Category Archives: Articles

Can Wi-Fi Harm Kids?

Hearings on Wi-Fi in classrooms reveal large differences in the level of trust of information about health impacts.

It’s not often CBC radio host Gregor Craigie’s soothing voice puts someone on the defensive. But Craigie said he’d heard from many people complaining about the Greater Victoria School District’s (GVSD) decision to appease protesters by holding hearings about the health dangers of Wi-Fi. Since all the science shows Wi-Fi is safe, Craigie posed to school board chair Tom Ferris, “They wonder why [such hearings] would even be considered.”

Eventually, the elected official gave up portraying GVSD’s “investigation” as much more than political flak-catching. “The thinking is that if people don’t have an opportunity to air their views and get some sort of response,” Ferris answered, “then it’s something that may go on and continue to worry parents.”

Maybe that suspect commitment to truly investigating the issues explains the uncomfortable atmosphere later that same day in the GVSD boardroom as a 14-person Wi-Fi Committee commences a series of meetings. The committee includes teachers, parents, principals and several elected trustees, along with GVSD secretary-treasurer George Ambeault and technology director Ted Pennell; there are no health experts or scientists. Ambeault facilitates with grim terseness. Most committee members rarely if ever ask questions of the presenters, while teacher-member Michael Dodd, who’s already announced he’s wary of Wi-Fi, is perpetually lobbing softball questions at the anti-Wi-Fi presenters like, “Could you explain that further?”—to the obvious irritation of Ambeault and others.

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What is a Sidewalk For?

Municipal engineers have a lot more power over city life and politics than most of us realize.

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It’s an academic lecture about sidewalks. Could I have even dreamed up an event that sounded more inconsequentially mind-numbing?

But on this cold, rainy, January night, the little Legacy Art Gallery and Café, as part of the University of Victoria’s “City Talks” lectures, has drawn nearly a hundred provincial and municipal bureaucrats, business owners, artists, developers, lawyers, students, urban gardeners, civil rights activists, anarchists… Why on Earth would all these people be so interested in sidewalks?

Within the hour the answer becomes clear, as Simon Fraser University’s Nicholas Blomley delivers a surprisingly riveting overview of the role of sidewalks in social control.

Blomley is a “legal geographer” who specializes in “property and its relationship to the politics of urban space.” His new book sounds similarly recondite: Rights of Passage—Sidewalks and the Regulation of Public Flow. However, much like his earlier work on homelessness, First Nations dispossession, and community gardens, Blomley adeptly straddles abstract academia and on-the-ground activism.

“What is a sidewalk for?” he begins, and it’s soon apparent this seemingly benign question holds the seeds of intense urban conflict.

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A Mess Fit for a Fascist

Gordon Campbell’s reorganization of our resource ministries is costly, chaotic and destructive.

One of Gordon Campbell’s last major acts as BC Premier, a government reorganization, is old news. However, unless reversed by a new leader, the devastating consequences will be unfolding for years, from Peace River forests through bureaucratic halls to Victoria shores.

The decisions affected nearly every ministry, and thousands of civil servants. But the most significant changes hit our important resource ministries, where many of the highest-level decision-making branches and powers governing lands, mining, agriculture, energy, forests, fish and wildlife, water and the environment were moved to a new Natural Resource Operations (NRO) super-ministry.

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Better Care Homes, or Better Euthanasia?

Parliamentary committee members witness a dramatic confrontation over elder care.

Local MP Denise Savoie invited two representatives from the federal Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care to hear Vancouver and Victoria speakers in November. Developing recommendations on elder care, assisted suicide and abuse, the committee’s half-day session before 40 people at James Bay New Horizons broke down in a bizarre, foreboding fashion.

Presenter Wanda Morris set an emotional tone. (A Right to Die Society advisor, her online bio reflects on the putting “gently to sleep” of “my sister’s beloved dog, Sparky.”) Morris advocated legalizing “merciful euthanasia under a physician’s supervision,” describing people suffering pain “like my bones are sticking through my skin.” Would we deny people the right to jump from the Twin Towers to escape the flames of 9/11? Our laws, she said, are a “devastating, odious form of tyranny.”

While Morris acknowledged that it was also important to improve our elder care system, in the meantime, she pleaded, people need another option.

“I object!” One elderly man cried, demanding to present an opposing viewpoint. Another similarly protested. But another wept in concord with Morris, describing emptying her mother’s lungs of fluid in her final days because “she couldn’t die her way.”

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It’s Justice, Not Charity that’s Wanting

A public inquiry is revealing how BC’s Attorney General is letting BC’s legal system plunge into disarray and widespread injustice.

Let’s throw judges, Crown prosecutors and stenographers off the taxpayer gravy-train. Victims of crimes can pay the thousands of dollars per hour necessary to take criminals to court.

Sound like an unfair, unjust and, well, hugely stupid suggestion? Then is it really conversely acceptable to stop funding criminal defence lawyers?

This question was asked repeatedly during the Public Commission on Legal Aid in Victoria in October. The province-wide Commission was launched by the Canadian Bar Association, Law Society, and other legal organizations after years of growing public concern. By day’s end, it was clear BC’s justice system is in alarming trouble.

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