Sunday, June 16, 2024
June 16, 2024

Editorial: Liveaboard regulation proposal not realistic

It’s hard to argue with the logic of a proposal to regulate liveaboards in the name of creating “clean and safe” harbours on Salt Spring.

Who is in favour of seeing human waste and garbage floating in the water or washing ashore? Who thinks our harbours should be left to fill with decaying or burnt boat hulls until the Dead Boats Disposal Society and federal government can get around to removing them?

Unfortunately, it seems hard to believe that the Clean and Safe Harbours Initiative (CASHI) is primarily concerned with the long-term health of our harbours. Salt Spring’s existing environmental organizations have not flagged this as a critical issue. The impetus seems to be coming from waterfront property owners who are impacted by noise and visual pollution, and others who have somehow conflated social problems in Ganges with unregulated liveaboards.

The CASHI initiative highlights a disconnect with reality on a few different fronts.

Firstly, we have an acute housing crisis. Many people who work on our island have been pushed to live in potentially unsafe housing on the water because it beats living in a vehicle or a tent. Enforcing the current illegality of those dwellings, or imposing regulations that people without means would not be able to meet due to the financial costs involved, would just exacerbate that crisis. This island cannot afford to lose more people of working age. For the CASHI folks to say they don’t want to eliminate liveaboards, just regulate them, is laudible, but not realistic. Many vessels would be eliminated by the proposed CASHI system.

The second place this initiative hits the wrong note is in our democratic process. Normally, candidates stake out their positions during election campaigns. Creating more housing for workers was stressed as a priority by the electorate. “Cleaning up” Ganges Harbour was not. For a behind-the-scenes process to produce a draft bylaw and detailed regulations that trustees have been pressured to consider eight months later is not acceptable. Lobbying government for action is one thing; doing its work is another. Still more unorthodox is a proposal to cover costs by creating a charity for that purpose.

The answer to the very real sewage and garbage issue is to create a workable system of dealing with it. At present the blackwater facility at Centennial Dock is only open in summer months, and it has just been repaired after a period of inoperation. Garbage collection facilities could be improved. Rather than running boat dwellers off the water with unrealistic demands, let’s work with them to minimize the impacts that affect the environment and community.

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  1. I agree. A lot of our lack of affordable housing problem is due to governments piling on of ever more regulations, and their associated costs, costs and delay, which are often prompted by pressure from those who either can afford these costs or profit from them (lawyers, speculators and investors, architects, engineers, consultants….not to forgot the bureaucrats who make careers out of them). The CASHI (rather appropriate acronym) proposal is just more of the same. Rather than continue along this disastrous road, governments and the public should be addressing the roots of the housing crisis with a view to making it available and affordable as a human right.

  2. You fail to address the fact that the discharge of raw sewage is illegal under local, provincial or federal law. Polluting our waters is not a solution to our housing problem, any more than letting houseless people discharge the sewage from their trailers/RVs in a parking lot or on the side of the road in front of your house/business/property. Unfortunately, your “answer” is not an answer at all. Even with a working pump out station, the live aboard would need to move his/her boat each time (assuming that the vessel even has a holding tank). The vast majority of these vessels do not have such propulsion or have structures attached which eliminate their ability to move.

    • Victoria stopped dumping sewage in January 2021…Tofino contemplating it now.

      Kind of hard to justify spending millions on setting the trust up to enforce this hateful bylaw on sewage premise.

      Have we tested the waters?

  3. Straight talk about the Clean and Safe Harbours Initiative from the residents championing this Initiative.

    There is confusion about the Clean and Safe Harbours Initiative (CASHI) based on the recent Driftwood editorial and comments online. Here are the facts:
    • Fact: We have both a housing crisis and our harbours are being polluted by, among other things, human waste and garbage, and abandoned and derelict vessels.
    • Fact: Living on vessels in our harbours is completely illegal due to SSI Trust Bylaw 355, Section 3.19.1, except for licensed commercial fishing vessels and on one boat for security personnel at a public docking facility.
    • Fact: SSI Trust Bylaw 355, Section 3.2.1 prohibits in all SSI Trust zones, disposal of any waste matter on land or in marine areas.
    • Fact: Liveaboards can be forced to leave our harbours at any time and be fined $350 per day up to $5000 per SSI Trust Bylaw 446, and anyone can be similarly fined for disposing of waste in our harbours.
    • Fact: During COVID, the SSI Trust adopted resolution SS-2020-145 that said that enforcement of the “no dwelling on vessels” law would be deferred only for dwelling on vessels at marinas provided that at all times vessels must: comply with all BC and fed laws pertaining to navigation and safety equipment; be registered, insured, seaworthy and immediately ready for cruising in local waters; not dispose of sewage into the marine environment; and, not be used for short term-rental. Failure to comply would trigger enforcement.
    • Fact: The SSI Trust has never enforced the “no living on vessels” law and has not taken any meaningful action to make our harbours clean and safe (including the adjoining waterfront.
    • Fact: Neither the Province nor Feds have taken any meaningful enforcement actions to enforce laws preventing the illegal dumping of waste into our SSI harbours.
    • Fact: Canada’s Supreme Court and other Canadian courts have stated that the SSI Trust has the legal authority to regulate by Bylaw the land within its designated trust area, including the seabed.
    • Fact: CASHI is being championed by many concerned SSI residents, businesses and marinas, and not just driven by “waterfront property owners” as the Driftwood alleges.
    • Fact: CASHI proposes to completely reverse the “no living on vessels” law by putting in place a Bylaw that makes living on vessels completely legal.
    • Fact: The CASHI proposal says that if you are legally allowed to live on your vessel in our harbours it is reasonable that you must comply with laws already in effect regarding disposal of waste, proper containment equipment, not impede navigation, be seaworthy, and registered. These are the same requirements that the SSI Trust said had to be complied with in order to legally live on vessels at marinas during COVID..
    • Fact: CASHI proposes that a permit issued by the Trust is required to be able to live on a vessel in our harbours and that the permit will only be issued if the owner/user of the vessel provides proof that the vessel meets the above legal requirements.
    • Fact: CASHI proposes that no fee be required to get the permit to live on a vessel; the Trust can impose a fee if it wants but CASHI does not propose it.
    • Fact: CASHI proposes that insurance is required for all boats NOT currently in our harbours but proposes at least a one-year moratorium on this requirement for all vessels currently in our harbours.
    • Fact: CASHI proposes a code of conduct for all boaters and others using our harbours so that all can be treated safely and respectfully.
    • Fact: The CASHI proposed charity will never be a private police force: If, and only if the Trust Bylaw Enforcement Officers want to remove an abandoned/derelict or non-complying vessel from our harbours after giving the owner/user time to bring the boat into compliance, they can, at their sole option, contact the charity to either buy or take the offending vessel and the charity will remove the vessel from our harbours and dispose of it at NO cost and No risk to the Trust or SSI taxpayers. At the request of the Trust, the charity may also purchase a vessel or arrange transportation for Enforcement Officers to inspect vessels and provide notices to vessel owners/users about Bylaw compliance.
    • Fact: By legalizing liveaboards in our harbours, the CRD will have to provide needed services to them, as they will be recognized legal residents deserving of services like all other residents. These services should include: additional pump out stations; perhaps a pump out boat; access to clean water; a larger public dinghy dock and extended hours.

    Opinion: CASHI members sincerely want to clean up and make safe our harbours. We want to legalize living on vessels and require compliance with long-standing existing laws designed to protect our environment and SSI current and future stakeholders: liveaboards, other SSI residents, businesses, guests, and future generations.

    Currently, the Trust has no effective process to ensure and enforce that our harbours are clean and safe. The permit process proposed by CASHI is the only effective way to so ensure and enforce, as it shifts the burden of justifying the right of someone to live on a vessel from the Trust to the folks who want to live on their boats, as the owner/user of the vessel must provide proof to the Trust that they meet the conditions of the Bylaw to be able to live on the vessel.

    If there is no requirement for the owner/user to provide proof of compliance to get a permit, the Trust would have to go out to every boat on which someone wants to reside and inspect it – – assuming anyone is on the vessel to let them on board. This is not practical.

    We submit that our position is a reasonable, practical and workable balance, as protecting and preserving our unique amenities and environment and addressing the housing crisis are not mutually exclusive. We can, and must solve both, now, and going forward.

    Doing nothing about our harbour, as the Trust has done and continues to do, is not acceptable. As polling clearly shows, having clean and safe harbours is strongly supported by a significant majority of SSI residents, despite the Trust not yet making it a priority. Who doesn’t want clean and safe harbours?

    We appreciate that some people have legitimate concerns and questions about CASHI. We truly hope this paper answers those concerns and questions. This said, we welcome any suggestions to improve CASHI.

    Please join us in moving the Trust (and then the CRD for associated services) to adopt the CASHI proposed Bylaw and then to quickly implement and enforce its provisions. We are only free and safe as a society by having reasonable laws that are enforced.

    • My biggest concern here is CASHI’s desire to team up with Trust Bylaw Enforcement. In my experience there are currently problems with process which issue from the bylaw office in Victoria.

  4. It is hard to believe that Salt Spring, the virtual home of the Green Party and environmental activism, has become a toilet bowl! We rely on our elected representatives to govern; that means making tough decisions and taking action, not endless handwringing and meaningless studies.
    The CASHI proposal does this. Do we have to wait for another election for our trustees to make a decision as the editorial proposes?

    Decades of inaction, endless studies and the like have contributed to the housing crisis. Creating safe affordable housing does not mean turning a blind eye to dumping raw sewage, garbage and derelict vessels in the harbour.

    I would suggest the next person to object to regulating the harbour go for a swim in Ganges harbour or eat crabs caught in the harbour first!

  5. This opinion piece is an interesting, but naive perspective that ultimately provides a shield for ongoing abuse and allows the damage to continue.

    As island residents, the question is whether we really care about our surrounding ocean. Many local advocates argue that our geographical location alone makes us uniquely qualified to champion the environment. After all, isn’t this what makes the Islands Trust Area unique? While I wish I had a penny for each time the ‘preserve and protect’ mandate is stretched to apply dogmatically in defense of a NIMBY cause, doesn’t this issue fall squarely within that mandate?

    If we shrug off the problem of derelict vessels, doesn’t that erode our environmental advocacy credentials?

    Let’s consider each of your points.

    1. Salt Spring’s existing environmental organizations have not flagged this as a critical issue

    Are you sure? Do any of our local ENGOs care about eelgrass? Preserving our foreshore? Getting rid of plastics in our environment? Apparently derelict vessels are well known to damage eelgrass. Let’s quote just one of the local ENGOs, “we fully recognize the importance of taking action to protect the waters and habitat that surround us.” I am not trying to speak for them, but struggle to understand how derelict vessels might get overlooked in that broad perspective.

    Of course, our local ENGOs aren’t a monopoly and don’t speak for all residents on all issues. If for some crazy reason our local ENGOs somehow didn’t care about derelict boats, there appears to be a list of other ENGOs longer than my arm that do care.

    2. Waterfront property owners

    Perhaps it would be helpful to ask opinion pollster Bruce Cameron / Return on Insight if that is what his – somewhat more rigorous assessment than this opinion piece – survey revealed. The survey responses were compelling, and Bruce was at the LTC meeting to explain the widespread nature of the concern and support for addressing the issue. I would provide a link to the survey results, but recognize it was covered by your competition. Hopefully, of course, that isn’t why your opinion piece appears to overlook how local residents actually feel about this.

    3. Housing crisis

    You appear concerned that some people might be taken advantage of. But, don’t they deserve better than to have to live in this marginal situation? Aren’t they already being taken advantage of by slumlords who rent out unsafe derelict vessels as housing? Aren’t they being taken advantage of by boat owners looking to offload their derelict vessels for a few of these hard-earned dollars and avoid maintenance, insurance and/or disposal costs by passing along their problems? Isn’t the current situation passing along the liability to those least able to support it?

    Aren’t you taking advantage of these people in your Opinion piece?

    We have some folks that are living on vessels where the vessels cannot qualify for boat insurance. Isn’t allowing that situation to continue actually taking advantage of these people?

    How can this be justified? Some sort of backwards argument that, heck, they are already at risk, so why should we worry if they continue to live at risk? Hey, they have lot’s of problems, let’s give them some more? These vessels are problems. Period.

    Are there any children living on these unsafe vessels? Don’t we all have a duty to look out for their protection?

    4. Imposing regulations

    Considerable regulation has already been imposed. This is not a novel area. We have local bylaws as well as provincial and federal legislation.

    5. Unrealistic demands

    We require motor vehicles to be licensed, have insurance and meet environmental requirements. How is requiring that anchored boats adhere to laws already in place unrealistic?

    6. Democratic process

    Let’s set aside the large number of folks that turned up for the LTC meeting to support this; an unusually large crowd for an LTC meeting. Let’s set aside the many constituencies that they represented. Let’s forget about all the legislation that has been championed – especially locally – and passed at all levels of government.

    Are you saying that we can only raise issues and bring them to the attention of our elected officials during the few weeks of an election, but not during the years in-between elections? How is that a democratic process?

    How can you honestly state that you believe cleaning up Ganges is not a priority for either our Trustees or our residents? Do you have any idea how many initiatives the Trust – and other local BC politicians – has previously launched on this derelict vessel issue alone? Not just at the Local Trust level, but as a number one priority for the Trust as a whole?

    This quote from an opinion piece by Adam Olsen a decade ago in The Province sums it up: “For decades, mayors, councillors, trustees and regional directors have passed resolutions at the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual meeting asking senior governments to take care of the derelict and abandoned vessels, illegal mooring buoys and human waste dumping that pollute their local shorelines.” (

    The problem isn’t that citizens, and their local government representatives don’t care. The problem has been trying get action. Your opinion piece provides an excuse to let all levels of government off the hook and misrepresents the high degree of concern that locals have.

    7. Creating a charity to cover costs is unorthodox

    Um, don’t we do that all the time?

    Especially for the costs of things like humanitarian aid, environmental protection or remediation? Aren’t we looking at these issues here?

    All of this is not to say that there aren’t challenges with the CASHI initiative, but at least it is an attempt to try and help solve this large mess and enormous problem.

    Why not take CASHI up their offer and provide some constructive insight on how to improve the initiative in the hopes of some real progress?

    • Lol…166 responses doesn’t make a reasonable survey come on. Let’s deal in facts.

      Have you checked out pollution Your questions will be answered.

      Pretending this initiative is about the harbor and not about people is pretty slick…oh the children indeed.

  6. One might expect that Greenpeace would be pleased to help, even donate to the proposed charity. Thank you sir for the clear and concise reply to mindless contrarianism.
    Regards, Roy Marlatt

  7. I 100% support a charity to help with derelict boats but I take issue with the structure of the charity CASHI proposes. Specifically, in the proposal it states: “The charity may also assist, if necessary, Enforcement Officers with inspection and enforcement tasks”. I see many ‘conflict of interest’ issues with wording like this.

  8. The temper tantrum being thrown in these comments by various SACHI (or CASHI? Can we get some consistent branding here?) supporters is a very clear indicator that the claims made in this editorial are accurate.

    If the CASHI proposal could stand on its own, it wouldn’t need all this belligerent rhetoric to back it up.

    The truth shall set you free, CASHI.

  9. If I understand the editorial correctly, the fact that we have a housing crisis justifies the risk of letting unregulated boats continue to float (or not, as is also the case) so people have a home that might burst into flames (which happened just a few weeks ago), or sink (more than one of those in the harbour), or leak fuel and oil into the water (happens often).

    This initiative is NOT about throwing people out of the harbour. It’s about living safely and not endangering your neighbours. It’s about not crapping in your own back yard. It’s about reaffirming shared responsibility for shared space and acknowledging you’re part of a community.

    It offers a path that involves no new laws and and requires no new tax dollars. It give folks a YEAR to get their boats in shape.

    Read the FACTS above. That’s where the truth is

  10. Iain…the facts?
    Perhaps you should read it all again.
    It is a new bylaw being proposed by apparently a bunch of folks too ashamed to sign their names to it.

    Fact…if a boat is sinking and has fuel…the Coast Guard comes.
    Fact …fires happen everywhere
    Fact…The Dead Boats Society cleans up the unfortunate abandoned boats.
    Fact…this initiative is plain and simple nimbyism and it’s ugly.

  11. I think you left out a few facts Shelley:
    Fact – it’s not a new bylaw; it’s an amendment to an existing bylaw that prohibits liveaboards.
    Fact- the Dead Boat Society is overwhelmed by the sheer number and complexity of dealing with growing numbers of derelict boats. As you can clearly see in our harbour, clean up takes along time and costs lots of money. Money that might be better spent on affordable housing.
    Fact- yes, fires occur everywhere but they are very common in the harbour. Hopefully one of these will not spark a wildfire on the island.
    Fact- this is not about kicking people out, it’s about getting them to be responsible and not pollute our harbour.
    Fact – this isn’t nimbyism. I don’t want people crapping in our backyard or anyone else’s!

  12. Hmmmm, there is clearly a lack understanding of what is transpiring in Ganges harbour now extending well out beyond the immediate ‘in town’ harbour area.

    If calling this a concern of only a few (wealthy?) shore property owners or cause of “conflated social problems in Ganges” and beyond that ‘nimbyism’ is considered “realistic”, then those holding those views need to educate themselves. This is especially so for the Driftwood editorial staff who I usually quite respect and appreciate as they often do speak for the larger community.

    Maybe if the ‘on land’ equivalent to the ‘unregulated’, actually ‘lawless’, society out on the water were described then ‘factual/realistic’ assessment and forward action might be achieved. Ganges Harbour is a public space available for specified public and general transit and pleasure use just like our roads and public parks.

    So the ‘on land’ equivalent to the current usage of this on the water space would be that any decrepit unlicensed vacation vehicles (trucks, camper vans, trailers of the broadest range of description could be driven (or towed) into and park forever in Centennial Park or Portlock Park (including on the baseball diamond, running track and soccer fields) or any other park or roadway parking spaces on the island. The inhabitants could inhabit there as they wished, defecating out back and unloading trash etc with no respect for others or the common good/interests of Salt Spring society in general.

    One perspective would be that this on land ‘housing’ in our public spaces (parks, roads) would be far safer housing for the ‘unhoused’ than the equivalent out on the water.

    But of course allowing such use means it is also a lawless society with implications (some violent) to those who do wish to use that public space as it had been intended.

    What is missing by those who label people who might be against this usage as ‘nimbyists’ is that reasonable responsible order is what allows our society to function. Just because it is on the water doesn’t remove such usage from reasonable management by the responsible government agencies.

    Allowing on the water housing in decrepit boats is not safe housing nor a solution to local housing or labour shortages. Having a managed/regulated alternative would be.

    Please do your homework before critiquing the constructive proposals of CASHI, this message especially to the Driftwood, It is most likely that you will want to support CASHI. And by the way I don’t know any CASHI supporters who want to hide their support from the public.

    And actually there is a community of responsible boat inhabitants in Ganges Harbour who would welcome ‘order’ in that society and who do participate in the work and who actually do have ‘means’ with which to participate responsibly. Let’s respect them.

    Respectfully to all

  13. Fact: Islands Trust has not been given permission through federal legislation to claim jurisdiction over Ganges Harbour. It remains under federal jurisdiction as all other salt water harbours do in Canada. Therefore, in this regard, any legislation created by lesser legislative bodies could be considered to be null and void. In essence, what CASHI and the Trust are proposing runs counter to the Constitution of Canada. Living aboard your boat is legal and always has been, be it in Ganges Harbour or in any salt water in this country.


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