Saturday, June 22, 2024
June 22, 2024

Former trustees press Islands Trust over ‘unique amenities’ decision

The following letter, signed by 34 former islands trustees as noted at the end, was sent to the Islands Trust Executive Committee and filed with the Driftwood for publication.

As former Islands Trust trustees from various islands in the Trust Area, we are writing to inform you of our concerns regarding Trust Council’s intention to broaden the meaning of the words ‘unique amenities’ in Section 3 of the Islands Trust Act (the Object). The spirit and intent of those words seem unmistakable in light of the 1986 Ministry of Municipal Affairs/Islands Trust “Position Paper; The Object of the Islands Trust: Renewing the Consensus,” that specified a combination of many natural factors.

Following an in-camera meeting on September 26, 2023, it was reported that Trust Council had come to a “consensus” on how Section 3 of the act that created the Islands Trust would (not “should”) be interpreted. What those conclusions were and how they had been agreed upon was not revealed. A silence, lasting almost four months, followed before the “Islands Trust Council Highlights” with a link to “Trust Council’s consensus statement” was officially released on Jan. 18, 2024.

It was then that the details of Trust Council’s conclusion were revealed to the general public. “Unique amenities” were to include, “but not be limited to, housing, infrastructure, livelihoods, and tourism.” How and by whom these four categories were identified and selected for inclusion is not mentioned.

Apart from consideration of legal opinions, we question the propriety of holding this discussion during an in-camera meeting. We have heard different explanations of how council’s decision was arrived at: from staff, the Executive Committee and from trustees. These contradictory responses are problematic and confusing. There is no evidence of a motion being passed by council which would provide a record of Trust Council’s approval for the addition of these items under the umbrella of “unique amenities,” or how individual trustees voted. It would have been helpful knowing whether this “consensus” was reached by referring to the 1986 Ministry of Municipal Affairs/Islands Trust “Position Paper; The Object of the Islands Trust: Renewing the Consensus” and the 2021 “Discussion Paper: The Islands Trust Object: Past, Present and Future.”

These additional categories, now identified as “unique amenities,” are not unique to the Trust Area. Further, housing, infrastructure, livelihoods and tourism are services provided by regional districts and government agencies. More alarming, this expansion and interpretation of “unique amenities” has the potential of influencing or compromising environmental policies. The Trust is limited to regulating land use in order to preserve and protect the natural environment and rural character of the Trust Area for all residents of B.C., a duty specific to its intended purpose and function as a “trust.”

How will this new interpretation of “unique amenities” influence Trust Council as it embarks upon a review of the Trust Policy Statement? Will this decision result in environmental policies being compromised or excluded to facilitate development?

Pertinent and fundamental questions have been raised by numerous individuals and groups regarding both the process and the conclusions of that process over the course of the past six months and, as of this date, none have been addressed by the chair of the Islands Trust Council.

We believe the credibility of the Islands Trust’s promise of a transparent and open public process has been hurt by the manner in which this decision was reached, the lack of a rationale for this decision, and the lack of information provided.

We ask, therefore, that the chair make a public statement with full disclosure of why the interpretation was not made in an open meeting, how a “consensus,” unanimous or not, was arrived at, the reasoning used to arrive at this interpretation of the words “unique amenities” and how this interpretation will influence the Trust Policy Statement review.

Sincerely,

Nerys Poole, 2008-2011 (Bowen Island); John Rich, 1976-1984 (Bowen); Kim Benson, 1993-2008 (Gambier); Harlene Holm, 1978-1984 (Denman); Roxanna Mandryk, 1992-1996 (Denman); David Critchley, 2014-2022 (Denman); Deb Ferens, 2011-2014 (Gabriola); Gisele Rudischer, 1996 to 2008, 2011-2014 (Gabriola); Kees Langereis, 2018-2022 (Gabriola); Debbie Holmes, 1996-99, 1999-2002 (Galiano); Tahirah Rockafella, 2018-2022 (Galiano); Sheila Anderson, 2002-2005 (Galiano); Sandy Pottle, 2008-2018 (Galiano); Tony Law, 1996-2005, 2007-2018 (Hornby); Barry Kurland, 1986-1992 (Lasqueti); Peter Johnston, 2011-2015, 2018-2022 (Lasqueti); Tom Weinerth, 1999-2002 (Lasqueti); Jen Gobby, 2008-2011 (Lasqueti); John Barre, 1982-1986 (Lasqueti); George Ravenscroft, 1996-1999 (North Pender); Ben McConchie, 2018-2022 (North Pender); Christine Torgrimson, 2008-2011 (Salt Spring); Peter Lamb, 2005-2008 (Salt Spring); David Borrowman, 1996-2002 (Salt Spring); Elaine Jacobsen, 1986-1996 (South Pender); David Greer, 2008-2011 (South Pender); Wendy Scholefield, 2014-2018 (South Pender); Wendy Munroe, 1984-1988 (South Pender); John Rumble, 1996-2000 (South Pender); Cameron Thorn, 2018-2022 (South Pender); Bruce McConchie, 2014-2018 (South Pender); Liz Montague, 2011-2014 (South Pender); Steve Wright, 1982-1990, 1996-2000, 2018-2022 (South Pender); and Doug Fenton, 2018-2022 (Thetis).

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