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Letters to the Editor for the week of October 18

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More fungi on Fungus Among Us list

The Whistler Naturalists would like to thank everyone who participated in another fun Fungus Among Us Mushroom Festival, which was completely sold out this year.

We started off the festival by visiting 13 classes at the local schools on Thursday and Friday and taking them on field trips in the woods. The students all seemed to enjoy hunting for mushrooms just as much as Easter eggs! Some were searching for the smallest mushrooms, some were seeking out mushrooms that would be suitable for making spore prints and some were just seeing what was out there!

Thanks to very special guests Kevin Trim, Ben Hircock, Andy MacKinnon, Paul Kroeger, Bryce Kendrick and Emma Harrower.

The Saturday morning forays brought back a huge diversity of mushrooms for the afternoon display tables. At least 180 species were found (some still to be identified), of which at least 17 are new to our list. This year's results bring the total number of mushrooms now documented in Whistler to almost 900!

We couldn't run the festival without our fabulous mushroom gurus who gave talks, led walks, and labelled and presided over the mushroom display. Special thanks to the presenters: Rich Mably (Fungal Fotos), Jim Ginns (Polypores), Thom O'Dell (Best Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms), Kevin Trim (To all the fungi I've loved before) and Andy MacKinnon for hosting the BYOM (Bring Your Own Mushroom) contest.

Our popular gourmet, wild-mushroom tasting wouldn't have been possible without the great expertise and wonderful creativity of Chef Bruce Worden, Nester's Market and Milestones.

Thanks also to the amazing group of volunteers who helped out and all the folks that came out to share their enthusiasm and wonder for all things fungal.

Finally, the Whistler Naturalists would also like to thank our key sponsors: The Community Foundation of Whistler, AWARE and RMOW. Thanks also to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Whistler Public Library, Pasta Lupino and Avalanche Pizza. See you next year, as always, the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Kristina Swerhun and Bob Brett
On behalf of the Whistler Naturalists

Vote and Live the Dream

Only two more sleeps until voting day! This election has focused on community well-being, from housing to mental health, from fiscal responsibility to preserving the soul of Whistler. With two of the all-candidates meetings held at the Maury Young Arts Centre, it was gratifying to hear that Whistler's arts, culture and heritage are near and dear to Whistler residents.

Arts and culture represent an essential part of our community's social fabric, providing platforms for expression, celebration and social discourse. So on Oct. 19, the night before the election, join us for some social discourse on the housing situation as seen through the lens of local photographer Carin Smolinski.

Carin revisits her 2010 photographic exploration of Whistler's housing challenges with all-new 2018 images. From closet bedrooms to a bed in a bathtub, explore what some folks believe is the ticket to "Living the Dream."

Housing heaven or housing hell? You be the judge.

Opening night includes remarks from Carin, as well as wry, insightful and funny short films about Whistler's housing challenges, comments from Jackie Dickinson from Whistler Community Services Society, and very special spooky housing story from Pique's Braden Dupuis. It's the most fun you can have discussing a housing crisis (and the election).

Local art + local relevance = an engaging Friday night. See you there and remember to vote on Oct. 20!

Maureen Douglas
Executive Director, Arts Whistler

One for the books

When the day closed (on Oct. 16), so (did) the 17th annual Whistler Writers Festival. The effort to put on such an event is enormous. But I've come to learn that anything is possible when you're surrounded with so many people of like mind who are prepared to role up their sleeves and help in any way they can. A bit of insanity doesn't hurt either. 

Every year, I am reminded that no one succeeds alone. Conveniently, this was our theme this year. 

As many of you know, the festival began modestly with a dream to provide educational opportunities for writers and thought-provoking reading events for readers right here in this community. 

But steadily, this thing we created has grown and taken shape. Fans of the literary arts bought and continue to buy tickets, others provide the necessary financial support and still others, the unsung heroes of all of this, continue to put up with me, coming up with ideas and initiatives I wouldn't have begun to imagine. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you. So here's to those behind-the-scenes folks: Rebecca Wood Barrett, our absolutely fabulous festival manager; Claire Piech, our PR person whiz kid; Ruth Burrows, our awesome collateral and website builder; Mary McDonald, our social-media wing person; Mieke Prummel, our volunteer wrangler; and Natalie Griffiths, our administrative powerhouse. Thank you so much for all your hard work. We did it! 

Rebecca Wood Barrett also took the lead with the Authors in the Schools program, with the help of Libby McKeever. This program would not have gotten off the ground without Rebecca's lead, Libby's support and the commitment of the teachers and principals in the corridor over the past five years. Schools from Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton, and Mount Currie are given class sets of our featured authors' books. The students read the books and the authors give presentations to inspire students to write and tell their own stories. I am grateful for the funding support of The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, the Province of British Columbia, the Rotary Club of Whistler Millennium, the Community Foundation of Whistler, Libby McKeever and our own Whistler Writing Society.

To our ever-increasing and much-appreciated volunteers, thank you.

I'd also like to thank all of our guest authors who continued to blog about their experience with this year's festival theme: no one succeeds alone, and who performed and spoke about their work so generously and eloquently. Our audiences keep coming back every year because of the authors, their incredible performances and their wonderful, wonderful books. And I don't want to forget the musicians who provided such a wonderful contrasting backdrop to all our reading events. Thanks so much. 

The Whistler Writing Society is a non-profit charitable organization. Our budget is completely allocated to covering the costs of the annual Whistler Writers Festival, the Writer in Residence Program, and other literary events throughout the year, including the Authors in the Schools program and the Spring Reading series. We could not do what we do without the generous support and vision of our investors, sponsors and supporters.

Last but not least, I'd like to thank our audience. Each year, you come back in increasing numbers, applaud our efforts and provide valuable feedback and support. We strive to do our very best for you. In fact, you are the reason we do what we do. Thank you.

Even when my head spins with all the work that it takes to put on this festival, I realise I'm not alone in this dream. This buoys me again and again.

And now we begin planning for 2019. I can't believe I just typed those words. But we have 365 glorious days. It seems like a luxury to have so much time ahead of us, but the festival will be back in no time. Mark your calendars, Oct. 17 to 20, 2019. 

Thanks again for all the support. I appreciate it.

Stella Harvey
Festival Director

Bench the vandal

Outside The Springs building in Cheakamus Crossing, there is a fairly big rock put there with the top made flat and a shine was added—a really nice bench.

Last week, I noticed somebody had started scraping the top of the bench taking away the shine.

I made the mistake of mentioning this in Cheakamus Crossing Facebook page. It seemed asking whoever was doing that to please quit was a big mistake. The scratching has increased, cracking the rock and knocking small pieces off of the edges.

I apologize to the beautiful rock bench and the people who enjoy it.

Leslie Weir
Whistler

Make voting accessible

Though we do not talk about gerrymandering and voter suppression in Canada like our American friends do, I am making the case there are impediments to a fair vote in British Columbia.

Everyone should have a reasonable chance to vote. When we consider voter suppression, the majority of us think it impacts lower socioeconomic classes but that is not accurate.

The voting group that is repressed in B.C. are the "too busy" one. I'm sure you are either a member of that group or know a whole bunch of people who are.

The "too busy" are those people who wake up before the sun, are out the door to the jobsite before the kids roll out of bed. They are immersed in their job all day and skip lunch. They come home just in time to make dinner and ferry the kids to hockey or help with homework. They volunteer for municipal committees or work at the food bank. They teach ski school all day and then wait tables at night. They fly the world over, leaving behind family, friends, healthy eating and exercise. They are the people who keep their homes immaculately clean or scrape by sleeping on a friend's couch.

In short, they may be rich or poor, high-, low- or middle-class. But they have one thing in common—they are going full throttle all the time.

Maybe each hour of their day isn't paid but their efforts make the world we know go round. They find time to help with soccer or sit on the school Parent Advisory Council or flip burgers for the Rotary (Club).

What they don't have time to do is vote.

For most people, that process is a full hour. The "too-busy" don't have a free hour too often and it's most unlikely it will be during a voting day.

What they do have is a computer or smart phone—regardless of their socioeconomic status. And what they really need is internet or telephone voting.

Our governments in B.C. have had a terrible record of facilitating electronic voting and they are repressing the voice of the "too-busy"—exactly the same people who are just too busy making our province run. It's time that changed.

I just voted for my small Northwestern Ontario town council from my kitchen table in Squamish. It took 30 seconds. Democracy won today.  

Patrick Mitchell
Squamish

New laws for driving While impaired by marijuana

Marijuana consumption in Canada is legal, as of Oct. 17. On the same day, Parliament put into effect new impaired driving laws that were crafted to address an anticipated increase in driving while impaired by marijuana.

Although the former laws were adequate to address this issue, the new laws go much further in terms of providing tools for the police and Crown to investigate, charge, and convict individuals of these offenses.

To begin with, a legal limit of permissible THC in the body has been established (analogous to the .08 mg per cent for alcohol in the blood). It is a summary conviction offence to have 2.5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood, and a hybrid offence is created for levels above 5 nanograms per millilitre (the two processes involve different minimum and maximum penalties).

Unfortunately, one cannot definitively determine impairment based on the content of THC in the blood. Studies have shown that the effects of marijuana will dissipate long before the THC is eliminated from the body. As well, there is no clear correlation between content of THC and level of impairment.

Of particular concern is the fact that a person that is a regular user of marijuana—e.g. someone that uses for medical reasons—develops a tolerance for THC and can be sober, despite the body exceeding these new, proscribed limits. Further, for chronic users of marijuana or individuals who consumed a large amount, THC can remain in the body for days and even weeks, thus, creating a situation where someone could be found to be over the legal limit days or weeks after they last consumed marijuana, and long after the effects of marijuana have worn off.

The new scheme for testing drivers involves the use of a saliva screening device, the Drager DrugTest 5000. The device requires that a swab be rubbed in the mouth for two to three minutes, between the gum and the cheek, in order to capture enough saliva for a suitable sample. There are no shortage of critics regarding the accuracy of this device and it may pose a challenge for some people that cannot produce sufficient saliva. Failing to provide a suitable sample—without lawful excuse, constitutes a separate offence with the same penalties as impaired driving.

This said, the Drager DrugTest 5000 is meant to screen individuals to determine if further testing is warranted. If it is, then a specially trained officer performs a series physical tests to come to an opinion about whether the person is impaired. If the officer is of that opinion, then the person can be required to provide a blood sample to determine the content of THC in their system.

Many of these tests involve coordination exercises and other observations, which are subjectively evaluated by the officer. People may not be able to perform well in these tests, even when sober. Pulse and blood pressure are also factored in—and it is not hard to imagine that someone's pulse and blood pressure may be abnormal while being detained and put through a series of tests by a uniformed police officer.

As such, a person may be required to provide a blood sample on the basis of the officer's subjective opinion and/or atypical physiological responses. And if that person consumed marijuana in the preceding days or weeks, the evidence will be sufficient for a conviction, even though the person may not have been impaired at all.

It is anticipated that may constitutional challenges will be made to the new impaired driving scheme based on the issues presented above plus many others.

However, until they make their way through the various levels of court, there is a cautionary tale if the—now legal—consumer of marijuana intends to drive a vehicle within days of that consumption.

Greg Diamond
Whistler

(Editor's note: Greg Diamond is a former Crown counsel and founding partner of Double Diamond Law in Whistler.)

Growing green thumbs

From seed to table, the students of Myrtle Philip Community school plant vegetable gardens, watch the vegetables grow, harvest them, eat them and make them into soup to share with the whole school.

Now in its third year, the students look forward to The Harvest Soup Celebration and really understand the meaning of growing your own food—and nothing makes me happier than some students telling me they had three bowls of soup.

This project would not be possible without the Souper Star volunteers who embrace this project. Special thanks to: Marcia Meszaros for all your help; Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa for donating the soup stock and linens; Laughing Crow Organics for the carrot and potato donation; John and Michelle Beks from Shaw Creek farm for the carrots; Marty and Andrea VanLoon from Pemberton Valley Farms for the potatoes; North Arm Farm for the pumpkins and squash; Mike and Heidi Finlayson-Groot and The Grocery Store for the cooking supplies; West Coast Seeds; Wendy Beker; Carin Smolinski; the staff and principal of Myrtle Philip Community School; Kelly Hand and Myrtle Philip Community School PAC and all the other wonderful volunteers who spent their time helping with this amazing project. It takes a village and together we are growing great things. 

Christy Craig
Garden Coordinator at Myrtle Philip Community School

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