After three years of operating two registered recovery houses, in January 2016 Cole Izsak found what he believed — and still believes — is the perfect place.
But before taking possession, the owner and executive-director of Back on Track Recovery applied to the provincial health ministry to essentially grandfather his operation and transfer the registration of one of his houses to the new site.
Because Back on Track has never had any substantiated complaints, he didn’t expect any problems and, a month later, shut the registered house and opened a four-plex now called The Fortress.
The next month, Izsak closed one of the two houses that were registered by the provincial government and moved to the new compound with internal, off-street parking at 9889-140th Street in Surrey.
He still wasn’t concerned when in May, the ministry said it was putting a hold on his application while both the province and Surrey were formulating new regulations.
Since then, it is rare that any of the 40 beds — two per bedroom in each of the five-bedroom houses — are empty.
While Back on Track continues to operate the one registered house, The Fortress remains unregistered, with only two of four business licenses that it needs.
For the last 2½ years, Surrey’s bylaw inspectors have been telling Izsak that unless all four houses at The Fortress get their provincial registry, the city can’t license the houses until the registration from the health ministry comes through, certifying that services offered meet its standards of care.
In mid-May, Back on Track and its residents were told that the licenses were being revoked and the four houses would have to close at the end of July. It has since been given a reprieve, pending a decision from the provincial registrar.
“If Mr. Izsak’s registration comes through, we’ll be prepared to do our own inspections for renewal or issuance of the licenses,” bylaw services manager Kim Marosevich said this week.
In late May, after Maggie Plett first spoke publicly about her son Zachary’s death at another Surrey recovery house called Step by Step, Addictions Minister Judy Darcy told News 1130, “We’re trying to make up for lost time over the past many, many years since the scandal started to break.
“But I would expect that we will have new, stronger regulations and enforcement in place by the end of the year.”
Throughout all of this, the government has paid Back on Track the $30.90 per diem that covers the cost of room, board and recovery services for each welfare recipient living there — a rate that has remained unchanged for 16 years.
Izsak doesn’t know why the ministry has yet to make a decision on his application. The mental health and addictions ministry has not yet responded to my questions about it.
On Tuesday, Izsak gave me a tour of the four neatly kept houses. He showed me the well-supplied pantry where residents are free to take whatever food they want and as much as they want. There is also an open-air gym and smoking lounge. Every room has a naloxone kit in case of an opioid overdose, and every few weeks, residents are given training on how to use them.
The half-dozen residents that I spoke to privately — including one who said he had been in at least 20 such facilities — said The Fortress is the best. They talked about feeling safe, well-cared for, and even loved.
Izsak makes no apology for not having more set programming in the houses.
“People who are coming off the street or out of prison are not going to surrender to eight hours of programs per day,” he said. “But what they will surrender to is coming to a place like this where they are fed well, have a clean bed, a TV, and programming from 9 a.m. until noon.”
He acknowledged that there are no certified counsellors or therapists working there. He devised a recovery program called MECCA based on his own experiences in recovery that is delivered by others who are in recovery.
Izsak also said he cannot afford to hire certified addictions counsellors and specialized therapists, as they do at recovery houses where monthly rates are anywhere from $3,000 to $9,000 a month.
Right now, registered facilities don’t require that, according to the registry’s website.
What’s required is that all staff and volunteers “must have the necessary knowledge, skills, abilities and training to perform their tasks and meet the health and safety of residents.”
Far from bridling at more regulations, Izsak has a long list of his own that he would like the province to enact to weed out bad operators.
It includes random site inspections, manager-on-duty logbooks documenting what happens every two hours from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., and a requirement that all operators provide their expense receipts.
After three recent deaths in recovery houses, Izsak is now a man on a mission.
“I want to close operations that are bad so that I’m not treated almost like a criminal because they acted unscrupulously.”
It’s GoByBike week in B.C. But in Mission, most go by car.
A “pop-up” bike lane along 7th Avenue appears to be doing little to change that, as it was almost deserted Thursday afternoon.
“It’s just a pain,” said Michelle Leggett as she walked her six-year-old daughter Madeline Lutz home from school. “I think I’ve seen four bikers all week, and I’m pretty sure they’re regulars.”
To create the lane, city staff closed one side of the street to parking from Monday to Friday. As a result, the side streets around the high school have been overwhelmed with parents dropping off their kids.
“We’re just too far out here,” said Leggett. “People commute to Vancouver or Burnaby, and they need a car.”
But despite public reluctance, bike lanes are being built in some of B.C.’s most car-centric communities. Earlier this week, the provincial government announced $10 million in cycling infrastructure funding across the province. It will be up to municipalities to change public perception — and tackle the challenges that come along with building a cycling network in the suburbs.
Mission’s pop-up bike lane is part of that. Council has already approved a permanent bike lane along 7th Avenue, and the temporary lane is designed to increase public engagement and gauge public reaction to the idea, said Mission Community Cycling Coalition member Rocky Blondin.
“The design work on a permanent bike lane will be informed by what happens this week,” said Blondin, who is president of the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association.
The lane’s usage was “modest” at the start of the week, but seems to be increasing as people realize there is another option to get to school or the recreation centre. It’s the city’s first east-to-west bike lane and its first protected bike lane.
“It takes time for people to start thinking differently,” said Blondin.
There are several challenges to increasing cycling in the Fraser Valley, according to advocates. While the number of bike lanes in cities outside Vancouver is increasing, many communities still lack a comprehensive network that can safely and efficiently take cyclists where they want to go.
“The strength in Vancouver is in a cycling network that’s connected and can get people from Point A to B,” said Erin O’Melinn, executive director of non-profit advocacy group, HUB Cycling. “The Fraser Valley is not yet at that point.”
Unused bike lanes give critics fodder for their fight against more cycling infrastructure during public consultation on the issue, she said.
“But cities need to understand that you can’t build a north-to-south route and expect it to be used. You need east-to-west too. The network is the game-changer.”
Some Fraser Valley cities are also challenged by the fact that their main roads are highways. Many cyclists aren’t comfortable biking on the shoulder of King George Highway or Lougheed Highway. Side roads often end in cul-de-sacs.
In Mission, where up to 70 per cent of residents leave town for work, it’s difficult to increase bicycle commuting when people must travel long distances.
But O’Melinn said progress is being made. With funding contributions from other levels of government, many cities are beginning to create cycling infrastructure, which remains cheap compared to other transportation options.
Surrey, in particular, has made significant strides in connecting its downtown core, she said, although the municipality’s size presents a challenge for linking the entire community.
Abbotsford signalled its intentions to make cycling a priority earlier this year with a new pedestrian and cycling bridge over Highway 1 connecting the University of the Fraser Valley to a main thoroughfare. The bridge is adorned with dozens of recycled aluminum bike wheels.
Elsewhere in the Fraser Valley, progress on bike lanes is “hit and miss,” said University of the Fraser Valley urban geography professor John Belec. “It depends on the interest of each particular council to move forward on it.”
There is also significant backlash from a segment of the population that believes “roads are primarily for cars, and as a public space, cars have priority,” he said.
While councils may not be able to push through a comprehensive bike network all at once, many are beginning to lay the groundwork and put small segments in place.
“It takes courage and energy — and a faith that they will be used,” said Belec.
In Chilliwack, cycling advocates are working to fill in the “gaps on the map,” said David Swankey, co-chair of Cycle Chilliwack. Using a rail corridor that loops through the community, the challenge is to develop clear and safe routes from there. The city is still working to determine what those routes will look like.
Swankey said advocates want to see routes that are accessible and safe for everyone, including seniors and kids on their way to school, which would increase their use.
“It’s an ongoing to process to see how it will roll out in the years to come,” he said.
Earlier this week, the provincial government announced $10 million in funding for cycling infrastructure projects across B.C. Municipalities must apply for the grants, which cover between 50 to 75 per cent of project costs, depending on population.
The BikeBC money helps communities pay for new bikeways, or improve safety and accessibility on existing pathways.
Several cities on the South Coast received funding for 2019-20, including:
• The City of Abbotsford is approved to receive $299,685 for a separated two-way cycle track connecting elementary, middle and high schools to the recreation centre, library and the Discovery Trail.
• The City of Chilliwack is approved to receive $437,263 to extend a separated pathway between Airport Road and Hocking Avenue on the Valley Rail Trail, providing a north-south connection for all ages and abilities.
• The City of North Vancouver is approved to receive $1 million toward the Casano-Loutet cycling and pedestrian bridge over Highway 1.
• The City of Pemberton is approved to receive $7,500 to develop a cycling network plan that addresses active transportation within the community.
• The District of Squamish is approved to receive $210,450 for upgrades to the Dentville section of the Discovery Trail, which will include a separated paved path with lighting.
• The City of Vancouver is approved to receive $150,925 for cycling and pedestrian safety improvements at the 800 Robson Street Permanent Plaza.
• The City of Vancouver is also approved to receive $1 million for upgrades to the downtown bike network.
• The District of West Vancouver is approved to receive $50,700 for separated bike lanes between the districts of West Vancouver and North Vancouver.
The Fraser Health Authority says it is investigating after Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove raised concerns about a 76-year-old woman who was discharged from Surrey Memorial Hospital and sent by taxi to the Chilliwack Salvation Army shelter, despite mobility and incontinence issues.
On Thursday, the mayor requested a meeting with Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee to discuss “why vulnerable people are being sent to Chilliwack homeless shelters from another community.”
He cited the case of an elderly woman who had no family in Chilliwack, but arrived at the local shelter from the Surrey hospital in early February. Shelter staff were not prepared to care for her medical needs, which included severe incontinence.
“Constantly cleaning up fecal matter … is a serious concern for both staff and shelter clients,” said Popove in a letter to Lee.
Fraser Health spokesman Dixon Tam said Fraser Health makes “every effort” to find homeless patients a place to go when they are clinically stable and ready to leave the hospital, but “finding suitable housing is a challenge across our region.”
Tam said: “We are committed to continue to work closely with B.C. Housing and our municipal partners to develop more options. At the same time, we need to be careful not to use hospital beds as an alternative to stable housing.”
Abbotsford homeless advocate Jesse Wegenast said he wasn’t surprised to read the Chilliwack mayor’s account in the newspaper, “but only because it’s such a common practice.”
Wegenast’s organization, The 5 and 2 Ministries, opened a winter homeless shelter in Abbotsford on Nov. 1. The next day, he received a call from a Vancouver General Hospital administrator asking if he had space for an 81-year-old patient.
Wegenast said he often says no to accepting patients because the shelter is not open 24 hours and people must leave during the day. He’s had requests to take people with severe mobility issues, as well as those who need help with toileting or washing.
“The people who work at shelters are often very compassionate, and if the hospital says, ‘Well, we’re not keeping them,’ they feel obligated to help,” said Wegenast.
The pastor said he’s rarely seen people in shelters receive home care or followup care, and it’s also difficult for them to get prescriptions filled.
Wegenast helped a low-income senior on Friday who recently had half of his foot amputated. The man lives in an apartment and was receiving home care to help with dressing changes, but he’d been unable to get antibiotics for five days since being released from hospital.
“When you have people exiting acute care at the hospital and there’s no one to follow that up, it’s bad for that person’s health, and it’s also bad for public health in general,” he said.
Unlike Wegenast, Warren Macintyre was surprised to read about the Chilliwack woman’s situation because it confirmed that the experience he’d had with Fraser Health was not uncommon.
“I really had no idea this kind of thing was going on,” he said.
Three weeks ago, a close family member was admitted to Surrey Memorial after suffering from alcohol withdrawal, said Macintyre. He was placed on life support in the intensive care unit for about 10 days. When he was stable, he planned to enter a treatment program in Abbotsford, but there weren’t any beds available until March 14.
“We were told the plan was to keep him in hospital until then, but I got a call Wednesday telling me he’d been discharged,” said Macintyre.
Surrey Memorial had sent his relative to the treatment centre, where staff repeated they had no space, so he was returned to the hospital. The man, who had been staying at the Maple Ridge Salvation Army before his hospital admission, took a cab to a friend’s house.
His family is hoping he’ll be able to stay sober until he can get into treatment March 14.
“I told the hospital, if he goes back on the booze, he’ll be right back here,” said Macintyre.
Jim Mann wants everyone to know that he’s more than his dementia.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 12 years ago, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be involved in making decisions about his health.
The distinction is important for Mann — and many others living with dementia. The Surrey resident is thinking a lot about consent these days after being part of an advisory committee on health care consent for people with dementia. Their report, Conversations About Care, was released Feb. 27.
Mann, 70, said professionals in health care still make assumptions about people with dementia.
He recalled an emergency room incident when a nurse yelled his name and added “patient only.”
“My wife and I stood up and walked over. Halfway there, she (the nurse) yelled again ‘patient only.’ I got up to her and said ‘my wife needs to be with me. I have Alzheimer’s.’ She turned around and looked me up and down and said ‘well, you look fine.’ “
Mann said that while the public might not always understand that dementia is a cognitive impairment not a physical one and therefore not visible, he believes that kind of language isn’t acceptable in a health care environment.
“Within the medical system, I’m sorry, you should really know this by now,” he said.
The goal of the project’s Conversations About Care report is to ensure that the legal framework in B.C. remains strong enough to protect people living with dementia as well as those named as their legal substitutes.
In 2018, about 70,000 people in B.C. were living with dementia. By 2033, that number is estimated to increase to almost 120,000.
Krista James, national director of Canadian Centre for Elder Law at the University of B.C., said the report is intended to start a conversation about the rights of people with dementia.
“I feel that we’re missing that rights-based lens that recognizes the rights of older people to make choices about what happens to them,” she said.
“Although the law is different in each jurisdiction, and this report applies specifically to the experience in B.C., we need to open up that conversation to think about the citizenship rights of older people in a health care context. It’s really urgent.”
The report’s 34 recommendations were developed through a process that included consultation with people living with dementia, family caregivers, health care professionals, and others who deal with consent on a regular basis.
James said the origins of the report came from phone calls she received from family caregivers who felt frustrated that decisions were being made without consultation.
“From our perspective, the health care consent law in B.C. is super robust and I think fairly clear,” James said.
“It says if it’s not an emergency, you need to get that prior informed consent. The care facility regulations that govern long term care don’t seem to be consistent. There is a lot more wiggle room.”
That means some physicians, licensed practical nurses and care aids don’t understand the concept of prior informed consent for non-emergency care.
“I have talked to a few people who think that if the person is in the care facility they have consented to all the care that the people who work there think is the right care for them,” she said.
“Some of the staff don’t understand they have to get consent. They confuse admission to the care facility with consent to all the meds.”
One of the report’s recommendations calls for all licensed long-term care facilities to set out rules on restraints, including chemical restraints (medications such as antipsychotics used to control aggressive behaviour).
Other big concerns include the challenge of sorting out situations where family members making decisions about care for someone with dementia can’t agree on what to do. One way to address that, James said, is to have social workers involved in helping families find a solution.
James said the report recognizes that health care providers are never going to be experts on the law.
“They’re not lawyers,” she said. “We shouldn’t expect them to be experts on the finer details of the law. They need to have support so they can properly interpret the law.”
Recommendations of the report
• Improving health care decision-making laws in B.C. by adding language to recognize that people’s capacity to make health care decisions can vary from day to day and decision to decision, and that they be involved to the greatest degree possible in all case planning and decision-making.
• Address barriers to informed consent experienced by Indigenous people and people who need language interpretation, and create financial incentives to support physicians so they can spend time to talk with patients and families.
• Create a review tribunal to allow people living with dementia to review health care decisions made by substitute decision makers.
RCMP search the Bridgeview neighbourhood in Surrey on Jan. 31, 2019. Jason Payne / PNG
The search continues for a man wanted in connection with the shooting of a Transit Police officer in Surrey on Wednesday.
Surrey RCMP have identified Daon Gordon Glasgow, 35, as a suspect in the shooting inside Scott Road SkyTrain station that left Const. Josh Harms recovering from gunshot wounds to his arms.
Sgt. Chad Greig said the focus on Thursday was on the Bridgeview area, which is a residential and industrial area directly across King George Highway from the SkyTrain station.
It was believed that the gunman had fled to that area after the shooting, and police maintained a perimeter, did neighbourhood inquiries and searched for evidence. Surrey RCMP officers were backed up by the emergency response team and dog handlers.
“As the day was going on, our concentration in the Bridgeview area was slowly being decreased,” Greig said. He was unable to say on Friday morning how many police officers remained in the neighbourhood.
Greig said police believe Glasgow might flee B.C. to evade capture. He does have a criminal history in Ontario.
“We sent the message out that he could be leaving the province, and that is to have all of our police agency partners aware that this subject could be anywhere,” Greig said.
Glasgow, who according to court records has been known to use the aliases Darrell James Davis and Cornell Gibson, has a lengthy history with the justice system. A judge called his criminal record “reasonably significant.”
In September 2005, he was charged with theft over $5,000 and possession of property obtained by crime. It was alleged that the offences took place in Mississauga and Toronto, respectively. The case was transferred out of province.
In April 2006, Glasgow was convicted of unauthorized possession of a prohibited or restricted weapon, obstructing a peace officer, failing to comply with an undertaking and failing to comply with a recognizance. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail on each count, served concurrently.
Four months later, he was convicted of possession of an illegal narcotic for the purpose of trafficking, and sentenced to two years in prison.
In April 2008, Glasgow was sentenced to nine months in jail for a 2005 charge of possession for the purpose of trafficking and handed a lifetime firearms prohibition.
His most serious offence took place in March 2010, when he killed Terry Blake Scott in the washroom of the McDonald’s restaurant in the 11000-block of Scott Road — just 550 metres from the Scott Road SkyTrain station — after a marijuana deal between the two went bad.
Witnesses heard raised voices in the washroom, followed by a gunshot. Scott, who had been shot in the chest, left the bathroom and collapsed in the restaurant while Glasgow fled.
At the time, Glasgow was on parole for a drug offence. In April, 2011, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, minus a year’s credit for time served following his arrest. He was also given another lifetime firearms ban.
However, in April, 2015, Glasgow’s sentence was reduced by a further six months when a the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled he should have been given 18 months credit for time served.
At the time of this week’s shooting, Glasgow was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for a suspected parole violation.
Glasgow has a profile on prison correspondence site, Canadian Inmates Connect. On his profile, he stated he is in the Kent penitentiary in Agassiz and that he expected to be released in 2019.
Glasgow, who listed “murder, drugs, robberies” under his admitted convictions, states in his profile that he’s “looking for a shorty that I can grow with.”
“I’ve done a lot of sh*t but I respect women and I love kids. I did my crime and I’m doing my time. Now it’s nothing but positive moves towards my future.”
Police say Glasgow is dark-skinned, five-foot-five, 170 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. At the time of the shooting he had black stubble and a moustache. He is known to alter his appearance.
Anyone who sees him is asked to call 911 right away and not approach him.
A dedicated tip line has been set up for the public to report information, at 604-502-6284. If you wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or visit solvecrime.ca.
Sukhi Sandhu, an organizer with Wake Up Surrey, said his group was informed of a voter-fraud scheme ahead of the Oct. 20 municipal elections. Surrey RCMP have been notified.
Sukhi Sandhu / Facebook
A Surrey anti-crime group has filed complaints of an alleged election-fraud scheme targeting South Asian voters in the city which sought to increase the number of absentee ballots cast this election more than 30-fold.
The groups claims that absentee ballots are being fraudulently used and votes are being bought.
Wake Up Surrey believes that one or more political parties are behind the scheme, which involves requesting absentee ballots for voters and casting them without their knowledge, or obtaining absentee ballots from voters and either filling them in for them and forging their signatures, or telling them how to vote.
The group claims the political party (or parties) orchestrating the scheme are also paying voters to cast a vote for a specific candidate.
Sukhi Sandhu, an organizer with Wake Up Surrey, said his group was informed of the scheme by people who had been told by employers and business owners to each collect detailed personal information from 25 people in order to obtain their mail-in ballots.
Sandhu said 600 “poll captains” were asked to make the lists of 25 voters, so that an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 mail-in ballots could be cast for a single candidate, he added.
It would be a drastic increase over the number of mail-in ballots usually cast.
In order to vote by mail, a Surrey resident has to complete an application (available online) and mail, fax or deliver it in person to city hall.
They must make a declaration they have a physical disability, illness or injury that affects their ability to vote, or expect to be absent from Surrey on Oct. 20 and during advance voting. Their ballot is then mailed to them or they can pick it up at city hall.
Voter data from the 2014 municipal election shows that just 459 special-voting (mail-in) ballots were cast. It is unclear how many of the ballots have been requested to date.
Spokesman Oliver Lum said the City of Surrey is aware of the allegations and its chief electoral officer will be commenting further on Monday.
Sandhu said some of the people who were approached about casting absentee ballots will be filing complaints with police in the coming days. A Surrey RCMP spokesman not briefed on details of the allegations couldn’t confirm before deadline Saturday whether an investigation had been launched, but Global News and News 1130 reported the detachment has opened a case.
Sandhu said Wake Up Surrey has identified at least one political campaign linked to the scheme but said he would leave it to the RCMP to confirm that campaign’s identity. His group is not endorsing any candidate or party in the election, he said.
“Immediately when it came to our attention, we looked at the evidence and found that it was credible,” Sandhu said. “We felt a moral duty as Canadian citizens to phone the police and the chief electoral officer.”
Sandhu said his group and South Asian media have been intimidated and slandered by powerful groups who oppose their calls to expose and fight corruption, and said some are motivated by financial reasons to influence the election.
“This is not only voter suppression but it is also disrespecting voters in our community, thinking of them as illiterate,” he said.
Sandhu is a well-connected businessman and longtime community activist in Surrey regarded as a backroom player by politicians hoping to get support among South Asian voters. He worked on Dianne Watts’s recent bid for the B.C. Liberals leadership but left her campaign after he claimed she was not connecting with B.C.’s South Asian community.
Four parties running candidates in Surrey have issued news releases condemning the alleged voter fraud and supporting Wake Up Surrey’s effort to expose it, including Safe Surrey Coalition, Integrity Now, People First and Proudly Surrey.
But People First also criticized Wake Up Surrey’s release of the allegations to media, which the party believes will “help the culprits to hide their tracks,” and which “casts a shadow of doubt and shame on the South Asian community,” its news release said.
Proudly Surrey candidate Pauline Greaves is calling for an immediate suspension of all mail-in voting.
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