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Category "Local News"

22Sep

Raise-a-Reader: Refugee single mom of daughter with autism grateful for literacy help

by admin

https://vancouversun.com/


Josephine Erhabor with daughter Sarah, 3, at their Vancouver home July 26. Erhabor is a refugee from Nigeria and attended many literacy programs after arriving in Canada, and is helping Sarah, who is autistic, to get the help she needs.


Jason Payne / PNG

When Josephine Erhabor emigrated to Canada in 2015, she not only didn’t speak English, she also hadn’t been to school at all in her life, growing up in Nigeria.

“Math was really hard,” she says. “Imagine someone never being in school. I didn’t know how to read a calendar.”

When it came time for her to enrol in a literacy program “they wanted to know what they were teaching us, but I didn’t go to school at all before I was here,” she says in the Commercial Drive apartment where she lives with her four-year-old, Sarah.

Erhabor, 24, was pregnant when she arrived as a refugee, fleeing from what she only wanted to describe as “family reasons.”

Sarah has a learning disability and the two of them are getting help with their education through the Canucks Family Education Centre (CFEC), partly funded by The Vancouver Sun’s Raise-a-Reader campaign.

Erhabor, who’s called Jo, attends the Britannia Partners in Education program, which offers English literacy and math instruction, in partnership with Vancouver school district No. 39.

She and Sarah also attend CFEC’s Grandview Get Ready to Read — GR2R — early learning program for preschoolers at the Grandview Terrace Childcare Centre (in partnership with Britannia Childcare) once a week, which also offers parenting support.

As Erhabor adapted to a new country, she was unable to carry out a simple transaction in a store because numbers were foreign to her.

“When it came to math, I wasn’t that good at counting,” says Erhabor, as an inquisitive and energetic Sarah checked out a visitor’s cameras. “But now I am able to calculate, and that’s made it easier.”

She says she was never given the opportunity to learn how to read and write until she was in her mid-teens in Nigeria. The continent’s most populated country, at 186 million, now faces a threat of breaking apart along ethnic and religious lines, according to a BBC profile. Jihadists have killed thousands over the past few years in the northeast, and some groups want to separate. Islamic law has been imposed in several northern states, causing thousands of Christians to flee.


Josephine Erhabor with daughter Sarah, 3, at their Vancouver home July 26. Erhabor is a refugee from Nigeria and attended many literacy programs after arriving in Canada, and is helping Sarah, who is autistic, to get the help she needs.

Jason Payne /

PNG

The former British colony is one of the world’s largest oil producers, but few Nigerians benefit and instability hinders foreign investment.

Erhabor wasn’t given a chance at education until about 10 years ago.

“It was when I turned 15 and then I wanted to go, but then it was a bit too late,” she says.

Her goal now is to earn her high school diploma and eventually she would like to enrol in a course so she can help seniors, perhaps as a care aide in a seniors’ home.

“I don’t want to stop there (high school graduation). Once I got my English, I want to go on. I just started (English classes) last September (at CFEC),” she says. “My reading was really bad, and it is improving.

“What I was really into was writing,” she says. “I still don’t really like math.”

Erhabor is especially grateful for the help that CFEC provided for her daughter. When Sarah was two, she was diagnosed as autistic after CFEC officials raised money from donors to pay for a private assessment, Erhabor says.

She also received help settling in Canada from other programs, including immigrants’ advocates Mosaic and the Immigration Services Society of B.C., before coming to CFEC, and is grateful for the kindness she was shown during her pregnancy and for help finding her apartment.

“I have never seen a country like this in my whole life,” she says. “They help me out to fix everything.”

And she is grateful for the chance to learn English.

“If you don’t speak English or French, how can you cope?” she says.

Since its launch in 1997, Raise-a-Reader has provided more than $18 million to promote literacy in B.C.

You can make a donation any time. Here’s how:

• Online at raiseareader.com

• By phone, at 604.681.4199

• By cheque, payable to:

Raise-a-Reader

1125 Howe St., #980

Vancouver, B.C.  V6Z 2K8

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16Sep

Travel for childbirth ‘terrifying and traumatic’ for Bella Coola moms

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https://vancouversun.com/


Mom Shaiyena Currie, right, with 3-day-old baby Octavia and her sister Chelsea Currie on their way home to Bella Coola from Williams Lake after three weeks of living in a tent waiting for the birth.


PNG

Three weeks after the birth of her daughter Octavia, Bella Coola mom Shaiyena Currie, 23, is still recovering from the trauma of spending 14 days in a tent during the final stretch of her pregnancy.

Since 2008, when Vancouver Coastal Health cut maternity services at Bella Coola General Hospital, pregnant women in the community must travel to Williams Lake a month before their due date.

Pregnant women who travel for their deliveries in the VCH region are eligible for some discounts on ferries and airfares, and a medical discount of about 30 per cent at select hotels, but meals, accommodation, mileage, fuel and local transportation expenses are not included in the provincial Travel Assistance Program.

Currie estimates that the total cost to her and her family for the birth was around $10,000, in part because her sister had to take an unpaid leave from her job to accompany Currie.

“I was worried for my safety. I stayed up all night tossing and turning because of the fear that anybody could just walk into my tent,” said Currie who pitched her tent at the Stampede Campground, not far from Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake.

When a busy horse riding competition started on the stampede grounds, Currie moved to the Stampeder Motel where the slightly discounted medical rate came to $90 a night, plus taxes and fees. The final insult was that she had to give birth alone, because her sister had to watch her son at the hospital while she was delivering. Her mother had planned to be there, but couldn’t make the six-hour drive in time.

Currie calls the whole situation “terrifying and traumatic,” and says people need to know the health and safety risks pregnant women face when travelling to give birth.


Bella Coola mother Katy Best must travel to Richmond to give birth.

PNG

Katy Best is a Bella Coola Grade 5 teacher who is expecting her first child will moving back in with her mother in Richmond next week while she awaits her birth.

In a letter to health authorities advocating for change, Best wrote on Aug. 29, “The disruptions to these mothers’ lives are countless, including having to leave children behind or pull them out of school, feeling isolated from their communities and partners at a very vulnerable time, and missing out on nesting at home during their final month of pregnancy.”

Best said she was required to sign a waver stating that she understood childbirth was “inherently dangerous,” and that she would be required to leave the community to give birth.

“If leaving the community is deemed a medical necessity by health authorities, why aren’t the costs covered?”

“This is an equity issue,” says Best, who points out that pregnancy is not a “rare or unforeseeable condition.”

“Based on the fact that you give birth, you have to take on this enormous financial and emotional hardship.”

Best believes that Vancouver Coastal Health saved money by shutting down Bella Coola General’s maternity program, and “off-loaded those costs onto women and families.”

Adrian Dix, Minister of Health told Postmedia in an email, “Improving travel assistance supports, especially for expectant mothers and families, is an issue that I am looking into with the input of Ministry of Health staff and health authorities.”

Vancouver Coastal Health provided Postmedia with a written statement which read in part, “Vancouver Coastal Health recognizes the difficulties in providing health services to residents of remote and rural communities. This issue is not unique to British Columbia, or even to Canada for that matter. Bella Coola Hospital does not have full maternity service.”

A 2013 study published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information said 40 per cent of women living in rural Canada drive more than an hour to give birth; 17 per cent drive more than two hours.

A 2008 report from the Centre for Rural Health Research on Maternity Care in Bella Coola stated that cuts to rural maternity services tend to be driven by a trend toward centralization of health services and challenges in attracting nurse, general practitioner surgeons and specialists and lack of access to specialized services such as “access to epidural anesthesia, labour augmentation, or caesarean section backup.”

It’s not good enough for Currie.

“I don’t want another woman to have to sleep in a tent, or worse. Something needs to be arranged so mothers are safe and can give birth in their communities.”

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16Sep

B.C. ends practice of ‘birth alerts’ in child-welfare cases

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https://vancouversun.com/


Maternity ward at Richmond Hospital


Francis Georgian / PNG

The B.C. government is ending a practice that allowed hospitals to inform child-welfare agencies of possible safety risks to infants at birth without the consent of parents.

Katrine Conroy, the minister of Children and Family Development, says so-called hospital or birth alerts have “primarily” been used in cases involving marginalized women and “disproportionately” in births for Indigenous women.

Conroy says the province is changing its approach in cases where children might be at risk.

Instead of alerts, Conroy says the province will work collaboratively with parents expecting a child to keep newborns safe and families together. She says birth alerts are used by a number of provinces and territories, but B.C. is ending the decades-old practice effective immediately.

Conroy says Indigenous communities and organizations, as well as the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, has called for the practice to stop.

“We acknowledge the trauma women experience when they become aware that a birth alert has been issued,” Conroy says in a statement released Monday. “Health-care providers and social-service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent from those parents and will stop the practice of birth alerts.”

16Sep

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

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https://vancouversun.com/


Oxycodone tablets and pills


BackyardProduction / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The British Columbia government says any proposed settlement from opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma needs to include Canadian claims for the devastation created by the overdose crisis.

Purdue, the maker of the pain drug OxyContin, filed for bankruptcy in the United States and proposed a multibillion-dollar plan to settle with thousands of state and local governments.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby says the province has been monitoring the developments including a tentative agreement that proposes to resolve the claims as part of a global resolution.

Eby says the province remains “ready and willing” to participate in the effort to achieve the resolution but if B.C. is not included in the process then the government will to continue its lawsuit that names Purdue and several other opioid makers.

The province filed a proposed class-action lawsuit a year ago alleging drug manufactures falsely marketed opioids as less addictive than other pain medicines, triggering an overdose crisis that has killed thousands.

Eby says if the company wants to achieve a global resolution then any proposed agreement needs to account for payment to Canadian claims.

14Sep

Former Port Alberni mayor pushes for drug decriminalization as path to treatment

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https://vancouversun.com/


John Douglas, special projects co-ordinator for the Port Alberni Shelter Society and a former mayor and councillor for the city. [PNG Merlin Archive]


Submitted: John Douglas / PNG

The former mayor of Port Alberni has released a report in which he supports calls for drug decriminalization in order to protect British Columbians from overdoses and other related harm, and help them find appropriate treatment.

John Douglas, who was a paramedic for 23 years, wrote “Working Towards a Solution: Resolving the Case between Crime and Addiction” following an information-gathering trip to Portugal, and recently released it to the media.

Douglas, now special projects co-ordinator for the Port Alberni Shelter Society, explained Thursday that the paper is not a scientific analysis, but rather a “from-my-gut” exploration of what he has learned while working in the fields of social housing, mental health, poverty and addiction.

He calls for the province to engage doctors, lawyers and police, as well as the public, to make addiction and possession of addictive substances solely a health issue, under healthy ministry jurisdiction. He wants the government to develop a supply model for addictive drugs to eliminate health problems associated with contaminated street drugs.

More than 4,300 people have died of an illicit-drug overdose in B.C. since the provincial government declared a public health emergency in April, 2016. Fentanyl was detected in most cases.

Douglas recommends the development of long-term, affordable and flexible treatment communities and “health teams” to provide services. He asks the province to tell the federal government “politely and firmly” that it intends to move forward with a pilot program which is open to federal participation.

“I’ve been a politician myself — no higher than a municipal level — but I find political people, as well-meaning as they are, tend to lag behind movements, sometimes, in society,” Douglas said. “I’ve talked to so many people in the health, enforcement and legal fields that all agree (addiction) should be treated as a health issue, but the political end is lagging behind because they’re afraid of losing votes or saying the wrong thing and offending somebody.”

Douglas entered politics in 2008 as a councillor in Port Alberni and served as mayor from 2011 to 2014. After the fentanyl-related overdose crisis emerged, he helped bring a sobering centre and overdose prevention and inhalation sites to the city.

His decades of experience in health care and helping people who have addictions helped him come to the conclusion that people with addictions should be in health care, not the criminal justice system.

Earlier this year, he attended a forum in Portugal where he learned about the country’s approach to addiction and overdoses. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs for personal use in response to a surge in heroin use.

“With the shelter, we’re working toward researching models of therapeutic communities that could work for treatment, if and when we can get the government to start moving in the direction of decriminalization and the direction of adequate treatment for people with addictions, instead of these pathetic 30- to 60-day treatment programs that are commonplace over here,” Douglas said.

Decriminalization would apply to all drugs — even heroin and methamphetamine — but falls short of legalization, which removes prohibitions but also develops regulations for the production, sale and use of a substance (Canada’s approach to cannabis is an example).

In a special report released last April, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urged the B.C. government to implement decriminalization for simple possession for personal use.

Henry said B.C. could use its powers under the Police Act to allow the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor-General to set broad provincial priorities with respect to people who use drugs. Or it could enact a regulation under the act to prevent police from using resources to enforce against simple possession offences under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth shot down Henry’s proposal, saying laws around the possession of controlled substances remain federal and “no provincial action can change that.”

Douglas sides with Henry on the issue.

“I wanted to be an additional voice to echo those findings,” he said. “I agree wholeheartedly with her. We don’t have to wait for the federal government to do this.”

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13Sep

Municipalities back Vancouver motion to push Ottawa for safer drugs

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https://vancouversun.com/


Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart joined Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service’s Capt. Jonathan Gormick to discuss the epidemic of drug-related deaths, at a press conference in Vancouver on Friday, September 6, 2019.


Jason Payne / PNG

Local governments across Canada will press the federal government to increase access to safer drugs, and declare a national health emergency in response to the fentanyl-driven overdose crisis, after a motion by Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart was passed Friday.

Stewart’s motion, drafted with his overdose emergency task force, was approved by city council in July. Coun. Rebecca Bligh brought it to a Federation of Canadian Municipalities executive meeting this week.

The motion requires the federation to call on Ottawa to support health authorities, doctors, their professional colleges and provinces to “safely provide regulated opioids and other substances through a free and federally available Pharmacare program.”

The federation will also demand that the federal government declares a national public health emergency and provides exemptions to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, so that cities and towns can run pilot programs which prioritize a move toward a “safe” drug supply.

Stewart said Friday that there was some division among the federation’s membership over the motion but it passed following an effective speech by Bligh. He hopes it will “shift the national dialogue toward a safe supply” during the federal election.

He wants the substances act exemptions to allow health professionals with a non-profit organization to distribute diacetylmorphine, which local research has shown can be an effective treatment for chronic, relapsing opioid dependence.

Stewart met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau two weeks ago and told him what Vancouver needs in order to replace fentanyl-tainted street drugs with a safer, regulated supply, he said.

“It was a private conversation but I can say that I left the conversation in good spirits,” Stewart said. “I was definitely heard and that was very important.”

Stewart said front line responders are fatigued, people are experiencing multiple overdoses and suffering brain injuries, and the city and province desperately need the federal government to step up.

“We’re going to have to take it to the next level here. We’re reducing overdose deaths but overdoses are increasing. Just not dying isn’t good enough,” he said.

“It’s got to be life and hope for people.”

Karen Ward, a drug user and advocate for others who use drugs, helped with the motion and was pleased the municipalities passed it.

“If a province is a bit hesitant, the idea is that this will give a city the power to take rapid action — and individual doctors, in fact,” she said.

“It’s a necessity to have safe supply at this point because the supply has become so contaminated everywhere.”

Ward said the federation can now send a clear message to Ottawa that municipalities want the power to treat the overdose crisis “like a real” public health emergency.

“This is one way to get them to talk about it, face it squarely and acknowledge this massive disaster, and say look, we need to change our (approach),” she said.

“We need to take it as seriously as possible. It’s a health issue. It’s also a justice issue.”

According to the federal government, there have been more than 9,000 apparent opioid-related deaths across the country since 2016.

Illicit drugs killed 1,533 people in B.C. in 2018 and 538 in the first half of 2019, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

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13Sep

Ian Mulgrew: Utah legal reform an example for B.C.

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The Law Society of B.C. could do well to look to Utah for advice on how to address the province’s access-to-justice crisis caused by legal services that are too pricey and the inequity that perpetuates.

The state has embarked on an ambitious, radical restructuring of its legal regulatory system to provide more affordable services and a regulator that protects the public rather than lawyers.

The promising initiative was the product of a recent blue-ribbon working-group report — Narrowing the Access-to-Justice Gap by Re-imagining Regulation — that maintained the delivery of legal services must be dramatically changed “to harness the power of entrepreneurship, capital, and machine learning in the legal arena.”

Gillian Hadfield, the Toronto-based legal guru, was part of the high-powered committee that made the ground-breaking recommendations, considered by those in the field as perhaps the most significant action to address the access gap in years.

The top-flight academic, who was in Vancouver proselytizing earlier this year, has long argued it’s time to end the monopoly enjoyed by lawyers and dismantle regulatory barriers to provide legal help that is affordable and accessible.

The Utah Supreme Court is putting those ideas into practice — shifting the paradigm from a system regulating for lawyers to one regulating to increase access to and affordability of legal services.

Utah has established state-wide pro bono efforts, made forms and filings more easily accessible online, established Licensed Paralegal Practitioners, and piloted an online dispute resolution model for small claims.

B.C. has done the same — although it is dragging its heels on giving paralegals any real scope — and each of these initiatives takes a step toward narrowing the access-to-justice gap.

Still, they have been not anywhere near enough.

Expanding pro bono, improving legal aid and making minor regulatory reforms have been inadequate while technological disruption has exacerbated and widened the gap.

Millions experience problems with domestic violence, veterans’ benefits, disability access, housing conditions, health care, debt collection, and other civil justice issues cannot afford legal services and are not eligible for assistance from the civil legal aid system.

In the 71-page report, the experts proposed a two-tracked remedy — loosen restrictions on how legal firms are financed so lawyers can compete and innovate but also provide room for people other than lawyers to provide legal services.

That means, for instance, getting rid of bans on lawyers fee-sharing with non-lawyers (say accountants) or allowing non-lawyers to own or invest in law firms.

At the moment, mixed business models are prohibited in most jurisdictions hindering lawyers from partnering with entrepreneurs.

Within days of receiving the report at the end of last month, the Utah Supreme Court — which has constitutional responsibility for the administration of justice — unanimously adopted its recommendations.

Other states, such as Arizona, California and Illinois are mulling similar proposals. California in July published proposals to allow fee-sharing, non-lawyer ownership and the greater use of non-lawyers.

Utah, however, is blazing the trail.

Since the turn of the century, the U.K. and North America have been dealing with sadly similar crises in their legal systems — an access-to-justice gap that threatens civil society.

All of the data confirm the legal system isn’t meeting the needs of the middle-class and poor.

The courts are clogged with confused litigants who can’t afford a lawyer and have no access to any other source of legal services because of the regulated monopoly the legal profession enjoys.

In 2007, the U.K. redesigned its regulatory apparatus to increase legal competition in the marketplace, which was already far more liberal than here.

It did not have prohibitions against the unauthorized practice of law and the legal monopoly was restricted to a half-dozen services; advertising restrictions and referral fees were lifted years ago; wills, representation at tribunals and the provision of other low-level legal services were not regulated.

The U.K. was focused on increasing competition, in North America the paramount concern is access to justice.

Medicine has become a team sport: doctors, nurses, radiologic technologists, pharmacists all play. The law should be similar.

In Utah, the new system will be driven by data, monitoring, assessment and analysis “to ensure consumers access to a well-developed, high-quality, innovative, and competitive market for legal sevices.”

The first phase will see the formation of a task force to propose rule changes, establish a “Phase 1 regulator” to oversee a “sandbox” of non-traditional legal services and prepare a final report for the structure of the “Phase 2 regulator.”

In the sandbox, lawyers, law firms and proposed businesses will work with the regulator to pilot new services or new ways of working that might break current rules but appear to be safe.

These trial-and-error experiments with the baby-step process to remove regulatory restrictions and ease the historic persistent inhibition on innovation, hopefully, will lead to the right way to regulate new services.

The state hopes that phase 2 will see “some form of an independent, non-profit regulator with delegated regulatory authority over some or all legal services.”

It will be independent of lawyers but answerable to the Supreme Court.

That will be a real transformation — a regulatory system designed to not maintain the status quo but to provide affordable legal services while protecting the public from unacceptable risk and harm.

Seems like a no-brainer.

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twitter.com/ianmulgrew

12Sep

Delta council to vote on motion opposing Uber and Lyft

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https://vancouversun.com/


FILE PHOTO: Long-time former City of Delta mayor and current councillor Lois Jackson wants her colleagues to back a plan to suspend the introduction of ride-hailing in B.C.


Ric Ernst / PNG

Longtime former City of Delta mayor and current councillor Lois Jackson wants her colleagues to back a plan to suspend the introduction of ride-hailing in B.C.

On Sept. 16, at the regular meeting of City of Delta council, Jackson will present a motion opposing the ride-hailing rules introduced by the Passenger Transportation Board on Aug. 19. Jackson will also ask that an emergency resolution be presented at the Sept. 23-27 Union of B.C. Municipalities conference calling for all municipalities to oppose the regime of rules that she believes are unfair to existing taxi companies.

The move comes as Surrey mayor Doug McCallum has promised there will be no ride-hailing in his city, and as taxi drivers pursue legal action to override the set of rules introduced by the board.

Taxi drivers are particularly upset with the rules that limit where they can drive, while ride-hail cars can cover a wider area, that there will be an unlimited number of ride-hailing cars, while taxi numbers are limited, and that ride-hailing operators will be able to charge what the market will bear during busy times.

In Jackson’s motion she also points out that taxi companies are legally obliged to provide wheelchair accessible vehicles in their fleet, while ride-hailing companies are not. The motion states that the Passenger Transportation Board did not consult with municipalities, regional districts, public transit agencies or disability groups when they came up with their rules.

Staff at the City of Richmond have also recommended that the city ask the provincial government to look at the discrepancies between rules governing taxis and those governing ride-hailing. The recommendation was approved by council on Sept. 9.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure issued a statement that the City of Surrey could not prevent ride-hailing companies from operating in within its boundaries.

Jackson is one of seven persons on council. In last October’s municipal election Jackson was one five elected that ran under the Achieving For Delta banner.

Globally, ride-hailing is dominated by Uber and Lyft. In April, May and June this year, Uber lost $5.2 billion, while Lyft lost $644 million – both off increased revenues.

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8Sep

Province proposal to turn part of Trans Canada Trail to industrial use ‘mind-boggling’

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https://vancouversun.com/


Cyclists ride across a trestle bridge, part of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail.


Handout/Trails Society / PNG

A historic rail trail that was donated to the province by the Trans Canada Trail society could be opened to logging trucks if a government proposal to cancel its trail designation gets the green light, say trail advocates.

The Ministry of Forests is seeking to transfer management of a 67-kilometre portion of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail to unspecified agencies to reflect local interests and support “access for industrial activity,” according to a letter sent to stakeholders soliciting feedback on the plan.

A major logging company holds tenure for several cut blocks near the trail, which runs from Castlegar to Fife, east of Christina Lake.

“It’s mind-boggling that they’re even considering this,” said Ciel Sander, president of Trails Society of B.C. “The trail is a government asset. It should be protected as a linear park, not an access road for logging trucks.”

The Columbia and Western Rail Trail was donated to the Trans Canada Trail decades ago by the Canadian Pacific Railway for inclusion in the The Great Trail, previously known as the Trans Canada Trail, a national trail network stretching 24,000 kilometres across the country.

In 2004, the committee transferred the trail to the B.C. government with the “expressed intention that it would be used and managed as a recreational trail,” said Trans Canada Trail vice-president Jérémie Gabourg.


A cyclist on the Columbia and Western Rail Trail.

Handout/Trails Society

While the government’s proposal is clear that recreational access will remain, it marks the first time a group has sought to convert a portion of The Great Trail from a trail to a road in any province or territory.

“Sections of The Great Trail of Canada are on roadways, and we strive to move these sections of the trail to greenways, where possible,” said Gabourg. “To see a trail go from greenway to roadway is disheartening … It could set a dangerous precedent.”

The Columbia and Western Rail Trail connects with the popular Kettle Valley Rail Trail, a route that attracts cyclists from around the world. In accepting the trail from the Trans Canada Trail in 2004, the government made a commitment to preserve and protect it from motorized use, said Léon Lebrun, who was involved in the process as past president of Trails Society of B.C.

“We have a government who has not taken real responsibility,” he said. Officials have “turned a blind eye” to motorized users who have graded parts of the trail and removed several bollards designed to prevent access. “They had no permit and no permission, and the government did nothing.”

In its letter to stakeholders, the Ministry of Forests recognized vehicles are already accessing the trail, explaining the proposed administration change would ensure it was being maintained for that use.

“This portion of rail corridor contains engineered structures including steel trestles, hard rock tunnels, major culverts and retaining walls atypical of recreation trails and requiring management beyond typical trail standards,” said the letter by John Hawkins, director of Recreation Sites and Trails B.C.


Tracks on the trail, part of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail.

Handout/Trails Society

But Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore said that allowing motorized vehicles would be rewarding people who broke the law.

“While we acknowledge that this change reflects current use, this is clearly the result of years of mismanagement of what was intended as, and should have remained, a high-profile recreation and tourism amenity,” she replied to Hawkins in a letter that was shared with Postmedia.

“Those who have consistently flaunted trail use regulations are now being rewarded … We expect (Recreation Sites and Trails B.C.) to acknowledge this as a tragic failure, and ensure that resources and strategies are in place to prevent further losses of our valued trails.”

Stakeholders were given one month to register their feedback with the Ministry of Forests, ending Aug. 26.

In a statement, the Ministry of Forests said the process is ongoing to receive more information from regional districts. A decision is expected before the end of the year.

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6Sep

B.C.’s most popular parks … according to Instagram

by admin

Collage of Instagram photos


Photos from visitors to B.C. parks found on Instagram.


Photo illustration by Nathan Griffiths. Photos by @itsbigben, @thendrw and @calsnape, via Instagram.

Some of southern B.C.’s smallest provincial parks get the most love on Instagram, raising fears the social media platform is contributing to overcrowding and damage to parks. Yet those same posts might lead to more effective park planning and management, according to research.

A Postmedia analysis of hashtags on Instagram for popular south coast parks show that for some parks, the number of “likes” and comments for a park’s hashtag is a strong predictor of attendance.

That matches with research conducted by Spencer Wood, a senior research scientist at the eScience Institute for Data Discovery at the University of Washington and with the National Capital Project at Stanford University. Wood and his team have been using statistical models to study the role of social media in motivating people to get outdoors.

“There are correlations between the number of (social media) posts that get shared in a place and the number of people who visit a place,” said Wood. ”People are certainly going to sites to get some iconic photo.”

Wood said that talking about a park online does increase its popularity but that those sorts of effects have been happening for decades with print media.

Postmedia‘s analysis found that along the Sea to Sky Highway, Garibaldi, Stawamus Chief and Joffre Lakes showed some of the strongest correlation between ”likes“ and attendance, even when controlling for distance from urban centres and population growth. For other parks along the route, such as Narin or Bridal Veil falls, there was only moderate or no correlation.

Wood said the motivations driving park attendance are complex and differ by site. Changing demographics mean certain types of experiences are more popular than others and population growth means there are more people using the same amount of space.

“At some sites, it’s just a coincidence,” he said. “People are sharing their experience on Instagram but it’s probably not what’s driving people to the site. At other sites, we think yes, it is the publicity that’s driving people to the site. But neither is a guarantee.”

Josie Heisig, an influencer marketing specialist with Destination B.C., a Crown corporation that co-ordinates provincial tourism marketing, agrees the link between social media and increased visitation isn’t cut and dried.

“It’s hard to directly say that someone will book a trip because they’ve seen one Instagram post,” she said, “but it definitely leads to that path of them booking a trip.”

Destination B.C. has a front-seat view of social media’s explosive potential. In 2013, the company kicked off a promotional campaign using the hashtag #explorebc. This past B.C. Day long weekend, the hashtag surpassed five million uses on Instagram.

One of the most popular #explorebc posts showed a humpback whale breaching just metres from the dock at a lodge north of Port Hardy. Shot in 2018, the video has been viewed more than 48 million times across various platforms. The week following the post, which was amplified through Destination B.C. channels, business at the lodge shot up more than 1300 per cent with bookings being as far out as 2020.

“For the Great Bear Lodge, there was a direct number of bookings and inquiries after the video was posted,” said Heisig. “That’s one where we can see the direct correlation.”

Wood, who has done work with the U.S. Forest Service, said that a sudden boost in attendance can be a problem for sites that aren’t ready for it. As in B.C., many parks in the U.S. that used to hold visitors without trouble are struggling with overcrowding and providing services to visitors.

Wood and his team developed a dashboard of social media and other measures the U.S. Forest Service and others can use to determine which sites are the most popular and what new types of opportunities they need to be developing.

Social media data is improving the ability to make decisions about where to provide new opportunities, improve accessibility and focus ecological restoration, said Wood. It’s a way to help determine “what sort of policies and plans we should be making in order to improve people’s access to the outdoors.”

[email protected]

@njgriffiths

Methodology

Hashtag data was collected from the Instagram API using hashtag searches by park name (i.e.: ”#joffrelakes“ and ”joffrelakesprovincialpark“). Park visitor estimates were provided by B.C. Parks. Parks were selected based on the number of visitors in 2018 and their distance from Lower Mainland municipalities.

A correlation coefficient (R) was calculated using the number of Instagram ”likes“ for related hashtags and park attendance data for each year from 2010 to 2018 in order to estimate the relationship between ”likes” and attendance at each park.

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