Skip to content

Community Summary Report: Shirley

Click to download the PDF.

Community Partner:

Alysha Jones, co-chair Intersectionality and Truth and Reconciliation Committee, Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment (CANE) and member of the District of Sooke’s (DoS) Climate Action Committee (CAC)

1. Introduction

A. Summary

Key takeaways from the Community Summary Report:

  • Community members have concerns about forestry practices and impacts on water quality, increasing vulnerability to climate change impacts, and associated rising costs (i.e., to fix pumps damaged by runoff)
  • Community members are highly supportive of local agriculture and food security to mitigate climate change and stimulate the local economy
  • Local community development (i.e., local job creation, Post Office, General Store) all around is a key consideration  
  • Participants were passionate and optimistic about the capacity of the Shirley community to work together to address these concerns but also acknowledged the need for government support to create local jobs 

B. About the Green Resilience Project

This community conversation was part of the Green Resilience Project, a Canada-wide series of conversations exploring and documenting the links between community resilience, income security and the shift to a low-carbon economy. Working with a designated partner organization from each community, the Green Resilience Project aims to create spaces in which a wide range of participants can talk through the links between climate change and income security, and identify possible next steps to build or maintain community resilience in the face of these challenges.

This  Community Summary Report  reflects what we heard and learned in our community’s conversation. Each Project partner organization across Canada will be producing a similar report. In March 2022, the Green Resilience Project will produce a final report summarizing findings across conversations, which will be available to the public and shared with Environment and Climate Change Canada. 

Funding for the Green Resilience Project is generously provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Climate Action and Awareness Fund. The Project is is managed and delivered by Energy Mix Productions, Basic Income Canada Network, Coalition Canada Basic Income – Revenu de base, Basic Income Canada Youth Network, national experts and local partners

C. About the Community Partner organization

Alysha participated in the Green Resilience Project through her work with both CANE and the DoS CAC. Alysha has advocated for a Climate Justice lens for Sooke’s Climate Action Plan and is in the process of creating a community-based Climate Justice Advisory Group. She sees income security and affordability as key issues within Climate Justice discourse and policy development. 

D. Why this community was selected to have a conversation

A rocky beach with trees in the background
Description automatically generated with low confidence

Capital Regional District (CRD), 2016

Shirley is a small, rural, forested community of approximately 500 people within the T’Sou-ke and Pacheedaht First Nations Territory in the Sooke Region on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. Shirley has historically been a resource extraction economy that continues to rely on logging and silviculture (Capital Regional District (CRD), 2016).

Most residents in Shirley are either self-employed (in the tourist industry or small home-based businesses), retired, or commute daily for work in Sooke or Victoria (Sooke Region Tourism Association, 2022). The largest employers in the community are Western Forest Products, a nearby resort, restaurants and B&Bs (Sooke Region Tourism Association, 2022). 

Shirley was selected for a Green Resilience Project conversation because of its vicinity to Sooke, vulnerability to climate change-induced wildfires and flooding, as well as the impacts on the social and ecological community by commercial timber harvesting. Residents of Shirley are concerned about damaging forestry practices, water quality (potable water comes from wells), limited transportation, agriculture, and community development (CRD, 2016). 

Shirley’s Official Community Plan restricts subdivision and commercial development to maintain ecological and rural character integrity (CRD, 2016). 

E. About the conversation participants

Participants were invited to participate in a Shirley GRP Community Conversation through a community email listserve, community Facebook group, and by word-of-mouth. Six participants attended, including two seniors, an architect, members of the LGBTQ+ community, a retired community health nurse, and a 30-something-year-old professional. Several people were immigrants from Europe and South America with English as a second language. While the group reflected a range of lived experience, forestry workers, people of colour, Indigenous peoples, and working-class or lower-income people were missing from the conversation. 

Given the pandemic, the Community Conversation was hosted online. It’s likely that more Shirley community members would have been interested to participate if an in-person community event at the Shirley Town Hall had occurred. 

F. The Community Conversation 

The conversation occurred over Zoom for 75 minutes in a focus group format. GRP Conversation Questions as formulated by the GRP team were used. While the conversation was a success, I could see that community members were passionate about coming together to discuss these issues and thrived when given a format to do so. So, the GRP Community Conversation was only a taster for them in terms of present community development. 

2. What We Heard

A. How are the changes to our community’s environment and economy discussed in the introduction affecting you, your family, or the community as a whole?

Impacts of Deforestation and Water Quality

  • Most people in Shirley use well water and logging in the area impacts drinking water quality and water pump functioning, costing community members additional money 
  • Participants are concerned about deforestation making the community more vulnerable to climate change because of the shading and water storage that trees provide
  • Participants noted that some community members depend on the forestry industry for their income 

P1 – “…[a] very large number of trees have been cut down, and in some cases, there is replanting and in others development…I know some people work in the forestry industry, and so I can see that they have an economic need, but I think the loss of trees is a factor in climate change, and so I think it affects the community as a whole”

P2 – “there’s now a clear cut behind me, which has dramatically changed our local climate in some ways for the better but some ways not like the amount of sun – and its warmer, drier. The water and creeks just overflow when there’s rain and then quickly go down to nothing because there is nothing sustaining the water…. [] and I went down again trying to get the water fixed for a neighbour today because…I’m sure it’s got to do with the amount of water that’s coming down dislodging her pump head and filling it up with sand and stuff…and it’s affecting the cost of stuff” 

P3- “Trees are being cut down, and we’re talking about water and water shortages…when we cut down trees, we lose a big source of water 30%…so I think that’s one of the challenges that we have to look at because we’re getting more residential development out here”

P4 – “Because forestry is such a big thing in the area, there will be threats to income security for some people…since I’m retired, I’m not sure how it [my income] will be affected by climate change, I haven’t thought of that yet” 

Water and Agriculture

P2 – “I’m thinking of people growing food commercially here and the use of water for irrigation, now we have some problems with aquifers and people are using more water for agriculture and everything else, so that’s a problem” 

B. How are these environmental and economic changes related to each other? 

  • Using green building materials and building to green standards are unaffordable for many people in Shirley even with rebates 
  • Participants spoke about the rising costs of trying to adapt to climate change 
  • There is no public transportation in Shirley, people can’t give up their vehicles 
  • Living in a rural-remote community, participants felt they must rely on fossil fuels to some extent 

C. What are some possible solutions to the challenges we’ve discussed that will help the community respond to climate change and create income security for all community members? 

Local Food, Products & Services 

  • Participants emphasized the need to invest in agriculture and the local food system in Shirley, as well as being prepared to pay a bit more and buy local food – both for the local economy and to respond to climate change
  • Participants recommended a review of restrictive community bylaws that prevent local farmers from selling more in the community 
  • One participant mentioned the CRD dedicating land in the community for a community garden – something that had been on the table years ago but had dropped out of focus

P2 – “we need to be prepared to pay a bit more and sustain the local, not only food, but other types of products that we need to buy, having those made and purchase locally” 

P1 – “one of the positive things that’s happened is that there are a lot of people growing food. When we first moved down here, I don’t think there was a single farm and now there’s quite a few people who are farming and of course, the Shirley Market really helped…people are doing it for the reason of climate change, but they’re doing it and it has a very beneficial effect on the community” 

  • Participants spoke about the need to create more local jobs, so people don’t have to travel out of the community for work 
  • One participant spoke about the need to maintain a local business directory for Shirley so that people in the community can employ fellow community members to do electrical, plumbing, carpentry “there’s a lot of skills out here, and having that directory is one way of tapping into them”
  • Suggestions for local economy stimulus included establishing a Post Office and “a little store of some sort that stocks local products year-round, that would create jobs and give opportunity to buy local”

P6 – “I was thinking about how important it is to have diversity in the community so if we are trying to be local and sustainable, we need all of us, the nurse, the architect, the carpenter, everybody” 

P6 – “Programs that the government can support are important because we need to drive less, to stay at home, to be together here, and be like we’re on a little planet somehow…like a tribe, like the tribes used to be, sustainable, supporting each other in all ways and connected with other tribes” 

Additional Suggestions

  • Emotional support for community members dealing with income insecurity and climate change impacts
  • Replanting trees and forests to protect the water supply and mitigate climate change

Basic Income 

P5 – “I really support a basic income that really makes space and relieves so much of the anxiety, I think that is going to be happening more and more with climate change and the economic problems that come along with climate change and that are already here in relation to inequity” 

D. How do you think these solutions can be achieved to build, maintain, or strengthen community resilience? Who is responsible for these changes—individuals, community groups, governments, or a mix? 

Shirley Community Resilience 

  • Participants had a consensus that community members needed to work together to address the strength of the local economy and climate change

P3 – “we are 500 people in Shirley, we need to be together we need to help each other” 

P4 – “this winter and the winter before…longer periods without electricity and we need to help each other, or when the roads are not drivable, we rely on each other….I think that’s the double thing with climate change, all these things that can be very scary and put us in very difficult situations are also making us get together more”

P5- “I think Shirley is great because of being fairly small, it is possible, we can talk to each other” 

P6 – “We need to be resilient as a community alone because I don’t know what we can get from the government” 

P4 – “We do have some strong community members who do want to look at doing things differently and working together and figuring out how to do that, and that is the nice thing, meeting of the Shirley Community Association, with the question of “how do we want to see Shirley in a few years? As [] said there are different kinds of Shirley people, so what is needed for everybody?”

Community groups

  • Sooke Region Food Community Health Initiative was cited as an important community group to facilitate positive change 


  • Participants noted that government assistance would be helpful to subsidize local products and services and make them affordable to local people; as well as to help with local job creation 

3. What We Learned

  • Community members have concerns about forestry practices and impacts on water quality, increasing vulnerability to climate change impacts, and associated rising costs (i.e., to fix pumps damaged by runoff)
  • Community members are highly supportive of local agriculture and food security to mitigate climate change and stimulate the local economy
  • Local community development (i.e., local job creation, Post Office, General Store) all around is a key consideration  
  • Participants were passionate and optimistic about the capacity of the Shirley community to work together to address these concerns but also acknowledged the need for government support to create local jobs 

To what extent do you think your conversation built wider and deeper understanding of the links and synergies between community resilience, livelihoods, income security and the low-carbon transition? Please explain your response.

  • 1 – Not at all
  • 5 – Very much so

To what extent did participants demonstrate increased awareness of climate change and their own capacity for climate action? Please explain your response.

  • 4

Participants held the conviction that the Shirley community could work together to address climate change and expressed a strong desire to participate in community-centric action. 

To what extent were new relationships between community partners and conversation participants created and fostered? Please explain your response.

  • 2

Most community members have known each other for years, excepting one participant who made social connections because of this Conversation. 

To what extent did your conversation create opportunities to foster ongoing discussion of solutions related to climate change, income insecurity and community resilience? Please explain your response.

  • 4

I hope this conversation will be taken forward! There was evident passion and interest in this group, and ideas about next steps for participants to take to connect and work on solutions. 

In your opinion, what does the community need to do next to build or maintain resilience in the face of climate change and rising income insecurity?

The community needs to come together on a regular basis to discuss problems and solutions, as well as to develop a robust local economy and local agriculture. Community members need to advocate for sustained slow growth and development in the area and for reforestation of the carbon sink. 

4. Next steps

Participants identified they would like to hold a meeting of the Shirley Community Association with the question of “how do we want to see Shirley in a few years”?

In terms of continued advocacy, I will leave that with two retired nurses committed to both community health and climate advocacy currently living in Shirley and keen to continue. 


CRD. (2016). Shirley-Jordan River Official Community Plan.—official-community-plan-for-shirley-jordan-river-bylaw-no-1-2010b.pdf?sfvrsn=573a9ac_6

Sooke Region Tourism Association. (2022). Shirley.