Concussions go ignored on film sets, says Vancouver stunt performer | CBC News

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Action movies are a thrill to watch, but the on-screen stunts can take a toll on performers. 

A survey by the Union of B.C. Performers says most stunt performers have had at least one job-related concussion, but they seldom report the injury. 

Vancouver stunt performer Lori Stewart, health and safety performer advocate for the union, says that needs to change.

Stewart works on shows like Supergirl and has performed in movies like X2: X-Men United and I-Robot.

While she was working on X-Men 2, she did a stunt where she needed to be launched off a porch on a wire and tumble down some stairs. Things went wrong and she missed the stairs, landing on both her head and neck on concrete.

“We try and plan for that not to happen, but sometimes in the moment things can change,” Stewart told Stephen Quinn, host of The Early Edition

Tough it out

Stewart went to the on-set paramedics, but didn’t want to go to the hospital to get checked out. 

“There’s this sort of ingrained culture in stunt performers to maintain that tough persona and that you can shake things off. That having an injury is like a weakness. And really that’s not the truth,” she said.

The 2012 survey conducted by the Union of B.C. Performers found a lot of stunt performers didn’t report having concussions specifically because they didn’t want to lose their jobs. Stewart says many producers and directors do not pay enough attention to performer injuries.  

Stewart says performers are under a great deal of pressure to keep doing stunts for a scene, even after suffering an injury. 

Lori Stewart on Underworld: Evolution in 2006. (Submitted by Lori Stewart )

“We’ve had directors come up to the performer and go, ‘We didn’t get it … you have to go again,’ ” she said. 

“Throughout my career we’ve lost a lot of really fantastic, talented performers because of head injuries. I have way too many friends on permanent disability with brain damage and that’s not okay.”

Stewart says a lot of these injuries could have been prevented by not trying another stunt after getting injured, or wearing a helmet. Concussions can have both serious physical and mental side effects.

“You see really good friends of yours lose their ability to work, lose their house, lose their marriage, have impulse control issues, anger issues and it all starts to crumble.”

Stewart wants to see changes on sets, including more reporting of injuries and increased education about the dangers of both not reporting and concussions.

The union has teamed up with Concussion Awareness Training Tool to create a concussion protocol tool for stunt performers and employers. 

“I don’t think anybody signed up to lose everything during a stunt. We’re making movies, we’re making entertainment. It’s not worth anybody’s life.”

Listen to the full interview here:

Vancouver stunt performer Lori Stewart works on shows like Supergirl. 8:23

With files by The Early Edition.

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Chris Lalonde: Governments must find optimal regulatory balance with vaping

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The increasing popularity of vaping among teens has many people concerned.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Across Canada, underage youth are legally restricted from purchasing alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes and vapes. But according to recently released survey data, they are using them anyway.

The media headlines say it all. A recent report in the British Medical Journal shows that Canada has experienced a “massive,” “staggering,” and “whopping” increase in teen vaping. Among 16- to 19-year-olds, last-30-days vaping use increased 74 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

The provincial government and the Canadian Cancer Society used the data from the report to publicly demand that the federal government immediately introduce vaping regulations that would restrict nicotine content, device design and flavours. Their failure to do so, the B.C. government implied, would result in B.C. introducing more restrictive provincial regulations.

What is not mentioned is that both federal and provincial government vaping legislation already exists that restricts sales to anyone under the age of 18, promotion, display advertising and communication, and limits features like certain flavours and designs thought to be appealing to youth. Is this single set of data in the BMJ report enough to justify the hasty introduction of more draconian regulatory measures that could simultaneously reduce the appeal of these products to adult smokers that rely on vaping to reduce or quit smoking?

What’s more concerning is that the same report shows that teen cigarette smoking in the past 30 days increased by 45 per cent. The use of alcohol by teens in the past 12 months actually decreased by three per cent, but cannabis use went up by 19 per cent.

The important question is which of these numbers should we be worried about? Let’s look a little closer at the actual data.

According to the report, 60 per cent of youth used alcohol and 27 per cent used cannabis in the past 12 months, 16 per cent smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days, and 15 per cent vaped.

Cigarette smoking and drinking carry far greater health risks than vaping or cannabis. But apparently, we should be especially alarmed by teen vaping.

If, as health authorities all agree, vaping is safer — not safe, but safer — than smoking cigarettes, then, perhaps, we should think clearly about what we hope to accomplish by battling teen vaping by introducing provincial regulations that go even further than regulations for smoking or drinking.

If what we hope is that teens who already smoke might be tempted to switch to vaping, then the report contains some good news. Among current teen smokers, 44 per cent are also vaping. Even “experimental smokers” are also vaping (29 per cent). Are they on their way to fully switching from cigarettes to vaping (likely, and a good thing), or from dual-use to just smoking (unlikely, and a bad thing)?

But what about teens who have never smoked? Are they being lured into a lifetime of addiction by vaping? Here, at least, the news is rather good from a public-health perspective.

It turns out teens are not very keen on vaping or smoking. Most of them have never vaped, and among those who have tried it (20 per cent), just three per cent have vaped in the past week and only 0.6 per cent vaped on more than 15 of the last 30 days. That’s just 14 teens out of the 2,441 surveyed.

The report shows that the number of teens who never smoked surveyed in 2017, just five, skyrocketed to 14 in 2018. But wait, that’s up from 0.2 per cent to 0.6 per cent — a mind-numbing 200-per-cent increase!

Let’s get serious. Perhaps we should worry more about the 2,227 teens who used alcohol or the 1,425 who smoked cigarettes.

Chris Lalonde is a University of Victoria psychology professor and the academic research adviser for Rights for Vapers, a vaping advocates organization dedicated to the advancement of Canadian-based research on vaping.

Letters to the editor should be sent to sunletters@vancouversun.com. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at gclark@postmedia.com.

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.

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B.C. officials to review records to ensure students vaccinated against measles

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In this file photo taken on April 05, 2019 shows a nurse preparing the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine


The B.C. government says public health officials will start reviewing school enrolment records of kindergarten to Grade 12 students to ensure children are immunized against contagious diseases including measles.

The Health Ministry says officials will do their review between August and October and contact parents if their children are not up to date on the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

It says most parents are already complying with the vaccination requirement so there is no need for them to do anything before their children begin classes in September, when it will be mandatory to report students’ immunization records.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the goal of the first year of the reporting requirement will be to get children caught up on vaccinations by the end of the school year.

He says a provincial catch-up vaccination program has seen 33,000 children immunized since April.

Dix says public health nurses have reported that more families who were initially hesitant are now choosing to immunize their kids.

“They’ve noticed more new and expecting parents take an active interest in their child’s vaccination schedule,” he says.

“It should be said that older students in Grades 10, 11 and 12 have been our most significant uptake in terms of immunization. Many or most of them had the opportunity to read immunization consent.”

The voluntary program was introduced after a measles outbreak in B.C. linked to two French schools in Vancouver.

Health authorities have already reviewed more than half a million students’ immunization records and parents or guardians of those with incomplete or missing records have been notified.

Measles spreads through virus-laden droplets after an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Infection with the measles virus starts with a high fever, coughing, sneezing and red eyes, followed by a blotchy, painful rash that starts on the face and spreads to cover the whole body.

The disease can lead to complications such as ear infections, blindness, pneumonia and encephalitis, which is a swelling of the brain, and can be fatal.

The first shot of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is given when children are a year old, and the second dose usually follows when they are about four to six years old.


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B.C. teen overdose inquest recommends improvements in substance abuse treatment

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Elliot Eurchuk poses in this undated family handout photo. The parents of a Victoria-area teen who died of a drug overdose say they don’t want other families to experience the trauma of having a child slip their caring hands.


VICTORIA — A British Columbia coroner’s inquest jury recommends improvements in provincial substance abuse treatment, detection and prevention services for young people following an inquest into the overdose of a Victoria-area teen.

The jury cites B.C.’s health and education ministries and the Vancouver Island Health Authority in its recommendations after hearing from more than 40 witnesses into the April 20, 2018, death of Elliot Eurchuk.

The jury concludes the 16-year-old’s death was accidental, resulting from a mixed intoxication of drugs that included fentanyl, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

The jury recommends the education ministry develop programs for early detection of mental health and substance use disorders at schools and implement plans to ease the transition back to school for students who undergo drug treatment programs.

It also says the health ministry should provide youth with more long-term residential substance use treatment facilities throughout B.C.

Eurchuk’s parents, Rachel Staples and Brock Eurchuk, testified their attempts to help their son were thwarted by outdated privacy policies.

The B.C. Coroners Service called the inquest saying there was a public interest in hearing the circumstances of the teen’s death, and that a jury would have the opportunity to make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

Rachel Staples and Brock Eurchuk with sons Isaac, Oliver and Elliott.

Rachel Staples and Brock Eurchuk with sons Isaac, Oliver and Elliott (far right).

Family photo

Eurchuk’s parents said at the conclusion of testimony that they don’t want others to endure the trauma of not being able to help children when they need it most.

“At numerous junctures the health-care system failed Elliot,” said Brock Eurchuk. “The education system failed Elliot. The laws that we’re trying to parent our children with are fraught with flaws.”

He said current privacy laws prevented them from knowing the full extent of their son’s substance abuse because he consistently denied using drugs and when he finally disclosed to his family doctor, he asked that his parents not be told.

Eurchuk said current laws were designed decades ago to guarantee young people privacy about birth control and sexuality issues.

“Let’s dial it up 30 years later and talk about the opioid crisis and what these kids are exposed to on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s a challenging, dangerous new world.”

Staples said the family wasn’t able to receive detailed medical information about Eurchuk’s addiction, which prevented them from developing a united strategy and treatment plan.

“That’s what it creates, because the parents are trying to make a child understand an adult’s perspective when a child has a child’s brain that’s been hijacked by opioids,” she said. “Family dynamics are disrupted.”

Staples, a dentist and also a mother of two sons younger than Eurchuk, testified she was shocked in 2016 to discover her son had sedation drugs from her dental office stashed in his bedroom. She said she suspected her son was perhaps smoking marijuana, but had no idea about other drugs.

The mother testified she watched Eurchuk slide over three years from a bright, but underachieving student and talented athlete to drug-sick teen.

The inquest heard from Kelowna pediatrician Tom Warshawski who described an overdose as a life-and-death situation where a young person’s brain and actions are being controlled by potentially deadly drugs.

He said he supports placing young people in treatment facilities against their will if they’ve suffered an overdose.

Warshawski said committing young people to secure treatment facilities under B.C.’s Mental Health Act, where they can’t leave for a time period of about one week, allows doctors to help clean the drugs out of their systems and open their minds to the possibility of future treatment.

The inquest heard Eurchuk’s parents placed their son in secure care after he overdosed on illicit drugs at the hospital. At the time, he was undergoing treatment for a blood infection that is common to intravenous drug users.

Staples said the move only further alienated their son from the parents because he felt they had betrayed him.

Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.’s former provincial health officer, told the inquest jury he wasn’t a supporter of involuntary care for youths with drug issues. He said there is not enough evidence showing such treatment programs work.

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Smoky summers: Health experts extend their warnings to pregnant women

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When wildfire smoke enveloped Metro Vancouver last summer, Nikki Rogers noticed soot collecting on the walls of her White Rock condo and closed her windows to keep the bad air out.

“I tried to stay inside because I did not enjoy being outside,” recalled Rogers, who works in a hair salon. “I would never do any kind of exercising or jogging or walking outside because anything that promotes heavy breathing outdoors would be terrible.”

This summer she will take even greater precautions because she is pregnant. And this is the first year that Vancouver Coastal Health and Metro Vancouver have included pregnant women on their list of people especially vulnerable to wildfire smoke, along with asthmatics, the elderly, and people with chronic heart and lung conditions.

Rogers said she will research the best way to keep herself and her baby safe, but laments that wildfire smoke is one more thing expectant mothers will likely need to worry about this July and August.

“We shouldn’t have months of just smoke in the air. That’s just awful,” she said. “Every year it gets worse and worse. It is just getting out of hand.”

Nikki Rogers, who is pregnant, will keep the windows of her White Rock condo closed this summer to keep any wildfire smoke out.

Experts believe British Columbians are about to experience another hot, smoke-filled summer, basing their prediction on the higher-than-average temperatures and drought so far in 2019 — a trend that is expected to continue.

“We expect increased wildfire and smoke risk, and that includes in the southwest where we are,” said a Metro Vancouver air-quality engineer, Francis Ries.

Just in the last week, a stubborn wildfire on steep terrain near Lions Bay snarled traffic on the busy Sea to Sky Highway for days, and a fire broke out Monday near Pender Harbour on the Sechelt Peninsula.

A helicopter dumps sea water on June 23 on a wildfire near Lions Bay.



Fires started earlier in 2019

Hotter, drier conditions contributed to fires in early spring, far sooner than in other years. Since April 1, the B.C. Wildfire Service has recorded 377 fires that have burned more than 110 square kilometres.

The summers of 2017 and 2018 were the worst on record for smoky skies — a provincial state of emergency was declared both years over wildfires — and much of the haze in Metro Vancouver drifted in from big fires in other parts of B.C.

The smoke led officials to issue a record number of air-quality advisories, and give extensive advice on how residents should try to remain healthy.

This year, local health and municipal agencies added pregnant women to the list of those most vulnerable to the smoke after lobbying by Sarah Henderson, an environmental health scientist at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

She advocated the change based on an “evidence review” and academic research that showed mothers exposed to extreme wildfire smoke give birth to smaller babies.

A University of California, Berkeley study found that pregnant women breathing in wildfire smoke during their second trimester in 2003, a terrible fire season in Southern California, had babies that were about 10 grams lighter than women not exposed to smoke. The results were small but “significant,” researchers found, because they showed “climate change can affect health.”

Ten grams would be enough to “push some babies into a low-birth-weight category,” added Henderson, noting undersized infants can face challenges.

Based on pregnancy and population statistics, Henderson predicts a repeat of last summer’s smoky skies could lead to 20 babies in B.C. being born a bit smaller. It’s not a big number, but one that could hurt 20 families.

“And that is kind of the tip of the iceberg in some ways because nobody has looked at preterm birth or malformations, if that smoke exposure happens to pregnant women,” added Henderson, who is also an associate professor in the UBC school of population and public health.

She has applied for funding to do her own study of the outcome of women who were pregnant in B.C.’s Interior, where the smoke was the thickest during the last two summers.

Sarah Henderson of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Wildfire smoke is a toxic, chemical soup

Wildfire smoke contains many pollutants, but the most dangerous to human health is fine particulate matter, a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets that are generally 2.5 micrometers or less in size — about one-30th the diameter on a strand of hair.

“The very small particles can be inhaled deeply into your lungs and then get into your blood stream, and irritate and lead to inflammation,” said Emily Peterson, a Vancouver Coastal Health environmental health scientist.

A typical summer day in Metro Vancouver would feature 10 or 15 micrograms a cubic metre of these fine particulates, but during the height of last summer’s smoky skies the quantity jumped tenfold.

Smoky air makes it harder for lungs to get oxygen into the blood stream, and it can irritate the respiratory system and cause inflammation in other parts of the body. Common symptoms include eye irritation, sore throat, coughing, wheezy breathing and headaches, and there is an increased risk of infections for some, such as pneumonia in older people and ear infections in children.

At-risk people — including those with chronic lung or heart conditions and now pregnant women — should “pay attention to the smoke much earlier” this summer, said the VCH medical health officer, Dr. James Lu.

“We do start with the vulnerable population, but if the smoke (concentration) is high enough we do encourage people who are normally healthy to take precautions as well,” Lu added.

Among the precautions backed by medical experts: Stay inside places with filtered air, such as most community centres, libraries or malls; drive with the windows up, the air conditioning on, and the recirculate-air button activated to reduce the amount of smoke getting into your car; and drink lots of water.

One expert calculated that people doing exercise or working outside during the height of the wildfire smoke could inhale the equivalent of two packages of cigarettes a day.

Because most people typically spend 90 per cent of their days indoors, Henderson highly recommends buying a portable air cleaner, which plugs into a wall socket and can be moved from room to room. These purifiers remove 40 to 80 per cent of the fine particles found in smoke, but people with respiratory conditions are encouraged to buy higher-performing HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, the Centre for Disease Control says.

If people are outside and want to wear a mask, Henderson said the best option is a well-fitted N95 respirator. A surgical mask can offer limited protection. A cloth mask is close to useless at keeping out the fine particles in smoke.

Doctors’ visits, asthma prescriptions skyrocket

Most people can manage irritations from smoke without medical attention, but those with severe symptoms should see a doctor.

Wildfire smoke caused a slight rise last summer in the number of people visiting Vancouver Coastal Health emergency rooms, although the increase wasn’t even across all communities: North Vancouver and Richmond had more hospital visits, while other cities did not, said Lu.

“What we did see were increased visits with respiratory symptoms, asthma and people short of breath,” the medical health officer told Postmedia.

Dr. James Lu of Vancouver Coastal Health.

The B.C. Health Ministry could not provide information about higher traffic in emergency rooms in other health regions, saying its data does not let it differentiate between treatment specifically for wildfire smoke and other respiratory issues.

However, Centre for Disease Control statistics suggest medical services across B.C. were harder hit when wildfire smoke was heavy. In the summers of 2017 and 2018, 45,000 extra doses of asthma medication were dispensed and there were 10,000 extra visits to doctors for asthma-related conditions in B.C., Henderson said.

“It does stack up, the impact is quite extreme,” she said. “On a very smoky day in Metro Vancouver, there were 350 extra doctor visits.”

The Centre for Disease Control tabulates this information daily in the B.C. Asthma Prediction System, which was launched after previous severe wildfire seasons. The surveillance system tracks asthma-related doctor visits and the prescriptions filled for lung conditions, and is used to warn health officials about the anticipated effects of wildfire smoke.

This summer is also expected to experience a boost in asthma treatments, given what happened in May after a significant wildfire near Fort St. John. “We had this one day of smoke in Fort St John, and the asthma visits skyrocketed,” Henderson said.

During the past few years, Vancouver Costal Health has sent reminders to family physicians to help their patients get ready for smoke expected in July and August — such as ensuring medications for patients with chronic heart or lung disease are up to date.

“I think what we are hoping for is to perhaps educate the public and primary-care physicians in helping people to be prepared so that they don’t really need to come to the emergency,” Lu said.

More than 3,000 ‘smoky skies’ bulletins issued

The provincial Environment Ministry issues “smoky skies” warning bulletins when wildfire smoke gets bad in all areas of the province except Metro Vancouver, which releases its own air quality advisories.

In 2017, 1,646 air-quality advisories were issued across B.C., and that jumped to 1,742 in 2018. There have been 69 warnings so far this year, but that number will likely increase as the majority of 2018 bulletins were issued between late July and late August.

The province monitors 63 regions, and six of those have had 100 or more smoky skies bulletins since 2017 due to bad fires nearby, including Quesnel, Penticton, Prince George, Williams Lake and Kamloops. Other communities in B.C.’s Interior and the Cariboo region have also been hard hit, with just under 100 bulletins issued in the last two years in Vernon, Kelowna, Cranbrook and 100 Mile House.

A wildfire near Fraser Lake in May.

Submitted /

B.C. Wildfire Service

Only Haida Gwaii, off B.C.’s northwest coast, has had no smoke-related air quality warnings since 2017.

The Environment Ministry was unable to provide information about how many advisories it issued in years with far fewer forest fires than 2017 and 2018. But statistics from Metro Vancouver indicate those two years were off the charts.

There were 22 days in Metro Vancouver last summer with poor air quality due to forest fires, mainly between late July and late August. In 2017, it was 19 days of unhealthy amounts of smoke.

The region’s figures, dating back to 1996, showed no other years with near that number of hazy days, the closest being 10 days in 2009 and 2015, when there were also some forest fires. In several years, including 2011, 2013 and 2016, there were no days with poor air quality.

Metro Vancouver’s advisories show much of the air pollution came from forest fires in other parts of the province, but the air was also affected by some local blazes, such as a bog fire in Richmond and a barge blaze in Surrey.

No air quality advisories have been issued so far in 2019; Metro Vancouver said the smoke residents smelled earlier this week from the Lions Bay fire was “below advisory thresholds.”

Ozone pollution rises due to wildfires

Metro Vancouver’s summer 2019 outlook warns of the potential for increased ozone due to higher temperatures and wildfires. Ozone is described as “good up high; bad nearby” — ozone in the atmosphere protects from UV radiation, but when lower to the ground it damages lungs and destroys ecosystems according to a Colorado State University academic paper, Ozone Levels Elevated in Presence of Wildfire Smoke.

“We’ve seen high ozone levels at monitoring stations which we never, under normal circumstances, expect to have high ozone,” said Metro Vancouver’s Ries. “We almost never have high ozone in the western part of the valley, downtown Vancouver and through into Burnaby,” he said, except in 2017 and 2018 when “the highest ozone levels we received were in that part of the region.”

Ries said more studies, including ones that focus on B.C., are making a strong link between climate change and the exacerbation of wildfire seasons.

Francis Ries, Metro Vancouver air quality engineer, and Roger Quan, Metro’s director of air quality and climate change.

In 2017, 65,000 British Columbians were evacuated and 509 buildings burned during wildfires that scorched 12,000 square km of land. The 2018 forest fires were even more destructive, consuming 13,500 sq. km — although fewer people were evacuated (6,000) and fewer structures lost (158).

Over the last two summers, the provincial government grossly outspent its wildfire budgets — by 10 times in 2017, when it cost more than $650 million to fight the fires. This year, the NDP is trying to be better prepared for the unknown by nearly doubling its wildfire budget, boosting it from $64 million in 2018 to $101 million.

Smoky summers in Vancouver may become “the new normal,” if not every year then at least every other year, VCH’s Lu predicted.

“We do not expect this to go away. This is going to be a way of life, unfortunately,” he said. “So I think the need to include that in your consideration of how to stay healthy is important.”


Twitter: @loriculbert

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Supporting successful lives through independent communication

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Adults with severe communication disabilities will be supported in living with independence and as full participants in their communities through $9.3 million for augmentative communication technology and professional support.

The Province will provide the funding over three years to Communication Assistance for Youth and Adults (CAYA) to update aging equipment and client systems, and to continue helping people with severe communication disabilities.

“Speaking aids help people with communication disabilities to overcome barriers to full participation in their communities,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “This funding supports CAYA’s important role in providing services and technologies that help hundreds of British Columbians to communicate and participate equally in all aspects of their own lives.”

CAYA gives a voice to people through a provincewide program that supports adults aged 19 years and older who require an augmentative alternative communication system due to speech that is not functional for daily communication. Over the past three years, CAYA has provided new or replacement communications technology to about 820 clients annually.

“This new funding ensures that adults in B.C. living with communication disabilities, as a result of conditions ranging from autism to ALS, will continue to have the supports and technology to communicate independently with their families, co-workers, friends and neighbours,” said Jeff Riley, program manager, CAYA.

“Communication assistance is more than just handing out devices,” said Glenda Hyatt Watson, a CAYA client. “It is also equipping people with specialized strategies and supports to deal with challenging situations, such as when you find yourself in a serious health-care situation without access to your communication system.”

The funding was announced at a CAYA demonstration and information session for alternative and augmentative communication technology, highlighting B.C.’s diversity and the importance of accessibility for everyone in the province.

Learn More:

B.C. government accessibility: www.gov.bc.ca/accessibility

Communication Assistance for Youth and Adults (CAYA): https://cayabc.org/

CAYA client stories: https://www.cayabc.org/client-stories/

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Thousands of tabs of addictive opioids stolen from VGH last year

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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.

Drug diversion made headlines in 2015 after a VGH aide overdosed on stolen opiates. Since then, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Provincial Health Services Authority have adopted measures that Kieltyka said include “dispensing machines, vaults, locked cabinets and security cameras.”

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.”



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B.C. skier launches class-action lawsuit over coach convicted of sex crimes | CBC News

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Nanaimo-born Olympian Allison Forsyth is leading a class action lawsuit claiming female athletes on the Canadian ski team were subjected to “psychological, physical and sexual assault, harassment and abuse” from 1996 to 1998.

The case revolves around former Team Canada coach Bertrand Charest who was found guilty in 2017 on 37 sex-related charges stemming from the complaints of nine women who were between the ages of 12 and 18 at the time of the crimes. 

Charest was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He was recently released on bail pending an appeal.

Read: Class action claim filed by Allison Forsyth against Alpine Canada

Charest’s employer, Alpine Canada, is named as the defendant in the lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

Bertrand Charest was sentenced to 12 years in prison for sexually abusing athletes between 1991 and 1998 when he was Canada’s national ski coach. He is currently out on bail pending an appeal. (Radio-Canada)

Speaking from her home in Ontario, Forsyth told CBC that the former skiers who have come forward have been stunned to learn the extent to which Canadian ski officials seemed to turn a blind eye while Charest preyed upon young skiers.

‘Things need to change’

“What I really learned is the ramifications and the depth to which this man victimized athletes — before he worked for Alpine Canada and during his time for Alpine Canada,” said Forsyth. 

“I also learned about his coaching license never being taken away. And it really showed me that things need to change so this won’t happen to young athletes again.”

Forsyth alleges in the class action claim that Charest used his power and authority to manipulate and extract sex from skiers in his charge. 

She says in the summer of 1997 while training in New Zealand, she confronted Charest about a relationship he was having with another skier identified as Athlete No. 1. Athlete No. 1 was a minor and was receiving individualized and private coaching from Charest.

According to the claim, Charest admitted to the relationship, telling Forsyth — who was 18 at the time — that he wanted to end his affair with Athlete No. 1 and that a relationship with Forsyth would help him do that.

Allison Forsyth clears a giant slalom gate at the 2002 World Cup in Are, Sweden. (Alessandro Trovati/Associated Press)

“Immediately, Charest began favouring [Forsyth], providing her with extra coaching and attention and touching her in an intimate manner,” reads the claim. “Charest told [Forsyth] that he could develop her into a great athlete and that she needed him to succeed in ski racing.”

The claim says despite Forsyth’s efforts to deflect Charest, he became ever more insistent, finding ways to get her alone and telling her a relationship with him would give her an edge over the other athletes. He even told Forsyth he could see himself married to her. 

Forsyth said she felt trapped and pressured into a sexual relationship.

Severe anxiety, psychological devastation

The claim outlines a number of alleged sexual encounters between the two, including an incident where Forsyth alleges Charest sexually assaulted her in the stall of a women’s washroom in Austria. 

Forsyth said she suffered severe anxiety that let to anorexia and psychological devastation because of Charest.

In February of 1998, Forsyth told a female physical therapist about the relationship. The therapist told her that another skier identified as Athlete No. 2 had also confessed to having sexual relations with Charest.

Sponsors over skiers

The claim alleges that soon after, Alpine Canada finally acted on the allegations against Charest. The organization’s president Joze Sparovec told Forsyth “that she would have to be careful or the team would lose sponsors.”

Charest resigned from the team with no public explanation. Alpine Canada did not revoke his coaching licence, nor were police informed. 

Allison Forsyth displays the bronze medal she won in the women’s giant slalom during at the 2003 World Alpine Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland. (Alessandro Trovati/Associated Press)

Forsyth believes he continued to coach after leaving Alpine Canada.

Alpine Canada has not filed a response and none of the allegations have been tested in court.

Forsyth’s lawyer said the intention of the class action is to include all skiers who were impacted by Charest during his tenure with Alpine Canada.

“Even people who choose not to come forward with their own stories are entitled potentially to compensation or whatever occurs in the action, even though they’re not named,” said Tanya Martin. 

In response to the lawsuit Alpine Canada said in a statement that it “applauds the tremendous courage Allison and other women have shown in coming forward and speaking out.”

In December of last year, three former national team skiers who were all minors when victimized by Charest, filed a separate lawsuit against Alpine Canada.

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Notorious illegal hostel owner has human rights complaint dismissed | CBC News

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A North Vancouver woman who was repeatedly ordered to shut down her illegal 15-bed hostel won’t get another chance to argue she needs the extra income because she’s disabled.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has declined to hear Emily Yu’s complaint alleging discrimination by her townhouse strata, saying the issue had already been dealt with by the Civil Resolution Tribunal and the B.C. Supreme Court.

“I can see no principled reason to allow her to re‐litigate the same issue again, this time in a different forum. As the Supreme Court of Canada has said: ‘Forum shopping for a different and better result can be dressed up in many attractive adjectives, but fairness is not among them,'” tribunal member Devyn Cousineau wrote in Wednesday’s decision.

Yu’s strata, the City of North Vancouver and the courts have all told Yu to stop booking short-term guests for her three-bedroom townhouse. She was advertising up to 15 beds in the “Oasis Hostel” on sites like Airbnb, iBooked.ca and TripAdvisor.

The operation violated strata bylaws, and the city described it as a nuisance and a fire hazard.

In April, Yu was fined $5,000 for contempt of court after she refused to abide by an order of the Civil Resolution Tribunal and continued to rent out the beds.

But Yu told the human rights tribunal that she needed the extra income because she has a disability.

She said she planned to raise new issues that “could potentially affect many marginalized women” and said dismissing her complaint would result in a “miscarriage of justice,” according to Wednesday’s decision.

As Cousineau pointed out, however, Yu had previously raised the disability issue when she tried to appeal the Civil Resolution Tribunal decision in B.C. Supreme Court.

As part of her appeal, she submitted an affidavit and portions of a psychiatric assessment outlining her disabilities, which appear to include post-concussion problems, but the judge said there was “insufficient evidence” of a mental disability that would justify her continued violation of the strata bylaw.

Yu’s strata applied to the court last year, asking for an order forcing Yu to sell her unit, but the judge has yet to make a decision on that, calling it a “remedy of last resort.”

Airbnb has suspended Yu and her listing is no longer available on TripAdvisor.


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Youth overdose is grounds for secure care treatment, B.C. pediatrician tells inquest

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VICTORIA — A British Columbia pediatrician who treats children and youth struggling with substance abuse issues says he supports placing young people in treatment facilities against their will if they’ve suffered an overdose.

Dr. Tom Warshawski, who treats youth in the Kelowna area, told a coroner’s inquest into the death of 16-year-old Elliot Eurchuk that an overdose is a life-and-death situation where a young person’s brain and actions are being controlled by the potentially deadly drugs.

Warshawski said Thursday that committing young people to secure treatment facilities where they can’t leave for a time period of about one week at least allows doctors to help clean the drugs out of their systems and open their minds to the possibility of future treatment.

“It’s not a panacea,” he said. “It’s not a guarantee of success. I think it’s an important tool that needs to be looked at. The choice is involuntary (treatment) versus continued life-threatening behaviour.”

Eurchuk died of an overdose in 2018 about two months after he was forcefully admitted to a Victoria youth treatment ward for a week-long stay.

The inquest heard his parents took the action when he overdosed in hospital on illicit drugs. At the time, he was undergoing treatment for a blood infection that is common to intravenous drug users.

Eurchuk’s parents, Rachel Staples and Brock Eurchuk, have testified efforts to help their son were thwarted by medical privacy laws that allowed information to be kept from them about the teen’s addiction issues.

Elliot Eurchuk in a family photo.

HO /


Eurchuk denied using street drugs to his parents and doctors, and it was only after his overdose in February 2018 that he started talking about drug use with his family doctor. He refused to allow his parents into the discussion, the inquest has heard.

Warshawski said patient confidentiality is an important issue, but when it involves young people and it is life-threatening, parents should know.

“Opioid overdose is at the extreme end of risk of death, and certainly we would disclose,” he said.

Warshawski said he is part of a working group that has provided recent research documents about secure care treatment for young people to B.C.’s Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.

“When it’s life and death, we really have to get our act together,” he said.

Warshawski called the acceptance of voluntary youth drug treatment the “best possible situation.” But he said current waits of up to 12 weeks for treatment beds for youth in B.C. is “scandalous.”

He said there is little geographical co-ordination between health officials about available beds for young people, meaning a teen in Kelowna volunteering for drug treatment could be denied immediate help even if there is an available bed at a facility in North Vancouver or Prince George.

Dr. Alice Virani, B.C.’s top clinical medical ethicist, testified Thursday that many options, including treatment effectiveness and fairness to the patient, must be considered before a youth is committed to secure drug treatment.

“It’s never undertaken lightly,” she said. “In certain circumstances, secure care might be justified.”

Virani said youth treatment for eating disorders in B.C. involves placing young people in secure care.

Former B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall was also scheduled to testify later at the inquest, which is coming to a close after hearing from more than 40 witnesses over eight days.


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