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Page 359

Martins celebrates first book of three

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Her love for telling stories to children has compelled an education assistant from Oliver to publish her first book.
Carmen Martins received a warm reception during her book signing at Beyond Bliss last week. The book, “The Rich Family,” is the first in a series of three that teaches children about money through adorable coin characters.
As an EA, Martins has been telling stories to children for nearly 20 years. At one point she noticed there wasn’t anything specific to teach children about coins. So she started telling tales using little coin characters. It wasn’t long before other EAs caught wind of this and wanted to tell the same stories to their students.
“Two EAs told me if I didn’t publish these stories, then they would publish them,” Martins laughed.
Her second book, due out before Christmas, tells the tale of the rich family that goes camping. It teaches children about each coin’s value by making a game out of it.
The third book is about a penny named “Penny” and her scary night.
“I want to teach kids in a way they can related to coins,” Martins said.
For example, Nickel is in Grade 5, Dime is in Grade 10, and Quarter is a 25 year old who loves to hunt caribou. The coins become personalities that children can relate to.
Joanne Tanner is Martins’ biggest fan. They have known each other since high school, and Martins has taught Tanner’s two children.
“To see her get a book published has been an amazing journey to watch,” Tanner said.

Culture change needed to erase bullying

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As the province gets ready to tackle bullying head on, so too is School District 53.
Local administrators, teachers and school officials are preparing to adopt the newly-established anti-bullying strategy called ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education).
The program provides comprehensive intervention strategies to combat bullying in schools. The five-year training promises to develop new online reporting tools, maintain a safe schools coordinator in every district, ensure stronger codes of conduct are developed in schools, and provide online resources for parents.
School District 53 has already embraced the strategy by establishing a leadership team, with Terry Collis as the safe school coordinator.
School board chair Marieze Tarr said elementary teachers will be attending Level 1 training on December 12, when they will learn prevention strategies and how to ensure safe school cultures.
On December 13-14, high school teachers will be attending their Level 2 training (violence prevention and threat/risk assessment).  
In May of 2013, all intermediate students will participate in a cyberbullying workshop presented by the “Children of the Street” group from Vancouver.
“Most of the presenters have had firsthand experiences with cyberbullying and so they will be providing students with strategies to deal with this huge problem,” Tarr said.  
She noted the presenters will teach students how to protect themselves from cyberbullies. There will also be a parent workshop in the evening.
Superintendent of Schools Bev Young said a team from every elementary and secondary school in the district will attend regional training sessions in Kelowna in December.
Shari Anderson and Karen Sinclair will attend from Oliver Elementary School, while Julie-Anne Martin and Dave Foster will attend from Tuc-el-Nuit.
From SOSS, new principal Marcus Toneatto, vice-principal Tracy Harrington, and Karin Maertins will attend.
Young said the district is committed to ensuring student safety.
“We have a district team in place to respond to incoming reports once the reporting tool is implemented.”
-The reporting tool, which is now active but still being refined, can be accessed at www.reportbullyingbc.edudata.ca/apps/bullying/
Oliver school trustee Tamela Edwards said
when it comes to combating bullying in schools we have to ask the question, “Could we do more or could we do better?”
Edward said she is pleased to see the ERASE initiative by the provincial government.
“While I agree with their initial agreement that stopping bullying in schools requires a culture change in our schools, I would also submit that it requires a culture change in our community.”
The trustee said the new strategy is an opportunity for all of us to continue to address bullying that sadly continues in schools across the province.  
“I am particularly glad to see the cyberbullying being addressed. This is an area where I know parents need to be more aware and informed on how to monitor their child’s computer activities.”
At a recent ERASE summit, Premier Christy Clark said stopping bullying requires a culture change in schools, homes and communities.
She noted that everyone must work together to “build a culture of kindness, caring and respect where no child has to wake up in the morning and go to school worrying about what will happen to them that day.”
The summit also focused on cyberbulling –
the newest form of bullying, and how the anonymity of technology has given bullies new weapons like text messaging, chat rooms, and social media outlets to intimidate people.
“Bullying shouldn’t be a rite of passage for young people,” Clark said. “We need to make sure that those who target others, whether in a school hallway or in cyberspace, understand the real world consequences of their actions and become leaders for changing school culture.”
The new ReportBullyingBC.ca online
reporting tool provides vital information, links and tips for parents and students. It also provides victims with a secure and anonymous way to report instances of bullying, threats and other safety concerns. They can easily report incidents or threats from a smartphone or computer.

Council follows best practices

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The Town of Oliver gets an “A” for following the best practices guide for local governments.
Corporate officer Cathy Cowan recently delivered a report on the guide, saying the Town already follows 99 per cent of what’s in it.
For example, topics dealing with land, labour and law are dealt with in closed meetings (in- camera). But bylaws are never adopted in closed meetings, she pointed out.
After in-camera sessions, as much information as possible should be released to the public, Cowan said.
The corporate officer said council members have a duty to respect confidentiality and keep the Town’s trade secrets to themselves. She noted that councillors do a good job in being careful during electronic communication with each other.
Mayor Ron Hovanes said Cowan does a good job making sure that council does not go astray when dealing with Town issues.
Councillor Jack Bennest said council is on the “cutting edge of openness” when it comes to disclosure of decisions at the end of the year.
Cowan said residents can find details and agendas on all open meetings on the Town’s website. Copies of the agendas are also available at the Town hall.
Council was queried about its rule relating to question period, when residents can only ask about topics that were on the agenda.
Mayor Ron Hovanes said that rule was made by a previous council to prevent people from “hijacking” the meeting.
Municipal Manager Tom Szalay said council is able to answer questions much easier when they have the information in front of them (from the agenda’s reading file).
However, council agreed the question period rule is not a hard and fast one. If a citizen has a question, he or she can ask it.

Farm Forum Part II

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(This is part 2 of a series on farm labour discord as addressed at a recent forum at the Oliver Elks hall.)
Numerous recommendations were made to help solve some of the problems that seasonal farm workers and their employers are having in Oliver and Osoyoos every summer.
Five discussion groups focused on the following topics (with recommendations under each): cross-cultural education, accommodation, transportation, safety and security, and remuneration and labour.

Cross-cultural education
– Gather all concerned at the beginning of the season to help break down stereotypes, share ideas, build relationships, develop respect and
understanding, and celebrate diversity
– Provide important information in the languages spoken in the area during the season, for example, English, French, Punjabi, and Spanish, and provide translation services and language instructions
– Organize advocacy and outreach activities, and promote good employers and employees
– Develop positive peer pressure among farmers, workers and communities
– Educate farmers, workers and communities on issues and how to communicate
– Have media more involved in dialogue and education process as well as create farmers and workers profile
– Organize community events to bring these partners together

Accommodation
– Define standards, regulations, enforcement, fines and random inspections
– Start with creating a hub location/work camp with all resources and amenities (convenience store, laundromat, showers, toilets, kitchen
and information/advocacy office)
– Improve on Loose Bay location
– Make sure workers have drinking water available

Transportation
– Safe, legal, not overcrowded
– Get to know farmers and their needs – shuttle service
– See if there is interest for a private business that would provide local transit

Safety and security
– Open advocacy and liaison office – create a plan and budget and prepare to obtain funding from all possible resources
– Lobby all levels of government for better regulations and funding
– Liaison contact information for each community
– Establish “farm phone line” on the same principle as Crime Stoppers
– Include WorkSafe BC, WorkBC and Interior Health in follow-up and random inspections

Remuneration and labour
– If there were a centralized farm labour office in each community it would be easier to sort the “bad apples” out
– Develop multi-copy time sheets for farmer,
worker and the office
– Labour laws need to be adjusted/revised
– Develop education plan to overcome
language and cultural barrier
– Require better monitoring of SAWP/TFWP by federal and provincial authorities
– Design a basic template for contracts stating rights, benefits, maximum work hours per day/week, holidays, pay periods, safety measures, rate of pay
– Identify the claims and complaints process
– Create a “win-win” situation for all stakeholders
– Involve high school students in education about community programs involving farmers and farm workers
– Initiate a “fair trade” certification program and awards for ethical growers
– Farm worker newsletter
– Keep local media more involved
– Develop funded advocacy to facilitate relationship between communities, farmers and workers
– Stop cash payments for work to avoid lack of proof and potential conflict

Town tells landlord he has no jurisdiction

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The Town has written a letter to a mobile home park owner telling him he has no jurisdiction to enforce Oliver’s building bylaws.
Council addressed the issue last week after a call for help from residents at Tradewinds Estates on Tucelnuit Drive.
Brian Wensley, chairperson of Tradewinds Tenants Association, said park owner William (Gus) Kirsch is causing a great deal of stress for seniors by saying they must remove part of their units from the lakefront because they encroach on Crown land and/or violate the Town’s bylaws.
This fall Kirsch began building a fence directly in front of lakefront units to prevent snowdrifts in the park. But he can’t finish it because people’s sheds and decks are in the way.
Tradewinds resident Herb Moore recently told the Chronicle it appears the homes are being fenced off from the lake, resulting in property value plummeting.
Moore said the lakefront units effectively block the wind from the north, so the fence is not required since the snow drifting is caused by wind from the east.
He noted the problem would easily be solved if Kirsch plowed the roads on a regular basis.
Moore believes the real reason for the fence is to make life miserable for the folks living on the lake . . . to the point they will either swallow a large pad rent increase or move on.
According to Moore, Kirsch approved a garden shed on the lakefront in 2005, but is now demanding that it be removed.
Kirsch could not be reached for comment, but in a letter to the Ministry of Lands and Forests, he stated tenants have consistently complained of snow blowing off the lake, causing drifting on the road. He noted a snow fence would alleviate this, but part of a mobile home needs to be removed before the fence can be completed.
In a letter to homeowners Rodney and Edna Fawcett, Kirsch said the storage shed they added to the south end of their home violated the Town’s bylaws in terms of size and location, and must be removed immediately.
But the Fawcetts claim that Kirsch previously approved their shed. However, Kirsch disputed this.
“I positively have never authorized your shed construction and I fail to see how you claim my approval when just last year you didn’t even recognize me when you confronted me about my rightful presence in Tradewinds,” Kirsch wrote in response.
In a letter to Elizabeth Hidlebaugh, Kirsch said her sundeck is illegal under Mobile Home Parks By-law 335-1977. Therefore, it must be removed immediately.
In another letter to Melvin Ducharme, Kirsh said his mobile home encroaches onto Crown land by seven feet, which is 12 feet north of where it’s allowed to be. Therefore, this portion of the unit must be removed.
“Due diligence at time of purchase would have revealed this situation,” Kirsch said.
Wensley disputed much of the landlord’s claims, saying Kirsch should have performed his own due diligence to ensure the park complied with local bylaws when he purchased the property.
“It is our belief that the landlord is clearly doing this as retaliation against the lakefront units and anyone he thinks is responsible for his loss at a recent arbitration attempting to extract rent increases of over 30 per cent for the lakefront properties,” Wensley said.
He noted that Kirsch’s barrage on the elderly is causing health issues, and he asked council to step in and provide relief. He recommended a letter be sent to the landlord telling him he has no jurisdiction to administer or enforce the Town’s bylaws.
Wensley suggested the Town do an inspection of the entire park and provide an amendment or variance . . . basically accepting the current improvements (additions) that were made.
While council agreed to send the letter, Councillor Dave Mattes cautioned that the landlord may request that the Town enforce its bylaws in this case.
Municipal Manager Tom Szalay said the Town has never initiated any enforcement in Tradewinds. In fact, the municipality has no legal obligation to enforce any of its bylaws, Szalay said.
Councillor Jack Bennest said it appears the landlord is “pushing tenants around” for something happening today that was never enforced years ago. He noted the Town has to make it clear that any bylaw infraction is for staff to enforce, not the landlord.
The Town is currently revamping its mobile home park bylaws, subject to a public hearing in December.

The Visit from Bandai was a huge success

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It is amazing how seriously they take our exchange program. They put their emphasis on having our children go back and forth but I am amazed at the energy they put into their adult program. Bandai’s International Sister City decided that this year they wanted a larger opportunity for their citizens and they sent fourteen people plus two interpreters. They had representation from their school system, farmers, municipal staff, members of their community and one very interesting story. A young lady who is an engineer for Toyota was a resident of the Fukishima area that was destroyed by the tsunami and the reactor meltdown in 2011. Today she and her husband have built a new home in Bandai. She was overwhelmed with our hospitality and the fact that Oliver sent care packages to youth who were billeted by Bandai.
Oliver’s exchange with Bandai was put together by the province in the late 1980’s. There have been years with more or less activity but we have always maintained the relationship. Bandai is a rural farming community about six hours north of Tokyo. It is a hard working farming community and it is easy to feel the rural connections we all share. The testimonials given by youth and adults from both countries easily explain how rewarding this long standing relationship has been. Our Bandai guests were hosted to the following.
The two day visit was packed with activities including a tour of the Machail packing house, Transwest Helicopters and a number of Wineries. They were met with a western hold up at Rustico winery and taught all adult the successful Okanagan Ice Wine Industry from Iniskillen.
Our guests also said thank-you to the Link crew at SOSS for their participation in the “shoe box” gift project for the youth that Bandai billeted. Principal Kate Turner explained the recent history of the school and where it will be in a year’s time when the new school will be complete. At Oliver Elementary School the Bandai guests were greeted in Japanese by a class and the class was given gifts to be distributed to the whole school. Two students also shared their year long social programs that all students participate in.They were also given a talk by Principal on the Community Hub program as Bandai was interested in some of our social services.
It is important to note that our guests spent some serious dollars in our town. They had nine rooms over two days in our shoulder season, they shopped at many local merchants including, Beyond Bliss, Dollar Rama, Shoppers, Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire and they shopped at Seven Eleven after they were dropped off for the day. They also purchased thousands of dollars of Ice wine that will tell Oliver’s story for years to come.
Our local sister city committee donated their homes, transportation and offered meals to keep our local expenses down. A huge thank-you to all of you who took the time and effort to make this visit a success.
As a final point, I want to share how truly important our relationship is to the Town of Bandai. When our guests were dropped off at the Kelowna airport they gave us an envelop in support of our program and for our generous hospitality in hosting their delegation. In the envelope were twenty one hundred dollar bills. The Town of Oliver will ensure that these funds will be used to foster our youth exchange in future years.

Willowbrook farm house razed by fire

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A couple managed to escape injury during a fire that caused major damage to a Willowbrook home last week.
Fortunately, members of the Willowbrook Fire Department were practicing on the evening of November 28 when the 9-1-1 call was made just after 8 pm.
Fire Chief Brad Fossett said 11 crew members arrived to flames at the two-storey home of Don Gabel at 5745 Green Lake Road. Gable was in Arizona at the time and another couple was looking after the place.
“We took an interior offensive attack, though it deteriorated quickly. At one point I had to pull crews back because of the heat,” Fossett said.
The chief noted the home’s construction (multi-level roofs and vaults) made it very difficult to properly ventilate the structure.
Members fought the blaze for several hours with the help of the Oliver Fire Department, which provided mutual aid.
The fire destroyed the upper floor and the roof structure, but the walls were still left standing.
Fossett said they determined the cause to be a faulty fireplace and chimney system. The RCMP and insurance officials continue to investigate.
The chief praised the professional efforts of both fire departments and the police. He also recognized BC Ambulance Service paramedics for keeping a close eye on the firefighters’ health.

Ministry confirms prison on schedule

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For those wondering what’s happening with the correctional centre in Oliver, it’s on schedule, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Ministry spokesperson Tasha Schollen told the Chronicle that construction is expected to commence with preliminary site work in early to mid-2013.

“Currently we are working to finalize a number of business requirements as the next step in moving this project forward, and we are engaged in discussions with the Osoyoos Indian Band on land, utilities and impacts on local community planning.”

But Chief Clarence Louie said the ministry keeps saying it should pass through the BC government capital works system any month.

“First it was September, then they said we should hear in October. The last call I got was there should be an announcement in December.”

Louie said the ministry has a long tendering process. “Remember, it is a $200 million project. They hope to pick the head contractor before the winter of 2013 and start construction in 2014.”

The correctional centre will have 360 cells and is a “secure” facility, which is the highest security classification in BC Corrections, Schollen said.

During construction, the project will generate up to 500 direct construction jobs and up to 500 indirect jobs, she pointed out.

The centre will directly employ about 240 correctional staff. In addition, a number of contracted staff will work on site, such as nurses, doctors, dentists, food service workers, trades personnel and counsellors.

Schollen reiterated the facility will use cutting edge supervision and surveillance technology that will contribute to safety for both staff and inmates.

As part of the province’s commitment to green and energy efficient buildings, the facility will be designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification and use wood in accordance with the BC Building Code and in keeping with the province’s Wood First Act.

Minister of Justice Shirley Bond told the Chronicle that the facility is a long-term investment in the government’s aggressive plan to expand correctional capacity.

“This project is on target and has the potential to bring incredible and long-lasting economic benefits to the South Okanagan, including the significant number of family-supporting jobs.”

Bond said they are excited to work with an economic driver such as the Osoyoos Indian Band.

Venables Public Hearing

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Despite opposition from the rural director, a land use amendment application in Area C is clearing the required hurdles.
The majority of the 13 people who attended a recent public hearing were in favour of an application from G and L Venables to amend the Official Community Plan (OCP) and facilitate a boundary adjustment.
The applicants seek to subdivide their property on 123rd Street in order to create a one-hectare parcel and consolidate the remainder with a neighbouring parcel owned by Hester Creek Winery.
The subject property (5.5 hectares in size) is within the Agricultural Land Reserve and planted with grapes. It also contains one single family home.
Area C director Allan Patton said his understanding is the Venables want to subdivide the house and one hectare from the farming portion of the property (approximately 4.4 hectares). This farming portion is to be amalgamated with the Hester Creek property to the west.
The Agricultural Land Commission recently reviewed the application and approved the request.
Area C’s Advisory Planning Commission also approved the application by a vote of 6-1.
“My reasoning for voting against was that we are moving from a family farm property that is a viable farm unit to a ‘small holding’ residence,” Patton said.
The director said the farming portion is to be amalgamated to an already large viable farm unit. “The residence, now separate from agriculture, could become a source of conflict with the surrounding farm properties and their activities.”
Patton said the larger farm property to the west becomes even larger, which in effect reduces the ability for the existence of family farms and encourages the existence of corporate farms.
Patton acknowledged there is no loss of agricultural land and no increase in principal or secondary dwellings with this application. But he said the creation of a residential property in a farming area remains problematic, reflected by being contrary to the Official Community Plan.
Regional district planner Evelyn Riechert said people should be aware that this proposal would create a residential sized parcel within an agricultural zoned area and within an active and productive farming area.
“Administration does not generally support the fragmentation of viable farmland nor the creation of ‘spot’ residential parcels within active farming areas,” Riechert said.
She noted a parcel such as this one may seem harmless, but incrementally these types of parcels could erode the area’s existing rural and agricultural character. However, it is recognized that the remainder of the subject parcel is to be consolidated with an adjacent parcel, thereby creating a larger and more efficient use of agricultural land, Riechert said.
The Venables application now awaits third reading and adoption.

Enrolment declines continue to challenge district

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Mitch Van Aller doesn’t have a crystal ball, but he knows what will be the school district’s biggest challenge in the next 10 years.
The director of facilities said replacing aging schools and struggling to address decreasing enrolments will be test. That was his prediction at last week’s public engagement forum at Southern Okanagan Secondary School.
The forum focused on several topics including new directions in education, enrolment trends and facilities.
School District 53 operates on a budget of $24 million with eight schools and approximately 2,360 students. It employs 146 educators and 131 support staff.
Superintendent of schools Bev Young outlined the changes in the education system. “We’re learning so much more on how kids learn and what motivates them.”
Young said they need to be more flexible to meet the needs of 21st century learners who come to school with Google in their pockets.
She outlined the BC education plan that focuses on personalized learning for every student and learning empowered by technology.
Young noted the district has set its sights on achievement goals, such as improving student success to literacy and numeracy, and increasing completion rates for all pupils, particularly aboriginal students.
Under enrolment trends, Young said the district has lost 654 full-time equivalent students in the last 10 years. Oliver Elementary School has lost 87, while Tuc-el-Nuit has lost 88. Southern Okanagan Secondary School has lost 229 students.
Combined, all of Oliver’s schools have lost 404 students in the last 10 years. And predictions indicate declines will continue. Young said the district stands to lose an additional 412 students in the next eight years. Oliver schools alone will lose approximately 130 pupils by 2019.
Young said Tuc-el-Nuit lost about 10 students this summer. She noted the general trend is families moving out of the area.
School trustee Sam Hancheroff said open borders have taken some kids away from this district. He noted parents now have the option to send their children to the Skaha district, adding that’s the reason they have lost pupils in Okanagan Falls.
Assistant superintendent of schools Jim Insley talked about early development indicators and the vulnerability of children as they enter the school system. He noted the district was the ninth most vulnerable district in the province (for students with physical, social, emotional, cognitive and communication deficits). That’s why they established the StrongStart programs.
“The vulnerability of a child has a lot to do with a vulnerable family and community,” Insley said.
But he noted the district is addressing these vulnerabilities with the help of Communities for Kids, before and after school care, preschool partnerships, and the new family “Hub” centre in Oliver.
However, in the vulnerability scale, Oliver has jumped from 10 per cent in 2005/2006 to 28 per cent in 2010/2011 in the category of physical health and well-being.
In finances, the district is spending nearly 70 per cent of its budget on salaries, and 17 per cent on benefits. Fourteen per cent is spent on services and supplies. Staffing costs show that nearly 60 per cent goes to teachers, while 14 per cent goes to support staff. Nine per cent goes to principals and vice-principals.
Van Aller gave a synopsis of district facilities. He said the SOSS rebuild will be completed by August of 2013, with a capacity for 600 students. The project will include a daycare centre, a Neighbourhoods of Learning centre, and a 400-seat theatre to replace the old Frank Venables auditorium.
Van Aller said the average age of district facilities is 43 years. The oldest schools are Cawston Primary and Similkameen Elementary Secondary at 62 years. Oliver Elementary School is 48 years old, whicl Tuc-el-Nuit is 36.
Van Aller noted that the daily operating cost for Oliver Elementary is about $1,700, while Tuc-el-Nuit’s cost is about $1,475.
Van Aller said facilities staff are “phenomenal,” adding they really care about their jobs and it shows.
Mayor Ron Hovanes said the new $55 million high school will be a huge attraction in the community, especially with the new theatre and Neighbourhoods of Learning centre.
“There will be more citizens walking through the school on a daily basis . . . I think this school will be the coolest thing around.”
Hovanes expressed his optimism about the correctional facility coming to Oliver and the new people and jobs it will bring.
Local parent and Tuc-el-Nuit school advocate Karen Somerville asked the mayor if there were any leads on new housing for young families.
Hovanes said the Desert Hills development will provide housing above the cemetery.

Business ‘giving back’ this Christmas

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A new business in Oliver is “giving back” to the community by donating an entire suite of furniture to a needy family this Christmas.
D&L’s new and used pawn shop is looking for nominations from people who know of a local family in need of a bedroom or living room suite.
“This is our way to say thank you to the community for supporting us,” said Lisa Ekelund.
She stated her and Dean would love to pull up to a house on December 15 with a truck load of furniture for a deserving family . . . just like the TV show, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
The Ekelunds have a number of items destined for the “giving back” program, such as a dining room table and chairs, and a couch. It could also include a television set and DVD player, Dean said.
Earlier this year Dean found out about a local family whose house burned down, so he donated items such as a couch and microwave oven.
People are asked to drop by D&L’s to fill out a nomination form before December 15.

Residents turn farm labour discord into action

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(This is part one of a two-part series on seasonal farm labour discord addressed at a recent forum in Oliver.)
Breaking down the stereotypes and providing seasonal farm workers with the basics is the first step in resolving many problems in Oliver and Osoyoos, according to farm labour advocates.
This was the message at last week’s “From Discord to Action” forum held at the Elks hall.
Growers, regional politicians and farm workers gathered to discuss labour concerns and suggested solutions. At the end, a steering committee was struck to bring about the desired changes. It was noted that provincial politicians and the BC Fruits Growers’ Association were “conspicuously absent” from the forum.
The meeting began with attendees listing various concerns.
Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes said the Town has been proactive by establishing its own pickers’ camp (Loose Bay). But he noted it has taken on a different, rougher lifestyle that is causing a concern.
Hovanes expressed another concern about there being no spot checks or monitoring to ensure that farmers are living up to their obligations and being held accountable for their workers’ needs.
Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells agreed that the information he has received about what goes on at Loose Bay is “unsettling.”
Wells raised a concern about the “different set of rules” between organized immigrant workers and domestic workers.
Area C director Allan Patton raised the issue of illegal dumping and illegal camping by seasonal farm workers. He also noted there have been some accusations of sexual harassment against farmers.
Patton said the fact that migrant workers need rides to various worksites is another reason to have public transit in the area.
One advocate for Mexican workers questioned their treatment by some Oliver farmers. “They don’t respect them . . . they push them a lot.”
The advocate said some farmers expect their Mexican workers to put in 15-18 hours a day without extra remuneration.
Mara Marquez from Kiwo Solutions (consultant for Mexicans) said the human rights needs of Mexicans are often overlooked. For example, some are fired if they complain about being ill, so they end up working when they’re sick.
Another forum participant said people will start seeing more farmers going bankrupt because of competition from cheap foreign imports.
One farm worker who resides at Loose Bay said there are no amenities for workers, noting only two toilets exists for 200 people, and there is no laundromat.
She said if an employer doesn’t respect his or her workers, there is no place to go for help.
Another worker said Oliver needs an interpretive centre for French Canadians.
Vineyard worker Jennifer Hicks said a lot of field workers are treated like a number. She claimed they have to work five hours before getting a break, and those who complain about anything are fired.
Hicks said she started a petition to change the laws for the betterment of workers, but ran into opposition.
A vineyard foreman at Tinhorn Creek winery said one problem they have is a lack of respect from workers, some of whom abuse the winery’s facilities.
Local resident Brita Park said the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program is flawed, noting there are different rules for different people. She noted there is a real disparity in worker remuneration because of these different rules.
Park also stated that workers are “blacklisted” and not hired again if they happen to complain about something.
“For the sake of their families and security, they are very vulnerable.”
Village of Keremeos Councillor Arlene Arlow said what is really needed is an advocacy or ombudsman office for foreign and domestic farm workers.
But Arlow said dreadlocks and tourism don’t mix well. She cited one incident where a man and his wife were walking past the K Café in Keremeos and a group of seasonal workers refused to move. They scorned and laughed at the couple, Arlow said.
Osoyoos Town Councillor Michael Ryan said there is a lack of enforcement of working conditions, adding the government is content with farms monitoring themselves.
“We lack the basic facilities for people who can’t afford a hotel.”
Ryan said the resort community is very offended by transients, and the tourism sector expects the Town to stop the problems.
“When people pay $100 a night they don’t want to see people on the beach smoking pot.”
An outreach worker for Spanish-speaking itinerants said she has attended the hospital with sick workers because their employers don’t have time to take them.
Jany Lopez from Tienda Mexican said workers have to contend with no toilets, no showers, blacklisting, bribes and corruption at the consulate.
Oliver businessman Alberto Veintimilla recalled the time when farmers provided adequate accommodation, but that obligation seems to have disappeared.
“We want to make people welcome, but there is no place to make them welcome.”
Veintimilla said he has been trying to purchase land in order to establish an international hostel. The other option is transforming his property into a campground for seasonal workers, but he acknowledged the outrage that would cause.
Regional director George Bush said the problem comes down to attitude. “A lot of it is just plain ignorance.”

Atamanenko forum raises many issues

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Everything and the kitchen sink was on the table during MP Alex Atamanenko’s community forum in Osoyoos recently.
Atamanenko began the meeting by talking about what he has been working on, including his opposition to genetically modified food, the introduction of “smart meters,” post office closures, and the sanctioned slaughter of horses.
The member of parliament for the Southern Interior said you can’t introduce genetically modified crops to the potential detriment of the organic or conventional apply industry.
“We’re dealing with powerful forces that don’t want any discussion on GMOs (genetically modified organisms).”
Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells raised the issue of increased RCMP costs when the community reaches 5,000 population. He questioned whether to raises taxes now in order to have enough for these costs in the near future.
Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes previously raised similar concerns and is also struggling with the question of raising taxes for this purpose. Oliver’s population is currently more than 4,800.
Hovanes discussed the high school rebuild project and the beneficial community connections, such as Neighbourhoods of Learning and the shared auditorium.
He also spoke of the positive aspects of the new corrections facility and the new jobs at Structurlam.
Although there have been some tough economic times, Hovanes conveyed that Oliver is doing quite well and has a lot of optimism. He also noted the number of new residents in Oliver who have become very involved in the community.
The 30 people who attended the forum also heard about Atamanenko’s concern about Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project, and about the solutions needed to address farm labour issues in Oliver and Osoyoos.
Atamanenko said people are also calling for improvements to infrastructure and the use of solar energy in rural areas.
The Chronicle asked the member of parliament for an update on the national park project in the South Okanagan-Similkameen. Atamanenko said he met with the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, which is still conducting its own feasibility study that should be completed by the end of the year. The politician said any study should adequately consider the impacts the park will have on the ranching community.
Atamanenko said the federal government has backed off supporting the park proposal because the provincial government has stated it would not support the concept at this time.
The politician acknowledged that it would take many years to establish such a park in this area.

Address change update

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Through rain, sleet or . . . anxious residents, the mail must go through in Oliver.
Steadfast postal workers with nerves of steel braved a hectic five days last week during the new address and rural mailbox changeover.
“We were explaining things to people who didn’t want to hear it,” said Rick Ould, Canada Post’s delivery services officer.
Ould set up a small table in the Oliver post office to specifically handle enquiries about the address change. Ould said he only had three people lining up at any given time last week.
During the lunch hour, the lineups at the post office reached all the way back to the second set of doors.
Ould acknowledged that the Chronicle office was also inundated with people (subscribers) wanting to update their new addresses. Subscribers are asked to wait until the new year or drop off their new address change (including their old address).
Ould said he realized the timing of the change (just before Christmas) isn’t ideal for many businesses, but he noted Canada Post wanted to do it before winter settled in.
Ould pointed out that most residents received their mail without difficulty on November 19, the day of the changeover. But as of last week some residents’ mail was delayed several hours.
Andre Miller said he normally gets his mail at around 10:30 am, but he was having to wait until 3:30 pm before receiving it.
Ould said he worked until 3 am one day making sure everyone got their community mailbox keys.
“I worked very hard for this community, but I know I can’t please everyone.”
One of the biggest problems he had to deal with was properties with several houses on one lot, but only one address. He noted these houses need separate addresses. If they don’t, this “throws a wrench in the whole system.”
Ould said another challenge is the language barrier with Indo-Canadian residents.
While the new community mailboxes look quite attractive, some people have complained about some sites being removed. The sites were reconfigured primarily with safety in mind.
“We need to keep them in numerical order, so it is unlikely that we will let people relocate to other sites,” Ould said.
He noted that 90 per cent of residents have mailbox sites that are close to them.
Ould said if residents have an individual (personal) mail box in front of their homes, they need to put an address on it. These mailboxes will be analyzed for safety, and people who have boxes that are deemed unsafe will be asked to move to a community mailbox, Ould said.
The message Ould would like to convey now is that residents should notify their banks, utilities and credit card companies of their new address.

Oliver men propose new riverfront park

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Two Oliver men are promoting the establishment of a new riverfront park that will enhance people’s health and fitness.
Bill Ross and Murray Soder pitched their proposal to Town council last week, and were met with general support. But Ross said council needs to pass a motion to this effect and work with the regional district and local MLAs to bring the park to fruition. It was agreed the plan would not succeed without involving local politicians to circumvent bureaucracy.
Soder and Ross are proposing to create “Oliver River Park,” incorporating fitness activity stations on each side of the river from drop structure 11 to 13, for a total distance of five kilometres.
Soder said there is a growing trend across Canada, the US and Europe to develop or adapt parks to provide “parcourse” exercise stations for the physical and mental well-being of citizens. These stations could feature various apparatus such as exercise bars, push-up stands, and sit-up benches.
Soder noted the area (1.6 miles) on each side of Okanagan River in Oliver is ideally suited for this proposal. He pointed out the landscape between the river dikes currently features noxious weeds and weed trees such as Siberian elm.
Soder said the plan is to replace the elms and knapweed with clumps of trees, shrubs and low maintenance grass that will enhance the habitat for birds and other wildlife. In addition, a few picnic tables and benches will be provided along the route, accessible to wheelchairs and motorized scooters.
Soder said the parcourse stations will be recessed into the ground, lined with landscape cloth and filled with wood chips. A minimum of two stations will be installed for garbage and recycle bins.
“The emphasis will largely be on the health and fitness of our citizens,” Soder said.
It is proposed that local contractors be utilized on a pro bono (voluntary) basis in return for a receipt for a taxable donation.
Nulton Irrigation has volunteered to design the irrigation system for the park, but funding will be required for irrigation piping and sprinklers.
Soder said they would prefer to use solar LED lighting in order to eliminate wiring.
Ross and Soder anticipate that grant money could be available from life insurance companies and Interior Health to help pay for and install the parcourse equipment.
Ross said their goal is to beautify the area by getting rid of unattractive vegetation, while maintaining the natural habitat.
He noted Oliver’s “sister city” Lake Chelan has done a wonderful job with its riverfront parks, which is a great benefit to the community.
Ross said the proposal requires letters of support from rural and Town citizens. They can write to Oliver River Park c/o Town of Oliver, Box 638, V0H 1T0.
He noted the Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society has already given its support.
Ross stated it’s up to the Town to get tenure on this riverfront property, which the ministries of environment and forests have jurisdiction over.
Councillor Linda Larson warned Ross and Soder that having a relationship with the Ministry of Environment (in these cases) is like banging your head against the wall.
Councillor Dave Mattes mirrored this concern, noting that Oliver Parks and Recreation spent several months negotiating a contract with the ministry to maintain the hike and bike path.
“If you want to remove a stick, you have to phone the ministry to open the gate.”
Mayor Ron Hovanes said the proposal is a great idea, but agreed the hurdles will come from the ministry. That’s why the MLAs need to be involved, he noted.
Ross agreed, saying the park won’t see the light of day unless the politicians are involved.
Municipal Manager Tom Szalay said the Town is currently waiting for land tenure and funding to pave a section of the east walkway from Fairview bridge to drop structure 13. This project is expected to begin next spring.
But Ross fears this paving project will overshadow the park proposal and push it off the radar. That’s why he encourages people to write the Town.