Everybody has a story. The Existence Project uses storytelling to build a community of empathy, understanding and belonging for everyone.
“My story is one of hardcore generational abuse and generational alcoholism and systemic abuse,” said Kym Hines, an Existence Project storyteller. “The stigma is so great for us, but I did survive. It’s amazing where I am now and how I can connect with the community and bring people together by telling my story.”
Marko Curuvija, founder of The Existence Project, and his team bring storytelling workshops to downtown service providers, schools and organizations in Victoria to help people build connection and understanding between marginalized communities and the public.
“The dialogue we have challenges common misconceptions of homelessness, addiction and mental illness,” Curuvija said. “We support storytellers who have a desire to share their experiences in a wider forum with training and community. The storytellers have lived through it and their experiences can help others understand why homelessness happens to people.”
The Existence Project is one of the first recipients of the Province’s new Homelessness Community Action Grants. Launched in June 2019, the B.C. government has provided $6 million, distributed through the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC), to help community-based organizations address homelessness locally. Organizations can apply for up to $50,000. The Existence Project received $30,000.
“The Existence Project represents a necessary shift to a more people-first approach to breaking the cycle of poverty,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “By providing support to local groups and organizations through our Homelessness Community Action Grants, we are building awareness and seeing diverse ways of addressing various root causes of homelessness.”
The Existence Project has piloted workshops in middle schools and high schools for grades 7 to 12. It brings students and storytellers who experienced adversity in their youth together, so students and educators have an opportunity to connect with an individual’s personal experience, instead of just citing facts and figures.
“The goal of this project is to change the way people relate in this city,” Curuvija explained. “From a safe space, where people can express their vulnerability, we look at hard topics, things we relate to with shame and judgment, and see how that can transform individually and societally. Storytelling is a bridge between ‘us’ and ‘them.’
“Adolescence is a critical time to reach at-risk youth who may be experiencing social isolation. Schools can be a place to disrupt this cycle of addiction and mental illness from the beginning and can result in one less person coming in and out of street life.”
The Homelessness Community Action Grants are part of TogetherBC, British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. To date, 11 community-based projects have received funding with the goal of increasing awareness and understanding of homelessness in youth, seniors and Indigenous women and youth, and understanding addictions and recovery.
Last Updated Thursday, October 3, 2019 11:57AM EDT
Three teenagers facing charges in a sexual assault scandal at St. Michael’s College School last year have pleaded guilty.
The teens pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon on Thursday morning inside a Toronto courtroom.
One of the three teenagers also pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography.
In November of last year, six boys were charged in connection with the alleged sex assault of a student at the all-boys private school.
According to police, videos of the incident, which occurred inside a washroom at the school, began circulating between students and on social media.
A few months later, police said they were investigating two additional incidents. Eight students were expelled from school as a result and a seventh student was formally charged by police.
The students were each facing charges of sexual assault, gang sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon.
Charges against one of the seven students were withdrawn in August and the cases against two others have concluded, although Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General would not say at the time what the outcomes were of those cases.
The last student facing charges has a court hearing scheduled for Oct. 17.
The teenagers who pleaded guilty on Thursday are scheduled to attend a sentencing hearing on Nov. 14.
They cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, has released the following statement in celebration of Community Inclusion Month, October 2019:
“This is a time to recognize people with developmental disabilities and celebrate the importance of all people being able to contribute and be included at home, school, work and in the community.
“This year, the theme for Community Inclusion Month is ‘the future is accessible.’ Throughout October, Community Living BC, service providers and community groups will host events and initiatives to build awareness about inclusion for adults with developmental disabilities. The month also recognizes the important role families, friends, caregivers, volunteers, community groups and employers play in ensuring the full participation of those living with developmental disabilities in our communities.
“We recently launched public consultations to inform the development of legislation, standards and policies to better support people with disabilities to live with dignity and to participate in their communities. I encourage everyone to attend a community session or provide their feedback at: https://www.engage.gov.bc.ca/accessibility/
“Every person with an intellectual or developmental disability has the right and should have the opportunity to live life to the best of their unique abilities and interests.”
There are more than 926,000 British Columbians over the age of 15, or almost 25% of the population, who have some form of a disability.
Community Living BC serves more than 20,000 people in B.C. who live with a developmental disability or who are diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or autism and have significant limitations in adaptive functioning.
For people living on lower Vancouver Island with Parkinson’s disease, there is now a community centre to help them through their journey.
Wednesday marks the official opening of the Parkinson Wellness Project (PWP) in Victoria, located at 2680 Blanshard Street. Staff refer to the facility as a community centre where people diagnosed with the progressive neurological disorder can come together and talk about their struggles with others going through the same journey.
Krista Lavoie, operations manager at PWP, says when someone gets diagnosed with the disease, often people suffer from depression and self-isolation.
One of the most important things someone can do for themselves at the time is to talk about it, she says.
“We’re here sharing stories, we’re sharing food, we’re sharing laughter and we’re also sharing the hard stuff too,” said Lavoie.
“It’s important that everyone get a chance to do that here.”
Along with the emotional support, the centre emphasises fitness. While there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, physicians globally recognize exercise as the number one way to combat the physical effects of the illness, according to Lavoie.
“People with Parkinson’s need specific movements to slow their progression, so we use specific exercises that we introduce repetitively throughout our classes,” said Lavoie. “It’s helping regain those movement patterns that you’ve lost.”
Classes vary from circuit training to boxing classes, which benefit local residents like Sukhi Rai who was diagnosed with the disease nine years ago.
Rai says he was an avid runner and knew something was wrong when he started having troubles with his left ankle. After seeing a multitude of health specialists, he finally had a diagnosis.
“It was a relief to finally be diagnosed because I had been living with the symptoms for quite a few years,” said Rai. “I continued to work for a while but eventually I had to go on long term disability.”
For Rai, the centre offers him a weekly routine of exercise, conversation and a place to just come feel as though he is part of a community.
“Without it, I don’t know where I’d be,” said Rai. “It’s been a pillar of my health plan and my battle with Parkinson’s.”
The PWP is open to all people with Parkinson’s disease and those around them.
“If you have Parkinson’s, everybody in your social circle potentially is living that journey with you,” said Lavoie. “We want all of those people in here and we just want to make them comfortable.”
The centre is 100-percent funded by donors, with no medical or government support. All classes are completely free but often participants will donate what they can per class.
People who are interested in learning more about the Parkinson Wellness Project or are looking for ways to donate to the facility can find out more at their website here.
Six local job seekers will gain work experience in business, marketing social enterprise and event planning while helping the Cowichan Green Community (CGC) expand its food security programs.
The Province provided $124,972 for a job creation project to help open the reFRESH Cowichan Marketplace. The storefront is a social enterprise where local shoppers can find fresh produce, frozen meals, dry goods and a line of value-added products at accessible prices. Revenue generated from sales goes to support operating costs for the CGC’s food recovery programs.
“This is a project that demonstrates how we can work together to combine opportunities for people and social value,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Cowichan Green Community saw a problem, brought together partners and initiated a project that improves food security in the community while giving people marketable skills they can use to find a good job. This is how we can reduce poverty — when everyone is working together towards a common goal.”
In 2018, CGC received $84,011 to begin establishing a food-waste recovery program that redistributes surplus food from local grocery stores to emergency food providers. The current program is an extension of that work and expands upon the participants’ skillsets that can be applied to jobs in agriculture, retail, food services and the social enterprise sector.
In less than a year, over 63,500 kilograms (140,000 pounds) of edible food has been diverted from the landfill through CGC’s food recovery programs. More than half has been donated directly to schools, foodbanks and other service providers.
“The team at Cowichan Green Community has been feeding people in our community for years,” said Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan. “Blending that work with creating opportunities for people to develop marketable job skills is an example to the entire province on how to engage your community to tackle poverty reduction from every angle. Initiatives like this remind me why I am proud of our community.”
The project has a food distribution centre and uses a transport van to bring fruit and vegetables to organizations in its community, including the Cowichan Valley Basket Society, the Hiiye’yu Lelum House of Friendship’s Healthiest Babies Possible program, Cowichan Tribes Daycare, Cowichan Valley Women’s Shelter, Khohemun Elementary School, Healthy Beginnings and Warmland House, among others.
Funding for this and other projects is provided through WorkBC’s Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) program. CEP aims to increase employment opportunities for unemployed British Columbians through partnerships, research and innovative job-creation projects.
Judy Stafford, executive director, Cowichan Green Community —
“This food recovery project, including distribution to almost 20 service providers in Cowichan, is a moving train that no one wants to stop. By generating revenue through the store, we will be able to keep the van on the road, picking up and delivering thousands of pounds of food to community members who are facing multiple barriers to nutritious fruit and vegetables. We sincerely appreciate everyone’s support.”
Government will invest approximately $15 million in CEP projects throughout B.C. in 2019-20.
Since the program began in 2012, more than 381 CEP projects have helped local communities, employers and people looking for work.
Job Creation Partnerships are one of five CEP programs available throughout the province.
ANOTHER RECORD: First-time co-chairs Carman Chan, Isabel Hsieh and Pao Yao Koo hit a home run when the Chinese community’s 24th annual For Children We Care gala reportedly raised a record $4.1 million. That will go toward a $14-million campaign for relocating the development-and-rehabilitation Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children to the B.C. Children’s Hospital’s main campus.
Last year’s event brought in close to $$3.4 million, which exceeded 2017’s by $836,000. Contrasting the hospital’s fiscal prudence, the gala’s theme was Versailles, the extravagant palace and estate that helped bankrupt 18th-century France and send King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette to the guillotine. Conductor Ken Hsieh and the Metropolitan Orchestra entertained gala-goers with music from Parisian Jacques Offenbach’s 1858 Orpheus In The Underworld that also enlivens the cancan dance. Happily, the gala’s fundraising co-chairs proved that they could-could and did-did.
FOR PAINT JOBS WE CARE: Open Road auto dealer Christian Chia showed a $500,000-range Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV at the For Children We Care gala. Viewers included the event’s third-time presenter, Peterson development firm executive chair-CEO Ben Yeung. Few buyers of the off-road-capable Cullinan would likely subject its flawless, porcelain-like surface to damage along bush-and-rock-flanked trails. Ditto when parking by night in certain DTES zones, including one where developer-to-be Yeung located his fresh-from-varsity dental practice.
STARRED: Local self-made billionaire Jim Pattison and entertainers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have received Hometown Stars from the Canada Walk of Fame organization. The local ceremony followed a flossier one in Toronto where Paul Anka and investments supremo Warren Buffett serenaded Pattison with Frank Sinatra’s My Way. Rogan and Goldberg were lauded here by fellow walk-of-famer Howie Mandel. Also by teacher Mike Keenlyside from Point Grey Secondary where their stars will be embedded. Of their alma mater, “Everybody needs to know that Seth was a dropout and didn’t graduate,” Goldberg cracked.
When John Oliver Secondary grad and legendary toiler Pattison was asked if he really ought to be at work during daylight, he replied: “The answer is: Yes.” As for working for Pattison as former NDP premier Glen Clark does, successor John Horgan said: “I’ve got a job right now, but that’s an option.” That option would doubtless pay more than his current $205,400.16 salary. Meanwhile, Horgan and others might heed Pattison’s words: “Do the little things well and the big things will follow.”
BEAR FACTS: Another billionaire hit town recently. That was Seaspan Marine Corp. head Dennis Washington whose US$6-billion-range net worth is close to Pattison’s but whose 332-foot yacht Atessa IV overpowers the latter’s 150-foot Nova Spirit. Washington arrived for the premiere of Great Bear Rainforest, an Imax movie executive-produced by his son and Seaspan ULC executive chair, Kyle. Its director, Ian McAllister, met the younger Washington three years ago at a luncheon for the Pacific Wild Foundation that McAllister co-founded. Rather than conventional digital shooting, three-decade Bella Bella resident McAllister argued for Imax’s costlier 70mm film system that promises worldwide access to young audiences. The picture’s own young characters include Mercedes Robinson, who lives in 350-population Klemtu and retrieves DNA from trees where bears scratch themselves. Of her debut movie role, Robinson said: “You can get a lot of information from bears … who are guardians of the eco-system and have the ability to make it thrive and make the land more healthy.” When grown up, “I hope to provide information to the younger generation so that they protect the (bears’) territory and save it from those taking it from them.”
NEED FOR SPEED: B.C. Women’s Hospital Foundation president-CEO Genesa Greening and board chair Karim Kassam reported $300,000 was raised at the recent Illuminations luncheon. That’s where guests were illuminated regarding thousands of women plagued by slow-to-diagnose health concerns. A tenfold increase in research funding is said to be needed to address complex chronic diseases that are up to nine times likelier to affect women than men.
MEADOW MONEY: Attending the luncheon, the B.C. lieutenant-governor and former Women’s Hospital Foundation board member, Janet Austin, called the hospital’s researchers “some of the best in the world.” Then, pointing to retired Vancouver police inspector Bob Usui, who is one of her 35 ceremonial aides de camp, she told guests: “People think he is the lieutenant-governor, not me.” Her joke likely reminded some of an earlier LG, David Lam, who claimed that children sometimes misheard his title as “left-handed governor.” As for research-funding, Austin sounded in tune with rancher-predecessor Judith Guichon by saying: “Money is like manure — no good if it isn’t spread.”
NEW CARR: Bonhomie, not money, was spread on Great Northern Way recently with Gillian Siddall’s induction as Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s second president and vice-chancellor. She succeeds 22-year incumbent Ron Burnett who oversaw the much-enlarged academy’s move from Granville Island.
DOWN PARRYSCOPE: February 23 is International Dog Biscuit Day or, for humans taking a mouthful, World Sword Swallowers Day.
Anthony is a professional actor, self-advocate and acting instructor with City of Burnaby Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services. He has been an advocate for persons with disabilities for over a decade, teaching Burnaby’s only fully inclusive theatre class for people of all diverse abilities since 2013. Previously, he worked as a media arts correspondent for posAbilities Association of BC. He has served on the boards and committees of non-profit organizations, such as Inclusion BC, Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network, Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion, and Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture. He also sat on the City of Burnaby Access Advisory Committee and is a member of the TransLink Access Transit Users’ Advisory Committee. Anthony attended the William Davis Centre for Actors’ Study at the Vancouver Institute of Media Arts.
Bright is a consultant, executive and board director with two decades of experience in working with privately held enterprises, non-profit organizations, public companies and Crown corporations. She has taught courses across the globe in areas of strategy, succession planning, organizational development, governance and business growth. Starting with a career in social work, her roots are in community and child services. Throughout her career, she has continued her commitment to public policy, governance and stewardship. In addition to running her consulting practice, she serves in a federal appointment as the vice-chair of the Pacific Pilotage Authority board of directors and as an independent director on a private family enterprise board. Bright holds a bachelor of arts from the University of Puget Sound and a master of business administration from the University of British Columbia.
Nelson Jake Chan
Chan is the chief financial officer for the Capital Regional District, Capital Regional Hospital District and Capital Region Housing Corporation. He has extensive experience in strategic investment and business transformation in both public and private sectors. He serves on the boards of the Government Finance Officers Associations of B.C. and Royal Roads University. He holds a master of business administration from Florida Metropolitan University and a bachelor of commerce from McMaster University. Chan is a chartered professional accountant and certified management accountant in Ontario and British Columbia.
Marnie B. Larson
Larson is the chief executive officer at StarGarden Corporation, responsible for operations in Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand. She has over 20 years of experience in the software industry, specializing in human capital management, human resources, payroll and time and attendance software solutions. Active in her community, she serves on the board of the Better Business Bureau Lower Mainland and served on the boards of Wired Woman and the Simon Fraser University (SFU) MBA Alumni Association. Larson holds a bachelor of commerce from the University of British Columbia and a master of business administration from SFU Beedie Graduate School of Business.
Julia Louise Payson
Payson is the executive director of Canadian Mental Health Association (Vernon and District Branch), where she works with a team to improve mental health for all. Previously, she was secretariat director of the Community Action Initiative and executive director of the John Howard Society of British Columbia. She is a board director for the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, where she promotes safe and affordable housing throughout the province. She has worked internationally in emergency medical aid in Sudan, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea. Payson volunteers as a board consultant with Vantage Point and as a board development committee member for the BC SPCA. She holds a bachelor of arts from the University of British Columbia.
Simon Andrew Philp
Philp is a market vice-president of commercial banking, leading teams on Vancouver Island and throughout the B.C. central interior, northern B.C. and the Yukon for CIBC. He has spent over 20 years in financial services working with private and public companies, public sector entities, First Nations governments and non-profit organizations. Philp has served on a number of boards, most recently as a co-chair of the governance board for the unification of the B.C. accounting profession. He has volunteered as a representative and board member for technology industry organizations, universities, business associations, arts groups and land trusts in both Canada and the U.S. Philp obtained his CFP and CMA (now CPA) designation.
Patricia (Patti) Ann Sullivan
Sullivan is a management advisor and chairs the Capital Regional District Arts Advisory Council. She began her career in child care with children and youth with developmental challenges in Montreal, followed by a move to Lynn Lake as director of a youth centre. She has worked in executive roles in community health, youth development services, social housing and business development. Sullivan served on the boards of Volunteer Victoria and the British Columbia Association for Living Mindfully. She served as board chair of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Child and Family Services of Central Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and as a member on the Canadian Pharmacists Association and Canadian Mental Health Association boards in Manitoba. She is a YWCA Woman of Distinction (business and professional). Appointed complaints review commissioner by the Law Society of Manitoba, she served as the first non-lawyer chair of its Complaints Investigations Committee. Sullivan holds a bachelor of arts from the University of Winnipeg.
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.
In their first committee meeting since the municipal election, Vancouver Park Board commissioners voted unanimously to approve $35,000 in funding for new trans and gender diverse programs in the city’s community centres.
The funding will help the Queer Arts Festival develop arts workshops, staff training and appoint a representative to advise staff on implementing inclusive programming.
The board’s decision came the night before the transgender community marks its International Day of Remembrance on Tuesday.
SD Holman, Queer Arts Festival artistic director, says the funding will be used to make community centres more welcoming for transgender people.
“For gender non-conforming people, gender diverse folks, going into parks and pools and change rooms is very dangerous, can be humiliating and really really very difficult,” Holman said.
One of the festival’s initiatives proposes to play videos created by trans artists in the common areas of community centres.
“We do everything at the Roundhouse [Community Centre] in the downtown,” said Holman. “Being able to get gender diverse, two spirit and trans art and videos that are going to be played much further out in Vancouver where you wouldn’t necessarily see that is going to be a very important piece of art.”
The Park Board’s trans, gender diverse and two-spirit inclusion (TGD2S) advisory committee was created in 2014 to increase accessibility to parks and community centres for trans people.
Since then, the board has appointed a steering committee to advise on TGD2S specific programming and in 2016 hired two TGD2S facilitators to train staff.
In 2018, new park board pilot programs have included a TGD2S weight room at the Britannia fitness centre, a teen Pride pool party at the Templeton Park Pool and queer and trans youth drop-ins at the West End Community Centre.
Commissioner John Irwin hopes the funding will continue to support trans and queer young people who are at higher risk of substance abuse and suicide.
“Hopefully, it’ll add to the empathy and support in the wider community,” Irwin said.
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.
We’ve offered access to land at the Municipal Hall campus to BC Housing to provide modular supportive housing units for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. #saanich#bcpolihttps://t.co/17BhrPKFx6
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