as some sort of leverage to gain compensation. The band councillors take it as an opportunity to make some money, and I think that’s what happened here.”

The band councils are a product of federal legislation, he adds, and are accountable to the Canadian government. “There’s no real accountability of the band council leaders to their own people.”

The agreement in principle that accepts money and a casino in exchange for the destruction of a sacred site makes earlier statements from band councillors about how important the site is look like hypocrisy, he says.

“It’s important to protect these places,” says Steve Lawson, who co-ordinates the steering committee for the First Nations Environmental Network from his home near Tofino. “More and more people are being seduced by material comforts and the things everyone else has, but I think one by one people will realize the spiritual power goes way beyond this.”

An Ojibway originally from Ontario, he says he’s wary of getting involved in other first nations’ business, but he felt he had to speak up about the protection of the Spaet Mountain cave. “A sacred place is what it is and it can’t be anything else,” he says. “It’s important people recognize these things can’t be traded off. It’s the most bizarre example of this happening that I’ve ever heard of.”

The cave and other sacred sites should be set aside and cared for, he adds. “The most important thing to me is the spiritual aspect, and it can’t be compromised. It’s never too late to bring these places back to life and I think that’s what will be happening in the future.”

The agreement in principle has not yet been presented to the communities involved. A November 28 meeting was cancelled because of snow. A meeting on the Tsartlip reserve is scheduled for December 5, after Monday goes to press. There’s a Songhees annual general meeting the same night, where band lands manager Bryce says she hopes the issue of the cave and the development will also come up. She says, “I’m really hoping our community speaks out and looks at what this means. To me it’s another kind of genocide.” M

Caught in the Middle

Having weaker cruise ship regulations than our neighbours leaves B.C. vulnerable

By Andrew MacLeod, Monday Magazine, Nov 29 2006

In a typical summer run from Seattle to Alaska, often via Victoria, a cruise ship will ply through not just a seemingly endless coastal landscape, but also through three jurisdictions with very different regulations when it comes to dumping sewage. At one end of the run is Alaska which, thanks to an August referendum, will soon have by far the toughest rules. At the other is Washington State, which in mid-November fined a company $100,000 for dumping sewage. In the middle is British Columbia, which has never fined a cruise ship for a violation and is unlikely to do so under current guidelines.

“There is a great concern that Canada could become a dumping ground,” says Fred Felleman, a researcher based in Seattle who consults on cruise ship issues for the Bluewater Network. With the relatively contained waters and vulnerable whale populations, he says, that’s a concern. “I don’t believe there’s any place we should be dumping sewage sludges, but if you have to dump sludges, you don’t want to do it in the Inside Passage.”

But new rules are likely making it more and more attractive for the cruise companies to do just that. “It’s going to be Haro Strait, Georgia Straight or Queen Charlotte Sound, would be my guess,” says Felleman.

Felleman stresses that Washington State’s rules aren’t nearly tough enough. The industry is governed by a voluntary code of conduct that is non-binding and allows some questionable practices like dumping waste in marine protected areas. And yet that code is significantly tougher than what’s in place in B.C., where cruise ships are governed under federal regulations by Transport Canada, along with other ships. A local representative of the agency didn’t return calls by press time.

There is also a set of “guidelines” specifically for cruise ships that summarizes the international and national standards that apply while they are in Canada. They state the ships have to be at least three nautical miles (about 5 kilometres) from land to discharge treated wastewater, and at least 12 nautical miles (about 22 kilometres) from land to release untreated sewage. They also say the ships should have a sewage treatment plant working, and “Biosolids or sludges that are produced by sewage treatment systems should be landed ashore, where possible, for disposal by a licensed facility or service.” It is unclear what penalties, if any, would be applied if a ship broke the guidelines.

“It’s non-binding. It’s the industry monitoring itself,” says Bruce Wallace, a researcher with the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group and a co-author of the 2003 study Ripple Effects: The Need to Assess the Impacts of Cruise Ships in Victoria, B.C.. “We really need to question, is the industry the best watchdog of itself? Where else would we allow this?”

There’s a real need, he says, for B.C. to take steps to bring its regulations up to the standards of its neighbours. That could happen through a group like Cruise B.C., which exists to market the province’s various ports as a package, he says. “I think the real pressure on B.C. is going to follow from the decision in Alaska in August.”

In Alaska a group of citizens forced a referendum that will change how the industry does business in the state. Voters approved charging a $50 tax per passenger to be shared between Alaska communities, applying income tax to their operations in the state and taxing the ships’ gambling profits. They also voted to charge $4 per passenger to pay for putting a marine engineer on every ship while in Alaskan waters to observe ship waste treatment practices, verify logbook entries, examine discharges and make sure the ships are maintaining their systems. The rules will become law in December and will be in place for the 2007 cruise ship season.

Gershon Cohen, an activist in Haines, Alaska with the group Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters, was one of the main promoters of the new Alaska rules. “B.C. does have the weakest set of rules in place, that’s true,” he says. “Nothing close to what Alaska has now.”

That means B.C. remains in the situation Alaska has been in up to now, he says, where locals will continue to have no idea what the ships are doing in B.C. waters. One way around that is to put monitors on the ships, as Alaska will. Another would be to use electronic transponders that would send a signal to land-based authorities every time a discharge line is opened or closed. “Without monitors or transponders, they can do anything they want out there, and tell us anything they want, and we’ll never know.”

John Shively, the vice-president of government and community relations for the Holland America Line, says he doesn’t think British Columbians need to worry about becoming the preferred place for cruise ships to discharge waste.

For one thing, he says, most of the ships now have waste water treatment systems that clean sewage to a standard that many of the ports they visit don’t even match. As for the sludge, it either gets taken off in the turn-around ports—Vancouver or Seattle—or dumped at least the 12 nautical miles from shore. “Most of the bad stuff is eaten by the microbes. The sludge is pretty benign stuff.”

Plus, he says, the ships are covered by both federal and international law while in B.C..

Seattle activist Felleman says it’s not enough for the industry to say “trust us”. There have been enough examples of cruise ships dumping wastes then lying about it, he says, that governments need to make more efforts to monitor the industry. One way, he says, would be for the new Alaskan rangers to board the boats in Seattle and monitor the whole run through B.C. to Alaska. It would be a huge improvement, he says. “Right now we’re really, shall we say, pissing in the dark.” M

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sacred cave lost, casino gained

By Andrew MacLeod, December 1, 2006

First Nations on southern Vancouver Island will lose a sacred cave and gain a casino if an agreement in principle goes ahead.
According to a November 21 agreement in principle between the Saanich Nation and Songhees band councils, the province of British Columbia, the City of Langford and Bear Mountain Corporation, agreed the first nations will "hold [a] healing ceremony at Sacred Cave, after which development will proceed."
In exchange the Sencoten Alliance, which represents four First Nations including the Tsartlip, will gain among other things $2 million from the province, $6 million from the developer, the right to gather firewood on the developer's property and "access to jobs in Bear Mountain casino." The agreement in priciple later states, "A 'First Nations Casino' will be established as a joint venture between all of the Saanich tribes, the municipal govt, Bear Mtn., and the BC Lottery
For several months the cave, located on Skirt Mountain outside Victoria, has been the subject of a disagreement between the Bear Mountain Corporation and local First Nations who say it is sacred. Two weeks ago a number of people gathered to block further destruction of the cave, which had reportedly had its roof blown off and been filled with tires.
Asked about the casino plan, Songhees chief Robert Sam says, "That's part of it, yeah, but there's a whole lot more." The cave will be lost, he says. "That's sort of a trade off." He declined to say more, explaining that he isn't the media liaison on the agreement.
A call to the Tsartlip Band Council was not immediately returned.
"The main thing for me is it follows a pattern that's been pretty routine in a lot of these matters," says Taiaiake Alfred, the head of the indigenous governance program at the University of Victoria. Aboriginals will take action on something like the cave, he says, "Then the band councillors step in and use it as some sort of leverage to gain compensation. The band councillors take it as an opportunity to make some money, and I think that's what happened here."
The band councils are a product of federal legislation, he adds, and are accountable to the Canadian government. "There's no real accountability of the band council leaders to their own people."
The agreement in principle that accepts money and a casino in exchange for the destruction of a sacred site makes earlier statements from band councillors about how important the site is look like hypocrisy, he says.
The agreement in principle has not yet been presented to the first nations communities involved. A November 28 meeting was cancelled because of snow. A meeting on the Tsartlip reserve is scheduled for December 5.

Following are details of the agreement in principle:

The SENCOTEN Alliance, represented by Eric Pelkey, agreed to the following:

1. receives $2 million from the provincial govt (commitment to ensure water
and sewer on reserve as well) and $6 million from Bear Mtn Corp for
infrastructure on Tsartlip FN lands;
2. right to gather firewood on Bear Mountain property;
3. members access to jobs in Bear Mountain casino;
4. the creation of a Sacred site display in Bear Mountain Village and public
info/trail to Guardian Rocks site;
5. to identify other sacred sites; and,
6. hold healing ceremony at Sacred Cave, after which development will

The SONGHEES FN, represented by Robert Sam, agreed to the following:
1. will identify sacred sites and hold ceremonies before they are developed;
2. receive transfer of certain highway, provincial and Capital Comm. lands
from province; and,
3. province to pay $20,000 legal fees.

BEAR MOUNTAIN CORPORATION agreed to the following:

1. receives additional land (Capital Comm. Lot 28, "Guardian Rocks") from
province; and,
2. province to pay $450,000 for legal fees and archaeology.

Other provisions agreed to jointly by ALL PARTIES include:

1. a "First Nations Casino" will be established as a joint venture between
all of the Saanich tribes, the municipal govt, Bear Mtn., and the BC Lottery
2. the interchange project on Spencer Rd. will receive $1 million from the
province on behalf of the Songhees FN.
3. $30,000 to FNs and $300,000 to Langford from province to produce an info
brochure on archaeological assessments.
4. one-time payment of $90,000 to FNs, $10,000 each to Tsartlip & Songhees
FNs, and $90,000 to Langford from province.


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