” Been to Hell” ~Alexandra Morton on Mount Polley visit

Taking family time this weekend and I will have a post on Mount Polley and the sediment results late Monday, but for now, please go read Alexandra Mortons excellent post from her visit to take samples.

http://alexandramorton.typepad.com/alexandra_morton/2014/08/been-to-hell.html

” I entered a place that felt like hell.  You did not want to touch anything, breath, or sit down. This place had once been so inviting it had been chosen as home to First Nations long ago. It was so sweet and lovely that there were picnic tables nearby, berries were ripe and a few flowers still blooming, but everything about the place had changed.

The land was grey and cracking, and the leaves on the trees were grey. It hurt to know I was a member of the species that had done this, created a wasteland, that I believe to be toxic, where life was once diverse and generous…”

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German Television claims to have leaked CETA document

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-eu-trade-deal-posted-online-on-german-website-1.2735933?cmp=rss

Not the full document, but 521 pages of it… will update with more details in a bit once I have had time to properly read it myself, but here is the PDF Format of that document at the original link http://www.tagesschau.de/wirtschaft/ceta-dokument-101.pdf 

 

“Now-emerging details of the pact also show CETA is likely to spark more concern about procurement rules that limit the ability of federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada to favour local companies on a wide range of construction, supply and service contracts. Dozens of local governments across the country have objected in recent years to being subjected to CETA’s procurement provisions.

And the leaked documents confirm Ottawa has agreed to new rules governing pharmaceutical patents that could eventually drive up the cost Canadians pay for prescription drugs by a total of $850 million or more annually.

“I think this final text shows us that we’ve had every reason to be concerned about procurement and investor-state and certainly other provisions of the deal,” said Brent Patterson, political director of the Council of Canadians.

“We’re not seeing anything here that would alleviate the profound concerns and criticisms that we have of this so-called deal.”

The leak “is really a first chance for the public to be able to scrutinize the deal the way we should have been given the right to do months or years ago,” Patterson said, adding that he expects to see increased opposition to CETA now that details are becoming available.

The Harper government has said CETA, by opening up the huge European market to Canadian business, will provide a long-term boost to Canada’s economy.”

From http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/08/13/secret_details_of_canadaeu_pact_prompt_scrutiny.html

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Newton residents left in the dark over proposed community court in Surrey with no response from Attorney General Susan Anton

It was back in January 2014, following the death of Julie Paskall, that both Mayor Watts and the NDP renewed calls for a community court in Surrey.

Watts met with Attorney General Susan Anton in February, where it was agreed that a steering committee would be set up to gain input from the judiciary, the province and city staff.

However, the prospect of a community court greatly concerns many Newton residents, who worry about the impact this would have on a community already ‘overloaded’ with social services.

They’ve been asking for answers as to whether or not members of the community will be included in the consultation process, but to date, have not received any response.

This is a copy of the email sent to Attorney General and cc’d to NDP MLA Harry Bains on July 10th:

Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2014 03:41:37 -0700
To: suzanne.anton.mla@leg.bc.ca
From: Liz Walker ( email removed for privacy)
Subject: Community Courts in Surrey
Cc: Harry.Bains.MLA@leg.bc.ca

9 July 2014
 
 
Attention: Hon. Suzanne Anton
Minister of Justice
Room 232
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4
suzanne.anton.mla@leg.bc.ca
 
Dear Ms. Anton,
 
RE: Community Courts in Surrey
 
Earlier this year Mayor Watts alerted Newton community members to an Advisory Committee meeting regarding the proposed Community Courts expected to locate in Surrey’s Newton community. We are concerned about this initiative as our community has not yet received any formal notice from the City about it. To our knowledge there have not been any open houses or other avenues of consultation regarding it.
 
The Newton community has suffered a serious decline, both economically and socially, for more than a decade. Newton has come to be described as the new “Whalley” or Vancouver DTES of Surrey. Our community continues to observe this decline as we are either disregarded or excluded from decision making processes.
 
Many perceive Newton to be the low income, socio-correctional component of Surrey. With the concentration of social services that have located in the Newton area we have concerns that those, serviced through the community court, will be directed into Newton for its’ availability of services. This will add more troubled individuals to our streets and transit services without the stabilizing effect of an increased police presence.
 
We would like to see local citizen representation on committees/task forces related to proposals with the potential to directly impact our communities. We believe the Surrey specialized court task force is such a committee, as you have stated in a Hansard, CSC debate, “they are determining the needs of Surrey, because there is no cookie-cutter approach on courts. It’s to determine the community needs and do a needs assessment”. Newton is only one community in Surrey yet we have been encumbered with the responsibility of providing the bulk of correctional services to all of Surrey’s other communities.
 
We did ask our MLA, Harry Bains to determine why there was no invitation to the local community to be part of the task force and he did present the question to you, “I would like to ask the minister why any member of the community was not appointed on that”.
Unfortunately he did not receive an answer so we are left to ask the question again, and request local citizen representation on the task force/advisory committee for the Surrey specialized courts.
 
We welcome your reply. We hope that you will be able to provide us with a “Terms of reference” for the Surrey Specialized Court Task Force and a task force structure that recognizes the importance of local citizen involvement, i.e. citizen representation.
 
Yours truly,
Liz Walker
Chairperson
Newton Community Association

nb: copy of letter also included as an attachment for your convenience.

This same email was again forwarded to Attorney General Susan Antons office for response yesterday:

Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2014 18:15:53 -0700
To: suzanne.anton.mla@leg.bc.ca; harry.bains.mla@leg.bc.ca
From: Liz Walker
Subject: Sending again for response 
CC:

Dear Ms. Anton,

Members of the Newton Community Association would truly appreciate answers to our questions posed in the following/attached correspondence.

Thank you.

Yours truly,
Liz Walker
NCA Chairperson

I think all residents understand that there may at times, be delays to response from city or government officials due to holidays, vacation or other important events.

However, one would think that with all that Newton and other areas of Surrey have endured, and continue to endure, the respect would be given to respond accordingly to the very real concerns of local residents.

Once again, Newton appears to be getting the short end of the stick when it comes to consultation on the issues directly impacting our community.

The only indication I can find in the city of Surrey references to this agreement to form a steering committee was in this document, which is quite the read and worthy of a blog post in itself, is copied below.

Newton residents deserve to know one way or another:

1)  if indeed the province is genuinely engaged in this effort as both our mayor and Attorney General announced earlier this year, or if this was just noise to soothe worried residents

2) if the province and city indeed are engaged in such consultation on a steering committee, whether or not the community will be consulted and engaged as part of the process.

 

http://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/CR_2014-P005.pdf

From Page 43/44, April of this year :

Specialized Courts in Surrey

 

A means of addressing the inherent delays in the existing Court system would be the establishment of a

Community Court, Drug Treatment Court, and Night Court in Surrey. The idea of establishing a

Community Court and Night Court was raised in the City of Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy in 2006

[Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy (2006) - Section 2.3- Prosecuting and Sentencing Offenders- pages

22-23

This issue received some media attention in late January following the PASKALL Homicide with Mayor

WATIS stating her support and offering the former Surrey City Hall as the location for a Community

Court. Mayor WATIS made a significant push for a Community Court in 2011 and indicated that she will

continue to champion this initiative.

 

 

 

 

 

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Did the BC government fail in its duty to release important information-without an FOI-that contained any evidence of : “…a risk of significant harm to the environment or to the health or safety of the public or a group of people”.

Some think so: https://fipa.bc.ca/release-bc-government-had-obligation-to-release-tailings-pond-info/

And I agree. The duty to protect all and any life and environment comes before everything.

It all comes down to who knew what… when? http://pacificgazette.blogspot.ca/2014/08/mount-polley-disasterthey-all-knew-ch-3.html

Will we see any resignations now?

VANCOUVER, B.C.—The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association has filed a complaint with the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner over the BC government’s failure to release information in its possession about the now-collapsed Mt. Polley tailings pond.

https://fipa.bc.ca/fipa-complaint-to-oipc-mount-polley-tailings-pond/

Section 25 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) requires a public body to release information “without delay” without a FOI request where there is “…a risk of significant harm to the environment or to the health or safety of the public or a group of people”.

“The situation in Mount Polley certainly seems meet the law’s requirements,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “If the government had information about past problems with the dam around the tailings pond, they should have informed local residents as required by law.”

Following an earlier complaint by BC FIPA and the UVic Environmental Law Clinic about public bodies failing to release information under this section, Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham investigated the situation. In a report released in December 2013, Commissioner Denham found the BC government failed to carry out its legal duty to release information prior to the collapse of the Testalinden Dam in Oliver.

https://www.oipc.bc.ca/investigation-reports/1588

She also made a number of recommendations for improvements.

“When the Commissioner recommends action on release of information affecting health and safety or the environment we should expect that the government would take action,” said FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “It is important for the Commissioner to investigate not just to see if the BC government has again broken the law, but also to see if they have done anything to implement her recommendations.”

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“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You musn’t lose it.” ~ Robin Williams.

Just having spent a lovely afternoon out with my children, I came home, made snacks for them both, and filled a tall glass of ice with water and lime. And then I saw something on twitter that made my heart sink.

Just so completely shocked to just hear of Robin Williams death that I felt a strong urge to put pen to paper but that takes too long so that’s why I blog…

One of my first thoughts was  “But who’s going to make us laugh and cry like he did?”

No mockery please. To make people laugh, cry, shout in anger… to make people simply feel something at all…to be able to evoke emotions that connect us on a basic human element is no small feat.

And sadly, it seems far too often those among us most blessed with this unique talent are often the ones most haunted by demons that drive them to seek escape via addictions that more often than any of us would like, lead to death, intentional or not.

After Philip Seymour Hoffmans death, I read an article in which someone close to him remarked that in every movie, he gave so much to each role, that in doing so he lost a part of himself because of it. It was remarked that as talented as he was, he was his own worst critic, the master of self-loathing.

My love affair with Robin Williams began as a child when I first discovered Mork and Mindy. I think I drove everyone in my family nuts with the penchant for saying ” Nanu nanu” in greeting, instead of the more mundane hello.

However, I truly fell in love with his work as an actor when as a young woman about to graduate from high school- who wrote copious amounts of everything, including poetry-I saw Dead Poets Society.

I’d read the book, and already had emblazoned in my minds eyes how professor John Keating talked, walked etc, as each of us do who read profusely. I was thrilled with how Robin Williams portrayed the professor!  Ecstatic at his inspirational readings to a group of disenchanted young men, I leapt from the couch when he roused them all to higher aspirations and explorations of both great poets and passions alike. Carpe Diem, my lads, seize the day, live your passion!

To a young woman feeling out of place at the time for my love of all things literary in a northern forestry town, the movie was timely and his performance roused feelings in me that I’ve never lost. He was that good and my passion for reading, writing,exploring and feeling was set for life.

Good Will Hunting, Awakenings, The Fisher King… the list is so long and I have seen every single one,and I passed the love onto a new generation  via Jumanji, and Hook. When the youngest are old enough, perhaps I can persuade them to humour me long enough to experience the inspiration or degradation of the human spirit in all it’s movie greatness or sorrow with me.

Why do I love Robin Williams so much?

For that, I’ll take you back to Dead Poets Society,where in one of the best scenes in the movie Robin nails the essence of that admiration and respect for his talent in a performance that’s as clear today in my mind, as it was in 1989:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.

And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?”

Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse.

What will your verse be?”

The rest as we say, is history.

Thank you Robin, it’s been a blast. May you find the peace of spirit that eluded you here on Earth. We’ll miss you.

Nanu.. nanu.

 

 

 

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This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Little leadership in mining disaster

This week’s Duel topic: Can B.C.’s mining industry rebuild public trust?

An age-old bit of wisdom says, “You can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats its most vulnerable.” Likewise, after closely watching the response and actions following the disastrous breach of the Mount Polley tailings pond, it might also be said, “You can tell a lot about a government or corporation by the way it responds to a crisis.”

In the days since the dam breached, it’s been one public relations blunder after another for both the government and Imperial Metals. While Premier Christy Clark was scolded for not immediately taking a leadership role in flying to the disaster area to survey the damage, company president Brian Kynoch faced harsh criticism as well. In an effort to minimize concern for residents worried about toxic tailings material released when the dam broke, he made the now-infamous statement that the tailings water in the pond was “almost drinkable.” When asked if he would drink the water, he said he would — once the solids had settled.

There have been criticisms by First Nations in the area claiming they were not immediately notified by the company when the spill happened and other residents reported concerns over a lack of information in the first few days. As the story has progressed, documents have come to light alleging Imperial Metals knew there was a problem with the tailings pond dam, and the government did as well.

Public trust of the mining industry as a whole appears to have fallen to an all-time low. And that’s unfortunate.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

I’m not anti-mining. In fact, my dearly departed grandfather worked many years in the Bullmoose mine in Tumbler Ridge while I was growing up. Mining, strategically planned and managed with strict environmental oversight, is an economic engine that has sustained entire cities and contributes to our provincial revenues past and present.

Can public trust be rebuilt? …

READ the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/08/10/little-leadership-in-mining-disaster

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One tough question for the BC Government

In the days since the horrific failure of the tailings pond dam at the Mount Polley Mine, and the silence that initially followed from our government and the company, one thing is clear to me.

Sadly, as a province we cannot in good faith, trust industry or our own government to ensure the safety of the public, or the environment.

The government states it warned the mine for years: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/mount-polley-mine-tailings-pond-breach-followed-years-of-government-warnings-1.2728591

The company has stated he didn’t think this could happen: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/mount-polley-mine-tailings-water-very-close-to-drinking-quality-company-says-1.2727776

And while the Liberals fully wear this one from beginning to end, according to the Vancouver Observer, this issue goes back to the late 90’s : http://www.vancouverobserver.com/news/understaffing-deregulation-blame-mount-polley-tailings-pond-disaster-critics

Enough is enough. I put this question to Minister of Energy and Mines,Bill Bennett on twitter, and I now ask the environment minister Mary Polak, and the premier, Christy Clark the very same question:

tweet

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Imperial Metals president Bryan Kynoch says he would drink the tailings pond water….

bullshit

 

Now that is something that personally, I would really like to see. Because if the president of the company feels confidant enough to drink it, taken from a sample observed by an independent third party in front of camera’s, that would be some kind of statement now, wouldn’t it?

The key word in all of this being… ‘Almost’ drinkable. Now,I’m no scientist, but it seems to me it would be a bit odd that they would have to keep all this water the sediment has settled out of, in containment, if it were…. ” almost drinkable.”

Unless of course, it still wasn’t safe to be released in to the environment.

In particular since Sto:lo First Nation fisheries advisor is reporting that First Nations are finding dead fish already…but rest assured, that isn’t being caused by the ” almost drinkable” water, just the toxic crap sludge sediment that’s floating around in that water…

http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/warnings-about-b-c-tailings-pond-growth-ignored-before-collapse/

 

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More questions than answers as silence on all fronts continues following Imperial Metals tailings pond breach.

Although I am taking a bit of a staycation right now, the videos and photo’s of the Mt.Polley mine tailings pond breach are so overwhelming I couldn’t help but take note since I know many in the area. http://www.mining.com/tailings-breach-at-imperial-metals-mount-polley-mine-40156/

Although I think everyone realizes this is an environmental disaster, I don’t know that most people fully realize how epic of a failure this is, and what the short-term and long term impact is going to be. The amount of toxic sludge and water that was released is incredibly substantial.

However, what is concerning to me is the lack of information being presented by both Imperial Mines and the provincial government at this time.

First and foremost immediate efforts to stabilize the remnants of the structure should be presented to mitigate further issues and a plan in place to prevent any possible chance further contamination.

It only takes moments to google tailings pond failures/breaches to see how other mines and governments around the world have dealt with similar failures. http://www.tailings.info/knowledge/casestudies.htm

And a list of accidents here:http://www.tailings.info/knowledge/accidents.htm

In some cases, efforts were immediately underway to prevent further contamination from rainfall etc entering the waterways furthers downstream by creating barriers. While the lists of toxic ingredients is different dependant on what material is being mined and processed, the end results are all still harmful, which is why they are retained in these massive tailings ponds.

Within a short time, ground crews and machinery were on site to begin removal of the toxic mud, as well as contaminate soil, flora and fauna. http://moodle.telhai.ac.il/pluginfile.php/87349/mod_resource/content/0/references/aznalcollar.pdf

The results of many of these accidents is chilling. Complete devastation of fish and fresh water aquatic life,loss of life of mammals who drink contaminated water, contamination. Already there are reports referring to the ‘sparse population’of the area,which had better not be used as an excuse for anything less than a full remediation of the disaster zone.

Without a doubt, questions remain as to why and how this happened in the first place. I haven’t had time to do more than a bit of research, but I do know that mining guidelines etc fall under provincial jurisdiction. Here is a link to the last available health and safety report online… oddly enough from 2012. Why is the report from 2013 not posted yet ? http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca/Mining/HealthandSafety/CI/Documents/2012_CI_AnnualReport.pdf

Link to Mine Emergency Response Plan guidelines: http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca/MINING/HEALTHANDSAFETY/EMERGENCYPREPAREDNESS/Pages/default.aspx

When was the last inspection on this tailings pond, and what was the result? Was the pond construction adequately maintained? Did the company have an emergency preparedness plan in place for a breach? If so, were those guidelines followed in this event? How does the company plan to mitigate and remediate the entire disaster zone?

And most importantly, how could such a catastrophic failure occur if regular,ongoing inspections and maintenance were occurring?

I guarantee this: Every mine tailings pond will be getting a thorough inspection if one hasn’t been done recently, and the tools do exist to assess internal stability of such structures safely, as per this document showing how the stability of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam was assessed following the appearance of two sinkholes. http://www.swedcold.org/Text/WORKSHOP%202006/Session%201/1420%202006-09-11-WORKSHOP-SteveGARNER.pdf

*** update from National Post : Interview of Brian Olding of  Brian Olding and Associates, who prepared a report for this tailings pond back in 2011:

“As far back as 2011, concerns were raised about the tailings pond at the Mount Polley Mine. Brian Olding and Associates, an environmental consulting firm, prepared a detailed report that was submitted to the provincial Ministry of the Environment.

“We looked at the pond and we thought there was monitoring required. We wanted an emergency contingency plan in place.”

Olding was hired jointly by the Williams Lake Indian Band, the Soda Creek Indian Band and mine owner Imperial Metals to conduct an independent review of the Mount Polley Mine 75 kilometres southeast of Quesnel and prepare a technical assessment report on the proposed discharge of water from a tailings pond.”

http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/08/05/mount-polley-mines-tailings-pond-breach-of-five-million-cubic-metres-of-contaminated-waste-called-massive-environmental-disaster/

Properly managed and with thorough environmental and health and safety oversight in place, mining can be and is a successful revenue generator for our province.

However, without adequate insurance of complete,transparent inspections, reports and provincial oversight and enforcement, residents near all mines should be asking provincial authorities today for assurances this cannot, and will not happen elsewhere else.

 

**10:50 am August 5th, BC Minister of Mines and Energy Bill Bennett issues a statement, nothing from Environment Minister Mary Polak yet, nor has a statement been issues by the official opposition at this time:

http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/08/bill-bennett-minister-of-energy-and-mines-responds-to-mt-polley-mine-incident.html

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Happy B.C. Day ! “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”~Edward Abbey

From the banks of humble Mud Bay in Surrey, to the mountain peaks and valleys across this great province, there are incredible views to be found and appreciated…if only you take the time.

Today, and this weekend, get out of the city if you can- find some nature around you if you can’t- and enjoy some downtime away from all the wing-nuttery that’s out there.

If you find yourself at the end of a long trail with an amazing view, share your pics with us when you get back, on twitter @lailayuile, hashtag #BCDAY , or email them to me at lailayuile@live.com and I will add them to the post for readers to enjoy! These are some of mine, from adventures past and present.

Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”

— Terry Tempest Williams

 

 

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