First responders from across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley lined Willingdon Avenue in Burnaby to pay their respects to senior Capt. Ken Kinney of the Burnaby Fire Department. Kinney passed away from work-related lung cancer on June 7th at the age of 56.
Kinney was a member of the Burnaby Fire Department for 28 years and was active throughout the community. He leaves behind Debbie, his wife of 28 years and their three daughters, Nicole, Kirsten and Kaitlyn.
“This is the only in-service, work-related cancer death I am aware of in my career that started in 1971,” said George Whitehurst, former assistant fire chief with the Burnaby Fire Department.
A 2015 study by the Canadian Cancer Society found firefighters have a nine per cent higher chance of getting cancer than the general public. This has been linked to toxins in smoke, soot and tar from synthetic building materials that can be inhaled or even absorbed through the skin.
The provincial government, along with the Workers Compensation Act, label 14 different cancers under presumptive disability coverage, which means if a professional or volunteer firefighter develops one of the recognized cancers, it is presumed to have been caused by their employment.
A B.C. woman who spent nearly 15 years trying to bar the homeless from trespassing on her property is now advocating for them.
Between 2004 and 2018, Peggy Allen made approximately 500 calls to police about incidents involving people from the emergency shelter next door in Abbotsford, B.C.
“I became this crazy person that couldn’t function,” she told The Current.
During that time, Peggy and her husband, Ron Allen, recall numerous incidents they say are enough to “put fear into your hearts.”
One such affair saw Peggy chased through the house and off the balcony by a person who, she believed, was having a bad trip from an illicit drug. She fell backwards, landing on the ground that was 1.2 metres below, and injured her neck and back.
However, she had a revelatory moment in September 2018 when a woman walking up her driveway swore at her, she says.
“I looked at her and I just went crazy and I started running toward her. I was going to hurt her,” Allen recalled.
Then a “light switched” in her brain.
“I just stopped halfway down there and I said: ‘Peggy, I hate the way you are. This isn’t who you are,'” she said.
“I turned around, I went back to the house and I just bawled my head off.”
She describes the experience as an “incredible metamorphosis” in her life and is now giving back to the people who she once referred to as the source of her “nightmare.”
“I don’t expect anyone to jump on the bandwagon that lives around here because they’ve been through hell and they’ve had a lot of bad things happen. But I got to tell you that what I’m gaining from helping these people way outweighs what I lost.”
The Allens and their two sons, who were 7 and 10 at the time, moved into their home on Gladys Avenue, near Highway 11 and S Fraser Way, in September 1989.
The lush, half-acre property was secluded, shrouded by a forest of towering cedars. The bungalow itself is removed from the road — separated by a long, 50-metre driveway — and the entire property backs onto a creek.
“It was the perfect life for us,” Peggy Allen recalled, an emotional tone hanging in her voice.
“Our kids could run free and we could have animals.”
Fifteen years later, the Salvation Army Centre for Hope moved into the space next door, and she says the family’s “life changed overnight.”
They tried to move, but couldn’t sell the house for the amount they paid.
When nothing changed, she invested thousands of dollars to line the perimeter of the property with a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire — like something from a prison — and outfitted its exterior with a security camera system.
Yet the problems persisted.
“The point is it’s all little tiny stuff, but it’s huge,” Allen said of the emotional scars they had as a result of the encounters.
In addition to serving as an emergency shelter, the Salvation Army delivers a litany of services — such as a meal centre, mental health supports and addiction counselling.
When The Current visited the Allens’ home, 14 tents were pitched on the shoulder of Gladys Avenue, occupied by people either accessing the facility’s wide range of services or transitioning out of it. Others were milling around the Allens’ property on their way to and from the shelter.
Homeless counts take place every year over a 24-hour period in Abbotsford.
Last year, volunteers identified 233 homeless people over the 24-hour survey period on March 19 and 20. The city report notes this is, at best, only an estimate, and does not capture every homeless person in the community.
Of those surveyed by volunteers, 111 people were living on the street in tents or makeshift structures or sleeping in their cars/campers, instead of one of Abbotsford’s seven shelters.
Another 45 were couchsurfing, while 66 people used shelters.
The city report says the survey respondents cited a lack of affordable housing and the steep housing market as the top reasons they are homeless.
Peggy Allen is in the process of modifying a shipping container into a bathroom with a sink to be placed at the entrance to her driveway.
She also volunteers with Business Engagement Ambassador Project (BEAP) to try and shine a “whole different light” on homelessness.
The city-run outreach program, which was started by people with lived experience of homelessness or drug addiction, aims to repair frayed relationships between business owners and residents by paying them to clean up outside their properties.
Rob Larson works for BEAP. He used to live on the streets, and says his interactions with Allen have changed his life.
“The way I look at it, if you give back a little bit to your community, they’ll give you back a whole armful of what you might need here, or just open arms, right?” he said.
The pair are now good friends, a reality Peggy said she never imagined during their first meeting.
He hugged me and he cared for me without even knowing me.– Peggy Allen
“He hugged me so hard the first time I met him, he scared the hell out of me,” she recalled.
“But I was the one with the fear, not him.
“He was the one with the love and that was one of the first steps for me to make a change in my thinking because he hugged me and he cared for me without even knowing me.”
When people ask what changed her perspective, she answers: “Nothing… I changed my mind.”
Click ‘listen’ near the top of this page to hear the full documentary.
Written by Amara McLaughlin, produced by Anne Penman and The Current’s Documentary editor Joan Webber.
It could take anywhere from dozens to hundreds of years to fix all of the Vancouver curbs that remain impassable to people who use wheelchairs, according to city documents obtained by CTV News.
Despite a promised $1 million in 2019 to replace upwards of 150 corners with sudden drops to slopes, thousands remain, each of them an insurmountable barrier to many people with disabilities.
“It’s frustrating,” said Kerry Gibson, the CEO of EcoCentury Technologies who has used a wheelchair since she was injured in a crash when she was in her 20s.
“In most cases you have to backtrack. You lose time. It might as well be a wall,” she said.
And that’s when she’s prepared. At night a surprise curb can send her flying, she said.
“I’d flip backwards and hit my head and be stunned, hoping that someone would help me out while I’m shaking the stars from my eyes,” she said.
A city document from 2013 estimated that there are some 27,000 corners in the city. Nineteen thousand have been done over the past 60 years, but there are about 8,000 corners left over.
With $200,000 a year budgeted for curb ramps, and a budget of $8000 per ramp, the city could fix 25 curbs each year. At that rate, it would take 320 years to finish them all, the document said.
“I’m quite speechless when you told me that stat,” said Jane Dyson, the retired director of Disability Alliance B.C. “That is not good enough. Not even close.”
The city should consider every policy on this with a final date in mind that city streets will be accessible, she said.
In August, TransLink funded 140 curb ramps close to transit routes. The city also upgrades curbs near reconstruction projects, and the city asks developers to upgrade curbs near major construction, which has resulted in as many as 100 more curb ramps each year.
The city also responds to complaints – though in February there was a backlog of 600 requests to fix those curbs, city documents say, with a wait time of several years.
Since 2015, the city has put $325,000 to make around 50 ramps per year, and with the other methods, city documents say it now upgrades around 100-200 a year.
The city’s most recent budget and capital plan allocates $1 million in 2019 for curb ramps.
“It should be a priority to speed it up,” said Christine Boyle, a Vancouver City Councillor with OneCity. She said it’s important for people with disabilities, but also for other groups like parents with strollers, for whom a high curb can be a problem.
“It’s certainly a commitment of OneCity’s to support moving that strategy forward,” she said.
Melissa de Genova, a city councillor with the NPA, said she didn’t like hearing stories about people who were going blocks out of their way before finding an accessible crossing.
“I was happy to see money in the budget for that. We definitely need to do what we can to make the city accessible,” she said.
But even at 100-200 curbs per year, it could take 40-80 years to upgrade all the curbs that are left in the city.
“In 80 years I’ll be dead,” said Gibson with a laugh. “You have to laugh. It’s a coping mechanism.”
“Any increase is obviously welcome. But – another 20 years to navigate your own neighbourhood. We need to move beyond that attitude,” she said.
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