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Looking through a social justice lens

Ensuring equal access and opportunities for all community members

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“With the social justice lens on, we can look critically at ourselves and see what forces we are formally (knowingly) or informally (unknowingly) contributing to that prevent people from equal access to a just life in Whistler.”

Housing is an important issue, a part of the affordability equation, that McDonnell feels relates to social justice.

“We have some bad landlords in Whistler. We obviously have a lot of good ones too. But some of these people demand payment up to 12 months in advance, don’t give damage deposits back, and are taking advantage of seasonal workers. People from overseas, many with a language barrier, have little capacity to follow through with things like the landlord-tenant resolution process, especially if they are from out of the country. So is this a social justice issue that the community needs to deal with?”

On the subject of transportation, McDonnell believes that the corridor, on the whole, is overly car-dependent.

“Social justice is not being met in Pemberton in the fact that there is no or bad public transit. You need access to a car to get around. The poor can’t get to hospitals. Mothers can’t attend parent-tot drop-ins easily.”

Transportation is also a key issue for jobs.

“Most jobs are in Whistler and getting to Whistler is not easy without a car, adds McDonnell. “We have bus service but it is not as frequent or convenient for most people who need it.”

Addressing cultural awareness, McDonnell has some strong opinions. “Up until two months ago, the Whistler Museum’s website had no mention of the Lil’Wat or Squamish First Nations. That is brutal. I am sure it wasn’t deliberate, but it is this long-standing ignorance that is not going to get our communities together to engage in dialogue,” he says. “We need to shift judgment for curiosity.”

A number of non-profits partner with the CFOW in dealing with social issues in Whistler and Pemberton, with the premier social service delivery group being the Whistler Community Services Society. While grants from CFOW only account for .25 per cent of WCSS’s total budget, Janet McDonald, WCSS Executive Director, acknowledges that WCSS has only just begun to apply to the CFOW for grants in the last couple of years. So where does most of WCSS’s funding come from?