By Kelly Ninh
It is evident that fracking is not only an unsustainable practice that requires large amounts of water, chemicals, and energy, but it is one that should not be pursued. Fracking is infamously known for triggering earthquakes when this mixture of water, chemicals, and sand is pumped into the ground to fracture shale rock, but this process also releases different concentrations of hydrogen sulphide among the trapped gas. Northern BC is abundant in natural gas but it seems that this has become a burden to the residents of BC’s Peace River Region as the uncontrolled releases of gas containing 300 ppm of hydrogen sulphide, also known as sour gas, has caused injuries, deaths, defects and miscarriages in cattle, has forced people to abandon their homes, and has led a school to station buses outside an elementary school in case sour gas has escaped from nearby wells. It was mentioned in this article that within the last three decades, a minimum of 34 workers in BC and Alberta have been killed in sour gas related accidents while disabling hundreds of others, and these incidents have occurred away from urban areas. A sour gas incident that occurred in Gao Qiao, Chongquing, China in 2003 killed 243 while causing another 64,000 to evacuate.
It seems that with the increase of fracking, more gas leaks are bound to occur which is a risk that we should not take. With the depletion of other non-renewable energy sources, we should not rely on the gas that is released through fracking as an energy outlet, but we should be investing in other sustainable sources of energy such as wind power, solar power, and hydro power. Other countries within Europe have strategically invested in these renewable sources of energy, but Canada has failed to do despite the great risks of climate change. It seems that our government is currently too focused on the present and not the future, especially since they are promoting the Enbridge pipeline and the Keystone pipeline along with allowing gas companies to frack. Many people are unaware of the issues related to fracking and that it is occurring in isolated areas of Northern BC, while the majority doesn’t even know what fracking is.
More public awareness needs to be geared towards fracking and the impacts that it has on environment and our health. Before reading this article, I was unaware of the health impacts that the leak of sour gas can have and it seems like not all of the health impacts have been readily available to the public when it should be. It is unacceptable for our government and corporations to keep this kind of information a secret. Our government is supposed to be there for the people, yet they are knowingly holding back information that is crucial which is something that occurs far too often. In the documentary Gas Land, it showed that fracking released toxic chemicals into multiple water supplies within the United States which something that could happen, if it already hasn’t, if fracking continues to develop in BC. Water is one of the only that we truly need in order to live and the thought of it our water supply being polluted by chemicals is scary. There are countries that do not have enough fresh for its people and because of this, just the thought of gas companies contaminating a fresh water supply is unjust. It unfair that big corporations are exploiting small communities by putting their health, land, and resources at risk because they have money and power. It seems that change can only occur if we put pressure on the government to create stricter regulations that does not make any exceptions for rich corporations. If we do not take it upon ourselves to stand up for the rights of not just ourselves, but for those who do not have a voice, we will all continue to be victims of corporate exploitation.
By Andrea Novakovic, Grade 11
For thousands and thousands of years, the people of Secwepemc, Okanagan, and other First Nations had protected their land and kept the natural balance of the environment. However, it only took a century and a half for foreign settlers to destroy this delicate balance and bring the area to the verge of an ecological collapse. Ever since the European settlers came to Canada, the First Nations of Canada have suffered greatly and the environment’s health has been gradually declining. The First Nations peoples were stripped of their lands and placed onto reserves, which were tiny compared to what they had before. Farming technology and techniques that were foreign to the land and to the indigenous people were brought in. They ended up harming the environment and the Aboriginal way of life.
By Sophia Yamauchi, Grade 10
A hundred and sixty beds that were made available to the homeless last year will no longer be offered this winter, according to CBC News. The provincial government has stated that the extra beds will not be needed this year because of the 300 new social housing units opened earlier in the year. When some of the city’s homeless people were questioned on what they thought about the cut, they told the reporters that they will probably end up staying out in the cold this winter. They also said that the new social housing spots will either be full or inaccessible to them. Vancouver has what is called an Extreme Weather Response Program (EWRP), Click here for more!
By Andrea Novakovic, Grade 11
Hundreds of people gathered in the streets of downtown Prince George, British Columbia to protest against the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. The march through the Dakelh
Territory and the streets of Prince George was led by the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, who felt that the government was ignoring their title and status by approving this project when it clearly encroached upon the First Nation’s territories.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway involves a $5.5-billion 11770-km twin pipeline system running across Canada, transporting bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the tanker port on the B.C. coast above Kitimat. The smaller 20” line would transport condensate, which is used to dilute heavy oil for transportation; the larger 36” line would transport about 500’000 of crude bitumen to marine terminal every day. The terminal itself would be frequented by all sorts of oil tankers, ranging from the Aframaz vessels (which only carry 700’000 barrels of oil) to the VLCC (“Very Large Crude Carriers”) tankers that have a carrying capacity of 2.3 million barrels of oil each. (more…)
By James Wang, Grade 12
On a warm, mid-August afternoon, the B.C. Ministry of Education tweeted that starting this school year, optional Grade 12 provincial exams would no longer be offered. I personally oppose this change, but nonetheless, others may rejoice. Keep on reading this article to find out how this may affect you!
A brief history of B.C.’s provincial exams:
Years ago, there were provincial exams which were worth 50% of a course’s final mark, and the optional provincial scholarship exams. The weighting of the former was later changed to the current 40%, and the latter was done away with. In 2004, the biggest changes came; Education Minister Christy Clark made all Grade 12 provincials, other than English 12, optional. Over the years, B.C.’s major universities, including UBC, SFU, and U. Vic, changed their admissions policies: provincial exam results would only be used if they increased an applicant’s average. So, the number of people writing them dropped year after year. Then in 2011, 30 optional provincial exams have been dropped due to the fact that only 20% of all eligible students chose to write them last school year and provincial exam scholarships worth $2.5 million dollars went unclaimed.
(Note: Grade 12 provincials are worth 40% of your final grade, but Grade 10/11 exams are worth less – 20%)
Old Provincial Exam Scholarship Rules ($1000):
- Achieve 3 “A’s” (86%+) on 3 Grade 12 exams
- Minimum of 73% on the English 12 provincial
New Provincial Exam Scholarship Rules ($1000):
- Get a “B” (73%+) overall (School Mark + Provincial) in either English 12/Communications 12
- Achieve 1 “A” (86%+) on any one of the 5 provincially examinable courses (English 10/12, Math 10, Science 10, Socials Studies 11)
- Get at least 3 other ”B’s” on any of the other 4 exams
As you can see, it’s much easier to get a scholarship now! Grade 11’s and 12’s weren’t expecting our Grade 10 provincials to matter much, but now they do for scholarship purposes. On the plus side, the exam rewrite rules have been relaxed for those students this year! Instead of allowing students to rewrite exams that they’ve done in the past year only, all mandatory exams can now be rewritten. So if you would like to do so, please talk to your counsellor.
Is the change good or bad?
Now, you are probably wondering why anyone would voluntarily write a 2-to-3-hour exam under the risk of losing up to 40% of their final grade. Right off the bat, it seems quite unfair that Grade 10’s are now under the pressure of having to write three provincial exams while Grade 11’s and 12’s write one exam only. Does that make sense to you? Secondly, students who didn’t get desirable results in previous provincial exams but would like to get a shot at the provincial exam scholarship must now rewrite them, despite the fact that they would have to study for courses they had taken one or two years ago. Thirdly, cancelling optional provincial exams might cause some negative repercussions on the education system. They had been a great equalizer between different schools. Students of private and public schools in both urban and rural areas had all written the same exams. Plus, the exams ensured that every teacher followed the same curriculum. Now, course materials may vary dramatically and students’ fate may be determined by the type of teachers they get.
Nonetheless, I do concede that some good does come out of the cancellation of optional provincial exams. Students are now much less stressed! The most positive effect is that there will be more scholarships given out! (Hopefully, the Ministry won’t run out of money and start reducing the scholarship amount.)
Although student apathy has undoubtedly played a part in causing this ‘atrocity’, the government cannot deny its responsibility either. Personally, I think students should have at least gotten a one-year advance notice of such a drastic change.
I lament the loss of optional provincial exams. Frankly, I was looking forward to writing them, to challenge myself and to gain a sense of achievement. But, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade! For now, concentrate on doing your best in the mandatory provincial exams. If you do well, your $1,000 scholarship depends on them!
By: Puneet Riar, Alumnus
In the last couple of months, British Columbia’s politics has been acting the way a grade seven class acts when the teacher hasn’t photocopied enough handouts and steps out to print off more – chaotic. Backstabbing, resignations and expulsions have dominated newspaper headlines across the country and it seems that this whole situation will carry on in the year 2011.
On October 7, Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson was expelled from the British Columbia New Democratic Party caucus (he now sits as an Independent) for criticizing a speech BCNDP Leader Carole James made to the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention—and indirectly, criticized her leadership. A few days after that, on the 15th of October, the caucus (party) chair Norm Macdonald resigned from his position, the reason being that James failed to consult him on Simpson’s discipline. Following Macdonald’s resignation, on November 19th caucus whip Katrine Conroy also resigned, stating the same reason as Mr. Macdonald’s.
If this wasn’t bad enough, things really started to get worse as the days went on. Before the November 20th NDP Provincial Council (deliberative body to discuss issues within a party; includes reaffirming confidence in the party leader), the caucus revolt came to light when three MLAs (Jenny Kwan, Claire Trevena and Lana Popham) met with Carole James in Vancouver and quietly gave her a letter signed by 13 NDP MLAs—dubbed the “Baker’s Dozen”—stating that they had lost confidence in her as a leader. Ignoring this, James went into the provincial council in Victoria and managed the approval of 84% of the council, rejecting a motion for a leadership convention next year. Pro-Carole scarves were being handed out at the council, though the “Baker’s Dozen” refused to wear them to show solidarity in their dissent.
Fast forward to December 1st: leader of the “Baker’s Dozen” Jenny Kwan (Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA and one of the longest serving BCNDP MLAs) released a statement, saying that James was “dividing the party by staying on as leader” and that “under James’ leadership, debate has been stifled, decision making centralized and individual MLAs marginalized”. The statement also called for an immediate leadership convention. In response to the scathing statement, James scheduled an emergency caucus meeting for December 5th but was indefinitely postponed so private discussions could be held with the “Baker’s Dozen”. Coming out of these discussions was a statement of solidarity: if James tried to eject even one member of the dozen out of the NDP Party, she would have to remove all 13 of the members—that’s 40% of the party. Under law, these 13 could actually form their own party!
To add scandal to the situation, Kwan also condemned a “backroom deal” of former cabinet minister and party president, Moe Sihota, being paid a $76,000 salary by unions. Kwan alleged that James knew about this deal for a long time but had just revealed it to the party around the beginning of December. “There should be no place in today’s politics for such backroom deals,” said Kwan; irony in my opinion.
Taking the infighting no more, 7-year Leader Carole James surprisingly resigned on December 6th, stating that her decision had been made “in the best interests of British Columbians, who expect and deserve a functioning Opposition”. James will stay on as leader until a new leader is chosen. No date has been set yet for this.
While the NDP seems to be in the spotlight, within the British Columbia Liberals, Premier Campbell also made the headlines when he resigned on November 3rd amidst a 9% approval rating and the implementation of the HST. He will also stay on as premier until a new leader is chosen on February 26, 2011.
Barely two months ago, the NDP was revelling in a massive lead in the polls against the Liberals. In a mid-October Angus Reid poll, 49% of British Columbians would have voted NDP compared to the 24% for the Liberals. The Mustel poll out on December 17, however, gives the Liberals a five point lead over the NDP, 41 to 36. So far, candidates to replace Campbell are: former Education Minister George Abbot; former Health Minister Kevin Falcon; former Attorney General Mike de Jong; former Minister of Regional Economic and Skills Development Moira Stilwell; and the favourite Christy Clark, a former BC Liberal cabinet minister. On the flip side, no public statements have been made, but Fraser-Nicola MLA Harry Lali, Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth, and our own Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix are all suspected contenders of the NDP leadership.
Things like this don’t usually happen in BC. With party discipline so rigid, members of a party rarely vote on their own opinions, let alone try to boot their leader out of her position; it is really crazy for all this to happen. With both leaders soon to be gone, both parties will be able to start fresh and redefine themselves by the next election. Even so, the Liberals seem to have a slight advantage: with the BCNDP crisis, they could point out to the electorate that the party is not fit to run government if it can’t even run its own party. What the NDP party needs now is a leader that can bridge the gap between the James dissenters and supporters, whereas the Liberals simply need a leader, because at this point any one is better than “Gordo”. NDP strategist David Schreck accused the “Baker’s Dozen” and Jenny Kwan of “blowing up the party” and “destroying their chances of beating a reinvigorated Liberal party in 2013.” Within the NDP, some say that the firing of Bob Simpson was right, but I have to disagree. I believe that the opposing party to James should not be silenced. Within a democracy, questioning and disagreement with authority is allowed. It is not just the majority who matters, but the minority as well. As Edward R. Murrow’s once said, “we must not confuse dissent with disloyalty”.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/blackbird_hollow/2893862600/ Carole picture
http://www.flickr.com/photos/claytonperry/5145345354/ Gordon picture
By: Nicole Yu, Grade 10
Another summer has passed and now it’s time for a new year at high school, whether it is for the first time or for thesecond, third, fourth or fifth. Wow, pretty soon you’re going to be graduating! Wait, what do you graduate with, again? There’s that name for the special diploma all British Columbians graduate high school with. What was it called? The… Hogweed? Hogwood? Dogweed? No, wait. It’s the Dogwood. How could you have mistaken a dogwood for a hogweed? They’re very different plants!
The two do share some similarities, however. For example, the two very similar sounding words are both plants that grow across Canada, and both produce white flowers. Although the words are mixed up frequently, the dogwood and hogweed are fairly different. The dogwood is a tree, and its flower is the provincial flower of British Columbia. Students in this province graduate with their high school diploma, semi-formally called the Dogwood. The giant hogweed is an extremely toxic plant that contains a sap that can cause painful blistering, swelling, and lifelong skin damage. If it comes in contact with eyes, the sap can cause permanent blindness.
The giant hogweed plant, formally known as the Heracleum mantegazzianum, was first introduced to England from Russia in the 1800s. Because of its size it was very popular as a decorative plant before its toxic effects were commonly known. The hogweed plant is very tall; it can grow up to 7 metres, though usually its final height ranges from 2 to 5 metres. The plant has compound leaves, which means that its leaves are made up of different parts. The leaves are very big; they can grow up to 1 meter in diameter. The leaf itself separates into leaflets which have rough, serrated edges. The stems of the weed are wide and hollow, with reddish purple flecks. Commit its appearance to memory; it can be easily mixed up with other plants, such as the wild carrot and the water-parsnip.
Currently, the weed is spreading across the US and Canada, making lovers of nature cautious. People are told to remember what the plant looks like so they will not accidentally touch it and harm themselves, because the plant is phototoxic. This means that the sap contains photosensitizing compounds (furanocoumarins). When it comes into contact with human skin along with UV radiation, like that in sunlight, it leaves a painful chemical reaction. After about 24 hours of contact with the sap, the skin begins to redden and swell, and after 72 hours, an inflammatory reaction will occur. Effects can last for several months, leaving the skin sensitive to UV light for years. If you get the sap on your skin, avoid sunlight and wash it off immediately. The Giant Hogweed is a pest for field owners. They try to get rid of it, but the plant grows back. Hopefully, nature will take care of the phototoxic plant with natural causes, wiping the plant out sooner or later.