May 17, 2005
In a stunning reversal, North Saanich Council has rejected a proposal by the Oak Bay Marine Group to construct a 75-boat marina development in the lagoon at Tsehum Inlet, which is part of the Shoal Harbour National Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Having given the project approval in principle the Council were ready to amend the OCP and zoning bylaws just weeks ago. However, a local group of residents, with help from the Environmental Law Clinic, objected to procedures followed by council. In the end, Council scheduled a new public hearing on the issue for May 16. Then Environmental Law Clinic student Derek Simon put his life on hold, and went to work preparing for the new public hearing.
Derek co-authored a feature article on the issue that appeared in the Victoria Daily News and elsewhere. This article helped to marshal opposition to the proposal, and helped draw out a crowd to Migratory Birds Day event that the residents sponsored near the lagoon . an event which featured famed wildlife artist Robert Bateman and Chief Vern Jacks of the Tseycum First Nation.
Along with the ELC staff lawyer, Derek investigated a variety of possible legal avenues that might be available to the residents group. In particular, Derek did intensive research into federal regulations that govern bird sanctuaries, and discovered that the developer did not have a permit from the provincial Director of Fish and Wildlife, as is apparently required by the federal sanctuary legislation. On the night of May 16 he made a forceful and articulate presentation on this issue to Council, which drew one of the loudest ovations from the crowd.
Hopefully, this will be just the first of a number of public interest cases that Derek works on in his career. Derek stated: “I enjoyed working with a passionate and committed group of local citizens who had such a wide range of expertise and insight on these issues. It was exciting to be able to combine their passion for community and conservation with strong legal and scientific arguments.” Derek hopes to continue to work with community and conservation groups, First Nations, and local businesses to develop the legal and economic frameworks that are needed to build a sustainable society.
“Having the support of the UVic Environmental Law Clinic was wonderful” said North Saanich resident Susan Chandler. “Being able to understand and ask advice about the legal aspects of this case was empowering, and provided a dimension that allowed us to think about our options. Derek was an amazing resource. He was tenacious when navigating the intricacies of the federal and provincial governments, and was a powerful presence at the Council hearing.”