November 2012 edition

Will a flu shot keep you healthy?

Thank you for including this informative article. The general public is extremely vulnerable with regard to pharmaceuticals, and well-researched, unbiased information such as this is critical to making good personal choices for health. 

Candis Elliot


Thanks to you and Alan Cassels for the gift of “Will a Flu Shot Keep You Healthy?” As a health worker who has been aware of this issue, but not knowing where to start in effectively dealing with it, this article got me motivated to send an email to representatives of all four healthcare worker unions in BC voicing my concern that there does not seem to be any response by the unions to BC Chief Medical Officer Dr Perry Kendall’s mandate that all healthcare workers in BC be required to get a flu vaccine or else wear a mask during the “flu season.” This is a violation of our basic human right to decide what we are putting into our bodies. I forwarded Alan Cassels’ article, noting that one of the doctors with the independent Cochrane Collaboration was quoted as saying “there is no reliable evidence that inactivated influenza vaccines affect either person-to-person spread of influenza or complications such as death or pneumonia…and [this] relates both to healthcare workers, community-dwellers and people in institutions.” A more effective, less costly and more respectful policy might be to encourage health workers (and the public in general) to stay at home if they have a flu (or a cold or an influenza-like illness, which comprise most of the “flus” we encounter in the flu season). 

It is of vital importance in these days of increasing “mandates” regarding lived life, that we take a strong stand to protect human rights. If we stand by and allow ourselves to be mandated to get a flu vaccine, it will open the door for ever more mandates to be imposed upon us (and upon other places in the world that are watching BC’s reaction to this), often for reasons that are solely tied to profit-making endeavours by multinational corporations.

Jo Phillips


Victoria City Hall’s dark secret

Three cheers for our stalwart Victoria City council who have confronted that tyranny of democracy and crushed it. Information is knowledge, and knowledge is power, and no scummy little arts magazine is going to get anything from our noble Open Government.

City council has rallied to the call of their masters in City staff and denied this uppity Focus magazine information which could reveal the lies and deceits carried out in the Pandora bunker. Goebbels and Harper would be proud of them.

Focus has already revealed too much about the secrecy of City Hall and they shall not get more. Fortunately, with rare exceptions, the propaganda machine is onside. Oh, sure Victoria News has pried some information from the bowels, but the new regime will soon plug that. And CBC has had the audacity to ask questions about why City council wants to stifle Focus. They are just not team players like the Daily Cut & Paste, which would never rock the boat…

In a brilliant twist, the sheep of council not only squelched access to information for Focus, but to sing the praises of its open government, has agreed to hire even more staff to peruse what items shall be kept secret. Next year, when rubber-stamping the 20 percent budget increase, some might ask why, and staff will tell council it was on council’s orders that the extra dozen staff members were hired to read through documents that used to be public information. A $600-a-day spin doctor and her five minions cannot handle this onerous workload on her own. Some will remember the days of yore when councils were elected and paid to handle City business and listen to the electorate. Why bother, when you can slip off to China on the public dime with your chums?

In Quebec, when there is a worry of corruption in some construction project, they call a judicial inquiry. In Victoria, on the biggest project in its history, they invoke Omertà with the mantra deny, deny, deny…

For Victoria’s next 150 years may the City council motto be: Fiat justitia etsi coelum ruat (Let justice be done, though the heavens fall).

Because there is just one question: What are they trying to hide?

Patrick Murphy


I am in total opposition to City Hall’s action regarding the freezing of Freedom of Information requests for Focus…I’m stunned they would try and pull this kind thing. They must be very frightened and feel very cornered.

Thank you for all your hard work and diligence in the face of City Hall’s bullying and intimidation.

John Eccles


Editor’s note: The City withdrew its application to restrict Focus’ FOIs on October 9.


Are police chiefs evading the law?

Thanks to Rob Wipond and Focus for the in-depth article on policing in the province and particularly Victoria. I applaud you for opening up Pandora’s box. The “business” of policing and jails is quite frightening. Certainly I do not believe it is for the safety of community. If we can learn anything from the penal system in the United States, it is that it does not work, and it seems we lean more and more in that direction.

Is it not time for prevention through supporting families and communities to work and heal together? National Restorative Justice week is November 18-25, with the annual Restorative Justice Symposium at William Head Institution on November 24. This year it will focus on how restorative justice helps to heal victims and offenders, extended family and community. As a member of the Restorative Justice Coalition for many years, I can attest to the healing qualities of this model. It certainly has enlarged my horizons and opened my heart.

Joanna Wilkinson


I wanted to offer my congratulations to Ron Wipond. His is one of the first articles I go to—and I am never disappointed. Wish there were more like you! Many thanks. 

Maryrose Mikhalles


The monster’s ball

I do enjoy reading Gene Miller’s columns through the years, ranging from outright gibberish to thoughtful comments and ideas for our urban future. It would seem that perhaps 50 percent of all Greater Victoria’s employment is in public sector government which tends to support government-based, small-L liberal spending policies. Gene’s perspectives do vary from wanting all downtown property owners to put monies into a liberal collectivized fund to spruce up the city, to conservatively castigating LRT proponents by simply saying there are not enough folks living here to afford the capital cost and maintenance of LRT. 

But Gene’s continuing raging, vacuous, vicious ad hominem arguments against American Republicans and Canadian Conservatives are really quite silly. Perhaps they play well here. We get it Gene: Liberals want bigger government to help everyone and Conservatives want smaller government and more individual responsibility, which of course only helps the rich? The truth (“Lying Bastard”) remains in the middle. Neither side is always right or wrong. Perhaps you might want to reread Barack Obama’s second chapter about values in his book The Audacity of Hope. And please do read Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist, which explores how prosperity evolves. Whether Liberal or Conservative, Left or Right, history shows prosperity is not derived from government. It is not a top-down process but millions— no billions—of people working, creating, and trading in their individual lives that is the wellspring of prosperity. Calling people names for political views you don’t agree with is preposterous.

Patrick Skillings


BC battles Northern Gateway

At the Union of BC Municipalities convention held in Victoria on September 27, Resolution A8 was passed by a slim majority of 51.3 to 48.7 percent. This resolution was sponsored and brought to the convention floor on a motion previously passed by Saanich Council that would oppose projects that would lead to the expansion of oil tanker traffic through BC’s coastal waters.

Earlier this year, at the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities convention in Ucluelet, I spoke to mayors, councillors and First Nation representatives of many coastal communities, and came away convinced that a major oil spill would be catastrophic for those communities in economic, social, cultural and environmental ways. I believe that we would never be able to successfully clean up a major spill of crude oil. 

In speaking to delegates after the UBCM vote, it became clear that many inland communities in BC voted against the resolution because it did not affect them as much as coastal communities, and because many of those communities would gain financially from a pipeline through their communities.

Of course, future decisions will be made by the provincial and federal governments, but a statement has been made from this body of elected representatives in a democratic vote that, having passed by a small majority, shows how contentious this issue is going to be.

Paul Gerrard


Exporting opportunity

I want to commend Katherine Palmer Gordon on her very well-researched article [September 2012] about the log export dilemma in BC. There were a few minor technical errors, but they do not impact the strength of the argument that this is a world economic reality and BC only plays a small part on a very large stage. Well done!

John Cook

What is all this out-of-control logging really doing to us/for us, besides killing the lungs of the Earth? (Never mind all this hell-bent exporting.) I am turning this letter over to what I can describe only as painful wisdom. It is a Cree saying. We must incorporate it into our consciousness. Our survival depends on it:

Only when the last tree has died

and the last river has been poisoned

and the last fish has been caught

will we realize that we cannot eat money.

Jana Kalina



In the context of the Vic West high-rise development (Promontory) described in your September edition, I’ve been thinking about what elements make for an experience of community. My home is part of a fairly dense collection of single-family houses, established in the last century. The community I and my neighbours enjoy stems from our horizontal proximity to each other from the front porch, down the street, or over the fence, all made possible, as Norm Hotson points out, via the lifeblood of the neighbourhood: the public realm or streetscape. As a result of these horizontal relationships, various modes of personal connection can take place in a neighbourhood such as mine—but are not facilitated by the condo form as we know it. 

Vertical community doesn’t work. Whether four or 20 storeys, the means of access is the same. Hotson’s lifeblood ends at the keyed entry. From there on, it is strangers in the elevator and impersonal corridors—definitely private but not the public realm, or community as I experience it.

Roger Smeeth


A new supporting subscriber

That’s me running (well, shuffling is more like it) down Quadra to get my Focus outside London Drugs every month. Don’t know what I would do without it.

But, the best things in life can not be free.

Save yourself the mailing costs; I’ll continue to shuffle, but here’s my $100 contribution.  

 Hennie Stibbe