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Posts Tagged "change"

30Sep

Letters, Oct. 1: The real work on climate change starts with each of us

by admin

https://vancouversun.com/


Over 100,000 people concerned about the state of the Earth’s climate converged on Vancouver City Hall last Friday as part of a global initiative to bring attention to the environment.


Jason Payne / PNG

Naturally, I was delighted to see so many young people taking climate change seriously, and I truly hope they continue the hard work ahead.

However, my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by reality. After watching the very prescient movie WALL-E a few years ago — the story of a little robot left on Earth to clean up the mess humanity made — I was disheartened to note that not a single audience member bothered to pick up their popcorn and drink containers when exiting the theatre. They had been entertained, but learned nothing.

I hope that all the marchers might consider keeping their iPhones, laptops, X-Boxes and such a lot longer than the marketers would prefer, especially given that 350,000 phones are discarded daily in North America, and most of the stylish clothes we all seem to need each season are not recyclable.

While pressuring our politicians is necessary, the real work starts with each of us.

Gorm Damborg, Vancouver

Climate march was no gimmick

The people who marched Friday in Vancouver showed their deep concern for global warning, climate change and the environment.

Perhaps, leaders locally, provincially and federally will truly listen and implement measures that will have healing effects. Hurricanes, floods and forest fires are the results of our selfish actions over past decades and centuries. 

The canaries are singing: Orcas, salmon, caribou and many other species worldwide are threatened.

The climate march was not a gimmick. Let us find solutions to the problems we created. We must come together, cooperate and reach consensus.

Kathleen Szabo, Vancouver.

It’s about time

Finally, climate change is getting the attention it deserves. I was heartened to see The Vancouver Sun’s pictures of hundreds of thousands of people from across Canada who are ready to change how we treat our planet.

If each of us individually is willing to do our own small part, we can have a huge cumulative effect on the Earth’s future. Pledging to have no more than two children (or one child and one pet), staying in our lovely neighbourhoods instead of traipsing the world, and alleviating consumerism as recreation are personal choices that will most certainly make our world a better place for future generations.

Kudos to all who recognize that a solution starts with each of us individually.

Doris Schellenberg, Abbotsford

Changing the status quo

September is when we celebrate the employment of people with disabilities, as highlighted in the recent article, “Untapped talent pool is key to British Columbia’s future” by Ross Chilton. True, many people with disabilities continually face barriers to employment. Thus, there’s been a push to increase the awareness of employers in their hiring practices. However, here are two other perspectives:

First, individuals with disabilities are similar to the rest of the population — some have skills and capabilities for the labour force, others don’t. Everyone has the ability to learn, though some may need support. Unfortunately, assumptions and stereotypes still exist — people with disabilities aren’t capable to learn, thus others have low expectations of them. As a result, some miss out from learning basic protocols, appropriate mannerisms, or creative strategies supporting them in the workforce. We must work together, creating an environment where all feel valued and belonged.

Second, I observe that many leadership and management positions in organizations for people with disabilities, are filled by able-bodied (and white) people. Rarely, we see a person with a visible disability in the role. Why? If we want to increase the employment rate of people with disabilities, then I believe it is the responsibility of disabled organizations to lead the way. Having able-bodied people in these positions emphasizes the power dynamics and perpetuates the stereotypes of individuals with disabilities always needing help. Placing a person with a disability in a leadership role challenges the status quo and shifts the perception of disability.

Karen Lai is an independent consultant in accessibility and inclusion.


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30Aug

Province won’t change Robson Square steps despite accessibility complaints | CBC News

by admin

The ramp that zigzags across the steps at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver will not be modified to address accessibility concerns because of the “architectural significance of the site.”

Accessibility consultant Arnold Cheng says the ramp, which was designed in the 1970s by Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson, is too steep to safely navigate in a wheelchair or while pushing a stroller.

Cheng says the ramp is also a tripping hazard for people with visual impairments because the stairs are all the same colour, which makes it difficult to determine where one step ends and the next one begins.

“A lot of people use architectural significance to justify not making any changes, but historically it has not been a problem for many, many buildings,” he said.

“The Louvre in Paris has more historical significance than Robson Square, but they have changed a lot of things over the years.”

Any changes to the design would have to be approved by the provincial government.

Arnold Cheng, accessibility assessor for spectrum ability, rolls his wheelchair up the ramp he says is unsafe at Robson Square in Vancouver on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Changes coming

The province conducted accessibility audits of Robson Square in 2010 and 2018, both of which determined the stair ramps may be difficult for some people to use.

Despite the findings, the B.C. government will not alter the design.

“There are no plans to update the ramps and as such they should be primarily considered ornamental,” the Ministry of Citizens’ Services said in an emailed statement.

“Access to the building can be attained through a number of other means.”

The province says there is signage to direct people to more than 20 elevators that are located at Robson Square, but more signs and assistance for people with a variety of disabilities will soon be added to the site.

Cheng says he welcomes the changes but he doesn’t think they go far enough. 

“The signage definitely has to be better,” Cheng said.

“For some reason, people think you automatically know where everything is.”

Accessibility consultant Arnold Cheng wants to see improvements to the steps at Robson Square. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Erickson’s vision

Erickson’s father lost both of his legs in the First World War.

Arthur Erickson Foundation director Simon Scott says accessibility was an issue that was always close to the architect’s heart.

“He wanted to make public spaces accessible and enjoyable,” Scott said.

“The steps here, which are part of this wonderful public space, have stairs and ramps so that everybody can enjoy it.”

9Jul

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

by admin


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


Gerry Kahrmann / PNG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5Jun

Advocates call for change after $2.9 million surplus revealed for BC Hydro fund

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BC Hydro is sitting on a surplus of about $2.9 million in its customer crisis fund, leading to calls for the utility to reduce its take from the average customer or provide more money to those in need.

B.C. Liberal Energy Critic Greg Kyllo said if the imbalance continues in the year-old pilot program, it’s time to cut the monthly 25 cent fee in half.

“If the grant requirement or the need in the province is going to remain where it is, they should look at rolling back the contribution level in the fund,” he told CTV News Vancouver from Salmon Arm.

But social agencies who were part of the consultation around the fund in the beginning said it’s more likely that people in need don’t know about the fund and more time is necessary to get the word out.

“If they collect the money, then the program’s got to change to make sure more people are able to be helped,” said Gudrun Langolf of the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC.

The customer crisis fund was started in spring 2018 to give people short-term relief when they can’t pay their electricity bills. Customers can apply to get a grant of up to $500 to keep the lights on, and up to $600 if electricity heats their homes.

The public utility took in about 25 cents per customer per month which added up to a revenue of $4.5 million in the year since the program started, BC Hydro confirmed to CTV News.

But the agency only gave out 2,250 grants totalling $850,000.

Administration costs added up around $750,000 – leaving the $2.9 million remaining.

The news will come as a welcome relief to those who suddenly struggle to pay their hydro bills.

Some people who come into Disability Alliance B.C. are often anxious and emotional when they’re suddenly unable to pay their bills, said Shar Saremi, an advocate there.

“I’ve had people crying. I’ve had people who have experienced a loss in the family,” she said. “A lot of the time people are stressed out, anxious, really upset. They are looking for assistance, and they aren’t sure what is available for them.”

She said people are only eligible if their bills are under $1,000, which could be cutting out the people who are most in need. And because the program is in its first year, it could be undersubscribed, she said.

“A lot of people don’t know about the program, don’t know how to apply, or what kind of assistance is out there,” Saremi said.

The fund was established thanks to an order from the B.C. Utilities Commission, the utilities regulator in the province.

The pilot program is going to be examined by the regulator at the end of its first year.

“Any remaining balance in the account at the end of the pilot would be returned to residential ratepayers,” says a BCUC fact sheet. The decision on exactly what to do with the money hasn’t yet been made.

In Manitoba, a similar program is by donation. That program raised about $200,000 from customers and $60,000 in other income. It spent $199,000 on grants to applicants, but lost about $20,000 a year.

In Ontario, private utilities are expected to raise 0.12 per cent of their revenue. Across the province, those utilities gave out about $7.3 million in grants. Any unused funds in one year are rolled over to the following year.


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3Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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27May

B.C. becomes first province to force change to biosimilar drugs

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Biosimilars are manufactured after the 20-year patent period expires on biologics.


Francis Georgian / PNG

Starting today, over 20,000 B.C. patients with cancer or chronic diseases like arthritis, colitis and diabetes will have six months to transition to drugs that are similar to those they’re taking as the province becomes the first in Canada to stop covering some expensive, formerly patented drugs.

Health Minister Adrian Dix promised that no harm will come from the change that will initially save the government more than $96 million in its prescription drug program (PharmaCare).

The savings will be plowed back into the drug budget to allow for funding of drugs that have not yet been covered such as Jardiance, a medicine known as an SGLT2 inhibitor for diabetes. Another drug for psoriatic arthritis called Taltz will also be immediately available.

Since some of the soon to be phased-out government-funded drugs like Remicade have to be given at infusion clinics, Dix said there may be some inconveniences as patients find new locations. But patients will work with their doctors to make the switch to “biosimilar” drugs, which are the just-as-safe and effective copycat versions of brand name bioengineered drugs called biologics.

Biosimilars are manufactured after the 20-year patent period expires on biologics. They cost anywhere from 25 to 50 per cent less than the original biologic drugs which are said to be the single biggest expense for public drug plans like PharmaCare.

European countries have led the way in transitioning patients to biosimilar drugs, but Canada has lagged far behind.

In 2018, B.C. spent $125 million on Lantus, Enbrel and Remicade, three biologic drugs that treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

“Biosimilars (like infliximab) are a necessary step to ensure PharmaCare provides existing coverage for more people and funds new drugs well into the future,” Dix said.

PharmaCare coverage for certain biologics will end Nov. 25. After that time, PharmaCare will provide coverage for the original drugs only in exceptional cases and they will be decided upon on a case-by-case basis.

B.C. has spent the last nine years studying the matter before making the decision. It consulted with physician and patient groups like the B.C. Society of Rheumatologists, endocrinologists, Doctors of B.C., Arthritis Consumer Experts, Canadian Arthritis Society, B.C. Pharmacy Association, Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association, regional health authorities, Health Canada, and the Patented Prices Medicine Review Board.

About 2,700 Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis patients will also be affected by the transitioning policy, but information for gastroenterology patients will be available in a month or two.

Rheumatologist Dr. John Esdaile said B.C. becomes an overnight Canadian leader with the cost-saving policy change.

“It’s a great day for B.C., for patients, for PharmaCare and for health care in general,” he said, noting that many European countries have had such a policy for 10 years with no evidence of detriment to patients. “I don’t know of any bad news,” said Esdaile, scientific director of Arthritis Research Canada, which has been “badgering” the province to enact such a change.

“For years, B.C has been spending money it doesn’t need to spend on expensive biologics instead of using biosimilars which I call biogenerics since they work just as well,” Esdaile said.

Cheryl Koehn, president of Arthritis Consumer Experts, said society will benefit from the new policy because coverage for other conditions and drugs will expand.

MORE TO COME.

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28Apr

Visually impaired youth face 70% unemployment — and this group wants to change that

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Not many people notice that Duncan Simmons has a vision impairment. 

Simmons, 19, can see relatively well during the day. But when it’s dark, he’s virtually blind.

“At nighttime it’s like I’m walking around with sunglasses on. Everything is really dark,” Simmons said. 

He was one of two dozen young adults who gathered Sunday at Fighting Blindness Canada’s Young Leaders Summit in Vancouver. The event aims to help blind youth overcome hurdles finding work in a market dominated by screens.

Facing stigma

Canadians with vision impairments face 70 per cent unemployment rates.  

Event co-chair Patrick Losier, 27, said it can be tricky for visually impaired youth to determine the appropriate time to disclose their disability to a potential employer. 

“There’s a stigma with people with vision loss that they’re not capable of certain things,” said Losier, who has low vision and light sensitivity. 

Once job candidates have disclosed, they then have to ask for accommodation, Losier said, and figure out when they need to ask for help. 

Public perception

Blind paralympian Donovan Tildesley was the event’s keynote speaker.

Tildesley says blind and vision-impaired youth need to stay positive and advocate for themselves.

Blind paralympian Donovan Tildesley says visually impaired youth can be an asset in the workplace. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

“I think the challenge with vision impairment is public perception,” he said. “Employers don’t know what a blind or visually impaired person needs, or how to make things accessible.”

Tildesley says people who are blind or visually impaired are used to overcoming challenges and can be an asset to any workplace. 


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6Apr

Women are an afterthought in legislatures around the country. That needs to change

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Last week, women working in the B.C. legislature won the right to bare arms — that is, to wear sleeveless attire — after publicly rejecting orders from legislature staff to cover up. It was a win for reporters and political staffers, but one that’s geographically limited — nothing has changed within the walls of New Brunswick’s legislature, or Manitoba’s, for example.

The rules of these essential spaces are determined at the whim of speakers and, in B.C.’s case, have not been reconsidered since 1980 — a time when women accounted for just 10 per cent of the seats in the B.C. legislature.

Last Thursday, I was among nine women to proudly bare my arms in the halls to protest vague rules and inconsistent policing of women’s clothing by legislature staff. A quick snap posted to social media kicked off the #RightToBareArms campaign.

The B.C. legislature’s speaker questioned the premise of our complaint, claiming the province’s approach “is consistent with practices in place across legislatures in Canada.”

But we know that’s not true. Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne wore a sleeveless shift dress enough for it to be a signature outfit. In the House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland frequently wears a similar frock.

By Monday, the speaker’s office had reversed its position, stating sleeveless options are an appropriate choice for women. Acting clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd is conducting a full review of the legislature’s dress code to ensure it is “in line with modern, parliamentary expectations.”

Dress code enforcement may seem trivial to some, but it’s important in terms of ensuring equitable workspaces. Men are not the only ones walking the halls of power in 2019, and the rest of us deserve to do so without worrying about being hassled about the length of our sleeves. As Mitzi Dean, NDP MLA and B.C.’s first parliamentary secretary on gender equity, noted in an interview with CBC: “Women are over-scrutinized and over-policed in terms of how they present what they wear.”

What are the rules?

What men wear in Canadian legislatures has historically been subject to specific rules, but provinces have different interpretations of what constitutes appropriate apparel.

Beauchesne’s Parliamentary Rules and Forms, the book on which many of Canada’s parliamentary rules are based, calls for “conservative, contemporary standards” of dress. Men are required to wear a jacket and tie; when it comes to proper parliamentary attire, Beauchesne’s makes no mention of women. 

Like B.C., Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador do not have specific dress codes, relying instead on Beauchesne’s standards and the vague notion of “business attire.” Nunavut, calls for members to wear traditional clothing or dress “in a manner appropriate to the dignity of the assembly.”

Jackets, ties and collared shirts are the norm in the House of Commons, but the dress code also  allows for traditional cultural clothing, military uniforms, clerical collars and kilts.

Therein lies the problem: while the rules for men are usually laid out in black and white, what is appropriate for women is often open to interpretation, leaving us vulnerable to random policing of our outfits.

This can result in demeaning situations that distract women from their work. Some have suggested that the dress code issue could be settled by requiring women to dress as men do — jackets and ties for everyone! A simple fix but not a satisfying one for those of us who prefer progress over hallowed tradition. It’s certainly not a solution to address the fact that legislature dress codes have simply ignored the existence of women, in some cases, for decades.

If rules are to be enforced, they should be clear and accessible to those expected to respect them. But do we really need dress codes for professional adults? I say no — men and women alike are perfectly capable of dressing themselves professionally and with appropriate respect for the gravitas of the legislature. Those who are offended by the sight of women’s bare arms — or men’s for that matter — are free to look elsewhere.

Proactive change

What is worn in the legislature is trivial. What is done, in the chamber and in the halls, is what matters. If a standard is required, what is allowed in the House of Commons should suffice for the rest of Canada’s legislatures.

Women have always had to fight: to be considered people with the right to cast a ballot and to be accepted in institutions built with only men in mind. But it’s 2019 and an incremental, piecemeal approach to women’s equity and inclusion is not good enough.

Legislatures around the country need to take a proactive approach to ensuring their rules and policies don’t make women an afterthought. This means taking a hard look at everything from washroom access to parental leave and making changes where the status quo is outdated or discriminatory. And bonus points for having women lead the way.

In Monday’s memo, B.C.’s speaker noted the legislature is “a workplace setting that has been dominated by one gender for far too long.” That needs to change — and not just in B.C.


This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read our FAQ.




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8Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Step in the wrong direction’

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

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

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

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

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

“I encounter this often,” he said.

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

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

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




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6Oct

Vancouver candidate pushes for diaper change tables in all washrooms

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One Vancouver city council candidate is pushing for changes at city hall.

Specifically, diaper changes – and change tables that are accessible to both women and men in all public facilities, so there’s nothing stopping a dad from doing it.

“Dads change, grandparents change, everybody changes diapers,” Independent Vancouver city council candidate Erin Shum told CTV News. “We need to make it available to everyone.”

Shum is a new mom to four-month-old Abigail, and says facilities vary. There are diaper change tables in almost all women’s washrooms in publically accessible buildings. But as for men’s washrooms? It depends.

“My husband and I always struggle when we’re out. Who’s going to change her diaper?” she said.

Shum, who is currently a park board commissioner, introduced a motion to add change tables to all gender and accessible washrooms in Park Board buildings, such as community centres. It passed unanimously last week.

Now she says that’s something she wants to see in all public buildings in Vancouver.

The motion was inspired by Barack Obama’s BABIES Act, which put change tables in the bathrooms of every publically accessible U.S. federal building.

As roles shift and dads do more parenting across North America, a variety of buildings have been under more pressure to provide tools for them too.

In Florida last week, a man’s photo of himself squatting on the bathroom floor and changing a diaper with his baby in his lap was shared widely on Instagram with the hashtag #squatforchange.

“We do exist, and we are willing to do more than provide and protect,” said Donte Palmer.

In Quebec earlier this year, another man pressured Tim Hortons to equip its bathrooms too – and the chain agreed.

The motion seems to have support from a wide spectrum of city parties. Vision Vancouver’s Catherine Evans, also a park board commissioner looking to be on city council, said things had changed a lot since she was changing diapers in the 1980s.

“It has a lot to do with women’s equality,” she said. Then, facilities were hard to find even for women, because of the assumption they would be more often at home, caring for children. Putting change tables in women’s washrooms was a big step – but now more facilities should have men’s tables too, she said.

“There’s an assumption there. It’s time we caught up. It was the reality but it’s not the reality anymore,” she said.

CTV News found that some park board buildings, like Trout Lake Community Centre, had a change table in the men’s washroom. But at Renfrew Community Centre, it wasn’t there.

NPA park board commissioner turned council candidate Sarah Kirby Yung said the park board had found 96 change tables in park board buildings. She said there is a place to change a child in every building, but it may not be accessible to everyone.

“Some of the gaps are in the older facilities,” she said. “As we’re moving towards universal washrooms, we’re putting those in.”

Some city bathrooms have already been upgraded, and the city’s downtown library has a parenting room.

OneCity candidate Christine Boyle said she supported the idea – and said parents had also raised the issue of accessible bathrooms in transit hubs as well.

“It matters a lot to be looking at how we make Vancouver more family friendly at all levels,” she said.

Each change table is about $400, Shum said.

“Everything we can do to help includes something as simple and practical and affordable like change tables,” she said.

Shum hopes the next time Abigail needs a change, it could be just as easy for her dad to do it. 


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