REPORTING · 7th February 2010
School Board Chair Barry Pankhurst, representing the Social, Health, Education, Impact Committee (SHEIC) took the stand at the Kitimat City Council Meeting on January 11th to speak to the free access which the families from Eurocan would receive at the District Recreation Departments. This was not the first time someone who had a problem with this motion contacted Kitimat City Council.
On December 21st, Julia Ramos Contumelias wrote a letter to council. In the letter, she explained after all of her payments, she only had $200 left to live off and now her house was going to be worthless. She requested free access to District activities as well.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff, the same Councillor who claimed to be in favour of the original motion on November 23rd because it opened the door for other families who were affected by the Eurocan shutdown but did not work at Eurocan to receive similar aid, made a motion: “That the e-mail be received for information and we inform Ms. Contumelias of the program in place.”
The program in place is a program which allows low income families access to some of the recreation facilities. This program would be mentioned on the 11th of January as well. The motion was carried unanimously.
On the 11th, Panhkurst opened by explaining what the committee was about. He complimented the council on passing the recreation pass as it would take some stress off of the Eurocan Employees and their families.
“The simple fact of life, Mayor and Council, is it is also expecting a lot of other community members. And they are also being affected by this shut down by Eurocan. […] we are asking you to rethink your position, where people are affected, they be given the same right. The Secretary that gets laid off somewhere in Service Centre who has children and that’s the only income they have. Those children can’t go there,” said Pankhurst.
“The stress in the schools is happening. With the students, with our employees, the stress of the shutdown is starting to hit home and we’re getting very nervous about what is happening with our students,” added Pankhurst.
With apologies to Mary Murphy, president of CEP 298 who was also present, he reminded the council: the shutdown will affect more people in the community than just the Euorcan families. He stated: by allowing other people to use the facilities in a similar fashion to the Eurocan families, it would reduce the amount of stress they were under.
Feldhoff explained the decision Council had made. He stated it was not the perfect solution but told Phankhurst there was a program in place for people who were in financial distress and it would be open for those families beyond Eurocan.
Pankhurst stated: “Lets not discriminate against one group with another group. We’re just saying give the same treatment that you’re giving to Eurocan employees to an employee that gets laid off because of the Eurocan shutdown.”
Feldhoff wanted to know how to identify these people. Pankhurst stated identification could be set up, he did not want people who needed this assistance, who were already hurting financially, to be embarrassed.
“Lets get real here. People don’t need to be embarrassed. They’re hurt enough. They’re trying to find out. […] Our administrators in our schools and our teachers are already doing that. They are already supplying those things. They are already supplying food because parents are making the decision, what is more important. […] They should be given the same opportunity,” said Pankhurst.
Monaghan asked administration to take a look at what can be done. Halyk was worried they have granted a group an opportunity they have not given to others when the community was facing a shortfall. He did not mean to single people out saying they were not worthy. Pankurst stated he did not want everyone to get a pass, he just wanted people who were affected by the Euorcan shut down to have an opportunity to reduce their stress.
“We have to find money to pay for it if council wants to go that way,” said Pankhurst.
He added that local community groups are providing councilling while other organizations are also preparing to assist people with questions.
Murphy wished to add something and council voted to let her speak. Murphy pointed out when Gary Warran suggested the motion, it was to try and put some relief for the Eurocan workers. She stated many Euorcan workers will move on so there will not be too many people accessing the recreation facilities. She suggested council look at all avenues to help people who need it.