The City Walks Outline – “Places of Worship, Social Services & City Planning in Victoria”

You can download a printable copy of this outline by clicking this link.

You are invited to participate in the second in a series of discussion based walking tours on the Religious Landscape of Victoria.* In partnership with The City Talks, The City Walks seek to promote public dialogue on important urban themes. This month’s topic is “Places of Worship, Social Services & City Planning in Victoria.” It takes up themes and issues raised by Annick Germain in her City Talk on October 24, 2013, “The Unexpected Other: Place of Worship, City Planning, and Social Transactions in Montreal.” For information on where and when to meet for this tour, please see the previous post. This post lists the sites we’ll visit and the questions we’ll discuss at each site.

Here’s a map of the route we’ll take:

Here are some overarching questions to keep in mind throughout the walk:

  • How should municipalities manage the zoning of and new developments at places of worship?
  • What kind of conflicts can you observe between the various uses of the sites we visit today?
  • In what ways do you use the sites we visit today? Are there ways in which new uses, altered zoning or management of these sites could enhance your use of them?

Masjid Al-Iman
This Mosque was built in 2012 to replace worship space in two houses that had been used by the community since 1996.

St. John the Divine Anglican Church
“In the past three years, the Parish of St John the Divine has had [the opportunity to stand back, take a moment and take stock]. They have decided that they wish to build upon their lengthy history of service to the community in which St John the Divine is situated, as well as the wider Victoria community. They have decided to ‘mobilise the property (of St John the Divine) for social change.’”2

  • Do you know what St. John the Divine Anglican Church envision for it’s “campus” in this area?
  • How would you like to see this area physically changed over the next few years? What kind of social and cultural services would you like to see offered here?
  • How should planning for social and cultural services offered by religious organizations be governed? Who should push for these types of services? How should municipal governments respond? What role should the broader public play in these deliberations?

Victoria Conservatory of Music
“The Victoria Conservatory of Music is valued for its atypical architectural style, and its excellent quality of design… This massive free-standing building is one of the most significant and outstanding historic architectural landmarks outside of the Old Town District.”3

  • Does this building have heritage value only or primarily because of its architectural importance? Are there other reasons why it has heritage importance?
  • Is the current use of this building as the Victoria Conservatory of Music a sympathetic use of the heritage structure? Do the later additions enhance or detract from the building’s heritage significance?
  • In what ways do the places of worship along Quadra Street tell us about the complex religious history of Victoria? Is there enough information easily accessible about the heritage value of these buildings to help you understand their meaning and context?

St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store
This spring, the City of Victoria changed the rules for Permissive Tax Exemptions for organizations that provide social services. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul argued that the thrift store provides important services to the poor through its voucher program, and that increasing the store’s property taxes might force them to close it.4

  • How should places like this be taxed by municipal governments? What about the parking garage provided by Central Baptist Church and the parking lot in front of Glad Tidings Pentecostal Church?
  • Should governments be expected to provide social services like those being provided here? Are there other ways to provide these types of social services, that don’t rely on religious or other charitable organizations?

Pioneer Square
Between 1855 and 1873, this was the main cemetery in Victoria. It has been subject to arguments between various faith groups about access and use, and to debates about civic responsibility for maintenance and the honouring of the dead.5

  • Is the religious history of this site still visible? What kinds of religious symbols are visible in the monuments here? Are religious symbols appropriate in what is now a public park?
  • How does the immediate presence of the Christ Church Cathedral influence your perception of this site?
  • Whose interests do the City funded improvements to the park serve? Who typically uses the park and who ought to be encouraged to use it? What should be done to honour the people buried here?

St. Ann’s Academy
“The architecture of [these] buildings can tell us many things about the history of the school, from what sort of impression the Academy wanted to display to visitors and the parents of students, to the French Canadian origins of the Order, to the tastes of architects working in Victoria in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”6 It was redeveloped in the 1990s, and is now used for government offices, museum space, public performances and green space.

  • What can we learn from the architecture of the buildings here about the religious significance of the Sisters of St. Ann and their role in Victoria? Do the heritage interpretation panels and associated online materials help us understand this significance?
  • What story is being told here about the importance of these buildings in our lives? Do you agree with this story? Do your values align with the heritage restoration and reuse of these buildings?

Cridge Park

  • Who does this park honour? What are the implications of honouring religious figures in public places like parks? How do the recently installed commemorative plaques function?
  • How does Cridge Park relate to the adjacent Church of Our Lord?

Thunderbird ParkWawadiťła, St. Ann’s Schoohouse & Helmcken House
In the early 1950s, “Wilson Duff… commissioned [Mungo Martin, his son David, and Henry Hunt] to build a large plank house in Thunderbird Park adjacent to the museum. In order to celebrate the completion of the community house in December 1953, Martin hosted the first legal potlatch since it had been legalized two years earlier… The event, which lasted for three days, caught the imagination of the Victoria public, who lined the streets on the last day of the event in an effort to catch a glimpse of the dancing and singing.”7

  • Do you think that places like Thunderbird Park at the Royal British Columbia Museum can effectively promote and enhance First Nations cultures? Do places like this create opportunities for intercultural dialogue and understanding? What are the risks of building places like this?
  • What is the heritage value of places like St. Ann’s Schoolhouse and Helmcken House? Are they effective teaching tools for visitors? What are the implications of the close proximity between these two sites, which are associated with the history of colonialism in British Columbia, and Wawadiťła?


*These walks are part of a research project investigating the pedagogical utility of discussion based walking tours. Participants will be invited to provide information for this research project, and will have the opportunity to participate in later focus groups. Participation in this research project is voluntary.

1Some residential zones in Victoria, including this one, allow for the erection “public buildings,” which includes “the non-commercial use of land, building and structures for art or cultural exhibits, cemetery, church, community centre, court of law, fire station, hospital, legislative chambers, library, outdoor recreation use, police station, recreation facility, or school.” See City of Victoria, “Zoning Regulation Bylaw (No. 80-159): Schedule A – Definitions,” (accessed October 16, 2013).

2The Church of St. John the Divine, “St. John the Divine Master Development Plan,” October 16, 2012, (accessed October 16, 2013).

3“Victoria Conservatory of Music,” Canada’s Historic Places, (accessed October 16, 2013).

4City of Victoria, “Minutes – Victoria City Council Special Meeting of Tuesday, April 16, 2013, at 7:00 P.M.,” (accessed October 16, 2013), 2. Also see City of Victoria, “Amended Agenda – Victoria City Council Meeting of Tuesday, April 16, 2013, at 7:00 P.M.,” (accessed October 16, 2013), 11-12; and Roszan Holmen, “Social enterprises targeted for tax by City of Victoria,” Victoria News, November 9, 2012, (accessed October 16, 2013).

5John Adams, “History of the Old Burying Ground (Pioneer Square),” Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria, (accessed October 16, 2013).

6“History And Research: Places,” St. Ann’s Academy National Historic Site, (accessed October 16, 2013).

7Maria Tippett, Bill Reid: The Making of an Indian (Toronto: Random House, 2003), 98-99.

This entry was posted in Events, Religion, University of Victoria, UVic, Victoria, Walking Tours. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The City Walks Outline – “Places of Worship, Social Services & City Planning in Victoria”

  1. Raymonde Ratte says:

    Your outline whets the appetite, Vincent… I will try to attend.

  2. Pingback: The City Walks Reading List – “Places of Worship, Social Services & City Planning in Victoria” | Vincent's Victoria

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