John Schmuck, former chair of the Saanich Community Association Network (SCAN), says the ethics of responsibility and involvement animate community association members. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Community associations shape Saanich for better

It is a rainy March morning in Saanich and John Schmuck, former chair of the Saanich Community Association Network (SCAN), is having a cup of coffee.

He is about to leave the cafe when a group of employees from the District of Saanich enter to get their caffeine fix. Schmuck and the employees from the parks and recreation department immediately recognize each other and start talking in a way that goes beyond mere pleasantries.

It is obvious that they have worked with each other in the past, and their exchange, albeit fleeting, captures what Schmuck had described earlier.

“The community associations are a first level of liaison for Saanich staff and council,” said Schmuck.

According to Saanich’s website, community associations “provide valuable input to council and Saanich staff on items such as land use and planning proposals.”

This status makes them important transmission points between the public-at-large in each of the 18 neighbourhoods they represent, elected officials and other actors, including private enterprise, non-for-profit agencies and other members of local civil society.

“Council really does look to the community associations – to SCAN in particular – to give feedback on different things,” said Schmuck.

Saanich recognizes this status by affording representatives of community associations additional time to comment on development and land use issues, and their influence can be significant, as in the case of the Camosun Community Association, which played an influential role in the eventual redevelopment of Townley Lodge.

As such, community associations represent democratic laboratories and training grounds, and yes, stepping stones towards larger, elected political offices.

But this aspect threatens to obscure a larger point.

Community associations are not just an informal level of governance. As organizers of community events like Music in the Park and public forums, they are institutions of civil society, the binding layer between formal governing institutions and the public at large. As such, their strength (or weakness) is a seismograph of social cohesion.

Not all community associations are created equal. Some have large, active memberships, with experience in organizing events and working with the municipality. Others often find it difficult to recruit members, against the backdrop of changing social norms and attitudes towards volunteerism. Faced with personal and professional pressures, community associations often become the domain of seniors. Membership of community associations also rise and fall with the importance of an issue, said Schmuck.

This said, efforts are currently underway to help community associations better fulfill their roles, and for all the recent changes, they allow individuals to express their commitment towards their communities and ultimately something larger than themselves.

“We want to be involved,” he said. “We are all interested in our community. Ultimately, we want to improve the place we live in and have a better life.”

Just Posted

Victoria invited to get a closer look at Sunday’s lunar eclipse

Special event allows public to view the moon through UVic telescopes

25 drivers in Victoria pulled for drug impairment since cannabis legalized

Little change seen in number of impaired drivers since new laws enacted

Victoria Whisky Festival kicks off this weekend

Whisky-lovers flock to Hotel Grand Pacific for weekend events and tastings

Vancouver Island couple fights for their lives together

Richard Stuart needs a kidney, his wife Tracy has been diagnosed with cancer

Overworked and understaffed: More than 300 vacancies in Vancouver Island nursing

Tentative deal with province includes ‘working short premium’ to encourage hiring

Fashion Fridays: Inspirational gym outfits

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

BC Hydro scammers bilked customers out of nearly $45,000 in 2018

Nearly 2,000 people reported scams to the utility, as they continue to be more common

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should people have to license their cats?

The Victoria Natural History Society has sent letters to 13 municipalities in… Continue reading

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Most Read