Media Release: Peoples’ paddle through Southern Gulf Islands aims to “turn the tide” on tankers and tarsands

Turning the Tide poster
Victoria, BC — Residents of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Lower Mainland are joining together the last weekend in July in a human-powered, multi-day flotilla through the Salish Sea and Southern Gulf Islands to demonstrate their passion for the coast and their commitment to protect it from the threat posed by oil tankers, pipelines and tarsands.

“Since the federal government approved the Northern Gateway pipeline, it is more important than ever to raise our voices in defence of the coast,” says Sasha Kvakic, a spokesperson for Turning the Tide.

“The peoples’ paddle for the Salish Sea is our way of showing how far we are willing to go in protecting ecosystems from a catastrophic oil spill. We want to show regular British Columbians who care about the environment that they are not alone, and that there are meaningful actions they can take to challenge the Harper government’s tarsands agenda.”

Turning the Tide: A Peoples’ Paddle for the Salish Sea takes place from Friday July 25 to Monday July 28, proceeding from Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island to Port Browning Marina on Pender Island, to Ruckle Provincial Park on Saltspring Island, and then back to Swartz Bay. Island residents are hosting community gatherings on July 26 (Pender) and July 27 (Saltspring) featuring music, speakers and food to coincide with the group’s journey along the coast.

Turning the Tide is an initiative spearheaded by the advocacy group Social Environmental Alliance (SEA), in partnership with local First Nations and organizations including the Wilderness Committee and Raincoast Conservation Society.

“For me, Turning the Tide is about sharing an appreciation for these beautiful west coast waters,” says organizer David Monk. “But it is also about sending a message. British Columbians are united in opposition to the tar sands, pipelines and tankers that will wreak havoc on our coast. There is a strong message being sent to our political leaders, and I want to be part of it. I’m paddling because I love this coast, I love this land and I can’t stand to see it destroyed.”

Turning the Tide is open to all members of the public who are experienced open-water paddlers, as well as members of all skill levels who wish to travel to Pender and Saltspring by ferry to rendezvous with the flotilla. Registration is open at www.TurningtheTide.ca.

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For further information, contact:

Sasha Kvakic, 250-818-5565
David Monk, 250-580-7716

Grace Islet Chronology – Provincial Archaeological Site Record Information

Flotilla to Grace Islet, June 21st 2014

Flotilla to Grace Islet, June 21st 2014

Grace Islet Chronology – Provincial Archaeological Site Record Information

From time immemorial –Coast Salish village known in Hul’qumi’num as “Shiyahwt,” or “SYOWT” in Sencoten, at the site of present-day Ganges. In the Hul’qumi’num language the islet is “shmukw’elu”, roughly “a place to have funerals and containers (for bodies).”

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Honour Grace Islet Burial Ground

Grace Islet, indigenous cultural site in Ganges Harbour off Salt Spring Island, is threatened by development

Grace Islet, an indigenous cultural site in Ganges Harbour off Salt Spring Island, is threatened by development

All of the First Nations in the area are concerned about this site. Traditionally, many different tribes would have come to Ganges Harbour to harvest fish and other food supplies; therefore the islet is considered of great importance as a final resting place of ancestors of Saanich as well as Cowichan and Penelakut peoples.

There’s strong support for preservation of the islet as a burial ground on Salt Spring. One year ago, after the centre of the islet was scraped down to bedrock in preparation for construction, disturbing the ancient site in breach of the original site alteration permit conditions, we held a public meeting in Ganges to give elders from the Penelakut, Cowichan and Saanich First Nations an opportunity to tell islanders the importance of Grace Islet to their peoples and their traditions. Over one hundred people turned out, overflowing the room, and we launched a letter-writing campaign to the Minister. A similar meeting held this spring was also packed.

People get it – you don’t build on top of a cemetery. All our elected officials get it, too – from our CRD Director, our Islands Trust Trustees, our MLA Gary Holman and our MP Elizabeth May, all have met together to try to find a way to come to an appropriate resolution.

The situation is now at a critical stage – the owner has hired a builder, who could begin construction any day.

It all goes back to 2006 when human remains were discovered on the islet by kayakers, and the BC Archaeology Branch established that it was indeed a burial islet.

Yes, the owner has gone through the process to acquire the necessary permits, but the process is flawed. In August 2013 the BC Archaeological Branch itself stated in a letter to First Nations that the best outcome would be to refuse the extension of the permit for residential construction, but that the Province had no funds or program to make this possible. But we think Minister Thomson needs to know there is another way – and that our community would offer its support in coming to a just resolution. The Minister has the authority to suspend the permit and stop the development.

Please sign this Petition and share this information with your networks. Adam Olsen, interim leader of the Green Party and member of Tsartlip First Nation, is working with NDP MLA Gary Holman to pursue the matter in the Legislature. Honour the Grace Islet Burial Ground!