The B.C. Coroners Service says the number of illicit drug deaths was down 30 per cent in B.C. for the first five months of 2019.
The coroner says there were 86 and 84 illicit drug-related deaths in April and May respectively, down from 137 and 116 for the same months in 2018.
Overall, there have been 462 illicit drug toxicity deaths in the first five months, down 30 per cent from the 651 over the same period last year.
The coroner notes that the data is subject to change and totals for 2019 will likely increase as post-mortem testing results are received, but says it is “a sign for cautious optimism.”
More than two-thirds of the illicit-drug deaths this year involved people aged 30 to 59 years, and men account for almost four in every five of all illicit-drug deaths over the same period, the coroner says.
Almost nine in every 10 illicit drug deaths occurred inside and fentanyl was detected in most (83 per cent) of the cases.
Although overall the number of fatalities is down, the number of deaths linked to carfentanil, which is reportedly 100 times stronger than fentanyl, is up compared with last year.
The coroner says carfentanil was detected in 102 of the 383 fentanyl-detected deaths this year. There were 35 carfentanil-detected deaths in 2018.
No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.
Over 2,000 doses of opiates were stolen from Vancouver General Hospital by staff last year, according to documents obtained through a freedom of information request.
Over 1,600 tabs and 853 millilitres of hydromorphone were reported stolen from the hospital in two unrelated incidents last January.
“The diversion or misuse of narcotics is rare,” spokesperson Matt Kieltyka explained in an email to Postmedia. “Vancouver Coastal Health takes this issue seriously and has several systems in place to ensure narcotics are dispensed and accounted for as prescribed.”
Kieltyka said staff were involved in both instances, but he was not able to give details on what disciplinary measures were taken.
Such theft, known as “drug diversion,” has been a rising concern in recent years.
Data from Health Canada shows 13,221 doses of opioids were reported stolen from medical facilities in 2018.
Over 3,200 of those were in B.C., which is more than any other province except Ontario, where over 9,700 were taken.
Theft of hydromorphone, which is sometimes sold under the name Dilaudid, jumped sharply in B.C. between 2017 and 2018, according to Health Canada data, with 3,211 units stolen in 2018 compared to just 12 the year before.
Mark Fan, a researcher at North York General Hospital who studies drug diversion, said data on stolen drugs is likely incomplete and that rates of diversion as “probably underestimated.”
“At any point in the medication use process, it’s possible for it to be transferred away from legitimate use,” said Fan.
He said diversion usually occurs when a staff member manipulates documentation or falsifies prescriptions to over-order medication. They also may physically steal the substances.
In such cases, the theft may not be discovered until an audit is conducted.
The authority says they have also piloted use of “containers that contain a solution that renders the drugs unusable” at two units within Vancouver Coastal Health and may implement them province-wide.
Const. Steve Addision with the Vancouver Police Department says hydromorphone is fairly common in the city’s illicit drug market, and that a 2-mg pill usually sells for around $10.
But the major driver of diversion is addiction.
Dr. Shimi Kang, an addictions psychiatrist who has worked with hospital staff involved in drug diversion, said workplace stress and access to potent opioids creates a “perfect storm” for substance use.
“We have to recognize that healthcare practitioners are human too,” she said.
She said nurses often face high levels of stress and violence in the workplace and that adequate sleep, time off and support are the best ways to prevent addiction.
“We get so caught up in being the healer that we forget to heal ourselves,” said Kang.
Dr. Mark Haden, a professor at the UBC School of Population and Public Health and a supervisor with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, said it shows the indiscriminate nature of addiction.
“Being employed by the system does not protect one from addiction,” he said.
Hydromorphone is sometimes used in opiate-replacement therapy as a substitute for stronger street-level drugs. Last month, Canada became the first country in the world to approve use of injectable hydromorphone in treating opioid use disorder.
Haden said making the drug legally accessible could prevent thefts — and deaths.
“If hospital staff who are also addicted to opiates had (open) access to them, they wouldn’t steal them,” he said. “I think the solution to the fentanyl crisis and people stealing from hospitals is the same.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces a $1.4-billion annual commitment to support women’s global health at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Tuesday. LINDSEY WASSON / REUTERS
The federal government is pledging to spend $1.4 billion a year “advancing the health and rights” of women, teens and children around the world.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on the first full day of Women Deliver 2019, an international conference on gender equity being held in Vancouver this week.
The aid package renews Canada commitment to women’s health abroad by pledging to extend the current $1.1 billion a year aid beyond 2020, when it was set to expire, and increase it.
Maryam Monsef, the minister for women and gender equality, called the 10-year commitment “unprecedented.”
She said the announcement means funding is promised under her government until 2030, and the $1.1 billion amount will increase gradually to $1.4 billion a year by 2023.
A 10-year maternal, newborn and child health policy that expires in 2020 had been brought in in 2010 under the previous Conservative government.
Monsef and her staff said most of the extra funding of $300,000 a year would be spent on the “neglected” area of sexual reproductive health rights, including abortion.
When Trudeau announced the funding commitment at the start of Tuesday’s plenary, he said such funding was needed more than ever.
He noted there are 200 million women around the world who have no access to contraceptives, and he and several other presenters at the conference spoke of “pushback” to gains for women’s sexual and reproductive rights.
“The unfortunate truth is that we live in a world where rights are increasingly under threat,” Trudeau said in a brief announcement.
Speaking in French, he said only women should have the right to determine what is best for their bodies and that abortion “must be accessible, safe and legal.”
“We can’t talk about sexual and reproductive rights in isolation from the rest of women’s health because, just as there are 200 million women who don’t have access to contraception, hundreds more die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth,” he said.
The Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) called the federal promise of funding an “historic day.”
“The investment will not only ensure that Canada’s long, proud tradition as a leader in women and children’s health continues, it comes with a purposeful approach that addresses critical gaps in the health needs of women and adolescents,” the organization said in a news release.
It said it renews funding for reproductive, maternal, newborn and children’s health and nutrition and adds aid for the “most neglected areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
Its acting executive director, Julia Anderson, said in the release that the funding comes at a critical time “when rollbacks on women’s health rights are being acutely felt around the globe.”
Soon after his election in 2016, U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated and expanded Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City Policy, which bars international non-governmental organizations that deliver any counselling or abortion services, no matter what nation pays for that service, from receiving U.S. government support.
A number of U.S. states have recently or are considering abortion bans.
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.
While health expenditures have risen every year for decades, Finance Minister Carole James said Tuesday the NDP government is determined to make up for “years of cuts” and “underfunding” by the previous Liberal government.
The B.C. Ministry of Health will spend about $21 billion in the 2019/20 fiscal year, $21.5 billion in 2020/21 and $22.1 billion in 2021/22. The 2018/2019 budget was $19.8 billion. Those figures don’t include the $10 million allocated to the Ministry of Mental Health and Additions in each of the next three fiscal periods.
It’s expected that federal transfer payments averaging about $5.5 billion in each of the next three years will help fund the spending which includes billions on new and upgraded hospitals over the next few years, including St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver and Royal Columbian in New Westminster. The government expects to spend $4.4 billion over three years on major hospital construction and upgrades, equipment and health information systems.
St. Paul’s hospital is projected to be completed by 2026 and will ultimately cost $1.9 billion.
Several hospital construction and upgrade projects are behind schedule, according to budget documents. Among them is work at Surrey Memorial Hospital, Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops and B.C. Children’s and Women’s Hospital.
James said the government has allocated $74 million over three years for a better-coordinated child and youth mental health system in which families can “ask once to get help fast.” The new approach will help “ease the worries of countless parents” who don’t know where to turn, she said.
It is described in budget documents as a program to fund prevention and early intervention for children and young adults trying to cope with mental health and addictions problems. Specialized teams of educators, counsellors, mental health experts, substance use experts and others will provide services in one-stop shop facilities, online programs and others.
James said the government would spend another $30 million on the fentanyl overdose crisis, bringing the total spent since 2017 to $608 million. Across the province, there is a need for more paramedics in rural and remote areas as they have been on the front line of the crisis.
Budget documents say funding is going towards 21 overdose prevention sites and nine supervised consumption sites. Between July 2017 and June 2018, people used drugs 475,000 times at these sites. In that period, 3,000 individuals overdosed at the sites, but all were revived by staff. Another 1,700 drug users were successfully resuscitated around the province over the past year for a total of 4,700 overdose deaths averted.
Still, about 1,500 individuals died from overdoses on streets, residencies or other places across the province in 2018.
PRIMARY CARE STRATEGY
James said the government is “hiring” 200 new family doctors, 200 nurse practitioners and 50 pharmacists, to provide “faster, better” care in “every corner of the province” at urgent care and primary health clinics. Five urgent care clinics have opened so far, including one in downtown Vancouver, and another five will open at undisclosed locations by the summer. James couldn’t say what the budget is for such clinics and staffing and Ministry of Health staff have not provided the figure either.
James seized the opportunity to slam the Liberals for their “doctor for everyone” campaign that flopped because there simply aren’t enough doctors to fulfil such a promise. The NDP scheme to hire 200 new primary care physicians is equally ambitious but James said the Liberal plan to find more family doctors “obviously didn’t work, so we’re taking a team approach.”
She was referring to the government’s oft-touted “primary care strategy” which envisions doctors, nurses and other health care providers working in teams at clinics, all under one roof. It remains more of an aspirational concept, as no specifics emerged Tuesday.
Pharmacare deductibles for 240,000 people with incomes under $45,000 have been eliminated, at a cost of $105 million over three years. The government is also spending $42 million to expand coverage for certain drugs so “people can access the medications they need,” including those for three common conditions — diabetes, asthma and hypertension.
The government is fulfilling its promise to eliminate Medical Services Plan premiums formerly charged to individuals and now paid by employers through a health tax. James said the MSP premium cut that began last year will be eliminated by the end of this year. At $2.7 billion, it is “one of the biggest middle-class tax cuts in B.C. history.”
By doing away with premiums, families will save as much as $1,800 a year. But employers are expected to make up the lost revenue through the payroll tax.
The government also announced an $89-million grant program for life sciences organizations to help them attract and retain researchers “and to support research, entrepreneurship and commercialization” of discoveries. The government expects the provincial share will help attract over $200 million in further funding from other sources.
The B.C. Care Providers Association applauded the $5 million earmarked for training workers, including health care assistants and specialty nurses. CEO Daniel Fontaine said care providers to seniors are especially feeling the effect of staff shortages in the North, the Interior and on Vancouver Island.
“When there are staff shortages, seniors that receive care at home or in a long-term care home or assisted living setting will not receive the services they need,” he said.
The B.C. government’s new budget will probably look a lot like its old budget. That is deliberate, says Finance Minister Carole James, because the governing New Democratic Party’s priorities haven’t changed: affordable housing, child care and climate change.
“What we’re looking at is budget 2019 basically building on what we did in budget 2018,” James said of the budget she’ll deliver on Tuesday.
“We started off with a shift in approach from the previous government, where they really told people you either had to have a strong economy or investments in people. It was either-or. Our budget really said we need both.”
There’s another reason for the similarities between this year and last year: The NDP government’s biggest promises on affordable housing and daycare are 10-year visions that aren’t even close to fruition. Each year, James said, she’ll put aside more money to try to get closer to specific election promises like $10-a-day child care.
“Young families haven’t had a lot of hope in British Columbia, in our urban centres in particular,” said James. “They’ve seen their costs rise and struggled to get by, whether it be on housing or child care. So we’re really focused on how we can give back hope to those families.”
There will be one major difference, however. Most of the revenue-generating measures the NDP promised in the 2017 election — tax increases on high-income earners, corporations, luxury homes and the increased carbon tax — have already been enacted. James might have to curtail some spending ambitions unless she can find new sources of cash for the provincial treasury.
Despite a healthy surplus, the province’s fiscal security is at risk with the financial meltdown at the Insurance Corp. of B.C. — where losses could reach $2.5 billion over two years — and a $1-billion taxpayer bailout on deferral accounts at B.C. Hydro.
“ICBC and B.C. Hydro have been a huge challenge to the budget, a huge challenge to families and the public when it comes to the dollars they’ve had to take on for the messes left us,” said James.
“But it’s a big issue and I continue to be concerned. It’s not a piece I feel comfortable about. We’re headed in the right direction and making changes we need to occur. But there’s a cost to that.”
Last year, Postmedia spoke with several people about what they were hoping to see in the February 2018 budget, including a prospective homebuyer, a renter, a mother and a businessman.
We’ve caught up with those people to find out if the improvements they had hoped for in 2018 happened — as well as their wish lists for the NDP’s second full budget on Tuesday.
LISTEN: Mike Smyth and Rob Shaw answer all the important questions raised by the B.C. NDP government’s throne speech. Why all the populist measures? Can the B.C. government really act on changing your cellphone bill? What do allies and critics think of the speech? Smyth and Shaw also talk about Liberal MLA Linda Reid having to resign her assistant deputy speaker’s job and Premier John Horgan resisting calls for a public inquiry into money laundering.
The main theme of the NDP’s throne speech on Feb. 12 was affordability, and the government focused on several areas that include tackling expensive ferry fares, stopping mass ticket-buying by scalpers and taming sky-high cellphone bills. But the speech offered little new on the main reason B.C. is expensive: the cost of homes.
Housing affordability was a key campaign promise when the NDP was elected in 2017. But to help renters, the throne speech made only a general promise to “speed up much-needed rental housing” and a vague prediction that rock-bottom vacancy rates would rise.
Last year at this time, Liam McClure, of the Vancouver Renters Union, hoped the 2018 budget would include specific measures, such as a rent freeze, improved tenant rights language to deal with issues such as renovictions, and the creation of more social housing.
But renters are still waiting for significant action.
“We just haven’t seen the movement in the last year that we were hoping for, and it has been a bit of a disappointment,” McClure said.
“I think at the provincial level there hasn’t been as much energy as we’ve seen at the municipal level in terms of putting forward policies and solutions for some of the problems we are seeing.”
Last fall, the government accepted a Rental Housing Task Force recommendation to keep 2019 rental increases by landlords to the rate of inflation (2.5 per cent), rather than the 4.5 per cent hike recommended by the residential tenancy branch. This was helpful to renters, McClure said.
But the task force, which consists of three MLAs appointed last April by the premier, stopped short of backing a key idea that many tenants’ advocates, including McClure, believe is important: so-called vacancy control, which would tie rent controls to the unit, not the tenant, to stop a landlord from jacking up the rent when a new person moves in. Landlords were happy this policy was not endorsed, saying it gives them more money to invest in rental stock.
The task force’s top recommendation was to end renovictions — when landlords evict long-term tenants to renovate and then find new residents at higher rents. But McClure said the suggested changes don’t go far enough, and he would like to see stronger language in this year’s budget.
“I don’t have my hopes up, but I’m interested in hearing what they are going to do around ending renoviction because we haven’t had enough movement,” he said.
He would also like the budget to include funding for more social housing and non-market homes for low-income families and individuals.
Last year, the government introduced a speculation tax and a tax surcharge on homes valued at more than $3 million, part of a 10-year plan to help build up to 114,000 new affordable homes.
What is different going into this year’s budget is that home prices are falling, which has benefited Jodi Harris — who just bought a townhouse in Langley after trying to get into the real estate market for the past 18 months.
The lower prices allowed her to remain in Metro Vancouver, as the frustrated woman had been house hunting in areas like the Okanagan, which has slightly lower real estate prices. “I had prepared to leave the Lower Mainland. I really didn’t see my housing prospects changing,” Harris said.
She believes the province’s speculation tax played a role in dropping home values. “I think the frenzy around purchasing is starting to diminish.”
But she stresses the provincial government should not let its guard down because she knows many young professionals still struggling to buy their first home. Even as a nurse practitioner at Royal Columbian Hospital, and making a higher-than-average salary, she had extreme challenges buying a modest home.
“I don’t think any millennial has illusions of grandeur, that they will walk into (buying) a detached home,” she said. “I don’t know how everyone can be so short-sighted with this problem. You need young people to power the economy.”
Jock Finlayson, of the B.C. Business Council, said he believes the speculation tax has played a role in lowering prices for large homes and high-end condos, but he believes the federal government’s move to “tighten up mortgage rules coupled with higher borrowing costs has really been the key to the broader softening of the market.”
James says the speculation tax is just one element in her government’s 30-point housing plan. She promised to continue to boost the housing supply, although she offered no specifics. She also promised to improve transparency around home ownership and to create a condo flipping registry.
“I’m feeling cautiously optimistic in looking at the housing market right now. We’re seeing some shifts in all types of housing, a moderating of prices in detached homes, townhomes and condos. That’s really critical,” she said.
Child care: the $10 challenge
Tamara Herman put her son’s name on multiple waiting lists for licensed child care more than four years ago, before the boy was born, and he still does not have a spot in a daycare.
Even though the NDP promised universal $10-a-day child care when the party was elected in 2017, Herman is patient because she believes this government is moving toward positive change, albeit slowly.
“Our situation hasn’t changed because it is going to take many years to repair a completely broken child care system,” said Herman, whose 3½-year-old son, Emil Porter, is in the care of a nanny collective.
“It’s a little late for us personally, but I’m encouraged to see that progress is being made in general on child care … for the first time in many years.”
After the throne speech, Premier John Horgan said this year’s plan will likely include the continued development of the government’s fee-reduction subsidies of up to $350 a month and pilot projects of the $10-a-day model.
Herman is happy the NDP is investigating the $10 model, arguing it puts families back to work and therefore reduces poverty, but is “less enthusiastic” about the fee- reduction subsidies. “Instead of subsidizing individual parents, I’d rather see them investing in building more child cares and making it a fair industry for people who work in the field.”
Opponents of the universal $10 model argue it will be too expensive and will unnecessarily subsidize middle- and high-income families who can afford to pay for their own child care.
However, Sharon Gregson, with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. which has long lobbied for the $10 plan, hopes Tuesday’s budget will fund an expansion of the prototypes. She would also like the budget to include moving child care out of the Ministry of Children and Family Development and into the Education Ministry to become better aligned with the school system. She also wants a pledge of $200 million to build more licensed spaces and to train more workers.
“There has been more positive action on child care in the last 10 months than in the preceding 16 years,” Gregson said.
“(But) there’s still lots to do and it’s not perfect. Families need much more access to licensed spaces — especially non-traditional hours and in rural and remote communities — and early childhood educators need better wages.”
James said the government has 53 sites in B.C. testing the $10 plan, and that residents must wait for the government to finish designing its new child care plan to ensure quality, space and accessibility.
“It’s a 10-year program and we’re only going into year 2,” the finance minister said. “We have a review program going on on the prototypes for $10-a-day to make sure we see how they went and successes, and are there any pieces that need to be adjusted. And so that will be part of the work over the next year.”
She added that child care is the topic that most residents raise with her. “Despite the speculation tax and housing measures, it’s probably the biggest piece I get stopped by families to tell me the biggest change it’s made for them.”
The fiscal reality: taxes and spending
The NDP has now enacted most of the new taxes it had promised, including a one per cent hike to the corporate income tax rate, an income tax increase for those who earn more than $150,000, and those taxes on high-end and empty homes.
But besides the woes at ICBC and BC Hydro, though, there is mounting financial pressure on the NDP because the cooling housing market has reduced property transfer fees.
“There are some new revenue sources but that’s being chipped away by the decline in (home) sales, and therefore property transfers. So I’ll be looking to see how does the arithmetic on all that add up,” the B.C. Business Council’s Finlayson said when asked about budget finances.
“We are not going into the (budget) lockup assuming there’s going to be a lot of tax changes. Sometimes you are surprised.”
If there are no new taxes, it’s not clear where the NDP will get more revenue to fund new ideas or the growth of big-ticket programs.
There is good news for the province’s bottom line, though, in that the economy is still strong, the carbon tax is set to rise from $35/tonne to $40/tonne on April 1, and the previous Liberal government’s $500-million Prosperity Fund remains available.
Finlayson would like to see a small reduction in one of the NDP’s taxes, arguing the tax bracket for higher income taxes should rise from $150,000 to $250,000, to align with policies in Alberta and Ontario. He also wishes for some type of relief for the industries that are the most affected by the increasing carbon tax.
Still, Finlayson anticipates James will produce a balanced operating budget. He would like to see a slight increase on the capital projects side — but wants B.C.’s current debt-to-GDP ratio of 14 per cent to stay below 20 per cent so that the province can hold on to its triple-A rating.
“We think there is a lot of unmet need for capital, both maintenance and to build new bridges and tunnels and infrastructure,” he said.
The throne speech was silent, he said, on attracting business investment in B.C. “To me that sends a signal that the budget won’t have much around building the economy. Because that has not been much of a major focus of this government. Their agenda has been more social and environmental.”
Climate change, poverty reduction and other priorities
There are other items that are expected to be crucial elements in Tuesday’s budget.
Climate change, once dominated by discussion of the carbon tax, has taken on a new face with the NDP’s CleanBC plan. It is an aggressive proposal to increase electricity use across the province and reduce fossil fuel pollution from cars, homes and businesses. The budget is expected to lay out incentives for items such as heat pumps and electric vehicles.
Other issues that could be touched on in the budget include tackling money laundering, although the premier has deflected calls for a public inquiry; potential costs associated with the promise of historic legislation to enshrine into law the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and past promises to boost staffing levels in seniors’ care homes and reform the annual school funding formula.
The throne speech did pledge to roll out a poverty reduction strategy, after the government initially promised to do so last year. That could come with a hefty price tag.
“Certainly the throne speech is a roadmap, the aspirational road map for the government for the year ahead,” Horgan told reporters after the speech.
“The budget will be where you will find the resources, the funds, and the initiatives that we talked about. When we brought forward legislation on the poverty reduction plan, and when we brought forward our CleanBC plan, it was with the view of funding those initiatives in the coming budget. And I know Carole James is very excited to tell you about that herself (on Tuesday).”
The Cabana Lounge, in the 1100-block of Granville Street, where 23-year-old employee Kris Thind died after trying to break up a fight on Jan. 27, 2018. Gerry Kahrmann / PNG
One year after Kalwinder Thind died outside his workplace “trying to do the right thing,” his family is still searching for answers and justice.
Thind, a 23-year-old nightclub promoter at the Cabana Lounge on the Granville Strip, was stabbed after intervening in a fight outside the club at around 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 27, 2018. He died in hospital.
There have been no charges or arrests in Thind’s unsolved murder, despite the incident happening in front of dozens of witnesses, his family said.
“We want someone to come forward. We want justice,” said brother-in-law Simran Bhullar on Sunday, as the family prepares for a candlelight vigil outside the club to mark the first anniversary of Thind’s death.
“We want people to know we are not going to go away. There’s a lot of support and love for our brother, and we want everyone to know that.”
Thind, also known as Kris to his friends and Kindie to his family, previously worked at Richmond Chrysler and as a bouncer at another club.
He was less than a month into his new job at Cabana when an alcohol-fuelled fight between two groups turned deadly after someone brandished a knife.
Tension was already brewing between the two groups inside the club, said police at the time. When the fight broke out, a friend told Thind not to get involved, said Bhullar, but Thind wasn’t one to walk away from his principles.
“He always tried to do the right thing — that was something he was about. He was a black belt, he was built, he knew how to handle himself, and he told the friend, ‘If I don’t go out there and do something, someone might die,’ ” said Bhullar.
Thind’s death has left his family devastated.
“The last year has been brutal, just having one of our core being taken away,” said Bhullar, describing Thind, the youngest of three siblings, as full of life, energy and laughter.
Thind’s death sparked calls for improved safety measures along the downtown entertainment district, including late-night access to transit and the installation of security cameras.
Last spring, BarWatch, a safety advocacy group for bars and nightclubs, implemented a new code of conduct that includes a lifetime ban from all BarWatch establishments for anyone charged with a violent offence and found to be in possession of a knife or weapon inside or outside of its clubs.
Vancouver council, however, ultimately rejected installing CCTV cameras along the Strip because of concerns over cost, privacy requirements and effectiveness in preventing crime.
Bhuller said the family believes cameras can make the Strip safer, comparing it with cameras on SkyTrain or buses.
“We don’t want to see this happen to anyone else,” he said.
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