Letters to the Editor for the week of September 29th 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON
  • Photo by Dan Falloon

What is Whistler — who are we?

This summer, we had a two-week road trip in B.C., exploring our beautiful, breathtaking, and diverse province. What an amazing place we live in!

As we journeyed from one exotic recreation site to another, we got to visit small, unique, amusing, quirky, and beautiful towns in the midst of these incredible surroundings.

Roads sneaking their ways through mountain passes were doors to new sceneries and adventures — and our two weeks of exploring just touched the surface of what B.C. has to offer!

We are really fortunate to live life here in Whistler. In the midst of all the tension around wages, employment, housing etc., there's something deeper challenging me every time I come home to Whistler from being out and about.

Please jump on my train of thoughts for a moment: On our road trip we drove through many towns — each with its unique greeting as you enter; a few examples: Pemberton: "Adventure Begins Here." Squamish: "Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada." Lillooet: "Guaranteed Rugged." Golden: "Authentic. Community. Adventure." Vavenby: "Our Roots Are In This Community." The list goes on.

When you enter Whistler, this is what meets you: "Host Mountain Resort 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games."

Don't misunderstand me! It's great that Whistler hosted the Olympics and Paralympics in 2010. In many ways, this is what put Whistler on the map. But is this who we are? Is this who we want to be remembered as? Does something that happened in the past define who we are today both as a community and an individual? I hope not.

Maybe it is time to rediscover who we are? Maybe it's time to change what we communicate to those visiting us about who we are?

I sure hope we are more than a "Host Mountain Resort." Let us be creative as a community and create a statement that welcomes people from all over the world to Whistler — "Where Heaven Touches Earth" — or whatever we can agree upon!

Hakon Kalvenes

Two sides to the story

I would like to respond to the letters, "Bring in temporary housing" and "Housing Crunch: Perhaps I'm Not Alone," (Pique, Sept. 15, 2016). The first letter appears to be written by a renter and the second by a homeowner.

A quote from the first letter, "couchsurfing various flophouses was common" is an interesting description of the type of rental attitude and experience that perhaps many landlords in Whistler have encountered.

And with the BC Residential Tenancy laws being so highly skewed in favour of renters (as is mentioned in the second letter), is it possible that homeowners may have decided against renting out their places?

Although I sympathize with the responsible and considerate renters out there who are having difficulty finding suitable accommodation, I also sympathize with the homeowners who may no longer be willing to risk their hard-earned investment or deal with the stress caused by renting it out in this type of market.

Lisa Woo 

Life goes on

The current highest emergency level in France is only the last of many.

The first one was in April 1961, when generals of the French army in Algeria attempted a coup d'etat to take over the French government. General de Gaulle got wind of it and, as the constitution allowed him, had full powers until the month of September. The National Assembly and the Senate were of course suspended.

When we went out the next morning, there were military vehicles and soldiers at major intersections, as in all major towns.

From this time on there was numerous times when France was in high alert. The war in Algeria was finished (two years before I was schedule to join the army — for two years, unpaid) but there were numerous attempts on de Gaulle's life.

By the late '60s, separatists movements became common all over Europe. Added to them there were European terrorists. Canada was not spared by the way.

Let's not forget May 1968, when university students in Paris rebelled against the government and fought against the police — all of a sudden the workers joined them and soon the whole country was paralyzed.

Bombing became common. The French Basques, the French Catalans, the Corsicans, the Bretons... not to mention separatists in overseas France, all bombed stores, schools, houses, cars. One year, there were 800 bombings in Corsica, an island the size of Vancouver Island.

There were few victims, but the menace was always there. There was also a bombing in Paris Metro, at one of the best-known station, by Notre Dame Cathedral. 

I used to go to France for my yearly vacation via London, then Paris. In England, as in France, we got used to paying attention to unattended parcels... cafe terraces and seats right behind the windows were a no-no to locals... too dangerous, as all it took was guys on a motor bike machine gunning the area and disappearing.

Security staff in department stores opened bags outside the store.

In the early 1980s, my parents built a vacation home in the French Basque Region (at the time the Spanish Basque area had separatists and some took refuge on the French side). My mom was always worried, when she went to the nearby town of Bayonne, that she might be caught in a bombing while shopping. There were indeed bombing of stores... or at least Molotov cocktails that set fire to stores.

They visited me in Vancouver in 1984 and every time they entered a store they insisted that the staff look at their wide-open bags to see they had no arms, no explosives much to the puzzlement of the staff.

Life went on, as it did during the war.

Jean-Louis Brussac

Fighting together

Families Fighting Cancer In The Sea to Sky would like to give our heartfelt thanks to Whistler's downhill biking community, Whistler Blackcomb Bike Park, the GLC, Seb Fremont and the events crew.  

More than $3,157 was raised at the F-Cancer Chainless A-Line Phat Wednesday finale. 

Many thanks to the supporters for your efforts to raise funds to support families in the Sea to Sky dealing with cancer.

Lisa Geddes and Michelle Williamson

Access to Garibaldi Park should not be restricted

Few people realize that most of Whistler Blackcomb's (WB) ski area is on land transferred from Garibaldi Park. Before Whistler opened in 1966 the Garibaldi Park boundary ran east-west through the middle of the Red Chair on Whistler and one-third of the way up Solar Coaster Chair on Blackcomb.

Whistler wouldn't exist without these land transfers from the park. The B.C. mountain clubs and hikers gave qualified approval to these transfers and received an assurance from the minister that access to Garibaldi Park, Singing Pass and the Russet Lake Hut would not be compromised.

Before the Fitzsimmons slump in 1991, hikers could drive up an old logging road on the west side of Fitzsimmons Creek to a parking lot five kilometres above the village and close to the new independent power project (IPP) intake. This reduced the return-hiking trip to Singing Pass by 10 kms (and 325 metres vertical).

After the slump, WB closed the road. More recently both BC Parks and Trails BC recommended allowing vehicle access to a point close to the park boundary in order to increase park use and take pressure off other trails such as the Joffre Lakes.

The Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC, and other hiker groups, have been negotiating with WB to restore better hiking access to Garibaldi Park, but without success. WB has refused to allow public vehicles to use the old access road, or the road through the sliding centre to the IPP intake, and will not negotiate on the issue.

WB's concern about vehicle access on the west side of the Fitzsimmons valley relates to possible bike/car conflict in the bike park, but the access road passes below the bike park and only two bike trails (out of a total of 73) cross it. These crossings could easily be made safe at a modest cost.

We estimate that the safety measures (bridges or offset gates) required would cost about 0.02 per cent of the cost of the Renaissance project.

WB is reluctant to allow public access through the sliding centre because it claims that the road is too busy and steep for the public and the curves too sharp.

However, the road is not as steep, and the curves are not as sharp, as those on the Duffey Lake Road, and the gradient and the radius of its corners do not compare to many popular tourist roads in Yoho National Park, the U.S. and Europe.

The road has very little traffic in summer.

WB has raised other concerns but these are all manageable at a modest cost.

It is therefore an unexpected consequence of the Fitzsimmons slump that hiker access to Singing Pass and Garibaldi Park is now severely restricted.

The round-trip distance has increased by 10 kms so that a return trip to Russet Lake is now over 30 kms and few hikers venture beyond the lake. Hikers can access the pass using WB's gondola, but this is expensive, operating hours are limited and the gondola does not run for eight to nine weeks per year.

Meanwhile, WB advertises that "guests" who use its gondola and lifts get "privileged" access to some of BC Parks' most spectacular mountain scenery, while other park users are facing a barrier to access in the form of an additional 10 kms of uninteresting hiking.

The Spearhead Huts project increases our concern about access.

Without vehicle access to the old parking lot, or the IPP intake building, costs will increase significantly. This is a project that will benefit everybody: Whistler Blackcomb, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, BC Parks and the provincial coffers. Backcountry skiing is booming while downhill skiing hasn't grown in North America during the last 15 years. The annual benefit to WB will be up to five times greater than the one-time cost of safety measures required to restore vehicle access.

WB has done a superb job of developing skiing and biking on its tenure, and this has provided a huge financial benefit to Whistler and the whole province. But this success does not have to be at the expense of access to Garibaldi Park.

Approval of the Renaissance project should be contingent on WB resolving hiking access to Garibaldi Park, by re-establishing the vehicle access that existed before the first transfer of park lands to Whistler Mountain.

If WB is prepared to make a huge investment to increase its business in Whistler, it should be prepared to spend a tiny fraction of this on re-establishing public access to Garibaldi Park. Whistler is B.C.'s premier mountain resort and Garibaldi Park is one of the jewels of the park system.

Access from Whistler to Garibaldi Park should not be restricted in summer.

Rupert Merer

Reforming the BC Environmental Assessment Act

We are writing to convey the frustrations and discontent the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) has expressed with the government of B.C.'s delegation of its constitutional duty to consult and where necessary accommodate Indigenous Title and Rights, in respect to the authorization of major industrial projects on First Nations territories, to the BC Environmental Assessment Office through the inadequate BC Environmental Assessment Act (BCEAA).

On June 2, 2016, the UBCIC Chiefs Council presented, affirmed and endorsed by consensus UBCIC Resolution 2016-19, reforming the BC Environmental Assessment Act.

The BCEAA is currently the process that provincial ministers rely on, to enable decisions about the acceptability of major industrial projects on First Nations territories.

When first passed, the 1996 BCEAA represented a progressive attempt to facilitate an environmental assessment (EA) process largely independent of government and to provide for First Nation participation in the EA process. The EA structure included a project committee, which conducted the EA and made recommendations to the minister. It was intended to provide a substantive role to First Nations and stakeholders in the review of project proposals.

In 2002, legislative amendments to the BCEAA removed key features, including the project committee, technical rigour and meaningful First Nations participation, resulting in a faulty and completely inadequate process.

The Supreme Court of Canada clearly stated in the 2002 Haida decision that the Crown owes duty of consultation and accommodation to a First Nation when the Crown contemplates conduct that might adversely affect title or rights claimed by the First Nation. The court further set out in its 2014 decision in Tsilhqot'in Nation that allegations of infringement or failure to adequately consult can be avoided by obtaining the consent of the interested Aboriginal group.

We draw your attention to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, now fully endorsed without qualification by the Canadian Government, which states in Article 32:

(1): Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources;

(2): States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources;

(3): States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities and appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact.

Under the BCEAA, when a review of a major project is required the provincial government of British Columbia has inappropriately delegated this constitutional duty to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The consultation function being carried out by the BC Environmental Assessment Office is deeply flawed and neither serves the needs of First Nations nor meets the Crown's duty to consult and where necessary, accommodate.

The current iteration of the BC Environmental Assessment process has been found to be completely unacceptable to many BC First Nations. Indigenous knowledge is critical to the EA process, the refusal to acknowledge its critical role is continuing to lead nations such as the Tsleil Waututh Nation and the Stk'emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation to issue their own environmental assessment processes.

By Resolution 2016-19, the UBCIC Chiefs Council calls for a complete review and legislative reform of the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Act and urges the BC government to undertake such a reform using a process which represents proper consideration of indigenous title and rights, and treaty rights, including their jurisdictional, economic, social and environmental implications, the Tsilhqot'in Nation Decision; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission 94 Calls to Action; and full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs

Wheel up thanks

The Westside Wheel Upwould like to thank all of the businesses that helped sponsor the event.

They include: Whistler Blackcomb, the Four Seasons Resort and Spa, Comor,Surefoot, Southside Diner,Rim Rock,Coastal Culture, Whistler Village Sports, Evolution,Great Escape, Rolands Creekside Pub, The Red Door Bistro, Tapley's Neoighbourhood Pub, The Whistler Brewery, Fineline Bike Shop,the Fix Bicycle Products, The Husky, SMD Automtive,Summit Sport,Sabre Rentals Ltd., Ryders, Purebread Bakery, Pique Newsmagazine, Whistler Question,Toad HallStudios, Home Hardware,Nesters, The Grocery Store, Creekside Market, WORCA,and the Whistler Cycling Club.

Special thanks to all the volunteers and friends that helped out with the race.Without the help of the community this event would not happen.Thank you so much.

Phil Chew
Westside Wheel Up organizer

Benches worth keeping

This letter, sent to Whistler council and mayor, was forwarded to Pique for publication.

Early this year, we received a letter advising us that the memorial bench we dedicated to our two moms, and which is located along the nature trail along Lost Lake, would be retired in 2020.

This news came out of the blue and without any prior consultation with us. When we opted for this bench we were given the impression that this would be a lasting legacy. Upon a subsequent visit to municipal hall in May we were told that the bench could be returned to us if we so desired and that a new bench, together with a 10-year lease and a new memorial plaque, could be bought at the same location for $2,000 (perhaps more if we decided to do this at a later date).

We fully understand that there are maintenance costs associated with these benches, for which taxpayers are liable. However, these benches provide a public service as they are very well used by the public, partly due to their locations commanding spectacular views, and partly by providing secluded and desirable rest stops along much frequented trails. Therefore, a bit of public (money) spent on maintenance should not be a questionable expense!

We would also be glad to contribute to the maintenance cost of the bench we bought on an ongoing basis and we would like council to consider that very option.

We also note that this bench is in excellent shape after 10 years and retiring it in four years' time would be premature.

We sincerely hope council considers alternative options, which are both in the interest of the public as well as those who dedicated these benches to their loved ones as a lasting legacy. Your reconsideration to preservation would be a service to all its users!

Larry and Charmaine Dekker


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