As an animal rights activist, Dania Sheldon was glad to hear her hometown was considering banning the sale and distribution of shark fins.
But when she sent an e-petition to Burnaby city councillors, encouraging them to work with Vancouver and Richmond on such a ban, she received an odd reply from Coun. Nick Volkow.
"Piss off," it said, stating it was sent from Volkow's Blackberry.
Sheldon replied, asking if that was Volkow's official position on the issue, but didn't receive a response, she said.
"I don't want to be making a tempest in a teacup kind of thing," she said in a phone interview with the NOW. Sheldon lives on Gabriola Island but grew up in Burnaby.
Sheldon reviewed her email afterwards as she was confused by the response, she said.
"It was a rather polite email, I thought, and I've read it about 12 times since then to make sure," she added.
The response shocked her, Sheldon said. "It's so inappropriate," she said. "I'm not personally offended, it's just - wow, you're not supposed to do that as a politician."
As a member of an animal-rights group, Sheldon often writes to politicians, she said.
"If you're not interested, just don't reply," she added. "I'm used to that kind of thing; you don't expect every politician to respond to everything you send to them."
Volkow confirmed he'd sent the email when contacted by the NOW. He said he was frustrated after being inundated with e-petitions about instituting a shark-finning ban.
"After about the 350th, I responded to about four of them, 'piss off,'" he said, "because I finally couldn't take it anymore. I should have sent a lengthy response."
He did respond in full to one email, he added.
"'Look,' I said. 'I'm a late adapter to this technology.' And I said, 'you're about the 300th one I've received, and it's been going on all day long, it's been going on about four or five days,'" Volkow said. "And then I said, 'I am on record, publicly, in support of banning this practice.' I said, 'I gave an interview to the Sing Tao Daily, saying exactly the same thing.' And then I said, 'you know, you and your group would be far better served if you expended your energy on this on the federal government and made a national ban of this thing, as opposed to this piecemeal thing we're all doing right now.'"
Volkow also expressed frustration about Vancouver city council passing a motion to work towards a regional shark fin ban with Richmond and Burnaby last Tuesday.
"They had spoken to Richmond and Burnaby, and they said, 'we're going to do a joint press conference and in unison we're going to ban this practice,'" he said. "Typical Vancouver, grandstanding."
Volkow, who is at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference in Victoria this week, said he attended a session on social media on Tuesday where politicians were told to be careful before sending anything off.
"I should have had the course before I responded to these emails," he said.
Volkow said he'd reconsider before responding in such a way again.
"I would just turn off my Blackberry, as all of these things are wading in," he added. "Literally, it was one every five seconds, and it went on for hours."
As of Sept. 19, the City of Burnaby and city councillors began receiving scads of e-petitions on the shark-finning issue.
The e-petition reads: "As a resident of British Columbia, I am writing to you to encourage you to work with the neighbouring cities of Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond to pass a ban on shark fin products in these communities.
With several other Canadian cities already enacting shark fin bans - Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby represent the largest remaining market for shark fins in Canada. I am pleased to know you have agreed to work together to introduce a ban on the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins in all three cities. I hope you will act swiftly and decisively in enacting this ban.
Shark populations are declining at an alarming rate, and your immediate action will play a crucial role in protecting the health of our oceans and in taking a stand against the brutal cruelty of shark finning. You have my full support and encouragement in tackling this global crisis."
"It started this afternoon, and I have 139 of them," Sharon Fuller, administrative assistant for the office of the mayor, said last Wednesday. "There's another one! We've got 140."
Burnaby Coun. Dan Johnston tweeted that he'd received 200 e-petitions in support of a ban, and one against a ban, on Wednesday.
Burnaby council forwarded the issue to staff in June and is waiting for a staff report before making any decisions, he said in a phone interview last week.
In June, Mayor Derek Corrigan told a delegation of animal-rights activists that it was beyond the city's scope to regulate food products, and that it should be done at a federal level.
Since June, councils for Port Moody, Coquitlam, the City of North Vancouver and Maple Ridge have all passed motions banning shark fin sales in those cities. firstname.lastname@example.org