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Groups want educational materials from fossil fuel companies out of B.C. classrooms

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment is urging B.C. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside to stop fossil fuel companies from providing educational materials to public schools in the province. Getty Images

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment wants to stop fossil fuel companies from providing educational materials to public schools in British Columbia.

The association’s B.C. chapter released an open letter to Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside on Wednesday urging her to end fossil fuel promotion in schools.

Dr. Lori Adamson, an emergency room doctor in Salmon Arm, says in a statement that she was shocked when her son brought home educational materials from FortisBC, the province’s largest natural gas distributor.

FortisBC could not be reached for comment, but on its website it says its Energy Leaders program is focused on providing lessons on natural gas, climate change and energy conservation.

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A news release in 2020 from the company says that since launching the program in 2017, more than 20,000 teachers have downloaded material.

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A statement from the Education Ministry says it does not review or endorse educational resources provided by industry, and does not “recommend or authorize the use of resources like FortisBC’s Energy Leaders program.”

It says the ministry is “reviewing this issue to ensure classrooms are free of corporate priorities, so students can continue to learn in an unbiased environment,” but it also says the B.C. curriculum offers a strong foundation for climate change education.

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Adamson, who is a member of the association, said in a statement she has seen the effects of climate change in her work.

“People are dying of heat stroke and being displaced by flooding and landslides. We’re losing entire communities to wildfires, and the mental health impacts are hitting us like a tidal wave.”

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BC Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring says in a statement provided by the association of physicians that teachers want an end to corporate ads in schools.

“The BCTF has long been concerned about corporate advertising and presence in schools, and has policies against the commercialization of public education,” the statement says. “The fossil fuel industry has no place in B.C. classrooms, especially as we face an unprecedented climate crisis.”

She says the federation will work with the government in “developing unbiased, science-based climate education resources.”

The association says its open letter has the backing of nearly 100 other organizations, including the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

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