Romham Gallacher was getting set to leave home on Saturday morning when it became apparent something was horribly wrong.
The shed where Gallacher, who uses the pronouns they/them, keeps their motorized wheelchair had been broken into. The wheelchair was gone, along with its charger.
“I panicked,” Gallacher said over the phone from their home. “I honestly don’t know what I’m what I’m going to do.”
Gallacher quickly created some flyers to share on social media, and filed a police report in hope of recuperating the $4,000 wheelchair as quickly as possible.
CBC News contacted the Vancouver police about the missing chair but did not get an immediate response.
‘I can’t go do anything’
At home in East Vancouver, near Victoria Drive and Venables Street, Gallacher can get around on a couple of forearm crutches.
But to leave Gallagher needs their motorized wheelchair to do everything from buy groceries to attend choir practice.
“It completely changes my life,” Gallacher said, crying. “I can’t go do anything.”
Gallacher suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis that affects the spine, and lives off of disability payments. Money to buy the wheelchair about a year ago came from a small inheritance when Gallacher’s parents died.
“I knew that I would be needing it for a long time and I wanted to get something that would really work for my body,” Gallacher said, adding that the lightweight, customized wheelchair fits better than mobility scooters they’ve used in the past.
Buying a new one isn’t financially feasible.
No questions asked
Gallacher says friends and community members have been helpful — putting up flyers, searching for the wheelchair and dropping by with groceries. Some have even offered to host a fundraiser.
But until Gallacher can get their motorized wheelchair back, any sort of outing is put on hold.
Gallacher says they hope the thief will return the wheelchair, no questions asked.
“I have no desire to criminalize anyone over this,” they said. “I just need my legs back.”
The sound of a phone ringing has put Surrey resident Esmeralda Gomez on edge for weeks.
Back in July, she received the kind of call every parent dreads. Her son Alex had been rushed to hospital after collapsing at the gym.
“It was the worst feeling,” Gomez said. “We got the phone call saying your son has collapsed, he may not make it so you need to get over here.”
Alex, who was then just 14 years old, had unexpectedly gone into cardiac arrest. He would spend the next 12 hours in a coma.
And Gomez said her son might not have survived at all if it hadn’t been for the lifeguards from an adjoining pool who rushed into the gym, used an automated external defibrillator (AED) on him and then performed CPR.
“The doctors at (BC Children’s Hospital) said if he didn’t have the AED machine used, he wouldn’t be here today,” Gomez said.
Before the incident, the family had no reason to suspect there was anything wrong with Alex. They described him as an athletic high schooler who played competitive soccer.
To their dismay, the cause of his episode is still unclear almost two months later.
“Tests all come back normal. They can’t find anything so we’re waiting for the genetic tests to come back,” Gomez said.
In the meantime, they’re terrified he could suffer another cardiac arrest somewhere that doesn’t have the kind of life-saving technology that spared their family a tragedy the first time – including at his school.
“We were extremely shocked to find out the school didn’t carry an AED machine,” Gomez said. “North Van has them, Coquitlam has them, why not Surrey?”
The provincial government doesn’t currently require schools across the province to stock an AED, something Gomez would like to see changed. The Ministry of Education told CTV News it follows the advice of B.C.’s provincial health officer, who currently supports the installation of AEDs in schools where there are children or staff with medical conditions that could require them.
There is also a private member’s bill in the works to create clear regulations around AEDs for the entire province, and to improve accessibility.
But the Surrey school district said for now, it’s facing issues around funding and maintenance.
“It’s not as simple as saying let’s put an AED in the school. I think there’s a number of things, a number of considerations outside the reach of the school district,” spokesperson Doug Strachan said.
Strachan promised the district will be addressing the situation with Gomez’s family, however.
“We will work with the family if there’s a need identified by a medical professional,” he said.
Gomez and her husband hope something will be done quickly. Experts caution that just 15 per cent of British Columbians who suffer cardiac arrest manage to survive.
“For every minute that goes by, your survival reduces by 10 per cent, so there’s really a small time frame where doing CPR and using an AED are extremely important,” said Gillian Wong of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
OTTAWA — Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation from cabinet this week has stoked long-standing frustration, disappointment and anger among Canada’s veterans, who say they have been ignored and betrayed by the Trudeau government.
The Liberals went out of their way during the last federal election to court former service members, as Justin Trudeau promised to improve service delivery and reinstate a lifelong disability pension for veterans after years of Conservative cuts and inaction.
That pension, first introduced after the First World War, was abolished by the Conservatives with unanimous support in the House of Commons in 2006 and replaced by a suite of rehabilitation programs and financial compensation for injured soldiers.
Since then, the Liberals have run through three veterans affairs ministers in as many years — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould — while making little headway on improving service delivery and breaking their pension promise.
The government has increased some supports and benefits for veterans and unveiled its own so-called Pension for Life program that will roll out in April, but that program has been widely assessed as falling far short of Trudeau’s original pledge.
Our key concern is there’s been a betrayal of the commitment that the prime minister made in the election of 2015
Brian Forbes, chair of the National Council of Veterans Associations
“Our key concern is there’s been a betrayal of the commitment that the prime minister made in the election of 2015,” said Brian Forbes, chair of the National Council of Veterans Associations, which represents more than 60 veteran groups.
“That is felt very strongly in the veterans’ community.”
The Liberals have also been roundly accused of ignoring the various ministerial advisory groups and other mechanisms established after the 2015 election to solicit feedback from the veterans’ community about its needs and concerns.
It’s like the veterans are the last priority in this story. We don’t have a minister of veterans affairs anymore.
Aaron Bedard, an Afghan War veteran from B.C.
“It’s like the veterans are the last priority in this story,” said Aaron Bedard, an Afghan War veteran from B.C., who led an unsuccessful legal battle against the government to reinstate the old disability pension.
“We don’t have a minister of veterans affairs anymore.”
Even before Wilson-Raybould’s departure, some veterans and veterans’ groups had questioned the number of ministers who have handled the portfolio under the Liberals — and what it means about their importance to the government.
Not that the trend has been unique to the Liberals; all told, there have been seven veterans-affairs ministers in the past decade, not counting Sajjan. The Conservatives had three in less than two years, leading up to the last election.
That in itself creates difficulties, says Scott Maxwell, executive director of Wounded Warriors Canada, which helps former service members with mental-health injuries, because new ministers take time to find their footing.
“It just makes it difficult to get the work done,” Maxwell said in an interview earlier this month, before Wilson-Raybould’s resignation.
“That’s something we’ve tracked as a barrier.”
Yet Wilson-Raybould was also different in that many of her predecessors were seen as up-and-comers getting promotions and looking to impress, not senior ministers getting a demotion. While she repeatedly denied that description, insisting that working for veterans was vitally important, it nonetheless stuck with some veterans.
“When you’re saying you’re being demoted and you’re being sent to veterans affairs, it’s a slap in the face for us,” said Daniel Tremblay, an Afghan War veteran from Ottawa who is now struggling with back problems and post-traumatic stress.
“It should be a promotion, not a demotion. That way you know the individual wants to be there and cares for us.”
The Trudeau government is scrambling to contain the damage caused by Wilson-Raybould’s resignation, which followed a Globe and Mail story saying the Prime Minister’s Office had pressured her to intervene in a criminal case against SNC-Lavalin.
Yet her resignation also makes a difficult task for the government even harder, as the Liberals already faced an uphill climb selling their Pension for Life program ahead of this year’s federal election.
It’s difficult to assess how veterans’ concerns affect federal elections given that the community is spread across the country, but anecdotal evidence has suggested many former service members voted Liberal in 2015 — largely because of the disability-pension promise.
That appears almost certain to change in October, though the question is who veterans will actually support. Bedard, who worked with the Liberals in the last election, says the Conservatives have repeatedly reached out to him and others over the past year or so.
Yet others still remember the deep cuts to frontline work at Veterans Affairs Canada that were imposed by Stephen Harper’s government and the Conservatives’ refusal to reinstate the disability pension after a decade in power.
That leaves open the question: Where will veterans turn in 2019?
“The (veterans-affairs) file has been mismanaged for a decade or more,” said Nova Scotia veteran David MacLeod, who was forced to leave the military in 2010 for medical reasons.
“Based on mismanagement alone, I will not be supporting any of the major political parties in the coming election. I’ll support one of the smaller parties or a credible independent candidate.”
Valerie Peters is dreading the day the last Greyhound bus pulls out of Quesnel on Oct. 31.
The inter-city bus company, which announced last month it was discontinuing all bus routes within Western Canada, is cutting off the only way Peters has of getting to her job in Vancouver.
Since she lost her full-time job in the oilpatch and has had to go on to a disability pension, she takes work as she can get it in the film industry.
“I had an accident and for medical reasons I can’t work at my old job any more,” she said. “So somebody said, go to Hollywood North and be an extra, so that’s what I do, part-time.”
She’s one of thousands of passengers who will be left without regular bus service in parts of the province without scheduled bus service.
And it’s still uncertain whether or not people in areas where bus companies have applied to offer service — but haven’t yet been approved — will have service on Nov. 1.
“We’re still waiting on the Passenger Transportation Board to approve our application,” said John Stepovy of the Edmonton-based Ebus company that would like to operate scheduled daily bus service between Kelowna and Vancouver and between Kamloops and Vancouver.
Peters, who doesn’t drive and who lives outside of Quesnel, takes the 11-hour ride into Vancouver whenever she gets a gig, and stays with friends to cut expenses.
She said without a vehicle, it’s difficult for her to take steady work in Quesnel “and this is the only way that I can make a little cash.”
But with Greyhound cutting service in about two weeks, “People are starting to panic,” she said.
The transportation board has received seven recent applications from bus companies wanting to provide scheduled inter-city bus service.
One between Nelson and Kelowna has been approved, two servicing Whistler will be reviewed shortly and decisions are “pending” for four other proposals, according to the PTB website.
“We have all the applications and we have the status of them posted,” said board director Jan Broocke.
“All I can say is the board is well aware of the exit of Greyhound and (board members) are reviewing the applications,” she said.
Ebus has its coaches ready to hit the road and has been hiring extra drivers but will need some time to set up the pick-up and drop-off network and arrange other operational details, which will take at least two weeks, said Stepovy.
“We’re getting to that critical point,” he said. “We can’t secure (pick-up and drop-off points) because we don’t have a licence.”
“We’re still hoping to start the service before Greyhound leaves, he said, adding that is increasingly less likely as the days pass without a licence decision.
Greyhound said its pullout was necessary because of a 40 per cent drop in ridership since 2010.
Peters said if no company wants to provide service in the more rural parts of the province, “I think it should fully be the government’s responsibility” to offer inter-city bus service.
B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena didn’t respond to a request for comment.
But the ministry sent an emailed statement saying it “recognizes the importance of encouraging the private sector to take over routes that will no longer be served by Greyhound” and that “several” have applied.
“We urge other private operators interested in applying to provide service on any route in B.C. to make an application to the Passenger Transportation Board as soon as possible,” the statement said.
Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson said service groups have been responding to inadequate bus service by arranging rides for locals to medical appointments free or at a nominal fee and he expects that to continue.
But it’s not ideal because “it’s all on the backs of volunteers.”
And he shares Peters’ concern about safety if the lack of options pushes people to hitchhiking.
Workers all commuting to the same out-of-town work sites have been carpooling. He said people have to come up with creative solutions to shared or public transportation, such as car sharing or an Uber-style system.
While recognizing that a government-subsidized service would likely be cost-prohibitive, (Quesnel Mayor Bob) Simpson said it’s not up to municipalities to provide inter-city bus service.
“It can’t be a community by community solution,” said Simpson. “It’s an inter-community problem and it needs to have an inter-community solution and the best entity to lead that is the provincial government.”
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