© Copyright – 2023 – Athletics Illustrated

Brit Forsyth, a parent of a Victoria High School student is concerned about an alleged inappropriate land transfer that has usurped the building of a previously approved 400-metre track, stadium seating, turf field, lighting and field house.

It is alleged that an eight-metre setback of Vic High land was secretly created in partnership between School District 61, the City of Victoria and a developer of an adjacent housing project. The eight metres has rendered the previously approved eight-lane 400-metre track as a two-lane walking track — preposterous.

It would have been an arbitrary decision made by the administrator at the district — who couldn’t have been involved in sport in any time during his or her life — to have the facility plan re-drawn containing a two-lane walking track. Walking is not a provincial high school sport, however, within the sport of athletics sprinting and middle-distance running are (as well as field events). Additionally, the adjusted field size may not be large enough for rugby, a provincial high school sport. This has the rugby community fuming, including Canadian rugby legend Hans de Geode, who has spoken to the city on behalf of the Friends of Vic High (FOVH). The field house, lighting and sprint stretch to the track were also removed in the new secret plans. The athletics community is outraged.

Victoria High School, the only high school in the City of Victoria proper, is the oldest west of Winnipeg and north of San Francisco. It represents high school education for the residents of the capital city of the Province of British Columbia, yet, it is the city which usurped its own local high school athletics facility plan.

Finally, beach volleyball courts were planned for the new version of the traditional athletic facility. Beach volleyball is also not an official provincial high school sport.

Forsyth is quoted as saying in a media release by the FOVH, “Over the past few years, I’ve been following and supporting the Friends of Vic High (FOVH) in their efforts to ensure equity rights for Vic High students, current and future. The FOVH have implored the SD61 School Board, the City of Victoria, and the Province to reinstate their commitment to the original Memorial Stadium Revitalization Project plans.”

“After more than 50 years of neglect, a revitalization of Vic High’s athletic infrastructure was long overdue,” added Forsyth.

The City of Victoria had pledged $250,000 to support the project. While the announced $250,000 demonstrated support for the project as it was designed, apparently working with a developer and SD61 in secret, hid a different scheme within their intentions.

Support from School District 61

Allegedly, the district, City and developer planned to favour the housing project over the athletics facility without community or student knowledge.

The release states, “Since 2007, the Vic High community has planned to revitalize the Memorial Stadium. In 2012, the four-phased plan received unanimous support from the SD61 School Board, and in 2014, the City pledged $250,000 in a matching grant. In all, hundreds of thousands in donations and secured funding have poured forth over the years to make the revitalization plan happen. The SRW forces modifications to these long-standing plans that were downsized without public knowledge or consultation, and the petition alleges, in violation of Ministry and SD61 policies and regulations.”

Neglected for over 50 years, the track, field and stadium “Memorial Stadium” was built in honour of students and staff who fought in the two World Wars to protect people’s freedoms. The 440-yard sand track is antiquated and neglected. Strewn with syringes, dog feces and garbage, the track is only used by the brave. Not a positive way to continue to honour war veterans.

“Because of my kids’ involvement in sports, I know first-hand the positive role that athletics play in the lives of students. Sports support the mental and physical health of children. Sports also aid in the development of life skills and self-esteem. Through participation in athletics and team sports, children learn the value of hard work, commitment, and discipline, skills they can transfer to other settings. We should be looking for ways to bolster these resources, not take them away,” Forsyth added.

The mental health, science and sporting communities have known for decades that sport, fitness and participation in health or competition stimulate the production of hormones, including the good mood one dopamine.

Benefits to mental health from exercise

A 2021 scientific review published by the National Library of Medicine titled “Bidirectional Association Between Physical Activity and Dopamine Across Adulthood — A Systematic Review indicates overwhelming evidence of the need for exercise.

The preamble to the review begins, “Physical activity may influence the secretion of neurotransmitters and thereby have positive consequences for an individual’s vulnerability (i.e., reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms).

The authors observed robust findings concerning the potential effects of PA on dopamine, which notably seem to be observable across a wide range of participants’ characteristics (including age and sex). “The findings further strengthen the idea that innovative approaches could include PA interventions for treating and preventing mental disorders. Therefore, it seems that PA is a potential alternative to deal with mental health issues.”

Meanwhile, the system that fails a portion of the population has a manifestation of this level of socio-economic neglect demonstrated, just blocks from Vic High on Pandora Ave. For several blocks, the homeless, drug-addicted, people suffering from substance abuse from years of intergenerational trauma and neglect live in tents on the boulevard. Tarps, garbage bags, and drug paraphernalia clutter the area.

The scientific community is rich with evidence to support the many mental health and physical benefits to exercise.

FOVH uncovers malfeasance through Freedom of Information requests

Since 2020, the FOVH has uncovered and catalogued documents and communications secured through Freedom of Information requests. The results overwhelmingly validate their assertion that the SRW was improperly disposed. For years leading up to this legal challenge, the FOVH engaged in discussions with SD61, the City, and the Province of British Columbia seeking to have the original Vic High Memorial Stadium Revitalization Project plans built and delivered as promised and approved.

The group’s sole interest is to advocate for the rights of current and future Vic High students as it relates to this project and to ensure equitable treatment and opportunity. The FOVH raised funds to support the petition submitted by Brit Forsyth and retained the firm Mulroney Siver Law as his legal representative.

The Friends of Vic High was created to save the high school from demolition by alumni including Stephen Dorsey and Tak Niketas among others.

“Vic High has been disadvantaged compared to other schools for more than fifty years now due to government policy decisions that have directly contributed to ongoing systemic inequality,” said Stephen Dorsey, a Vic High alumnus, FOVH co-founder, and author of the book Black and White that excavates Canada’s history and ongoing challenges with systemic racism and inequality.

“Aside from the seismic upgrades that were long overdue at Vic High, when you compare the resource investments in Vic High athletic facilities over the past fifty years with investments in other schools, the second-rate treatment Vic High receives is plain to see. It pales in comparison to the resources invested in Oak Bay High School, including its university-like athletic facilities. And now SD61 is supporting the plans of other schools like Spectrum and Esquimalt with a spirit of cooperation for their initiatives, which is truly great for their students. But what about Vic High kids? It’s hard to argue with what we’ve seen with our own eyes,” added Dorsey.

OPEN LETTER to the City of Victoria