Why We Need Community Radio: Gulf Islanders Have Lots to Share, Lots to Learn

By Michael Morse |

Folks, we have a unique spirit that makes us want to be Islanders. Some of us have have been here all of our lives, but many of us have sought out this place from all over Canada and farther afield for its unique blend of people and island lifestyle.

For myself, I first came here as a young man back in the 1970s – it seemed like Heaven on Earth already back then, but work in my chosen field was hard to find, so I headed back inland, one thing led to another and a family came along; but I’m back to stay now. I never gave up that promise to myself that this was my TRUE home, and those other places along the way were just ways to get by until I could get back here.

We need our own radio station to celebrate our identity; both to give a voice to our local artists and people with something special to say to us; and to connect us to the bigger world out there beyond our little shoreline. After all, let us not get too insular and cut ourselves off from the rest of the World – we are Planet Earth citizens today as never before, as climate change and the digital age link us all together in ways we never imagined possible even only ten years ago. Keeping up with how that situation is unfolding and how we can best be part of it is becoming increasingly vital to our future.

Keep them Laughing in Heaven Arvid Chalmers!

It is with great sadness that Salt Spring Island lost one of its most beloved comedians in Mexico last night. Arvid Chalmers passed away while on stage in Melaque Mexico. Arvid was dearly loved for his candid and clever humour.  He and Sid Filkow often shared the stage, and would have the crowds in peals of laughter.

Arvid’s most beloved character he portrayed was dowdy Maggie MacCaffery of Scottish Heritage (pictured here). Maggie charmed everyone, with her local gossip, sometimes lusting after Sid’s character Les, and always with a sprinkle of gentle truth or practicality.  Maggie was definitely the world’s best woman at ironing.

Arvid’s claim to fame with local radio was when he did a skit during the opening celebration of CFSI going on-air, and translated CFSI to “Can’t Find Saltspring Island” Radio. That turned out to be one omen that plagued CFSI on Salt Spring Island throughout its five years on-air.

We at Gulf Islands Community Radio Society would like to extend our sincerest condolences to Arvid’s family as well as those near and dear to Arvid. May he continue creating great roars of laughter in heaven.

The Board of Directors
Gulf Islands Community Radio Society



Community Radio Profile: Musician, Author and Authority on Dreams Toko-pa

Toko-pa has been interviewed by CNN News, BBC Radio and her writing appears in publications around the world. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about community radio, which is coming soon to BC’s Gulf Islands. If you would like us to post your profile (even if you live beyond BC), send your answers to the questions below, along with a photo of yourself, to galen@gicrs.ca. To support the station by becoming a member, please click here.

Which island do you live on?


Why are you excited to have community radio on the Gulf Islands?  

Where commercial radio leaves us feeling sensorially overloaded yet hungry for substance, community radio draws us into intimacy. Rather than the glossed-over, auto-tuned sameness we get in the mainstream, community radio opens us to alternative voices, meaningful conversation on local issues, and gives a platform to the many gifted musicians that populate our islands.

If you had a radio show, what kind of show would it be?

It would be some mash-up of roots & soul music, poetry-bombs and interviews with enlightening folks.

What is the first song or interview you would like to hear on Gulf Islands Community Radio?

You’d have me for life if you played some Morlove and interviewed Nick Bantock about his dreams.

Thank you, Toko-pa!

Radio Builds Community Like No Other Medium, Says Local Advocate Dan Miller

By Dan Miller |

Among modern communication media most resembling ancient oral traditions of storytelling and song – which sustained, informed and entertained humanity for millennia – is radio.

My love of radio stems back to a childhood fascination with the first portable transistor radios in the 1960s. In those days, FM was the rising star that was hoped to save the medium after it was driven out of living rooms everywhere over the preceding decade by television.

Radio was not to be my profession for another twenty years, by then well past the glory days of FM, but just on the verge before another challenging new medium, the internet, made its rise in the early ’90s. While other traditional media struggle to cope, radio holds its own admirably and, while not unchanged, today thrives on the internet. Radio shares with the internet at least one key quality: hotness or immediacy.

Among the unique qualities of audio-only media such as radio, is that it’s likened to a theatre of the mind. Epitomized by the radio-plays of the 1930s and ’40s, radio gives the imagination of the listener free reign. Radio’s obvious strength is as a vehicle to deliver perhaps the most communicative of all human languages, music.

When it comes to helping build and strengthen local community, radio truly shines. Whether connecting local businesses to their customers, supporting local artistic and cultural expression, or providing timely and important information about local and current events, community radio can foster stronger bonds amongst neighbours, and help forge stronger regional identity, not to mention act as ambassador welcoming the many visitors that descend on the islands every summer.

Many ancient oral traditions teach that if something helps create stronger, healthier bonds between folks, it is probably wise. I am sure the ancestors would see the wisdom in creating a not-for-profit community radio station from scratch. Not only for today, but also for future generations. That’s why I am happy to help.

-Dan Miller (aka Dano Hammer)
GICRS Operations Coordinator
Former CFSI general manager
Former show-host of CFSI’s “Hip Hop on the Rock”

Radio Host JJ Pearson Recalls the Glory Days (and Welcomes the Future) of “Punk on the Rock”

By JJ Pearson |

Saltspring was more than a place for me. It was a lifelong dream to land on the rock with a little cafe or bed & breakfast since I was an 11 year old boy.

I was at my desk in the storeroom of my cafe in Indianapolis and I was less than satisfied with the growth of my little business empire , so I googled “business for sale, Saltspring Island.” I found what I thought was the perfect situation. I convinced my wife and family that it was the thing to do. My wife let me leave and my brother and his wife agreed to help me on what was planned as a possible three-year mission to establish my business of a bistro simply called “Beach,” named after our family’s vacation home on the Stacy family’s “Rainbow Beach Resort” next to Booth Bay. Eventually my wife, niece, nephew, four dogs, two cats, two Rats, a turtle & two fish were going to make the big move once I had the business established.

Right from the beginning it was obvious that I was severely under-funded for the endeavor which made the day-to-day operations rather stressful. Couple that with living in the converted attic of an outdoor workshop I affectionately called “the barn.” My only escape from the stresses were my nightly swims at the public pool on Rainbow Road and cuddling with my brother’s dog “Lila.”

I had been tuning into Green FM’s Saltspring Island radio at the restaurant daily  to give the place a local feel. I loved how one hour you could be listening to classical or jazz and then the next program was Farsi techno dance shuffle. You never knew what you were going to get when it came to CFSI.

I can’t remember exactly  how it first came about but  I was approached by the people at CFSI about using my Beach Patio for a weekly live remote during the now infamous Saturday Market. For my troubles I was offered some advertising spots and was told (rather matter of factly) I could probably  have a radio show if I wanted.


Me being a born-and-raised show-off, ex-touring punk rock drummer, guitar slinging, singing, cooking-crazy man I thought, “I have arrived at nirvana.”

Radha brought me in and gave me the crash course Radio DJ training program which consisted of her holding my hand (spiritually & physically) for a few nights to figure out how to run the SAM radio controls and away I ran!

Wednesday nights At 9:00 were mine!

“Punk on the rock” was my vehicle to bring my road stories and some of my favorite music growing up to my new friends and family on Saltspring. I loved preparing for my show, planning my playlist and trying to remember some funny anecdotes of my punk rock touring days. I threw in a generous portion of  selfish self promotion of my restaurant and some of the music I had recorded over the years and away I ran.

I had my theme song picked, I had my intro worked out: “Coming to you LIVE from HIGH atop the Merchant Mews Complex in beautiful Ganges, on the Island we call The Rock in the Salish Sea, it’s Punk on The Rock and I’m your host JJ Pearson!!!!”

I have arrived!!

After the inevitable demise of my little dream restaurant, my dear friend and aforementioned radio teaching guru Radha told me (I left the island and went back to Indianapolis to lick my wounds) I could still do my weekly show. I could inter webs in the shows, weekly, and Rahda would program them into the station’s playlist and “Voila” I was still in the radio show business!!

It was a sad day when Radha told me that no matter how hard all the people on Saltspring island radio tried  & that due to absentee ownership and lack of funding that Green FM was closing down. Maybe someday she would be able to get some people in the community together and make it happen again.

I sure do hope that Radha is successful in putting together the right people to successfully build another cultural-mosaic community radio station, not only for my selfish wishes of having my own show but for a forum to highlight the true beauty of that wonderful happy place known as Saltspring that we islanders call “The Rock.”

Survey Results Very Positive

THANK YOU to the Gulf Islands Community and all of those people who took part in the recent Gulf Islands Community Radio Society’s survey. We finished compiling 429 surveys which were gathered from late October through December!

One thing that is apparent is the local station is missed and the vast majority of people are enthusiastic and behind bringing a live station back to the Gulf Islands!

The three top features requested were all local:

  • Local Updates on ferries, weather, emergency preparedness.
  • News About the Gulf Islands
  • Gulf Islands Community Events Calendar

Of key interest were the words used to describe local community radio.  Here are some of the keywords repeated most often in the comments:

  • Local (137)
  • Community (110)
  • Inform/Information (51)
  • News (47)
  • Music (40)
  • Connection/Connecting/Connect (39)
  • Events (36)
  • People (34)
  • Radio (34)
  • Island/Islands/Islanders (33)
  • Our (29)
  • Issues (27)
  • Interest/Interesting (24)
  • Need (21)
  • Content (19)
  • Service/Serve (17)
  • Support (11)
  • Friend/Neighbour (11)

The biggest single favourite genre of music was Classical Music, however, there were 5 different breakdowns of Rock/Pop genres, and the Rock/Pop combination was about double that of the Classical Music genre. Following these genres were Jazz/Blues, followed by Folk and then Worldbeat.

There were 22 foreign languages represented from respondents, where they noted they were fluent in languages other than English.  The highest ranking in order were French, Spanish, German, Russian and Japanese.

The majority of folks listen to FM radio at 322 responding yes to FM.  Following close behind are the AM camp with 210 folks saying they tune into AM radio. Internet Streaming and On-Demand (via Internet) were following with 92 and 72 respectively.

CBC had the most listenership and was by far the most preferred station. But there were a few notables, those being the former CFSI being the front-runner after CBC.  After CFSI as a favourite was NPR (National Public Radio) followed by “The Q” on 100.3 and “The Peak” on 102.7, CJJR “JR FM” on 93.7 for those listening to country and western, then a tie for The Co-Op Radio CFRO on 100.5, CFMI on 101.1 and CFOX on 99.3.

The number one reason for choosing the favourite station was the music. Other areas that were of key importance were Programming Content, News, and Quality of Service.

Community was seen as the primary difference between the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island – mostly that the Gulf Islands are smaller and close knit. Being geographically isolated was cited next, especially from the smaller islands’ respondents.  Lifestyle was also a key indicator of the difference as well as culture and services (or limited services).

Respondents noted that local community information was they key piece missing from current radio services available to the Gulf Islands.  Also noted was that there was no programming for their needs. And a good number of folks cited they simply weren’t aware of what all was available to them.

Most popular programming features chosen were Local Information (ferries, weather, and power outages), followed local news about the Gulf Islands, and a Gulf Islands Community Events calender.  Following these top three were: News (Canadian & International), Environmental Issues Programming, Traditional Music Programming, Modern Music Programming. Rounding up the programming features were: Instructional, followed by Talk and/or Call-in, Youth Programming, Seniors Programming, and bringing up the rear was Religious/Spiritual Programming.

We had good representation from the outer islands, having made two different Queen of Nanaimo runs to Tsawwassen and back, and through those trips making connections with several of the smaller islands’ residents who took upon themselves to solicit more surveys from their islands.

Thanks again to all who participated in the survey.

Connection is Part of Community Radio

By AmanDa Paska |

Community radio opened up for me new senses of meaning, adding purpose to my life.

When I think about a radio station within a community, I think about all the connections that I make when I have the chance to produce a show or co-host with someone. It feels so good to take part in a community. When networks spring up and endless possibilities and what to do next is your only problem, it makes it easy for you to live passionately and with enthusiasm.

It has shown me the depth of layers within the community if only you stop to listen to a program that reaches out and says something meaningful that may contribute to your life. There was finally a way for me to use my hands and mouth to share stories and share music that send chills down your spine, because that’s what happens to me when I listen to the radio. To be a part of that was better for me than anything and gave my life meaning and purpose.

I have begun to understand the responsibility behind the production of something that goes beyond walls into cars, homes and businesses alike. Music and talk radio unify our community and cultivating that seems to me to be growing healthy relationships.