Islanders voices matter in update of Trust Policy Statement
By LAURA PATRICK
The Trust Policy Statement is required by provincial legislation and is intended to be a general statement of the higher-level policies required to carry out the mandate of the Trust, which is 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, other persons and organizations and the government of British Columbia.”
The Trust Policy Statement (once adopted) applies to all of the member islands equally; however, each island still has its own official community plan. The Trust Policy Statement provides the over-arching vision and goals, the things we all need to be mindful of to meet our obligation of “preserve and protect” under the act, while allowing each island to uniquely shape its own community plan to address its specific needs.
The most recent Trust Policy Statement was prepared decades ago. It is being updated because it doesn’t speak to our responsibilities around reconciliation, climate change or affordable housing.
The current Salt Spring Island Official Community Plan and land use bylaws continue to govern our decisions on land use as they always have. There are no immediate impacts to our decision-making considerations. However, when the day comes that we need to update our OCP, the update must align with the vision and goals of the Trust Policy Statement.
What I have been hearing from Salt Spring Islanders:
• Please write the policy statement in plain language! The Trust Policy Statement should be simple to understand, goal driven and inspirational.
• Remove the prohibition on new docks! Most islanders I have spoken with understand and accept the current policies and regulations that limit the location and scale of new private docks. These minimize impacts on sensitive marine ecosystems and aquatic species at risk, including eelgrass, kelp, and clam beds, forage fish spawning areas, as well as First Nations’ cultural, archaeological and traditional harvesting sites.
• Agriculture and local food production are vital to the character of the islands! Not only are these vital to island character, they are “important contributors to the preservation of land and economic vitality, and entirely compatible with important goals of enhanced attention to reconciliation and climate change,” as stated by the Salt Spring Island Agricultural Alliance in its June 22, 2021 letter to the Islands Trust Council. A great example of helpful and specific suggestions for improving the draft Policy Statement has come from the Agricultural Alliance, which has specifically requested that the following two current policies be carried forward into the updated policy statement:
“It is Trust Council’s policy that agriculture is a valuable activity that contributes to the islands’ rural character and that local food production can play a positive role in protecting land and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Trust Council shall encourage the Provincial Agricultural Land Commission to approve applications from property owners for inclusion of their land with potential for agriculture in the Agricultural Land Reserve.”
• Remove the prohibition on desalination plants! I have heard that, instead, the new policy should regulate potential negative impacts of desalination plants without prohibiting them.
• Why wasn’t I consulted? Some people are just hearing about these issues now and are concerned their voices will not be heard. The Trust, and I as one of your local trustees, do intend to engage the community further and hear your thoughts about the draft Policy Statement.
Trust Council’s Executive Committee (of which I am a member) has been tasked with developing the final phase of public engagement, to take place between September and December this year. Here’s what I will be seeking to achieve at the upcoming meeting:
• Provide staff with direction to seek external advice on the design of this upcoming phase of engagement. We cannot repeat the tactics used in previous rounds of engagement. This phase requires something deeper and more accessible.
• Recognize that participative democracy is a best practice method of public engagement and likely the most suitable for building trust and reducing polarization across the Trust Area at this juncture. This may include facilitated group discussions that provide participants the opportunity to consider issues in depth, hear about and challenge each other’s opinions, and co-develop a set of informed recommendations to the Trust Council.
• Ensure that public input plays an integral part in the next draft of the Trust Policy Statement.
I want to hear your ideas for this next phase of public engagement. Please email me at email@example.com.
In the meantime, if you already have comments and thoughts about the current draft of the policy statement, we’d love to hear from you. Specific recommendations are the most useful, like the Agricultural Alliance provided (above), and a show of support for the public engagement noted above would be beneficial.
The draft new Policy Statement and background information can be viewed at https://islandstrust.bc.ca/programs/islands-2050/.
Please send your comments to Islands2050@islandstrust.bc.ca.
The writer is a Salt Spring Local Trust Committee member and a member of the Islands Trust Executive Committee.