Who will tend the garden? The board of the Blenkinsop Valley Community Association is looking for additional volunteers to help shape the future direction of this part of rural Saanich. Black Press File

Community leader fears demise of Saanich’s community association

A community leader fears for the future of community associations.

“I think there is a potential for them to be imploding,” said Illarion Gallant, a director with the Blenkinsop Valley Community Association. “I think there is a potential for them to disappear. I know our board is tired. People have been on it for a long time, and there is no one stepping up.”

Gallant, a prominent local sculptor, has served on the board of the association for five years, as one of six board members. He has very much enjoyed the experience, both on personal and professional level. He has also been able to balance his time commitment towards the

“I find the engagement worth the time commitment [and] I don’t think it takes that much time that you can’t do it. It is just a matter of doing it.”

But Gallant would also like to see others step up. He estimates current board members have served on average between six and eight years, with one board member having served for 13 years.

“We have to get new people on board, so that they can learn about it, and they can learn what the issues are,” he said.

Community associations, according to Saanich’s web site, consists of Saanich residents that “provide valuable input to council and Saanich staff on items such as land use and planning proposals.”

This status makes them important transmission points between the public-at-large in each of the 18 neighbourhoods that they represent, elected officials and other actors, including private enterprise, non-for-profit agencies and other members of local civil society.

Saanich recognizes this status by affording representatives of community associations additional time to comment on development and land use issues, and their influence can be significant, as in the case of the Camosun Community Association, which played an influential role in the eventual re-development of Townley Lodge.

As such, community associations represent democratic laboratories and training grounds, and yes, stepping stones, towards larger, elected political offices.

But various community associations have at various times also struggled to maintain membership against the backdrop of changing societal norms, especially around volunteerism. “The whole idea of community associations came out of a time, when there was way more community participation,” said Gallant. “That’s the whole thing about volunteerism.”

A Statistics Canada survey found that in 2010 about one-half of Canadians volunteered. But if the number of volunteers has increased since 2004, actual volunteer hours have plateaued. In fact, according to the survey, 10 per cent of all volunteers accounted for 53 per cent of all volunteer hours given to non-profit and charitable organizations.

In short, more people are more volunteering, but their respective commitments are fleeting, thereby leaving the heavy lifting to a small, dedicated core of individuals. Sound familiar?

Gallant also hopes to see his community association become more reflective of the area’s demographics. While the Blenkinsop Valley has an undeniable agricultural feel, it also has commercial and residential pockets, which perhaps lack effective representation.

“Their use of land is different than mine,” he said.

Looking more broadly, these conditions — a lack of fresh voices and unreflective representation — contain the seeds of illegitimacy.

If community associations cannot accurately capture the interests of their respective communities, if the same people continue to shape their direction, why should community associations continue to exist as an additional layer between council and the community at large?

Gallant still believes that community associations are important. “Working in the capacity, I believe they should be working in, they should have the ear and be the voice of the community,” he said. When you have a clear voice and a clear identity of the community, you can go to the municipality, and say ‘we feel this.’”

But Gallant nonetheless considers questions about the legitimacy of community association valid.

“People are talking about it right now,” he said. “You know who is talking about it? Developers. ‘Really? We are going to talk to these few people and they are going to tell us if this development is going to go through?’”

Just Posted

Third suspicious package sent to Langford law firm

Hazmat procedures and RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit deployed at Hemminger Law Group again

Homeless campers near Saanich municipal hall to move today

Tenters plan to move within Saanich, push bylaws

Environmental all-candidates forum includes all running in the CRD

Issues addressed will include climate change, tanker traffic and resident killer whales

North Saanich residents commended for bravery in crash response

Six residents did not hesitate after serious single-vehicle crash

Puff, puff, pass: Cannabis is officially legal across Canada

B.C. has only one bricks-and-mortar marijuana store

VIDEO: How to roll a joint

The cannabis connoisseur shares his secrets to rolling the perfect joint

Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

The polls open at 8 a.m. for the 2018 municipal election with the general election taking place Oct. 20

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

B.C. Lions look to cement CFL playoff spot with victory over Eskimos

B.C. can cement a post-season berth in the wild West Division on Friday night with a home win over the Edmonton Eskimos

Canada ban on asbestos takes effect but mining residues are exempt

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna plans to announce the new regulations implementing the ban on Thursday in Ottawa

1,000 needles pulled from Cowichan River

Duncan area cleanup project nets three huge truckloads of garbage

Harry and Meghan bring rain to drought-stricken Outback town

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day two of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

Demand for legalized cannabis in early hours draws lineups, heavy web traffic

Government-run and privately operated sales portals went live at 12:01 a.m. local time across Canada, eliciting a wave of demand.

Killer-rapist Paul Bernardo set to make parole pitch today

Paul Bernardo, whose very name became synonymous with sadistic sexual perversion, is expected to plead for release on Wednesday.

Most Read