Saanich Spotlight - Spring

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Spring update from Mayor Haynes

New solutions to mental health emergency calls

Recently, Council made calls to action to our senior governments on the need to provide health-centered solutions that effectively address the community issues of addictions, opioid deaths, brain injury and mental health. We unanimously approved requesting the province to take a new look at the 911 emergency call system for families and individuals dealing with mental health emergencies.

Statistics Canada reports one in five families across Canada is dealing with mental health issues. This includes families and individuals across our neighbourhoods and the known connections of mental health to homelessness. Currently, emergency calls for mental health fall largely to the 911 system. The resources available for response depend on when the call arrives. Meanwhile, there is a growing appreciation that more robust health-focused solutions are required for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.

In Saanich, our Police Department participates in two Integrated Mobile Crisis Teams (IMCRT). These teams are made up of Island Health nurses, counsellors, child and youth mental health clinicians and police officers from Saanich and Victoria. The IMCRT provides response in the afternoons and evenings seven days a week for people in psychiatric crisis. They provide consultation, mobile crisis response and assessment, short-term follow-up and referral services. There is also the regional Assertive Community Treatment team (ACT). Made up of mental-health nurses, police, parole officers and social workers, this team helps connect vulnerable people with longer term support services.

These holistic models have proven effectiveness. However, because of limited resources they cannot respond to all those suffering a mental health crisis. Outside regular hours, or at times of multiple emergencies, 911 calls for mental health fall to uniformed patrol officers. Consequently, more resources to provide additional teams of mental health nurses, social workers, community support are needed.

Separately, the 811 call system operated by the HealthLink BC part of the Ministry of Health provides access to a health service navigator. These help navigate health services, but do not enable rapid assistance.

These complex-care, societal problems are collectively outside the capacity and the scope of municipalities and our police departments. Saanich Council is arguing these need to be addressed by appropriate funding and commitments to new policy and legal frameworks from the provincial government.

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First meeting of Saanich Council was 115 years ago!

The first meeting of the Saanich Municipal Council was held on March 10, 1906 at the municipal hall located on Glanford Avenue near Vanalman Avenue. This hall was used until 1911 when the second municipal hall opened on West Saanich Road. In attendance at the meeting was Reeve Thomas A. Brydon and Councillors G. Deans, H.J. Dunn, J.A. Grant, Fred G. Quick, and Henry Puckle who recorded the minutes.

The first order of business for the newly formed municipal government was for Reeve to “secure prices and samples of a corporate seal.” Next, staff needed to be hired. A deadline was set for receiving applications for the positions of clerk, treasurer, and assessor, as well as the joint position of constable and sanitary officer. After that, it was moved “that council meet the Finance Minister as soon as possible to secure the best terms for this year!” The final order of business was to “make inquiries regarding land sites.” The meeting was then adjourned until Saturday, March 17 at 8 p.m.

The following weeks saw Council busily passing bylaws, establishing committees, and reviewing applications for the positions of clerk and constable.

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Saanich encourages budget education with new tool

Council’s deliberations on the draft 2021 to 2025 Financial Plan [PDF - 3 MB] are well underway, but there’s still time to participate!

Saanich’s online budget education tool is available for all residents to explore and learn. The real-time results allow residents to see how budget changes could impact their property taxes. Saanich used the tool for the first time in 2020 and saw more than 300 visitors to the site. Comments submitted by residents in the tool will be provided to Council as citizen feedback.

The tool is available to explore until the end of March at saanich.ca/budget.

Educational resources

Residents may also review a variety of informational fact sheets to help them learn about Saanich’s important decision-making processes:

Share your input

Residents can share their input on the draft financial plan anytime with Saanich staff via email at budget@saanich.ca and with Mayor and Council at council@saanich.ca.

Next steps

Council deliberates on the draft Financial Plan over the next couple of months. Council must adopt the Financial Plan and Tax Rate Bylaws by May 15, 2021. Property taxes are due July 2, 2021.

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Celebrating our diversity: The Muslim Women and Girls Program

Before COVID-19 arrived, Saanich had one of the fastest growing social groups for Muslim women and girls.
These strong females routinely came together to lift weights, hike and cook as a part of a newly designed program. But the story of how we got there started many years earlier and illustrates the resilience of the human spirit.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis spurred the Government of Canada to commit to resettling 25,000 refugees across the nation by 2016. In preparation for these arrivals, the Vancouver Island Refugee Response Team (VIRRT) was created. This group oversaw the local placement and wellness of around 400 refugees; and examined such issues as affordable housing, culturally sensitive health services, language instruction and meaningful employment.

As a member of VIRRT, Saanich partnered with the Masjid Al-Iman to provide programming for newly arrived refugee children. Based out of Colquitz Middle School, the program was developed to provide physical activity, culturally safe social interactions and language instruction in English. For children who were thrown together in a foreign place, with other families from multiple other countries, these programs were the key to successfully settling of so many traumatize families.

In an effort to keep these vital services flowing, Saanich sought grant funding from the agency now known as Canadian Women and Sport. In 2018, a grant was awarded to Saanich’s Community Services Department, one of only 20 nation-wide, and the Muslim Women and Girls program was born.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programmer, Jason Jones often describes how uniquely vulnerable Muslim women and girls are in our community. The stresses of social isolation are heightened for this group due to cultural restrictions that prohibit them from participating in general public recreation activities. To combat this barrier, Jason has developed programming dedicated to fit their specific needs and interests. The women and girls decide what they’d like to do, and then Jason works to provide a culturally safe way to offer them the program. He also prepared recreation staff in our community centres for the interactions they would have with the newcomers. Muslim Cultural Learnings sessions helped to shape the excellent customer service our newest resident would come to expect from the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. A dynamic and respectful balance has earned Saanich the trust of these families who now call Saanich their home.

The Muslim Women and Girls program continues to grow in popularity and participants have had the opportunity to try a wide variety of activities including self-defense, martial arts, cooking classes, skating, yoga, archery, stretching, strength training, hiking, swimming, various sports and even Zumba. Jason has also continued to nurture the relationship between Saanich and the Masjid Al-Iman by hosting a community Iftar meal in Council Chambers to celebrate Ramadan in 2019. Undaunted by the current global pandemic, Jason has found COVID-safe ways to keep the Women and Girls engaged with scaled-back activities. He is also actively developing plans for new programs geared toward Muslim men and family programming.

If you would like to learn more about cultural events in Saanich, please visit the Community Services Diversity and Equity webpage Or Vancouver Island Refugee Response Team Or The BC Muslim Association-Victoria

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Create a grab and go bag!

Having essential supplies handy in an emergency is a vital part of preparedness. A disaster could force you to spend an extended time away from home. Preparedness kits don’t need to be completed all at once. By adding items over time you can take important but manageable steps toward being more prepared.

Your ‘grab and go’ backpack should contain items that will allow you to be as comfortable as possible for at least 6-12 hours. Every person and pet in your family should have a bag with basic survival supplies and other items that meet their personal needs. Consider keeping a grab and go bag at work and school.

These items support security and peace of mind.

  • Photocopies or password-protected USB drive of important wallet contents and insurance policies (these can be stored online in email accounts as well!)
  • key contacts list, cell phone and phone card
  • notebook and pen or retractable pencil
  • supply of cash in small bills and coins
  • spare keys for home, car, other
  • recent photos of family and pets
  • books, cards, puzzles
  • chargers and adapters for cell phones and other electronics included in your grab and go bags

If you are keen to complete your grab and go bag see the Regional Guide to Preparedness [PDF - 3 MB] and watch the Get your Kit Together video on our Saanich Emergency Program website.

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Birthday video messages!

Did you know that your friendly neighbourhood fire fighters are helping Saanich residents celebrate birthdays, special milestones and retirements during these times of social distancing?

Saanich fire fighters are sending 15-30 second video messages to celebrate birthdays for children ages 4 to 10, milestone birthdays ages 50 or 100, and retirements. Lights, sirens and Sparky the fire dog will brighten the day and bring smiles to the faces of your family and community.

Send your request to fireprevention@saanich.ca and include your name, the special event, and who you are celebrating. Make sure to give us five business days to allow for production of your video message.

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2020 climate action highlights

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an incredible amount of climate work implemented by the District, our partners, and community members in 2020, with many inspiring examples of adapting climate action to new constraints. Some of the highlights include:

  • The Saanich Climate Plan was awarded the Community Energy Association 2020 Climate & Energy Action Award and the 2020 PIBC Silver Award for Excellence in Policy Planning – City and Urban Areas by the Planning Institute of BC.
  • Saanich was one of 88 global cities to score the
  • top ‘A’ grade in 2020 from the CDP for reporting on climate and environmental impacts, completed as part of our commitment to the Global Covenant of Mayors on Climate.
  • The latest community greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory (2018) shows a 14% decrease in emissions from our 2007 baseline and the latest corporate GHG inventory (2020) shows a 19% decrease in emissions from our 2007 baseline. This is good news, but more reductions are needed for us to be on track to meet our targets of a 50% reduction in community emissions by 2030 and corporate emissions by 2025.
  • Saanich launched the Residents’ Climate Action Guidebook to help residents measure their personal GHG emissions using the Carbon Calculator and make a simple 3-point plan to reduce their climate impact and prepare for a changing climate.
  • One Planet Saanich moved to virtual meetings and workshops to help stakeholders continue to implement their One Planet Action Plans during COVID-19 and invite new participants to the program.
  • New buildings are now required to have parking stalls electrified and ready to install EV chargers, and be built to the next steps of the BC Energy Step Code to achieve higher energy efficiency
  • Over 100 households in Saanich received Saanich top-up rebates to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy heating with heat pumps
  • The District joined the Canada-wide Love Food Hate Waste campaign and shared food waste prevention tips with residents
  • Pulling Together volunteers were active on 44 stewardship sites and replanted 25 sites with diverse native plants.
  • The District launched the Neighbour to Neighbour Project, a central hub for a range of Saanich programs and resources that support community connections, with COVID-safe activities for households.
  • 100% of our municipal fleet cars are now replaced with electric vehicles (EVs).
Rebates for Renewables

Is 2021 the year you make the switch to renewable energy for your home or vehicle?

Electric vehicle rebates: $8,000 from the federal and provincial governments, plus $6,000 from SCRAP-IT BC, plus $350 rebates for Level 2 chargers! Saanich.ca/rebates.

Climate-friendly home rebates: until March 31, double rebates for switching from oil or gas heating to a heat pump! $6,350 plus up to $1,000 for electrical panel upgrades plus up to $500 Group Purchase Rebate, plus bonus incentives for doing additional upgrades. Saanich.ca/rebates.

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