Letters to the editor

Focus readers, November 2014

Sleeping with the fossils

David Broadland’s “Sleeping with the Fossils” is excellent reporting. Evidence of the comfortable relationships between government and industry are everywhere we choose to look, and you are certainly looking in the right places with the Environmental Assessment Office, a few ministries, and especially the Oil and Gas Commission. At the OGC, it sometimes looks like they’ve all been to a key party with the gas industry, and on Monday everyone looks forward to seeing who they’ll be working with that week.

Nothing unique in all of this: For business and regulators those comfortable, even intimate, relationships have become business-as-usual everywhere. At least, BAU in the minds of business and regulators, if not in the opinions of citizens. In California, the relationship between Pacific Gas & Electric Company executives and the state Public Utilities Commission is the focus of investigations by both federal prosecutors and the state’s Attorney General.

What you reported in “Sleeping” might even be cause enough for formal inquiries in California. But in BC, with the provincial government so keen to facilitate the LNG export industry, closing the door, turning out the lights, and hoping it all goes back to sleep—well, that would be BAU in BC.

Thanks to all the brilliant writers you have at Focus.

Arthur Caldicott


The only way to get off of fossil fuels is to get the fossils out of government.

Diane Engelhardt


A more moral policy

Victoria Police and, indeed, all police agencies and security personnel must realize that the person calling them—even if they are in a professional role such as those at VIHA—are not always doing so for cause but rather for convenience, an over-developed sense of superiority, or out of abject maliciousness. When our police forces and security agencies are used as instruments of harassment of innocent people, we are all truly in trouble. 

I urge everyone to refuse to be pawns in a system of subjugation. Sometimes it is the people in positions of authority or those falsely “expressing concern” who should be locked up. Sometimes the “mental health crisis” is caused by the system and, no, it is not “morally the right thing to do.” And it must be stated there is plenty of evidence that no thinking person desiring quality or even competent care would go to the Archie Courtnall Centre at Royal Jubilee Hospital. 

Marie Darkes



The current Johnson Street bridge is a bascule, from the French word for balance, and works on the principle of a bridge on one side of a pivot and a counterweight on the other side, thus requiring very little power to raise and lower.

On the other hand, the design for the proposed replacement is not a bascule. It is instead a common drawbridge, supported by two rings. Without an axle, the sheer weight of the bridge must distort the enormous toothed gears attached to the rings when the bridge is raised from the horizontal. Since gears must retain precise alignment at all times, the distortion will make it difficult for the gears to mesh precisely and reliably.

Abandoning this foolish enterprise and using the funds still owed to build a replica of the Blue Bridge would allow future generations a legacy lasting more than 100 years.

Dennis Parsons


The Sonora Stump Reports 

In the matter of logging on Sonora Island, Chair Timothy Ryan of the Forest Practices Board invites readers to check its website to see what it does.

The FPB, the “independent watchdog” of the Crown forests, is appointed by the Province. Its job is to “encourage” compliance with provincial forestry legislation and practice. In the event of conflict between government or industry and the public, the board by admission would prefer a seat at ringside. In October of this year the FPB will be heading off to the International Union of Forest Research Organizations conference in Utah. By way of paraphrase, the board’s pursuits don’t spell country club, but it’s close.

So where does this leave the public if at odds with provincial or industrial forest practice? A few reminders are at hand. Over the next few months, as piles for the new luxury yacht moorage in  Victoria harbour are being driven, one could think of the 7000 people who to no purpose signed a petition rejecting the project. Then there is the HST, and the months and millions spent in having it revoked. And remember the TFL controversy at Jordan River? The Province’s auditor took the shots on that one. A proposed housing development on the JDF lands failed, but in order to cut his costs, the developer then cut down the trees.

Maybe if FPB members were judicial appointees and had the mandate and authority to actually do something for the public good, then it would have some reason for being. 

Brian Nimeroski


An article by Briony Penn in the September issue of your magazine contained several statements regarding forest professionals, professional reliance, and the Association of BC Forest Professionals that require clarification.

First, the Association of BC Forest Professionals (ABCFP) is the regulator of the Foresters Act. The Act is a piece of provincial legislation regulating the practice of professional forestry and governing the men and women who undertake this profession throughout BC. There are 5300 forest professionals available to apply their science-based knowledge of forested ecosystems on 55 million hectares of forest land in the province.

Professional reliance is not unique to forestry. Every time you see your doctor, make use of your accountant at tax time, or drive across a bridge, you are witness to and depend on professional reliance in action. Relying on the judgement and advice of professionals, who are accountable for their livelihood through a professional regulatory process, is the way society can have the highest standard of consistent service in values that are important to the lives of its citizens as a whole.

The first step in depending on the expertise of the professional is to tell them exactly what it is that you want. What is your objective? In the circumstance described in Ms Penn’s article, the objective is set out in a government “order.” The order is reflective of the opinion and desires of the BC public in general. With an objective identified, the forest professional is best positioned to help the people of BC achieve the objective. For example, when you tell your doctor: “I want to be healthy,” he or she might prescribe a different treatment regimen than if you said “my objective is to be pain free.” The professional—whether it is a doctor or a forest professional—provides the best path for you to achieve what you want; you should not expect the professional to tell you what it is that you want.

Often the enormity and complexity of a forest management area leads to government objectives that appear contradictory or vague. This situation is why the forest company proposes a strategy to achieve the objective in a Forest Stewardship Plan and the government then has to approve it. The professional then attempts to navigate the management of the forest between the variety of interests and possibilities contained in the objective. The Forest Stewardship Plan is revisited from time to time to address more specific desires for a forest area.

As in most professions, when a professional delivers a quality of service that might fall below the publicized standard, a complaint can be lodged with the ABCFP to determine whether the professional breached his or her professional obligations. The profession also has an accountability process, outside the discipline system, where the ABCFP can review and broker concerns of practice expressed between professionals. The goal is a consistently higher standard of care.

A third way to track the quality of professional service is the practice review. The ABCFP conducts more than 75 peer and practice reviews every year that seek to delve into the practice of a forest professional.

It is unfair to expect professional reliance to determine public objectives and it is untrue to declare that forest professionals have failed to protect endangered ecosystems. Such allegations do not advance the important discussion around the sustainability of our forests.

Sharon L. Glover, Chief Executive Officer, Association of BC Forest Professionals


Do we really need Site C?

I applaud you for allowing the word “fascism” to appear in your September issue in a writer’s letter (concerning Site C). There is a view prevalent today that a monstrous system such as mid-20th century fascism in parts of Europe could never establish in our enlightened society. Mainstream media seem to view it as anathema to so much as utter the word “fascism” in any comment on modern Western governments. We should remember that some features of fascism are—and admittedly these are not all exclusive to fascism—character attacks and worse on rivals of government leaders; powerful business-government alliances; fixation on punishment for crimes; media control or simple denial of media access to government officials; dismissive attitude towards the arts; extreme displays of nationalism (waving of flags and beating of drums); and a general trend towards authoritarian rule. If it walks like fascism and it talks like fascism, then it just might be embryonic fascism.

Terry Huntington


A recipe for cooperation & camaraderie

Many of us subscribe to the notion that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” and, as Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic notes in the October edition, we structure our children’s activities instead of just letting them “hang out.” So, too, do we tend to do the same with our own pre- and post-work time, “always on the go, mowing or pruning or heading out to walk the dog.” While it’s relatively easy to see just who directs the activities of our children, are we as adults self-directing for the sake of “efficiency”—or are we reacting to some subtle societal pressure to occupy our every living moment with “productive” activity? Why are we collectively leery of just “hanging out”? What devil may be waiting to take advantage of our “idle hands”?

Richard Weatherill


Friends of reality

In response to Gene Miller’s article regarding God’s certainty and the implausibility of man-made climate change, let’s consider this: Self-indulgent and tyrannical individuals throughout history have perverted all forms of perceived authority—be it God and the “Word” or government and its “laws” or science and its “theories”—to justify and advance their own egoistic ambitions. Using God’s word to defend one’s stance on climate change isn’t a problem with religion, it’s a problem with humanity itself.

Calvin Jones


Gene Miller glibly identifies evangelicals and social conservatives together saying both “defend the rape-and-pillage side of every environmental argument.” Really? How about, “You may be sure that in spite of all the ‘God’s faithful providence’ sweet talk, evangelicals are on infidel-alert…”

I proudly state that I am an evangelical long-convinced of man’s ignorant abuse of our planet. In the early 1970s when the hole in the ozone layer was reported, I firmly believed it was caused by man and would worsen. And it has; but globally the response was barely more than a squeak. And Mr Miller might be surprised that I know other like-minded evangelical non-deniers of man’s culpability.

I think Mr Miller has a knee-jerk reaction when he sees or hears the word “Alliance” with a capital “A.” Certainly he would know that an Alliance can be good or bad and I heartily agree that the Cornwall Alliance is seriously warped. But he leaps from there to denigrate the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, writing that it “believes that the free market is divinely inspired and non-believers are ‘lost.’” This is tantamount to slander. That church—and I would venture to say evangelical churches in general—has a totally unrelated focus. If Mr Miller were to read the church’s creed—or, less likely—scripture itself, he would be enlightened to find man’s respectful stewardship regarding our Earth. True stewards care about the environment and do not shy away from scientific studies. By the way, it is unfair to blame any church for Mr Harper’s views or tactics.

Mr Miller not only holds a mean-spirited bias towards God/church/ Christians. I am hugely offended that he links Islamic extremism with Christianity, first as an allusion to infidels and later as the sweet talking evangelicals mentioned above on infidel alert, “and their scimitar fingers are twitching.” Shameful. It’s like comparing a barn fire with the Holocaust.

G. M. Jackson


Gene Miller responds:

G.M. Jackson, in a cogent and vigourous response to my column “Friends of Reality” takes offense at my “knee-jerk” reaction to “Alliances” and other organizations that blend religion and conservative politics. Well, I am a jerk, but I’m also a fairly careful writer and reader.  Jackson writes: “But [Miller] leaps from there to denigrate the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, writing that it ‘believes that the free market is divinely inspired and non-believers are ‘lost.’ This is tantamount to slander.”

I simply invite Jackson to re-read the column and to acknowledge that those are not my words, but those of Andrew Nikiforuk, a writer for The Tyee, which I quote. 

But on all other counts enumerated in Jackson’s terrific letter, I plead guilty.


We need a sociopath meter at election time

I think the time has come to have a serious, frank, and open discussion about mental illness.  

I don’t mean bipolar, schizophrenia, or depression; I mean the ruthless drive for personal power and wealth without a moment’s reflection or twinge of guilt in that pursuit. The kind of drive where one’s mantra is: she/he who dies with the most stuff wins.  

It’s clear to me our premier, her cabinet ministers, and the BC Liberals, and our prime minister, his cabinet ministers, and the Tories, among others elected to public office across our country, don’t care whom or what they harm or destroy in their insatiable quest for power, wealth, and the percs that go with them.

They may feel, like Harper, their membership in the “Christian and Missionary Alliance” justifies their actions, but in the end, they are just greedy s.o.b.’s like the rest.  

Part of the insanity is that, as they destroy all that is good, as they pollute, wipe out, diminish, and erode public education, health care, transportation (i.e., BC Ferries), infrastructures, farm land, water and air, forests, and everyone and everything who lives in our piece of the planet, they, too, will suffer; but their overwhelming addiction to power and wealth means they don’t give a shit. They haven’t given a shit for a very long time, but not so long they remember just enough during election time to say the things (and appear sincere) that will get people to vote for them. By the time our severely-eroded quality of life equals that of the First Nations, it will probably be too late.

Knowing where candidates purport to stand on all of the issues is no longer helpful if their statements don’t actually reflect what they intend to do regarding legislation, laws, and policies. We need a sociopath and psychopath meter to measure these candidates, sort of like a lie detector test.  

If a candidate, for example, declares herself a defender of public education but her child attends an exclusive, expensive private school, that should be an automatic red flag. 

If the mayor of the provincial capital is elected to solve homelessness and increase affordable housing for the working poor, but instead spends tens of millions of taxpayers’ money unnecessarily replacing a bridge, the question we need to ask is: So when are you expecting this new bridge to be named for you—while in office, or after you’ve left?

“Spot the Loonie” was a Monty Python sketch, and like that loonie, people in the US like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Kissinger, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, et al., are easy to pick out amongst normal folks. In Canada, we need to learn to distinguish between politicians who really do have our best interests at heart and those who only care about themselves.

As various elections come up over the next weeks and months, I hope we will think carefully about for whom we choose to cast our votes. Increasingly, everything we hold dear depends on our making wise choices.

Helene Harrison


Open letter on Grace Islet

Dear Premier Clark,

At your recent meeting with First Nations Chiefs following the Tsilhqot’in decision, you stated: “The Supreme Court of Canada has said aboriginal title exists in this country, and in my government we embrace that decision…We see title as creating opportunities to make joint decisions, in true partnership.” Yet, when it comes to putting this language into practice at the ministry level, such as by initiating dialogue and fulfilling Crown duties to consult with First Nations chiefs with respect to important land use issues, your government truly fails.

In my view, the most important declaration of the Tsilhqot’in decision is that: “British Columbia breached its duty to consult.” There are many examples in this province where this has occurred, on issues which vary in scale from small to large. One such issue is Grace Islet, which while small in land area, has massive cultural implications where the failure of your government to consult has resulted in continued trampling of First Nations rights and the desecration of a very important sacred site. 

Freedom of Information documentation of this issue is replete with examples wherein your government could and should have cancelled permits due to outright breaches, or stopped this entire process via a stop work order. However, your government has repeatedly failed to implement any solutions to ensure that the provisions of the Heritage Conservation Act are truly met—not simply on paper. The documentation provided for Grace Islet is full of discrepancies. While there is ample recognition in the briefing documents that this is a First Nations cemetery, and while it is clear that you have a duty as such to protect it under the Heritage Act —you have absolutely and utterly failed to do so. One need only visit the site to see the desecration.

You need to consult First Nations, and you need to listen to them, and fully examine the facts. Chiefs have asked for the work to be stopped in order to facilitate the dialogue and the required consultation. The Crown has a duty to provide this consultation, yet has not done so. Worse, I understand that the minister responsible directly promised Chiefs—in person—that a stop work order would be in place weeks ago, yet again nothing was done. This shows a shameful disregard of both First Nations rights and the duties of the Crown.

In court earlier, Justice Thompson seemed to recognize that larger issues of Douglas Treaty rights and aboriginal rights were at play in the Grace Islet issue. He also seemed to recognize that the province should be party to the case at hand. Certainly the balance of rights seems to lean towards First Nations being able to be heard, and to have their treaties, their rights, and their cemetery respected. This requires that the work be stopped at Grace Islet. 

It is not right for First Nations to have to repeatedly fight your government on this same issue with each new sacred site that is desecrated, simply because your government fails in its lack of implementation or management schemes to adequately fulfill its duties to consult and to protect these places as you are required to, by law.

I ask that you ensure that a stop work order is issued immediately for Grace Islet and enforced. I request that you initiate full dialogue with First Nations Chiefs who have repeatedly contacted you and the ministry with respect to this issue, and that you resolve this issue to their satisfaction.

Lori Waters