The staff of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will be in Smithers beginning on Monday, July 17 to consult with First Nations and other members of the Highway 16 communities.
The full Truth Gathering Process community hearings will begin in Smithers on September 25 for one week.
Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen commented, “The announcement that the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) will soon stop in Smithers is good news for families along the Highway of Tears who have lost loved ones to violence.
“It is absolutely essential for inquiry commissioners to travel to Northwest BC to hear directly from families along the Highway of Tears, Cullen said. “Reading statements and stories online or by letter does not have the same impact nor impart the very real dangers that First Nations women and girls face when travelling between remote, rural Highway 16 communities.”
In a news release July 6, (pdf) Chief Commissioner Marion Buller announced that “the National Inquiry is moving forward on the advice and guidance heard from families, survivors and grassroots organizations about how best to hear their stories of violence against Indigenous women and girls, including LGBTQ2S people. This next step is rooted in the knowledge gained from meetings that took place across Canada, with the latest being from the hearings in Whitehorse in May/June 2017.”
At Smithers and other locations the preliminary meetings will allow staff to participate in community visits to lay the groundwork for the hearings as part of the National Inquiry’s Truth Gathering Process.
Community visits allow:
the health team and legal counsel to meet with family members and survivors to prepare them for the community
the community relations team to meet with local organizations, Indigenous groups and women’s groups to learn more
about local issues regarding violence against Indigenous women and girls, including LGBTQ2S people
the logistics team to conduct site visits for the upcoming hearings;
National Inquiry staff to seek the advice and guidance from Elders and knowledge keepers so that when we return to the
community hearings we may respect and include local protocols and ceremonies.
For individuals and families who wish to participate in the hearings, the inquiry has set up a six step process that is outlined on their website. How to participate in the MMIWG hearings (pdf)
Cullen says he hopes last Thursday’s announcement of the second round of community visits and hearings by commissioners opens the door to a more productive and collaborative process.
“There have been many challenges to getting the work of the inquiry off the ground, directly including families in the work, and developing a sufficiently broad mandate to allow real understanding of the deeper issues of violence against Indigenous women and girls,” he said.
“The inquiry’s recognition of the need to hold hearings in Smithers is very positive.
The Kitimat General Hospital Chemotherapy Clinic will be closed for the next nine to twelve months due to staff shortages and a proposed restructuring of cancer care across the northwest, Northern Health tells Northwest Coast Energy News.
Contrary to local rumour that the complete oncology clinic had closed, other aspects of the cancer clinic will continue to operate, according to Dr. Jaco Fourie, the Terrace-based medical lead for Northern Health oncology. Other cancer care procedures including blood work and other tests and local care by trained general partictioners will continue in Kitimat for the next year.
Dr. Fourie said that the chemotherapy clinic at Kitimat General actually closed about three months ago when the oncology nurse left due to health reasons. Kitimat patients are generally treated in Terrace or Prince George and sometimes in Prince Rupert or Smithers. Sources in Kitimat’s medical community says that in the spring a nurse would drive to Kitimat from Terrace for some chemotherapy procedures but that nurse is now not available.
Dr. Fourie said that staff shortages are a chronic problem in cancer care across Northwestern BC. Last week chemo procedures in Terrace had to be postponed or transferred due to a staffing problem at Mills Memorial Hospital.
Two sources on District of Kitimat Council confirmed to Northwest Coast Energy News that council has been discussing the problem of the chemotherapy clinic privately for the last couple of weeks and have requested a meeting with Northern Health in early September.
In the Northwest, the problem is that with just one oncology nurse in many locations qualified to administer chemotherapy, there is no back up in case that nurse is not available. As well, to maintain qualifications the nurses have to administer a minimum number of procedures and in some cases re-qualify as procedures are changed and updated.
The work pressure due to staff shortages is also intense across the northwest and many staff leave the northwest due to burn out, Dr. Fourie said.
Northern Health is now working on a new system where there would be at least three nurses in each location, one full time, one part time and one casual who could be on call. Some of those nurses would likely also have to work in other fields of medicine.
District of Kitimat and local medical sources say that the call for two nurses to be available is part of a province wide plan to upgrade cancer care and bring the northwest practices closer to the system used in the Lower Mainland and across Canada.
Dr. Fourie said that Northern Health is studying the cancer care situation in the northwest and will issue a report in the coming months.
At least one Kitimat medical source questioned the need for two nurses, especially given the problem of attracting staff to the region, noting that using one nurse has worked well for years (when staff was available). The source added that one oncology nurse in Kitimat would be better than none if the province insisted on having two or none at all.
The source also questioned the safety of sending chemotherapy patients to Terrace, especially during the winter months, given that for those without access to drivers, public transportation is not always an option to get to appointments in Terrace and back to Kitimat.
Dr. Fourie noted that Northern Health is concerned about the situation in Kitimat with a possible growing population if industrial development goes ahead and is looking at expansion of services in the District to meet those growing needs.
“Is there a longterm vision for Kitimat?” Spencer Edwards, one of the public delegates, asked District of Kitimat Council Monday night, August 18, as there was yet another public hearing on the highly controversial development on Kingfisher Avenue.
If there is a vision for the future of development in Kitimat, it appears, to say the least, that both Council and the overworked Community Planning and Development division are struggling to find something. It is more likely that with the sudden increase in development, that both Council and staff just don’t have time to “do the vision thing.”
The growing objections to the Kingfisher development of either 40 or 53 townhouses and a second development Riverbrook Estates, that would be beside the Dyke Road off Kuldo near to the Riverlodge Tennis Courts, a mix of single family homes, townhouses and apartments, shows the vision gap.
Public delegations are demanding just that— a vision.
At council meetings over the past weeks, a number of delegates have referred to Clarence Stein’s original vision for Kitimat from the 1950s. A note to Council from the residents of Marquette Street presented in opposition to the Kingfisher development says:
This is not what the famous American Architect, Urban Planner and Founder of the Garden Cities movement, Clarence Stein had envisioned a modern town with a population of 50,000 resident when he designed Kitimat over 60 years ago. He would be turning inside his grave.
Stein asked the same question. In his plan for Kitimat (page 45) he said future councils, staff and developers must ask: “What do the people themselves want?”
It’s fairly obvious by now that what the people of Kitimat want is more housing—there is, after all, a housing shortage at the moment. It also crystal clear that the residents of Kitimat do not want cookie cutter town houses and apartments built, as the Marquette note says “as is happening in Surrey, Port Coquitlam and so many other places in the Lower Mainland.”
“Kitimat is full of hicks”
While developers (just like energy companies) come before Council and make presentations of their vision, with assurances of respect for this community, there is a dark side.
When the developer delegations left the Council Chambers Monday after their presentations, some of them were overheard by witnesses in the parking lot disparaging what had just gone on inside from both council members and citizen delegations, saying that “Kitimat is unsophisticated”….”doesn’t understand how things were done in the big city” and… “Can’t make up their minds.”
As one of my sources who overhead the conversation remarked, “They must think Kitimat is full of hicks.”
While it is uncertain which of the developer and real estate delegations made the remarks in the dark, it is clear if that is the real attitude toward development in Kitimat, then vision, not “let’s get on with it” must be the priority.
There must be strong development regulations to ensure that anyone building in the District must be held strictly to account to keep those assurances (and not be allowed to say market conditions have changed to get out of any commitments). More than that what Kitimat needs and needs now is an updated version of Stein’s vision, not the “motherhood” statements found in the current Official Community Plan.
So Kitimat, do you know the way to Santa Fe? (We’ll get there in bit).
Unfortunately the OCP is more of a motherhood document than a plan for the future of Kitimat. It’s also obsolete: a 2007-2008 rewrite of the original 1987 plan, updated with a few paragraphs in 2013 (as required by law, it is reconsidered every five years) There’s an already obsolete table predicting continuing decline of Kitimat’s population over the next quarter century (although a nearby graph does include possible population increases as well as declines).
On the future of Kitimat, the opening paragraphs read circa 2008
Kitimat’s population, after peaking in the mid-80s, has been in a general decline to fewer people than in 1956, primarily because of external factors beyond the control of the local municipality. Kitimat, like many other rural communities across Canada, is being affected by world markets and resultant demographic shifts as economic power and population is concentrated in major metropolitan centres. It is hoped that population will grow again and there are potential projects that would support this. New industry may locate here or existing businesses may expand based on the deep sea port, relatively low-priced land, and the proximity to natural resources. Kitimat’s future remains uncertain.
Even with the few updates in 2013, it seems no one expected the current building boom. That means the OCP can’t handle the boom, whether or not it continues or fades away.
The problem facing those who want development in Kitimat is that much of provincial law is pretty clear, a developer looks at the OCP, which has little specifics, then the zoning and then, if everything is in order, apply for a development permit, gets it and the goes ahead.
At Monday’s meeting, Edwards asked, “Is there any indication of what quality of development is being put in place?”
Deputy Administrative Officer, Warren Waycheshen, replied that the zoning plan for the Kingfisher development “allows what the setbacks are going to be, height, distances, it doesn’t set the building quality. That will come through the development permit stage.”
There have been the same arguments over and over in Kitimat in the past year, where a new developer or a developer doing renovations, often from out of town, were able to go ahead and do what they wanted, with little regard for the residents of Kitimat, its history and the vision of Clarence Stein.
This brings me to Santa Fe, how Kitimat can maintain Stein’s vision and how Kitimat can use the development permit process to ensure that happens. That means an urgent program of updating and strengthening the development permit system to reflect Stein’s vision across the district.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, was a crossroads of the Old West, home of the Pueblo First Nation which for centuries before the coming of Europeans built pueblos out of adobe. Adobe (not the software) is an old Arabic word meaning “mud brick” adopted into Spanish during the time of the Moors, brought to the New World and used by the Spanish in New Mexico, and taken up by the Americans who came via the Santa Fe Trail and then the railhead for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.
In 1912, New Mexico became the 47th US State; Santa Fe became the capital.
At the same time, the Santa Fe local government adopted the 1912 equivalent of a BC Official Community Plan,
In 1912, when the town had only 5,000 people, the city’s civic leaders designed and enacted a sophisticated city plan that incorporated elements of the City Beautiful movement, the city planning movement, and the German historic preservation movement. It anticipated limited future growth, considered the scarcity of water, and recognized the future prospects of suburban development on the outskirts. The planners foresaw conflicts between preservationists and scientific planners. They set forth the principle that historic streets and structures be preserved and that new development must be harmonious with the city’s character.
The end of the fabled trail of pioneer days, Santa Fe is today the oldest state capital city in our nation. And if its earth-tone structures hark back to the Pueblo originals, well, that’s by design….. Almost a century ago, city fathers mandated use of the style all over town, predicting — accurately, as it turned out — that it would be good for the tourist trade. Today, even fast food outlets and big box stores are clad in Santa Fe style.
That CBS report was right on. I visited Santa Fe a few years ago, and noted how much of the town, especially the famous art galleries reflected that adobe style. The big box stores and the fast food joints are the same—and who cares about corporate building branding; the familiar signs were all that was needed.
What struck me was a mall I saw on the outskirts of town while driving to the airport. It was a mall, in many ways no different from the boring cookie cutter malls you see in Surrey, Coquitlam or Nanaimo—with one exception. It was built in the Santa Fe Adobe Style and looked a whole lot better than the uniform malls you see from almost every highway in North America.
Editor’s Note: CBS News Sunday Morning is scheduled to repeat its special report on Santa Fe By Design, this Sunday, August 24. Due to sports programming Sunday Morning is usually pre-empted in the Pacific Time Zone. If you have cable or satellite and access to a CBS east coast station, watch or set your PVR from 0900 to 1030 ET (0600 to 0730 PT)
That is what “new development must be harmonious with the city’s character” means and that’s what Kitimat should do. Make sure all future development is truly harmonious with Kitimat’s character.
Not that there aren’t the usual tensions and disputes over what harmonious means. As the Wall Street Journalreported last year, there is now some resistance to the old style among residents, including those outside the municipality’s jurisdiction or away from the historic districts where the rules are the strictest.
As the Journal reports:
a new wave of contemporary homes is springing up around the city’s less regulated outer edges, transforming the once uniform landscape and pushing southwestern design in new directions. Glints of glass and steel are now dotting the city’s earth-toned desert surroundings
Some home owners want to be completely contemporary and get away from the adobe style. On the other hand, as the Journal reported, some architects are working on innovative designs that blend the adobe style with the ultra modern:
Some local architects aim to meld traditional and contemporary architecture in their designs. While traditional materials of adobe homes—stucco and plaster walls, for example—are still used in many contemporary homes, the lines on modern designs are crisp and clean instead of rounded. Many of the contemporary homes around Santa Fe are characterized by large expanses of glass, clerestory windows and skylights—sometimes in unexpected places, such as in laundry rooms and showers—and muted stucco exteriors accented with steel that blend into the landscape.
Although Kitimat Community Planning and Development says on their website that Stein’s Townsite Report is a “must read,” it is doubtful that any of the developers have actually read it.
Note also that the Garden City concept that was the foundation of Kitimat was itself, in part, based on the now century-old City Beautiful movement that gave Santa Fe its character.
So there is a connection between the design of that desert city and this small town in the rainforest of the Northwest.
After Monday’s Council meeting, I asked Warren Waycheshen if there were any “heritage” or “look and feel” policies in British Columbia. Waycheshen told me that while it is difficult to mandate “harmonious character” and “blending into the landscape” at the zoning level, it can and has been done at the development permit stage in a few BC communities.
(And for those developers who think that wanting harmonious development is “unsophisticated,” well they can look at Santa Fe and Whistler)
Up until now in Kitimat, some in politics, some in the real estate and development communities have had an Oliver Twist approach, saying to every developer “Please, sir can we have some more?”
So far none of the designs presented before Council for any development have shown any innovation or imagination. None of them have any harmony with Kitimat’s character
. Even with the need for housing, there is time to slow things down and reconsider whether taking “off the shelf” projects originally designed for the land crowded Lower Mainland are right for Kitimat.
That’s because none of the Liquified Natural Gas projects are anywhere close to the Final Investment Decision Stage.
Many of the delegations to Council have warned about overbuilding and the possibility that slap dash, cookie cutter development could quickly deteriorate into slums if the boom doesn’t happen. There is some limited time to consider all the issues. Most residents who live around the Kingfisher development would prefer buildings with a higher quality that could be sold on the basis of its proximity to the golf course. There are fears that many developments, based on the Lower Mainland “build higher” philosophy would be inappropriate for seniors.
There is one consideration—that is the size of buildings. Both District Staff and developers cite changing demographics (average household size dropping from 3.2 to 2.4 persons) and the fact the large single family homes, such as the “berry” development by Oviatt Construction are too costly for young families who would prefer and could afford townhouses.
We have to ask what kind of townhouses? The original Stein report, in a chapter written by planning subcontractors Mayer and Whittlesey noted on page 220,
Larger-than-normal houses, for people will stay much indoors; covered terraces and breezeways where children can play. A large number of houses should have a cellar or attic space for workbench and game table. Provision of wood burning fireplaces should have special consideration, as a focus of interest and cheer in a rainy climate.
So smaller houses for affordability or larger houses so people can get through the fall and winter without getting cabin fever? Just how much Seasonal Affective Disorder happens in Kitimat? And beside the weather, people are staying indoors a lot of these days watching satellite TV, playing video games and on the Internet. All factors the developers aren’t considering.
Have Kitimat’s planners and builders ever considered how home design might help alleviate SAD?
Let’s throw out the boxes and have the architects go back to the drawing board or AutoCAD and design a townhouse that is right for Kitimat.
There are a lot of worries about snow clearing and parking in the narrow streets of the proposed developments. While district staff say the Kingfisher development meets “municipal parking standards” perhaps all those concerns by experienced long-time residents mean that those standards should be reconsidered rather than used as a rubber stamp.
It’s amazing that in the late 1940s and 1950s a bunch of men in New York (yes men, Stein, the man of his age, calls for planning by men) who at first had never been here, could imagine and create the Kitimat that became “the town of the future,” while today developers from Vancouver, Calgary or wherever do nothing more than pull an AutoCAD file off a hard drive, make a few tweaks and cosmetic changes and then try to convince residents, staff and council that this will be great for Kitimat.
Yes many of the original houses in Kitimat were “off the shelf” at the time but they were also often new and innovative for the 1950s. This is a chance to create a new vision but practical vision for the 21st century. The provincial government has mandated all community planning must consider climate change. There is no indication at all that the current development designs take climate into consideration.
What must be done
It’s time for Kitimat to rewrite the development permit standards, so that the original Stein vision is incorporated into every future development, whether residential, commercial, industrial or institutional. Some of the ideas will have to be updated from the 1950s to reflect changes in demographics, economics and technology. If Santa Fe, a modern hub of artistic and high tech innovation can do it, Kitimat can do it on a smaller scale.
Since time is somewhat tight, ask the current developers, on a voluntary basis, to submit new ideas that show their projects won’t be just another subdivision in Surrey, new designs compatible with Kitimat. If developers want to build here, now and in the future, they are going to have to use their imagination and skill to bring Stein’s vision into the 21st century. Tell the developers that now they have to prove to Kitimatians that they don’t really believe this is a hick town.
Update development rules and guidelines
District staff, Council members, the Housing Committee and other interested groups should take a crash look at development guidelines and development permit rules and as soon as possible update those that can act as a guideline for future changes that reflect the Stein vision.
Hire a District Solicitor
We recommended this during the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review hearings and when the LNG companies began environmental review. All the problems with potential development again show the need for a full time District Solicitor who will be in the District offices working with staff and members of council and attending council meetings to understand the needs of the residents of Kitimat on all issues. Having a lawyer on retainer who is not involved with community is no longer an option.
Overhaul development rules and guidelines
Continue the work recommended for the short term and have staff, locally based developers and locally based engineering companies familiar with Kitimat form a task force to overhaul the development rules and guidelines so that developments fit into both an updated Clarence Stein vision and the uncertain economics of this region
A new Official Community Plan
The current “maybe this, may be that” Official Community Plan is completely inadequate for the needs of Kitimat. It is little more than a collection of database copy and paste, motherhood bureaucrat speak with no significant reference to Stein’s original vision.
The community needs an OCP that has a strong, well-defined two track approach, one that assumes the LNG boom will go ahead, that Kitimat will grow, and a second that assumes that the new industry might pass us by and Kitimat may have to revert to planning diversification with an emphasis on tourism.
That also means looking for and hiring the Clarence Stein of the 21st Century, whether that person is in New York, Vancouver, London or Singapore.
The current OCP was largely written by Stantec, which seems to be the go-to consulting firm for everyone. While the involvement of Stantec may not have been an issue in 2008, Stantec is the same company that is now working for Enbridge and most of the LNG projects. That is a clear conflict of interest.
Kitimat needs a visionary who can build on what Stein and his colleagues did 60 years ago. While Stein was working for Alcan, what is needed in 2014 and beyond is truly independent consultant, not one serving a dozen different masters.
That includes maintaining harmony with the forested nature of the region. Without going completely the same way as Santa Fe, perhaps future construction in Kitimat should conform, within market conditions, to a style that reflects the demands of building in the northwest, like heavy snow loads and long days of dreary rain while at the same time is more reflective of the northwest natural environment. That means including the brilliant idea of sidewalks and green spaces at the back of houses, not just boxes on standard suburban streets. That doesn’t have to mean duplicates of First Nations’ longhouses or settlers’ log cabins.
A Kitimat “look and feel” should challenge architects to create a style that says Kitimat and the northwest while at the same time drawing plans that are economic for both the developer and the buyer, just as architects in Santa Fe are bringing a century-old vision into the 21st century.
If the current crop of developers think that Kitimat is unsophisticated, doesn’t understand what goes on big cities, and takes too long to make its mind, well we live here and you don’t and you won’t. If Kitimat does have a rosy economic future, it is highly likely that the community and district can find developers who aren’t in-and-out carpet-baggers but who will build something that will make a profit, be affordable for the buyer and be harmonious with the community and Stein’s vision updated for the 21st century.
As Stein asked, “What do the people themselves want?”
Editor’s note: My late father, Frederic Rowland, was Alcan’s assistant property manager in Kitimat, involved in town planning from Vancouver in the mid-50s and in Kitimat from 1957 to 1965 and thus one of the Alcan staff charged with implementing Stein’s vision.
About 52 million years ago what is now the Bulkley Valley was home to a tiny hedgehog and an ancient ancestor of tapirs, who lived on the shores of a placid lake surrounded by a lush upland forest.
The newly discovered fossils at Driftwood Canyon near Smithers are significant advance in the study of the ancient history of the region. That’s because while the Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park is known for beautifully preserved fossils of leaves, fishes and insects, these are the first mammalian remains found at the site.
The fossil hedgehog and tapir are even more significant because at the time they lived near an upland lake, Earth was going through a period of rapid global warming, now called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.
In the past couple of years, climatologists and paleontologists have started to play closer attention to the Thermal Maximum period in hopes of understanding what could happen during climate change today.
Driftwood Canyon first became famous in 1977 with the discovery of oldest known ancestor of salmons, Eosalmo driftwoodensis, which lived in an Eocene lake at Driftwood Canyon.
Today’s study says the ancient hedgehog is a species hitherto unknown to science. It is named Silvacola acares, which means “tiny forest dweller,” since this minute hedgehog likely had a body length of only two to two and half inches or five to six centimetres, about the size of an adult human thumb.
“It is quite tiny and comparable in size to some of today’s shrews,” said Dr. Jaelyn Eberle of the University of Colorado, lead author of the study. She speculated Silvacola may have fed on insects, plants and perhaps seeds.
Did it have quills like contemporary hedgehogs? “We can’t say for sure,” Eberle said. “But there are ancestral hedgehogs living in Europe about the same time that had bristly hair covering them, so it is plausible Silvacola did too.”
The delicate fossil jaw of Silvacola was not freed from the surrounding rock as is typical for fossils. Instead it was studied using an industrial high resolution CT (computed tomography) scanner at Penn State University so it could be studied without risking damage to its tiny teeth.
Hedgehogs are no longer found naturally in North America. Modern hedgehogs and their relatives are restricted to Europe, Asia, and Africa. Hedgehogs have become quite the rage as pets in North America in the past several years. The most common hedgehog pet today is the African pygmy hedgehog, which is up to four times the length of the diminutive Silvacola.
The other mammal, about the size of a medium-sized dog, discovered at the site, is Heptodon, is an ancient relative of modern tapirs, which resemble small rhinos with no horns and a short, mobile, trunk or proboscis.
“Heptodon was about half the size of today’s tapirs, and it lacked the short trunk that occurs on later species and their living cousins. Based upon its teeth, it was probably a leaf-eater, which fits nicely with the rain forest environment indicated by the fossil plants at Driftwood Canyon,” Eberle said.
Most of the fossil-bearing rocks at Driftwood Canyon formed on the bottom of an ancient lake and are well-known for their exceptionally well-preserved leaves, insects, and fishes.
“The discovery in northern British Columbia of an early cousin to tapirs is intriguing because today’s tapirs live in the tropics. Its occurrence, alongside a diversity of fossil plants that indicates a rain forest, supports an idea put forward by others that tapirs and their extinct kin are good indicators of dense forests and high precipitation,” she said.
Forests, lakes, rivers
Fossil plants from the site indicate the area seldom experienced freezing temperatures and probably had a climate similar to that of Portland, Oregon, located roughly 1,126 kilometres or 700 miles to the south.
The current and previous studies have shown the hedgehog and tapid lived on the shores of a lake surrounded by a mixed conifer-broadleaf forest with redwoods, such as Metasequoia and Sequoia, cedars, fir, larch, golden larch, spruce, pine as well as rare ginkgoes. There were also broadleaf deciduous trees such as alder, birch, sassafras, elms, and relatives of the oak family. In the lake were Azolla, a floating fern, which are frequently found as preserved mats in the fossil shale of the cliff at Driftwood, which together with the fine preservation of the insects indicate a quiet water lake.
The remains on the hedgehog were found in the fossil lake bed while the tapir was found in river sediments.
The paleoclimate has been reconstructed suggesting the region had a mean annual temperature of between 10 degrees C and 15 degrees C, with minimal winter freezing and annual precipitation of about 100 centimetres a year. Today, the mean annual temperature for Smithers is 4.2 degrees C with 50.85 centimetres of precipitation a year
“Driftwood Canyon is a window into a lost world – an evolutionary experiment where palms grew beneath spruce trees and the insects included a mixture of Canadian and Australian species. Discovering mammals allows us to paint a more complete picture of this lost world,” said Dr. David Greenwood of Brandon University, a co-author of the study.
“The early Eocene is a time in the geological past that helps us understand how present day Canada came to have the temperate plants and animals it has today. However, it can also help us understand how the world may change as the global climate continues to warm.”
The Driftwood Canyon site is the northernmost of a series of Eocene lake sites spanning about 1000 kilometres that reach south from Smithers to Republic in northern Washington that the scientists call the Okanagan Highlands, with a mixture of temperate and tropical plants and animals and a high diversity of insects and plants.
While Driftwood Canyon is now among sites considered a key indicator of climate change 50 to 53 million years ago, the Harper government has cut almost all the funding for research into paleontology, not just at Driftwood Canyon but across the country, because looking for fossils doesn’t usually fit into the Conservative policy of only funding science that promotes industry.
“Within Canada, the only other fossil localities yielding mammals of similar age are from the Arctic, so these fossils from British Columbia help fill a significant geographic gap,” said Dr. Natalia Rybczynski of the Canadian Museum of Nature, a co-author of the study.
Other fossils of this age come from Wyoming and Colorado, some 4,345 kilometres or 2,700 miles to the south of the Arctic site of Ellesmere Island. In addition, sources have told Northwest Coast Energy News that the provincial budget for Driftwood Canyon, despite its significance, is the same as other small parks of that size, with virtually no security to prevent fossils leaving the park, either in the hands of professional looters or if they are picked up and taken home by visitors.
There are consistent reports that looted fossils from Driftwood Canyon are regularly showing up at fossil shows in the United States.
Sources have told Northwest Coast Energy News that the provincial government has ignored requests to improve security at Driftwood Canyon because it is considered a small (just 21 hectares) low priority park off the main tourist routes, rather than a significant fossil site.
The mammal fossils were discovered in 2012 before the budget cuts and are now in the Royal British Columbia museum in Victoria. The fieldwork was supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
The study “Early Eocene mammals from the Driftwood Creek beds, Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, Northern British Columbia ” was published in the July 8, 2014 edition of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
District of Kitimat Council voted Monday night to hold a plebiscite on whether or not the community supports the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway project.
District council and staff will decide the actual question for voters and the date for the plebiscite in the coming couple of weeks.
A staff report described a plebiscite as “a non-binding form of referendum,” as defined by the BC Local Government Act.
The council decision comes after the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel released its decision on December 16, that approved the pipeline and tanker project along with 209 conditions.
After the release of the Joint Review decision, the District of Kitimat issued a news release saying, “Kitimat Council has taken a neutral stance with respect to Northern Gateway. Council will take the necessary time to review the report in order to understand the content and reasons for the decision.”
On January 16, 2012 the council adopted a resolution “that after the completion of the JRP process, the District of Kitimat survey the residents of Kitimat regarding their opinion on the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.” After the JRP decision, the District reaffrimed that it would “undertake a survey of Kitimat residents to determine their opinions of the project now that the JRP has concluded its process.”
District staff had recommended hiring an independent polling firm to conduct the survey, pointing to a pollster’s ability to craft the appropriate questions and provide quick results.
Council quickly shot down the idea. A motion by Councillor Mario Feldhoff to use a polling firm did not get a seconder.
Councillor Rob Goffinet, who made the motion for the plebiscite, noted that even as a politician he doesn’t answer phone calls from unknown numbers. He said, “People do not want a pollster to phone them and do a check list how do you feel on a project. How can we be assured if someone in or out of their home will answer a call from a pollster? I would give total responsibility to every adult citizen of Kitimat who has a point of view to express it in a yes or no ballot.”
Councillor Phil Germuth added, “Those are the same companies that went out prior to the last provincial election and said one party was going to wipe it out and we know what happened there.” Germuth was referring to BC Premier Christy Clark’s come from behind majority victory which was not predicted in the polls.
Germuth told the meeting he believed an unbiased question could be posed in the form of a referendum on the Northern Gateway project. “I have full confidence in our staff that they will be able, along with some assistance from council, to develop questions that are not going to appear biased. It should be very simple, yes means yes, no means no.”
Councillor Mario Feldhoff, who earlier in the evening had, for the first time, declared that he is in favour of the Northern Gateway project, told council that he preferred using a polling firm because it could come back with a “statistically significant” result.
Council voted six to one in favour of the plebiscite. The lone dissenter was Councillor Edwin Empinado who told his colleagues that a mail-in ballot, another of the options presented by staff, would be more inclusive. Empinado said he was concerned that a plebiscite would mean a low voter turnout.
Warren Waycheshen, the district’s deputy chief administrative officer, told council that the plebiscite would have to be held under the provisions of BC’s Local Government Act which covers elections and referenda, but with the plebiscite the council would have more flexibility in deciding how the vote would take place. The act would still cover such things as who was eligible to vote and the use of campaign signs.
The neutrality that council had maintained for at least the previous three years began to break down during Monday’s meeting meeting when Germuth proposed a motion that would have required Enbridge to install within Kitimat’s jurisdiction a detection system capable of locating small volumes of leakage from the pipeline, a measure that is likely beyond the recommendations of the JRP decision.
It was then that Feldhoff became the first Kitimat councillor to actually declare for or against the Northern Gateway, telling council, saying he agreed with the JRP, “The overall risk was manageable and the project was in Canada’s interest. On the whole I am in favour of the conditions and recommendations of the JRP… Not only am I a District of Kitimat Councillor, I am a Canadian. To my mind, opposition to the JRP Northern Gateway report at this stage is yet another case of NIMBY-ism, not in my backyard.”
In the end, at Feldhoff’s urging, the council modified the original motion, so that it called on the District to meet with Enbridge to discuss an enhanced pipeline leak detection system where a leak could “impact the Kitimat watershed.”
It’s not clear what Council will do with the result of the plebiscite, since it is “non-binding.”
In the past two years, Terrace, Prince Rupert and Smithers councils, together with Kitimat Stikine Regional District and the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District, all voted to oppose Northern Gateway. Those were all council votes, taken without surveying local opinion.
Most of the decisions are in the hands of the federal government which has 180 days from the release of the JRP report to approve the project.
The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine voted on Sept. 14, 2012, to oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. Eight of the twelve Regional District Directors of Kitimat Stikine voted to both to oppose the Northern Gateway project and to support resolutions of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) on the pipeline.
Telegraph Creek director David Brocklebank, who originally proposed the motion, was supported by Dease Lake alternate director Joey Waite, Terrace municipal directors Dave Pernarowski (mayor) and Bruce Bidgood (councillor), Nass director (and regional district chair) Harry Nyce, Hazelton village mayor Alice Maitland, the Hazeltons and Kispiox/Kitwanga director Linda Pierre and Diana Penner (who was sitting in for the director Doug McLeod) for the rural area around Terrace and Kitimat.
Brocklebank had proposed the motion at the August meeting. It was tabled to allow for the directors who represent the various regions and municipalities time for consultation.
Voting against were Kitimat municipal director Corinne Scott, New Hazelton mayor Gail Lowry, Thornhill’s Ted Ramsey and Stewart municipal director Billie Ann Belcher.
Scott said she was voting against the motion, continuing the Kitimat council’s position that it remain neutral until the report of the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel. Ramsey also said Thornhill wanted to also remain neutral.
Other directors pointed to what they called the politicization of the Joint Review and how they believed it had been influenced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The Pacific Northwest Fishing Reports website is calling on anglers to boycott all communities, including Kitimat that haven’t taken an official stand opposing the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.
The site run by someone called “Old Jake” covers DFO Region 6 and Region 7a “in an effort to give sport fishing enthusiasts more options when it comes to our wonderful sport.”
Its about page says:
What makes this website unique is that it is not run by professional fishing guides or anyone who profits directly from fishing, we are local sports fishing enthusiasts here simply because we love the sport. Why is this important to you? Because we don’t have to make a sale on our fishing reports.
The boycott notice was first posted by “Old Jake” on March 31, but only came to wider attention in the past weekend when the link was widely circulated among the angling and guiding community and by environmentalists on social media in northwest BC, some of it in reaction to the oil spill in Sundre, Alberta.
In the post, “Old Jake” says in the introduction:
[T]he deck is really stacked against our pristine lakes and rivers.
Support our boycott on all business in communities which are not willing to protect our environment in hopes of getting a financial handout from Enbridge. Let us send a clear message to communities who don’t respect our environment enough to protect it.
Please do not boycott small fishing businesses that reside outside of any community boundary, because they are as much a victim of those who support oil for greed.
The letter says, in part:
Greetings fellow sport fishing enthusiasts, I am writing this to all of you, all over the world because we desperately need your help on two major fronts, both could permanently extinguish fishing as we know it for our generation and that of our children’s and possibly much longer.
The first and foremost problem is the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project which the Prime Minister of Canada appears to be declaring a project that will go ahead regardless of the National Energy Board Hearings.
The second is Fish Farming, and its unregulated ability to hide scientific facts, its attacks on free speech and attempts to silence those who dare to speak out against them.
First Nations have done their part, they stood up and spoke, all against Enbridge and Alberta’s need to cash in on the horrific oil sands that are killing the Athabasca River, and sending this toxic mess into the Arctic Ocean….
Here is where we have a problem, the cities, towns and villages appear to want it both ways, they want your tourist dollar, and they also any dirty Oil Dollar they can get as well.
We need you; the people of the world to write to the majors of each community and ask them why tourists could come to a community that won’t protect its natural resources. Why should tourists come and spend their money if the leaders of these communities don’t take a stand in protecting our lakes and rivers from the worst threat ever in the history of British Columbia.
Ask these majors (sic probably means mayors) how many people will come to visit if we end up with a mess like they did on the Kalamazoo River.
Here is the list, where the author equates opposing Enbridge with supporting the environment
Prince Rupert – Supports our Environment (Visit this great community)
Terrace – Supports our Environment (Visit this great community)
Kitimat – Does not support our environment. (Boycott)
Kitwanga – Supports our Environment (Visit this great community)
Hazelton – Does not support our environment. (Boycott)
Kispiox – Supports our Environment (Visit this great community)
Moricetown – Supports our Environment (Visit this great community)
Smithers – Supports our Environment (Visit this great community)
Telkwa – Does not support our environment. (Boycott)
Houston – Does not support our environment. (Boycott)
Granisle – Does not support our environment. (Boycott)
Burns Lake – Does not support our environment. (Boycott)
Fraser Lake – Does not support our environment. (Boycott)
Vanderhoof – Does not support our environment. (Boycott)
Prince George – Does not support our environment. (Boycott)
The British Columbia New Democratic Party has written to the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel formally opposing the controversial pipeline project, while at the same time supporting the Kitimat LNG projects, as long as there are strong environmental controls on those projects.
A long letter from NDP leader Adrian Dix to the panel concludes by saying
as the Official Opposition, we have carefully weighed the risks and benefits of the NGP to British Columbia, and to Canada. After much consideration and consultation, we have come to the conclusion that the risks of this project far outweigh its benefits. We believe that the NGP will cause significant adverse economic and environmental effects and is not in the public interest. Therefore the NGP should not be permitted to proceed.
The letter also calls on the federal government to legislate a permanent ban on tankers for the west coast. The letter goes over the history of the Exxon Valdez spill
Eight of 11 cargo tanks were punctured, releasing about 258,000 barrels of crude oil, most of which was lost in the first eight hours. There were widespread ecological and economic impacts….To this day, vital shore habitats remain contaminated, the herring fishery has been closed for 15 seasons since the spill, and herring are not considered recovered. The clean-up costs alone are estimated at $3.7 billion…Wildlife and natural resource damages range from $8.5 billion to as high as $127 billion…. Related to the economic hardship felt by families and communities, a wave of social problems followed – alcoholism, high divorce rates and even suicides swept through the Sound’s small towns….
We simply cannot let this happen in British Columbia: the risk is just too great. Therefore, we are calling on the federal government to legislate a permanent moratorium on oil tankers and oil drilling activity on B.C.’s north coast to ensure the ecological integrity and economic and social vitality of the lands and waters of this unique region.
The letter also takes Premeir Christy Clark to task for not taking a stand on the Northern Gateway Issue
The Government of British Columbia agreed to the Joint Review Panel (JRP) process, limiting its ability to give voice to B.C.’s interests. In addition, the Province did not seek government participant status and has failed to exercise its intervenor status to fully represent the interests of British Columbians.
We note that other government agencies including an Alberta municipality, the Province of Alberta and Alberta’s Transportation Ministry, as well as the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Department of Justice, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Transport Canada have registered as government participants in the JRP.
We also note that the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, and a number of local
governments have passed motions opposing the NGP. These include: the Village of Queen Charlotte, Sandspit, Masset, Port Clements, Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers.
As the Official Opposition, we take our responsibility to represent and to protect the interests of British Columbia and British Columbians seriously. We have listened to the concerns and diverse perspectives of constituents throughout the province and we have met with stakeholders and experts about the NGP.
The letter also expresses concern about the fairness of the Joint Review Process
Four New Democrat MLAs are actively participating in the JRP, as intervenors or as presenters. Three of these MLAs represent constituencies that will be directly impacted if the NGP proceeds. The fourth MLA is our environment critic. All of them, like the thousands of other British Columbians who are participating in the JRP, are doing so in good faith.
We are very troubled by statements of the Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources that have caused several commentators and JRP participants to question the objectivity of the process and ask if its outcome is predetermined.
Dix is quick to point out that the New Democrats are not against sustainable economic development.
The importance of sustainable economic development International trade and responsible resource extraction are essential to B.C. and Canada’s economy.
International trade creates good-paying jobs and vital communities. To this end, we are committed to building on our tradition of further developing trade relations with China and other Asia Pacific markets to build a strong B.C. economy.
Further, we have been clear about our support for the Kitimat liquefied natural gas project while emphasizing it comes with the serious responsibility to ensure strong environmental protections. We acknowledge that all resource development and extraction has inherent risks.
Other points in the NDP letter were:
The tanker traffic to ship Alberta oil to Asian markets will require lifting of the current tanker moratorium and the Tanker Exclusion Zone, and will put the British Columbia coastline at serious risk of devastating environmental and economic damage from potential oil spills;The NGP will traverse remote and highly valued areas of B.C., and will cross almost 800 streams. The risk of spills from the proposed pipeline will put these valuable
environments and species, such as salmon, at risk;The impact of an oil leak or spill would be most severely felt by First Nation
communities. As has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, First Nations must be consulted effectively and be respected on a government-to-government level;• The greenhouse gas emissions generated by NGP-related oil sands development will
contribute to the economic, social, and environmental costs of climate change;
The NGP provides few long-term and sustainable economic benefits for British
Columbia, while shipping raw bitumen forgoes important value-added economic
development opportunities involving upgrading and refining the oil in Canada;• The NGP is forecast to increase Canadian oil prices for Canadian consumers.
Danny Nunes, a candidate for mayor of Kitimat in the fall election, together with a group of volunteers, is launching a petition/referendum opposing the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.
Nunes was a gadfly candidate for Kitimat mayor in the fall election, gaining 85 votes. He is a Kitimat and Terrace based video producer and comedian, also known as Matt Mask.
Nunes pointed to a vote by Kitimat council on January 17, 2012, not to hold any council vote or referendum on the Enbridge project until after the Joint Review Panel has reported, sometime in 2013. In the meantime, Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers councils and the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District have all had votes opposing the Northern Gateway project.
“If they won’t hold a referendum, I will,” Nunes told Northwest Coast Energy News, referring to the District of Kitimat council.
He plans an old style paper petition, getting signatures by going to events or door to door, making sure that as many signatures as possible can match the voters’ list in the last municipal election. Matching with the voters’ list is one reason why Nunes says he is not going to use an online petition site.
Once he has signatures from all those Kitimat residents who oppose the Northern Gateway project– “we’ll know if the town is opposed or just a small minority” — he plans to present the petition to District of Kitimat Council, probably sometime in April.
Smithers has become the third northwestern British Columbia municipal council to vote against the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, joining Prince Rupert and Terrace. Earlier, one regional district, Skeena Queen Charlotte, also voted against the controversial pipeline and tanker project.
I brought forth a new motion to oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway project. The motion passed 5-1 after careful and considerable debate by council. My decision was based in part on new information that came out from recent decisions made in Terrace, SQCRD, and Prince Rupert that made it clear that local governments had the right and are clearly permitted to provide information to the Joint Review Panel. Since the previous motion was tabled with the reasoning being that it was felt we should not be influencing the JRP it seemed appropriate to bring forth a new motion at this time taking into consideration that we made the decision based on the information currently available.
Brienesse was quoted by CFJW on Tuesday night: “I hope this really brings our community together and in particular what it does, is it brings the north together so now we have Smithers, Terrace, Prince Rupert, and the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District all opposing Enbridge, in their own unique ways that makes sense to their community,” said Brienesse, adding “we have a united North, so I am very positive about this.”
CFJW said the only vote against the motion was from Councillor Charlie Northrup, who noted not all councillors were present for last night’s meeting — and he wanted to table it until everyone was there.
Enbridge spokesman Paul Stanway, speaking on CBC Radio, repeated what he said to Northern View after the Prince Rupert vote, that it was better for all communities to wait until the Joint Review Panel had finished the hearings and then make a decision based on all the evidence.