Salt Spring Island's boat-dwellers will voice concerns at town hall meeting

Boat-dwellers in Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring Island, B.C., will be able to voice concerns their boats might be seized at an upcoming town hall meeting with their member of parliament, Elizabeth May.

Some of them have expressed fears about rumours the federal government would enforce navigational regulations that would disrupt their living situations.

Laura Patrick, an elected trustee with Islands Trust, will be at the meeting. She says there is no data collected on the exact number of people who live in the harbour, but she estimates it's around 50. 

She says there is confusion over what is permitted in the harbour because of jurisdiction. 

"The federal government has the navigation. We've got the provincial government that has the right to the seabed, and we have ourselves — the local trust committee — that has zoning across the surface," Patrick said.  

In addition, local boat-dwellers have been in a bit of grey zone because local zoning does not recognize dwellings as a permitted use on the surface waters of the harbour. 

But Patrick says the municipal body does very little enforcement, especially as there's a shortage of housing on the island.

"In Island Trust, we're very well aware that there's a shortage and that people are finding ways finding homes wherever they can. So we're, as the elected body, not proactively out there enforcing," she explained. 

She says the concerns over enforcement are rumours at this point, but she is hoping this meeting and further meetings with all stakeholders — provincial, federal and municipal — can clarify what is permissible.

"We need to make sure that we're having a regional approach, that we can have some regional rules, and get some clarity for people who wish to live this way."

Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May holds her town hall Friday night at 7 p.m. PT at Gulf Islands Secondary School.