Funding dries up for educational programs

It appears Saanich schoolchildren could be on the hook for cost-cutting measures being implemented by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

It appears Saanich schoolchildren could be on the hook for cost-cutting measures being implemented by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Reports indicate the DFO is cancelling funding towards its popular educational programs in British Columbia, including the Salmonids in the Classroom program, Stream to Sea and Storm Drain Marking initiatives.

The Stream to Sea program has been operating for more than 30 years, with more than a million students taking part in the program that sees classrooms raise wild Pacific salmon in incubators for release into local streams and waterways. Supporters of the program emphasized that it has helped many children who struggle with reading and writing to engage in science through hands-on learning.

“It’s all terminated to save $400,000, which is chump change compared to the expenditures of the DFO,” said Peter McCully, 42-year volunteer with the Goldstream hatchery.

The cuts to the DFO educational programs come on the heels of the federal government announcing a $372 million bailout for Bombardier earlier this year. And according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s 2017 Teddy Awards for government waste, the $400,000 figure is less than the Canada Revenue Agency paid a single employee for moving expenses.

If Ottawa is looking for places to reduce spending, there are certainly better places to find savings than in the classroom, and undoubtedly programs less valuable than those restoring the nation’s wildlife and habitat.

More than 100 classrooms throughout the Capital Region and Gulf Islands take part in the program, with fry being released into 15 local streams including Douglas Creek and the Colquitz River.

“To me it doesn’t make any sense, especially for the rationale of the program,” said McCully. “If you’re growing awareness of how to steward salmon, and teaching what impacts salmon habitats, that to me fits the mandate.”

The DFO needs to rethink its funding priorities, limiting reductions to ones that don’t put Canadian students’ learning environment at stake.

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