Category Archives: Politics

District of North Vancouver – Supporting Community Gardens & Local Food Systems?

Lillooet Park Community Garden, photo: Heather Johnstone

We went to the District of North Vancouver (DNV) Council Meeting last Monday to present on the merits of supporting more community garden development, and to report on the success of the newly built Lillooet Park Community Garden.  The agenda was stacked with food related presentations – the Edible Garden Project, Delbrook Staff Garden Initiative, the Youth Safe House Secret Garden, comments on Metro Vancouver’s Draft Regional Food System Strategy, and the results of a survey on Neighbourhood Perceptions of Local Food and Gardening.

We are so thank-full that over a dozen people came out to support and speak about community gardens. Having so many warm bodies and different perspectives on why community gardens are important for DNV residents made a real impact! The animated and heartfelt descriptions of the joys of lugging rocks during the hottest days of the year during the construction of the Lillooet Park Community Garden, meeting new neighbours and friends, and getting a chance to learn new skills showed Mayor and Council the diversity of reasons why the community supports more gardens.  At the end of the evening Councillor Lisa Muri said, “I am no longer a skeptic on the value of community gardens and what they mean to residents of the North Vancouver District.” That’s a big step forward, and we were happy to also hear support for community garden initiatives from Mayor Walton, Councillor Hicks, Councillor McKay-Dunn, and Councillor Nixon.

As Mayor and Council discussed a number of items on the agenda Heather and I found ourselves scribbling notes and biting our tongues. Sometimes it’s hard not to interject and add your own thoughts to the discussion! Instead of getting kicked out of Council Chambers for disrupting decorum, we decided to save our thoughts to share in writing today.

What is the distinction between neighbourhood gardening and large scale “food security”?

One of the interesting points that was brought up a few times by Counc. Little is the notion that neighbourhood gardening does not impact food security. We beg to differ, and I think there are a few other members of Council that would agree there is a very real and tangible connection.

  1. If we’re talking about food security on an individual basis then we cannot assume that everyone can afford to have access to fresh healthy produce all the time. In fact there are many people on the North Shore who would benefit to access to a community garden plot to grow nutritious and culturally appropriate food for themselves and their families.  Gardens provide people with access to grow safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate food even if they don’t provide all of the food they will need.
  2. Counc. Hicks mentioned the role that Victory Gardens played in providing families with food in England post WWII. Community gardens will need to play a similar role again in the future as food supply decreases and costs increase due to climate change.  We are several generations removed from our agricultural roots and  need to re-build the capacity and knowledge on food growing within our communities if we hope to have the same success of past Victory Gardens.  Community gardens provide the perfect learning environment and hosts for workshops and training sessions available to everyone in the community to revive those lost skills.  Community gardens are not the end all and be all of food security for the North Shore, but they are a more than simply recreational and therapeutic. They are one vital component of a diverse strategy that helps move us towards  a resilient and sustainable food secure community.

Whose responsibility is food security?

During the discussion of the Metro Vancouver Regional Food Strategy draft, Counc. Muri and Bassam were both supportive of the strategy’s proposal to preserve Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) land. This is great, but there is no ALR land in the DNV. Although I’m happy to see them jump on board the preserving ALR lands, their support for something that has little to do with food security or production in the DNV is not a replacement for “home grown” initiatives on the North Shore.  A regional strategy for food security is incredibly important, but I think that a perspective that focused more on “what can we do to support this…” rather than “Metro Van should…” would do wonders.

Passing the cost of community garden building over to community members would defeat the purpose of accessibility, and it is unrealistic to rely solely on businesses to sponsor community initiatives like this. However there is room for the DNV Council to address what their role is in supporting community garden development without being responsible for paying for them all. The upcoming Official Community Plan (OCP) is a great opportunity to encourage or require all new developments to include community garden space. If the District is not going to support garden development financially, why not include them as a community amenity to be provided by developers. As the ‘Network of Centres’ proposed in the Draft OCP is developed increasing density is only going to mean increased demand for garden space: building them in as these centres develop is going to be much easier than trying to add them later!

Community Gardens are not Cost Effective?

When it comes down to cost, I just don’t see how an elliptical machine offers more value to the community then a community garden – that’s an argument we’re hearing from some Council members!  Although a gymnasium may see over 200 people in a month, there are construction, staffing, maintenance, electricity, etc. costs to consider over the lifetime of that infrastructure.. Gardens on the other hand are a onetime construction cost (the garden society takes care of ongoing maintenance), and provide a public space and learning environment for the entire community. In fact, the District is saving money every year by no longer having to maintain the garden site. I think that if you compare the cost of each over 20 years the garden might not seem so expensive!  Both have value from a recreation perspective, but both appeal to different folks as well – I’m personally not a community member who gets any use out of an elliptical machine!

Overall the response at the Council Meeting was positive, but I think that there is work to be done to articulate the connections between neighbourhood gardening and food security, and the economics of community gardens to Mayor and Council. Moving forward… we know there are lots of people in Lynn Valley who want a community garden. Our question to you is, “If you were a community garden in Lynn Valley, where would you be?”

Here’s the video we created to thank Mayor and Council for their support of the Lillooet Park Community Garden.



Filed under Politics, Urban Agriculture

Farmers Markets for District of North Vancouver

Photo: Natalie Maynor

Tonight the District of North Vancouver’s Mayor and Council will debate the merits of a proposal for two farmers markets. The two proposed locations are at Lynn Valley Village Plaza and Parkgate Plaza, and would run for a trail period of one year. The proposal on the table tonight would authorize staff to modify special events permits to allow for events like a farmers market on public lands.

There’s nothing like buying your fresh produce from a local farmer – the person that put in the sweat equity to make that carrot so sweet and crunchy! Farmers Markets provide the opportunity to buy fresh healthy local produce, support our local economy, and of course create the connection between food purchasers and producers.

To support the proposal for Farmers Markets in the District of North Vancouver you can:

  1. Write to Mayor and Council – we’ve even created an email that you can cut and paste if you’re short on time. Email them at:

Dear Mayor and Council,

I am writing in support of the proposal for the Farmers Market trials in North Vancouver. Farmers Markets provide access to fresh local food, an opportunity to get outside and meet new people, and support our local economy in BC. I would like to see Farmers Markets in North Vancouver, and I hope that you will support this proposal.


  1. Attend the Council Meeting – tonight (Dec 13th) at 7:00pm, 355 West Queens Road, North Vancouver

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Filed under Climate Change, Politics, Urban Agriculture

STV for BC – Let the Debate Begin

It’s almost time to vote again! YAY! Even more exciting, it’s two votes in one! We’ve got an referendum question on the ballot this year – the single transferable vote (STV). It was also on the ballot in 2004, but we’re giving it another shot after a narrow loss.

This Wednesday night seems to be THE night for electoral shin digs in Van. Starting with the launch of BC Vote, a new non partisan source of news for the upcoming election. Then moving on to the STV Debate – will be a great debate between Antony Hodgson and Bill Tielelman.

I’ll be hitting both events with Get Your Vote On stickers and voter registration forms on hand. Transit between events is super easy.

BC Vote Launch Party

Date: Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
Time: 5:30 pm
Place: Redwerks Rooftop, 321 Railway Street in Gastown

“The goal of BC Vote ( is to provide timely information about the current state of political affairs in the province of British Columbia. Admittedly, news outlets and information sources often tend to have a bias towards a specific political party. With BC Vote, we attempt to provide a pluralistic, non-partisan, and non-biased (as much as possible) panoramic view of the political landscape of the province of British Columbia as we near the 39th Provincial General Eelection (May 12th. 2009).”

Register for the event here!

STV Debate


Want to know more about STV? Join me at the STV Debate on Wednesday night, sponsored by COPE.

“Is STV right for BC? A debate on STV and electoral reform in our province – THIS WEDNESDAY!

When: Wednesday, April 1st at 7pm

Where: Creative Individual Studio — #110 60 East 5th Ave

Cash bar and DJ after debate FREE — sponsored by COPE

With Bill Tielelman from the “No” committee and Antony Hodgson from the “Yes” Committee

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Filed under Events, People Power, Politics

It’s Offical! Vancouver Allows City Chickens

I’m sitting at the first Vancouver Green Tech Forum. Mayor Gregor Robertson opened the event, and in his address he confirmed that the amendment to the Animal Control By-law has passed! This means Vancouverites can now legally keep chickens in their backyard. I don’t have all the details, but I believe that there is a limit to 2 hens (I could be wrong about this!).

Photo credit: The Green Life

Photo credit: The Green Life

There are lots of North American cities that allow city chickens, and there are many benefits. So you’ve got a backyard, and want some urban hens of your own? I just collected a few resources that I thought I would share with you.

A friend of mine also just started a Facebook Group that you may want to check out. Chickens in Vancouver will become a place for dialogue on keeping hens in urban Vancouver.

Gregor also mentioned the fact that City Hall lawn will be ripped up the Spring to make way for a new community garden! How exciting! This is just the sort of leadership and initiative I’ve wanted to see come out of City Hall.  The new garden will be built in partnership with Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC) – a long standing organization in Vancouver that has done amazing work to make our city greener.


Filed under Politics, Urban Agriculture

City Chickens for Vancouver

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

This evening Legalizing Backyard Hens was on the list of motions on the City Council meeting agenda, but I’ve heard through the grape vine (and a reputable source) that the vote will actually happen on Thursday March 5th.

We’re down to the wire folks – if you support an amendment to the current Animal Control By-law that will legalize keeping hens in our backyards, please email your support to

Vancouver media has picked up on the City Chickens by-law in recent weeks. CBC interviewed Heather Jarvey, who is already illegally raising two hens in her backyard.

“Vancouver is one of those communities claiming to be very sustainable and green,” Jarvey said. “What’s more sustainable and green than having a chicken in your backyard that gives you healthy, practically free protein?”

Jarvey scorns charges that chickens are loud and dirty, countering that hens, unlike roosters, make little noise. She added that chickens produce much less waste than dogs or cats, and their manure can be composted… read more.

Almost every time I go visit my Mom, she has the newest rendition of the PERFECT chicken coop design. Although she doesn’t live within Vancouver, so the by-law won’t apply, I find her Swiss-army to gypsy caravan style chicken coop designs inspiring…. I could imagine them all in the back yards of my neighbourhood.

To support the City Chickens:

  1. email
  2. Go to the City Council meeting on Thursday March 5th.
  3. Make a brief address to the Council about the by-law at Thursday’s meeting (please sign-up).
  4. Join the Chickens in Vancouver Facebook group.

Originally posted on Rocks & Water.

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Filed under Politics, Urban Agriculture

Save BC Coast – One Loonie At a Time

Photo credit: Richard Vignola on Flickr

In typical Emily fashion – I’ve found a(nother) passion! I’ve always been a fan of BC’s beautiful coast line – kayaking in the Broken Island Group and studying the tide-pools around Bamfield. Coastal northern BC, especially Haida Gwaii, is on the top of my to-go list.

In the fall I went to a presentation about the impact of the Alberta Tar Sands on BC. Very insightful presentation – I was totally clueless to the plans of major pipelines being built to connect the Tar Sands to our coastal ports. I also was not aware that Prime Minister Harper has decided to ignore a  37 year old moratorium on oil tanker traffic in BC coastal waters – the only thing stopping MAJOR oil tanker traffic from Asia slurping up Tar Sands oil. Hmmmm….

5 Reasons to Stop Tar Sands Tankers on Our Coast:

1. The certainty of oil spills

Oil spills are a matter of when and how large, not IF. At a rate of two to three tankers a week, industry averages suggest a ‘major’ spill of over 10,000 barrels every 16 years.

2. The impossible clean up

In ideal conditions the oil industry considers a 15% clean-up of spills a success, a target they have never actually achieved.

3. The local ecology

The tanker routes pass approximately 605 salmon spawning rivers, orca feeding grounds and the habitat of over 20 threatened and endangered species.

4. Jobs and communities

An oil spill would devastate the coastal communities and First Nations that rely on tourism and fishing for their livelihoods

5. Global warming

Oil tankers in BC are to facilitate the massive projected expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands, the single largest contributor to the growth of Canada’s global warming causing emissions.

Learn more…

    These decals ARE LEGAL because they stick by friction not 'sticky' stuff.

These decals ARE LEGAL because they stick by friction not 'sticky' stuff.

So what to do? Superman-esk cape flapping in the coastal breeze, the Dogwood Initiative is here! With a WICKED campaign lined up to launch in early February – I’ve got the inside scoop*. They’re distributing No Tanker decals that turn the loon and water on our one dollar coins black with ‘oil’.

The goal: 1,000,000 NoTanker loonies in circulation to get people talking about the threat of the Tar Sands oil in BC, and supporting the moratorium that Harper is ignoring.

Where can I find the NoTanker decals?

Once you’ve got the decals, stick them on every loonie you’ve got! Register your No Tanker loonie sightings, spend them, give them to friends, and then order more decals! OH! Don’t forget to sign the petition.

I’m hosting a Loonie party soon, and I can hook you up with the supplies to do the same – pretty easy, all you need are decals and friends! Who doesn’t love sticker parties?

If you’re a business, and you’re interested in sponsoring the No Tanker Loonies, let me know. It a pretty sweet deal – you’ll be featured on the No Tankers website, put on the interactive map, and caught up in all the media buzz this campaign will create. Did I mention the decals are totally cheap?

* I’m the volunteer coordinator for Vancouver. Contact me if you’d like to host a Loonie Party, or you own a business that would like to sponsor the No Tanker Loonies – emily at urbanwren dot com


Filed under Climate Change, Politics, Water

Canadian Politics Explained by Worms

Last night I was in the audience for CBC’s “The X Challenge” debate on environment. Four candidates were on the stage to debate questions asked by self-described “necessary polluters” in the audience.

At one point, one of the greener audience members asked a questions that involved mentioning his worm composting bin. The host had never heard of such a thing, and the best moment in the entire debate was when he turned to the candidates and asked them if they knew what a worm bin was. Their responses:

Adriane Carr –  the Green Party: “Of course I know what worm composting is! It’s a great way to produce fertilizer for your garden from kitchen scraps.”

Ujjal Dosanjh – the Liberals: “I knew about them, but I don’t have one.”

Michael Byers – the NDP: “We’ve got a compost bin in the back yard, and the worms find their own way there.”

Lorne Mayencourt – the Conservatives: “Didn’t have a clue.”

A lot of my friends have asked me to explain the difference between Canada’s political parties, and I think this is the example that I’m going to use from now on!

To get your own worm bin… start here.

Originally posted at

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Filed under Politics, Urban Agriculture