Saanich smoker's spot defaced by unknown cyclist

A Saanich resident has been undergoing a war of smells, unbeknownst to her, until one day she received a note from the other side.

For the past 15 years Michelle Schile a staff member at an elementary school in Saanich has been using a large flat rock in a public area as a regular place to sit to enjoy her smoke break. Then in January she said she started to notice smelly materials in the area.

“Garbage, manure, mud, motor oil, paint, compost, cans of soups, dumping it on this rock since January.” Schile said. “At first I thought ‘oh that’s weird, maybe it’s just kids. Eventually I received a note that it was a person whose wife died of cancer and he’s a part of a cycling group. And they won’t pollute my rock if I don’t pollute their air.”

Schile said she checked with the CRD to ensure she wasn’t breaking any laws, and was told she was allowed to smoke in this spot.

“This person has been dumping motor oil and paint into the environment which is clearly illegal,” Schile said. “That made me very frustrated because I’m not doing anything wrong, and yet he is.”

Jack Boomer the director of the Clean Air Coalition of BC said there are better ways to discourage someone from smoking somewhere.

“There may be the opportunity for whomever…to go to their municipality or the CRD and ask for restrictions in terms of where people can and can’t smoke,” Boomer said. “There may be some issues like is there a fire hazard for the woman to be smoking in the particular area, is it particularly dry? There are legal ways for people to go forward to advocate for change, and that’s what we would be encouraging at every step of the way.”

Boomer said the rules around where people can smoke are always changing.

“You used to be able to smoke just about anywhere you wanted,” Boomer said. “There used to be smoking and non-smoking sections in restaurants. Then about 30 years ago you could no longer smoke on airplanes because the flight attendants were dying of lung cancer and had never smoked a day in their lives, but because they were in this tube they were exposed to second hand smoke.”

Schile said she has chosen this spot because it’s far enough from the school that students can’t see her.

“Nobody can see me from the school, I don’t want the children to see anybody smoking,” Schile said. “I’m under cover of trees, I read my book for 15 minutes, I have a couple of cigarettes, then I go back to work.”

Schile said she hopes the person stops defacing the rock.

“Please stop doing this, I’m not doing anything illegal,” Schile said. “I’m sorry that you lost members of your family to cancer, but that has nothing to do with me.”

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