Letters to the editor, March 2014

Focus readers, March 2014

Christy Clark’s terrifying math

I want to thank David Broadland for clarifying “Christy Clark’s terrifying math.” As David says “Twenty-odd years doesn’t leave much time to reshape the world economy to run on low- or no-carbon energy.” To stay within the range of a 66 percent chance of keeping temperature rise to 2?C we need the leadership of the Premier in promoting alternate forms of energy, not an active encouragement of the exploration and development of traditional fossil fuels and the global warming that form of industry brings. 

Bob Peart, Executive Director, Sierra Club BC


I was most impressed with your February issue, with no fewer than three major articles sounding the alarm about pipelines, global warming, the power of the oil and gas industry and the head-in-the-sand reaction of leaders like Christy Clark and Stephen Harper.

Sneaky, money-grubbing actions by the oil and auto industries is nothing new. In 1938, Victoria realtor John Dean—who gave us the wonderful northern Saanich peninsula park—wrote to the Victoria Times: “To scrap tracks, poles, wires and other necessary existing equipment [of Victoria's big tram system] would be a shocking economic waste.” 

He was right, of course. We listened instead to a junky report by the Ford Motor Company, which said, with no supporting facts, that buses would prove more popular.

In Vancouver, BC Electric commissioned a study by former General Motors engineer Marmion Mills. It said naturally, that we should continue ripping out electric railway lines. Mills also oversaw the destruction of Seattle’s tram lines, even though an independent study by the Beeler Organization, a respected New York engineering firm, found that most of the Puget Sound city’s streetcar lines were profitable, while most of the bus routes lost money. 

Louis Guilbault


Food instead of pipelines, please

The Associated Press calls it California’s most crippling drought in modern times. In other words, get ready British Columbia, climate change is about to hit us with food shortages and higher prices. But it’s not going to be a one off. California has been running short of water for years and it’s going to get worse as will their extreme weather events.

As BC’s climate warms and California struggles, let’s take advantage!

Instead of more oil, gas and coal, let’s turn BC into one of the world’s great food producing regions. From Fort St John to Midway, we already do soup to nuts. Let’s do more! And not just fruits and veggies. More cheeses, game, pickles, legumes, hay, wine, fish, and even seedlings. Small operations. Value added. Certified local, organic and sustainable.

Instead of wasting water on fracking and mining, let’s use it for irrigation, canals and transportation. Instead of wasting our substantial made-in BC green hydro on LNG plants, let’s power up our farms, green houses, farm equipment and trains with electricity. Let’s take the $9 billion from Site C and put it into food production infrastructure, training and incentives.

There will always be a demand for food. Not so with fossil fuels. So let’s choose fertile fields, pristine waterways, old growth forests, birds and bees instead of tailings ponds, oil spills, toxic waste dumps, tanker accidents and endangered species.

We have an abundance of everything required to make it work. Now we need the leadership and the will.

Dave Secco


Many thanks to Focus and Rob Wipond for the article on the militarization of local police. It stands as a fundamental issue in a democratic society. History has shown us what types of regimes utilize such forces. Indeed, one has seen examples of this in the not too distant past with the G20 in Toronto. The US police are now becoming so militarized that at times they are indistinguishable from the army, and Canada, through bilateral agreements with the US is now joined-at-the-hip with our neighbour’s police, military, and security services. If you listen carefully to the reasons for this you will discover that it is for “domestic terrorists”—that is anyone who opposes the government or corporate policies. Those boys-in-blue' peace officers have metamorphosed into black-clad storm trooper-type law enforcement officers over the years. We need to be ever vigilant about policies and procedures that apply to the police and their relationship with the public in a “free” society.

R.D. Wraggett


Arts alive & well in schools

How could H.U.P. Edwards have got it so wrong about public education and the arts (Letter, February 2014)? Possibly by not ever checking a public school website for school arts events and attending a few of those events? Possibly by not ever going in to a public school and seeing the outstanding student-produced visual art on the walls of schools.

Students do not graduate from high school art classes never having heard of Rembrandt, and have hands-on opportunities to study important compositions in depth.

December school concerts showcase accomplishments in music, and the productions I’ve attended in School District 61 Greater Victoria schools have been outstanding, a demonstration of the level of dedication from music specialists in our public schools and of the focus and talent of students. High school drama teachers and students produce outstanding results. The Esquimalt High School annual event “Music at the Dockyard” event showcases music, drama and culinary arts. Public school arts events are open to the public; I invite anyone who wonders about the status of the arts in public school to attend.

If you’re wondering where school choirs went, 250 singers came together from four School District 61 secondary schools—Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Mount Doug, and Reynolds—and from Belmont in SD62. Alix Goolden Hall was packed.

Victorious Voices produces Victoria’s city-wide high school spoken word poetry slam. If you’ve never been to a slam, you will be struck by the passion and talent of these high school spoken word poets. [See pages 24-25 for more on this art form.]

I encourage everyone, whether you have children or grandchildren in school or not, to attend arts events in schools in your school district. No need to wonder where the arts in public education went: They’re alive and well in a school near you.

Diane McNally


Future, please. Hold the chaos

Gene Miller’s article is so so funny—in a Kafkaesque way. He made my day with the Cosmic singularity analogy. This should be turned into a play for a local venue possibly the Belfry; cast of characters as the usual political suspects—could be hilarious!

Richard Cane


How can I thank you enough? It’s my habit to read Focus cover to cover—I applaud its continuing excellence, but this February edition consumed me.Kudos to David Broadland, Briony Penn, Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, and Katherine Palmer Gordon. And I’m addicted to the mind of Gene Miller. Thank you for supplying my monthly fix.

Valerie Sullivan


Moving beyond multiculturalism

It was quite surprising to find one of Focus’s columnists espousing a racist understanding of humanity. Chris Creighton-Kelly writes: “Yes, we are a multiracial society but our arts system is primarily uni-cultural” (Feb 2014). Canada is officially a “multicultural” society, not a “multiracial society.” To equate race with culture as he does goes beyond the long discredited 19th century anthropological racial theory which served as the ideological basis for the Euro-American Christian missionary-colonialist enterprise.

Since racial theory posited but four races, then by his logic there are but four cultures among the entirety of humanity, an utterly absurd understanding. The number of cultures is vast and even macrocultures break down into many subcultures. In Victoria alone, there are different Chinese linguistic-cultural entities. Contemporary genetic research demonstrates that all humans are to varying degrees mongrels, that there is no such division as a small number of distinct races.

Racism means identifying cultural traits and human worth by physical appearance, particularly skin colour. But none of the so-called racial colours exists among normal human beings. I have lived on and off in East Asia for years, but I have never seen a yellow person. Such hue only appears among those with serious liver ailments. Similarly, I have spent much time among First Nations people in the Great Lakes area, but I have never seen a red person…Finally, why are sub-Saharan Africans called black when they are obviously varying degrees of brown? Black is a pejorative term in the English language. Black denotes evil and sub-human beings…It had nothing to do with skin colour. So called “white people” call themselves “white” not because they are albinos but because white in Western culture symbolizes purity and goodness, the opposite of evil blackness. Recent genetic theories turns these racist values on it head, for light skin colour may indicate a greater proportion of Neanderthal genes.

To take the cultural focus of the article, there is no aboriginal/ First Nations race. Indeed, there is no single culture. The indigenous peoples of the Americas before contact were more culturally and linguistically diverse than in any other part of the globe. If Creighton-Kelly desires to see a non-ethnocentric funding of the arts in Canada, perhaps he should first look to his own use of racist terminology, even though he appears opposed to racism, when writing on the topic.

Jordan Paper

Professor Emeritus, York University


Chris Creighton-Kelly responds: Just to be clear.  Of course, I did not equate race with culture.  Why would I?  Of course, I did not suggest that there are only four cultures in the world!  Why would I?  And of course, I did not use “racist terminology.”

Despite his condescending sophistry, Professor Paper does shine some light on anthropological racial theories that have been the backbone of the colonialist project of the last 500 years.  Yes, professor, most Focus readers already know that “race” is a social and political construct with no real genetic basis.  But merely pointing that out does not wave a magic wand that somehow causes contemporary racism to vanish.

The legacy of those racial theories is still with us.  Post-colonial scholars, anti-racist activists and now, even human rights bureaucracies elaborate how people continue to be racialized by the powers that be. And it is not “racist” to point this out.

I will write about this complex process of racialization in next month’s (April) column.


Sewage issue

The problem with the sewage business is that the politicians appear to have no understanding of nature; as though they were all good at English and social studies but no good at maths, physics, chemistry or biology. 

The sea has been eroding whole mountain ranges over 3 billion years making man’s mining efforts look puny and is filled with toxic heavy metals by the millions of tons but in tiny concentrations. To have an idea of it’s volume think of the air space in which we live; say a height of 30 feet above the earth’s whole land mass. Only high flying birds and the top of tall trees are beyond that. The volume of the sea is one thousand times greater. It is filled with sea mammals, fish, vegetable material and is all subject to nature’s magical recycling system. All dead fish and sea mammals descend to the seabed where they putrefy.

Mankind’s discharges are the same except in two regards. Firstly a sewer piping system will concentrate all the waste in one place; secondly the sewage may contain pathogenic organisms. In a long outfall system the waste pours to the surface (200 feet in our case) entraining sea water as it does. By the time it is spreading the suspended solids and biochemical oxygen demand had been reduced 200 fold initially compared with ten fold in a secondary treatment plant. So since their installation we have had a far better treatment system than a secondary plant would have provided and it is still far better. If the outfalls ever proved inadequate then lengthen or double up on them. Pathogen control has been perfect which is harder to achieve with a land based plant.

The CRD take no regard to the blatantly obvious fact that the discharge to the Strait form our side is overwhelmingly negligible compared with that coming from the other side, the industrial/residential complexes starting at New Westminster and on to Vancouver and Everton and Seattle. Relatively our waste does not matter a fleabite and that is obvious. I checked years ago and found the toxicity of the waste coming OUT OF the Annacis Island treatment plant is greater than our discharge and that is only a fraction of the whole.

Those who believe the evidence does not support building a land based plant have included a past Director of our own Oceanographic Centre at Pat Bay, every medical health officer since the discharges were first monitored and every scientist involved in the monitoring program at the University. Organizations who have studied the issue and deduced long outfalls can protect the environment better than land based plants include a British Royal Commission and an enquiry on behalf of the US Congress headed by the chief scientist of the Scripps Oceanographic Centre. 

I view the diversion of the massive sum of money needed as a contemptible environmental crime. 

Ted Dew-Jones, P.Eng.