Couple collecting empties to feed VIU scholarship fund can’t pick up cans on campus anymore

Parmars have been picking up cans for 12 years; university now enforcing safety policy

Kulwant and Narinder Parmar are collecting empty cans and bottles for the VIU Foundation, but they’re no longer allowed to gather up empties on VIU property. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

A Nanaimo couple trying to raise money for VIU’s scholarship fund has been asked to keep their efforts off-campus.

Kulwant and Narinder Parmar have been collecting empty cans and bottles for charity for more than a decade, donating the money to a different cause each year. This year, they say they’re raising money for the VIU Foundation – but they’re no longer allowed to gather up empties on VIU property.

Rupinder Parmar said his parents have collected more than 500,000 cans over the years, which has added up to $30,000 donated to various charities. VIU campus has proven a reliable source of empties. Rupinder said the university’s security guards all knew his parents by name and hadn’t objected to their activities until a recent change in policy.

“They’ve now told them, after 12 years, that they can no longer do that, that they can’t clean up the surrounding areas and the bushes that university’s neglected to clean up…” Rupinder said. “They just sit there and it litters the property and it looks bad on the community when you’re walking through that area.”

He suggested it’s his understanding that the policy is being enforced in response to people experiencing challenges with mental health and addictions who were collecting empties on campus.

“To compare [them with] my parents who are a retired elderly couple who do this out of the charity of their own hearts was kind of like a slap in the face,” Rupinder said.

He said “it’s kind of ironic” that this year’s fundraising is going to the VIU Foundation.

“They were hoping to raise as much as they could and now it’s kind of put a cap on what they wanted to reach,” he said.

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VIU associate vice-president of university relations William Litchfield said in an e-mail that VIU collects bottles and cans on campus and that money goes to the university’s emergency bursary fund. There is a bin for empties at the residence buildings, where students can place empties to benefit Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank.

Litchfield suggested the policy on collection of empties is part of ensuring a safe campus for students, staff and visitors.

“Collecting bottles on campus poses a health, safety and liability risk. VIU security staff will ask anyone they see collecting bottles and cans on our campuses to leave. While we respect and appreciate the generosity of the Parmar family, we must apply this policy fairly to everyone,” he said.

Rupinder said the family has received “a lot of community support” that he hopes might help change some minds.



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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