...gave everything in the service of his country.

On Dec. 23, 2009, Lt. Andrew Nuttall was on a joint foot patrol with members of the Afghan National Army in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan.

Just after 4 p.m., the soldiers stopped for a quick water break and then turned back to head home, back to base.

A few hundred metres away, members of the Taliban were lying in wait. They activated a trip wire, arming a buried improvised explosive device.

Nuttall was the leader of 12 Platoon, 1st Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. He was at the front of the patrol. The explosion ended his life. He was just 30 years old.

Nuttall had been a resident of Saanich South, and his parents continue to live here. Although I didn't know him or his family, I went to the funeral to offer my condolences as the MLA of their constituency.

Andrew Nuttall. This picture was taken in
Victoria, right before his final deployment
But it was a very private affair and so I stood at a distance. More and more friends and family kept arriving and the cemetery seemed to fill with terrible sadness. Daylight faded away and a cold rain poured down.

That day changed Remembrance Day for me. I attend Remembrance Day ceremonies every year; I was taught what it represented, and I appreciated the meaning.

But not until I met the Nuttall family did I feel Remembrance Day inside my heart. A strong mother and father weeping openly for their son who would never return, a man born in the same generation as myself giving his life.

Remembrance Day has a face for me now, and that is the face of Andrew Nuttall.

I've gotten to know Nuttall's parents, Rick and Jane Nuttall, a little over the last few years. His father told me that his son was willing to fight and risk his life as a soldier because he wanted to protect vulnerable people. He wanted to make a positive change in our global village. And because he believed that giving human rights and democracy a chance to take hold in Afghanistan was a noble goal.

Lt. Nuttall, undated photo
Nov. 11 is a day to remember remarkable people like Nuttall and feel gratitude for how much they have given to make Canada and the world a safer place.

Nuttall kept a blog during his time in Afghanistan. (It is still on the web - - and recent entries by family detail ongoing tributes to him.) A few weeks before his death, he posted his last entry. Here is a paragraph from it:
On one side, the people are frightened, impoverished, and seek nothing but safety and prosperity for their families. On the other side is a very small subset of a combination of extreme Salafist muslims (a.k.a. seeking to impose an extremist version of Islam on the entire world), anti-western mercenaries and misguided brainwashed (generally) youths that utilize cowardice hit-and-run and IED tactics in order to sway the civilian population of Afghanistan and North America to pull their troops out. Then there is us in the middle, an array of nations trying to combine our traditionally conventional forces and conduct combined operations with the young but capable ANA (and young but immature Afghan National Police, ANP), in a barren country with many more needs than just militaristic. Complicated, yes; confusing, only a bit; frustrating, unfortunately too much.
Last December, Lt. Nuttall was posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. This is a significant and fitting honour for someone with such a big heart who gave everything he had in the service of his country.

This story originally appeared in the Times Colonist on November 11, 2012.

Abandoned school and Cdn Forces, Afghanistan. Photo Credit: Andrew Nuttall. 2009


Jenny Joh at the top of Christmas Hill,
July 6 2012 a remarkable young women.

Jenny and her family moved from Seoul to Saanich in 2004, when she was just ten years old. She started grade four at Cloverdale Elementary not speaking a word of English.

Yet last month she stepped forward at her Claremont High School graduation as the Valedictorian!

Jenny is the third of four girls. She said her parents came to Canada because they knew there was more gender equality here and they wanted their daughters to have as many opportunities as possible.

Her first memory of Saanich is travelling from the airport and looking out the window at Elk Lake. She thought it was the ocean – too large and beautiful to be anything else.  As a little girl she remembers being shocked at the sight of the light skinned people all around her – and at how warm and friendly everyone was. 

Jenny worked hard to learn English and adapt to her new world. By the time she finished high school she had risen to the top, graduating as Vice-President of Claremont’s Student Government and with a suitcase full of awards, from the Principle’s Academic Excellence Award to the Claremont Alumni PAC Award.

Jenny’s ambition is to be a Pediatrician and help at-risk children. But she knows that her journey is just beginning. She visited my office recently and talked about her future:

When I look at myself I see two ‘Jennys’, two girls. One who wants all the nice things, the best sunglasses, the nicest purse. But I know that is not going to give me true happiness. The other girl is someone who doesn’t care with others say about her, or how she looks…someone who is completely selfless and works to help those in need.

I've had a very wealthy life compared to so many… there was always food in the fridge, my parents would always buy me the clothes I wanted. But I like myself most when I am giving. When I grow up I want to know that I’ve lived my life for others…more than for myself.

Jenny is most proud of the work she has done with twenty other Claremont students to raise funds for the charity Free the Children. This is the project founded by Craig and Mark Kielburger. Jenny and her friends raised over $10,000 this year! And all of it will go to help schools in a poor and marginalized area in rural Kenya.

This Fall Jenny begins her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto. I’m excited to think of this Saanich Star shining in the big city and I wish her all the best!

Let me end with a quote from her Valedictorian speech. I was sitting in the audience when she said this and it really stuck with me.

If we compare our lives to a single day, what time do you think we are at age 18? The answer works out to be a little after five AM. That is the time when most of us are still asleep. The sun isn’t even out yet! We have a whole day ahead of us and it’s truly up to us to make this day unforgettable!

I hope all our young people leaving high school see hope in the dawn before them. There is a life lesson here for all of us. Whether the sun is still in the sky or the stars have come out, there is still time for each of us to make the most of our day.



Paul at Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary all about making connections.

As a Senior Transportation Technologist in the engineering department, Paul knows what it takes to keep people moving in the District of Saanich. Whether those people are walking, cycling, or driving – Paul knows.

In February 2010, Paul wondered how well the road/trail crossings were working: were they visible and safe. As he started looking around, he decided the best way to know how well a trail is working, is to walk the trail.

One walk and he was hooked – he felt the stress of his highly complex and demanding job just melt away as he walked the trails. Then he realized that in a municipality with an abundance of parks, there are many people who still cannot access them. He wanted to bring the park experience to them.

Thus began his “Hike Every Park” project. Over the next two years, Paul deliberately experienced every park in the District of Saanich. As of April 8, 2012, he has hiked and photographed all 157 – including the 8 parks that had been added to the roster since he began his effort.

Feeling like the king of the hill
“I wanted to make sure that I knew what I was talking about.” says the now avid hiker, “Now I have a real good sense of just what is out there; what our parks can offer people.”

Paul has taken thousands of photos, documenting the beauty of these often hidden gems. He hopes to develop his photographic library into a full virtual tour of each park. He envisions each virtual ‘tour’ including a naturalist tour, historical stories, video clips, and audio tracks – all the components to bring as much of this experience as possible to those who cannot actually visit the parks.

For this next phase of the project, Paul is inviting participation from the public. Starting with one valley and one mountain - Colquitz River Park and Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary - Paul invites people to use their creativity to highlight how they appreciate the park space. Are you drawn by the sights and sounds of the place? Record them. Do you have words to describe an adventure or some history? Write them down.

Want to contribute or volunteer? Contact him through his "Hike Every Park" blog or on Facebook

Please, help Paul shine a light on 157 Saanich Stars – our parks.


... is a true Saanich Star, dedicating most of his life to this gorgeous community we all call home. For many farmers, he has been their champion.

His interest in politics is two-fold. His family was political and he showed a personal interest as well. In fact he prefers when the NDP was called the CCF. He joined the party just as they were changing their name.

As an electrician for 28 years he was a member of his local union. It wasn’t until 1988 that he began his journey into civic politics. He attended many council meetings and decided to run in 1990. Afters 3 recounts, he was elected by 28 votes.

He went on to serve 18 years as a Saanich Councilor. During this time he served on the water board for 18 years pushing for major changes. Bob’s role was pivotal in raising the Sooke dam. He went on to serve Deputy Chair of what became CRD Water, and while there succeeded in getting an agricultural water rate passed - which makes a great difference to farmers.

Accountability was a big issue for Bob. He campaigned for direct election of Saanich’s CRD Directors, to end the practise of having the Mayor and his slate designate who would serve. Saanich became the first municipality under the Charter to give citizens a direct choice of regional district directors. Victoria and other municipalities now follow the Saanich model.

Although he is no longer involved in politics, he still holds many visions for Saanich. Affordable housing and rethinking the sewer system are top on his list. Transportation issues are key to many residents but Bob feels that we need to take a slow and thoughtful approach to this heated issue. Perhaps Light Rail is not the answer we need right now. Not to mention the heavy costs involved.

We asked Mr. Gillespie what he thought of the deer issue. “The Deer have always been around, but it wasn’t until we started logging so heavily and clear-cutting the forests that the deer started to move further and further into urban containment”. He does feel that some thinning of the population would be a benefit to farmers.

Mr. Gillespie is a Saanich Star and then some. He brought a much needed transparency to municipal politics in the Capital region and to this we will be forever grateful.