Saturday, September 23, 2023
September 23, 2023

In Response: Clean, safe harbours group clarifies proposal

BY GLENN STEVENS and other CLEAN AND SAFE HARBOURS INITIATIVE MEMBERS

The June 28 Driftwood editorial indicates there is confusion about the Clean and Safe Harbours Initiative (CASHI).

We appreciate the nearly unanimous support for our proposal expressed by the public at the Local Trust Committee meeting of June 22. Since that time some people have raised legitimate concerns and questions about CASHI, which we welcome and which we wish to address.

Let’s start with some facts about existing bylaws:

• Current Islands Trust Bylaw 355 makes living on vessels in our harbours illegal, except for licensed commercial fishing vessels and security personnel at a public docking facility.

• Section 3.2.1 of that same bylaw prohibits disposal of any waste on land or in marine areas in all Islands Trust zones.

• According to Bylaw 446, current penalties include fines of $350 to $5,000 per day for violations.

• During COVID, Islands Trust adopted resolution SS-2020-145 stating that enforcement of the “no dwelling on vessels” law would be deferred for dwelling on vessels at marinas if vessels comply with all laws pertaining to no short-term rentals, navigation, safety equipment, registration, insurance, seaworthiness, and sewage disposal. Failure to comply is supposed to trigger enforcement.

Islands Trust has never enforced those laws and has taken no meaningful action to make our harbours clean and safe, even though Canada’s Supreme Court has stated that the Islands Trust has the legal authority to regulate the land within its designated Trust area, including the seabed. Our provincial and federal governments have also taken no meaningful actions to prevent illegal dumping of waste into our harbours.

There are also misperceptions about elements of the CASHI proposal:

• CASHI is being championed by many concerned residents, businesses and marinas, and not just driven by “waterfront property owners” as the Driftwood alleges.

• Our proposal will reverse the “no living on vessels” law by putting in place a bylaw that makes living on vessels completely legal.

• If someone is legally allowed to live on a vessel in our harbours, it is reasonable that they comply with laws already in effect regarding disposal of waste and other marine protocols. These are the same requirements that the Salt Spring Islands Trust required for people to legally live on vessels at marinas during COVID.

• CASHI proposes that no fee be required to get the permit to live on a vessel, and insurance for all boats not currently in our harbours but a minimum one-year moratorium on this requirement for all vessels currently here.

• We proposed a code of conduct for all boaters and others using our harbours so that everyone is treated safely and respectfully.

• If the Islands Trust legalizes the right to live on vessels in our harbours, the Capital Regional District will need to provide adequate services to liveaboards. These services should include additional pump-out facilities, access to clean water and a larger public dinghy dock with extended hours for docking.

Currently, Islands Trust has no effective process to ensure our harbours are clean and safe. The permit process proposed by CASHI will shift the burden of justifying the right to live on a vessel from the Trust to the folks who want to live on their boats. To get a permit, the vessel owner will have to provide proof of compliance with the laws, instead of the Trust having to inspect every boat.

Our position is a reasonable, practical and workable solution that balances the need for protecting and preserving our environment and addressing the housing crisis. We can, and we must, solve both crises. Doing nothing about our harbour crises is unacceptable, and we cannot rely on our provincial and federal governments to solve these problems for us, as history has shown.

As polling clearly shows, having clean and safe harbours is strongly supported by a significant majority of Salt Spring Island residents. Contrary to what the Driftwood implied, just because the LTC has not yet made this a priority is not a rationale for continuing to do nothing.

The prime directive of “preserve and protect” should prompt action, now. As the Driftwood editorial says: “Who doesn’t want clean and safe harbours?” It’s time to do something instead of just talking about it or making excuses.

Please join us in supporting the proposed changes to the CASHI-proposed bylaw and moving to implement its provisions. As a society, we are only free and safe when we have reasonable laws that are enforced.

We encourage feedback at SSISACHI23@gmail.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. This post appears to begin with a misrepresentation, i.e., that there was “nearly unanimous support for our proposal expressed at the Local Trust Committee meeting of June 22.” I was at that meeting, and no such nearly universal support was given. A representative of the initiative spoke for a few moments on the topic, and that was it. He also claimed that residents of float homes and boats in the so-called ‘Squalor Bay,’ which is how the west side of Ganges Harbour has often been referred to, were consulted. There was no consultation of the majority of the liveaboards, however, and the few that were surveyed were not well documented, so it seems we are asked to ‘just take our word for it’ by this seemingly bogus ‘charity.’ There was no vote on it taken at the meeting, so no ‘nearly unanimous support’ as the author of the post says. I have uploaded a video of the meeting to my YouTube channel so you can verify that what I say is true. There are other inaccuracies and misrepresentations in this post as well, and one must wonder WHY such misrepresentations are being made. What is the ulterior motive here?

    I think it likely that residents of the million-dollar condos at Grace Point, who are quite active politically in this matter, are not pleased with the view as they have been heard complaining about the ‘riff-raff’ in the harbour, the kids who hang out on the public beaches near the condos, and similar petty class wars. Class wars against the ‘homeless’ and the economically disadvantaged can be witnessed in many places in North America; San Francisco and Key West come to mind. The wealthy homeowners and renters do not want to have to look at or have to mingle with the poor. It’s not really about safety or ocean ecology, as they say it is. It’s more about the poor folk spoiling the million-dollar views of the wealthier individuals in the harbour.
    I will point out that there is a severe shortage of affordable housing on Salt Spring Island and all through the Gulf Islands and that most of the residents of float homes and boats in the harbour work and are contributing to the society and culture of the island. A lot of artists choose to live on the water rather than pay the usurious rents to often exploitative property owners on the island, for example. I know live-aboards who are employed by the local supermarkets, restaurants, and other businesses. Some simply choose a more affordable and alternative lifestyle from the norm, and that’s part of what makes the islands colourful and vibrant.

    As far as ocean ecology goes, there are far more serious concerns, many of which I have personally been involved with over the years as an environmental activist. Namely, global warming (boat dwellers have a much lower carbon footprint than those dwelling in large houses), oil spills on an often massive scale, the jet fuel pollution which contains lead known to have catastrophic adverse health effects on marine and other life forms, and plastics in the oceans, including the now ubiquitous micro-plastics coming from our laundry machines, etc. and highly toxic chemical effluents, including dioxins which are long-lived and bioaccumulate in living organisms including humans, coming from pulp and paper plants and other industries for many years. These highly toxic chemicals and micro-plastics end up in human breast milk even and there is a ton of science to support that that is true. Let’s point out the sewage effluent that gets piped into the west side of the harbour also, not to mention the commercial overfishing that has led to massive denuding of life in the planet’s oceans overall, the bleaching of coral reefs due to pesticide outflow from farms and pesticide use in cities also, and rising global ocean temperatures.

    The issue of liveaboards does not even make the top 100 in terms of serious ocean ecology issues globally or locally. I’d like to know who of those in this group of CASHI who are trying to bring in this new bylaw, ostensibly to keep the harbour clean and safe, has said and done one thing in the past or the present to mitigate the pulp and paper pollution issue, oil tankers and pipelines, municipal effluents, etc. I will be pleasantly surprised to find that they have done so. The majority of folk who live on the water love nature, respect nature and the environment, make use of solar and wind energy and other relatively low-impact energy sources and deal with their own waste responsibly. Of course some, a tiny minority, have been and are irresponsible and apathetic and/or ignorant of environmental concerns, but the same can be said for those who live in giant oversized houses and drive oversized diesel trucks and SUVs and (in some cases literally) look down on the harbour dwellers, but there is no need or rational justification to punish and denigrate and/or persecute or make life difficult to impossible for the majority in order to address the irresponsible and, in some cases, criminally negligent actions of a few.

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