Posts Tagged "BC"


Bear cub, rescued near mother’s body, dies in B.C. wildlife refuge

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An orphaned black bear cub rescued near Tofino, B.C. is shown in a handout photo. The cub died after apparently getting tangled in a rope enrichment device at its enclosure.

A British Columbia wildlife refuge says staff are upset and shocked after a bear cub that was rescued near his mother’s dead body this spring died unexpectedly in his enclosure.

The bear named Malcolm was asphyxiated after getting his head stuck in a small rope handle attached to a plastic buoy, the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre said in a statement on Monday.

“In the morning of his death, he was routinely observed on the cameras playing contentedly on the large tree stumps that had been provided in his cage. In the mid-afternoon, animal care staff were at the pre-release building and opened the food hatch to check on Malcolm’s activities,” the centre said.

“At that time the cub was seen to be immobile and on the ground beside one of the tree stumps. Staff immediately entered the enclosure recognizing that there was a serious problem. … There were no signs of a struggle and we suspect he got his head through the loop and then very quickly asphyxiated.”

There has been a buoy suspended by a chain from a tree stump in Malcolm’s enclosure since he was first introduced, it said. The buoys have been a common source of enrichment for bears and there have never been any hints of injuries or mishaps, it added.

“We feel that it represents a very unfortunate accident involving an extremely rare set of circumstances. Caring for these special animals is an emotionally intense experience and we feel this loss profoundly. However, we will learn from this and be better at what we do,” the centre said.

Founder and operations manager Robin Campbell said in an interview that the centre has now removed the ropes attached to the buoys from all enclosures. He said in 20 years there had never been an incident like this.

“It’s just a terrible, terrible thing,” he said.

The cub was about eight to 12 weeks old and extremely malnourished when it was discovered in May lying on its mother’s carcass in Tofino, B.C.

“There was a lot of drama in saving it,” Campbell said. “Every little step of the way was like a little miracle. So when he finally turned into this wild bear and he was in his home stretch, all he had to do was go into hibernation and then next summer he would have been released.”

The centre’s statement said despite some initial health problems associated with emaciation and hypoglycemia, the bear had shown good physical and behavioural progress while in care. He was sedated and examined on Oct. 18 and found to be healthy and in very good body condition, so he was moved to a pre-release enclosure.

The enclosure affords lots of space and enrichment and less contact with people, but allows for good CCTV monitoring from several angles, the centre said.

Jennifer Steven and her husband John Forde, co-owners of the Whale Centre in Tofino, spotted the tiny cub in Ross Pass in May and rescued it by scooping it into a dog kennel.

Steven said Monday she was “devastated” by the bear’s death but she hoped people would not blame the wildlife refuge.

“It’s sad because so much was put into the effort to save the bear. Accidents happen in life and there’s definitely no hard feelings against the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. They did so much to save that cub,” she said.

She and her husband visited the cub a few times at the wildlife refuge and he appeared to be doing great, she said. The refuge also sent them videos showing his growth into a “very large” bear, she said.

There are many animals that would die without the centre, Steven said, and she urged people to support it.

“They did the best that they could and accidents happen. We always learn from accidents like this, and if they can be prevented, great,” she said.

“I hope everyone can make a small donation to them because he’s not the only bear there, he’s not the only animal there, and they do such a good job.”

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Community Living BC welcomes new board members

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Jake Spencer Anthony

Anthony is a professional actor, self-advocate and acting instructor with City of Burnaby Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services. He has been an advocate for persons with disabilities for over a decade, teaching Burnaby’s only fully inclusive theatre class for people of all diverse abilities since 2013. Previously, he worked as a media arts correspondent for posAbilities Association of BC. He has served on the boards and committees of non-profit organizations, such as Inclusion BC, Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network, Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion, and Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture. He also sat on the City of Burnaby Access Advisory Committee and is a member of the TransLink Access Transit Users’ Advisory Committee. Anthony attended the William Davis Centre for Actors’ Study at the Vancouver Institute of Media Arts.

Katherine Bright

Bright is a consultant, executive and board director with two decades of experience in working with privately held enterprises, non-profit organizations, public companies and Crown corporations. She has taught courses across the globe in areas of strategy, succession planning, organizational development, governance and business growth. Starting with a career in social work, her roots are in community and child services. Throughout her career, she has continued her commitment to public policy, governance and stewardship. In addition to running her consulting practice, she serves in a federal appointment as the vice-chair of the Pacific Pilotage Authority board of directors and as an independent director on a private family enterprise board. Bright holds a bachelor of arts from the University of Puget Sound and a master of business administration from the University of British Columbia.

Nelson Jake Chan

Chan is the chief financial officer for the Capital Regional District, Capital Regional Hospital District and Capital Region Housing Corporation. He has extensive experience in strategic investment and business transformation in both public and private sectors. He serves on the boards of the Government Finance Officers Associations of B.C. and Royal Roads University. He holds a master of business administration from Florida Metropolitan University and a bachelor of commerce from McMaster University. Chan is a chartered professional accountant and certified management accountant in Ontario and British Columbia.

Marnie B. Larson

Larson is the chief executive officer at StarGarden Corporation, responsible for operations in Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand. She has over 20 years of experience in the software industry, specializing in human capital management, human resources, payroll and time and attendance software solutions. Active in her community, she serves on the board of the Better Business Bureau Lower Mainland and served on the boards of Wired Woman and the Simon Fraser University (SFU) MBA Alumni Association. Larson holds a bachelor of commerce from the University of British Columbia and a master of business administration from SFU Beedie Graduate School of Business.

Julia Louise Payson

Payson is the executive director of Canadian Mental Health Association (Vernon and District Branch), where she works with a team to improve mental health for all. Previously, she was secretariat director of the Community Action Initiative and executive director of the John Howard Society of British Columbia. She is a board director for the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, where she promotes safe and affordable housing throughout the province. She has worked internationally in emergency medical aid in Sudan, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea. Payson volunteers as a board consultant with Vantage Point and as a board development committee member for the BC SPCA. She holds a bachelor of arts from the University of British Columbia.

Simon Andrew Philp

Philp is a market vice-president of commercial banking, leading teams on Vancouver Island and throughout the B.C. central interior, northern B.C. and the Yukon for CIBC. He has spent over 20 years in financial services working with private and public companies, public sector entities, First Nations governments and non-profit organizations. Philp has served on a number of boards, most recently as a co-chair of the governance board for the unification of the B.C. accounting profession. He has volunteered as a representative and board member for technology industry organizations, universities, business associations, arts groups and land trusts in both Canada and the U.S. Philp obtained his CFP and CMA (now CPA) designation.

Patricia (Patti) Ann Sullivan

Sullivan is a management advisor and chairs the Capital Regional District Arts Advisory Council. She began her career in child care with children and youth with developmental challenges in Montreal, followed by a move to Lynn Lake as director of a youth centre. She has worked in executive roles in community health, youth development services, social housing and business development. Sullivan served on the boards of Volunteer Victoria and the British Columbia Association for Living Mindfully. She served as board chair of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Child and Family Services of Central Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and as a member on the Canadian Pharmacists Association and Canadian Mental Health Association boards in Manitoba. She is a YWCA Woman of Distinction (business and professional). Appointed complaints review commissioner by the Law Society of Manitoba, she served as the first non-lawyer chair of its Complaints Investigations Committee. Sullivan holds a bachelor of arts from the University of Winnipeg.

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NEB to hold Trans Mountain reconsideration hearing in Victoria next week

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The National Energy Board will hear from Indigenous groups in Victoria next week as part of reconsideration hearings for the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

Sessions are set to take place at the Delta Hotel Ocean Pointe Resort beginning Monday, Nov. 26 and continuing through Thursday.

Over the week, the board will meet with members of the Stó:lō Tribal Council, Kwantlen First Nation, Tsawout First Nation, Tsartlip First Nation and Squamish Nation from B.C., and the Swinomish, Tulalip, Suquamish and Lummi Nations from the U.S.

In August, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned Ottawa’s approval of the project, saying the NEB’s initial environmental assessment was flawed.

The project was sent back to the review phase to address tanker traffic concerns and engage in more meaningful consultation with First Nations.

That decision came on the same day Kinder Morgan sold the pipeline to the Canadian government for $4.5-billion, not including construction costs.

In September, the NEB was given six months to complete the new review. It completed one hearing in Calgary on Tuesday, with the second taking place in Victoria next week.

First Nations and environmental groups have expressed concerns about the potential for diluted bitumen spills and increased tanker traffic on B.C.’s coast if the pipeline expansion is built.

Possibly expecting a large turnout of protesters, Victoria police said they would deploy temporary CCTV cameras near the Delta for the hearings.

After the new NEB hearings conclude, the board will have to submit a report with its new findings by Feb. 22, 2019. 

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Deadline to return referendum ballots to Elections B.C. extended

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Deadline extended for B.C. referendum on electoral reform

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Elections BC has extended the voting period for the referendum on electoral reform by one week.

It will now accept completed voting packages until 4:30 p.m. on Dec.  7.

 “We have worked closely with Canada Post to understand the full impact of rotating strikes on the referendum process,” said Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman. “Rotating strikes have impacted accessibility. As a result, we have extended the deadline to ensure that voters are not prevented from participating through no fault of their own.”

The deadline to request a voting package has not changed and voters must request a package by midnight Friday, Nov. 23.

The package can be returned by mail or in person at a Referendum Service Office or Service BC Centre.

As of Friday morning, roughly 980,000 packages, which reflects 30 per cent eligible voters, have been returned to Elections BC. The numbers do not include the packages Canada Post received but have not been transferred yet.

Voters are being asked to choose whether the province should adopt a proportional representation model, or stick with first-past-the-post. Not sure what the options are? Here’s a quick explainer.

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Vaughn Palmer: B.C. bill just delays ride hailing even more

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VICTORIA — After taking every opportunity to study, consult and otherwise delay, the New Democrats finally introduced the legislation Monday for a “made-in-B.C.” version of ride hailing.

Or so they said.  On closer reading, the legislation turned out to be mainly a front for further considerations, consultations, regulatory dodges and delays.

Bill 55, the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act, amends eight pieces of legislation, runs to some 46 pages and dozens of clauses, sub clauses and explanatory notes.

But the bottom line on the entire package emerged during the technical briefing when reporters tried to nail down precisely when British Columbians will enjoy the same ride-hailing services that are already in place elsewhere on the continent.

The New Democrats have suggested for some time that things should be ready in late 2019. But when reporters pressed the point, they learned maybe, maybe not. Can’t make any promises. Might be 2020.

The legislative text starts on a puckish note with the New Democrats choosing to redefine the two most common terms associated with the ride-hailing controversy.

No longer shall we refer to taxis or ride-hailing vehicles. Henceforth both are to be known as passenger-directed vehicles or PDVs.

As for the commonplace ride-hailing app, accessed on a smartphone, that is now defined in law as a transportation network service, or TNS.

With terms out of the way, the legislation moves to greatly strengthen the regulator of the aforementioned TNSs and PDVs, the Passenger Transportation Board.

“The board will expand its role in receiving applications and setting out terms and conditions of licences, including taxis, ride-hailing, and passenger-directed vehicles,” according to the briefing notes.

“The board will have authority to determine the rates charged to passengers, as well as the supply and operating area of vehicles (for) transportation network services.”

Supposedly the board will gather the necessary data on the supply of vehicles within a given operating area and be guided by considerations like “public need” and “sound economic conditions.”

But that could prove to be a lengthy, contentious and ultimately subjective determination.

Moreover, the cabinet itself will have a hand in shaping the process. The board chair and members will all be NDP appointees. Perish the thought that well-connected New Democrats would already be angling for one of those board appointments.

Plus the cabinet has reserved for itself rules of practice and procedure for the board, and to place limits on its ability to recover costs for its regulatory processes. Indeed, the legislation assigns broad-brush regulatory powers to the cabinet to be determined after the fact — setting fees, defining terms, delegating powers and specifying geographic areas and classes of vehicles.

Another undefined consideration is a special fee, to be charged per trip, to fund accessibility options for people with disabilities. At this point, the size of the charge is anyone’s guess.

From the briefing notes:  “With these legislative changes, government expects applications from ride-hailing companies wanting to enter the market will be submitted to the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) by fall 2019.”

Except that there still is the not-small matter of the necessary insurance for any new ride-hailing service.

The legislation enlists the services of the Insurance Corp. of B.C. in developing such a product. But it adds little in the way of specifics, nor does it establish a hard and fast deadline for implementation.

While ICBC is said to be already working on such a product, the technical briefing shed no light on how far along it has got.

In fairness to the folks at the government-owned auto insurance company, they have some other things on their plate — like an NDP-ordered top to bottom makeover of rates, rate structures, coverage, payouts and the like.

Supposedly ICBC will have something ready on the ride-hailing front his time next year, after, natch, the usual back and forth with government and those in the business.

Once approved by ICBC, it will then have to be approved by the independent B.C. Utilities Commission, before it can be offered to any would-be operator seeking to get into the ride hailing business in B.C.

Given all those uncertainties, the New Democrats are making no promises about this thing being operational before 2020.

Still, they are thinking ahead in one respect. Tucked inside the enabling legislation is a commitment to strike a committee of the legislature in early 2022, following the next provincial election.

Its mandate: “Review these changes to make sure the government is on the right track with modern, safe taxi and ride-hailing service.”


Having delayed the thing through most of their first term of government, the New Democrats are now promising to revisit it in a hoped-for second term.

All by way of reinforcing the NDP line that this ride-hailing thing needs to be approached with supreme caution.

Sure, they wasted no time launching a half-baked speculation tax and in stacking the deck in favour of electoral change.

But implementation of a service that is already in place in comparable jurisdictions all over the world?  Some things just can’t be rushed.

Hence another round of stalling and excuse making, all in the name of crafting a Made-in-B.C. solution to a problem that has already been solved pretty much everywhere else.

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B.C. government to bring lower transgender surgery to the province

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Reconstructive lower surgery for transgender people will soon be available in British Columbia.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the trans community has advocated for a number of years for improved access to care for the complex surgeries in B.C.

Up until now, those wanting the surgery had to travel to Montreal or the United States, which Dix says resulted in additional medical risks associated with travelling long distances after surgery and with follow-up care.

The Health Ministry says gender-affirming surgery will be available at Vancouver Coastal Health starting next year and trans people will also have improved access to publicly funded chest and breast surgeries throughout the province.

Health Minister Adrian Dix

Nick Procaylo /


Dix says B.C. is the first province in Western Canada to provide the surgeries.

The government says about 100 people travel out of the province for the lower surgeries every year and about 200 chest and breast surgeries are expected to take place in B.C. in the coming year.

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Tow Talk: B.C. Cancer Foundation gala raises $4.3 million

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Wife Harpreet accompanied Bob Rai who chaired the South Asian community's Night of Miracles that reportedly raised $755,000 for the B.C. Children's Hospital Foundation and a 10-year total of $5.4 million.

Wife Harpreet accompanied Bob Rai who chaired the South Asian community’s Night of Miracles that reportedly raised $755,000 for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation and a 10-year total of $5.4 million.

Malcolm Parry /


INSPIRED: As the B.C. Lions readied for a final home game under coach Wally Buono on Nov. 3, no less than four galas kicked off downtown. Unlike the Leos, all were winners. The first, the B.C. Cancer Foundation’s 14th annual Inspiration gala at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, reportedly raised $4.3 million — including two $1-million donations from guests — to support blood cancer research. Tamara Taggart chaired again. She also MC’d with former CTV News at Six co-anchor Mike Killeen. He had to keep mum for two more days about his return to tube and timeslot Nov. 19 to present CBC Vancouver News with Anita Bathe. Jane Hungerford, who chaired the first Inspiration gala and five predecessor events, attended this one with lawyer-husband George. When mononucleosis sidelined him from 1964 Olympics rowing-eights competition, Hungerford joined Roger Jackson in coxless pairs. They promptly won Canada’s sole gold medal.

Founding and current Inspiration gala chairs Jane Hungerford and Tamara Taggart saw $4.3 million reportedly raised for the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

Founding and current Inspiration gala chairs Jane Hungerford and Tamara Taggart saw $4.3 million reportedly raised for the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

Malcolm Parry /


As a busy professional, Jill Killeen is happy that husband Mike's new gig as CBC Vancouver co-anchor will get him out of the house again.

As a busy professional, Jill Killeen is happy that husband Mike’s new gig as CBC Vancouver co-anchor will get him out of the house again.

Malcolm Parry /


Rx FOR BCCHF: Down at the Marriott Pinnacle hotel, pharmacist and pharmaceuticals entrepreneur Bob Rai chaired the Night of Miracles gala that reportedly raised $755,000. Robin Dhir, who founded the event in 2009, said its South Asian community attendees have raised $5.4 million and change for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation. This year’s gala will help fund the Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children Enhancement Initiative, said foundation president CEO Teri Nicholas. As for Rai’s career: “My dream was to be a pilot, but I became a pharmacist.” That may be why he and wife Harpreet named their now 10-month-old first child Amelia.

B.C. Children's Hospital Foundation CEO Teri Nicholas and board chair Lisa Hudson happily accepted the Night of Miracles gala's $755,000.

B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation CEO Teri Nicholas and board chair Lisa Hudson happily accepted the Night of Miracles gala’s $755,000.

Malcolm Parry /



Cystic Fibrosis Canada regional director Sara Hoshooley feted CF patient Jeremie Saunders, 30, on his sickboypodcast.com weekly comedy.

Cystic Fibrosis Canada regional director Sara Hoshooley feted CF patient Jeremie Saunders, 30, on his sickboypodcast.com weekly comedy.

Malcolm Parry /


LOOKING UP: Four rainswept blocks away in the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, Cystic Fibrosis Canada regional director Sara Hoshooley saw the 65 Roses gala reportedly raise $300,000. Leona Pinsky founded the fundraiser in 2001 when her and husband Max’s infant daughter Rina contracted an ailment that once killed patients by age four. Rina is now a third-year student at the University of Victoria. Attendees were entertained by CF patient Jeremie Saunders, 30, “who had a bad scare last year, so this is my bonus time.” Saunders and friends Brian Stever and Taylor MacGillivary founded an every-Monday podcast “that speaks to anyone with a chronic or terminal ailment,” Saunders said. The surprise? “It’s a comedy show.” It sure is. Hit sickboypodcast.com to confirm that the three “are absolutely determined to break down the stigma associated with illness and disease.” That’s worth living for.

Backing Contemporary Art Gallery executive director Nigel Prince and auctioneer Hank Bull, a Myfanwy MacLeod work sold for $7,000.

Backing Contemporary Art Gallery executive director Nigel Prince and auctioneer Hank Bull, a Myfanwy MacLeod work sold for $7,000.

Malcolm Parry /



The words mean Go Away in Cree on Joi T. Arcand's sculpture that Suzy Thomas wore and that fetched $1,500 at the Contemporary Art Gallery's auction.

The words mean Go Away in Cree on Joi T. Arcand’s sculpture that Suzy Thomas wore and that fetched $1,500 at the Contemporary Art Gallery’s auction.

Malcolm Parry /


THE GOOD FIGHT: Up at the Rosemont Hotel Georgia, Contemporary Art Gallery president David Brown welcomed guests to a 30th annual auction that raised some $150,000. He also called the long-time event auctioneer, Hank Bull,  “encyclopedic, credible and reliable … if he says something is going for a bargain, it is, and you should bid higher without hesitation.” Bidders do heed Bull. At Arts Umbrella’s recent auction, he got $10,000 for a Christos Dikeakos print estimated at $5,300. To secure such largesse, Bull said, “My theory is that bidders should get plenty of protein.” CAG gala-goers must have been duly fortified as Cree artist Joi T. Arcand’s sculpture fetched six times its $250 estimate. With its title, Go Away, formed in Cree symbols, the black-steel work replicated street-fighting brass knuckles, thus adding illegality to its appeal.

At North Vancouver's Maplewood Flats, Jean Walton released her tale of 1970 squatter evictions and the plight of North Surrey's Bridgeview residents.

At North Vancouver’s Maplewood Flats, Jean Walton released her tale of 1970 squatter evictions and the plight of North Surrey’s Bridgeview residents.

Malcolm Parry /


AUTHOR ONE: The Whalley teenager-turned-University of Rhode Island teacher Jean Walton revisited North Vancouver’s Maplewood Flats recently to release Mudflat Dreaming. Published by New Star, the book talks about 1970s squatters evicted from the present-day bird sanctuary, as well as residents and activists of North Surrey’s then-neglected Bridgeway community. Also included is the locally shot movie, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, to which some squatter-artists contributed. Walton gives her characters a proletarian gloss while detailing events as you’d expect from a former reporter on the now-defunct Surrey-Delta Messenger.

Brian Scudamore's book about his 1-800-GOT-JUNK firm's fitful progress to become a $300-million enterprise reportedly sold out at Amazon.

Brian Scudamore’s book about his 1-800-GOT-JUNK firm’s fitful progress to become a $300-million enterprise reportedly sold out at Amazon.

Malcolm Parry /


AUTHOR TWO: 1-800-GOT-JUNK founder Brian Scudamore should profit from his curiously titled debut book, WTF?! (Willing to Fail): How Failure Can Be Your Key To Success. A Canadian sell-out on Amazon, it documents his sometimes fitful progress from one clapped-out truck to a $300-million enterprise. Scudamore may benefit again when called to haul away now-read copies.

PAGE TURNED: Three years after closing its Robson-at-Howe bookstore, Indigo has reopened two-and-a-bit blocks westward. The two-floor facility includes a  Starbucks cafe and counters and shelves loaded with baby clothes, bags, blankets, board games, cameras, candles, earbuds, glasses, lotions, mugs, pillows, record players, robes, soap, spices, tableware, tea and much besides. There are books, too, along with multi-coloured woollen “reading socks” at $34.50 a pair and, for late- night readers, matching hot-water bottles. Such bazaar-style merchandising would have amused the late Bill Duthie, who in 1957 opened the first and best of his peerless bookstores half way between the Indigo outlets. Duthie might have appreciated modern-day Indigo’s glasses for beverages sourced at his era’s across-the-street liquor store, but he’d have lamented the absence of ashtrays.

DOWN PARRYSCOPE: Live, feel dawn, see sunset glow, love and be loved … in Flanders fields.

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Pressure on B.C. government to recognize physician assistants

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On the other side of most B.C. borders — four U.S. states plus Alberta — patients can see a physician assistant for many health concerns.

But not in B.C., where the province does not recognize physician assistants as health professionals, even though they’re trained to do some of the same work that family doctors do.

Pressure is mounting, however, now that B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver has become a vocal champion of physician assistants.

In a speech he gave recently to the annual conference of physician assistants in Victoria, he called them a “largely untapped resource” in B.C.

Weaver told Postmedia News that he’s a supporter because with hundreds of thousands of B.C. residents unable to find a family doctor, physician assistants “are a good way to provide highly skilled services in the medical system.”

Weaver said he’s using the agreement the Green party has with the NDP to press for recognition of physician assistants so they can practice in B.C. and be regulated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.

The agreement calls for the expansion “of team-based health care, to ensure that people have better access to the type of care they need, including access to services from physiotherapists, nurse practitioners, midwives, dietitians, pharmacists and other health professionals.”

Physician assistants could be part of that team-based care, he said.

With family doctors in short supply in B.C., the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. has said it is ready to regulate physician assistants as soon as the provincial government gives its OK.

Often called physician extenders because physicians delegate work to them, thus improving physician productivity, physician assistants have two years of training after undergraduate degrees. The program is offered in Canada by various institutions like the Universities of Toronto, McMaster University and the University of Manitoba.

Just over 600 physician assistants are working in clinics, communities and hospitals in a handful of provinces and territories, qualified to do physical examinations, take medical histories, order tests, prescribe certain medications, and assist surgeons before, during and after surgeries. Their taxpayer-funded salaries range from about $75,000 to $150,000, comparable to what nurse practitioners earn.

Physician assistants have been used extensively in the Canadian military for five decades, on military bases and missions abroad. Some companies, such as those in the energy and mining fields, employ them for occupational health, advanced first aid and other employee health care needs.

But because B.C. has not amended the Health Professions Act to recognize and regulate them, the Canadian-trained assistants can neither be used by companies here nor be hired by doctors here. (Some large medical practices use internationally trained doctors in a similar assistant role but they are not physician assistants who’ve passed the Canadian exams).

Eric Demers is one such physician assistant. He recently retired from the Canadian military after a 23-year career, the last seven as a physician assistant taking care of navy and army personnel.

He said that since he is too young to retire entirely at age 44, he wants to get back to work diagnosing, prescribing and treating under the supervision of physicians.

“I’ve had five deployments abroad to places like the Balkans, Afghanistan and Libya and I’ve served on various submarines. It’s disheartening to know that I can’t employ my skills and knowledge as a civilian.”

Demers said there are companies in B.C. that are interested in hiring physician assistants at no cost to taxpayers, so “designating or recognizing us doesn’t mean that there would be an expense to the government.”

In the military, Demers worked in hospitals in Vancouver and Nanaimo after agreements were struck between Canadian Forces and health authorities. And, when the military was called in to assist while B.C. forests were burning, “we weren’t limited to who we provided treatment to.

“So I don’t know why we are facing this challenge getting recognized by the B.C. government.

Physician assistant Kashif Mushtaq, left, speaks with patient Kyle Fiorini, at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital emergency department in Windsor, Ont. physician Assistant is a recognized profession in Ontario.

Janisse, Dan /


The Canadian Medical Association and Doctors of B.C. have been in favour of the physician assistants for years. At the recent annual conference of Stone’s group in Victoria, Dr. Kathleen Ross, president-elect of Doctors of B.C., said physician assistants would be “an important support for doctors and patients.”

Yet the B.C. Ministry of Health has for years put its focus on nurse practitioners as part of its team-based primary care strategy despite studies showing that a broader scope of health professionals are needed to improve access for patients.

Last year, a report from the Conference Board of Canada said physician assistants are “a largely untapped resource that can help governments continue to provide high levels of service while reducing overall system costs.”

Health minister Adrian Dix was not available for an interview. But Laura Heinze, a spokeswoman for the minister, said while the government will continue to review how physician assistants might be integrated into the health care system, “our current focus is to maximize the effectiveness of the (already regulated) professions that we have right now in B.C.”

In the legislative assembly recently, Dix repeated that nurse practitioners were the first priority but the government plans to revisit the use of the physician assistants at some point.

Trevor Stone, president of the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants, said it’s a disgrace that military veterans who served as physician assistants abroad and at Canadian Forces bases in B.C. cannot continue their careers when they return to civilian life.

“Putting physician assistants to work in British Columbia has been stalled for far too long,” he said. “We have members across the country who would come back to B.C. to work in a heartbeat. With better and faster access to care, it’s patients who would be the big winners.

“It’s time for British Columbia to catch up with Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and many other parts of the world,” said Stone, adding that using physician assistants, especially in rural communities, “is an obvious way to save money and improve the health of British Columbians, yet the government refuses to act.”

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Dr. Derryck Smith: B.C. government unethical to deny patients the right to buy private care when public system fails to address their suffering

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Psychiatrist Dr. Derryck Smith argues that it is unethical for the provincial government to deny patients the right to hire private medical services when the waitlists for public care are too long. (Les Bazso/PNG FILES)

Les Bazso Bruce Edwards / PROVINCE

I recently testified at the Cambie Surgery Centre trial in B.C. Supreme Court. This legal action was against the government of B.C. to determine whether the citizens of the province have the right to pay privately for insured medical services. At issue is the unacceptably long wait lists for many orthopedic procedures. Individuals who require joint-replacement surgery often suffer excessive wait times for surgical treatment while struggling with severe, unrelenting pain and the resulting disability.

Until now, patients who are able to pay could elect to go through a private surgical clinic to have their surgery, which offers rapid pain relief, gets them moving again, and reduces their risk of other serious illness associated with inactivity. The provincial government is wanting to deny citizens access to privately funded services such as orthopedic surgery and magnetic resonance imaging. If waiting lists were reasonable, individuals would not pay thousands of dollars for a service that would be free in the public sector.

Certain groups, including the RCMP and WorkSafeBC patients are exempted from the prohibition of privately paid medical treatment and have guaranteed access to privately funded services on an expedited basis.

I am fully supportive of publicly funded healthcare, having provided psychiatric care for 35 years as part of the Canadian Medicare system. However, it has become nearly impossible for general practitioners to access timely psychiatric care for their patients. Patients who suffer from serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or depression and remain symptomatic for an extended period, do much worse than patients diagnosed, treated early and completely. Lengthy periods of untreated illness are associated with a greater likelihood that treatment will not be effective, increased functional impairment and heightened risk of suicide.

Access to psychiatry is limited by a number of factors. To see a psychiatrist, a family practitioner must determine if a referral is appropriate and necessary. They then send a referral to the psychiatrist, asking them to accept the patient for assessment. A large percentage of patients in B.C. do not have a family doctor and rely on walk-in clinics, where they see a doctor who has no long-term knowledge of their health. GPs working at walk-in clinics may not have a well-established referral network.

In 2006, the Canadian Psychiatric Association set ideal maximum wait times for patients with serious psychiatric illnesses. The guidelines stipulate that the most seriously depressed patients should be assessed within 24 hours. In B.C., patients in a psychiatric crisis can be assessed in a hospital emergency room, although waiting times in emergency rooms are excessive and for many, intolerable.

The association recommended that patients who are in an “urgent state” should be assessed by a psychiatrist within two weeks. Patients with depression who are in a “scheduled state” with “tolerable symptoms or disability,” should be assessed and treated within four weeks. It is my clinical experience that the current waiting list for patients to be referred to psychiatrists for major depression is frequently four to six months or even longer.

In 2011, prominent psychiatrist Dr. Elliott Goldner published his research on access to psychiatric care in Vancouver. Goldner created a fictional case of an adult male patient presenting with depression seeking a referral to a psychiatrist from their family doctor. The researchers called all 297 psychiatrists practicing within the Vancouver area. Of the 230 who were successfully contacted, 70 per cent said they were unable to accept the referral, 30 per cent indicated they might be able to consider accepting a referral after they had reviewed a detailed written referral note. Furthermore, they would not provide an estimate of the wait time, even if the patient was to be accepted. Only seven of the 230 psychiatrists offered an appointment time. Their wait times ranged from four to 55 days.

This research documents the real-life challenge that GPs and their patients face when trying to access timely psychiatric care. Family doctors do not have the time or resources to contact every practicing psychiatrist in their community to determine who will accept their patients. Typically, they try one psychiatrist, and if the referral is rejected, and it may take days or weeks to receive a response, then they move on to a second psychiatrist. There is no central registry for psychiatric referrals. Likewise, there are little or no private psychiatric services available, so patients with depression must waiting inordinate amounts of time for appropriate assessment and treatment.

British Columbia should establish a central registry of psychiatrists who are accepting patients, as well as a central intake number where GPs can refer their patients, who would then be matched to a psychiatrist who can see them in a timely fashion.

This centralized system would also allow the health authorities and the public to have access to real-time statistics related to psychiatric care. If the maximum ideal waiting time for a patient with depression is consistently exceeded additional psychiatric resources should be funded. Alternately, patients should be allowed to access private services.

I primarily discuss psychiatric services in this article. Readers should know that our government wants to eliminate any access to private health care using prohibitive fines for doctors who provide private services. This is in spite of the fact that 80,000 adult patients in B.C. are currently waiting for non-emergency surgery. This draconian measure is both unethical and constitutes a threat to our collective health.

If our publicly funded healthcare system cannot provide timely medical services, using well established guidelines for maximum waiting times, then individual citizens should be allowed to use their own funds to access appropriate healthcare. This is the case in almost every other healthcare system in the world.

We need to urgently discuss these issues with our elected representatives.

Dr. Derryck Smith is a clinical professor emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of B.C.

Letters to the editor should be sent to sunletters@vancouversun.com. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at [email protected].

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