I was born in Niagara-on-the Lake in Ontario, the very shy child in a family of six kids. I remember my mom showing me a Grade 1 report card that expressed concern over my never volunteering answers in class. As the oldest daughter, it was natural for me to help my mom with my siblings and family chores. I learned to bake and cook early, and my grandmothers taught me how to sew. These skills helped me become independent and empowered me with a sense of personal style early on. I also took piano lessons, and later joined the high school band, playing clarinet, alto clarinet, and drums.
I’ve always been competitive, which probably comes from growing up with an older brother who was encouraged to participate in sports, while folks were pointing me in more ‘domestic’ directions. But I loved sports – team and individual sports! From baseball to floor gymnastics and shotput, bring it on! I had a great aunt whom everyone adored, she played hockey and all sports, had a career as well as a family. Auntie Kay was my greatest role model. She showed me what it meant to become an independent woman, pushing norms to make things happen. I think about her often.
When it came time to choose a career path, I was naturally drawn toward post-secondary studies in Physical Education. After three years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, I realized that my options were going to be limited with a PE degree. My high school sweetheart (now my husband) suggested a career in Physiotherapy, and I’ve never looked back. It’s a helping profession that fuses the physical with science and communication. I loved it!
Throughout my career, my husband Dennis has encouraged and supported my professional work, including the engineering and architectural skills he contributed to the design of my various clinics over the years. We raised 2 amazing children together on the Gorge side of Esquimalt, later moving to a float home in Westbay. Now we enjoy living in the walkable core of Esquimalt along with our K9 companion, Chewy the Pug, who also benefits from our four daily walks around the community.
How I became active in local government
I became involved with the Vancouver Island division of the Physiotherapy Association of BC when I started my career at Royal Jubilee Hospital. My participation continued and grew after I moved into private practice with my purchase of James Bay Physiotherapy. Running a healthcare business within a provincially funded system is what got me into politics.
As the closest physiotherapy clinic to the Legislature, I was often asked to meet with politicians to help them understand the challenges that our current funding system placed on the provision of healthcare services. I would meet with ministers and their staff and always came away wondering if they really heard and understood me. This experience drove me to find a way to get inside the ‘system’ to affect change, rather than continuing to pound away on the outside. People in the community and several of my physiotherapy patients encouraged me to run for town council in 2005, so I did.
The profession of physiotherapy wove together the two interests that were most meaningful to me … physical activity and being able to help others. As a physiotherapist, I was taught to always listen first, assess the situation, then develop and action a plan to resolve the issue. After a time, actions are evaluated to make sure the desired outcomes are being achieved. If adaptations are required, we make them and keep moving toward our goals. These are important skills for people in public positions, and they have proven beneficial in much of my work for the Township of Esquimalt.
It’s been an honour to serve as the township’s Mayor for the past four terms. We have accomplished great things during my time in office, and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Esquimalt.
Barb’s Government Service Highlights
Barb Desjardin’s years of service to the people of Esquimalt have included a variety of highlights, including the following:
Esquimalt Councillor 2005-2008
Barb was the only Esquimalt Councillor who opposed the closing of the Archie Browning Sports Centre in 2006. The Council decision caused a significant public backlash and was ultimately reversed, but not until after public trust had already been damaged. Barb understands Esquimalt and cares about our community needs.
Capital Regional District Chair 2016 & 2017 (while Mayor)
Barb was at the helm with the CRD finalized the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Plan, including securing $17M toward Esquimalt’s Amenity Fund. During this time, she also initiated a committee to explore Integrated Resource Management (IRM) options for the district, recognizing the need to find a better way to manage the waste of a growing population and protect the environment.
Esquimalt Mayor 2008 to present
Barb has worked tirelessly in support of the revitalization efforts that are transforming our town centre and making Esquimalt a destination community.
She’s also served as Chair of Te’mexw Treaty Advisory Committee, which is intended to provide information, education, and understanding of local government to the Treaty table, and an opportunity for local government to provide feedback on issues affecting them.