29 March 2017

Vancouver's poorest community centres will get unique deal

Park board backs Strathcona Community Centre demands for secure funding
Megan Stewart / Vancouver Courier   March 28, 2017 12:19 PM
The community centre in Strathcona is saddled with unique, complex demands that set it apart from most others in the city and should have a distinct contract and secure funding.
This was the unanimous decision taken Monday night by the park board, now wrapping up a year-long effort to sign the city’s 21 community centre associations to a joint operating agreement. Proposing a different deal marks a new direction for Strathcona and potentially other community centres that struggle financially.
The park board is also prepared to put its hand out. It will consider “potential funding partners” that can “develop an interim as well as a long-term strategy for a sustainable funding model.”
The new direction was supported by the community centre association president.
“Over the last several months, it became clear that we couldn’t be supported in very significantly through the JOA,” said Shannon Williams about the joint operating agreement between centres and the park board that could still include an “investment fund” to a small amount of revenue from more to less profitable centres.
“They have really taken the step. It is a significant shift that the park board is saying they need to support community centres such as ours, so we are really heartened by that,” she said. “The board has heard us and understands and appreciates our concerns and those of other centers in similar situations.”
The decisions has two phases and will begin with recommendations specific to Strathcona on a short-term basis before long-term options are considered for it and any other community centre with similar financial limits and burdens.
“Something needed to be done differently,” said Vision commissioner Catherine Evans.
The Strathcona community centre association fundraises $1 million of its annual $1.7 million operating budget each year. Park board staff is tasked with researching models to follow or innovations to dream up and will present interim, short-term suggestions to the board by June 30. Long-term models will be presented by Nov. 30.
 “I would suggest staff was already working toward a solution with Strathcona, but I think it’s important we separate the process and formalize this so the commissioners and staff all recognize and that we are ready to address this,” said NPA commissioner Casey Crawford, who is the park board liaison to the Strathcona Community Centre and proposed an initial motion that he later revised alongside Evans because she had proposed a similar but separate motion of her own.
“Poverty isn’t restricted to one neighbourhood or two or three, it is throughout our city,” said Evans, who did not want the community centre in Strathcona to be mistaken as anything else. “It’s very important it be a community centre in the same way every other centre plays a central role in its community. The fact if faces funding challenges doesn’t change its role. It is just a difference of resources available to it through program fees.”
The Strathcona community centre association had asked the park board for guaranteed funding of $200,000 going forward. Depending on the operational model that is suggested and approved, they could get more, or less, from the park board or could be funded through numerous other government partners and a distinct model. For example, the Ray-Cam Co-operative Centre located a few blocks from Strathcona is not strictly a community centre, but provides many similar services and is operated through agreements with their a board of directors along with the city and BC Housing.
“I think most community centres say they would face funding challenges,” said Stuart Mackinnon, with the Green Party, who later commended the work of Strathcona representatives, staff and patrons for opening up about their struggles, both financial and human.
After the vote, a small group of spectators broke into applause. Many of them, including Williams, Ron Suzuki and Veronica Light, had attended every special public meeting held by the park board as the joint operating agreement is ironed out.
“We are really happy the board has heard us,” said Williams.

27 March 2017

Vancouver Park Board launches map showing best places to find flowering cherry blossom trees in city

23 March 2017 The Straight.com

Cherry trees will soon be in bloom around Vancouver, offering residents the chance to capture the city during one of the most beautiful times of the year. Photo by Cynthia Wong

Vancouver’s cherry blossom season is imminent and with it comes an opportunity to capture some seriously gorgeous shots of our city in full bloom.

To help residents make the most of the occasion, which will kick off alongside the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival on March 30, the Vancouver Park Board has put together a handy map presenting the best spots in the city to find the pretty, pink-and-white petals.

The map includes the addresses of over 2,100 cherry trees in Metro Vancouver as well as in municipalities such as Agassiz and Chilliwack. “Festival favourite” locations (aka the most photogenic sites) are marked by red pins, while others are marked by blue ones.

Users may search cherry tree scenes by their preferred neighbourhood, cultivar, or a combination of both.

Each spot is accompanied by a timeframe in which the trees there are expected to flower, though these dates were drawn from the 2016 season. Given Vancouver’s unusually long winter, this year’s cherry blossoms may begin flowering at later dates.

The full map may be viewed at maps.vcbf.ca/map/. “Cherry scouts” will also be updating the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s Blooming Now page with images of budding sites.

Taking place from March 30 to April 23, this year’s Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival features a number of concerts, workshops, and art exhibitions happening around town. For more information about the month-long event, click here.

The Georgia Straight is a sponsor of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. 

15 March 2017

BC SPCA supports Park Board decision to prohibit ‘importation and display’ of live cetaceans

 March 10, 2017
The BC SPCA applauds the Vancouver Park Board Commission, whose commissioners voted unanimously in favour of a motion to amend bylaws "to prohibit the importation and display" of live cetaceans — porpoises, whales or dolphins — at the Vancouver Aquarium.

“We are thrilled with this unanimous vote,” says BC SPCA chief scientific officer Dr. Sara Dubois, noting the BC SPCA made bylaw recommendations in April of 2014 to take steps toward the phasing out of cetacean programs at the Vancouver Aquarium.

“The BC SPCA is opposed to the capture, confinement and breeding of marine mammals for entertainment or educational display and this vote is very encouraging.” The BC SPCA sent a letter  (PDF)to the Park Board today thanking them for their brave and compassionate votes that will advance both science and ethical conversations on the issue.

The amendments could be enacted as soon as May 15, once Park Board staff report back.

Read the BC SPCA's position on zoos and aquariums.

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.

(c) 2017 BC SPCA

11 March 2017

Mackinnon's 'definitive decision' on cetaceans in Vancouver parks

Read the full statement of park board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon 

/ Vancouver Courier
March 10, 2017 12:34 AM

 This is a transcript of the text read by Green Party commissioner Stuart Mackinnon after he presented a motion to prohibit the importation and display of whales, dolphins and porpoises at the Vancouver aquarium.

I want to start by thanking all the passionate, knowledgeable people who came out to speak to us over the last two nights.

This is a controversial subject, but one that is pertinent and necessary to discuss. Animals in captivity have a long and controversial history in Vancouver. In 1993 there was a referendum on the fate of the Stanley Park zoo and 53 per cent of the electorate voted for its closure. The zoo was closed three years later.

In 1996, an NPA-majority Park Board passed a motion which called for a further referendum if the Aquarium wished to expand. In 2005, a majority COPE board set a referendum on holding cetaceans in captivity during the 2008 civic election. The next board, an NPA majority, rescinded both of those previous motions and instead passed a new motion stating that “it is the Board’s intention that in 2015 the board review the Parks Control By-law relating to captive cetaceans."

In 2010, as a commissioner, I called for a non-binding plebiscite in 2011 that would have collected information for the 2015 review. 2011 was chosen because that would have been the next time the board could hold a plebiscite in conjunction with a civic election before 2015. My motion was turned down by both the NPA and Vision commissioners.

In 2015 there was supposed to be a review of the keeping of cetaceans in captivity in Vancouver parks. Instead the board debated a breeding ban.

Now it is 2017 and here we are again. It is true that what goes around comes around. This debate has been going on at this table for more than 20 years. It is time to make a definitive decision on the question of having captive cetaceans in our parks.

We have heard a lot about science, and ethics, and morality over the past two nights. Some of the discussion that has stuck with me has been around science. We have the Vancouver Aquarium saying what they do is necessary and important and impossible to replicate elsewhere. I don’t doubt for a minute that the aquarium is made up of dedicated people. I don’t doubt that their intention is to do good. I do however question that this is the only place they can do good science.

We had a scientist and researcher who told us that belugas are adaptable, that they live in small confined areas for parts of their lives — but he didn’t say they live in small confined areas for all their lives, and to me this is important. Sometimes it is what is not said that is important — and I will return to that later.

We had an employee of the aquarium tell us only they know what is best, only they are working on conservation, only they have the best interests of the animals in mind. I find this arrogance intolerable. But I find this arrogance runs right from the top of this organization. We have heard contempt and arrogance for years.

We are told that science is good. And I agree. We as a species have attained great things through science. But we have also created horrors. Agent orange, DDT, Thalidomide. These are all the result of scientific experiments. In the last century. both the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese Army committed atrocities in the name of science. So, science is a two-edged sword and we must always balance the good with the bad. Do the ends always justify the means? I think not.

We heard an employee of the aquarium talk passionately about her connection to the animals and how that connection inspired her. She spoke of a captive animal smiling at her through the glass partition. That is just as big an anthropomorphism as any I have heard the conservation community accused of. That smile could easily be interpreted as a grimace of pain and suffering.

The speaker who inspired me the most was the one who asked what greater accomplishments could the aquarium attain if they did not have cetaceans in captivity. What new and innovative ways of doing science would be stimulated if they had to rethink what they do and how they do it.

The topic here tonight is important. Just debating it has led to a new development and offer from the aquarium. Just two years ago, they scoffed at the idea of non-breeding captivity. Now they are proposing it — necessity truly is the mother of invention. They have always said that whales were an integral part of their program and they could not survive without them — now they are proposing to end belugas in captivity in 2029. But more importantly they now say with or without cetaceans, the aquarium will continue.

What they have not said, however, is that if the residents of Vancouver vote in a non-binding plebiscite to end cetacean captivity they will adhere to those results — no, what they have said is that in in 2018 or '19, they will bring back belugas until 2029 and they will not then or in 10 years later end all cetaceans in captivity.

We debate this tonight because it falls within our jurisdiction. The aquarium is in a Vancouver park and therefore falls within the mandate of this elected board. If it was at UBC, it would be a matter for Metro Vancouver. If it was at the quay in New Westminster, it would be for that city to decide. If it was in Langley, it would be those voters. But it is not. It is a matter for this board to decide what happens in our parks.

Commissioners, the time to act is now. The aquarium has no intention of listening to us or listening to the voters. They have no intention of ending captivity for cetaceans themselves. Therefore, we must do it here and now.

That is why I am proposing a change in the by-law to end captivity. We have the power and authority to do so. Let us do so now. The fate of these creatures is in our hands.

As I have often said around this table, we must not only do good, but we must also be seen to do good. Let us do good tonight. Let us be seen to do good. Let us end cetaceans in captivity in Vancouver parks. Please support a by-law change to end cetaceans in captivity.

10 March 2017

Unanimous Support for Green Commissioner Mackinnon's Motion on Cetacean Bylaw

For Immediate Release - Friday, March 10, 2017

Unanimous Support for Green Commissioner
Mackinnon's Motion on Cetacean Bylaw

Vancouver, BC - Last night, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation unanimously voted to amend the Parks Control By-law to prohibit cetacean captivity in Vancouver Parks.

The Park Board considered four options and heard from speakers over the course of two consecutive evenings. The options included:
  1. Call on City Council to include an assent question (plebiscite) in the 2018 municipal election.
  2. Accept the Aquarium's February 20th announced plans (bring back belugas from other institutions to the Vancouver Aquarium but discontinue display of belugas by 2029).
  3. Amend the Parks Control By-laws (including a ban).
  4. Maintain the status quo.

After hearing from speakers, Green Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon moved and NPA Commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung seconded the following motion:

"THAT the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation directs staff to bring forward for enactment by the Board an amendment to the Parks Control By-law to prohibit the importation and display of live cetaceans in Vancouver parks and report back not later than May 15, 2017."

In 2010, Commissioner Mackinnon moved a motion calling for a plebiscite on the future of cetaceans in captivity in Vancouver Parks in the 2011 Vancouver municipal election. While that motion did not succeed, his latest motion calling for a ban was supported unanimously.  After hearing from speakers, one by one, each of the seven commissioners voted in support of the motion.

"Tonight is the culmination of thousands of caring people's work. I stand shoulder to shoulder in pride with them. It was a very good night," said Mackinnon of the outcome of the vote.


For more information, contact:
Stuart Mackinnon: 778-389-1956

 Green Party of Vancouver