COLUMNS: A need for housing

The big local news last week, for some of us, anyway, was the federal government’s move to stay proceedings on the MiningWatch lawsuit.

The big local news last week, for some of us, anyway, was the federal government’s move to stay proceedings on the MiningWatch lawsuit against the Mount Polley Mining Corporation and the BC government. In an unusual move, the feds pounced before the court had a chance to hear any evidence from MiningWatch.

The lawsuit concerns Mount Polley’s disastrous tailings pond breach in August, 2014. MiningWatch contends the spill damaged downstream waters and fish habitat, thereby violating the Fisheries Act.

If I understand correctly, the feds want the stay because they don’t think MiningWatch has a case, and besides, they say, three different government agencies (B.C. Conservation Officer Service, Environment Canada and Department of Fisheries and Oceans) are looking into the affair. That’s all very well but how will anyone ever know if MiningWatch has a case if it doesn’t get heard? And when are those three agencies ever going to report? Is there no time limit? If they do eventually find fish habitat was damaged, will the federal government use that evidence to take Mount Polley and the BC government to court? Or by that time will the mine’s lifetime be over and there will be no one to sue?

Idon’t believe industries should be closed if they are damaging the environment. I do believe governments should have strict rules to protect the environment and should make darn sure industries obey them. That’s not happening.

Another news item is the need for decent, affordable housing. In October 1998, the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee declared homelessness a national disaster. In November, 2016, a report on Canada’s national housing strategy was released. Eighteen years is a long time to wait for a plan. I’ve lost track of the number of housing studies that have been done for Williams Lake.

They must be weighing down a shelf somewhere, gathering dust.

This latest report calls for a collaborative, strong and innovative national housing strategy to eliminate homelessness across the country. It says the plan should set clear targets and ensure fair access to safe and affordable housing. Sounds good. Hope it doesn’t take 18 years to happen.

Diana French is a freelance columnist, former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.

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