Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 29 Council Meeting: Development Matters, Visitors Parking.

Several development matters were addressed at Monday afternoon’s Langley City council meeting.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many economic activities to be paused or reduced; the construction industry has been impacted by the pandemic.

Rezoning bylaws require four readings (or votes in favour) by council to be adopted. Between the third reading and final reading of a rezoning bylaw, City staff work with the rezoning proponent to ensure that the proponent can follow-through on all the provisions of the rezoning bylaw. Once staff is satisfied, the final reading of a rezoning bylaw is presented to council for a vote.

Council has a policy which states that the time between third and final reading of any rezoning bylaw must not exceed a year. If a year is exceeded, a rezoning proponent needs to start at square one.

When the City issues a development permit, it is valid for a year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are several development proposals that could reach the one-year limit. Based on a request from City staff, council approved extending the one-year limit for the following proposals:

In-stream development applications adjusted time limits. Select table to enlarge.

The City received a request from the developer of the new 69-unit apartment fronting Park Avenue and 204th Street to adjust the number of visitors parking spots from 17 to 11 to accommodate enhanced landscaping on the laneway just off 204th Street.

Rendering of proposed vistors parking for Park Avenue apartment building. Select image to enlarge.

The developer funded an independent parking study. The study's authors found that visitors parking was only half-utilized at neighbouring buildings, and noted that reducing visitors parking to 11 would meet the demand for this new building.

Council approved the reduction in visitors parking.

In November 2018, council gave third reading to a rezoning bylaw which would enable a 40-unit, four-storey apartment at 5398, 5410, 5448 208 Street (at the corner of Douglas Crescent.) Council gave final reading to this bylaw and issued a development permit yesterday. For more information about this development project, please read a previous post about it.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Fraser Health – Safe to pass people on sidewalk, even when 2 metres cannot be maintained

Sidewalk in Downtown Langley

At the end of May, Langley City council sent a letter to Fraser Health requesting official public guidance on what to do when you cannot maintain two metres from someone when you are passing them on a sidewalk.

This was because people were walking onto the street to avoid others which introduced another safety risk. Council received a letter back from Andrew Larder who is the Executive Medical Director — Medical Health Officer for Fraser Health.

This is an excerpt from the letter:

The citizens of the City of Langley can be reassured that there is essentially no risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 while walking on the city’s sidewalks.

Even if it is impossible to remain 2m apart when passing another person there is no risk of transmitting the disease unless the individuals touch or one person coughs or sneezes directly on to another.

People who are still concerned about passing close to other have the option of wearing a non-medical mask while walking on the sidewalk. There is no need to step off the sidewalk when passing other pedestrians, nor to walk on the roads.

For more information, please read the full letter.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Making crossing safer at 206th Street and Douglas Crescent. Walking Priority Signal.

Since being elected to Langley City council, one of the common concerns that I’ve heard from residents is about the intersection of 206th Street and Douglas Crescent. This intersection sees a high volume of people walking. It is also located right next to a playground and near Douglas Park Community School.

People at this intersection who are driving make a significant number of left and right turns. Many times, people who are driving are not mindful of people who are about to walk across the intersection, or are already walking across the intersection, resulting in a significant amount of near misses.

Langley City staff have upgraded this intersection to include a pedestrian led interval for the traffic signal at this intersection. When someone walking pushes the crossing button, they will get a walking signal for around 5 seconds before the traffic light turns from red to green in the direction that they are travelling.

This helps people driving see people walking, before making a turn. It also helps to reinforces pedestrian priority at intersection.

The following pictures show what this looks like at 206th Street and Douglas Crescent.

Example of pedestrian led interval signal walking eastbound on Douglas Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

Example of pedestrian led interval signal walking northbound on 206th Street. Select image to enlarge.

Since this change has been implemented, I have felt safer while crossing this intersection, and have not had to run out of the way of someone turning their vehicle.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

TransLink funding “quick-win” projects to improve bus speed. Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project continues to move forward.

As I posted about yesterday, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a reduction in vehicle and transit volumes throughout Metro Vancouver. At the same time, there has been an increase in walking and cycling.

Many municipalities have responded by reallocating road space to make walking and cycling more comfortable.

This current reduction in vehicle and transit volumes has given TransLink staff the opportunity to evaluate the bus network with the eye to increase the travel speeds of buses with “quick-win” projects. Some of the ideas that TransLink staff are evaluating include:

Bus stop optimization:
Some locations present opportunities to remove or consolidate bus stops where they are too closely spaced relative to adopted Transit Service Guidelines (2018). This can improve bus performance and expand public realm by freeing up sidewalk space.

Bus bulges and boarding islands:
Curb extensions or boarding islands are real ‘win/wins’ by reducing delays for buses entering and exiting traffic while also increasing sidewalk space for walking, queuing, patios, etc.

Lines & signs:
There is a suite of other bus priority measures that can often be implemented quickly or trialed with temporary materials. These include regulatory changes (rush regulations, turn restriction, right turn pocket), and lane designations (bus/HOV lane, transit approach lane, queue jump) that reduce bus delay.

While TransLink can optimize bus stops without the support of municipalities, municipal partnership is needed for the other two categories of “quick-win” projects.

To that end, TransLink is making $547,000 available immediately for municipalities to implement “quick-win” projects.

A while back, there were some headlines that implied that SkyTrain to Langley was going to be delay significantly. While the original timeline for federal and provincial sign-off of the project has moved from this summer to this fall, work is still ongoing.

TransLink staff provided an update to its board on the on-going work to build the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension. This work includes:

  • Preparing the procurement documents including a request for qualifications, request for proposal, and draft project agreement
  • Refining the reference design concept
  • Negotiating a Municipal Access Agreement with the City of Surrey
  • Coordinating with BC Hydro on the design of transmission tower relocations at two locations
  • Continuing studies supporting the environmental screening review
  • Preparing specific project approval documentation for internal capital project approval
  • Coordinating with parallel projects including those being delivered in the Expo Millennium Line Program and Broadway Subway project.

I am still confident that the SkyTrain extension project will be moving forward.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Looking into the crystal ball: COVID-19 and the future of transportation in Metro Vancouver

With the response to the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in many people working from home, school operating virtually, and the unemployment rate at 13.4%, both transit and driving is down in Metro Vancouver.

These things are changing as we prepare to enter phase 3 of BC’s Restart Plan. As our economy restarts, the number of trips that people are taking is increasing. Our roads are busier and transit ridership is starting to recover.

Until there is wide vaccination, community immunity, or broad successful treatments, COVID-19 will continue to impact both our transportation systems and economy.

Once there is a path forward for COVID-19, just like in past pandemics, we will revert to a pre-COVID-19 state.

As this timing is unknown, TransLink has been working on how to address the impacts of COVID-19 on our transportation network over the next few years. Some of the impacts include:

  • Reduced transit ridership
  • Increased driving
  • Increased walking and cycling
  • Increased unemployment

In response, TransLink is evaluating opportunities to ensure that our region remains livable, and that people continue to have a variety of safe and convenient transportation options.

To promote transit usage, TransLink is continuing to move forward with its Safe Operating Action Plan. Beyond that, it must continue to make sure that transit remains convenient and reliable. This means that it remains important to roll out transit priority measures throughout our region. An example of a recent priority measure is the bus lanes on 203rd Street and Fraser Highway.

Transit funding is heavily dependent on user fees unlike other modes of transportation in our region. The conversation needs to continue on creating a new stable funding formula for transit that is less dependent on gas tax and fares.

I’ve noticed more people walking and cycling in Langley City; this is something that is occurring throughout Metro Vancouver. To ensure that active modes of travel remain a preferred choice, TransLink will need to double-down on its partnership with municipalities to roll out more comfortable, safe walking and cycling routes. An example of a project that TransLink helped fund is the rebuilding of 203rd Street from Grade Crescent to Michaud Crescent.

As our economy continues to recover, TransLink is concerned that some previous transit riders will switch to driving. This would cause an increase in congestion and pollution in our region. Besides ensuring that walking, cycling, and transit continue to be preferred travel options, work needs to be done to discourage unnecessary driving. At the same, the province will need to continue to support the migration to EVs, including building-out charging infrastructure.

For more information about the short- and mid-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, please read “Transport 2050: Covid Impacts and Opportunities” in the latest TransLink Board meeting agenda.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Langley City investigating plaque/interpretive sign about James Douglas

Earlier this month, I posted about James Douglas who was the first Governor of the Colony of British Columbia.

Spirit Square Plaques in Douglas Park.

There is a street, park, recreation centre, neighbourhood, and community event named after him in Langley City. One of the things that people may not know about James Douglas is that he was mixed-race, and successfully encouraged people from the Black community in San Francisco to come and settle in BC.

An important conservation that we are having right now is around systematic racism in our government institutions. Systematic racism exists in policies, procedures, practices, and even in how our history is taught.

One of the ways that we can start to better understand the impacts of systematic racism in our province is to start sharing the complex history of BC, including the erasure of Black history.

With that in mind, Langley City Council passed the following motion at its June 15th meeting:

WHEREAS James Douglas was the first Governor of the Colony of British Columbia; and

WHEREAS Langley was the first capital of the Colony of British Columbia; and

WHEREAS Douglas Park is named after James Douglas; and

WHEREAS James Douglas’ father was Scottish and his mother was a “free woman of colour”; and

WHEREAS James Douglas successfully encouraged people from the Black community in the US to immigrate to British Columbia;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Langley City staff work with the BC Black History Awareness Society and Kwantlen, Katzie, Matsqui and Semiahmoo First Nations to erect a plaque and/or interpretive sign in Douglas Park, themed about James Douglas and the Black community in British Columbia, to be unveiled during Black History month in 2021; and

FURTHER THAT staff prepare a report to Council that includes the cost and content of the plaque and/or interpretive sign for approval by Council.

Acknowledging the role that James Douglas played in supporting the Black community in our province, while also acknowledging the devastation to Indigenous people caused by colonialism, is a small way that we can continue the conversation around systematic racism in Langley City.

I believe understanding our past equips us to make better decisions in the present.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

June 15 Council Meeting: RCMP 2021 Budget in Principle Approved. ICBC says no to “Lock Out Auto Crime” Signs.

As I posted about previously, Langley City council reviewed the municipality's 2019 audited financial statements. These financial statements are incorporated into the 2019-23 Financial Plan and pending 2019 Annual Report. Anyone can provide feedback about these financial statements, and people were given the opportunity to provide feedback to council via email or letter. Council did not receive any feedback from the public.

Council gave final reading to the amended 2019-23 Financial Plan, including the audited financial statements.

Because 10% of the RCMP costs in our municipality are funding by the federal government, Langley City council must agree to an “approval in principle” of their 2021 budget to support the federal government’s budgeting process. The actual approval takes place during the city’s budget process in early 2021.

The funding of policing in Langley City is based on multiple funding formulas. As we share a detachment with the Township of Langley, we have a formula that determines how the RCMP detachment costs are shared. There are currently 51.35 RCMP members assigned to Langley City, and that number is proposed to remain the same in 2021.

There is another funding formula in place for the specialized policing services that are regionalized and cost-shared with the provincial government. Examples of these regionalized services include homicide investigation, emergency response, forensics, police dogs, auto crash reconstruction, and other intelligence services.

Langley City council’s only control of policing costs is setting the number of RCMP members for our community.

With no change in the number of RCMP members assigned to Langley City, the proposed 2021 budget will be increasing by $432,100 to $10.4 million.

The following is the breakdown of policing costs at a high level, comparing the 2020 budget to the proposed 2021 budget.

2020 2021
Salary $5.6m $5.7m
Benefits and Admin Costs $3.1m $3.1m
Training and Equipment $1.0m $1.3m
Regionalized Services $1.3m $1.3m

The largest percent increase in the budget is due to the proposed purchasing of new vehicles in 2021. I asked if the City was aware of this large increase. I was told by City staff that this was part of the RCMP’s 5-year capital plan.

Council approved the 2021 RCMP policing budget in principle.

Council also acknowledged the receipt of $475,823 in traffic fine revenue from the province.

On another note, Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group piloted installing plastic “Lock Out Auto Crime” signs near Linwood Park to see if it would help reduce theft from auto. These signs were vandalized.

The task group ask that the City council consider installing metal signs. City staff recommended against this due to “sign pollution” and the fact that ICBC would not partner in providing funding for these metal signs. As a result, this pilot program will not be moving forward.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

June 15 Council Meeting: Updating Traffic Calming Policy. Allowing Mid-Block Crosswalks. Washroom Vandalism.

Over the last few years, Langley City has been busy installing traffic calming throughout the community, focused around parks and schools. The City receives a steady stream of traffic calming requests from residents.

There was no formal policy in place for how residents could request traffic calming for an area. Council approved an updated traffic calming policy which now includes a formal traffic calming investigation process.

A resident will need to get 10 signatures or 50% of residents (whichever is less) in an area that would benefit directly from traffic calming. This is a low barrier, but a barrier nonetheless to ensure that there is some level of support for traffic calming.

If the required signatures are received, City staff will complete a traffic assessment to determine if traffic calming would be appropriate for an area. If traffic calming is appropriate, staff would develop a plan and present it to residents in the area to be traffic calmed to receive at least 50% support. If this support is received, it would go to City council for approval.

Because traffic calming is in high demand, requests are prioritized. Areas near parks and schools receive the highest prioritization for traffic calming.

An example of a mid-block crosswalk.

One of the other common requests from residents is to install mid-block crosswalks. Some example locations for mid-block crosswalks include near Penzer Park to connect the Powerline Trail, at Grade Crescent to connect the Pleasantdale Creek Trail, and near Brydon Lagoon at 53 Avenue.

The City had an old policy which made it cost-prohibitive to install mid-block crosswalks. This policy was from 1986. I was extremely pleased that council repealed this policy on Monday. This will now allow mid-block crosswalks following modern best practices to be installed.

Council discussed using solar power for crosswalk flasher, and anywhere where it could be used. We passed a motion to ask staff to consider using solar power wherever it is feasible.

On the topic of traffic safety, council was informed that the tall grass that is planted near intersections along 56th Avenue (between Glover Road and the Langley Bypass) will be relocated to Uplands Dog Park. This will improve sightlines. The grass will be replaced will other shorter plants.

Finally, there has been significant and on-going vandalism to the washrooms at Penzer Park. People are kicking-in the washroom doors at night to vandalism them, resulting in costly repairs.

Langley City crews recent replaced the washroom doors at Linwood Park with reinforced, outward-opening doors to reduce vandalism. This has been successful in reducing vandalism. Council approved doing the same thing to the Penzer Park washroom doors for a cost of $15,249.

The Rotary Centennial Park washrooms will also be receiving these doors to allow the washrooms to be re-opened this summer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

150 new childcare spaces required per year over the next decade in Langley City

Most parents know that it is difficult to find childcare spaces. This is not a Langley-specific issue, it is an issue throughout the province. To better quantify this challenge and determine steps forwards, the provincial government in partnership with the Union of BC Municipalities made funding available for municipalities to complete childcare action plans.

Langley City received $25,000 to complete a Child Care Action Plan for our community. This action plan is now complete, and it was presented to Langley City council for endorsement.

Human Early Learning Partnership. Early Development Instrument report. Wave 7 Community Profile. Select image to enlarge.

Researchers from UBC created an Early Development Instrument report for children in BC. They found that 46% of children that live in the northern section of Langley City are vulnerable, this is higher than the provincial rate. Children in this part of Langley would significantly benefit from childcare spaces and programming.

Currently, there are only 27 childcare spaces available for every 100 children under the age of 3 in Langley City. There are 55 childcare spaces for every 100 children between the ages of 3 and 5, and 12 childcare spaces for every 100 children between the ages of 6 and 12.

By 2030, the target for Langley City is to have 70 childcare spaces for every 100 children under the age of 6, and 55 childcare spaces for every 100 children between the ages of 6 and 12.

This means that around 150 new childcare spaces will need to be created each year over the next decade. This is a significant number.

To get to this number, there are 24 action items contained in the plan, grouped into the following six categories:

  1. To improve childcare affordability.
  2. To increase the number of quality licensed spaces.
  3. To strengthen partnerships and collaboration.
  4. To explore strategies to address staffing challenges.
  5. To review existing before and after-school programming and identify areas for expansion.
  6. To monitor data and understand how childcare needs change over time.

This action plan was endorsed by Langley City council yesterday afternoon. While the City can help support the provisioning of childcare spaces in our community through being a facilitator and by ensuring we have supportive land-use and zoning policies, it will take significant funding from the provincial government to increase the number of childcare spaces in Langley City.

For more information, please read the full “Langley City Child Care Action Plan.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Metro Conversations – COVID 19 Recovery, Reallocation of Road Space, and Black Lives Matter

Since the last episode of Metro Conversations at the beginning of April, BC has transitioned from a wide-scale shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic to gradually re-opening. In many communities, roads and park spaces have been reallocated to accommodate restaurant patios, sidewalks, and bike lanes. What does this mean for economic recovery and community well-being?

Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement is re-igniting conversations about the Colonial and racist foundations of many Canadian institutions, including the very form of our government.

Councillors Nathan Pachal from Langley City, Mathew Bond from the District of North Vancouver, and Patrick Johnstone from New Westminster talk about what it means to be white-passing, ways in which systemic racism can be addressed, and what it means to listen, learn, and get out of the way.

You can also download the podcast:

Apple Podcast

Google Podcast

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Recreation Facilities Re-Opening Survey

Timms Community Centre

Langley City staff are interested in getting your opinion about the reopening of indoor recreation facilities in our community, and Al Anderson Memorial Pool. This survey will take about 5 minutes to complete.

To date many of the outdoor recreational amenities and parks have been re-opened. Langley City is now investigating and planning for reopening of the indoor facilities and programs and would like to gather your feedback to help guide us through the planning stages.

Take the Survey

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Using redevelopment to pay for SkyTrain (and affordable housing)

Ongoing financial support for transit in our region is primarily from user fees, property tax, and gas tax. Larger projects such as SkyTrain extensions, and new transit vehicles, are additionally supported by funding from the provincial and federal governments.

Since I’ve been involved in local government in Metro Vancouver, people in local government and TransLink staff have been discussing the need to have less reliance on gas tax.

There is a link between transit and increased property value, so one of the ideas discussed has been around capturing some of that increase in property value to help pay for transit and to build affordable housing near transit.

With COVID-19 impacting how people get around in our region, there has been renewed interest in changing TransLink’s funding mix.

A new report titled “Evaluation of Land Value Capture and Urban Development as Sources of Revenue for TransLink” will be presented to the Metro Vancouver Regional District’s Regional Planning Committee. The report authors make some recommendations around how to capture the value created by transit improvements.

The report contains case studies which highlights the change in property values caused by high-quality transit.

One example looks a building a condo along the Broadway Corridor (Case Study #1.)

Today, the value of the property would be $22.8 million. With re-zoning and no SkyTrain, the value of the property after redevelopment would be $45.4 million. With SkyTrain, that value would be $50.3 million. This is a $4.9 million difference.

Another example (Case Study #4) looks at building a mixed-use building in Fleetwood along Fraser Highway. Today, the value of the property would be $3.1 million. Without SkyTrain, it would not make sense to redevelop a single-story retail building into a mixed-use building. With SkyTrain, it would make redevelopment possible. The value of the property would be $3.8 million due to SkyTrain.

Without getting in the weeds, the idea would be to take a share of the uplift in value created by improving transit, to be able to pay for building transit projects such as SkyTrain.

One option that is currently available is creating property tax benefit areas. These could be applied to areas around rapid transit stations. The TransLink portion of property tax in these areas would be higher than what would be paid in other parts of the region.

Another option would be to partner with municipalities to share revenue that municipalities receive as a result of redevelopment triggered by transit improvements such as in Case Study #4.

The report also explores if TransLink should be in the land development business. Acquiring land near future SkyTrain stations, developing the land, and selling it at a profit to pay for transit infrastructure. Of course, creating affordable housing near SkyTrain would have to be part of this.

While there is no clear path forward yet, I think that more serious discussions will now start taking place on how to fund transit improvements through redevelopment. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenges with the current funding mix for transit in our region.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Self-retracting needles and why they are not distribution for harm reduction. Safe sharps disposal.

One of the common questions that I receive is why self-retracting needles (single-use syringes) are not distributed as part of harm reduction programs in Langley. Fraser Health staff provided the following information:

How much more expensive would it be to give out self-retracting needles at needle exchanges in an effort to cut down on the potential exposed needle issues?

While retractable needles are more expensive, the main reason the BC CDC does not provide retractable needles in the harm reduction program is the lack of acceptability by people who use drugs which could lead to increased sharing of equipment. Low acceptability and use by the intended population undermines the aim of the program in reducing blood-born illnesses including transmission of infectious diseases.

What are the benefits/challenges with self-retracting needles?

When a syringe and needle are selected for an injection, there are different factors that need to be taken into consideration including the type and site of injection. The self-retracting needles, that people are most familiar with through the provincial Take Home Naloxone program, are ideal for another person injecting a complete dose of naloxone into a large muscle, even through clothes. They are not suitable for other routes of administration or other types of substances.

Given the very low risk that regular syringes pose vis-à-vis infectious disease transmission to general community members when inappropriately discarded in a community setting, there is also negligible benefit to the general community of substituting retractable syringes. Retractable syringes are more useful in an occupational context.

How many needles are coming out of public health versus other sources?

In Fraser Health the percentage distributed by public health units vs. other programs varies greatly across the region. In Langley in 2019, the Langley PHU gave out 35% of the needles distributed in Langley.

For more information, please see single-use syringes information provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control Harm Reduction Services.

This map from Fraser Health shows locations where sharps can be safely disposed.

If you see needles or sharps in the community, you can call the Lookout Housing and Health Society’s Mobile Harm Reduction Team at 604-812-5277. They will come and collect them.

Monday, June 8, 2020

COVID-19 Cases by Sub-Region

Throughout the COVID-19 state of emergency, the BC Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has provided statistics about COVID-19 cases by health authority. There are five health authorities in BC, this kept information about COVID-19 cases at a local level somewhat obfuscated.

On June 4th, sub-region-level COVID-19 case statistics were released. Langley City is in Fraser South (FS) in the following maps.

Between January 22 to May 31, Fraser South had 523 reported COVID-19 cases.

Reported COVID-19 Cases from January 22 to May 31.

Between May 18 to May 31, Fraser South had 57 report COVID-19 cases.

Reported COVID-19 Cases from May 18 to May 31.

The darker the red and purple, the higher the case rate per 100,000 people. Fraser South has 10.1 to 15 cases per 100,000 people between May 18 to May 31. The rest of the region saw between 5.1 to 10 cases per 100,000 in the same period.

The next slide from the presentation shows where the current COVID-19 virus lineages are from. Closer to Vancouver, the majority lineage is from Washington State. The further into the Fraser Valley, the lineage shifts to European-like/Eastern Canada.

Geographic Distribution of COVID-19 Virus Lineages. Select image to enlarge.

As the province continues to re-open, it is important that we continue to follow the guidance of the BC CDC. For more information about COVID-19 in Langley City, please visit the City’s COVID-19 updates page.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Black History - James Douglas, the first Governor of British Columbia

I went to high school in the late 1990s, and what I learn about the history of people and their experiences in what is now called British Columbia and Canada was breezed through. We spent more time learning about ancient civilizations and European history than our own. This is likely why many people in my generation think that Canadian history is uneventful and boring.

This of course is not the case. This history of people who lived on this land is beautiful and messy. I learned more about Canadian history through “Heritage Minutes” that used to air between programs on TV than at school.

To be fair, my high school did offer a class on Indigenous history which was developed in cooperation with the Okanagan Indian Band, but it was an optional course, and I did not take it as a result.

What I’ve learned about the history of Langley and Metro Vancouver was from listening to old timers, reading books, and visiting websites.

For example, in Langley we have many references to James Douglas who was the first Governor of the Colony of British Columbia. Fort Langley briefly served as the capital of BC, before it was moved to New Westminster.

Sir James Douglas

Langley City and Township are some of the last places that celebrate “Douglas Day.” One of the streets in Downtown Langley is named after James Douglas.

One of the things that I was surprised to learn is that James Douglas was mixed-race. His father was Scottish, and mother was a “free woman of colour.” This might not seem important, but to someone like me it is. As I posted about earlier this week, I’m also of mixed descent similar to the first governor of BC.

Douglas encouraged people from the Black community in San Francisco to come and settle in BC. 800 Black people did come, and settled in Victoria.

To see people who look like you reflected in history sends a powerful message. It tells me that people like me have been a part of the story of Canada since the nation’s beginning.

You can learn more about James Douglas from the BC Black History Awareness Society.

Langley has a complex history between Indigenous people, French Voyageurs, settlers, and the Hudson’s Bay Company. I learned some of this when attending an event at Michaud House last summer.

As a nation, we are now talking about systemic racism. This is racism that is embedded into our institutions. One of the ways that we can break the cycle of racism is to teach the next generation more about our history, so they can both celebrate and be challenged by our collective past.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Black History in Metro Vancouver - Joe Fortes. Overcoming Systemic Racism.

Joe Fortes. Source: Wikipedia

Yesterday, I posted about my experiences with racism growing up in BC, and how there is systemic racism in our province. One of the points that I noted was the razing of Hogan’s Alley which was a Black neighbourhood in Vancouver.

One person left a comment on my page stating that they did not know about this history. Black people have been in Metro Vancouver throughout its colonial history.

If you’ve been to English Bay, you might have seen the name Joe Fortes.

The following experts are from The History of Metropolitan Vancouver:

Seraphim “Joe” Fortes arrived in Vancouver [in 1885], aged about 20 (he was Barbados-born), as a crewman aboard the Robert Kerr. He jumped ship to settle here and, being an excellent swimmer, began to teach local people, especially kids.

[On February 4th, 1922], Joe Fortes, celebrated English Bay lifeguard, died, aged about 57. His funeral at Holy Rosary Cathedral was the most heavily attended in Vancouver history to that time, with thousands outside the packed church. A small fact about Joe that stays with you: he had, for all his life, one small well-thumbed book by his bed, apparently the only book he ever read: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis… Credited with more than 100 rescues, in 1986 Fortes will be named “Citizen of the Century” by the Vancouver Historical Society.

The "Joe" Fortes Memorial Fountain is in Alexandra Park near English Bay. A branch of the Vancouver Public Library is named in his honour.

To learn more about Joe Fortes, read his entry on Wikipedia.

Systemic racism is when policies and practices are entrenched in institutions like government, police services, schools, and workplaces that lead to groups of people being disadvantaged. This is different than individual racism.

This is how one of Vancouver’s most celebrated persons could be Black while at the same time the City of Vancouver could move forward with bulldozing a Black neighbourhood.

It is important to identify and eliminate these policies.

A good example of how to identify and eliminate these policies is happening at the Metro Vancouver Regional District as it updates the Regional Growth Strategy. This strategy contains biased polices which is why it is now going through a thorough review as part of the “Social Equity in Regional Growth Management” initiative.

Government policies are written by people, and we all have our own internal biases. By have these policies reviewed through a social equity lens, we can identify and reduce these biases.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Racism in my life growing up. What we can do as a community to address racism.

Reading the news about protests in Canadian and American cities due to the systemic police violence against black people in both countries has really got me thinking about my past.

My mom is black, and while she was born in New Zealand, her family relocated to Liberia which is on the west coast of Africa. My mom started nursing school in England and finished school in Montreal. She later moved to New Westminster before moving to Kelowna where she met my dad.

My dad’s family is from Yorkton, Saskatchewan, and originally from England, Frances, and Germany.

As a kid growing up, I did not think much about racism. In school, we were taught about the importance of multiculturism and celebrating our differences. I remember in elementary school having a day where we wore clothes and shared food from our cultural backgrounds.

As I became older, I became more aware of racism against black people, though it was mostly in the context of the United States. I had this idea that racism against black people did not exist in Canada.

I know today that this is not the case.

Racism has always existed in Metro Vancouver, BC, and Canada. The government forced Indigenous people from their homes onto reserves, and destroyed families due to the horrors of residential schools.

Chinese Canadians were forced to pay a head tax to stay in Canada, and were not allowed to vote.

Sikhs were barred entry into Vancouver in what is now known as the Komagata Maru incident.

My high school in Vernon was built on the site of a Japanese internment camp.

Generations of black Canadian have lived in Halifax and Toronto where they have been subjected to racism. Our 10-dollar bill highlights the story of Viola Desmond who was a “successful black businesswoman who was jailed, convicted and fined for defiantly refusing to leave a whites-only area of a New Glasgow (Nova Scotia) movie theatre in 1946.”

The City of Vancouver leveled Hogan’s Alley to the ground to make way for the Georgia Viaduct. Hogan’s Alley was the home of the black community going back to the mid-1800s.

Growing up in the Okanagan, I can only remember a few occasions where I was subjected to direct racism. I remember a kid in school calling me the n-word for example, but the kind of racism that exists in BC is more subtle.

My mom and dad got looks and whispers from some people because the were an interracial couple.

My uncle immigrated to the Okanagan in the 1990s. He worked as a civil engineer in Liberia, after obtaining his degree in from a university in the Netherlands. I remember him telling me that people were interest in hiring him until they saw him in person. After try without success to get work in BC as a civil engineer, he moved back to Liberia.

Living in Langley for 17 years, I know that racism exists in our community. I also know that 95% of people that live in Langley are good people, wanting to do right by others.

Dealing with systemic racism can feel overwhelming, but there are things we as individuals can do.

We must acknowledge that racism excites in our community today, think about the biases that we might have about other people, and where those biases came from.

For me, working with people from different backgrounds has helped me to address my own biases about others.

In my day job, I am responsible for hiring people. My first goal is to find someone with the right qualifications. My second goal is to find people who are different than me. Diversity creates stronger teams.

If you are close with some who says something racist, even in the form of a joke, it can be a good opportunity to talk to them about racism.

As someone who is elected to Langley City council, I have an important role to play. I must advocate to ensure that our City’s policies and actions support creating an inclusive and welcoming community.

If you want to learn more about the history of Metro Vancouver, I suggest you read “The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Langley City Hall, library, and park amenities opening today with restrictions

Hunter Park Playground

As I posted about last week, we are in phase 2 of BC’s Restart Plan. In phase two of this plan, the province is allowing libraries, recreation facilities, and park amenities to be reopened under health authority and WorkSafe BC requirements. Starting today, the following will be reopened in the City:

Library Service - FVRL Express

“Beginning June 1, you can start picking up library holds using our FVRL Express - Click, Pick, Go. The new contactless service offers customers a physically distanced way to pick up library holds and return items at all 25 locations.”

More information at: FVRL Express

City Hall – Tax Processing Only

City Hall will be accessible through the north entry only though property owners are encouraged to use the City’s online tools.

Online Tools

Online Payment System

Claim Homeowners Grant

Recreation Programs

Outdoor youth programming is resuming

Park Amenities

The following additional park amenities will be opening today:

  • Sports courts
  • Outdoor fitness equipment
  • Picnic shelters
  • Playgrounds
  • The parkour course at Penzer Park
  • The greenhouse at Sendall Gardens

Please continue to:

  • Keep two metres away from others
  • Avoid large groups
  • Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds each time
  • Stay home if feeling sick

As a note, parking enforcement will be starting today as parking utilization is returning to normal levels in our downtown core.

For more information, please visit the City’s COVID-19 information page.