Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

Trustees eye public engagement on policy statement amendment

A first draft of the Islands Trust’s amendments to its official policy statement will likely stay out of the public eye into the spring, even as plans for its rollout — and talking points for trustees — solidify. 

Trust Area Services director Clare Frater gave a project update as part of a funding request to the Trust’s Financial Planning Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 24.  

The Policy Statement will soon mark 30 years since its last meaningful update in 1994 — coming up short, according to officials, in adequately addressing issues of reconciliation, climate change and housing. Efforts to begin an update process began in 2019, but were delayed in 2021 when residents crowded public meetings — and filled newspaper opinion pages — with negative reaction to both wording and process during a first reading of the proposed changes. 

Trustees reacted by sending staff back to the drawing board, to incorporate that feedback into a new document now produced, according to a Trust Area Services report, and shared with nine First Nations representatives for their feedback and reflections. 

While there have been delays with First Nation engagement, according to Frater, planning a communications strategy should proceed regardless. 

“Without properly funding communication support, you risk a challenging process,” said Frater. “I think we’ve seen that in prior experiences and found that we were not sufficiently equipped around the communication side of things.” 

The coordinated approach to public engagement will include providing enough communication materials for trustees to give them confidence in answering questions from their local communities. 

“Such that when it goes public on the agenda, you’re all equipped with speaking notes and ‘frequently asked questions,’” said Frater. “And you will have all the commentary from First Nations.” 

Frater said her recent discussion with Trust Programs Committee chair Kristina Evans had made the broad outlines for a plan that would produce an agenda for that meeting well in advance of the usual 10-day pre-meeting timeline — hopefully as soon as mid-March, which would give both trustees and the public more time with the information.  

“The nations are aware that council is very eager to see this document and receive their comments,” said Frater, noting they had only received the new document in September. “I just can’t at this point commit to a firm timeline. I am hopeful it goes public in the middle of March.” 

“I have been following the project since the very beginning of the revision,” said Gabriola Island trustee Susan Yates, “as a citizen, as a reporter and now as a trustee. I would like to see it finished, before this term is over, and done well — it is the backbone bylaw for the entire Islands Trust, guiding all of our official community plans.” 

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  1. Are the Gulf Islands exempted from the recent provincial legislation that substantially removes local government from residential land planning?


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