Help to End the Injustice Happening On Bowen

For immediate release

Please circulate to as many interested groups or individuals as possible.


All campers from the 2016 adult retreat on the patio of the Bowen Island Lodge with Deep Bay in the background.

On April 12, 2018, we, the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired, the Bowen-based non-profit that took over CNIB’s summer camp program in the fall of 2010, will be meeting with the Bowen Island Municipality to seek enforcement of the Bowen Island Lodge Covenant, which protects the rights of our Bowen Island neighbours as well as those of the blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind community. Breaches of the covenant have already lead to the cancellation of the 2017 camping season, marking the first summer camps have not been held in 54 years, and have far reaching consequences.

In 2002, a covenant governing the lands and facility that is the Bowen Island Lodge was put in place by the Bowen Island Municipality that protects the residential nature of Snug Point and ensures blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind individuals have access to a facility for recreation, meeting, and training. The covenant, which was signed by CNIB and the Bowen Island municipality and which also applies to their respective successors, was designed to restrict the use of the lands and facility in keeping with the residential nature of Snug Point by designating the principal use of the Bowen Island Lodge as “recreation, training and meeting facilities related to the care and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities…” (Covenant P. 4), activities that do not typically disrupt the surrounding neighbourhood. Furthermore, the covenant places restrictions on the amount of accessory use events, events not considered part of the principal use, that can be held at the facility to ensure that the principal use group has access to the facility and to reduce the amount of noise and other issues typically associated with an event space and resort. When the covenant was instated, it created Canada’s first and only legally protected recreation, meeting, and training facility for the blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind.

In early 2016, the Bowen Island Lodge changed hands, from the trethewey family, who had purchased the property from CNIB in 2011, to the Hundred Year Education Group Corp., a company with off-shore owners. Under this new ownership it has been made very clear that they intend to run the facility primarily for accessory use groups. Repeated attempts by organizers of programs for the principal use group to resolve issues of affordability, safety, and accessibility have met with no success.

There is no mention in the lodge’s marketing of the principal use group, something that serves to reenforce their position. A closer look at their marketing reveals that the lodge is advertising itself as having a capacity of 200 people, when the covenant clearly states a hard limit of 150 people for its largest events.

In June of 2017, two months after the Camp Bowen Society for the Visually Impaired’s 2017 Safety and Accessibility Report was released to the Bowen Island Lodge, a representative of Victoria-based Huntington Manner, the company put in charge of the Bowen Island lodge’s operations by the Hundred Year Education Group Corp., sent an answering report. In this report, the representative made it clear that they don’t see the need to follow the covenant as it pertains to the blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind, citing a paragraph that is superseded later in the covenant. To the best of our knowledge, according to the covenant, at the end of the day, all parts are to be interpreted according to the spirit of the covenant, which is to protect the blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind community, as well as the neighbourhood of Snug Point. If correct, this invalidates the representative’s claim. The report goes on to suggest that the answer to the blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind community’s safety and accessibility concerns, as expressed in our report, is to ensure that any concerned blind, visually impaired, or deaf blind guest be accompanied by a sighted person. This is as ridiculous as saying any concerned black guest should be accompanied by a white person or any concerned female guest should be accompanied by a man and is blatantly unacceptable. Just as society wouldn’t tolerate this report were it based on skin colour or gender, neither should we stand for a report that makes such suggestions based on disability. Not only does the report’s recommendations insult the independence of members of the blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind community by its tone and suggestions, it flies directly in the face of what the facility was intended for and the covenant protects. Finally, the report’s suggestions that the society bare the cost of substandard safety and accessibility measures, coupled with the report’s conclusion that the society perhaps look elsewhere for a venue, paint a grim picture of how the lodge views its responsibilities as set out by the covenant.

Today, more than ever before, there is a need for a training and recreation centre for the blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind in Canada. The blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind community is currently in a state of crisis. There are high rates of depression and low self-esteem, a lack of freedom, and an estimated 80% unemployment rate in the community. A large part of the solution to these problems is access to safe, accessible, affordable, and quality independent living skills training. At present, the Bowen Island Lodge is Canada’s only legally designated training centre for the blind, visually impaired, and/or deaf blind.

The time has come for the facility to be used for its intended purpose and help blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind Canadians become first class citizens in society. This can be accomplished by upholding the existing covenant and ensuring that the lodge’s principal use group remains protected. Bringing in principal use groups as the primary occupants of the lands and/or facilities and keeping accessory use events as secondary would also serve to protect the residential nature of Snug Point.

Failure to protect this unique resource sets a dangerous precedent. The law was put in place to protect both the blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind community as well as the local neighbourhood and failing to uphold it sends the message that any other laws, not to mention additional parts of the covenant, pertaining to these groups can just be ignored.

And this is where we need your help. On April 12, 2018, we need to show the Bowen Island Municipality that we, the Bowen Island and blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind communities, will not tolerate such behaviour as exhibited by the Bowen Island Lodge from businesses in our community. We need to make clear that businesses cannot get away with disregarding our local laws. We also must make it known that protecting the rights of blind, visually impaired, and deaf blind people and those of Bowen Islanders is important and something we want to see done.

The best way to do this is to write a letter of support. More information, history, all the aforementioned reports, supporting documentation, some sample letters of support, and updates are available through this page on our website.

To submit your own letter of support, you can: use the form found at the above link, email mayorandcouncil@bimbc.ca, or write to:

Mayor and Council
981 Artisan Lane,
Bowen Island, BC
V0N 1G2

We thank you in advance for taking the time out of your busy schedules to read about our predicament.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call us at +1 (604) 947-0021 menu option 2 or use any of these other methods.

Yours truly,

Alex Jurgensen

On behalf of:

The Camp Bowen Team

Updates

April 10, 2018
Updated to reflect recently discovered information about the sale of the Bowen Island Lodge. The lodge was sold in late 2015 and not early 2016 as originally stated. New evidence also shows that The Hundred Year Education Group Corp. directly owns the property and updates have been made to better reflect this.

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