Letters to the editor for the week of May 1st 

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Putting students first

Like all of you, Sea to Sky teachers only want the best for their students.

You have likely seen or heard reports about current negotiations between our federation and the provincial government. The BC Teachers' Federation has been at the bargaining table with the government for over a year, and despite our best efforts, very little progress has been made.

Instead of providing the necessary resources to achieve a negotiated collective agreement at the bargaining table, government has attempted to remove, yet again, the important provisions for class size and composition and minimum levels of specialist teachers that were restored by the BC Supreme Court in January. As a result, in early March 2014, teachers voted 89 per cent in favour of job action.

Sea to Sky teachers fully support our federation's efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement at the bargaining table.

School District No. 48 has experienced drastic cuts to educational programs since the 2002 removal of working and learning condition protections from our contract:

• Teacher-librarian time in our schools has been cut by 40 per cent since 2002;

• English as a Second language (ESL) programs have been reduced by almost 50 per cent, despite a massive increase in the number of international students in our district;

• Special Education supports for our most vulnerable learners has been cut by 17 per cent.

Despite teachers' good-faith efforts to reach a settlement, there remain significant impediments to this process. The government has offered no salary increase for the first two years of the contract, refuses to respect class size and composition provisions that have been restored by the BC Supreme Court, and stubbornly refuses to withdraw its 10 year contract demand.

Agreements of four- or five-year terms have been reached with other public sector unions, and no other union has been forced into a 10-year contract.

As teachers, we do not take this job action lightly. We care deeply about our schools, our students, and their families.

The intent of our Stage One is to move the process forward at the bargaining table. We will continue to be in classrooms teaching, preparing lessons, and assessing students.

Teachers will also continue to write report cards and communicate with parents. Whatever happens next will depend entirely on progress at the negotiating table. BC teachers remain fully committed to a negotiated settlement at the table.

We truly appreciate the support we have received from parents and the public to help us achieve our bargaining goals: "A Fair Deal for Teachers; Better Supports for Students."

Carl Walker

President, Sea to Sky Teachers' Association

Take action to protect bears

I totally agree with Mr. Johnny Mikes of Coast to Cascades that there are "other issues than the grizzly hunt" that are threatening our grizzlies (Pique April 24).

While the government snubs its nose at approximately 90 per cent of the citizens of B.C. (including ethical hunters) who oppose trophy killing of grizzlies, they continue to stack the deck against our most iconic, majestic keystone species in other ways.

One way being the recent changes to the B.C. Parks Act, which allows exploration and development permits in parks. Most people also do not know that most B.C. parks, conservancies and protected areas are already open to hunting, trapping and trophy killing.

If politicians would just do the math they would see there is far more revenue and goodwill in protecting one of the planet's last remaining intact grizzly populations and their habitat instead of "managing and promoting" the "harvesting" of our "surplus" grizzlies for trophies.

Also, it is more than apparent that our government continues to bow to pressure from two small, vocal trophy-hunting groups within the executive of the BC Wildlife Federation and the Guide Outfitters Association of BC. These backroom discussions must stop! All wildlife stakeholders, consumptive and non-consumptive, need to be at the same table to best "manage" our wildlife resources in an economical, sustainable and more importantly, ethical way.   

Working over these last 12 years as a bear conservationist to stop the trophy killing of grizzlies, support black and grizzly cub rehabilitation and educate people to be "bear smart" I have been disappointed to have met only a handful of politicians and officials that have a connection with nature and respect for these amazing, intelligent, sentient creatures we call bears.

Most people I meet in government are quick to label me a PETA-urban type, against all hunting, and they don't suspect I grew up in Prince George eating wild game and spending my summers at a cabin on a lake. Most people I have met in B.C. opposed to the trophy killing of grizzlies have a similar background, whether they now live in a city or not.

It is truly frightening that many elected officials who have the privilege of stewarding over our most valued and sacred wildlife have little to no connection with it or to its habitat.

I am afraid the writing is on the wall as B.C. moves closer and closer to aligning with the federal government's mega natural resource extraction and transportation agenda.

Recently reviewing the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans website it now state that one of its main priorities is to "support biotechnology," not to protect our wild salmon stocks. Can you imagine B.C. without wild salmon and wild grizzlies? Truly stunning!

I urge anyone who cares about preserving our grizzlies and their habitat to please call your MLA and make your concerns known. I also urge anyone reading this letter to email Premier Christy Clark at premier@gov.bc,ca before it is too late.

My blog, www.bearsmatter.com, has an action page with the petition, "Protect our grizzlies...," and it has gathered over 14,300 signatures since Jan. 20, 2014. Together we must make our voices heard to save our grizzlies and the ecosystems they support.  

Barb Murray

Bear Conservationist/Bear Advocate

Nanoose Bay (resident of Whistler '89-'95, member North Shore Black Bear Network '01 to '07, Bears Matter blog since '06, member of International Bear Association since '04)  

Gates Lake spring clean up and community BBQ

Sunday, May 4 (12-3 p.m.) is the second annual Gates Lake Park Spring Clean Up and Community BBQ in Birken. Everyone is invited, and here are four reasons to attend.

First, we will be pitching in our time to get our park ready for spring and summer. Bring your rakes, shovels, gloves and garden tools and lend a hand.

Second, free food will be provided. Be sure to bring your appetite.

Third, plans from the landscape architect will be on display. Make sure to bring your thoughts, ideas, and questions so that you have a voice in what happens next at Gates Lake Park.

Last, it will be a fun community event! So please bring your friends and neighbours.

Erin Stewart Elliott

Birken Fire Protection Society and Birken Recreational and Cultural Society 

A long-term view for First Nations treaties

The Sliammon Treaty passed third reading in the House of Commons today (April 28), and is en route to the Senate.

The people of the corridor might wonder why I could not completely support a treaty in our riding that I helped bring about. The treaty has many strengths, including economic development. However, I cannot support an agreement that prejudices the equality of Canadians or the sovereignty of my country.

The Sliammon People and the Treaty

I support the Sliammon People and the people of Powell River, the region where they are located. I have worked hard to ensure a Sliammon Treaty is signed that is good for the people of Canada and the Sliammon. At the request of Sliammon Chief Clint Williams, I was personally involved in removing a fisheries roadblock that enabled the parties to reach the point where they are today.

What's the Concern?

As I have consistently indicated, I believe the treaty is unconstitutional, or at least unwise, due to one simple, but critical reason: it says that in several areas of law making, if Sliammon law conflicts with Canadian or provincial law, Sliammon law prevails.

Terms, which enable any law to prevail over Canadian law, create two problems. The first is inequality among and between Canadians, the second is a threat to the sovereignty of our country, as the ability of a small group of people to transcend Canada's national laws suggests the small group exists separate and apart from the rest of the country.

Equality is what I care about. Many believe that equality is a critical value in Canada and that it is therefore important for all Canadians to be governed by one singular law. Such people believe that by allowing for any aboriginal local, Sharia, or other type of law to prevail, Canadians may as a result be governed differently by different laws. They fear disunity and inequality as a consequence. Canadians share an instinctual sense that we are equal and where our arrangements are inconsistent, we should move to improve those arrangements.

Sovereignty – local and national good are best advanced under one sovereign entity. The integrity of Canada equates to benefit for all Canadians. There are over 200 aboriginal communities in our province; a patchwork quilt of sovereign entities is not good for individual aboriginal people or other Canadians.

Some Key Principles to Consider

Is there consistency in my position? For over 35 years, I have advocated for one law for all Canadians, since long before becoming an M.P., working in constitutional affairs for the provinces of B.C. and Quebec, in the courts, and in speeches across the country. Among other things, I helped found the Canadian Constitution Foundation as a bulwark for constitutional freedoms.

What's the alternative, for this or other treaties? Simply say in future treaties that, in the event of conflict between Canadian law and any other law, Canadian law will prevail.

It may be too late to make the change for this treaty; but I do hope that future treaties will embody language that more clearly promotes the equality of Canadians and the sovereignty of our country.

Principles which ought to characterize all Canada's dealings are those such as self-sufficiency, certainty, accountability, transparency, and equality. I call these the "SCATE" principles, principles that provide consistency, continuity, and promise for our future.

John Weston, M.P.

West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country

Derby dreams coming true

Whistler is an amazing community that allows people to dream big, and is home to a group of people who create opportunities to change dreams into reality.

The Whistler Roller Girl Society (WRGS) is delighted to have the support of so many others who have big dreams like ours. We are honoured, as a non-profit amateur sports organization, to have unique opportunities for hosting events like Superbrawl Sunday during the World Ski Snowboard Festival with such a high level of production. We are excited to share roller derby with Whistler, with all of our friends and family present, and with such an outpouring of support from the community.

WRGS would like to thank Watermark, Tourism Whistler, and Centerplate, for supporting our vision! Events like this would not be possible without the support of our Event Sponsors (Rona, Tapley's, Thornhill Group, Black's, Sushi Village, Gone Bakery, Whistler Eye Clinic, Dr. Sexton Neuro Ophthalmology), and our League Sponsors (Rollergirl, Creekside Dental, The Station, Regional Recycling and Peak Performance). Thank you to the Fairmont, Nesters, Scandinave Spa, Camp of Champions, EpsomGel, and Niche Market Designs for your donations and contributions. We couldn't have done this without you! We would also like to thank SMVImages, Sean St. Denis, Joern Rohde, Ken Achenbach and all of the amazing photographers for their talent and time!

We must also thank our countless, hard working, supportive and enthusiastic volunteers! Thank you to all of the non-skating officials, scorekeepers, penalty trackers, refs, MCs, set up and tear down crew. The volunteers in this community are amazing and responsible for so many events! A special derby thank you to all of the derby widows who support our members as well, who have worked unbelievably hard since starting this league from nothing three years ago. Your support has allowed us to be successful.

Now, thanks to you all, we are raising the funds needed to buy the skate court floor we skated on. Owning this floor will help to make another of our dreams reality: access to a practice venue in our own town. 

Big dreams and derby love to all!

Nicole Lauzon, a.k.a. Natural Born Spiller

President, WRGS

Get immunized

April 26 to May 3, 2014, is National Immunization Awareness Week in Canada and an excellent opportunity to open discussion and increase awareness about the importance of immunization to protect ourselves and our families from preventable diseases.

The recent large outbreak of measles in the Fraser Valley once again highlights the need to encourage immunization for children in all areas of the province. Protecting our children against diseases like measles, chickenpox, mumps, meningococcal meningitis, rubella, pertussis, influenza and polio, is as important as using an infant car seat or wearing a seat belt when driving.

Vaccines have a proven track record of being highly effective in protecting us throughout our lifespan. Immunization programs have eradicated smallpox and for most Canadian parents, deadly, life threatening and crippling childhood diseases are a thing of the past.

Polio vaccination is the reason we no longer have hospital wards full of children in iron lungs. Indeed, a whole generation of parents has grown up without the spectre of these once common diseases. Canada has actually been free from endemic measles since 1998. However, large outbreaks in unvaccinated communities have been seen when cases are imported from parts of the world where measles is still quite common.

Paradoxically, the very success of childhood vaccination programs has led in some cases to complacency ("these illnesses are no longer there for us to worry about"), a "free-rider" syndrome ("if enough other people get their kids vaccinated, my kids will be okay"), deep misunderstandings about how vaccines and the immune system work ("vaccines will overwhelm my baby's immune system") and more sadly, to misinformation from medical charlatans and misguided celebrities.

The bottom line is that if more people get vaccinated, more will be protected from getting these preventable diseases, but it takes a collective effort. We estimate that depending on the disease, immunization rates of between 85 per cent and 95 per cent are required to develop community immunity. There are still regions in B.C. that fall substantially below these levels.

Vaccines present very, very low risks and provide a great deal of protection against potentially deadly diseases such as pertussis and meningococcal meningitis. For example, there is a one-in-one-million risk of a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine that prevents measles, but the risk of encephalitis to an unvaccinated child or adult who gets this potentially life-threatening disease is over 300 times higher.

British Columbia has a comprehensive immunization program for children, which includes coverage for a wide variety of diseases including measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, meningitis from Haemophilus, meningococcus and pneumococcus, as well as hepatitis, polio, influenza, HPV and more. These vaccines are free and easily available through public health clinics, doctors' offices and school-based programs. By taking advantage of these vaccines, children will be protected against diseases that can cause long-term health problems or even death.

Parents have a duty to be well informed about care options for their children; we all want the best for our child. It is understandable that we want to make sure that the vaccines our children receive provide the best protection possible and are safe. The good news is that vaccines are among the best-regulated, monitored and studied interventions in medicine and there is ample evidence, through legitimate peer-reviewed research, that the vaccines used in B.C. are safe and effective.

To prevent outbreaks like recent ones in B.C., all of us need to ensure our immunizations are up to date. To eliminate these diseases altogether — as we have done with smallpox — requires a collective effort from all British Columbians. Because of immunization, our children have grown up largely without the devastating effects of some of our most virulent diseases that damaged families just a generation ago; but decreasing immunization rates can put this success at risk.

I encourage everyone to learn the facts and get immunized.

Dr. Perry Kendall

Provincial Health Officer


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