Freedom of speech matters

To the provincial government, which has ordered Alberta Transportation to remove signs in the Peace River area opposing the development of nuclear power in Alberta.

Dart…

To the provincial government, which has ordered Alberta Transportation to remove signs in the Peace River area opposing the development of nuclear power in Alberta.

Connie Russell, co-owner of a store in Dixonville, 55 km northwest of Peace River, said a road maintenance contractor removed the No to Nuclear sign from the side of their store last week.

Russell said the store clerk was told the road crew had orders to remove all No to Nuclear signs in the area. “It’s unbelievable,” she said. “I am still in shock.”

Unbelievable is an understatement. This action contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression.

In addition, the highway crews that removed the sign from the Dixonville store are courting charges of trespassing, vandalism and theft.

The action suggests Premier Ed Stelmach’s government thinks it’s above the law.

Residents in the Peace River area are outraged, saying the government is violating property rights and attempting to throw cold water on dissent now that the province is courting nuclear power development.

“This whole thing isn’t about the nuclear issue,” Russell said. “This is our rights being taken away. If they’re allowed to come and do this kind of crap, that takes away rights from us that we should have.”

Alberta Transportation, which has identified 26 anti-nuclear signs in the Peace area it wants to rip down, says it is merely enforcing a longstanding law that prohibits advertising signs erected within 300 metres of a highway right-of-way or within 800 metres from the centre point of an “interesting highway or public roadway.” The law, apparently, is in place to protect motorists from being distracted.

Why then are businesses along Gasoline Alley skirting Hwy 2 south of Red Deer, for example, not in contravention of this law? For that matter, why are service stations and roadside eateries across this province allowed to advertise lower gas prices, or a cheese burger and chips that beat all competitors?

The action is shameful and the excuse is embarrassing.

Bouquet…

To Red Deer’s youthful Snow Angels, who are coming to the mercy of local senior s whose sidewalks have been clogged with snow almost on a daily basis this winter.

Snow Angels is a volunteer program where everyone is encouraged to do the neighbourly thing when it comes to shovelling the white stuff.

Earlier this month, the City of Red Deer joined forces with Youth Voice and the Golden Circle to help seniors — and Snow Angels took flight.

Youth Voice, a panel of about a dozen youth that advises the city on bullying, curfew and other youth issues, jumped on the opportunity to pick up a shovel on behalf of our seniors.

One such eager student is Kellie Gustafson. The 17-year-old was itching to arm herself with a snow shovel once classes were done at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.

“It’s so nice to see when seniors come out and they are so grateful,” said Gustafson. “You feel like you accomplished something, even something really small.”

But what these youths accomplish is anything but small. An act of kindness, no matter how seemingly minor, speaks volumes to the hearts of seniors, assuring them that our youth are there for them.

It is a rewarding experience for young and old.

Bailie Davidson, 16, a Grade 11 student from Hunting Hills High School is thrilled to be a Snow Angel. “It’s good to know you are doing something good for (the seniors) because they can get ticketed” if their walks are not clean.

There is much good to be said about many of our youth today in Central Alberta. They are tuned into their social surroundings and are quick to react with compassion. Age is no barrier when it comes to helping those in need.

Gustafson summed it up best in an Advocate interview: “Youth do want to be involved in the community.”

Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.

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