Dear Residents of Saanich, especially those who took time to participate in the People, Pets and Parks engagement,
It has become such a contentious and divisive issue that I wish to clarify why I voted in opposition to the bylaw amendments for Saanich’s People Pets and Parks (PPP) Strategy. It is because the revised bylaw amendments resulted in a reduction of environmental protection in our ecologically sensitive natural areas. My election platform rests well on representing those who uphold environmental values and protections in Saanich.
Our relationship with the First Nations, including the W̱SÁNEĆ and Lək̓ʷəŋən people is also very important to me is. This letter, sent to all of Council in June, was confirmed in September to be the position of the WSANEC Leadership Council:
“The WSANEC Leadership Council is concerned about the degradation of ecologically sensitive areas of PKOLS, caused by off leash dog walking and off trail use by dogs in these native ecosystems. We are aware that this is a significant concern. PKOLS is an extremely important location in the history of the WSANEC Nation. We fully support the District of Saanich’s Pet Strategy that requires dogs to be on leash in natural parks that have ecologically sensitive areas.”
Saanich’s PPP process was conducted fairly and thoroughly with multiple inputs, including many community engagement opportunities, and resulted in a comprehensive set of recommendations that represented a balance of interests amongst dog owners (both those who use leashes and those who oppose leashes), non-dog owners and environmental protection. I, along with my colleagues on Council, unanimously approved the PPP recommendations on June 28, including an amendment to the motion, seconded by myself, stating “and this work will be done in consultation with the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council”.
Council’s approval of these bylaw amendments, which directly reflected the PPP Strategy recommendations we had unanimously approved in June, should have been a simple procedural exercise. The residents of Saanich were not aware that further public input was necessary. Both I and the residents of Saanich expected the amendments to receive three readings when they were brought to Council on September 11. Unfortunately I was unable to participate in this meeting due an urgent personal matter. Had I been there I would have seconded the motion for first reading and the outcome today might have been very different. Instead, Council chose to pause the decision for two weeks, allowing an opportunity for further lobbying of some of my colleagues.
Unfortunately, a vocal minority of off-leash advocates continued to lobby Council to change the PPP bylaw amendments. There was targeted lobbying of some members of Council, including meetings and correspondence not shared with all of Council.
On September 25, I voted in opposition to a series of alternative bylaw amendments that were not supported by the PPP Strategy recommendations Council had approved and had no opportunity for public input. These amendments have now received final reading, supported by a majority of Council.
Some members of the public felt let down by Council’s decision and some members of Council felt there needed to be an element of compromise. But I believe that we had arrived at our agreed upon compromise in June. The entire PPP strategy that we unanimously approved in June was the result of a well-balanced process engaging different sides of the issue. I feel what we have compromised is the integrity of the process and the outcomes for environmental protections in parks and beaches in Saanich.
I am deeply saddened to say that the decision of Council has eroded the trust of our residents. Regardless of their position on the issue of dogs in parks, residents of Saanich should be asking themselves if this is how they wish to see their elected leaders making decisions on their behalf.
Saanich Councillor Nathalie Chambers
For those that want to view Saanich Council in action
COUNCIL MEETING September 25, 2023
Video – https://saanich.ca.granicus.com/player/clip/790?view_id=1&redirect=true&h=6048dbfa5885343f10d1b2eea43c43d0 NC comments at 1:17 to 1:21
COUNCIL MEETING October 30, 2023
No minutes are available yet