Slow Down While We Have the Opportunity

ruthBy Ruth Simons
Published: May 27, 2015
MY mother always said bad things happen in threes.  The oil spill in English Bay, the fire at Squamish Terminals and the chip off the Chief were three shocking events that took place over a short period of time close to home that are a good example of this superstition. Whether you are superstitious or not, events such as these so close together give us reason to pause, consider the message, their connection if any, and take time to reflect on our decisions going forward. 
Each of these events could have resulted in serious harm to people and is therefore a wakeup call for those who have control over decisions involving public safety. If anything, these events are a warning to slow down on decisions affecting our future while we have the opportunity.  
The massive rock fall from the Chief on a busy Sunday may have been a warning not only for the weekend warriors who climb, but for all who may take this massive granite rock for granted. The Stawamus Chief has great spiritual significance to the Squamish Nation people. Perhaps the ancestors within the Chief are sending a message to us all to pay attention, be careful. The rumble of falling rock was a reminder to hear what this land used to be like before development, to respect the spiritual places and acknowledge the rights of the First Nations people. By ensuring we allow time for meaningful consultation with First Nations, we can all benefit from more responsible decisions that leave a legacy with the generations ahead.  
Howe Sound is a world-renowned, beautiful fjord and the watersheds provide an estimated $800 million to $4.7 billion in ecological services from nature to the region each year.  
It doesn’t make economic sense to compromise these vulnerable ecosystems. In 2011, with federal grant money, new creosote pilings were chosen to be installed in the Squamish small craft harbour. In the U.S., creosote pilings are being removed and replaced with concrete as they were having detrimental effects on the marine life, but in Canada protecting the environment is not a condition for federal funding. Everyone passed the buck on the rationale when everyone knew better. 
The images of the red inferno and billowing black toxic smoke at Squamish Terminals will hopefully remain vivid in the minds of decision makers going forward and motivate local governments to close the gaps in regulations and bylaws to ensure future development protects and improves our environment.
Port Metro Vancouver recently and quietly changed the rules to allow for refueling of tankers in English Bay despite the risks of spills. The oil spill was a reminder that human errors exist. We must insist that until our federal government can prove “World Class Tanker Safety Standards” are first world not third world, we should be putting on hold introducing new risks to our marine  environment and public safety.  
There are many significant changes being considered for the Howe Sound region right now, and each of these will shape our future. We have the knowledge to choose what is right for the environment and the safety of people but we need the political will to resist financial incentives that compromise smart choices.  The three grim reminders must spur all to action now and hold us accountable to do the right thing. The public must engage in the processes and speak up and be a witness.  
Three Orcas, or Yo Yo’s as I believe the Squamish call them, travelled Howe Sound up to Squamish this past weekend.  Three good things that serve as a reminder we have been doing some things right and let’s keep it that way for the future of Howe Sound.