Our Community: Artist creating sculpture for Saanich 150

Earth Drums, a piece by award-winning artist Carey Newman, whose First Nations heritage inspires his work, has been selected as the winner of Saanich’s 150 public art competition.

The work will be composed of three large “box drums,” each one a hollow, square totem-like pillar in red cedar. The drums will vary in height up to four metres and have a tactile drumming surface and stand at the corner of Finlayson and Cedar Hill Roads near the Cedar Hill Arts Centre.

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As a person who has both Indigenous and non-Indigenous heritage, Newman says he believes Canadians’ collective relationship with their environments lies at the core of reconciliation.

A fifth-generation carver, Newman is the creator of the renowned Witness Blanket sculpture.

It’s a large piece, made of carved cedar pieces and artifacts gleaned from former residential schools, all woven together with steel cables. It’s a testament to an agonizing historical period for Canadian First Nations peoples.

The theme for Earth Drums is Canada 150 and incorporates elements identified by the federal government as worthy of celebration: Diversity, inclusion, engaging and inspiring young Canadians, environment and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

A public jury selected Newman’s Earth Drums from 11 submissions in accordance with the Saanich Comprehensive Art Policy. Total budget for the piece is $65,000. It’s expected Earth Drums will be installed in November with a formal opening to follow.

New life for Royal Oak School

Royal Oak School, a one-room schoolhouse dating back to 1885, will gain new life Wednesday when it reopens as the newest operation of Saanich Neighbourhood Place.

Beatrice Toner, of Saanich Neighbourhood Place, said the new operation at 4525 West Saanich Rd. will provide families with prenatal and preschool parenting education and family programs.

Toner also said it’s likely new programs aimed at seniors will soon arise.

She said the former school became available during a time when Saanich Neighbourhood Place was noticing many of its clients were coming from the Royal Oak area.

So it was a stroke of luck when Geric Construction, owner of the restored building, agreed to make it available. The United Way and Alexandra Foundation also agreed to provide some financial support, so Saanich Neighbourhood Place decided it was a good fit.

The nonprofit Saanich Neighbourhood Place will continue to operate at its original location in the Pearkes Arena.

Mustard Seed, Monk give schoolkids a start

The Mustard Seed stepped in last month and assisted 700 schoolchildren with Fair Start, back-to-school supply kits all customized to serve the appropriate age and grade levels.

With school supplies regularly costing a family about $400 per child or youth, the Fair Start program kicked off in 1998 to give all kids a confident new start to the school year. Monk Office Supply has been a generous supporter of the program that supplies everything from pens to notebooks and backpacks.

This year about $35,000 in supplies, including shoes and clothing, were distributed last month.

Victorians among winners of Sovereign’s Medal

Four Victorians were among the 40 people honoured Thursday with the presentation of the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers last week.

B.C. Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin presented the medals Thursday in a ceremony at Government House.

The Sovereign’s Medal is a Canadian award established in 1995 to honour the dedication and commitment of volunteers.

Victorians honoured are:

• Curtis Becker, a 13-year leader with the Juan de Fuca Scouts who is credited with always looking for new ways to help youth become engaged citizens.

• Alexander Muir, who has devoted 35 years to supporting marine safety in Oak Bay and Victoria. Muir has served on boards of both the Canadian Marine Rescue Auxiliary and Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society.

• Ron Rice, a longtime supporter of the British Columbia Association of Native Friendship Centres who is recognized for the help and advice he has always been willing to share with Indigenous communities across the province.

• Steve Smith, a 20-year reserve constable with Saanich Police Department. Smith was the first reserve constable to represent Saanich Police on the Tour de Rock cycling event, raising $15,000 for cancer research.

Habitat gets OK for multi-home development

Working in partnership with a developer has allowed Habitat for Humanity Victoria to turn two lots in North Saanich into the potential for 10 homes.

Yolanda Meijer, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Victoria, said her organization and Reay Developments have received approval from North Saanich to build a total of 27 homes on three lots that formerly held single homes.

Meijer said Reay donated two of the large lots, 2172 and 2166 Bakerview Place, worth $1.2 million, to allow Habitat to build 10 units.

“It’s a significant portion of the build that is going to be affordable housing,” she said.

Meijer said at the public hearing, where the land was being considered for a rezoning, every person who spoke was in favour. Concerns about traffic and parking were raised, but no one spoke against the plan.

She said construction will probably start next year. Habitat for Humanity Victoria is now working with an architect to figure out final designs — for example, five duplexes or two triplexes and two duplexes.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit group that provides affordable home ownership. Instead, rental-accommodation clients buy the homes with contributions such as “sweat equity” where they can supply the labour to actually build the homes.

For more information, go to habitatvictoria.com.

Sidney/N. Saanich RCMP seeks Citizens on Patrol

Mounties patrolling Sidney and North Saanich are looking for a few good women and men to work as COPs, Citizens on Patrol.

Corp. Chris Manseau said these COPs are neither armed nor uniformed, and are never expected to confront anybody or put themselves in danger. But they can provide extra patrolling eyes to report anything of concern.

“Say we are having a graffiti problem in Park X, we can say to them: ‘Would you mind making a couple of swings by tonight and if you see anything, give us a call,’” said Manseau.

He said right now the detachment has 16 COPs signed up. But many are retired and are not in town year-round. So a good, full roster means lots of personnel to choose from.

Manseau said COPs are expected to be security cleared and supply their own vehicle. But their gas is reimbursed.

As a veteran of other small-community postings, Manseau said he knows just how valuable the special knowledge is that local citizens can bring to rural police work.

“They know where things happen,” said Manseau. “They know all the back roads, unnamed lakes and the gravel tracks that I could never find on Google.”

Anyone interested in Citizens On Patrol can contact the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP at 250-656-3931.

Great Neighbourhood grants to improve Victoria

The City of Victoria is asking its citizens to come forward with ideas to bring neighbours together and make the municipality a more vibrant place to live.

My Great Neighbourhood grants will award up to $5,000 to improve a space, for examples, a street or a neighbourhood park, and $1,000 to support an activity. In total, $63,000 is available.

Since 2016, My Great Neighbourhood grants worth a total of $265,981 have been distributed to 79 community-based projects. These have included plaques to denote historic places, pollinator gardens for bees, emergency supply benches, murals, a children’s garden and a play space.

Applications must be submitted before Oct. 15. For more information, go to victoria.ca/neighbourhoodgrants.

Victoria writer shortlisted for TD kidlit award

Victoria writer Monique Gray Smith is one of seven finalists listed for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award.

Smith’s book Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation, published by Orca Book Publishers, tackles the history and evolution of the residential school system through the modern lens of reconciliation. It’s aimed at readers aged nine to 13.

Weaving personal experience (she is of Cree, Lakota and Scottish heritage) and Canadian society’s struggle to come to terms with a sorrowful past episode, Smith negotiates this difficult subject with frank and accessible language.

The TD Canadian Children's Literature Award is an annual tradition since 2004 and is one of the largest prizes in children’s books. This year, the winner will be announced on Oct. 29. First prize is $50,000, an increase from the $30,000 won in previous years.

The award is part of The Ready Commitment, TD’s corporate citizenship platform, which acknowledges the positive impact early learning can have on lives from childhood to adulthood.

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