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20Mar

FDA issues device warning; Health Canada in monitoring mode

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Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are near opposites in their responses to rising evidence of patient harms caused by some medical devices.

A new B.C. study has added to the mounting evidence about potential complications from the plastic-like coatings on devices such as catheters, guide wires and stents that are inserted through blood vessels during minimally invasive medical procedures.

Such devices are coated so they can slide through vessels with less friction and less damage to tissues. But the Vancouver study of 110 patients who died within 90 days of having procedures with coated devices showed that 23 per cent had polymer fragments scattered in different parts of their bodies. Three deaths were judged to be definitively caused by the dislodged material.

Hydrophilic polymer embolism is the term used by experts to describe the recently recognized phenomenon in which the foreign material separates from device surface and travels through the bloodstream to various organs in the body.

The FDA issued a safety bulletin in 2015 which said there were 500 reports of coating delamination in just two years. There were also 11 device recalls and nine U.S. deaths associated with the peeling or flaking from guide wires used during cardiac angiograms or angioplasties. Last year, the FDA followed up with additional recommendations.

Health Canada, by contrast, has taken a monitoring position.

Eric Morrissette, the department’s chief media relations officer, said in an email: “The department reviews data associated with the delamination of coatings to ensure that such devices do not shed material. In addition, the labelling of these devices sold in Canada must contain warnings to inspect the devices for any signs of damage (kinked or weakened segments, or delamination of coatings).

“Health Canada’s position is that the benefits of these products continue to outweigh the risks. This balancing of benefits and risks is a key part of any assessment for a medical device or drug in Canada.”

The Canadian agency is aware of the FDA notices, Morrissette said, but has not issued its own. 

“Should new evidence come to light related to the safety of these devices, Health Canada will take appropriate action,” he said.

Devices inserted through blood vessels for so-called endovascular procedures in B.C. include those made by companies like Bard, Cook, Boston Scientific, Gore and Canadian Hospital Specialties. Some manufacturers were repeatedly contacted by Postmedia for responses to the latest study. All declined to comment.

Dr. Dave Wood, a Vancouver interventional cardiologist and director of the Vancouver General Hospital cardiac catheterization laboratory, said the study “absolutely” poses some “intriguing hypotheses” that need further investigation.

“To be truthful, it wasn’t on my radar. But it is now. And I’m not trying to belittle the study, but we have clinical trial data on these devices showing they are generally safe and effective.”

Wood said he’s not aware of any occasion when coatings has come off devices he’s used. Patients undergoing endovascular procedures are cautioned about the small risk of heart attacks and strokes after such procedures. The fact that coating debris has been found to have caused three deaths is not going to change the general information he gives patients during the informed consent process although he acknowledged patients may now ask about it because of news coverage.


Dr. John Maguire, a VGH neuropathologist.

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

He said he’s anxious to collaborate on further research and has already reached out to the study leader Dr. John Maguire, a neuropathologist.

In 2017, Dr. Rashi Mehta and Dr. Rupal Mehta, U.S. experts, gave an update for physicians about the significant complications that can ensue from device delamination. 

This week, Rupal Mehta said there has been enormous pushback from physicians and medical device industry personnel who insist complications are too rare to worry about.

Dr. Harry Vinters, a professor and anatomical pathologist at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center who has collaborated on research into the coating problem, praised the Vancouver researchers.

“Their study is especially intriguing in that it utilizes what could be considered old technology — careful tissue analysis of autopsy specimens — to derive extremely important new information that has a direct impact on outcomes in a select group of patients. Indeed, the autopsy is about the only way this data could have been derived, and Dr. Maguire and his colleagues are to be congratulated for the care with which the study was performed and the data analyzed.”

Vinters said despite the latest research, it is still impossible to quantify the degree of risk.

“Autopsy studies are not population-based studies, they look at highly selected individuals.”

Asked if interventional cardiologists and other specialists using such devices should give patients specific information about such risks during the informed consent process, he said:

“Generally, consents given by both anesthesiologists and surgeons are all-encompassing and include warnings about possible negative outcomes.” 

Christopher Thrall, spokesman for the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, said studies like the one in Vancouver are important and while the agency doesn’t have any statistics on delaminations on device coatings, Canadian patients are generally vulnerable to adverse events in the hospital because of such things as faulty devices, medications, mistakes and falls. For instance:

• Every 17 minutes someone dies in a Canadian hospital from complication of treatment. That’s about 31,000 people a year.

• There are hundreds of thousands of preventable patient safety incidents each year. One out of 18 hospital visits results in preventable harm.

• Over 40 per cent of complex surgical patients suffer harm. Patients who suffer harm are four times more likely to die in hospital than those who don’t.

Thrall said the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada, Health Standards Organization, and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute are working together to support a Health Canada initiative that requires health care institutions to identify and report on serious adverse drug reactions and medical device incidents.

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20Mar

BC to launch measles catch-up campaign with shots at schools, clinics

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20Mar

Jail drugs: Ex-prisoner says no addiction help as life outside loomed

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VANCOUVER — Memories of vomiting, diarrhea and unrelenting stomach pain as he withdrew from opioids in prison had Rob MacDonald repeatedly asking for addiction treatment before he left a maximum-security facility but despite dozens of formal complaints, he says he didn’t get any help.

“I was thinking, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m going out onto the street with this addiction,”‘ MacDonald said recently, a week after being released on supervision from the Atlantic Institution in Renous, N.B., his fourth facility in over a decade behind bars.

MacDonald, 41, said he feared his 15-year opioid addiction would cause him to returned to crime while using illicit drugs on the outside so he tried desperately to get treatment from the federal prison service.

“I put 150 requests in, probably 70 complaints, for a 15-month period, trying to tell them, ‘Put me on it. I need it before I get out. I want to get help, I don’t want to go back into the community in a high-risk situation, I don’t want to re-offend,’ ” he said from Halifax, where he lives in a halfway house.

He said he complained to the warden and then appealed to the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada. One of his complaints to the commissioner was upheld but he said he was placed on a wait list because there was a limit on the number of inmates receiving treatment.

When he was incarcerated at Agassiz’s Kent Institution between 2017 and 2019 for drug-related offences and robbery, MacDonald said debilitating withdrawal symptoms had him seeking potentially deadly fentanyl-laced drugs that were smuggled into the prison.

“At least eight guys died in the 17, 18 months I was at Kent,” he said.

The Correctional Service linked MacDonald to a clinic in Halifax upon his release nearly two weeks ago and he is now prescribed the opioid substitute Suboxone. But he said he should have received the medication in prison as part of the agency’s treatment program, which also includes methadone, so he could focus on finding a construction job to get his life back on track.

'At least eight guys died in the 17, 18 months I was at Kent,' Rob MacDonald says of the Agassiz maximum security penitentiary.


‘At least eight guys died in the 17, 18 months I was at Kent,’ Rob MacDonald says of the Agassiz maximum security penitentiary.

Darren Calabrese /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ivan Zinger, Canada’s ombudsman for offenders, said the Correctional Service has failed to provide adequate addiction treatment, programs and staff at a time when more drugs are contaminated with fentanyl.

“I think when you’re dealing with a large inmate population that has such a long history of substance abuse you should be providing an awful lot more treatment and programming in addition to opioid substitution therapy,” said Zinger, who called for the reallocation of funding to provide those services.

“It’s unclear to me why the budget has remained the same and decreased in the past when clearly the number of incidents is increasing,” he said of overdoses that caused 41 deaths between 2010 and 2018.

Zinger said programs such as counselling are provided just before offenders are released instead of throughout their incarceration.

“That’s a problem when you have a highly addicted inmate population that has a lot of time on their hands and are in sometimes difficult conditions of confinement. They will find ways to bring in drugs.”

The Correctional Service said in a statement that 66 per cent more prisoners have accessed treatment in the last two years, but a jump of 115 per cent has been recorded in the Pacific region, where the opioid crisis is most acute.

It did not respond to requests for information on whether its budget will be increased to meet the demand for more treatment.

Kent Elson, a lawyer for an offender at Joyceville Institution in Kingston, Ont., said the Correctional Service did not accommodate his client’s disability of addiction so he filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission last November.

Rob MacDonald, who was released last week on supervision from the Atlantic Institution maximum security facility in New Brunswick after a 10-year stint in four facilities including Kent Institution in Agassiz.


Rob MacDonald, who was released last week on supervision from the Atlantic Institution maximum security facility in New Brunswick after a 10-year stint in four facilities including Kent Institution in Agassiz.

Darren Calabrese /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Elson said his 50-year-old client, who is serving a four-year sentence, had been on methadone but alleges the medication was withheld without explanation for five days when he was transferred from another facility in November 2017.

“He needed medical help and he got forced, cold-turkey withdrawal in a feces-smeared segregation cell and cruel mistreatment from guards. And it was so unbearable that he tried to kill himself three times,” Elson said from Toronto.

While Correctional Service guidelines state a doctor is required to interview offenders before they are involuntarily tapered or cut off from methadone or Suboxone, Elson said his client was not seen by a physician.

“This whole experience was incredibly traumatic and he ended up with PTSD,” he said.

“The impact on him was terrible but everybody wins if prisoners get the right treatment. Suffering from PTSD is not going to make them easier to integrate back into society.”

The Correctional Service did not respond to a request for comment on the human rights complaint filed by Elson or another from the Prisoners’ Legal Services. The B.C. group’s complaint was filed in June 2018 on behalf of offenders who accused the Correctional Service of discriminating against them.

Nicole Kief, an advocate for the group, said about 100 inmates reported three main concerns: long wait lists for treatment, being cut off Suboxone after false accusations of diverting it and not receiving addiction counselling.

“Of the people that I’ve talked to there has been a real sense of urgency, with people calling me and saying, ‘I’m worried about dying,”‘ she said.

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19Mar

Coroners: Carfentanil detected in 13 of 90 overdose deaths in January

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A Vancouver RCMP officer opens a printer ink bottle containing the opioid carfentanil imported from China. Drug dealers have been cutting carfentanil and its weaker cousin, fentanyl, into heroin and other illicit drugs to boost profit margins.


Submitted / RCMP

B.C.’s coroners say there were 90 suspected illicit-drug overdose deaths in the province in January, including more than a dozen in which they detected carfentanil.

The synthetic opioid carfentanil, which began showing up in B.C.’s street-drug supply in late 2016, turned up in 13 illicit-drug overdose deaths in January, according to a B.C. Coroners Service update released Tuesday. Carfentanil was detected in 35 deaths in all of 2018 and 71 deaths in the last seven months of 2017. Carfentanil is many orders of magnitude more potent, and dangerous, than fentanyl.

Fentanyl and analogs were detected in about 87 per cent of overdose deaths last year, up from 82 per cent in 2017, the service said.

Coroners also updated the total number of illicit-drug overdose deaths in 2018 to 1,510, up from the 1,489 deaths it reported last month (the numbers change as toxicology reports are completed and investigations are concluded). Overdoses killed 1,486 in 2017 and 991 in 2016.

The coroners said 90 people died of an illicit-drug overdose in B.C. in January, down from 130 deaths in January 2018, and below the 116 deaths in December 2018.

The coroners service says no one died at a supervised consumption or drug-overdose prevention site.

Most of the deaths in January were in the Vancouver Coastal Health (29) and Fraser Health (27) regions, and 88 per cent occurred indoors, including 62 per cent in private residences and 26 per cent in other residences such as social housing or hotels.

People aged 30 to 59 accounted for 76 per cent of those who died, and 83 per cent were male.

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18Mar

B.C. unveils first poverty reduction plan

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Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson.


CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

VICTORIA – B.C.’s New Democrat government unveiled the province’s first poverty reduction plan Monday, a strategy it says can reduce overall poverty in the province by 25 per cent within five years and cut child poverty in half.

Social Development Minister Shane Simpson said the plan “comprises programs, polices and initiatives across government, tying together investments made over three budgets into a thoughtful, bold and comprehensive plan to address poverty in B.C.

“It’s a strategy that at its heart is about people,” said Simpson. “It’s about the challenges they face every day just to get by.”

The poverty reduction plan has five pillars Simpson said, including a child opportunity benefit announced in the February budget and planned for 2020, a previously set path towards a $15 minimum wage, continued investments in child care subsidies, building upon two previous increases to the welfare and disability rates, and “leveraging” on federal supports.

Simpson also pointed to continued research on a pilot project for a basic living wage, which the NDP and Greens negotiated as part of their power-sharing deal in 2017.

As well, Simpson re-announced $10 million to rent banks that Finance Minister Carole James has said will go toward helping people get short-term loans for rent so they don’t become homeless.

Simpson reiterated the importance of government’s funding for 2,000 modular units for homelessness – first announced in 2018 – as well support for low-income people that make child care almost free depending on income level.

“This has been a priority for our government since our first day in office,” said Simpson.

“For too many years B.C. was the only province in Canada without a dedicated strategy for longterm poverty reduction. The result of that inaction was the second highest poverty rate in the country.”

The report also mentions government’s decision to eliminate bridge tolls in Metro Vancouver — a 2017 election promise that was one of the NDP’s first actions upon taking power.

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.

In terms of people, 557,000 British Columbians live in poverty, and the plan targets lifting at least 140,000 above the poverty line. For children, it equates to 50,000 of the roughly 100,000 already in poverty.

Of the 557,000 people in poverty, approximately 200,000 receive government welfare, disability or other services.

The NDP campaigned on the promise of a poverty reduction strategy in the 2017 election, arguing that British Columbia was the only province without one.

However, development of the plan has moved slowly over more than a year and a half. The government passed legislation enshrining the targets into law in October, but left the details until Monday.

The government passed legislation in October that enshrined those targets in law, but left the details until Monday.

Trish Garner, community organizer with the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, said it’s exciting to finally have a poverty reduction plan, something that her organization has been advocating for since its inception a decade ago.

“From our perspective, it’s a strong start,” she said. “It really demonstrates a comprehensive framework, bringing in cross-ministry investments, but we are looking for more to build on this in the future.”

Specifically, Garner said, they want to see plans for raising income assistance rates, investing in more affordable transportation and rent controls. She said they weren’t expecting to see announcements on Monday, however they had hoped to see more detail about what will be done and when.

“It’s looking at the breadth of poverty, but it’s missing some vision around the depth of poverty and what we’re really going to do there,” Garner said.

— with files from Jennifer Saltman

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13Mar

Canadian specialists not entirely shocked by U.S. admissions scandal

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The massive university admissions scam in the U.S. disturbs, but does not entirely shock, Canadian specialists in exam writing, career advancement and cheating.

“It’s tricky. There’s the cynical side of me that says, ‘Yep, that doesn’t surprise me.’ Then there’s the other side of me that says, ‘That sucks. It’s just unfair,’” says University of B.C. geologist Brett Gilley, who takes a special interest in rooting out cheaters.

In a similar vein, Richard Dalton, whose Vancouver company tutors students in how to gain admission to leading U.S. universities, said he is troubled that authorities have charged 50 people in a scheme in which wealthy parents are said to have bribed insiders to get their children admitted to elite American schools.

“It really bothers me, because we have students who work hard to do well in the tests by studying for many hours and doing diagnostic tests. Then to have someone come in and pay to pass the test fraudulently? It’s really disturbing,” said Dalton, owner of Your Score Booster.

Vancouver businessman and former CFL player David Sidoo is among those charged with conspiracy in the far-reaching FBI investigation. Sidoo is alleged to have made two separate $100,000 US payments to have others take entrance exams in place of his two sons, including by providing falsified ID cards for someone who came to Vancouver to write the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) for a U.S. institution.

The sweeping U.S. investigation details multiple alleged university entrance scams by parents, including Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. The parents involved, officials said, spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million US to guarantee their children’s admission.

Many of the well-heeled parents are charged with bribing SAT exam supervisors, including to change their children’s score results.

They are also alleged to have falsely claimed their children were disabled, in part to get special treatment writing the exams. Others are charged with bribing at least nine college coaches to lie that their offspring are sought-after athletes, making them eligible for fast-track admission.


University of B.C. geologist Brett Gilley.

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

Gilley said there are at least two things about the way Canadian universities and colleges generally handle the admissions process that may make them less vulnerable to corruption and cheating than institutions of higher education in the U.S.

The first is that many Canadian universities, including UBC, don’t require SAT test scores from most students, Gilley said. Secondly, he said most Canadian universities do not place an extreme emphasis on building revenue-producing football, basketball, volleyball and other teams. So athletic scholarships are not as common in Canada as a side-door entry into higher education.

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UBC’s deputy registrar Andrew Arida issued a statement Wednesday saying it has “a variety of safeguards in place expressly designed to help prevent abuse” of the admissions process. “To preserve the integrity of our systems, we do not discuss the details of the protections in place.”

The deputy registrar said that, unlike most post-secondary institutions in the U.S., UBC does not require SAT and ACT test results for every undergraduate applicant. It only asks U.S. high school applicants to provide those scores.

“The quality of secondary school education is consistently high across Canada, making standardized academic aptitude test scores unnecessary,” Arida said. He maintained UBC’s system has “much-clearer determinants of how applicants are ranked” compared to other universities, which he said can be more “subjective.”

SFU registrar Rummana Khan Hemani also said the post-secondary admissions systems in Canada differ from the U.S. with regards to SAT results, adding that SFU is confident in its registration safeguards.

Dalton said it can, unfortunately, be relatively easy for a wealthy person to deceive, or bribe, some of the staff hired by companies to supervise SAT and other admissions exams.

Some test supervisors, known as “invigilators,” are prone to making mistakes about exam protocol, Dalton said. “And some of these people are also not paid very well. That could mean the ones who aren’t ethical are susceptible” to bribery — either to allowing bogus test takers to use fake identities or to upgrade exam results.

Both Dalton and Gilley were intrigued by media reports that some of the parents charged in the U.S. scams had claimed their children were disabled, to help trick officials and give the children an advantage in exam writing and in the overall admissions process.

A recent Wall Street Journal article said almost one in four students at some elite U.S. colleges and universities are now classified as disabled, often in regards to anxiety and depression, entitling them to a wide array of special accommodations such as longer times to take exams. Dalton and Gilley were curious about how exactly such false disability claims could work in tricking the admissions process.

Even though the focus of the FBI investigation has been on various scams and bribes parents have used to get their children admitted to top U.S. schools, Gilley said he regularly focuses in Canada on working with faculty to track down classroom cheating by enrolled students.

That often means catching students who are plagiarizing or hiring “ghostwriters” to do their essays and assignments, he said. Gilley usually reports blatant cheats to university authorities on their first offence. Most students, he said, will be expelled after two or three incidents.

“People who tend to cheat always rationalize it by saying, ‘Everybody cheats,’” Gilley said. “I would say that about five per cent will cheat, no matter what you do. But that also means 95 per cent do not cheat. And you want to make sure you’re not punishing all the students to catch the few.”

Even though it can sometimes be difficult, Gilley said every effort must continue to go into rooting out fraud, cheating and general unfairness in all aspects of higher education.

“You want to hope, and the great dream is, that universities are a meritocracy.”

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13Mar

Private medical clinics get year-long reprieve as Victoria delays medicare amendment

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Dr Brian Day says Day said the fact that the cabinet order was passed was proof the medicare amendment was unnecessary in the first place.


Nick Procaylo / PNG

Private diagnostic and surgical clinics have won another reprieve, this time from their nemesis — the provincial government, which would prefer to see them shut down.

It means that doctors providing care to patients seeking expedited treatment at private clinics across B.C. can continue doing so for at least for another year, as long as they don’t double bill both the government and patients.

The government has put off bringing into force a Medicare Protection Act amendment that would have harshly penalized doctors who provided expedited care to patients in private clinics. The decision was in the form of an NDP cabinet order and there was no press release announcing the decision.

The amendment — which allowed for fines and even criminal fraud charges — were supposed to take effect last October and could have forced dozens of clinics to close.

But surgery clinics won an injunction in November that effectively ordered the government not to enforce the amendment until after the marathon trial over medicare that began three years ago, initiated by lead plaintiff Dr. Brian Day, is over sometime this year or next.

The government tried, but was denied, to get leave to appeal the injunction two months ago.

Since the injunction dealt only with private surgery clinics, it left diagnostic clinics offering private MRI, CT and PET scan imaging out. The government had said that on April 1, diagnostic clinics would have to comply with the act.

Dennis Hummerston, senior director of Canada Diagnostic Centre, said diagnostic clinics were planning their own injunction application but then got word about the cabinet order.

The amendment is now scheduled to take effect on March 31, 2020, which means private facilities have at least another year in business. The clinics have always disputed the rationale for “draconian” fines and penalties and maintained the legislation would force them out of business.

Hummerston said he’s not aware of any clinics that have gone out of business but said some have lost administrative staff, technologists and radiologists due to the legal uncertainty.

Stephen May, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said the government changed the date when the Act will take effect because of the medicare trial and the injunction.

“Consistent with the court’s decision to grant an injunction in a similar case, section 18.1 of the Medicare Protection Act will not come in to force until March 31, 2020 — after the expected completion of the Cambie Surgeries trial. This decision respects the court’s prior decision. … (But) we are committed to stop extra billing.”

May said the government has put an additional $11 million into magnetic resonance imaging in the public system to reach a total of 225,000 MRIs in 2018-19.

“This is approximately 35,000 more MRI exams than the previous year. We are ahead of these targets with hundreds of more operating hours added across the province and more MRI machines running 24/7 than ever,” he said.

Day said the fact that the cabinet order was passed was proof the amendment was unnecessary in the first place.

“The action confirms that there is, and never has been, any health-related rationale for pursuing these amendments. They were merely aimed at prohibiting patients from accessing private options to care for themselves, especially when the actions were taken during the course of a trial aimed at discovering the legality of those prohibitions. It is a perfect example of ideology taking precedence over reason and logic, not to mention ideology trumping the rights of suffering patients.”

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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.”

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11Mar

Long-time Vancouver Sun photographer Mark Van Manen dies at 58

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Mark van Manen would do most anything to get a photograph.

Hang out of a helicopter, hundreds of feet in the air. Rearrange somebody’s apartment. Argue with the U.S. Secret Service about how close he could get to the president.

Then there was the time he commandeered hundreds of extras from a film shoot.

“Mark was sent to the fair to shoot a human-resources story about people who’ve made their entire career at the PNE,” says the PNE’s communications head, Laura Ballance. “They went to Playland because he wanted something colourful. There was a movie being filmed at Playland, and Mark walked over to the director and said, ‘I’m going to need all these people on the ferris wheel.’

“The director said, ‘Well no, we’re in the middle of filming a movie.’ And Mark held up his lanyard (with his press ID) and said, ‘If you want to be on the cover of The Vancouver Sun tomorrow, you’re going to have to do this.’

“And they moved a thousand extras working on the movie set over to the ferris wheel for the most Disney-like photo in the history of the Canadian newspaper industry.”

Van Manen died Saturday at Vancouver General Hospital after a two-year battle with esophageal cancer. He was 58.

Mark Richard van Manen was born on Aug. 11, 1960, in Vancouver. He was something of a boy wonder as a photographer, landing a job at The Sun before his 20th birthday.

“He spent his whole life there,” said former Sun photographer Bill Keay. “I remember him coming in the first day. Somehow he got friendly with (photographer) Brian Kent, and Brian Kent said, ‘Go on in.’ So he came in, and (head photographer) Charlie Warner said, ‘Take him to the darkroom and see what he knows.’ ”

Keay laughs: “And a star was born.”


Photographer Mark van Manen, foreground, covered a 1978 protest against the University of B.C. engineering students’ Lady Godiva Ride.

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Van Manen was irrepressible, and utterly fearless. When he was sent to take a photo of boxer Mike Tyson at the airport, Tyson was so incensed that he trashed van Manen’s camera. Mark was undeterred, filing a shot of Tyson attacking a BCTV cameraman.

He would make people pose for shot after shot until he got it right. One time he was tapped to photograph Nivek Ogre, the singer in Vancouver’s gloom-and-doom noisemeisters Skinny Puppy.

Van Manen wanted him to smile. Ogre said he didn’t want to, that wasn’t his image. Van Manen cajoled him again and again (“C’mon pal, just a little smile, c’mon pal”) for several minutes until it got so ridiculous that Ogre laughed. And van Manen got his photo.


Boxer Mike Tyson grabs a cameraman’s equipment in Vancouver, Jan. 11, 1989.

Mark van Manen/Vancouver Sun /

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“He was never early for anything, but oh my God, he turned everything off when he did a picture,” said Keay. “All he saw was the background, foreground and the subject, and it was all in focus for him. Nobody else was near him, nothing else was happening, that was what was in his head. It was total, absolute total (attention to the) picture.”

Van Manen was also a technical whiz.

“He is the master of outdoor lighting, where you’ve got the sun right behind the subject, hitting their hair and everything,” said Keay. “He backlit a lot of the subjects, because he wanted them to stand out. He was the master of that backlighting. Everybody tried it after they saw his pictures, but nothing ever came out like his.”

Van Manen loved to shoot rock shows. He caught the pomp of Freddie Mercury at Queen’s concert at The Coliseum in 1982, took a number of great photos of Mick Jagger over the years, and was proud of his shot of Bryan Adams meeting Lady Diana backstage at Expo 86.


Mark Van Manen’s photo of Bryan Adams with Princess Diana backstage after the opening gala at Expo ’86 in May, 1986. Prince Charles is in the distance.

Mark Van Manen Vancouver Sun photo. /

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In his private life, van Manen lived in Lions Bay and was an avid skier and golfer. He co-owned a boat with his close friend and fellow Sun photographer Ian Lindsay. When Ian died, also from cancer, he left money to upgrade to a bigger boat that Mark shared with Ian’s son Paul. They called it the Kodachrome.

Van Manen is survived by his girlfriend, Heide Eden, aunt Doris Coleman and uncle Alex Cook. A celebration of his life is being planned.

There should be some good stories there, like the time Mark was sent to photograph former U.S. president Bill Clinton at GM Place Stadium.

“Clinton came to town for one of those famous live things,” said Ballance. “They’ve got all of the media in a bullpen, dead-centre at the back on the floor. Everybody’s there, and I’m watching the manoeuvring in this tiny little bullpen. And then I see Mark come in.

Vancouver Sun photographer Mark van Manen in 2005.


Vancouver Sun photographer Mark van Manen in 2005.

Postmedia News files

“It was a classic van Manen. He comes in late and everybody else is set up. He takes one look and goes over to the GM Place staff. His arms start waving and he holds up his lanyard. ‘If you want Bill Clinton on the cover of The Vancouver Sun tomorrow you’d better do this!’

“This goes on for about 10 minutes and is escalating up the chain. From where I was sitting I could see from behind the curtain. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s actually activated the Secret Service.’

“These two typical Secret Service come down. I thought, ‘If he pulls out the lanyard to these Secret Service I’m going to buy him a bottle of wine, because this is the best thing I’ve ever seen.’ Sure enough he’s holding up the lanyard, arms flailing.

“The amazing thing is, after 15 minutes they literally allow the media to move the bullpen. So Mark walks them over there, and gets the best position! And the guys that have been sitting there for an hour-and-a-half to get their little piece of elbow room end up at the back.”

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Mark van Manen’s shot of Clayoquot Sound logging protesters gathered at daybreak on July 7, 1993.

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An example of Mark van Manen’s ‘backlit’ photos, featuring Alanna Hendren, CEO of the Developmental Disabilities Association.

Mark van Manen /

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Mark van Manen’s photo from a 1984 belly-flop contest.

Mark van Manen /

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To get this shot of PNE managers Anne Barbosa and Donald Lee, Mark van Manen ‘borrowed’ hundreds of extras from a movie shoot for the background.

Mark van Manen /

Vancouver Sun


Mark van Manen would carefully set up shots, like this one of travel consultant Claire Newell posing underneath a jet taking off at Vancouver airport.

Mark van Manen /

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Mark van Manen’s photo of Freddie Mercury of Queen fame onstage at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum on June 30, 1980.

Mark Van Manen /

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Developer Peter Wall liked Mark van Manen’s photos so much he wanted Van Manen to take all of Wall’s photos for The Vancouver Sun. This is from 2001.

Mark van Manen /

Vancouver Sun


Mark van Manen loved to use light, such as this Sept. 3, 2012, shot of a ride at the PNE.

Mark van Manen /

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Mark van Manen shot Mick Jagger several times, including this Oct. 15, 1981, photo in Seattle.

Mark van Manen /

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Mark van Manen was an avid skier. This shot of Province reporter John Colebourn was taken at Grouse Mountain on Dec. 22, 2015.

Mark van Manen /

PROVINCE


Mark van Manen captured saddle-bronc rider Cort Scheer flying through the air after being bucked off at the Cloverdale Rodeo in 2017.

Mark van Manen /

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A Mark van Manen photo of Gord Downie at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on July 24, 2016.

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On March 30, 2010, Mark van Manen photographed Vancouver architect Michael Green inside a washroom he designed built with old paperback books.

Mark van Manen /

Vancouver Sun

 


Mark van Manen was a master of time-exposure shots taken at night, such as this 2009 photo of the Hotel Pennsylvania neon sign at Carrall and Hastings streets.

Mark van Manen /

Vancouver Sun


Vancouver Sun photographer Mark van Manen in 1990.

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When Dal Richards was named an Olympic torch bearer in 2010, Mark Van Manen photographed him holding his clarinet like a torch.


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11Mar

Residents of Maple Ridge tent city allowed to return on strict conditions

by admin

A Maple Ridge tent city has reopened, but on strict terms dictated by the city’s mayor Mike Morden.

The Anita Place homeless camp was established off Lougheed Highway at the corner of St. Anne Avenue and 223rd Street in May, 2017, and has been home to up to 200 people.

Late last month, firefighters entered the site, using a Supreme Court of B.C. order that allowed them to check on fire safety. They found multiple safety issues at the site, culminating in the arrest of six people who were blocking firefighters from accessing a wooden structure. The site was evacuated on March 2.


John Newton, 28, is seen behind police tape in Maple Ridge, B.C., on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Newton says he was the last resident to leave the “Anita Place” homeless camp in Maple Ridge, B.C., when police and firefighters enforced an evacuation order Saturday and cordoned off the area.

Amy Smart /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Morden said firefighters and bylaw officers had done an “extraordinary job making this site safe for camp occupants and the surrounding neighbourhood.”

He said a plan was now in place to allow occupants to return to the site.

However, there were several conditions, the first being all residents have to “verified” by the city. The perimeter of the site has also been secured and there will be 24-hour security on site and no one gets in unless they are verified occupants, or legal aids or B.C. Housing staff.

Morden said any “new arrivals” would be barred from the site, there would be regular inspections and no propane, gasoline, paints cans or accelerants would be allowed.

He said the city’s goal was to have all the verified residents transferred to B.C. Housing provided accommodation. As people got new homes and left the camp they would not be replaced by newly verified residents.


Maple Ridge city officials with local fire and RCMP moved in to dismantle Anitas Place homeless camp in Maple Ridge, BC Saturday, March 2, 2019. Concerns over the use of propane cooking stoves and heaters in tents prompted the action.

Jason Payne /

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He added that B.C. Housing was in the process of restoring power to the washroom and shower facility and installing the heating system for the warming tent.

The Pivot Legal Society, which is representing tent city occupants, wrote on Twitter that the city’s verification process was flawed. They claimed the city had no legal basis to refuse non-verified people access to the site.


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