LASQUETI is a secret Canadian island where the vast majority of residents are “completely off-grid.” The island was named in 1791 by Spanish Naval Officer — Jose Maria Narvaez, commander of the SANTA SATURNINA. The land area is about 73.57sq.kms. It is a small island between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, 12 miles long and 3 miles wide. It is home to a little-known community of “off-gridders”, who take pride in their “isolation” from both “mainstream culture” and “mainland Canada.”
Lasqueti Island is neither “tourist-friendly” nor “tourist-hostile”. The island community is an enclave of Canadian “counter-culture”. Its roads are mostly unpaved. Solar, wind, micro-hydro and fossil-fuelled generators power the island. With very little industry and economy, most of the residents live simply, taking what they need from the land, and having next-to-no carbon footprint (and little need for money). The 2011 census recorded 426 people living in Lasqueti (although a more up-to-date website states there are 350 “permanent residents”) including 70 children. According to the community blog, Lasqueti is “an island of individuals, with poets, artists, physicists, fishermen, loggers, tree planters, designers, professional musicians, published authors, some small scale manufacturers, some commercial agricultural as well as professional consultants in education, engineering, forestry and alternate energy.”
While some residents use solar panels, wood-burning stoves, wind turbines and water mills, others choose to lie “without electricity”, period. For the average person, that might not sound like fun. But few can argue that the depletion of fossil fuels (and other aspects of modern living) are clearly unsustainable. Lasqueti’s residents share the opinion that “living in harmony with Nature” is not only ethical, it is “how we were supposed to live.”
Personally, I have been fascinated with Lasqueti since 2010, when I was lucky enough to host one of its residents while he was travelling and “couch-surfing” in Spain. Robert was living on Lasqueti in an “old converted school bus” (which he ran on vegetable oil), and he was one of the most interesting and intelligent people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Skilled in building yurts, canoes, wooden boats and other “ecological structures”, he was also a nomadic free spirit who spoke 6 languages and was knowledgeable about pretty much anything and everything you could possibly think of. According to Lasqueti’s website, Robert was by no means an exception : the island’s population “is the most highly educated community in British Columbia”, according to Statistics Canada.
In addition to the Island’s one bar and one café, Lasqueti also has a “free store”, where people can leave or collect items without any monetary exchange. Just one hour by boat from Vancouver Island, Lasqueti doesn’t have a tourist industry, booming economy or any industry to speak of, but those who stay there say that they enjoy the “sense of timelessness, community and freedom that their home provides.”
There is no grocery store, so people tend to keep chickens and grow their own organic produce as well as foraging for wild food in the forest covering the rocky island. Most people use “composting toilets”, and one resident even wrote a book entitled, “How to SHYTE on Lasqueti”, for those not familiar with the concept of how this works in practice. There is a hotel and a restaurant in False Bay, where the ferry arrives and departs. The cookie stand operates on an “honour system” and is always worth checking out. A local pizza parlour is also open at “odd hours.” There are at least two B&Bs on the island, but business is seasonal.
Transportation on the island is limited. Should you desire to visit the island, it is recommended that you be somewhat self-sufficient. Potable water may be scarce at times in different places on the island. If you decide to come and whatever you are hoping to find, please keep this in mind : LASQUETI is not some Utopian Paradise, it is not an “intentional community”, and it is probably not whatever you think it is——–it is just a relatively remote island, populated by a small, tight-knit community of independent-minded people, with its own unique culture and identity. Come with an open mind, a willingness to discover something a little different and without rigid expectations. Resist the urge to project upon us your vision of what this place “should be.” It is what it is, and we like it this way ——— WARTS & ALL. If you can get with that, you too may find a place here.
There are a few important things to note : ** Pack-it-in / Pack-it out ——– no waste services here, please come prepared to take your garbage back with you. ** There are no public transport or vehicle rentals and no way to bring a car. Bring a bike, wear sturdy shoes, and / or use your thumb. ** In summer : FARMERS’ MARKET very Saturday ; ART’S PICNIC (for children) on Thursdays ; Festivals throughout the summer. ** There are also opportunities for woofing (helping on farms in exchange for food and accommodation) —— Please support the local economy while you are here on LASQUETI ISLAND.
One should take food along, because the local markets operate at “odd hours”, depending on the season and demand. There is an informal food co-operative available on the island also.
Lasqueti has a yearly Arts Festival on Canada Day weekend and other activities. These different festivals and informal activities feature local painters, sculptors, poets, fiction-writers and historians. Performing Arts, on the Canada Day long weekend, include THE BOLTING BRASSICAS (marching band), the LASQUIRKUS (circus) and other activities. The island also has a reputation for sailing and sea-kayaking which is considered among some of the finest, but also among the most challenging in lower British Columbia. Tides and currents may become foreboding without warning ——– the winter weather down the Strait of Georgia has been responsible for various mariners’ death. There are, currently, no public camping facilities on the island, so visitors must make suitable arrangements for lodging.
Aquaculture includes clams, geo-ducks, oysters, honey-mussels and prawns. Agriculture includes seasonal vegetables, nuts and berries. There are a few farms and their products range from blueberries, apple juice to maple syrup. There is also a shellfish farm and a shellfish hatchery. There are two world-class dog breeders on the island, breeding Belgian Malinois and Saint Bernards.
The island is generally divided between drier (native cacti, arbutus and succulent plants) and wetter (red cedar) micro-climates. Some old growth forest still exists on this island and it gives it a unique flora and fauna coverage.
SPITTY BAY is Lasqueti’s only Provincial Park. There is also the Lasqueti Island Ecological Reserve. Camping or campfires are not allowed at any of the parts of Lasqueti Island. JEDEDIAH ISLAND MARINE PROVINCIAL PARK and SABINE CHANNEL PROVINCIAL PARK are provincial parks that exist on nearby islands. Camping is allowed at both of these provincial parks. JEDEDIAH ISLAND provincial park is the site of a “heritage farm” of a former settler.
LASQUETI ISLAND is featured in an investigative news report by Global’s 16×9 called “OFF THE GRID”, which was aired on April 28, 2012.