Letters to the editor for the week of February 25th 

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Groom king Drew Tait passed away in the early hours of Feb. 14. He was presented with a 40-year length of service award from Whistler Blackcomb on Feb. 5.
  • Photo submitted
  • Groom king Drew Tait passed away in the early hours of Feb. 14. He was presented with a 40-year length of service award from Whistler Blackcomb on Feb. 5.

Celebrating a groomer legend

When I first started working with Drew Tait 25 years ago he was already nicknamed Granny. Not that he was that old yet, barely in his mid-40s, but he was a wise patriarch and most definitely old school.

Fact is I knew him better, spent more time with him and he was more influential to me than my own grandparents.

Drew was a pioneer. I can picture him and can imagine the difficulties of grooming with some old six-cylinder tractor dragging a culvert around to smooth out rustic runs. I think I heard mention of the horse-drawn tiller, but that may have been at the commune in Rock Creek?

Now we have state-of-the-art high-tech machines, winches, summer grooming and snowmaking to make our job so much easier. Of course back then the runs were full of stumps, the drifts twice as high and they had to go uphill both ways. Drew was there every step of the way.

I distinctly remember back then asking him how long he had been grooming and his short answer was that he wasn't sure. For some reason he could recall how many times he had quit or been fired, though.

I found this odd for several reasons; first, how could someone not know how long they worked somewhere? Second, how could you be fired and quit and still be employed and, most astonishingly, how could someone work such a lonely, repetitive, sleep deprived, mediocre-paying dead-end job for more than a few years?

I do understand now that I've joined the lifers club myself. Groomers don't operate on the same time-space continuum as the rest of the world. Its what we call the "Hotel California" — "you can check out any time you like but you can never leave."

Drew has checked out, but his spirit is never leaving. Its imbedded on every square inch of every run.

In my rookie year the training regime was simple: you simply rode shotgun with a senior operator. I chose Drew to glean as much as I could from him. Drew wrote the book on grooming on Whistler and it's not the type of things that get covered in the employee handbook.

He hated that corporate stuff. Not only did he show me the basic controls, techniques and patterns, he also introduced me to various insider tips that few recruits are exposed to these days.

These included how to do the groomer's start, grooming grooming mid-station proper, how to navigate in the "fog" and most importantly how to groom his signature run, Lower Franz's, crossing over each fall line, because that was the only way it could be done back in the day.

Even now, nearly two decades after the merger (between Whistler and Blackcomb), things are done distinctly differently on Whistler than Blackcomb, despite having near identical fleets and management.

A lot of that is because of Drew. It was either his way or the wrong way.

Drew kept us all entertained with his outlandish stories. They would often start with being naked, under the influence, in a school bus in some God-forsaken place, and that would be the introduction — whatever happened next I'll leave to your imagination.

And I thought I was a bit of a hippie. He wasn't a new-age idealistic trustafarian — Drew was the real deal from the '60s! A cynical redneck hippie — finally someone I could relate to! It is from this persona that Drew literally created the unorthodox groomer subculture that we are still sometimes infamous for.

Not only did he share the knowledge, he taught us how to think and act the part.

I could go on and on. Even though he occupied a place on Earth for a relatively short period, he seems to have lived two lifetimes of experiences and left us with a lasting legacy. Wherever his long, strange trip takes him next, I'm sure he's in for the adventure.

He will be truly missed.

Mike Roger


A beautiful day ruined by beer cans

(On the way back to Whistler from Pemberton along Highway 99) my girlfriend and I counted 52 beer cans, just from our car!

Is there a locals' rulebook that says it's OK to drink and drive, and don't forget to throw your beer cans out the window?

When was the last time the cops busted someone for drinking and driving on that stretch of highway?

On top of it all, those beer cans, coffee cups and whatever else that is deliberately thrown from vehicles, makes it look like we really don't care about where we live.

I guess throwing the beer cans out the window (at night, you cowards ) is a good idea just in case one was to get pulled over by the police.

Geoff Gerhart


Leap year 'Bonus Day' event

Monday, Feb. 29 is a special day that only comes every fourth year. This coming Monday there will be an opportunity to attend a fundraiser at Tapley's Pub for our dear friend Grant Gibson.

Grant moved to Whistler over 30 years ago and has been a part of the Sea to Sky community, serving us in the transportation industry; first as a taxi driver and then as one of the Taxi Co. owners.

Seven years ago Grant was diagnosed with cancer and successfully battled through to beat it. During this battle, Grant was forced to sell his company and moved on to work as a chauffer for Imperial Limousine.

Grant was an original Whistler Slo-Pitch player and umpire in the '80s. He is a passionate golfer, snowmobiler and in the summer loves spending time at Anderson Lake. After celebrating his daughter Kristen and son Keaton's graduation from Pemberton High School, he sold their Pemberton home and relocated back to Whistler.

On Jan. 17 while walking through the village, Grant bent down to pick up some litter discarded by someone walking ahead of him. He slipped and fell, which resulted in a serious broken leg. A few hours later, while in the Whistler clinic, Grant suffered a major stroke and became paralyzed on his left side.

Grant had an operation to insert a titanium rod in his leg and is rehabilitating at Lions Gate Hospital.

After three weeks of no movement on his left side, Grant was recently able to lift his left leg. We are hopeful he will continue to make progress and regain the use of his entire left side. When Grant's leg has healed sufficiently he will move to a more intense rehabilitation program at GF Strong.

The fundraiser for Grant on Monday, Feb. 29 at Tapley's may include a visit from Grant as his doctor has agreed he can make a trip to Whistler. There will be the Monday Meat Raffle with all proceeds benefiting Grant's fundraiser. We have fantastic silent auction items and some other great prizes. So please spread the word and as an amazing community let's help Grant get through this new battle.

To donate through a GoFundMe-type site, "Grants Stroke Support Fund by Kristen Gibson" or search Facebook for "Whistler Dart League." Please email laura@wetaski.com if you'd like to contribute an auction item or help with the fundraiser.

Chris and Laura Wetaski

Keaton Gibson, Kristen Gibson


Documentary worth watching

A documentary airs this Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBC that outlines the risks of binge drinking for young women and how the liquor industry is now actively promoting wine and shots for partying young females.

On any weekend, young ladies, many celebrating a bride-to-be can be seen having "a good time" as they bar hop down the Village Stroll. However, the consequences of binge drinking can be very serious and this is told in part by girls that have run into trouble in the show.

Only yesterday I saw my first Party Bus in our village, but was reminded of the 23-year-old girl that died falling out of one on Jan. 10 in Vancouver.

Another aspect of the documentary Girls Night Out is that my dear daughter Jennifer is in the cast, she partied as hard as anyone but has now proudly been "on the wagon" for the last five years.

I strongly urge parents with young daughters at home to watch the program together, and those young ladies now out of the house take it in also — my understanding is that it will carry a very serious message.

Lennox McNeely


Making music together in Pemberton

Growing Great Children is really excited to be entering into our eighth week of the first-ever Music Together program in Pemberton!

We want to say a special thank you to some key people and organizations that have made it all possible.

The first thank you has to go to our guide and mentor Jory Winter. Her enthusiasm and love for this program is what inspired us. She has introduced so many children in Whistler and Pemberton to such a great musical beginning. Thank you Jory.

A huge Pemberton thank you goes to the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation for its generous grant to help get the program up and running with our beautiful new instruments and supplies. We are so blessed with their generosity. We couldn't have done it without their support.

Another warm Pemberton thank you goes out to the Pemberton Music Festival Community Fund for its donation to our program. We received a generous grant from this new fund to help also pay for instruments, the CD/booklet kits and start up capital costs. What a wonderful legacy the music festival is leaving for our community and its young future musicians.  

Big thanks to AC Petroleum for its donation to our program. It is so great to have local businesses on board to help us out. Its donation is being used to help some of our families attend the classes as a bursary.

Thank you to our teacher Ira Pettle who comes from Whistler every Friday for our classes. You are doing a great job. A big thank you to Cheryl Southall at the Pemberton Community Centre for her hard work getting us all insured and set up.

As our first session has been such a success, we look forward to offering our next spring session of classes beginning in April.  We are expanding to two days a week and registration is underway.  Jody Gartner has joined as a second teacher.  

Anyone interested in the Music Together classes or information about Growing Great Children, can email us at growinggreatchildren@gmail.com. More information on Music Together can be found at www.musictogether.com

Thank you to all the families who have joined us on this musical journey and continue to help us make beautiful music together.  Without you, we wouldn't have a program!

Dr. Shannon Paul

Growing Great Children, Pemberton

Women still have a long way to go

I am writing in response to Steve Andrew's letter to the editor (Pique, Feb. 18), "Imbalance Can Go Both Ways."

Steve, it's understandable to me that you are simply reacting to what you see as an imbalance in the system. In this case, it's your position that there are simply too many women at the helm in Whistler and, in particular, at Tourism Whistler and the Whistler Arts Council.

Steve, I don't think you have a full understanding of what women have had to go through to be accused of, as you so colourfully phrased it, being "overly female dominant." (You have no idea how much pleasure I get when I read that.)

I have been around since women were still clawing their way through that eternal glass ceiling, which was really a titanium ceiling dressed up as glass, so I feel qualified to respond to your letter. Please allow me to educate you about women in Canadian history, starting with Emily Murphy.

According to online research, Emily Murphy was born to a family of politicians, including an uncle who was a senator, in Ontario in 1868. She used her knowledge and experience of politics when she began campaigning for women's rights while in her 40s.

In 1916, she was thrown out of a courtroom because the trial of a woman accused of prostitution was considered inappropriate for mixed company. She appealed and argued that if a mixed court was inappropriate, it was only logical that women should have their own court. She was surprised when the Attorney General of Alberta actually agreed with her, and appointed her the first female magistrate in the British Empire over the new women's court.

Many in Alberta immediately protested Emily Murphy's position as magistrate. They argued that a woman could not serve in that position because they were not legally considered "persons" under the British North America act, the 1867 Act that established the justice system.

Emily Murphy's position as magistrate was saved when the Supreme Court of Alberta ruled that women were persons under the British North America Act in 1917. However, she noted that the decision stood just in the province of Alberta, and decided to test the issue in the rest of Canada. For this, she would need to form the Famous Five.

The Famous Five — also known as the Valiant Five — were women brought together by Emily Murphy. They included Irene Marryat Parlby, the first female cabinet minister in Alberta; Nellie Mooney McClung, an author and an activist for women's rights, eugenics, and temperance; Louise Crummy McKinney, the first woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and the first woman elected to any legislature in the British Empire; and Henrietta Muir Edwards, a women's rights activist who served on the National Council of Women and was a leader in the Red Cross.

The Persons Case: a landmark ruling — Edwards v. Canada, now known as the Persons Case, went to the court of last resort, the Judicial Committee of the Imperial Privy Council. The council is one of the highest courts in the United Kingdom, with its permanent home in London

In 1929, the council reversed the decision of the Supreme Court in a landmark ruling, finding that "qualified persons" could be read to include women. The ruling found that "(t)he exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours."

Thanks to the work of the Famous Five, the first woman was appointed to the Senate of Canada one year later: Cairine Reay Wilson. The five women themselves have been posthumously named honorary senators, and statues of the five women adorn Calgary and Parliament Hill. Edwards v. Canada is today considered a crucial case in the struggle for equal rights for women in Canada."

Following that, on May 24, 1918, all female "citizens" in Canada aged 21 and over became eligible to vote in federal elections.

I apologize for the long history lesson, but I think it is important to understand that it's not an "imbalance" or "gender equation" happening in Whistler and elsewhere. Rather, May 24, 2018 will mark a full 100 years since women suffragettes fought hard for and won the right to vote in Canadian federal elections, and, since then, women have continued to fight for the right to be treated as equals.

My mother-in-law, who had a post-secondary education and taught as a teacher in the Lower Mainland for many decades, had to fight for the right to get a credit card in her name after her husband passed away.

That was approximately 1970.

Women have been choosing for years now to be married as "husband and wife," not "man and wife." We even often choose to keep our maiden names. Why? Because we are not chattel.

Even the always-forward thinking Star Trek realized the gravity (pun intended) of the situation when they changed their original introductory speech from, "Where no man has gone before" to, "Where no one has gone before." That was 1987.

Although I was far too young, or not even born yet, to have lived through all of the above, I am very proud of these women and the sacrifices they made so that I can live a life free to make my own choices.

But as I said earlier, we persist today to struggle for equality. According to Catalyst Canada, there continues to be a very superfluous amount of men in senior management roles compared to women; women earn on average $0.78 for every $1 earned by men (a pay gap made even larger by women minorities, or women living with disabilities); and there is still a 6.6 per cent gap between what men earn over women just one year out of university. I could go on, but I think I made my point.

Whistler is always striving to be an inclusive community, with forward-thinking leaders. I think Whistler women are some of the bravest women I know, proving every day that we are equal to men.

Nancy Wilhelm-Morden broke that previously impervious glass ceiling by becoming Whistler's first female mayor; Whistler Fire Chief Sheila Kirkwood was the first female assistant fire chief in B.C. and is now one of the first, if not the first, female fire chief in the province. Bravo ladies!

Is there a disproportionate amount of women in Tourism Whistler and the Whistler Arts Council? Perhaps. But I'm running out of room in this letter to start spewing statistics about the disproportionate amount of men in far, far more organizations.

Steve, I offer you this: if you think change needs to be made, be proactive and follow the lead of millions of women and, if you think you're qualified, work hard to get on the boards you think need the change.

Don't make it about gender. It shouldn't be. It should be about "qualified persons" filling available positions, no matter the gender or race. After all, it's 2016.

Jude Allen


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