PORT OF CAMOSACK: Roderick Finlayson fired a nine pound cannon ball at the Songhees chief’s lodge, south of Johnson Street, north of Fort Victoria

Johnson Street Bridge represents a fine example of Victoria’s early modern architectural engineering history and of its living transportation history, and is still, amazingly, endangered by a philistine Victoria City Council that doesn’t seem to get the basic rudiments of conservation philosophy applied to Victoria’s own internationally recognized and architecturally significant engineering heritage.

Victoria’s Inner Harbour precinct south of the present Joseph Strauss-designed bridge, and north of the site of the former Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Victoria, has long had a controversial and sometimes violent history, as these excerpts that follow from Monsignor Philip M. Hanley’s The Early History of the Catholic Church on Vancouver Island show.

Monsignor Hanley quotes Roderick Finlayson, the feckless H. B. C. stand-in for Chief Factor Sir James Douglas, describing how the Songhees people moved their village from Cadboro Bay to Victoria harbour, and hence, to their destiny as Victoria’s original outsiders.

 According to Roderick Finlayson, there was a skirmish where H. B. C. cattle were apparently stolen, shots were fired at the Fort from the Songhees-Cowichan village, Finlayson retaliated with a nine pound shot ‘with grape in’ from a cannon at the Chief’s lodge, somehow managing not to have killed anyone…

After that, a fire broke out ‘in the thick wood between the fort and Johnson Street’, which gave Finlayson the pretext he needed to move the Songhees to the other west side of the ‘Comoosin Inlet.’

[ Hanley’s narrative is indicated in italics…]

– ‘Goyo de la Rosa, Editor



Mr. Douglas, late Sir James, had command of the whole party.

We proceeded south and reached Victoria harbour (selected in the spring as the fort site), landed there on the first of June, 1843, and commenced building the fort with the forces from the abandoned stations named, consisting of about fifty men and three officers, one of whom, a Mr. C. Ross, trader, was appointed to the charge, with myself as second in command, the Beaver and Cadboro remaining as guard vessels until the fort was built.

Roderick Finlayson describes the move of the Songhees Indian people into Victoria harbour:

At this time there was a dense forest along the water of the harbour and Comoosin Inlet, as the “arm” was then called.

Where the fort was built there was an open glade with oak trees of large size, where a space of 150 yards was measured off, each way when the fort was built.

The natives for some time after our arrival kept aloof and would not come near.

Afterwards some of them came around gradually, and, finding them inclined to steal anthing they could, a watch was kept night and day, while we lived in tents before houses could be built.

The natives, however, soon got rid of their shyness [and] began to remove from their village on Cadboro Bay and erect house for themselves along the bank of the harbour as far as the present site of Johnson Street.

At the time there was no Indian village in the inner harbour:

The establishment of the fort altered their living patterns still more.

Large numbers moved into the Inner Harbour and formed two villages close to the fort; abandoning more or less completely their earlier winter sites […]

A second village was situated near the present site of the Parliament Buildings […]

Once the fort was built, encircled by cedar pickets eighteen feet high, horses and cattle were brought in from Fort Nisqually in Puget Sound and farming got under way.

Some of the men were employed clearing the land to raise vegetables and grains for the use of the fort.

In these operations the Indians played a part: “… got some of the young natives to assist, paying them in goods, and found them very useful as ox drivers in plowing the land.”

Roderick Finlayson explains that there was a change of management at Fort Victoria:

In the spring of 1844, poor Mr. Ross, who was left in charge by Mr. Douglas, was in poor health when he arrived here, and died, much regretted, in March, and was buried in the old burying ground near the gully, on Johnson Street now.

On the death of Mr. Ross being advised to headquarters, at Vancouver, on the Columbia River, I was appointed to the charge of Victoria, with his son, John Ross, as my assistant.

Under Mr. Finlayson things began smoothly enough in 1844 but problems arose with the Indians living near the fort.

The first confrontation, described by Mr. Finlayson, involved the killing of oxen feeding in the area:

I questioned the Songhees chief about this and demanded payment, as we could not allow our cattle to be killed in this way with impunity.

He went away in a rage, assembled some Cowichan Indians to his village, and the next move I found on their part was a shower of bullets fired at the fort, with great noise and demonstration on the part of the crowd assembled, threatening death and devastation to all the whites.

Finlayson sent an interpreter to tell the chief that he was going to fire a cannon at his house and to make sure everyone vacated the place:

I then fired a nine-pounder, with grape in, and pointed the gun to the lodge, which flew into the air in splinters like a bombshell. . . there was such howling that I thought a number were killed and was quite relieved when the interpreter came round and told me none were killed, but much frightened, not knowing that we had such destructive arms.

The chief, with some of his men, shortly after this, came to the gate and asked to see me.

I went, and assumed a warlike attitude and mentioned that unless the cattle killed were paid for I would demolish all their huts…

A second confrontation happened as a result of a grass fire:

… The belt of thick wood between the fort and Johnson Street, in front of which lodges were placed, took fire, and we had some difficulty in extinguishing it.

As it was gaining toward the fort, and this fire had been caused by the Indians, I wanted them to remove to the other side of the harbour, which they at first declined to do, saying the land was theirs, and after a great deal of angry parleying on both sides, it was agreed that if I allowed our men to assist them to remove they would go, to which I consented.

This was the origin of the present Indian reserve.

[Hanley, Monsignor Philip M., The Early History of the CATHOLIC CHURCH on Vancouver Island, Island Blue Print, Printorium Bookworks, Victoria, 2009, Pages 31 – 32]

CCC BLOG reprint by: ‘Goyo de la Rosa’



Mayor of Oak Bay wants to take Denise Savoie’s seat away from NDP


Christopher Causton is the rumple-haired Mayor of Oak Bay who was acclaimed by the Federal Liberal’s Victoria Riding Association last year to stand as that party’s candidate in the next federal election.

Without once mentioning the name of the lady who currently holds the Victoria seat in the House of Commons which he covets, Mr. Causton addressed about two dozen writers in a small reception room last night in the noisy Fernwood Inn pub for what was billed as an ‘un-press conference’ by Mat Wright, who sent out the invitations by email. 

Mr. Wright introduced the Liberal candidate as the man who chaired the Capital Regional District’s parks committee which recently committed to buying a big chunk of prime real estate called the former Western Forest Products lands, to save it from inappropriate subdivision.

That was meant to be understood by the assembled scribes as a good thing, and it probably is the lesser of two evils at the moment, as the only other alternative would appear to be to let the BC Liberals have their unholy way with these controversial land deals, chopping them up to make suburban sprawl all along the coast.

In a mock show of humility, Mr. Causton hastened to interrupt Mr. Wright to inform those assembled that ‘it’s not my money… it’s your money, folks!’  The sophisticated crowd lapped it up, notwithstanding the bitter truth of the remark.

After introducing himself as a person who slept three nights in Cool Aid when he first arrived in Victoria, and then going on to buy and build up a number of Victoria restaurants with his family, including Camille’s in Bastion Square and Rattenbury’s in the old Crystal Gardens building, Mr. Causton then proceeded to answer some questions from the floor.

The first was from Robert Randall, former Victoria City Councillor candidate, who inquired about ‘social problems’ and nocturnal safety issues in downtown Victoria, including provision of needles and other drug paraphernalia to addicts.

Mr. Causton deplored the history at Cormorant Street where a ‘stand alone’ facility was run for a number of years, causing serious dismay and real problems to neighbours.

He acknowledged that there are serious ongoing problems on Pandora Avenue caused by this same cohort of addicts, and advocated for a ‘dispersed model’ of needle and other drug paraphernalia distribution by VIHA, which he maintained would be preferable to the old Cormorant Street ‘stand alone’ model.

I took that to mean that he favours needle and crack pipe distribution in every Victoria neighbourhood already served by neighbourhood clinics, whether there are addicts there now or not.

Mental note to self: another ‘harm reducer’ on the rampage.

Ross Crockford, an associate with Mr. Wright and Yule Heibel in the JohnsonStreetBridge.org advocacy group, asked a question about amalgamation, which strictly speaking is not a federal government matter, but Mr. Causton was quick to dismiss amalgamation by referring to a book which he said proved conclusively that no cost savings were ever forthcoming to Canadian cities that amalgamated.

Mr. Crockford said that he wasn’t so much concerned about saving money as co-ordinating regional planning.

Sitting next to Mr. Crockford, Yule Heibel countered that she had also read the book referenced by Mr. Causton, but that it was no longer relevant, as it was written in the 1960s.

Her voice was not audible to all in the room, as rowdy partiers in the adjacent pub kept drowning her out.

She bravely attempted to raise her voice a decibel or two, but clearly was not used to playing the professor in a pub.

A lady name Janis and another sitting next to her asked about what Mr. Causton later called ‘computer connectivity’ for rural areas and the poor in Canada, and without getting specific, Mr. Causton allowed that he would certainly favour more ‘connectivity.’

I sensed an odd kind of nerdish pride coming from these two ladies, anxious as they were to have everyone know that they were the self-annointed nodes or hubs of like-minded computer-connected communitarian circles.

They almost mocked Mr. Causton for his being out of touch because he didn’t Twitter, nor was he apparently inclined to send messages without verbs, and Mr. Causton, ever the crowd-pleaser, acknowledged the great post-modern sin of his ineptitude in terms of computer tricks.

The subtext of all this nerd talk seemed to be that if Mr. Causton didn’t get with it by Twittering and setting up a Facebook account and soon, he would surely lose the next election. 

At this point, seeming to lose patience ever so slightly, Mr. Causton emphasized that he was not the sort of candidate who had a wish list of a dozen or so issues that he would champion, but that he would apply the same philosophy to his federal duties (should he be elected to perform them) as he had done all through his political career, which was simply to serve the people as best he could, to bring improved service to them (or something vague and non-commital like that).

Sitting in front of me was a young man who I believe was addressed as ‘Chris,’ and who identified himself as one of a number of Victorians who had started the Vibrant Victoria website about four years ago.

He admitted that one of the main reasons why that site had been established was to provide a forum for those who favoured higher buildings in Victoria, built by what he called unnamed ‘good developers.’

While building height restrictions have been relaxed considerably in the last fifteen years under the Cross and Lowe Liberal regimes, the matter is not a federal one.

However, this young man was under the misapprehension that Victoria City Council was not progressive enough in this regard, and still needed to get behind more ‘good’ skyscrpapers, supposedly to make Victoria more ‘vibrant.

Mr. Causton then gave him a short history of the issue, going back to the days when highrise development threatened to turn James Bay into our very own West End.

Christopher Causton credited Mayor Peter Pollen with bringing in the ten storey limit which prevailed until recently, and suggested that while he was not opposed to highrises generally, he found that some of them, promoted as being of high quality, were actually deficient in many respects.

As an example of these, he cited the still-unfinished The Falls on Douglas Street, which he says is having difficulty selling its units, due to poor workmanship and shoddy finishing materials used.

He preferred the new shorter curved Aria, running from Cridge Park northwest to the corner of Douglas and Humboldt, behind the Crystal.

As for why many Victorians don’t embrace the dense downtown vision of Victoria promoted by Vibrant Victoria, he simply said, ‘they don’t like change.’

I asked Mr. Causton two questions, one pertaining to the Afghan war and Canada’s involvement in it, and the other to the Capital Regional District’s ludicrous sewage treatment issue.

On the war, I wanted to know if Mr. Causton supported the current Liberal Party of Canada position on the war, whatever it is, and how that policy was different from that of the ‘Conservative’ government of Stephen Harper. 

I was also curious to know whether Mr. Causton dissented from that policy in any way, and if so, what were his revervations.

I found his answer to be ambiguous, although he did admit that the question will be foremost on the minds of politicians in Canada next year, when the Canadian Forces are expected to withdraw.

He emphasized the need for a careful and gradual withdrawl, so as not to leave those friendly to the occupiers subject to reprisal from the Taliban.

This sounded like a veiled admission that those people had already won the war, which he suggested was ‘two thirds done.’

On the sewage issue, he said he favours a referendum on the issue, but acknowledged that the BC Liberals had just passed legislation which would make a referendum on the sewage issue impossible.

He would support maintaining the federal government funding a 1/3 share of the project.

On leaving, I bumped into Mr. Wright and Mr. Crockford in the patio outside, and asked them why they didn’t ask him about the Johnson Street Bridge.

Mr. Wright answered that ‘he will support whatever the community supports.’

I thanked them both for their input, but made a mental note not to vote for Mr. Causton, mainly because of his positions on the war and the needle issues.


– Gregory Hartnell, Editor

Concerned Citizens’ Coalition


JANIS RINGUETTE: To stop ‘the construction of a freeway through the north end of Beacon Hill Park… the Beacon Hill Park Association was organized in December 1970… under newly elected president Bernice Packford’




Victoria resident and activist Bernice Levitz Packford‘s major role in stopping the construction of a freeway through the north end of Beacon Hill Park should not be forgotten.

That successful campaign is one of Packford’s major contributions to our community.

The freeway plan was approved by Victoria City Council in 1968.

It was a real threat.

Plans included constructing a new bridge across the Inner Harbour at Laurel Point to route traffic from Victoria West through James Bay onto  a four-lane Michigan Street freeway extension heading eastbound through the north end of Beacon Hill Park, then into Fairfield and north on Cook Street.

The plan would have cut the park in two.

A pedestrian walkway over Michigan was planned to link both sections.

The Beacon Hill Park Association was organized in December 1970 to stop the freeway.

Newly elected president Bernice Packford said, “Our fundamental objective is to educate our own members, the public and civic officials so that they will preserve and extend Beacon Hill Park in the spirit in which it was originally given to the people of Victoria.”

By February 1972, the association had grown to 750 members.

It waged a relentless and effective media campaign; members picketed in Beacon Hill Park, and they worked to elect Councillors opposed to the freeway.

The transportation plan was voted down by a new Council in 1973.

More details can be found online at:



Janis Ringuette



CCC BLOG reprint:

Victoria Times Colonist: timescolonist.com

Bernice Packford and Beacon Hill Park

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Page A11


IRENE MONROE ON JOHNSON STREET’S “BLUE BRIDGE”: ‘We don’t need to junk it just because we can get some federal money.’




Victoria City Council says it will spend $840,000 for more study of the Blue Bridge replace/refurbish dilemma.

This is in addition to the $919,000 already spent on the biased pro-replacement studies.

This newest whack of money will include about $400,000 “to develop detailed designs and technical consulting work on refurbishment.”

Why wasn’t this a consideration in Mayor Dean Fortin’s previous comparison exhorting us all to get behind that great deal of a replacement bridge?

Fortin says that this spending on refurbishment option costs will “nail down the economic impact potential on closing the bridge or lane closures on our downtown.”

Don’t we have the Bay Street Bridge still in operation?

Don’t we have land closures somewhere in Victoria most of the time?

Victoria citizens are very clever at getting around using alternative roads and methods, trust us.

“City engineers say if Council doesn’t do something about the bridge by 2012, it may have to consider closing it.”

How do City engineers come to such a draconian conclusion about a heretofore completely safe bridge that has been given very little maintenance?

Any second options considered?

Finally, about a year ago a glossy flyer came in the mail from our mayor cheerfully urging us to “Pick the bridge of our choice.”

Which of the three bridges was our favourite design?

I wondered if mechanical engineers might be better suited to make that decision based on the structural design, rather than on looks.

Why not spend the money on the Blue Bridge itself — where did all that $919,000 from the previous study go, if not to make a prudent assessment?

Fortin has put the cart before the horse here with the Blue Bridge, and now we’re backing up and doing what should have been done before.

If the Blue Bridge had been given proper maintenance over the years, it might be in better shape than it is now, but we don’t need to junk it just because we can get some federal money.

Irene Monroe



CCC BLOG reprint:

Victoria News: http://www.vicnews.com

Questions still centre around bridge

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Page A9

STUART HERZOG ON MUNICIPAL SEWAGE VOTES: ‘It still requires the consent of all municipalities to a CRD loan authorization bylaw’

If the B. C. government and the CRD think they can reach into taxpayers’ pockets to pay for their ill-advised sewage plan, they should think again.

Hiding this massive project behind the Environmental Management Act not only allows them to exclude this greenhouse-gas producing monster from a full B. C. and federal environmental impact assessment, it also enables them to force the public to cough up the money without being allowed to say no.

But the picture painted by the CRD (“CRD needn’t ask voters for a sewage loan,” March 11) might not be entirely accurate.

Asking the Inspector of Municipalities to approve the liability is only one of the regulatory options.

It still requires the consent of all municipalities to a CRD loan authorization bylaw.

The B. C. government and the CRD should take care.

They are waking up a sleeping dragon of public outrage that could strike down their self-serving and environmentally destructive sewage plans.

Stuart Herzog



CCC BLOG reprint:

Victoria Times Colonist: timescolonist.com

Expect a tax revolt on sewage plans

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Page A11


TOM GURGAL ON STUCK JOHNSON STREET BRIDGE: ‘It was a B.C. Hydro problem, not a bridge problem, but that didn’t stop Councillor John Luton from promoting City Council’s alarmist agenda: “It’s a disaster in slow motion”‘




The recent power outage at the Johnson Street Bridge was caused by a blown fuse.

It was a B. C. Hydro problem, not a bridge problem, but that didn’t stop Councillor John Luton from promoting [Victoria] City Council’s alarmist agenda: “It’s a disaster in slow motion.”

The existing bridge is a prime candidate for renovation.

Frank Nelson, senior supervisory engineer for Parsons, Brinkerhoff of Seattle, inspected the bridge in October 2009.

He has renovated 26 steel bridges in his carreer and maintains that the existing rust is superficial, not structural.

The bridge is a prime candidate for renovation because it was engineered to carry heavy loads well beyond the needs of the day.

Once the bridge is renovated, it will still need maintenance, but modern sealants will prevent the rust we see now.


Tom Gurgal



CCC BLOG reprint:

Victoria Times Colonist: timescolonist.com

Bridge could be refurbished

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Page A11

VICTORIA ARCHITECT ROGER W. SMEETH: on paying a single engineering firm for JOHNSON STREET BRIDGE design proposals: ‘Firms are not normally paid to make these proposals’

Re: “Citizens, we salute you,” Feb. 25 – March 3, Monday Magazine

In the good old days, rather than paying a single firm to investigate refurbishing the bridge, engineering firms would be invited to submit design proposals and rough quotations for this project, to be adjudicated by appropriate experts.

The winning proposal would be awarded the contract  — the lowest or any proposal not necessarily accepted.

Note that firms are not normally paid to make these proposals.

Roger W. Smeeth



CCC BLOG reprint:

Monday Magazine: mondaymag.com

Hey, a bridge letter!

March 4 – 10, 2010

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