Newly-elected North Cowichan councillors and mayor Rob Douglas were sworn-in during the inaugural meeting of council Wednesday afternoon.
The oath of office was administered by municipal solicitor Sukhbir Manhas, with Douglas and councillors Bruce Findlay, Christopher Justice, Debra Toporowski, Tek Manhas, Chris Istace and Mike Caljouw pledging to accept their responsibilities as bestowed upon them by the voting public.
Elder John George opened the proceedings by drumming in the incoming council members and then performing a victory song and a prayer as part of the ceremony.
Invited guests included Richard Thomas, hereditary chief of the Lyackson First Nation. “It’s important in our community here that we work together,” he said.
In his inaugural address, mayor Douglas said the elected council members bring a diverse set of skills, backgrounds and geographical representation to the table.
He pledged council is ready to work hard for its citizens.
“It is together we achieve results for our municipality,” Douglas said. “I’m confident we will make a difference over the next four years.”
There are some difficult challenges ahead, he noted, not the least of which includes homelessness, the housing crisis, affordability in general, climate concerns and more.
“A local government like North Cowichan does not have the power or the resources to solve all of these problems on its own,” Douglas conceded.
It will take hard work in partnership with the provincial and federal governments and First Nations to make meaningful changes in many areas.
Toporowski, Justice and Manhas are returnees to council. Douglas moved up to mayor from a councillor seat and the other three – Findlay, Istace and Caljouw – are newcomers.
Toporowski was appointed acting mayor to serve whenever Douglas is absent and cannot attend a particular meeting or function.
Douglas, Justice, Manhas and Toporowski are the appointees as municipal directors to the Cowichan Valley Regional District board while Douglas, Findlay and Istace make up the mayor’s standing committee for economic development.
Select committee appointments include: Caljouw to environmental advisory and Douglas to forest advisory. Douglas also intends to form an agriculture advisory committee, with Justice the appointee.
Findlay and Justice are the two councillors appointed to the Duncan-North Cowichan Joint Utilities Board, along with two members from Duncan council.
Representatives named to various legislated boards and committees include: Findlay (City of Duncan advisory committee on disability issues); Istace, Findlay and Caljouw to the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s Cowichan Centre commission; Caljouw (City of Duncan tourism advisory committee); and Manhas (Vancouver Island Regional Library Board).
Appointments to other external bodies include: Manhas (B.C. Forest Discovery Centre board and Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce); Istace (Chemainus + District Chamber of Commerce and Chemainus Festival of Murals Society); Justice (Cowichan Communities Health Network and Crofton Community Centre Society); Findlay (Cowichan Community Policing Advisory Society); Toporowski (Maple Bay Community Association and Quamichan Watershed Stewardship Society); and Caljouw (Social Planning Cowichan Board and Somenos Management Committee).