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Posts Tagged "Woman"

18Jul

B.C. woman who lost son to skin cancer works to promote sunscreen stations

by admin

KELOWNA — A woman who lost her son to skin cancer three years ago is on a mission to introduce sunscreen stations at all beaches, parks and as many other public places in the Okanagan.

Karen Wells is founding director of Morgan’s Mole Patrol, a pending non-profit foundation she started in memory of her son Morgan, who died at age 33 in 2016 from melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.

Wells said her objective is simple. She is working with the Vancouver-based national charity Save Your Skin Foundation and hopes to have portable sunscreen stations in as many public places as possible in the province.

As a pilot project this summer, Wells is working to introduce sunscreen stations at Gyro Beach, the Kelowna Golf and Country Club, and at Kelowna Visitor Centre.

Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in North America, surpassing lung and breast cancer, and just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles the odds of developing the disease later in life, said Wells.

“We really need this for our children and future generations,” said Wells, who broke into tears several times while recalling her son’s death and telling of her efforts to help others and prevent them from having to endure the same heartbreak and pain.

Her son went from seemingly healthy to seriously ill in a matter of months, and it’s difficult to believe a small mole led to such tragic consequences.

“He had a mole on his back and went to his family doctor and the doctor said it looked benign,” she said. “It was frozen with liquid nitrogen and covered with a Band-Aid. He came home and high-fived me and said everything was fine.”

It wasn’t. He returned to the doctor several months later and discovered a cancerous melanoma had spread to many parts of his body.

He died several weeks later, leaving behind a wife and two young sons, one of whom was only six months old.

“He went back to the doctor and it was too late . . . it came back Stage 4,” Wells said. “That’s the thing with melanoma. If it’s not detected early enough, it has the chance to spread very quickly, and it did. That was in March, and we lost him in December.”

Only weeks before this incident, she noticed a mole on her own leg, went to a walk-in clinic, was diagnosed with a small tumour and had it removed weeks later in late 2015, she said.

Still reeling from Morgan’s death almost three years later, Wells said working to ensure others don’t suffer the same fate has “become my life’s mission. I’m trying to raise awareness.

“If I can just stop one family from going through what my family has been through, to spare them, then my mission will be complete.”

She started the Mole Patrol movement soon after her son was diagnosed, but has since added his name to the cause and is close to reaching non-profit status after teaming up with Save Your Skin Foundation.

“My goal is to try and educate people on how to play safe in the sun,” she said. “I’m not saying stay out of the sun as we obviously need the sun to heat the planet, grow food and sustain life, but you have to stay safe and be aware of how deadly the sun can be.

“Melanoma is a very survivable cancer, but only if you catch it early.”

Wells was shocked by how many adults weren’t using any sunscreen when she took a survey on July 1, a hot day.

“There were 380 people questioned and more than one-third admitted they did not wear sunscreen,” she said. “Many parents would walk by with their children and the kids were covered in sunscreen, but the parents were not. I couldn’t believe it.”

The best way she could think of helping others is to install as many sunscreen stations as possible in public places, she said.

The stations will be filled with lotion featuring sun protection factor 30.

“We’re trying to get these sunscreen stations at various locations across the city and we’re just working on the logistics right now,” she said.

Kelowna Golf Course management have agreed to install one, and she’s working with city staff to bring one to Gyro Beach and the Kelowna Visitor Centre on Aug. 1, she said. Management at the Kelowna Yacht Club have also shown support to have one installed outside their building.

If the pilot project is successful, the plan is to have dozens installed in Kelowna starting in 2020, and then work with other communities to generate interest and have them installed there and then across the province, she said.

“We will be collecting data in July, August and September and maybe October, depending on the weather,” she said. “We’re going to go back to all the municipalities in B.C. to try and get them on board. We’ll start with Vancouver. We want to get this provincewide, starting here in Kelowna.”

Wells got the idea from two families in Toronto who also lost sons to melanoma, and she was thrilled to hear Toronto will be installing another 50 sunscreen stations this summer.

“My goal, honestly, would be to have one on every corner if I could,” she said.

Countries such as Australia and New Zealand have been offering free sunscreen stations to residents for many years, and the time has come to do the same here in the Okanagan, said Wells.

Save Your Skin Foundation is financing this project by paying for the dispensers and sunscreen.

Wells said she also lost both her parents and older brother to cancer and is willing to do whatever it takes to help others.

“I’ve had enough with cancer,” she said.

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8Jul

Severely ill Galiano Island woman turned away from assisted living due to ‘unscheduled care needs’ | CBC News

by admin

Jemma Lee says she’s had problems with fatigue her entire life, but in the last decade migraines and frequent bouts of the flu have turned that fatigue into a new beast. 

The 52-year-old was diagnosed three years ago with extreme myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.), a neuroinflammatory disease known to many as chronic fatigue syndrome. It causes extreme tiredness and affects various body systems to the point where Lee says she is “unable to move.” 

Lee was shocked to learn recently that her four applications for assisted living in Victoria have been declined by the Vancouver Island Health Authority due to “unscheduled care needs.”

‘Prisoner in my own home’

“I was so incredulous,” said Lee, who lives alone in a 240-square-foot home on Galiano Island, where she’s forced to chop wood for warmth and doesn’t have access to filtered water.

“I’m a prisoner in my own home.”

Jemma Lee lives in a 240-square-foot home on Galiano Island where she says the health-care services are not advanced enough to support her. (Jemma Lee (Submitted))

After moving to Galiano in 2012, Lee said her symptoms worsened. Last year, she counted 140 days of seizures, which can affect various parts of her body, leaving her “unable to speak” for as long as 45 minutes, she says.

According the ME/FM Society of British Columbia, nearly 600,000 Canadian suffer from varying forms of the condition.

Galiano Island services not enough

Lee said she regularly sees a doctor and a community nurse, and receives online emotional counselling.

While she’s happy with the support she’s had, she said the services on Galiano are not advanced enough to help her as she deteriorates.

“Right now I rely on my friends to take me to my health appointments and it’s a minimum 12-hour day to … take the ferry and come back,” she said, adding that her appointments typically last no more than 40 minutes.

“[My friends] have to be able to cope with me if I have a seizure … and take responsibility for me.”

Lee suffers from frequent seizures that affect various part of her body as a result of extreme myalgic encephalomyelitis. (Jemma Lee (Submitted))

With low income and no family in B.C., she said only assisted living in Victoria can meet her needs and give her nearby access to specialized services like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social workers, and acupuncture.

Peter Luckham, Chair of the Islands Trust, said Lee is “not alone” in her difficulty accessing assisted living as a Gulf Island resident, because the services are hard to come by. 

“At the end of the day, you end up leaving the islands” for more advanced services, he said.

Unpredictable health issues

Lee said Island Health doesn’t want someone with “unpredictable health issues,” as there are days where she could be walking relatively well, and others where she’s “seizuring on the floor.”

She recently wrote an open letter to Island Health, detailing her condition and imploring them to reconsider.

A statement from the authority says it is “aware of Ms. Lee’s concerns” and is “reviewing her application with her in order to provide the most appropriate care plan for her needs.”

Lee said that she and others with the disease are fighting for it to be recognized as a biological condition in the same way diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis are. The term chronic fatigue syndrome, used widely by medical professionals, reduces the legitimacy of the disease by making light of it, she said.

Not taken seriously

Dr. Mohamed Gheis, a neuropsychiatrist in Victoria who runs a rehabilitation program for people with neurological disorders, said M.E. patients are still “not very well understood” by Canadian health-care workers.

Right now, these patients are “not receiving the care they deserve as sources of disability,” he said.

Lee said she’s had doctors ask her to explain M.E. “When you go to the hospital, you’re having to advocate for yourself constantly,” she said.

Elizabeth Sanchez, the president of the ME/FM Society of B.C., said some M.E. patients have had doctors laugh at them or berate them, and some patients have committed suicide because “they just can’t bear their lives any longer.”

She said the society has been trying to get the province’s Ministry of Health to understand the severity of the disease, but it’s a slow, frustrating process.  

“They don’t understand that there is a crisis for M.E. patients,” she said. “But there is a light at the end of the tunnel … We just don’t know how long that tunnel is.”


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28May

This B.C. woman lodged hundreds of 911 complaints about the homeless. Now she’s advocating for them | CBC Radio

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A B.C. woman who spent nearly 15 years trying to bar the homeless from trespassing on her property is now advocating for them.

Between 2004 and 2018, Peggy Allen made approximately 500 calls to police about incidents involving people from the emergency shelter next door in Abbotsford, B.C.

“I became this crazy person that couldn’t function,” she told The Current.

During that time, Peggy and her husband, Ron Allen, recall numerous incidents they say are enough to “put fear into your hearts.”

One such affair saw Peggy chased through the house and off the balcony by a person who, she believed, was having a bad trip from an illicit drug. She fell backwards, landing on the ground that was 1.2 metres below, and injured her neck and back.

However, she had a revelatory moment in September 2018 when a woman walking up her driveway swore at her, she says.

“I looked at her and I just went crazy and I started running toward her. I was going to hurt her,” Allen recalled.

When The Current visited the Allens’ home, 14 tents were pitched on the shoulder of Gladys Avenue. (Submitted by Peggy Allen)

Then a “light switched” in her brain.

“I just stopped halfway down there and I said: ‘Peggy, I hate the way you are. This isn’t who you are,'” she said.

“I turned around, I went back to the house and I just bawled my head off.”

She describes the experience as an “incredible metamorphosis” in her life and is now giving back to the people who she once referred to as the source of her “nightmare.”

“I don’t expect anyone to jump on the bandwagon that lives around here because they’ve been through hell and they’ve had a lot of bad things happen. But I got to tell you that what I’m gaining from helping these people way outweighs what I lost.”

Dream house

The Allens and their two sons, who were 7 and 10 at the time, moved into their home on Gladys Avenue, near Highway 11 and S Fraser Way, in September 1989.

The lush, half-acre property was secluded, shrouded by a forest of towering cedars. The bungalow itself is removed from the road — separated by a long, 50-metre driveway — and the entire property backs onto a creek.

“It was the perfect life for us,” Peggy Allen recalled, an emotional tone hanging in her voice.

“Our kids could run free and we could have animals.”

Fifteen years later, the Salvation Army Centre for Hope moved into the space next door, and she says the family’s “life changed overnight.”

They tried to move, but couldn’t sell the house for the amount they paid.

Allen erected housing around her home to stop trespassers, who were living in tents near her home. (Submitted by Peggy Allen)

When nothing changed, she invested thousands of dollars to line the perimeter of the property with a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire — like something from a prison — and outfitted its exterior with a security camera system.

Yet the problems persisted.

“The point is it’s all little tiny stuff, but it’s huge,” Allen said of the emotional scars they had as a result of the encounters.

Housing affordability

In addition to serving as an emergency shelter, the Salvation Army delivers a litany of services — such as a meal centre, mental health supports and addiction counselling.

When The Current visited the Allens’ home, 14 tents were pitched on the shoulder of Gladys Avenue, occupied by people either accessing the facility’s wide range of services or transitioning out of it. Others were milling around the Allens’ property on their way to and from the shelter.

Residents in a homeless camp in Jubilee Park in 2013, a short distance away from Gladys Avenue where the Allens’ home is currently located. In 2015, a B.C. Supreme Court judge struck down Abbotsford bylaws that prohibited homeless people from erecting temporary shelters and sleeping in city parks. (CBC)

Homeless counts take place every year over a 24-hour period in Abbotsford.

Last year, volunteers identified 233 homeless people over the 24-hour survey period on March 19 and 20. The city report notes this is, at best, only an estimate, and does not capture every homeless person in the community.  

Of those surveyed by volunteers, 111 people were living on the street in tents or makeshift structures or sleeping in their cars/campers, instead of one of Abbotsford’s seven shelters.

The roadside near Allens’ home. People living in tents are trying to access services from the nearby Salvation Army. (Submitted by Peggy Allen)

Another 45 were couchsurfing, while 66 people used shelters.

The city report says the survey respondents cited a lack of affordable housing and the steep housing market as the top reasons they are homeless.

Giving back

Peggy Allen is in the process of modifying a shipping container into a bathroom with a sink to be placed at the entrance to her driveway.   

She also volunteers with Business Engagement Ambassador Project (BEAP) to try and shine a “whole different light” on homelessness.

The city-run outreach program, which was started by people with lived experience of homelessness or drug addiction, aims to repair frayed relationships between business owners and residents by paying them to clean up outside their properties.

Rob Larson works for BEAP. He used to live on the streets, and says his interactions with Allen have changed his life.

Allen’s driveway in Abbotsford, B.C. She said that it was chasing trespassers up this driveway that she experienced an ‘incredible metamorphosis.’ (Submitted by Peggy Allen)

“The way I look at it, if you give back a little bit to your community, they’ll give you back a whole armful of what you might need here, or just open arms, right?” he said.

The pair are now good friends, a reality Peggy said she never imagined during their first meeting.

He hugged me and he cared for me without even knowing me.– Peggy Allen

“He hugged me so hard the first time I met him, he scared the hell out of me,” she recalled.

“But I was the one with the fear, not him.

“He was the one with the love and that was one of the first steps for me to make a change in my thinking because he hugged me and he cared for me without even knowing me.”

When people ask what changed her perspective, she answers: “Nothing… I changed my mind.”

Click ‘listen’ near the top of this page to hear the full documentary.


Written by Amara McLaughlin, produced by Anne Penman and The Current’s Documentary editor Joan Webber.


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11Mar

Meet the woman who designed one of Surrey’s most recognizable buildings

by admin

Surrey — Why We Live Here is a week-long series looking at the people and neighbourhoods that make up B.C.’s second largest city.

On the last Friday of every month, dozens of people visit the heart of Surrey’s Whalley neighbourhood for a perogy supper.

The food is prepared by members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Mary, which is one of the oldest and most spectacular buildings in the neighbourhood.

Bessie Bonar, 95, is a fixture at the event and she also attends church every Sunday.

“It’s part of my heart,” Bonar said.

“I’ve been going for 70 years, so I know all the beginnings and how hard we worked.”

Surrey’s Ukrainian population feels a close connection to the church, which has stood at the corner of 135A Street and 108 Avenue since 1955, but Bonar’s attachment to it is stronger than most.

Bonar, after all, was the one who designed it and her father was in charge of construction.

The church was designed in 1950 and construction was completed in 1955. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Untrained eye

In 1950, Whalley’s Ukrainian community rallied together to raise enough money to buy some land and build a church on it.

Bonar left school in Grade 8 and had no formal architectural training, but she had an eye for detail.

She found a picture of a church and used it as a guide to design the building that would become a Surrey landmark.

“They wanted to build a church and they asked for a blueprint, so I drew it on a piece of paper,” she said.

“I said, we had no blueprints, we just built it.”

Bonar and her husband lived in three different houses in Surrey after the church was built.

She designed all three of them.

“If I had been born later, I would have gone maybe to school for architecture but I was born too early,” she said.

“There was no chance for college then.”

Becky Takyi prepares a plate for a customer at Taste of Africa restaurant in Surrey (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Taste of Africa

As Bonar and her friends roll perogy dough at the church, another delicacy is prepared just down the street.

Becky Takyi is dishing up a generous helping of her specialty — honey jerk chicken with jollof rice and plantains — as her husband Isaac takes a phone order behind the counter.

The couple, originally from Ghana, opened the restaurant more than a decade ago.

“Working together makes the marriage work better because we fight and, at the same time, we get along,” Becky laughed.

“At the end of the day, who are you going to fight with? You’re going home together, so you have to be happy together, right?”

Isaac Kofi Takyi takes an order at his restaurant in the heart of Whalley (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Diverse clientele

The Takyis chose their location because they wanted their restaurant to be accessible to traffic coming into Surrey from the Pattullo or Port Mann Bridge.

Accessibility drew them to the neighbourhood but it’s Whalley’s diversity that keeps them there.

“It’s concentrated with different types of ethnic people and it makes it more broad based for us,” Isaac said.

“People from all different cultures come here now.”

The church is located at the corner of 135A Street and 108 Avenue in Surrey (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

‘The Strip’

St. Mary’s Church is on the corner of 135A Street and 108 Avenue, which is part of the city’s so-called strip, and Taste of Africa is just around the corner.

Until last year, about 170 people lived on the street in tents and hundreds more would often hang out in the area during the day.

The tents are now gone and the majority of the people who lived in them have either moved into modular housing or nearby shelters.

Isaac Takyi says customers used to tell him they were scared to come to the restaurant but he hasn’t heard any concerns lately.

“Five years ago, people were scared,” he said.

“Of late, they realize that there’s nothing to be scared of. The last four years, it’s been very good.”


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9Mar

Woman assaulted after allowing stranger into home

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A woman in North Vancouver reported being sexually assaulted after allowing a stranger to use a washroom in her home, according to RCMP.

North Vancouver RCMP said the alleged assault happened in the early afternoon of Feb. 27 in the Upper Capilano area.

Police said they have not received additional information that would  make them believe the public’s safety is at risk.

“Police wish to take this opportunity to remind people not to allow strangers into their homes,” said Sgt. Peter De Vries in a press release.

Police have released a composite sketch of the suspect and are asking anyone who can identify the man to contact them at 604-985-1311.


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9Mar

‘A matter of life or death’: Woman with lung disease wins complaint over neighbour’s smoking

by admin

The secondhand smoke in Ruth Bowker’s new home was so pervasive, she was forced to spend most of her time hiding in her bedroom, the only room she described as “consistently livable.”

The Abbotsford senior has pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic and progressive lung disease, and when she first viewed the condo as a potential buyer in 2015, there was no smoke smell, according to a decision from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. But before she and her husband took possession of the suite that November, two habitual smokers had moved in downstairs.

This week, the tribunal ruled the strata had failed to accommodate Bowker’s disability, and ordered it to pay her $7,500 for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.

Bowker told the tribunal she was “horrified” to discover the smoke odour when she moved into her new place in the Clearbrook neighbourhood.

“Ms. Bowker began opening the patio doors even though it was late November, and purchased large fans to try to blow the smoke outside. She also bought two air purifiers. These measures were of little avail,” tribunal member Emily Ohler wrote.

Ohler said the condo complex’s strata “did very little” to help Bowker for a full year after she first complained about how the smoke was affecting her, and her health deteriorated during that time.

The lack of action from the strata, “prevented her from enjoying a regular existence within the confines of her home; it exacerbated her disability; it had a negative impact on her mental state; and it added to her already heavy mental load during a time she was dealing with her husband’s deteriorating health,” Ohler wrote.

‘But a person’s home is their castle’ 

The tribunal’s ruling provides an interesting discussion of how to balance individual property rights with the responsibility to accommodate a disability, and the need for strata councils to educate themselves on human rights law.

Bowker’s lawyer, Jonathan Blair, said the decision clarifies the legal obligations of strata councils, which tend to be made up of volunteers with little working knowledge of property law.

“It’s not necessarily legitimate for us to hold on to this sense of, ‘But a person’s home is their castle,’ as a defence against accommodating someone who’s facing a barrier. In the end, sometimes we have to give up … certain freedoms,” Blair said.

As Ohler points out, many cities and strata already place numerous legal limits on what people can do inside their own homes, including noise bylaws and rules against pets.

Bowker’s neighbour was defensive when she complained about the smoke, according to the decision. (Google Maps)

According to the decision, Bowker spoke to her neighbour, identified by the initials LR, shortly after she moved in. But the woman and her husband were defensive and Bowker wrote to the strata to complain on Dec. 15, 2015.

In turn, the strata wrote to LR and said any measures to minimize the smoke coming from her condo “would be greatly appreciated.” It also ensured some physical work was done on the two units in an attempt to contain the fumes.

But these steps did not stop the smoke from entering Bowker’s apartment, the decision says.

By the end of 2016, Bowker was still asking the strata for a solution, but the situation was getting dire. A doctor’s note submitted to the tribunal showed that she was beginning to have suicidal thoughts.

“She said, among other things, that her recent pulmonary function test showed a noticeable deterioration. ‘This is a matter of life or death for me, literally,’ she said,” Ohler wrote.

The strata sent a cease and desist letter to LR and her husband in December 2016, to no effect. A month later, the council threatened to fine her under a nuisance bylaw, but LR replied with a letter pointing out that her nicotine addiction was also a disability that could be protected under the Human Rights Code.

2 failed votes for non-smoking bylaw

According to the decision, the strata council brought a non-smoking bylaw to a vote at two annual general meetings in response to Bowker’s complaints. Both times, it didn’t garner the necessary 75 per cent of votes to pass.

But Ohler said the council did not properly explain to strata members why the bylaw was being proposed.

“It appeared to see the non‐smoking bylaw as a kind of lifestyle choice rather than as a part of its efforts to meet its legal responsibilities. At least in part, the result was that Ms. Bowker was subjected to inappropriate remarks and made to feel ostracized from the community,” Ohler said.

The strata held two votes on a proposed no-smoking bylaw, but both failed. (Sebastien Bozon/Getty Images)

She ordered the strata to stop discriminating against Bowker, but held off on ordering it to enact a non-smoking bylaw. That’s because the strata is waiting for a decision from the Civil Resolution Tribunal on whether LR violated the nuisance bylaw.

Ohler said Bowker and the strata could return to the tribunal if the CRT does not resolve the matter.

And Ohler added that while LR would likely have an argument that her nicotine addiction is protected as a disability, her rights would have to be balanced with Bowker’s if the question came before the tribunal.

“While a person addicted to nicotine may be able to go outside of their unit to smoke, a person with a smoke‐sensitive disability cannot be expected to go outside to safely breathe,” Ohler wrote.


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27Feb

Woman wrongfully held in B.C. hospital for almost one year: Judge

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File: A woman wearing hospital scrubs walks towards the ER at Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, BC, November, 27, 2013.


RICHARD LAM / PROVINCE

The Supreme Court of British Columbia says a woman’s rights were violated when she was held in hospital for almost one year without being provided with any written reasons for the detention or an opportunity for legal advice.

In a ruling released this week, Justice Lisa Warren describes the 39-year-old woman as “highly vulnerable” and says she suffers from cognitive impairments, mental health issues and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

The ruling says staff at the Fraser Health Authority had good reason to believe the woman, identified as A.H. in a court document, had been abused and was at risk of serious harm when she was taken into care on Oct. 6, 2016.

But it says there is also no doubt the health authority could have promptly applied for a provincial court order authorizing the provision of support and services for her.

The decision says A.H. was held in conditions that violated her residual liberty, including being placed in mechanical restraints, not allowed out of a facility to get fresh air and restrictions were placed on visitor, phone and internet access.

A provincial court judge granted the required order to the health authority on Sept. 22, 2017, on the grounds the woman was abused or neglected, was incapable of deciding not to accept the services proposed and would benefit from the support.


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13Feb

Vancouver Island woman says handyDART left her stranded in snowstorm

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A Vancouver Island woman who relies on a power chair for mobility said she was left stranded by handyDART Monday during a heavy snowfall.

Caroline Lennox, a 51-year-old resident of Brentwood Bay, had travelled to the Victoria courthouse Monday afternoon for a divorce matter.

Lennox said she had booked her return trip home, about 20 kilometres away, two weeks in advance.

Monday saw much of Vancouver Island blanketed by snow, however, and B.C. Transit announced handyDART service would be used for essential trips only: critical medical appointments such as dialysis appointments.

Heavy snow on Vancouver Island left many Greater Victoria streets perilous for drivers. (Liam Britten/CBC)

Lennox was not told of this, she said. When she called a dispatcher to ask if her ride home was going to be on time, she was shocked to find out it was cancelled.

“So, if I hadn’t called, then, I would have been just outside the courthouse at four o’clock at the appointed time, waiting and waiting and not knowing that there was never going to be a ride coming,” Lennox said.

In the end, she said, it took her three hours to get home by busing part of the way and taking a cab the rest.

Many buses couldn’t cope with the heavy snowfall on Vancouver Island and some were left completely stuck. (Liam Britten/CBC)

What is essential?

Lennox explained that she was upset, not only that she allegedly wasn’t contacted about the cancelled ride, but also that essential service levels are so limited.

She said her court appointment was absolutely essential and for B.C. Transit not to consider it so shows a lack of understanding of the needs of people with disabilities.

“I respect that they have to do what’s safe for their drivers … but what I don’t respect is that court is not considered an essential service,” she said.

“I think it says that they haven’t really asked the participating community to be involved in the service definition and the service delivery model.”

B.C. Transit to follow up

B.C. Transit spokesperson Jonathan Dyck said handyDART service is particularly challenging in the snow because it is door-to-door service. That means drivers not only contend with road conditions but also sidewalks.

He said someone will follow up with Lennox about what happened with her ride Monday.

“We take these matters very seriously,” Dyck told All Points West host Robyn Burns. “We want to make sure handyDART riders have their rides … We will look into that internally.”

He said the handyDART service provider in Victoria has called in extra personnel to help move people, but the service will remain at essential service levels Wednesday.

Problems at the best of times

Wendy Cox, executive director of the Victoria Disability Resource Centre, said, in theory, the handyDART system is great: door-to-door service for people with mobility challenges, provided by small buses and taxi vouchers when a bus ride can’t be arranged.

But in practise, she added, it has many limitations: rides need to be booked two weeks in advance and getting an accessible cab is tough, especially before 6 p.m.

Riders are told to be ready 30 minutes before the ride shows up but sometimes wait an hour.

HandyDART services in B.C. — like this example of a Metro Vancouver vehicle — have been criticized by some for insufficient service levels. (CBC)

“A simple trip to get groceries, something that would take most people an hour or two, could be a half a day event or longer,” Cox said in an email, adding that, in conditions like these, riders can be left out in the cold for extended periods of time.

“For people whose bodies do not regulate temperature or those who have poor circulation, this can have a very negative effect on their bodies. It can take hours to warm up again.”

Lennox says she has an appointment to speak with her MLA, Adam Olsen, about her concerns with handyDART.


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2Feb

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.”

Related

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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25Jan

Disabled Vancouver woman should keep rental subsidy, Supreme Court rules

by admin

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in favour of a 56-year-old disabled Vancouver woman who argued she should not lose her subsidized housing allowance because of the trust fund left to her and her sister by their deceased father in 2012.

The woman, identified as S.A., has lived in a unit operated by non-profit Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation since 1992, and is unable to work because of her disability.

Subsidies are granted to MVHC tenants whose assets are valued below $25,000, and once a year tenants are asked to provide a verified asset statement. 

At issue was whether S.A. should have to list the trust as an asset.

In 2015 MVHC withdrew S.A.’s subsidy, claiming she had failed to provide a complete asset statement because she hadn’t listed the trust. Her rent went from $265 per month to $894 per month.

S.A. argued that because she was not the sole trustee of the fund, and could not compel payment without agreement of her sister, it could not be considered as an asset for the purpose of rental assistance.

In its decision, the court ruled that S.A. “has no actual entitlement to the trust property under the terms of the trust, and her interest in the trust is not an asset that could disqualify her from being considered by MVHC for a rent subsidy.”

A number of disability groups including the Canadian Canadian Association for Community Living and Council of Canadians with Disabilities acted as interveners in the case.


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