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Posts Tagged "BCs"

7Oct

Proposed changes help B.C.’s most vulnerable

by admin

People experiencing or at risk of poverty and homelessness will soon have better and faster access to supports through proposed amendments to employment assistance legislation that was introduced on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019.

“Poverty reduction and homelessness prevention are about more than large, sweeping changes — they also require a close look at existing laws, policies and programs to ensure that they are helping people and not harming them,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “With these changes, we are putting people first and removing mean-spirited policies that were punitive to some of B.C.’s most vulnerable people and furthermore created no savings for government.”

The proposed amendments to the Employment and Assistance Act and the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act address commitments in TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. The proposed legislative amendments build on policy updates that came into effect July 1, 2019. 

The proposed changes introduced include:

  • improving the financial security of low-income seniors by ending the need for people on income and disability assistance to pursue early Canada Pension Plan retirement benefits if they are younger than 65;
  • protecting vulnerable youth by eliminating the two-year independence rule as a barrier to receiving income assistance;
  • modernizing the ministry’s definition of spouse to better support people entering and leaving relationships by:
    • increasing the amount of time two people can live together in a common-law relationship before reducing their assistance to the lower couple’s rate; and
    • providing the singles assistance rate to two married people who have separated but not yet divorced, and are living in the same residence independently. 
  • eliminating the practice of cutting people off from assistance who are homeless or at risk of homelessness if they are unable to provide documentation for eligibility and replacing the practice with a modest monetary penalty;
  • ensuring that the repayment of amounts owing to the ministry is consistent by creating more fair and flexible monthly maximum deductions for people receiving assistance; and
  • helping people receive eligible assistance sooner by aligning the Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal (EAAT) with other tribunals in B.C. to allow for new evidence to be presented in an existing appeal process, rather than requiring people to reapply.

These changes have been advocated by people with lived experience and the organizations that support them. Most of the changes will come into effect Jan. 1, 2020, with the rest to come into effect once the necessary regulatory changes are made.

Delivering on the Poverty Reduction Strategy is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Quotes:

Raji Mangat, executive director, West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund –

“We are pleased to see changes to the definition of spouse that help in ensuring that support is not predetermined on the basis of unfounded, outdated and gendered assumptions about financial dependency in relationships. This is an important step toward removing prohibitive conditions in social assistance policy that adversely impact B.C. residents experiencing or at risk of poverty.”

Leigha Worth, executive director and general counsel, BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC) –

“BCPIAC is encouraged by this government’s commitment to change the rules of evidence in EAAT hearings to be not only more fair, but socially responsible. This is a necessary and laudable step to addressing the numerous systemic barriers that expose British Columbians living in poverty to serious and utterly unnecessary economic, health and social risks.”

Learn More:

To follow the progress of this bill through the legislature, visit: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/4th-session/bills/progress-of-bills

Read TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/poverty-reduction-strategy

To learn more about the July 2019 policy changes, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019SDPR0051-001379

 

6Sep

B.C.’s most popular parks … according to Instagram

by admin

Collage of Instagram photos


Photos from visitors to B.C. parks found on Instagram.


Photo illustration by Nathan Griffiths. Photos by @itsbigben, @thendrw and @calsnape, via Instagram.

Some of southern B.C.’s smallest provincial parks get the most love on Instagram, raising fears the social media platform is contributing to overcrowding and damage to parks. Yet those same posts might lead to more effective park planning and management, according to research.

A Postmedia analysis of hashtags on Instagram for popular south coast parks show that for some parks, the number of “likes” and comments for a park’s hashtag is a strong predictor of attendance.

That matches with research conducted by Spencer Wood, a senior research scientist at the eScience Institute for Data Discovery at the University of Washington and with the National Capital Project at Stanford University. Wood and his team have been using statistical models to study the role of social media in motivating people to get outdoors.

“There are correlations between the number of (social media) posts that get shared in a place and the number of people who visit a place,” said Wood. ”People are certainly going to sites to get some iconic photo.”

Wood said that talking about a park online does increase its popularity but that those sorts of effects have been happening for decades with print media.

Postmedia‘s analysis found that along the Sea to Sky Highway, Garibaldi, Stawamus Chief and Joffre Lakes showed some of the strongest correlation between ”likes“ and attendance, even when controlling for distance from urban centres and population growth. For other parks along the route, such as Narin or Bridal Veil falls, there was only moderate or no correlation.

Wood said the motivations driving park attendance are complex and differ by site. Changing demographics mean certain types of experiences are more popular than others and population growth means there are more people using the same amount of space.

“At some sites, it’s just a coincidence,” he said. “People are sharing their experience on Instagram but it’s probably not what’s driving people to the site. At other sites, we think yes, it is the publicity that’s driving people to the site. But neither is a guarantee.”

Josie Heisig, an influencer marketing specialist with Destination B.C., a Crown corporation that co-ordinates provincial tourism marketing, agrees the link between social media and increased visitation isn’t cut and dried.

“It’s hard to directly say that someone will book a trip because they’ve seen one Instagram post,” she said, “but it definitely leads to that path of them booking a trip.”

Destination B.C. has a front-seat view of social media’s explosive potential. In 2013, the company kicked off a promotional campaign using the hashtag #explorebc. This past B.C. Day long weekend, the hashtag surpassed five million uses on Instagram.

One of the most popular #explorebc posts showed a humpback whale breaching just metres from the dock at a lodge north of Port Hardy. Shot in 2018, the video has been viewed more than 48 million times across various platforms. The week following the post, which was amplified through Destination B.C. channels, business at the lodge shot up more than 1300 per cent with bookings being as far out as 2020.

“For the Great Bear Lodge, there was a direct number of bookings and inquiries after the video was posted,” said Heisig. “That’s one where we can see the direct correlation.”

Wood, who has done work with the U.S. Forest Service, said that a sudden boost in attendance can be a problem for sites that aren’t ready for it. As in B.C., many parks in the U.S. that used to hold visitors without trouble are struggling with overcrowding and providing services to visitors.

Wood and his team developed a dashboard of social media and other measures the U.S. Forest Service and others can use to determine which sites are the most popular and what new types of opportunities they need to be developing.

Social media data is improving the ability to make decisions about where to provide new opportunities, improve accessibility and focus ecological restoration, said Wood. It’s a way to help determine “what sort of policies and plans we should be making in order to improve people’s access to the outdoors.”

[email protected]

@njgriffiths

Methodology

Hashtag data was collected from the Instagram API using hashtag searches by park name (i.e.: ”#joffrelakes“ and ”joffrelakesprovincialpark“). Park visitor estimates were provided by B.C. Parks. Parks were selected based on the number of visitors in 2018 and their distance from Lower Mainland municipalities.

A correlation coefficient (R) was calculated using the number of Instagram ”likes“ for related hashtags and park attendance data for each year from 2010 to 2018 in order to estimate the relationship between ”likes” and attendance at each park.

6Sep

Town Talk: Netherlands dance troupe lures Ballet B.C.’s Emily Molnar

by admin

GOING DUTCH: Last year, Netherlands native Otto Tausk succeeded British-born Bramwell Tovey as Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s music director. Then, as what the Dutch might call tit voor tat, Nederlands Dans Theater snagged Regina-born Ballet B.C.’s artistic director, Emily Molnar, to lead its 27- and 18-dancer companies. Former Ballet B.C. dancer Molnar has steered the once-moribund company through a decade of break-even-or-better seasons to critical acclaim here and on national and international tours. Addressing dancers, staff, board members and supporters recently, she said: “What we have done together is remarkable.” Then, to rueful smiles all around, “It doesn’t happen easily.” Encouragingly, though, dancers “now have more opportunities to stay at home with full-time or almost full-time work.”

MORE GLOBALISM: Finland native Kari Turunen has succeeded Vancouver Chamber Choir’s Illinois-born founder and 47-year artistic director, Jon Washburn.


Thomas and Amy Fung’s annual garden party and singalong drew corporate, cultural and political guests as well as UBC and SFU’s presidents.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

SCHOOLS IN: Fairchild Group chairman Thomas Fung and actress-wife Amy usually draw business, professional, political and cultural guests to their annual garden party. This year, with son Joseph having founded the Fairchild Junior Academy in Hong Kong, local educational-facility top brass shared the lawn. They were University of B.C. and Simon Fraser University presidents Santa Ono and Andrew Petter, St. George’s Senior School headmaster Tom Matthews, York House school head Julie Rousseau, and West Point Grey Junior School head Ciara Corcoran. An after-supper singalong fronted by host-guitarist Fung could have been, but wasn’t, conducted by UBC grad Ken Hsieh. Edmonton-born Hsieh founded the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra in 2003 and has been music director ever since with no successor even contemplated.


The Fungs’ garden party saw UBC president Santa Ono chat with grad, global conductor and Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra music director Ken Hsieh.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

THE YOGI BERA AWARD: Goes to industrial safety trainer Chris Samson for his August quote: “I’m all for taking risks, so long as it’s done safely.” B.C. transportation minister Claire Trevena is runner-up for: “I think it’s very good to have a regulated market in the way that we have a regulated market.”


After baby daughter Hadley died in 2018, Nicole and Ryan Stark returned to Ronald McDonald House for the birth of Soren, Clara and Sawyer.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

THEY’RE LOVIN’ ’EM: Ryan and Nicole Stark were heartbroken in May, 2018, when four-month-old daughter Hadley died. So were staff at 73-bedroom Ronald McDonald House where the Fort St. John family lived while B.C. Children’s Hospital staff fought to save Hadley. Spirits soared this July when three-month resident Nicole delivered daughter Clara along with sons Sawyer and Soren. “Families want normalcy,” said CEO Richard Pass while welcoming the triplets at an RMH donor reception. “That means more stay-together programs for whole families.” The record stay there is 497 days.

BEEP: Phone messages for classic-car minder Vern Bethel are answered promptly. Ones for daughter Pamela can end up on stage. Umpteen 1990s calls to and responses from then-teenaged Bethel constitute her lauded 2017 show, After The Beep, playing the Vancouver Fringe Festival’s The Nest theatre to Sept. 14. Those dialing 250-885-1285 might even hear themselves in a sequel.


Nina Bentil attended husband and Mile’s End Motors dealer David’s hospitality pavilion and show at Hastings Racecourse’s annual Deighton Cup day.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

THEY’RE ON: Whatever their luck with horse-race bets, Deighton Cup organizers Dax Droski, Jordan Kalman and Tyson Villeneuve sure pick winning weather. Sunshine bathed Hastings Racecourse when their 11th annual event’s record crowd of nattily attired younger folk enjoyed music, food, champagne, cigars and even some betting. Mile’s End Motors dealer David Bentil’s usual pavilion and tree-shaded compound had guests loll alongside such exotic jalopies as a 2017 Ferrari F12 TDF worth $1.5 million. Quite a change from the vacuum cleaners Bentil sold door-to-door along and near his native East London’s Mile End Road.


Late Vancouver Sun veteran Alex MacGillivray’s daughter Caroline founded and heads BeautyNight that helps marginalized women seek success.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

R.I.P.: Former Sun editor-restaurant reviewer Alex MacGillivray died recently — no funeral by request — but his name lives on via actress-daughter Caroline who founded non-profit BeautyNight (beautynight.org) in 2000 and has helped endless marginalized women gain confidence, integration and contact-making skills.


Fung party guest Dr. John Yee, who undertakes more than 60 double-lung transplants annually, lamented Eva Markvoort’s 2010 death to cystic fibrosis.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

BREATH OF LIFE: Guest John Yee wasn’t whisked away from the Fungs’ party to perform another of the 60 double-lung-transplant surgeries he’s undertaken yearly on six hours’ notice. The Sun’s Pamela Fayerman reported that Vancouver General Hospital’s new vivo lung perfusion process allows more precious time to assess donor organs. Dr. Yee still laments cystic-fibrosis patient Eva Markvoort who, despite such surgery, succumbed at age 23 in 2010. Philip Lyall and Nimisha Mukerji’s documentary about Markvoort, 65 RedRoses (that’s how many youngsters pronounce “cystic fibrosis”), will screen at a Vancouver Playhouse gala Sept. 8 to help fund CF research and encourage organ donation.


From left, Nimisha Mukerji and Philip Lyall’s 65 RedRoses film about the late Eva Markvoort will have a gala screening Sept. 8 to help fund cystic fibrosis research. This is a 2008 photo. Markvoort died in 2010.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG


Chambar co-owner Nico Schuermans and chef Tia Kambas backed student Jade Sarmiento at an all-female-chef dinner to help fund scholarships.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

HAPPY FIFTEENTH: To the Belgian-themed Chambar Restaurant Karri and Nico Schuermans opened on Beatty Street and moved next door in 2014. Also to seafood-themed Coast, which Glowbal Restaurant Group president-CEO Emad Yacoub located in Yaletown and upmarketed to Alberni Street in 2009. Chambar recently staged a dinner by five female chefs and same-gender Vancouver Community College students to help fund scholarships. Its anniversary highlight will be an all-invited block party’s pig roast and waffle fest on Sept. 8.


Chambar co-principal Karri Schuermans will host the Belgian-themed restaurant’s 15th-anniversary block party, pig roast and waffle fest Sept. 8.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

DOWN PARRYSCOPE: Late French president Charles de Gaulle, whose vetoes made petitioning Britons wait 12 years to join what is now the European Union, might relish their current opera bouffe to get out.

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30Aug

Back-to-school is big business for B.C.’s lice busters

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Busy schedules, resistant bugs and, of course, the ‘ick’ factor.

B.C.’s lice busters say there are several reasons more parents are seeking professional help to deal with lice infestations — and as kids head back to school on Tuesday, they’re bracing for a busy month.

“By the end of September, we’ll likely see a few outbreaks,” said Rochelle Ivany, a Chilliwack nit picker who runs The Lice House with friend Ashley Wall. “Over the summer, kids have been off at camp, sleepovers and grandparents’ houses. When they come back to school, lice can come with them.”

Ivany entered the business when one of her kids came home with lice.

“I had no idea what to do,” she said. “Lice can be a taboo subject. No one wants to be the kid with it. Parents dread the letter coming home from school saying that there’s an outbreak in their kid’s class.”

After research and practice, Ivany set up shop in her home last year, offering people in the Fraser Valley an alternative to over-the-counter pesticides and hours of combing.

The key is to be “meticulous” while manually removing all lice and eggs with a special comb, she said.

Confidential sessions at The Lice House take between one-and-a-half to three hours depending on the severity of the infestation and the length of the client’s hair. Ivany charges $50 an hour — a lower rate than many of the services closer to Vancouver — and does comb-outs every three days until the client gets three clean comb-outs. She also provides treatment at cost for people who are referred to her through a social worker or community support worker.

“I get calls from a lot of panicked parents,” she said. “The message is that it’s OK, it’s going to be OK. We can help you.”

While it’s unclear if lice outbreaks are increasing — the B.C. Centre for Disease Control does not keep data on cases — more people are turning to professional lice removal services for help.

In Maple Ridge, Lice911 owner Barbara Pattison has been nit picking for 18 years.

“We’re the original,” she said. “When I started, there were four companies in North America.”

In the last decade, she’s expanded to provide mobile service in communities across Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. In addition to Lice911, there are almost a dozen other companies offering treatment in B.C.

Pattison said lice seem to be more resistant to chemicals, which have become weaker in the last 10 years, while people may be too busy, or unwilling, to spend hours combing out bugs. In the last few years, she’s also seen a shift toward more teens and young adults arranging treatment for themselves, which she attributes to selfies and people putting their heads together to look at phones.

“All it takes is three seconds of hair-to-hair contact,” she said.

The lice expert advises parents to check their kids’ hair regularly for lice, looking for sticky black, brown or grey eggs half the size of a sesame seed attached to strands of hair. Some kids may have an itchy head or a rash at the nape of their neck.

“If you can catch it early, when there are 30 or 40 eggs, it’s much easier to deal with,” she said. “An average infestation is about 500 eggs.”

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9Jul

Taxi borders won’t change under B.C.’s new ride-hailing regulations

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Taxi cabs will keep their municipal boundaries even when ride-hailing is introduced in B.C. later this year.


Gerry Kahrmann / PNG

VICTORIA — Existing boundaries for taxis in most of B.C. won’t change with the introduction of ride-hailing later this year, according to the independent tribunal charged with making the decision.

The Passenger Transportation Board, which will set boundaries and fares for ride-hailing and taxis by next month, is not considering any large-scale changes to current taxi areas that are often based on regional or municipal borders.

“As an administrative tribunal we’d have to discuss changes of boundaries and that would be very contentious and time-consuming and yet another delay in implementing ride-hailing,” board chair Catharine Reid said Tuesday. “And we don’t want a delay in implementing ride-hailing.

“The second reason is we don’t have good origin destination information. So if we try to change taxi boundaries, we don’t know if we’ll make things better or worse.”

Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft can begin applying for licences in B.C. on Sept. 3, after the B.C. government announced Monday it has set the licensing and insurance regulations. Premier John Horgan has said ride-hailing could be in operation by the end of the year.

Drivers must have a class four commercial licence, and companies will be required to pay a $5,000 fee as well as a 30-cent-per-trip levy to improve accessibility services, under the government rules.

But the exact details on fares and boundaries are to be set by the Passenger Transportation Board, which is an independent tribunal.


The Uber app is displayed on an iPhone as taxi drivers wait for passengers at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Reid and the board began public discussions on those issues with taxi companies in Prince Rupert on Tuesday. She said the rest of the taxi sector, as well as ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft will be consulted by the end of next week.

“The policy will be up sometime in August that will provide policy on boundaries, fleet size and rates,” she said.

Uber and Lyft have said they want to operate free of borders, to give their drivers flexibility on responding to demand for a ride anywhere.

The taxi sector is divided on the issue. Eliminating borders could solve problems like “deadheading” — where taxis from Vancouver, for example, take a passenger to Surrey but can’t pick up anyone on the return trip due to licensing restrictions. But removing borders could also devalue taxi licenses that hold value based on their scarcity in a certain area, causing significant financial losses for companies, drivers and those who’ve borrowed money to purchase or lease part shares in vehicle licenses.

The board has released two public discussion papers that lay out its options.

For the rest of the province outside of Metro Vancouver, it offers no options to change taxi boundaries. The report says ride-hailing companies could either follow the same borders, or be given larger regional or provincial areas in which to operate, depending on industry feedback.

In Metro Vancouver, three of the four options proposed would keep the existing municipal taxi boundaries for Vancouver, Surrey and elsewhere.

However, one option does propose opening up the Metro Vancouver region as a single area in which both ride-hailing vehicles and the traditional taxi sector could operate equally.

“It is not clear that taxis would want this approach as they are free to launch their own (ride-hailing) service and could also maintain the advantages of taxis that each has within their current operating area,” read the board report.

Related

An open metro region would give the public “faster and more reliable service, including at peak times,” reduce the numbers of trips refused and tackle the problem of deadheading, according to the report.

However, it would also result in “taxi service likely reduced for suburban areas,” wrote the board.

Taxi licenses would see a “large reduction” in value if ride-hailing was region-wide or provincewide, especially in the City of Vancouver, according to the report.

The B.C. Taxi Association, which attended consultations in Prince Rupert on Tuesday, said all boundaries should be removed for everyone.

“There’s no need for boundaries,” said president Mohan Kang. “If they have the ability to move around Metro Vancouver, so should we.”

The Vancouver Taxi Association, where taxi licenses hold the most value and its operators face the largest risk, could not be reached for comment.

The Passenger Transportation Board is also considering whether to limit the size of ride-hailing fleets, but its discussion papers note that no other governments do so and it would be impossible to set a defensible limit.

Fares are also up for consideration. The board notes no other governments impose maximum price limits on ride-hailing, despite concerns about surge pricing during peak demand. One option up for consideration is setting the minimum fare for an Uber or Lyft ride at the same rate as a taxi, or setting no minimum rate at all.

Uber and Lyft declined to comment. Both oppose B.C.’s class four commercial licence requirement and neither company so far has committed to opening in the province later this year.

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21Jun

‘White, male, settler, history’: B.C.’s museum considers how to display past as it looks to future | CBC News

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Sometimes, even an institution devoted to the past needs to look to the future. 

“I think museums have a chance to be incredibly modern,” said Lisa Beare, B.C.’s Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

Beare’s ministry is overseeing a modernization of the Royal BC Museum, long one of the province’s biggest tourist attractions and cultural centres. The museum is a Crown corporation, and receives $11.9 million annually from the government, about half its revenue. 

A month of community meetings across the province concluded on Thursday, and the province will be making its recommendations in the fall. 

Part of the discussion is around simple structural issues — the museum’s building is 50 years old, seismically unsound, filled with asbestos and lacking the ability to safely preserve most of its collections with current best practices.

But there’s also another discussion happening, as evidenced by an online question asking how the museum “could most effectively tell stories of B.C.’s communities.”

It’s a discussion both culturally important and potentially fraught: what does a modernized telling of B.C.’s history mean? 

“When the government decides to invest in the heritage of a cultural and economic asset, they definitely do have some sort of a shaping influence,” said Ben Bradley, a historian who wrote British Columbia by the Road, a 2017 book that examined how 20th century B.C. governments shaped the connection between new highways and heritage opportunities. 

“Museums are dynamic and they’re slower to change maybe than academic histories … but they may be also faster to change than society’s general perceptions of the past.”

The Royal BC Museum is a Crown corporation, and receives $11.9 million annually from the government, about half its revenue.  (Royal BC Museum)

How history is presented

Roughly speaking, the main part of the museum is divided into four main galleries:

  • A touring exhibit about something elsewhere in the world (think: Mayans or ancient Egypt). 
  • B.C.’s natural history (think: the wooly mammoth and ocean station) 
  • B.C.’s Indigenous people (think: totems, artwork and an interactive languages area)
  • “Becoming BC,” a section on the colonization and modern history of the province (think: Old Town, old wooden ships, and the gold rush). 

 It’s been a sturdy format for decades, as the museum’s enduring popularity will attest. But with most of the permanent displays created decades ago, there’s a particular framework in how B.C.’s history is presented.

 

“[There are] galleries that primarily are white, male settler history. And that’s how it’s constructed, and we want to see that change,” said Joanne Orr, the museum’s deputy CEO and vice president of collections. 

Bradley says that’s fairly common for how North American history was portrayed when the museum moved into its current building in 1968.

“There [started to be] a bit more of a social history approach, but it’s still to some of the classic themes of discovery, adventure, frontiers and pioneering,” he said. 

“When you walk into some museums, often there’s separate divisions within the curatorial sections of the museums, that [white] history is almost one unit while [Indigenous] anthropology is another.” 

B.C.’s museum has made changes this century, with several small displays that are more interactive. The Indigenous languages exhibit is generally well-regarded, as is the repatriation program.

But it’s still, by and large, the same museum you remember as a kid — and Orr admits changing anything about a beloved institution is tricky. 

“People are very nostalgic and have very strong feelings about the museum. They’re very attached to what’s here. So with any moving forward we have to respect that.”

The museum says its mammoth is the most popular attraction among its permanent exhibits. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Different priorities

What could tangible changes look like?

On the province’s public feedback page, there are plenty of comments about having more interactive exhibits, greater accessibility, more history from the perspective of non-European communities. 

At the same time, there are people who want the museum to do more touring across the province, people who want it to be free of charge, and people who want it to fundamentally stay the same. 

“People really like the mammoth and they really like Old Town [which depicts a turn-of-the century B.C. town], but also I think the museum means different things to people around the province,” said Orr.

It’s always hard for people to agree upon what happened in the past. It’s harder still to get people to agree what should happen in the future. 

But the museum is ready to take on the potential of a straightforward renovation — and an existential debate over values. 

“Understanding where you are now, who you are, your identity, helps you to think about the future. It’s a platform for moving forward into the future,” said Orr.

“And you can only understand your identity way are by understanding and coming to terms with your past.”

B.C.’s “Modern History Gallery,” which includes several well-known exhibits, including Old Town, opened in 1972. (Royal BC Museum)




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5Jun

Rapid response to B.C.’s overdose crisis saved thousands of lives: report

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Firefighters and BC Ambulance paramedics in Vancouver take a woman who suffered an fentanyl and heroin overdose to the hospital, in January, 2018.


Jason Payne / PNG

A study by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control says the rapid harm-reduction response to the province’s overdose crisis saved more than 3,000 lives during the peak of the emergency.

Researchers looked at a 20-month period from April 2016 to December 2017 when 2,177 people died of an overdose, concluding that the number of deaths in B.C. would have been two and a half times higher.

The study gives three programs the credit: take-home naloxone which saved almost 1,600 lives, the expansion of overdose prevention services, stopping 230 deaths, and increased access to treatment that saved 590 lives.

The centre’s Dr. Mike Irvine led the research and says despite the highly toxic street drug supply, the average probability of death from accidental overdose decreased because of the services provided to keep people alive.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy says the study speaks to the importance of harm reduction and the services are essential to turning the tide in the overdose crisis.

The province declared a health emergency over the crisis in April 2016 and the centre says in a news release that overdose remains the leading cause of preventable death in the province.


A Vancouver Fire Department Medical Unit responds to an unresponsive man after the male injected a drug, in the Downtown Eastside at Vancouver in December 2016.

RICHARD LAM /

PNG

Irvine says their study is the among the first evidence that shows a combination of harm reduction and treatment interventions can save lives.

“It is useful information for jurisdictions considering how to respond to the overdose crisis.”

Overdose deaths increased rapidly in 2016, coinciding with the introduction of the powerful opioid fentanyl into the illicit drug supply.

Fentanyl or its analogues were detected in 87 per cent of all illicit overdose deaths last year.

Jane Buxton, the harm reduction lead at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, says the take-home naloxone program was already in place when the crisis emerged, allowing them to quickly expand the program to help save lives.

“Since the program ramped up in mid-2016 in response to the ongoing crisis, we’ve distributed between 4,000 and 5,000 kits every month.”

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24Apr

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

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


JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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24Apr

Overdose crisis: BC’s top doctor wants drug possession decriminalized

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B.C.’s top doctor has unveiled a bold proposal to slow the rate of overdose deaths — by decriminalizing possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s report, released Wednesday, says it is known around the world that the “war on drugs” has been a failure, and says the criminalization of non-violent people for possessing a substance for personal use does considerable harm to the person and society.

Specifically, Henry says criminalization increases communicable disease transmission, stigma and drug-related mortality. Incarceration and criminal records exacerbate drug harms by preventing future employment and travel, she adds.

“As the Provincial Health Officer of B.C., I recommend that the Province of B.C. urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use,” Henry says.

“This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in B.C.”

Henry’s report, called “Stopping the Harm: Decriminalization of People Who Use Drugs in B.C.,” says that despite expanded harm-reduction activities and interventions in the province, and increased access to evidence-based treatment, an average of four people continue to die in B.C. each day due to the toxic illegal drug supply.

“Decriminalization of people who use controlled drugs is an effective public health approach to drug policy in other jurisdictions and is the most appropriate option for B.C. at this time,” Henry says.

“While law enforcement in B.C. exercise their discretion when considering possession charges, such as the presence of harmful behaviour or identified need for treatment services, the application of the law is inconsistent across communities. As such, there is a need for a provincial-level commitment to support an official policy to decriminalize people who use drugs.”

Henry says decriminalization would allow law enforcement to work with health and social systems to help connect people with treatment and other social services.

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs for personal use in response to a surge in heroin use.

Henry said there are two means by which to decriminalize in B.C. One would use provincial legislation to allow the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor to set provincial priorities, such as declaring a public health and harm reduction approach as a priority for police to apply when toward simple possession. The other would develop a new regulation under the Police Act that would add a provision preventing police from expending resources on simple possession offences under Section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.


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.

CHAD HIPOLITO /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The report explains decriminalization as follows: “Decriminalization involves removing an action or behaviour from the scope of the criminal justice system. In the context of controlled substances, it is typically focused on possession and consumption of drugs for personal use and does not set out a system or structure for production, distribution, or sale of controlled substances.

“Decriminalization does not exclude the application of fines or administrative penalties. For example, if possession of drugs for personal use was decriminalized (as is the case in Portugal), the drug itself is still illegal, but possessing it does not lead to criminal sanctions (unless the possession is at a trafficking level).”

More to come.

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twitter.com/nickeagland




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27Mar

Is 12 too young to work? Youth advocates slam B.C.’s lax child-labour laws

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A youth advocacy group is calling on the province to tighten regulations around child labour, arguing that B.C. has some of the most lax regulations around children working in North America — and the government is now putting the question to the public. 

Currently, the minimum age of formal employment in B.C. is 12.  There are no age-specific restrictions on the time of day a child can work outside of school hours, the tasks they can do, or the industry in which they work.

“We’re seeing kids working in construction, they’re working in manufacturing and they’re working in the trades,” said Helesia Luke, communications and development coordinator of First Call B.C.

“We know this because we know that they’re getting hurt there.”

The group sent an open letter to B.C.’s Ministry of Labour, calling for a number of changes to the province’s Employment Standards Act like raising the minimum age of formal employment to 16.

They also want to ban children under 18 from doing hazardous jobs — like working with heavy equipment or on construction sites. Other “light work” would have some exemptions to the restrictions.  

It’s been an ongoing battle since the province’s labour laws were changed in 2004 but Luke said she’s optimistic this time around.

“There isn’t a single minister of labour that we have not met with to discuss this,” she told CBC’s The Early Edition.

“With this new government, we have had some signals from the minister that he is willing to look at better standards.”

The Ministry of Labour has turned to the public for input on how to modernize the Employment Standards Act. Consultations run until March 31.

Exemptions can be made for some kinds of underage ‘light work,’ Helesia Luke of First Call B.C. says. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

Workplace accidents for teens

There is a “data gap” in exactly how many underage workers there are in B.C., Luke said, because Statistics Canada doesn’t track the participation of under-15s in the workforce.

The best indication First Call B.C. has at the moment is through accident claim data.

“We were shocked it was even worse than what we thought it would be,” she said.

In the last decade, WorkSafeBC has paid out more than $5 million in disability claims to 12- to 14-year-olds.

During that time, an additional 2,000 children under 14 were approved for health-care claims related to being injured in the workplace.

“We’ve heard from a young man who, when he was 12, was stripping autos in a scrap yard and spilled battery acid all over himself,” Luke said.

“He has a lifelong scar from that experience. That’s too high a price to pay when you’re 12.”

A youth advocacy group is calling on the province to tighten regulations around child labour, arguing that B.C. has some of the most lax regulations around children working in North America. 7:47

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