It was January 1991. As the U.S. Congress granted George W. Bush authority to wage war against Iraq, I had been summoned to my (Canadian Armed Forces) chief's office. You're (generally) in his office for one reason: you're in trouble for something and will be reprimanded.
I had a clean record, I had just been promoted, so what could it be? Standing to attention, I remember feeling slightly queasy and certainly more so after he had given me my orders.
We were embroiled in the Gulf War and my tour of duty had arrived.
My commitment, to our nation, when I enlisted, was to "serve and protect." (OK), I can do that, for sure, and to echo the commercial, I'll "be all that I can be." To be honest, war was the farthest from my mind when I was in boot camp six years earlier. Having spoken with my dad at the time, I recall he shared with me the same sentiment when, as a young GI, (he) served in WW2.
But, my tour of duty had arrived, and I'd be serving in a part of the world where, among many things, I may not come home. I collected my thoughts and packed them in my kit bag. "There's no life like it." Indeed!
I remember the moment so vividly: saying goodbye to my family with a mix of emotions ranging from trepidation to pride.
I was proud to follow in the footsteps of family members that had served before me, and proud to be with my comrades who were also on active duty. It's quite the fraternity, and I was, and always will be, a part of it (deep breath...).
There were far too many disturbing sights and sounds that left their indelible impression on me. However, in the chaos and upheaval at that time, I took great comfort in the acts of kindness and parachute moments I'll treasure forever.
The kindness and generosity I need to remember — for the greatest casualty of war (is) being forgotten.
For me, I'll never forget the family in Cazrin, Israel who invited me to celebrate Passover with them; the border guard at Position 28 (between Israel and Syria) who shared stories of family and numerous cups of tea to a backdrop of air missile attacks; the school children from a village near Tiberius, Israel — they taught us a dance that day we were on a sight-seeing adventure on the Sea of Galilee; the fishermen in Latakia, Syria who invited us on their boat for the day; the concierge at the Cham Palace in Damascus who was earning his degree and hoped for a bright and promising future; the Bedouins we met on our travels to Aleppo; and Karim, the Chief Procurement Officer I worked with at the UN Headquarters in Damascus.
So, my fallen comrades, veterans, active service men and women, and civilians — I salute you, and am honoured to have served (see related story page 46).
Art scene blossoming
I am now in my fifth decade living in Whistler and have been making my living here for 30 years as an artist.
Since the pre-Olympic arts stagnation I see this town blossoming into a viable, creative art scene. Whistler is strategically focused to finally emerge as a town that can draw an arts audience and cultural tourists.
We are days away from a municipal election that will elect the future power brokers of what I feel could be a turning point on our path to a more vibrant and creative town.
Arts and culture has been studied from various perspectives, and plans exists in the community that outline the value of local culture and of arts- and cultural-based tourism (A Tapestry of Place, Community Cultural Plan, etc), and seek to remove some of the obstacles that have hindered progress.
This current council, and the RMOW ,understand the value of arts and culture and have made great strides toward implementing some cultural initiatives, as well as committing funds and directing staff to recognize that a locally-based arts community can only spawn a society that will grow and enhance creativity from its roots.
Culture can be as simple as embracing our diverse food, architecture, local and First Nations' history, film and music.
Different ethnicities can be celebrated and of course our innovative local art and artists.
Electing a fresh group of politicians can be fruitful, if the new council can actually ride the wave of optimism and free up some of the ideas that have been brewing, but left to fester on a desk somewhere.
I applaud the hiring of Anne Popma as the Community Cultural Officer for Whistler. Anne is the right person for the job, she is local, an artist and has been involved in nurturing creative ideas since our infancy.
Our town is evolving from a sports junkie mecca to also be regarded as a culturally stimulating and innovative town that can attract artists to live and create.
Anne has identified three immediate goals that need to be initiated now. One is enhancing cultural vitality, which should allow artists to prosper, the second is to maximize arts facilities that we already have, and lastly enhance awareness and participation. I would add that we can and should have a local art gallery, we have the space, but it is buried in Millennium Place.
The new Audain Museum has to be considered the Holy Grail of arts and culture for Whistler. We should all be embracing this welcome gift! Philanthropist Michael Audain and his wife, Yoshiko Karasawa, are building a home for their extensive collection of West Coast and First Nations art.
This gift to the world has now encouraged another philanthropist, Mr. Jacques Barbeau, to donate some of his collection of paintings by Canadian Group of Seven painter E.J. Hughes to the Audain Museum.
Whistler will soon be able to command a global arts and culture audience. A "build it and they will come" attitude could be interpreted to mean encouraging and inspiring creativity from the local grassroots level not just from encouraging the building of a major art museum. This town is full of people who have creative, fertile and innovative minds we just need to be given the tools to create our vision.
We can light a fire but we need to dance around this fire.
Candidate's stance on marijuana wanted
I recently attended the (all candidates meeting) at the library hosted by AWARE (and the Centre for Sustainability) in which the topics revolved around the environment and sustainability.
I wanted to ask the candidates, and the mayor, their opinions on one particular topic that could very well fall under sustainability because of the potential tax dollars that could be generated.
Marijuana enforcement varies widely between different B.C. cities and towns, with some local governments allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to operate, and making possession arrests a low priority, while others have aggressively targeted dispensaries and encouraged police to make more possession arrests.
So, to the candidates I ask this:
1. As mayor/councillor, would you work to follow through on the resolution passed by the UBCM in 2012 in support of decriminalizing marijuana by lobbying the provincial and federal governments to repeal marijuana prohibition?
2. As mayor/councillor, would you encourage your local police/RCMP to make marijuana possession its lowest priority, and to direct those police resources in pursuit of real crimes?
3. As mayor/councillor, would you adopt a similar policy as cities like Vancouver, Victoria, Maple Ridge and others, to encourage your local police/RCMP to leave alone any medical marijuana dispensary, which is serving patients in your community?
I hope that all of the candidates will respond to these questions, as I'm sure my vote will go to those who are part of the solution, not the continued problem.
Seniors' housing should be on agenda
(The recent) Chamber of Commerce, mayor and councillor All-Candidates Meeting (Oct.29) presented an impressive group of hopefuls.
An early question posed regarding senior housing has long been dear to my heart. I previously had a home in Queen Charlotte, a community of less than a thousand that has three low-cost options for its seniors.
I have broached this topic with the last four of our councils. As I travel our province I note that every town has senior facilities. Why not Whistler?
After three decades of Mature Action Committee dedication we are now at least building a seniors' facility for those that can afford a half million dollars, or so, plus large strata fees, which is a great start.
Unfortunately that is out of the reach of many folks who have toiled their lives here paying rent or owning employees' housing and working hard to make our town's wheels turn. Presently I have a retired friend here who is happy to power his shelter with an extension cord.
He prefers to get by and be close to friends than move to the fine facilities in Pemberton or Squamish. Lest we forget that Seppo met his mysterious demise in a camper in the day lot without an extension cord.
Perhaps our mayor and council could seek dialogue with their peers at next years UBCM conference to discover how other communities have established support for their seniors.
Good luck to all contenders, I hope that one of you can consider senior housing a worthy cause to champion.
Tapley's Farm Halloween a spooky success!
A big thank you to everyone who took part in the 31st annual Tapley's Farm Halloween.
The heavy rains stopped just in time and a crescent moon shone down to welcome an estimated 1,000-plus "Trick or Treaters" and their families. Sixty neighbourhood residents once again pulled out all the stops to create a spooky and festive atmosphere, complete with actors, smoke, lights, music, hot adult drinks and of course copious supplies of candy.
Huge thanks to Nesters Market for sponsoring the spectacular fireworks display and hot chocolate, and to the Whistler Fire Department for safely setting the fireworks off! Also thanks to BC Transit, Whistler Marketplace, fastpark and the RMOW for organizing the free "Park and Spook" shuttle and to the Waldorf School kids for their creative decorations. Thanks also to the RCMP for its ongoing support.
Special thanks to Nesters Market and The Grocery Store for their very generous candy contributions, as well as to the IGA, and donations from local families.
Thanks also to Whistler Secondary School volunteers, lead by Braden Metza for manning the front entrance and organizing the Food Bank drive. A whole truckload of donations was received along with cash donations.
Many thanks to our dedicated judges — councillors Andrée Janyk, Jack Crompton and aspiring councillor Sue Maxwell. Prizes were awarded as follows: The Munster Family with 31 years of experience won "Best Special Effects;" "Most Creative" went to the Taylor Family's haunted Whistler Gondola; the O'Heanys won "Most Kid Friendly;" "Most Unusual" went to Anna Fraser-Sproule's Giant Pumpkin and the "Scariest House" was awarded to the Smarts, whose winding maze had a few surprise characters lurking in the shadows!
And finally, thanks to all the local companies who donated prizes and services to support this annual community event, including Mountain FM, the Whistler Question, Pique, Creekbread, Ziptrek Ecotours, Bounce, Armchair Books, Farfalla, Cows, Source for Sports, Ingrid's Cafe, Beacon Pub Eatery, Whistler Film Festival, The Keg, Britannia Mines and Momentum Camps.
Here's to keeping this free, family-friendly tradition alive and well in true Whistler spirit!
Shauna Hardy Mishaw, Julie Edwards, Kristin Johnson, Julia Smart, Jacinta Mousset and all our Tapley's neighbours!
Function to the rescue
With four variations of Jack Russell terriers out for a jaunt in Function Junction on a dreary, cold, rainy Sunday, something is bound to happen.
Besides the lovely displays put on by various fungi for our enjoyment as we confidently splashed through temporary ponds, colourful leaf litter and dazzling moss carpets, the forests were a great reminder of the beauty we have at our doorsteps.
The dogs were all behaving remarkably well under Heather's masterful guidance. We were just finishing up, when we noticed my Jakey was gone. Like ... off the face of the earth; no panting sounds to be heard before the lightning streak of white bounding through the bush exactly one minute after calling; not a peep or movement anywhere. Something was wrong.
Luckily another couple out for a stroll, Catherine and Nathan — a pair of kinder strangers I have yet to meet — found her at the bottom of some ditch beneath a bridge she'd fallen through, trapped somehow, although she is very tenacious and strong.
They brought her to Function residents June Paley and Randy Fickle, and she was safely returned to me shortly thereafter.
Meanwhile, after rounds of hugs and thanks and parting ways back to my car, I couldn't find my keys. A friendly young man from the Rebuild-it Centre came out dangling them, grinning.
I'd lost both my dog and keys in one afternoon, and a total of six Function people just took over, and well, "fixed" everything almost like an orchestrated dance.
I'm still stunned, reflecting on the efficiency and kindness of them all.
I didn't know Function had its own search and rescue team!
Thank you again to you all, and happy birthday to Heather.
Going too far
(GD) Maxwell goes way over the line once again (Pique, Oct. 30) in his "Maxed Out" final page article by writing, "The killings of two Canadian Forces soldiers last week were terrible, shameful crimes. But the real crime, the real act of terrorism is being played out in the PMO and Parliament."
I think this is shameful and terrible metaphor used by the author to compare the acts of your democratically elected officials to the brutal killers of these honourable Canadian servicemen.
Maxwell, you should be ashamed. Especially the week of Remembrance Day. Try to remember we are all in this together.
Halloween in the Glen
A huge shout out to those who participated in Halloween in the Glen — it was a great success with record numbers of happy trick or treaters!
Thanks so much to the Pemberton Valley Supermarket, Signal Hill Elementary School and Pemberton Secondary School for hosting collection boxes, and to all the folks who donated candy to meet the huge demand — we are very grateful.
Thanks also to Nadie and Lara who helped with marketing and distribution. We hope to grow this event each year, so if you are a local business and would like to come onboard we'd love to hear from you.
If I were elected mayor of Whistler
Several Pique issues ago Max in his column "Maxed Out" wrote he was running for the mayor of Whistler (Oct.2).
Disappointingly, it was only a humourous piece. I would vote for him. Now, I do not have anybody to vote for. Instead, I am emulating Max, hoping he does not hold it against me when I also declare my virtual candidacy for mayor to add a bit of spice to this otherwise boring campaign.
I am also borrowing from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's proven tactic of negative attacks on opponents with the objective being to grind them into the ground.
So, let's start with so-called achievements of our current mayor and her "dream team."
If they accomplished something it was usually only by half: on the asphalt plant they only went halfway, on free parking they did less than half, on illegal spaces they only dealt with private houses and not with more complicated strata properties, which presents as big a problem as private houses, but requires more forceful mayor and council engagement to cut through RMOW and strata red tape. They were a total failure on the overall community plan and our relationship with First Nations. For a community lead by a lawyer, we are surely losing a lot of court cases.
It is not difficult to hold the line on taxes if the previous council committed political hari-kari by raising taxes to give you a comfortable cushion to maintain the expensive overhead of RMOW.
Taxes should be at least 15 per cent lower to be more affordable in our community. We have the highest taxes in Canada when taking affordability by income into account. And let's not forget the increases in the cost of use of transportation and the recreation centre.
The mayor and council deserve a very fat "F" in the area of promoting local democracy, not only due to tightly controlled dissemination of municipal information and "Politburo-style" decision making, but also because of the total lack of any promotion or application of direct democracy like referendums and town hall meetings on crucial issues.
This is my action plan when I am elected the mayor of Whistler:
1. All parking lots except Lot 1 to be free.
2. Pay out the owner of the asphalt plant.
3. Participatory budgeting and neighbourhood councils.
4. Direct democracy with a referendum on the OCP, a bed count limit and town hall meeting on the International Campus.
5. Set average salaries of RMOW staff at the same level, or maybe only slightly higher, than the salaries of businesses in Whistler. Who is the horse pulling the cart of Whistler's economy? The RMOW? This will enable a reduction in taxes. The current symbol of Whistler is a family with a million-dollar home that can't afford insurance, so it loses everything in a fire.
6. A detailed review of the Whistler economic model, defining two opposing model alternatives with all arguments for and against; one including current status with no growth and business restrictions, and the other with removal of bed count limit, removal of all restrictions on nightly renting, development of parking lots, liberalized business rules to sell popsicles and similar, and then let voters decide in a referendum which model they wish to choose.
Whistler is the most bureaucratic, controlled and coercive community I have ever lived in.
You can't have a B&B, you can't rent, you can't sell popsicles, you can't have a winter outdoor market... and the list goes on and on.
You can hardly sneeze without breaking a bylaw. There is a saying in my native country that describes Whistler perfectly: "Zoraj uj - spodaj fuj." Translated it says, "Above is shtick – below is s*#@."
And for my finale I will address the biggest failure of this council, all previous councils and all future councils which is, was, and will be to ensure economic circumstances that enable a substantially greater part of the local youth to stay and make a living in Whistler.
This is an enormous failure of this community. Only a tiny fraction can expect to be able to do that. Most have to join the exodus from our community because of the current economic model.