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Category "News/Canada/British Columbia"

20Mar

Former B.C. prisoner says no addiction help available as he feared return behind bars

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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.

Rob MacDonald recalls vomiting, diarrhea and unrelenting stomach pain as he withdrew from opioids in prison, despite having asked repeatedly for addiction treatment before he leaving a maximum-security facility. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)

Sought out smuggled fentanyl

When he was incarcerated at British Columbia’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.

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.

Treatment not soon enough

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.

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.

‘Incredibly traumatic’

“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

Police ask public’s help identifying suspects in Vancouver assault captured on video

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A year after it happened, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) is asking the public for help identifying two men in connection with two assaults which took place during a fight in Yaletown on March 31, 2018. 

The VPD has released a video captured by Pierre’s Champagne Lounge’s security camera which it says shows the first assault during the fight.

Police say staff at the lounge, located at the corner of Mainland Street and Nelson Street, called 911 to report a fight at roughly 2 a.m. PT on a Saturday.

When officers arrived, they found two alleged victims of the assaults. The men had fled the scene. One victim, a 28-year-old Burnaby man, was taken to hospital with serious head injuries. The other victim had minor injuries.

The video shows a man — wearing an Adidas cap and striped track suit jacket — punching the 28-year-old Burnaby man in the head, outside the lounge’s front door. VPD say the punch took the victim off guard and he fell to the street, possibly hitting his head against the sidewalk.

On the video, the cap-wearing man quickly walks away from the victim, who, VPD say, was unconscious at this point in the altercation. The second suspect is shown standing over the victim. He appears to lean over the unconscious man, gesture at him and take his picture.

“At one point, he appears to take a photograph with his phone,” said VPD spokesperson Sgt. Jason Robillard. “When someone is hurt, you might want to assist. But he didn’t.”

During the same incident, following what police say was a sucker punch, the second suspect allegedly assaulted a second victim, an associate of the Burnaby man.

Security video shows man delivering what police describe as a sucker punch

The video, captured by a bar’s security camera, shows one suspect sucker punching an alleged victim early Saturday morning. Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying the two suspects highlighted in the video. 0:33

Robillard said police are releasing the video now, a year after the “cowardly” assault, with the hope that the public will be able to help identify the two suspects.

“This is a serious, disturbing assault. The victim continues to deal with the effects of his life-changing injuries,” said Robillard.

“Detectives have been working behind the scenes to identify the suspects, but we now need the public’s help. We want to talk to all of the people involved and get their version of what took place that night.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the Vancouver Police Department or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.


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18Mar

B.C.’s poverty reduction plan seeks solutions from across government: minister

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The British Columbia government has released guidelines it says will lead it toward the goal of reducing the province’s overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent within the next five years.

Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction, says the province’s first-ever poverty reduction strategy called TogetherBC takes an approach that involves all of the government to assist the 557,000 people who are living in poverty.

He says TogetherBC’s programs, policies and initiatives tie together investments launched in the fall of 2017 and are being implemented over three budgets.

He says they include a focus on safe and affordable housing, cutting child-care costs for low-income families and raising income and disability assistance rates.

Simpson says his ministry alone will offer more than $800 million in support to people by 2022 and while those programs and other plans won’t end poverty, the NDP government is confident the strategy will help some of B.C.’s poorest.

Simpson made the comments Monday flanked by several anti-poverty and social service experts at a child care resource centre in Surrey. 


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18Mar

B.C.’s poverty reduction plan seeks solutions from across government, says minister

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The British Columbia government has released guidelines it says will lead it toward the goal of reducing the province’s overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent within the next five years.

Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction, says the province’s first-ever poverty reduction strategy called TogetherBC takes an approach that involves all of the government to assist the 557,000 people who are living in poverty.

He says TogetherBC’s programs, policies and initiatives tie together investments launched in the fall of 2017 and are being implemented over three budgets.

He says they include a focus on safe and affordable housing, cutting child-care costs for low-income families and raising income and disability assistance rates.

Simpson says his ministry alone will offer more than $800 million in support to people by 2022 and while those programs and other plans won’t end poverty, the NDP government is confident the strategy will help some of B.C.’s poorest.

Simpson made the comments Monday flanked by several anti-poverty and social service experts at a child care resource centre in Surrey. 


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16Mar

‘Your home is not your castle’ when it comes to smoking in a condo

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Conflicting decisions from two tribunals have left an Abbotsford strata council stuck in the middle of a struggle between a woman with a chronic lung condition and the smoker who lives below her.

In both cases, the strata at 32691 Garibaldi Dr. was declared the loser — the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal says the strata failed to accommodate the needs of the non-smoker, while the Civil Resolution Tribunal says it failed to prove the smoker is a nuisance.

The decisions have left the strata without a clear answer on how to juggle the rights of the two homeowners.

“It’s not an uncommon conflict,” Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association of B.C., told CBC.

“We see a much greater increase in the number of buildings that are smoke-free environments now, with bylaws that prohibit smoking anywhere in the property or the consumption of any products in any combustible way.”

Smoking in condo developments has become a hot-button issue in B.C., as stratas try to balance the health concerns of non-smokers with the personal freedoms of their neighbours. A petition to ban smoking in multifamily buildings is expected to be presented at the B.C. legislature this spring.

‘When you live in a condo, your home is not your castle’

Gioventu estimates that more than half of strata corporations in higher density areas like Metro Vancouver and the Victoria area have brought in non-smoking bylaws. He explained that part of living in a condo is understanding that there might be limits on your freedoms when it comes to behaviour that might affect your neighbours. 

“Someone said, ‘When you live in a condo, your home is your castle.’ That’s actually quite incorrect. When you live in a condo, your home is not your castle — you just happen to [occupy] an area of the castle,” he said.

Bowker’s neighbour was defensive when she complained about the smoke, according to the decision. (Google Maps)

The Abbotsford dispute pits Ruth Bowker, a senior who suffers from pulmonary fibrosis, against Lillian Renpenning, who lives below Bowker and is a habitual smoker.

Bowker says the secondhand smoke from Renpenning’s cigarettes has permeated her home, exacerbating her condition and leaving her depressed and suicidal. Renpenning says her nicotine addiction is a disability — and her rights need to be protected, too.

The strata has held two votes on a no-smoking bylaw in response to Bowker’s complaints, but it’s failed both times. 

As CBC has reported, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal recently heard a complaint Bowker filed against the strata, and found that it “did very little” to help Bowker, ordering the council to pay her $7,500.

The tribunal held off on ordering the strata to implement a bylaw banning smoking in the complex, anticipating a decision from the Civil Resolution Tribunal on whether Renpenning had violated a nuisance bylaw. If the CRT ruled in favour of the strata, the problem might effectively be solved by forcing Renpenning to stop smoking in her unit.

Strata plans another vote

But now, the CRT has dismissed the strata’s dispute, saying it didn’t prove Renpenning was the source of the smoke leaking into Bowker’s home. Renpenning hasn’t responded to requests for comment

Bowker’s lawyer, Jonathan Blair, said he was hopeful that his client won’t have to return to the human rights tribunal to find some relief.

“The more ideal situation [would be] the parties working together to come to a resolution that works for everybody,” he said.

That’s what the strata wants, too. Lawyer Jamie Bleay, who represented the strata at the human rights tribunal, said the council is planning to hold yet another vote this spring on an anti-smoking bylaw, and owners will be advised of their responsibility to accommodate Bowker’s disability under the Human Rights Code.

“What they have learned is that you do have to look at how to balance the interests of different individuals. Certainly, when it comes to a situation involving an individual with a disability … looking at options and steps for accommodation needs to be taken seriously and dealt with as soon as possible,” Bleay said.


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13Mar

Hot dog! Kelowna pooch back at home after video captures it being led from yard

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Atlas the dog is homeward bound.

Kelowna RCMP, in a statement, said the pooch, allegedly stolen from his owner’s father’s backyard on Saturday, has been found and reunited with his worried family.

Video from a neighbour’s security camera shows a woman leading the 18-month-old golden retriever from the backyard under the glow of streetlights in the Okanagan city.

That led to his family going public, pleading for tips about where he was taken.

Police said the dog was returned to his owner Wednesday afternoon.

“Over the past few days Kelowna RCMP have received numerous tips from the public and continued to follow up on a number of potential leads.” Const. Lesley Smith said in a statement.

“While working closely with the complainant, our members were able to track down Atlas’ location.”

Police say their investigation is ongoing.


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12Mar

B.C. Ferries building more boats and seeking input on how to improve the service on them

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BC Ferries is replacing some of its aging vessels — and it’s asking for ideas to help improve the customer experience on the new ferries.

Customers have a month until April 12 to submit their suggestions online at  bcferries.com/about/nextgen or take part in the pop-up sessions on board the vessels themselves on some of the Metro Vancouver – Vancouver Island routes.

“There is still a lot to be decided as we work to keep fares affordable, reduce our environmental impact, plan for future flexibility and enhance the onboard experience for customers” said a statement from Mark Collins, BC Ferries’s president and CEO.

The Queen of New Westminster, Queen of Alberni, Queen of Coquitlam and Queen of Cowichan, serving Metro Vancouver – Vancouver Island routes are all being replaced.

“We want to hear your thoughts on the project, and your ideas about how we can improve your experience when travelling with BC Ferries,” said Collins.

The ferry operator is interested in hearing from customers about how to make improvements to

  • Accessibility.
  • Food and beverage options.
  • Family and pet areas.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Deck spaces.

BC Ferries says it is also interested in hearing about any new or innovative ideas that would enhance the public’s experience.

The new vessels are expected to set sail by the mid 2020s and will service Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen, Departure Bay-Horsheshoe Bay and Duke Point-Tsawwassen.

A contract to build the new vessels is expected to be issued next year.


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11Mar

Evacuation order lifted at Maple Ridge homeless camp

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An evacuation order at the controversial Anita Place homeless camp in Maple Ridge has been lifted. 

Occupants of the tent city were ordered out March 2, so emergency officials could remove safety hazards following a series of fires at the tent city. 

Many of the dozens of residents were moved to a temporary shelter on Lougheed Highway.

In a news release Monday afternoon, the City of Maple Ridge said 35 propane tanks and 800 cubic metres of fire-related debris have since been removed. 

It’s also developed a safety plan, including a site perimeter and 24-hour security. New people who arrive will be prohibited from moving in.

Emergency officials carried out an evacuation order at the Anita Place homeless camp March 2, following a series of fires at the site. (Megan Batchelor / CBC)

“The city has erected a perimeter all around the camp with only one access point and they have bylaw security guards and RCMP staffing the gate at the checkpoint,” said Ivan Drury, advocate with the group, Alliance Against Displacement. 

“They’re only allowing access to people who they say were verified as official occupants of the camp, back during registration over two days in late February.”

The city confirms only verified camp residents, their legal counsel and government outreach workers will now be allowed to access the site.

Verification process criticized

Lawyers representing the homeless campers are also questioning the registration process.

“That process was extremely barrier-filled and had several problems with it,” said Caitlin Shane with Pivot Legal Society. “There were a number of people who didn’t get identified despite wanting to get identified.”

The city said the verification measure will ensure registered occupants have applied for housing services. 

But Shane argued the city didn’t give everyone the proper opportunity to identify themselves.

“The camp was entirely shut down for a large period of the second day [of February] so that no one was allowed on site during which time the city was supposed to be identifying people but was not.”

Sandi Orr is one of dozens of homeless people who’ve been living at Anita Place for more than a year. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

The city said the size of the encampment will continue to shrink as verified occupants are connected with support services.

In the meantime, no new construction materials or solid structures will be allowed on the site.  All propane, gasoline, aerosol paint cans and other ignition sources are also banned.

B.C. Housing is in the process of restoring power to the washroom and shower facility and is installing a heating system for the warming tent.


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11Mar

Meet the woman who designed one of Surrey’s most recognizable buildings

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Surrey — Why We Live Here is a week-long series looking at the people and neighbourhoods that make up B.C.’s second largest city.

On the last Friday of every month, dozens of people visit the heart of Surrey’s Whalley neighbourhood for a perogy supper.

The food is prepared by members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Mary, which is one of the oldest and most spectacular buildings in the neighbourhood.

Bessie Bonar, 95, is a fixture at the event and she also attends church every Sunday.

“It’s part of my heart,” Bonar said.

“I’ve been going for 70 years, so I know all the beginnings and how hard we worked.”

Surrey’s Ukrainian population feels a close connection to the church, which has stood at the corner of 135A Street and 108 Avenue since 1955, but Bonar’s attachment to it is stronger than most.

Bonar, after all, was the one who designed it and her father was in charge of construction.

The church was designed in 1950 and construction was completed in 1955. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Untrained eye

In 1950, Whalley’s Ukrainian community rallied together to raise enough money to buy some land and build a church on it.

Bonar left school in Grade 8 and had no formal architectural training, but she had an eye for detail.

She found a picture of a church and used it as a guide to design the building that would become a Surrey landmark.

“They wanted to build a church and they asked for a blueprint, so I drew it on a piece of paper,” she said.

“I said, we had no blueprints, we just built it.”

Bonar and her husband lived in three different houses in Surrey after the church was built.

She designed all three of them.

“If I had been born later, I would have gone maybe to school for architecture but I was born too early,” she said.

“There was no chance for college then.”

Becky Takyi prepares a plate for a customer at Taste of Africa restaurant in Surrey (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Taste of Africa

As Bonar and her friends roll perogy dough at the church, another delicacy is prepared just down the street.

Becky Takyi is dishing up a generous helping of her specialty — honey jerk chicken with jollof rice and plantains — as her husband Isaac takes a phone order behind the counter.

The couple, originally from Ghana, opened the restaurant more than a decade ago.

“Working together makes the marriage work better because we fight and, at the same time, we get along,” Becky laughed.

“At the end of the day, who are you going to fight with? You’re going home together, so you have to be happy together, right?”

Isaac Kofi Takyi takes an order at his restaurant in the heart of Whalley (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Diverse clientele

The Takyis chose their location because they wanted their restaurant to be accessible to traffic coming into Surrey from the Pattullo or Port Mann Bridge.

Accessibility drew them to the neighbourhood but it’s Whalley’s diversity that keeps them there.

“It’s concentrated with different types of ethnic people and it makes it more broad based for us,” Isaac said.

“People from all different cultures come here now.”

The church is located at the corner of 135A Street and 108 Avenue in Surrey (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

‘The Strip’

St. Mary’s Church is on the corner of 135A Street and 108 Avenue, which is part of the city’s so-called strip, and Taste of Africa is just around the corner.

Until last year, about 170 people lived on the street in tents and hundreds more would often hang out in the area during the day.

The tents are now gone and the majority of the people who lived in them have either moved into modular housing or nearby shelters.

Isaac Takyi says customers used to tell him they were scared to come to the restaurant but he hasn’t heard any concerns lately.

“Five years ago, people were scared,” he said.

“Of late, they realize that there’s nothing to be scared of. The last four years, it’s been very good.”


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10Mar

New Vancouver Island University president says reconciliation a priority

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Vancouver Island University will have a new president starting this summer: accomplished neuroscientist Deborah Saucier.

Saucier comes to the Nanaimo university for her five-year term as president by way of Edmonton, where she has served as the president of MacEwan University since 2017.

“I’ve been watching what’s been going on at VIU for a long time,” she told Gregor Craigie, the host of CBC’s On The Island.

“VIU has taken some really bold steps in engaging First Nations.”

Saucier, who has Metis heritage, has made STEM and Indigenous education a focus throughout her career in higher education across Canada. which she plans to continue pursuing in her new role. STEM is an approach to learning that focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It’s absolutely critical that we not only engage our communities but that we hear what they need and respond to that,” she said.

‘Optimism and kindness’

In a statement from the university, Chancellor Louise Mandell described Saucier as “a brilliant Indigenous woman whose values are congruent with VIU’s Indigenous commitment.

“Her leadership combines optimism and kindness – qualities important to VIU’s continued success as a regional university making social and cultural changes through transforming the communities we serve,” Mandell said.

Saucier said she plans to continue some of the work of current president Ralph Nelson, but push it further in terms of community engagement and accessibility of education.

“Ralph Nelson has been amazing with the kinds of things he’s been able to do with advancing the agenda for reconciliation and access for students who might not otherwise be able to go to university,” Saucier said.

“I wouldn’t want to lose momentum on those but, again, I think we can go further.”

Saucier is from Saskatchewan but has deep roots on Vancouver Island, where she attended Pearson College. She holds two degrees from the University of Victoria.

She leaves her current position in Edmonton this July.

Vancouver Island University will have a new president starting this summer: accomplished neuroscientist Deborah Saucier. 6:03


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