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Category "BC Government"

18Mar

Rob Shaw: NDP government ‘reviewing’ a basic human right for girls

by admin

VICTORIA — Annie Ohana was in her classroom at L.A. Matheson high school in Surrey last week, when an all-too-common scene played out. A young woman ducked into her room after the final bell rang and quietly asked: “Ms. Ohana, do you have a tampon or pad?”

“Teachers at schools and counsellors, especially as women, we do often keep a little stash of products,” said Ohana.

So Ohana, the Aboriginal department head at the school, gladly reached into her own supply to help out. It made the difference between the student being able to stay at school for her extracurricular activities, or having to leave.

“She was volunteering for something, but instead of going home because of her period, she was able to ask me,” said Ohana. “I was able to provide it, but that’s my own money …  the system should provide it. In this case I was there, but what if I was gone?”

It’s a question increasingly being asked by teachers, parents, students and advocates in hundreds of schools across the province. Why is there no provincial funding to provide free tampons and pads for female students in school washrooms?

Instead, B.C. has a patchwork system that varies from school to school and often results in embarrassment and shame for female students.

Some districts put coin-operated dispensers in women’s bathrooms (requiring girls to have exact change to get a pad or tampon while bleeding and in need). Others schools have literally nothing. In some cases, like in Burnaby North Secondary, students have taken it upon themselves to organize free baskets of products in washrooms because nobody else will do it for them.

Some schools do offer free tampons or pads — but only if the student interrupts her teacher in class, asks to be excused in front of all her classmates, walks to the office, waits in the queue at the front desk and then asks the (possibly male) receptionist in front of everyone else sitting in that office if she can please have a tampon thank-you-very-much. You couldn’t create a more cumbersome and humiliating system if you tried.


L.A. Matheson teacher Annie Ohana.

Mark van Manen /

PNG

Some girls can’t afford to buy their own products. And there’s cultural and social stigmas around menstruation that can leave young women, at a difficult time in their life, isolated from family and friends. It’s even more difficult if the student is transgender. The very least the education system could do is offer them a discreet, free, and easy way to get a tampon or pad from every school washroom, without having to ask.

One in seven Canadian girls have missed school because they couldn’t get a tampon or pad during their period, according to a Procter & Gamble survey.

The issue was raised at the legislature by Green Leader Andrew Weaver during International Women’s Day. He based his question on a suggestion from one of his staff members, Stephanie Siddon.

Education Minister Rob Fleming responded by pointing to community grant programs that schools could try to tap, while offering to conduct more research into the issue.

It was an unimpressive display of leadership, said Weaver.

“There are some things that you just think about for 30 seconds and you realize, yeah that just makes sense,” said Weaver. “Here we are in 2019. You just do it. This falls into that. … “I would have thought he’d just have done it.”

Weaver’s own quick calculations — done in the middle of an interview using public pricing for hygiene products — pegged the rough cost at $200,000 a month for the education system, or $2.4 million a year to give more than 260,000 enrolled female students access to tampons and pads.

That amounts to a “rounding error” in the ministry’s $6.5-billion annual budget that should be acted upon without wasting time researching further, said Weaver.

New Westminster became one of the first school districts in Canada to fully fund feminine hygiene products when it voted last month to spend $10,000 of its own operating budget on dispensers and $7,000 annually to stock them with free supplies for women.

The issue is also on agendas for school trustees in Surrey, Greater Victoria, Cariboo-Chilcotin, Burnaby and Vancouver.

School districts are charging forward on their own, while the province lags behind.

The government could save time and effort by simply listening to advocates like Douglas College professor Selina Tribe, who has been clear, consistent and vocal about the issue for months.

Or Sussanne Skidmore, the secretary-treasurer of the B.C. Federation of Labour who is helping lead the United Way’s Period Promise campaign that sent a letter to Fleming on March 7 asking him to “take a leadership role in addressing period poverty in our province.”

“If there’s public policy around this, we can normalize it and make it no different than toilet paper,” Skidmore said. “It’s a human right.”

How frustrating it must be for socially progressive New Democrats to watch their government move so slowly on a clear-cut human rights issue like this.

“There are lots of leaders stepping up to say it can be done and it’s not that complicated,” said Skidmore.

Social Development Minister Shane Simpson is set to announce B.C.’s new poverty reduction strategy on Monday. There’s no good reason why this couldn’t be included.

Fleming said in statements last week that he’s “committed to supporting students around the province who need access to these products and I look forward to putting forward a plan soon.”

In the meantime, he said, “ministry staff are currently researching this further.”

Researching what exactly?

Is there some sort of cost-benefit ratio needed before the minister will sign off on funding access to hygiene products?

Is there a price to be put on the embarrassment faced in having to ask the office receptionist or school nurse (if the nursing office hasn’t already been eliminated due to cutbacks) for a tampon?

Is there a figure we can apply to how many days it’s acceptable for a female student to go home sick because they get their period in class and have nowhere to turn?

Does the ministry research the cost of toilet paper or soap?

For Ohana, who teaches social justice to her high school students, the issue is clear.

“To me, this is tied in to social justice,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s a human right. It’s a human reality.

“There’s a shame element,” Ohana added. “If girls can feel they can be proud of their bodies, and part of that being menstruation, that’s going to impact their self-esteem and confidence.”

That’s worth the cost.

Free advice to the education minister: Just do it.

[email protected]

twitter.com/robshaw_vansun




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13Mar

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip: ‘I want my son’s death to be meaningful’

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“There’s no way to describe the enormous shock a parent experiences when you get a phone call informing you … You lose your ability to stand, and you sink into the closest chair. Your heart stops and you just can’t believe it. This terrible wave of shock goes through your entire body.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip took that terrible call last August from his wife, Joan. She was nearly hysterical.

“The minute I heard her, I thought, ‘Oh, no. Oh, no.’ She kept saying over and over, ‘He’s gone. He’s gone.’”

It was Aug. 7, 2018, the day after Kenny Phillip’s 42nd birthday. Their oldest son had died alone in a hotel room of a carfentanil overdose in Grand Prairie, Alta.

“I don’t think he knew that he had taken carfentanil,” his father told me. “But nobody was more well-versed in addictions and the variety of drugs available than he was.

“Having gone through so many treatment programs, he had high level of expertise. He knew everything about his addictions, the pattern and so forth. Yet he still was vulnerable to the powerful call of the addiction.”

Kenny struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol since he was a teenager, and had been to at least half a dozen treatment programs. Still, his father said, “You’re never ready for that phone call.”

His son followed the usual cycle. Bouts of drug and alcohol use punctuated by detox, treatment and periods of recovery. His longest recovery period lasted nearly three years. But this time, his parents were optimistic that it was different.

He had graduated from the Round Lake Treatment Centre. He was working as an apprentice mechanic. He loved it. He had been obsessed with cars since he was a kid. One of the people who worked with him in Penticton described Kenny to me as “a helluva guy.”

After he died, a former co-worker designed a logo with two crossed wrenches, Kenny’s initials with the years 1976 and 2018, and had decals made up so that his friends could honour him by sticking them on their toolboxes.

Phillip says something happened when Kenny went up to northwestern Alberta, triggering his addiction. And given Grande Prairie’s reputation as a crossroads for drugs, he wouldn’t have had to go far to find them.

Northwest of Edmonton, Grande Prairie has had several recent large drug busts. In January, RCMP seized four kilos of crystal methamphetamine, 2.2 kilos of cocaine, 200 grams of heroin, about 5,500 oxycodone tablets and about 950 fentanyl tablets.

A few months earlier, guns, ammunition as well as meth, cocaine, heroin and magic mushrooms were seized in a follow-up to a July raid.

“I have first-hand knowledge,” Phillip said. “I started drinking when I was 15, and was 40-something when I sobered up. It was the hardest thing that I ever did, and I was an alcoholic not strung out on crystal meth and some of the street drugs.

“But I know that at the end of the day, it’s up to the person. The individual.”

Seven years into marriage with, at the time, three children — two daughters and Kenny — Phillip’s wife told him she was finished with the fighting, picking him up when he was drunk, and buying liquor for him. But if he wanted to carry on, he was free to go.

“I thought, ‘Free at last,’” Phillip recalled. “I lasted a month. I was downtown drinking with all my so-called buddies talking about my newfound freedom. One evening in a Chinese restaurant — nobody else was there — I put in an order and was staring at the tabletop. I just broke down. I started crying and then howling.

“The howling was coming from the soul. I was scared stiff.”

At that moment, he realized his stark choice.

“If kept going, I was going to die at my own hand. But to contemplate stopping … which at the time was like contemplating to stop breathing or stop eating because it was such an integral part of who I was.”

What had kept Phillip from suicide, he told the Georgia Strait in May 2018, was the thought of his son. “I thought he would have to grow up with that stigma.”

With the help of Joan and Emery Gabriel, a drug and alcohol counsellor and the only sober friend Phillip had, he got into treatment at the Nechako Centre and has never relapsed.

Every day, Phillip thanks the Creator for sobriety because abstinence has enabled him to take on the work he has done and continues to do as president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, grand chief of the Okanagan Nation, and as a board member for Round Lake Treatment Centre.

Phillip grieves for the “incredible, amazing young man who touched so many different lives” and for the choice Kenny made last August, knowing full well the risk he was taking in the midst of the opioid overdose crisis.

He speaks openly, and urges others to as well, because those who have died need champions to bring about change.

“I want my son’s death to be meaningful,” Phillip said. “The path forward has to be an abundance of resources to help those who are struggling with addictions. … More treatment centres, more programs, and a greater commitment from governments and society to pick up the responsibility for it.”

So far, governmental response has been “minimalist,” said Phillip.

“This notion of harm reduction is just kicking the issue down the road. It’s not dealing with getting people from an addictive state to where they are clean and sober. That’s what we need to do.”

As for cannabis legalization, Phillip said, “I just shake my head when I think of where we are at and the direction we are going.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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28Feb

Daphne Bramham: First Nations’ solution to a modern, medical crisis

by admin

Ending Canada’s opioid overdose crisis will likely require much more than sophisticated drug therapies. In fact, it might mean following the lead of First Nations health-care providers and transforming how we think about and deliver medical services.

First Nations people are dying of opioid overdoses at three times the rate of the general population. Hidden in that data are Canada’s most-neglected victims — Indigenous women.

Unlike in the general population where men comprise 80 per cent of the victims, Indigenous women are as likely to overdose or die as their brothers, fathers, husbands and sons.

They are eight times more likely to overdose than other women, and five times more likely to die from an overdose.

It’s not really surprising, says Dr. Evan Adams, the First Nations Health Authority’s chief medical health officer. The terrible numbers track other devastating indicators of how their health and longevity diverge from those of other Canadians.

“A lot of First Nations women who have substance-use disorders are exploited women. They are women who are victimized by the sex trade. They’re victimized by their partners,” said Adams, who worked for five years in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside, the epicentre of Canada’s opioid crisis.

What the opioid crisis highlights for him is the endemic problem of the western medical model, where people go passively to doctors’ offices and say, “Heal me.”


Dr. Evan Adams is the Chief Medical Officer for the First Nations Health Authority.

Jason Payne /

PNG

“Our (First Nations) model is that the doctor gives you a chance to get better. But, you make yourself better,” he said. “It’s your family that does most of the work of helping you get better, not that doctor who you visit for 15 minutes every week, if you’re lucky.”

Unlike in the western model, healing and wellness in the traditional Indigenous way involve mind, body and spirit. For First Nations men and women to achieve wellness, Adams said they require much more than medicine.

“They need healers who can do ceremony. Maybe they need love. They need justice.

“How can a woman recover from opioid use disorder when you won’t let her see her children? It’s disgusting,” he said.

The day Adams and I met, the FNHA offices were being “swept” by a group of elders carrying cedar boughs and candles using traditional ceremonies to restore the spirits of the people who work there.

“Some people would say an elder is less trained in opioids than an addictions physician,” Adams said. “But wouldn’t it be nice to have both?”

It’s not that FNHA rejects modern medicine. It continues to expand access to opioid agonist treatments such as methadone and Suboxone, which quell cravings, making it available at all FNHA nursing stations and at four of the nine FNHA-funded residential treatment centres. FNHA reimburses treatment fees charged by private clinics and has spent $2.4 million in grants to 55 communities for harm-reduction programs.

Yet, for Adams and his staff, drug therapies are only a small part of what he calls harm reduction’s suite of services.


The Crosstown Clinic in downtown Vancouver.

JONATHAN HAYWARD /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

“Harm reduction is not just, ‘Let’s make sure you don’t overdose.’ It’s the whole person that you have to treat, not just this one aspect of the person that is craving opioids.”

To incorporate First Nations wisdom into other programs, FNHA created two peer coordinator jobs at the Crosstown Clinic in the Downtown Eastside. Its compassion inclusion initiative has engaged another 144 Indigenous people with lived experience across B.C., and its Indigenous wellness team has taught indigenous harm-reduction and wellness programs in 180 communities.

“Opioid use disorder is everyone’s business. It’s yours and it’s mine and it’s everyone around us. It’s not just the domain of physicians with 24 years of training,” he said. “Why can’t Grandma help, or a family member?”

What concerns Adams about the response to the opioid crisis that is heavily grounded in the medical model is that it could widen the gap between his people and mainstream Canadians.

Indigenous people don’t necessarily trust health providers who don’t look like them or where there is no acknowledgment of the historical trauma they have suffered and their unique experiences in the world.

That’s just one more reason why the FHNA, which is unique in Canada, is so adamant that it must transform the way health care is delivered to its people so that they are empowered to help in their own healing within their own circles of trusted friends, family and elders.

This current crisis is rooted in the western medical model. The seeds were sown by an aggressive marketing campaign by Purdue Pharma, which falsely promoted its Oxycodone as being non-addictive. What followed was an epidemic of opioid over-prescription by physicians and other health-care professionals that eventually created a demand for synthetic opioids on the black market.

With so many deaths and no end in sight, this might be the time for all of us to reconsider whether the best responses to this crisis ought to be done within a much broader context of healing and an expanded understanding of what wellness really means.

[email protected]

Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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20Feb

B.C. poverty reduction plan a mix of new and old programs, says minister

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Minister of Social Development Shane Simpson says a new poverty reduction plan, coming within two weeks, will be a mixture of new programs and items government has already announced.


CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

VICTORIA — B.C.’s new poverty reduction plan will include a mixture of fresh government programs as well as services that have already been announced, says the social development minister.

Shane Simpson said Wednesday that while no specific money was highlighted in Tuesday’s budget for poverty reduction, there are nonetheless several programs already in place and funded by other ministries that will count toward the plan when it is released in “a couple of weeks.”

The poverty reduction plan calls for a 25 per cent reduction in poverty, and a 50 per cent reduction in child poverty, within five years.

“There are a whole array of issues that will play into achieving those objectives,” said Simpson. “It’s child care, it’s minimum wage, it’s housing, it’s pieces that have gone before, it’s pieces that will come afterwards, it’s pieces that we’re not even sure of where they land like the basic income initiative that we’ll see in 2020.”

Tuesday’s budget did announce a $380-million annual new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit program to give families up to $1,600 a year in financial support for a child — though the benefit doesn’t begin until October 2020. The budget added only $9 million for child care, though that was on top of $1 billion over three years announced last year that funds a mixture of subsidies (including virtually free care for a family with an income under $45,000) and 53 pilot sites for $10-a-day child care.

Simpson said it’s difficult to put a dollar figure on his plan because spending for the child benefit and child care programs are budgeted elsewhere. But he said the plan will incorporate the $100 in increases to the disability and social assistance rates dating back to 2017, as well as the $50 additional rate increase announced in Tuesday’s budget.

Social advocacy groups criticized the government for not providing more assistance for the poor in the budget, including the deeply poor. Simpson said he appreciated the work of the advocacy groups and “I’m looking forward to working with these groups and for them to continue to push us. That’s healthy.”

The poverty plan will also include new funding for rent banks, which Finance Minister Carole James has said will help prevent people from being evicted if they run into financial trouble due to illness, their job or life events. James’s ministry said Wednesday the government will be providing money to existing rent backs in communities across B.C. rather than creating and operating its own.

[email protected]

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14Feb

Petition calls for mandatory vaccinations in B.C. schools

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An online petition is calling on the provincial government to make vaccinations mandatory in B.C. schools following a second reported case of measles in Vancouver, and an outbreak of that disease south of the border.

The petition, which as of Thursday afternoon had more than 1,800 signatures, asks Premier John Horgan to amend B.C.’s current enrolment policy to include mandatory vaccines except with medical exemption.

It was launched by Maple Ridge mom Katie Clunn, who says one concern people have is that they don’t want to give up their right to choose what is best for their family.


An online petition is calling on the B.C. government to make vaccines mandatory for B.C. school children.

Sean Gallup /

Getty Images

She says mandatory vaccines won’t force anyone to vaccinate because parents would have the choice to home school their children. She adds the move would protect the most vulnerable children, including those with compromised immune systems and babies who have not yet been vaccinated.

Clunn, who is pregnant with her third child, says she launched the petition not just out of concern for her own children but also on behalf of all the vulnerable children and adults with health concerns.

“If your child is going through chemo you should know how many kids haven’t been vaccinated,” she said Thursday. “Four year olds with leukaemia shouldn’t be scared to visit their friends at school.”


Katie Clunn, a Maple Ridge mother, has started a petition to ask the government to make vaccines mandatory in schools.

She notes that schools protect kids with allergies, for example, by banning peanuts, something Clunn says she wholeheartedly supports, but don’t protect kids who are at risk of developing a preventable disease like measles.

She hopes the government will take note of the deadly outbreak in Europe and the state of emergency in Washington and reconsider making vaccines mandatory at schools.

Postmedia requested an interview with the chief medical health officer; however, a spokeswoman with the Ministry of Health said Dr. Bonnie Henry was unavailable Thursday.

“You are always entitled to choice, but you are not exempt from the consequences of your choices. We cannot send unvaccinated (children) to school for the safety of those who can’t be vaccinated, as well as for the safety of those who won’t vaccinate,” said Clunn.

What do you think? Should parents have to show proof of vaccines before school enrolment?

On Wednesday, Vancouver Coastal Health confirmed a second case of measles in Vancouver in a week. The news comes as there is an outbreak of measles in Washington State, where 54 cases of the disease have been confirmed. Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency because of the outbreak.

At least eight people have died in Ukraine, where 53,000 cases have been reported. The skyrocketing measles rates there are believed to be due to vaccine refusal as well as a temporary breakdown in vaccine orders by the government.

In Vancouver, health officials said the latest case was transmitted locally, and confirmed that the person is a school-age child.

The first case, acquired abroad, was confirmed on Saturday.

Last year, six cases were confirmed across B.C., up from a single case in 2017 and two cases in 2016, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

B.C. last experienced a measles outbreak in 2014, when 343 cases were reported, most of them linked to an outbreak in a religious community that objects to vaccination.

The World Health Organization named “vaccine hesitancy” one of its top 10 threats to global health in 2019. Measles saw a 30 per cent increase in cases globally between 2016 and 2017, and a resurgence in some countries that were close to eliminating it, according to the organization.

Ontario and New Brunswick have mandatory immunizations with exceptions and proof must be shown at the time of school enrolment.

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With files from Nick Eagland and The Associated Press


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2Jan

B.C. government to develop 24/7 mental health resource for students

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The B.C. government has announced plans to develop a 24/7 virtual resource for post-secondary students dealing with mental health, stress and addiction challenges.


fizkes / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The B.C. government has announced plans to develop a 24/7 virtual resource for post-secondary students dealing with mental health and addiction challenges.

The program will include phone, online chat, text and email support for young adults available around the clock, including confidential virtual counselling sessions.

The province will be posting a procurement notice to B.C. Bid in mid-January to seek proposals from parties interested in working with the B.C. government to develop the support tool.

“Adjusting to a new environment, learning to balance classes with new jobs, new friendships and relationships can be challenging for students who may be living away from home for the first time, far from friends and family,” said Minister Melanie Mark.

“Whether mild or severe, mental-health concerns are very real among post-secondary students who have been calling for action to this important issue on- and off-campus. That’s why our government is working to develop a mental-health service that is available to students around the clock, provincewide.”

A total of $1.5 million has already been approved for the first year of the 24/7 support resource, with further hopes of expanding the program to reach teens.

The 2016 National College Health Association Survey surveyed Canadian post-secondary students about their mental health experiences in the past 12 months. According to the survey’s results:

• 44.4 per cent said that they had at some point felt “so depressed it was difficult to function”
• 13 per cent had seriously considered suicide
• 2.1 per cent had attempted suicide
• 18.4 per cent had been “diagnosed or treated by a professional” for anxiety

“Expanded mental health services are in demand for post-secondary students in B.C.,” said Aran Armutlu, chairperson of the British Columbia Federation of Students.

“Having more options for counselling and other services available, and having 24/7 access to these services, is a welcome addition to the changes this government is making for students.”

The service will be available to B.C.’s approximately 275,000 students at 25 public post-secondary schools and 51,000 students at private training institutions. There are about 1.3 million children, youth and young adults living in B.C.

The project will be a collaboration between the Ministry of Advanced Education, Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Children and Family Development.

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23Nov

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

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19Nov

Vaughn Palmer: B.C. bill just delays ride hailing even more

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VICTORIA — After taking every opportunity to study, consult and otherwise delay, the New Democrats finally introduced the legislation Monday for a “made-in-B.C.” version of ride hailing.

Or so they said.  On closer reading, the legislation turned out to be mainly a front for further considerations, consultations, regulatory dodges and delays.

Bill 55, the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act, amends eight pieces of legislation, runs to some 46 pages and dozens of clauses, sub clauses and explanatory notes.

But the bottom line on the entire package emerged during the technical briefing when reporters tried to nail down precisely when British Columbians will enjoy the same ride-hailing services that are already in place elsewhere on the continent.

The New Democrats have suggested for some time that things should be ready in late 2019. But when reporters pressed the point, they learned maybe, maybe not. Can’t make any promises. Might be 2020.

The legislative text starts on a puckish note with the New Democrats choosing to redefine the two most common terms associated with the ride-hailing controversy.

No longer shall we refer to taxis or ride-hailing vehicles. Henceforth both are to be known as passenger-directed vehicles or PDVs.

As for the commonplace ride-hailing app, accessed on a smartphone, that is now defined in law as a transportation network service, or TNS.

With terms out of the way, the legislation moves to greatly strengthen the regulator of the aforementioned TNSs and PDVs, the Passenger Transportation Board.

“The board will expand its role in receiving applications and setting out terms and conditions of licences, including taxis, ride-hailing, and passenger-directed vehicles,” according to the briefing notes.

“The board will have authority to determine the rates charged to passengers, as well as the supply and operating area of vehicles (for) transportation network services.”

Supposedly the board will gather the necessary data on the supply of vehicles within a given operating area and be guided by considerations like “public need” and “sound economic conditions.”

But that could prove to be a lengthy, contentious and ultimately subjective determination.

Moreover, the cabinet itself will have a hand in shaping the process. The board chair and members will all be NDP appointees. Perish the thought that well-connected New Democrats would already be angling for one of those board appointments.

Plus the cabinet has reserved for itself rules of practice and procedure for the board, and to place limits on its ability to recover costs for its regulatory processes. Indeed, the legislation assigns broad-brush regulatory powers to the cabinet to be determined after the fact — setting fees, defining terms, delegating powers and specifying geographic areas and classes of vehicles.

Another undefined consideration is a special fee, to be charged per trip, to fund accessibility options for people with disabilities. At this point, the size of the charge is anyone’s guess.

From the briefing notes:  “With these legislative changes, government expects applications from ride-hailing companies wanting to enter the market will be submitted to the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) by fall 2019.”

Except that there still is the not-small matter of the necessary insurance for any new ride-hailing service.

The legislation enlists the services of the Insurance Corp. of B.C. in developing such a product. But it adds little in the way of specifics, nor does it establish a hard and fast deadline for implementation.

While ICBC is said to be already working on such a product, the technical briefing shed no light on how far along it has got.

In fairness to the folks at the government-owned auto insurance company, they have some other things on their plate — like an NDP-ordered top to bottom makeover of rates, rate structures, coverage, payouts and the like.

Supposedly ICBC will have something ready on the ride-hailing front his time next year, after, natch, the usual back and forth with government and those in the business.

Once approved by ICBC, it will then have to be approved by the independent B.C. Utilities Commission, before it can be offered to any would-be operator seeking to get into the ride hailing business in B.C.

Given all those uncertainties, the New Democrats are making no promises about this thing being operational before 2020.

Still, they are thinking ahead in one respect. Tucked inside the enabling legislation is a commitment to strike a committee of the legislature in early 2022, following the next provincial election.

Its mandate: “Review these changes to make sure the government is on the right track with modern, safe taxi and ride-hailing service.”

Related

Having delayed the thing through most of their first term of government, the New Democrats are now promising to revisit it in a hoped-for second term.

All by way of reinforcing the NDP line that this ride-hailing thing needs to be approached with supreme caution.

Sure, they wasted no time launching a half-baked speculation tax and in stacking the deck in favour of electoral change.

But implementation of a service that is already in place in comparable jurisdictions all over the world?  Some things just can’t be rushed.

Hence another round of stalling and excuse making, all in the name of crafting a Made-in-B.C. solution to a problem that has already been solved pretty much everywhere else.

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13Nov

ICBC says concussions and mental health injuries fall under new claims cap

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VICTORIA — Concussions and mental health problems caused by an automobile crash will be considered a “minor injury” and fall under the new $5,500 cap on pain and suffering, according to new rules set by the provincial government.

Attorney General David Eby signed a cabinet order that declared sprains, strains, aches, cuts, bruises, minor whiplash (including forms called TMJ and WAD), concussions and mental health issues caused by vehicle crashes to be designated minor injuries under new caps that begin April 1, 2019.

The inclusion of concussions and mental health has worried some lawyers and health care practitioners opposed to the cap, who say it can take a long time for symptoms of brain damage, depression or post-traumatic stress to show  and that the long-lasting effects are not minor for those suffering.

In response, the Insurance Corp. of B.C. said it has set special rules for concussions and mental health injuries. ICBC will consider them to become major injuries not limited to the $5,500 pain and suffering cap if they persist for more than four months, said the president and CEO, Nicolas Jimenez.

“The advice we got from the medical community is they are trickier to diagnose and trickier to, quite frankly, treat, so we are better to proceed cautiously and put them on a short time frame,” Jimenez said.

Other minor injuries — whiplash, sprains, etc. — will only be considered major if they are still problems after 2 months.

ICBC cites medical research that indicates approximately 85 per cent of people with mild concussions fully recover within three months.

Doctors of B.C., which represents physicians, was consulted on the timeline and agrees with ICBC, said president Dr. Eric Cadesky.

“When we look at things like concussions, pain and the emotional consequences of a car accident, four months is a good indicator of whether those conditions are going to improve or not,” he said.

The NDP government passed legislation to set the insurance caps earlier this year in an attempt to save more than $1 billion annually from the cash-strapped public auto insurer, reduce the rising costs of claims and prevent ICBC rate hikes. Broken bones and other more serious injuries do not fall under the $5,500 pain and suffering cap.

B.C. was the last province in Canada to have a fully tort-based insurance claims system, frequently leading to lengthy and costly court cases. Disputes over the new caps on pain and suffering claims will first go to a new civil resolution tribunal process that’s mainly been used for strata disputes. People can still sue for such things as the cost of future care and loss of wages.

To compensate for the cap, the government has raised significantly raised the fees ICBC pays for medical treatment, and added kinesiology, acupuncture, massage therapy and counselling to the list of approved services. Drivers at fault in a crash will also get full medical care costs, instead of lesser benefits outlined in the old rules.

But B.C.’s Trial Lawyers Association, which has opposed the cap, said the latest details remain troubling. Even with a four-month time frame for concussions and mental health, the new regulations set a steep definition of “incapacity” that a person will need to suffer to be considered as having a major injury, said lawyer Ron Nairne, the incoming president of the association.

That incapacity definition includes being unable to work, go to school or complete the “activities of daily living” defined in the rules as preparing your own meals, managing finances, shopping, using public transportation, cleaning your home and managing your medication.

“That is so narrowly defined that it will be very difficult for people to escape the definition of minor injury based on that particular provision,” said Nairne.

He said it appears government is trying to set rules that “capture the majority of claims” as minor, and concussions along with mental health should be excluded.

“There’s no such thing as a minor concussion because concussions are a form of brain injury,” said Nairne. “The government is doing the exact opposite, and deeming these to minor injuries.”

Other reaction was mixed.

The Physiotherapy Association of B.C. said Tuesday the changes are a positive step because ICBC is expanding the list of treatment providers and fees to enhance psychotherapy recovery.

But ROAD B.C., an organization that represents some other types of health care providers, said the new definition of minor injury is beyond what most British Columbians would consider fair.

One other change in the new rules set by Eby is that government has dropped a proposal to allow motorists to spend an extra $1,300 a year for additional insurance to get a cap of $75,000 on minor injuries.

“It was an idea,” said Jimenez. “But it’s not something that was embraced and put into our policy framework.

“These are really complicated changes, and I think quite frankly we are proceeding on the basis of get the system change in, and we’ll monitor and evaluate as we go.”

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