11-year-old Kaitlyn, with help from mom Amanda Sidhu, gives Dr. James Lee a wave during her online appointment with the B.C. Children’s Hospital specialist. Kaitlyn was in Abbotsford, Lee in Vancouver Kent Kallberg
For Amanda Sidhu, ensuring her daughter Kaitlyn got the medical care she needed was complicated and time-consuming, living as they do in Mission.
As an 11-year-old with semi lobar holoprosencephaly, a brain condition that causes seizures, diabetes and bone problems, Kaitlyn sees several doctors at B.C. Children’s Hospital every couple of months. She uses a wheelchair, doesn’t speak and is fed through a tube.
Trips to the hospital were disruptive. Amanda had to take a day off work and arrange for a nurse to be in the car for the one-hour-plus drive each way into Vancouver for a 15-minute appointment.
The trips stressed out mom and daughter, who dislikes car rides and associates the hospital with the unpleasant experience of surgeries, said Amanda.
So she welcomes the opening of the two virtual care sites in the Fraser Valley, in Abbotsford and Chilliwack, which allows Kaitlyn to have an appointment online with neurologist Dr. James Lee and her other specialists.
“It takes a lot of the stress from her, like a long 2½-hour drive in the car, and this is just a short drive from home,” said Amanda, after Kaitlyn’s virtual appointment on Friday at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital. “It’s great, Dr. Lee’s amazing, and we’re able to talk about everything we need to talk about and get everything figured out over the computer.”
And Kaitlyn can be cared for by the nurse at the centre, if needed, she said.
She said she has friends and relatives who live in the Interior and they have to take a week off to travel to Vancouver for appointments.
The two sites in the Fraser Health region — where about 300,000, or 40 per cent of B.C.’s children, live — are the 18th and 19th virtual sites opened in B.C. for young patients to have virtual appointments with B.C. Children’s Hospital doctors, according to the hospital.
“This is a great opportunity for patients to get care closer to home,” said Lee, who said the video conferencing option removes the geographical and distance barriers to health care.
Having a virtual appointment can “decrease the burden of travel on our patients and their families,” especially with patients with complex medical needs that require seeing several specialists, he said.
A nurse is always in the room and can take vital signs and other measurements for the doctor, he said.
He said most young people are comfortable using computers to communicate. “For young people and children, this is probably completely pretty natural for them because they may not have known anything else,” he said.
It’s an innovative way to deliver care to pediatric patients across the province, said Kit Johnson, a provincial director with Child Health B.C.
The virtual sites are located in rooms with child-friendly decorations and pediatric equipment in facilities for health care providers, including hospitals, health units and wellness centres.
The 19 telehealth centres in B.C. is part of a collaboration between Child Health B.C., B.C. Children’s Hospital and the provincial health authorities.
B.C. Children’s Hospital doctors do about 140 virtual appointments a month.
Brenda Felker (left), Anita Eriksen and Farideh Ghaffarzadeh are members of the seniors advisory committee Seniors on the Move, which released an open letter about transit and transportation on Tuesday, the International Day of the Older Person. Jennifer Saltman / PNG
Brenda Felker is dreading the day when she won’t be able to use her car to connect with friends and family, and still get where she needs to go.
“That’s huge, losing your licence,” she said. “It scares me that I would lose my independence.”
That is why Felker joined an advisory committee of Seniors on the Move, which represents seniors who use different modes of transportation to get around Metro Vancouver.
On Tuesday, the International Day of the Older Person, the committee released an open letter signed by 225 people outlining changes to the transportation system that would make it more welcoming for seniors. The letter was the culmination of three years of work.
B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said transportation is arguably the most important concern for seniors, and was the focus of a report — which included 15 recommendations — that came out of her office in May 2018.
“Your efforts, I think, are starting to resonate,” Mackenzie told the committee. “I think that local governments, regional governments, provincial governments, federal governments are all understanding this need around transportation and this huge group of people that is growing who can’t drive their cars any longer, but they still need to get out and about.”
Mackenzie noted that at age 65 about 90 per cent of seniors have a driver’s licence in B.C., but that number drops to less than half by age 85.
The letter has suggestions in a number of key areas, including walking, mobility aids, public transit, HandyDART, taxis, transitioning drivers to other transportation modes and volunteer ride programs.
“We think these changes would be a great place to start. Our cities may not have been built for an aging population, but we can adapt them,” said Anita Eriksen, a committee member who gave up her car when she turned 65.
Transit users are looking for a long list of changes, many of which concern bus travel. In addition to real-time information at bus stops and covered bus stops with seating, seniors are looking for drivers who make courtesy announcements, get closer to the curb, and wait for seniors to sit or get stable before leaving a stop.
Accessibility alternatives when elevators and escalators are out of order, and more community shuttles with ramps and kneeling capability are also important.
HandyDART users want a payment system and pricing that integrates with the rest of TransLink, coordination and integration with the medical system and better education about the service.
Kathy Pereira, director of access transit service deliver for Coast Mountain Bus Company, said TransLink is looking to address a number of concerns outlined in the letter, and promised to bring the concerns back to the transit agency.
“We do the things that most people do that are obvious … but sometimes we don’t think far enough. So I think that’s one of the big messages I’ve heard here,” Pereira said. “We’re on the right track, but maybe we’re not going far enough.”
Walkers and those who use mobility aids are looking for better-maintained, wider sidewalks, more benches, better street lighting, functional curb cuts and more time to cross the street.
Drivers looking to leave their cars behind need more information on other ways to get around and resources to make the change, as well as medical services plan coverage for required medical exams.
Taxis need to be given incentives to pick up seniors and those with mobility issues, and seniors need more information about taxi savers.
The letters says there should be ways to assess the fitness of volunteer ride program drivers and the suitability of their vehicles, and there should be standardized training along with more drivers.
Beverley Pitman, the seniors planner at United Way of the Lower Mainland and self-identified “young senior,” called the list of suggestions comprehensive, visionary and highly practical.
“By stepping up and taking this on, in effect you’ve made visible a whole bunch of other seniors who haven’t had the opportunity or maybe are really socially isolated because they don’t have access to at transportation system that enables them to get out and about,” Pitman said.
The Victoria Conservatory of Music showed off its facilities at its open house Saturday.
Members of the public were invited to tour the conservatory, including performance halls, practice rooms and a library featuring more than 60,000 music sheets and books. Visitors also got to enjoy free concerts by VCM faculty and students.
One of the stars of the show, from the conservatory’s perspective, is the recently opened Music Technology and Creativity Lab, which was made possible by a donation from Pitt and Sheila Linder.
The lab features computers and software for music recording, editing and production, and it’s open to both beginners and experts.
“It’s something we’ve dreamt about for years,” said Stephen Green, dean of the conservatory.
In addition to the software and the computers, the room includes a multi-channel audio system that will allow students to hear their creations and discuss with instructors and peers. There is also a large smart TV that allows the conservatory to connect live with professional musicians and teachers from around the world.
“It’s all here,” Green said. “We want to make sure that anyone who has an interest in music technology knows that it’s not just one particular group. You don’t have to be, like, a professional musician. It’s all open to everyone.”
The new space means greater accessibility for the conservatory, he said, adding that it helps the organization meet the needs of the 21st century musician.
The space cost roughly $50,000 to create, according to the conservatory.
VICTORIA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa is open to proposals from the private sector for a refinery in British Columbia, as a public inquiry into the province’s soaring gas prices reviews possible solutions.
The prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is always open to hearing businesses cases and working with people to find solutions so they can pay their bills.
He made the comments in Victoria following a joint announcement with Premier John Horgan of $79 million to buy 118 new transit buses.
Horgan says that while the province wants a transition away from fossil fuel dependence, that transition should be aided by more refined product to give B.C. drivers relief.
Trudeau told reporters that selling Canadian oil to American markets at a discount won’t help the environment, but redirecting some of the profits from the pipeline expansion will.
“Having 99 per cent of our oil go to the United States doesn’t do anything for our environment,” Trudeau said. “Putting the profits from the TMX into the green transition will do a lot for the environment.”
The prime minister and premier announced joint spending on transit by federal, provincial and municipal governments that will also allow for 10 long-range electric buses that would provide greener transportation options in Greater Victoria.
Trudeau told a crowd inside a B.C. Transit bus body shop that the buses will be more energy efficient and have improved accessibility and safety features as part of a public system that needs to keep pace with growing communities.
Horgan said a strong transit system is essential to making communities more affordable and to greening the province’s transportation infrastructure.
The federal and provincial governments have each contributed $31 million for the new buses while municipalities are pitching in $16 million.B.C. Transit serves communities outside Metro Vancouver.
FortisBC unveiled two of 12 new Direct Current Fast Charge stations in Kelowna Monday. The pair at the Kelowna City Airport are part of the province’s bigger plan to create more electric vehicle accessibility across the southern Interior.
The new supercharger stations will be able to recharge an electric vehicle in 20 to 30 minutes, compared to three to four hours at a conventional charging station, said Doug Stout, Fortis’s vice president.
He says charging up shouldn’t take longer than getting a cup of coffee at the local café.
“We’re laying [charge stations] out across the southern Interior and they’re really designed for those long trips, so you can pop in and charge your car quickly on a long trip and carry on again. It takes away that range anxiety people talk about.”
Fortis says it’s planning to build up a robust grid of charging stations across the province.
Similar stations are planned for Beaverdale, Osoyoos, Cawston, Nelson, Kaslo, Rossland, New Denver, and Nakusp.
40 by 2020
The company says it will operate and maintain the stations, with the help of funding from all three levels of government. Stout says the plan is to have 17 superchargers in the Kelowna-Creston-Princeton service by the end of this year, with 40 in place by the end of 2020.
“I think it makes the decision [to buy an EV] a lot easier. [The provincial government] topped up some more funding into the EV program. But there’s been a huge uptake and they actually have gone through most of the funding already.”
To extend the program, starting June 24 the province has reduced its portion of EV consumer rebates from $5,000 to $3,000.
Federal rebates take another $5,000 off the cost of EVs, and $2,500 off plug-in hybrids.
Ottawa also increased the vehicle value limit from $45,000 to $55,000 to increase buyer options.
If that sounds about as dry as a mouth full of saltines, you might want to look again. More than 300 events are free to the public, including theatre and musical productions, art and literary exhibitions, lectures and poetry readings. You just have to register for a community pass.
“The public programming is incredibly rich,” said Laura Moss, the academic convener for the congress. “Anybody can come and have extraordinary access to contemporary research and a whole bunch of events, plays and films, along with the people that produce them.”
Congress 2019 (https://www.congress2019.ca/) is the biggest academic conference in Canada. Thousands of scheduled events will take place on the main campus of the University of B.C. starting June 1.
“We expect thousands of members of the public to come and there’s really a lot to see and do,” she said.
The keynote Big Thinking lecture series is stocked with artists and storytellers appearing daily at the Frederic Wood Theatre, including the multi-talented Indigenous performer Margo Kane, documentarist and scientist David Suzuki, artist Stan Douglas and novelist Esi Edugyan.
“Art can be a way to tease out important contemporary issues,” said Moss, a professor of Canadian literature at UBC. “I personally work at the intersection of art and politics and I really wanted to bring that out in the programming.”
The speakers will address issues of free speech, censorship and access built around three broad questions: Who speaks for whom? Who listens? And who benefits?
“We will explore who gets to talk, who is in the circle and who hears the messages and we should talk about who profits from that, someone or the community?” she said.
Moss designed the program to highlight the value of the arts and humanities in every facet of society and life.
Governments and universities have a near obsession with promoting STEM, for reasons of commerce and gender equity. And while there’s a lot of value in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the humanities and social sciences have not enjoyed the same level of public enthusiasm lately.
“I really wanted to shift the emphasis back to the humanities, the arts, the social sciences,” she said. “These are the social, political and cultural aspects of everyday life and they can be very grounded in public policy, but (we) approach it with the human impact in mind.”
Look back to look forward
The Galatea Project is a theatrical collaboration between UBC’s English department and Bard on the Beach to mount a production of John Lyly’s 1588 play Galatea about two girls disguised as boys who fall in love. The play is set in a low valley in 16th century Lincolnshire threatened by climate change.
I am not kidding.
“It’s incredible and one of the most relevant plays out there and it was written before Shakespeare,” she said.
Literary scholars shared years of their research into the play with the actors and directors. They in turn brought the characters’ struggles with gender issues, sexuality and an impending climate crisis to life more than four centuries after it was first performed for Queen Elizabeth I. Galatea will be performed June 2.
“People have been thinking and talking about these issues for centuries and there is a great deal we can learn by looking back at those conversations,” Moss said.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale imagined a dystopian future in the ’80s that seems to become more relevant than ever in the age of Trump, she noted.
“There are 5,000 events happening over the course of the week, so it’s almost beyond imagining,” said Moss. “There is so much cool stuff, I want people to come and enjoy it.”
Dozens of literary and academic publishers are booked for the Congress Expo, including Vancouver’s Arsenal Pulp Press, Harper Collins Canada and publishing houses from Yale, MIT, Georgetown and University of Toronto. Some of the publishers are also holding scheduled events exploring themes of reconciliation, gender equity and politics among others.
Picture Perfect: Blind Ambitions is an exhibition of highly textured art by visually impaired artists and daily “meditative mash-ups” with artists and internationally renowned disability scholars, presented by UBC’s Wingspan and Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture.
Join the conversation
More than 70 academic associations will hold their annual meetings through the run of the conference between June 1 and 7 and thousands of the attending academics plan to present studies and papers to their peers.
“It’s hugely important for people to interact face-to-face,” said Moss. “Congress has 73 associations coming together ranging in size from more than a thousand members to just over a dozen in some disciplines like Hungarian studies.”
“Some universities have just one or two specialists in a particular area so this is the one time they have to come together and have really dynamic conversations among people who might be working most of the time in virtual isolation,” she said.
Parallel to those interactions between people in similar fields of study is a whole range of multidisciplinary events under the theme Circles of Conversation to encourage scholars, students, political leaders, citizens and activists to share, debate and dissent on topics such as sustainability, health, education and especially Indigenous issues.
“It’s an opportunity to problem solve in a social way that goes beyond disciplinary boundaries and those kinds of conversations need to happen in person,” she said.
It is often said that the real value of a conference is not in the presentations on the schedule, but in the freewheeling conversations that happen over drinks afterward. Circles of Conversation aims to create that kind of atmosphere among people who may approach problems from very different perspectives.
But if you prefer a more traditional after-conference convo, the Congress does have its own beer — Dialager by Howe Sound Brewing — brewed to promote dialogue and wash down snacks in the Social Zone.
SFU political science lecturer Stewart Prest is working feverishly on a paper he expects and even hopes will be gently critiqued and challenged by his colleagues at Congress 2019.
In The New Urbanism — which he has developed with political podcaster Ian Bushfield — Prest says that Vancouver’s traditional right-left political split has essentially disintegrated in favour of a more complex dynamic built along issues of urban life, housing, transportation and affordability.
Vancouver’s old two-channel political universe has exploded into a whole multi-channel cable-TV-style array of six-plus niche offerings, not based on traditional left-right divisions about social equity and fiscal responsibility, but on how the city will grow and house its citizens.
The right-leaning NPA failed to capture a majority in the last civic election after the party’s constituency split in three, with Hector Bremner founding Yes Vancouver and Wai Young heading the populist Coalition Vancouver.
The left has similarly fragmented into COPE, OneCity Vancouver and the spent brand that is Vision Vancouver.
“You can usually stick with an economic left-right spectrum as one axis, but depending on the issues of the day you can put any number of issues on the second axis,” said Prest. “We have a spectrum now in Vancouver that we hadn’t really thought about before.”
Prest and Bushfield sort the parties based on their support for “urbanist” fast-paced high density development or “conservationist” slow growth.
“When you plot them on urbanism, it makes how the parties and candidates were positioning themselves make a lot more sense,” said Prest.
Other levels of government may not be immune to the proliferation of parties with single-issue appeal. Canada already has six parties represented in Parliament, while the U.K. has nine.
An ethical dilemma
To fly, or not to fly. That is the question Ryan Katz-Rosene had to confront when deciding to attend Congress 2019.
The University of Ottawa assistant professor and vice-president of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada will be thinking about the carbon footprint of that flight. That’s because when he lands, Katz-Rosene will present a paper examining the aviation industry’s impact on Earth’s climate and the so-far fruitless efforts to curb its impact.
Air pollution caused by international flights has doubled over the past 20 years and is expected to double again in the next 20.
Already a brutally inefficient mode of transport, efficiency gains in commercial aviation are being outstripped by the growth of the industry by a worrying margin.
So, is it ethical to fly? The answers are tricky.
“It’s an unsolvable policy challenge,” said Katz-Rosene. “Aviation offers tremendous benefits to our society, whether it’s the value it contributes to the economy, the number of jobs that it contributes, but more importantly the connectivity,” he said. “We can see other parts of the world, visit family and friends.”
But those benefits really accrue only to the richest people on the planet. Before you protest about your impoverishment, 80 per cent of the world’s population has never set foot on a plane. If you fly — ever — you are an elite.
“Canada is a rich country and access to aviation is part of the norm for us and demand is growing tremendously,” he said.
But the environmental impacts of aviation as so severe that there is a growing movement of caring citizens who have decided it is not ethical to fly. Ever.
Katz-Rosene may join them, but not before leading a discussion of the industry’s plans to cap and then reduce the carbon footprint of international air travel through an agreement called CORSIA, Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.
Will it work? Not so far.
Because most offsetting projects fail to reduce emissions, they amount to little more than a “carbon laundering scheme,” he said. “This will probably be my last work-related flight for the foreseeable future.”
The City of Vancouver wants you to have your say on the future of the Granville Street Bridge.
To do so, they’re hosting open houses Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday, April 16, and inviting the public to speak their minds about the planned renewal project.
The city says the planned improvements would make walking, rolling and cycling safer and more easily accessible for people of all ages and abilities, while still accommodating drivers, transit and emergency vehicles.
According to the project’s website, the eight-lane Granville Bridge was originally intended as a high-speed, freeway-style connector. Granville Street is the main thoroughfare from the Arthur Laing Bridge in Richmond; the closest bridge to the Vancouver International Airport and a major connector from the airport to the city’s core.
Now, they say the current design presents “significant safety and accessibility challenges in today’s urban context.”
In an information sheet, the city says the bridge has “extra capacity” and could reallocate up to four car lanes for a pathway.
The same info pack says on a typical weekday, the bridge can see as many as 65,000 motor vehicles daily, plus 25,000 transit trips.
Currently the bridge does not feature any bike lanes or signaled crosswalks. The sidewalks are narrow and elevated, which the city says makes it inaccessible for pedestrians with mobility aids like wheelchairs or scooters.
Apart from safety and accessibility, the city says they are open to “big ideas” for the public space around the bridge, including art, seating and lookout stations.
The open houses are being held at CityLab at 511 West Broadway on the following days:
Friday, April 12, from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 13, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
And Tuesday, April 16, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
An online survey is open until May 10 for anyone that can’t attend the live consultations, and four workshops are planned for April 27 and April 30.
TransLink has issued an open call for submissions to make waiting for the bus or SkyTrain more pleasant — although it won’t include large investments into brick-and-mortar projects to make that happen.
Kevin Desmond, the regional transportation authority’s CEO, says the goal of the open call is to partner with the private sector, students or academics to come up with better ideas than the transit authority could on its own.
“We want to tap into innovators who can move a lot faster than we can as a public organization,” Desmond said.
Desmond points to projects like Google Maps and the Transit App — which use open-source data on bus and train routes to help people plan their trips — as successful public-private partnerships that help transit customers without costing TransLink any money.
The successful proposal for the open call will get support from TransLink in the form of funding to develop the project and access to TransLink data or information.
But Desmond says the open call likely won’t fund brick-and-mortar projects that also affect transit users’ experiences — like washrooms, for example. Those are part of a different project underway.
While the open call may not fund new washrooms, Desmond says it may fund an app that helps connect transit users to public washrooms near transit hubs.
The goal of the open call is to stretch the agency’s money by partnering with an external agency or person, Desmond says. That way TransLink can focus its money on operating more trains and buses.
“More and more, public organizations are going to be reaching out to private sector and private sector innovators to come up with great new ideas,” he said.
Focus on core services
Mike Soron, founding director of public transportation advocacy group Abundant Transit, says he’s onboard with TransLink stretching its dollars to create better experiences for its users.
However, he noted that safe, secure, comfortable washroom facilities for people should not be considered innovations. “That should be considered a core responsibility of TransLink.”
Soron agrees that the private sector is better poised to find innovative technical solutions — and accept the financial risks of doing so.
The successful proposal was a partnership between car and bicycle-sharing companies Modo, Evo and Mobi to provide their services at transit hubs so people can easily switch from one form of transportation to another.
Albert Briggs plays drums as Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training and MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant; and Kennedy Stewart, Mayor of Vancouver look on at the opening of Norah Hendrix Place. NICK PROCAYLO / PNG
Nora Hendrix has been described as a remarkable woman who was the glue that connected Vancouver’s early black community.
On Sunday, the provincial government and the City of Vancouver officially opened a temporary modular housing project in Strathcona named after Hendrix, to honour her legacy and that of the black community that was wiped out of the area in the 1960s.
“Ms. Hendrix was a tireless advocate for her community,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson.
The province committed 17 months ago to building 2,000 units of temporary modular housing across the province, with 606 of those units in Vancouver. The provincial government pledged $66 million toward the Vancouver projects.
In Vancouver, 554 provincially-funded modular homes have already been opened on nine sites. Nora Hendrix Place, a three-storey building with 52 units that will be run by the Portland Hotel Society, is the final project to be completed in the city. It’s expected that people will start moving in this week.
“Hundreds of people are living outside with nowhere to sleep, use the washroom or get regular food and water, and this isn’t how you treat your neighbours,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure everyone is included and has a roof over their head.”
Stewart said the modular housing units are a testament to cooperation between multiple levels of government, non-profits and the community, and he looks forward to working on more in the future.
The studio units, built by Horizon North, are about 320 square feet each in size and have a kitchenette, bathroom, and a living/sleeping area. Six homes are wheelchair accessible. The building has an indoor amenity space, commercial kitchen, laundry facilities, administration office and meeting rooms for the staff and residents.
All new modular housing buildings have staff on site 24 hours a day and provide services and supports such as meals, education and work opportunities, healthcare, life skills, social and recreational programs, case planning and needs assessment and help navigating government services.
To honour its location in what used to be Hogan’s Alley and the woman it is named after, the housing project will have some services and supports geared specifically to the needs of the black and Indigenous communities, and members of those groups who are experiencing homelessness will be prioritized.
“Let’s call it what it is: This city has a history of anti-black racism, it has history of anti-Indigenous racism,” said Stewart. “It has a long history of racism that we’re addressing through reconciliation but I think today it’s also addressing damage of the past.”
Hendrix came to Vancouver in 1911 and became an important figure in the East End neighbourhood — now Strathcona — and Hogan’s Alley in particular, which at the time was home to Vancouver’s black community.
Hendrix started the Vancouver chapter of the African Methodist Episcopal Fountain Chapel, where people gathered to pray and socialize. She also cooked at Vie’s Chicken and Steak House on Union, which was part of Hogan’s Alley. Her grandson, rock legend Jimi Hendrix, was known to visit the area during his childhood.
Many of the homes and businesses in the community were demolished to make way for the “urban-renewal projects” and the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.
“That monument to our oppression … was what displaced our community,” said June Francis, co-chair of the Hogan’s Alley society, gesturing to the Dunsmuir viaduct. “It displaced our hopes, it displaced our dreams, it displaced our businesses.”
The modular housing site will eventually be redeveloped as part of the city’s North East False Creek Plan, which calls for the black community to be honoured and what was formerly Hogan’s Alley to be a focal point. A black cultural centre is a centrepiece to the redevelopment, and the city hopes to employ land trusts and long-term leases to build the community.
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