Letters June 23: An old Fairfield tree falls; pronouncing Indigenous names

An old-growth tree has been lost to Victoria

At the corner of Shotbolt Road and Fairfield Road, near the Victoria/Oak Bay border, is a lot which has been raped of its natural beauty.

An old-growth blue spruce was cut down to make way for a house. The stump of the tree is about five feet in diameter. Limbs and sawn-up sections are all that is left of this beautiful tree.

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The previous dwelling (now removed) co-existed with this tree. This is a perfect example of profit before nature.

One would have thought that architectural creativity could have preserved the tree.

Ian Baird
Victoria

Using other spellings is colonial point of view

Re: “Indigenous place names should be rendered in easily pronounced form,” commentary, June 19.

The commentary cites the example of the Russian spelling of Moscow when talking about the spellings of toponyms in W̱SÁNEĆ.

W̱SÁNEĆ is the original place where SENĆOŦEN is spoken, and by Prof. Dennis Danielson’s reasoning this is the place where SENĆOŦEN toponyms should be used.

The reclamation of Indigenous place names is an act of Indigenous resurgence, a claiming of history and worldview, and a call for decolonization.

To suggest that other spellings should be used (even as additional spellings) is to assert a colonial point of view over the expressed wishes of the original people — and indeed the conclusions of civic leaders who choose to be inclusive.

For me, Danielson’s point of view is antithetical to reconciliation. It is not impossible for people who speak English to learn to pronounce SENĆOŦEN words — after all, this is what is required of those robbed of their original languages through residential schools.

We in B.C. are fortunate to have a map of Indigenous communities, linked to websites for studying languages and spelling systems.

Learn to use the place names of the places where you are living, without complaining and demanding that a colonial present be eternally perpetuated, to the detriment of all wishing to go forward together.

Leslie Saxon, professor (retired)
Department of Linguistics
University of Victoria

New Zealand offers lessons in place names

Re: “Indigenous place names should be rendered in easily pronounced form,” commentary, June 19.

I wholeheartedly agree with the suggestion that First Nations place names should be made easier to pronounce.

In my beloved New Zealand, there has been a real effort to leave many places with their original Maori names. From Paekakariki to Paihia, Kiwis have generally embraced the place names originally bestowed upon them by the first inhabitants of Aotearoa, and school curriculum usually involves some pronunciation tips for the trickier bits of the Maori language.

For instance “wh” is often pronounced like you would an “f”. Once you get past a few such linguistic quirks, it’s easy.

I think a good first step in the reconciliation process would be the adoption of Indigenous place names, but in a simple-to-pronounce format for us newcomers. Comox, the Salish Sea and others are a nice first step, but I expect we can do better.

Len Dafoe
Nanoose Bay

Try to imagine simplified Shakespeare

Re: “Indigenous place names should be rendered in easily pronounced form,” commentary, June 19.

Allow me to suggest an analogy to explain why simplifying First Nations languages to accommodate the needs of native English speakers, however well-mentioned, might be seen as misguided.

Modern speakers of English who desire a greater appreciation of the works of William Shakespeare are obliged to learn a great deal about Elizabethan orthography, vocabulary and cultural context in order to make sense of his works.

Certainly one could imagine, in the name of making his work accessible to modern readers, translating Shakespeare’s works into modern grade-school English (“‘S’up Benvolio?”) but in doing so you would destroy much of the beauty and power of the language.

Simplifying First Nations languages to make them more accessible to native English speakers would be to do them a similar disservice.

The truly rewarding approach to studying First Nations languages, as with studying Shakespeare, is to put in the effort required to understand them in their full richness, including all their linguistic nuances and cultural context, rather than looking only at watered-down versions and imagining these poor imitations to be somehow sufficient.

Robert Smith
Victoria

Happy anniversary with bad water

Today, June 23, marks one year since the board of the Regional District of Nanaimo passed the following motion: “That the Regional District of Nanaimo take action within the next 30 days to solve the problem of the water supply in Sandpiper.”

Since then, the RDN has gone into silent mode, forbidding its directors and staff from saying anything public about the matter. Residents have no idea whether the RDN is actually doing anything to address the problem of high, dirty, unhealthy (by federal standards) levels of manganese in the Sandpiper water.

During all this time, with the simple turn of a valve, Qualicum Beach has been able to provide the residents of the neighbouring Sandpiper subdivision of French Creek with safe, clean drinking water.

Qualicum Beach refuses to do this, even only until such time as the RDN figures out a permanent fix, saying it’s against policy to provide water to areas outside of the town boundaries.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs acknowledges in a letter dated April 13 that its minister has the power to order Qualicum Beach to absorb Sandpiper, but that the minister would never do so against the wishes of Qualicum Beach.

The ministry suggests that Sandpiper residents keep working with their regional director, Lehann Wallace, but of course she is forbidden from discussing the matter. Happy anniversary!

Brian Wilford
French Creek

Oak Bay should ease occupancy limits

I am the director of campaigns and community relations at the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) and I am a resident and member of the Oak Bay community.

As a director of the UVSS, representing more than 19,000 undergraduate students at UVic, I urge the mayor and council of Oak Bay to move forward with approving and regularizing secondary accommodations.

As university students and recently graduated young professionals hoping to develop our careers and contribute our skills and passions within the Oak Bay community, we are finding the severe lack of housing availability and affordability to be a fundamental barrier to finding suitable, safe, affordable and stable housing.

We believe that Oak Bay would benefit, now and in the future, from having more young adults welcomed into, and engaging with, the community.

For this to happen, Oak Bay council must remove the restrictive policies that unnecessarily make it seem like wanting to take up residence is an illegal activity. These policies include the restrictive housing occupancy limits, and the timely issue of regularizing secondary suites.

Residents of Oak Bay benefit in many ways from the presence of a vibrant university community on their doorstep. Regularizing secondary accommodation is a step in the right direction towards welcoming students and faculty back this fall and strengthening relationships with the university community.

Robin Pollard, director of campaigns and community relations
On behalf of the University of Victoria Students’ Society

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