Islands Trust Council has decided to defer consideration of first reading of its Trust Policy Statement update until December following calls for a pause in the process from all across the Trust area and a petition signed by 700 people.
“If we go ahead with the first reading, the perception from islanders that I’m getting is we’re not listening at all,” said North Pender trustee Ben McConchie, summing up the position of many who spoke against a motion to advance first reading Thursday as planned.
“I think by bringing this to first reading right now, we disrespect so many of the constituents that have spoken out,” agreed Saturna trustee Paul Brent.
The policy statement contains the principles and policies that guide how Islands Trust Council interprets and implements its provincial mandate “to preserve and protect the unique amenities and environment of the Islands Trust Area.” It also guides how individual island communities develop their official community plans and land-use bylaws.
With the most recent policy statement created in 1994, the Trust’s programs committee has been working to update the document with specific goals of addressing the climate crisis and the Trust’s commitment to reconciliation with local First Nations, and to better manage housing needs.
Galiano trustee Tahirih Rockafella raised the failed motion to advance first reading, arguing issues like climate change, the housing crisis and First Nations reconciliation cannot wait.
“People are asking for a pause in the process and I think many of those people possibly are not fully aware of the process, and I don’t fault them for it because it’s not an exciting process to go through. However, I do believe that as trustees we can walk our communities through this process and fully engage, especially since now we have these people at the table and they’re very excited to fully participate,” Rockafella said.
Salt Spring trustees Laura Patrick and Peter Grove both spoke earlier in the day about the clear preference on their island to wait for first reading. Patrick further noted in discussion of the motion to proceed a power outage the evening before had prevented many southern Gulf Island residents from speaking at a town hall session scheduled on Zoom. She also wanted to propose amendments to the draft.
“I can’t support giving first reading — I would support waiting until December,” Patrick said.
South Pender trustee Cameron Thorn asserted his belief that by listening to islanders now, the Islands Trust will potentially gain more buy-in and a far smoother pathway to final adoption of a new policy statement later on.
“Rushing this will just divide communities and alienate people who might otherwise be part of this process,” agreed Bowen trustee Michael Kaile.
Trust Programs Committee chair Deb Morrison introduced several alternative possible motions during council’s morning session to defer first reading until December and to circulate a working draft to the public and to referral agencies in the meantime, while local Trust committees support more public engagement in their own communities.
Debate on the project timeline and consultation methods continued during the afternoon session.