Posts Tagged "calls"


New report calls for overhaul of chronic pain treatment

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A new report from the Canadian Pain Task Force is calling the issue of chronic pain a “significant public health issue” and says the health sector has a chance to overhaul how it is treated to better help Canadians.

The report notes that one in five Canadians are thought to live with chronic pain, with two-thirds of those reporting their pain as moderate to severe.

“People living with pain have limited access to the services they require and often face stigma and undue suffering as a result of their condition,” the report reads.

Chronic pain has been recognized by the World Health Organization as a disease, and is defined as pain persisting or recurring for longer than three months, associated with significant emotional distress, significant functional disability and the symptoms are not better accounted for by another diagnoses.

It notes chronic pain more often afflicts those in populations living in poverty, Indigenous peoples and women, among others.

The opioid overdose crisis has also complicated the treatment options for those suffering from chronic pain.

The task force claims people who could benefit from opioids to manage pain are now facing barriers to obtain a prescription.

“There is a need to promote shared decision-making between health care professionals and people living with pain. Prescribing decisions must be based on the unique needs of the individual, but this is not supported by the current environment.”

The report calls for better co-ordination between the provinces and territories as a starting point.

“Provincial/territorial policies and efforts could be better coordinated to reduce duplication of effort, maximize efficiency and implementation of best practices, and ensure people living with pain have the same level of care across Canada,” the report reads.

Pain BC – an organization that looks to help those suffering from chronic pain in British Columbia – welcomed the report and its conclusions.

“This report makes Health Canada aware of what Canadians with pain have known for too long: that pain care is largely not accessible, many health care providers lack the knowledge and skills to manage pain and breakthroughs in research are hampered by lack of funding,” said Executive Director Maria Hudspith in a statement. “We hope this report lays the foundation for a national pain strategy that will improve the lives of Canadians who live with pain.”

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Not ‘just a suggestion’: MMIWG report calls to give Indigenous people rights most Canadians enjoy already | CBC News

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In the wake of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Firls’ final report, attention is now turning toward whether its 231 recommendations will be acted upon.

On Monday, the national inquiry held its closing ceremony in Gatineau, Que., where it delivered its final report to government. The inquiry detailed what it found to be the root causes of the disproportionate amount of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls and made 231 “Calls for Justice” to address them. 

The inquiry’s commissioners have said the calls for justice are not merely recommendations but legal imperatives based in “international and domestic human and Indigenous rights laws, including the Charter, the Constitution and the Honour of the Crown.”

During a news conference after the inquiry’s closing ceremony, commissioner Qajaq Robinson elaborated on what it means to describe the calls for justice as legal imperatives.

“If we’re talking to access to health — for example the calls for justice that there be holistic, wraparound health services in all communities and isolated communities — that isn’t just a suggestion. It’s because the people in those communities have a right to health, have a right to those services,” she said.

“You legally have to do it. It’s not like we’re asking you to come up with a new framework to understand what you have to do. You signed it already; you’re just not implementing it.”

Commissioner Michèle Audette said the rights the inquiry is talking about seem to be respected in southern Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, holds a copy of the report presented to him by commissioners Marion Buller, centre, Michèle Audette, third from right, Brian Eyolfson, second from right, and Qajaq Robinson at the closing ceremony for the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Gatineau, Que., on June 3. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

“But when you live in my North… far, far away, there’s no protection, no services, no accessibility. And it’s still called Canada,” she said. 

While the commissioners say the calls are rooted in existing legal commitments, the final report also states that “Governments are not required to implement these recommendations.”

‘These truths are piling up’

Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report, the national inquiry’s report acknowledges it will take all Canadians to assert their political pressure on institutions and governments to ensure substantive changes come about.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society, has been at the forefront of pushing government for equity for First Nations children in Canada.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal sided with the society and Assembly of First Nations in a 2016 ruling, finding that Canada discriminates against First Nations children on reserves by failing to provide them with the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere in Canada.

Three years later, and more than a decade since the initial complaint was filed, the case is still not resolved. There have been seven non-compliance orders issued by the tribunal since its ruling.

Blackstock says, looking at the calls put forward by the national inquiry, the most important impact the final report can have is to change the collective Canadian consciousness. In her view, governments don’t make change, they respond to change.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“All of these reports and all these truths are piling up in a way that makes it more and more difficult for people normalize the discrimination and to turn away from it,” she said.

She said key indicators that change is happening will be a shift in public attitude. She said the public should also be looking for on-the-ground, immediate investments in things like safe shelter space for women fleeing violence.

Blackstock said the calls for justice might not be legally binding, but are certainly morally binding. Still, she said it will likely take litigation to achieve the level of substantive reform for which the inquiry is calling.

Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan said Ottawa is already taking action on the report through its national action plan to invest in housing and education on reserves and safety on the Highway of Tears.

The prime minister has also promised that the federal government will come up with a national action plan for implementing the inquiry’s recommendations, which itself is among the 231 calls for justice in the final report. The government says this action plan will be developed in partnership with survivors, family members as well as First Nations, Métis and Inuit governments and organizations. 

When asked if the recommendations of the inquiry are legally binding, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs wrote in an emailed statement that “the final report offered recommendations to inform concrete action,” and referred to the inquiry’s terms of reference which include making recommendations to remove “systemic causes of violence and to increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls.” 

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Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women issues final report with sweeping calls for change | CBC News

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After more than three years, dozens of community meetings and testimony from well over 2,000 Canadians, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry will deliver its final report to the federal government at a ceremony in Gatineau, Que. today.

The report, which CBC News obtained before its official release, includes many recommendations to government, the police and the larger Canadian public to help address endemic levels of violence directed at Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people.

CBCNews.ca will carry the closing ceremonies live starting at 9 a.m. ET.

Beyond defining the level of violence against these women as a “Canadian genocide,” recommending official language status for Indigenous languages and a guaranteed income for all Indigenous peoples, the commissioners are also recommending sweeping reforms to the justice system and policing in this country, including stiffer penalties for men who carry out spousal or partner abuse.

“We call upon the federal government to include cases where there is a pattern of intimate partner violence and abuse as murder in the first degree under section 222 of the Criminal Code,” the report reads.

First-degree murder is the most serious of all the homicide offences. If convicted, offenders usually spend longer in prison, with fewer chances for parole.

The inquiry said that, too often, murder investigations are “marked by indifference” and negative stereotypes that result in Indigenous deaths and disappearances being investigated and treated differently from other cases — differences that result in fewer solved cases.

And when there is a reasonable chance of a conviction, the inquiry said, Crown attorneys too often are willing to accept plea bargains or reduced charges in exchange for guilty pleas in cases of murdered Indigenous women.

To that end, the inquiry calls for more “Indigenous-specific options” for sentencing, without specifying what exactly the government should change on that front. It called for a strengthening of Gladue principles in Canadian courts, a legal term that stipulates an offender’s Indigenous ancestry should be considered in the sentencing process.

“While the prosecutorial decisions … may well be justified, the frequency with which this occurs understandably raises questions in the Indigenous community, particularly when the sentences on conviction escape the mandatory parole ineligibility of 10 or 25 years on the more serious charges.”

To ensure more equitable outcomes, the inquiry said, more Indigenous judges, justices of the peace and police should be hired to ensure Indigenous voices are in positions of power in the criminal justice system. Failing that, the report said a separate court system for the Indigenous population should be established to lead to more “meaningful and culturally appropriate justice practices …”

Far too many murder cases aren’t solved and don’t make it to trial at all, the inquiry said — and that means the federal funds ought to be bolstering the ranks of Indigenous police forces across the country to ensure better investigations.

“We call upon all governments to immediately and dramatically transform Indigenous policing from its current state as a mere delegation to an exercise in self-governance and self-determination over policing,” the report reads.

“The federal government’s First Nations Policing Program must be replaced with a new legislative and funding framework, consistent with international and domestic policing best practices and standards, that must be developed by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments in partnership with Indigenous Peoples.”

The report also calls on provincial and territorial governments to improve the restraining order system by making them “available, accessible, promptly issued and effectively serviced and resourced” — to help Indigenous women stay out of harm’s way when faced with a violent partner.

Beyond facilitating access to restraining orders (or “protection orders,” as they’re often known in Canada) the inquiry is calling on the government to offer guaranteed access to financial support, legislated paid leave and disability benefits and “appropriate trauma care” to Indigenous victims of crime or other traumatic events.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett would not comment on the report’s recommendations ahead of their official release.

“Out of respect for the independent National Inquiry and the families, we won’t comment on the details of the final report before then. After decades of demanding a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, families are finally getting the answers they have been looking for,” a spokesperson for the minister said.

In an interview with CBC News before the news organization obtained a leaked copy of the report, Bennett said the government accepts that the status quo isn’t keeping Indigenous women and girls safe.

She said, however, that the government already has moved ahead with meaningful reforms, including its overhaul of the child and family services regime and a de-colonizing push for greater self-government for Indigenous peoples, part of a larger fight for equality.

“The inquiry is really only a beginning. We’ve got to do the work, and we’ve got to change attitudes, and we’ve got to increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls wherever they are in this country,” Bennett said.

“Indigenous women and girls need to be safe wherever they live in this country — whether it’s in their home communities or a downtown urban centre. That’s the only way we’ll stop this national tragedy.”

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Petition calls for mandatory vaccinations in B.C. schools

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An online petition is calling on the provincial government to make vaccinations mandatory in B.C. schools following a second reported case of measles in Vancouver, and an outbreak of that disease south of the border.

The petition, which as of Thursday afternoon had more than 1,800 signatures, asks Premier John Horgan to amend B.C.’s current enrolment policy to include mandatory vaccines except with medical exemption.

It was launched by Maple Ridge mom Katie Clunn, who says one concern people have is that they don’t want to give up their right to choose what is best for their family.

An online petition is calling on the B.C. government to make vaccines mandatory for B.C. school children.

Sean Gallup /

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She says mandatory vaccines won’t force anyone to vaccinate because parents would have the choice to home school their children. She adds the move would protect the most vulnerable children, including those with compromised immune systems and babies who have not yet been vaccinated.

Clunn, who is pregnant with her third child, says she launched the petition not just out of concern for her own children but also on behalf of all the vulnerable children and adults with health concerns.

“If your child is going through chemo you should know how many kids haven’t been vaccinated,” she said Thursday. “Four year olds with leukaemia shouldn’t be scared to visit their friends at school.”

Katie Clunn, a Maple Ridge mother, has started a petition to ask the government to make vaccines mandatory in schools.

She notes that schools protect kids with allergies, for example, by banning peanuts, something Clunn says she wholeheartedly supports, but don’t protect kids who are at risk of developing a preventable disease like measles.

She hopes the government will take note of the deadly outbreak in Europe and the state of emergency in Washington and reconsider making vaccines mandatory at schools.

Postmedia requested an interview with the chief medical health officer; however, a spokeswoman with the Ministry of Health said Dr. Bonnie Henry was unavailable Thursday.

“You are always entitled to choice, but you are not exempt from the consequences of your choices. We cannot send unvaccinated (children) to school for the safety of those who can’t be vaccinated, as well as for the safety of those who won’t vaccinate,” said Clunn.

What do you think? Should parents have to show proof of vaccines before school enrolment?

On Wednesday, Vancouver Coastal Health confirmed a second case of measles in Vancouver in a week. The news comes as there is an outbreak of measles in Washington State, where 54 cases of the disease have been confirmed. Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency because of the outbreak.

At least eight people have died in Ukraine, where 53,000 cases have been reported. The skyrocketing measles rates there are believed to be due to vaccine refusal as well as a temporary breakdown in vaccine orders by the government.

In Vancouver, health officials said the latest case was transmitted locally, and confirmed that the person is a school-age child.

The first case, acquired abroad, was confirmed on Saturday.

Last year, six cases were confirmed across B.C., up from a single case in 2017 and two cases in 2016, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

B.C. last experienced a measles outbreak in 2014, when 343 cases were reported, most of them linked to an outbreak in a religious community that objects to vaccination.

The World Health Organization named “vaccine hesitancy” one of its top 10 threats to global health in 2019. Measles saw a 30 per cent increase in cases globally between 2016 and 2017, and a resurgence in some countries that were close to eliminating it, according to the organization.

Ontario and New Brunswick have mandatory immunizations with exceptions and proof must be shown at the time of school enrolment.

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With files from Nick Eagland and The Associated Press

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Kamloops father calls McDonald’s sexist for removing baby change table from men’s room

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A Kamloops, B.C., father is calling out a local restaurant for being “sexist” by providing a baby changing table only in the women’s bathroom.

Morgan Ruemper took two of his children to McDonald’s in the Aberdeen neighbourhood of the southern Interior city recently to let them run around in the indoor playground after being cooped up due to cold weather.

His infant son, who turns one year old this month, needed a diaper change soon after arriving.

“I walked into the men’s washroom and was shocked to find that, after some renovations, they had taken the change table out,” Ruemper said.

He asked an employee, who told him there are no family washrooms and the only change table is in the women’s bathroom.

“For them to omit a change table like that is basically making a statement that men don’t need to change their babies,” he told Shelley Joyce, the host of CBC’s Daybreak Kamloops.

Morgan Ruemper with his wife Jenn, who wasn’t at McDonald’s with him that day, and their three young children. (Morgan Ruemper/Facebook)

‘Step in the wrong direction’

Ruemper ended up going into the women’s bathroom which was briefly closed to other customers while he changed his son.

CBC reached out to Mcdonald’s Aberdeen location, but hasn’t heard back.

Ruemper and his wife complained on social media and McDonald’s Canada responded on Twitter saying that, due to space restrictions, change tables are not available in every restaurant.

The company said the concerns are being shared with a local team for further review.

But Ruemper says the lack of change tables available to men is widespread. 

“I encounter this often,” he said.

It points to a larger issue of how men’s involvement in childcare is perceived.

“I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation in this day and age.”

“I feel like it’s a step in the wrong direction.”

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Record overdose deaths in 2018 prompt calls for safer supply

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Despite increased work to combat B.C.’s public-health emergency, more people died of an overdose in 2018 than any other year on record, leading to calls to make heroin and alternatives available at the doctor’s office.

The B.C. Coroners Service said Thursday that 1,489 people died of a suspected illicit-drug overdose in B.C. last year, up from 1,487 in 2017. Most who died were men (80 per cent) aged 30-59 (71 per cent), and most died indoors (86 per cent). Fentanyl, an opioid being cut into heroin and other drugs, was detected in about 85 per cent of the deaths, up from 82 per cent in 2017.

Made with Flourish

People running overdose prevention sites and expanding access to Suboxone treatment and the overdose-reversing drug naloxone have been credited with keeping the crisis from getting worse.

But to actually reduce the death toll in 2019, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. needs to introduce a safer supply of drugs to replace the toxic street-drug supply.

Henry said it’s important to first have low-barrier access to opioid-agnoist treatments like Suboxone and methadone for people on a path to recovery. But for some people, swapping out their fentanyl-poisoned street drugs with pharmaceutical ones needs to be a first step.

“For people who, right now, have an addiction to opioids … and are relying on this contaminated street-drug supply on a daily basis, and they’re not in a place in their lives where they’re willing or able to enter the treatment side of the spectrum, we need to have options to provide them with a safer supply than what they’re getting on the street so that they stay alive during this period of time,” she said.

“They’re at such high risk of death right now.”

Made with Flourish

Dr. Jane Buxton of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said people should be able to seek access to a regulated, safer supply of opioids through a physician.

“Depending on who it is, we still know that going through treatment, that suits some people,” she said. “Other people, especially (those) on Suboxone, that can be life-changing. But that doesn’t suit everybody, so we have to have that variety of options.”

She pointed to a program run by the Portland Hotel Society’s Dr. Christy Sutherland, who has started 300 people on liquid hydromorphone and who last month added 50 more spots for people to crush hydromorphone pills and inject them.

When certain people who use drugs are engaged with the health system in this way, they can go on to seek treatment, food, housing and other supports, Buxton said.

“What we’ve seen in the past is that when people have a stable supply, then their life becomes more stable, then they’re able to potentially think about other treatment and being on other opioid-agnoist therapies,” she said.

“Most people are seeking drugs in the illicit market, which are dangerous, and it’s hard to be stable when that’s part of your life and things are so toxic.”

Jordan Westfall, president of the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs, said he found hope in the chief health officer’s comments about a safer supply.

“I think the barriers need to be reduced,” Westfall said.

He said programs like the Crosstown Clinic, which provides medical-grade heroin and hydromorphone, are crucial, but for some people the requirement that they visit clinics or nurses several times a day is too high a barrier.

Jordan Westfall, president of the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs, outside Insite in Vancouver on May 17, 2018.

Gerry Kahrmann /


Westfall added that not all people who use drugs seek recovery, and some will continue to seek street drugs to treat their own pain or feel the euphoric effects.

“We need to make sure our programs are as accessible as the street-drug supply which, for many people, is very accessible,” he said.

“You should be able to go to a physician and get a prescription for a drug, if the alternative is you buying that drug on the street and dying.”

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said her ministry is working on a wide variety of evidence-based solutions to the public health emergency.

“We are going to use every tool in the toolbox,” she said. “We are not going to leave any stone unturned when it comes to safe alternatives for people to the poison-drug supply.”

Darcy said her ministry is working with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use to train more physicians in addiction and 2,100 have enrolled in a program since July.

But Darcy’s ministry must work with federal legislation that prohibits the use of controlled substances, which prevents her ministry from simply allowing doctors to prescribe heroin and substitutes at clinics, she said.

“We’re pushing the envelope within that federal context,” she said.

Jane Thornthwaite, B.C. Liberal opposition critic for mental health and addictions, said she supports making a safer drug supply available to immediately save lives, but said it must be paired with a pathway to treatment and recovery options for anyone who uses it.

“You need to have the support systems in place for these people to actually move forward,” Thornthwaite said. “If we’re not going to get to the root of the problem, then this crisis is not going to get any better. We’ll just have new people getting into the system and it could grow and grow.”

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Dental care: Growing calls to put some teeth into health coverage

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When Gabrielle Peters saw a video last month of federal health critic Don Davies challenging the health minister to improve access to necessary dental care, she wondered if her plea had been heard.

Still sore from having the last four of her teeth pulled on Nov. 20 because she couldn’t afford any other option, Peters, a freelance writer in Vancouver, had taken to Twitter two weeks before the video was posted online to ask people why they felt dental care should be added to publicly funded health-care coverage 

Hundreds of replies poured in from around the globe. People shared stories of working in agony, losing loved ones to infection, draining savings accounts for treatment and being rushed to emergency rooms due to their lack of dental insurance.

A week after Davies’ video was posted, B.C. Premier John Horgan said his government was exploring how it might include dental care in the provincial health system.

Canadians often speak about the nation’s publicly funded health-care system with intense pride, yet its failure to include dental care is a cause for misery for many of the one-third of the population with no dental insurance.

The Canadian Dental Association reported in 2017 that 32 per cent of Canadians have no dental insurance. Its researchers found that those from lower-income families had worse oral health and had untreated disease more often. They visited the dentist less frequently, delayed visits and were more likely to decline recommended care due to cost.

Researchers at the University of Toronto analyzed decades of Statistics Canada surveys and reported in 2013 that only 49 per cent of middle-income Canadians had dental care coverage. About 34 per cent said they faced cost barriers to dental care in 2009, up from 13 per cent in 1996.

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It is shameful so many people in a country boasting publicly funded health care live with pain, social isolation and poor nutrition because dental care isn’t part of the system, Peters said.

She believes policy-makers ought to recognize that dental care is health care.

“When we refuse to cover dental care, we are deciding to lower people’s quality of life. We are deciding to take a medical issue and let it snowball,” she said.

“Apply it to anything else: ‘We will cover everything but your left arm.’ People would say that’s ridiculous.”

An issue for millions of Canadians

A 2015 report by the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences found that about six million Canadians avoid visiting the dentist each year because of the cost.

Canada has one of the lowest rates of publicly funded dental care among OECD countries, at about six per cent, compared to 79 per cent in Finland, said the report.

Those most hurt by lack of access to dental care include people who are low income, Indigenous and disabled.

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u2018Iu2019ve long thought that dental care was a serious omission from our universal health-care system that doesn't make any sense from a public health or social justice point of view,

u2018Iu2019ve long thought that dental care was a serious omission from our universal health-care system that doesn’t make any sense from a public health or social justice point of view,” says Vancouver NDP MP Don Davies, his partyu2019s federal health critic. (Photo: Nick Procaylo, PNG)


With this in mind, Davies began pressing the issue of publicly funded basic dental care in 2015.

“I’ve long thought that dental care was a serious omission from our universal health-care system that doesn’t make any sense from a public health or social justice point of view,” the NDP MP for Vancouver-Kingsway said in a recent interview.

“Imagine when you have an open cavity or a rotting tooth or some form of abscess in your mouth, and you’re living with 100 per cent chronic, daily pain, and you couple that with, essentially, the inability to have healthy teeth in your work and daily life. It’s very debilitating.”

Davies said he hasn’t calculated the cost to fund dental care but believes it would ultimately benefit taxpayers, given that failing to fund preventative visits to the dentist can lead to more serious health problems, including heart disease, some requiring expensive trips to emergency rooms.

He is fighting to “put dental care on the agenda” and for his party to include it as part of its 2019 federal election platform.

“Once in a while you can put your thermometer into the body politic and take the temperature, and this one came out sizzling hot,” he said. “It’s basically a no-brainer.”

Horgan said in a year-end interview on Global News that his government was looking at including dental care in provincial health-care coverage and added, “hopefully we will be able to do something about it in the next budget.”

Soon after, he clarified it won’t be in the next budget, but said that when it comes to improving dental coverage, “we’re working on it every single day.”

At a news conference this month, provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix said he recognizes that dental care is insufficiently covered, and said his ministry is keeping a close eye on the federal NDP’s discussion about a national dental program.

“We’re already moving in that direction in advance of any action by the federal government or anyone else, and I think we’re going to continue to do that,” he said. “That’s certainly the direction we have from the premier.”

He pointed to his government’s recent work to boost dental coverage for children in the Healthy Kids program — generally for families with a net income of $42,000 or less — to $2,000 over two years from $1,400.

‘We can’t remove the jaw from the body’

Dwight Yochim, 56, is a middle-income earner whose private dental plan covers cleanings and basic procedures but doesn’t cover treatment for a painful condition he was diagnosed with two years ago.

Yochim, an executive director for two non-profits in Coquitlam, suffers from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). His jaw is “locked” because of a slipped disc so that he can open his mouth only a few centimetres, he said.

“If I go to eat a burger, I have to squish it down,” he said. “It’s constant pain.”

Dwight Yochim’s private dental plan covers cleanings and basic procedures, but not the temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) in his jaw that was diagnosed two years ago. The Coquitlam non-profits executive director says it will cost him about $5,000 out of pocket to treat his condition. (Photo: Jason Payne, PNG)

Dwight Yochim’s private dental plan covers cleanings and basic procedures, but not the temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) in his jaw that was diagnosed two years ago. The Coquitlam non-profits executive director says it will cost him about $5,000 out of pocket to treat his condition. (Photo: Jason Payne, PNG)

Jason Payne /


Yochim said it will cost him about $5,000 out of pocket to treat his condition, according to a recent estimate. He is shopping around for a better price, but in the meantime suffers through occasional periods of agony, which he dulls with acetaminophen.

He considers himself lucky to have any coverage at all but wants to see dental care added to the provincial health-care system. He has emailed Dix asking why this hasn’t been done already.

“It’s your basic health,” Yochim said. “I’m thinking about some of the people who don’t have dental plans. How do they get around and deal with dental pain? Because it’s excruciating sometimes.”

Bruce Wallace, an associate professor at the University of Victoria’s School of Social Work, was lead author of a 2015 study on oral health among people experiencing social and health inequities, He said that when he started researching dental health-care issues in the late ’90s, lack of accessibility to dental care was mostly seen as a problem for the poor, but that has changed to include middle-income people with insufficient coverage.

Made with Flourish

“Now, it’s much more that people are looking at the issue as something that’s really affecting millions of Canadians that just don’t have access to employer benefits,” he said.

“The oral health-care system might look like it’s working well for the general public, but what we also know is that the single model of dentistry that we have — the private business model — is not working well for most people who have low incomes and who might face other barriers to health care,” he said.

Wallace believes B.C. should move publicly funded dental-care programs away from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and to the Ministry of Health, as well as integrate services with primary health care.

“We can’t remove the jaw from the body,” Wallace said. “I don’t think we can remove oral health care from our health-care system. The blood that runs through our jaw and our mouth goes to the rest of our bodies, through our heart and our organs, and that could impact our overall health care.”

Study co-author Dr. Annette Browne, a professor at the University of B.C.’s School of Nursing, is impressed that Horgan is discussing covering dental care.

“It’s the working poor, people who live in relative poverty who are piecing together part-time jobs, often with no dental benefits, who frequently have no dental insurance coverage,” she said.

It’s that group of people who are most often reporting poor oral health and visits to dentists only in emergencies.”

Social and economic impact

The staff at REACH Dental Clinic on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, part of a non-profit community health centre, constantly receive calls from people asking about prices, said clinic manager Maria Botero.

About 40 per cent of the clinic’s 3,300 patients have private insurance, which helps subsidize care for its 60 per cent of patients who don’t have such coverage.

“Some of the patients, they come, they get an estimate, but they can’t do it,” she said.

“Or they do just one thing that is really urgent and then the next time they come, it’s for something really urgent again. Many times, they get extractions because it’s too late. When that happens, it’s very sad.”

Maria Botero (left, with executive director Nicole LeMire) is manager of the REACH Dental Clinic on Commercial Drive, part of a non-profit community health centre that constantly receive calls from people asking about prices, people who ultimately decide not to get their dental problems addressed. (Photo: Arlen Redekop, PNG)

Maria Botero (left, with executive director Nicole LeMire) is manager of the REACH Dental Clinic on Commercial Drive, part of a non-profit community health centre that constantly receive calls from people asking about prices, people who ultimately decide not to get their dental problems addressed. (Photo: Arlen Redekop, PNG)

Arlen Redekop /


Botero said people who lose teeth can’t chew, eat, speak and socialize like they could before, and often suffer from lower self-esteem.

Anita Simon of Chilliwack, 48, understands the connection between dental health and self-esteem.

When she became sick a few years ago with chronic health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder and conversion disorder, strong medications and a lack of dental care destroyed most of her teeth.

“I’m walking around with broken teeth, abscessed teeth, in chronic pain,” said Simon, who doesn’t have dental benefits through her job as a part-time taxi dispatcher.

People make assumptions about her lifestyle because she is missing teeth, leaving her feeling ashamed and angry about her situation.

‘I don't want to be a cranky person. My mantra has always been to choose joy,’ says Anita Simon. ‘Well, joy's pretty hard to choose right now.’ (Photo: Jason Payne, PNG)

‘I don’t want to be a cranky person. My mantra has always been to choose joy,’ says Anita Simon. ‘Well, joy’s pretty hard to choose right now.’ (Photo: Jason Payne, PNG)

Jason Payne /


“I don’t want to be a cranky person. My mantra has always been to choose joy,” she said. “Well, joy’s pretty hard to choose right now.”

Simon is on disability assistance and while the ministry put $480 toward her dentures after she had to have her upper teeth extracted, she had to pay the remaining $1,800, she said.

She needs to come up with another $2,000 for a bottom bridge. Before the bridge is installed, she needs to pay for two extractions and several fillings.

Until she can afford those procedures, she will remain on a liquid diet and take expensive supplements to avoid causing further damage and to meet her nutritional needs.

She is urging government to immediately fund public dental care.

Anita Simon prepares a meal with a blender in her Chilliwack home. Simon takes expensive supplements to avoid causing further damage and to meet her nutritional needs. (Photo: Jason Payne, PNG)

Anita Simon prepares a meal with a blender in her Chilliwack home. Simon takes expensive supplements to avoid causing further damage and to meet her nutritional needs. (Photo: Jason Payne, PNG)

Jason Payne /


“I’m a single person on a very limited income, really struggling to do this,” she said.

“But even if you are a two-person family working on this, it is a huge expense for anybody. And it’s not cosmetic, like people think. It is really for your health. Your heart health is affected by your teeth and, I don’t care what anybody says, your mental health is, too.”

The B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition has met with people on income assistance who face the stigma that comes with poor dental health when they try to pull themselves out of poverty through work, said Trish Garner, a community organizer with the group.

“Many of those folks are expected to look for work and if you don’t have dental care, and your teeth look a certain way, then that really impacts your employability,” she said. “Your career horizons are definitely thwarted.”

While people on income assistance may qualify for basic dental coverage, the fees that government will pay for treatment don’t always align with the prices dentists actually charge, Garner said.

For example, the B.C. Dental Association’s suggested fee guide recommends $456 for a single root canal, $102 for a basic filling and $44 for a new patient exam, while the government’s fee allowances for the same treatments are $254, $54 and $24, respectively. People on income or disability assistance typically get up to $1,000 in coverage every two years.

“We would definitely support the province and federal government in taking on dental care as a significant issue and bringing it into our idea of the provision of universal health care,” Garner said.

‘If you don't have dental care, and your teeth look a certain way, then that really impacts your employability,’ says Trish Garner (pictured in 2012) of the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition. (Photo: Arlen Redekop, PNG files)

‘If you don’t have dental care, and your teeth look a certain way, then that really impacts your employability,’ says Trish Garner (pictured in 2012) of the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition. (Photo: Arlen Redekop, PNG files)

Arlen Redekop /

PNG files

Dr. Ray Grewal, president of the B.C. Dental Association, said 65 per cent of British Columbians have some sort of dental coverage and the association is striving to improve things for the other 35 per cent.

The association is working with the province to support non-profit clinics, some of which are staffed with volunteer dentists, and it is pushing for fluoridated water to combat dental decay, Grewal said.

When it comes to expanding publicly funded coverage, Grewal said B.C.’s most vulnerable patients — such as people with disabilities, children, seniors and those living in poverty — should be prioritized.

“The premier’s comments were great, but I think now we’re trying to figure out where we are with those comments,” he said.

“I think it’s really to just focus on specific groups (for whom) we can really improve their overall oral health.”

Teeth extraction ‘devastating’

Peters has some coverage for dental care through B.C. disability assistance, but it didn’t cover the treatments that might have saved her last four teeth.

She suffers from an autoimmune disease that requires her to take strong medications and causes gastrointestinal dysfunction, including reflux that brings stomach acid into her mouth.

She had most of her teeth extracted in 2010.

“By the time it became clear that this was a serious problem, the option that was left for me, with the coverage that I have, was extraction,” she said. “It’s devastating. It’s hard to describe.”

Peters recently led work with the City of Vancouver’s Active Transportation Policy Council to increase sidewalk accessibility, and pushed the city’s park board to install a mat to make the beach at English Bay accessible for wheelchairs.

But after losing her teeth, she’s uncertain she’ll continue her public work and volunteerism.

“I’m ashamed and embarrassed, and I don’t even know why I’m ashamed, because I don’t know what I could have done differently,” she said.

“I’m even more angry that I’ve been put in this position.”

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Vote No campaign calls to extend election reform vote due to low voter turnout

by admin

The deadline for the referendum on electoral reform is in two weeks and, as the debate between first-past-the-post and proportional representation rages, some are calling for an extension.

The Vote No campaign has raised concerns about the referendum, saying an extension is needed because of the potential for low voter turnout and mail delivery disruption from the Canada Post strike.

“There are a lot of reasons for Elections B.C. to take action,” said Bill Tieleman, president of the No B.C. Proportional Representation Society.

His main concern is that, without a deadline extension, there simply won’t be enough votes on the issue.

As of Friday, less than 20 per cent of the ballots had been received by Election B.C. They are currently due on Nov. 30.

Less than 20 per cent of ballots have been received by Elections B.C. so far 9:50

“The volume of ballots to come anywhere close to 50 per cent would have to be massive, and there’s just no indication that is what is going on,” he told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC’s The Early Edition.

The high point of voter turnout is currently about 16 per cent in some ridings, Tieleman said, but that falls to as low as one-and-half per cent in others.

“We could have an extremely small fraction of people deciding what is really fundamental in our democracy — how we elect our representatives,” he said.

Whether B.C. voters cast ballots in the future for individuals, political parties or a mix will be determined in November’s mail-in referendum. (CBC)

Voter turnout

Previous referendums in B.C., like those on the electoral system in 2005 and 2009 or on the harmonized sale tax in 2011, all had a voter turnout of more than 50 per cent.

However, There is no minimum voter participation threshold for any referendum.

“As it is with every election, it’s the voters who turn out who get to decide,” said Bowinn Ma, an NDP MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale.

She’s an advocate for proportional representation in the hopes that it will increase voter turnout.  

“We’ve had abysmal voter turnout in elections in general which is why I’m so excited about proportional representation,” Ma said.  

“Generally, when we’re talking about voter response, it ultimately comes down to whether a  voter feels like the vote is important to them.”

Lack of engagement

Lack of voter engagement is at the heart of the matter, according to University of the Fraser Valley political science professor Hamish Telford.

“It doesn’t seem to me like there’s an overwhelming engagement on this issue,” Telford told Michelle Eliot, host of B.C. Today.

“That’s, I think, indicative of the very low return rate of the ballots so far … It may be the case that some people are either still deliberating or may be sitting on their ballots because of the postal worker issue.”

Elections B.C. says it is monitoring the Canada Post situation and, if there are significant delays or impacts on accessibility, extending the voting period is a possibility.

University of the Fraser Valley political science professor Hamish Telford on the proportional referendum and extending the deadline. Jake Fry, co-founder, Small Housing BC, and Rebecca Chaster, community planner at the City of Coquitlam, on tiny homes. 50:58

With files from The Early Edition and B.C. Today.

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Civil liberties group calls out federal government over appeal of solitary confinement ruling

by admin

A civil liberties group is calling out the federal government for a perceived double standard, questioning how it can appeal a ruling against solitary confinement while at the same time saying it is trying to end the controversial practice. 

In the B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver on Tuesday, Ottawa will attempt to overturn a B.C. Supreme Court decision from January that found isolating inmates for an indefinite amount of time was unconstitutional.

It comes a month after Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tabled legislation to end the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons.

“If you say that you’re going to eliminate solitary confinement and the very same day you give instructions to your lawyers to preserve solitary confinement and fight against the ruling that found it unconstitutional … it makes absolutely no sense,” said Josh Paterson, executive director the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the respondent fighting to uphold the original ruling.

“When solitary confinement is indefinite, as it can be in federal prisons, some people are held for months, sometimes years in rooms that are no bigger than someone’s small washroom, the court said that is unconstitutional,” Paterson told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

“There has to be a time limit and there has to be independent oversight over people who are being placed in these conditions.”

Josh Paterson, with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, says the new legislation doesn’t include a required cap on how long an inmate may be isolated for. (Don Marce)

‘A new coat of paint and a new name’

According to Goodale’s bill, a new system called Structured Intervention Units (SIU) would be implemented to house inmates that are a danger to others or are in danger themselves.

While in the units, inmates would be permitted to leave their cells for four hours a day, as well as have access to mental health care and other programs.

But there is no cap on how long a prisoner can be kept in an SIU — a requirement of the B.C. Supreme Court ruling.

“As it is now, guards make lots of arbitrary decisions in relation to prisoners. We don’t have any reason to trust that in a new system, with a new coat of paint and a new name, that prisoners won’t have these opportunities taken away from them arbitrarily and that’s why there needs to be [independent] oversight,” said Paterson.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says his tabled legislation on solitary confinement looks to address the needs of the most vulnerable in federal prisons. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

A statement from Goodale’s office says the government is committed to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in the federal corrections system.

“[The proposed bill] will eliminate segregation and establish a fundamentally different system focused on rehabilitative programming and treatment. This new approach will allow us to maintain separation when necessary to maintain safety, and at the same time allow programming and human contact.”

The statement adds that the government is appealing the ruling in order to to seek judicial clarity on the issue.

Law discriminates against mentally ill: ruling

The B.C. Supreme Court ruling by Justice Peter Leask found that the law surrounding administrative segregation jeopardizes prisoner and staff safety and discriminates against mentally ill prisoners.

“I am satisfied the law … fails to respond to the actual capacities and needs of mentally ill inmates and instead imposes burdens in a manner that has the effect of reinforcing, perpetuating or exacerbating their disadvantage,” Leask wrote.

He added that under the existing rules a warden becomes judge and jury in terms of deciding how long to keep an inmate isolated.

The appeal hearing is expected to last for two days.

Listen to the full interview below:

The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn speaks with Josh Paterson about his teams’ efforts to defend the Supreme Court of B.C.’s ruling that indefinite solitary confinement is unconstitutional. 7:40

With files from Jason Proctor

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