Posts Tagged "people"


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:

Homes for B.C., a 30-point Plan for Housing Affordability in British Columbia:

Building BC: Rapid Response to Homelessness program:

A map showing the location of all announced provincially funded housing projects in B.C. is available online:

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

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

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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].

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

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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.

dbr[email protected]

Twitter: @bramham_daphne

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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.



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 /


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.

[email protected]

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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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Non-profit for people with disabilities shocked after 3 municipal partners pull funding | CBC News

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An organization that has helped people with disabilities pursue active lifestyles in the Greater Victoria area for more than 30 years says its future has been thrown into doubt after three long-term municipal partners announced they were ending their contracts with them. 

The Capital Regional District (CRD) — the regional government for southern Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands — as well as the districts of Saanich and Oak Bay have decided to end their contracts with Recreation Integration Victoria (RIV) this summer.

RIV provides volunteer training and leisure access passes for persons with disabilities, according to Yvonne Locke, president of the Victoria Integration Society, the non-profit partner that operates RIV. 

“We felt like we had been blindsided,” Locke told Gregor Craigie, host of CBC’s On the Island.

She says the possibility of ending partnerships had not been raised in a January meeting between RIV and the municipalities when the latest contracts were signed. 

Oak Bay and the CRD will end services with RIV at the end of June, and Sannich will end services at the end of August. 

Locke says RIV will work with their remaining partners to discuss the future of the organization. 

“We hope that somehow we can reconfigure to provide those same services in the future. But we really don’t know if we’ll have enough resources to do that.”

The Capital Regional District and the districts of Saanich and Oak Bay have decided to end their contracts with Recreation Integration Victoria this summer. (Recreation Integration Victoria/Facebook)

‘Integrated service’

In the summer, RIV provides service to 70 children who want to have one-on-one recreation services for one week, says Locke. The activities range from attending soccer and basketball camps to kayaking. Services are available to adults as well. 

“The idea originally was, rather than each municipality providing service to their local community, it would be better to have an integrated service,” Locke said. 

Recreation Integration Victoria has helped people with disabilities pursue active lifestyles in the Greater Victoria area for more than 30 years. (Recreation Integration Victoria/Facebook)

Locke is concerned the municipalities will not be able to provide replacement services in time. But Saanich and the CRD’s Panorama Recreation Centre say there are plans already in the works.

The Panorama centre says it is allocating funds to programs supporting inclusion. 

“We understand the change may raise concerns so we have a series of actions we are taking to continue to provide inclusion support and services,” the CRD said in a statement.

Those actions include enhanced support services over the summer, continuing to offer the access pass currently offered by RIV, and improving accessibility.

Kelli-Ann Armstrong, senior manager of recreation in the District of Sannich, said the municipality’s decision to end the contract is due to an effort to improve other services. 

“There are new, unanticipated and expanding areas that also require support, such as growing older adult populations, youth at risk and new Canadians,” Armstrong said.

“With two of the region’s departments also terminating the agreement, we felt it was an appropriate time to do the same.” 

According to Armstrong, Sannich’s decision was well planned and communicated in advanced. 

“It’s unfortunate the RIV felt that this was a surprise,” she said. “But we feel we have had discussions with them leading up to this decision.”

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Kelowna man wants people to help him learn to walk again after recent amputation

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Ralph Zaiser first noticed something wasn’t right with his leg last year, when it became red and inflamed and it hurt to walk.

The 50-year-old from Kelowna, B.C., went to see doctors and learned he had several blood clots in arteries and veins in his upper and lower right leg.

Initial surgery to remove the clots and restore circulation was unsuccessful, according to Zaiser — and four days later he underwent surgery that amputated his leg below the knee.

“You’re shattered,” he said. “You have so many emotions that go through your mind, like, ‘why me?,’ denial and utter disbelief.”

Ralph Zaiser is learning how to be mobile on his new prosthetic leg and is now able to run errands around the city and cut his front lawn. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

After two months of healing, Zaiser started to use a series of prosthetics, along with crutches.

He spent afternoons at the local shopping centre walking and resting as he learned to use a prosthetic leg — and that’s when the idea hit him.

“Why don’t I get a bunch of people to join me in this walk?” he said.

On Saturday, Zaiser plans to walk for an hour around the corridors of the Orchard Park Shopping Centre and is inviting the community to join him.

“I want to create some awareness, and [a] good way to do that might be to create a spectacle of some sort, because if you do that, all of a sudden people will be like, ‘What is this all about?’ and maybe they will start asking some questions.”

Zaiser chose a date in April to coincide with Limb Loss Awareness month and started sharing his story through videos posted to social media about being a recent amputee and the challenges and triumphs he’s experienced as he learns to accept his disability and work toward greater mobility.

That experience has been very rewarding, and eye-opening, he said.

“There are so many disabled people in this town that I’ve started taking note of and before I was a lot like everybody else and didn’t notice these people.”

He is inviting both physically disabled people and the able-bodied to join him in his awareness walk.

A positive attitude and a support network

Steve Ziehr, president of the Amputee Coalition of B.C. Society applauded Zaiser’s effort seeking out people to help him on his journey back to mobility.

Most amputees go through a grieving process when they lose a limb, Ziehr said, adding it can be a difficult road for them to reach acceptance.

“The more positivity you have and the more people you have around you to help, it sounds trite but it’s so true, the easier it’s going to be on you,” Ziehr said.

Zaiser is asking anyone interested in participating to meet him at the shopping centre food court this Saturday at 10 a.m.

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People forced to stand in cold and wet outside Abbotsford welfare office waiting room

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On a rainy, chilly spring day in Abbotsford, B.C., a lineup of soaked people are steaming mad.

They want to know why the local welfare office — the Abbotsford branch of the B.C. Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction — is making their poverty feel worse.

They say they’re regularly denied access to the centre’s near-empty waiting room and told they have to stand outside instead.

In January and February, many waited more than two hours in the snow. Now, they’re facing the same kind of delays in heavy downpours on a 9 C day, with no shelter and no seating.

“I’m cold. It’s freezing right now,” says George Sather. “They just let you in a couple at a time … and everybody else waits outside in the elements.”

Chairs sit empty in the waiting room of the Abbotsford welfare office on a recent busy afternoon. (Eric Rankin, CBC)

Most in the lineup are here to deal with issues involving their provincial welfare eligibility or disability assistance, or are filing requests for a crisis grant — an extra $40 a month when they find themselves running out of cash.

“Alice”, 63, won’t give her real name, because she feels standing outside the office is embarrassing.

She’s holding her 19-month-old grandson, Mantis, who’s just as wet as she is.

“It was really, really hard for him because I’ve had to tell people I don’t want to lose my place in line, and then he gets restless.”

‘Alice’, 63, says she’s had to stand outside for hours before being allowed into the Abbotsford welfare waiting room. (Mael Thebault, CBC)

She says she’s waited as long as 2½ hours to get inside the office.

“That needs to change,” she says.

‘Disappointing, appalling and … shamelessly classist’

As someone exits through the centre’s mirrored doors, about a dozen chairs can be seen inside the waiting room —nearly all of them empty.

An open door provides a glimpse into the near-empty waiting area of the Abbotsford welfare office. (Jesse Wegenast)

Staff are sealed behind walls of glass and reinforced doors.

A sign reads: “This office is committed to a workplace where everyone is safe and is treated with courtesy, dignity and respect.”

A local pastor says that same courtesy, dignity and respect doesn’t seem to extend to the office’s clients.

Jesse Wegenast of The 5 and 2 Ministries says he was “flabbergasted” when he recently spotted the line-ups.

“It is unbelievably disappointing, appalling and it is shamelessly classist in my opinion,” he said.

Pastor Jesse Wegenast says he was ‘flabbergasted’ when he recently saw people forced to stand for hours outside the Abbotsford welfare office. (Mael Thebault, CBC)

Wegenast says it’s not unusual to come by on a weekday afternoon and see up to 15 people standing outside, waiting to access services.

“Were it happening at a drivers’ licensing office or at Services Canada, it would not last because the people who access those services … feel like they ought to be treated a certain way,” says Wegenast.

But he says people who come to the Abbotsford welfare office fear if they complain, they might not be able to access financial services that pay for their rent, prescriptions and groceries.

When CBC News attempted to talk to the centre supervisor, we were asked to leave.

Wegenast says he spoke to the supervisor, who told him there were two reasons for the restrictions on waiting room access: The office’s occupational health and safety committee wanted to reduce security concerns; and staff wanted more people to access online services.

Wegenast says that’s ludicrous.

“These are disadvantaged people who are vulnerable, who are being told ‘too bad, so sad’. You have to wait outside because we don’t trust you because of safety concerns and you should be doing stuff online.”

He says he knows one woman who has a brain injury and can’t use the internet.

Alice, too, says going online isn’t an option for her.

“I don’t put anything private online,” she says. “I like to do everything in person.”

Another client in the lineup, Tim Felger, 62, agrees.

“Most of the people [here] don’t have computers, or phones. So that doesn’t really work,” he says.

‘There will be a conversation’: minister

Contacted by CBC News, Shane Simpson, B.C.’s minister of social development and poverty reduction says the policy at the Abbotsford office is “unfortunate.”

Shane Simpson, B.C.’s minister of social development and poverty reduction, oversees the provincial welfare system and says his Abbotsford office will be getting a call. (Mike McArthur, CBC)

“It’s not a practice that I think is helpful. It’s not a practice that I’m supportive of,” Simpson says.

“I assure you there will be a conversation about how operating procedures work.”

Wegenast says that’s good news.

“I’m very happy to hear that people are now going to be allowed the dignity of not standing outside in the wind and the cold as they wait to access services,” he says.

“And frankly I’m happy at how quickly it happened.”

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Government supports access to free menstrual products for students, people in need

by admin

Under a ministerial order that was issued Friday, April 5, 2019, all B.C. public schools will be required to provide free menstrual products for students in school washrooms by the end of 2019.

In issuing the order, Education Minister Rob Fleming said it’s time to normalize and equalize access to menstrual products in schools, helping to create a better learning environment for students.

“Students should never have to miss school, extracurricular, sports or social activities because they can’t afford or don’t have access to menstrual products,” said Fleming, adding that current research indicates that one in seven students has missed school due to their periods because they cannot afford products.

“This is a common-sense step forward that is, frankly, long overdue. We look forward to working with school districts and communities to make sure students get the access they need with no stigma and no barriers.”

The ministerial order – which takes effect immediately but allows districts until the end of 2019 to comply – comes with $300,000 in provincial startup funding. Over the coming months, the ministry will continue to work with school districts, community and education partners to look at the needs of each district, identify gaps and ensure they have the funding needed to meet this new requirement.

In addition, government is also providing a one-time grant of $95,000 to support the United Way Period Promise Research Project, to fund menstrual products for up to 10 non-profit agencies and research into how best to provide services and products for people who menstruate.

“The cost and availability of menstrual products is a real concern for those who are poor and often face the choice of purchasing those products or buying other essentials, like food,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “I encourage other organizations to join our government in supporting the Period Promise campaign, to help end the stigma that causes social isolation, and begin to address that larger issue around affordability.”

“Having your period is a part of life, and easy and affordable access to menstrual products should be simple,” said Mitzi Dean, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity. “Menstrual products should be available to people when and where they need them, which is why we’re improving access in schools and in communities. These actions are going to make a big difference in the lives of people who menstruate, and I’m proud that our government is taking leadership on this issue.”

The United Way funding builds on the work government is doing to reduce poverty in British Columbia. In March 2019, the B.C. government released TogetherBC, the Province’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy. TogetherBC brings together investments from across government that will help reduce overall poverty in the province by 25%, and cut child poverty in half, over the next five years.


Glen Hansman, president, B.C. Teachers’ Federation –

“By ensuring school districts make menstrual products free and accessible to all students who need them, the government is taking an important action towards improving equity in our schools. There are many reasons why students need access to menstrual products at school. Many of our members can share stories of students who have felt shame or embarrassment, or have even gone home, because they did not have access to a tampon or pad or could not afford one. Today’s announcement will also help deal with what the United Way’s Period Promise campaign calls ‘period poverty.’ I want to thank the Minister of Education and this government, as well as those working on the United Way campaign, for making this announcement today.”

Mark Gifford, chair, New Westminster Schools Board of Education

“Our board is proud to have led the way in breaking down barriers and ensuring access to free menstrual products in all of our schools. It’s a basic gender-equity issue and our work helps ensure female and transgender students can manage normal bodily functions without stigma, cost, or disruptions to their learning. We are thrilled with the minister’s announcement today and applaud such swift action in support of advancing a fundamental right of access across the province.”

Andrea Sinclair, president, B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils –

“This is a long-standing ‘hidden and unspoken’ problem for students who need menstrual products. There continues to be stigma surrounding this, which causes unnecessary anxiety and reduced confidence for students, including reduced attendance. We need to remove the barriers to access, eliminate the stigma and normalize the conversation for student well-being. We are encouraged by this action and fully support it. Today’s announcement is another example of the ministry listening and acting for the best interest of students.”

Michael McKnight, president and CEO, United Way of the Lower Mainland

“The inspiring support United Way’s Period Promise campaign has received demonstrates the impact we create when we mobilize to address issues in our own neighbourhoods. I want to thank the Government of B.C. for its commitment to tackling period poverty, and thank the passionate individuals tackling vulnerability and isolation in all its forms, in our local communities.”

Sussanne Skidmore, secretary-treasurer, BC Federation of Labour, volunteer co-chair of United Way’s Period Promise campaign –

“The community and government response to the issue of period poverty has been incredible. The hundreds of thousands of donated menstrual products we’ve received will make a concrete difference in people’s lives, and with support from the Government of B.C., we can also create change on a wider scale, long-term.”

Learn More:

Participate in the United Way Period Promise campaign: https://www.uwlm.ca/

Read TogetherBC: B.C.’s Poverty Reduction Strategy: https://www.gov.bc.ca/TogetherBC 

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