Bill and Phyllis Neufeld are British Columbians born and bred.
As Canadians — born in the tiny pulp-and-paper-mill town of Ocean Falls on B.C.’s Central Coast — the Neufelds never had to take an oath of citizenship.
But they have. A few dozen times in what has become an annual Canada Day tradition.
Along with 60 new Canadians from 36 different countries, the Neufelds, sitting in the audience in a ballroom at Canada Place, proudly raised their right hands and pledged allegiance to the Queen and to do right by their country.
“It’s a reaffirmation of our citizenship,” said Bill. “It makes us aware how lucky we are that we are born here.”
It’s also their way to welcome their new fellow Canucks into the family, said Bill, who derives pleasure from witnessing such a momentous occasion. It can get pretty emotional, he admitted. “But I don’t break into tears or anything.”
“I do,” said Phyllis.
A bagpiper kicked off the proceedings, followed by cadets hoisting Canadian flags, a Mountie in red serge, military officers in uniform and dignitaries.
Gabriel George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation provided words of welcome and a traditional blessing and song.
The ceremony touched on reconciliation with First Nations, the original inhabitants of Canada who had welcomed early settlers but not reaped equal benefits from the country, and the need to do better.
B.C. Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin presided over the ceremony, hearkening back to history and the initial waves of immigrants who came to Canada fleeing hardship and deprivation.
“You may have faced great hardship and adversity before coming to Canada and you all made sacrifices to be here. I thank you for answering our invitation to make Canada your home,” she told the crowd before leading them in the oath of citizenship.
Jerry and Joyce Kirby watched as their daughter Kenji, 7, performed her first duty as a Canadian: Helping cut a giant Canada Day cake studded with raspberries.
“I am so honoured to be Canadian,” said Jerry, who works in IT. “It’s a very wonderful feeling. I am very emotional I could cry right now.”
The family, originally from the Philippines, moved to Vancouver in 2015 under the federal skilled worker program. Canada, is “the land of opportunity,” said Joyce, a gateway to a better life.
Emilie Cautaert left Belgium in 2012 for what she thought would be a one-year expat stint at an aerospace manufacturing company and ended up staying for love.
She was seduced by Vancouver’s easy accessibility to nature and the diversity and multiculturalism she encountered daily in the city and in her office — a situation that would have been quite rare in her home country, she said.
“In Vancouver, all different nationalities work together. It was new for me. When you come from Belgium, everybody is from Belgium.”
Cautaert also met her husband, Alex Swinnard, on her first day at work. They are expecting their first child in August.
Coming to Canada was a dream come true for Rajesh Chakraborty, who moved to B.C. in 2014 with his wife and son.
Chakraborty wanted to work in animation, but there wasn’t much of an industry in India. He had a good job, a stable life, but his love of animation drove him to seek opportunities in Canada.
“It’s been my dream to come here and work, now I can say I am living my dream,” he said, smiling ear-to-ear.
His 14-year-old son Devraj, who attends David Thompson Secondary in Vancouver, took the occasion in stride.
When asked what he was looking forward to the most as a new Canadian, he said: “I’m not really looking forward to anything. Just living my life.”
In his remarks, defence minister Harjit Sajjan said all immigrants, new and old, share the same story “of coming here for a better life, hope and a brighter future.”
After the ceremony, he said he wanted to convey to the newly-minted citizens that in Canada, the possibilities are endless: “I want them to understand they have the breadth of Canada to choose from and to succeed.”
Even though Monday’s ceremony was his third Canada Day citizenship ceremony at Canada Place, it remains an emotional and inspiring experience for Sajjan.
He wants his Canadian-born kids, age 7 and 10, to witness the momentous occasion first-hand. That’s why he has been bringing his family to the ceremonies even before he was elected to office.
“I want them to understand the feeling,” he said. “When they see it through the new Canadians coming here and taking that oath, it resonates with them.”
VANCOUVER — Statistics Canada has released data showing life expectancy stopped increasing for the first time in four decades as young men and women died at higher rates, mostly due to opioid-related overdoses in British Columbia, followed by Alberta.
The agency says life expectancy did not go up from 2016 to 2017 for either men or women after an upward trend from the mid-1990s to 2012, but overall gains then started to stall, even as older Canadians lived longer.
It says the declines were most notable in British Columbia, where life expectancy fell in 2017 for the second year in a row, especially for young men between the ages of 20 and 44.
StatsCan says that while older men are living longer from factors including improved cancer outcomes, drug-related deaths of young men almost completely offset those gains while a similar pattern emerged among young women, but to a lesser extent.
The agency says death rates due to overdose were 2.1 times higher for men and 1.6 times higher for women in 2017 compared with 2015 but those are likely underestimates because the cause of death in some cases has not yet been determined due to ongoing investigations.
Statistics Canada says 4,108 overdose deaths were recorded in Canada in 2017, and nearly 1,100 of those involved people between the ages of 30 and 39.
If anyone can appreciate the kind of pressure facing the Canadian prosecutors handling Meng Wanzhou’s extradition hearing, it’s Nick Vamos.
As the former head of extradition with the British Crown Prosecution Service, Vamos has handled many high-profile, international white collar cases in the U.K..
He says political concerns — such as China’s obvious displeasure with the Huawei executive’s arrest — may swirl in the background. And he has heard comments from politicians like U.S. President Donald Trump — who suggested Meng could be used a bargaining chip in a trade war — inadvertently hand defendants ammunition in their bids from freedom.
But Vamos — who now works as a London-based defence lawyer — says he’s never seen anything as overt as Beijing’s apparent attempts to bully Canada into releasing Meng: arresting and isolating two Canadians in China for allegedly spying, sentencing two more to death for drug trafficking and choking off imports of Prairie canola.
“That’s a new phenomenon,” said Vamos, a partner with Peters and Peters, a leading U.K. law firm with expertise in business crime.
“Or at least not a phenomenon that’s been so publicly and obviously displayed in an extradition case.”
‘I find that profoundly depressing’
Meng’s legal team will likely provide a roadmap along with the beginnings of a strategy for extradition proceedings when the Huawei chief financial officer makes her next B.C. Supreme Court appearance on May 8.
The 47-year-old faces the possibility of decades in jail if sent to the U.S. to face criminal charges of conspiracy and fraud in relation to accusations she lied to New York banks as part of a scheme that allegedly saw Huawei violate sanctions against Iran.
Canada has come under intense pressure from China to release Meng. Her supporters have crowded the Vancouver courtroom where Meng’s court proceedings take place. (David Ryder/Reuters)
Her lawyers have already raised concerns about what they called the “political character” of the case, along with hints they’ll be claiming abuse of process in the way Canada Border Services agents and the RCMP detained and arrested her at the Vancouver airport last December.
Vamos said prosecutors essentially act as a lawyer for the requesting state — the United States in Meng’s case. They wouldn’t normally be aware of the kind of back channel pressure that accompanies some extradition cases.
“Poor Canada — without wishing to sound patronizing — is being caught in the middle of this, and China are shamelessly using political tactics to intervene in what is supposed to be an open, transparent judicial process,” he said.
“And I find that profoundly depressing.”
‘The boyfriend of a very bad man’
Vancouver-based lawyer Gary Botting has written several books on extradition and constitutional freedoms, including one focused on the law surrounding extradition to the United States.
He believes Meng has a strong case, in part because her treatment could be seen as “unjust or oppressive” given the nature of her job and the way in which she was apprehended.
“The vice-president of an international corporation doing business hither and yon has to know they’re going to be safe from being arbitrarily arrested at an airport at the behest of a rival state,” he said.
“It’s just common sense that shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”
Botting said Meng has a number of possible grounds to challenge the extradition. Trump’s comments will almost certainly be among them, as will the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees she has already claimed were violated in a separate civil suit.
In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a judge’s decision not to extradite four men wanted in the U.S. for a $22-million telemarketing scam because of comments U.S. prosecutors made that would have led to a violation of their charter rights.
The Supreme Court of Canada upheld a decision not to extradite four men to the United States after a U.S. assistant attorney suggested one of them might be raped in prison if he didn’t waive his extradition rights. (Shutterstock)
The ruling came after an assistant U.S. attorney told CBC’s The Fifth Estate one of the accused would “be the boyfriend of a very bad man” if he waited out his extradition hearing and wound up in jail after a trial.
The men argued that they were being threatened with rape in prison, which would have violated the charter right to life, liberty and security of the person — not to mention the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.
‘Political in nature’
Along those lines, Meng has already claimed in her civil case that the RCMP arranged for CBSA officers to detain her for three hours before she was officially arrested so she could be denied access to a lawyer and her electronic devices could be seized.
She said she was denied her charter rights to know the reason for her arrest, to retain and instruct legal counsel without delay and to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments about Meng could factor into her defence if she says she is being persecuted for political reasons. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Vamos said Trump’s comments won’t necessarily play a huge role during the hearing stage.
He said prosecutors will likely ask the judge to look at the record of actions of the U.S. Department of Justice in regards to Meng as opposed to the president’s off-the-cuff statements.
The courtroom extradition hearing itself is supposed to be apolitical.
But if a judge commits Meng for extradition, the final decision to surrender belongs to Canada’s minister of justice.
And the Supreme Court of Canada, in a precedent-setting case involving a man accused in a mining fraud, has described the minister’s role in that part of the extradition decision-making process as “political in nature … at the extreme legislative end of the continuum of administrative decision-making.”
‘There will come a moment’
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland acknowledged this reality in an interview in February with CBC’s Ottawa Morning.
“Saying you’re a rule of law country doesn’t mean political decisions don’t get taken,” Freeland said.
“There will come a moment — as in all extradition cases, where the minister of justice will need to — could need to, depending on how things develop — could need to take a political decision about whether to approve the extradition.”
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has said that there may come a moment in the Meng case when a poltical decision is necessary. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)
The Extradition Act says the minister “shall refuse to make a surrender” if it would be “unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances.”
The minister must also consider whether or not the prosecution is taking place to punish a person by reason of “race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, language, colour, political opinion, sex, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability or status.”
But the law is silent on the types of pressures facing the Canadian government when it comes to Meng and China. Shortly after her arrest, the Chinese government arrested two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have since been accused of spying. According to Canadian officials, both men have been kept in isolation for months.
A third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, was sentenced in January to death in China for allegedly trafficking drugs. He was originally given a 15-year sentence, which he appealed. And this week, a Chinese court handed the death sentence to a fourth Canadian, Fan Wei, for his role in an alleged methamphetamine trafficking ring.
The Chinese have denied any relation among the fates of Kovrig, Spavor, Schellenberg and Meng, but the Canadian government has raised concerns about the timing.
Meanwhile, China has choked off Canadian canola shipments, claiming to have found “dangerous pests” in imports of the grain, which account for about $2.7 billion of annual trade between China and Canada.
‘Nobody would be weeping’
Vamos sees an interesting parallel between Meng’s case and an English case that saw the director of the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office discontinue an investigation into allegations of bribery in connection with a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia in 2006 under extreme pressure from the Saudi government.
At the time, Prime Minister Tony Blair defended the decision by saying Britain’s “strategic interest” in terms of Middle East counterterrorism had to come first.
That proceeding differs from an extradition case in which Canada has little choice but to act in accordance with its international treaty obligations. But Vamos says the same kind of issues are at play.
“That puts them in this awful position where they have to carry on with the case knowing or suspecting that it might have these terrible consequences for Canadian citizens or the Canadian economy,” Vamos said.
“So what do they do about that? Presumably they can talk to the Americans on various channels to say: ‘Can you please not put us in this position?’ But that gets very complicated because the Americans would look like they’re giving in to Chinese pressure.”
Vamos said he has discussed the Meng case with Canadian counterparts and has been following it with interest. If nothing else, it’s keeping the world of extradition experts entertained.
He won’t be drawn into betting on the outcome.
“I say this glibly, but I’m sure nobody would be weeping for too long if somehow she just managed to give her security detail the slip and left Canada on a false passport wearing a fake beard and moustache and appeared in China somewhere,” he said.
“I’m not saying that’s going to happen. But who knows?”
FILE – In this Friday, July 8, 2016 file photo, a prescription is filled at a pharmacy in Sacramento, Calif. On Friday, May 11 2018, Trump is scheduled to give his first speech on how his administration will seek to lower drug prices. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File) ORG XMIT: NY766 Rich Pedroncelli / AP
VANCOUVER — Health Canada needs to be more consistent with three other countries when it comes to issuing warnings about the safety risks of certain medications, especially if the jurisdictions with similar demographics have already advised patients taking the same drugs, a University of British Columbia professor says.
Barbara Mintzes, the lead investigator of a new study published Monday, said that between 2007 and 2016, Health Canada issued safety warnings for only 50 per cent of drug-safety issues identified in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
She joined researchers in analyzing 1,441 advisories over that period and found regulators in all four countries were only consistent in the decision to warn their populations 10 per cent of the time regarding issues with the same medication.
Compared with the other countries, Health Canada issued advisories for only 317 of 635 drug-risk issues, or nearly 50 per cent of the drug-risk issues identified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, the study said.
The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, published by the American Medical Association, and also involves researchers from York University in Toronto and the University of Sydney in Australia.
Health Canada issues warnings on its website, and Mintzes said it also sends letters to doctors who prescribe the drugs.
“Some of the safety warnings are put out by Health Canada, together with the manufacturer, and that will come as an individually sent letter to each doctor within a specialty or … a broader set of all doctors who are practising in Canada,” said Mintzes, who is an affiliate associate professor at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health.
She said that in January 2013, Health Canada issued a warning about commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs, or statins, being linked to an increased risk of diabetes among patients already at risk for the disease.
However, the warning was issued a year after the United States and Australia informed patients about the drugs following large studies showing an association with diabetes, she said.
“Why did Health Canada wait another year after these warnings occurred in the U.S. and Australia?” asked Mintzes, who is also an associate professor at the University of Sydney.
The department said it regularly liaises with key international counterparts including the U.S., Australia and the European Union to determine if there are any emerging safety concerns. Once it becomes aware of any potential issues, an assessment is done to determine if a similar risk is warranted in Canada.
“Timing and content of risk communications can differ across jurisdictions for a number of reasons including, for example, how a product is used in Canada,” it said in a statement.
Health Canada should be more transparent about the information on which it bases its warnings, especially because clinical-trial data that were previously confidential have been publicly made available for some time following a similar stance in the European Union, Mintzes said.
“We could do more as a country to have more services available to people who are using medicines, with a user-friendly website that provides information to the public so they can just look up their drug fairly easily.”
Pharmacies in Canada are also inconsistent in providing patients with written information about drugs and possible adverse reactions, Mintzes added.
“We should have a legislated right to always having approved patient information provided to us every time we have a prescription dispensed.”
A study in 2013 by the Canadian Institute for Health Information said up to a quarter of patients who visit emergency rooms due to adverse reactions are admitted to hospital and that seniors at greater risk for such effects.
Antibiotics are among the most common drugs associated with adverse drug reactions, which are known to be associated with factors such as the number of drugs a patient is taking, the study said.
Until recently, The Centaurs were one of those classic 1960s garage-rock bands that seemed lost to time.
“All that is known about The Centaurs is that they came from The Hague,” said the liner notes to compilation of Dutch bands from the “psychedelic sixties,” Flight to Lowlands Paradise. “Their only single came out on Polydor in 1967.”
The band did live in The Hague in the ’60s, but they were actually from Richmond, B.C.
After forming in 1964, the quintet played most every type of local gig you can imagine. They opened for movies at the Lougheed Drive-In, attracted 1,400 teenagers to the Peach Bowl in Penticton and were headliners at Vancouver’s first psychedelic hotspot, The Afterthought.
But they grew frustrated at being a garage-rock band in a rhythm and blues town. So in November 1966 they moved to Europe.
In Holland they were billed as the “Topgroep uit Canada,” opened for The Troggs and had a hit single. In Germany, they were offered a residency at the Star-Club in Hamburg, where the Beatles had honed their craft.
“They said, ‘We’d like you to stay, we want you to play here like The Beatles — but we’re not going to pay you,’ ” recalls drummer John Gedak.
“We said, ‘Why?’ They said, ‘We will make you famous.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Well, we’re already famous. We have a hit record in Holland with Polydor, we’re booked there as Canada’s top band.’ ”
The band was in Europe 18 months before they got homesick and came back to Vancouver. Gedak stayed behind to play with a German band, and The Centaurs broke up.
Fast forward five decades. Gedak is living in Tsawwassen and sells a drum kit to someone who wants to give it to a kid as a birthday present.
“He goes over to Victoria to this party, and who’s at the party but our old road manager, Don Moss,” says Gedak. “So I call (Moss) and he says, ‘By the way, I’ve got this box … I opened it up and there’s this tape in there.’ And I’m going, ‘Oh my God.’ ”
Before leaving for Europe, The Centaurs had recorded several songs from their stage show with legendary local producer Robin Spurgin.
They pressed about 20 cheap “acetate” copies to send overseas to try and get gigs, but the whereabouts of the original tape were a mystery until it turned up in Moss’s box.
Last week, their debut album was finally released, 53 years after it was recorded.
The four remaining band members got together at Gedak’s house to autograph copies of the vinyl album, and to reminisce about their unique career.
“We were one of the first bands in Vancouver to have long hair,” recounts guitarist Hugh Reilly, 76. “We had numerous confrontations where these greaseballs, for want of a better term, wanted to beat us up.”
“The Knight and Day on Boundary and Lougheed, they wouldn’t serve us,” says Reilly.
“There was another occasion where we walked through The Bay downtown and we literally stopped conversations, dead in their tracks. Walking down the sidewalks we had people with grocery bags walking into parking meters because they couldn’t take their eyes off us.”
Singer Ron Williams was a handsome buck and a snappy dresser, which made him a magnet for the women in the audience. But this didn’t always sit well with their boyfriends.
“There was one time Ron got into a confrontation with somebody, at a little disco club in Richmond,” says bassist Al West, 75.
“Oh that was a bad one,” says Gedak.
“After we packed up we were heading out to the parking lot and this circle was gradually forming around us,” says West. “It was getting pretty scary.”
“It was like West Side Story,” said Reilly. “There was a big circle of guys closing in on us, so we grabbed mic stands and stuff like that (to defend ourselves). The next thing the cops arrive, and escorted us all the way to Burnaby.”
“You beaned somebody’s car with a mic stand,” says keyboard player Bob Brown, 71. “They were pulling out and it went bang!”
“That was a different time,” says Reilly. “That was the rowdies from Prince George.”
Gedak was still in high school, and the principal threatened to boot him out unless he cut his hair. He argued he needed long hair for the band, so the principal relented, as long as he greased his hair down and combed it back.
“All the guys would come into the washroom and go, ‘Comb it down, we want to see what it looks like!’ ” says Gedak. “I’d comb it down and they’d go, ‘Wow, that’s so cool!’ ”
Originally they dressed in matching suits and turtlenecks, but quickly they adopted the mod look, picking up bright, snazzy clothes from the Bad Boys Ragge Shop in downtown Vancouver.
As cool as they thought they were in Vancouver, when they got to Amsterdam the scene was something else.
“It was a shock,” says Reilly. “Even in ’67 when the Retinal Circus (club) and the psychedelic thing was kicking off, compared to what was going on in Holland … (Vancouver was) a backwater.
“We felt like country bumpkins over there. Unisex was everywhere, the mini-skirts, the hair down to the butt, male, female, it didn’t matter.”
Initially, the band was scheduled to go straight to Germany. But the night they arrived in Amsterdam Gedak went out to see the sights.
“First music I heard, a club, I walked in and it was live,” he says.
“I said I want to talk to the manager, I’m in a band from Canada. This guy come out and says, ‘I’m Hans Van Oosterhaut.’
“He was manager of a band that had a hit called Ma Belle Ami, the Tea Set. He freaked out. ‘You’ve got a van and you’ve got your gear? I’ve got to hear you play!’ ”
Van Oosterhaut became their manager and in a short time they found themselves opening for The Troggs, who had recently topped the charts with Wild Thing.
“When we went onstage we came on really powerful,” says Gedak.
“So when (The Troggs) came on, they cranked everything up. Back then they didn’t have big sound systems like they do now. So they cranked their little amps up, but couldn’t keep up with our stuff, and the lead guitar player blew his amp.
“So here’s Hugh, our lead guitar player, having to lift his Vox amp over all the crowd to get it up to (The Troggs’ guitar player) so he could play his amp. I’ll never forget that.”
The band rented an apartment “on the main drag” in Scheveningen, a seaside town near The Hague, and six months of fun ensued.
“It was a rotating door there,” says Gedak. “You’d be playing all these gigs, and all these (female) fans — let’s call them fans — would be coming in and out like they owned the place.”
“Well, we needed somebody to cook for us,” deadpans Reilly.
They headlined all over Holland, but after six months their work visas expired and they got the boot.
“Our fans wrote in to the Queen (of Holland), ‘please allow this band to stay, blah blah blah, they’re Canadian, they helped us win the war,’ all this kind of stuff,” said Gedak. “Didn’t work. They wanted gigs for their bands, not Canadian or U.S. bands coming through.”
So they went to Germany, starting with the Star-Club.
“The place was just a dive, honest to God,” said Gedak. “Black. The Beatles paid their dues there. They played their heart out and wrote their music and said to hell with everything, we’re just going to get our stuff together. We weren’t interested in that, so we packed up and went south into Bavaria, where we had a lot of gigs lined up.”
After a year in Germany most of the band came back to Canada, which hadn’t changed all that much.
“I came back from Europe and the same guys were in the same cars at the same drive-ins with the same girlfriends,” says Brown. “And I’d had guns pulled on me in Holland, been chased by seven different kinds of German police, and had all kinds of adventures with girls.”
Brown remained a musician, playing solo gigs all over town. Reilly became a computer programmer for the City of Surrey and West became an engineer for a company that built robotic submarines. Williams moved to Williams Lake, where he died in an accident in 2015.
Gedak thrived in business.
“I started an art gallery chain called The Picture Show Art Galleries, which turned out to be 37 art galleries within three or four years from Vancouver to Winnipeg,” he says.
“I had a store in every mall. Then I started Getaway Vans (with his family). They were everywhere.”
Indeed. In his home he has a framed letter thanking for his help during the Papal visit in 1984, when Getaway Vans built the Popemobile that ferried Pope John Paul II around the Lower Mainland.
“It was a white pickup truck that we completely converted in the back with blue and gold upholstery that matched the papal colours,” Gedak explains.
“It had four captain’s chairs and an aisle way down the middle, all done up in velvet and carpet. So he could walk in and sit down or stand up, we had a handle there for him to stand up.
“The neat part was when I built it at Getaway I drove around in it and blessed everybody.”
But he kept playing drums throughout and got The Centaurs to reunite a few times for gigs. Then he met Jaime Anstey, a young guy who’s so obsessed with ’60s music he formed Regenerator Records to release some of it. (The label is co-owned by Larry Hennessey, of Larry and Willie fame.)
It took a couple of years to put out The Centaurs album, From Canada to Europe. But it’s a fabulous little disc, a lost garage-rock classic that mixes originals like On Your Way and You Never Let Me Do Nuthin’ with covers like Heart Full of Soul (by The Yardbirds) and Kicks (by Paul Revere and the Raiders).
Gedak is a pack rat and kept all sorts of mementoes from their career, including posters, fan letters and photos. There’s a colour photo shoot for their Dutch 45 that’s so psychedelic you get a contact high just looking at it.
The album jacket (on both vinyl and CD) is packed with selections from Gedak’s horde, and is worth the price of the disc alone. Fifty-two years after they broke up, a new generation can discover the power and glory of the “Topgroep uit Canada.”
Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are near opposites in their responses to rising evidence of patient harms caused by some medical devices.
A new B.C. study has added to the mounting evidence about potential complications from the plastic-like coatings on devices such as catheters, guide wires and stents that are inserted through blood vessels during minimally invasive medical procedures.
Such devices are coated so they can slide through vessels with less friction and less damage to tissues. But the Vancouver study of 110 patients who died within 90 days of having procedures with coated devices showed that 23 per cent had polymer fragments scattered in different parts of their bodies. Three deaths were judged to be definitively caused by the dislodged material.
Hydrophilic polymer embolism is the term used by experts to describe the recently recognized phenomenon in which the foreign material separates from device surface and travels through the bloodstream to various organs in the body.
The FDA issued a safety bulletin in 2015 which said there were 500 reports of coating delamination in just two years. There were also 11 device recalls and nine U.S. deaths associated with the peeling or flaking from guide wires used during cardiac angiograms or angioplasties. Last year, the FDA followed up with additional recommendations.
Health Canada, by contrast, has taken a monitoring position.
Eric Morrissette, the department’s chief media relations officer, said in an email: “The department reviews data associated with the delamination of coatings to ensure that such devices do not shed material. In addition, the labelling of these devices sold in Canada must contain warnings to inspect the devices for any signs of damage (kinked or weakened segments, or delamination of coatings).
“Health Canada’s position is that the benefits of these products continue to outweigh the risks. This balancing of benefits and risks is a key part of any assessment for a medical device or drug in Canada.”
The Canadian agency is aware of the FDA notices, Morrissette said, but has not issued its own.
“Should new evidence come to light related to the safety of these devices, Health Canada will take appropriate action,” he said.
Devices inserted through blood vessels for so-called endovascular procedures in B.C. include those made by companies like Bard, Cook, Boston Scientific, Gore and Canadian Hospital Specialties. Some manufacturers were repeatedly contacted by Postmedia for responses to the latest study. All declined to comment.
Dr. Dave Wood, a Vancouver interventional cardiologist and director of the Vancouver General Hospital cardiac catheterization laboratory, said the study “absolutely” poses some “intriguing hypotheses” that need further investigation.
“To be truthful, it wasn’t on my radar. But it is now. And I’m not trying to belittle the study, but we have clinical trial data on these devices showing they are generally safe and effective.”
Wood said he’s not aware of any occasion when coatings has come off devices he’s used. Patients undergoing endovascular procedures are cautioned about the small risk of heart attacks and strokes after such procedures. The fact that coating debris has been found to have caused three deaths is not going to change the general information he gives patients during the informed consent process although he acknowledged patients may now ask about it because of news coverage.
He said he’s anxious to collaborate on further research and has already reached out to the study leader Dr. John Maguire, a neuropathologist.
In 2017, Dr. Rashi Mehta and Dr. Rupal Mehta, U.S. experts, gave an update for physicians about the significant complications that can ensue from device delamination.
This week, Rupal Mehta said there has been enormous pushback from physicians and medical device industry personnel who insist complications are too rare to worry about.
Dr. Harry Vinters, a professor and anatomical pathologist at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center who has collaborated on research into the coating problem, praised the Vancouver researchers.
“Their study is especially intriguing in that it utilizes what could be considered old technology — careful tissue analysis of autopsy specimens — to derive extremely important new information that has a direct impact on outcomes in a select group of patients. Indeed, the autopsy is about the only way this data could have been derived, and Dr. Maguire and his colleagues are to be congratulated for the care with which the study was performed and the data analyzed.”
Vinters said despite the latest research, it is still impossible to quantify the degree of risk.
“Autopsy studies are not population-based studies, they look at highly selected individuals.”
Asked if interventional cardiologists and other specialists using such devices should give patients specific information about such risks during the informed consent process, he said:
“Generally, consents given by both anesthesiologists and surgeons are all-encompassing and include warnings about possible negative outcomes.”
Christopher Thrall, spokesman for the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, said studies like the one in Vancouver are important and while the agency doesn’t have any statistics on delaminations on device coatings, Canadian patients are generally vulnerable to adverse events in the hospital because of such things as faulty devices, medications, mistakes and falls. For instance:
• Every 17 minutes someone dies in a Canadian hospital from complication of treatment. That’s about 31,000 people a year.
• There are hundreds of thousands of preventable patient safety incidents each year. One out of 18 hospital visits results in preventable harm.
• Over 40 per cent of complex surgical patients suffer harm. Patients who suffer harm are four times more likely to die in hospital than those who don’t.
The federal government is asking for input on how tomakeCanada’s travel network the most accessible in the world for all passengers, including people with physical and mental disabilities.
It haspublished a new set of regulations for the public to view and consult on in the Canada Gazette, the federal government’s official newsletter. There, people can leave comments for the Canadian Transportation Agency, who said they will update the proposed changes based on public feedback.
“(It’s) an ambitious vision, but we believe that in a country who values include equality and inclusion, we should aspire to nothing less,” said Scott Streiner, the chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency.
The proposed changes would help centralize the CTA’s existing rules, six of which are voluntary, into a legally-binding set of transportation regulations.
How to better communicate with disabled travellers
How to train transportation workers to help travellers with disabilities
How to make carriers and terminals accessible for all travellers
How to provide accessible services
How to make border and security screening accessible
Proposed changes range from automated self-service desks, training for staff to help those with sight and hearing impairments and assisting people with disabilities getting in and out of terminals.
The changes would apply to large airlines – an airline that carries more than one million travellers annually – VIA Rail and Amtrak operators, ferries weighing at least 1,000 gross tonnes, as well as Greyhound and Mega Bus operators.
Airports that served more than 200,000 passengers over the past two years, any transportation terminals used by the aforementioned companies, and Canadian ports used by cruise ships would also fall under the new regulations.
The announcement was made at Vancouver International Airport, which received the Rick Hansen Foundation’s gold certification for accessibility last December.
If approved, the regulations would go into effect one year after they are published. The consultation period is open until April 8th, and feedback can be emailed to [email protected]
The CTA hopes to have the final regulations published by this summer.
About 40 per cent of Parks Canada’s buildings, forts, bridges and other items of real estate are unsafe or unusable, or require billions of dollars in major repairs, says a new report.
An analysis the agency commissioned from an independent consultant says Parks Canada has deferred up to $9.5 billion in badly needed work – and ought to spend up to $3.3 billion on top of that to cope with the threat of climate change.
Parks Canada’s current annual spending on repairs falls short, says the report, despite a $3-billion injection of cash that began in 2014 and is now about half-spent.
CBC News obtained the September 2018 document, produced by New Zealand-based Opus International Consultants, under the Access to Information Act.
“When reviewed, 24 per cent of the asset[s] were assessed as being in good condition, 36 per cent in fair condition, and 40 per cent in poor or very poor condition,” says the report.
“Forty per cent is a significant percentage to be in poor/very poor condition, given the interconnected nature of the service that is provided by the PCA [Parks Canada Agency] assets.”
The agency now reviews the state of its vast asset pool — 46 national parks, 171 historic sites and other buildings, various bridges — every five years, and asked Opus to verify the findings of its latest catalogue from 2017.
Parks Canada is replacing the bridge over the canal in St. Peter’s, in Cape Breton Island, which has been there since 1936. An internal report says many of the agency’s marine assets are in bad shape. (Parks Canada)
In ordering the Opus work, Parks Canada acknowledged that “under-investment has been a chronic issue impeding the sound management and consistent life cycle management of the portfolio.”
Opus directly inspected a sample of 252 assets in 15 locations and examined other data to produce an independent review, including a projection three decades into the future.
[We are] addressing deferred work on Parks Canada’s assets across the country and considerable progress is being made.– Agency spokesperson Dominique Tessier
The company’s engineers determined Parks Canada had low-balled the replacement value of the assets. Opus says the portfolio is worth $24.1 billion — a figure one-third higher than the $18 billion estimated by the agency’s own staff.
The report says that at current low rates of repair, the average condition of the portfolio will decline further over the next 33 years, as more assets fall into poor or very poor condition.
The consultants also noted that the portfolio is not welcoming enough for disabled visitors and estimate that Parks Canada needs to spend $428 million on making its parks and facilities more accessible.
They also say climate change will batter Parks Canada assets with heavy rain and flooding, forest fires and salt water damage. The consultants say protecting parks assets from climate damage will cost between $1.66 billion and $3.3 billion, though they caution the figures are only an “initial indication.”
Finally, Opus notes Parks Canada has budgeted $140 million annually to maintain its assets, in addition to special cash injections coming largely from a non-agency budget that have added up to more than $3 billion between 2014 and 2017.
The consultants estimate the agency needs to spend between $825 million and $900 million each year to maintain the average state of the portfolio, aside from any accessibility and climate change-related cash infusions.
A spokesperson for the agency, Dominique Tessier, said Parks Canada has spent only about 48 per cent of the $2.6 billion it was promised from the federal infrastructure investment program.
The Garrison Graveyard at Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal, N.S. A consultant estimates Parks Canada has deferred some $9.5 billion in needed repairs to its assets across the country. (Parks Canada/The Canadian Press)
The program is “addressing deferred work on Parks Canada’s assets across the country and considerable progress is being made,” she said. “The work completed through the federal infrastructure program will restore and improve the condition of Parks Canada’s assets.”
Tessier said the agency is also developing a long-term plan “to ensure the effective management and ongoing sustainability of its infrastructure portfolio.”
In the meantime, on Jan. 1, 2020, Parks Canada is introducing admission fees at five sites that were previously free of charge, and is increasing fees by a 2.2 per cent adjustment for inflation at 19 other sites — all to ensure visitors pay a fair price that doesn’t undercut private operators.
Tessier said the new revenues will be “re-invested in the same places where they are collected to support visitor programs, services and facilities.”
The places being hit with new admission fees are: Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan ($5.80); Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ont. ($7.80); Georges Island National Historic Site, Nova Scotia ($7.80); S.S. Keno National Historic Site, Yukon ($3.90); and S.S. Klondike National Historic Site ($3.90).
Health Canada is warning the public about a potentially dangerous eyewash product seized from a health store in Richmond.
In an advisory, Health Canada says consumers who bought “Kobayashi Aibon/Eyebon Eyewash” from Tokyo Beauty and Health Care on Westminster Highway in Richmond should stop using it because it contains a prescription drug called aminocaproic acid that may pose serious health risks.
The product is promoted as an eyewash for contact lens users and for the prevention of eye disease.
Health Canada has seized Kobayashi Aibon/Eyebon Eyewash from a health store in Richmond because it poses a potential safety risk.
Prescription drugs should be taken only under the advice and supervision of a healthcare professional because they are used in relation to specific diseases, and may cause serious side effects.
The unauthorized health product was packaged and labelled in Japanese. Health Canada says as a result information about ingredients, usage, dosage and side effects may not be understood by all consumers.
Health Canada previously warned about this product after it was seized at a different retail store.
The agency says it has seized the products from the retail location and is working with the Canada Border Services Agency to help prevent further importation.
Aminocaproic acid is a prescription drug ingredient used to decrease bleeding in various clinical situations. Exposure to aminocaproic acid in the eye may affect the eye itself, and the acid may be absorbed through the tear ducts into the blood.
Side effects may include watery eyes, vision changes, headache, dizziness, nausea, muscle weakness, and skin rash.
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Patrick Gerard Campbell pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention after his tour bus rolled a short distance, killing one man and seriously injuring several others.
Patrick Johnston / PNG
A tour bus driver whose momentary inattention resulted in a fatal crash at Canada Place on Vancouver’s waterfront has been fined $1,800.
On Aug. 13, 2017, Patrick Gerard Campbell had just picked up a number of passengers in his bus when he noticed the vehicle tilting to the right, causing the front door to contact the sidewalk.
He told a tour coordinator that he was going to “put air into the bus” and moved the bus slightly forward and away from the curb.
While he was apparently focused on the door, the vehicle rolled 13.9 metres, hitting the rear of a rental vehicle.
The Plevyak and Aulakh families were at the curb in front of the bus and in the process of getting into the rental vehicle.
Manjit Aulakh became trapped under the bus, Dr. Michael Plevyak, an obstetrician from Massachusetts, became entrapped in the front wheel well of the bus and Raina Plevyak was pinned between the bus and a concrete pillar.
Michael Plevyak, 49, died of his injuries. Raina Plevyak suffered fractures to her pelvis, a permanent injury to her thigh and scarring to her right leg. Aulakh suffered multiple fractures to both hands, a partial loss of a finger, crush injuries to his bladder, a punctured lung and bruising.
Following an investigation, police concluded that the cause of the accident was Campbell’s failure to recognize that he had not fully stopped the bus.
Campbell, 64, pleaded guilty to the motor vehicle offence of driving without due care and attention.
“In the circumstances, I find that Mr. Campbell’s inattention was momentary and it occurred at a time where he likely believed that the bus was stopped,” said provincial court Judge Reginald Harris. “In my view, this is significantly different than a person who fails to pay attention while engaged in the full process of driving.”
In his ruling, Harris said he had read each victim impact statement several times.
“It is clear that the joy and happiness embraced by the Aulakh and Plevyak families has been lost. They now struggle with grief, emptiness and the profound changes they have experienced. The emotional scars will be with the families for all time.”
The judge noted that the collision had a “significant” impact on Campbell, who suffers from emotional trauma and has symptoms including anxiety, frustration, flashbacks and something Campbell described as “mental fog.”
Campbell has been unable to work since the accident, is on disability benefits and has no interest in returning to work as a driver.
The single dad, who has an 18-year-old son suffering from depression, had no prior criminal record and sobbed during the court hearing.
“Mr. Campbell’s actions and words satisfy me that he is deeply remorseful,” said the judge. “In the words of counsel, ‘No punishment can be greater than the one he imposes on himself.’”
The Crown and the defence agreed that a fine of $1,800, at the high end of the range for fines imposed in similar cases, was a fit sentence, a submission accepted by the judge.
The Crown also called for a six to 12 month driving prohibition, a submission that was opposed by Campbell’s lawyer who argued that such a ban would cause Campbell hardship and was not warranted in the circumstances.
The judge concluded that a ban was not necessary because the public did not need to be protected from Campbell and a driving prohibition was not necessary to achieve deterrence as it had already been reached in part by the higher fine and through the process itself.
A prohibition would also have unintended consequences on Mr. Campbell’s eventual search for work and his ability to care for his son, said the judge.
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