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Letters March 25: Losing Victoria's heritage; council puts public safety at risk

Executive director Kelly Black on the lawn in front of Point Ellice House in Victoria on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

One building at a time, we lose our heritage

I find it sad that so much ink has been spilled on the retention of a fake street front at the Royal B.C. Museum while our real built heritage is allowed to moulder into dust.

No culture, no heritage; no past, no future. One building at a time, we forget the generations who came before.

Richard Mackenzie

Former collections and exhibitions manager

Maritime Museum of B.C.

Point Ellice House and privatized heritage

Ever since the B.C. Liberal government contracted out the curation of important historical sites in 2002, the privatization model favoured by B.C.’s right-wing party has proven inadequate to the task.

Three not-for-profit societies have tried to make a go of running Point Ellice House, and all have failed. Barkerville is in a similar plight. More of the same will not work.

Point Ellice House has recently been converted from a shrine to early Anglo-Canadian settler politics/culture into a site that critically assesses and more accurately depicts the people behind such central acts of colonialism as the carving up of reserves, and the confinement of Indigenous people to those places.

This is a central part of B.C.’s history, and of any real efforts at truth-telling and reconciliation. Point Ellice is a really good place to tell it. We need a critical, engaged history if we are to make any headway on this file.

It is time to return to the previous model of the Heritage Branch directly staffing and running key historical sites. It’s not good enough to task the Earnest Local Middle-Class Tea and Sympathy Society, or its equivalent, to provide a public service of significance to the entire province.

Andrew Gow


Point Ellice House: A loss beyond reckoning

In 1975 I was a student at the University of Victoria. During final exams, I learned of a summer position with the Historic Sites Advisory Board, and was fortunate to be hired.

It turned out the job was as part of a group, under the leadership of Dr. Michael Zarb, which had been hired to investigate and catalogue the recently purchased Point Ellice House.

Beginning in the kitchens, I progressed through the house, cataloguing many of the items which had been acquired by the province in the purchase.

During that time, I met John and Inez O’Reilly and was even drafted to act as a temporary tour guide.

From 1977 to 2022 I worked in the hospitality industry. During that time I tried to pass on what I had learned at Point Ellice House to the visitors to both Victoria and British Columbia.

For example, how many know that Victoria was the site of one of Canada’s greatest disasters, the Bay Street Bridge collapse? Or that the front lawn of Point Ellice House was one of the locations of an open-air morgue in the aftermath?

Upon my retirement, I applied for an unpaid position as an interpretive volunteer in hopes I could continue sharing my interest in the history of our city, province and nation.

In my years living, and working, in Victoria I have seen many changes; some have even been for the best. However, I believe the closing of Point Ellice House would be a loss beyond reckoning.

Martin B. Scott


Family-friendly and safe? You are mistaken

Public safety in the downtown core is already highly questionable. Pulling this funding from the police is another example of an ill-informed and inexperienced council making poor decisions at the expense of those who are expected to patronize downtown.

The city core is largely a dirty and increasingly unwelcoming area in various phases of redevelopment or disrepair.

It is not a safe place to walk at night. Recently, a visiting family member and his family narrowly escaped being pepper sprayed by a group of what appeared to be young males on the corner of Yates and Douglas at 8 p.m.

Thankfully, the assailants’ plans did not go as expected and my family was able to remove themselves in short order.

The point being, what do people think about Victoria these days? Why do people come to this once-beautiful city? A mistaken belief that is welcoming, family-friendly and safe.

Is that still the case?

Chris Forester


Putting bar employees at greater risk

If Victoria council’s plan is to discourage people from the downtown area, the defunding of late-night police patrols is a great way to do it.

The thought that the staff of bars and restaurants are put in harm’s way in having to control the bad behaviour of patrons and passers-by is so callous and dangerous.

The staff do not have the training that police officers have, and therefore situations could get out of hand easily.

I should imagine it will make it even harder to employ staff for those businesses.

Wendy Wardle

Cadboro Bay

Police chief’s words must be heard

Elected politicians will continue to downplay the issues facing Victoria; the unhoused using drugs and making downtown unsafe.

Media on Twitter showing the streets of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and arguably the best example of the worst-case scenario, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, shows where Victoria is headed.

I moved out of Victoria in 2019 to raise my son in Langford. By the age of six, he had witnessed a suicide, a blood-covered man running barefoot at full speed down Fisgard with a knife (a summer Sunday afternoon with the sun shining) and enough overdoses to be asking me too many questions about why people use drugs.

I don’t want to think about the newly 19-year-olds that decide to walk home alone from being out with friends downtown (they’ll walk because there are no cabs at 2 a.m. and Uber is mysteriously absent).

Those who don’t pay taxes are creating a dangerous world for those who do. Police Chief Del Manak unfiltered is what ­Victoria needs.

Ryan Armstrong


Victoria council, beware the Musical Ride ploy

Chief Constable Del Manak’s outrage over Victoria council cutting a supplementary budget item of $220,000, which has been used to fund four officer late-night weekend patrols of downtown bars, is a predictable and transparent gambit.

Everyone recognizes how important this evening safety program is.

So, if it is so crucial to public safety, identifying violent criminals etc. etc., why isn’t it funded from the police budget as one of the force’s top priorities?

Instead, it doesn’t make it into the budget unless council digs deep and comes up with an extra $220,000 to add to the police budget. This is known as the “Musical Ride ploy.”

Whenever the RCMP is faced with budget cuts, the first thing it offers up is the Musical Ride. The government, understandably, says no and backs off.

Manak is trying on the same thing with council. Councillors should tell him to fund these patrols as his first priority and make cuts elsewhere to less high-profile and essential programs.

Hugh Stephens


Take back the night in downtown Victoria

My heart goes out to Victoria Police Chief Manak, who finds himself having to defend a must-have program for police officers to maintain public safety downtown.

Cutting this service would be a huge mistake, both symbolically and in practice. Downtown in the evening feels increasingly unsafe.

If anything, the police budget for these late-night patrols should be increased, not cut.

As a woman, I can no longer walk to see a movie or have a bite to eat without being on guard when I leave the theatre or restaurant to walk home afterwards.

A few years ago, I felt safe doing so. Now, I encounter individuals shaking their fists, raging, openly using drugs or urinating in entryways.

I’ve been tailed by individuals insistently asking me for money, threatening me and swearing at me.

One by one, streets are becoming no-go zones, especially after dark: Pandora, Johnson, Yates, Quadra, View, Douglas.

Back in 1975 in Philadelphia, Susan Alexander Speeth was stabbed to death while walking home. In response, the community held a peaceful march to “take back the night” so that women should not have to be afraid to walk at night.

Take Back the Night has since become an international movement. It’s time we all take back the night in downtown Victoria, and we need to have our local police as partners in this movement.

Valerie Sovran


The Blackhawks defer to Russian law

Re: “Russian law a factor as Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed jerseys,” March 23.

While it is usually news stories on the first three pages that stir something inside me and prompt me to pick up my pen and write a letter to the editor, it was a story in the sports section that made me want to light my hair on fire.

In Chicago this Sunday, the Blackhawks are celebrating with a Pride Night theme. However, the organization has decided not to wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys because they have a Moscow native on their team, and Putin signed a law in December that restricts activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights.

I wasn’t aware that Illinois was subject to Russian laws. What a complete copout and crock of you know what.

But wait, the organization will still have DJs from the LGBTQ community playing music.

Oh bully. So sad. So sad.

Ted Daly



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