Saanich, represented by Mayor Richard Atwell and Coun. Leif Wergeland (second row, far right), awarded the 2017 Environmental Awards. They honoured among others the late former councillor Vic Derman for his long-time contributions in fight against climate change. Derman’s daughter Michelle (standing on the left of Atwell) and wife Lauraine (behind Atwell) accepted the award on behalf of Derman, who died in March 2017. Wolfgang Depner / News Staff

Saanich posthumously honours late councillor

The late Saanich councillor Vic Derman led the list of winners as Saanich awarded its 18th annual 2017 Environmental Awards.

Derman, who died in March, posthumously received the award for Long Term Achievement for his “leadership in environmental stewardship and advocacy for climate change action.” His wife Lauraine and daughter Michelle Derman received the award Monday in Municipal Hall.

In his speech announcing Derman as award winner, Coun. Leif Wergeland recalled Derman’s work as the founding director and vice-president of the Land Conservancy of British Columbia and president of the North Quadra Community Association. In this role, he fought for the preservation of Christmas Hill.

Starting in 2002, Derman served on Saanich council, where he worked to improve the local cycling and pedestrian network. In 2004, he started and chaired the international “Water in the City” conference.

“Vic Derman passed away earlier this year but will be remembered as an environmental champion who fought tirelessly for the natural environment and climate,” said Wergeland. “His legacy is an inspiration for all Saanich residents.”

Audience members attending the award ceremony rose to their feet when Wergeland announced that Derman’s wife and daughter would accept the award and gave them a standing ovation as they accepted the award from Mayor Richard Atwell.

Another notable moment occurred after Natalie and David Chambers, co-owners of Madrona Farm, received the award for Sustainability. The couple received their award for promoting local food security, organic food growing as well as habitat and soil preservation. David Chambers used the occasion to invite Joan Morris, a Songhees Nations elder, to participate in the award ceremony, and used it to give a passionate speech in which he lamented the destruction of the natural environment and demanded far-reaching changes in urban planning.

Chambers also performed an environmental show-and-tell, while discussing Blenkinsop Lake.

“There was a silent spring this year,” he said. “Blenkinsop Lake no longer has any native frogs anymore.” Describing this silence as a “very, very, very bad” omen, Chambers then praised the conservation efforts of the award winners. “It’s really neat to see all of these people, who are involved in conservation efforts, because we really have to protect the native species.”

“So if you don’t know what is eating all the frogs,” Chambers said with dramatic pause while opening up a yellow bag, “it is that one,” as he held up a dead bullfrog to the gasping audience. “Everyone of these will drop 12,000 eggs. So it is time for everybody to start thinking about stewardship in their own backyard.”

Chambers’ appeal comes as his wife Natalie, who did not speak, is one of two declared candidates running for the council seat left vacant since the death of Derman. Rebecca Mersereau, who was in the audience Monday, is also running for the seat.

Winona Pugh, an active member of the Friends of Tod Creek Watershed, won the award for Individual Environment Achievement.

“Winona is tireless as she continues to inspire and share with others: leading tours of natural areas, aquatic plant surveys, invasive species removal and community events as well as promoting environmental stewardship through writing and as an artist,” Wergeland said.

The Greater Victoria Green Team won the award for Volunteer Organization. “Founded in August 2014, the Greater Victoria Green Team now has over 1,500 members and has since that time engaged 2,500 volunteers with up to four to six events per month in the CRD, including in Saanich parks and natural areas,” Wergeland said.

Mike Geric of Mike Geric Construction Ltd. received the award for Business. “With a mission to leave a lasting legacy of responsible development, the latest projects of Mike Geric Construction have included features such as preserving and restoring natural spaces, providing community gardens and walking trails, using building materials with longer lifespan, solar-assisted hot water, transportation alternatives including electric vehicle charging stations, 100 per cent on-site rainwater treatment and recycling of building materials,” Wergeland said.

Ocean Han won the award for Youth for his achievements in Garry oak ecosystem restoration and leadership in student research projects. “Since Grade 7, Ocean has been a very active volunteer with Garry oak ecosystem and invasive plant projects in Saanich and Victoria. Ocean is a leader for the Mt. Douglas Secondary Environment Club and provided significant leadership for a major Grade 10 science team project studying effectiveness of invasive plant treatment methods and native plant regrowth,” Wergeland said.

The Beckwith Park Pulling Together Volunteer Team won the award for achievement in Biodiversity Conservation. “Under the leadership of Eylin Gilbart and Don Mills, this team has made significant strides in restoring ecosystems at Beckwith Park with their work including developing restoration plans, supporting ecological research, engaging neighbours, acquiring grants, installing nest boxes, removing a stunning volume of invasive plants and hosting school and university groups,” said Wergeland.


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