Showing posts with label Letter To The Editor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Letter To The Editor. Show all posts

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Governments fail again to protect against another invasive species. (Letter)

 re: Fast action needed on Clear Lake zebra mussels, Lake expert warns.(Brandon Sun, 24 Nov.)

Zebra mussels were first detected in Canada in the Great Lakes in 1988. 
Just another faux pas (blunder) by our government(s).
The best time to act was more than 3 decades ago, when U of Wpg., Prof. Eva Pip warned the province of this pending invasion. She was deemed as an alarmist, irresponsible and unprofessional. Now we know different!  How sad.

Governments are very lackadaisical about situations on the horizon, that could become a threat and problematic, but are always ready and prepared to spare no effort to "shut the door" on such invasive species…..AFTER they have entered.

Why is that?….or haven't you noticed..... many will just say…"Who Cares".

John Fefchak.

Friday, August 11, 2023


AUG 2019

Dear Yellowheadians, 

Earlier this summer, in a letter in the Crossroads, I complained about a huge multi-million dollar roadbuilding project on Highway 21, south of Shoal Lake. While I wasn't crazy about the noise or the violation of my personal space, that's not why I'm writing this. 

Here’s why.

The United Nations warned some time ago that the construction sector needs to cut back on its huge carbon footprint “yesterday” if we are to meet our obligations under the Paris Climate Accord. Yet, either out of ignorance, apathy or downright defiance, a steady stream of diesel trucks rumbled through Shoal Lake for weeks, from dawn to dusk, right past my living room window. 

Scant months ago, the Parks and Wilderness Society reminded us that world biodiversity (the variety of plant and animal life on Earth) is declining faster now than at any other time in human history. Yet that did not stop the trucks from making hundreds of round trips a day, hauling copious loads of gravel from a mine which has, for years, been transforming a beautiful stretch of the Birdtail Valley west of here, into an ugly hub of commerce.

Yet my letter was met with a deafening silence. Why? I have no idea. But one very disturbing possibility has come to mind since. Could it be that many simply do not believe that climate change is real; that we humans are behind it; or that its consequences are already widespread, deadly and getting worse? 

A study by UBC seems to raise the chilling possibility that this is, indeed, the case. It finds that school curricula in at least a few places in Canada, including Manitoba, present the science as not being settled yet!  It pains me to say this, but - if this is what is being taught - it's a lie! The science is settled! There’s an overwhelming and longstanding consensus among the world’s top climatologists. We humans are altering the nature of our atmosphere by the amount of fossil fuels we're burning. This is trapping heat close to the earth’s surface. And, if we do nothing, the only home we have could morph into a place that’s not just inhospitable, but downright deadly, even for the healthiest among us! Ironically, the month just past, when the road construction was at its peak, was globally, the warmest July on the human record!

So, would Planet Earth have been spared from a worst-case scenario had my "least favourite" road project not gone ahead? Of course not! But are we doomed to that worst-case scenario if every community in the world barges ahead with “business as usual,” as mine, sadly, is doing?  Absolutely!

Larry Powell

Shoal Lake, MB.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Compassion needed for farm animals. (Letter)

The following letter appeared in the Saturday, Oct. 10th edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo added by PinP.)

Sows like this spend much of their lives in tiny steel cages.

Re: Changes needed to protect farms, animals (Opinion, Oct. 5) 

As a former executive director at the Winnipeg Humane Society, I feel compelled to respond to Bill Campbell’s op-ed on the need to protect farms and animals. After starting at the Humane Society in 1994, I quickly came to learn that some of the most egregious suffering imposed on animals by humans occurs in the industrial barns of today’s animal agriculture.

I am not speaking of the few remaining family farms, but rather the large industrial-style buildings that house thousands of animals in small confined spaces with no access to the outdoors. These operations treat the animals more like cars on an assembly line, as they do not allow the animals to fulfill natural instincts and limit their movement severely. In short, the millions of animals raised for food in Canada are enduring lives of chronic suffering due to the very conditions that are allowed under our laws.

Anyone can check the facts by looking at the Animal Care Act of Manitoba. At first glance, it’s reassuring to see that animals shall not be confined with inadequate space, unsanitary conditions, or without opportunity for exercise. But just move down to the next section and you will see the list of animals that are exempted from the above requirements, and agricultural uses of animals are at the top of the list.

So, recent moves to bring in “ag-gag” laws are by no means aimed at bringing further protection to animals, but rather to keep the barn doors tightly locked so the public will not be able to see how the pigs and chickens providing food for us are actually living. In my view, industrial animal agriculture is unethical and, as a society, we should be working to ensure that animals raised for food are treated humanely as living creatures, not assembly-line parts.




Action Alert! Tell the Manitoba Government That Exposing Animal Cruelty is Not A Crime | Winnipeg Humane Society. Ag-gag laws

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

What can a large, but routine highway project teach us about our climate crisis?

Larry Powell explores that question in this picture story - "Thinking Globally. Acting Locally."

Earlier this summer, in a letter in my community newspaper, the Crossroads, I complained about a huge multi-million dollar roadbuilding project south of Shoal Lake, in southwestern Manitoba. 

Here’s why.
A convoy of dump trucks streams past my window.

Despite a standing warning from the United Nations that the construction sector needs to cut back on its huge carbon footprint “yesterday” if we are to meet our obligations under the Paris Climate Accord, a steady stream of diesel trucks rumbled through town for weeks, from dawn to dusk, right past my living and bedroom windows. (Above.)

And, scant weeks after the Parks and Wilderness Society informed us that biodiversity (the variety of plant and animal life on Earth) is declining faster than at any other time in human history, the trucks were making hundreds of round trips a day, hauling copious loads of gravel from a mine which, for years, has been transforming a beautiful and once-natural stretch of the Birdtail Valley west of here (below), into an ugly hub of commerce.  

Add caption


I asked an employee of the gravel mine what the future holds. He speculated that, now stocks are depleting at the present site, expansion to the north might be in the works.
Before the project.

The Birdtail just upstream (north) of the mine.
Pelicans gather on a nearby pond.
Rumour has it the mine will be expanding in this direction.
(All photos by PinP.)
Yet my letter was met with a deafening silence. I wonder if a recent study by the University of BC might help explain why. It has found that high school students in Manitoba are actually being taught that the science of climate change has not been settled yet!

If that is what they are being taught, it is disturbing, unacceptable and untrue!. The science is settled! There’s an overwhelming and longstanding consensus among the world’s top climatologists. We humans are altering the nature of our atmosphere by the amount of fossil fuels we're burning. This is trapping heat close to the earth’s surface. And, if we do nothing, the only home we have could morph into a place that’s not just inhospitable, but downright deadly! 

So, would Earth have been spared from the worst ravages of manmade climate change had this project not gone ahead? 

Of course not.

But are we doomed to a worst-case scenario if every jurisdiction in the world plowed ahead with "business-as-usual," as mine is doing? 

P.S. I have written this in the spirit of the message we once tried to impart to the young. "Think globally. Act locally." Has that notion proven to be a mirage? A thing of the past? Please tell me it is not! l.p.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Is relentless industrial development threatening the beautiful Birdtail River? Lucrative highway contracts have brought an explosion of noise and congestion to a picturesque valley in western Manitoba. (Letter)

Dear Editor,

If ever there was an example of just how numb we've become to the planetary crisis we all face, it’s surely playing out in plain sight right here, right now, in Shoal Lake. As many of my neighbours will already know, big dump trucks have been lumbering by in front of our homes for about a week now. Beginning before dawn, they sometimes become a steady stream that lasts much of each day, coming and going, until about dusk. 

These heavy diesel "twenty-two-wheelers" with long, steel boxes, have been moving gravel (or some similar material), from a big mine along the Yellowhead to the west, to a big maintenance project along Highway 21 to the south.
One of the many trucks working on the project
in question, ready to be loaded at the mine.
Since the trucks pass right by our front window, I’ve been able to do a rough count. At about 150 round trips per day, they must be set to move hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of material before the operation ends. Make no mistake, folks. This is one big job. 
The mine in full operational mode, fall, 2018. PinP photos.
The mine supplying the raw product has been expanding for years along the banks of the Birdtail River. I’ve been out there a few times over the past few years. I’ve captured shots of the copious dust it kicks up when in full operational mode (above). You can also hear the din of the machines echoing up and down an otherwise fairly peaceful valley. Prevailing westerlies carry the dust from the mine right over (and no doubt into) the river. Such sediment has long been proven to be bad news for fish and other aquatic life. 

This seems to matter not, however. Neither does the fact that internal combustion engines are significant contributors of greenhouse gases and climate change which the experts are warning will be in “runaway mode,” or beyond our ability to turn around, in about a decade. 

Apparently, we are also supposed to ignore the fact that being exposed to diesel fumes, even for a short time, can cause coughing and irritation of the eye, nose or throat. Long-term exposure can lead to even more serious health effects, including cancer. So just how long will this highway “improvement” project last? I have no idea, do you? 

And, by the way, did you take part in the vote that gave them our permission to do this? Oh, that’s right! There wasn’t one!

So how do we maintain our roads and standard of living to the degree to which we've become accustomed without producing these downsides?  I personally believe - while it's not something many will want to hear - maybe we cannot! Surely at least part of the solution must include actually lowering our expectations - travelling less and driving more energy-efficient vehicles. 

One thing I do know. The way we are doing things now, is taking us all down a dangerous, and very congested road.

Larry Powell
Shoal Lake, Manitoba.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Fungicides move into the headlines. And not in a good way. Letter.

Dear Editor,

A chlorothalonil molecule.
Image by Jynto.
A month ago, the European Union announced it would ban the widely-used fungicide, chlorothalonil.  


Because experts in its own Food Safety Agency suspected it was carcinogenic - or cancer-causing. 

It just so happens, that very same product is also used right here in Canada, and apparently in no small amounts, either! Yet our own Canadian "regulator," the PMRA, re-assessed the chemical less than a year ago.  While it imposed some restrictions, it will still allow its main use as a treatment for mold, mildew and blight in food crops, to continue.

Fast forward to today. The New York Times is now reporting that a new and deadly fungal infection, Candida aurus, is moving across the globe, with "numerous cases" reported in many countries, including Canada. The fungus is claiming many lives and proving to be well-nigh indestructible. 


According to experts in the field of antimicrobial resistance, it is probably building defences against medical treatments because we are applying too many agricultural fungicides to our crops! 

(According to Stats Can, while it does not identify the specific kind, farmers here in my home province of Manitoba use fungicides more frequently than their counterparts in any other province!) 

So, could it be, in addition to the possibility that the infamous herbicide, Roundup causes cancer, we need to worry about fungal infections becoming resistant to available treatments, too?  

I have no idea. 

But I would think my own government might! Yet, even though I've tried for a month now to find out how the EU and Canada could come up with such starkly different findings (regarding carcinogenicity), I've heard nothing back at all. And I  have no reason to expect there'll be any response this time, either.

This is disturbingly similar to the growing medical crisis surrounding the overuse of antibiotics in the world's intensive livestock industry. (Both the government of Manitoba and the hog industry's lobby group remained similarly silent when I asked them for information for a series I was writing on the government's fateful decision to de-regulate this already large industry, to allow it to expand.) 

I call it government by neglect. Arrogant neglect.

As one world expert on antibiotic resistance, Ellen Silbergeld, states, "Why on earth did somebody think that putting antibiotics in agriculture was a good idea?" 

Sadly, she is a scientist. And, in a "post-truth" world, science must take a back seat to profit and politics.

Meanwhile, the frenzied growth of this runaway industry - from Malaysia to Manitoba - continues unabated.

Larry Powell
Shoal Lake, Manitoba.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Dark days for science. My latest letter.

Dear Editor,

These are dark days for science.
A Gov't. of New Brunswick photo. 2019.

Even as violent weather continues to lap at our doorstep, the good people of Alberta have elected yet another climate-denier as their Premier. Soon, Jason Kenney, too will join that merry band of Tory luminaries already conducting a crusade to cripple the most effective way of countering our climate crisis. Knowing that the science is now too compelling to deny it outright, these rebels-without-a-clue, are trying a different tack. They’re taking Ottawa to court, challenging its right to impose a carbon tax. Despite the federal provision for rebates, they seem to think, by dint of saying it often enough, they can reduce this sensible attempt to save our planet, down to some kind of tawdry “tax grab.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Strathclair hog barn operator not in compliance with laws - Hogwatch Manitoba

Dear Editor,

Politics, not law, are driving Yellowhead Council’s response to 
Hog Watch Manitoba’s revelations about a hog barn expansion 
near Strathclair.  

(See B.G. story, here.)

Claims that its “investigation” reveals the operator was “found to 
be in compliance with laws and regulations” as reported in the 
October 24 Brandon Sun are false.

Council’s informal plan to have taxpayers pay someone to count 
the Maple Leaf-owned pigs at this so-called family farm is a 
diversion designed to give the offender time to fix problems 
documented by Hog Watch. Counting pigs helps them evade their 
responsibility to regulate on the maximum number and type of pigs 
a barn can hold. 

Governments’ honour system has led to the approval of a new barn 
without making sure there is sufficient capacity to stor
manure.  Only after the barn was built, over a thousand pigs put in
 it this spring, Hog Watch sounded an alarm and municipal 
officials spoke to the operator, was an application made for a 
provincial manure storage expansion permit.

 The law is that any size of operation using earthen manure 
storages have at least 400 days storage capacity. This operator’s 
engineer October 5 letter to Council admits current storage 
capacity is only 253 days and an application for a provincial 
permit submitted only recently.  There was no mention if a water 
rights licence had been submitted or obtained since Hog Watch 

When the building application was made, the law required all 
expanding pig operations, big or small, to file manure management 
plans.  This provided some check on having enough suitable 
manure spread lands.  It is now obvious why the Pallister 
government eliminated this rule.  It makes it easier and cheaper for 
the hog industry to expand.  It exposes people to the effects of 
environmental and surface water nutrient pollution from the hog 

Council ignored their own Zoning By-Law regarding required 
spread lands. While the engineer’s manipulation of pig numbers 
down to 297 Animal Units (AUs) appears to justify the operator 
not having to go through a conditional use hearing and provincial 
technical review (triggered at 300 AUs), the zoning by-law clearly 
states any livestock operation producing over 75 animal units of 
manure has to “provide enough suitable land… to dispose of the 
manure in a fashion which will not pollute the land.”  Counting 
pigs can’t fix these violations of the law.  
Wim Verbruggen publicly asserted in the
 Sun that I, acting on 
behalf of Hog Watch is telling “lies, lies, lies.” The evidence 
speaks for itself. Just like evidence heard by Oakview Council 
from a local resident during the conditional use hearing on his 
2016 proposal for a 6000 head-capacity finisher operation that was 
rejected. The manure storage site selected and sanctioned by a 
different engineer, was shown to be illegal. A fact ignored by the 
Provincial Technical Review Committee.  Another provincial rule 
change now allows such manure storages to be built on such 
surface watercourses by simply calling them something else.

Governments’ job is to regulate the hog industry by putting the 
public interest first. The honour system, ignoring facts and the law 
while attempting to count pigs to give an offender time to become 
compliant after-the-fact is dangerous practice and sends a troubling 
message to the industry.  You can break the law and if you get 
caught, we’ll help fix it for you. This approach rewards 
lawbreakers, rather than prosecuting them and does nothing to 
protect people and the environment.

Ruth Pryzner
Hog Watch member

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Are some Manitoba media stifling dissent on the hog barn issue? One activist speaks out.

John Fefchak of Virden (L.) has been a critic of the hog industry for years. An Air Force veteran now in his eighties, he writes many letters to the editor. They're often in a losing cause, and often at odds with the "pro-hog" editorial stance of many mainstream media. But neither circumstance nor time have deterred him. His letters drive home the wrong-headedness of politicians who "cheerlead" for an industry with so many downsides, including a propensity to pollute our precious waterways. Below is John's latest letter, telling of his experiences with the Sun, a daily newspaper in Brandon, Manitoba.  (PinP)

Is The Brandon Sun Newspaper Applying a Double Standard?

On Nov. 14th, 2017, the Sun published yet another story about yet another hog producer complaining of being "hard done by." This after the Pallister government had already passed legislation recklessly slashing health and environmental protections, in order to pave the way for even more mega-barns. Still, the producer wasn't happy. He thought that legislation, which surely guarantees more pollution, more cruelty to animals and more disease among humans and animals alike, didn't go far enough. That's because a local council had the nerve to exercise some autonomy and turn down his own bid for a new barn.

But when I wrote a letter-to-the-editor to express these concerns, the editor informed me, it would not be published!

"It's not that we're not interested," he wrote. "But we are receiving far too many letters on one single issue to run. At some point, it becomes too much. I would really appreciate letters on other topics."

And that made me wonder, "Isn't that what Newspapers do...share the voice of the people?"

Personally, I have been writing letters to the Sun for nearly two decades. And editors I've dealt with up 'til now have always encouraged me to "keep writing." I believe my letters cover important issues like, animal stewardship, health, water, environment and future generations. 

Limiting letters from people like myself, while faithfully covering every burp and squeal from the pork industry, smacks of a double standard to me. Surely if their argument is, they're getting too many letters on one topic,...what about too much coverage from the Industry side?

After all, the Sun does advertise that it welcomes letters. Now, it seems to be saying something quite different...that freedom of expression just may be curtailed. 

And that's too bad.

John Fefchak,
Virden, MB

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Does God Love Storm Victims? (Letter)

Below is a letter I submitted to the weekly newspaper, the Neepawa Banner today.
Dear Editor,

I am puzzled by a recent column in the weekly newspaper, the Neepawa Banner by Rev. Neil Strohschein, entitled “A Christian response to natural disasters.”

I find your conclusion that God loves the victims of such storms, cries out for further explanation. 

Who or what is making these storms in the first place, then? Is it not God? Because the faithful believe God is all-powerful, do they not? 

If it is not Him, who/what is it, then? Does He not have the power to prevent such calamities? If He does not, does that not make Him less than all-powerful? 

And if it is Him, please explain to me how raining down such massive misery and destruction on his flock can possibly be an act of love? 

While you do not address this following point in your column, it is one which, IMHO, also cries out for a response from the religious.

It is customary in the face of tragedy to hold prayer vigils. The most recent, sanctioned by the Governor of Texas and the President himself (in response to Harvey), happened just a couple of Sundays ago. A few days later, a storm of even greater ferocity was bearing down on another State. Could you please help me understand, Reverend, what this tells us about the power of prayer?

You rightly conclude that monster storms are becoming more frequent. Yet you ignore any reference to manmade climate change - long proven by scientists to be a major contributing factor here. 

Other religious leaders like the Pope accept this science - that our addiction to fossil fuels is heating up the planet and providing even more fuel for monsters like Harvey and Irma. 

The United Church recognizes the science, too. It even calls upon its followers to “be part of a just transition to a renewable energy economy.” 

Where do you stand on this?

Obviously, a lot of people believe they need religion to give them comfort in hard times. But surely, we also need “all hands on deck,” to apply practical, on the ground, scientific solutions to at least keep these tragedies to a minimum in the future. 

Is your faith community, Rev. Strohschein, part of such a united effort, or are you separate and apart?

Perhaps you could find it in your heart to write a follow-up column, addressing my concerns? 

Thank you.

Larry Powell
Neepawa, MB

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