Lillian Hoffar Park 2005

Flashback / Flash Forward: Sharing Our Stories of Success

This story is the second in a series we’re sharing in 2021 to mark the ELC’s 25th anniversary [ICYMI, our first flashback is here]. We’ll take this time to reflect on milestones and appreciate work done in the past that is making a difference today. These stories demonstrate what we all inherently know: actions we take today reverberate long into the future.

Lillian Hoffar Park 2005
ELC Students met with Robert Bateman and Chief Vern jacks at a Migratory Birds Day event at Lillian Hoffar Park, near Tshehum Inlet (2005). (Photo by Holly Pattison)

Tsehum Inlet Lagoon

In 2005, the ELC helped persuade a local government to save migratory bird habitat on Vancouver Island rather than accepting a proposal to dredge a lagoon and construct a 75-boat marina development.

Located near the BC Ferries terminal in Sidney, BC, Tsehum Inlet lagoon is home to bufflehead, greenwinged teal, peregrine falcons, eagles, herons and more than 30 other species of waterfowl, seabirds, shorebirds and the rare intertidal Jaumea carnosa plant community. Visible along the stretch of highway from the ferry terminal into Sidney, the lagoon is backed by forest and a large marina. It is part of the federal Shoal Harbour National Migratory Bird Sanctuary, established in 1931 as one of the first migratory bird sanctuaries on the pacific coast.

Before the ELC became involved, the local municipal council had given approval in principle and were prepared to amend their OCP and zoning bylaws in order to accommodate a development that would have dredged and removed 2,000 dump tuck loads of sediment, and installed floats and facilities for 75 boats.

Thanks to Governance Action in North Saanich (GAINS), the group of residents who brought this issue to our attention, the ELC was able to identify and object to procedures the council had followed, which resulted in the scheduling of a new public hearing on the issue.

ELC student Derek Simon and ELC Legal Director Calvin Sandborn co-authored an op ed, which helped marshal opposition to the proposal and drew a crowd to Migratory Birds Day event the residents sponsored near the lagoon, which featured famed wildlife artist Robert Bateman and Chief Vern Jacks of the Tseycum First Nation.

In preparing for the public hearing, Derek discovered that the developer did not have a necessary permit from the provincial Director of Fish and Wildlife, which was required by the federal sanctuary legislation. He presented this information at the public hearing, with the supportive of an enthusiastic crowd, and council reversed their earlier position and rejected the proposal.

At the time, Derek said he hoped it would be just the first of a number of public interest cases that he’d work on in his career. He said, “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.” He hoped 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.

Derek, now a lawyer in Halifax who works almost exclusively in Aboriginal Law says, “As a law student, the opportunity to work with local residents, and to represent them at the council hearing, was highly motivating, and taught me skills that have served me well in my career. I also learned a lot about the laws around protected areas, which has turned out to be a significant area of practice for me, as I now work with my clients on the creation of Indigenous Conserved and Protected Areas, and negotiations with Parks Canada.”

Susan Chandler recently said that the quote she provided at the time on behalf of GAINS has stood the test of time: “Having the support of the UVic Environmental Law Clinic was wonderful. 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.”

…the natural world is not lost in one fell sweep, or by a single catastrophic decision. We lose it one little piece at a time, one lovely lagoon at a time. We lose it one Council decision at a time, as governments approve a subdivision here, a new mall there, a new marina somewhere else. And then, before you know it, the Island we love will be gone.

Save the Gateway to Paradise (from op ed written by Calvin Sandborn and Derek Simon, May 2005)