Community Mapping Event at Roberts Bay, Tuesday June 15 2021, 10 am – 12:30 pm

The Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition is proud to present a Community Mapping Event led by the University of Victoria Community Mapping class (Geography 380). See poster below.

Covid rules limit attendance to 50 persons on the Ardwell Beach Access (intersection of Ardwell Avenue and Resthaven Drive in Sidney BC). Please bring a mask

Final Version (May 2021) of “A Bioregional Framework for the Saanich Peninsula”

Note from the Editor: Posted below are the introductory portions of the Bioregional Framework for the Saanich Peninsula (final version). From the main body of the Plan itself we have included the Executive Summary and some definitions. A link to the complete Bioregional Framework (final version) can be found at the end of this post.

A remarkable addition to the final version is the RECOGNITION OF W̱SÁNEĆ HISTORY, CULTURE, AND TERRITORY contributed by Tiffany Joseph, Joni Olsen and Justin Fritz (with permission of the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council) and included here. Both this addition, included here, and the main (bureaucratic) document refer to the relationship between the human community and the nature that surrounds it.



W̱SÁNEĆ (hw-say-nitch) means the “emerging people,” Saanich is the anglicized form of W̱SÁNEĆ. The Saanich Peninsula, its municipalities, and the Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition are all named after the W̱SÁNEĆ people and territory. The creator, XÁLS (xhails), bestowed teachings for the W̱SÁNEĆ people to care for the territory by respecting the land, the water, each wind, each species, and each person, as a relative. XÁLS transformed many beings in the territory into stone as reminders to the W̱SÁNEĆ peoples of the laws of the land. Starting at the north end of the Peninsula, ṮEUWEṈ (tlow-ung), there is a site where XÁLS, the creator, transformed a being into stone. Along the shoreline on the west side of the Peninsula you pass through ḴEUḴEUET (kow-kow-it), a place of drumming. W̱SÍḴEM (hw-sigh-kem), known as Patricia Bay, is a village that used to be full of clams for harvesting. Here you can find two creeks, TELÁW̱EṈ (tuh-lay-hwung) and ȾEṈTEN (ts-ung-tin), which were important salmon spawning creeks, and were shortcuts from the inlet to the Salish strait. On the east side of the Saanich Peninsula is ḰELSET (quell-sit), the mouth of Reay Creek at Bazan Bay. ḰELSET was full of XIW̱E (xhee-hwuh) and SQIȾI (squee-tsee) (purple and green sea urchins). Westward to ȽAU,WELṈEW̱ (lhay-well-ngehw) mountain and further to KEXMIṈEN (kuxh-meeng-un), also known as Hagan Bight, this was a harvesting site for barestem desert parsley, a sacred medicine for W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. South east is ȾIKEL (tsee-kel), known today as Maber Flats, it was a bog full of a wide variety of medicines and fibers for making rope, mats, and baskets. Southward is the location of SṈIDȻEȽ (sngeet-kwulh), Tod Inlet, the place of blue grouse. SṈIDȻEL is known to be the first village of the W̱SÁNEĆ peoples where SȽEMEW̱ (slh-um-oohw), the first man, came down from the sky. W̱MÍYEŦEN, the Highlands, are prominent hunting grounds. The W̱SÁNEĆ people have advocated for the preservation and responsible management of W̱SÁNEĆ, since the arrival of settlers.

According to written history, in 1852, Douglas met with the W̱SÁNEĆ to create a treaty in order to access timber and open a saw mill in Cordova Bay. This treaty states that the W̱SÁNEĆ sold their land to the ‘white man forever’ and in exchange the W̱SÁNEĆ people would be able to “hunt over the unoccupied lands, and to carry on our fisheries as formerly.” W̱SÁNEĆ oral history tells us, instead, that James Douglas and the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation entered into a Peace and Friendship Treaty in response to a number of significant events. These events include the encroachment/timber extraction by employees of James Douglas near the village of ȾEL¸IȽĆE (Cordova Bay), the shooting of a W̱SÁNEĆ boy by a settler near Mount Tolmie, and threats W̱SÁNEĆ peoples had made against James Douglas and Fort Victoria in response to the above. In 1852, James Douglas met with W̱SÁNEĆ peoples to remedy these concerns and gestured out to the land in recognition of W̱SÁNEĆ’s ownership of their territory. The agreement held that settlers and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples would continue to live on these lands with respect for one another. This did not occur. When ȾIKEL, which means bog/swamp, was drained, late Cecelia Elliott, shook her head and stated: “This place will be no more good to us.”

In retellings of this story, JSIṈTEN shares that his grandmother expressed that the settlers didn’t know what they were doing, and by doing this they would be wiping out all the medicines and the animal habitat within the wetland. Each development that was built around a creek, disappointed the W̱SÁNEĆ people. When creeks were changed to ponds W̱SÁNEĆ people knew this would confuse the fish, stating that “the salmon aren’t going to come back.” With agricultural land protections and agricultural pollutants, W̱SÁNEĆ peoples’ ability to revitalize their food systems is limited. Agricultural lands have destroyed the wetlands, forests, and beaches that were fundamental to W̱SÁNEĆ health and culture.

The written version of the Douglas Treaty is a direct breach of W̱SÁNEĆ law. As previously mentioned, the W̱SÁNEĆ people have obligations to the land, water, and all living things, these have been given to them by XÁLS the Creator: “I, ṮÁU, ȻENS QENT E TŦE SĆÁLEĆE LÁ,E TOL” (“You will also look after your Relatives”). W̱SÁNEĆ obligation to fulfill the laws given to us by XÁLS could not have been superseded by any treaty made with James Douglas. The story of the great flood emphasizes the need to uphold W̱SÁNEĆ law. Years ago, the W̱SÁNEĆ peoples forgot the teachings of XÁLS, who then caused the water to rise. To survive, W̱SÁNEĆ ancestors boarded their canoes, tying themselves to an arbutus tree at the top of ȽÁU,WELṈEW̱ (Mount Newton) with a large cedar rope. As the flood subsided, the peak of ȽÁU,WELṈEW̱ emerged, and the survivors were able to make it safely back to dry land. They then gathered around the cedar rope and gave thanks and stated, we are W̱SÁNEĆ, the emerging people.

Acknowledging W̱SÁNEĆ territory, people and history is acknowledging W̱SÁNEĆ people as caretakers of the forests, streams, meadows, beaches, mountains, springs and wetlands. Taking action on the ideas laid out in this Bioregional Framework, is an opportunity to support and respect W̱SÁNEC peoples, history, values and future.1,2 

Here, at the scale of the Saanich Peninsula, the place we inhabit day to day, we can learn so much from the W̱SÁNEĆ people. Their memory and knowing is a great gift in finding a way forward that creates healthy communities and ecosystems. We thank Tiffany Joseph, Joni Olsen, their colleagues, and through them the W̱SÁNEĆ people, for their guidance and help in creating the Bioregional Framework for the Saanich Peninsula.


[1] We would like to acknowledge Joni Olsen, Tiffany Joseph, and Justin Fritz for their work in producing this acknowledgment.

[2] With permission, aspects of this intro are taken verbatim from: W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council. (2019, October 13). Amendments to Cordova Bay Local Area Plan.


Executive Summary


The natural environment is an integral part of and driving force behind the culture, economy and well-being of the Saanich Peninsula.

During the Sidney Summit on Habitat and Environment in November 2018, there was a broad consensus that more could be done to support the health of the environment. Emphasis on collaborative action sparked the idea of developing a Bioregional Framework to support a Peninsula-wide approach to the environment.

To this end, the Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition formed to develop a Bioregional Framework outlining a holistic approach to environmental health and management and to advocate for its adoption across the Saanich Peninsula. 

We recognize that this holistic approach needs to include W̱SÁNEĆ people, relationships, teachings, and responsibilities to all living and non-living things.

The Bioregional Framework is defined by a vision of ecological sustainability:

In respectful collaboration with the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation, the municipalities of
Central Saanich, North Saanich, and Sidney recognize the rich and interconnected ecology of the Saanich Peninsula Bioregion and commit to work together to foster a healthy and sustaining environment for the future.

To achieve this vision of ecological sustainability, the Framework is composed of three distinct, but interrelated principles:

Ecosystem Integrity, Jurisdictional Collaboration,
Community Perspective

Within each principle a central outcome and multiple sub-outcomes are identified that are required to fulfill the broader vision.

Implementing the Bioregional Framework is an involved process that can be approached in diverse ways. Based on conversations with municipal staff, local organizations, the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council, and the public, we identified specific strategies and recommendations that we believe will be the most effective in supporting a holistic approach to ecological sustainability.


1. Integrate the Bioregional Framework into the Official Community Plans (OCPs) of Central Saanich, North Saanich, and Sidney. 

2. Detail a clear implementation plan to fulfill the desired outcomes of the Bioregional Framework. As part of this we recommend that a municipal staff report on the feasibility of the plan’s recommendations be included in the plan itself.

3. Establish a Peninsula-wide Environmental Advisory Council of elected and appointed members to guide the implementation of a Bioregional Framework and highlight environmental considerations.


Several of the key recommendations are listed here, with all recommendations listed at the conclusion of this report.

Ecosystem Integrity:

1. Perform a gap analysis of municipal policies relative to best practices.

2. Update the guidelines for Development Permit Areas (DPA).

3. Pursue appropriate policy measures to protect natural shorelines.

Jurisdictional Collaboration:

1. Formalize Peninsula-wide meetings between jurisdictions to discuss ecological sustainability.

2. Employ an environmental specialist to work with Central Saanich, North Saanich, and Sidney. 

Community Perspective:

1. Support public education regarding the values, culture, and traditional knowledge of the W̱SÁNEĆ people

2. Host a biennial summit on the environment.

3. Support community education and engagement.



For the purposes of this document, the following terms are defined.:

Ecosystem: (a) An interdependent and self-sustaining grouping of living organisms together with the territory they inhabit or (b) A dynamic unit characterized by specific interactions of living organisms and living organisms with their abiotic environment.

Ecosystem Integrity: The maintenance of the structure and function of ecosystems, with particular attention to biodiversity, ecological function, and resilience.


Structural Connectivity:The interaction of landscape features.

Functional Connectivity: The extent to which the movement of living organisms and natural processes is aided by landscapes.

Ecological Corridors: A specific geographic region that facilitates ecological connectivity.

Natural Assets: Natural features that carry out services necessary for the sustainability of a population.

Bioregion: A region determined by uniformity of environmental characteristics such as climate, landform, distribution of non-human (natural) species, not by political or administrative relations.

Jurisdiction(s): A general descriptor, inclusive of the Tsartlip/W̱JOȽEȽP, Tseycum/WSIḴEM, Tsawout/SȾÁUTW, and Pauquachin/BOḰEĆEN First Nations, as well as Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney.


References to the terms defined above can be found in the complete “Bioregional Framework for the Saanich Peninsula”


Link to the complete final version of A Bioregional Framework for the Saanich Peninsula


April 15, 2021: A Community Conversation Regarding Tsehum Harbour and Tsehum Lagoon

From the invitation to attend the Tsehum Harbour and Lagoon Community conversation on Thursday, April 15, 2021:

In the mid 1800’s as settlers were arriving on the Saanich Peninsula, the sheltered waters and lush foreshores of Tsehum Harbour and Tsehum Lagoon (then known as Shoal Harbour) were prime habitat for waterfowl and many other wild creatures. Flocks of Brant geese interrupted their migrations to rest here and feed. Commercial hunters harvested them so aggressively that by 1930 the numbers of visiting Brant geese were seriously reduced, so much so that the Government of Canada established a Migratory Bird Sanctuary encompassing Tsehum Harbour and Roberts Bay, as it had done a decade earlier along the foreshore of Victoria.

Establishing these two migratory bird sanctuaries was effective in curtailing over-hunting but has not prevented the degradation of the sanctuary itself due to residential and commercial development on its shores. We also realize that the loosely framed and under-enforced bylaws currently in place in both Sidney and North Saanich have not been effective either in preventing harm to the Sanctuary. Ironically, Tsehum Harbour, Tsehum Lagoon and and Roberts Bay, squarely within the Sanctuary, have become three of the most degraded nearshore areas on the Saanich Peninsula due to (partial list):

 Contaminated runoff from storm sewers, streets and highways, waterfront properties, industrial activities

 Cumulative effects of over 3000 pleasure craft moored in the harbour (anti-fouling paint, fuel and lubricants, garbage and other effluvia (particularly Styrofoam particles))

 Loss of shoreline trees (aging plus removals)

 Degradation of beaches due to seawalls and sea-level rise

The day-to -day stewardship of our local natural endowment (our naturehood) has become the responsibility of local municipal governments staffed by people who we know and who live among us. Thus, as voting citizens, we share with them the responsibility for establishing and directing the necessary stewardship.

Here are the “desired outcomes” of this initiative (of which the Community Conversation is a part):

  • Respectful cooperation with the WSANEC Leadership Council and the Tseycum First Nation to ensure that their interests and values are included in this conversation and in the future management/protection of this area.
  • Endorsement by North Saanich and Sidney municipal governments of the Shoreline Protection Act and other associated Coastal Regulations
  • Increased monitoring of the area and more vigorous enforcement of regulations commensurate with its special ecological nature and Development Permit Area regulations.
  • The formation of an Intermunicipal Tsehum Harbour Task Force (Sidney and North Saanich) focusing on enforcement, monitoring and management, community involvement, particpation by both federal and provincial governments and a multi-year budget.
  • Shift Tsehum Harbour and Lagoon from a Development Permit Area to a Special Development Area so as to allow for more specific protections.

These outcomes would not only ensure a prompt and effective response to problems as they arose but also would discourage attempts to circumvent clearly established regulations.

Here is a link to the entire report of the Community Conversation:


Some responses from the 45 +/- attendees are repeated below:

  • Many attendees stressed that monitoring and enforcement is essential and that the current situation must be addressed with a budget and staff commensurate with the Development Permit Area designations and fragile ecological nature of the Harbour and Lagoon.
  • Focus attention on what can be done now.  Don’t wait for the CRD, province or federal government to respond.
  • First Nation rights and interests must be addressed in any go forward option.
  • ‘Stop finger-pointing’ and using the complicated jurisdictions as an excuse to do nothing and ignore the situation.  Do what you can do within your jurisdictions and that in itself will lead to positive change.  ‘Stop blaming and do your job’. ‘Take back your management role and do it’.
    • ‘Perhaps Sidney-North Saanich could co-fund a bylaw officer and boat to ensure that current bylaws and regulations are being monitored and enforced’.  ‘Such a position would also raise the public profile of the situation’.
    • Couldn’t special sensitive zones be demarcated – for eel grass in particular.
  • We are witnessing ‘death by a thousand cuts’. The cumulative nature of this situation is leading to a ‘tipping point’ and we are on the verge of losing ‘the naturalness’ of this important area.
    • There was a suggestion that since Section 17 of the Land Act can designate reserves, withdrawals, notations and prohibitions why not apply Section 17 to the Lagoon portion of the Sanctuary as it is so sensitive?
  • ‘The time to act is now’.  Don’t wait for the CRD to get the proposed Harbours Initiative in place.
    • As an aside, a number of attendees voiced concern about the CRD Harbours Initiative and that it will be a ‘bureaucratic nightmare’ and ‘besides spending lots of money on reports nothing will happen’.  It was seen as a measure that staff would embrace more than the public.
  • Tsehum Harbour and Lagoon and Roberts Bay aren’t mutually exclusive. Success will only be achieved through cooperation and alignment of policy and practices. ‘I sure hope that Sidney and North Saanich wake up and work together’.
  • The moorage, derelict boat dilemma stems from legislative and organizational changes by the federal government. ‘They have clearly failed’. 
    • And it is clear that the municipality can make a difference, witness the recent positive actions by North Saanich in relation to the mess near Lillian Hoffar Park.
  • Is it now time for the CWS to update and enhance the Migratory Bird Convention Act and associated Regulations to reflect the current state of the environment so they can address more than harm to bird nests and their eggs.
    • Glad to see the increased attention to off-leash dogs.
  • I don’t understand why housing and development is allowed to encroach right up to the Sanctuary, riparian areas and creeks – clearly in contravention of the current bylaws and regulations.    ‘Where is the will to do the right thing?’  These fringe areas must be protected to conserve the beaches and foreshore.
  • Why aren’t boats registered like vehicles.  There is such a system in Washington State and it is working well.
  • Any management must be framed with the context of climate change and an overall biodiversity strategy for the Peninsula.  
  • We must remember this situation isn’t just local – it is happening up and down the coast. At Coles Bay there is illegal boat moorage now, what a shame.