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9Jun

Moms-to-be ‘fearful’ as Chilliwack maternity ward to close for summer

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Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove has requested a meeting with Health Minister Adrian Dix to express his concerns about the temporary closure of Chilliwack Hospital’s maternity ward.


Francis Georgian / PNG

The mayor of Chilliwack is requesting a meeting with B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix to express concerns about a plan to close the maternity ward at Chilliwack Hospital for an indeterminate amount of time starting later this month.

The closure is caused by an “unexpected shortfall in obstetricians,” said Jennifer Wilson, medical director for Chilliwack Hospital. Due to a medical leave, the hospital is no longer able to ensure there is an on-call obstetrician available for emergency interventions and C-sections at all times.

Fraser Health is working on a plan to address the problem, but women who expected to give birth in Chilliwack after June 24 will have to go to Abbotsford Regional Hospital instead, said Wilson. “Our goal is to be up and running again as soon as possible.”

The doctor said the decision to close the maternity ward was not made lightly and she “respects” the concerns of women who are now faced with travelling outside their community to deliver. “We are really committed to making things as safe as possible for women.”

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But Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove said it is “insane” that his community of 100,000 people will not have a maternity ward this summer. On average, there is between one to two births per day at Chilliwack Hospital.

“I understand that it’s difficult (for Fraser Health), but there should have been a plan in place,” he said.

The mayor said he is asking for a meeting with the provincial health minister to discuss the situation. He has also spoken to the mayor of Hope who is worried about the health of women who will have to travel more than an hour — possibly in rush-hour or long-weekend traffic — to reach the hospital in Abbotsford.

“It’s an hour on a good day. What happens if there’s an accident?” asked Popove.

The mayor said he hasn’t been told when Fraser Health plans to reopen the maternity ward. But he has been hearing from families in his community who are worried and anxious.

Former Chilliwack mayor and B.C. Liberal MLA John Les called the closure “a kick in the head” in response to a Chilliwack Progress news story about the closure.

“This is a bloody outrage,” he said in a Facebook post.

“If implemented, this two- to three-month suspension of deliveries will become permanent,” he speculated. “This has been Fraser Health’s dream all along: centralize everything in Abbotsford.”

Wilson said the hospital plans to maintain its maternity ward and is looking for long-term solutions to the staffing problem. It is also working to address transportation concerns from women who may have trouble reaching Abbotsford.

“We have reassurances from Abbotsford … (that) they have the capacity,” she said.

But registered midwife Libby Gregg said the closure is making women “fearful” about their deliveries.

“They are really suffering,” she said, explaining that some women will lose the doctor who has cared for them through their entire pregnancy because the doctor doesn’t have hospital privileges at the Abbotsford hospital.

“These women will be in an unfamiliar situation with people they don’t know,” she said.

Gregg said an increase in stress and anxiety in the late stages of pregnancy and during delivery can have negative impacts on mothers and babies, including a possible increase in inductions and C-sections.

“The implications are huge and far-reaching.”

Gregg said Chilliwack midwives are stepping up to offer their services to women who are scrambling to find a caregiver ahead of the closure, adding “we’re here to support as many families as we can.”

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9Jun

Not ‘just a suggestion’: MMIWG report calls to give Indigenous people rights most Canadians enjoy already | CBC News

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In the wake of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Firls’ final report, attention is now turning toward whether its 231 recommendations will be acted upon.

On Monday, the national inquiry held its closing ceremony in Gatineau, Que., where it delivered its final report to government. The inquiry detailed what it found to be the root causes of the disproportionate amount of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls and made 231 “Calls for Justice” to address them. 

The inquiry’s commissioners have said the calls for justice are not merely recommendations but legal imperatives based in “international and domestic human and Indigenous rights laws, including the Charter, the Constitution and the Honour of the Crown.”

During a news conference after the inquiry’s closing ceremony, commissioner Qajaq Robinson elaborated on what it means to describe the calls for justice as legal imperatives.

“If we’re talking to access to health — for example the calls for justice that there be holistic, wraparound health services in all communities and isolated communities — that isn’t just a suggestion. It’s because the people in those communities have a right to health, have a right to those services,” she said.

“You legally have to do it. It’s not like we’re asking you to come up with a new framework to understand what you have to do. You signed it already; you’re just not implementing it.”

Commissioner Michèle Audette said the rights the inquiry is talking about seem to be respected in southern Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, holds a copy of the report presented to him by commissioners Marion Buller, centre, Michèle Audette, third from right, Brian Eyolfson, second from right, and Qajaq Robinson at the closing ceremony for the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Gatineau, Que., on June 3. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

“But when you live in my North… far, far away, there’s no protection, no services, no accessibility. And it’s still called Canada,” she said. 

While the commissioners say the calls are rooted in existing legal commitments, the final report also states that “Governments are not required to implement these recommendations.”

‘These truths are piling up’

Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report, the national inquiry’s report acknowledges it will take all Canadians to assert their political pressure on institutions and governments to ensure substantive changes come about.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society, has been at the forefront of pushing government for equity for First Nations children in Canada.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal sided with the society and Assembly of First Nations in a 2016 ruling, finding that Canada discriminates against First Nations children on reserves by failing to provide them with the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere in Canada.

Three years later, and more than a decade since the initial complaint was filed, the case is still not resolved. There have been seven non-compliance orders issued by the tribunal since its ruling.

Blackstock says, looking at the calls put forward by the national inquiry, the most important impact the final report can have is to change the collective Canadian consciousness. In her view, governments don’t make change, they respond to change.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“All of these reports and all these truths are piling up in a way that makes it more and more difficult for people normalize the discrimination and to turn away from it,” she said.

She said key indicators that change is happening will be a shift in public attitude. She said the public should also be looking for on-the-ground, immediate investments in things like safe shelter space for women fleeing violence.

Blackstock said the calls for justice might not be legally binding, but are certainly morally binding. Still, she said it will likely take litigation to achieve the level of substantive reform for which the inquiry is calling.

Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan said Ottawa is already taking action on the report through its national action plan to invest in housing and education on reserves and safety on the Highway of Tears.

The prime minister has also promised that the federal government will come up with a national action plan for implementing the inquiry’s recommendations, which itself is among the 231 calls for justice in the final report. The government says this action plan will be developed in partnership with survivors, family members as well as First Nations, Métis and Inuit governments and organizations. 

When asked if the recommendations of the inquiry are legally binding, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs wrote in an emailed statement that “the final report offered recommendations to inform concrete action,” and referred to the inquiry’s terms of reference which include making recommendations to remove “systemic causes of violence and to increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls.” 


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