Letters to the Editor for the week of November 22 

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Grizzly conflicts are serious

Last week's article on grizzly-bear population recovery initiatives ("On the mend," Nov. 15) was timely and thought provoking. There is no doubt that one of the key indicators of a true wilderness landscape is the presence of these majestic creatures.

While I do appreciate that the reference made to the incidence of bear attacks "as being pretty small" was in reference to the Montana experiment, I do believe that any minimization of the reality of these conflicts distorts the discussion on best practices when considering wildlife in recreation planning.

Any interaction between humans and apex predators should not be understated. The concern for public safety must be paramount.

For a better synopsis of bear attacks closer to home, the online reference can be found at: bearbiology.com and a report entitled "Human Injuries Inflicted by Bears in British Columbia."

Brad Sills
Whistler

Remembrance Day thanks

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who assisted with this year's Remembrance Day ceremony, which we enjoyed with such wonderful weather.

Thanks to the veterans, military, navy, RCMP, and firefighters who participated in the parade. Thanks to Alison Hunter and the Whistler Singers and Children's Chorus who performed so well at the service. Thanks to the Girl Guides for their assistance with the wreaths. Thanks to our poetry readers: Lexi Thind, Lydia Schwartz and Cain Susko—well done! Thanks to Anne Townley for the wonderful Act of Remembrance. Thanks to our piper, Glen McEachran, for leading the parade along the stroll while playing the pipes. Thanks to Gavin Reed and the Whistler Fire Rescue Service for the fantastic logistical support.

This ceremony went smoothly thanks to the work of so many who helped by setting up the audio equipment, preparing the cannonade, and organizing the fly-past by Blackcomb Helicopters.

Thanks to the Rotary Clubs for the wonderful reception at Whistler Olympic Plaza.

Finally, I wanted to say a special thanks to Brian and Louise Buchholz who have been involved with organizing this ceremony for over 20 years. Their efforts have been outstanding and they deserve our thanks for what they have done over the years.

Steve LeClair
Whistler

It's simple, not confusing

In the Pique two weeks ago ("Letters to the Editor," Nov. 1), MLA Jordan Sturdy, in an effort to discourage voting for proportional representation (or pro-rep), invoked the U.S. president with his "Art of the Deal" rhetoric. It sounded to me like the kind of fear mongering that works south of the border. But MLA Sturdy assured us that it's not. 

He further quoted Green Party leader Andrew Weaver as saying that election promises are "irrelevant." Perhaps Mr. Weaver based that statement on the assurance of Sturdy's former boss Christy Clark, who pledged British Columbians a $100 billion "prosperity fund" to be conjured from the LNG industry while taxing them just 3.5 per cent. It's that sort of Liberal Party logic that enables them to consider as credible arithmetic the fact that less than 40 per cent of the vote can equate to 100-per-cent political control. 

I'm not sure if pro-rep will be better, but under our current structure, we've seen 40-plus years of increasing income inequality, exemplified by the 2016 figures for B.C. political donations: Liberals $12.4 million (mostly corporate); Greens $764,000.

The current system hasn't been working as well as it should for most, so why not try pro-rep? If it ends up being worse, we can always go back to the status quo preferred by the party that Jordan Sturdy toes the line for, where money rules the roost. 

Young people: it's your future, but you have to vote on it now!

Neil Brown 
Whistler

Real-Estate Advertising for Remembrance Day?

(I am) disappointed in the Pique and Engels & Volkers' decision to exploit Remembrance Day for commercial gains by printing a full two-page colour ad of real-estate listings under the heading "Lest We Forget."

Where is the respect, solemnity, and humanity? 

Claudia Frowein
Whistler

Wildfire Prevention

I would like to echo Lance Bright's comments ("Letters to the Editor") regarding wildfire prevention from the Nov. 8 edition of Pique.

When deciding who to vote for recently (in the municipal election), I scoured the profiles for the candidates' stance on wildfire prevention measures; apart from Lance's, I could not find anybody who was really taking it seriously.

I even wrote to a couple of the candidates to ask for their thoughts. I received replies, but they didn't amount to much more than an opinion about what could be done. 

Obviously, taking measures to prevent a possible wildfire in a valley full of trees with one road in and one road out is not as sexy as talking housing. Just seeing the images from California at the moment should bring it home to all residents of the valley what could potentially come to pass.

Why is wildfire prevention not at the top of the RMOW list of priorities to protect our residents, our tourists and our beautiful valley?

If we are unlucky enough to have a devastating event, there will not be any tourists for a while, so the housing issue will be a moot point. There have been some measures put in place, but clearly not enough—serious money needs to be spent on prevention.

What do you say, Jack et al?

Janine Carney
Whistler

Talk at the Top hits home

At the end of the school day, we meet in the councillor's office, and then we rush to McKeever's store, and run back with arms laden with snacks. All the Whistler kids sit in the back of the VIP Transportation bus, talking animatedly as we wait to leave, jokes being made and photos being taken.       

It's the start of an amazing adventure.

Jack.org (supports) Talk at The Top, which aims to create awareness and educate around mental health for youth. I was first introduced to Jack.org by my mother in fall 2017, who encouraged me to get involved.

(Talk at the TOP is held at the top of Grouse Mountain and) the city is absolutely beautiful from the top of Grouse with the sun rising at 8:30 in the morning. At this point, I'm getting super excited, I can't wait for the day to begin.

Through Jack.org, I have become comfortable with speaking about mental illnesses and explaining how it affects (myself) and others. One in five Canadian youth is affected by mental illness, and most don't have the support or resources to deal with it.

Our first speaker is Simsimtko Whitewing, who helped plan Talk at the Top. She shares her story, a story of a Nlakapa'mux, Lakota, Pueblo, and Hoocak First Nations young woman who was a top athlete, training up to seven days a week along with many other extracurricular activities.

Simsimtko faced a low point in her mental health and, after getting involved with  Jack.org and learning more, she realized that she could get better. She is an amazing and open person. It is a true blessing and honour to meet someone like her.

During our second presentation, Dan and Fiona, two Jack.org speakers, have us talk to our table group about the idea, "Why would someone feel like this?" Some tables give probable explanations, ranging from bullying, anxiety, social, and religious influences.

The next slide asks us: "How do you help someone who reaches out?" We're given a set of golden rules that explain the signs and symptoms of mental health struggle and how to be there for yourself and others: tell what you see; be there; check yourself; be prepared to get them more help. It's a fun activity, and it brings different opinions into the conversation.

With these activities and group discussions, we are bringing a whole generation together to change the future. We youth are speaking out on behalf of our brothers, sisters, and everyone in between. We can create a whole new world that is accepting, empathetic and loving, bringing us closer together.

The first step is to speak out, to speak against stigma, and to push for more resources to help our youth, adults, and senior citizens. It is never too late to speak out, to seek help, to live your life to its fullest.

You are not alone.

If any young people would like to get involved, you can go to Jack.org to learn more and join the movement.

Kitt Davis,
Grade 11, Whistler Secondary School    

Scientists speak out for reform

Dear Premier Horgan:

Thank you for your commitment to improving British Columbia's environmental assessment (EA) process. Environmental assessments are one of the few tools that we have to prevent harm to the environment.

We, a group of independent academic environmental scientists, agree that there is an urgent need for reform that helps to rebuild public trust and protect the environment. Yet, we are concerned that the proposed process lacks scientific rigour, with significant consequences for the health and environment of all British Columbians.

As scientists based in British Columbia, we know how important it is for environment-related decisions to be made carefully. Rigorous, transparent, and objective science is a critical foundation for effective environmental decision-making. Science that is biased or limited in scope will not adequately reflect the benefits and risks of a project, nor accurately inform decision-making. As exemplified by the Mount Polley tailings pond collapse, there are real ecological and economic consequences when industrial-scale projects fail.

After careful review of your government's recently introduced legislation, we conclude that the proposed environmental assessment process will fall short of your stated goal—to protect the environment and restore public confidence. In particular, the proposed legislation retains three deficiencies of current practice that are at odds with the foundations of science-based decisions, namely, a lack of scientific independence, of peer-review, and of transparency.

1. Lack of scientific independence. Under the proposed EA process, project proponents would continue to oversee, collect, and present the vast majority of evidence used as the basis for environmental assessment. In other words, the information required to assess environmental risk would continue to be gathered and analyzed by those with a vested interest in project approval. This lack of independence can create a culture susceptible to biased data collection or interpretation, and will continue to erode the public's trust in a process that they expect to be fair and evidence-based.

Recommendation: Information used to assess risk must be collected and interpreted independently of project proponents. Assessing the risk or impact that a project may pose to the environment must be rooted in information collected and interpreted by qualified, independent professionals who do not stand to gain or lose from the assessment's conclusions. Concurrent with your government's ongoing revisions to the use of certified professionals (external to the public service), such professionals must work independently from the project proponent. Furthermore, such a process must seek and act on the best available evidence, including peer- reviewed studies.

2. Lack of peer-review of evidence. Under the proposed EA process, there are no requirements for independent peer review of the evidence about a project's environmental risk. Evidence would be evaluated by a Technical Advisory Committee, (the) composition (of which) would in large part include provincial ministry staff that need not be experts on the proposed work. This status quo approach fails to require those responsible for evaluating a project's environmental risk to have the necessary expertise to adequately assess the evidence.

Recommendation: Evaluation of a project's risk to the environment must be conducted by independent experts in relevant fields, at arm's length from the government, proponent, and the Environmental Assessment Office. Independent evaluation of evidence is standard scientific best practice.

3. Lack of transparency. Under the proposed EA process, there is no requirement that all data generated by the proponent, or the evaluation of evidence by the Technical Advisory Committee, be made available to the public. This has been identified as a major flaw of the current EA process in B.C. Neither is there inclusion of criteria for how ministers' final assessment decisions will be made, which will undermine public confidence. Without such transparency, it is impossible to verify conclusions that are drawn regarding the project's risk to the environment.

Recommendation: Make all records and information related to an assessment permanently and publicly available, develop explicit decision-making criteria, and require transparent rationale of factors considered in the final decision.

All raw data, results, analyses, and rationale of factors considered in the evaluation of environmental risk from a proposed project should be readily available to the public and experts. This is modern scientific best practice. Sharing information means that conclusions can be verified—helping to build public trust—and that means the data can be used as benchmarks for future studies, including assessing cumulative effects. While we acknowledge that some information (e.g., culturally sensitive or private) must be protected, sharing all other relevant information in a free, searchable, provincial registry should become a condition of the new EA process.

While we are encouraged by the stated intent of reform to the EA process, and believe that British Columbians will applaud many of the proposed changes, the continued lack of scientific independence, peer review, and transparency in the evaluation of a given project's risk to the environment will serve only to further undermine public confidence. We offer our consensus opinion, representing a diverse range of scientists, as a starting point for further engagement with you or your staff. We are keen to meet with you and your staff, and be a resource for strengthening scientific integrity in British Columbia's environmental assessment process.

Respectfully,
Michael Price, MSc,PhD Candidate, Simon Fraser University; Jonathan Moore, PhD, Associate Professor Simon Fraser University; Chris Darimont, PhD, Associate Professor University of Victoria; Jim Pojar, PhD, Ecologist; Tara Martin, PhD, Professor University of British Columbia; Katherine Parker, PhD, Professor University of Northern British Columbia; Eduardo Martins, PhD, Assistant Professor University of Northern British Columbia; Isabelle Cote, PhD, Professor Simon Fraser University; Wendy Palen, PhD, Associate Professor Simon Fraser University; John Volpe, PhD, Associate Professor University of Victoria; Adam Ford, PhD, Assistant Professor University of British Columbia; W.J. (Bill) Beese, MF Professor Vancouver Island University; Eric B. (Rick) Taylor, PhD, Professor University of British Columbia; John Reynolds, PhD, Professor Simon Fraser University

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