Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart joined Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service’s Capt. Jonathan Gormick to discuss the epidemic of drug-related deaths, at a press conference in Vancouver on Friday, September 6, 2019. Jason Payne / PNG
Local governments across Canada will press the federal government to increase access to safer drugs, and declare a national health emergency in response to the fentanyl-driven overdose crisis, after a motion by Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart was passed Friday.
Stewart’s motion, drafted with his overdose emergency task force, was approved by city council in July. Coun. Rebecca Bligh brought it to a Federation of Canadian Municipalities executive meeting this week.
The motion requires the federation to call on Ottawa to support health authorities, doctors, their professional colleges and provinces to “safely provide regulated opioids and other substances through a free and federally available Pharmacare program.”
The federation will also demand that the federal government declares a national public health emergency and provides exemptions to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, so that cities and towns can run pilot programs which prioritize a move toward a “safe” drug supply.
Stewart said Friday that there was some division among the federation’s membership over the motion but it passed following an effective speech by Bligh. He hopes it will “shift the national dialogue toward a safe supply” during the federal election.
He wants the substances act exemptions to allow health professionals with a non-profit organization to distribute diacetylmorphine, which local research has shown can be an effective treatment for chronic, relapsing opioid dependence.
Stewart met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau two weeks ago and told him what Vancouver needs in order to replace fentanyl-tainted street drugs with a safer, regulated supply, he said.
“It was a private conversation but I can say that I left the conversation in good spirits,” Stewart said. “I was definitely heard and that was very important.”
Stewart said front line responders are fatigued, people are experiencing multiple overdoses and suffering brain injuries, and the city and province desperately need the federal government to step up.
“We’re going to have to take it to the next level here. We’re reducing overdose deaths but overdoses are increasing. Just not dying isn’t good enough,” he said.
“It’s got to be life and hope for people.”
Karen Ward, a drug user and advocate for others who use drugs, helped with the motion and was pleased the municipalities passed it.
“If a province is a bit hesitant, the idea is that this will give a city the power to take rapid action — and individual doctors, in fact,” she said.
“It’s a necessity to have safe supply at this point because the supply has become so contaminated everywhere.”
Ward said the federation can now send a clear message to Ottawa that municipalities want the power to treat the overdose crisis “like a real” public health emergency.
“This is one way to get them to talk about it, face it squarely and acknowledge this massive disaster, and say look, we need to change our (approach),” she said.
“We need to take it as seriously as possible. It’s a health issue. It’s also a justice issue.”
VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s health minister says the number of children fully immunized against measles rose by 37,525 between April and June as part of a catch-up program.
Adrian Dix says a requirement for parents to report students’ immunization records in September is expected to further increase vaccination rates in a province that has seen 29 cases of the infectious disease this year.
Dix says up to 50,000 children begin kindergarten every year so the push for vaccination will continue as measles remains a public health issue, especially given that Washington state declared an emergency in January over a rising number of cases and rates of infection increased around the world.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
Nick Procaylo /
Dix says the number of vaccinations at doctors’ offices and pharmacists has also increased, with 1,220 people getting immunized by pharmacists between April and June, up from 21 during the same period last year.
He says more public education about measles led to a large number of students in Grades 10, 11 and 12 getting themselves immunized at over 1,000 clinics set up at schools.
Health authorities in B.C. also held over 3,500 public health clinics during the three-month catch-up period so people could get immunized.
“The big challenge is that there’s a tendency to respond to these things when they’re seen as crises and after the crisis ends you sort of take the foot off the gas and we don’t intend to do that,” Dix says. “By changing the way that we engage with people on immunization that’s going to continue.”
Two separate doses of the measles mumps and rubella vaccine are needed to provide immunity against the highly contagious airborne disease, the first dose at 12 months of age and the second usually between the ages of four and six.
Symptoms of the disease that was eradicated in Canada in 1998 include fever, cough, runny nose and a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the chest.
Community pharmacists in B.C. have joined a chorus of health officials urging residents to get vaccinated after a recent outbreak of measles in Vancouver.
The B.C. Pharmacy Association is reminding the public that pharmacists across the province are prepared to give booster shots or new vaccinations to adults and children five years or older. The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is publicly-funded and available from pharmacists in nearly every community, the association said in a news release Friday.
“Community pharmacists are one of the most accessible health care providers and have had the authority to provide injections since 2009,” said the association’s CEO, Geraldine Vance.
“Families and individuals looking to make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date can go to their local pharmacist for care.”
Vancouver Coastal Health also recommends vaccinations. People who have previously had the infection do not need immunization.
B.C. children born in or after 1994 routinely get two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, one dose when they turn a year old and another before they start kindergarten.
People born before 1994 or who grew up outside of B.C. may need a second dose. People born before 1970 are likely immune; but if they aren’t sure whether they have had the infection, they can safely get the MMR vaccine.
Vaccinations and boosters are also available at doctors’ offices, and Immunization B.C. provides a map of local health units offering publicly-funded vaccinations at immunizebc.ca/finder. Services vary by location.
Earlier this week, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said measles is a “serious and highly contagious disease” and that getting inoculated is the best way to avoid getting sick — and transmitting it to others who may be unprotected.
Tam’s comments Tuesday came after a cluster of nine cases of measles in Vancouver that began in recent weeks after an unvaccinated Canadian child contracted the disease on a family trip to Vietnam.
The rate of immunization among students at the two Vancouver schools where the outbreak originated has since increased, according to an update earlier this week from Vancouver Coastal Health.
At École Secondaire Jules‐Verne and École Rose-Des-Vents, both francophone schools, the measles immunization rate is now 95.5 and 94 per cent respectively, said Althea Hayden, a medical health officer, at a news conference Tuesday.
“Before this outbreak started, we had documentation for only about 70 per cent of students having immunity,” said Hayden, adding that the rise in immunity is not just due to new vaccinations but also the result of those who have now reported their vaccination records, when their immunization status was previously undeclared.
Herd immunity requires a threshold of about 92 per cent.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control tracks child immunization and reports that 82.1 per cent of children aged seven had been immunized for measles in 2018, compared to 88.4 per cent in 2017 and 90.2 per cent in 2016.
With files from Tiffany Crawford, Stephanie Ip and The Canadian Press
The Dear Norman letter on page 15 of the program for PuSh 15 puts the 15th annual PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in context.
This is the first time that the now fixture on the local cultural events calendar hasn’t been helmed by its co-founder Norman Armour. The touching thank-you note from friends, colleagues and staff to the outgoing artistic director lauds him and co-creator Katrina Dunn for launching the cutting-edge arts showcase.
Interim artistic director Joyce Rosario says a lot of thinking went into how to program this year’s event to both celebrate the festival’s foundation and recognize boldly moving forward.
“Right from choosing the cover image the program (of UK performer Selina Thompson’s show SALT.) to how we decided to celebrate our 15th anniversary without our founder, the question was how do we express gratitude for the work that went into making such a great event,” said Rosario.
“So we brought back the opening and closing night parties, which we haven’t done in a long time, to celebrate where we’ve been and we are going. Also, we ran a big ticket promotion of $15 dollar tickets for the first 15 days of sales, and that was a really great experiment to discover which shows were popular and went the fastest, who were the new people getting tickets, and the tastes of ongoing audience members.”
Even an event as established and successful as PuSh must be constantly studying its metrics to determine how to maximize audiences.
The nature of the performances that the festival presents is such that even sellouts don’t always add up to big profits, as artists travel large distances and many of the productions have substantial stage technical builds.
Curating the multiple shows is always a balancing act; an act that the festival has proven adept at juggling year in and year out, offering up the kinds of experiences that resonate with audiences long after they happen.
PuSh is, ultimately, about accessing transformative experiences and PuSh 15 will kickoff with a bang.
The free opening night bash at Club Push (Jan. 17, Beaumont Studios, 9:30 p.m.) features Vancouver’s sharp queer Filipinx MC Kimmortal and art-fashion-dance collective Immigrant Lessons performing selections from their new collaboration titled X Marks the Movement. It promises to be a potent mix of art, politics and partying.
UK cabaret provocateur Lucky McCormick’s Triple Threat — a “trash-punk morality play” retelling the New Testament — is at the closing night party at XY (Feb. 2, 9 p.m.). Hardly wine and cheese events, both of these bookends define what makes PuSh what it is.
“Sure, we’re niche, and attract those who are willing to dive in and take a chance on something you might not know,” said Rosario.
“PuSh fans are a couple of things: People who are driven by their curiosity, looking to have an interesting conversation or insight into performing arts that they see; and often regular audience members for one thing, such as dance, who take this time of year to stretch out and see something completely different, such as a mix of an Indonesian noise band with an acclaimed Australian dance group (Attractor, Jan. 18 – 19, Vancouver Playhouse).
Rosario admits the latter is how she approached her first PuSh festival events a decade ago. She loved it so much that she kept coming, and now can’t envisage the local cultural scene without it.
While Vancouver was always a hotbed of multidisciplinary performance, there was much more separation of the genres when PuSh began. The landscape has shifted profoundly since then.
“I think that it’s how artists are working, and how they have been working, and we were just more aware of it early on; now other folks have cottoned on is all,” Rosario said.
“So the big question becomes how do you remain in the know of what are the new practices. The city has changed, the arts scene has changed, and now we are in this liminal moment where we are about to transition into something different with new leadership; that’s exciting.”
The fact is that almost all of the major arts and cultural festivals in the region — and, to a large degree, worldwide — are undergoing regime changes as their founding Boomer base steps aside to let the next generation lead. It’s something that Rosario and Armour discussed often over their five years of working together before his retirement.
This year’s event still bears Armour’s hand, as it was in motion when he decided to move on to other pursuits. Rosario admits there are shows this year where she isn’t sure who initially suggested booking the artists.
“Norman was from Upper Canada, I’m from East Van, yet we found common working ground and fun doing it,” she said.
“My lens is definitely more of a dance one than he had, which was one of the reasons he brought me on board. As we move onward there are bound to be more examples of new interests in the programming, but we’ve always had a wide variety and scope.”
The 15th edition includes over 150 performances of 26 productions from 24 companies representing 13 countries. Of these shows, six are world premieres, 11 are Canadian premieres and six of those are western Canadian premieres.
It’s a huge undertaking for the eight staff and 20 contract employees who make it happen. The 2005 budget was under $200,000. This year will be more than $1.7 million. Audience attendance is expected to top 17,500. For a celebration of non-mainstream arts, that’s massive.
It’s also challenging in terms of deciding what and what not to see. Aware of these demands, the festival even has its own official collaborative beer to quaff while you make your selections. Strange Side is a joint creation from Strange Fellows Brewing and Parkside Brewery and will be available at Club PuSh, and other venues.
Rosario and the PuSH team are developing a program that reflects the 15th festival theme of issues around diversity, accessibility and gratitude. She is particularly excited about three shows around this theme at this year’s festival:
1 – SALT. (Jan. 24 – 26, 8 p.m.,) and Race Cards (Free, Jan. 23 – Feb. 2, both at Roundhouse)
“Obviously, UK artist Selina Thompson is on the cover and we are lucky enough to have her here for two shows, which is really great because I love her work. One is a free installation and the other is a theatre piece and this gives the audience a really solid introduction. Having her here for two things rather than having to wait maybe years for another chance to present is special.”
2 – Attractor (Jan 18 – 19, Vancouver Playhouse)
“Three of the elements I love so much — dance, music and performance — in one program from Dancenorth Australia, with the amazing band Senyawa. These guys are as influenced by heavy metal and noise as they are by traditional Indonesian music and paired with these dancers should be fantastic. Rully, the vocalist, who is down in Portland, asked me if I knew Tanya Tagaq and could introduce them, because he would really like to meet her. Pretty awesome.”
“A show by Toronto’s Buddies In Bad Times theatre with the company head Evalyn Parry performing with Inuk artist Laakuluk Williamson Bathory exploring things they got to jamming on during an Arctic expedition together. It’s about being female artists and their relationships to the environment, being from Toronto and Iqaluit. Shows with powerhouse women, I’m all for.”
• PuSh festival programs are available at local JJ Bean outlets and other locations.
BBG Constructive & Security Installation Consultants is a multi-disciplinary property and construction consultancy. Working with businesses on built-environment projects, we are client-focused with the recognised experience, knowledge base, expertise and track record to tackle projects irrespective of complexity from a position of strength.