Details of a closed meeting held by the Islands Trust Council (ITC) last month have begun to emerge and may telegraph a shift in that body’s priorities.
The most recent ITC meeting, held on North Pender Island Sept. 26-28, kicked off with a two-hour-long session held in-camera — the first order of business for the land use authority’s three-day quarterly meeting. Upon returning to public view, ITC chair and Thetis Island trustee Peter Luckham disclosed the group had enjoyed a “lengthy discussion” about the interpretation of Section 3 of the Islands Trust Act — commonly referred to as the “object” or “mandate” of that body.
That section instructs the Islands Trust to “preserve and protect the Trust Area and its unique amenities and environment for the benefit of the residents of the Trust Area and of British Columbia generally, in cooperation with municipalities, regional districts, improvement districts, First Nations, other persons and organizations and the government of British Columbia.”
Luckham on Sept. 26 did not reveal the result of that discussion, saying only that ITC had “come to a conclusion” of how it wished to interpret Section 3 going forward, and that public release of that information and the interpretation ITC agreed upon would be forthcoming “in the near future.”
So as a draft version of the unofficial “highlights” of that meeting was posted as part of the Trust’s Executive Committee meeting agenda packet for Wednesday, Oct. 11, observers got their first look at what was discussed. In the closed session, according to that draft highlight document, ITC considered legal opinions regarding that portion of the Islands Trust Act — and apparently reached consensus that the definition of “unique amenities” may include “housing, livelihoods, infrastructure and tourism” — seemingly the most explicit recognition yet of this ITC’s belief that its mandate extends well beyond the natural environment.
Communication on the issue has been unofficial and scant; in several public settings leading up to the ITC meeting, trustees had alluded to such discussions taking place and a possible new direction — and a post on social media had suggested at least one trustee had shared this new interpretation previous to the release of the draft highlights document. But an official public statement had not been made before the release of this agenda packet — which included a new link to an official “rise and report” consensus document, dated the day of the closed meeting.
“There has been some debate in the past about the meaning of unique amenities,” according to that report. “Trust Council’s view is that unique amenities are broad-ranging and may include issues such as, but not limited to, housing, livelihoods, infrastructure and tourism.”
“However,” it continues, “land use planning in the Trust Area must always include a focus on preserving and protecting the environment and communities of both local Trust areas and the Trust Area generally and, in a manner consistent with Reconciliation. In any given decision-making situation, there must be recognition of the importance of each of the essential elements and where there is competition between those elements there must be a careful and reasoned balancing of the importance of preserving and protecting the Trust Area, and its unique amenities and environment.”
The closed meeting, according to the report, summarized all previous legal opinions on the mandate, addressing what it called a “deep division amongst both trustees and constituents” on its meaning and implementation; the effort was a priority of the Trust’s current Governance Committee, appointed in December 2022. That committee also has been the driving force behind the creation of a strategic plan for the Trust, an effort “championed by a sub-committee of the Financial Planning Committee which has been endorsed and encouraged by the Governance Committee, and will be subject to separate and future discussions.”
Recordings or official minutes of the September ITC meeting have yet to be posted; ITC’s consensus statement can be read online here.