Letters to the editor for the week of August 7th 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MICHAEL ALLEN/TOURISM WHISTLER - Brown Daisy and Two Cubs, Bear Family on North Slope of Whistler Mountain
  • Photo by Michael Allen/Tourism Whistler
  • Brown Daisy and Two Cubs, Bear Family on North Slope of Whistler Mountain

Bear deaths are residents' fault

"Damn the Conservation Officers! They are killing our bears and orphaning cubs."

I've heard that sentiment time and time again. Wouldn't it make our lives a lot easier if we could just blame someone else for the problems in the world and get on with our day?

Our eagerness to blame those who pull the trigger, directly lifts the onus from those who are actually responsible — we the people, those who live, work and recreate in Whistler. Even those among us who are mindful of their own garbage and backyard attractants are not off the hook. You could help further by inspiring your friends and neighbours to do the same.

It's interesting how creative our solutions can be when we defer blame to others. I've heard lots of solutions in the 18 years I've been educating people to be bear smart. Very few involve getting to the root cause of the problem — or better yet, in not creating a problem that others have to clean up for you.

As much as it would make for a happy ending, it is sadly not possible to relocate all bears that come into conflict with people — mostly because they just come back and exhibit the same behaviour again a few days later, but also because there just aren't that many places to put the hundreds of bears that come into human-caused conflict each year across this province.

And no, it is not possible to have a large sanctuary somewhere that can house and feed the hundreds of bears that come into human-caused conflict each and every year.

While the issue remains enormous, the answer is simple — residential and urban spaces need to be unwelcoming to bears. Coexistence means leaving wild spaces for bears to flourish. We cannot coexist with bears in our kitchens.

It's OK to commune with nature in nature. It's not OK in your Whistler backyard, or in the village or even the lower bike park. The resort is too busy for that and there are too many people here who don't understand bears.

Some people prefer to stick their head in the sand. I often wish I could do that too, even just for one day. Some people get their frustrations out on social media, which might relieve their anger temporarily, but does nothing to resolve the problem.

At the time of writing this letter, seven bears are dead (after conflict) and three cubs have lost their mothers. Whoa!

"The universe is not short on wake up calls. We're just quick to hit the snooze button," according to Brené Brown.

The time is now. Do your part. Get off the sideline and get in the game. Stand in your values and your truth and do what needs to be done. Make your own property unattractive to bears. And if you truly care about bears, and I know you do (if you're still reading this), you will also do your part to "say" it forward. Help others to get bear smart too.

Getting bear smart is a shared responsibility.

Officials can't do it alone. We need your help. People need to deter bears from their properties themselves. Bears need an instant negative response from people when they are exhibiting inappropriate behaviour. Just like punishing your dog for peeing on the rug six hours later when you get home from work is ineffective, bears need to be caught in the act as well. There is a two second window for any mammal to make the link between cause and effect. That means the bear absolutely needs to receive a negative response while in the act of pulling down your birdfeeder.

People should get loud — bang pots and pans to teach bears to stay off human turf. Mean it! But do it from a safe place (with sufficient distance between you and the bear), and preferably with as many people as possible. Always give the bear a clear and unobstructed avenue of escape.

Allowing bears to feel comfortable in your backyard is akin to opening a kindergarten to teach bears that humans are friendly and shouldn't be feared. Yes, that sounds like a utopian world, especially to me. But the fact of the matter is, it is not a realistic world. A bear's behaviour almost always escalates, from accessing food outside until they get to the point of entering your home for food. At this point, it's virtually impossible to "unlearn" a bear. They are killed.

Sharing your backyard with bears in Whistler is not coexisting, it's an eventual death sentence for bears. People need to change the way they think about the issue.

What would our bear-smart community look like if each member was accountable for their actions, and accommodated the needs of bears and other wildlife (as well as the environment) into their daily routines? Hmmmm...

If you want to help, please contact me at info@bearsmart.com.

Sylvia Dolson, Get Bear Smart Society


Bears need our help

Twice in the past week I've encountered conservation officers managing bears in Whistler.

The first was just off Lorimer Road — a bear was in a cherry tree. The officer said the bear had two tags, and if it had a history of conflict it would be destroyed.

This I do not understand, as this is a natural way for bears to find food — up a tree. It wasn't in a garden it was in the middle of the road. Granted it's not the safest place, but I'm sure there were better ways to deal with it than having a police officer stand under the tree, so the bear wouldn't come down until it could be tranquilized.

I was extremely disappointed to hear this bear would be destroyed. The worst part about this is there are two cherry trees on that strip — one has since been cut down, but the other tree the bear was in is still standing, so next summer we will have the same issue.

The second incident was on Friday night, Aug.1, in Lot 2 — again a bear was up a tree. Flares were shot up towards the bear in the tree where it was not hurting anyone. The bear was apparently tranquilized, but the distance it had to fall from the tree was extremely distressing to many people who witnessed this event.

I wouldn't be surprised if this bear had injuries from this fall.

I read last week we are beyond the amount of bears destroyed to have a sustainable population. With the possibility of these two bears being destroyed, I know I am not alone in wanting things to change.

We live in bear country and there has to be better way. We have to do more to protect our bear population instead of taking the easy way out.

Karl Pilkington


The Great Lake Clean Up

Following the Great Lake Clean Up I wanted to send a big "Thank You!" to all the volunteers who came out to drag ugly things off the bottom of the five beautiful lakes that sit like gems in this gorgeous valley.

The lakes are a system that drains in two directions, unfortunately they have lived through some tough times when industrial use, such as logging, saw them as a means of transport, log sorting, and in some places a convenient spot to discard old machinery.

Beer cans outnumbered all other forms of garbage on this year's clean up.

A big thank you goes to: Samurai Sushi, Fat Tony Pizza, Subway sandwich, Gerry from Creekside Market, Bruce from Nesters, the Drugstore at Market Place, The IGA, which donated food and drinks for the large crews who volunteered. A big thank you also to the International Youth Hostel Assoc., which donated rooms for the divers, and the North Vancouver Dive Shop team, which did an amazing job from the depths of Alta Lake (we had interesting discussions about diving at 700+metres above sea level).

It is a grassroots effort from the 50 or more people who truly care about our lakes. The Whistler Fire department with four divers and the RMOW Parks crew played significant roles as well.

While things may look rosy on a sunny day with the lake covered in plastic inflatables, the lake sees its highest use at the lowest flow from runoff. There is still a lot of "stuff" on the bottom and we will be back next year.

We are very fortunate to live in a place that has amazing winters with a series of lakes that create one of, if not the best, four-season recreation spot in the world!

Let's keep it that way!

Thanks to all who volunteered especially Komiko who organized everything.

Roger McCarthy


No way to live

I would like to respond to my friend William Roberts' letter in the July 31 edition of Pique.

He talks about the need for a two-state solution in Israel and the horrors of Gaza as a refugee camp. A little history and perspective are necessary to shed light on any discussion even though few ever get past the horrific visuals shown on TV.

As Marshall McLuhan once said, "the media is the message" and with social media even more so, but pictures are not the full truth.

Does William not remember that Ehud Barak offered a two-state solution to Yasser Arafat at Camp David, who bolted from the meeting and started the first Intifada blowing up Israelis on buses and restaurants? Or that Ehud Olmert offered Mahmoud Abbas a two-state solution with even more generous terms and he rejected it?

William says he had never been to a refugee camp before Gaza. Today, is Gaza really a refugee camp? Go to Jordan and see the tent cities of a real refugee camp from the Syrian civil war.

How is it that four generations after 1948 there are young children classified as refugees? When did it become a title to be inherited?

After 1948 there was an exodus of Jews from Arab countries because of anti-Semitic attacks. Many came to Israel. There were almost the same number of Jews expelled from Arab countries who came to Israel, as Arabs who left Israel in 1948. They were a major burden for the young State of Israel, but they were assimilated and never treated as refugees.

So why are there still Gazan refugees from the 1948 war of liberation? Under the 1948 armistice agreement Gaza was put under the control of the Egyptians. Israel had no connection to Gaza from 1948 to 1967. Why didn't Egypt, or the rest of the Arab world, assimilate the Gazans or let Gaza develop as a free normal economic region?

Now the most important fact. Israel completely left Gaza in August 2005!

Even bodies were disinterred for reburial, and Gaza was returned to its people with no blockade.

Israel's reward? It has lived under constant rocket attack. To date some 8,000 to 10,000 rockets and mortars have been fired at the Israeli civilian population. Read Hamas' charter. Hamas remains committed to the destruction of the Jewish state in any borders. If Gaza is suffering under an Israeli blockade it is only to prevent weapons and dual-use equipment from coming into Gaza and leaving as killing machines.

William was concerned that medical facilities were running out of medicines, supplies and equipment during non-war time, yet the Hamas government had enough money and supplies to build, or import, thousands of missiles, their only purpose is to wreak terror on the entire civilian population of Israel?

They had millions to spend on tunnels that ran for many kilometres under Gaza and across the border into Israel using cement allowed in by Israel for hospitals and schools etc. That is Israel's fault?

What about the other border in and out of Gaza? It is controlled by Egypt. Why does Egypt impose its own blockade and why does no one pose the question to them?

Finally, to return to my comment about the media is the message. Visualize this. My Canadian-born daughter, her husband and my three grandchildren aged 10, eight and six planned to spend July in Beersheba this summer.

After two days there they learned what it meant to have seconds to find shelter after the sirens went off. The apartment they rented did not have a safe room so they were told to go into the stairwell to weather the attack. All month rockets have been aimed at Beersheva, and only an iron dome has saved a massacre from happening.

The same can be said about three quarters of the country. No one should have to live this way and no government, not even one led by the ghosts of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau would allow such a thing to exist in Canada.

Yes, they may have tried to negotiate a peaceful arrangement, but if an enemy shot rockets at Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Whistler and declared in their charter that Canadians had no right to live in their country even they would have fought back with the full power of the country.

Can Israel be expected to do any less for its people?

Paul Plotkin


Everyone wants peace

In response to Gwynne Dyer's column, "Gaza: A little context," in the Pique July 31, here is a little more context.

Nobody wants peace, quiet and freedom in Gaza more than Israel.

"Pesky" and "pathetic" rockets kill. Tunnels built from Israeli materials intended for aid (housing/medical) are for killing. Israel needs to be judged by the same standard as any other country, and has the right to defend its citizens.

As I began crafting this letter, I learned that Hamas had violated a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire, which was supposed to usher in Egyptian-mediated negotiations to end hostilities for the long term.

90 minutes after the ceasefire began, a Hamas suicide bomber and gunmen emerged from a tunnel behind Israeli lines and abducted 23-year-old Hadar Goldin, killing two other soldiers. This is the fifth time Hamas has used a ceasefire as cover for launching further attacks.

In so doing, Hamas has once again derailed the opportunity for Gazans to benefit from much-needed humanitarian relief.

The solution for the people of Gaza is clear, non-terrorist leadership and a desire for peace. Hamas continues to demonstrate its primary interest is to kill and terrorize Israelis rather than to advance the well being of innocent Gazans. Hamas' goal is the non-negotiable destruction of Israel.

Years ago, Golda Meir, the first woman Prime Minister of Israel, said, "Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us." In the meantime, Hamas is exploiting our sadness and regret regarding their purposeful civilian casualties to garner legitimacy.

Sadly, if you study the situation more broadly, you will find that Israel is the canary in the coalmine for the western world.

Caren Perel


Editorial note: Israel's military has since said Goldin was killed in battle on Friday Aug. 1.

Terrorism needs to eradicated first

As a self-confessed "Christian realist," Mr. William Roberts should read his Bible more, and liberal fiction less. One expects a realist to report facts and Christians to speak out against terrorist organizations such as Hamas ( Pique July 31).

In a speech in 1958 Buber, aged 80, while affirming the factual reality of the State of Israel, referred to "the most pernicious of all false teachings, that according to which way of history is determined by power alone... while faith in the spirit is retained only as mere phraseology." Buber maintained that "he who will truly serve the spirit must seek to make good all that was once missed: he must seek to free once again the blocked path to an understanding with the Arab peoples (in) a peace of genuine cooperation."

Before any peace negotiations can be realized, or any cooperation expected between the Israeli and Arab people, tyrannical terrorist organizations like Hamas need to be eradicated.

Mr. Roberts writes to invoke sympathy for the Arab refugees in Gaza and fails to understand that Hamas purposely attacks Israel from Gaza in order to make Israel appear to be the aggressor. While Hamas, the actual aggressor, cowardly launches attacks from within schools, mosques, clinics and hospitals.

The IDF forewarns the people of Gaza before attacks, restores power after Hamas takes out power lines and sees to it that Gazan casualities are tended to in Israeli hospitals.

As Prime Minister Harper so eloquently said, "The indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel are terrorist acts, for which there is no justification."

If Mr. Roberts truly seeks to promote peace between these two peoples, a noble gesture, he would be well advised to shift his public denunciation of our government's support for Israel towards educating his fellow Canadians on the facts and not his opinion.

Lisa Haeck, Sea to Sky Conservatives


Squamish not the right location for LNG

From Deep Cove along the entire Sea to Sky corridor we are the "Outdoor Recreational Capital of the World."

Collectively, we have the best trails for hiking, climbing and riding, (and we have) alpine and water sports (as well).

The LNG plant is good for our economy, but its proposed location is only one of convenience.

If we truly embrace the fact we are the "Outdoor Recreational Capital of the World," this proposed plant will be in a location that will damage our reputation as a world-class destination and will in fact hurt the B.C. economy

I urge all of our corridor municipalities to see our true economic value and place on the world stage

We are the "Outdoor Recreational Capital of the World." Embrace and celebrate it, (don't) spoil it.

In fact please join me in my call to all of our partner municipalities to support who we are on the world stage.

Richard Kinar


Calling a spade a spade

In regions where you have unemployment over six per cent, you can't put in applications for certain low-wage positions through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program.

I am sure we can all agree that Whistler is not a cheap place to live — it's probably one of the most expensive places to live. The natural beauty, the days on the mountain and the people you meet helps you forget that you are making peanuts in a small town that generates millions.

I am a strong believer that a Canadian should have priority for a job in Canada over anybody else. Since when should a Canadian have to compete with a country that has as its #1 export labour? That commodity will work longer hours for less, and then that money is shipped back home to be put into another country's economy.  

I am going to call a spade a spade — businesses are freaking out because they might actually have to start paying an employee a real wage. I don't know about you, but I cannot survive off $10.25 an hour. Yeah, you might throw in a season's pass, but the last time I checked IGA doesn't take days on the mountain as a currency to put food in my mouth.

Prices of homes keep going up, lift tickets keep going up, room rates, cost of living etc. But one's wage keeps going down, and the foreign worker has become a way for businesses to put a bit more money into their pocket at the end of each quarter.

I can see why a transient worker doesn't put up a fight, they are happy to have a job, or several jobs, to pay the bills for the small time that they are here.

What about the people that call Whistler home year after year, have we not paid our dues, does a company not see the value in that loyal worker?

I agree with the changes in the Foreign Worker policy and I am sure (Whistler Chamber president Val) Litwin will try to serenade and manipulate the numbers as much as possible to have these changes lifted.  

Canada should be focused on finding jobs for Canadians, first and foremost.

Paul Rowe


Speak out against fish farms

Please allow me to invite all salmon lovers to take note: The Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, has given the Norwegian salmon farming industry the green light to expand its fish-farming operations in British Columbia marine waters (contrary to recommendations of the federal report authored by Justice Bruce Cohen).

Each one of these fish farms is given a federal license to use Atlantic salmon, infected with viruses in our B.C. waters. Personally, I find this unacceptable.

(There are) three things I (am going to do) in an effort to stop this industry from harming the oceans. Maybe you'll join me?

• Do not buy it! Ask where the fish comes from before you decide to buy at your local grocer or restaurant;

• Make sure the province of B.C. does not agree to follow along and issue licenses for salmon farms by writing your MP, John Weston, and making him aware of your concerns;

• Sign and share the petition, "Restore wild salmon, Ban salmon feedlots in BC" on Change.org, or send your own note such as the one below to Premier Christy Clark.

"To: Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, Premier, B.C: Dear Premier Christy Clark: Please do not issue Licenses of Occupation to the salmon farms looking to expand operations in British Columbia. Wild salmon are much too important to risk for a dirty industry that refuses to contain its waste and pollutes our oceans. "

We can make a difference!

David Girard


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