Editorial: backyard burning a relic of the past that’s got to go

It is long past time to get rid of backyard burning within the municipality.

Editorial: backyard burning a relic of the past that’s got to go

One step forward, two steps back.

When one looks at the medical data, North Cowichan council’s decision to continue to allow backyard burning on some (many) properties within its borders looks particularly lacking in leadership.

We have to think that councillors eager to preserve the status quo may be looking at next year’s election rather than the cold, hard facts.

It is long past time to get rid of backyard burning within the municipality.

For the naysayers, here’s why: it’s seriously compromising people’s health. If it’s not compromising yours, you are fortunate. But the burners shouldn’t have the right inflict the smoke on everyone.

Not everything in North Cowichan’s new proposed bylaws is bad. Getting folks with an alternate source of heat to cease using their woodstoves on bad venting days is a step in the right direction, no matter how small.

Banning burning for many properties within the urban containment boundary is also an improvement, though exempting the number of properties they have from the bylaw rather cuts it off at the knees. Requiring permits to burn is a good thing, as the stated purpose is to provide education to burners at that contact point.

But essentially this feels a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We still live in a Valley that traps the smoke. The exempt properties are those that are big, which means big waste and often big burns, and far too often, big smoke. Enforcement has been notoriously lacking and we’ll believe improvement on that score when we see it.

In the meantime Island Health data shows 70 per cent higher hospital admissions rates for respiratory diseases in Cowichan.

There are alternatives, chipping and intermittent pick-up among them.

The right to burn cannot continue to trump the right to breath in the Cowichan Valley.