Vancouver Island couple triumphs over ‘garden-variety bully’ in battle for renowned hotel

a large brick building with grass in front of a house: The founders of the internationally renowned Sooke Harbour House resort hotel have been vindicated after a tangled ownership battle. The inn has hosted dignitaries and Hollywood actors.

© Michael McArthur/CBC
The founders of the internationally renowned Sooke Harbour House resort hotel have been vindicated after a tangled ownership battle. The inn has hosted dignitaries and Hollywood actors.

The Vancouver Island couple who built Sooke Harbour House into one of Canada’s most renowned tourist destinations has won a resounding victory in their battle to wrest control of their beloved hotel away from a pair of purported financiers. 

In a blistering decision Tuesday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge awarded Frederique and Sinclair Philip — now in their 70s — more than $4 million for the “six-year odyssey of lies, excuses, threats, intimidation and bullying” they suffered at the hands of Timothy Durkin and his partner Roger Gregory.

In a 94-page ruling, Justice Bill Basran concluded the Philips’ “reasonable expectation of a comfortable and well-deserved retirement has been effectively stolen from them because they unknowingly put their future in the hands of these two fundamentally dishonest individuals.”


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The judge reserved especially harsh words for Durkin, who — according to the judgment — swore a false affidavit in order to obtain an injunction that kept the Philips away from the hotel while he fought them in court.

“His view of the truth is whatever will serve his interests in the moment. He is entirely unencumbered by ordinary norms of morality, integrity and decency. He is a garden-variety bully who preys upon those whom he perceives to be weaker than himself and vulnerable to his mistruths and manipulation,” Basran wrote.

“Unfortunately for the Philips, they were victims of Mr. Durkin’s countless lies and deceptions.”

The toast of the culinary world

The decision marks the latest turn in a saga that has been ongoing since 2014, when the Philips — burdened by debt that started with the global financial crisis — first met Durkin and Gregory.

In the 35 years prior, they had turned the six-room bed and breakfast they purchased in 1979 into a culinary sensation beloved by wine and food critics, frequented by celebrities and world leaders and honoured by Canada’s Governor General.

The Philips reached a share purchase agreement in 2014 that would have seen Durkin and Gregory purchase their interest in the hotel for $6 million. 

The Philips believed they were going to get $2 million, and according to the judgment, Durkin assured them that his company — SHH Holdings — had the resources to cover the existing mortgage and interest owed to the Business Development Bank of Canada.

In fact, Basran found that despite Durkin and Gregory’s grand promises of a “syndicate” or “posse” of investors from Tehran to Zurich — SHH Holdings never raised more than $54,000.

‘Lies, excuses and misrepresentations’

The judge said Durkin took control of hotel operations and kept stringing the Philips along, until they ultimately signed a settlement agreement in which Durkin promised his company would pay off the mortgage and give the Phillips $1.5 million.

But that never happened, and the Phillips attempted to take control of the hotel in

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In the Garden: New veggie gardeners share triumphs and tribulations

Did you grow your first vegetable garden this year? Well done! Even if you experienced some problems or frustrations, I hope there were enough positive aspects to make you want to do it again next year.

I recently asked new gardeners on Facebook how they fared and received a lot of interesting replies. Before I proceed with those, I want to emphasize that no gardener has ever had a “perfect” garden on their first try. Come to think of it, I’ve been growing veggies for ages, and I don’t think I’ve ever had everything go according to plan. Do I still love it? You bet.

Vegetable gardening is a learning experience: You build on that experience by repeating your successes, talking to others about the challenges you’ve encountered and making adjustments each year. It should feel satisfying to grow vegetables. If you ate a homegrown tomato for the first time, you know it was worth the effort right there.

Here are some of the comments I’ve heard:

One new gardener realized he hadn’t spaced his plants properly, which impacted their growth. It’s always a good idea to follow the spacing recommendations on seed packets or plant tags. When plants are crowded, they have to fight for sunlight, moisture and nutrients. Stressed plants are often targeted by bugs.

A lot of folks were frustrated that our cold, wet spring affected their plants’ production. That’s one of those things we can’t control, but you might feel better knowing you weren’t alone. I should have waited a bit longer to plant my warm-season crops; others mentioned they probably planted theirs a bit too soon, as well. We should all wait until the danger of frost has passed and remember to harden off the seedlings before planting day by slowly acclimating them to outdoor temperatures and the intensity of the sunlight.

New and experienced gardeners alike commented on how difficult it was to find basic gardening supplies such as seeds and tools. While I know that was frustrating, it’s fantastic to have so many new gardeners. I’ve long maintained everyone should know how to grow their own food, and a lot of folks began that journey this year. Most garden centers and online sources are back on track now.

I heard positive comments, too. One couple said their crops produced so well, they’re already sketching out next year’s garden and looking through seed catalogs. Now that is organized, and I’m very impressed. Another person has appreciated the distraction that gardening has provided: “It has kept me centered and sane during these difficult times.”

Many people dealt with insect problems on their plants, which is always discouraging. The first step is to get them identified, then learn about organic solutions for controlling them. Experienced gardeners are great resources, as are our local Master Gardener programs; refer to the information box for ways to contact them.

A frequent frustration of new gardeners was that their gardens got out of control, making it difficult for them to

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