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Posts Tagged "canadian"

23Apr

Daphne Bramham: What is Indigenous Canadian food? The answer might lead to more than good cooking

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Award-winning Chef Shane Chartrand is on a journey to discover indigenous food in Canada. He’s one of the chefs featured in the six-part, web series, Red Chef Revival, available on STORYHIVE’s YouTube channel and on Telus Optik TV on demand. Chartrand’s cookbook, Tawaw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine, will be released this fall by House of Anansi Press.


See Notes / Direction / PNG

It’s always a bit embarrassing when foreigners ask what Indigenous Canadian food is. After long, torturous pause, most Canadians might stumble out an answer like poutine, tourtière, bannock, Saskatoon pie or Nanaimo bars.

Of course, none of those is really Indigenous. They came with explorers and settlers who brought flour and sugar.

Yet, long before they arrived, Indigenous people had lived for centuries eating local plants and animals.

Initially, smart newcomers relied on their local knowledge to initially survive in this unfamiliar land. Others like Sir John Franklin and others tragically learned the folly of attempting self-reliance.

But because of colonization much of that knowledge has been lost along with other cultural practices and Indigenous languages.

“Even Indigenous people don’t understand what Indigenous food is,” chef Shane Chartrand told me when we talked recently. “We don’t know our own food. Powwow food is bannock, burgers, gravy and fries. That’s not Indigenous in my humble opinion.”

Recovering those foods, recipes and cooking techniques is something that Indigenous chefs like Chartrand are now in a position to explore.


Chef Shane Chartrand’s kale salad. Photo: Cathryn Sprague

House of Anansi Press /

PNG

In the style of Anthony Bourdain, three award-winning chefs fanned out across Canada to Indigenous communities that they didn’t know to help prepare and eat food that included unusual ingredients like cougar, bison tongue and seal.

Answering the question of what is Indigenous food is the premise of a six-part series called Red Chef Revival, available on the Storyhive YouTube channel and to Telus Optik TV On Demand subscribers.

Chartrand visited Nisga’a people near Prince Rupert and was served chow mein buns.

“I thought it was ridiculous. No way is it part of Indigenous culture. But they told me that along Cannery Row, there were Japanese, Indigenous and Chinese and they shared recipes so it becomes Indigenous,” he said.

“I don’t agree. But they think it is.”

He feels the same way about “powwow food” — bannock, burgers and fries with gravy.

But the seal stew prepared by Nisga’a fishing families in Port Edward fits Chartrand’s definition to the letter.

Not only did it taste really good — better, Chartrand said, than the other four ways he’s eaten seal — it’s sustainable and healthy.

One of the tragedies of lost Indigenous food and cooking is that it’s been replaced by sugar-, fat- and carbohydrate-laden diets that have contributed to skyrocketing rates of diabetes and heart disease.

(For the record, the chef is opposed to a commercial seal hunt. He supports sustainable hunting with every part of the animal used.)

The genesis of Chartrand’s personal journey of discovery is a desire to connect with the Cree culture denied him as a child. Taken into foster care at two, he was adopted by a Metis Chartrand’s family at seven.

His father taught him about hunting and fishing. But it’s only as an adult that Chartrand began learning about his own people’s traditions.

By then, he was already a rising star in the kitchen, having apprenticed at high-end restaurant kitchens. He’s competed on the Food Network’s Chopped and, in 2017, was the first Indigenous chef to win the Gold Medal Plates Canadian Culinary Championships and is the chef at the River Cree Resort on Enoch First Nation’s land near Edmonton.

This fall, Chartrand’s cookbook — Tawaw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine — will be published by Anansi Press. It’s about his life, his travels and includes more than 70 recipes using traditional foods.

Top Chef finalist and Haudenosaunee chef Rich Francis seems less of a purist. While he acknowledges in the series’ first episode that bannock doesn’t really fit the definition of Indigenous food, Francis made both bannock and risotto on his visit to the Osoyoos band.

For the risotto, Francis used sage and cactus gathered on the Osoyoos lands that he described as “the Hollywood of rezs.” Both were cooked to accompany cougar seared over an open fire. The cougar was shot because it was deemed a threat to residents.

Like Chartrand, Francis isn’t promoting commercial hunting. But last year he

did threaten to sue the Ontario government for the right to cook wild game in his restaurant because government regulations are one of the many barriers to Canadians’ understanding, knowing and even tasting Indigenous foods.

Elk, deer, moose, bison, seal and the like can only be served at specially permitted events and not in restaurants. Only farm-raised meat can be served and that requires finding suppliers who can raise enough to guarantee a steady supply.

The idea of eating what the Canadian land alone can produce aligns perfectly with concerns about climate change and a sustainable food supply.

Rediscovering traditional foods with Indigenous chefs guiding the way seems a perfect way to learn how to do that.

Beyond that, there’s reconciliation. So many attempts at it are so earnest, so political and so difficult for some people to swallow, that sitting down and eating together may provide a new pathway because who doesn’t love a good meal?

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Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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16Apr

 Microsoft deal means more access for all Canadian public servants with disabilities, minister says

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The federal government has renewed a contract with Microsoft Canada that includes more digital communication tools for public servants with disabilities.

Minister of Accessibility Carla Qualtrough made the announcement at Microsoft’s offices in Vancouver, saying the modern tools will allow for more information sharing, productivity and collaboration.

Qualtrough, who is legally blind, says the seven-year agreement is part of the government’s procurement of software and services for all public servants and that about five per cent of the workforce of 410,000 people has a disability.

The inclusive design of the $940-million deal includes features such as artificial intelligence technology that allows an image on a screen to be described to someone who can’t see and provide transcription for dozens of languages.

Qualtrough says all public servants will now have access to Office 365 and the agreement will enable software to run in data centres or in the cloud.

She says all Canadians will benefit as a result of a strong platform for the delivery of programs and services.


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13Apr

Top-ranked Canadian trampolinist speaks openly, hopefully about having cancer at age 22

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Weeks after winning a silver medal in double-mini trampoline at the 2017 World Games, Tamara O’Brien felt a strange lump under her chin while watching TV in her mother’s Coquitlam duplex.

She received an ultrasound and a biopsy, but life went on as usual for the 20-year-old athlete who continued to train and then flew to Spain for another international competition, where she won silver again. After she returned home, she was summoned to her doctor’s office.

It was Friday, Oct. 13.

“The dermatologist says, ‘So they found melanoma in your lymph nodes.’ And I just started bawling,” O’Brien recalled. “It was this really weird shocking thing that was going on. I thought, ‘Oh my God I just got diagnosed (with cancer).’ I thought, ‘How am I going to tell anyone this?’”

O’Brien’s surprise is understandable, as it is relatively rare for someone her age to get cancer. Just two per cent of the new cancer diagnoses each year in Canada are in people 15 to 29 years old, representing about 2,250 people annually, says the Canadian Cancer Society.

As a result, experts say, there is a lack of programs, and sometimes even treatment, for these young people who are trapped between services for children and those designed for much older cancer patients. 

“We are kind of the forgotten generation,” said O’Brien, who has Stage 4 melanoma.

“Most people think about their 20s as these years of figuring out their shit. And I feel like that all got taken away from me, right? I so desperately would love to move out of my house and start a career and think long-term with my boyfriend. But I don’t get to think about that — that’s not on my priority list any more. It sucks. It’s a really weird stage in your life to be diagnosed.”

O’Brien, who spent her childhood on her sport’s world stage, is now opening up about her difficult health journey. She hopes she can help other youth battling cancer who are struggling, as she initially did, to connect with people their own age.

“I was thinking: What do I want someone to take away from reading this story? A huge part of it is that my life isn’t sad. When people hear I have cancer, they must think, ‘Oh my God, that’s so depressing. She must be so sad. Her life must suck,’” she said.

“But, honestly, I’ve had some of my happiest days. … Your whole perspective changes when death sits right at your door. As morbid as it sounds, that’s true.”

O’Brien has her ups and downs, said her mother Tina Geulen, but “for the most part she is really positive. And she really tries to be.”

The pride in her voice dissolves into sorrow, though, when she talks about the injustice of this illness. “To watch this happen and not be able to have any control over the outcome and what is happening, is the hardest thing in the world.”

O’Brien has transferred her strong work ethic and determination to become one of Canada’s top trampoliners to her task of battling cancer, said former coach Curt De Wolff.

“I’m just so amazed by how it has brought out more passion for life in her,” said De Wolff, who coaches at the Shasta Trampoline Club in New Westminster.

“Sometimes you can look at something like this as an end, but I think it has almost been her second beginning. She has almost treated every day as a new beginning. It’s crazy impressive.”

By her own account, O’Brien has good days and bad days, days of determination and days of dark depression.

When Postmedia met with her just over a week ago, she was having a good day. But she was feeling “crappy” on Monday, when she posted on her blog that she just wanted to be “normal” again — although she wasn’t even sure what normal was anymore.

“Cancer at 22 is not ideal. Well, cancer at any age isn’t ideal,” she wrote. “I wake up some mornings so tired my eyes are literally glued shut wondering how I’m going to get out of bed. It’s a strange feeling knowing that cancer has taken up a huge part of my life and always will.”

The next day she was admitted to Vancouver General Hospital with abdominal pain, where she will remain over the weekend as doctors investigate what is causing her discomfort.

“I realize how powerful my story is to people. I think that is a huge purpose in my life, just being able to share and help, in whatever people decide to take out of my story.”


Tamara O’Brien.

Pam Kriangkum

O’Brien had “an abundance of energy” when she was a toddler. “I used to stack stuff together when I was young and stand on it. My mother put me into gymnastics when I was two.”

She started trampoline at age nine and by age 10 was training 36 hours a week. She made the national team at age 11 in 2009, and competed that year in an international competition in Belgium. When she was 12, she won an unprecedented seven medals at the Canadian nationals, qualifying her for the world championships in Russia.

But the trip to Russia was going to cost $3,500 and O’Brien, who was raised by a single mother, didn’t think she could afford to go.

Publicity from her seven-medal haul led to Elaine Tanner, a 1968 three-time Olympic swimming medallist, offering to help O’Brien find funding, and eventually to Woody’s Pub in Coquitlam offering to sponsor the young trampolinist through its Dare to Dream Foundation.

“Her enthusiasm caught my eye,” pub owner Gordon Cartwright told The Province in 2009.

Woody’s Pub paid for all her travel expenses until she turned 18, for which both mother and daughter are eternally grateful.

“Without that she would never have been able to continue,” said Geulen.

 


Tamara O’Brien (front) with Gordon Cartwright (left), Gordon Kendall Payne (top) and Vicki Cartwright (right) of Woody’s Dare to Dream Foundation in Coquitlam on Oct. 28, 2009.

She estimates the pub could have spent up to $40,000 supporting her daughter.

Medals piled up as O’Brien competed around the world.

“She was a very exceptional athlete. Amazing work ethic and very committed to what she was doing,” recalls coach De Wolff.

After she turned 18, O’Brien worked two jobs to continue to pay for her training and travel.

O’Brien’s discipline of double-mini trampoline — an acrobatic performance involving triple somersaults and twists, first on a mini-trampoline and then on a landing mat — is not in the Olympics, so the highest honour for her sport is the World Games very four years. When she became one of three Canadian trampolinists to qualify for the 2017 World Games in Poland, she changed her diet and trained even harder.

But something didn’t feel right.

“Every single day I was so tired,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘I just need to suck it up. I’m an adult now.’”

She put in the performance of her life, earning her best marks ever, and won silver for Canada.

“It was this really special moment because the hard work had paid off.”


Tamara practising in 2009.

Ward Perrin

After she returned home, she found the lump under her chin. It was near a spot where, the previous year, she’d had a mole removed that would test positive for melanoma.

“I never called it cancer. It didn’t seem like a big deal,” she recalled. “I never in a million years expected it would have turned into anything like it has now.”

O’Brien underwent an ultrasound and a biopsy, then focused on training for her meet in Spain in October.

Soon after, back home, she cried in the dermatologist’s office. “I never thought that this melanoma was going to come back,” she recalled thinking.

O’Brien knew her battle with cancer would force her to quit the national trampoline team and focus her energy entirely on her health.

While the vast majority of melanomas are caused by exposure to the sun or tanning beds, O’Brien grew up inside a gym and when outside always wore sun block. She is among the minority of melanoma patients whose cancer is linked to genetics, doctors have told her.

On Oct. 25, doctors removed the cancerous lymph nodes. “I had no cancer left in my body but there was a 50 per cent chance it could come back because it had metastasized,” she said.

She was told chemotherapy was not successful against melanoma, which made her happy because as a young woman with a boyfriend, she didn’t want to lose her hair.

But about a month after her surgery, a new lump appeared under her chin. The melanoma was back.

“So that was really awful to hear that I had recurrence six weeks after surgery. It was really, really aggressive.” 

She would have four more surgeries, between January and March 2018, but doctors couldn’t remove all the stubborn cancer spreading microscopically through her neck. After a scan in April 2018, her oncologist delivered the worst news yet.

“She said, ‘You have spots in your lymph nodes, in your neck, under your armpit, in your groin. You have spots in your liver, you have spots along your bones. … It’s on your ribs. It’s on your vertebrae. It’s on your pelvic bone,’” a stoic O’Brien recalled.

The cancer was now Stage 4, the most severe.

The next day was April 20 — the date of the annual marijuana counterculture celebration — and O’Brien was starting immunotherapy treatment at the B.C. Cancer agency. “I remember joking, ‘It’s 4/20. I’m getting my drugs.”

Her body reacted poorly to the immunotherapy and the cancer worsened, leading to severe back pain that forced her last summer to quit her waitressing job.

Her grandfather took her to the B.C. Cancer to start radiation, where the staff assumed it was he who had come for treatment.

“I was like, ‘No, it’s actually me,’” she recalled. “The young adults are forgotten. There are supports out there, but I really had to look for it. Which is sad.”

One of the groups she found was Callanish, which provides a space for people to support each other through this life-altering disease. O’Brien counts on the group’s monthly drop-in sessions.

“You basically can sit there and bitch about your problems without anyone telling you how to be or that you can’t feel that way or that your feelings aren’t valid. Everybody in the room gets exactly what you are going through,” she said.

“They’ve helped me so much through my own struggles.”


Tamara O’Brien in 2009.

Ward Perrin

There are a handful of programs and support groups for adolescents and young adults, including the Kristian Domingo Foundation and Young Adults Cancer Canada (YACC).

But there is a need for more, said art therapist Sara Hankinson, who offers an art therapy program in Vancouver for young adults through the B.C. Cancer. Last week, she started an online group using Skype for young patients in other parts of the province.

Participants can discuss issues that are relevant to their lives, said Hankinson, such as body image or fear of losing their fertility after cancer treatments.

“Figuring out how to return to work can be a really big struggle for them. A lot of them are dating or in new marriages, which can often times be really challenged,” Hankinson said.

The challenges can also be medical for this age group, which is dubbed AYA, for adolescents and young adults, in health circles.

The survival rate for this group is improving, but not at the same pace as the advancements for children, said Dr. Karen Goddard, medical director of the Adult Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program at the B.C. Cancer.

“Some of the reasons are that AYA, in clinical trials and research, they are very under-represented,” Goddard said.

These patients often have one foot in childhood and one in adulthood and would benefit from a team approach. England has created special AYA clinics, and the B.C. Cancer hopes to develop one here, too.

“We need to bring adult and pediatric oncology together, so they can better look at treatment planning and psycho-social needs for these patients,” Goddard said. “I’ve talked to guys who say, ‘Everyone else (getting treatment) was over 60 and I’m here and I’m 25.’ They feel completely out of place and sort of abandoned and on their own. And cut-off from their peer group.”

Goddard is creating a program that would give young patients, after discharge, a document that shows their treatments, possible long-term health risks, and how they should be screened years down the road.

In the fall, O’Brien’s doctors put her on new pills that try to slow down the cancer, and they appeared to be working — although the nasty side effects include hair loss.

“I have had two stable scans showing disease regression, so things are getting smaller. They are doing their job for now, which is really awesome,” she said. “The problem with these drugs is that the cancer will become resistant to them, at some point, and it will start growing again.”

When that will happen and what she’ll do next remain uncertain, although her doctor is looking into a clinical trial in Toronto.

A GoFundMe page started for O’Brien last fall raised $16,000. She gave some money to her mom and thinks she may use the remaining $10,000 to fly back and forth to Toronto during the clinical trial.


Tamara O’Brien, centre, with her mother Martina Guelen and boyfriend Jamie Moors at last year’s Cayford Gala, was the first recipient the Forward Foundation, which was created to help terminally ill young adults make the most of their time.

Pam Kriangkum Photography

Geulen is an on-call clerical worker for a local school district, a job that has given her flexibility to be with her daughter during appointments and hospital stays. But the less she works, the less she gets paid, often making it difficult to cover monthly expenses.

“This is just such a surreal life at the moment, and you can’t believe that it’s happening to you and you can’t believe it is happening to your child, and you can’t understand what you did to deserve this and what she did to deserve this,” she said.

After back pain forced O’Brien to quit her job last summer, she went on disability payments. She is grateful for the money, but notes she could never support herself on the meagre payments if she didn’t live with her mother.

“You are 100 per cent in poverty on disability, which I think people don’t even understand.”

She would like to get another job, but doesn’t have the strength to return to waitressing. “I’m trying to figure out what work would be good for me physically, and how I could make some money. So that is challenging right now, for sure.”

A highlight for O’Brien in the past six months was being the first recipient of the Forward Foundation, whose mission is to “provide young adults who are terminally ill with meaningful end-of-life experiences.” It was started by a remarkable young man, Christopher Cayford, while he was dying of cancer, and is now run by his mother, Claire Conde.

O’Brien’s chosen experience was to attend the 2018 Trampoline Gymnastics World Championships in Russia last November, so she could say goodbye to her Canadian teammates.

When she arrived in Russia, she received one heartfelt surprise after another: the Canadian team members wore “We Jump for Tamara” T-shirts, she was asked to be their flag bearer, and Olympic gold medalist Rosie MacLennan gave her one of the bronze medals the team won.


Trampoline gymnast Tamara O’Brien, with gold medallist Rosie MacLennan at the World Trampoline Championships in Russia in November.

Pam Kriangkum Photography

“I ended up walking away from that competition with the exact opposite outcome: It was not a goodbye. It was: My community is with me and they will always be with me,” O’Brien said, adding that she felt Cayford’s presence while in Russia.

“I definitely feel like he’s almost looking out for me. I feel like I know him but we never met. It’s super bizarre, and I’m not one to believe in stuff like that.“

For the last four months, since she returned from Russia, her cancer has been fairly stable. O’Brien has had two recent hospital stays: a two-week admission for a blood infection and her current treatment. To remain as upbeat as possible, she hung a poster board in her hospital room, and recorded the things for which she was grateful: her mom, nurses, friends who visit.


Tamara O’Brien on Apr. 5, 2019 with her hospital poster board.

But the hospital stays taxed her spirit, which happens at other times, too. “I’ve had really dark days, days when I’ve been in the car driving and thinking this would be a good song at my funeral.”

She said, though, that she has good support from her mother, her boyfriend and some “true” friends.

Cancer, she jokes, can be “quality control” for relationships. Some people don’t know what to say and bolt, while others provide unwavering support.

“It was really, really hard initially getting diagnosed and thinking, ‘Well, this is my life now. So how do I introduce myself? ‘I’m Tamara and I have cancer.’ But it’s not a defining feature for me anymore.” she said.

O’Brien has now lived for one year as a stage 4 cancer patient — a thought that brings questions about her future but also relief that she is feeling more or less OK at the moment.

“I think it’s a celebration that I have had this year. And that hopefully I’ll have another,” she wrote on her blog. “I count my blessings each day because what else can you do when a huge chunk of your life is filled with uncertainty and with fear.”

[email protected]

Twitter:@loriculbert




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13Mar

Canadian specialists not entirely shocked by U.S. admissions scandal

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The massive university admissions scam in the U.S. disturbs, but does not entirely shock, Canadian specialists in exam writing, career advancement and cheating.

“It’s tricky. There’s the cynical side of me that says, ‘Yep, that doesn’t surprise me.’ Then there’s the other side of me that says, ‘That sucks. It’s just unfair,’” says University of B.C. geologist Brett Gilley, who takes a special interest in rooting out cheaters.

In a similar vein, Richard Dalton, whose Vancouver company tutors students in how to gain admission to leading U.S. universities, said he is troubled that authorities have charged 50 people in a scheme in which wealthy parents are said to have bribed insiders to get their children admitted to elite American schools.

“It really bothers me, because we have students who work hard to do well in the tests by studying for many hours and doing diagnostic tests. Then to have someone come in and pay to pass the test fraudulently? It’s really disturbing,” said Dalton, owner of Your Score Booster.

Vancouver businessman and former CFL player David Sidoo is among those charged with conspiracy in the far-reaching FBI investigation. Sidoo is alleged to have made two separate $100,000 US payments to have others take entrance exams in place of his two sons, including by providing falsified ID cards for someone who came to Vancouver to write the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) for a U.S. institution.

The sweeping U.S. investigation details multiple alleged university entrance scams by parents, including Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. The parents involved, officials said, spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million US to guarantee their children’s admission.

Many of the well-heeled parents are charged with bribing SAT exam supervisors, including to change their children’s score results.

They are also alleged to have falsely claimed their children were disabled, in part to get special treatment writing the exams. Others are charged with bribing at least nine college coaches to lie that their offspring are sought-after athletes, making them eligible for fast-track admission.


University of B.C. geologist Brett Gilley.

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

Gilley said there are at least two things about the way Canadian universities and colleges generally handle the admissions process that may make them less vulnerable to corruption and cheating than institutions of higher education in the U.S.

The first is that many Canadian universities, including UBC, don’t require SAT test scores from most students, Gilley said. Secondly, he said most Canadian universities do not place an extreme emphasis on building revenue-producing football, basketball, volleyball and other teams. So athletic scholarships are not as common in Canada as a side-door entry into higher education.

Related

UBC’s deputy registrar Andrew Arida issued a statement Wednesday saying it has “a variety of safeguards in place expressly designed to help prevent abuse” of the admissions process. “To preserve the integrity of our systems, we do not discuss the details of the protections in place.”

The deputy registrar said that, unlike most post-secondary institutions in the U.S., UBC does not require SAT and ACT test results for every undergraduate applicant. It only asks U.S. high school applicants to provide those scores.

“The quality of secondary school education is consistently high across Canada, making standardized academic aptitude test scores unnecessary,” Arida said. He maintained UBC’s system has “much-clearer determinants of how applicants are ranked” compared to other universities, which he said can be more “subjective.”

SFU registrar Rummana Khan Hemani also said the post-secondary admissions systems in Canada differ from the U.S. with regards to SAT results, adding that SFU is confident in its registration safeguards.

Dalton said it can, unfortunately, be relatively easy for a wealthy person to deceive, or bribe, some of the staff hired by companies to supervise SAT and other admissions exams.

Some test supervisors, known as “invigilators,” are prone to making mistakes about exam protocol, Dalton said. “And some of these people are also not paid very well. That could mean the ones who aren’t ethical are susceptible” to bribery — either to allowing bogus test takers to use fake identities or to upgrade exam results.

Both Dalton and Gilley were intrigued by media reports that some of the parents charged in the U.S. scams had claimed their children were disabled, to help trick officials and give the children an advantage in exam writing and in the overall admissions process.

A recent Wall Street Journal article said almost one in four students at some elite U.S. colleges and universities are now classified as disabled, often in regards to anxiety and depression, entitling them to a wide array of special accommodations such as longer times to take exams. Dalton and Gilley were curious about how exactly such false disability claims could work in tricking the admissions process.

Even though the focus of the FBI investigation has been on various scams and bribes parents have used to get their children admitted to top U.S. schools, Gilley said he regularly focuses in Canada on working with faculty to track down classroom cheating by enrolled students.

That often means catching students who are plagiarizing or hiring “ghostwriters” to do their essays and assignments, he said. Gilley usually reports blatant cheats to university authorities on their first offence. Most students, he said, will be expelled after two or three incidents.

“People who tend to cheat always rationalize it by saying, ‘Everybody cheats,’” Gilley said. “I would say that about five per cent will cheat, no matter what you do. But that also means 95 per cent do not cheat. And you want to make sure you’re not punishing all the students to catch the few.”

Even though it can sometimes be difficult, Gilley said every effort must continue to go into rooting out fraud, cheating and general unfairness in all aspects of higher education.

“You want to hope, and the great dream is, that universities are a meritocracy.”

[email protected]

@douglastodd


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14Jan

‘Your country deserves much better’: B.C. judge warned Canadian sentenced to death in China

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A B.C. judge told Robert Lloyd Schellenberg he was lucky to be living in Canada when he sent him to jail for drug trafficking in 2012.

As the Abbotsford man faces the death penalty in China, Justice Neill Brown’s admonition now reads like a chilling warning.

“Your country deserves much better from you. You are in one of the best places in the world to live,” Brown said as he sentenced Schellenberg in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack. 

“You are not caught up in Libya or Syria; I do not have evidence of any abuse in your childhood and I accept that you have your own struggles to deal with, but you have to confront those. After all, it’s not as if you are 18, and having to storm Juno Beach.”

The journey that carried Schellenberg from that courtroom in the Lower Mainland’s Fraser Valley to the centre of an international story is detailed, in part, in court documents obtained by CBC News. 

The 36-year-old was sentenced to death Monday in the Dalian People’s Court in China’s northeast province of Liaoning.

The ruling came after a sudden retrial of a 15-year sentence for allegedly conspiring with others to smuggle 222 kilograms of methamphetamine from China to Australia in 2014.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is shown in Vancouver after her release on bail as she awaits extradition proceedings. Critics have suggested Schellenberg’s death sentence is part of China’s response to the Huawei case. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the sentence, which comes amid speculation Schellenberg is one of several Canadians whose fates are enmeshed in a battle between Canada and China over extradition proceedings for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou currently underway in Vancouver.

Brown sentenced Schellenberg to two years in 2012 for possession of both cocaine and heroin for the purpose of trafficking as well as simple possession of cannabis resin and methamphetamine.

Because of time served, Schellenberg’s ultimate sentence was 16 months and 12 days.

‘Do not ever underestimate the seriousness’

Schellenberg pleaded guilty to all four counts, which came about as a result of an investigation into a high-volume drug sales operation that saw his apartment in Abbotsford used as a “distribution centre.”

According to the reasons for sentence, Schellenberg was on probation at the time that police raided his fourth-floor apartment, seizing $6,080 worth of cocaine and heroin as well as $3,205 in cash from pill profits.

The judge said Schellenberg was not considered to have been at the “lower rung” of the operation.

His criminal record dates back to February 2003, when he received a six-month sentence for possession for the purpose of trafficking.

In this image taken from a video footage run by China’s CCTV, Schellenberg listens as he is sentenced to death at the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in Dalian, northeastern China’s Liaoning province. (CCTV via Associated Press)

At the time Brown sent him to jail, Schellenberg was struggling with addiction.

“He had a work-related accident in which he injured his femur,” Brown said. “At the time of his arrest, indeed, he was wearing a cast, and apparently because of his injury, was abusing pain medications.”

The judge noted that Schellenberg’s father “had turned his back on him because of his criminal history although he still has the support of some family members.”

“You are fortunate that you have some family members supporting you,” the judge said. “Do not ever underestimate the seriousness of this kind of an offence.”

At the time of his sentencing in 2012, Schellenberg’s lawyer told the court he was “deeply ashamed, worried about his father and any embarrassment that he is experiencing in the community.”

‘I hope this is the last time’

Schellenberg’s parents could not be reached for comment Monday, but his aunt Lauri Nelson-Jones called the decision the family’s “worst-case fear confirmed.”

“Our thoughts are with Robert at this time. It is rather unimaginable what he must be feeling and thinking. It is a horrific, unfortunate, heartbreaking situation. We anxiously anticipate any news regarding an appeal.”

It is unclear what Schellenberg did between his relase from provincial jail, which was set for mid-2013 and his alleged involvement in the Chinese drug case. Some reports have suggested he worked in the Alberta oil patch.

According to the Chinese court, Schellenberg was part of a group that concealed 222 bags of methamphetamine in plastic pellets and shipped it from Guangdong to Dalian. He allegedly planned to conceal it in tires and tubing and ship it via container to Australia.

Chinese state television said in an earlier report that Schellenberg argued in court that he was a tourist visiting China and was framed by criminals. His lawyer told The Associated Press that he argued during the one-day trial that there was insufficient evidence for his client’s conviction.

Back in 2012, as Brown prepared to send Schellenberg off to jail, he told the drug dealer he was at a critical point in life.

“He has had his chances in the past. He is either going to cure himself of his addicton and reform himself and turn off the path that he has been on or he is not,” Brown said.

“Your basic task is to overcome your addition and reform your life. I hope this is the last time you appear in court.”


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16Dec

Canadian public libraries call for more access and better prices for e-books

by admin

Public libraries across Canada say major publishers are increasingly charging unfair prices and limiting access to e-books and e-audio books, despite a growing demand from patrons. 

The Canadian Urban Library Council says “the big five” publishers like Hachette, Penguin Random House and MacMillan have long restricted library access to electronic materials, but in the past two years the problem has grown worse.

“Libraries are really struggling to maintain a level of service when it comes to that digital content because of these really restrictive licensing models, whether it be for price or for accessibility,” said Sharon Day, chair of the council’s e-content working group.

“Libraries are about freedom to access and information, and we need to maintain relevance going into the future if we’re going to continue to be a valuable service for the public.”

The council plans to renew its call for fair access to e-books and e-audio books next month. It also wants patrons to understand why they may not be able to access certain materials at their local branch.  

CBC News requested comment from most of the major publishers. They did not respond. 

Rising demand and costs for e-content

Librarians say circulation for physical materials has slightly declined over the past few years, but demand for e-books and e-audio books especially has risen exponentially.

The formats aren’t just popular, librarians say — they also reach different types of patrons. 

But libraries pay up to six times the cover price for some e-books, Day says, and major publishers often limit the number of times the books can be checked out.

In this Sept. 24, 2013 file photo, the 8.9-inch Amazon Kindle HDX tablet computer is held up in Seattle. Amazon owns Audible, which recently launched its dedicated Canadian service, with $12 million earmarked to create audiobooks in Canada. (The Associated Press)

The reasoning is that printed books are eventually repurchased when they’re lost or worn out, and e-book licensing should reflect a similar model. 

Day agrees with that, but says some e-book licences are often limited to as few as 26 check-outs, which is far less than the lifespan of most printed materials.

Exclusive content

But sometimes libraries can’t access e-content from some publishers at all.

In 2017, popular audio book platform Audible launched in Canada and announced it would invest $12 million in Canadian content. But Day says Audible won’t grant libraries access to its platform.

Some of its content, like Justin Trudeau’s 2014 memoir Common Ground, isn’t available in e-audio format anywhere else. 

Librarians also say that last year Tor, a science fiction and fantasy subsidiary of publisher MacMillan, told them it won’t grant libraries access to the electronic versions of new titles until four months after the release date, as a way to boost sales. 

But libraries say research shows that’s faulty reasoning.

Partners, not adversaries

2016 Pew study suggested that library users are more likely to buy books. 

And early research from the Panorama Project, which examines the impact of libraries on book sales, similarly suggests that library availability of new books increases sales and promotions.

“We are partners with publishers, we’re not adversaries. We want just as much as they do for their content to be made available to be purchased to be consumed,” Day said. 

Librarians like Kay Cahill, director of collections and technology at the Vancouver Public Library, say libraries’ access to e-content supports publishers and patrons alike because libraries develop literacy, encourage reading and ensure a thriving literary landscape.

“Publishing in Canada and elsewhere in the world is undergoing a lot of change,” Cahill said.

 “What I would say is just that limiting access and imposing these these high prices for e-content is not the answer.” 


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10Dec

New book from Victoria author scares up some Canadian ghost stories

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Barbara Smith’s lifelong interest in ghosts began over sixty years ago when she walking with her father in Toronto.

“We were walking past a huge bank building. You have to understand I was just three feet tall so it was really enormous and my father said to me I understand that bank is haunted — that it has a ghost in it. I just flipped out,” said Smith, who was seven years old at the time. “I had never been so intrigued by anything in my entire life and so I was just throwing questions at him. He didn’t know the answers, that’s just what he had heard.”

Years later Smith found out the ghost at the bank was that of a young teller named Dorothy who was in love with a co-worker but the affection was not mutual. Distraught the heartbroken teller took her own life with a bank-issued revolver (for protection against bank robbers) in the women’s bathroom in 1953.

The story about Dorothy and her death at the Bank of Montreal (which became the site of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993) and her subsequent haunting of the location is in Smith’s latest collection of ghost stories (her 26th book on the topic) titled Great Canadian Ghost Stories.


Great Canadian Ghost Stories by Barbara Smith. Photo: Courtesy of Touchwood Editions

Touchwood Editions /

PNG

“I love that story and didn’t that bank become the Hockey Hall of Fame. So what a perfect Canadian ghost story,” said Smith gleefully.

Canada is not lacking in spooky tales and unexplained phenomenon. Smith loves them all and treats the stories about average folks like Dorothy with the same wide-eyed reverence as tales about historical heavyweights like Henry Hudson.

“I love the combination of history and mystery,” said Smith, when asked why she keeps digging up ghost stories. “It just tickles me. I love social history. There is a feeling that I get called deliciously frightened. I love that.”

B.C. is well represented in the book. Vancouverites will love the tale of the Headless Brakeman who slipped while walking the tracks at the Granville Rail Yard and had his head cut off by a train. Now if you happen to be down at the tracks at the foot of Granville St. late at night and you see a swaying light say hello to poor old Hub Clark.

And because you are at the rail yards why not head over to the Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown. That building’s busy history has apparently made for some regular ghostly manifestations including the Little Red Man. This regular haunter is short, dressed all in red and likes to hang out in the women’s washroom.

To call Smith a prolific writer is an understatement. Great Canadian Ghost Stories is her 36th book. She is thinking of retiring but says when she does she’ll write a memoir and some collections of short stories. Retirement it seems is not a clear concept.

Smith’s writing career began in 1988 when she had a secretarial job working for the Edmonton school system. In the past, finances had kept Smith from pursuing writing but now she was in a better position and as a lover of ghost stories she was thrilled to find out that the old school that housed the Edmonton public school archives was supposedly haunted. She wrote the story sold it. That bit of sleuthing lead to more digging and more stories and soon Smith had her book Ghost Stories of Alberta and as she says she has “been at it ever since.”

“The first book was really hard to write, really difficult,” said Smith, who has lived in Victoria for a little over a decade. “But once that came out I was just inundated with stories to the point that all I had to do was go out and interview the people and wham I had another book within a year and a half.”

While ghost stories can be wildly entertaining — who doesn’t want to now the story of the Dungarvon Whooper — at their root they are usually tragic and usually involve a death that is either nefarious or premature in nature.

“Ghost stories are fun and everything but they imply a death,” said Smith. “Some of them have been profoundly difficult emotionally so I really do feel grateful and humbled that these people would share with me.”

Smith says many of us have our own ghost stories, stories of a room going cold or a feeling of someone standing behind us when there is no one else around. It’s these creepy connections that Smith thinks peaks our interest in the paranormal.

“The pre-orders were strong for this book. They were tremendous. All of my books sold well,” said Smith, with not a drop of arrogance in her voice.

She quickly adds though that one ghostly tome didn’t sell so well. Haunted Hearts, about ghost love stories, died a premature death.

Why is it we want to read about and think about the dead?

“I think we want to understand what happens after. Also if we lose someone near and dear to us it is comforting to feel them around you,” said Smith.

After years of collecting stories, she says with confidence the place most frequented by ghosts is not graveyards.

Instead, common haunting sites include hospitals, firehalls and theatres, where there is a lot of emotion.

“I find firehalls are very often haunted because there is that huge surge of emotion. Theatres are often haunted, I have one full book on theatres (Haunted Theatres),” she said.

Smith herself says the spookiest place she has been was an old Edmonton hospital. There she said she had a huge emotional sadness overcome her. She said it was weird because she is a “tough old boot.”

There are a lot of commonalities in ghost stories.

“Children are more likely to see things because as we grow up we train ourselves not to see them. Animals are very sensitive. If a dog or a cat stares at something that is usually not a good sign at all.”

Cold spots are big and also if you got a ghost there’s a higher chance he’s a dude.

“Off the top of my head I say men (haunt the most),” said Smith. “There’s a lot of routinized behaviour with men in a haunted house. There you hear the front door open and then close, heavy footsteps going up the stairs. They’re there five days a week forever. He’s just coming home from work.”

Women seem to a have a bit of flourish. They want to be noticed and it seems they don’t want to be caught dead in just any old outfit.

“We have a lot of coloured ladies. We have blue ladies, The Blue Lady of Peggy’s Cove. The grey ladies that kind of thing. I think they are more mournful and they are here because they are sad.”

What about her own afterlife? Does Smith want to return as a ghost?

“I hope so. My girlfriend Jo-Anne Christensen, who wrote Ghost Stories of Saskatchewan and a few other ones, she and I have promised each other we’ll try to come back and hang out together as ghosts.”

Where would she like to do her ghost work?

“I guess a childhood home. That would be really nice. But now that I think about it I think a theatre would be fantastic. I’m a big swimmer and swimming pools are often haunted. Gee, I think I’d like the freedom to flit around.”

Smith’s next book is due out in April and is a follow up to one she did focusing on Canadian suffragette, politician, author, and activist Nellie McClung.

“I had compiled a collection of Nellie McClung columns. That book naturally lead me to the Famous Five and the “Persons Case,” in 1929 and so I’m finishing up that book (Famous Five) and it will be out in April,” said Smith. “It is social history so it does kind of fit. You are not going to see a book from me about quantum physics. That’s not going to happen.”

[email protected]/dana_gee

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What ghost stories does a writer of ghost stories like?

Author Barbara Smith offers up her favourite books about ghosts:

“Choosing favourite ghost story books was tough, but The Ghost of Flight 401, by John G. Fuller, has always been a big favourite of mine. I really admire the way he sets the scene for the plane crash — December 1972, one of those huge old L-1011s crashing into a Florida swamp. Very chilling. Also, you can imagine the pilots’ reactions going from mild annoyance to the terrifying reality that they are about to crash the plane they are responsible for and likely kill all on board.

“Then when those pilots faces start showing up in other L-1011s — ones that have been fitted with parts from the wrecked plane — with messages to prompt the crews to look for safety hazards, well, it’s just creepy and so believable.

“On a much lighter note — you really can’t beat A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I like the book way more than any version of the movie. I think we can all identify with different parts of each character, which really brings the story close to the heart.

“The Haunting of Hill House is such a classic — and scary like mad. I think for the same reason as A Christmas Carol is effective, we can all identify with parts of each character and then our imaginations just go into overdrive. Plus Shirley Jackson was such a skilled wordsmith. She just ratchets up the suspense.

“And last is a Ghost Story by Peter Straub. The nice quiet setting of a small town with four old men telling stories to one another is such a bait and switch for what’s to come and again, it gets personal.”




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23Nov

NEB to hold Trans Mountain reconsideration hearing in Victoria next week

by admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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4Nov

Canadian Tire tells wife of ailing customer to pay his $18,000 debt, despite credit card insurance

by admin

Almost 30 years ago, George Graves signed up for a Mastercard at his local Canadian Tire store. He was also sold insurance on that credit card, designed to help with payments in the event a cardholder loses their job, becomes disabled or gets sick.

“My husband paid for Credit Protector insurance all these years in case something bad should happen,” says his 72-year old wife, Jolante Graves.

“Now it’s happened, and the company doesn’t want to live up to … expectations.”

George Graves suffered a stroke in February and was diagnosed with vascular dementia. (Submitted by Jolante Graves)

George Graves, 84, a farrier from Addison, Ont., had a stroke in February that put him in long-term care and quickly led to vascular dementia.

“I thought we’d be OK because of his credit card insurance,” his wife told Go Public.

It’s estimated that millions of Canadians pay for insurance on their credit cards.

But financial experts say the product is pricey, carries numerous conditions to qualify for coverage and often doesn’t pay out. In many cases, the insurance will only cover the minimum monthly payment — not the entire balance.

“Credit card protection is fantastic for the banker, usually horrible for the consumer,” says personal finance expert Kerry Taylor, from Vernon, B.C.

In the months following her husband’s stroke, Jolante Graves says he became unable to recognize her and couldn’t read or write.

She says employees from Canadian Tire Bank repeatedly phoned her at home, demanding she pay her spouse’s outstanding credit card bill, which was about $17,000. She had not co-signed for the credit card, and had no obligation to pay it off.

“They have been evasive, rude and unkind,” Graves wrote in an email to Go Public. “This is causing me a lot of distress.”

Graves says she told them her husband had dementia, and was unable to file a claim on his own, but because the policy was in her husband’s name, she was told by bank officials that they could only deal with him.

In July, a letter arrived from Canadian Tire Bank, saying her husband’s overdue account was being “escalated to our Credit Recoveries Department,” and demanded immediate payment.

George Graves died four weeks ago.

Canadian Tire settles

Two days after Go Public contacted Canadian Tire Bank, a spokesperson phoned Jolante Graves and apologized for the harassing phone calls.

He also said that although her husband would have to make the insurance claim, he was willing to erase the debt — which had grown to over $18,000 — if she agreed to keep the deal confidential. 

She signed a confidentiality agreement, but CBC had already interviewed her.

Canadian Tire turned down a Go Public request for an interview, and instead emailed a statement, saying, “We take any concern raised by our customers seriously and in this particular case, we were able to quickly resolve the matter.”

Watch CBC‘s investigative consumer programMarketplace (8 p.m. Friday on CBC-TV) as they take hidden cameras into the big banks to reveal how customers get pitched credit card balance protection insurance.

Go Public asked how much George Graves had paid in credit card insurance over the years — a recent Mastercard statement from Canadian Tire Bank showed that he was paying about $105 a month for insurance.

A bank spokesperson declined to say how much Graves had paid in premiums “for privacy reasons,” but in a letter to Jolante Graves, a senior representative wrote, “the amount of creditor insurance premiums paid was far less than the amount of debt that Canadian Tire Bank has forgiven.”

He also wrote that Canadian Tire “has processes in place” to make customers “aware of how their credit protection insurance coverage could apply” and that these processes were followed.

Coverage ‘extremely narrow’

Taylor has examined the fine print on insurance contracts for a number of credit cards, and says she’d never buy such a product.

“It generally doesn’t help the consumer,” says Taylor. “It’s just an expensive product that they’re adding to their debt load and the premiums are extremely high.”

Canadian Tire charges $1.10 per $100 balance a month for its Credit Protector product (which decreases to 59 cents per $100 when the cardholder turns 80). That means that the average customer with a monthly balance of $2,500, who doesn’t get the discount, pays $27.50 a month for insurance, or $330 a year, plus taxes.

Personal finance expert Kerry Taylor says people are better off getting good life and disability insurance, instead of paying for pricey credit card balance protection. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Taylor says what policies actually cover is “extremely narrow.”

Often people who buy credit card protection think they have unemployment coverage, but learn they don’t qualify because many insurance companies require the cardholder to be working for one employer for a minimum of 25 hours a week.

“If you’re someone like me in the gig economy, I’m not going to be covered, because I have multiple jobs and none of them add up to 25 hours a week,” says Taylor.

George Graves did not qualify for unemployment coverage through his credit card insurance because as a farrier, he did not have one employer for 25 hours a week. (Submitted by Jolante Graves)

George Graves didn’t qualify for unemployment coverage.

He was still working as a farrier, shaping and fitting horses with shoes, when he was sold the insurance on his credit card, but he didn’t have one employer for 25 hours a week.

His wife also couldn’t collect on the life insurance included in the coverage, because that stops paying out at age 80.

“With a standard life insurance or disability policy, someone is going to ask you questions about your health, your age, your gender, what kind of work you do and so on,” says Taylor.

“It’s all on paper, so they can figure out what your risk is for making a claim, and charge the correct premium. That underwriting doesn’t exist with credit card insurance.”

Taylor says people get better protection if they pay for life and disability insurance.

“Get the underwriting,” she says, “so you know if your illness will be covered or not.”

She also recommends people create their own emergency fund.

“That way, if you get sick or injured, you can cover your minimum monthly payments yourself,” says Taylor. 

‘People don’t understand how it works’

“A credit card is a high interest product, initially meant for safety and convenience,” says Scott Hannah, president of the Credit Counselling Society. “They’re not designed to carry a long-term balance, that’s the problem.”

Scott Hannah of the Credit Counselling Society says people with crippling credit card debt often cut up their cards when they come in for debt counselling. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

He says counsellors at his office often hear from people who get into credit card debt and are surprised to learn the insurance they’ve been paying for doesn’t cover them.

“It’s not until they hit financial trouble that they find out they never qualified to begin with,” says Hannah, noting that many consumers don’t read the fine print before they sign up for credit card protection plans.

‘He would be devastated’

George Graves died unaware of the controversy that surrounded his outstanding credit card debt.

“I’m glad he never knew,” says his wife. “He would be devastated. He bought that insurance for peace of mind.”

She’s glad Canadian Tire settled the dispute over her husband’s Mastercard, but says the retailer has lost her as a customer.

“They will never see me set foot in their blasted store again,” says Graves. “If I want to buy something, I’ll go somewhere else.”

— With files from Enza Uda

Submit your story ideas

Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.

We tell your stories and hold the powers that be accountable.

We want to hear from people across the country with stories you want to make public.

Submit your story ideas at Go Public.

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20Sep

Mounties shut down provincial park day after tent city campers move in

by admin

CTV Vancouver Island


Published Thursday, September 20, 2018 11:19AM PDT


Last Updated Thursday, September 20, 2018 12:38PM PDT

Just a day after homeless occupants from a former tent city moved into Goldstream Provincial Park, they and other campers have been told to leave.

West Shore RCMP arrived at the park Wednesday night briefly blocking access and telling campers it would be closed indefinitely after 11 a.m. Thursday.

Reports then surfaced that campers would be granted an additional 24 hours to pack up and move out of the camp whlie the government collected further information.

The park shutdown applies to all campers, not just the 25 or so tent city residents who moved in Wednesday night.

Those homeless campers said they were under the impression they’d be able to stay at the park for two weeks after they were evicted from two Saanich parks in a week.

“I went and talked to park ranger and he said ‘Oh we’re trying to nip it in the bud, we don’t want to see what’ll happen in two weeks from now,'” said camper Morgan Van Humbeck.

Tent city organizer Chrissy Brett called on B.C.’s premier to discuss options with the group instead of evicting them.

“John Horgan if you’re watching this I would ask you to ask your ministers to come down and have a conversation and sit around the one table we have left, and tell people to their face that they have no right to exist here in British Columbia if you’re homeless,” said Brett.

But Langford Mayor Stew Young said problems like open drug use and theft moved in along with the campers, prompting the shutdown.

“This is not a place to have needle sharps and other activity around that neighbourhood especially,” Stew Young told CFAX 1070. “We’ve already, from yesterday, had two individual instances of males in the washroom shooting up in front of other families that are in there and camping, so those people have left.”

Mounties referred questions to BC Parks, saying they were assisting the organization by enforcing regulations of the Parks Act.

On Thursday, B.C.’s housing minister Selina Robinson issued a statement saying that the campground was closed to ensure public safety after concerns were expressed by RCMP.

“The park is not an appropriate place for the establishment of a tent city. We urge those at Goldstream to work with staff to identify better housing solutions,” Robinson said.

She said the province’s goal is to get people into shelters and longer-term housing, but a CTV News report Wednesday found that all shelters in the Capital Region were full. Robinson pointed to 25 new shelter beds opening at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre Oct. 1.

She also noted that in the Capital Region, only the City of Victoria had identified a site for modular units of supportive housing that the government has committed to build.

That changed Thursday, when the District of Saanich announced it had identified a site near Saanich city hall for modular units to be built.

The section of land is north of the Saanich Fire Hall on Vernon Avenue.

“We’re hopeful that by providing this land, we’re moving in the right direction to secure housing and satisfy some of the need for housing in the region,” said Chief Administrative Officer Paul Thorkelsson.

The district said it will make another announcement soon once further details of the project are confirmed.

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