Salish Seafront Initiative


The Seafront Initiative (SSI) was conceived by Jacques Sirois in the summer of 2015. Jacques Sirois is an ornithologist bringing a life-time of expertise to Oak Bay and the initiative.

At a meeting in Oak Bay , September 16, 2015, approximately two hundred citizens attended a meeting where Jacques presented a summary of his vision. Everyone seemed to buy into the vision and there was a general air of support for the creation of such an initiative. Jacques encouraged the attendees to consider helping incubate this initiative.


Oct 13, 2015 : The following is written by Jacque Sirois :

The main goal of the “Seafront Initiative” is to develop a professional plan for our exceptional but neglected seafront. Our seafront is our main asset and is one of the nicest in Canada. Time has come to pay attention, stop and reverse degradation.

We need a plan to enhance our old-fashioned, moribund or simply absent seafront infrastructure and showcase our numerous, exceptional, heritage stories with finesse.

A plan with design features on par in quality, or better, than our four splendid recreation centers.  A plan that includes, for example, the reconstruction of a modern-day version of the old Oak Bay Boathouse as a heritage and visitor center, public washrooms, proper signage and viewpoints, higher and better seawalls, and structures that attract wildlife.

Lkwungen Herring Smokehouse  – Oak Bay’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Home

In Jacques Sirois’ vision, the New Lkwungen Herring Smokehouse will feature Oak Bay’s very own educational, scientific and cultural “stories”.

This will be an Oak Bay Tourism/Oak Bay Marina/Coast Salish (Lekwungen) initiative quite different from the Sidney Ocean Discovery Centre with its pan-Salish Sea perspective. But very much complementary to it.

In late 2015, the original idea of a new boathouse morphed into a site with a stronger Lkwungen character. Jacques own passion for the Lkwungen and the “Land of the Herring Eaters”, saw the actual vision of the structure become a Coast Salish longhouse known as the Lkwungen Herring Smokehouse. 

This will explore the Art and Culture of the Coast Salish, the Lekwungen ( sometimes known as the Songhees) and the three thousand year old history of  Sitchanalth, a major Coast Salish SEA PORT once located on the Oak Bay Seafront.

Sitchanalth was centered at the mouth of Bowker Creek, and stretched from Cattle Point in the north to the Oak Bay Beach Hotel and beyond in the south.  

3,000 years of Canadian history in BC, Canada
3,000 years of Canadian history in BC, Canada

Click here to see a Jan 2016 vision for the Lkwungen Herring Smokehouse at the Turkey Head site. This is just a vision so please consider it as such. It would of course need full Lkwungen and Oak Bay Municipality support if ever it was to be built.


A somewhat disturbing yet strangely awesome portrait of some beach-goers in front of the Old Charming Hotel. The buildings in the distance are at the mouth of Bowker Creek and could include Coast Salish buildings.  The hill property in the distance is likely to have been much valued by the Salish as it was later by the settlers, as the height might have afforded some supposed protection from the threat of recurring tsunamis.

Over the last 3,000 years we hypothesize it has been destroyed by tsunami several times. The 930 A.D. event was the biggest. Geologists have found evidence for at least two other quakes on the Seattle fault in the past 2,500 years. But neither was nearly as big as the 930 A.D. event.  

beth-weathers-stone-bowl-picture[1]Ancient Bowls in the bedrock.

Salish oral tradition from the Tsarslip reports the 930 A.D. tsunami as reaching almost the top of Tlay will nooth (aka “The Place of Refuge”/Mount Newton) near Victoria airport. Tsawout hereditary chief Eric Pelkey said: “The area is sacred to the Saanich people and has been linked to its stories and history for tens of thousands of years. We`re acting on a long-held wish to reclaim the name ȽÁUWELṈEW.


Infrastructure Issues

We need a plan that prepares our seafront for the future and for rising sea levels. Of immediate concern is the old Sitchanalth site and the flood plain from Windsor Park to McNeil Bay; and the Oak Bay Marina area including the site of the new Boat House.

A plan for better not bigger infrastructure. A plan that deals with current, unfortunate structures. There is more to improving our seafront than dealing with the sewage problems from the Uplands – certainly a definite step forward in itself.

Time to Tell the Stories of Oak Bay

On the other hand, many of our seafront stories are of national/international interest. Most remain untold. They include, in no particular order:

  • The Salish Sea. Oak Bay is a perfect window on the Salish Sea and is the part of Greater Victoria, which has the best marine and coastal environment in urban Canada. Includes the story of our massive Oak Bay submarine sand dunes, kelp forests and eelgrass beds, for example, and the need for a herring recovery programme.
  • Cattle Point Dark Sky Urban Star Park, focussed on the goals of the International DARK SKY Movement .
  • Celebrating the “best” climate in Canada. (The Canadian Riviera – la Côte d’Azur du Canada). Includes the story of the Gonzales Observatory – Dominion Meteorological Surveys – with its Canadian record for a frost-free period, for example, and the story of our amazing rain shadow.
  • Our exceptional urban forest, one of the nicest in Canada. Our forest of Garry Oaks (Oregon White Oaks), in Uplands Park  (one of Canada’s nicest Garry Oak meadows) and elsewhere. Including the story of “Big Falkland”, the largest oak tree in the CRD and 2nd or 3rd largest in Canada, located on Falkland Street.
  • Our rare plants and maritime meadows and associated ecosystems, including Victoria Owl-clover, Golden Paintbrush, Bear’s foot Sanicle and 20 others at Cattle Point, Uplands Park, Harling Point, Trial Islands and other Oak Bay islands.
  • The story of our “Native Plant Garden” near Oak Bay Beach Hotel.
  • Critical Orca Habitat: all waters surrounding Oak Bay.
  • Sealand of the Pacific, Tilikum and the Orca Revolution.
  • Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary, est. 1923: all waters around Oak Bay.
  • Chain Islets Important Bird Area (IBA #BC045), across from the Oak Bay marina.
  • Three Ecological Reserves: Trial Islands, Oak Bay Islands and Ten Mile Point.
  • Three Rockfish Conservation Areas: Trial Islands, Chatham-Discovery islands, D’Arcy Island to Beaumont Shoal.
  • The Uplands neighbourhood: urban design by John Olmsted (1907), with its influence on the design of other neighbourhoods.
  • Current and past architecture of interest, residential and others.
  • The Chinese Cemetery National Historic Site.
  • The international border, the Oregon Treaty and the Pig War.
  • Strait of Juan de Fuca: not the Northwest Passage. Early Spanish and English exploration.
  • The Victoria Fortress (Walbran Park to Fort Rodd Hill and beyond).
  • Discovery Islands Provincial Marine Park: from the Songhees to Captain Beaumont to B.C. Parks.
  • Our neighbours: San Juan Islands National Monument, Olympic Mountains World Heritage Site,  + Mount Baker: a volcano and the dominant feature of our landscape.
  • The Salish people and the local Lekwungen (Songhees) families and territory (land of the smoked herring): their islands, grave sites in Uplands, past village sites, clam beds and reef fishing sites.
  • J. Fenwick Lansdowne, naturalist and artist of international fame. (Any other artists who paid attention to our seafront ?)
  • The five original farms: Hudson Bay Company (here and on San Juan Island, Cattle Point, Canada to Cattle Point, U.S.A and the four others (e.g. The McNeill Farm).
  • Our two lighthouses: Trial Islands Heritage Lighthouse and Discovery Island.
  • Captain Voss with the Tilikum around the world, from Turkey Head.
  • Captain McNeill, Captain Beaumont and Captain Jemmy Jones: three interesting characters.
  • Historic sport venues:  Victoria Golf Course and Royal Victoria Yacht Club.
  • Important wrecks and other submarine archeology features (unknown at this point).

Ideally, we need to summarize and map these stories, and insert them in a professional plan.

Also of interest:

  • a proposal for Cattle Point-Uplands National Historic Site (Cattle Point + Uplands Parks + The Uplands residential area).
  • a proposal for a Salish Sea UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, with Oak Bay and Islands as a core area.

A package for Oak Bay council and the public is desirable.

Can well-meaning volunteers pull this together ?


Jacques Sirois

PS please checkout our group :