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6Jun

Vaughn Palmer: ‘Illogical’ suicide pact allegation lies behind B.C. legislature resignations

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VICTORIA — On the final day of the spring legislature session, Premier John Horgan paid tribute to Randy Ennis, who was retiring early from the upper echelons of the security staff.

It’s standard procedure for the premier to thank a departing public servant. Ennis had long served as deputy sergeant-at-arms and lately as acting sergeant-at-arms, with Gary Lenz placed on suspension.

But for Horgan, this one was personal because Ennis was a friend.

“Randy and I first met at the hockey rink over a cup of Tim Horton’s,” the premier told the house. “Our boys played hockey together, so we spent a lot of time complaining about the Canucks. We spent a lot of time talking about how we could make the world a better place.

“Randy is an outstanding individual,” Horgan continued. “I’m going to miss him terribly.”

There followed a display of applause from all sides of the house, albeit tinged with regret among those in the know.

Horgan claimed not to know why Ennis, who just turned 59, was leaving early.  But around the legislature, it was an open secret that Ennis was fed up with the regime of Speaker Darryl Plecas and his chief of staff, Alan Mullen.

Ennis had good reason to be incensed. Plecas had accused him of being party to a suicide pact involving an ailing member of the security staff.

The alleged suicide pact was one of 11 Plecas-authored allegations of misconduct that were examined and rejected by retired chief justice Beverley McLachlin. (She upheld four accusations against clerk of the legislature Craig James, leading to his forced retirement.)

Plecas claimed to have uncovered a plan by sergeant-at-arms Lenz and deputy Ennis to create a sheltered posting for an unnamed constable on the security staff who had a degenerative health condition.

“The Speaker also alleges that they created a plan whereby (the staffer) would commit suicide while he was still on staff so that his beneficiaries would receive insurance proceeds,” wrote McLachlin.

The former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada examined the documentation associated with the alleged plan and further evidence from the accusers, Plecas and Mullen, and the accused, Lenz and Ennis.

She concluded that “clearly Mr. Lenz and Mr. Ennis were deeply concerned over the future of the constable and wanted to find a way to help him.”

But she did not fault them for considering ways to allow the constable to work at home were his condition to deteriorate to the point where he could not carry a firearm as required by his position.

“Discussion of creating a new position so an employee can work from home does not appear on its face to be unreasonable, provided the proposed work would contribute to the business of the legislative assembly,” wrote McLachlin. “The discussions, according to Mr. Lenz and Mr. Ennis, related to whether (the staffer) could continue to do useful work without being able to carry a firearm. I accept this evidence.”

Nor did she accept the Plecas-Mullen version of events regarding the supposed suicide pact.

“The ‘plan’ that the Speaker says was being hatched proposed that (the staffer) would commit suicide while he was still employed and before his condition had deteriorated too far, in order to preserve his life insurance,” wrote McLachlin.

Plecas thereby insinuated that the new job was “false” — concocted for the purpose of preserving the staffer’s employment status long enough for him to kill himself.

“No one was able to explain the logic of this to me. The evidence I received was that if he was forced to go on disability status, his life insurance would have remained in place as long as he qualified for that status,” wrote McLachlin.

She instead preferred “the straightforward explanation of the incident” from Lenz and Ennis.

“They denied any talk of suicide and explained that the discussions were aimed at finding reasonable accommodation for (the staffer) by finding alternate duties when he reached the point that he could no longer use a firearm.”

She speculated, and not in a flattering way, why Plecas had gone as far as he did.

“The Speaker was deeply distrustful of Mr. Lenz, which may explain how he transformed fragments of an exploratory proposal from Mr. Lenz and Mr. Ennis into a bizarre go-forward plan involving (the staffer) committing suicide.”

She then cleared Lenz of the allegation of misconduct. She also cleared him of all the other Plecas accusations against him.

Lenz remains on suspension, pending the outcome of a police investigation.

So, Ennis was collateral damage to one of the more reckless and unproven allegations from Plecas.

Rough treatment for someone who deserved much better. Before coming to work at the legislature, Ennis served as a member of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, seeing duty as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, Cyprus and Haiti, and earning the military Order of Merit.

The supposed target of the non-existent suicide pact was collateral damage as well. He retired from his post on the security staff at the same time as Ennis.

Not that Plecas could be bothered to express regret over the damage done to reputations. Instead he’s been citing the shortcomings in the McLachlin report in public and bad mouthing it privately.

As for the premier, he could deliver a more sincere tribute to his departed friend by recognizing where Plecas has gone too far and by attempting to curb his excesses.

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6Jun

TELUS grows Internet and Mobility for Good programs to support 25,000 more British Columbian families and youth

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More low-income British Columbian families will now have access to low-cost high-speed Internet, and more youth leaving foster care can now stay connected to their vital support networks through the expansion of TELUS Internet for GoodTM and TELUS Mobility for GoodTM, in partnership with the Provincial Government and Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.

“Across our province, there are countless families and children in need of support. Through programs like these, and in collaboration with the Provincial Government and Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada (CAFC), we are changing these realities to ensure that more British Columbians are connected to the tools, people and resources they need to be successful,” said Darren Entwistle, President and CEO of TELUS. “To date, we have offered thousands of families across British Columbia access to low-cost, high speed Internet through TELUS Internet for Good, and today we are proud to expand this program to more families receiving income and disability assistance through the Province, ensuring more kids have access to the Internet at home and to the same digital opportunities as their classmates.”

TELUS Internet for Good offers low cost, high-speed Internet to families with children currently receiving income or disability assistance from the provincial government. Eligible families will receive a letter from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction with a unique PIN code, enabling them to activate TELUS’ offer of Internet 25 for $9.95 per month for two years. The program also includes access to a low-cost refurbished computers, and online safety training.

“Many people can’t afford the basic technologies we often take for granted, like Internet access. We know that children who live in homes without Internet access have a lower graduation rate,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Through TogetherBC, BC’s Poverty Reduction Plan, our government is working in partnership with companies like TELUS to help people access technology so that they have the tools they need to be successful and participate in their community. Partnerships like this one are an important way to reduce poverty and connect people with opportunities.”

“We are also expanding Mobility for Good, which began in partnership with the provincial government to provide kids aging out of foster care a free smartphone and plan,” continued Entwistle. “Now, in partnership with CAFC, we are extending this vital lifeline to more than 9,300 youth in British Columbia, better preparing them to begin their independent lives feeling safer, more connected and better prepared for a successful transition to independence. Together, by leveraging technology, social innovation and human compassion, we are making a meaningful difference in the lives of underserved and vulnerable citizens across the province.”

TELUS Mobility for Good first launched in British Columbia in 2017 in partnership with the Provincial Government, followed by Ontario and Quebec in partnership with CAFC. Today, TELUS and CAFC also announced they are expanding this program to Manitoba and New Brunswick. With this expansion,TELUS and CAFC can provide 20,000 youth transitioning from care with the opportunity to access a smartphone and two-year TELUS mobile plan at $0 per month, including unlimited nationwide talk and text and up to 3GB of monthly data usage. While TELUS is providing the service to youth for free, the bills will appear in the youth’s name to help them build positive credit and gain the skills required to manage their finances in the future. At the end of the two-years, they will have access to a low-cost $35 per month plan for an unlimited duration. This program is administered by Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, the country’s leading charity dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth growing up in the child welfare system.

“With the touch of a screen, smartphones can connect you to a whole world of possibilities,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “We want youth aging out of government care to share in those opportunities. It’s why we have programs and partnerships like this to give them the tools they need to find a job, home or college, stay connected to their friends and support networks and succeed as independent adults.” 

“Without the support of permanent families, youth transitioning out of care are often ill-equipped for life on their own and a smartphone is critical to helping them stay connected and achieving independence,” says Valerie McMurtry, President and CEO, Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada. “Working together with TELUS, we will be able to reach more vulnerable young people in British Columbia and meet an urgent need that enables youth to search for somewhere to live, look for job opportunities and stay in touch with friends and vital support networks.”

For more information on the TELUS Mobility for Good Program or to apply, please visit: www.cafdn.org/for-youth/telus-mobility-good/. For more information on TELUS Internet for Good and other giving initiatives, please visit telus.com/community.

About TELUS

TELUS (TSX: T, NYSE: TU) is one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies, with $14.5 billion of annual revenue and 14.0 million subscriber connections, including 9.7 million wireless subscribers, 1.9 million Internet subscribers, 1.2 million residential voice and 1.1 million TELUS TV customers. TELUS provides a wide range of communications products and services, including wireless, data, Internet protocol (IP), voice, television, entertainment, video and home and business security. TELUS is also Canada’s largest healthcare IT provider, and TELUS International delivers business process solutions around the globe.

In support of our philosophy to give where we live, TELUS, our team members and retirees have contributed over $690 million to charitable and not-for-profit organizations and volunteered more than 1.3 million days of service to local communities since 2000. Created in 2005 by President and CEO Darren Entwistle, TELUS’ 13 Canadian community boards and five International boards have led the Company’s support of grassroots charities and have contributed $72 million in support of 7,000 local charitable projects, enriching the lives of more than 2 million children and youth, annually. TELUS was honoured to be named the most outstanding philanthropic corporation globally for 2010 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, becoming the first Canadian company to receive this prestigious international recognition. For more information about

TELUS, please visit telus.com


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6Jun

Building a dragon boat gives job seekers new carpentry skills

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Fifteen job seekers have gained new boat-building and carpentry skills through a work experience project focused on this year’s Dragon Boat BC Festival in Vancouver.

The province provided $288,643 to Dragon Boat BC to create a dragon boat building program that helped unemployed and at-risk people develop marketable skills in boat building, finishing carpentry and painting. The group created a full-scale dragon boat prototype and a fully finished boat that will compete in the 2019 Concord Pacific Dragon Boat BC Festival from June 21-23, 2019.

“This program brings together skilled workers and people experiencing unemployment looking to add new skills to their resume,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Dragon Boat BC recognized an opportunity to help people gain work experience and expand community sport participation. It’s these innovative partnerships and a community commitment that help create more opportunities for people in our province.”

Both groups worked closely with a project team led by an aerospace engineer, project manager, professional shipwright, multi-generation canoe carver and paddlers. The teams used high-tech and modern aerospace materials to develop a new high-quality, lightweight and B.C.-built design.

“All of the program participants showed drive and determination,” said Ann Phelps, executive director of Dragon Boat BC. “It isn’t an easy thing to learn a new skill, and everyone who helped us build this boat worked hard to gain transferable experience that will support them in their employment path. The funding gave us the opportunity to introduce people to new skills and a new sport, and build something we can share with the community.”

The boats will be used to support community paddling programs in B.C. to give more people an opportunity to try the sport and become part of a growing community of paddlers.

“I knew that this program would help me build a stronger resume, but I didn’t realize just how much it would change my life,” said Angela Gleeson, program participant. “My time here has grown into a full-time position with Dragon Boat BC and I can say first-hand that other participants, and now friends, have gone on to work in jobs because of the life skills and resume-building work that we accomplished together here.”

Funding for this and other projects is provided through WorkBC’s Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) program. CEP aims to increase employment opportunities for unemployed British Columbians through partnerships, research and innovative job creation projects.

Quick Facts:

  • Approximately $15 million will be invested in CEP projects throughout B.C. in 2019-20.
  • Since the program began in 2012, more than 381 CEP projects have helped local communities, employers and people looking for work.
  • Job creation partnerships are one of five CEP streams available throughout the province.

Learn More:

Learn about how Community and Employer Partnerships are helping local communities:  www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/Community-and-Employer-Partnerships.aspx

Job creation partnerships: https://www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/Community-and-Employer-Partnerships/Job-Creation-Partnerships.aspx

Dragon Boat BC: https://dragonboatbc.ca/

2019 Concord Pacific Dragon Boat BC Festival: https://concorddragonboatfestival.ca/


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6Jun

Food security centre creates stronger food economy in Victoria

by admin

Healthy, fresh and sustainable food options are now on the table for more than 35,000 people facing food insecurity in the Greater Victoria area.

With support from the Province, the Mustard Seed has secured a permanent home for its Food Security Distribution Centre.

The Mustard Seed has purchased the centre at 102-808 Viewfield Rd. with the help of $2 million in provincial funding provided through the Victoria Foundation. The building is home to a growing system of food security programs, food literacy initiatives and other community social supports. It is also the central collection point for the Food Share Network, a collaboration of more than 50 organizations including non-profits, First Nations, school districts and other community agencies that operate food security programs in the area.

“Our goal as a government is to make lives better for people in our province and the best way to achieve this goal is to work together,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “The collaboration and partnership of different organizations is filling gaps in affordability and opportunity so that people and their families can live healthier, fuller lives.”

More than 1,815 kilograms (4,000 pounds) of fresh food from grocery stores pass through the centre each day. This food is redistributed to Food Share Network partner programs across the region.

“When we waste food, we waste all of the additional resources it takes to get it to our tables,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture. “The partners in the Food Share Network have collaborated to create an innovative solution that keeps food on the plates of people who need it most. It’s about working together to tap into the large number of food resources in our region and create a sustainable food economy that works together to support everyone who lives here.”

The Mustard Seed and the Victoria Foundation have plans for the building and intend to explore new opportunities beyond the traditional food bank model. They will work with organizations and individuals through a community consultation process to determine the best way the distribution centre can continue to support food-insecure families and the local food economy.

“The Mustard Seed is a well-known food bank in the community, but we have big goals for the distribution centre that go beyond the traditional food bank model,” said Derek Pace, executive director, Mustard Seed Street Church. “We’re working closely with other organizations to make the distribution centre an integral part of a sweeping network of services that provide fresh, healthy produce to families and connect them with programs that support opportunities in food literacy, education, employment and more.”

The funding is part of a $3-million grant from the Province to support the Victoria Foundation’s new Food Security Provincial Initiatives Fund. The fund will expand food security programs and initiatives in communities throughout British Columbia. More details of the consultation process for the distribution of funds will be available in a short time.

“The Food Share Network is an innovative collaboration of organizations that work closely with their communities and understand where their programs fit in the larger picture of regional food security,” said Sandra Richardson, CEO, Victoria Foundation. “Local organizations know the unique needs of the people they support. Our Food Security Provincial Initiatives Fund will use the great work being done here in Victoria as a guide when we work with provincial and local organizations in other communities in B.C., to build on the work already being done throughout the province.”

The grant aligns with TogetherBC, the Province’s first poverty reduction strategy, which works across governments, non-profit organizations, businesses, First Nations leaders and Indigenous communities to reduce poverty in B.C.

Quotes:

Mitzi Dean, MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin —

“I’m proud of the great work that is being done right here in Esquimalt. Now that the distribution centre is a permanent fixture in the community, I look forward to watching it support a growing network of services that put food on the plates of people who need it. This community and the partners in the Food Share Network clearly recognize the change that can happen when we all work together.”

Peggy Wilmot, food bank co-ordinator, The Food Bank at St. John’s and Greater Victoria Acting Together —

“Both the Food Security Distribution Centre and the Food Rescue Project are the result of ongoing collaboration among the many organizations delivering the services of the Food Share Network. Every bit as important are those supporting the work, like services clubs, grocery stores, farmers, funders and various levels of government. The great success of the Food Share Network shows the power of community coming together across sectors to make us better equipped to support our neighbours and tackle our common challenges of poverty and food insecurity.”

Matthew Kemshaw, executive director, LifeCycles Project Society and chair, Food Share Network —

“Food insecurity is a regional challenge that affects a broad range of people. More than 50 agencies are participating in the Food Share Network and are distributing fresh healthy food throughout the region, so the people that you are helping are your neighbours. We believe that by working together, as a community, we can ensure everyone has dignified access to healthy, delicious food.”

Steve Walker Duncan, program chair, culinary training, Camosun College —

“Now that the Food Security Distribution Centre is a permanent hub for food security in the community, Camosun College and the Mustard Seed are working together to create a culinary employment program that will support people with barriers to employment train and find work in the culinary field. The program will create opportunities for people looking for employment in a culinary industry that is constantly looking for new staff.”

Quick Facts:

  • The distribution centre has been leased by the Mustard Seed Street Church for the Food Rescue Project since 2017.
  • The goal of the centre is to provide additional regional infrastructure, such as food processing, cold and dry storage and social enterprise incubation, all for the local food economy.
  • Each year, the distribution centre distributes roughly 545,000 kilograms (1.2 million pounds) of food throughout Greater Victoria.
  • Over half a million British Columbians experience some level of household food insecurity.

Learn More:

TogetherBC, B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/initiatives-plans-strategies/poverty-reduction-strategy/togetherbc.pdf

The Victoria Foundation’s food security initiatives:
https://victoriafoundation.bc.ca/food-rescue-project/

The Mustard Seed Street Church’s Food Rescue Project:
http://mustardseed.ca/food-rescue/


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