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Category "Women"

9Jun

Moms-to-be ‘fearful’ as Chilliwack maternity ward to close for summer

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Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove has requested a meeting with Health Minister Adrian Dix to express his concerns about the temporary closure of Chilliwack Hospital’s maternity ward.


Francis Georgian / PNG

The mayor of Chilliwack is requesting a meeting with B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix to express concerns about a plan to close the maternity ward at Chilliwack Hospital for an indeterminate amount of time starting later this month.

The closure is caused by an “unexpected shortfall in obstetricians,” said Jennifer Wilson, medical director for Chilliwack Hospital. Due to a medical leave, the hospital is no longer able to ensure there is an on-call obstetrician available for emergency interventions and C-sections at all times.

Fraser Health is working on a plan to address the problem, but women who expected to give birth in Chilliwack after June 24 will have to go to Abbotsford Regional Hospital instead, said Wilson. “Our goal is to be up and running again as soon as possible.”

The doctor said the decision to close the maternity ward was not made lightly and she “respects” the concerns of women who are now faced with travelling outside their community to deliver. “We are really committed to making things as safe as possible for women.”

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But Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove said it is “insane” that his community of 100,000 people will not have a maternity ward this summer. On average, there is between one to two births per day at Chilliwack Hospital.

“I understand that it’s difficult (for Fraser Health), but there should have been a plan in place,” he said.

The mayor said he is asking for a meeting with the provincial health minister to discuss the situation. He has also spoken to the mayor of Hope who is worried about the health of women who will have to travel more than an hour — possibly in rush-hour or long-weekend traffic — to reach the hospital in Abbotsford.

“It’s an hour on a good day. What happens if there’s an accident?” asked Popove.

The mayor said he hasn’t been told when Fraser Health plans to reopen the maternity ward. But he has been hearing from families in his community who are worried and anxious.

Former Chilliwack mayor and B.C. Liberal MLA John Les called the closure “a kick in the head” in response to a Chilliwack Progress news story about the closure.

“This is a bloody outrage,” he said in a Facebook post.

“If implemented, this two- to three-month suspension of deliveries will become permanent,” he speculated. “This has been Fraser Health’s dream all along: centralize everything in Abbotsford.”

Wilson said the hospital plans to maintain its maternity ward and is looking for long-term solutions to the staffing problem. It is also working to address transportation concerns from women who may have trouble reaching Abbotsford.

“We have reassurances from Abbotsford … (that) they have the capacity,” she said.

But registered midwife Libby Gregg said the closure is making women “fearful” about their deliveries.

“They are really suffering,” she said, explaining that some women will lose the doctor who has cared for them through their entire pregnancy because the doctor doesn’t have hospital privileges at the Abbotsford hospital.

“These women will be in an unfamiliar situation with people they don’t know,” she said.

Gregg said an increase in stress and anxiety in the late stages of pregnancy and during delivery can have negative impacts on mothers and babies, including a possible increase in inductions and C-sections.

“The implications are huge and far-reaching.”

Gregg said Chilliwack midwives are stepping up to offer their services to women who are scrambling to find a caregiver ahead of the closure, adding “we’re here to support as many families as we can.”

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28May

Daphne Bramham: More needed to redress the tragic fact that Indigenous people are disproportionately victims of opioid crisis

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Overdose deaths linked to illicit fentanyl-laced drugs rose 21 per cent last year among First Nations people in B.C. even as there was a glimmer of hope that the crisis may have peaked among the general population.

Since the crisis began four years ago, B.C. Indigenous people have been overrepresented in the deadly count. Last year, they accounted for 13 per cent of the deaths, while making up 3.4 per cent of the provincial population.

Put another way, First Nations people were 4.2 times more likely to suffer a fatal overdose and six times more likely to suffer a non-fatal overdose than other British Columbians.

No one is suffering more than First Nations women and girls, who already have the worst health outcomes in Canada because of violence, exploitation and poverty.

They are unique in this epidemic where 80 per cent of the victims in the general population are men. Women, by contrast, account for 39 per cent of First Nations’ overdose fatalities last year and 46 per cent of the non-fatal ones.

They are bearing the brunt of marginalization, says Dr. Evan Adams, chief medical health officer at the First Nations Health Authority. Another measure of that is expected to come next week in the report of the murdered and missing women’s inquiry.

Among the reasons that he suggests for the widening gap between First Nations’ and the general population’s statistics are the effects of colonization including residential schools, the lack of social supports, childhood experiences and limited access to safe spaces and services.

The litany of dreadful statistics compiled by the provincial coroner’s office was read out Monday against the backdrop of a quilt with the names of some of the hundreds who have died. Among those names was Max, the son of the health authority’s knowledge keeper, Syexwaliya. Max died 12 days before his 41st birthday in March 2018.

“My son was just too lost,” she said. “I couldn’t do anything for him. I had to love and accept him as he was.”

Still, Syexwaliya takes heart from the statistics.

“The statistics make me feel that Indigenous people aren’t invisible and what’s brought out in the statistics and in the reports means that work is being done,” she said.

Addiction is a disease of pain — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Addiction piles tragedy on tragedy.

“It’s a journey of pain, a journey of suffering and a journey of seeking health services that couldn’t be found,” said the chair of the health authority, Grand Chief Doug Kelly.

Too many Canadians, too many British Columbians and too many First Nations people have already died, but Kelly said that for Indigenous people, things are not getting better. They’re getting worse, especially for those living in cities and most especially for women.

Overdose hot spots include the usual ones: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Fraser Valley, Chilliwack, Nanaimo, Victoria and Prince George. But for First Nations people, there’s also Campbell River and Kamloops.

Those stark differences mean distinct and targeted solutions are required. As Canada’s first Indigenous health authority, the First Nations authority (with its unofficial motto of “no decisions about us, without us”) is well positioned to do that.

With a goal of addressing causes of addiction, it has its own four pillars approach: preventing people from dying, reducing the harm of those who are using, creating a range of accessible treatments and supporting people on their healing journey.

The authority also strongly supports the call from B.C.’s chief medical health officer to decriminalize possession of all drugs for personal use as has been done in Portugal. (The suggestion was quickly shot down by the B.C. government, which says that could only be accomplished with federal legislation.)

Among the reasons Kelly cites are yet more terrible statistics.

Of Canada’s female offenders in federal prisons, Public Safety Canada reported last summer that 43 per cent are Indigenous. In youth detention, Indigenous kids account for 46 per cent of all admissions — a jump of 25 per cent in a decade.

Addiction is often contributing factor in the crimes committed, as is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (although the report said there is no evidence that FASD is more prevalent among First Nations than other populations).

Because so many First Nations women are incarcerated, it means their children often end up in government care or with relatives, which only exacerbates the cycle of childhood trauma, loss and addiction.

So far, the First Nations Health Authority has spent $2.4 million on harm-reduction programs. It’s trained more than 2,430 people in 180 communities how to use naloxone to reverse fentanyl overdoses, has 180 “harm-reduction champions” and peer coordinators in all five regions.

But the biggest barrier is the one that led to Max’s death — lack of accessible treatment.

Last week, FNHA and the B.C. government committed $20 million each to  build treatment centres in Vancouver and Surrey and promised to upgrade six existing ones. Kelly says that’s great. But it’s not enough. They’re still waiting for another $20 million from the federal government for construction.

Still, where will the operating money come from? That’s the next multi-million-dollar question. But it must be found.

Now that there is evidence that First Nations communities — and women in particularly — are suffering so disproportionately, ignoring them is unconscionable.

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26May

Daphne Bramham: Tougher new regulations promise more agony for chronic pain-sufferers

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One in five Canadians lives with chronic pain, but the cries of an estimated 800,000 British Columbians are not only being ignored, their suffering is being exacerbated by regulators limiting their access to both drugs and treatment.

First, in a move unprecedented in North America, the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons imposed mandatory opioid and narcotic prescription limits on doctors in 2016 in an attempt to avoid creating additional addicts and having more prescription drugs sold on the street.

Physicians who don’t comply can be fined up to $100,000 or have their licences revoked.

Now, the college is setting tough regulations for physicians administering pain-management injections.

“I’m enraged,” says Kate Mills, a 33-year-old, palliative care nurse who has been on disability leave for the past 18 months. “People like me are living in chronic, intractable pain and being ignored by doctors who are either too scared or too callous to care.”

She has an uncommon, congenital condition that causes chronic inflammation near her sacroiliac joint and in her lower back, which pushes down on her nerves causing “exquisite pain” down her leg.

Her first doctor essentially fired her, refusing to treat the pain. The next one prescribed Oxycodone to help Mills through until she was able to receive a steroid injection at a clinic, which kept the pain in check for several months.

But by the time the injection’s effects were wearing off, her GP went on extended medical leave. The locum assigned to Mills refused to prescribe her any medication and told her to go to an emergency room where she was given a prescription.

After numerous ER visits, Mills finally found a doctor two weeks ago who is willing to provide medication for her between injections. But he agreed only after Mills signed a contract agreeing that she won’t sell the drugs, will only go to one pharmacy and take the drugs only as prescribed.

She is lucky, though. Her pain management clinic will likely meet the college’s new standards that were developed by an advisory panel over the past three years out of concern about patient safety.

“Increasingly,” the college says on its website, “Procedural pain management is being provided in private clinics and physician offices, but without much guidance on appropriate credentials, settings, techniques and equipment.”

The new regulations would require physicians’ offices or clinics to become accredited facilities with standards on par with ambulatory surgery centres.

That means having tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment including resuscitation carts, high-resolution ultrasound, automated external defibrillators and electronic cardiograms with printout capability.

The college acknowledges that “patients do not require continuous ECG monitoring. However, the cardiac monitoring equipment must be available in the event a patient has an unintended reaction to the procedure.”

The disruption for patients will be huge, according to Dr. Helene Bertrand, a general practitioner, pain researcher and clinical instructor at UBC’s medical school.

She estimates that up to 80 per cent of the offices and clinics where the injections are currently being done won’t measure up and already wait times are up to 18 months.

When the new requirements come into force, Bertrand predicts patients will be waiting anywhere from four to seven years for treatment.

Bertrand herself will have to quit doing prolotherapy, which she has done for the past 18 years on everything from shoulders to necks to spine to ankles. That’s despite the fact she’s never been sued, never had a complaint filed with the college and has published, peer-reviewed research that revealed an 89 per cent success rate among 211 patients in her study group.

(Prolotherapy involves injecting a sugar solution close to injured or painful joints causing inflammation. That inflammation increases the blood supply and deposits collagen on tendons and ligaments helping to repair them.)

The college will not grandfather general practitioners already doing injection therapies. Instead it will restrict general practitioners to knees, ankles and shoulders. All other joint injections must be done by anesthetists or pain specialists.

For Joan Bellamy, that’s a huge step backward.

She’s suffered from chronic pain since 1983 and “undergone the gamut of medical approaches, often with excessive waits: hospital OP (outpatient), pharmacology, neurology, orthopedics, spinal, physiatry and private.”

Since 2000, she’s had multiple injections that have made a difference. But her doctor doesn’t meet the new qualifications.

“I am afraid that without her expertise … that pain will become an intolerable burden, and any search for treatment will result in inconceivable wait times and will debilitate me,” Bellamy wrote in a letter to the college and copied to me.

The near future for pain-sufferers looks grim with most physicians able to offer them little more than over-the-counter painkillers.

Ironically at a time when the provincial medical health officer and others are lobbying hard to have all drugs legalized so that addicts have access to a safe supply, chronic pain-sufferers are being marginalized. For them, it’s more difficult than ever to get what they need.

It’s forcing many of them facing a lifetime of exquisite and unbearable pain to at least contemplate one of two deadly choices: Buy potentially fentanyl-laced street drugs; or worse, ask for medically assisted dying.

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1May

Daphne Bramham: Alcohol, not opioids, is Canada’s biggest drug problem

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Alcohol is so much a part of our culture that 80 per cent of Canadians drink. But each year, nearly 15,000 people die from alcohol related harms.


Canadian governments are addicted to the revenue from alcohol


DALE DE LA REY / AFP/Getty Images

With so much focus on illicit drugs and overdose deaths, it might seem that opioids are the biggest addictions problem. Far from it.

Alcohol kills many more people each year (14,800 in 2014), results in more hospitalizations annually than heart attacks and is one of the most expensive and intractable health problems.

While cannabis was legalized a year ago and B.C.’s chief medical health officer is pushing hard for decriminalization and ultimately legalization of all illicit drugs, two Canadian addictions research centres want tougher regulations to mitigate the costs and harms of alcohol use and addiction.

The Victoria-based Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research and the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health want a minimum price of $3.50 for a standard drink in a bar or restaurant and $1.75 for off-premise sales. They also want a national minimum drinking age of 19, which is a year higher than national minimum for cannabis. Those are just two of the recommendations in reports they released last month that look at federal, provincial and territorial alcohol policies.

The reports also calling for stricter guidelines for advertising, restrictions on manufacturers’ and retailers’ promotions on digital and social media platforms, and a federal excise tax based on alcohol content that would replace the GST.

Over the past decades, the researchers found an erosion of effective policies and regulations.

“Overall, alcohol policy in Canada has been largely neglected relative to emerging initiatives addressing tobacco control, responses to the opioid overdose crisis, and restrictions imposed on the new legal cannabis market,” their report on the provinces and territories says. In several jurisdictions — Ontario is the worst example — “customer convenience and choice are being given priority over health and safety concerns … the responsibility of governments to warn citizens of potential risks is largely absent.”

British Columbia got a bare pass at 50 per cent based on its potential to reduce alcohol-related harm, which is not good. But it’s still better than the national average of 43 per cent.

Alcohol-related harm was estimated at $14.6 billion in 2014, according the Canadian Centre on Substance Use. Productivity loss due to illness and premature death accounts for $7.1 billion. Direct health care costs add another $3.3 billion and $3.1 billion is spent on enforcement costs for this legal drug.

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Tobacco was second at $12 billion followed by opioids at $3.5 billion and cannabis at $2.8 billion. But the data predate the opioid overdose crisis and cannabis legalization.

Alcohol’s costs and harms reflect the fact that 80 per cent of Canadians drink. It’s not surprising. Culturally, we associate drinking with celebrations and good times. It’s We’re bombarded with images in movies, TV and ads of beautiful people drinking and having fun.

Scarcely a week goes by that there isn’t a “good news” story about research showing that a glass of red wine might be good for your heart or that yet another populist politician is campaigning on a promise to slash the price of beer.

Yet less was made of University of Washington’s Global Burden of Diseases Study last summer that found alcohol was the leading factor in 2.8 million premature deaths in 2016 and is so harmful that governments ought to be advising people to abstain completely.

One problem is that Canadian governments are addicted to the revenue from alcohol. Liquor sales and taxes provided $12.15 billion to federal and provincial governments in 2017/18 — $1.6 billion more than five years earlier, according to Statistics Canada.

Last year, liquor consumption rose in British Columbia, which already had the highest drinking rates in Canada. There were also record sales, which meant that in addition to tax revenue, the Liquor Distribution Branch provided $1.12 billion in earned revenue, up from $1.03 billion two years earlier.

Good for taxpayers? Not really. The reports by the substance-abuse centres recommends B.C. “reconsider the treatment of alcohol as an ordinary commodity: Alcohol should not be sold alongside food and other grocery items as this leads to greater harm.”

It’s based on research done last year by Tim Stockwell of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research. He and his researchers found that when access to alcohol is easier, more people die.

Between 2003 and 2008, “a conservative estimate is that the rates of alcohol-related deaths increased by 3.25 per cent for each 20 per cent increase in stores density.”

Estimates have to be conservative because alcoholics’ fatalities are mistakenly counted as death from one of more than 200 other kinds of alcohol-related fatalities including car accidents, suicide, liver diseases, cancers, tuberculosis and heart disease.

What’s surprising is that more than a century after legalization, there are no federal or provincial policies aimed specifically at mitigating alcohol’s harms and costs.

The opioid crisis has been the catalyst for governments to finally think about addictions and drug-use policies and, it’s now impossible to ignore the slower moving crisis caused by alcohol abuse and addiction.

In the coming months, the B.C. health officer also plans to release an alcohol addictions report. The B.C. Centre on Substance Use recently developed guidelines for best practices in treating alcohol addiction, but the provincial government has yet to approve or release those.

Prohibition proved a failure. Yet, legalization and regulation are not panaceas either. Because even with more than 100 years of experience, there is still no jurisdiction in Canada or anywhere else that seems to have got it right.

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24Apr

Daphne Bramham: Decriminalization alone won’t end B.C.’s overdose crisis

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A man injects drugs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. Despite significant efforts to combat overdose deaths in British Columbia, the provincial coroner says illicit drug overdose deaths increased to 1,489, just over the 2017 death total.


JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The problem with the provincial health officer’s special report recommending decriminalization of all illicit drug users  is that Dr. Bonnie Henry chose to make that her only recommendation.

Three years after a public health emergency was declared because of an epidemic of deaths from illicit opioids, B.C. still has no comprehensive addictions strategy.

It has a stunning lack of treatment services, no universal access to services, no simple pathway to what few services there are, no provincial standards or regulation of privately operated treatment and recovery homes services.

Government ministries such as health, mental health and addictions services, social development and housing remain siloed and the root causes of addiction remain largely unaddressed.

While there has been substantial investment in harm-reduction measures including overdose prevention sites, free naloxone kits (to reverse an opioid overdose), low-barrier shelters and poverty reduction, the needs are greater.

Overdose deaths have only hit a plateau – not dropped. Every day, four people British Columbians die.

Yet, Henry is adamant that decriminalization is the most important next step.

“It’s about a focus and an intent,” she said. “Instead of police focusing on requirement of the Criminal Code, it builds off-ramps to connect with services. And, that in itself, ensures those systems are built.”

The majority of those who have died of overdoses were young men using alone at home. Without fear of being arrested and with the stigma of addiction being reduced, the expectation is that addicts or recreational users would be more likely to go to a supervised injection site, use with a friend (with a naloxone kit at the ready) or call for help if they overdose.

Henry calls decriminalization “a necessary next step to stop the death toll from rising and to make harm-reduction services more readily available.”

But it’s a question whether those recreational users would do that, because many addicts say that they use alone for a variety of reasons — not least of which is that they don’t want to share their drugs or they don’t want anyone to know what they do when they’re high.

The report recommended two options for British Columbia to work around the Criminal Code provisions.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth firmly and quickly said no to both. But he noted there are pilot projects in Vancouver, Abbotsford and Vernon where rather than charging for possession, police are linking users with services. An evaluation of those will be completed in the fall and, depending on the results, they may be expended to other communities.

Henry makes no secret of the fact that her ultimate goals for Canada are full legalization and regulation of all drugs to ensure that there is a safe supply. If that were to happen, Canada would be the first in the world to do that.

Portugal is mentioned frequently in the report and by Henry. Possession for personal use was decriminalized more than 20 years ago. But it was done only as part of a comprehensive, drug strategy.

Police still arrest anyone found with illicit drugs. They are taken to a police station where the drugs are weighed. If the amount is above the maximum limit set for personal use, they are charged and go through the criminal justice system.

If the amount is below the limit, tickets are issued and users told to appear at the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Use within 24 hours. There, they meet with a social worker or counsellor before going before a three-person tribunal, which recommends a plan for treatment.

People don’t have to comply. But if they are arrested again, the commission can impose community service, require that they seek treatment, impose fines and even confiscate people’s property to pay those fines.

That’s not the kind of decriminalization Henry is recommending. Instead, the onus here would be on police officers – not trained addictions specialists, psychologists or social workers — to connect users with services.

Part of the reason for the difference is that Portugal’s goal wasn’t legalization or keeping addicts alive until they chose to go treatment. Its focus was and is on getting addicts into treatment and recovery so they could resume their place in society.

Harm reduction is only a small part of the Portuguese plan. Its first supervised injection site has only recently opened. But there is free and easy access to methadone (which dampens heroin addicts’ craving for the drug) and free needles to stop the spread of infection.

These harm reduction measures are deemed to temporary bridges to abstinence for all but older, hardcore, long-term heroin users rather than long-term solutions. Of course, fentanyl and carfentanil have yet to be found in its illicit drug supply.

Its treatment services as extensive and include everything from outpatient treatment to three years’ residency in a therapeutic community during which time the users’ families are provided with income supplements.

Nothing in this decriminalization report moves British Columbia anywhere close to that kind of comprehensive system. And until we get there, it’s hard to imagine that this overdose crisis ending anytime soon.

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Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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12Apr

Town Talk: BMW showroom gala supports pancreatic cancer research

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BEEMER TEAMING: BMW dealer Brian Jessel and managing partner Jim Murray cleared all but one vehicle from their Boundary-off-Lougheed new-car showroom to stage the 14th annual Cabriolet gala. Previous runnings reportedly raised $2 million. Staged by Diana Zoppa and sponsored by ZLC Financial chairman-CEO Garry Zlotnik, the recent one benefited Pancreatic Cancer Canada by netting some $525,000. The sole car left standing beside a spotlit stage and dining tables reflected the ever-more-elegant gala’s name. It was a just-introduced BMW M850i Cabriolet tagged at $145,000. Figuratively donning his dealer hat, Jessel compared it to a certain $350,000 British sportster, “But this is a nicer car.” As for other BMW introductions, half-year Cabo San Lucas resident Jessel said: “We’ve got a lot of new product coming this year. I won’t have to marry for money after all.”


Elektra Women’s Choir conductor and co-founder Morna Edmundson welcomed operatic soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian to a benefit banquet at the Sutton Place hotel where she sang works by Berlioz, Bevan and Schubert.

Malcolm Parry /

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BETTER WORLD: Operatic soprano and graduate biomedical engineer Isabel Bayrakdarian sang at the Elektra Women’s Choir’s recent benefit-banquet in the Sutton Place hotel. Elektra honorary patron Bayrakdarian also performed at the choir’s 30th anniversary concert in 2017. At the hotel, co-founder Morna Edmundson conducted the 53-voice ensemble as she did in January at East Hastings Street’s Oscar’s Pub. That Elektra Uncorked fundraiser followed the release of Elektra’s 15th album, Silent Night. No repertoire stick-in-the-muds, the choristers are heard prominently on Gibsons-based progressive-metal musician Devin Townsend’s Empath album that released March 29 to seven-figure YouTube hits. Such musical genre-bending aside, few would dispute Schubert’s An Die Musik that Bayrakdarian sang to Elektra patrons: “You, lovely art, in how many gloomy hours of experiencing the turmoil of life have you ignited love in my heart and transported me to a better world?”


City singer Amanda Wood accompanied an ovarian cancer fundraiser’s fashion-show models with an energetic rendition of Alicia Keys’s Girl On Fire.

Malcolm Parry /

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Anna Wallner, Marousa Dumaresq and Kristi Brinkley modelled Chikas, Sundress and Riana garments at the Love Her benefit for Ovarian Cancer Canada.

Malcolm Parry /

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Okanagan Crush Pad owner Christine Coletta brought wine to and accompanied cousin Lisa Konishi at a $225,000 Ovarian Cancer Canada benefit.

Malcolm Parry /

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OVARIAN OVATION: With Franci Stratton chairing for the third time, the recent Love Her gala reportedly raised $225,000 for Ovarian Cancer Canada. The lunchtime event included a fashion show by West Vancouver retailer Marilyn Diligenti-Smith. Local volunteer models hit the catwalk as singer Amanda Wood belted out Girl On Fire. Ovarian cancer, however, is a murderous fire that researchers and practitioners yearn to put out while striving to discover how its starts. Back at the gala, attendees applauded when an annual award commemorating business and community leader Virginia Greene went to Christine Coletta and cousin Lisa Konishi who have jointly lost eight friends and family members to ovarian cancer. More cheerfully, Coletta donated and served much wine from her 45,000-cases-a-year Okanagan Crush Pad operation.


His artist in residency at the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden now over, Paul Wong will publish a book based on 700 letters to his late mother.

Malcolm Parry /

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PAUL’S LETTERS: Paul Wong’s year-long artist in residency at the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden ended with a reception at his Keefer Street studio. Fifty-five arts-related tenants reportedly pay $2 a square foot to occupy the building’s lower, third and fourth floors. A Korean restaurant and Scotiabank branch are conveniently located at street level. Meanwhile, Wong’s now-concluded exhibition of 700 letters to late mother Suk Fong has received a reply. The Canada Council for the Arts reportedly offered $54,500 to fund a related book. “We’re trying to get the money as soon as possible in case there’s been a mistake,” Wong cracked while admitting, “It was more than I asked for.”


With one of her works to open the DOXA Documentary Film Festival, Baljit Sangra hopes to make a feature about Canadian South Asians in the 1970s.

Malcolm Parry /

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POST PAST: B.C.’s early 20th-century South Asian pioneers were the subjects of a recent Vancouver Sun article. Now, moviemaker Baljit Sangra wants to portray their second- and third-generation descendants. To open the DOXA Documentary Film Festival May 3, Sangra’s 85-minute Because We Are Girls examines three Williams Lake sisters who concealed their shared sexual abuse for almost 25 years. She hopes that her next, and bigger, project will be a feature-film drama. “I would love to do a coming-of-age narrative of South Asians growing up in the 1970s,” Sangra said. “The fashion, the music, what they thought.” That might cost $5 million. Let’s hope she raises it.


Former mayor, former premier, cannabis firm principal Mike Harcourt received Simon Fraser University’s President’s Distinguished Community Leadership Award.

Malcolm Parry /

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NEW LEAF: Simon Fraser University chief Andrew Petter presented the President’s Distinguished Community Leadership Award to Mike Harcourt recently. The latter’s merits aside, the Four Seasons Hotel ceremony echoed Petter having been in 1991-96 NDP premier Harcourt’s cabinet. No such gender or partisan links occurred in 2010 when the honour went to Petter’s decade-later successor as B.C. Liberal finance minister, Carole Taylor. Her co-awardee, since-deceased husband Art Phillips, was Harcourt’s predecessor-but-one as Vancouver mayor. Soon after her award, Taylor was named chancellor of SFU where, vis-à-vis president Petter, she said: “My job is to protect him.” In his early 20s, lawyer Harcourt counselled Kitsilano-based Cool-Aid youth social services’ clients, some of whom were jailed for possessing marijuana joints. Today, he chairs Lumby-based True Leaf that plans to produce 2,500 kg of cannabis annually.


Andrew Petter made an SFU president’s award to Mike Harcourt as he had done in 2010 to the university’s then-pending chancellor, Carole Taylor.

Malcolm Parry /

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DOWN PARRYSCOPE: A century ago, satirist Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary contained: “Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.” Also: “Conservative: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.” Finally: “Liberty: One of imagination’s most precious possessions.”

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7Apr

Popularity of electric bikes growing on city roads and bike paths

by admin

At first, David Mallory thought riding an electric bike was the equivalent of cheating.

Things started to change when his wife Deb bought one about nine years ago. She decided it was the best way to conquer the hill to their home on West 10th in Vancouver.

As she zoomed up the hill, Mallory remembers pedalling on his 21-speed bike as fast as he could, trying to catch her. She won every time.

So he took her bike for a ride. When he engaged the motor, he felt like he was defying gravity.

Mallory was hooked.

“It’s hard to believe I’ve had an electric bike for that long — since 2011,” he said. “Not once have I gone: ‘I wish I hadn’t bought a bike.’ I would never go back to a regular bike. It’s just so much more fun.”

The experience Mallory and his wife have had with their electric bike isn’t unusual in Metro Vancouver. As the number of cyclists riding bicycles for commuting and recreation continues to increase, the kind of bikes they are using is also changing. More people than ever are riding electric bicycles, which also have functional pedals.

Both David and Deb are 63 and very active. Not only do they ride their e-bikes, they swim, play tennis and golf.

David has become particularly conscious of the importance of staying active as a way to keep his symptoms of multiple sclerosis at bay.


David Mallory has an electric bike that he rides everywhere he can with his wife Deb.

Francis Georgian /

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This year, for example, he couldn’t wait for the snow to melt so he could use bigger panniers (a pair of bags or containers) on his bike to carry groceries. He estimates he has ridden 200 km this year — including a couple of trips to Richmond.

The Mallories have just upgraded their bikes to new German-made Kalkhoff bikes from Cit-E-Cycles. They bought them on sale for about $4,000.

“You see a lot of older people, a lot of seniors, riding electric bikes,” said Mallory, who retired five years ago on disability. “We ride as much as we can. We’ll ride to Granville Island to pick up something and come back. It’s really been a huge thing for us.”

The growth in the sale of electric bikes around the world is the “largest and most rapid uptake of alternative-fuelled vehicles in the history of motorization,” according to the Transport Reviews article E-bikes in the mainstream.

China leads the world in e-bike sales, followed by Netherlands and Germany. In 10 years, more than 150 million e-bikes have been sold worldwide.

The article concluded that since market penetration is low in most countries, there is little evidence to suggest that the sale of electric bikes will slow in coming years.

One example of the growth in e-bikes in Metro Vancouver is Cit-E-Cycles. Since opening its first location in 2011, the company has expanded to four outlets in Vancouver, Surrey, Langley and Victoria.

Doug Sutton, sales and service manager at the West Broadway store, said e-bike technology has improved in the past few years.

A big part of the market used to be conversion kits to adapt regular bikes to electric bikes. More recently, the location of motors has moved from the front or back wheels to the centre of the bike, which provides power to the wheel via the chain drive. Batteries have become more efficient as well.

The top price for an electric bike in his store is $10,000, although Sutton said he recently had a special order for a $20,000 bike. He said the sweet spot for most e-bike sales is between $3,500 and $5,000.

Everyone from grandparents to college students are buying e-bikes, he said. One growing segment is parents buying large, extended “cargo” bikes to pick up their children from school.

“Most people are looking for all-rounders,” he said. “They’re looking to ride to work, or ride on a gravel track, and people who are on a budget looking for the least expensive bike.”


Doug Sutton, a manager at Cit-E-Cycles, with a Riese and Muller electric bike in Vancouver. Cit-E-Cycles is one of the larger electric bike retailers in Metro Vancouver.

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

Erin O’Melinn, executive director of bicycle advocacy group HUB Cycling, said while e-bikes represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the transportation market, she knows of no systemic estimate of their share of the overall bike numbers in Metro Vancouver.

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of people cycling to work increased from 4.4 per cent to 6.1 per cent, according to 2017 statistics from the City of Vancouver. More people ride to work in Vancouver than any other major city in the country.

Overall, the 2017 report card on walking and cycling said that “56 per cent of Vancouver residents are interested in cycling more often.

“This marks a significant increase citywide in a short period of time. In 2014, only 30 per cent of Vancouver residents were interested in cycling more often.”

O’Melinn said research into electric bikes and other micro-mobility devices such as scooters, mopeds and electric skateboards is in its infancy.

“HUB’s members have indicated a strong interest in this area and we are ramping up our efforts to understand how such technologies may be effectively encouraged and regulated to increase access to cycling to a broader range of ages, abilities and trip types,” she said by email.

Lon LaClaire, director of transportation for the City of Vancouver, believes electric bicycles have huge potential to create more cycling trips.

“We’re seeing it already with goods movements,” he said. The worker co-operative Shift Delivery in East Vancouver, he said, uses e-bikes.

“For others who don’t have the strength or don’t want to get sweaty, an e-bike is an option that previously wasn’t practical for them. … We’ll be looking at ways to support e-bikes.”

[email protected]


Biking in Metro Vancouver

• The City of Vancouver has a bike lane and path network of 322 km, 25 per cent of which are classed as top-AAA, which means for all ages and abilities. The longest segment is the 31.5 km seawall.

• Mobi, the City of Vancouver’s bike share, started in 2016 with 250 bikes at 23 stations. It now has 1,250 bikes in 125 stations. The goal is 1,500 bikes at 150 stations.

• Bike sharing has spread around Metro Vancouver. Locations include Richmond, Port Moody, and Port Coquitlam, and soon in Burnaby. On the North Shore, the City of North Vancouver is part of an initiative with the District of North Vancouver and West Vancouver to introduce electric bike share by this June.


What is an electric bike?

In B.C., an electric bike is a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with a seat, functional pedals and an electric motor of up to 500 watts. It can’t be gas powered or travel faster than 32 km/h on level ground without pedalling. Anyone riding an e-bike has to wear a helmet and be 16 years of age or older.


Biking in Vancouver: By the numbers

The City of Vancouver maintains automated bike counters at 10 locations around town, and reports monthly volumes rounded to the nearest thousand.

Science World

July 2013: 167,000

July 2014: 187,000

July 2015: 195,000

July 2016: 193,000

July 2017: 227,000

July 2018: 239,000

Union and Hawks

July 2013: 101,000

July 2014: *

July 2015: 115,000

July 2016: 111,000

July 2017: 120,000

July 2018: 127,000

Burrard Bridge

Jan 2010: 46,000

Jan 2011: 41,000

Jan 2012: 35,000

Jan 2013: 35,000

Jan 2014: 54,000

Jan 2015: 62,000

Jan 2016: 53,000

Jan 2017: 40,000

Jan 2018: 47,000

* Data not available due to technical problems with counter

Data from City of Vancouver’s automated bike counters are available online


A move to fill ‘gaps in the map’

Burnaby’s decision to eliminate an unsafe bottleneck for cyclists is an encouraging move toward creating a connected bike network in the region, says bicycle advocacy group HUB Cycling.

HUB says safer bike routes will in turn persuade more people to start riding bikes.

The big change coming for cyclists in Burnaby is on the Gilmore Overpass above the Trans Canada Highway. Built in 1964, the overpass is one of 400 spots in Metro Vancouver identified by HUB as obstacles that discourage an estimated 40 per cent of people from riding their bike.

Burnaby council recently approved spending more than $2 million to add to about $900,000 from TransLink to build a protected bike path on the west side of the overpass by the end of the year.

Joe Keithley, a Green Party councillor, said Burnaby has been able to act quickly on the project because a plan for the overpass came before council more than three years ago but was shelved.

Keithley said he and Mayor Mike Hurley, both elected last fall, wanted to do something as soon as possible to encourage cycling and sustainable transportation in Burnaby.

“We have to get more north-south and east-west bike paths in Burnaby,” he said. “We’re way behind Vancouver.”

The permanent changes to the road mean restricting motor vehicles to one north bound lane to create a 3.5-metre-wide path for pedestrians and northbound and southbound bikes. The lane closure would stretch from Myrtle Street to Dominion Street.

Keithley said the city lobbied the province to replace the overpass, which has been hit several times by trucks since the Trans Canada Highway was widened, but Victoria said it wasn’t going to spend millions of dollars on a new overpass for another 20 to 25 years.

“We thought this would be an expedient and economical way to help people,” Keithley said by phone.

“If you want to encourage a generation of cyclists, start them early. If you want to ride with your kid or grandson, you’d feel totally safe with this new plan.”

Erin O’Melinn, executive director of HUB Cycling, said research has shown that unsafe spots, such as the one on Gilmore, are the top reason that people are discouraged from riding a bike.

HUB calls them gaps in the map — specific locations where bike routes end abruptly without any safe alternative for cyclists.

Citing data from TransLink’s trip diary survey, O’Melinn said many people want to ride their bikes but are held back by unsafe and disconnected bike routes.

“There are gaps all over the region where people do not feel safe and there is no reasonable way to get from A to B,” O’Melinn said.

“Imagine if there were streets for cars that ended abruptly and you couldn’t get to where you had to go, and had to get out and walk your car.”

“It happens all the time when you’re on a bike. When we ungap the map, the region will have safe, direct, paved bikeways that will allow people of all ages and abilities to get where they want to go.”

HUB Biking has an interactive map identifying gaps in the cycling routes in Metro Vancouver. People can adopt gaps in their neighbourhood by making a $50 contribution to help “ungap the map,” or commuters can tell a story about why the gap matters to them.

HUB’s recent successes in eliminating some of the gaps in the map include a one-way protected bike lane along 80 Avenue from 128th Street to 132nd Street in Surrey and a commitment from Langley Township to match TransLink’s $500,000 to expand commuter bike lanes to include Murrayville.


Source link

7Apr

Popularity of electric bikes growing on city roads and bike paths

by admin

At first, David Mallory thought riding an electric bike was the equivalent of cheating.

Things started to change when his wife Deb bought one about nine years ago. She decided it was the best way to conquer the hill to their home on West 10th in Vancouver.

As she zoomed up the hill, Mallory remembers pedalling on his 21-speed bike as fast as he could, trying to catch her. She won every time.

So he took her bike for a ride. When he engaged the motor, he felt like he was defying gravity.

Mallory was hooked.

“It’s hard to believe I’ve had an electric bike for that long — since 2011,” he said. “Not once have I gone: ‘I wish I hadn’t bought a bike.’ I would never go back to a regular bike. It’s just so much more fun.”

The experience Mallory and his wife have had with their electric bike isn’t unusual in Metro Vancouver. As the number of cyclists riding bicycles for commuting and recreation continues to increase, the kind of bikes they are using is also changing. More people than ever are riding electric bicycles, which also have functional pedals.

Both David and Deb are 63 and very active. Not only do they ride their e-bikes, they swim, play tennis and golf.

David has become particularly conscious of the importance of staying active as a way to keep his symptoms of multiple sclerosis at bay.


David Mallory has an electric bike that he rides everywhere he can with his wife Deb.

Francis Georgian /

PNG

This year, for example, he couldn’t wait for the snow to melt so he could use bigger panniers (a pair of bags or containers) on his bike to carry groceries. He estimates he has ridden 200 km this year — including a couple of trips to Richmond.

The Mallories have just upgraded their bikes to new German-made Kalkhoff bikes from Cit-E-Cycles. They bought them on sale for about $4,000.

“You see a lot of older people, a lot of seniors, riding electric bikes,” said Mallory, who retired five years ago on disability. “We ride as much as we can. We’ll ride to Granville Island to pick up something and come back. It’s really been a huge thing for us.”

The growth in the sale of electric bikes around the world is the “largest and most rapid uptake of alternative-fuelled vehicles in the history of motorization,” according to the Transport Reviews article E-bikes in the mainstream.

China leads the world in e-bike sales, followed by Netherlands and Germany. In 10 years, more than 150 million e-bikes have been sold worldwide.

The article concluded that since market penetration is low in most countries, there is little evidence to suggest that the sale of electric bikes will slow in coming years.

One example of the growth in e-bikes in Metro Vancouver is Cit-E-Cycles. Since opening its first location in 2011, the company has expanded to four outlets in Vancouver, Surrey, Langley and Victoria.

Doug Sutton, sales and service manager at the West Broadway store, said e-bike technology has improved in the past few years.

A big part of the market used to be conversion kits to adapt regular bikes to electric bikes. More recently, the location of motors has moved from the front or back wheels to the centre of the bike, which provides power to the wheel via the chain drive. Batteries have become more efficient as well.

The top price for an electric bike in his store is $10,000, although Sutton said he recently had a special order for a $20,000 bike. He said the sweet spot for most e-bike sales is between $3,500 and $5,000.

Everyone from grandparents to college students are buying e-bikes, he said. One growing segment is parents buying large, extended “cargo” bikes to pick up their children from school.

“Most people are looking for all-rounders,” he said. “They’re looking to ride to work, or ride on a gravel track, and people who are on a budget looking for the least expensive bike.”


Doug Sutton, a manager at Cit-E-Cycles, with a Riese and Muller electric bike in Vancouver. Cit-E-Cycles is one of the larger electric bike retailers in Metro Vancouver.

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

Erin O’Melinn, executive director of bicycle advocacy group HUB Cycling, said while e-bikes represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the transportation market, she knows of no systemic estimate of their share of the overall bike numbers in Metro Vancouver.

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of people cycling to work increased from 4.4 per cent to 6.1 per cent, according to 2017 statistics from the City of Vancouver. More people ride to work in Vancouver than any other major city in the country.

Overall, the 2017 report card on walking and cycling said that “56 per cent of Vancouver residents are interested in cycling more often.

“This marks a significant increase citywide in a short period of time. In 2014, only 30 per cent of Vancouver residents were interested in cycling more often.”

O’Melinn said research into electric bikes and other micro-mobility devices such as scooters, mopeds and electric skateboards is in its infancy.

“HUB’s members have indicated a strong interest in this area and we are ramping up our efforts to understand how such technologies may be effectively encouraged and regulated to increase access to cycling to a broader range of ages, abilities and trip types,” she said by email.

Lon LaClaire, director of transportation for the City of Vancouver, believes electric bicycles have huge potential to create more cycling trips.

“We’re seeing it already with goods movements,” he said. The worker co-operative Shift Delivery in East Vancouver, he said, uses e-bikes.

“For others who don’t have the strength or don’t want to get sweaty, an e-bike is an option that previously wasn’t practical for them. … We’ll be looking at ways to support e-bikes.”

[email protected]


Biking in Metro Vancouver

• The City of Vancouver has a bike lane and path network of 322 km, 25 per cent of which are classed as top-AAA, which means for all ages and abilities. The longest segment is the 31.5 km seawall.

• Mobi, the City of Vancouver’s bike share, started in 2016 with 250 bikes at 23 stations. It now has 1,250 bikes in 125 stations. The goal is 1,500 bikes at 150 stations.

• Bike sharing has spread around Metro Vancouver. Locations include Richmond, Port Moody, and Port Coquitlam, and soon in Burnaby. On the North Shore, the City of North Vancouver is part of an initiative with the District of North Vancouver and West Vancouver to introduce electric bike share by this June.


What is an electric bike?

In B.C., an electric bike is a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with a seat, functional pedals and an electric motor of up to 500 watts. It can’t be gas powered or travel faster than 32 km/h on level ground without pedalling. Anyone riding an e-bike has to wear a helmet and be 16 years of age or older.


Biking in Vancouver: By the numbers

The City of Vancouver maintains automated bike counters at 10 locations around town, and reports monthly volumes rounded to the nearest thousand.

Science World

July 2013: 167,000

July 2014: 187,000

July 2015: 195,000

July 2016: 193,000

July 2017: 227,000

July 2018: 239,000

Union and Hawks

July 2013: 101,000

July 2014: *

July 2015: 115,000

July 2016: 111,000

July 2017: 120,000

July 2018: 127,000

Burrard Bridge

Jan 2010: 46,000

Jan 2011: 41,000

Jan 2012: 35,000

Jan 2013: 35,000

Jan 2014: 54,000

Jan 2015: 62,000

Jan 2016: 53,000

Jan 2017: 40,000

Jan 2018: 47,000

* Data not available due to technical problems with counter

Data from City of Vancouver’s automated bike counters are available online


A move to fill ‘gaps in the map’

Burnaby’s decision to eliminate an unsafe bottleneck for cyclists is an encouraging move toward creating a connected bike network in the region, says bicycle advocacy group HUB Cycling.

HUB says safer bike routes will in turn persuade more people to start riding bikes.

The big change coming for cyclists in Burnaby is on the Gilmore Overpass above the Trans Canada Highway. Built in 1964, the overpass is one of 400 spots in Metro Vancouver identified by HUB as obstacles that discourage an estimated 40 per cent of people from riding their bike.

Burnaby council recently approved spending more than $2 million to add to about $900,000 from TransLink to build a protected bike path on the west side of the overpass by the end of the year.

Joe Keithley, a Green Party councillor, said Burnaby has been able to act quickly on the project because a plan for the overpass came before council more than three years ago but was shelved.

Keithley said he and Mayor Mike Hurley, both elected last fall, wanted to do something as soon as possible to encourage cycling and sustainable transportation in Burnaby.

“We have to get more north-south and east-west bike paths in Burnaby,” he said. “We’re way behind Vancouver.”

The permanent changes to the road mean restricting motor vehicles to one north bound lane to create a 3.5-metre-wide path for pedestrians and northbound and southbound bikes. The lane closure would stretch from Myrtle Street to Dominion Street.

Keithley said the city lobbied the province to replace the overpass, which has been hit several times by trucks since the Trans Canada Highway was widened, but Victoria said it wasn’t going to spend millions of dollars on a new overpass for another 20 to 25 years.

“We thought this would be an expedient and economical way to help people,” Keithley said by phone.

“If you want to encourage a generation of cyclists, start them early. If you want to ride with your kid or grandson, you’d feel totally safe with this new plan.”

Erin O’Melinn, executive director of HUB Cycling, said research has shown that unsafe spots, such as the one on Gilmore, are the top reason that people are discouraged from riding a bike.

HUB calls them gaps in the map — specific locations where bike routes end abruptly without any safe alternative for cyclists.

Citing data from TransLink’s trip diary survey, O’Melinn said many people want to ride their bikes but are held back by unsafe and disconnected bike routes.

“There are gaps all over the region where people do not feel safe and there is no reasonable way to get from A to B,” O’Melinn said.

“Imagine if there were streets for cars that ended abruptly and you couldn’t get to where you had to go, and had to get out and walk your car.”

“It happens all the time when you’re on a bike. When we ungap the map, the region will have safe, direct, paved bikeways that will allow people of all ages and abilities to get where they want to go.”

HUB Biking has an interactive map identifying gaps in the cycling routes in Metro Vancouver. People can adopt gaps in their neighbourhood by making a $50 contribution to help “ungap the map,” or commuters can tell a story about why the gap matters to them.

HUB’s recent successes in eliminating some of the gaps in the map include a one-way protected bike lane along 80 Avenue from 128th Street to 132nd Street in Surrey and a commitment from Langley Township to match TransLink’s $500,000 to expand commuter bike lanes to include Murrayville.


Source link

3Mar

Annual Vancouver walk aims to raise $100K for women’s health in Malawi

by admin


More than 500 people turned out Sunday for the Walk in Her Shoes March at the Creekside Community Centre.


NICK PROCAYLO / PNG

Dozens of volunteers participated in the seventh annual Walk In Her Shoes campaign in Vancouver on Sunday, in hopes of raising $100,000 to support women’s and girls’ health in Malawi.

Spearheaded by CARE Canada, the walk seeks to raise awareness of the 10,000 steps, which is about six kilometres, a woman or girl must walk on average to collect water, food or firewood in developing countries around the world. As a result, young girls in these countries are put in danger or miss out on school, while women are left with little time to earn incomes.

“I was struck by the degree of hardship I witnessed in Malawi,” said Joanne Gassman, a CARE volunteer who visited the country in July 2018 to see first-hand CARE’s programs in action.

Nearly three million people don’t have enough to eat, about 68 per cent of women are illiterate, while one in four girls give birth to their first child between the ages of 15 and 19, said Gassman.

“When I saw the difference CARE’s program is making by teaching these courageous and proud people to become self-supporting, I was both touched and more determined than ever to raise the funds so desperately needed.”

Funds from this year’s walk will go toward CARE’s Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies initiative in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. The program works to improve women’s and babies’ nutrition by providing individual and group nutrition counselling and education, tools to plant community gardens, building water wells and systems to provide clean water access, and boosting a village savings and loans program.

Sunday’s event will be followed by a second walk hosted by students at local schools on March 8, which is also International Women’s Day.

[email protected]
twitter.com/stephanie_ip


The Walk in Her Shoes March on Sunday featured 500 people who plan to walk 10,000 steps from Creekside Community Centre to raise funds for women, girls and families in developing countries.

NICK PROCAYLO /

PNG


The Walk in Her Shoes March on Sunday featured 500 people who plan to walk 10,000 steps from Creekside Community Centre to raise funds for women, girls and families in developing countries.

NICK PROCAYLO /

PNG




Source link

28Feb

Daphne Bramham: First Nations’ solution to a modern, medical crisis

by admin

Ending Canada’s opioid overdose crisis will likely require much more than sophisticated drug therapies. In fact, it might mean following the lead of First Nations health-care providers and transforming how we think about and deliver medical services.

First Nations people are dying of opioid overdoses at three times the rate of the general population. Hidden in that data are Canada’s most-neglected victims — Indigenous women.

Unlike in the general population where men comprise 80 per cent of the victims, Indigenous women are as likely to overdose or die as their brothers, fathers, husbands and sons.

They are eight times more likely to overdose than other women, and five times more likely to die from an overdose.

It’s not really surprising, says Dr. Evan Adams, the First Nations Health Authority’s chief medical health officer. The terrible numbers track other devastating indicators of how their health and longevity diverge from those of other Canadians.

“A lot of First Nations women who have substance-use disorders are exploited women. They are women who are victimized by the sex trade. They’re victimized by their partners,” said Adams, who worked for five years in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside, the epicentre of Canada’s opioid crisis.

What the opioid crisis highlights for him is the endemic problem of the western medical model, where people go passively to doctors’ offices and say, “Heal me.”


Dr. Evan Adams is the Chief Medical Officer for the First Nations Health Authority.

Jason Payne /

PNG

“Our (First Nations) model is that the doctor gives you a chance to get better. But, you make yourself better,” he said. “It’s your family that does most of the work of helping you get better, not that doctor who you visit for 15 minutes every week, if you’re lucky.”

Unlike in the western model, healing and wellness in the traditional Indigenous way involve mind, body and spirit. For First Nations men and women to achieve wellness, Adams said they require much more than medicine.

“They need healers who can do ceremony. Maybe they need love. They need justice.

“How can a woman recover from opioid use disorder when you won’t let her see her children? It’s disgusting,” he said.

The day Adams and I met, the FNHA offices were being “swept” by a group of elders carrying cedar boughs and candles using traditional ceremonies to restore the spirits of the people who work there.

“Some people would say an elder is less trained in opioids than an addictions physician,” Adams said. “But wouldn’t it be nice to have both?”

It’s not that FNHA rejects modern medicine. It continues to expand access to opioid agonist treatments such as methadone and Suboxone, which quell cravings, making it available at all FNHA nursing stations and at four of the nine FNHA-funded residential treatment centres. FNHA reimburses treatment fees charged by private clinics and has spent $2.4 million in grants to 55 communities for harm-reduction programs.

Yet, for Adams and his staff, drug therapies are only a small part of what he calls harm reduction’s suite of services.


The Crosstown Clinic in downtown Vancouver.

JONATHAN HAYWARD /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

“Harm reduction is not just, ‘Let’s make sure you don’t overdose.’ It’s the whole person that you have to treat, not just this one aspect of the person that is craving opioids.”

To incorporate First Nations wisdom into other programs, FNHA created two peer coordinator jobs at the Crosstown Clinic in the Downtown Eastside. Its compassion inclusion initiative has engaged another 144 Indigenous people with lived experience across B.C., and its Indigenous wellness team has taught indigenous harm-reduction and wellness programs in 180 communities.

“Opioid use disorder is everyone’s business. It’s yours and it’s mine and it’s everyone around us. It’s not just the domain of physicians with 24 years of training,” he said. “Why can’t Grandma help, or a family member?”

What concerns Adams about the response to the opioid crisis that is heavily grounded in the medical model is that it could widen the gap between his people and mainstream Canadians.

Indigenous people don’t necessarily trust health providers who don’t look like them or where there is no acknowledgment of the historical trauma they have suffered and their unique experiences in the world.

That’s just one more reason why the FHNA, which is unique in Canada, is so adamant that it must transform the way health care is delivered to its people so that they are empowered to help in their own healing within their own circles of trusted friends, family and elders.

This current crisis is rooted in the western medical model. The seeds were sown by an aggressive marketing campaign by Purdue Pharma, which falsely promoted its Oxycodone as being non-addictive. What followed was an epidemic of opioid over-prescription by physicians and other health-care professionals that eventually created a demand for synthetic opioids on the black market.

With so many deaths and no end in sight, this might be the time for all of us to reconsider whether the best responses to this crisis ought to be done within a much broader context of healing and an expanded understanding of what wellness really means.

[email protected]

Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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