Georgia Strait Alliance is the only citizens' group focused on protecting the marine environment in and around the whole Strait of Georgia – Canada's most at-risk natural environment, and the place where 70% of British Columbians live, work and play. We are committed to a future for our region that includes clean water and air, healthy wild salmon runs, rich marine life and natural areas, and sustainable communities.

July 27, 2012

From bathtubs to super tankers: A busy weekend of street fairs in the Mid-Island

Nanaimo Bathtub Days Street Fair
Photo credit: Deanna McGillivray
As we were booking our summer outreach events in June, Deanna and I realized that we would have to start practicing teleportation if we wanted to attend all of the action taking place around the Strait on July 21st. As GSA’s main quarters are located in Nanaimo, we registered early on to be part of the Bathtub Days Street Fair. The bathtub competition, where locals race their motorized tubs from Nanaimo harbour to Departure Bay, is a real tradition in Nanaimo with the first event dating back in the 1960s. For somebody from Southern Quebec, where summer festivals mostly revolve around agriculture and music, this event is quite exotic to say the least. Preceding the bathtub race which took place on Sunday morning, the weekend was filled with community entertainment. Deanna was part of the lively market on Commercial Street Friday and Saturday where she promoted GSA’s programs while listening to tunes played by local artists just a few steps from our office door. Deanna had many discussions on species at risk, more particularly on the status of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. With the sun beaming, tourists and locals alike are out and about on the Strait to get a closer look at the whales and other sea creatures.

Another high profile island event that was not to be missed was the Courtenay Market Day held on Saturday July 21st. With over 100 vendors occupying 5th Street, the venue was swarmed with people from as early as 9AM to close to 7PM. It was one of the busiest summer events I have attended thus far. With mounting pressure on political parties to take position on the proposed twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline, Kinder Morgan’s project is increasingly in the spotlight. As weeks pass, Deanna and I have noticed that event goers are more and more aware of the issue, and drawn to our table to voice their opposition and fears surrounding the oil tanker increase in the Strait. On Saturday, more than one hundred people who attended the Market Day in downtown Courtenay signed the petition. I had laid down CPAWS’s map of the proposed national marine conservation area in Southern Strait of Georgia next to the petition and Oil Tanker FAQs to emphasize what is at stake.

Thank you to Robyn from DNBIA for organising the lively Bathtub Street Fair and to Kim Stubblefield for putting together an amazing Courtenay Market Day. We also want to thank the vendors and event goers who supported GSA’s work by buying raffle tickets.

This weekend Deanna and I will be at the Errington Farmers Market on Saturday July 28 and back in the lower mainland for International Bog Day on Sunday July 29. For more information on those venues and on the other events we will be attending in August, check out the events page of our website.

À plus!


July 20, 2012

Singing in the key of “Green” at Vancouver Folk Fest

Friday, July 13th heralded the start of the 35th annual Vancouver Folk Fest.  Refreshingly debunking superstition, Friday dawned beautiful and sunny, setting the tone for a fabulous weekend of fresh air, great music, and fun. GSA’s table was in the Community Village, which Festival organizers thoughtfully situated on the main thoroughfare through the Festival grounds. The location proved to be prime real-estate, as we had scores of festival goers come to talk to us over the course of the weekend!

GSA's outreach team takes in the festival atmosphere.
This plethora of visitors can be attributed in no small part to our charismatic and beautiful mermaid. Having   recently received a make-over from GSA’s multi- talented Rebecca Adams, she was a very (VERY) attractive addition to our outreach team! With her help, Isabelle and I collected signatures for GSA’s brand new petition against the increase in oil tanker traffic planned for the Burrard Inlet, distributed literature about oil tankers and salmon farming, and spread the word about GSA’s Communities Atlas Project. Our free-draw was popular as well. Congratulations to the winners of the West Coast Basket, and the awesome AspenClean eco-friendly Whole House Cleaning Kit! Also, a BIG thank you to Aspen Clean natural cleaning products, the Flying Fish, the Barton & Leier Gallery, and St. Jean’s Cannery for their generous donations to our free draw! Furthermore, we had great conversations with individuals from a number of interesting groups including the Wilderness Committee, Against Port Expansion, and the BC Salmon Marketing Council, as well as Abby Shwarz, an awesome marine biologist and musician with a passion for sharks and herring (stay tuned for a link to her shark-finning awareness song, Children of the Sea!).

Sunday sunset over Jericho Beach.
All in all, it was an incredibly positive and successful weekend! The atmosphere couldn’t be beat, the weather was fabulous (save for a few spooky thunder showers), and the music was world class! Isabelle and I particularly enjoyed Dan Mangan, Ani DiFranco, The Head and the Heart, Hey Rosetta, Dala, and the Johnny Clegg Band. The grand finale of the event, which featured a sing-along of “This Land” by the festival’s many performing artists, even featured an improvised “we don’t want no Enbridge Pipeline!” sung to enthusiastic cheers from the audience.  Thank you to Vancouver Folk Music Festival for putting on such an amazing event, to our Executive Director, Christianne, for taking the time to help us throughout the weekend, and to GSA Board Member, Frank Tester for going the extra mile to draw people to our table with his energetic antics.

What an incredible way to spend a weekend!

Until next time,

July 12, 2012

More paddling action in the Lower Mainland and good local food on the Island

Paddling action on the beach near Jericho Sailing Centre
Photo credit: Deanna McGillivray
After a couple of days spent in the office in Nanaimo, Deanna and I were eager to get out for more outreach action. I think that the more you get involved in discussing environmental issues with the public, the more passionate you get about the causes. On Saturday July 7 we thus navigated across the Strait to attend the Vancouver venue of MEC Paddlefest.  The weather was perfect and the venue’s location was great! Our booth was placed along the path to Jericho Beach in the midst of other environmental non-profits fighting for great causes, such as Fraser Riverkeeper, CPAWS and Shark Truth.  Even though most of the paddling action was taking place on the beach, a lot of the passersby and paddlers, curious to know what the colorful tents were about, stopped by our booth. They took the time to share their concerns about oil tankers in the Strait and open-net salmon farming and to learn more about how they can get involved in our Community Atlas project. Once again we would like to thank Adam Hoogeveen for organizing another great MEC event.

The next day Deanna and I eagerly headed for yet another of the island’s fine markets, the new South Cowichan farmers market. Sunday’s venue was very special as it was the grand opening of the Market. Located right next to the highway after Whippletree Junction, and offering ample parking space for cars and bicycles alike, the venue was well chosen, possibly by someone with a strong marketing brain. The weather was excellent (it was one of those burning hot days that makes any excuse to get out of your hot motorized box a good one!) and the turn out was great. Market goers considered us as one of the vendors and most of them made a point to stop by our booth and find out what we were about. Deanna and I had some lively discussions with well informed South Cowichan residents and sampled some excellent baked goods and local produce.  A big thank you to the market manager Keith Lefevre for welcoming us to the market and for working hard to build local food systems. Good luck with your market, we wish you every success!

All in all it was a superbe weekend full of sun and engaging discussions. Thank you to all of the outreach staff, market vendors and people who attended our weekend events for supporting our summer raffle. We will be back in Vancouver this weekend for the Folk Festival in Jericho Park. Come listen to some good tunes and participate in our free draw!

À la prochaine!

                           - Isabelle

July 5, 2012

Hitting the BBQ circuit – and taking back what seems lost

On June 19th of this year, our federal Parliament passed Bill C-38, or what has become known as “the omnibus budget”. 

I’m not sure about you, but when that happened, I felt like all the air went out of the room.

This ‘budget’ of over 400 pages was devastating both in its scope and in the minimal due process followed in its creation.  Changes to environmental protection laws that once involved consultation with communities, scientists and thought leaders, were instead made by politicians with little regard for ecology and what is necessary to create and protect healthy land and water. 

It’s been a few weeks since that horrible day, and in that time, I’ve had the chance to speak to a lot of people. Consistently I’ve been met with two strong reactions: anger at a government that has abandoned its role as environmental protector and despair at a perceived feeling that we have no ability to influence what our country looks like.

I understand that feeling.  The actions of this government have left many of us wondering when they stopped being our representatives and started representing the oil and gas industry.  Something is seriously wrong here.

But regardless of how dark it might feel, the truth is we still have the ability to ensure that the values that so many of us hold dear are not lost due to the action – or inaction - of our government.  Decisions in Ottawa will have an impact our our communities here in BC, and in the end, we have the final say in how we want our communities to be.  Now is the time to let our elected officials know just that.

Summer may seem like the wrong time to be giving voice to our collective anger, but when it comes to the accountability of our Members of Parliament, there is no better time.  During the next few months, your federal representative will be back in your riding, on the so-called “BBQ circuit”, and as a Canadian, it is your right to speak to your MP, and ask him or her to explain their actions.  Not sure what to say?  Our colleagues at West Coast Environmental Law have offered a guide, through their “Six questions to ask your MP about Bill C38”.

In the coming months, find out where your MP will be (if you don’t know who your MP is, click here) and go to their website to see where you can find them out and about.  Take a moment to let them know of your concerns – eye to eye – and have no doubt that if enough of us do that, the message will be heard.  This keeps being said, but we cannot be silent – because if we are silent, we are supporting those who wish to change our country in ways we have only begun to see.

And remember these words by Tim DeChristoper:
“We think we have no power, but we have more than enough power. Right now we have a big enough movement to win this battle; we just need to start acting like it.'

July 4, 2012

A Weekend of Paddling and Patriotism: MEC Paddlefest in Victoria and Canada Day, Nanaimo style

Isabelle and I spent Saturday manning the GSA Booth at MEC’s Paddlefest Celebration at Willow’s Beach in Victoria. Although the clouds looked ominous and threatening all day, the paddling conditions were perfect as the water was as smooth as glass. The event featured many interesting paddling demonstrations and clinics, including a fascinating presentation on gourmet camp cooking. We had fun watching everyone out on the water, and enjoyed interesting conversations with some very passionate people.

Nanaimo's local kids help us save B.C.'s wild salmon runs
one masterpiece at a time!
Canada Day at Maffeo-Sutton Park in Nanaimo was a resounding success! Not to brag, but Nanaimoites know how to throw a party! There was great music (Kumbana Marimba was awesome!), a HUGE and delicious Canada birthday cake, and lots of family friendly activities. The crowd at the park was a sea of patriotic red, and  eco-conscious green. Isabelle and I debuted the newly created “Navigate the Strait” Game, and really enjoyed interacting with all the kids and teaching them about ocean conservation. They gave us some valuable insight about how to improve the activities, and one lucky participant even won a GSA t-shirt! In addition, it was heartening to find that so many people are concerned about the wellbeing of the Strait’s charismatic critters, the further development of the harmful salmon aquaculture industry and the threats an oil tanker increase poses to our beautiful coast. The Toxic Smart brochures proved to be particularly popular with attendees as well. Despite the absence of a prolonged appearance by the elusive Mr. Sun, it was an incredibly enjoyable and satisfying day!

We hope to see you at the Bowen Farmer’s Market in Nanaimo, on Wednesday July 4th, Paddlefest Vancouver at Jericho Sailing Centre on Saturday, July 7th, and the grand opening of the South Cowichan Farmer's Market on Sunday, July 8th.

Cheerio until next time!