Letters to the Editor for the week of November 24th 

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A win for students and teachers

Please accept some added comments from a Sea to Sky Teachers Association/BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) perspective (in addition to Pique's) article regarding B.C. teachers' success at the Supreme Court of Canada on Nov. 10.

1) The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) last week ordered immediate reinstatement of 2001 contract language, meaning restored services to all B.C. students. B.C. teachers expect the government to obey the ruling of the nation's highest court. We will discuss "how" but not "what," the process of implementation but not the substance of the SCC ruling, as BCTF President Glen Hansman has publicly stated. The 2001 contract is the "floor" – offers to improve it could be considered but none are expected, so it's all about implementation as soon as possible.

2) Reports from various B.C. school districts show the reinstatement of services to our students can be done for the second semester of this school year. It is not an overly complex matter. The Liberals have made a big pre-election fuss over a $1.9-billion surplus, and of their "contingency fund" in the provincial budget to address potential outcomes from the SCC ruling. The SCC has ruled. The capacity and the dollars are ready.

3) Premier Christy Clark's claim that the Liberals are "happy" about the SCC ruling and what it means are: a) intended to distract citizens from the fact that she and the B.C. Liberal government have broken the law for 15 years, spending a lot of your money and mine in an ultimately vain attempt to continue doing so, and b) to evade implementing the SCC ruling, still, by entering instead into new so-called "negotiations." We've learned from the B.C. Liberals. "Negotiating" doesn't work.

4) Services for children with special needs in particular, but supports for all students in counselling, libraries, and in smaller classes, have been eroded dramatically since 2002. Teachers remaining in specialist "non-enrolling" jobs try to maintain services despite it being an impossible task; in most cases, services remain, but in much-constrained form. In recent years the B.C. Ministry of Education announced its intent to dispense with categories of special needs altogether, purportedly because "all students have individual needs." Remember, just a few days ago, Premier Clark announced extra funding for students with special needs in private schools. One might discern a glaring double standard there.

Still, the core problem with the ministry's plan is some students (10 to 15 per cent across North America and internationally) have serious learning difficulties, which only finely grained psychological assessments can identify to help such students and their teachers work together effectively.

Dispensing with special-needs categories, assessments and supports for students who need them has not yet been implemented in B.C. public schools. The BCTF has not and may not at any time agree to their removal.

Today, special-needs categories remain in public schools as they do in private schools. The BCTF's position is that adequate services must be restored for children with special needs, as they deserve, with immediate effect in our public schools.

5) Teachers have been vindicated by the Supreme Court of Canada after many years defending needed services to children. What saved public education, though, was unyielding support from parents and the public generally. More than 60 per cent of B.C. citizens made the Liberals back down in 2014, when their intent during teachers' forced (as proved in court) job action was to break the BCTF once and for all. The Liberals may have succeeded — and public education in B.C. been diminished for all time — had the public not seen through the rhetoric and made the government relent. On Nov. 10, the Supreme Court of Canada saw through it all, too. In 20 minutes. (Written arguments were submitted months earlier.)

With your help, that of the Supreme Court of Canada, and of our nation's Constitution, we may yet save one of the world's best public education systems here in B.C. The province's teachers are pleased, very pleased, but we'll be much happier when services are actually restored to an effective level for all of our students. Thanks again for your attention and for your help.

Steve Lloyd
Sea to Sky Teachers' Association President

Oh, man!

Whistler Secondary School hosted a screening of the film The Mask You Live In, written and directed by Jennifer Sieble Newsom, on Nov. 23.

The film challenges society's narrow definition of masculinity and empowers boys to be free to be themselves, creatively and intellectually.

The school claims its powerful message is important for all their students, their families and community members. I have seen this film and couldn't disagree more.

I found myself deeply troubled by this film's gross misinterpretation of masculinity. It suggests masculinity is a social construct. I don't want to go into the details, but I will say that the film has an unfair and biased view of masculinity.

You can watch it and judge for yourself.

Even though I felt myself and many others were being, dare I say, "painted with a broad brush," I was able to dismiss the film as being a one-sided feminist agenda. I have chosen not to be offended by this film.

What concerns me more than the film itself, is the apparent ease in which Whistler Secondary School seems to have promoted this propaganda film.

The film depicts males as being hyper-masculine. It suggests males have inherent tendencies to violence, crime, abuse and rape. This kind of broad analysis of males tends to conveniently fly under the radar of socially unacceptable dialogue as opposed to topics such as race, religion, sexual orientation and, of course, gender.

I would like to think that our teachers, academics and school boards are immune to socially acceptable popular opinions, and are capable of educating our students without the influence of strong feelings and the absence of favour and prejudice.  

James Ford
Whistler

Hunger and population

Eradicating hunger near term is easy. We just have to raze our vertical economy, which would also end any further patronizing discussions about a "minimum wage" and "social housing," and give meaning to the phrase "we're in this together."

Will we? It's as likely as the Pope declaring Catholicism null and void. 

Long term, meaning within the next few decades, it doesn't seem anything we do will prevent increasing death by starvation. It took 200,000 years for human population to reach 1 billion, 200 years to reach 8 billion and will take the next 34 years to add another 2-plus billion.

The four per cent of the Earth's surface that was able to produce food is being drastically reduced by global warming. 

I don't know what's going to happen when the rising line of population growth crosses the declining line of food-producing land, but I suspect it will be a population bomb that will make the other bombs we've created look like toys.

But it's nothing for the citizens of Whistler to worry about.

Doug Barr
Whistler

Climate convergence postmortem... and round two

There are few really effective direct actions an individual, or even a group of citizens, can do to influence systemic societal change, but one clearly stands out — one with centuries of historical precedent.

This, of course, is the time-honoured force of mass public demonstration, ably demonstrated by such acts as the March On Washington that tipped the tide to the Civil Rights Act, or last year in Paris, when under threat of riot squad action after a major terrorist attack, 40,000 demonstrators showed up to forcefully assert their wish for climate action.

No one should be surprised to hear that 40,000 people did not show up last Saturday at the anti-Kinder Morgan pipeline protest in Vancouver.

Here, at the epicentre of climate change denialism (that would be Whistler, B.C., in case you are terminally clued out) we enforce a different precedent. We enforce a strong tradition of failure by remaining at home, or anywhere, doing anything at all that can conceivably provide a plausible excuse for avoiding such an unseemly gathering who by all appearance, have never in their life worn Arcteryx clothing or even owned a season's pass. No, I'm not suggesting that Whistler has a xenophobia problem but it certainly does have a climate change denial problem!

Anyway, this is my long-winded way of saying that my $500 wager of last week — that no significant Whistler presence would be noted at the Climate Convergence Rally — remains unclaimed. Rather than throw the towel in, I'd like to extend the offer. I'm not sure of the terms but I'm open to suggestions ( other than stuff it where the sun don't shine, thanks anyway, Steve!).  

So far, our corporate and political leadership have indicated no interest in my offer through their stoney silence and physical absence, or in the case of Whistler Blackcomb (Vail Resorts), by their numerous campaign donations to powerful American climate-change deniers.

Perhaps then, someone like the local ski racing fraternity would be willing to stick their necks out. With their expansive social network, media savvy and organizational powers, they could really provide an attractive image of legitimacy and even prestige and status to a cause that, unlike ski racing, might yet have a viable future.  

Or maybe not.

My only terms for payout are that the effort is led by authentic community leaders, not the usual team mascot or Subaru-load of granola crunchers. 

It would be sad to see my $500 go unclaimed by a sheer weight of apathy, entitlement, ignorance, childish peevishness or flat-out navel-gazing myopia that sooner or later will be duly noted by your own kids and grandkids, as well as my kids, your neighbour's kids, our friends' kids, kids in Newfoundland and essentially all kids worldwide.

Oh what the hell... how about I raise it to $1,000? How about somebody else match me? How about Whistler Blackcomb show the hell up?

Bruce Kay
Squamish

Slow down for safety's sake

Thirty kilometres per hour feels terribly slow to most Whistlerites. We seldom drive less than 60 to 100 km/h in the corridor. Many of us can mountain bike faster than that. 

But the most vulnerable road users are our children. Every day here in Whistler, cars drive over the 30 km/h speed limit in our school zones between the hours of 8 a.m and 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. And the guilty are often parents rushing to get their kids to school at 8:30 a.m.

This poses a huge risk to the many children who walk or bike to our schools. When children are struck by vehicles, their injuries often result in life-threatening or permanent damage. The faster a vehicle is moving, the greater the impact and the more devastating the results.

(According to research) children aged five to 14 years are at the greatest risk for pedestrian-related deaths. The most common action that results in injury or death of a child is crossing at an intersection.

The RCMP presence in our Whistler school communities is scarce and digital speed signs are kept only at the start of the school semester. We need a permanent solution to slow motorists down.

The District of Squamish has done this very well. Their school streets are well marked in both directions (with large road paint: SCHOOL / 30 KM / SLOW). Their school crosswalks are light activated (and flash with the touch of a button) in bright neon colours.

In Spring Creek, our road signage is extremely poor. The first 30 km/h speed-limit sign is barely visible about halfway up the winding hill from the Highway 99 intersection. By the time motorists see the sign, they are already clocking more than 30 km/h. By the time they are at the school, they are speeding well past the limit. 

Remember: speed increases stopping distance. The data tells us that vehicles travelling at 50 km/h require 24 to 28 metres to stop. Add another 10 metres when roads are wet or icy. Vehicles travelling 30 km/h need only 11 to 13 metres and another five metres in poor conditions. By slowing down, motorists have better opportunity to react when children are crossing the road, and students stand a better chance of surviving a pedestrian-vehicle collision.

Dozens of children in my community of Bear Ridge cross the street to make their way to and from school. I, like most of the parents here, walk with our children because it's simply not safe for them to go alone. This has to change.

Pedestrians do get hit by cars. Both my mother and teenage sister were struck by vehicles while crossing at an intersection. In both accidents, they suffered serious injuries resulting in life-long disabilities.

Please, for the sake of safety and sanity, slow down in our school zones.

Farha Guerrero
Whistler

School Cornucopia dinner was magnifique

On behalf of the Parent Advisory Council (APÉ) at L'École La Passerelle in Spring Creek, thank you to all who attended and supported this week's Cornucopia French Rendezvous fundraiser for L'École La Passerelle.

The sold-out crowd of 100 guests enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by local chef D'Arcy Demoe of Harvest Catering, a lovely evening and an amazing silent auction table.

The funds raised during the evening will go to further the education of students at Whistler's publicly funded francophone school and APÉ supported-activities throughout the year. 

To the many amazing volunteers who pulled the event together and the staff who encouraged our efforts, un grand merci and thank you.

A very heartfelt thank you to the Whistler Conference Centre, Watermark, Sea to Sky Celebrations, Whistler Brewing Company and to the more than 40 local businesses who donated so generously to this event, we feel fortunate to live in a community that supports each other.

Merci, merci, merci.

Sue Oakey and Nenna Farsang
Co-Chairs, École La Passerelle

Dessert challenge thanks

I would like to say a very heartfelt thank you to everyone who participated in the Devilishly Decadent Vegan Dessert Challenge from Nov. 1 to 14.

Nine local restaurants/food outlets (Alta Bistro, Cinnamon Bear Bar & Grille, Cure Lounge, Milestones, Stonesedge, Olives, The Green Moustache, Naked Sprout and Nesters Market) enthusiastically jumped onboard to participate in this new event and put all their efforts into creating decadent vegan desserts that everyone would love, not just vegans.

The restaurants did a fantastic job of showing the diversity and richness of vegan cuisine, busting myths about vegan food left, right and centre!

It truly was two weeks of delightful decadence, and I've received so much positive feedback about how much people enjoyed the event and the desserts.  

Thank you so much to the restaurants for all the work and passion that went into your incredible desserts and for being pioneers and trying a new event.

To everyone who promoted the event and enjoyed delicious desserts, thank you for all your enthusiasm and support, and for helping to make the event a success.

And last but not least, thank you to the sponsors for generously donating prizing — Nesters Market, Vegan Supply, Daiya Foods and Field Roast.

I hope everyone enjoyed the event as much as I did. I am looking forward to next year already!

To find out who the winners are, visit our website at www.earthsavewhistler.com.

Hayley Ingman
Earthsave Whistler

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