Vancouver to join conversation on accessibility, inclusion

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People in Vancouver are invited to participate in a consultation meeting to discuss the development of accessibility legislation for British Columbia.

On Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, will host an in-person session for people with disabilities, their friends and families, accessibility advocates and self-advocates, as well as organizations, experts, businesses and individuals to help define what future legislation to make B.C. a more accessible and inclusive province could look like.

The meeting will be held at the Sandman Vancouver City Centre, 180 West Georgia St., from 2:30 to 5 p.m. All are welcome to attend, participate and offer feedback about their experiences with accessibility, inclusion, barriers and what matters most in the development of accessibility legislation.

To register for a meeting or to learn more about the proposed legislation, visit: engage.gov.bc.ca/accessibility

People can also provide their feedback through an online questionnaire at the above link until Friday, Nov. 29, 2019, at 4 p.m. (Pacific time).


Island communities struggle to provide shelter for homeless | CBC News

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The overnight shelter on Salt Spring Island got a boost from BC Housing this week, but organizers say it’s only one step toward what it really needs. 

The shelter, which provides 30 beds, showers and two meals a day, is open each night starting Nov. 1. Usually, it stays open until March 31 and then closes until the following winter. But now, it will stay open year-round. 

Rob Wiltzen, operations manager for Salt Spring Island Community Services, says it’s good news but it’s only a start. 

“We have an extremely high homeless rate on Salt Spring Island on a per capita basis. We outshine the rest of the province by far.” 

Wiltzen says a 2018 count found 131 homeless people on the island, which means the per capita rate was higher than both Victoria and Vancouver. 

What they need, he says, is a shelter that’s open around-the-clock, provides three meals a day, offers a place to store personal belongings and is connected to support services. 

Rob Wiltzen of Salt Spring Island Community Services would like to be able to provide storage space for people using the island’s homeless shelter. The storage is currently at First United Church in Vancouver. (First United Church)

BC Housing says the shelter is a temporary solution to solve the housing problem and that the long-term solution is on its way in the form of affordable housing. 

“Housing is exactly what Salt Spring needs,” said Heidi Hartman, Vancouver Island’s regional.director.

“We’re excited about this temporary option until the housing comes online.”

That project was announced earlier this year and is supposed to provide 24 rental units in the coming years. 

Cold weather shelter space hard to find 

Salt Spring isn’t the only community looking for solutions to homelessness. Even on a temporary basis, shelter can prove elusive in island communities.

In Parksville, when a 52-unit supportive housing building opened this summer, it meant the annual cold weather shelter lost its home. 

Susanna Newton, the co-chair of the Oceanside Homelessness Task Force, says the community is working to find somewhere eight people can sleep, shower and have dinner and breakfast from Nov. 1 to March 31. 

In Parksville, the homeless task force is trying to find space to set up beds starting Nov. 1. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

“At this point, we’re still looking at our options,” she said. “Local churches have come together and are giving it consideration, whether that’s something that they can help us out with, and we’re all hopeful that that will come through.” 

She says it’s frustrating to have to be looking for a new space. 

‘We’re just looking for the very, very basic’ 

In the Comox Valley, Andrea Cupelli is scrambling to put together a warming centre as rainy season descends. 

“We just don’t want anyone to be out on the streets, having to experience this cold, wet, weather during the day.”

Cupelli, co-ordinator of the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness, says they’ll take any building they can find — though she’s hoping he city can provide a building rent free to cut down costs. 

“We’ll take a building as is, as long as it has washroom facilities, and it’s warm and dry and can safely have capacity for about 30 to 50 people a day.”


Fewer B.C. residents were prescribed opioids last year: report

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Fewer people in B.C., Saskatchewan and Ontario were prescribed opioids last year compared with 2013 and the number of patients who began treatment on the pain medication decreased by nearly 10 per cent, the Canadian Institute for Health Information says.

The institute said in a report released Thursday that eight-per-cent fewer patients, or about 220,000 people, in those provinces are taking prescription opioids while about 175,000 fewer people were started on the drugs.

Patients who began taking opioids were prescribed smaller doses for shorter duration and when it came to long-term opioid therapy, fewer people were prescribed the medication for a period of 90 days or longer before sometimes being switched to other types of drugs to manage pain, the agency said.

It said initiatives including national prescribing guidelines introduced in 2017, along with prescription-monitoring programs to help reduce harms related to the overdose crisis, likely influenced prescribing trends.

“Despite overall decreasing trends in the prescribing of opioids, opioid-related harms and deaths have continued to rise across the country in recent years,” the report says.

Michael Gaucher, director of pharmaceuticals for the agency, said only the three provinces provided complete data for opioid prescribing for the six years covered in the report but they represent a large portion of Canada’s population.

Some chronic-pain patients have been concerned about being cut off opioids they need, and Gaucher said that is a valid issue to consider because opioids are an effective treatment.

“The concern with prescription opioids goes deeper than the person (taking them) and there can be others in the household that can access them,” he said.

Dr. Norman Buckley, scientific director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care at McMaster University in Hamilton, said “it’s unfortunate” that data for Quebec and Alberta, for example, couldn’t be included in the report.

He said doctors in Quebec generally prescribe fewer opioids than other provinces and are known for getting a substantial amount of education on pain management while physicians in Alberta and B.C. have access to real-time prescription monitoring systems for patients.

“You could make the argument that having a concerted pain strategy actually also leads to less reliance on opioids,” he said from Hamilton.

Buckley, who often treats pain patients referred to him by other doctors, said it’s important for patients to know they need to be tapered off opioids slowly.

“It’s about correct prescribing or optimal prescribing rather than trying to drive the dose down. What you need to be looking at are things like measures of function, and those typically don’t come through on large-scale administrative health data,” he said. “You can’t tell, if people’s doses came down, did they stop going to work, for example, or did they start relying on more assistance for home care?”

Buckley said one of his patients, a man in his late 50s, had been prescribed opioids for 10 years due to a variety of workplace injuries but decided to taper off due to his concerns about long-term use. His dosage was gradually reduced over a year-and-a-half, Buckley said, adding his pain wasn’t any better but his “mental energy” improved somewhat.

“He also finds he’s edgier than he was so his wife has been in once or twice to say, ’Look, he gets grumpy a lot more than he used to but he’s probably a bit more mentally active.’ ”

The patient also received physical therapy, one of the ways the national guidelines advise doctors to treat pain beyond opioids, but many provinces don’t cover such costs, Buckley said.

“A lot of people don’t have that. This is one of the push-pull parts (of the issue). Optimal pain management includes more than medications. It includes education, sometimes cognitive behavioural therapy and exercise,” Buckley said. “But a significant portion of the country can’t access those through their provincial health-care systems.”

Buckley suggested all provinces provide complete opioid prescribing data to the Canadian Institute for Health Information so a fuller picture of what’s happening across the country is available.



North Vancouver candidate’s signs defaced with racist graffiti

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VANCOUVER – Mounties on the North Shore are investigating after what they call a “hate crime” against a candidate in the upcoming federal election.

Azmairnin Jadavji is the People’s Party of Canada candidate for North Vancouver. On Wednesday afternoon, North Vancouver RCMP received a report from a member of the public that Jadavji’s signs at the intersection of Mahon Avenue and West Keith Road had been vandalized with racist graffiti.

Photos of the defaced signs show one that has the message “Go home Arab” written on it in black marker. Another reads “No more Arabs.”

Sgt. Peter DeVries, media relations officer for North Vancouver RCMP, told CTV News Vancouver the detachment notified Jadavji’s campaign and is investigating the vandalism.

“Unfortunately, there’s not really any evidence for us to pursue,” DeVries said. “We were unable to find any CCTV or video footage from the area and we have no other witnesses.”

DeVries described the incident as a “hate crime,” and urged anyone with information about it to call North Vancouver RCMP at 604-985-1311.

“We’d really like to find out who did this because it definitely goes against all of the values not only of Canadians but also the democratic election process,” he said.

In a release on the incident, Jadavji called the graffiti “racist” and “unacceptable.”

“I was shocked and disappointed that in this age and time, someone will make such derogatory and irresponsible comments, on the edge of committing a hate crime,” the candidate said.

According to the biography on his website, Jadavji immigrated to Canada from Tanzania with his parents when he was 10 years old. 


Statement on International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

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Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, and Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction, have issued the following statement in recognition of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Oct. 17, 2019:

“Today is the United Nations’ International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Since 1993, the day has recognized the need to eradicate poverty worldwide. This year, its focus is ‘Acting together to empower children, families and communities to end poverty.’

“No one should grow up in poverty. Every child has the right to access opportunities to live, learn and grow into adulthood without facing additional challenges of poverty. By better supporting families, we can break the cycle of poverty in B.C.

“Addressing poverty is a challenging and complex issue. We know that approximately 40% of the people living in poverty in British Columbia are working poor. They are people who have a paycheque coming into the house, but they cannot make ends meet.

“In addition to challenges around affordability, people living in poverty struggle with feeling isolated from their communities and not being able to fully participate in our society. They should not have to face the alienation that comes with the stigma of poverty.

“We must do better, which is why earlier this year the Province released TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. The strategy, first of its kind in the province, is our path to reducing child poverty by at least 50% and overall poverty by 25% by 2024. When we create better opportunities in key areas, such as affordable housing and child care, these changes will help the people and families who need it the most.

“TogetherBC also recognizes that we must act together. Poverty reduction requires the strength of partnerships between governments, organizations, businesses, communities and individuals. It must be a collective effort informed by the voices of those who have experienced poverty – and supported by those who can help create change.”

Addressing poverty is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Learn More:

United Nations’ International Day for the Eradication of Poverty: https://www.un.org/development/desa/socialperspectiveondevelopment/international-day-for-the-eradication-of-poverty-homepage/2019-2.html

TogetherBC, British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy:


NDP election signs damaged in East Vancouver

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Jordan Jiang, CTV News Vancouver

Published Thursday, October 17, 2019 6:26AM PDT

Last Updated Thursday, October 17, 2019 6:38AM PDT

Several election campaign signs appeared to be damaged in the Vancouver-Kingsway riding early Thursday morning.

Signs that were knocked over belonged to NDP incumbent candidate Don Davies. Not all signs were damaged along the street, however, as it appeared Liberal candidate Tamara Taggart’s were intact.

One of the NDP signs was seen on Grandview Highway between Nootka and Lillooet streets. Some drivers were unable to avoid the sign and wooden debris, ultimately striking the objects.

This comes after Liberal and Conservatives signs were allegedly stolen last week. 

In Vancouver South, Conservative candidate Wai Young’s campaign claims more than 30 per cent of their lawn signs have been stolen in the riding. In an emailed news release, Young called the alleged thefts “hurtful and dangerous.”

At the time, Liberal candidate for the same riding, Harjit Sajjan, said some of his election signs had been stolen as well. 

Both campaigns proved CTV News Vancouver with security camera footage showing people taking signs. 


Province asking for public input on how to better support people with disabilities | CBC News

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There are almost one million British Columbians over the age of 15 living with some form of disability, and the provincial government is planning to develop new laws to better support their needs by 2020.

Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction, said the legislation will complement the Accessible Canada Act that passed in Ottawa in June and is designed to identify and remove barriers to accessibility.

Simpson is asking for public feedback until Nov. 29 to help inform similar provincial legislation. 

“We are going to have this law in place next year is my expectation,” said Simpson in an interview on CBC’s The Early Edition Wednesday, adding the legislation will create a standards board that will set rules focusing on five specific areas including: employment access, customer service delivery, information and communication accessibility, as well as transportation and built environment — which includes access to buildings and infrastructure such as sidewalks.

Simpson said he has heard already from individuals and organizations that finding employment is a top priority for many people living with a disability. 

 “We keep getting nods from people in the business community and now the trick is to get there,” he said. 

Employment a top priority

Justina Loh, executive director of Disability Alliance BC, said a lot needs to be done in terms of service delivery to help create full or part-time employment that is accessible to all British Columbians. 

“There are a lot of people with disabilities who want to work,” said Loh. “They just haven’t had the opportunity.”

Simpson said he is hopeful real change is coming in B.C. and wants to hear exactly what people want those changes to be.

“People who are living with disabilities know the kind of things that they want to see and they are the people we are trying to talk to in this process,” he said.

The public can provide feedback online, by telephone, and in-person at scheduled town hall events. 

Organizations and advocates can also submit formal submissions to the government online during the public consultation process.

Information is available here


First case of vaping-related illness confirmed in B.C.

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The first probable case of vaping-related illness in B.C. has been confirmed.

Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty

The first probable case of vaping-related illness in B.C. has been confirmed.

In a news release Wednesday, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry confirmed a patient suffering an illness sought care and that the illness was linked to vaping.

Several other patients and their illnesses are being investigated by health officials, with Henry suggesting it’s possible those cases may be linked to vaping as well. Henry did not say whether the cases involving the vaping of nicotine cartridges or cannabis-oil cartridges.

“These are the first cases of vaping-related illness in B.C., but we fully expect there will be more as this is quickly emerging as a significant public-health issue,” Henry said. “Vaping is turning back the clock on decades of effective anti-smoking efforts and creating a new generation of young people addicted to nicotine.”


Last month, Henry issued a notice that required doctors to report cases in which patients had a history of using e-cigarette or vaping devices within the past 90 days, had abnormal X-ray results, and whose illnesses couldn’t be linked to other causes.

Those reports are being forwarded to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and will be investigated by the public-health authority. Cases confirmed to be linked to vaping will be shared with the public.

Vaping has come under the spotlight recently, with at least 450 cases of acute vaping-related illness and 13 deaths reported in the U.S. to date.

While officials are still studying the cause and working to determine the exact reason vape users have been suffering breathing problems, it’s believed a contaminant created during the vaporization of oils in e-cigarettes has damaging effects on lungs. It remains unclear whether the illnesses are linked to vaping nicotine cartridges or THC cartridges.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix has also promised to dramatically reduce the number of vendors that can sell e-cigarettes and vaping products in a bid to bring the problem under control.

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HPV immunization program in B.C. cuts rates of pre-cancer in women: study

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Dr. Gina Ogilvie

Francis Georgian / PNG

Rates of cervical pre-cancer in women have been cut by more than half in British Columbia and the province’s school immunization program for the human papillomavirus is being given credit for the results.

A study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases says those who took part in the program to prevent the sexually transmitted infection had a 57 per cent reduction in incidence of pre-cancer cells compared to unvaccinated women.

The program has been in place in public schools for 12 years and the first groups of women who were vaccinated in Grade 6 entered into the cervix screening program, allowing researchers to compare outcomes with those who hadn’t been vaccinated.

Dr. Gina Ogilvie, a senior research adviser at B.C. Women’s Hospital, says the study adds to the growing body of evidence highlighting the positive impact of the vaccine.

HPV is common in both men and women.

It can be easily spread through sexual contact and while most HPV infections clear up on their own, some pre-cancerous lesions can develop into cancer if not treated.

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer says HPV immunization is offered to children in all provinces and territories, generally between grades 4 and 7.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says the lower rates of pre-cancer shows the importance of having children immunized early.

“The dramatic success — pre-cancer rates dropping by over half, shows us the importance of having children immunized early to protect their lives,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

HPV has been identified as the cause of almost all cervical cancers.

The province implemented a voluntary publicly funded school-based HPV immunization program in 2008.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said the study reinforces the importance of such school-based programs.

“The decline we are seeing in HPV-related cancer rates highlights how strong partnerships between school districts and health authorities can significantly improve the well-being of B.C. students.”


Vancouver ramps up for more accessible city, but much more needed

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Micaela Evans at Ash street and SW Marine Dr. in Vancouver.

Arlen Redekop / PNG

The City of Vancouver is planning to install up to 600 more curb ramps over the next few years to help make the municipality more accessible.

The initiative comes after the city’s engineering department identified about 5,000 locations “where curb ramps are missing” from Vancouver’s infrastructure, according to a recent request for proposal. The city plans to award a one-year contract to install 150-200 curb ramps, and may extend that contract at its discretion, according to the proposal.

But wheelchair users such as Gabrielle Peters, a disabled writer who used to sit on the City of Vancouver’s Active Transportation Policy Council, believe much more can and should be done to open the city for all to use.

In a 2017 motion passed by council, Peters identified that 8,000 of the city’s 27,000 intersections had no curb ramps whatsoever. Peters also calculated that the city budget allowed for 40 curb ramps to be built per year, meaning that it would take 200 years for Vancouver to be fully outfitted with ramps.

Asked what she thought about the city’s plan to put in another 150 ramps per year for four years, Peters said it was “raising a shockingly low number to an embarrassingly low number.” She said she believed the city had prioritized other things over ensuring access for many of its residents and users.

“What do you think that says to a disabled person living in Vancouver?” Peters asked. “Thank you eternally for almost treating me like I matter to you as a leader running my city, the city I live in.”

Micaela Evans, a wheelchair user who lives in Port Moody, said she doesn’t frequent many parts of Vancouver, but said older areas of most towns tended to be worse on wheels than newer areas. Still, she said she felt accessibility remained an afterthought rather than an integral part of design.

Eric Mital, a senior head of engineering with the city’s Streets Design Branch, said all new sidewalks in the city are now built with curb ramps. The 600 that have been prioritized were requested by members of the public, he said.

Peters has been a wheelchair user for over a decade now, so she has experienced the space by foot and by wheel. She said that when she started to use her chair, the Vancouver she knew suddenly transformed.

“I felt like I’d moved to a different city,” she said.

Peters described the place as a constant source of barriers, and most of them human-made. Asked if there were specific locations she could point to that were particularly accessible, she said “everywhere.”

Peters gave as an example the seawall ,”a spot where I tend to say that would be one of the more accessible, and it’s (still) not.” Accessing it around Denman Street near Beach Avenue involves crossing at least two intersections and a bike path, each of which includes its own set of challenges. Peters said she at times has needed to wait several lights to cross due to drivers who have blocked curb ramps with their vehicles. Once in the park, a relatively steep ramp that is not evenly surfaced descends to the path. And once there, wheelchair users will notice it is sloped, making for a tricky travel route.

Even sites that have curb ramps are not as accessible as some may think, Peters said. Some of the curb ramps at Burrard St. and West Georgia St., for example, unsafely exit wheelchair users directly toward the centre of the intersection, rather than into crosswalks, Peters said. There is a similar setup across the street from City Hall at 12th Ave. and Cambie St., she said.

Asked if she could compare Vancouver’s accessibility to other cities, Peters’ motion noted that for several years Calgary and Edmonton had budgeted for 250-350 curb ramp installations per year in intersections that had none.

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