You are invited to join our 2021 online AGM

Nov 18, 2021     07:00 -8:30 PM Pacific

Register in advance for this zoom meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Active members in good standing can vote.


1. Acknowledgement of First Nations Territory
2. Call Meeting to Order
3. Confirmation of Quorum (#s of members in attendance) 
4. Annual General Meeting Agenda 
           A) Motion to approve agenda.
            B) Previous AGM Minutes.
5. Introduction of Board members and advisors
6. Year in Review
              a. Chair’s Report (2020)
              b. Overview of 2020 ( Slide Show)
7. Financial Statements (2019/2020)
              a) Present an overview of the finances
8. Election of Board Members
      Motion to elect the nominated candidates for the Board of Directors 
8. Other Business: Future Visions and Challenges + Q & A

9. Adjournment

Note: Members of the Board will meet briefly after the AGM to elect officers.

The following members were nominated and agree to stand for re-election:

Bob McMinn

Bob is a retired forest ecologist with over 40 years of professional experience throughout BC. He is passionate about keeping as much of the Highlands as possible in its natural state. This motivated him to start the Highlands District Community Association and enter politics to become the first Mayor of the District of Highlands. During his term of office, parklands were increased to 30% of the Highlands. Increasing parkland and protected space is a thrust that subsequent councils have continued. In 2010 Bob recognized the potential for the Mary Lake property as a great addition to green space in the Highlands.

Awards: Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Canada 125 and BC Good Citizenship Medals and the District of Highlands Freedom of the Municipality are recognition of his many years’ service to the Highlands and the Greater Victoria Community.

I think the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary is a wonderful, near-by venue for Highlands and Capital Regional residents and visitors to experience tranquil lakeshore, riparian and forest environments. They are beautiful places for “forest bathing”. Additionally, I feel that the unique lakeside Nature House provides a lovely setting for retreats, workshops, conferences or friendly gatherings for conservation organizations, church groups, or just a few friends. In conjunction with the West Shore Arts Council, the funding of the Art Studio in the Nature House will, I think, be a fabulous additional space for artists at all levels of competence.
I consider that combining indigenous knowledge with Western scientific experience is an important part of the teaching program of the Sanctuary. Programs to learn from First Nations Elders, for both indigenous and settler young people, I consider to be major Reconciliation endeavors, as will learning about First Nations medicinal plants. I welcome the Sanctuary and Nature House becoming a place for Reconciliation and a place for finding the healing experience of being in the natural world, unharried by the frenetic pace of our current lifestyle. ~Bob

Koi Neah

Koi Neah has lived in the Highlands for 16 years and her deep love of the natural world has kept her involved with the GVGS since 2011. Her ability to think outside of the box was developed during 15 years as a designer in the theatre, television, and film industries. For over 25 years she facilitated community workshops for holistic wellness and alternative living gaining skills in community building, and non-violent communication. Her participation in decolonization work locally and nationally has inspired her contributions to the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary project. She has initiated the MLNS Management Plan, cultivated relationships with local environmental groups and First Nations and as well, acts as project manager for the Nature Sanctuary including interior renovations.
  It is rare to find a property like the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary that has been guided by a conservation ethic for over 70 years, thus enabling an immediate witnessing of the inherent variety that nature has to offer.
 Our monthly nature walks have been the groundwork for teaching those attending, the value of treading gently on a landscape that harbours red-listed plant communities, endangered species, and sensitive ecosystems.
 Since inviting Tsartlip Elder Tom Sampson to the property in the Spring of 2012 I have had the great privilege over the years to hear the traditional stories embedded in the landscape that teach ways that respect the laws of the natural world. There is such a wealth of traditional knowledge to be found in this unfolding relationship with First Nations, which will be instrumental in adapting the land management plan as we humbly and respectfully decolonize our larger society’s historical attitudes towards stewardship.~ KoiNeah

Ben van Drimmelen

BSF, LLB Retired, Biologist and Barrister
Ben worked as a wildlife biologist, habitat biologist and natural resources lawyer for the BC government and for the independent Forest Practices Board. He has been on boards with the Land Trust Alliance of BC, the Victoria Natural History Society and Habitat Acquisition Trust.
I believe that the Sanctuary is unique in two respects:
1. An unusual chance to permanently conserve a pocket of imperilled Coastal Douglas Fir Biogeoclimatic zone forest, and
2. A unique opportunity to partner with local First Nations to ensure that the area can be utilized (lightly) for cross-cultural education and information for both indigenous and non-indigenous people.
My personal area of interest is to achieve permanent protection and conservation of the area by means of a conservation covenant. ~Ben

Ellie Rayner

Ellie is a registered nurse and retired after many years working in infectious disease and cancer research. She has lived in the Highlands for over 20 years and has been active in many community projects and committees including the beginnings of the Mary Lake Conservation Project. She currently serves on the Sustainable Land Use Select Committee in the District of Highlands
Past Chair: Highlands Advisory Planning Commission
Past Chair: Environmental Committee in Highlands OCP review
Past Chair: Highlands New Community Hall Construction
The first time I Visited the Mary Lake property I was pleasantly surprised at the beauty and calming atmosphere I felt.  It really is a gem in our municipality.  There is an obvious reality about climate change becoming more evident around us on a daily basis.
The recent environmental destruction in the south of Highlands and south of our southern borders is shocking and makes properties like Mary Lake even more valuable.
I am very grateful to live in our municipality and for the vision of environmental preservation that has been so prominent over the years. ~  Ellie

Eric Bonham

Eric is a retired civil engineer and formerly a Director with the Ministries of Environment and Community Services. He is a founding member of the Partnership for Water Sustainability BC, past-chair of the Highlands Stewardship Foundation, was a Board member of the Gowlland Foundation, and currently is a Director of the BC Lake Stewardship Society. An advocate for citizen commitment and engagement at both the community and provincial level for which he received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award and an Honorary Citizen of Victoria recognition. Eric was a member of the Highlands Groundwater Task Force, founding member of the Friends of Fork Lake Stewardship Group and a Director on the Highlands District Community Association.

Having had the good fortune to call the Highlands my home for 21 years, I reflect, now living outside of the community, on the important role the District of Highlands fulfills within the Greater Region. The Highlands has demonstrated leadership and visionary planning with regard to the protection of its natural assets. In that regard, the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary initiative is a reminder of our relationship to our environment, not only for the benefit of Highlanders, but also the Capital Region and beyond. The Mary Lake initiative is both timely and innovative, not only by complementing the vision and values of the Highlands, but also through its creation of an educational hub that attracts the attention, interest and involvement of diverse participants who have the common interest, namely the reconnection with the natural world. Given the challenges of our time, including climate change, loss of habitat and biodiversity, to name but some, there is every reason to establish centres such as the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary, where we can take stock and reflect upon values and our collective impact on the environment.

In that regard the GVGS has attracted the interest of several like minded organizations, including The Land Conservancy, Habitat Acquisition Trust, BC Lake Stewardship Society and Peninsula Streams, focussed upon the objectives of education, partnerships, collaboration and conservation. I have also reached out to Royal Roads University and established an on-going partnership resulting in an annual student lake stewardship research project for the benefit of both the students and GVGS. The exciting opportunity of developing a co-management partnership of the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary with Tsartlip First Nation, while a work in progress, has the potential of converging Indigenous Knowledge with Western Science, blending practical application, philosophy and the sacred. A meeting place where healing and reconciliation can truly happen, all are welcome, with collaboration the way of the future. A partnership between the Tsartlip First Nation and the Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society, based upon mutual trust and respect, is both timely and welcome. GVGS has also established a connection with the newly formed Indigenous Law Faculty at UVIC. Students from the faculty have visited Mary Lake with their professor Robert Clifford and are aware and interested in the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary initiative.~ Eric

Christine Bhopalsingh

Christine’s work experience has criss-crossed both the private and public sectors over the past 32+years. Her most recently held positions as Wellness Manager and Senior Human Resources Advisor, have informed her drive to achieving excellence by serving others. A graduate of Royal Roads University, Christine has completed a graduate certificate in Executive Coaching and is also accredited in ICISF training (International Critical Incident Stress Foundation). Striving to give back to and broaden leadership in the community realm, she was past President for the India School of Dance, Music and Theatre (Winnipeg MB) from 2010-2014 and is currently the President of the West Shore Arts Council (2018-present). Always an artist at heart, her love of nature and all things creative, helps her remain resilient in the face of change

This project will highlight a collaboration, achieved by few in our country. I believe it will model, for current & future generations, a way of relating with each other & a way of being, by putting Nature at the heart.

What draws & centers me continually to this project, is my wholehearted desire to bring community together. Rooted in principles of consent, respect, trust & diversity of thought. As peoples of this land, we will come together to nurture & preserve culture, focused on well-being and at the heart, Nature.

The artist studio I fully stand behind, will bring people together. Their creative force will build new relationships & fill the space with laughter, sharing & cross-cultural understanding. I look forward to creating these foundational relationships, as we gain momentum in creating a spotlight in this region and ultimately on Vancouver Island. ~ Christine

Emma Ross

Emma is co-owner of Wilder Restoration; a regenerative landscape company serving Southern Vancouver Island and previously worked as the engagement and community outreach specialist for the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society. She recently graduated from Royal Roads University with a B. SC. in Environmental Science degree. Prior to that she studied Ecosystem Management at Fleming College in Ontario. Her passion for protecting the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary began through her education at Royal Roads University. She and a team of peers were tasked with conducting research on the water quality of Mary Lake and the creation of a lake and stream monitoring program. Since then, she has joined the board of directors and continues to conduct water quality testing on the lake

I think that the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary is an important and unique project because it brings people and nature together through traditional, scientific, and artistic avenues in a way that creates harmony on the land. I love Mary Lake because the property houses such an incredible diversity of species that are left to thrive with very little human influence. There are few areas close to Victoria where you can visit and observe nature in so much of its glory with such a minimal impact. This project is an asset to the region as it represents many unique ecosystem interactions that are important cultural, ecological, and historical markers.  ~ Emma

Allison Balabuch

Allison has been an educator for the past 23 years in both Canada and overseas. She has a Master of Arts in Language and Literacy and she is currently a PhD student at the University of Victoria in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on decolonization of instructional practices and pedagogy. As a French Immersion teacher, she is an expert in project-based learning and integration of multidisciplinary subjects. Arts-based practice and learning in nature are main components of Allison’s programs. She has a personal interest in ethnobotany and indigenous plant usage across the globe. She is also currently the president of the board of the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival

I was first introduced to Mary Lake when I brought my class to the site to learn about traditional plant use and participate in arts workshops to explore identity and local history. I believe that sites such as Mary Lake need to be protected for future generations and as environmental entities unto themselves.  Projects such as Mary Lake provide space to conserve the land and work towards sharing and conserving knowledge and ensuring a healthier future for all the people, plants, and animals that share the site. ~ Allison

Sunny Jun

Vice-Principal and an educator in Victoria. She has diverse experience in education spanning from 4 different continents during her 16 years of teaching. She has a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and has extensive experience in place-based and experiential learning.  As an immigrant, the abundance of British Columbia’s natural surroundings brought out her curiosity and love for what this land had to offer. She works to share this knowledge and passion for the natural environment with her students. She is currently working on developing a curriculum that incorporates Indigenous perspectives in children’s environmental inquiry.

Mary Lake plays a vital role in providing educational opportunities for children and adults to connect with nature and interact in a reciprocal way that is beneficial to both parties. In a world where natural resources are commodities, if we don’t collaborate together as one community to preserve what little green space we have with our mighty hands, it is sure to be engulfed by our need to consume. This little magical sanctuary can provide deeper meaningful connection with people, especially children who will be the future stewards of our communities. When we teach our children to care for their community, they will move mountains to protect it. ~ Sunny

Carolyn Sampson

Carolyn is of Coast Salish and Nez Perce heritage. Born and raised on the Tsartlip First Nation. Attended both UVic and Gonzaga University. Work for Correctional Services Canada as an Indigenous Community Development Officer, a strong and lengthy volunteer history in the human services area. Passionate about traditional plants and medicines as a way of life and to heal the body, spirit, and soul by walking with the natural rhythm of the ancestors.

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Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary

1772 Millstream Rd,
Victoria, BC V9B 6E4

Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society

1772 Millstream Rd.
Victoria, BC. V9B 6E4
Registered Charity BN: 11894 6953 RR0001

WSÁNEC Coast Salish

Mary Lake lies within the traditional territories of the WSÁNEC (Saanich) Coast Salish Peoples.

​We recognize the integral role the ancestors of the WSÁNEC Coast Salish Peoples play as past stewards of the Mary Lake and Highlands lands.

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