Fossil fuels in BC schools: Doctors group wants teaching materials removed from classrooms

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

On Wednesday, the association’s British Columbia chapter released an open letter to Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside urging her to end the promotion of fossil fuels in schools.

Salmon Arm emergency physician Dr. Lori Adamson said 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 focuses on providing lessons on natural gas, climate change and energy conservation.

A 2020 press release from the company says that since the program launched in 2017, more than 20,000 teachers have downloaded materials.

A statement from the Department of Education says it does not review or endorse educational resources provided by industry, and does not “recommend or authorize the use of resources such as 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 Colombia’s curriculum Columbia provides a solid foundation for climate change education.

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

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

BC Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring said in a statement provided by the doctors’ association that teachers want an end to corporate ads in schools.

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

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

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

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 3, 2022.

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