With a number of complaints apparently piling up with city council, the elected officials of the city will apparently investigate the concerns of the local community over the zealous nature of food inspection at social events such as the recent All Native Basketball Tournament.
The food inspection process at the ANBT has become one of the more controversial aspects of Northern Health’s dedication to food safety, with many participants suggesting that the inspectors are a rather industrious lot when it comes to rule of law on matters of food preparation.
The issue was spearheaded by Councillor Joy Thorkelson who expressed the belief that many felt that the inspection of the food court this year was discriminatory; her desire to see council investigate the issue was countered by Councillor Tony Briglio who felt that it was a fight that council should not be getting itself into.
The Mayor put on his best politicians hat over the tempest, describing the issue as more of a rural/urban clash rather than a racial one. But stated that he was “up to the fight”.
Good politics for sure, but one wonders if he’s done his homework as far as a civic administrator goes. Since the city provides the venue for ANBT, should there be a food issue that results in illness, would the city be on the hook for any litigation resulting from the use of municipal property? It would be interesting to know what risk the city would be in for if health concerns were brought into the picture. In which case it might be worth keeping the inspectors of Northern Health on the job, if only to ensure that all bases are covered.
One only needs to look at a recent episode in Prince George over school lunches, which has caused that city’s school district to examine it’s lunch policies and the concerns that have been raised over potential dangers.
The food court is of course one of the most popular parts of the tournament and should be continued as a way of showcasing the foods of the visiting First Nation’s villages. Surely there can be some middle ground available to keep both participants and health officials on the same page and away from the boiling point. Some common sense solutions that will allow one of the highlights of the tournament to continue without an overbearing presence, but still providing for a high standard of food preparation and delivery.
There was another group of apparently over zealous officials that came under scrutiny as well. Participants at the tournament complained about the rather fast on the draw workings of bylaw enforcement officers at the Civic Centre, who were quick with pen to paper on infractions in the unloading zone. A complaint that probably will find much sympathy with Rupertites across the city who have found themselves in similar situations around town.
While Council will investigate and lobby for change, there are no plans to take an actual stand on the controversial food issue, while a resolution to the ticketing festival will probably find a more receptive hearing from the councilors.
The Daily News featured the anger and the resolutions as their front page story in Tuesday’s newspaper.
COUNCIL MULLS TREATMENT OF ANBT’S FOOD VENDORS
Councillors plan to make changes and lobby for others but NH not on the radar
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Despite many complaints from the public, Prince Rupert city council won’t be taking a stand when it comes to Northern Health’s inspection of the All Native Basketball Tournament food court this year.
Joy Thorkelson said many people felt it was discriminatory and unfair what went on at the food court with the inspectors from Northern Health looking over people’s shoulders.
“The health inspector was in there making sure the food was healthy, but will they be doing this at every tea or bake sale in town,” she asked.
She noted that anyone selling food had to find a commercial kitchen in which to prepare dishes and this caused a panic for a number of organizations.
“I was in there every day getting lunch and supper,” said Thorkelson. “It (NH’s behavior) was considered very discriminatory by people selling food.”
Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond said people raised the issue with him as well.
“It was felt by the people involved that this was a discriminatory issue. Part of what we are seeing is a clash in culture, not a racial clash, but a clash between rural Canada and urban Canada.”
In rural Canada, he noted, pot luck events remain a big part of the social life of communities, while this is no longer the way in urban Canada.
“It’s a huge challenge but I’m up to the fight,” he said.
However, Coun. Tony Briglio did not feel it was a fight council should be getting into.
Northern Health’s food inspectors started becoming an issue two years ago when they began showing up at the All Native Basketball Tournament.
The tournament, which nearly doubles the size of Prince Rupert’s population for a week every February, includes a popular food court where traditional First Nation’s foods are sold.
In addition to complaints about the presence of health inspectors, council received complaints about bylaw enforcement ticketing people unloading food in front of the Civic Centre.
Thorkelson noted that some of the people running the food court were ticketed within the time it took them to get their food into the building.
“I am wondering if we can put in a temporary unloading zone for food in front of the Civic Centre,” she said, “so people can run food in and out. The ANBT is very important to the community.”
Council agreed to look at the issue for next year.