Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor for the week of June 25th

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Sharing the road; all of it!

I'm not the first to comment on the May 31 tragic accident that claimed the lives of three people; two of them prominent individuals in the Whistler road-biking community.

The facts of the accident have yet to be confirmed, but no matter how it was caused, or whose at fault it was, it is safe to say the dialogue it is creating about the safety of the sport is extremely important for motorists and cyclists alike.

The attention everyone is giving to road bike safety and infrastructure is largely irrelevant as far as this particular accident is concerned — but still extremely important as the sport gains popularity.

This sad and unnecessary accident has generated much needed conversation about the issues regarding road use between motorists and bikers. ("Maxed Out, " Pique, June 11 does a better job at exploring the impaired driving aspect than I ever could)

It is apparent to many of us in the area that road biking is becoming increasingly popular on our roads. And that means it is time to make road sharing and safety awareness a much larger issue — definitely for motorists, but more importantly for bikers.

Roadways are designed for cars and trucks; if I want to drive my vehicle on a public roadway I need to make sure my driver's license is valid and that my vehicle is insured. I also need to make sure my signals and brake lights are working properly. Driving contrary to these conditions is illegal.

How is it that bikers who have no license, no training, no insurance, and very often no lights claim they are "sharing" the road with motorists?

If bikers want to share the road they need to share all of it, not just the parts that appeal to them; that includes the responsibilities, accountability and costs.

The other aspect of the road biking debate is the part that really gets under my skin — this is the biker-awareness and accountability aspect.

I have seen countless individuals as well as groups of road bikers doing irresponsible and illegal things on our public roads.

Just yesterday on my way from Whistler to Pemberton I came across two bikers in the middle of the northbound lane with three vehicles behind them at the bottom of Rubble Hill. In the middle of the lane!

Where is their license plate? Where is their insurance that will cover them if they lose control and get run over? Where is their training that tells them that the white line goes on their left?

This drives myself and many other motorists crazy. I've seen bikers disregard red lights and stop signs. I've had a group of bikers swarm and try and get in front of me in the eternity that it took me to come to a complete and legal stop at a stop sign. I've had road bikers "draft" behind my truck to get a little aerodynamic help. I've had to swerve into the oncoming lane because an unstable or inexperienced biker got the speed wobbles and crossed into my side of the white line.

I could go on; but I digress. Road bikers need to be educated, licensed, tested and insured just like every other road user.

It is time now to impose regulations on road bikers who are "sharing" our roadway infrastructure at an ever-increasing rate before there is another major accident that claims more lives.

Drew Foyston
Whistler

Zero tolerance for grit

For road cyclists in the Sea to Sky corridor, dangers are ever present and one that I'd like to flag here is far greater than it may appear: grit.

I define grit as the mix of gravel, rock and sand as well as the runaway nail, bolt, tie down, chunk of bark or shredded tire that accumulates on the shoulder of the highway. 

This year it seems to me that there is far more grit than usual on Highway 99 — from Squamish to Whistler through Pemberton. It's particularly bad where roads intersect with the highway, across bridges and adjacent to concrete safety barriers. 

Grit significantly reduces my margin of safety because I have to continually dodge it, and that often means I must be far closer to traffic than I prefer. 

As a driver, I give as much space as I can to cyclists. As a cyclist, my objective is to be as far away from vehicles as I can.

I'd like to acknowledge Capilano Highway Services for all the work they do on Highway 99. Maintenance work is a thankless task and overall they do a great job.

However, I'd like to encourage a target of zero-tolerance for grit. And I'd like to see our politicians, both local and provincial, set a higher standard which would include more sweeping and more frequent sweeping of the shoulders, especially through summer.

The continuing success of events like RBC GranFondo and Ironman, which directly inject millions of dollars into the corridor, and the province's coffers, require continuing positive experiences on our roads.

Tim Moore
Squamish

Column off the mark

Death sucks! Preventable deaths, whether on distant battlefields or local highways, like poverty, are sucking, heartbreaking tragedies.

So when I read, "My heart is broken...," the title of Max's column two weeks ago, I thought we were going to have another meeting of our minds.

Sadly the meeting didn't last long. Except for his writing, "My heart is broken for Kelly's and Ross' families, their wives, their children, their relatives, close friends..." halfway through his column, Max reminded me of Max Payne who, at the end of his movie, walked through the pharmaceutical company he held responsible for his wife's death blasting away with his shotgun at anyone that moved including finally the person who actually killed his wife.

One of Max's shots hit me. He said, "But drinking is just part of what we do..."

It's not part of what I do and though I may have to look outside the "binge-drinking capital of B.C." to find another thinking person, I know I am not alone.

Alcohol destroys at least brain and liver cells. Not saying it matters, but to the extent those who drink do, they self-destruct and help cause the self-destruction of humanity if not actually destroy individual lives.

Another shot hit the people in the accused driver's town, "They're all complicit." Then Max shot at the Crown prosecutor, a government representative, for not declaring the driver a "dangerous offender."

Why he stopped shooting at others I'm not sure because he should have kept shooting until he hit the person in the mirror, for everyone who believes "drinking is just part of what we do..." is complicit in the destruction caused by alcohol. Perhaps his vision was impaired.

The shot that hit both "drunks and pedophiles" was reckless.

I don't know about pedophilia but alcoholism isn't "hard-wired." Alcoholism can be caused by a genetic defect that prevents the production of GLA, an essential fatty acid.

However, since virtually all GLA is produced from other essential fatty acids like DHA derived from the food we eat, alcoholism can be caused simply by dietary deficiency. Either way it can be cured with desire, equity, GLA supplementation and prevented of course by universal abstinence.  

As for why we don't treat drunks and pedophiles in the same way, Max answered his own question. We don't plaster the "faces (of drunks) all over any neighbourhood they move into" because "...drunks harm, main, kill many more (people) every year than pedophiles touch."

So where will we find the space to put all the posters? Besides, by his own admission next time Max is too drunk to drive he'll "...make the decision to call a cab," we hope.

Consequently, he and the majority of locals who believe "drinking is just part of what we do..." could be on a poster; and that's not going to happen.

If only in his penultimate paragraph Max had written, "I'll think of (Kelly and Ross) every time I'm heading out for an evening I know will involve drinking," and honour their memory by abstaining, I'd have the company of one more thinking person.

Doug Barr
Whistler

paddling to success

I have just returned from another exciting weekend of racing at the Dragonboat Festival in Vancouver. For the first time in a bunch of years, the Laoyam Eagles did not place first in their category. This was, as many people in the Sea to Sky Corridor can appreciate, gut wrenching for them.

I am guessing the #1 reason it was so devastating was because they felt they had let people down — from themselves and their support team to their whole community. They did not. They made everyone extremely proud. As did their colleagues on the Laoyam Falcons and Laoyam Ospreys.

There are a few things I consider worth mentioning in this regard.

One of the main reasons for pride in these young people is that they did their best, they tried their hardest and, over the course of the weekend, consistently posted times that would make adult teams weep with joy. In their final race, in tougher, windy conditions, both they and the winning team posted their fastest race times of the weekend. If that’s not trying your hardest, what is?

And my other big reason for delight may seem odd, but it is, in fact, their feelings of disappointment. What, to them, feels negative is, in my eyes, an important positive. It is a tangible indication of the esteem in which they hold the Pemberton community and how much they wanted to bring home the gold again... for others as much as themselves. Appreciation of your home and what others do for you is “A Good Thing.”

They are not the first to “fail.” The first couple of years, the emergent team thought it was a triumph to make the Junior B Championships. The teams who went, as representatives for Canada, to the World Dragonboat Championships in Philadelphia and Poland longed, absolutely longed to, please, please, please... just beat the Germans. They did... once... and not in a final. But that result sheet came back to Canada, let me tell you along with their silver and bronze medals.

The Laoyam Eagles have become the “Germans” of the DB Festival. In their first couple of years, the outstanding team... the team they really wanted to beat, the team that stood out from the crowd, was the Eternal Dragons from Eric Hamber. They had history. They had experience. They had skill. Then... the Eagles won and just didn’t stop winning. And Eric Hamber, and no doubt many others — I only guess here — just longed, please, please, please, to beat the Eagles. In the last two years, to their “eternal” credit... the Eternal Dragons have really stepped up their game. They combined with the famous False Creek Canoe Club and have been training, from what was overheard, really hard. They deserved the win this year — they have waited for sixteen years to taste again the salty sweetness of the gold.

The “little team that could” grew from a germ of an idea planted when, in the late ‘90s, Whistler Secondary opened and Pemberton suffered a bit of an identity crisis. Whistler was the obvious place for the successful ski program, Whistler had better community facilities... etc., etc. But Pemberton, it transpired, had a new doctor in town. A doctor who was an Olympic gold and bronze medallist in kayak — Dr. Hugh Fisher.

The idea was to create a team unique to Pemberton — a sport not common to either of the other high schools in the corridor. The doctor was approached with a request to teach the kids to “row” to which he responded: “I think I know just the thing... it is called a dragonboat.” And so, with canoes from the Outdoor School, borrowed paddles and lifejackets, the team was born. Paddlers from Pemberton Secondary and Xit’olacw were dragged kicking and screaming into the boats to try something new and, for the first couple of years, teams were cobbled together with “spares” from youth teams in Vancouver. But... they persevered and the team grew.

Then... in 1999, the team, a full contingent, won for the first time. The rest is, indeed, history.

Now racing for Pemberton at the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival are three junior teams, one adult mixed, one women’s and one men’s teams. Pemberton has a Canoe Club and a boat house filled with kayaks, canoes, outriggers and... their own dragonboat. Let me say again — three teams from Pemberton spanning Grade 7 to Grade 12. In case you don’t know... this involves about seventy youth.

Members of the junior teams have represented the province and the country in dragonboat, kayak, outrigger and canoe. They have raced in adult categories. They double up and paddle in the Pemberton adult boats. The community, almost single handedly, raised enough money to send the whole team, twice, to World Championships. A local teacher does an outstanding and tireless job of managing the teams and supports the students in every form of paddling. Alumni run summer training camps. Alumni help coach. Parents are always there. And so is Hugh Fisher. Others have co-coached or stepped in when he’s been absent, but he’s underpinned the organization for nearly 20 years.

This year, as a birthday (it’s a big one) surprise, a call was put out to alumni to form a “reunion” team for the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival. There are more than 200 student alumni — yes 200.

As a result, this past weekend, “kids,” (some now in their 30s) returned from as far away as Whitehorse, Nelson, Trail and Kamloops to create a team, The Lame Old Seagulls, to honour Hugh. They surprised him with a paddle arch as he came off the water in his first race of the day. They surprised themselves by winning the Competitive B Division. Some paddlers had not been in a boat for 14 years, many had not actually paddled with each other before — yet to see them out there, you’d think they might have actually practiced before taking to the water... ah... no! But having all learned their technique from day one from a remarkable coach, they could just... do it!

And an important note? They had so much fun. SO. Much. Fun. They had all struggled, when on that “infamous” team, with the burden of obligation to do well, to win, on behalf of all those standing behind them. Every athlete does. They’ve shared a lot of emotions. They did a lot of growing up on that team. This weekend, they were full of the joy of being together and back out racing. And they were right there, full of understanding, for the Eagles as they came off the water.

These Pemberton crews have inspired others from San Francisco to Vancouver. They have inspired themselves to a larger life. They have inspired the Eternal Dragons!

A spell has been broken. And, as we all know from fairy tales, good things come from broken spells. Racing isn’t just about winning. We’re always saying that, but it is true. It’s about so many things — inclusion, challenge, camaraderie, learning to be humble in success, wearing loss with dignity and, hopefully, enjoying a whole lot of fun times. And yes... being grateful to the people standing behind you.

Thank you, all of you. It was great weekend of racing and we, the spectators and supporters, had a terrific time. And thank you, Laoyam Eagles 2015, for taking the hit for the town. It was bound to come and you were the ones. If you think about it, you probably know just how grateful the other up-and-coming paddlers are! Every one of you was outstandingly brave to get in that boat and try — even though you had burdened yourselves with such responsibility.

And that original germ of an idea to create something that was special to a little landlocked town? I think it’s safe to say — job well done, Pemberton — your achievements are indeed all your own. You have created something unique and very special.

Tamsin Miller
Squamish

Hello Earth lovers

I believe we can help the world by reducing energy we use and saving water. We need to save water, so our Earth will be healthier so that we won't run out of water. Water can be used to make electricity. No water, no electricity.

Turn off the water when you are brushing your teeth. Everything needs water to survive. Only one per cent of the Earth's water is drinkable. We use this water to shower and brush our teeth and bathe, do dishes, and many other activities.

Please think of this water as precious. 

About 60 per cent of a person's household water goes to water a person's lawn. Only water lawns with a watering can, or let your lawn go yellow.

It is better for our water. Please save the Earth!

Sam Hannay, 7, Grade 2
Spring Creek Community School

Big food waste needs to stop

France made a law to force supermarkets to give all unsold food to charity instead of throwing it out — maybe we should do that too.

Across many different countries, 97 million pounds of food is wasted each year. We need to make people believe that food is too valuable to be wasted.

In the United States, over 85 million pounds of food is wasted every day just in fast food restaurants.

We made this problem and it's our responsibility to make it stop, so:

• reduce the amount of food you have by only buying what you will eat; 

• reuse any containers, bags, wrappers or anything like that and make "litterbugs" with them instead. Litterbugs are easy to make: you get glue, litter and you make whatever you want;

• compost your food and put it in your garden to make your garden healthier. 

In Canada we wasted 15 per cent more food in 2014 than in 2010 — meaning we are wasting more and more food all the time. 

Think, think, think about the world. Think about your friends, family and neighbours and get them to help too.

Also, one fifth of the fish that get caught get thrown out before the boat reaches the dock. That is food that doesn't get fed to animals or even composted. This is crazy!

That is what got us thinking...help us tackle food waste. 

Riley Donohue, 8, Grade 2
Spring Creek Community School

Editors' note: Breanne Roy's Grade 2 class and Jaclyn McCance's Grade 1/2 class wrote these "Letters to the Editor" about environmental issues. This group of students showed passion for environmental issues, so their teachers allowed them to research the issues learning about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the importance of recycling, food waste issues and water conservation. Experts came to the school and the students went on a field trip to the Re-Use It Centre to learn more about reducing and reusing what they buy. They completed research at home, and with librarian Sara Leach to learn facts about their subject.

Time for ads to go

Trust me, I'm not a prude, nor do I have a political stance on prostitution, but I do have some reservations about objectifying women in the media.

I think the time is right to discontinue the very first ads we see weekly in the classified section of Pique.

Is it because it's alphabetical (adult services)? There are many ways in which anyone could and would seek their vices (Internet?).

Surely such ads are redundant and only trash an otherwise professional newsmagazine.

Mike Roger
Birken/Whistler

Vote splitting

I'm delighted that the federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is committing to reforming the electoral system and making other changes to rebuild our failing democratic institutions if he forms government, and I'm delighted that the federal NDP are riding high in the polls due ostensibly to people's realization in Alberta and elsewhere that conservative parties aren't necessarily any better at managing money than politicians of other stripes.

I'm thrilled, too, at how strong Elizabeth May of the Green Party continues to push on values important to me.

But none of this may be worth a damn if all three of these parties — four considering the seats that the Bloc Quebecois will grab — split the vote and allow Harper's Conservatives to capture the largest proportion of the vote.

Trudeau is on the right track — I firmly believe in ditching the first-past-the-post system, and campaigned hard in the Sea to Sky corridor during the 2009 B.C. election and referendum on the matter — but we won't get a chance to even consider a new electoral system if the Liberals, NDP, Greens, and Bloc split the vote. And so what are we to do?

We've got to get some commitment from these four parties that they'll form a coalition government. And so local Liberal, NDP, and Green candidates — what say you?

During my campaigning for electoral reform in 2009 I became convinced that most parties are more interested in themselves — i.e., winning every second or third election for 100 per cent majority power — than the broader public interest. This left me very cynical of political parties, but we're stuck with them, at least for now.

And so again — Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (Liberal), Larry Koopman (NDP), and Ken Melamed (Greens) — what say you?

Will you commit yourselves to the broader public interest, or are you going to stand only for your own party at the risk of losing another election to Harper?

Chris Joseph
Squamish

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