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November

30Nov

Town Talk: Frank Giustra’s sun-raised olive oil best kept in the dark

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Domenica Fiore president Anna Wallner and production director Cesare Bianchini launched Novello di Notte extra-virgin oil that sees no light from its nighttime picking until the $65-priced stainless-steel bottles are opened.


Domenica Fiore president Anna Wallner and production director Cesare Bianchini launched Novello di Notte extra-virgin oil that sees no light from its nighttime picking until the $65-priced stainless-steel bottles are opened.


Malcolm Parry / PNG

MIDNIGHT OIL: Open a $65 stainless-steel bottle of Domenica Fiore Novello di Notte extra-virgin olive oil and its 500-ml contents should blink. That’s because three varieties of olives therein were harvested from an Italian hillside in the cool of night, promptly cold-pressed, and kept in the dark ever since.

Domenica Fiore president Anna Wallner and owner Frank Giustra cooked Italian meatballs at a 2017 benefit for the B.C. Cancer Foundation.


Domenica Fiore president Anna Wallner and owner Frank Giustra cooked Italian meatballs at a 2017 benefit for the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

“Olive oil’s big enemy is light,” production director Cesare Bianchini said at Commercial Drive’s Caffe La Tana where he  and Domenica Fiore president Anna Wallner, the former Shopping Bags TV co-host, launched Novello di Notte and $9.95 jars of Datterino tomatoes. Both come from the Umbrian operation city-based global tycoon Frank Giustra bought and named for his mother.

Craig and Marc Kielburger attended a dinner beside the Segal home's lengthy fireplace after conducting their 10th annual WE Day rally at Rogers Arena.


Craig and Marc Kielburger attended a dinner beside the Segal home’s lengthy fireplace after conducting their 10th annual WE Day rally at Rogers Arena.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

WE NIGHT: Brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger welcomed 20,000 youngsters to their 10th-annual WE Day rally in  Rogers Arena, then dined with 70 adults at Lorne and Melita Segal’s Southlands home. First Lady Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and mother-in-law Margaret Trudeau attended by day. The latter stayed for supper chez Segal as, in earlier years, had Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and British global tycoon Sir Richard Branson.

Lorne and Melita Segal's pool is usually covered to accommodate the diners that they sat entirely indoors when hosting this year's post-WE Day event.


Lorne and Melita Segal’s pool is usually covered to accommodate the diners that they sat entirely indoors when hosting this year’s post-WE Day event.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

The Segals occupy one half of the 14,000-square-foot house and host charitable and similar events in the other. Such functions can place 150 participants on a swimming pool’s temporary transparent covering with floodlit water gurgling below. This time, guests dined wholly indoors, some close enough to a six-metre-long gas fireplace to toast their personal hams while dining on sablefish, sweet spuds and wilted spinach.

Former NFL tackle Esera Tuaolo dressed suitably Hawaiian and former CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge suitably at-home for the Segals' WE Day dinner.


Former NFL tackle Esera Tuaolo dressed suitably Hawaiian and former CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge suitably at-home for the Segals’ WE Day dinner.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

Accustomed to gridirons, gay-disclosed NFL defensive tackle, author and WE Day speaker Esera Tuaolo had a cooler seat. So did former CBC News anchor Peter Mansbridge. Freed from being shaved, made up and suit-and-tied for 29 on-camera years, he’d grown grizzled white whiskers and, although furthest from it, dressed for a casual at-home night beside the fire.

Open Road chief Christian Chia's Portfolio program puts members in 25 cars from nine luxury brands with the option to change up to four times monthly.


Open Road chief Christian Chia’s Portfolio program puts members in 25 cars from nine luxury brands with the option to change up to four times monthly.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS ONWARD: To launch a $2,499-to-$3,499-a-month “subscription service” for nine makes of Asian, German and British luxury cars, Open Road dealer Christian Chia had Pear Tree restaurant owner-chef Scott Jaeger prepare matching snacks. They included marinated seaweed, pork-jowl schnitzel and hash-like bubble and squeak. No raisin-and-currant-studded spotted dick pudding, though, which would have complemented the paint job on an unlamented British Hillman Imp coupe. Portfolio clients may switch between 25 models up to four times monthly while driving 2,500 km. subject to  “likely removal from the program if driving habits consisting of high volume proceed.” No Palm Springs back-and-forthing, that is.

Brig-Gen. Jack Stewart's portrait backed Vancouver Heritage Foundations' Judith Mosley and David Dodge at a Seaforth armoury event.


Brig-Gen. Jack Stewart’s portrait backed Vancouver Heritage Foundations’ Judith Mosley and David Dodge at a Seaforth armoury event.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

HERE’S TAE US: With fitting respect for accuracy, the Vancouver Heritage Foundation sidestepped evasive names to call an annual $60,000-range fundraiser City Drinks. Toasts were raised when foundation board chair David Dove and executive director Judith Mosley welcomed guests to the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada’s recently renovated 1936 armory. Archivist James Calhoun spoke about the regiment’s past. Venerable artworks and artifacts displayed included a table bearing a Lewis machine gun, bagpipes and other lethal devices. Less belligerently, a large portrait depicted railway contractor turned brigadier-general Jack Stewart who commanded all Canadian and British military railway units in 1917-1918 wartime France and became the Seaforths’ honorary colonel.

Seen in 2007, producer Shawn Williamson joined reviewer-riling director Uwe Boll, who is the subject of a Whistler-premiered documentary.


Seen in 2007, producer Shawn Williamson joined reviewer-riling director Uwe Boll, who is the subject of a Whistler-premiered documentary.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

BOLL WEAVING: Uwe Boll was in Whistler recently, but not to replace the closed Bavaria restaurant with a satellite of his feted Cordova-at-Carrall Bauhaus. It was for the premiere of moviemaker Sean Patrick Shaul’s F*** You: The Uwe Boll Story. The documentary addresses the 15-or-so feature films Boll made that incensed critics but made money for, among others, Brightlight Pictures founder and former Whistler festival chair Shawn Williamson. Boll recently addressed indie filmmakers at Vancouver’s 21-year-old Celluloid Social Club that screens their productions. Some doubtless applauded his having challenged harsher reviewers to meet him in the boxing ring.

Straight Lines Designs' Judson Beaumont is one subject in Keith Cunningham's film about the 1000 Parker building and its artists and artisans.


Straight Lines Designs’ Judson Beaumont is one subject in Keith Cunningham’s film about the 1000 Parker building and its artists and artisans.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

ROSY PARKER: Director-producer Keith Cunningham’s debut feature-length documentary is about collaborative folk, not scrappers. Living History: 1000 Parker warmly examines that 105-year-old building’s past as a mattress and furniture factory. It also pictures some of the many artists and artisans there today who constitute the annual Eastside Culture Crawl’s largest participating group. Longest-term tenant Judson Beaumont established Straight Line Design in 1985 to produce child-oriented furnishings with barely a straight line in them. Cunningham hopes to film a documentary about Jacqui Cohen whose properties include the 1898 Army & Navy Stores complex and nearby 1910 Dominion Building.

Pledged to end homelessness, new mayor Gregor Robertson joined big-time home builder Terry Hui at Concord Pacific's 20th anniversary party in 2008.


Pledged to end homelessness, new mayor Gregor Robertson joined big-time home builder Terry Hui at Concord Pacific’s 20th anniversary party in 2008.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

TEN YEARS AGO: Seventeen days after being elected mayor and pledging that he and eight Vision party councillors would end homelessness, Gregor Robertson had Concord Pacific president Terry Hui greet him at the firm’s 20th anniversary party. That development company resulted from Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing acquiring Expo 86’s 82-hectare False Creek site in a 1988 deal reportedly worth $145 million. Today, possibly planning to attend Concord Pacific’s 30th anniversary celebration Dec. 12, former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart has succeeded former NDP MLA Robertson. The Vision party is history, there are more homeless than ever, and Concord Pacific does multi-billion-dollar business in Canada, the U.S. and U.K.

DOWN PARRYSCOPE: Not all speakers deliver high fidelity.

malcolmparry@shaw.ca
604-929-8456


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29Nov

College of Midwives seeks ban on woman using title “death midwives”

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The College of Midwives of B.C. was in court Thursday seeking to ban a Victoria woman from using the term “death midwife” to describe her work helping people who are dying and their families.

In 2016, the organization that regulates the province’s midwives sent Pashta MaryMoon a letter asking her to stop using the term, but she declined to do so.

The college then filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court seeking a permanent injunction against her.

On Thursday, Lisa Fong, a lawyer for the college, told Justice Neena Sharma that MaryMoon’s use of the term “death midwife” contravened the Health Professions Act.

She said that the law prevents any person other than a registered member of the college from using a reserved title as part of another title describing a person’s work.

“The respondent, Ms. MaryMoon, she carries on business as a death midwife. There’s no dispute. She’s not a registrant of the college. She’s not a midwife. The legislature has since 1995 reserved the title midwife for exclusive use by registrants of the college.”

While MaryMoon may warn her clients that she is not a registrant of the college, the public interest underlying the creation of the reserved title of midwife, which includes creating clarity for the public as to who is regulated and who is not, is still injured by misuse of the term, she added.

The Victoria woman attracted the attention of the college by describing herself as a death midwife on her Twitter homepage and in a biography on the website Dying With Dignity Canada.

MaryMoon says she provides care for the terminally ill and their families throughout the process of dying, including working with them, helping to deal with a deceased body at home, and developing whatever kind of ceremony the family wants.

By contrast, midwives registered through the college have a caseload of clients and newborns from early pregnancy through to six weeks postpartum. There are about 360 midwives in B.C.

Mark Walton, a lawyer for MaryMoon, told the judge that there was no argument his client was engaged in a health profession.

He said MaryMoon was using the term midwife in a very specific way and it wasn’t about pregnancy, or births, or mothers.

“Pashta MaryMoon does something quite different than midwives,” Walton said

He added that MaryMoon has respect for what birth midwives do, but doesn’t think she should be prevented from using the term midwife to describe her work.

MaryMoon is also arguing that her rights to freedom of expression and to life, liberty and security of the person are affected by the college’s position.

The college was also seeking an injunction against Patricia Keith, a Surrey resident, but dropped proceedings against her after she agreed not to call herself a death midwife.

Outside court, MaryMoon explained that what she does with the dying is meant to augment palliative care.

“We’re not a replacement. We’re not medical professionals. But we do more of the sort of psycho-social, emotional, spiritual side of supporting the family and the dying person.”

MaryMoon said that the term midwife has been around a long time and initially involved both birth and death. She questioned whether it should now be an exclusive term for the college.

“We’re saying that we really feel that birthing midwives should call themselves registered midwives, and that would make it really clear that they’re registered with the college and they’re trained to get that registration,” she said.

“And then, if that was the reserved title, then there would be no issue with using the term death midwife.”

The case is expected to be back in court Friday for further arguments.

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29Nov

‘Elvis has left the building’: Elusive otter manages to evade capture

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A wayward otter left a Chinatown garden the same way it got in: undetected.

The elusive creature managed to outwit humans and didn’t get captured by one of the nine traps; three were set up by the Vancouver Park Board and six were set up by a wildlife relocation specialist.

The expert was brought in last Friday, and the park board was optimistic the animal would be captured during the weekend. But as officials “otter” have known,  this was no ordinary critter. It didn’t fall for the salmon and tuna baits; it has a more expensive taste in fish.

The otter has caused havoc since it was first spotted at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden on Nov. 17. Since then, it has eaten 11 adult koi, each worth between $1,000 and $5,000, including Madonna, a prized fish believed to be more than 50 years old.

The presence of the unwanted guest forced the garden to shut down for nearly two weeks as officials tried to to lure it into one of the traps, but that hasn’t seemed to work. It was last seen Saturday, when garden staff tried to rescue and protect the remaining koi.

Officials now say there’s only one conclusion.

“As of this morning, there are still no signs of the otter. We feel like Elvis has left the building,” parks director Howard Normann said. “The otter came in the dark and probably left in the dark. We’re not sure exactly to this point, where it came from or where it went.”

 

 

But the park board and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen staff believe the otter may have slipped in through the gates, prompting them to install grates on the doors.

“We’re going to have automatic door closers. We’re putting a plate on the bottom to prevent the otter or any of the otter friends from revisiting the garden,” Normann said.

On Wednesday, park board staff, volunteers and specialists at the Vancouver Aquarium undertook the delicate work of moving the surviving adult koi, along with 344 baby koi, to the aquarium for safekeeping.

In the meantime, staff will be adding cameras and monitoring them to see if the otter returns before bringing the fish back to the garden, which likely won’t happen until the spring.

While the otter hasn’t been seen around Chinatown, it has been active on the Twitterverse.

Thursday morning, it told its followers it is off on a new adventure, but didn’t share where.

Garden looks for silver lining 

The executive director of the garden said it’s been an emotional time for staff and volunteers who have grown attached to the koi.

“The koi, they are very important as a decorative element in the garden, but going beyond being beautiful, they do have value from a cultural perspective,” executive director Vincent Kwan said.

“They have symbolic representations that tie to things related to perseverance, transformation, happiness, things that are very abstract, but elements that are engrained in the Chinese culture.”

The story has made headlines around the world and has put a spotlight on the garden.

 “I think the publicity is not a bad thing.  At the end of the day, what we feel is the attention and the various supports we got from the community are a sign that the garden is well-loved,” Kwan said.

Chinatown Today, a group focused on highlighting the neighbour’s past and present stories, describes the saga has “the most unexpected Chinatown story in recent memory.”

It created merchandise for people to show their allegiances. The proceeds go to help the garden.

The garden has been trying to replenish its koi population and hoped the adult koi had spawned.

When the remaining koi were rescued Wednesday, it showed staff their efforts had worked and the mature koi did produce more fish. Kwan called this a silver lining of the otter saga.




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28Nov

‘This is only a test’: British Columbians receive 2nd emergency alert test

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Phones across B.C.’s Lower Mainland emitted a blaring alert tone in unison on Wednesday at 1:55 p.m.

It was part of the Alert Ready program, a collaborative initiative between federal, provincial and territorial governments to warn the public of imminent disasters.

Wednesday’s warning was the second time the system was tested.

The first alert went out in May and revealed several glitches. There were reports that many British Columbians did not receive the alert on their phones.

Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness, said more people were reached during Wednesday’s alert, but there’s still room for improvement.

“There’s no perfect system where we’re going to hit 100 per cent of the people we need to, but we want to keep expanding and reaching as many people as possible.”

Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness, says the government has been working on fixing glitches with the emergency alert system. (CBC)

For the alerts to work, phones should be running on the latest operating system and must be connected to an LTE or 4G network.

Concerns over accessibility

The alerts also air on television and radio.

Jeremy Hunka, spokesperson for the Union Gospel Mission said not everyone has phones, particularly homeless and elderly people.

“Some will receive these alerts. But not everybody will, and just like poor air quality and extreme weather, our guests will be most at risk in the case of an emergency,” said Hunka.

“And they may not get the warnings everyone else gets.” 

Jeremy Hunka with the Union Gospel Mission said there are concerns about the accessibility of B.C.’s emergency alert notifications for the elderly and homeless. (CBC)

The system will be used to notify people of potential tsunamis, with plans to expand to other emergencies in the future.

The B.C. RCMP will also be able to use the system to notify of Amber Alerts.

CBC BC asked viewers on Facebook and Twitter to weigh in on whether they received today’s notification. Here’s what some of you had to say:




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28Nov

1 of 3 who viciously beat man with autism freed after months behind bars

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One of three men found guilty of attacking a man with autism at a Mississauga bus terminal is set to walk free on Wednesday.

Ronjot Singh Dhami, 25, was given a 12 month sentence today at a Brampton court after previously pleading guilty to aggravated assault. However, he was given credit for time served in custody, so he has already done his time.

At the court appearance, Dhami apologized to the victim and his family, although said he knows “it won’t be accepted.” 

Dhami and two other men were captured on security camera punching and kicking the 29-year-old victim repeatedly as he sat on a stairway last March.

All three men were arrested in connection with the incident, although it’s unclear when the others —  Jaspaul Uppal and Parmvir “Parm” Singh Chahil, both 21 — will be sentenced.

Dhami, who moved from Surrey, B.C., to Ontario to pursue work as a truck driver, will be on probation for two years and banned from possessing prohibited weapons for life.

His lawyer declined to speak with reporters.


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26Nov

Tentative deal reached for 44,000 nurses across British Columbia

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File: A woman wearing hospital scrubs walks towards the ER at Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, BC, November, 27, 2013.


RICHARD LAM / PROVINCE

VICTORIA — The Health Employers Association and The B.C. Nurses Union bargaining group have announced a tentative agreement for the province’s 44,000 nurses.

The agreement falls under the B.C. government’s sustainable services negotiating mandate, which in 2019 includes a general wage increase of two per cent in each year of a three-year deal.

The mandate also allows for the ability to negotiate conditional funding, but no details of the agreement will be released until after a ratification vote.

The tentative deal covers registered nurses, psychiatric and licensed practical nurses working in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home-support and mental-health facilities.

A union spokeswoman says ratification votes will be held around the province until Jan. 21 and the results are expected to be announced by Jan. 22.

The government says in a news release that nearly 155,000 public-sector employees are covered by tentative or ratified agreements under the sustainable services mandate.


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23Nov

NEB to hold Trans Mountain reconsideration hearing in Victoria next week

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The National Energy Board will hear from Indigenous groups in Victoria next week as part of reconsideration hearings for the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

Sessions are set to take place at the Delta Hotel Ocean Pointe Resort beginning Monday, Nov. 26 and continuing through Thursday.

Over the week, the board will meet with members of the Stó:lō Tribal Council, Kwantlen First Nation, Tsawout First Nation, Tsartlip First Nation and Squamish Nation from B.C., and the Swinomish, Tulalip, Suquamish and Lummi Nations from the U.S.

In August, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned Ottawa’s approval of the project, saying the NEB’s initial environmental assessment was flawed.

The project was sent back to the review phase to address tanker traffic concerns and engage in more meaningful consultation with First Nations.

That decision came on the same day Kinder Morgan sold the pipeline to the Canadian government for $4.5-billion, not including construction costs.

In September, the NEB was given six months to complete the new review. It completed one hearing in Calgary on Tuesday, with the second taking place in Victoria next week.

First Nations and environmental groups have expressed concerns about the potential for diluted bitumen spills and increased tanker traffic on B.C.’s coast if the pipeline expansion is built.

Possibly expecting a large turnout of protesters, Victoria police said they would deploy temporary CCTV cameras near the Delta for the hearings.

After the new NEB hearings conclude, the board will have to submit a report with its new findings by Feb. 22, 2019. 


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23Nov

Deadline to return referendum ballots to Elections B.C. extended

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23Nov

Deadline extended for B.C. referendum on electoral reform

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Elections BC has extended the voting period for the referendum on electoral reform by one week.

It will now accept completed voting packages until 4:30 p.m. on Dec.  7.

 “We have worked closely with Canada Post to understand the full impact of rotating strikes on the referendum process,” said Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman. “Rotating strikes have impacted accessibility. As a result, we have extended the deadline to ensure that voters are not prevented from participating through no fault of their own.”

The deadline to request a voting package has not changed and voters must request a package by midnight Friday, Nov. 23.

The package can be returned by mail or in person at a Referendum Service Office or Service BC Centre.

As of Friday morning, roughly 980,000 packages, which reflects 30 per cent eligible voters, have been returned to Elections BC. The numbers do not include the packages Canada Post received but have not been transferred yet.

Voters are being asked to choose whether the province should adopt a proportional representation model, or stick with first-past-the-post. Not sure what the options are? Here’s a quick explainer.


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23Nov

First Responders: When the helpers need help but are afraid to ask

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There is a push on in B.C. to provide more mental health services to first responders, the people we depend on to help us in times of trouble, but who often shun asking for help themselves.

Adding to the traditional grimness that B.C. paramedics, police officers and firefighters endure — fatal accidents, devastating fires, murder scenes — is the opioid overdose crisis that has killed more than 3,500 people have died since January 2016. Thousands more have been saved by injections of the overdose-reversing medication naloxone.

“We will go to a call involving a fentanyl overdose, we will give the person naloxone. When they regain consciousness, they will have no idea what happened. They are often combative and often will refuse hospitalization. Sometimes they are in hospital gowns with the hospital tag still on because they just got released,” says Matt Johnston, a firefighter in Metro Vancouver.

“You go back to these repeated customers, and pretty soon it will wear on your spirit and you (think): My ability to be compassionate against this patient is next to nowhere.

“So when you are going to three or four calls of overdoses per shift, all of a sudden the world doesn’t look as shiny any more. And it has a way to generalize to other areas of your life where you are more cynical about human nature.”

Johnston is acutely aware of the effects of trauma on first responders. Before becoming a full-time firefighter in 2012, he graduated from UBC with a masters in counselling psychology and opened a local practice that helped at-risk youth. Even though he worked as a registered clinical counsellor, he still occasionally struggles when responding to calls in his new profession.


Matt Johnston is a full-time firefighter and a trained mental health clinician.

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

Combining his two worlds, Johnston now sits on the B.C. First Responders’ Mental Health committee, which has brought together management and workers from a variety of agencies to develop a provincewide best practices guide and online resources for problems such as suicidal thoughts and depression.

Research has shown that first responders are at an increased risk of mental health problems. A 2017 national study by University of Regina psychology professor Nicholas Carleton that surveyed nearly 6,000 dispatchers, correctional workers, police, paramedics and firefighters found 44.5 per cent showed signs of least one mental health disorder, much higher than the average of 10 per cent in the general population.

In April, the provincial government announced it was removing barriers to helping first responders get mental health help. PTSD and other mental health conditions are now presumed to have been caused by the nature of their work, so first responders no longer have to prove such illnesses happened on the job.

“First responders, sheriffs and both provincial and federal correctional officers who experience trauma on the job and are diagnosed with a mental disorder should not have the added stress of having to prove that their disorder is work-related in order to receive support and compensation,” Labour Minister Harry Bains said at the time.

This is a significant policy change, said Sean Gjos, owner of Boreal Wellness Centres in Yaletown, which is developing a new trauma counselling program for first responders.

“For many of these individuals, their normal day-to-day work life is dealing with situations that, for most of us in the general public, is one of the worst days of our lives. … And over a period of years, all of those experiences can accumulate and be a really heavy burden for first responders,” said Gjos.

“So making it easier for them to access appropriate care is a huge win, and long overdue.”


Sean Gjos

Arlen Redekop

The mounting number of suicides by first responders in B.C. showed that change was desperately needed. A website kept by a retired paramedic, Lisa Jennings, counts nearly 60 suicides by police and corrections officers, paramedics and firefighters over the past three years.

And yet, for a province with about 17,000 police officers, firefighters and paramedics, the number of claims made to WorkSafeBC for mental health problems is low. There were 269 claims in 2017: 84 allowed, 41 refused, and the rest abandoned.

The Labour Ministry said it is too early to know whether April’s rule change will substantially boost these numbers.

Why are there so few claims if research suggests almost half of first responders have some type of mental health injury? Stigma. This stops many in paramilitary, “tough guy” careers from asking for help, experts say.

“We did a survey to find out what first responders’ current attitudes were about mental health, about seeking help, and about stigma. And the response we got back from that was: Yes, stigma does exist in these organizations,” said Trudi Rondou, WorkSafeBC’s senior manager of industry and labour services, who chairs the First Responders’ Mental Health committee.

Last year, the committee launched the “Share it. Don’t Wear It” campaign, featuring the stark faces of first-responders covered with chilling words, such as: “There’s this heavy feeling. It’s more than a bad call or a bad day. It’s like all the time.”


The B.C. First Responders’ Mental Health committee launched this “Share It. Don’t Wear It.” poster campaign. A recent survey of first responders found a majority changed some behaviours after seeing posters like this one.

Submitted photo /

WCB

In a survey this year, 62 per cent of respondents said they were more likely to speak up for help as a result of the campaign, said Rondou.

That’s a promising sign for first responders, whose most common mental health diagnosis is depression or anxiety, with PTSD making up just seven percent.

But to whom do they turn for help, once they are ready to ask?

Johnston, who has done mental health outreach work with firefighters, has designed a two-day course for mental health professionals interested in working with first responders. Over the past year, 250 clinicians in seven B.C. cities have taken the course.

Given how hesitant first responders are to seek help, the course gives clinical counsellors tips on the appropriate language and approach to use so that these workers will continue to return. Through his website First Responder Health, Johnston has also created a telemedicine option that links first responders in rural communities with trained clinicians.

“First responder jobs can be brutally difficult,” said clinical psychologist Mary Ross, who has taken Johnston’s course and whose expertise includes PTSD. “And more than I think the public appreciates, there are very kind, well-meaning, sensitive people joining these organizations and some of what they deal with impacts them hugely and, unfortunately, makes some really, really sick.”

Responding to the increased number of calls where people have died or are in need of repeated intervention because of the opioid crisis makes it even more difficult for first responders to find a balance between staying emotionally unattached at work and being emotionally open in their personal lives.

“You create the barriers you need to stay sane (at work),” said Ross, who works at Boreal. “Then how do you go home and be a dad and a husband when you’ve been building walls all day?”

Gjos, who worked in financial management and had several health care organizations as clients before opening Boreal, said first responders, veterans and nurses make up 40 per cent of the clinic’s patients. He expects that the 10-week, outpatient trauma program that Boreal is developing will be popular with first responders, and could also help emergency-room doctors and nurses, dispatchers, correctional officers and Crown attorneys.

Gjos is in discussions with WorkSafeBC about his clinic becoming a recommended provider, which would mean those seeking counselling there for approved claims for workplace injuries would have their sessions covered financially.

“We are trying to help people who have had traumatic experiences to develop tools and become more resilient so they become more functional across all layers of their life,” Gjos said, adding that vocational rehabilitation experts work with patients who have taken a leave of absence.

“We are collaborating on their return-to-work path. It is a really important aspect, especially in safety sensitive jobs.”

Ross, who has been a clinical counsellor for 20 years, believes first responders are more willing to ask for help than they were in the past.

“Now it’s a little easier to do it more openly and have the support of your workplace behind you in a way that wasn’t quite there before,” she said, but added that more work needs to be done.

Johnston believes changing the language from “disorders” to mental health “injuries” will encourage more first responders to come forward for help, just as they naturally would with an injured arm or leg.


Matt Johnston began his private practice, Centered Lifestyle Services, which offers counselling to first-responders, in 2007.

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

He also senses a change from the dire situation a few years ago, when his department lost two members to suicide in just seven weeks, to more encouraging times now.

For those in the early stages of feeling down, Johnston has a few recommendations: Get more sleep, which is often a challenge for those who work shifts; stay connected to friends and family, which can also be difficult when you work nights and weeknights; and have a physical outlet or hobby that can clear your head. For Johnston, a former Team Canada distance runner, it is going for long jogs.

For those more mired in workplace gloom, he hopes his take-away message for first responders is that “taking a knee” in counselling will make them more confident in other elements of their lives.

“If firefighters can understand that idea that it will help you become stronger in your job and your personal life, not weaker.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @loriculbert




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