Posts Tagged "travel"


Travel for childbirth ‘terrifying and traumatic’ for Bella Coola moms

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Mom Shaiyena Currie, right, with 3-day-old baby Octavia and her sister Chelsea Currie on their way home to Bella Coola from Williams Lake after three weeks of living in a tent waiting for the birth.


Three weeks after the birth of her daughter Octavia, Bella Coola mom Shaiyena Currie, 23, is still recovering from the trauma of spending 14 days in a tent during the final stretch of her pregnancy.

Since 2008, when Vancouver Coastal Health cut maternity services at Bella Coola General Hospital, pregnant women in the community must travel to Williams Lake a month before their due date.

Pregnant women who travel for their deliveries in the VCH region are eligible for some discounts on ferries and airfares, and a medical discount of about 30 per cent at select hotels, but meals, accommodation, mileage, fuel and local transportation expenses are not included in the provincial Travel Assistance Program.

Currie estimates that the total cost to her and her family for the birth was around $10,000, in part because her sister had to take an unpaid leave from her job to accompany Currie.

“I was worried for my safety. I stayed up all night tossing and turning because of the fear that anybody could just walk into my tent,” said Currie who pitched her tent at the Stampede Campground, not far from Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake.

When a busy horse riding competition started on the stampede grounds, Currie moved to the Stampeder Motel where the slightly discounted medical rate came to $90 a night, plus taxes and fees. The final insult was that she had to give birth alone, because her sister had to watch her son at the hospital while she was delivering. Her mother had planned to be there, but couldn’t make the six-hour drive in time.

Currie calls the whole situation “terrifying and traumatic,” and says people need to know the health and safety risks pregnant women face when travelling to give birth.

Bella Coola mother Katy Best must travel to Richmond to give birth.


Katy Best is a Bella Coola Grade 5 teacher who is expecting her first child will moving back in with her mother in Richmond next week while she awaits her birth.

In a letter to health authorities advocating for change, Best wrote on Aug. 29, “The disruptions to these mothers’ lives are countless, including having to leave children behind or pull them out of school, feeling isolated from their communities and partners at a very vulnerable time, and missing out on nesting at home during their final month of pregnancy.”

Best said she was required to sign a waver stating that she understood childbirth was “inherently dangerous,” and that she would be required to leave the community to give birth.

“If leaving the community is deemed a medical necessity by health authorities, why aren’t the costs covered?”

“This is an equity issue,” says Best, who points out that pregnancy is not a “rare or unforeseeable condition.”

“Based on the fact that you give birth, you have to take on this enormous financial and emotional hardship.”

Best believes that Vancouver Coastal Health saved money by shutting down Bella Coola General’s maternity program, and “off-loaded those costs onto women and families.”

Adrian Dix, Minister of Health told Postmedia in an email, “Improving travel assistance supports, especially for expectant mothers and families, is an issue that I am looking into with the input of Ministry of Health staff and health authorities.”

Vancouver Coastal Health provided Postmedia with a written statement which read in part, “Vancouver Coastal Health recognizes the difficulties in providing health services to residents of remote and rural communities. This issue is not unique to British Columbia, or even to Canada for that matter. Bella Coola Hospital does not have full maternity service.”

A 2013 study published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information said 40 per cent of women living in rural Canada drive more than an hour to give birth; 17 per cent drive more than two hours.

A 2008 report from the Centre for Rural Health Research on Maternity Care in Bella Coola stated that cuts to rural maternity services tend to be driven by a trend toward centralization of health services and challenges in attracting nurse, general practitioner surgeons and specialists and lack of access to specialized services such as “access to epidural anesthesia, labour augmentation, or caesarean section backup.”

It’s not good enough for Currie.

“I don’t want another woman to have to sleep in a tent, or worse. Something needs to be arranged so mothers are safe and can give birth in their communities.”

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Julie Talbot and Julien Arsenault: Universities should reduce academic air travel

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A recent article in the journal Science caused turbulence in academia.

In it, Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, calculated that she had travelled nearly 200,000 kilometres in 2017, mostly to attend conferences. That’s the equivalent to flying five times around the world.

That tally prompted her to question the environmental impact of her professional activities, and to reduce the distance she travelled by plane by 75 per cent the following year.

Although her case is extreme, Cobb is no exception. University researchers are often required to travel to conferences, meetings, committees or to conduct research. A survey we conducted among Université de Montréal professors determined that they travel an average of 33,000 kilometres per year in the course of their professional activities, mostly by air.

Post-doctoral fellows and graduate students also travel as part of their research and to present their results, at a rate of 13,600 kilometres and 5,900 kilometres per person, respectively.

A significant environmental impact

All these kilometres travelled for science leave their mark. Transport contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions, which are largely responsible for climate change. Air transport alone contributes nearly two per cent of global annual emissions of carbon dioxide and emits many other pollutants that are harmful to both health and the environment. It is also one of the fastest growing sources of CO2 in the world.

Aviation emissions, for example, increased by more than 75 per cent between 1990 and 2012, and they continue to grow.

At the individual level, the average Canadian emits, through their consumption of goods and services, about 13 tonnes of CO2 per year. However, emissions resulting from the air transport of Université de Montréal professors alone averages 11 tonnes of CO2 annually per person. To stay within the Canadian average, researchers would therefore have to reduce emissions in other areas of their lives, including food, energy consumption and daily transportation to virtually zero — a mission that is almost impossible.

If we compile the CO2 generated by all research-related travel for the Université de Montréal, they are responsible for nearly 40 per cent of all the university’s CO2 emissions. That’s a calculation that takes into account energy consumption on campus, daily staff and student travel and the production of food sold on campus, among other emissions.

The Université de Montréal is not unique. Other universities, such as McGill University or the University of B.C., have done this exercise. The results vary, but one constant remains: research-related travel is frequent and responsible for the emission of a significant amount of CO2.

Why travel so much?

Researchers have several reasons for travelling, but the main reason is related to the presentation of research results: 67 per cent of the trips made by Université de Montréal respondents were to conferences or seminars, while 18 per cent were for research purposes. The rest were for meetings, committees or other gatherings.

These activities are valued by universities and granting agencies, which promote the international reach of research. However, this internationalization is not limited to researchers. Universities are increasingly seeking to recruit foreign students and promote international exchanges among their own students, which also has a significant environmental impact.

Cost-effective travel

The question remains: are all these trips scientifically profitable? The debate was launched earlier this year by UBC researchers, who assessed the scientific productivity of researchers based on the frequency of their air travel. The reasoning is simple: the more researchers travel, the more they expand their networks. The more they disseminate their research, the more successful they are.

The results are surprising: the number of trips made would have very little influence on the productivity of researchers. One hypothesis that could explain these results is that researchers who travel a lot would have less time to do their research and write articles for scientific journals.

Another finding: 10 per cent of the reported trips would have been easy to avoid, since they were trips of less than 24 hours that could have been replaced by video conference or whose distance did not justify air travel.

Are there any solutions?

Some researchers, such as Cobb, have opted for a clear commitment to reduce their travel. Several, in particular, climate experts, are signatories to the No Fly Climate Sci initiative, where they commit to travel less by air, among other things by limiting their attendance at international conferences.

Some institutions have also taken the lead. For example, the University of California at Los Angeles requires a contribution from all researchers travelling by air to offset CO2 emissions from their travel. Others, such as the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in England, have established clear rules to promote remote encounters, use another mode of transport where possible and combine different professional activities within the same trip.

At the Université de Montréal, for the time being, there is no policy in place to reduce the environmental impacts of academic travel. Although several researchers interviewed wanted to reduced their emissions, they raised two issues: the difficulty of paying for carbon offsets from their research funds, due to granting agency rules that often do not allow this type of expense and the lack of accessibility to video conferencing systems.

Finally, it must be asked whether all researchers have the same responsibility or ability to reduce their emissions, which raises questions of equity.

For example, researchers from New Zealand or Australia have difficulty finding alternative means of transportation to international destinations. This is also the case for researchers from developing countries who benefit from presenting their results at European or North American conferences. Travel is also essential for researchers at the beginning of their careers who need to expand their network of contacts to secure permanent employment or for those whose research requires a presence in the field.

In short, the environmental impacts of academic travel are known. So are the solutions. It is now up to institutions to determine how to adapt their realities to these impacts and to researchers to adopt measures put in place.

Julie Talbot is an associate professor of geography at the Université de Montréal. Julien Arsenault a doctoral student of geography at the Université de Montréal. This op-ed was distributed by The Conversation.



Canada looking for input on making travel network most accessible in the world

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The federal government is asking for input on how tomakeCanada’s travel network the most accessible in the world for all passengers, including people with physical and mental disabilities.

It haspublished a new set of regulations for the public to view and consult on in the Canada Gazette, the federal government’s official newsletter. There, people can leave comments for the Canadian Transportation Agency, who said they will update the proposed changes based on public feedback. 

“(It’s) an ambitious vision, but we believe that in a country who values include equality and inclusion, we should aspire to nothing less,” said Scott Streiner, the chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The proposed changes would help centralize the CTA’s existing rules, six of which are voluntary, into a legally-binding set of transportation regulations.

That includes:

  • How to better communicate with disabled travellers
  • How to train transportation workers to help travellers with disabilities
  • How to make carriers and terminals accessible for all travellers
  • How to provide accessible services
  • How to make border and security screening accessible

Proposed changes range from automated self-service desks, training for staff to help those with sight and hearing impairments and assisting people with disabilities getting in and out of terminals.

The changes would apply to large airlines – an airline that carries more than one million travellers annually – VIA Rail and Amtrak operators, ferries weighing at least 1,000 gross tonnes, as well as Greyhound and Mega Bus operators.  

Airports that served more than 200,000 passengers over the past two years, any transportation terminals used by the aforementioned companies, and Canadian ports used by cruise ships would also fall under the new regulations.

The announcement was made at Vancouver International Airport, which received the Rick Hansen Foundation’s gold certification for accessibility last December.

If approved, the regulations would go into effect one year after they are published. The consultation period is open until April 8th, and feedback can be emailed to [email protected]

The CTA hopes to have the final regulations published by this summer.

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China issues travel warning for Canada as diplomatic tensions mount

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China blasted Canada for “irresponsible” remarks on Tuesday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the country of “arbitrarily” sentencing a Canadian to death for drug smuggling, aggravating already icy relations.

Beijing and Ottawa have been at odds since early December, when Canadian police arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.

Days later, China detained two Canadians on suspicion of endangering state security — former diplomat Michael Kovrig and business consultant Michael Spavor.

Monday’s death sentence by a Chinese court on Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg for allegedly smuggling 222 kilograms of methamphetamines has become the latest strain on ties.

Trudeau said it should be of “extreme concern” to Canada’s friends and allies, as it was to Canada’s government, that China had chosen to “arbitrarily apply” the death penalty.

We urge the Canadian side to respect the rule of law, respect China’s legal sovereignty, correct its mistakes, and stop making irresponsible remarks.– Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying expressed “strong dissatisfaction” with the comments at a regular news briefing.

“The remarks by the relevant Canadian person lack the most basic awareness of the legal system,” Hua said.

She also took Canada to task for issuing an updated travel advisory for China, warning its citizens about the risk of arbitrary enforcement of laws in the country. Hua said that Canada should instead remind its people to not engage in drug smuggling in China.

“We urge the Canadian side to respect the rule of law, respect China’s legal sovereignty, correct its mistakes, and stop making irresponsible remarks,” Hua said.

Hours later, the ministry issued its own travel warning. 

Citing the “arbitrary detention” of a Chinese national in Canada at the request of a “third-party country,” it urged its citizens to “fully evaluate risks” and exercise caution when travelling there.

No new evidence

Zhang Dongshuo, a lawyer for Schellenberg, said on Tuesday that his client would appeal, arguing that the court should not have increased his sentence given no new evidence had been introduced.

Schellenberg had appealed against an original 15-year prison sentence issued in November, but the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in the northeastern province of Liaoning sided with prosecutors at the retrial that the punishment was too light.

Zhang said there was insufficient evidence to prove Schellenberg was part of a drug syndicate, or that he was involved in the smuggling of methamphetamines.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg attends his one-day retrial at the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in northeastern China’s Liaoning province on Monday. (CCTV/Associated Press)

Even if the court accepted all of the charges, it should not have increased his sentence, given that facts the prosecution presented as new evidence had already been heard in court, Zhang told Reuters.

“Chinese law stipulates that during an appeal, only if new evidence is discovered and retried can there be an increase in the severity of a sentence,” Zhang said.

China has not linked any of the three Canadians’ cases to Meng’s arrest, which was made at the behest of U.S. authorities as part of an investigation into alleged violations of U.S. trade sanctions. But Beijing had warned of severe consequences if she was not immediately released.

‘Politicizing law’

A Chinese state-run newspaper rejected any suggestion that China was putting pressure on Canada with the sentence, saying it was “unreasonable speculation.”

“Public opinion in Canada has claimed recently that China is ‘politicizing’ Schellenberg’s case, but what Canada is doing is actually politicizing law,” the nationalist Global Times said in an editorial late on Monday.

Though Schellenberg was arrested in 2014, state media has played up coverage of his case following the deterioration in relations with Canada. The court invited media to cover the retrial, and state television aired a five-minute segment on the proceedings.

Drug smuggling is routinely punished severely in China, and foreigners convicted of drug crimes have been executed before, including a Briton in 2009.

Schellenberg had faced a number of charges in Canada related to drug possession and drug trafficking, according to Canadian court records.

But international rights groups condemned Schellenberg’s sentence, with some saying it was too severe and may have been politically motivated.

“China is going to face lots of questions about why this particular person, of this particular nationality, had to be retried at this particular time,” Human Rights Watch’s Washington-based China director Sophie Richardson told Reuters.

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