Councillors wiped away tears as the District of Saanich and ordinary residents paid tribute to the late Coun. Vic Derman with a minute of silence and tributes to his policies during the first council meeting following his death.
Couns. Judy Brownoff and Dean Murdock could be seen wiping away tears after a minute of silence in honour of Derman had concluded Monday night.
Derman died Friday at the age of 72 in his sleep. While the cause of his death remains unknown – Derman had been suffering from flu and cold-like symptoms – his sudden death has left his family, friends and community in a state of shock.
Monday’s council meeting marked the first major collective opportunity for elected officials and Saanich residents to publicly remember Derman and reminisce about him.
Flags flying at half-mast greeted visitors as they pulled into Municipal Hall. Resting near a photo of Derman, a book of condolences accepted expressions of sympathies as they entered the doors leading into council chambers, where multiple bouquets of flowers guarded Derman’s empty seat.
Speaking in front of a full public gallery, Mayor Richard Atwell opened the session with remarks praising Derman’s commitment to public service. “Vic devoted his retirement to public service and he really was a great member of our community and a great Saanich resident,” said Atwell.
He then read out a statement from Derman’s wife, daughter and sister.
“We have been hugely comforted and overwhelmed by the outpouring of tributes shared by members of the public regarding his community service,” it said. “In the same manner that Vic selflessly devoted his time and energy to his community, he gave even more of himself to his family. His loyalty and love of his birthplace – Saanich – was profound. He felt his participation on council afforded him the honour and privilege to better serve citizens’ needs. We couldn’t help but be a political family. Political discussions at home were legendary, with Vic always at the helm.”
Derman constantly had his radar tuned onto sustainability issues, according to the statement, and as if on cue, council considered a number of issues in that category following the tribute.
Coun. Vicki Sanders said later it was very fitting that council considered sustainability. “It was something that he championed.”
She said it afforded the public a chance to talk about Derman in a manner that eased the emotions of the evening.
“It wasn’t sombre,” she said. “It was light-hearted.”
The remarks of Rob Wickson, president of Gorge Tillicum Community Association, spoke to this point. Speaking on an initiative promoting the 100 per cent use of renewable energy, Wickson opened his remarks by noting that he is truly “saddened by the loss of perhaps the strongest advocate for sustainability in Saanich.”
Derman, he said, was a friend, with whom he worked hard together towards environmental sustainability. “Tonight would have been one of his favourite nights at council,” he said.