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Behind the Scenes

This part of the site will quickly be filled with correspondence between Compassion Farm, Council and various supporters.

Below, from oldest to newest, is the email conversation between former Mayor Haime, Dirk and Nicole of Compassion Farm, which was cc-ed to the Lantzville City Council. These emails are submitted without comment for the public record as a part of research and news in accordance to the Fair Dealing sections of Canada's Copyright Law.

Mayoral Correspondence

November 14, 2010

Dear Dirk and Nicole,
I am in receipt of a copy of your email of earlier today to "friends and neighbours of Lantzville". While I have received only 1 email related to it I believe it raises some interesting points. In that email you reference a list of RDN directors along with District of Lantzville Council. I bring to your attention that the Bylaw that Mr. Brack is attempting to enforce is strictly a District of Lantzville bylaw and in no way is affected nor directed by RDN policy. Mr. Brack, while he is employed by the RDN, is effectively working on behalf of the District of Lantzville under a contract of services between Lantzville and the RDN. Therefore, a deluge of emails directed incorrectly to the RDN directors will carry no weight in achieving changes to bylaws in Lantzville.
Secondly, I commend you on your approach within your email whereby you advise people to approach the issue in more general terms of local food production and sustainability and not focusing on your case specifically because this issue is of larger concern than just the use of one property on Fernmar.
Thirdly, I am somewhat offended that it is suggested in the letter that somehow decision making is different if children write the letters. Personally, I make decisions looking not only at the current situation but also potential issues/concerns for the future as well. Often children are used as emotional pawns rather than informed individuals which is not the case here I hope.
Lastly, I invite you to call Twyla Graff at the District office (250-390-4006) and inform her that you would like to attend our next Council meeting as a delegation whereby you can present your thoughts on urban farming and SPIN farming and current barriers to making it successful. Personally I would find it interesting as I am sure other members of council would as well.
Some questions that I am sure would come up would include:
1) Why is current agricultural land in Lantzville inadequate for farming?
2) What do neighbours of intensive agricultural activities think of it?
3) To do urban farming/SPIN farming are structures such as greenhouses
and night lighting required/desired?
Thank you for your time.
Colin Haime

Reply sent November 14, 2010

Hello Colin.

First of all, we hope you are aware that the email you are referring to was not directed to you. This email was only sent to friends and supporters of ours who live in Lantzville, and therefore are also "neighbours".

We beg to differ that the "deluge of emails [are] directed incorrectly". The letter we received was sent from Brian Brack and cc'd to Twyla Graff. So out of common courtesy and professionalism, we contacted Brian twice and asked him who the letters should be directed to. Brian's response was:

"I would suggest your friends channel their questions through you and you can liase with me by phone or by email or make an appointment to see me in person."

We again contacted him explaining that the questions would likely be of a more general nature (some of which would not be in his purview) with regard to the bylaw and he has still not responded after 11 days. Therefore we went ahead and did what we thought made sense. This approach is not about "carrying weight" but about sharing information and bringing others into the loop. If you reread our email, you will see that the thrust of our concerns are for food security and sustainability on Vancouver Island. Does it not make sense then, that we would at least include the Regional District?

Re:  your comment about "children as pawns"
We feel disappointed that you see it that way. Were you thinking that we were asking parents to instruct their children as to what to write? Absolutely not. We know our friends would share the situation with their family; and the children, out of their own concern, would write from their own hearts and minds. Is that a pawn or a participant? Let us tell you how we see it: Children are human beings, members of society and the adults and taxpayers of tomorrow. We were simply pointing that out to whom the email was directed, since this fact may not be obvious to some parents and adults. Furthermore, we have always had many children in our lives and from the neighbourhood who participate in what we are doing here. We see them as equally significant and important in the "chess game" called "life". "Pawns" would be people like Bylaw Enforcement Officers who are cannon fodder for the battles waged in our communities. It is well known by people who are politically astute that when a child shares their own personal experience and views on whatever matter, that it carries similar if not even greater weight. That is because children have not yet learned all of the egoic, political posturing that goes on between adults, bureaucrats and politicians so they tend to come from a simpler and purer place (like "save the salmon"). With this explanation, we hope that you will now read more positively into our intention and less negatively. Finally, if you (and we) want our children to actively participate in our community, including the "democratic process" - at what age should they start?

Regarding your three questions,
1) Please explain how Lantzville agricultural land is "inadequate for farming".
2) What do you think "intensive" means? If you research it on the internet, you will find that it means to use far less space, soil and water than in "conventional" methods. In short, it is a higher yielding vegetable garden - it is also known as "mini-farming". "What the neighbours think" is certainly important, we hope that that is balanced with what is good for Lantzville as a community and all those residing in this bio-region.
3) Some urban and SPIN farmers have a small greenhouse for starting plants but most utilize cloches or cold frames (see the link below). We have never seen or even heard of lights being used by small scale organic farmers.

Yours in service,
Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw

Correspondence 2

We have responded to your email below in "green lettering" for ease of reading.
Dirk and Nicole

On 14-Nov-10, at 11:16 PM, COLIN HAIME wrote:

Hello Nicole,
While the email I was referring to was not directed to me, it certainly was directed at me as well as others on Council and the RDN board.
Understood. Actually, the email was not directed "at" you or others. We were simply sharing our situation with our friends, period. How they choose to respond, is up to them. It also bears mentioning that we sent an email six days ago to all of Council (including you), Twyla Graff and Brian Brack, out of courtesy, letting you folks know that you may be contacted with questions. Only Brian Dempsey and Rod Negrave responded. You, on the other hand, did not respond to the email that we directed to you. Instead, you are responding to an email sent to our friends 
If your goal in the broader sense is to create small scale agricultural opportunities within residentially
zoned areas I can appreciate that you have emailed the RDN directors as a whole. However, your
subject line was "Dirk and Nicole have been ordered to stop farming!". So the natural response of
the receipients, despite your request, will be to demand that the RDN directors allow Dirk and Nicole to farm.
But Colin, we were ordered to stop farming. "So the natural response" was for friends to read the email upon seeing it in the subject line. What our friends then choose to do is up to them.

However, these individuals have no ability nor desire to allow Dirk and Nicole to
farm and therefore the resulting demands are misguided in my opinion.
We must say, that we find it interesting that you don't give the Regional District more credit for the degree of influence they have in making recommendations, writing policy and working towards positive change. Furthermore, we think you are going out on a limbs in your assumptions as to what anyone's "desires" are. Finally, what we are suggesting is that the system needs changing and we are asking our community to weigh in on the issue. Does it not make sense that we ask the people of Lantzville and the hardworking folks of the Regional District if this is something that they think needs to be changed? Therefore we feel strongly that not involving the RDN would be "misguided".
As I stated before, Brian
Brack works essentially under the direction of the administration of the District and if you have
a complaint regarding his activities I suggest you contact Twyla Graff or Council.
We understood the first time, no need to restate. We are well aware that "bylaw services" are contracted out to the RDN by the City of Lantzville. Furthermore, we are more than aware that he is "just doing his job". We have no "complaint regarding his activities".

Regarding the children, if you will reread my email at no time did I suggest children should not
write letters nor did I suggest that you were asking parents to instruct their children what to
I merely stated that it has been my experience that children can be used as pawns
rather than informed individuals.
Insinuating that we are using children as pawns is not "merely" stating. We find any such suggestion, and your repeating of it, as offensive.
Further you seem to have a desire from your email to have
issues dealt without "egoic, political posturing"
No. If you reread our email, you will see that the context and reference using those words was that children have not learned those behaviours to the same degree as adults have. Therefore, they would be coming from a cleaner, purer, more heart-felt place rather than a place of political posturing.
yet you basically state that those that know that the use of children to get the message out will be better off are "politically astute".
Most people understand that our children are our future. Including them can have a powerful affect.
Frankly, I admire children that get involved at an early age not for their simple message but rather their awareness of the world around them.
Again, our use of the word "simple" here means "not coloured or muddied while still rich in depth and awareness" (as most of our friends' children are).

However, to suggest the use of them by the "politically astute" is what I worry about.
Again, you are repeating. Rest assured your "worry" in this case is misplaced.
Lastly regarding the questions, thank you for the responses. That was unexpected at this time but
rather more of a "heads up" of possible questions if you chose to make a presentation to Council.
In terms of your responses to the questions I might clarify two of them.
1) In terms of existing Lantzville agricultural land, I am curious as to why it cannot be used for
such intensive agricultural activities as opposed to existing residential land?
We are still having difficulty understanding what you are really asking. In an attempt to answer: any land can be used for agriculture. The fact of the matter is that agricultural land, due to parcel size, is usually priced far out of reach for most people wanting to farm, especially younger folks. The majority of agricultural land on Vancouver Island gets tied up by "hobby farmers" that have a rider lawn mower and two cows as a tax dodge. This is in part why municipalities are quick to zone farmable land as residential because it yields more taxes.

2) While I fully appreciate what the definition is of "intensive", the main point of my question was
wondering what the neighbours adjacent or within the surrounding area of such intensive
agricultural activities thought of this type of use of the land?
While we fully appreciate your "main point", as the pressures on the land and our natural environment, the needs of the few must be balanced with the needs and health of the community as a whole. Part of the purpose of this process is to discover indeed what "the neighbours think". Which is why we directed our email to some of our neighbours.

Thanks again and I look forward meeting to discuss how Lantzville can balance what is good
for Lantzville and the surrounding areas.
Colin Haime

In service,
Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw

Correspondence 3

Nicole and Dirk are again in green with Mayor Haime in black.
On 15-Nov-10, at 6:07 PM, COLIN HAIME wrote:
For myself it is suffice to say that between insinuations, assumptions and semantics you and I should
agree to disagree regarding a variety of meanings and intent.
Fine. Sure. In future, we would ask that if you want to know what we think, feel, believe - ask us. 
Meaning, please refrain from making assumptions, inferring, insinuating, taking out of context and "reading into" what we have said.
What appears to have been lost or not recognized in this is that at no time did I express opposition
to either your ideals nor your goal with respect to land use in Lantzville.
Rest assured, nothing got lost with us. We are well aware of, and understand the process. Where this conversation went off the rails was when you crossed the line, going beyond your mandate (which is speaking for Council) by not only lacking in "objectivity" but going even further by speaking for the RDN directors - particularly when you said:
"...these individuals have no ability nor desire to allow Dirk and Nicole to farm". 
However I am also not willing to rush forward and endorse a land use without considering alternatives, implications and effects of such a decision.
What appears to have been "lost" or not "not recognized" in this is that at no time were we wanting to "rush forward". Our intention, from the beginning, is to engage our community in a conversation - a process.

Further it is incumbent on an individual who is a member of council to  remain open minded to an issue prior to having full information on on the issue as well as alternatives implications and effects. This is especially critical when the issue surrounds land use as land use decisions can be challenged if a council member has a bias towards an outcome to the extent that they ignore other information before them.

Again, we are well aware of process. What we expected from you is that you would have done some research before responding (we sent links to you so you would have some reference materials), which would have shown some objectivity and open mindedness, rather than reacting to an email that was not even addressed to you. So far, the two previous emails you have sent to us seemed biased and we felt lectured to. 
That is why in both of my previous emails I invited you to appear as a delegation before Council so that all Council members can further understand both the issues and the challenges in addressing these issues.
Again, we are well aware of the process as far as bylaws go, and we are happy to appear as a delegation once our community has had the opportunity to give their input. To us, for this to be an unbiased and objective process it is important and necessary to engage our community since food, food security and long term sustainability involve all of us.
As an aside to the above, the correspondence that you sent on November 9th did not request a reply. It supplied a history of the property, a request that Council members consider the importance of growing local food and a "heads up" that we may be contacted by residents regarding the zoning bylaw.
That being said, you and all recipients of that email were more than welcome to respond to us or contact Brian and Twyla. Again, you instead chose to react to an email that was not directed to you, but to our friends.
Colin Haime
In service,
Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw

Correspondence 4

Hello Colin,

This email is the first time that you have demonstrated communicating in a manner befitting of a public servant. We appreciate the effort you have now made.

We just saw you visiting our neighbours' homes - it would have been a perfect time for you to stop in, take a tour and learn more about what we are doing here.  

On 15-Nov-10, at 9:11 PM, COLIN HAIME wrote:
Just as a suggestion with respect to process, based on the fact that you have raised an issue that effects not only yourselves but possibly others in Lantzville,
We are glad to read that you seem to be finally beginning to grasp that which has been our point all along. Based on the fact that we have raised an issue that definitely affects everyone in Lantzville since the bigger issue is food, food security and sustainability. Urban farming and the need for it to be "decriminalized" is only one, but very important piece of the long range sustainability puzzle.  
you could consider appearing before Council and requesting that Council give consideration to directing Bylaw Enforcement to cease the current enforcement activities until some later date.
Again, we are aware of process. We are aware that we can make a presentation or appeal, as it were. As we have already said, we do not want to rush into anything, in order to allow time for people in our community who are already concerned about the aforementioned issues, to give some input. The RDN already gave us three months, please explain the purpose of us appearing before Council requesting consideration at this time?
This would give Council adequate time to consider what reports/data/information/opinions they may need in terms of possibly directing changes to existing zoning and/or Home based business bylaws on a broader scale or possibly consider site specific zoning if it was applied for.
We are glad to hear that you are beginning to see the value of engaging more people including Council and staff in researching and understanding the value and depth of these very important issues. 

Need we point out that it was under the direction of Lantzville District Council that the RDN was directed to proceed with enforcing the bylaw. Does it not then make sense that if Council and staff would like "adequate time" to "consider" the matter, that the governing body (District of Lantzville) give direction to their contractor (RDN Bylaw Enforcement) to "cease the current enforcement activities until some later date"?
Just some suggestions.
Colin Haime
In service,
Nicole Shaw and Dirk Becker

Correspondence 5

November 16th 2010

Based on the fact you have chosen to dissect each of my emails section by section and criticize each statement including ones that were done to provide you with direction on how to proceed I request that further correspondence regarding this matter be sent through the District email address of as opposed to this email address.

That way all correspondence will be done to the attention of Council as a whole.

Please note that emails to that email address become property of the District and an item of public record.

Further, I am a member of Council just like any other and am entitled to express my own thoughts. I will continue to do so.

You have challenged my objectivity, my actions, my astuteness and by my estimation, my intelligence. I will leave those alone.

My mandate however, is to protect the interests of all 3600 residents of Lantzville. That is defined not by yourself but by provincial legislation and those 3600 residents. I can assure you that I did not go beyond that.

Colin Haime

We are at a loss. 

We have done our best to respond to your questions, concerns and points. It saddens both of us that by us thoroughly responding to each of your points it is construed as "dissecting" and "criticizing". We see it as responding directly to your points for clarity of context (we switched to responding throughout your email after you misconstrued context in your second email and we then had to go back and explain how those words were actually used).

We both value communication highly (which is why Dirk teaches workshops and is a regular public speaker and Nicole is in publishing and volunteers with the Women's Centre and Women's Advocacy Coalition - all with the express purpose of collaborating, raising awareness and educating) and we have become increasingly frustrated by your six (6) emails to us. They have felt more like "one way" communication rather than a two-way conversation. By you continuing to not respond to the points we have made, and questions we have asked, as a result we have, naturally and understandably, not felt heard and by you not responding to our points and questions, you have demonstrated an unwillingness to have an open, collaborative dialogue. 

We first gave Council a 'heads up' that they may recieve some communication from members of the public. We did this out of courtesy. Take note that we could have just sent the email out to friends or even media first; but instead, wanted to demonstate collaboration and working together. You did not respond to the email we sent to you and Council members; however, a week later, when we sent a personal email to our friends, you got hold of that email and within two hours of us sending it out - you took it upon yourself to write to us, based upon a knee-jerk reaction (referring to us as "using children as pawns" and saying you were "offended").

As citizens of Lantzville, it is our responsibility to challenge you and your actions; and based on your behaviour towards us so far it has become obvious that this is quite necessary. Feel free to express your own thoughts, but please do so with much more consideration as to how it sounds and feels at this end. Put yourself in our shoes. How would you feel if you were told what we have? We have lost sleep and felt stressed since receiving the enforcement letters, Nicole is now sick. You are in a position of power and you have the 'laws of the province' on your side. Would it not behoove you to engage in a manner that creates a more positive result? Does it make sense for you to posture and repeat your points ad nausaum (after we have repeatedly said, "yes, we know, we are well aware, we understand, we want to engage in a process")?

Your response to Harriet Rueggeberg's email is a great example of communicating in an open, unbiased, co-operative manner. We didn't know you were able to communicate in that manner as it hasn't been our experience of you. Please re-read the emails you have sent to us in comparison to what you have sent to Harriet. Remember Colin, you are our Mayor too. We've been disappointed.

In your second email, among other things you said, "However, these individuals [RDN Directors] have no ability nor desire to allow Dirk and Nicole to
farm and therefore the resulting demands are misguided in my opinion." That, we assure you, is going beyond your "mandate" and is greatly lacking in fairness and "objectivity". In our last email, we let you know that we saw you visiting our neighbours' homes and offered that it would have been a good opportunity for you to stop in for a tour and learn more about what we are doing. Not only did you not stop in, you haven't acknowledged that you even read it in this last email. Again, that seems to be lacking in "fairness" and "objectivity". 

Our mandate (Dirk and Nicole's) is to take the long term interests of all 3600 residents into account (and the 100,000 + residents of the RDN and the long term well being of an island that only grows 5% of its food). This is defined through processes like the OCP which provides the opportunity for the taxpaying citizens of Lantzville to change local bylaws within the framework of provincial legislation.

We are happy to use the email address you have given us ( - we were under the impression that we had been sending emails to the Council as a whole (as we got each Councilor's email address from your website) and already assumed any communication with Council was public record. We ask that you include the rest of Council in your emails to us (your second to last email did not). Please refrain from emailing us again, until there is actually a need to do so - and only when you can communicate in the same manner with us as you have done so with Harriet. All Councillors and RDN Directors are welcome to call, email or make an appointment to visit in order to research and learn more about this issue and we will continue to share information and co-operate with the goal of creating solutions that are for the betterment of all of us.

In service,
Nicole Shaw and Dirk Becker