Sidney Town Crier Kenny Podmore led the procession down Beacon Avenue on Sept. 19 as part of a ceremony organized by the Town of Sidney to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II on the day of her funeral. (Black Press Media file photo)

Sidney Town Crier Kenny Podmore led the procession down Beacon Avenue on Sept. 19 as part of a ceremony organized by the Town of Sidney to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II on the day of her funeral. (Black Press Media file photo)

Ukraine War, death of Queen Elizabeth II and municipal election define Saanich Peninsula in 2022

Housing, rising inflation and hunger among key issues in region

A trio of events — two of which happened on distant shores — shaped the Saanich Peninsula in 2022.

The first happened on Feb. 24 when Russia launched a conventional military attack to complete its conquest of neighbouring Ukraine, a process that had first started in 2014 with the outright annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the rendering of assistance to separatists in eastern Ukraine.

While the events of 2014 inspired little more than the wagging of western fingers, Russia’s naked aggression in 2022 inspired a spiral of sanctions against the regime of Vladimir Putin and shipment of weapons to Ukraine. Canada — with its large Ukrainian diaspora — and Canadians themselves quickly showered the beleaguered country thousands of kilometres away with tangible and symbolic support.

The blue-and-yellow bars of the Ukrainian flag soon fluttered off apartment balconies, businesses and automobiles as private individuals and public organizations with or without ties to the deep military tradition of the region organized fundraisers to help Ukrainian refugees arriving in Greater Victoria or those remaining behind.

Other locals, meanwhile, have left the safety of the Saanich Peninsula to look after family left in the Ukraine or help the world understand it as in the case of Sidney’s Michael Bociurkiw, a global affairs analyst, whose familiar ties with the Ukraine have given his commentary across international media platforms a personal dimension.

The conflict also touched local politics in July when audiences attending Sidney’s first Canada Day Parade since 2019 complained about the appearance of the Russian flag on the float of Sidney’s sister city Anacortes.

It has a sister city relationship with Russia’s Lomonosov. Anacortes’ float also featured the respective countries of its other sister cities.

While Peninsula Celebrations Society — not the municipality — had organized the parade, then-councillor Barbara Fallot publicly wondered whether Sidney should not be vetting events for symbols considered questionable to protect its reputation. Fallot said at the time that the society would be open to such a process.

Others, including then-councillor Peter Wainwright, were more skeptical about the practicalities in warning about being heavy-handed.

Coun. Sara Duncan went further.

“I’m frankly horrified that somebody is trying to drag local politics into international intrigues like this,” she said. “This is well above our pay-grade and reeks of the 1950s Cold War.”

Europe’s first major landwar since 1945 also continues to shape the region. By eroding purchasing power, it has stoked hunger, as evident by the rising use of the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank, a trend, which had started during the COVID-19 pandemic, only to get worse in 2022. This crisis of sustenance — itself symbolic of a larger economic malaise — co-exists with other crises in areas such global politics (see Ukraine war), public health (see opioid crisis), environment (see climate change), and housing (see lack thereof).

Social scientists have started to describe this confluence of interlocking conditions as a polycrisis and conditions of crisis have served as precursors of significant, even systemic changes in the political system. British Columbians certainly had a chance to send a message during this year’s municipal election and some voters in Greater Victoria availed themselves of that opportunity.

This was, however, not the case on the Saanich Peninsula with one notable exception: North Saanich.

RELATED: Results show clear preference for keeping North Saanich rural, says incumbent councillor

Whereas voters in Sidney and Central Saanich returned nearly identical councils to their respective chambers in broadly confirming the status quo, it became clear even before Oct. 15 that North Saanich’s incoming council would look different from the out-going one. Familiar figures decided not run in a climate of controversy over the community’s Official Community Plan, plus questions about how much much additional housing North Saanich can and should accommodate in face of high housing costs.

In the end, voters punished candidates who, ironically, promised more of it with the most radical voices having denied the very existence of a problem during the campaign. This voting behaviour has appeared to make North Saanich, perhaps the wealthiest community in Greater Victoria, a refuge for anti-housing forces as the rest of the region looks for a housing revolution.

On the other hand, events in North Saanich have and continue to draw attention to the inevitable and potentially irreconcilable antagonism between human development and ecological realities as evident by the recent controversies around a private property nominally slated for agricultural use but subject to clear-cutting and personal whims.

RELATED: PHOTOS: Saanich Peninsula remembers Queen Elizabeth II with a ceremony in Sidney

The third and final significant event of 2022 in the minds of many Saanich Peninsula also occurred abroad: the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8 at the age of 96 and nearly 71 years on the British throne. The passing of the longest-serving monarch in British history resonated far beyond the broad circle of local residents with familiar and cultural ties to the United Kingdom by virtue of the queen’s status as Canada’s head of state.

The large crowd that gathered in Sidney’s Beacon Park to remember Elizabeth II reflected the whole range of emotions that accompanied her death: shock over the loss of an anchor poised to stay in place forever but also gratitude and appreciation for the stability and service she supplied.At the same, it was a farewell to a different time.

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