Opinion – By Mike Archer. Bryon Day, president of Aevitas, the company the City of Chilliwack fast tracked through the approval process to build a toxic waste recycling facility on the banks of the Fraser River, sounds like a perfectly reasonable man with a perfectly reasonable plan.
Cover Photo: Current leaching beside Cattermole lumber facility alongside the Bert Brink Wildlife Management Area. Photo by JD Archer.
Just like Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz did, Day chose the old Chilliwack Progress as his vehicle for explaining things to the community after local input in the process was no longer required. The use of old newspapers to reassure the public after the fact that the power structure knows full well what it is doing is a disingenuous tactic at best and might be considered manipulation by any of the 20 community, First Nations and environmental groups who only found out about the proposal after it was unanimously approved.
Not to mention the citizens of Chilliwack who, until Day’s toxic waste facility got rammed through the approval process with only a smidgeon of opportunity for public discussion, probably thought they had a say in such enormously important and controversial decisions in their community.
Gaetz even implied, once again in the pages of The Progress, that she and council had their hands tied by legislation which didn’t allow them to talk to citizens before making such enormously controversial changes to the landscape.
Day’s company was not even mentioned in the only public advertisement on the enormously controversial proposal to hit the media before Gaetz and council unanimously approved it.
In fact; it was only ever described as a “waste recycling and transfer facility” – with the word “toxic’ deftly left out of the description, in the only public discussion about the facility prior to council’s decision to keep the public out of the discussions.
None of Day’s reassuring words in The Progress deal with the fact that Gaetz and her council have been less than open and transparent – almost to the point of being deliberately secretive – with the community of Chilliwack, the larger Fraser Valley, the Lower Mainland cities which would bear the brunt of any catastrophic spill, or the people of BC who have a vested interest in the protection of the Fraser River.
Gaetz can surely not expect anyone, especially her environmentalist following, to believe she was prevented by legislation from putting the name of company and a full and honest description of what it does – including the word ‘toxic’- in the paper. Surely she cannot expect anyone to believe she was restricted by legislation from discussing the proposal with the public or other interested parties before it was discussed by council, unanimously approved and then rushed through 1st and 2nd reading.
The fact that Day chose this time, after the entire municipal approval process was finished, to identify himself, and the manner in which Mayor Gaetz and her council went along with this sham, makes a mockery of even the vague appearance anyone might have had that the citizens of Chilliwack or the public in general has anything to do with the plans concocted behind closed doors at Chilliwack City Hall.
The softball questions Day was asked by the Progress‘s Jennifer Feinberg make a mockery of the new role of old journalists, which is apparently to defend the status quo and the power structure rather than question or (dare I suggest) criticize.
Here are a few questions you might ask next time those in power use you to get out their message of reassurance Jenn:
- Do you always consult your future neighbours after you’ve already received approval?
- Did you not think the word “toxic” was an important word to use in describing your waste recycling facility?
- Are you seriously expecting anyone to believe that, in all of the Lower Mainland there was no better site for treating toxic waste that 150 metres from the Fraser River next to a protected wildlife management area?
- If everything is as A-OK as you say it is, and we have nothing to worry about, why didn’t you come before us in the normal fashion, up front and honest, with your name, the real purpose of your business, and an explanation of the reasons we can all simply relax before you managed to get Sharon Gaetz’s approval and that of her council?
- Did it ever occur to you that all of the groups who are opposed to a toxic waste facility in a swamp next to the Fraser River, and other municipalities downriver should have been advised of your plans before Gaetz and her council approved them?