Category "Women"


Town Talk: Chinese community raises $4.1 M for Children’s Hospital

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ANOTHER RECORD: First-time co-chairs Carman Chan, Isabel Hsieh and Pao Yao Koo hit a home run when the Chinese community’s 24th annual For Children We Care gala reportedly raised a record $4.1 million. That will go toward a $14-million campaign for relocating the development-and-rehabilitation Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children to the B.C. Children’s Hospital’s main campus.

Carman Chan, Isabel Hsieh and Pao Yao Koo chaired a Versailles-themed gala to reportedly raise $4.1 million for the Sunny Hill Centre for Children.

Malcolm Parry /


Last year’s event brought in close to $$3.4 million, which exceeded 2017’s by $836,000. Contrasting the hospital’s fiscal prudence, the gala’s theme was Versailles, the extravagant palace and estate that helped bankrupt 18th-century France and send King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette to the guillotine. Conductor Ken Hsieh and the Metropolitan Orchestra entertained gala-goers with music from Parisian Jacques Offenbach’s 1858 Orpheus In The Underworld that also enlivens the cancan dance. Happily, the gala’s fundraising co-chairs proved that they could-could and did-did.

Third-time For Children We Care gala presenter Ben Yeung saw Open Road dealer Christian Chia display a $500,000 Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV.

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FOR PAINT JOBS WE CARE: Open Road auto dealer Christian Chia showed a $500,000-range Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV at the For Children We Care gala. Viewers included the event’s third-time presenter, Peterson development firm executive chair-CEO Ben Yeung. Few buyers of the off-road-capable Cullinan would likely subject its flawless, porcelain-like surface to damage along bush-and-rock-flanked trails. Ditto when parking by night in certain DTES zones, including one where developer-to-be Yeung located his fresh-from-varsity dental practice.

Hometown Star recipient Jim Pattison was feted by Premier John Horgan but hasn’t hire him to a top job as he did a predecessor, Glen Clark.

Malcolm Parry /


STARRED: Local self-made billionaire Jim Pattison and entertainers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have received Hometown Stars from the Canada Walk of Fame organization. The local ceremony followed a flossier one in Toronto where Paul Anka and investments supremo Warren Buffett serenaded Pattison with Frank Sinatra’s My Way. Rogan and Goldberg were lauded here by fellow walk-of-famer Howie Mandel. Also by teacher Mike Keenlyside from Point Grey Secondary where their stars will be embedded. Of their alma mater, “Everybody needs to know that Seth was a dropout and didn’t graduate,” Goldberg cracked.

Entertainers Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg received Canada Walk of Fame stars that will be embedded at their Point Grey Secondary alma mater.

Malcolm Parry /


Howie Mandel and chef-restaurateur Vikram Vij attended a ceremony for city-raised billionaire Jim Pattison and entertainers Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg.

Malcolm Parry /


When John Oliver Secondary grad and legendary toiler Pattison was asked if he really ought to be at work during daylight, he replied: “The answer is: Yes.” As for working for Pattison as former NDP premier Glen Clark does, successor John Horgan said: “I’ve got a job right now, but that’s an option.” That option would doubtless pay more than his current $205,400.16 salary. Meanwhile, Horgan and others might heed Pattison’s words: “Do the little things well and the big things will follow.”

Long-time Bella Bella resident Ian McAllister directed and Seaspan principal Kyle Washington executive-produced the Great Bear Rainforest Imax film.

Malcolm Parry /


BEAR FACTS: Another billionaire hit town recently. That was Seaspan Marine Corp. head Dennis Washington whose US$6-billion-range net worth is close to Pattison’s but whose 332-foot yacht Atessa IV overpowers the latter’s 150-foot Nova Spirit. Washington arrived for the premiere of Great Bear Rainforest, an Imax movie executive-produced by his son and Seaspan ULC executive chair, Kyle. Its director, Ian McAllister, met the younger Washington three years ago at a luncheon for the Pacific Wild Foundation that McAllister co-founded. Rather than conventional digital shooting, three-decade Bella Bella resident McAllister argued for Imax’s costlier 70mm film system that promises worldwide access to young audiences. The picture’s own young characters include Mercedes Robinson, who lives in 350-population Klemtu and retrieves DNA from trees where bears scratch themselves. Of her debut movie role, Robinson said: “You can get a lot of information from bears … who are guardians of the eco-system and have the ability to make it thrive and make the land more healthy.” When grown up, “I hope to provide information to the younger generation so that they protect the (bears’) territory and save it from those taking it from them.”

B.C. Women’s Hospital Foundation CEO Genesa Greening and board chair Karim Kassam fronted a $300,000 fundraiser for chronic-disease diagnosis.

Malcolm Parry /


NEED FOR SPEED: B.C. Women’s Hospital Foundation president-CEO Genesa Greening and board chair Karim Kassam reported $300,000 was raised at the recent Illuminations luncheon. That’s where guests were illuminated regarding thousands of women plagued by slow-to-diagnose health concerns. A tenfold increase in research funding is said to be needed to address complex chronic diseases that are up to nine times likelier to affect women than men.

Aide de camp and former Vancouver police inspector, Bob Usui, escorted Lieutenant-Governor Jane Austin at a B.C. Women’s Hospital Foundation fundraiser.

Malcolm Parry /


MEADOW MONEY: Attending the luncheon, the B.C. lieutenant-governor and former Women’s Hospital Foundation board member, Janet Austin, called the hospital’s researchers “some of the best in the world.” Then, pointing to retired Vancouver police inspector Bob Usui, who is one of her 35 ceremonial aides de camp, she told guests: “People think he is the lieutenant-governor, not me.” Her joke likely reminded some of an earlier LG, David Lam, who claimed that children sometimes misheard his title as “left-handed governor.” As for research-funding, Austin sounded in tune with rancher-predecessor Judith Guichon by saying: “Money is like manure — no good if it isn’t spread.”

Gillian Siddall was installed as president and vice-chancellor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design’s still-new False Creek Flats campus.

Malcolm Parry /


NEW CARR: Bonhomie, not money, was spread on Great Northern Way recently with Gillian Siddall’s induction as Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s second president and vice-chancellor.  She succeeds 22-year incumbent Ron Burnett who oversaw the much-enlarged academy’s move from Granville Island.

DOWN PARRYSCOPE: February 23 is International Dog Biscuit Day or, for humans taking a mouthful, World Sword Swallowers Day.

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Daphne Bramham: B.C. opioid deaths up despite spending millions

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2018 was British Columbia’s deadliest year for illicit drug overdose deaths despite the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into mitigating the continuing public health crisis.

An average of four British Columbians died each day, a rate that has resulted in a drop in the predicted life expectancy for everyone living here.

British Columbia — and Vancouver, in particular — is the centre of the national crisis even though it has long been the testing ground for harm-reduction strategies that have included free needles, supervised injection sites and opioid replacement therapies including methadone, Suboxone and, more recently, pharmaceutical grade heroin.

B.C. has led Canada in getting free naloxone — the antidote for opioid overdoses — into the hands of emergency responders and users. It has set up free drug-testing sites.

Earlier this year, the City of Vancouver funded an expansion of a pilot project to provide pharmaceutical-grade heroin to users on the Downtown Eastside. Soon, addicts may be able to get their daily dose from vending machines.

Yet, the number of the dead hasn’t decreased, it’s only plateaued.

Also unchanged are the characteristics of the majority who died. Men aged 30 to 59 made up 80 per cent of the dead. Of those who died, 86 per cent were at home alone. Four out of every five had contact with the health care system within a year of their deaths, with 45 per cent reporting having pain. Of those dead men, 44 per cent were employed in the trades, transport or service industries.

But Vancouver is unique. It has the highest rate of overdose deaths and those deaths are concentrated in the Downtown Eastside in the low-barrier shelters, supportive housing units and SRO rooming houses that exist cheek-by-jowl with supervised injection sites, naloxone stations and testing sites.

Heading into the fourth year of a public health emergency, politicians need to set a new course.

The course that Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s chief medical health officer, plans to recommend is even more harm reduction. She said it will include “de facto decriminalization,” more pharmaceutical grade heroin, more drug testing sites, more Suboxone, more naloxone, more supervised injection sites.

On Thursday, Henry did admit that her plan will require that she “evaluate it effectively so that there are not unintended consequences.”

Chief among those unintended consequences is that if British Columbia goes it alone, it would be at risk of becoming even more of a magnet for users from across Canada, even from other countries. What drug user, let alone addict, could resist the allure of free, pharmaceutical grade drugs?

There is also a financial risk to going it alone. Last year, British Columbians’ bill for methadone and Suboxone was $90 million. The number of people on the opioid replacement therapy had risen to 22,012 people from 11,377 in 2009 and is predicted to double again by 2020-21.

British Columbians are already paying for more than 300 people who get injectable hydromorphone (pharmaceutical heroin) daily at a cost of approximately $25,000 a person every year and in January, 50 Vancouverites were enrolled in a pilot program where they get it in the cheaper pill form, which they then crush and inject under supervision.

Police speak to a man and woman on East Hastings in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Thursday, Feb 7, 2019. More people fatally overdosed in British Columbia last year compared with 2017 despite efforts to combat the province’s public health emergency, the coroner says.



While a provincial strategy is needed, the crisis isn’t unique to B.C. From 2016 until June 2018, more than 9,000 Canadians have died of overdoses largely from fentanyl-laced drugs.

The opioid crisis isn’t just a big city problem. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, hospitalization rates were 2.5 times higher in small communities of 50,000 to 100,000 compared with Canada’s largest cities.

Across Canada, hospitalization for opioid-related poisoning has risen 27 per cent in the past five years to an average of 17 a day.

While there is no good data on damage suffered by survivors of near-fatal overdoses, it’s estimated that 90 per cent of drug-overdose patients in intensive care have some sort of brain trauma. The trauma ranges from temporary memory loss to complete loss of brain function.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe, left, looks on as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference about the release of the latest provincial statistics by the BC Coroners Service at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 7, 2019.



A comprehensive national plan is required. But it must focus not only on keeping people alive, but on helping them to get healthy.

Decriminalization — as opposed to legalization — might be part of the answer. Certainly, evidence from Portugal, which was the first in the world to decriminalize possession of small amounts of all drugs, indicates that it can be effective.

But Portugal’s success has come only because decriminalization is accompanied by strict enforcement of the amounts that individuals can possess as well as a dissuasion system that provides both a carrot and a stick to get users into treatment.

The opioid crisis is complicated. It’s been fuelled by over-prescription of highly effective pain reducing synthetic opiates, whose manufacturer convinced physicians that it wasn’t addictive.

Those synthetics then made their way to the street and while some users are unaware that their illicit drugs are laced with fentanyl, others go looking for its intense and often fatal high.

So far, staunching the flow of those drugs on to the street has proven to be little more effective than the harm reduction measures aimed at keeping users safe.

For this crisis to abate, there needs to concerted efforts on all fronts by all governments. It won’t be cheap, but then neither is the alternative.

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Smoke from wildfire is like a ‘chemical soup,’ says fire researcher

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VANCOUVER — Inhaling smoke from a wildfire can be equal to smoking a couple of packs of cigarettes a day depending on its thickness, says a researcher studying wildfires in Western Canada.

Mike Flannigan, a professor with the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta, said the smoke is like a “chemical soup” that can be trapped in the lungs and cause a number of health issues.

“They are all kinds of particles, mercury, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane … there’s a whole long list.”

Depending on the size of the particles, they get trapped in the lungs, accumulate over time and cause “all kinds of problems,” Flannigan said.

“The more we are finding out about smoke and health, the more we are finding out it is bad for us, which isn’t a surprise but its worse than we thought.”

Sarah Henderson, a senior environmental health scientist at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, said the smaller the particles, the worse they are.

Both Flannigan and Henderson will make presentations at the BC Lung Association’s annual workshop on air quality and health on Wednesday.

Their presentation is timely after extreme wildfire seasons in British Columbia in 2017 and 2018. Smoke from forest fires last year reached Atlantic Canada and even as far away as Ireland.

Emissions vary depending on the differences in fuel, burning conditions and other environmental factors, Flannigan said.

The spread hinges on how high smoke and fire columns rise. Winds can carry the particles north to Europe and Asia, across the world and back again, Flannigan said.

“They can travel long distances for long periods of time.”

Henderson said most people living in polluted places face a risk of chronic diseases and slightly shorter life expectancy but that data comes from cities such as New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world.

The air quality in British Columbia is “extremely good” except for a few weeks during wildfire season, she said.

“If we have a season like 2017 and 2018, year after year for the next 20 years, we probably will have a health impact on the population but we don’t know what that will be yet,” Henderson said.

People should protect themselves from the smoke by spending time indoors, using air filters and not exercising strenuously when outside, she said.

In 2017, the area burned in B.C. was 12,000 square kilometres, which was a record until last summer when 13,000 square kilometres of the province was consumed by fire. The B.C. government declared a state of emergency for both seasons.

The intensity of wildfires, as shown through remote sensing, is also increasing, Flannigan said, noting that as fuels get drier it is easier for fires to start and spread.

And the wildfire season is also starting much sooner, he said.

In Alberta the wildfire season used to begin April 1 but it’s now starting March 1 and is lasting longer.

“In Canada our area burned has doubled since the 1970s. And my colleagues and I attribute this to — I can’t be any clearer — human-caused climate change,” he said. “Our climate is changing and this has affected fire activity in Canada, western United States and other parts of the world.”

The last two years saw over four per cent of forested area burn in B.C. and the province is nowhere close to exhausting how much can burn, Flannigan said.

Historically, he said, it would have been unlikely that the province would have seen a third bad fire season.

“But its entirely possible,” he said.

Climate change is making the jet stream weaker, which is causing hot, dry summer days, which are conducive to fire activity, he said.

“Will things get worse? Absolutely. Not every year. Some years will be cooler, some years will be wetter,” Flannigan said.

“On an average we’re going to see a lot more fire, and they’re going to be longer fire seasons, more intense, and the primary reason why climate change influences fire activity is that the warmer it gets the more fire we see.”

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Good sex is all in your head, says The Wellness Show speaker

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The Wellness Show

When: Feb. 2 and 3, 10 a.m.

Where: Vancouver Convention Centre West

Tickets and info: From $12.50 at thewellnessshow.com

Now in its 27th year, The Wellness Show is once again offering up experts to help you do a better job at almost everything; from getting off carbs, getting your morning off to a good start, and, well, getting it on.

The latter on that list is the focus of the presentation: Mind-Knowing Sex is Mind-Blowing Sex: Using Mindfulness to Cultivate Sexual Desire(Feb. 3, 11 a.m.) as part of the two-day Women and Wellness Seminar Series.

Bringing that bit of Buddhism to the bedroom is University of B.C. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology professor and psychologist Dr. Lori A. Brotto, who is also the author of the book Better Sex Through Mindfulness.

Brotto’s book and Wellness Show presentation is the culmination of 15 years of incorporating mindfulness into her sexual health research and clinical work with patients.

Dr. Lori A. Brotto.


“It is just a powerful strategy for teaching people to be in the here and the now,” said Brotto.

“So many people with sexual problems talk about a disconnect with their body.”

Brotto’s accessible and interesting text — the book is not an expanded academic paper —  moves between hard research, anecdotal examples and practical exercises to help make the sexual experience more enjoyable and engaging for women.

Of course the big O (orgasm not Oprah) is a major player in the conversation about better sex.

“In every study we have done there’s been a significant improvement in ease of reaching orgasm and intensity. It makes a lot of sense,” said Brotto.

“What is orgasm? It is extension of arousal. Because in mindfulness you are really paying attention to the body sensations and really paying attention to when arousal is increasing and mounting and where in the body the arousal is. It’s completely logical then that orgasm would be a natural result of that.”

If you have been awake at all in the last few years you will have undoubtedly heard about mindfulness. The practice has surpassed its spiritual realm and set up shop in the mainstream.

“It (mindfulness) is not just something Buddhist monks do in a cave,” said Brotto.

“It’s hot Western health care, big time. Not just mental health care but also medical health care. Cancer agencies run mindfulness groups because of the data showing mindfulness slows tumour progression. Healthy heart programs run mindfulness  groups because of the affects of mindfulness on regulating heart patterns and arrhythmia, etc. So it has hit big time.

“I think one of the big strengths is that it isn’t just a passing fad because the science really stands up to the claims,” added Brotto.

“We have strong data that shows how it works and why it works and also where in the brain it works, too.”


You know what else works? Talking about sex. But sadly we don’t do it enough as women. There still seems to be a shyness or shame factor that stops women from seeking out conversations about sex.

Brotto says data shows men who develop erectile dysfunction do not hesitate to ask their family doctor what’s up with their non-performing penis. She says, after all, “we live in a culture that prizes men’s erections.”

One of the reasons women may balk at talking with their doctor about bad sex is that women often just accept it.

“I think women do need to be a bit more intolerant of difficulties at least as far as talking to health care providers and saying: ‘is this normal? Is there anything I can do? Or should I just accept it?” said Brotto.

“We have so much more comfort having sex than we have comfort talking about it.”

Brotto hopes her book and public appearances will nudge women towards more open dialogues about sex and female sexual dysfunction. It really can be a big factor to enjoying a healthy, happy life, she says.

“The sex conversation is critical, because sex isn’t just this isolated thing that people do recreationally. It is so heavily intertwined with sense of self, mood and relationship satisfaction, fundamentally self esteem,” said Brotto.

“We know countless studies have shown that when there are problems sexually all those different domains start to take a toll as well. It is a fundamental aspect of quality of life, and so in the same way we take very seriously our physical health we have to pay attention to sexual health, too.”

While Brotto is encouraging more women to talk about sex, she says health professionals may not be giving enough attention to the topic of female sexual dysfunction. But she hopes that as more women take ownership of their sex life and  ask questions more doctors will look for answers, and conversations will occur.

“But what we are not seeing though is an improvement in doctors talking about it. Doctors getting trained in it,” said Brotto.

“Accessibility to treatment that’s what we’re not seeing. So that will probably be a downstream affect but definitely the conversation around this and also around agency is important. Women saying: ‘I value my sex life. It’s important to me.’ And consent and conversations around pleasure are very important. That is where things like the #metoo movement have really benefited that conversation.”

Brotto hopes attendees of her lecture at the Wellness Show, and those who pick up her book, will benefit from her research.

“Sexual desire, all of the science has taught us it is responsive,” said Brotto.

“It’s something that can be cultivated. It is something that can emerge. It’s not that you are born with a set level of desire and you’re just sort of stuck with that for the rest of your life and so if it goes down you just have to learn to live with it.”

Brotto says we need to get through our heads that desire, like happiness, can be cultivated. So if we really pay attention in the moment in a non-judgmental fashion we can make our desire more responsive to our environment.

Brotto is just one of 100 or so guest speakers/chefs/fitness demos that are on hand for show goers. The Convention Centre floor is also teeming with around 250 vendors.

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Alzheimer Awareness Months targets stigma around disease

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Lisa Glanville, left, is the daughter of and caregiver for her mother Ollie, who has dementia.

Arlen Redekop / PNG

One of the biggest stigmas around dementia is that you’re going to develop the disease if you grow old, according to seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie.

For January’s Alzheimer Awareness Month, Mackenzie said the biggest stereotype she wants to break down is the belief that the majority of British Columbians 85 and older have dementia. They don’t.

“If you look at age 85 and over, 20 per cent do have a diagnosis of dementia — but four out of five don’t,” Mackenzie said Monday.

When it comes to nursing homes, most people might think that every resident has dementia or Alzheimer’s. In fact, about 35 per cent don’t and two-thirds have only mild cognitive impairment, she said.

Mackenzie said dementia is a spectrum. Someone who is diagnosed with dementia may be fully competent in some areas but not in others. In some cases, a person may never go on to develop full dementia.

“It’s a journey,” she said.


In B.C. in 2018 about 70,000 people were living with dementia. By 2033, that’s expected to increase to almost 120,000.

Experts don’t believe the rate of dementia is changing. Instead, the numbers are increasing because there are more older people living longer than ever before.

The aim of this year’s Alzheimer Awareness Month is to eliminate the stigma around the disease by changing attitudes. Events culminate on Jan. 31 with a two-hour open house starting at 3 p.m. at the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Resource Centre, 301 — 828 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver.

Lisa Glanville and her mother Ollie enjoy a walk in the Vancouver sunshine.

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One family dealing with the affects of dementia is that of Lisa Glanville and her mother Ollie, 82.

Glanville said her mother worked for years as the property manager of Vancouver apartment buildings she owned after her husband died. She also worked as a bartender at the Billy Bishop Legion in Kitsilano.

Glanville said she’s seen stigma directed against her mother when she went to an estate planner and explored options for nursing homes. She was told that it didn’t matter because her mother’s dementia meant she wouldn’t remember anything.

Glanville said the most challenging times for her was before her mother was officially diagnosed. When she found out that her grandfather died of Alzheimer’s, she wondered if her mother had it. Initially, her mother passed tests measuring her cognitive abilities.

But Glanville noticed that things were starting to go awry. One day, she discovered that her mother’s online accounts were locked because someone had unsuccessfully tried to access them.

On another occasion, her mother showed her a cup with five of her molars in it. She’d never told her daughter she had any problem with her teeth.

“I thought: ‘Whoa, what is going on here?’” Glanville said.


The clincher was a visit to the dentist.

“The receptionist said to me after my mom went in. ‘Can I give you some advice?’. I said ‘sure.’ ’Have you got enduring power of attorney yet for her Alzheimer’s?’”

Since Glanville is an only child, her mother’s well being become her responsibility. As part of her efforts to seek help, she started attending monthly Alzheimer caregivers support group meetings at the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

“The validation is incredible,” she said.

Morgan Donahue, support and education coordinator at the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Vancouver Resource Centre, said she believes that there is a lot of shame associated with a diagnosis of dementia.

She said the stigma can even discourage people from getting a diagnosis or even telling people they have been diagnosed.

In a survey by the Alzheimer Society in 2018, one in five Canadians said they would feel ashamed or embarrassed if they had dementia; one in five admitted to using derogatory or stigmatizing language about dementia.

“I’ve heard so many family members say they wish their family member had cancer because there is so much more of an understanding and acceptance of cancer than this disease,” Donahue said.

An early diagnosis can mean the person is displaying few, if any, symptoms at first.

“This disease is often so invisible, as with other mental health challenges.”

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Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is aiming to address stigma around Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

Arlen Redekop /


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While Remembrance Day is about honour, it can trigger tough emotions for some veterans

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Angela Ayre proudly served in the Canadian military for 14 years until an injury forced her to resign prematurely. Her transition to civilian life was relatively smooth compared to many of her colleagues. Yet the mention of Remembrance Day brings a visceral response of grief and regret.

“It’s definitely a difficult time. It’s hard that I’m still here and other people have lost their lives. And some people have lost their family. It is absolutely a hard time,” says Ayre, 35, pausing to stifle tears.

“(Remembrance Day) is a time to grieve and mourn, but also a time to celebrate.”

That conflict brews inside many active and retired military personnel at this time of year, experts say. While wearing poppies and attending parades on Nov. 11 are ways for Canadians to show respect and gratitude, these events can trigger dark feelings in veterans.

Angela Ayre at the Military Family Resource Centre in Vancouver.

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In April, the federal government committed $147 million over six years to expand the Veteran Family Program to help medically released veterans, and their families, with the often difficult transition from active service to post-military life. These veterans, who retired due to physical or mental health challenges, can now get help from the 32 Military Family Resource Centres across Canada, which offer a range of services, including a new mental health first aid course.

Ayre helps coordinate these courses in B.C., provide the veterans, their relatives and their close friends with skills to respond to drug overdoses, suicidal behaviour, panic attacks, psychosis and acute stress.

While she grappled with “losing her identity” when medically released from the military, the former medic at least knew where to go for help. But the transition hasn’t been as easy for most of her friends.

“We get stuck in an area where we don’t know what else to do. Career-wise, job-wise, we just feel lost. For a lot of people, the suicide rate has gone up. That’s a big concern. So mental health is absolutely crucial in the transition,” Ayre said.

There are more than 22,000 former members of the army, navy and air force receiving federal disability payments for a mental health diagnosis, a number that has jumped by 60 per cent in just four years. Three-quarters of those veterans have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Veterans Affairs Canada.

It may not necessarily be the case that more veterans are suffering mental health problems, but rather that increased public dialogue and improved social acceptance have encouraged more people to come forward to ask for help, said Oliver Thorne, executive director of Veterans Transition Network.

Oliver Thorne.

The non-governmental, charitable organization, which for 20 years has helped veterans adjust to the civilian world, runs two dozen group sessions each year across Canada, including four in B.C. Interest in the courses, which last 10 days spread over several weekends, peak in the fall, Thorne said.

“We definitely see a spike around Remembrance Day of the number who reach out and ask for help,” he said. “Remembrance Day for those of us who are civilians, it is a celebration, a hope that we honour those who served us. For veterans, the remembering is much more personal.

“What we hear from the people who take our programs is that Remembrance Day is a very personal reminder of the things they’ve encountered and the people they’ve lost.”

The Network, formed in 1997 by a University of B.C. counselling professor, Marv Westwood, has offered the 10-day courses for a decade to address issues such as anger, trouble sleeping, feeling down, avoiding public places, dissatisfaction with civilian workplaces, and “seeking out the adrenalin rush of dangerous situations.”

Academics have tracked participants after course completion and report improvements to their health, including an 80 per cent drop in suicidal thoughts, depression symptoms cut in half, and one in three saying self-esteem had increased.

Veterans in Vancouver who took a Veterans Transition Network course in 2018 to help ease their way into the civilian world.


It is not clear exactly how many former and current military members have mental health problems. The number could be much higher than the more than 22,000 receiving mental health disability payments. A recent report by Canada’s veterans ombudsman, Guy Parent, harshly criticized Ottawa for the length of time it takes to grant disability benefits to former soldiers who have applied.

It is hoped that people who need help will come forward now that more services are being offered by community agencies and that mental health is being spoken about more frequently in public, said Tracy Cromwell, executive director of the Military Family Resource Centre in Vancouver.

“Not everyone who is releasing out of the military is broken,” she said. “Most people probably go through transition quite successfully. But there are people (who need help) and we are having trouble finding them.”

Tracy Cromwell.

She hopes the new mental health first aid course will help, noting it is provided free by her non-profit centre and other locations in Canada. So far in B.C., courses have been held in Vancouver in June and Langley in September, with more scheduled for Chilliwack in November and Prince George, Kelowna and Vancouver in the near future.

The course, developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada with assistance from veterans, aims to teach how to have conversations about mental illness, how to recognize the most common challenges, and how to decrease stigma and discrimination. It also encourages participants to be willing to help others with problems such as drug use, mood swings, psychoses, and trauma.

“The same way that you or I might attend a first aid course to learn how to take care of a sprained ankle or to stop the bleeding when someone has been cut … we have never really had the opportunity to look at mental health in the same way,” Cromwell said.

Statistics show that nearly 60 per cent of veterans collecting disability benefits for a mental health condition are married or have a common-law partner.

That is one of the reasons Veterans Affairs Canada decided this year to allow medically released veterans and their relatives and close friends to access services at the country’s 32 Military Family Resource Centres, which had previously been open only to active service members and their families. Cromwell’s Vancouver location serves all of mainland B.C., while there are two other centres on Vancouver Island, in Comox and Esquimalt.

“Anything that affects the veteran or the serving member is going to affect their family,” Cromwell said. “It could be their parents, it could be their spouse, it could be children, or it could be a really close friend.”

The courses are also open to people who work or volunteer with former military members, especially with those who are medically released and who often have more trouble adjusting than those who leave military duty of their own volition.

“When a person is released, it is very difficult, and a lot of us do have mental health problems or issues we are trying to deal with and the family is the one that gets first-hand experience of what that’s like,” said Ayre, who works part-time in the Vancouver resource centre.

Ayre entered the military from high school and served from 2001 to 2015, first as a medic and then a clerk. But she was medically discharged after an accident badly injured her back and neck, and she found it hard to adjust to life as a civilian.

After taking the first aid course in June, though, Ayre said it helped her to better relate to her own struggles, those of her former colleagues, and also the veterans who she sees in her office at the Military Family Resource Centre in Vancouver. 

“A lot of people with mental health issues, they don’t know how to ask for help because they are stuck in whatever they are going through,” she said. “A lot of my friends and veterans are going through the mental health issues themselves, so it just helped me be a better coordinator at my job and helps me better understand my personal life as well.”

Most of the veterans collecting mental health disability payments from the federal government are male and most commonly 40 to 59 years old.

Nancy Szastkiw, the family liaison officer for the Military Family Resource Centre in Vancouver, says the relatives and friends of struggling soldiers often tell her they notice moodiness, distraction and insomnia in their loved ones — especially in late fall and early winter.

“From the end of October to the end of January are trigger times,” said Szastkiw, a clinical counsellor. The triggers include Remembrance Day, Christmas, and the fact that there were a high number of casualties in those months in Afghanistan during several tours of duty.

“Remembrance Day brings it out because the idea is remembering the fallen, and (these veterans) are not remembering history — they are remembering in their own life,” she said.

The advice Szastkiw offers to these families is to talk to loved ones openly about how they are feeling when approaching a difficult time period, and to “try to be more patient and compassionate at these times.”

And to remember that the poppy is a sign of gratitude and respect, but also one that can bring back difficult memories.

For more information about the mental health first aid courses, email [email protected].

[email protected]

Twitter: @loriculbert

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Town Talk: Record $1.5 million raised for Canuck Place Children’s Hospice

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Karley Rice, Shanni Eckford and Merideth Schutter co-chaired the 14th-annual Gift of Time gala that reportedly raised a record $1.5 million to benefit Canuck Place Children's Hospice patients and programs.

Karley Rice, Shanni Eckford and Merideth Schutter co-chaired the 14th-annual Gift of Time gala that reportedly raised a record $1.5 million to benefit Canuck Place Children’s Hospice patients and programs.

Malcolm Parry / PNG

GIFT INDEED: Chaired by Shanni Eckford, Karley Rice and Merideth Schutter, the 14th annual Gift of Time gala reportedly raised a record $1.5 million for the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. Its title had special significance for Cherie Ehlert, a support worker at the posAbilities Association of B.C. that serves those with development disabilities. In her case, the gift of time applies to daughter and Canuck Place occupant Charlie, who contracted spinal muscular atrophy at age six months. “She was given three months to live then,” Ehlert recalled. “Now she’s nine, and they have developed treatment for her that they never had before.”

Cherie Ehlert, whose daughter Charlie has spent all but six months of her nine years at Canuck place, was feted by medical director Dr. Hal Siden.

Cherie Ehlert, whose daughter Charlie has spent all but six months of her nine years at Canuck place, was feted by medical director Dr. Hal Siden.

Malcolm Parry /


Ehlert well knows Canuck Place’s Detroit-raised medical director and UBC pediatrics clinical professor, Hal Siden, who recalled an odd personal-development practice. It entailed a grandfather teaching him bow-tie knotting, with every error penalized by Siden swallowing a shot of bourbon. The practice likely continued at Siden’s University of Michigan-Ann Arbor alma mater, but not as part of the curriculum.

Luminesque Dance performers surrounded Boobyball organizer Kelly Townsend when the second-annual event benefitted Rethink Breast Cancer.

Luminesque Dance performers surrounded Boobyball organizer Kelly Townsend when the second-annual event benefitted Rethink Breast Cancer.

Malcolm Parry /


JINGLE-JANGLE-JINGLE: The Boobyball’s rip-roaring launch last year spurred Speedo swimwear salesperson Kelly Townsend to repeat it. Restaged at the Main-off-Hastings Imperial, the event reportedly raised $48,000 for the Rethink Breast Cancer charity that “responds to the unique needs of young women going through it. Western-attired under-40s yippie-ki-yayed, rode a mechanical bull, watched a Luminesque Dance performance, and doubtless hoped that breast cancer will be vanquished well within those young dancers’ lifetimes.

TV host Todd Talbot and Kim Wing tried a Kohler tub as hard as what 50 outdoor sleepers will endure while raising some $900,000 for Covenant House.

TV host Todd Talbot and Kim Wing tried a Kohler tub as hard as what 50 outdoor sleepers will endure while raising some $900,000 for Covenant House.

Malcolm Parry /


STREET DREAMS: 50 successful persons are raising at least $15,000 each in order to sleep on concrete pavement on Nov. 15. Covenant House development officer Kim Wing said the Sleep Out: Executive Edition event should raise $900,000 for the organization’s 59-bed crisis program that assists homeless and at-risk youth. At a preamble event hosted by actor TV-host Todd Talbot in Kohler’s Broadway-at-Fir showroom, Wing admitted she’ll catch no shut-eye herself that night: “I’m the security, and its humbling to see executives sleeping outside, knowing that, through the wall, are the youth they are supporting.”

ON A ROLL: Nonchalantly eyeballing a row of important plumbing fixtures at Talbot’s reception, the Covenant House supporter and Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel general manager, Sascha Voth, said: “We’ve got over 1,000 of these Kohler toilets in the hotel.”

Odd Squad Productions originals Toby Hinton and Al Arsenault saw a 20th anniversary event follow the Understanding Fentanyl guide for B.C. schools.

Odd Squad Productions originals Toby Hinton and Al Arsenault saw a 20th anniversary event follow the Understanding Fentanyl guide for B.C. schools.

Malcolm Parry /


STAYIN’ ALIVE: Twenty years ago, Al Arsenault, Toby Hinton and a small group of other Vancouver police officers founded the Odd Squad. With the National Film Board, they documented their on-the-street activities with drug users in a 52-minute movies called Through A Blue Lens. Arsenault retired, Hinton is now a sergeant, and other active and retired coppers have joined Odd Squad Productions. The focus on drug abuse remains, most recently in the Understanding Fentanyl resource guide for every B.C. school. Rather than lecture youths, who die at home more often than on the streets, it hopes to “demonstrate an understanding of (fentanyl’s) danger in our communities.” At a recent fundraising gala, Hinton said a guide and 35-minute video titled Understanding Police Use of Force will follow, co-produced by the Canadian Police Association.

Launa Hinton, Howie Hoang and other Police Judo Demo Team members performed at Odd Squad Productions' Back on Track fundraiser.

Launa Hinton, Howie Hoang and other Police Judo Demo Team members performed at Odd Squad Productions’ Back on Track fundraiser.

Malcolm Parry /


Gala entertainers included the Police Judo Demo Team with Hinton’s black-belt daughter Launa throwing brown-belt member Howie Hoang around. Watching raptly, young girls may have imagined doing the same to their brothers.

ALLEY ECLAT: The HCMA Architecture + Design firm  has received a National Urban Design Award for its More Awesome Now Laneway Activation project that does much to enhance shabby downtown alleys.

Sheida Shakib-Zadeh was honored by Carol Hagan, Mary Jane Devine and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Rockin' For Research attendees.

Sheida Shakib-Zadeh was honored by Carol Hagan, Mary Jane Devine and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Rockin’ For Research attendees.

Malcolm Parry /


THAT’S COMMITMENT: Charity gala chairs sometimes serve second or third terms. Then there’s Mary Jane Devine, who retired last year after chairing 13 successive Rockin’ for Research galas to benefit the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation. Loverboy band lead guitarist Paul Dean sparkplugged that event in 2000 after his and wife Denise’s son Jake developed Type 1 diabetes. A U.S. gig kept Dean away from the recent Casablanca-themed event and its reported $890,000 haul. Devine accompanied the gala committee’s Carol Hagan, who fronted the event. Pizza Hut Restaurants executive Sheida Shakib-Zadeh was honoured for her employer’s $350,000 contribution to diabetes research. Attendees then dined on chicken salad and grilled beef tenderloin, not pizza.

Fish glided by as special-education teacher Shanny Pothier served Ocean Blu's vodka sodas at Vancouver Aquarium's conservation benefit event.

Fish glided by as special-education teacher Shanny Pothier served Ocean Blu’s vodka sodas at Vancouver Aquarium’s conservation benefit event.

Malcolm Parry /


IN THE SWIM: Glass-walled tanks of possibly hungry fish surrounded those attending Vancouver Aquarium’s recent Toast the Coast fundraiser. The ocean-conservation event’s wine-tasting component likely sharpened guests’ appetites further. Happily, 17 Ocean Wise-certified stations offered such chow as Notch8 chef Will Lew’s scallops with smoked sablefish, birch kabayaki, flamed oyster-tip aioli, pickled wild berries, sea asparagus and nori sand. They went well with Ocean Blu’s Coastal Berry vodka soda that reportedly diverts 25 cents from six-pack sales to ocean and wildlife programs. Peering out at CTV News anchor Sonia Beeksma’s glittering, silver-and-gold mermaid gown, Aquarium tank residents may have silently invited her to join them.

Backed by a tank of ever-popular jellies, CTV's Sonia Beeksma and fitness trainer Paul Chung attended Vancouver Aquarium's Toast the Coast.

Backed by a tank of ever-popular jellies, CTV’s Sonia Beeksma and fitness trainer Paul Chung attended Vancouver Aquarium’s Toast the Coast.

Malcolm Parry /


DOWN PARRYSCOPE: Beseeched by a possibly self-serving coalition government to endorse a pig-in-a-poke electoral system, B.C. voters could deliver a poke of their own — in the eye.


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Town Talk: Michael Bublé helped B.C. Women’s Hospital raise $2.4 M

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Christie Garofalo and Bruce Munro Wright chaired the 37th-annual Splash gala and auction that reportedly netted $560,000 for the Arts Umbrella fine-and-performing-arts organization for young folk.

Christie Garofalo and Bruce Munro Wright chaired the 36th annual Splash gala and auction that reportedly netted $560,000 for the Arts Umbrella fine-and-performing-arts organization for young folk.

Malcolm Parry / PNG

GRACE RELATIONS: Michael Bublé came from his new Burnaby home to perform at the B.C. Women’s Hospital Foundation’s Glow gala. Chaired by Sonia Sayani, Heidi Seidman and Shanaz Lalji, the event reportedly raised $2.4 million. That should more than fund 10 new birthing suites (the hospital has 17 now) at $175,000 each. The foundation’s two year president-CEO, Genesa Greening, welcomed Bublé, and could have joined his act if asked.

B.C. Women's Hospital Foundation president-CEO Genesa Greening greeted Michael Bublé, who sang when the Glow gala reportedly raised $2.4 million.

B.C. Women’s Hospital Foundation president-CEO Genesa Greening greeted Michael Bublé, who sang when the Glow gala reportedly raised $2.4 million.

Malcolm Parry /


As the daughter of Salvation Army ministers, she sang gospel songs and belted out blues in her native Newfoundland. She certainly doesn’t sing the blues today as the foundation prepares to launch a $20-million capital campaign toward a specialized health centre for gynecological surgery and outpatient service. Greening shares a background with B.C. Women’s; it operated for 67 years as the Salvation Army’s Grace Hospital before adopting its present title in 1994.

Heidi Seidman and Sofia Sayani, along with Shanaz Lalji, co-chaired the Glow gala that will fund 10 birthing suites at B.C. Women's Hospital.

Heidi Seidman and Sofia Sayani, along with Shanaz Lalji, co-chaired the Glow gala that will fund 10 birthing suites at B.C. Women’s Hospital.

Malcolm Parry /


Geoff and Bridgette Ady and daughters Isabella and Olivia, the latter an osteosarcoma patient, attended Ronald McDonald House's A Night To Dream gala.

Geoff and Bridgette Ady and daughters Isabella and Olivia, the latter an osteosarcoma patient, attended Ronald McDonald House’s A Night To Dream gala.

Malcolm Parry /


IN TERRY’S STEPS: Cancer’s indiscriminate ways were evident when the 16th annual A Night To Dream gala reportedly raised $480,000 for Ronald McDonald House. Waiting for the start, 12-year-old Olivia Ady’s hairless head and hip-to-calf scar were evidence of chemotherapy and surgery for osteosarcoma. Close by, twin sister Isabella practised light-as-air jive moves with father Geoff while mother Bridgette smiled approvingly. Treatment for the ailment has greatly advanced since it felled Terry Fox in 1981. Four out of five patients now survive, and, though further treatment is scheduled, the Trail-resident Adys believe that Olivia’s cancer is 98 per cent behind her. They’re also thankful for Bridgette and Olivia’s eight-month occupancy of a Ronald McDonald House suite, one of 73 that serve 2,000 families annually. Good news for gala chair Lindsey Turner and CEO Richard Pass who said the house’s role on the B.C. Children’s Hospital campus is “to keep families close when it matters.”

Lindsey Turner chaired and Ronald McDonald House CEO Richard Pass attended an event that reportedly raised $480,000 for the 73-suite facility.

Lindsey Turner chaired and Ronald McDonald House CEO Richard Pass attended an event that reportedly raised $480,000 for the 73-suite facility.

Malcolm Parry /


Yolanda Mason's bicycle sculpted entirely from bones was an entry in the Bombay Sapphire gin concern's art works tournament at Gallery Jones.

Yolanda Mason’s bicycle sculpted entirely from bones was an entry in the Bombay Sapphire gin concern’s art works tournament at Gallery Jones.

Malcolm Parry /


BONE-YARD BIKE: Echoing the pioneering 1850s bicycles called boneshakers, Yolanda Mason made a modern version composed entirely of bones, even its spokes and chain. Too short for even circus clowns at 25 cm, it was Dawson Creek-born Mason’s entry in Bombay Sapphire gin’s recent international art contest at Gallery Jones. Paul Morstad’s watercolour titled Drag Race promoted him to the tourney’s next heat. Still, Mason’s bone bike was as refreshing as the Bombay-based Van Gold cocktail she quaffed.

OUT OF THE RAIN: The Arts Umbrella fine-and-performing-arts organization for young folk was four years old in 1983 when its first Splash fundraiser ran. The ripples spread, and repeat chairs Christie Garofalo and Bruce Munro Wright saw the recent event reportedly net $560,000 from close to 700 attendees. Auctioneer Hank Bull briskly moved 37 donated artworks. Days earlier, he raised $55,000 from 25 works to help build an arts centre on Hornby Island. Former Splash galas merited their name when wind and rain penetrated a tented Granville Island locale. No such contretemps affected the recent one in the Hotel Vancouver’s Pacific Ballroom. However, wine that was splashed out liberally during the auction may have augmented the bidding. For the edification of buyers, the following artists fetched prices half or more higher than their catalogue estimates. Henri Dauman, 192 per cent. Christos Dikeakos, 189 per cent. Federico Mendez-Castro, 165 per cent. Brian Howell, 164 per cent. Judson Beaumont, 160 per cent. Valerie Raynard, 153 per cent. Douglas Coupland, 150 per cent. Happy collecting.

Angus Reid Institute chief Shachi Kurl and TV's Mike Killeen dressed appropriately when the Pants Off gala benefitted Prostate Cancer Canada.

Angus Reid Institute chief Shachi Kurl and TV’s Mike Killeen dressed appropriately when the Pants Off gala benefitted Prostate Cancer Canada.

Malcolm Parry /


DROP ’EM: It can be difficult when two women arrive at an event wearing the same dress. Less so when a woman and man visibly sport identical underwear. That happened when Angus Reid Institute executive director Shachi Kurl and TV chappie Mike Killeen turned up in smiley-face boxers at the second-annual Pants Off gala. The event had participants doff their trousers and suchlike to benefit Prostate Cancer Canada. That pleased Canadian Cancer Society board member Kurl. Ditto eminent surgeon-researcher Martin Gleave who, though attired in visible underpants like other attendees, is accustomed to seeing men without them.

Diane Forsythe Abbott was happy when Jane McLellan promised $25,000 for the YWCA's Crabtree corner and delighted when it became $1 million.

Diane Forsythe Abbott was happy when Jane McLennan promised $25,000 for the YWCA’s Crabtree corner and delighted when it became $1 million.

Malcolm Parry /


RAISE ’EM: Somewhat like city council, Diane Forsythe Abbott’s vision isn’t what it was. There’s nothing wrong with her hearing, though, especially when Jane McLennan offered to donate $25,000 to a luncheon that Abbott founded in 1996. The annual event has always raised funds for the YWCA’s Crabtree Corner,  a Downtown Eastside facility for marginalized families. McLennan later raised her gift to $1 million, which should cheer those at the Dec. 5 lunch in the Encore restaurant’s upstairs room. Happier still may be Crabtree  Corner’s ever-needy clients.

Seen at his 2014 wedding to Michelle Tam, Saltagen Ventures partner Joseph Fung will judge a Hong Kong competition for international entrepreneurs.

Seen at his 2014 wedding to Michelle Tam, Saltagen Ventures partner Joseph Fung will judge a Hong Kong competition for international entrepreneurs.

Malcolm Parry /


GROOMING OTHERS: Joseph Fung, who pitched himself to Michelle Tam before their spectacular 2014 wedding here, is now judging 100 other determined hopefuls. Not for marriage, though. According to the South China Morning Post, Fung, the Saltagen Ventures managing partner, will rule on contestants in the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation’s US$120,000 Elevator Pitch Competition. It will “connect entrepreneurial minds from not only Hong Kong but increasingly from across the world with investors.”

DOWN PARRYSCOPE: A city’s decade: Happy Planet to unhappy streets.

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