One hundred and ten years ago this month, the Corporation of the District of Saanich was formed.
Saanich landowners, concerned that their rural interests were at risk from the growth and influence of Victoria, started a petition for local governance and by the end of 1905 had gathered the support of a majority of Saanich’s 845 eligible residents.
The petition was presented to the Lieutenant Governor in January 1906 and, under the provisions of section 3A of the Municipalities Incorporation Act, Saanich was officially established as a District Municipality on March 1, 1906.
The boundaries of the new municipality stretched from the limits of the City of Victoria to the edge of North Saanich, including all of Central Saanich, which in turn formed its own municipality when it seceded from Saanich in 1950.
The official document of incorporation – the Letters Patent – defined the administrative structure of the new municipality. A council comprised of a reeve and five councillors was specified with the nomination to take place at the Royal Oak School House on the eighth day of March 1906 at noon and polling (if any) a week later under the direction of returning officer Frederick Turgoose. Polling, as it turned out, was not needed. All six members of council won by acclamation and were sworn in the same day.
To qualify for the position of reeve in 1906, one had to be male, a British subject, and the registered owner of property in the municipality valued at $500 or more. The qualifications for councillor were similar but with a lower minimum property value.
The first meeting of Saanich council was held on Saturday March 10, 1906. Minutes of this inaugural meeting were recorded by hand into a red leather and cloth bound ledger that is now preserved at Saanich Archives. The most pressing business was the need to hire two staff members: a combined clerk/treasurer/assessor as well as a combined police constable/sanitary officer.
According to official documents, Royal Oak School House was the intended location of this first meeting (the historic one-room school still stands on West Saanich Road). From 1907 until a purpose built municipal hall was constructed in 1911, a small farm house on Glanford Avenue served as the municipal offices. Although since demolished, a replica of this building was constructed in 1981 for Saanich’s 75th anniversary and can be seen today by the Saanich Fire Hall on Vernon Avenue.
A glance through the signatures on the historic petition shows the widespread support for incorporation from across Saanich. Well-known Saanich family names include Todd, McRae, Tanner, Merriman, Jeune, Hobbs, and Vantreight, as well as Saanich’s first reeve, Thomas Brydon.
The early corporate records of Saanich – including minutes, correspondence and financial statements – are preserved at Saanich Archives and can be viewed Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Saanich Archives is located inside the Saanich Centennial Library, next to Pearkes Recreation Centre. Since 2007, more than six thousand historical photographs have been digitized by Saanich Archives staff and are available to search online at saanicharchives.ca.
Caroline Duncan is the archivist at Saanich Archives.