Al Siebring took time in his mayor’s report at the start of North Cowichan council’s regular meeting June 16 to recognize Monday, June 21 as National Indigenous Peoples Day.
”This is a day to recognize and learn more about the cultural diversity of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, the first people of Canada,” he noted. “As a council and municipality, we are committed and supportive of moving towards meaningful recognition and reconciliation of this chapter of our history. Councillor (Debra) Toporowski shared how she’s begun working as a councillor for North Cowichan at an interesting time – where we begin to implement UNDRIP, and all of us are learning together about what that means. She noted how, for often the first time, we are including everyone in the decision-making process, and how these are important steps in the right direction. I encourage everyone to celebrate this Monday, and take some time to learn more. To begin, learn about Cowichan history, learn whose land you live on, learn some Hul’q’umi’num, the traditional language of the local First Nations.”
Council considered and accepted the 2020 annual municipal report. The document compiles the 2020 audited financial statements, municipal initiatives of note and successes and progress toward achieving council’s strategic plan.
Paul Fletcher from the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society made a presentation, sharing the findings of Parrots Feather management in Somenos Creek and the GreenStreams strategy to help increase salmon productivity in the Somenos Watershed.
Council was told Parrots Feather plays a large role in creating problematic, and even lethal, conditions for fish. An invasive aquatic plant, Parrots Feather occupies 80 per cent of Somenos Creek, and the SMWS is collaborating with North Cowichan and Cowichan Tribes, and using various strategies, to manage the problem.
Staff presented options for developing an affordable housing policy with the goal of confirming council’s desired direction for the policy. Staff is aiming to develop a meaningful policy within about 3-6 months to help address the current housing crisis. The goal of the policy is to strike a balance between setting out a strategic approach within the upcoming updated Official Community Plan, delegating actions to a more flexible standalone policy and identifying short-term actions that can be undertaken without a significant process or overarching direction. Council agreed to endorse the proposed inclusion of numbered tools within the OCP and proposed Affordable Housing Policy, as set out in the staff report. A draft housing policy is expected back before council in the coming months for further review and consideration.
Council also considered what features it would like included in the requested Telecommunications Antennae Structures Policy. Council agreed to direct staff to move forward in drafting a policy that specifies a consultation area radius of 300 meters, that all applications require a public meeting, that all applications are to be determined by council, that there be certain exemption criteria for additions to existing structure less than 15 meters and that there be an application fee of $1,000. This draft policy will come back to council for further review before its final adoption.
Council considered recommendations from the Environmental Advisory Committee regarding prioritization of the updated Climate Action and Energy Plan greenhouse gas emissions reduction actions. Council directed staff to incorporate the EAC’s recommended CAEP actions relevant to the Official Community Plan into the policy and implementation sections of the updated OCP, as appropriate. Staff will work with the consultant to finalize the CAEP update to include the EAC recommendations. Development of the recommended policies and targets will be included within the 2022 departmental business plans and budgets.
Results were received from the public survey conducted on emissions reduction actions earlier this year in relation to the update of the Climate Action and Energy Plan. Staff has been directed to incorporate this feedback into the Climate Action and Energy Plan update and implementation plan.
Council voted in favour of a motion brought forward by Councillor Rosalie Sawrie asking the mayor and staff to invite Suzanne Simard to give a public virtual presentation about her work with local context as part of the education for the Municipal Forest Reserve. In addition, a letter will be sent to Bond Group Entertainment, inviting it to film Suzanne Simard’s memoir, Finding the Mother Tree, in North Cowichan. Staff was requested to solicit input from the following groups and report to council with other potential education opportunities that can be hosted or shared as part of the forestry review process: Forestry and Environment staff, the Forestry Advisory Committee, the Forestry Review Working Group, the Forestry Review project consultants, the Environmental Advisory Committee and Resource Works.
Regular Council meetings occur once a month in July and August, with the next one on Wednesday, July 21 at 1:30 p.m.