Western Forests Products and the union representing about 2,600 striking forest workers in British Columbia say both sides want to begin negotiations but can’t agree on a mediator.
The strike began on July 1 and involves hourly employees and contractors, affecting the company’s six mills and its timberland operations in the province.
United Steelworkers local president Brian Butler said in a news release the union is ready to negotiate and well-known mediator Vince Ready has agreed to make himself available for talks.
Butler said the company’s refusal to use someone as qualified as Ready indicates it’s not serious about reaching an agreement.
Susan Dolinski, vice-president of corporate affairs at Western Forests Products, said in an interview the company has been asking for mediation for weeks through the Labour Relations Board and both sides have expressed their preference for a mediator.
She said the difference of opinion should in no way be interpreted as the company refusing mediation.
“In fact, we made multiple requests to the Labour Relations Board for mediation since June 25. We would certainly welcome a return to the bargaining table.”
Dolinski says the timing of the union’s announcement came on the heels of an important Labour Relations Board decision where it ruled that the strike was illegal for three company contractors.
Strike unlawful for 105 employees
The board ruled Thursday that the strike was unlawful for about 105 employees who work for the contractors.
The B.C. Federation of Labour issued a so-called hot edict on the company earlier this week, asking its members to no longer handle Western Forests Products coastal lumber, logs and wood products.
The union says it’s on strike over the potential loss of pensions, seniority rights and long-term disability benefits.
Dolinski said the coastal forest industry is experiencing significant market challenges and the strike is only going to exacerbate that situation.
The union said in a release the company continues to conflate problems with fibre shortages and mill closures in the Interior with issues on the coast, which has very different fibre supplies, markets and product values that make them separate industries.
A new, modernized voting system will likely be in place when British Columbians cast their ballots in the next provincial general election.
Elections BC received a letter July 3 from Attorney General David Eby, indicating the province’s intention to introduce the legislative changes aimed at increasing accessibility and efficiency come election day.
“Should voting modernization be adopted, it will improve the voting experience for British Columbians, make voting faster, improve accessibility, speed up results, and provide candidates with current participation information to assist them in their efforts to get out the vote,” said Anton Boegman, B.C.’s chief electoral officer, in a news release Thursday.
The proposed changes include:
Being able to vote at any polling place in the province.
All votes, including absentee ballots to be counted on election night.
Voting activity recorded in an electronic voting book covering the entire province, for faster ballot counting.
Participation captured in real-time, electronically, with votes uploaded to central servers.
Uploaded votes to be instantly shared with candidates and political parties.
The new technologies would also increase accessibility for voters with disabilities by way of updated assistive voting devices.
The goal is for the new systems to be in place for B.C.’s next scheduled general election on Oct. 16, 2021.
The estimated cost to develop and implement the proposed voting model in B.C. is $11 million.
If the Legislative Assembly adopts the amendments, it would be the most significant update to voting procedures in at least 20 years, according to Boegman.
Seven playgrounds in Vancouver are in line to get a $4.5 million revamp, with a focus on “fun and challenging” play.
The Vancouver Park Board oversees 160 playgrounds across the city, and city officials say many of them need upgrades as they reach the end of their lifespans.
“We have a large park system that’s city wide,” said Tiina Mack, manager of park development with the park board.
“But we really see in the eastern and northern parts of our city [areas] where we have some aging facilities.”
The park board undertook a city-wide assessment of all the playgrounds in 2015, looking at things like age, condition and the potential for fun the parks have for people of all ages.
“It’s not only play value for the very young, but also for kids of older ages and maybe even for teenagers and adults,” Mack told CBC’s On The Coast.
“There’s nothing like a set of swings for someone of any age to have some fun.”
That’s part of what is behind the $4.5 million price tag: developing natural areas and gardens, protecting the trees in the area, adding additional amenities like seating and accessibility features.
“They become not only play spaces but social spaces,” she said.
The playgrounds slated for renewals are: Ash, Beaconsfield, Cedar Cottage, Charleson, Jones, Kaslo, and Winona parks. Construction is expected to start in the summer or early fall.
Two preschool play areas at Trout Lake and Thunderbird are also in the works. The park board is in conversations about upgrading the playgrounds at Champlain Heights Community Centre and Granville Park.
Replacing playgrounds is a priority for the city, the park board said in a written statement, and 17 playgrounds in Vancouver have been renovated since 2015.
Mack said play is crucial for kids to learn social skills and risk management and be active.
“Not only is it [good for] physical development but also cognitive development,” Mack said.
“We want kids to be able to be creative and use their imaginations.”
The Vancouver Park Board oversees 160 playgrounds across the city and, city officials say, many of them need upgrades as they reach the end of their lifespan. 6:04
Jemma Lee says she’s had problems with fatigue her entire life, but in the last decade migraines and frequent bouts of the flu have turned that fatigue into a new beast.
The 52-year-old was diagnosed three years ago with extreme myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.), a neuroinflammatory disease known to many as chronic fatigue syndrome. It causes extreme tiredness and affects various body systems to the point where Lee says she is “unable to move.”
Lee was shocked to learn recently that her four applications for assisted living in Victoria have been declined by the Vancouver Island Health Authority due to “unscheduled care needs.”
‘Prisoner in my own home’
“I was so incredulous,” said Lee, who lives alone in a 240-square-foot home on Galiano Island, where she’s forced to chop wood for warmth and doesn’t have access to filtered water.
“I’m a prisoner in my own home.”
After moving to Galiano in 2012, Lee said her symptoms worsened. Last year, she counted 140 days of seizures, which can affect various parts of her body, leaving her “unable to speak” for as long as 45 minutes, she says.
Lee said she regularly sees a doctor and a community nurse, and receives online emotional counselling.
While she’s happy with the support she’s had, she said the services on Galiano are not advanced enough to help her as she deteriorates.
“Right now I rely on my friends to take me to my health appointments and it’s a minimum 12-hour day to … take the ferry and come back,” she said, adding that her appointments typically last no more than 40 minutes.
“[My friends] have to be able to cope with me if I have a seizure … and take responsibility for me.”
With low income and no family in B.C., she said only assisted living in Victoria can meet her needs and give her nearby access to specialized services like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social workers, and acupuncture.
Peter Luckham, Chair of the Islands Trust, said Lee is “not alone” in her difficulty accessing assisted living as a Gulf Island resident, because the services are hard to come by.
“At the end of the day, you end up leaving the islands” for more advanced services, he said.
Unpredictable health issues
Lee said Island Health doesn’t want someone with “unpredictable health issues,” as there are days where she could be walking relatively well, and others where she’s “seizuring on the floor.”
She recently wrote an open letter to Island Health, detailing her condition and imploring them to reconsider.
A statement from the authority says it is “aware of Ms. Lee’s concerns” and is “reviewing her application with her in order to provide the most appropriate care plan for her needs.”
Lee said that she and others with the disease are fighting for it to be recognized as a biological condition in the same way diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis are. The term chronic fatigue syndrome, used widely by medical professionals, reduces the legitimacy of the disease by making light of it, she said.
Not taken seriously
Dr. Mohamed Gheis, a neuropsychiatrist in Victoria who runs a rehabilitation program for people with neurological disorders, said M.E. patients are still “not very well understood” by Canadian health-care workers.
Right now, these patients are “not receiving the care they deserve as sources of disability,” he said.
Lee said she’s had doctors ask her to explain M.E. “When you go to the hospital, you’re having to advocate for yourself constantly,” she said.
Elizabeth Sanchez, the president of the ME/FM Society of B.C., said some M.E. patients have had doctors laugh at them or berate them, and some patients have committed suicide because “they just can’t bear their lives any longer.”
She said the society has been trying to get the province’s Ministry of Health to understand the severity of the disease, but it’s a slow, frustrating process.
“They don’t understand that there is a crisis for M.E. patients,” she said. “But there is a light at the end of the tunnel … We just don’t know how long that tunnel is.”
The province has unveiled the final pieces of its ride-hailing puzzle which will finally allow services like Uber and Lyft to hit B.C. streets.
North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma announced on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, that ICBC has completed the insurance portion of the proposed legislation, and the Passenger Transportation Board will be able to take applications from ride services companies starting Sept. 3.
Last November, the province’s proposed legislation received royal assent. The amendments, which will significantly expand the power of the Passenger Transportation Board to determine fares, as well as the number of licensed vehicles in each region or area, have now been passed by order in council.
Today, Ma said the board will start assessing licence applications in early September with the final regulations coming into effect Sept. 16.
Application processing time will be anywhere from two weeks to a month, the ministry estimates.
“We fully expect that people will be able to hail a ride through this new industry — the Transportation Network Service industry — by the end of the year,” said Ma in a teleconference.
Another part of the legislation to ensure passenger safety, said the ministry, is the need for all ride service drivers to have a Class 4 licence, which means drivers will have to provide an ICBC driver abstract, as well as a police criminal record check.
“The Class 4 requirement is not negotiable for us,” said Ma.
Taxi companies will also be required to pay 30 cents for every non-accessible trip completed in a vehicle without rear or side entries. The province says this is an important step in modernizing the taxi industry and supporting accessibility in our region.
The ministry will also require all drivers to have their vehicles inspected periodically under the Motor Vehicle Act. Any vehicles operating more than 40,000 kilometres per year will require inspection every six months. If fewer than 40,000 kilometres, vehicle inspections will be required every 12 months.
Ride hailing companies will be required to pay a $5,000 annual fee to operate, but the ministry said it still does not know if it will be more or less expensive to insure a ride hailing vehicle, compared to a taxi.
The Passenger Transportation Board is an independent tribunal in B.C. established under the Passenger Transportation Act. It makes decisions on applications relating to the licensing of taxis, limousines, shuttle vans, inter-city buses, and now, ride-hailing services in B.C.
A 21-year-old man is suing the B.C. government for its delay in providing an expensive drug that he claims could have saved him from permanent disability.
Paul Chung of Langley, B.C., says the ministry of health provided him with Soliris, in 2017, only after an intense public lobbying campaign which led the province to cover the $750,000-a-year drug in specific cases.
The university student says he didn’t get the drug when he needed it most — immediately after his diagnosis with atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS) the previous summer.
Chung says his charter rights to “life, liberty and security of the person” have been violated by an “arbitrary” decision that left him on permanent kidney dialysis, unable to attend work or school.
“This decision was too little, too late… as Soliris must be administered promptly after diagnosis to be effective,” Chung’s notice of civil claim reads.
According to Chung’s lawsuit, he was admitted to Langley Memorial Hospital with acute renal failure in early August 2017.
AHUS is a rare condition that affects only one in a million people and fewer than 150 Canadians. The disease causes too many blood clots to form in the blood vessels, blocking regular blood flow to the kidneys.
Chung says he was taken to St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, where staff asked if he had private health insurance that might cover Soliris. He didn’t, and couldn’t afford Soliris on his own.
“[Chung] was advised a disagreement existed between the medical community and [the province] over the issue of extending coverage for aHUS treatment,” the notice of claim reads.
“Paul’s mother has been worried sick and continues to lose sleep. Paul’s father has [taken] time off work to care for Paul. Paul’s brother dropped his university courses in order to support Paul,” his GoFundMe page reads.
“Please pray for Paul.”
‘The kidney had already scarred’
According to Chung’s civil claim, a Canadian drug expert committee concluded that patients like Chung could benefit from Soliris in May 2015 and other provinces approved coverage of the drug while B.C. did not.
He said the province made the decision after reviewing policies in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, where coverage is provided in exceptional cases.
Chung claims he was approved for three months’ worth of Soliris on Dec. 6, 2017.
But he says he was also told he would need to improve to the point of not needing dialysis to justify further coverage.
His coverage was discontinued in February 2018 “due to lack of improvement and [he] remains permanently on kidney dialysis.”
“His blood results have become stable, and Paul is no longer in a life-threatening position, but the miracle feature of the drug, the recovery of the kidney did not work as the kidney had already scarred,” his GoFundMe page reads.
Chung is suing for damages including cost of care and loss of income.
‘Arbitrary, irrational and unreasonable’
Chung also wants a declaration that the province infringed rights guaranteed to him by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“[Chung] is now on permanent kidney dialysis and his life expectancy is compromised,” the notice of civil claim reads.
“The Soliris administration was medically necessary to prevent serious harm.”
Chung claims that the government provides “expensive treatment and drugs to many residents of British Columbia in a myriad of circumstances.”
He says that the decision not to give him the drug “violated basic standards of decency” and “was arbitrary, irrational and unreasonable as it will cost more to treat [Chung] on permanent dialysis than to have administered Soliris to him.”
According to Chung’s gofundme page, it may take six to seven years for him to get a kidney transplant — but he will still need Soliris to protect the new kidney “from getting affected by the disease.”
The province has not yet filed a response to the claim.
Action movies are a thrill to watch, but the on-screen stunts can take a toll on performers.
A survey by the Union of B.C. Performers says most stunt performers have had at least one job-related concussion, but they seldom report the injury.
Vancouver stunt performer Lori Stewart, health and safety performer advocate for the union, says that needs to change.
Stewart works on shows like Supergirl and has performed in movies like X2: X-Men United and I-Robot.
While she was working on X-Men 2, she did a stunt where she needed to be launched off a porch on a wire and tumble down some stairs. Things went wrong and she missed the stairs, landing on both her head and neck on concrete.
“We try and plan for that not to happen, but sometimes in the moment things can change,” Stewart told Stephen Quinn, host of The Early Edition.
Tough it out
Stewart went to the on-set paramedics, but didn’t want to go to the hospital to get checked out.
“There’s this sort of ingrained culture in stunt performers to maintain that tough persona and that you can shake things off. That having an injury is like a weakness. And really that’s not the truth,” she said.
The 2012 survey conducted by the Union of B.C. Performers found a lot of stunt performers didn’t report having concussions specifically because they didn’t want to lose their jobs. Stewart says many producers and directors do not pay enough attention to performer injuries.
Stewart says performers are under a great deal of pressure to keep doing stunts for a scene, even after suffering an injury.
“We’ve had directors come up to the performer and go, ‘We didn’t get it … you have to go again,’ ” she said.
“Throughout my career we’ve lost a lot of really fantastic, talented performers because of head injuries. I have way too many friends on permanent disability with brain damage and that’s not okay.”
Stewart says a lot of these injuries could have been prevented by not trying another stunt after getting injured, or wearing a helmet. Concussions can have both serious physical and mental side effects.
“You see really good friends of yours lose their ability to work, lose their house, lose their marriage, have impulse control issues, anger issues and it all starts to crumble.”
Stewart wants to see changes on sets, including more reporting of injuries and increased education about the dangers of both not reporting and concussions.
Nanaimo-born Olympian Allison Forsyth is leading a class action lawsuit claiming female athletes on the Canadian ski team were subjected to “psychological, physical and sexual assault, harassment and abuse” from 1996 to 1998.
The case revolves around former Team Canada coach Bertrand Charest who was found guilty in 2017 on 37 sex-related charges stemming from the complaints of nine women who were between the ages of 12 and 18 at the time of the crimes.
Charest was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He was recently released on bail pending an appeal.
Charest’s employer, Alpine Canada, is named as the defendant in the lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court.
Speaking from her home in Ontario, Forsyth told CBC that the former skiers who have come forward have been stunned to learn the extent to which Canadian ski officials seemed to turn a blind eye while Charest preyed upon young skiers.
‘Things need to change’
“What I really learned is the ramifications and the depth to which this man victimized athletes — before he worked for Alpine Canada and during his time for Alpine Canada,” said Forsyth.
“I also learned about his coaching license never being taken away. And it really showed me that things need to change so this won’t happen to young athletes again.”
Forsyth alleges in the class action claim that Charest used his power and authority to manipulate and extract sex from skiers in his charge.
She says in the summer of 1997 while training in New Zealand, she confronted Charest about a relationship he was having with another skier identified as Athlete No. 1. Athlete No. 1 was a minor and was receiving individualized and private coaching from Charest.
According to the claim, Charest admitted to the relationship, telling Forsyth — who was 18 at the time — that he wanted to end his affair with Athlete No. 1 and that a relationship with Forsyth would help him do that.
“Immediately, Charest began favouring [Forsyth], providing her with extra coaching and attention and touching her in an intimate manner,” reads the claim. “Charest told [Forsyth] that he could develop her into a great athlete and that she needed him to succeed in ski racing.”
The claim says despite Forsyth’s efforts to deflect Charest, he became ever more insistent, finding ways to get her alone and telling her a relationship with him would give her an edge over the other athletes. He even told Forsyth he could see himself married to her.
Forsyth said she felt trapped and pressured into a sexual relationship.
Severe anxiety, psychological devastation
The claim outlines a number of alleged sexual encounters between the two, including an incident where Forsyth alleges Charest sexually assaulted her in the stall of a women’s washroom in Austria.
Forsyth said she suffered severe anxiety that let to anorexia and psychological devastation because of Charest.
In February of 1998, Forsyth told a female physical therapist about the relationship. The therapist told her that another skier identified as Athlete No. 2 had also confessed to having sexual relations with Charest.
Sponsors over skiers
The claim alleges that soon after, Alpine Canada finally acted on the allegations against Charest. The organization’s president Joze Sparovec told Forsyth “that she would have to be careful or the team would lose sponsors.”
Charest resigned from the team with no public explanation. Alpine Canada did not revoke his coaching licence, nor were police informed.
Forsyth believes he continued to coach after leaving Alpine Canada.
Alpine Canada has not filed a response and none of the allegations have been tested in court.
Forsyth’s lawyer said the intention of the class action is to include all skiers who were impacted by Charest during his tenure with Alpine Canada.
“Even people who choose not to come forward with their own stories are entitled potentially to compensation or whatever occurs in the action, even though they’re not named,” said Tanya Martin.
In response to the lawsuit Alpine Canada said in a statement that it “applauds the tremendous courage Allison and other women have shown in coming forward and speaking out.”
A North Vancouver woman who was repeatedly ordered to shut down her illegal 15-bed hostel won’t get another chance to argue she needs the extra income because she’s disabled.
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has declined to hear Emily Yu’s complaint alleging discrimination by her townhouse strata, saying the issue had already been dealt with by the Civil Resolution Tribunal and the B.C. Supreme Court.
“I can see no principled reason to allow her to re‐litigate the same issue again, this time in a different forum. As the Supreme Court of Canada has said: ‘Forum shopping for a different and better result can be dressed up in many attractive adjectives, but fairness is not among them,'” tribunal member Devyn Cousineau wrote in Wednesday’s decision.
Yu’s strata, the City of North Vancouver and the courts have all told Yu to stop booking short-term guests for her three-bedroom townhouse. She was advertising up to 15 beds in the “Oasis Hostel” on sites like Airbnb, iBooked.ca and TripAdvisor.
The operation violated strata bylaws, and the city described it as a nuisance and a fire hazard.
In April, Yu was fined $5,000 for contempt of court after she refused to abide by an order of the Civil Resolution Tribunal and continued to rent out the beds.
But Yu told the human rights tribunal that she needed the extra income because she has a disability.
She said she planned to raise new issues that “could potentially affect many marginalized women” and said dismissing her complaint would result in a “miscarriage of justice,” according to Wednesday’s decision.
As Cousineau pointed out, however, Yu had previously raised the disability issue when she tried to appeal the Civil Resolution Tribunal decision in B.C. Supreme Court.
As part of her appeal, she submitted an affidavit and portions of a psychiatric assessment outlining her disabilities, which appear to include post-concussion problems, but the judge said there was “insufficient evidence” of a mental disability that would justify her continued violation of the strata bylaw.
Yu’s strata applied to the court last year, asking for an order forcing Yu to sell her unit, but the judge has yet to make a decision on that, calling it a “remedy of last resort.”
Airbnb has suspended Yu and her listing is no longer available on TripAdvisor.
First responders from across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley lined Willingdon Avenue in Burnaby to pay their respects to senior Capt. Ken Kinney of the Burnaby Fire Department. Kinney passed away from work-related lung cancer on June 7th at the age of 56.
Kinney was a member of the Burnaby Fire Department for 28 years and was active throughout the community. He leaves behind Debbie, his wife of 28 years and their three daughters, Nicole, Kirsten and Kaitlyn.
“This is the only in-service, work-related cancer death I am aware of in my career that started in 1971,” said George Whitehurst, former assistant fire chief with the Burnaby Fire Department.
A 2015 study by the Canadian Cancer Society found firefighters have a nine per cent higher chance of getting cancer than the general public. This has been linked to toxins in smoke, soot and tar from synthetic building materials that can be inhaled or even absorbed through the skin.
The provincial government, along with the Workers Compensation Act, label 14 different cancers under presumptive disability coverage, which means if a professional or volunteer firefighter develops one of the recognized cancers, it is presumed to have been caused by their employment.
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