Along the Fraser: Willing to listen on environment

Jack Emberly.

— image credit: THE NEWS/files

We have a government that seems to want to listen, consult, talk about issues that have been in the dark for a long time, instead of muzzling scientists. – MP, Dan Ruimy.

You can read too much into words that offer hope to local leaders in environmental protection and community building.

There haven’t been many honest ones for 10 years.

But, for the group the new MP invited to his office last Friday – not just to meet, but to consult as equal members of “an environmental task force” – these rang true.

“We have a ton of great things people are doing in this community,” Ruimy said, “things we should be known for other than our homeless situation. I asked myself what can I do to speak for my community when there’s so many different voices; how can I keep in touch with everybody, call attention to projects.”

He could, he decided, form an environmental task force.

“Together, we could create a larger awareness of our projects. Whether we could get funding for those, I don’t know. But, I could take information directly to the appropriate minister in Ottawa. It’s better than just writing a letter.”

Many could use a word in sympathetic ears. ARMS, for example, isn’t happy with changes to the Fish Act. And recently, said Ken Stewart, it’s learned B.C. Hydro, which funded its sockeye hatchery for two years, won’t do so this year, crippling hopes for a fish ladder that would let sockeye return to Alouette Lake.

A key resource for the Katzie for hundreds of years vanished when Hydro’s dam, constructed in 1912, wiped out that run. Studies prove they’d return; coho and steelhead spawn in Gold Creek, again.

Ross Davies, of KEEPS, tells us a larger voice might help to reverse wording in Section 35 of the act, focused on destruction now. Phrases like “significant fishery,” limit protection to a few B.C. major rivers, and deny it to 99 per cent of them.

“When you work hard to get six fish back into a stream that didn’t have any, that’s significant to us,” said Davies. “As a group, our reach in Ottawa can be far greater than that of any one of us.”

Lina Azeez, of Watershed Watch, said research at SFU shows old lockes and floodgates on sloughs cut off fish from ‘Mother Fraser.’ They’d thrive if reconnection was embraced by  governments. The benefit to fisheries could be huge.

The negative environmental implications of the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) worries Peter Tam, Green candidate in the last election.

“It would allow foreign companies to avoid our laws,” he said. “That should be on our radar.”

Ruimy wants this kind of information.

“Personally, I’m petrified of being in office for four years and not doing anything. The time is ripe for change.”

“I think he has the right intentions,” said Pinel of GETI. “If you start with those ideals, and have people around you with them, you’ll stay on track. If you don’t – no matter how good you are – you’ll get lost.”

Christian Cowley of the CEED Centre agrees.

“Instead of sending a letter to the minister, we can have Dan, who knows the background, take it there. Positive things can come out of that – if there’s follow up. But that’s the danger. We’ve had environmental groups before.”

James Rowley – Hammond Neighborhood House – said his focus is on “home retrofit incentives to reduce our energy consumption. Talking about it will change that.”

His wife, Leanne Koehn, of the recycling society, concurs.

“Each of us has our own niche and is competing for our voices,” said Koehn,  the force behind Earth Day (April 23rd), the focus of which this year is the wise use of energy. “Connecting will allow each group to be highlighted.”

The next meeting of the task force will give this fledgling group a name.


– Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.

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