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Posts Tagged "people"

8Jul

Training program helps people gain experience, secure forestry jobs

by admin

More than 100 people will get training and work experience in the forest sector, giving them opportunities for job success and improved lives, through $3.3 million in provincial government funding.

“One key way to reduce poverty is to open doors for people to new jobs and careers,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “This program, through training and work experience, will prepare people for a wide variety of forestry jobs, putting them on the path to better opportunities.”

On behalf of government, Stillwater Consulting is delivering the Advanced Forestry Training program in three communities: Cranbrook, Kamloops and Nanaimo. Students will earn 11 different industry certifications, including silviculture surveyor certification, occupational first aid – level 3 and basic chainsaw operator. The program includes a three-week job placement with local forestry employers.

“Our program gives participants knowledge, skills and certifications in different areas of forestry in just 19 weeks,” said Aaron Byng-Hall, project manager, Stillwater Consulting. “Our graduates become environmental technicians, recreational trail builders, silviculture surveyors and wildland firefighters. For someone looking for opportunities after a mill closure, the program provides a great way to expand on what they know and turn that into a new career.”

“In light of recent record-breaking wildfire seasons, there is an increased demand for people who can work in the woods,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

The Advanced Forestry Skills Training Program is recruiting students for a July 22, 2019, start date in Kamloops and an Aug. 12, 2019 start date in Cranbrook and Nanaimo. Overall, 36 students per city can participate, with a total of 108 spaces. People interested in applying can contact WorkBC Offices in Cranbrook, Kamloops or Nanaimo.

Quotes:

Brianna Henderson, Stillwater training program graduate —

“Taking this program definitely changed my life and propelled me into my career. I’m now a junior forestry technician with Atlas Information Management, and getting that job was 100% a result of the Stillwater training. It can be hard to get into forestry if you don’t come from the industry, but after the program I was so much more confident in going to apply for a position like that. Overall, I’m just really thankful that this program exists. It has opened up a world of opportunities for me.”

Tim LaRade, senior project manager, Nupqu Development Corporation —

“Stillwater Consulting’s Advanced Forestry Skills Training Program is completely unique in B.C.’s forest industry. It’s practical, it’s hands on and most importantly, it sets graduates up with the skills they need for immediate success once they join the working world. When our new employees come to us with these skills already, it saves us a lot of training time on our end.”

Shane Holley RFT, general manager, Maple Leaf Forestry Ltd. —

“We’ve hired several graduates of the Advanced Forestry Skills Training Program at Maple Leaf Forestry who initially completed the program’s three-week job placement with us. It’s a great way for both us and the student to get to know each other and make sure the fit is right. We find Stillwater graduates to be well-trained, confident and armed with the skills and certifications we’re looking for on our team.”

Quick Facts:

  • The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction is providing $3.3 million through the Project Based Labour Market Training stream of the Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) program. CEP’s goal is to increase employment and work experience opportunities in communities throughout B.C.
  • Approximately $15 million will be invested in CEP projects around B.C. in 2019-20.
  • To be eligible to participate in the Advanced Forestry Training Program, students must meet employment insurance eligibility requirements and live in the city or surrounding areas of Cranbrook, Kamloops or Nanaimo.

Learn More:

Learn how Community Employer Partnerships are helping local communities: www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/Community-and-Employer-Partnerships.aspx

Learn more about project-based labour market training: https://www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/Community-and-Employer-Partnerships/Project-Based-Labour-Market-Training.aspx

Find out more about Stillwater Consulting: https://www.stillwaterconsultingltd.com/

Find out more about the Advanced Forestry Training Program and learn how to apply:

Learn more about WorkBC and employment insurance eligibility: https://www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/WorkBC-Centres/Who-Should-Visit-a-WorkBC-Centre.aspx

Connect with WorkBC:


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3Jul

Policy changes put people first

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For people struggling with poverty, small changes can make a big difference.

The first of a series of policy updates by the Government of British Columbia will remove barriers and make it easier for people to get help when they need it most.

The policy changes that came into effect on July 1, 2019, were the focus of a roundtable discussion that Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, hosted with poverty reduction stakeholders and advocates.

“Reducing poverty is about more than broad strokes and big system changes,” said Simpson. “It is also about looking closely at existing policies that, while smaller in scope, can make a lasting impact on the life of British Columbians. It’s about asking ourselves whether these often longstanding policies are helping or harming people. These policy changes, as well as additional changes we will make later this year, are a move away from the mean-spirited policies of the past and toward increasing respect, dignity and opportunity for everyone.”

The updated Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction policies include:

  • decreasing work searches from five weeks to three weeks;
  • ending penalties for families providing room and board to a family member;
  • expanding access to the identification supplement;
  • expanding access to and simplifying the application process for the Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers category;
  • eliminating the “transient” client category;
  • removing the $10,000 asset limit on a primary vehicle;
  • increasing asset limits for people on income assistance; and
  • expanding the moving supplement for people to move anywhere in B.C.

When people cannot afford to obtain personal identification or are required to sell their vehicle to get onto assistance, they face additional and unnecessary barriers. These types of harmful policies get in the way of accessing services like banking, health services, housing, food, school and/or completing daily tasks, like driving to school or work. These simple and supportive changes will allow people to access essential services and keep them from falling further and further behind.

The changes are part of TogetherBC, B.C.’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy. The name TogetherBC reflects the most effective way to reduce poverty in B.C.: strong partnerships with government, non-profits, businesses, First Nations and Indigenous organizations and communities will help reach the people who need assistance most. These changes came from conversations with non-profit organizations, advocates and people with lived experience that illustrated the harmful impact these policies had on the people they were supposed to support.

If people do not have their basic needs met, it is almost impossible to put together other pieces like health, education and employment. Breaking the cycle of poverty is about updating existing policies and creating new ones that rebuild a strong system of supports and services. These changes are part of a larger shift in government to a culture built on empathy and inclusion — one that puts people first.

Quotes:

Trish Garner, community organizer, BC Poverty Reduction Coalition (BCPRC) —

“Our income support system should be there when any one of us may need it, just like our public health care, so measures to reduce barriers to access are a move in the right direction. On behalf of the BCPRC, we congratulate the government for these small changes, which signal a culture shift at the ministry, and we hope to see more of these changes in the future to move from a punitive to a supportive approach. Increasing the asset limit, including for cars, will help people transition back off the system by not plunging them into a deep hole just to access support. We will continue to push for meaningful increases in the rates to complement these measures and rebuild our social safety net.”

Jonny Morris, chief executive officer, Canadian Mental Health Association of BC (CMHA BC) —

“CMHA BC welcomes the recently announced changes to B.C.’s Employment and Assistance Regulations that came into effect on July 1. Removing the financial penalty for adults living with parents will benefit people with mental health and substance use problems whose parents may be key sources of inclusion and support. The elimination of discriminatory eligibility criteria that barred people with substance use related health issues from accessing some benefits is a welcome change that ends a longstanding and harmful approach. These changes and others will provide people experiencing mental health and substance use related health issues with improved access to existing income and disability assistance benefits, which we know supports their well-being.”

Doug King, executive director, Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS) —

“On behalf of TAPS, this is an important first step in restoring the income and disability assistance process with dignity for all applicants. We’re very happy to see important changes to the moving supplement in the midst of a housing a crisis in British Columbia. It’s important for low-income British Columbians to have the support of the ministry when they find themselves in transition or without a home. We are looking forward to more changes in the future, so that this process can be made more fair and accessible.”

Learn More:

For a detailed description of each policy, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019SDPR0047-001258

Read TogetherBC: British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/poverty-reduction-strategy


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1Jul

‘Living my dream’: Sixty people become new Canadians on Canada Day

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Bill and Phyllis Neufeld are British Columbians born and bred.

As Canadians — born in the tiny pulp-and-paper-mill town of Ocean Falls on B.C.’s Central Coast — the Neufelds never had to take an oath of citizenship.

But they have. A few dozen times in what has become an annual Canada Day tradition.

Along with 60 new Canadians from 36 different countries, the Neufelds, sitting in the audience in a ballroom at Canada Place, proudly raised their right hands and pledged allegiance to the Queen and to do right by their country.

“It’s a reaffirmation of our citizenship,” said Bill. “It makes us aware how lucky we are that we are born here.”

It’s also their way to welcome their new fellow Canucks into the family, said Bill, who derives pleasure from witnessing such a momentous occasion. It can get pretty emotional, he admitted. “But I don’t break into tears or anything.”

“I do,” said Phyllis.

A bagpiper kicked off the proceedings, followed by cadets hoisting Canadian flags, a Mountie in red serge, military officers in uniform and dignitaries.

Gabriel George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation provided words of welcome and a traditional blessing and song.

The ceremony touched on reconciliation with First Nations, the original inhabitants of Canada who had welcomed early settlers but not reaped equal benefits from the country, and the need to do better.

B.C. Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin presided over the ceremony, hearkening back to history and the initial waves of immigrants who came to Canada fleeing hardship and deprivation.

“You may have faced great hardship and adversity before coming to Canada and you all made sacrifices to be here. I thank you for answering our invitation to make Canada your home,” she told the crowd before leading them in the oath of citizenship.


Devraj Chakraborty, 14, and seven-year-old Kenji Kirby help cut the cake during Canada Day Citizenship ceremony at Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre  on Monday. Photo: Arlen Redekop/Postmedia

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

Jerry and Joyce Kirby watched as their daughter Kenji, 7, performed her first duty as a Canadian: Helping cut a giant Canada Day cake studded with raspberries.

“I am so honoured to be Canadian,” said Jerry, who works in IT. “It’s a very wonderful feeling. I am very emotional I could cry right now.”

The family, originally from the Philippines, moved to Vancouver in 2015 under the federal skilled worker program. Canada, is “the land of opportunity,” said Joyce, a gateway to a better life.

Emilie Cautaert left Belgium in 2012 for what she thought would be a one-year expat stint at an aerospace manufacturing company and ended up staying for love.

She was seduced by Vancouver’s easy accessibility to nature and the diversity and multiculturalism she encountered daily in the city and in her office — a situation that would have been quite rare in her home country, she said.

“In Vancouver, all different nationalities work together. It was new for me. When you come from Belgium, everybody is from Belgium.”

Cautaert also met her husband, Alex Swinnard, on her first day at work. They are expecting their first child in August.

Coming to Canada was a dream come true for Rajesh Chakraborty, who moved to B.C. in 2014 with his wife and son.

Chakraborty wanted to work in animation, but there wasn’t much of an industry in India. He had a good job, a stable life, but his love of animation drove him to seek opportunities in Canada.

“It’s been my dream to come here and work, now I can say I am living my dream,” he said, smiling ear-to-ear.

His 14-year-old son Devraj, who attends David Thompson Secondary in Vancouver, took the occasion in stride.

When asked what he was looking forward to the most as a new Canadian, he said: “I’m not really looking forward to anything. Just living my life.”


Emilie Cautaert, who is seven and a half months pregnant, at the  Canada Day Citizenship ceremony at Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre on Monday. Cautaert is originally from Belgium. Photo: Arlen Redekop/Postmedia

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

In his remarks, defence minister Harjit Sajjan said all immigrants, new and old, share the same story “of coming here for a better life, hope and a brighter future.”

After the ceremony, he said he wanted to convey to the newly-minted citizens that in Canada, the possibilities are endless: “I want them to understand they have the breadth of Canada to choose from and to succeed.”

Even though Monday’s ceremony was his third Canada Day citizenship ceremony at Canada Place, it remains an emotional and inspiring experience for Sajjan.

He wants his Canadian-born kids, age 7 and 10, to witness the momentous occasion first-hand. That’s why he has been bringing his family to the ceremonies even before he was elected to office.

“I want them to understand the feeling,” he said. “When they see it through the new Canadians coming here and taking that oath, it resonates with them.”

[email protected]

twitter.com/cherylchan

 




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26Jun

Fire mitigation project extended to help more people

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Vulnerable homeowners in areas threatened by wildfire can access free FireSmart advice and support from a government-funded job creation project supported by the United Way. 

Sixteen people will work over the summer to help seniors and persons with disabilities become FireSmart by preparing and protecting their homes from the threat of wildfires in the communities of Ashcroft, Cache Creek, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Clinton and Quesnel. This includes educating people about how to make their homes and property safer and removing vegetation that can fuel a wildfire.

To promote safety for people and communities, homeowners will also receive fire prevention materials and a resource list for assistance and support. The project, originally scheduled to end in April 2019, has been extended by four months to meet community need and to provide more job seekers with more opportunities.

“Connecting people with new skills and opportunities is part of our government’s focus on creating good jobs,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Community-driven projects like this one benefit participants, communities and the labour market, while creating a safer environment.”

The project provides extensive training in the formal FireSmart assessment process. The Thompson Nicola Cariboo United Way offers this service for free so people in wildfire-prone parts of the province have help protecting their home from potential fire threats. The crews also remove possible dangers, known as fire fuels, such as bushes, small trees or other organic matter, and provide information on how homeowners can further protect their property.

“There is a high demand for skilled workers to provide advice, support and labour in helping prevent the devastating loss of homes during the wildfire season,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. “Training local people in fire mitigation will help meet the need for skilled workers in this and related fields.”

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction provided $729,498 through the Jobs Creation Program stream of the Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) program. CEP funds projects that increase employability levels and share labour market information.  

“In being able to provide FireSmart activities at no charge to vulnerable people in communities impacted by wildfires, those homeowners feel better prepared and less stressed,” said Monica Johnson, fire mitigation project manager, United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo. “The training and experience we provide to the participants are relevant and definitely increases their employability. We’ve had several participants exit the program because they’ve gotten jobs.”

Quotes:

Clayton Flanders, participant, 100 Mile House Fire Mitigation Job Creation Program –

“This program brings quality changes to both your personal and your professional lives. Not only does it provide important courses needed by future employers, what you learn in the fire mitigation training provides greater safety not only for your own home and neighbourhood but your local community. Thank you for the opportunity to make a big difference not only in my life, but for the others who now feel safer in their own homes.”

Ken Wiebe, homeowner, 108 Mile House –

“We were evacuated 15 days in the 2017 fires. There are people out here who would be absolutely helpless if that happens again. The work is very necessary.”

Florence and Morris Gran, homeowners, Quesnel –

“We are two senior citizens who qualified for the fire mitigation program. Al and his crew of three came to our ranch yesterday and today. They cut limbs, cut junipers, raked and worked steadily. He did not just supervise but worked hard alongside the young men working with him. And we are so grateful. This program is a real asset for seniors.”

Quick Facts:

  • Approximately $15 million will be invested in CEP projects throughout B.C. in 2019-20.
  • Job Creation Partnerships are one of five Community Employer Partnership programs available throughout the province.
  • To date, since the start of the project in August 2018, 22 people have received training and work experience.
  • Project participants have completed 264 FireSmart assessments and 220 mitigations. The goal is to complete 100 more. 

Learn More:

Learn about how Community Employer Partnerships are helping local communities:  www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/Community-and-Employer-Partnerships.aspx

Learn more about Job Creation Partnerships: https://www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/Community-and-Employer-Partnerships/Job-Creation-Partnerships.aspx

Find out more about Thompson Nicola Cariboo United Way: https://www.unitedwaytnc.ca/

Learn more about FireSmart: https://www.firesmartbc.ca


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11Jun

People facing homelessness to get local support from grants

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People facing homelessness will receive help through grants that support strong, sustainable planning for local groups and organizations working on the front lines in British Columbia communities.

The Province is granting $6 million to the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia (SPARC BC) for a Homelessness Community Action Grant to help groups address homelessness in their towns and cities. The grants will also support organizations with a provincewide focus to explore better ways of meeting the needs of particular groups of people that have a higher risk of experiencing homelessness.

“Preventing homelessness is a critical part of TogetherBC: BC’s Poverty Reduction Strategy,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Through these grants, we will build partnerships with local organizations and help people facing homelessness to prevent it from happening in the first place.”

SPARC BC will distribute the Homelessness Community Action Grants to groups and organizations over the next three years as a one-time grant to successful applicants. The chosen projects will build on local resources and knowledge about homelessness and its causes, increase public awareness and support, and respond to gaps in services for people experiencing homelessness. 

“Local organizations and non-profits are at the front lines of the homelessness crisis, and they have been doing great work creating partnerships to address homelessness at a local level,” said Lorraine Copas, executive director, SPARC BC. “This grant will support the sustainability of the work as they continue to make positive change.”

Through the Building BC: Rapid Response to Homelessness program, the Province is investing $291 million to build 2,000 homes throughout B.C. and providing annual operating funding to provide 24/7 staffing and support services. Nearly 1,400 of the homes are complete.

“Homelessness touches virtually every corner of our province and affects at least 8,000 individuals on any given night of the year,” said Jill Atkey, CEO, BC Non-Profit Housing Association. “Combined with the historic investments in affordable housing now rolling out and a rapid response to homelessness through new supportive housing, this additional $6-million investment has the potential to help communities co-ordinate their supports for people experiencing homelessness.” 

TogetherBC, the province’s first poverty reduction strategy, was released in early 2019 and included a newly created Homelessness Coordination Office that will work with partners across government and in the community to deliver a co-ordinated and proactive response to homelessness.

“Homelessness is a complex issue that requires many solutions. The issues people face are different across communities and demographics,” said Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction. “We can only prevent homelessness by working together. This grant supports communities and organizations on the ground who are dedicated to finding local solutions to preventing poverty.”

Addressing poverty is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Quick Facts:

  • The Homelessness Action Grant application form will soon be available on the SPARC BC website.
  • TogetherBC, the Province’s first poverty reduction strategy, was released in March 2019 as a roadmap to reduce overall poverty by 25% and cut child poverty in half over five years.
  • Through the Building BC program, the Province works in partnership to build homes for people individuals and families, seniors, students, women and children leaving violence, Indigenous peoples and people experiencing homelessness.
  • More than 20,000 new homes are completed, under construction or in the approvals process in communities throughout B.C. as part of a $7-billion investment over 10 years in housing affordability.

Learn More:

Find out more about SPARC BC: https://www.sparc.bc.ca/

TogetherBC, B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy:
ttps://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/initiatives-plans-strategies/poverty-reduction-strategy/togetherbc.pdf

Homes for B.C., a 30-point Plan for Housing Affordability in British Columbia:
https://www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2018/homesbc/2018_homes_for_bc.pdf

Building BC: Rapid Response to Homelessness program:
https://www.bchousing.org/partner-services/Building-BC/rapid-response-homelessness

A map showing the location of all announced provincially funded housing projects in B.C. is available online:
https://www.bchousing.org/homes-for-BC


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9Jun

Not ‘just a suggestion’: MMIWG report calls to give Indigenous people rights most Canadians enjoy already | CBC News

by admin

In the wake of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Firls’ final report, attention is now turning toward whether its 231 recommendations will be acted upon.

On Monday, the national inquiry held its closing ceremony in Gatineau, Que., where it delivered its final report to government. The inquiry detailed what it found to be the root causes of the disproportionate amount of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls and made 231 “Calls for Justice” to address them. 

The inquiry’s commissioners have said the calls for justice are not merely recommendations but legal imperatives based in “international and domestic human and Indigenous rights laws, including the Charter, the Constitution and the Honour of the Crown.”

During a news conference after the inquiry’s closing ceremony, commissioner Qajaq Robinson elaborated on what it means to describe the calls for justice as legal imperatives.

“If we’re talking to access to health — for example the calls for justice that there be holistic, wraparound health services in all communities and isolated communities — that isn’t just a suggestion. It’s because the people in those communities have a right to health, have a right to those services,” she said.

“You legally have to do it. It’s not like we’re asking you to come up with a new framework to understand what you have to do. You signed it already; you’re just not implementing it.”

Commissioner Michèle Audette said the rights the inquiry is talking about seem to be respected in southern Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, holds a copy of the report presented to him by commissioners Marion Buller, centre, Michèle Audette, third from right, Brian Eyolfson, second from right, and Qajaq Robinson at the closing ceremony for the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Gatineau, Que., on June 3. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

“But when you live in my North… far, far away, there’s no protection, no services, no accessibility. And it’s still called Canada,” she said. 

While the commissioners say the calls are rooted in existing legal commitments, the final report also states that “Governments are not required to implement these recommendations.”

‘These truths are piling up’

Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report, the national inquiry’s report acknowledges it will take all Canadians to assert their political pressure on institutions and governments to ensure substantive changes come about.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society, has been at the forefront of pushing government for equity for First Nations children in Canada.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal sided with the society and Assembly of First Nations in a 2016 ruling, finding that Canada discriminates against First Nations children on reserves by failing to provide them with the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere in Canada.

Three years later, and more than a decade since the initial complaint was filed, the case is still not resolved. There have been seven non-compliance orders issued by the tribunal since its ruling.

Blackstock says, looking at the calls put forward by the national inquiry, the most important impact the final report can have is to change the collective Canadian consciousness. In her view, governments don’t make change, they respond to change.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“All of these reports and all these truths are piling up in a way that makes it more and more difficult for people normalize the discrimination and to turn away from it,” she said.

She said key indicators that change is happening will be a shift in public attitude. She said the public should also be looking for on-the-ground, immediate investments in things like safe shelter space for women fleeing violence.

Blackstock said the calls for justice might not be legally binding, but are certainly morally binding. Still, she said it will likely take litigation to achieve the level of substantive reform for which the inquiry is calling.

Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan said Ottawa is already taking action on the report through its national action plan to invest in housing and education on reserves and safety on the Highway of Tears.

The prime minister has also promised that the federal government will come up with a national action plan for implementing the inquiry’s recommendations, which itself is among the 231 calls for justice in the final report. The government says this action plan will be developed in partnership with survivors, family members as well as First Nations, Métis and Inuit governments and organizations. 

When asked if the recommendations of the inquiry are legally binding, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs wrote in an emailed statement that “the final report offered recommendations to inform concrete action,” and referred to the inquiry’s terms of reference which include making recommendations to remove “systemic causes of violence and to increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls.” 


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31May

Pat Carney: Helping people with disabilities isn’t just kind — it’s the law

by admin


Seniors using walkers and others struggling with disabilities need others, including policy makers, to help them and be throughtful about their unique needs. (Brian Thompson/POSTMEDIA FILES)


Brian Thompson / Brian Thompson/The Expositor

Recently, I have been using a walker to avoid falling. It’s a different world out there when you use a walker, canes or other mobility devices.

In my mind and dreams I am still agile, moving swiftly and without thought. In reality, I have slowed to a walk. It is dawning on me that limits to my mobility are now my world, a scary one, and I must get used to it. Falls are a leading cause of death and disability among Canadian seniors and are increasing dramatically as baby boomers age.

I am sharing my new world because the federal government has proclaimed May 27 — June 2 as National AccessAbility week, to increase awareness of barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating in society.

The federal Accessible Canada Act is scheduled to become law before Parliament rises in June, requiring public and federally regulated private companies to make their services accessible for Canadians with disabilities. Provinces should follow.

Barriers involve buildings, technology and even attitudes. Here are some I encounter.

Pedestrian crossings are terrifying as warning lights count down the time. Can I make it across?

Sidewalks are minefields of cracks and raised cement slabs. That tiny slope I once crossed in one stride has become a ski hill.

Curbs separating sidewalks from streets seem insurmountable. My Vancouver condo’s fire door is a struggle to open when I cart groceries. So are most store doors.

Many public events effectively exclude the disabled. I didn’t attend a recent Walrus magazine lecture on “Inclusion,” featuring advocate Rick Hansen, because the outside parking lot organizers directed me to was too far away to manage with my walker.

Peoples’ attitudes can be obstacles for the disabled. Struggling to lift my walker to the sidewalk from a rain-soaked gutter, I called for help to a young woman approaching me. “I can’t stop,” she answered as she hurried by. “I am going to a job interview.” Not in customer service, I hope.

A woman behind me in a café line up demanded: “Please move over” as I tottered on my urban poles on an inclined entry. As if I could.

Able-bodied people use handicapped bathrooms. They have a choice. We don’t.

One B.C. Ferries deckhand threatened to leave me ashore at the terminal when I asked to park on the upper deck alongside a B.C. Ferries van, refusing to go into the hold under a lowered ramp, afraid I could drown in the dark if the elevators broke down in an emergency.

Ferries are a challenge. Two of three elevators were not working on a recent voyage. On the return, I was parked by the broken midship elevator, forced to thread my walker through the packed cars, hoping the aft elevator worked. Another passenger cried because she couldn’t get her mother’s wheelchair out of their car.

Still, I am amazed at the kindness of people who volunteer to stow my walker into my car and stop to open doors.

The Shoppers Drug salesperson who picked up a cosmetic item her store didn’t stock and delivered it to my door on her day off.

Our condo janitor, who checks the swimming pool to ensure I am OK. The storekeeper who came to help me out of that soggy gutter. A ferry deckhand who took my keys and parked my car in a safe place.

Friends who pick up groceries and volunteer to drive me to events. HandiDART buses with their helpful drivers. Events that advertise accessibility options. People who are aware that removing barriers enable all Canadians to participate in society.

People who are AccessAbility challenged must speak up. We have the right to “reasonable accommodation” under human-rights laws. We are still ourselves, the people we always were. Others, be aware. Think how you would walk in our shoes. Chances are you will.

Pat Carney, author and retired federal politician, is an arthritis research advocate and lives on Saturna Island.


Letters to the editor should be sent to [email protected] The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at [email protected].

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email [email protected].


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28May

Daphne Bramham: More needed to redress the tragic fact that Indigenous people are disproportionately victims of opioid crisis

by admin

Overdose deaths linked to illicit fentanyl-laced drugs rose 21 per cent last year among First Nations people in B.C. even as there was a glimmer of hope that the crisis may have peaked among the general population.

Since the crisis began four years ago, B.C. Indigenous people have been overrepresented in the deadly count. Last year, they accounted for 13 per cent of the deaths, while making up 3.4 per cent of the provincial population.

Put another way, First Nations people were 4.2 times more likely to suffer a fatal overdose and six times more likely to suffer a non-fatal overdose than other British Columbians.

No one is suffering more than First Nations women and girls, who already have the worst health outcomes in Canada because of violence, exploitation and poverty.

They are unique in this epidemic where 80 per cent of the victims in the general population are men. Women, by contrast, account for 39 per cent of First Nations’ overdose fatalities last year and 46 per cent of the non-fatal ones.

They are bearing the brunt of marginalization, says Dr. Evan Adams, chief medical health officer at the First Nations Health Authority. Another measure of that is expected to come next week in the report of the murdered and missing women’s inquiry.

Among the reasons that he suggests for the widening gap between First Nations’ and the general population’s statistics are the effects of colonization including residential schools, the lack of social supports, childhood experiences and limited access to safe spaces and services.

The litany of dreadful statistics compiled by the provincial coroner’s office was read out Monday against the backdrop of a quilt with the names of some of the hundreds who have died. Among those names was Max, the son of the health authority’s knowledge keeper, Syexwaliya. Max died 12 days before his 41st birthday in March 2018.

“My son was just too lost,” she said. “I couldn’t do anything for him. I had to love and accept him as he was.”

Still, Syexwaliya takes heart from the statistics.

“The statistics make me feel that Indigenous people aren’t invisible and what’s brought out in the statistics and in the reports means that work is being done,” she said.

Addiction is a disease of pain — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Addiction piles tragedy on tragedy.

“It’s a journey of pain, a journey of suffering and a journey of seeking health services that couldn’t be found,” said the chair of the health authority, Grand Chief Doug Kelly.

Too many Canadians, too many British Columbians and too many First Nations people have already died, but Kelly said that for Indigenous people, things are not getting better. They’re getting worse, especially for those living in cities and most especially for women.

Overdose hot spots include the usual ones: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Fraser Valley, Chilliwack, Nanaimo, Victoria and Prince George. But for First Nations people, there’s also Campbell River and Kamloops.

Those stark differences mean distinct and targeted solutions are required. As Canada’s first Indigenous health authority, the First Nations authority (with its unofficial motto of “no decisions about us, without us”) is well positioned to do that.

With a goal of addressing causes of addiction, it has its own four pillars approach: preventing people from dying, reducing the harm of those who are using, creating a range of accessible treatments and supporting people on their healing journey.

The authority also strongly supports the call from B.C.’s chief medical health officer to decriminalize possession of all drugs for personal use as has been done in Portugal. (The suggestion was quickly shot down by the B.C. government, which says that could only be accomplished with federal legislation.)

Among the reasons Kelly cites are yet more terrible statistics.

Of Canada’s female offenders in federal prisons, Public Safety Canada reported last summer that 43 per cent are Indigenous. In youth detention, Indigenous kids account for 46 per cent of all admissions — a jump of 25 per cent in a decade.

Addiction is often contributing factor in the crimes committed, as is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (although the report said there is no evidence that FASD is more prevalent among First Nations than other populations).

Because so many First Nations women are incarcerated, it means their children often end up in government care or with relatives, which only exacerbates the cycle of childhood trauma, loss and addiction.

So far, the First Nations Health Authority has spent $2.4 million on harm-reduction programs. It’s trained more than 2,430 people in 180 communities how to use naloxone to reverse fentanyl overdoses, has 180 “harm-reduction champions” and peer coordinators in all five regions.

But the biggest barrier is the one that led to Max’s death — lack of accessible treatment.

Last week, FNHA and the B.C. government committed $20 million each to  build treatment centres in Vancouver and Surrey and promised to upgrade six existing ones. Kelly says that’s great. But it’s not enough. They’re still waiting for another $20 million from the federal government for construction.

Still, where will the operating money come from? That’s the next multi-million-dollar question. But it must be found.

Now that there is evidence that First Nations communities — and women in particularly — are suffering so disproportionately, ignoring them is unconscionable.

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Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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21May

Gridlock, frayed tempers common as people flock to Deep Cove’s popular Quarry Rock trail

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District of North Vancouver rangers are limiting hikers on the overcrowded Quarry Rock trail to 70 at a time. Photo: Francis Georgian/Postmedia


Francis Georgian / PNG

Strict parking and hiking restrictions introduced last year in Deep Cove brought a measure of relief to the village’s traffic-weary locals, but the recreational hot spot is far from the only one in Metro Vancouver under severe pressure from an increased numbers of visitors.

Planners and politicians like John McEwen, the mayor of Anmore and the head of Metro Vancouver regional parks, say the region is in need of more parks to serve residents and tourists — and more transit buses to haul them there — if there is any hope to smoothly satisfy demand for access to the outdoors.

“Careful what you wish for, but these parks are so amazing and the population growth has been so crazy,” McEwen said. “People want to get out into our parks and it’s really causing some challenges.”

McEwen said recreational areas around his village, like Belcarra Regional Park, “are at capacity at 9:30 a.m. on a beautiful day. … We now have signs alerting people several miles back on connecting roads saying the park is closed, don’t even come up here.”

McEwen wants the region to buy more land for parks, particularly in areas with rapidly increasing densities. And Metro Vancouver must continue talks with TransLink about expanding its service into recreational areas, he added.

“We don’t want to discourage people (from) coming out to the parks. The key thing we need to work on is accessibility through transit.”


Hikers are silhouetted against a foggy backdrop as they look over Deep Cove from Quarry Rock in North Vancouver.

JONATHAN HAYWARD /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

In the case of Deep Cove’s popular Quarry Rock trail, district staff say it was never intended to be more than a local community resource. But traffic to reach the path is causing gridlock, frayed tempers, and bad driving.

Last year’s rule changes limited parking in a dedicated village lot to just three hours — not a lot of time for those intending to hike the popular trail then enjoy a bite to eat. This summer, longer duration parking is available in an overflow lot from July 8 to Aug. 25, and it was also available last weekend. Street parking is for short stops and it’s in high demand. Meanwhile, large tour buses that flout a stopping or parking ban on neighbourhood streets in Deep Cove risk a $500 fine, according to the district.

Those who do find a parking spot may also find they need to wait at the trailhead for a chance to start their hike. The district has limited the number of people at the Quarry Rock viewpoint to 70 at a time, and park rangers have taken to counting heads to limit access to the area on busy days, according to the district.

Steve Ono, the district’s acting general manager of engineering, parks and facilities, attributed some of the village’s rapid rise in popularity with tourists to actress Kate Winslet’s apparent love for Cove eatery Honey Doughnuts. Winslet has in the past tweeted her affection for the doughnuts and has been spotted in a shirt from the shop. That star support, coupled with the crushing popularity of the Quarry Rock viewpoint as background scenery for dating profile pics and Instagram posts, caused traffic in the area to skyrocket the last few years.


District of North Vancouver rangers are limiting hikers on the overcrowded Quarry Rock trail to 70 at a time. Photo: Francis Georgian/Postmedia

Francis Georgian /

PNG

Local residents seem to be largely appreciative of the efforts the district has made, Ono said. “I think probably a lot of residents would rather see us be more restrictive rather than less,” he said.

District staff have acknowledged that parking in Deep Cove can be time consuming and frustrating and, despite the changes, they advised people against driving to the area on several days last year.

Lynn Canyon Park, another popular district recreation area in the district, had similar restrictions go into effect last year.

Through the summer staff asked visitors to consider going somewhere else to give the park and its neighbours a break. In August, staff advised in a tweet: “Don’t waste half your visit viewing the park through your windshield while you wait for parking. Consider coming by bike or public transit.”

Other areas overrun by visitors include spots like Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, Mount Seymour and “probably the whole Sea to Sky corridor,” Ono said.

He said the idea of introducing pay parking for parks — like that in effect at the base of the Grouse Grind — has come up in the past “and it will probably come up again. It’s another tool in the tool box.”

Alistair Knox, the owner of Arms Reach Bistro in Deep Cove, said he was against the parking restrictions when they were first proposed, but he found business to be about the same after the rules went in. He figured it may take a few seasons to determine whether the restrictions had any effect. The weather seemed to be the biggest determinant of visits to his restaurant, he said.

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15May

More than 100 people fall sick in suspected norovirus outbreak in Richmond hotels

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Close up of a nurse hand using a smart phone


Over 100 people have fallen sick following a suspected norovirus outbreak at two Richmond hotels over the weekend.

Claudia Kurzac, Vancouver Coastal Health’s manager for environmental health, says the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel and the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel were affected although a confirmation of norovirus won’t come until test results are back next week.

Steve Veinot, general manager of the Sheraton at the airport, says it is sanitizing all hard surfaces, kitchens, public spaces and guest rooms.

He says the hotel will not open until they are confident it is safe and the health authority gives them the go ahead.

Veinot says the source of the virus hasn’t been identified.

The Hilton hotel could not be reached for comment.

Vancouver Coastal Health says noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause severe gastroenteritis, commonly referred to as the stomach flu.


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