Posts Tagged "support"


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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Renters facing eviction get support through rent bank funding to Vancity

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Renters facing short-term financial difficulties will soon get more help and avoid evictions with new funding for community rent banks.

Rent banks provide emergency low-cost or no-cost loans to help renters facing eviction. As part of Budget 2019, the Province granted $10 million to the Vancity Community Foundation (VCF), a non-profit foundation associated with Vancity credit union, to develop a sustainable, provincewide rent bank system. Vancity has been supporting rent banks in communities for over a decade and will consult with existing rent banks to develop a sustainable provincial program.

“Preventing homelessness by helping people avoid eviction is key and rent banks play an important role,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “The Province is contributing this funding to support a sustainable network of rent banks to help people in B.C., and I look forward to hearing about the consultation, and the plan that Vancity and the existing rent banks will have in place for the long term.”

VCF and Vancity are working with existing rent banks to better understand their operational needs, discuss best practices, identify service gaps and examine expanding the rent bank model to more communities throughout B.C.

Existing rent banks already have access to funding from the provincial grant to ensure their immediate needs are met and their work is sustainable. Following the consultation, funding will go toward expanding a B.C.-wide system so tenants experiencing short-term financial crisis can be supported, regardless of where they live.

“People with lived experience of these issues are guiding this work,” said Catherine Ludgate, senior manager of community investment, Vancity. “We are taking a consultative approach with the rent banks to assess how they can expand service across the province, so more people can access funds and avoid homelessness.” 

Rent banks support the goals of TogetherBC, the provincial poverty reduction strategy. Implementing a B.C.-wide rent bank system was a recommendation of B.C.’s Rental Housing Task Force, following consultations with landlords and tenants throughout the province.

The funding builds on other improvements government has made to support renters in B.C., including cutting the annual allowable rent increase, introducing stronger protection for tenants during renovations or demolitions and enhancing eligibility and benefits under the Rental Assistance Program for families with children and Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters.

“Housing security is a priority for the BC Green Party and the provincial government,” said Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands and a member of the Rental Housing Task Force. “Rent banks offer a level of security for renters and landlords that doesn’t currently exist, and alongside the task force recommendations, will help to create a stronger, more supportive rental market for British Columbians.”

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


Spencer Chandra Herbert, chair of the Rental Housing Task Force and MLA for Vancouver-West End —

“We know how expensive, disruptive and stressful evictions can be for everyone. We need to be proactive if we’re going to reduce homelessness. Rent banks help keep people in their homes and get back on their feet, while ensuring the rent gets paid. That’s why I helped found Vancouver’s Rent Bank. They work.”

Allison Felker, interim executive director, VCF —

“We’re using our financial tools and expertise to build capacity for rent banks, ensuring they have the ability to meet the needs of our communities.”

Kellie Carroll, executive director, the Network of Inner City Community Services Society and the Vancouver Rent Bank —

“The staff at the Vancouver Rent Bank are pleased that the funds that the provincial government is providing will contribute to the long-term sustainability of rent banks in B.C.”

Melissa Giles, director of programs, Mennonite Central Committee and the Fraser Valley Rent Bank —

“Through the funding, the Province has made clear the important role of rent banks in helping at-risk people receive the critical support they need to remain housed and off the streets. Working together as a coalition, we are committed to see these funds used efficiently in the support of existing rent banks and the expansion of the program into new communities in B.C.”

Learn More:

TogetherBC, B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/poverty-reduction-strategy

Renting in B.C.: https://www.renters.gov.bc.ca 

BC Housing Rental Assistance Programs: https://www.bchousing.org/housing-assistance/rental-assistance

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TELUS grows Internet and Mobility for Good programs to support 25,000 more British Columbian families and youth

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More low-income British Columbian families will now have access to low-cost high-speed Internet, and more youth leaving foster care can now stay connected to their vital support networks through the expansion of TELUS Internet for GoodTM and TELUS Mobility for GoodTM, in partnership with the Provincial Government and Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.

“Across our province, there are countless families and children in need of support. Through programs like these, and in collaboration with the Provincial Government and Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada (CAFC), we are changing these realities to ensure that more British Columbians are connected to the tools, people and resources they need to be successful,” said Darren Entwistle, President and CEO of TELUS. “To date, we have offered thousands of families across British Columbia access to low-cost, high speed Internet through TELUS Internet for Good, and today we are proud to expand this program to more families receiving income and disability assistance through the Province, ensuring more kids have access to the Internet at home and to the same digital opportunities as their classmates.”

TELUS Internet for Good offers low cost, high-speed Internet to families with children currently receiving income or disability assistance from the provincial government. Eligible families will receive a letter from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction with a unique PIN code, enabling them to activate TELUS’ offer of Internet 25 for $9.95 per month for two years. The program also includes access to a low-cost refurbished computers, and online safety training.

“Many people can’t afford the basic technologies we often take for granted, like Internet access. We know that children who live in homes without Internet access have a lower graduation rate,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Through TogetherBC, BC’s Poverty Reduction Plan, our government is working in partnership with companies like TELUS to help people access technology so that they have the tools they need to be successful and participate in their community. Partnerships like this one are an important way to reduce poverty and connect people with opportunities.”

“We are also expanding Mobility for Good, which began in partnership with the provincial government to provide kids aging out of foster care a free smartphone and plan,” continued Entwistle. “Now, in partnership with CAFC, we are extending this vital lifeline to more than 9,300 youth in British Columbia, better preparing them to begin their independent lives feeling safer, more connected and better prepared for a successful transition to independence. Together, by leveraging technology, social innovation and human compassion, we are making a meaningful difference in the lives of underserved and vulnerable citizens across the province.”

TELUS Mobility for Good first launched in British Columbia in 2017 in partnership with the Provincial Government, followed by Ontario and Quebec in partnership with CAFC. Today, TELUS and CAFC also announced they are expanding this program to Manitoba and New Brunswick. With this expansion,TELUS and CAFC can provide 20,000 youth transitioning from care with the opportunity to access a smartphone and two-year TELUS mobile plan at $0 per month, including unlimited nationwide talk and text and up to 3GB of monthly data usage. While TELUS is providing the service to youth for free, the bills will appear in the youth’s name to help them build positive credit and gain the skills required to manage their finances in the future. At the end of the two-years, they will have access to a low-cost $35 per month plan for an unlimited duration. This program is administered by Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, the country’s leading charity dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth growing up in the child welfare system.

“With the touch of a screen, smartphones can connect you to a whole world of possibilities,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “We want youth aging out of government care to share in those opportunities. It’s why we have programs and partnerships like this to give them the tools they need to find a job, home or college, stay connected to their friends and support networks and succeed as independent adults.” 

“Without the support of permanent families, youth transitioning out of care are often ill-equipped for life on their own and a smartphone is critical to helping them stay connected and achieving independence,” says Valerie McMurtry, President and CEO, Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada. “Working together with TELUS, we will be able to reach more vulnerable young people in British Columbia and meet an urgent need that enables youth to search for somewhere to live, look for job opportunities and stay in touch with friends and vital support networks.”

For more information on the TELUS Mobility for Good Program or to apply, please visit: www.cafdn.org/for-youth/telus-mobility-good/. For more information on TELUS Internet for Good and other giving initiatives, please visit telus.com/community.


TELUS (TSX: T, NYSE: TU) is one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies, with $14.5 billion of annual revenue and 14.0 million subscriber connections, including 9.7 million wireless subscribers, 1.9 million Internet subscribers, 1.2 million residential voice and 1.1 million TELUS TV customers. TELUS provides a wide range of communications products and services, including wireless, data, Internet protocol (IP), voice, television, entertainment, video and home and business security. TELUS is also Canada’s largest healthcare IT provider, and TELUS International delivers business process solutions around the globe.

In support of our philosophy to give where we live, TELUS, our team members and retirees have contributed over $690 million to charitable and not-for-profit organizations and volunteered more than 1.3 million days of service to local communities since 2000. Created in 2005 by President and CEO Darren Entwistle, TELUS’ 13 Canadian community boards and five International boards have led the Company’s support of grassroots charities and have contributed $72 million in support of 7,000 local charitable projects, enriching the lives of more than 2 million children and youth, annually. TELUS was honoured to be named the most outstanding philanthropic corporation globally for 2010 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, becoming the first Canadian company to receive this prestigious international recognition. For more information about

TELUS, please visit telus.com

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New funding will support food security programs throughout B.C.

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With a $3-million grant from the B.C. government, the Victoria Foundation will improve access to fresh, nutritious, affordable food for thousands of people who regularly experience food insecurity.

“Connecting more people to healthy food will make a huge difference in the lives of so many families,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “This is a perfect example of how we can all work together to reduce poverty and make life better for British Columbians.”

From the $3-million provincial contribution:

  • Up to $2 million will be used to help purchase the Mustard Seed’s Food Security Distribution Centre, which is a hub to redistribute food across south Vancouver Island and home to the region’s Food Rescue Project. The building has been leased since 2017, and the purchase will provide long-term stability for the program.
  • The remaining funding will be used to offer grants to organizations in B.C. for food security projects that can help low-income individuals and families.

“The Victoria Foundation and Mustard Seed are partners in a far-reaching network of businesses, non-profits and community volunteers working together to tackle food insecurity in a sustainable way,” said Simpson. “Our government is proud to support these efforts and help them grow to reach every person who needs support.”

Food insecurity occurs when people do not have reliable and regular access to quality, healthy, culturally appropriate, affordable food. It affects the health of approximately 50,000 people in the capital region and around half a million people provincewide.

Through the new Food Security Provincial Initiatives Fund, the Victoria Foundation will work with local non-profits throughout B.C. to identify community-specific needs and create food security projects that support health and wellness. More details on the fund will be available in late June 2019.

“Food security is central to the well-being of people, which makes it a priority for our region and the Province,” said Sandra Richardson, CEO, Victoria Foundation. “The new Food Security Provincial Initiatives Fund will help us build and support other programs like the Food Rescue Project, because better food creates healthier individuals, families and communities.”

The Food Rescue Project operates in collaboration with more than 50 member organizations of the Food Share Network, an informal group of local non-profits, First Nations, school districts and organizations working toward a food-secure region. The Mustard Seed recovers about 1,815 kilograms (4,000 pounds) of fresh food daily from local grocery stores and redistributes it to network members, who in turn help feed 35,000 food insecure people in the capital region annually. The centre is the key piece in a food distribution network that decreases food insecurity and connects people with social service programs.

“The distribution centre will secure a permanent location for a food hub for the capital region,” said Derek Pace, executive director, Mustard Seed Street Church. “Purchasing the building gives us the stability we need to continue growing the network of donors who provide food each week and to continue to support and participate in the Food Share Network made up of those groups who distribute food to people in their communities. In addition to helping ensure that the Food Rescue Project remains sustainable, the centre will enable the community’s larger vision for food security, growing programs in food literacy, employment, environmental sustainability and the local food systems.”

The Victoria Foundation is actively working to find other donors to support the Mustard Seed’s purchase of the Food Security Distribution Centre and the Food Security Provincial Initiatives Fund. Vancity has already committed $200,000 to support the purchase.

Learn More:

TogetherBC, B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy:

The Victoria Foundation’s food security initiatives:

The Mustard Seed Street Church’s Food Rescue Project:

A backgrounder follows.

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Trudeau has support of remaining 33 members of cabinet, survey shows

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In the wake of Jane Philpott’s sudden resignation from the federal cabinet over what she said was her “lack of confidence” in the way the Liberal government has handled the SNC Lavalin affair, CBC News reached out to the remaining 33 members of cabinet to ask if they still support Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

As of Monday evening, all remaining members of the federal cabinet were saying they continue to support Trudeau and the government. Some issued statements, others simply confirmed their support. Below is a list of statements from cabinet ministers who provided them to CBC News:

Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan

“I have full confidence in this prime minister and am committed to continuing on with the important work ahead for Indigenous peoples and all Canadians.”

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau

“Absolutely. I’m proud to work with a leader that is focused on jobs, growing the middle class and strengthening our economy.”

Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna

“Yes, Minister McKenna has full confidence in the PM and will remain in cabinet,” said spokeswoman Caroline Thériault.

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patricia Hajdu

“My confidence in the prime minister remains untouched. I stand by him and believe in his ability to lead a government that delivers for all Canadians. I am sorry to see one of my Cabinet colleagues step down and I wish her the best.”

Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion Mary Ng

The minister told CBC that she supports Trudeau “100 per cent.”

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett

“I have absolute confidence in our government, and our prime minister, and will continue the vital work of advancing reconciliation and self-determination as the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations.”

Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Pablo Rodriguez

The Quebec MP said he backs Trudeau “totally,” 

Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier

“I support the prime minister and am proud of the work we have accomplished during the last three years to make life better for all Canadians.”

Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould

“I have full confidence in the Prime Minister and this government.”  

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen

“Minister Hussen has full confidence in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his vision for Canada,” said spokesperson, Mathieu Genest.

Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade Dominic LeBlanc

“I have full confidence in the prime minister. We will continue to take action to make life easier for Canadians, and create good, middle class jobs across the country.”

Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr

“The PM and this government as a whole has minister Carr’s full confidence. He remains committed to his role as minister and to the important work the PM has given him to carry out on behalf of Canadians,” said spokeswoman, Isabella Brisson.

Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie Mélanie Joly

”Of course, the Prime Minister has my full confidence.”

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities​ François-Philippe Champagne

“I absolutely have confidence in the prime minister and the plan he put in place for Canadians and I will continue to be a strong voice for rural Canada, for a strong and growing economy and for Quebec.”

Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Jonathan Wilkinson

“I am proud of the progressive accomplishments made under the leadership of the prime minister. I have full confidence in the prime minister and our government.”

Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi

“I have full confidence in our government. Canadians elected us to build a strong middle class and provide opportunities for those who work hard every day to join the middle class. That is what we have focused on since day one and this is what we will continue to do under the strong leadership of PM Trudeau.”

Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan

“I fully support the prime minister and our government, and as minister of science and sport, will continue focusing on our important work for science and research, and on making sport safe for all.”

Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Carla Qualtrough

“I have full confidence in the prime minister and our government, and I look forward to continuing to serve Canadians.

“I’m sad to hear of Jane Philpott’s departure from Cabinet. She was a valued member of the team around the table. I thank the Prime Minister for his faith in me as I take on the interim position of president of the Treasury Board and minister of digital government.”

All remaining members of the federal cabinet have told CBC News that they continue to support Trudeau and his government.

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Vancouver woman fights strata to keep emotional support dog

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Stephanie Kallstrom has filed a human rights complaint against her strata to keep her emotional service dog, Ember.

Francis Georgian / Postmedia News

A few months after adopting a border collie mix, Stephanie Kallstrom was able to stop using the anti-anxiety medications she had taken since her teens.

Now, the Vancouver woman is fighting to keep the dog — named Ember — despite her strata’s strict pet policy.

“She (Ember) changed my life,” Kallstrom said Saturday. “I assumed she’d be accommodated here because she’s been accommodated on airplanes, in hotels and at the hospital.”

Kallstrom’s downtown condo allows residents to keep up to two dogs, but she argues Ember shouldn’t be counted in that total because she acts as an emotional support animal (ESA). Kallstrom also has two small poodles.

In B.C., ESAs are not considered service dogs or guide dogs, which are legally allowed in strata properties. In January 2016, the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act came into effect, giving certified handlers “access rights equal to those enjoyed by all members of the public,” according to a provincial government press release.

It also provided a way for dog handlers whose dogs were not trained by an accredited school to apply for certification and have the animals tested by the Justice Institute.

But Kallstrom feels there should be some middle ground. While she plans to go through the process of getting Ember certified as a service dog, she’s concerned that other ESAs wouldn’t be able to pass the rigorous testing required.

“Many people need their ESAs as a vital part of their health, but they couldn’t pass,” she said. “There should be a specific certification for ESAs.”

A quick internet search brings up a host of sites claiming to certify ESAs. For less than $100 and the time it takes to answer a few questions, owners can obtain certificates, vests and collars to identify their animals.

“I realize there’s a lot of fake emotional support dogs out there,” said Kallstrom. “But there’s also a lot of legitimate ones, and there should be some way to tell the difference.”


The Vancouver woman is open about her struggles with mental health, including post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression, which have dogged her since she was 10 years of age. After adopting Ember in Abbotsford in 2014, she was able to stop taking medication, a milestone witnessed by her doctor, who provided her with a letter recognizing the dog’s assistance.

As a result, Ember has been allowed on flights, in hotels and department stores. When Kallstrom had surgery at a Vancouver hospital, the dog was permitted in her room during recovery.

“She uses tactile stimulation to avoid a crisis and keep me safe,” she said. “She can sense what I’m feeling, and she’s there with a lick or a nudge or a paw.”

On Saturday, Ember sat quietly on Kallstrom’s couch, her nose resting on her paws, her large brown eyes tracking movements. Later, on a noisy city street, she walked calmly beside her owner.

The use of ESAs has increased dramatically in the last decade. A 2015 study by researchers at the University of California found a tenfold increase in the number of animals used for psychiatric services registered by animal control facilities in California between 2000 and 2002 compared to 2010 and 2012.

ESAs have also been the subject of dozens of news stories and viral videos. Last week, a Pennsylvania man made headlines when he said his emotional support alligator helped him deal with his depression. In January 2018, airline staff stopped an emotional support peacock from flying with its owner.

In January, both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines tightened their rules around ESAs, saying they will no longer allow ESA puppies and kittens under four months old and barring them completely on longer flights. The airlines cited complaints about allergies, soiled cabins and aggressive animals for the change.

The blurring of the line between legitimate service dogs and emotional support dogs can cause problems for people with certified service dogs, Tara Doherty, spokeswoman for Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADs), told Postmedia News in a previous interview.

“We’ve had reports of businesses not being open to certified service dogs because of their experiences with an ill-behaved dog,” she said. “It’s a significant concern because it creates a bad reputation for legitimate service dogs.”

Kallstrom has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to argue her case.

With Postmedia files

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Post-pregnancy blues? Support helpline now offers counselling via text message

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A post-pregnancy support group is offering a new texting service to make getting help easier for new parents who might otherwise struggle to pick up the phone and call the helpline.

The Pacific Post Partum Support Society, based in the Lower Mainland, has been running a phone line help service for 45 years to help mothers, fathers and other caregivers through difficult times.

“Picking up the phone and actually talking to somebody can be challenging,” said society director Sheila Duffy. “Basically, we’re just making that the first point of contact easier.”

The society, a peer support and community-based program, offers telephone counseling and weekly support groups. They currently receive about 5,000 calls from British Columbians in need each year.

Postpartum depression can show up within the first year after birth and can last months or even years. (Michael Zamora/Associated Press)

‘We all need support’

An estimated one in six women and one in 10 men experience feelings of depression or anxiety when a new child arrives, according to the society.

“You don’t have to have a diagnosis of postpartum depression  [to reach out]. You could be just having a hard day and need to talk to somebody,” she told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC’s The Early Edition.

“Regardless of the severity, we all need support.”

Duffy said she hopes a texting option will reduce some of the barriers to seeking help whether that’s because of the degree of anonymity texting gives or simply its accessibility.

“You could be anywhere — you could be sitting in a coffee shop or you could be in the living room with a bunch of other people — and be able to get support,” she said.

In a pilot project, the society found that many of the people who initially reached out by texting later ended up talking to someone on the phone and receiving additional help.

“But even if it’s just through texts, it’s amazing how it’s possible to support somebody and to actually feel supported.” Duffy added.

For now, the texting lines will be monitored two days a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but Duffy anticipates the project to grow with more funding.

The phone lines continue to be open Monday to Friday. Call or text 604-255-7999 to reach the society. 

A post-pregnancy support group is offering a new texting service to make getting help easier for new parents who might otherwise struggle to pick up the phone and call the helpline. 6:59

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Daily Poll: Do you support a ban on smoking in multi-unit buildings?

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A smoking-ban petition launched by a Langley mom will be submitted to legislature in February. The petition seeks to ban all smoking inside multi-unit buildings.

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

A smoking-ban petition launched by a Langley mom will be submitted to legislature in February.

The petition seeks to ban smoking in all multi-unit buildings, noting that while smokers have the choice of smoking outside their home, their neighbours don’t have the same option if second-hand smoke is infiltrating their apartment.

Naomi Baker has collected some 700 signatures for the petition, which is set to hit legislature in February or March.


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Kamloops votes to support licence for B.C.’s first legal pot store

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KAMLOOPS — So it begins. Recreational pot is legal in Canada and B.C.’s lone government-sanctioned store, in Kamloops, opens its doors at 10 a.m. Wednesday with unanimous support from city council.

The site of a former Dollar Store, adjacent to a Save-On-Foods on Summit Drive, has become ground zero for legalization in B.C. Elsewhere in the province, local governments await applications for government and private stores from the province for their own vetting, before public consultation and rezoning that could take up to 18 months in some cases.

On Tuesday, Kamloops city council voted unanimously to support the retail cannabis business licence for the B.C. government store — ‘No. CAN00001’, officially — a last-minute approval which had been expected to pass with little or no protest.

Coun. Denis Walsh recused himself from discussion and voting because of his own pending application for a cannabis store. A lone speaker raised questions about the store’s $5,000 business licence but there were no public comments otherwise. Staff told council they received no public submissions regarding the application.

“History has been made,” Mayor Ken Christian said after a quick vote, to a few chuckles and no celebration.

Later, Christian said he felt the cannabis store faced little resistance because council did good public consultation and city staff’s guidance on the file was effective.

Christian doesn’t expect a surge in tourism and believes interest in the store will cool off within months, when others open, he said. Still, he finds it curious that people have begun referring to his city as “Kamsterdam,” he added.

“There’s a lot of speculation about lineups and people driving from afar,” he said.

“Let’s be realistic. You can obtain cannabis in Kamloops, you can obtain it in Vernon or Kelowna, so I think to drive here for this novelty would be somewhat of a mistake, but that said there will be other municipalities that follow the lead of Kamloops.”

Early Tuesday, contractors made finishing touches to the facade beneath the store’s glowing white B.C. Cannabis Store sign in anticipation of the opening.

On Tuesday afternoon, B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch spokeswoman Viviana Zanocco spoke with locals outside the store about the opening, while staff inside unsealed dried cannabis and put it inside “sniff jars,” so customers can see and smell product up close.

“The energy is amazing, everybody’s just so excited,” Zannoco said. “A little bit of exhaustion is setting in because we’ve been preparing for weeks and months.”

The BCLDB has delayed media tours of the store’s interior until Wednesday morning before it opens to the public, but Zanocco expects customers will be impressed.

The first thing they will notice is the store’s front windows, made opaque by frosted film depicting trees and mountain peaks. A blue security strobe light and alarm siren hangs over the front door, which is monitored by a security camera.

A departure from pot shops, which are often cash-only, a sign near the entrance indicates the new store accepts Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Interac.

Everyone who enters is greeted by a staffer who asks for two pieces of ID — one government, the other something with the customer’s name — regardless of their apparent age. After the ID check, they walk through a second door and are met by staff who ask them a few questions about what products they seek, and chat with them about possession laws and safe consumption.

Signs inside the store provide information about cannabis, including explanations of THC, CBD, indicas, sativas and terpenes. Large flatscreen monitors serve as menus for the store’s 85 dried-flower varieties as well as oils, capsules and pre-rolled joints, with information about pricing.

After a customer decides, they fill out an order slip and bring it to a staff member to be fulfilled.

Zanocco said the BCLDB “hired people from the current dispensary world, so people who know the product and have been using and or selling until recently came to work for us.

“They helped us purchase the strains … and led some of our education sessions.”

Dave Jones, business-licence inspector and property-use coordinator for Kamloops, described the store’s interior as similar to an Apple Store, with plenty of glass and shining chrome.

While he wasn’t able to provide too many details, Jones said he was impressed by the store’s focus on customer education and its modern, inviting design.

“It’s nice and clean and bright,” he said. “It’s kind of like a high-end jewelry store.”

He expects it to be more than ready for the public on Wednesday.

“Any new business, there’s always going to be a hiccup or two, but I think from what I’ve seen — with the amount of time and effort the province put in — they want to be ready.”

The store will be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

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Inspiring, long-surviving disability advocate Walt Lawrence grateful for 50 years of support

by admin

He’s been paralyzed from the neck down for 50 years and that makes Walt Lawrence either the longest surviving ventilator-dependent quadriplegic in B.C. or darn close to it.

“He’s outlived any statistical, predictive model. He’s off the charts,” says Karen Anzai, a spinal cord program educator G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre, as she looked at a graph on her computer showing expected lifespans of patients who are ventilator-dependent.

“I attribute it to his optimism, his resiliency, his religious faith and his desire to contribute,” says Anzai, a rehabilitation consultant. “Plus, if you noticed his water cup attached to his wheelchair, he’s constantly hydrating himself with water which may reduce any respiratory complications.”

Pneumonia, lung infections and other complications often shorten the lives of individuals who use ventilators, but Lawrence, 67, has defied the statistics by at least 25 years.

He credits medical advances and a wide support system of family, friends, health professionals, non-profit organizations and many others for his vitality and longevity.

Walt Lawrence with his wife and daughters.

Walt Lawrence

As a big-hearted gesture to show his gratitude, he’s invited hundreds of his relatives, friends, health care providers and other supporters to a “Half Century of Thanks” reception in the Tsawwassen Springs ballroom on Sept. 23 where he’ll personally thank them for their helpful words, kind deeds, presence, encouragement, and their faith in him.

“It’s not what I’ve done, it’s what others have enabled me to do. I could fill B.C. Place Stadium with all the people who’ve helped me for the past 50 years,” Lawrence said at G.F. Strong where the married father of two works as a Vancouver Coastal Health peer counselor for others with spinal cord injuries.

Besides explaining everything they need to know about assistive technology and bodily concerns like skin pressure ulcers, and bladder and bowel matters, Lawrence counsels spinal cord injury patients about finding ways to lift themselves out of their “deepest, darkest pits” so they can ultimately lead lives that are productive, even though they will be markedly different than what they planned or hoped for.

“After my accident, when I couldn’t breathe on my own, talk or move, I would have traded my life for absolutely anybody else’s. But here I am now. I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s,” says the always-positive Lawrence.

Lawrence says he had an idyllic childhood in Dawson Creek where he grew up in a close-knit family and hoped for a professional hockey career. It was as a 17-year old with an invincible mindset that he dived into Lake Okanagan one day in August 1968, during a break while on his way to a hockey practice with a junior A league team in Kelowna. It was supposed to be an invigorating, quick dip but he misjudged the water depth and landed badly as he hit the sandy bottom, breaking his neck.

He was in the intensive care unit at Kelowna General Hospital for six months and then he was transferred to Vancouver’s George Pearson Hospital for the Physically Handicapped (as it was then called) where he would spend 16 years, initially on the same ward as polio and tuberculosis patients.

“As a teenager, I had been a fixed-wing pilot, a hockey player with loads of potential. And then, in a split second, I became a quadriplegic with a tracheotomy on a ventilator 24/7. Breathing on your own is NOT highly over-rated,” Lawrence says as he deftly navigates his motorized sip and puff wheelchair.

Lawrence weaned himself off full-time ventilator support years ago; now he’s hooked up to a ventilator only at night in the home he shares with his wife Wendy, a nurse he met while in rehabilitation, and his two daughters, both adopted as babies from China.

Asked what kind of advice he gives newly paralyzed individuals, Lawrence emphasizes the importance of validating their regrets, physical and emotional suffering, and numerous personal fears and challenges.

“It is normal to look back and say ‘if only I had done this or that.’ I remember thinking this after my accident. If only I’d gone straight to the hockey rink, or if only I had taken a different dive in the water. But that doesn’t get us anywhere except trapped in darkness and depression.

“I know how bad it is because I remember I cried enough tears to fill the Pacific Ocean after my accident. My goal is to help individuals see they still have value. No one is a throwaway piece of a puzzle. We all know we are going to die one day but what do we do with our lives while we have them? It is a privilege for me to accompany them as they go through their fragile times.”

Lawrence recalls how, immediately after his accident, he convinced himself that since he was a fit athlete, he’d learn to walk again. But when he got to Pearson and met patients who’d already been there more than a decade, he had a reawakening, telling himself: ‘Oh, this might be permanent.’”

Man in Motion tour, 1987. Rick Hansen on the road in northern B.C.

Ian Lindsay /

Vancouver Sun

In the 1980s, when Man in Motion Rick Hansen was getting much attention for his relentless advocacy for those with disabilities, Lawrence was agitating for assistive devices, rehabilitation and home care options so that those with paralysis could move out of long-term care facilities into communal-style housing options.

Lawrence’s legacy as a pioneer in the de-institutionalization of those with disabilities has been firmly cemented. Envisioning an independent life, outside long-term care facilities, paved the way for so many others.

“There was a group of five or six of us who believed we didn’t need to live in that kind of environment. We wanted a better quality of life. I know that while I couldn’t care for myself, I could still direct my care,” he says of the first community-based shared-care model, in which therapists would do house calls, attending to the needs of a handful of clients in each visit.

In the early 1980s, the Canadian Paraplegic Association (now called Spinal Cord Injury B.C.) helped with a cost analysis for independent living. Lawrence gives credit to then MLA Doug Mowat, a quadriplegic who has since died, for championing the cause. The idea got a big boost when the study that living in the community instead of the rehabilitation facility would be 30 per cent less expensive, not to mention better for the quality of life of such individuals.

In 1985, that Lawrence moved into a co-op housing cluster called the Creekview Co-operative Apartment near Granville Island. He lived there for many years until he got married.

“At first, the respiratory therapist from Pearson had to come over to help with our ventilators, but then the Provincial Respiratory Outreach Program took over,” he recalled.

“Getting into the community enabled us to see that there was much we could contribute to this world. Many of us became advocates on committees, volunteered and worked to change perceptions,” said Lawrence, a Christian who has received numerous awards and distinctions over the years, including an honorary doctor of divinity from the University of B.C. Carey Theological College.

Fifty years after his life-altering injury, Lawrence says he has no plans to slow down, so intent is he in helping others with spinal cord injuries live good and productive lives.

“The former assumption was that because you couldn’t move, you’d have to be looked after your whole life and couldn’t contribute. But in the era of all these assistive devices and technologies, we can now manage much more on our own. We don’t have to be totally dependent on others,” says Lawrence, who counts Vancouver MLA Sam Sullivan as a role model.

Sam Sullivan, former mayor of Vancouver and current Liberal MLA

Gerry Kahrmann /


Sullivan said he was humbled by that comment and said the respect is mutual.

“What Walt has done is incredible. He’s been such a great leader and accomplished so much. He’s given much of his life being a role model, helping people, showing them how they could figure out how to live full lives even after traumatic injuries.”


Follow me on Twitter: @MedicineMatters

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