Here readying an at-home dinner for 70 art collectors and professionals, Bob Rennie later addressed building contractors on the “demographic crunch” he said will add “another Vancouver, Burnaby, New West and Coquitlam.” Malcolm Parry / PNG
CRYSTAL BALLING: Realtor Bob Rennie and his Rennie Group’s intelligence VP, Andrew Ramlo, helped Independent Contractors and Business Association conventioneers digest their bacon and eggs recently. The association president, Chris Gardner, had already told breakfasting colleagues that trade workers’ wages will increase by 5.2 per cent this year, that 54 per cent of contractors can’t obtain enough workers, and that only the Slovak Republic is slower than B.C. among 35 jurisdictions issuing building permits. Rennie and Ramlo’s “demographic crunch” projections included Canadian immigration admissions surging to 350,000 by 2021 (B.C.’s share to be 15 per cent). An aging population and climate change will be the economy’s greatest challenges, they said. Meanwhile, housing the Lower Mainland’s one million more residents by 2040 will require “another Vancouver, Burnaby, New West and Coquitlam.” And though, in constant dollars, millennials’ median household after-tax income exceeds Generation X’s and Baby Boomers’ by 32 per cent, their debt-to-after-tax-income is almost twice as high at 216 per cent. Rennie’s problem: “Twenty years from now, who’s going to be my lawyer, bring my bedpan and pay my taxes?”
GIRLY RISER: After 14 years as a global art adviser, Krista Howard has launched a physical gallery and office, Howard495, in the Railtown district. Her debut show, titled Girlie Pics, Someone Else’s History, featured work — some of it a little spicy girlie — by mostly female artists familiar to her existing clients. Catriona Jeffries’ influential gallery recently located nearby on East Cordova’s 900 block. The Monica Reyes Gallery has long operated at Hastings-at-Princess. We’ll likely see more.
HIGHER LEAH: Raised in a socialist household, Leah Costello sang in a Salmon Arm-based Hawaiian band, sought North Vancouver’s federal Tory nomination, managed Fraser Institute events, produced policy-issue videos, and founded Curious Minds Productions and the Bon Mot Book Club. The latter’s readings featured such diverse authors as former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, U.S. vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Canadian media meteorite Conrad Black and John Cleese of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series. After shelving that project, Costello married the Highland West Capital managing director and former Douglas & McIntyre book-publishing firm partner, David Rowntree. Now, as Leah Rowntree, she’s planning a podcast titled Hungry Mind, Open Heart to talk about current issues. There’s a Hawaiian song for that: I Hei Anau — How Far I’ll Go.
FREE-LUNCH DIVIDEND: Science World’s Lego-skyscrapers exhibition reminds architect Michael Green of his first job. Before designing and advocating mass-wood highrises, Green assisted César Pelli on Kuala Lumpur’s reinforced-concrete Petronas Towers. At 452 metres, the 1996 structures were the world’s tallest until 2004. Green recalls clients nixing Pelli’s original design because his tower cross-sections resembled the six-pointed Star of David. When redrawn with two more to suggest the Muslim Rub El Hizb symbol, and with further facets added, Pelli got the go-ahead. Green has given himself the same for a vegetarian-vegan book based on his lunchtime feeding of Michael Green Architecture’s 65 staff. Its second section will address how “serving food builds culture, connections and collaboration,” and a third “the financial benefits of all businesses giving lunch.” Have your cake and eat it, that is.
ART START: North Vancouver’s Polygon Gallery was packed recently when Laura Gildner received the fifth-annual Philip B. Lind Emerging Artist Prize of $5,000. “Being an artist is very hard; I admire you immensely,” Rogers Communications vice chair Lind said to prize contenders. Many feel that way about Lind, who survived a 1998 stroke to continue his 40-year guidance of communications entrepreneur Ted Rogers. Gildner’s work, Informer, contains eight life-size video images addressing viewers. Visit the Polygon gallery exhibition before March 16 to see how artists emerge.
GOOD ONE GOES: Hospital staff and patients will miss Dr. Dianne Miller who has completed 30 years as a gynecological oncologist and researcher. She received a Vancouver Coastal Health lifetime-achievement award in 2019 that recognized her “revolutionizing the care and prevention of ovarian cancer for women in B.C. and all over the world.” Miller will now spend up to three months a year teaching gynecological-cancer surgery techniques to Ugandan practitioners.
BOT BALL: Beaumont Studios founder-owner Jude Kusnierz’s recent Robot Dance Party drew participants attired in costumes that could hamper the actual dancing. Artist Noa Ben-Mazia — she goes by Noya — avoided that by creating a life-sized but inanimate robot named BroBot3E5 that, with further tweaking, may master a few dance steps for next year’s wingding.
NO DEER: Much-honoured animator Marv Newland won’t follow the Disney studio’s proposed remake of Bambi by updating his own Bambi Meets Godzilla. The Mayne Island resident and International Rocketship Ltd. founder-principal usually pooh-poohs talk of the 1969 cult-classic he made while studying at Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design. Newland does have a new movie, though. Containing contributions by 15 global colleagues, his Katalog of Flaws will premiere at the 20th annual Monstra Animation Festival in Lisbon, Portugal, on March 19.
DOWN PARRYSCOPE: My next column will be published March 14.
WARNING:This story contains graphic accounts of sexual violence that may be disturbing to some readers.
For 17 years, she criss-crossed Canada trying to flee the man who raped and tortured her and coerced her into prostitution and sexual slavery.
Regardless of what she did or where she went, her tormentor and the gang that he ran with were never far behind.
When she became pregnant with his child, he beat her badly enough that police were called. No charges were laid.
Over the years, he was twice arrested and convicted, but never jailed for assault or for breaching no-contact orders as part of his probation.
He spray-painted one of her homes with racist epithets, torched another and dropped off an eviscerated rat at yet another. Police were called. No charges were laid.
It all ended 12 years ago when, against incredible odds, the United States granted her asylum under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
She didn’t have a lawyer, only two law students who with a professor’s help took it on as a class project.
U.S. Immigration Judge Kenneth Josephson relied on court precedents in concluding that domestic violence constitutes persecution, noting, “If the government is unable or unwilling to control persecution, it matters not who inflicts it.”
“There was no meaningful assistance provided to her,” he said, according to a transcription of his oral decision. He noted that she had made more than 30 attempts to get help from police and spent time in more than a dozen different transition houses across Canada and the United States.
“Obviously, Canada is a democratic, first-world country,” Josephson said. “While it is rare for a citizen of Canada to seek asylum, it is not rare to have claims presented on the basis of domestic violence.”
The judge also leaned heavily on Lisa Rupert’s affidavit describing how women are treated by Canadian police and courts. Rupert is the YWCA’s vice-president of housing services and violence protection in Vancouver.
Between 2003 and 2016, only 79 of 276 Canadian applicants were given asylum, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Because the reasons for decisions aren’t tracked, a spokesman said it’s not known how many were escaping domestic violence or gangs.
Because Rachel is still deemed by Canadian police to be at high risk, Rachel is a pseudonym. For her protection, other identifying details have been deliberately omitted or altered from the mountains of documents that she has meticulously saved over the years.
At our first meeting, Rachel insisted on one thing: “This story is not about him (the perpetrator) or the people he is involved with. … They get enough publicity for being the creepy people who they are.”
The story, she said, is about the failure of the Canadian police and courts to protect her and others like her.
Rachel is furious with Canada. She bitterly points to the country’s boast that it is a world leader when it comes to women’s rights.
“Between the RCMP and the court system, they dropped the ball and slid me down a million crevices, and then they did everything they could to cover it up.”
Now in her mid-50s, she lives at the edge of poverty in subsidized housing, scraping by on part-time and temporary work to supplement a $212-a-month disability pension from the U.S. government.
“I want the Canadian government to acknowledge what happened and repair as much of the damage as they can,” she said during one of many conversations over the past six months.
Rachel has paid dearly for her safety. It’s cost her everything she’s ever had and nearly everyone she’s known and loved.
She can never return to Canada. If she were to come even for a visit, she might be denied re-entry to the U.S. because the reason she was given asylum is that she’s at risk if she returns home.
Between the RCMP and the court system, they dropped the ball and slid me down a million crevices, and then they did everything they could to cover it up
Rachel has had to reinvent herself in a place where no one knew her or why she was there. She’s had to do it without any credentials, because her hard-earned college certificates are in her old name, and without job references because contacting Canadian employers risks having her new identity exposed.
She’s struggled with the effects of the trauma and abuse she’s endured, as well as guilt over the pain her life has caused her children.
Exile has also alienated her from Canada’s safety net, including health care, social assistance and the Canada Pension Plan.
That’s in addition to what she lost earlier when fear forced her to give up permanent custody of one of her children, cut off contact with her elderly parents, abruptly leave jobs and sell the family home she inherited from her parents in order to finance her fugitive life.
After 12 years in hiding, Rachel yearns for home. Canada Day, Canadian Thanksgiving and even Boxing Day trigger memories of happier times and thoughts about what might have been.
When she contemplated visiting Canada earlier this year, Canadian police advised her that she would be at high risk even if she only came for a few days.
The United States is the only place on the continent where she is safe. The man who hunted and abused her can’t cross the border because of his criminal convictions.
But even now, she’s extremely cautious, fearing he’ll find her again.
Meantime, her abuser has carried on. He’s served jail time for forcibly entering a home and assaulting another woman.
FATEFUL FIRST MEETING
Nearly 30 years ago, the vivacious, single, 20-something mom was singing with a band in a bar and attracted the unwanted attention of a guy who was never going to take no for an answer. It changed her world forever.
After she rebuffed him at the bar, he surreptitiously followed her home that night. The stalking had begun. He’d turn up at odd places. When she refused to go to his house for a barbecue with her child, he called repeatedly until she finally relented.
She thought that might be the end of it.
It was only the beginning.
His home was a grow-op. When she realized that, she grabbed her child and fled. He grabbed a rifle and fired a shot at her.
The phone was already ringing when she walked in the door of her home. She knew too much, he said. If she made trouble, his gang would kill her and her family.
Rachel changed her phone number, moved and quit her job. But a few weeks later, he was standing over her in her bedroom with a knife. He raped her repeatedly, pressing a pillow into her face to muffle her screams so she wouldn’t wake her child.
It went on for three days before he agreed that the child should be allowed to go stay with her father.
Over the next few weeks whenever she left the room, he went with her, carrying the switchblade knife. He began inviting some of his friends over. The more compliant she was, the more freedom he gave her. She began plotting her escape to a friend’s house in another community.
But he found out, took her car keys and her money and assaulted her. A few weeks later, he coerced her into taking him with her and the violence escalated.
He punished minor slights by locking her in the basement. In her U.S. immigration affidavit, Rachel wrote that he started humming the music from Psycho.
The RCMP report from one of the assaults that sent Rachel to hospital includes her statement describing how he wrapped a sheet around her neck and choked her before he lunged at her with a large knife.
She was thrown against a wall, thrown to the ground and kicked, according to the RCMP victim assistance supplementary report. He kept repeating that he was going to kill her.
When police interviewed Rachel about the assault, they didn’t want to hear about anything that had gone before that, she told the immigration judge. They refused to listen when she tried to tell them about how he’d coerced her into living with him, tortured and beaten her before.
Instead, they were the first of many to describe him as her boyfriend and suggest the violence was the result of her bad choices.
Although he was arrested, they didn’t detain him. They escorted him out of town as if it were all part of a Wild West movie.
It was no movie. A few days later, Rachel was released from hospital. As she was scrambling to pack the car and leave, he came out from behind the garage, grinning.
“Where are we going now?” he asked.
A month later and in another town, he beat her until she was unconscious. Once again, police weren’t interested in what had happened before, only what had happened that night.
He was charged with aggravated assault, but he later pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to nine months of probation and ordered to attend anger-management classes. There was no restraining order.
That night, he found her and raped her.
Within that first year, he coerced her into prostitution and made her audition for a porn film.
He also got her pregnant. When she refused to have an abortion, he assaulted her. Police came, but no charges were laid. A month after the child was born, he breached the order, robbed and assaulted her, burning her with a cigarette and punching her in the jaw.
“Strongly recommend that the accused be released only if a restraining order is put into effect,” the attending officer wrote. “No contact direct or indirect as accused harassing victim by repeated phone calls.”
Also in the report is the accused’s comment: “She’ll pay for this. She will know how this feels.”
Why police responded as they did, why he was never jailed for breaching no-contact orders and why he was never jailed at all are all questions that haunt Rachel and remain unanswered. Police don’t comment on individual cases and, aside from their decisions, judges don’t comment at all.
For 17 years, Rachel describes her life as a cat-and-mouse chase.
“I thought he’d eventually give up and move on. I didn’t think it would be a 17-year problem or that I would eventually have to leave the country,” she told me.
“I kept thinking, ‘Now, the police will do something. Now, it’s going to stop.’”
But the timeline chronicling her torment runs to eight pages. He’d breach the orders. She’d escape to a shelter and he’d find her. He’d beat her; police would be called. Only twice were restraining orders issued. He was never sent to jail.
When he couldn’t catch and assault her, he’d vandalize her home or threaten her employers. When he couldn’t find her, he’d threaten her parents.
One summer, she and her child lived off the grid in a tent bought at Zellers. When the $300 that she’d hidden from him ran out, she begged a telephone operator to find the number for a women’s shelter and put her through.
Less than a month later, her relentless and well-connected abuser found them there.
Another time and in a different shelter, a gang-connected woman wheedled her way in to deliver the message that he was watching.
Rachel relinquished permanent custody of her child from a previous relationship as a protection from the violence that permeated her life.
Later, exhausted from the threats and running, Rachel asked the child protection ministry to take the child that she’d had with her abuser into temporary care on the condition that the child’s father not be contacted.
But a social worker broke that agreement and contacted Rachel’s abuser even though his name is not on the child’s birth certificate. Because of that breach of privacy, Rachel very nearly ended up having to share custody with the man who was making her life hell.
Not only would it have meant regular contact with him, Rachel could never have got asylum in the U.S. With a custody order in place, she could have been charged with abduction if she had taken the child out of the country without his permission.
Instead, his custody attempt was the impetus for her exile.
REPEATED PLEAS FOR HELP
Over the years, Rachel has approached the Canadian government for help. She’s kept every email and letter, along with names and phone numbers of the various officials she’s spoken to.
Initially, she asked for compensation for the house she was forced to sell at below market price in 1997 to finance her fugitive life. When it sold again recently, it was for $1.4 million.
Last fall, she tried to get help accessing disability benefits under the Canada Pension Plan, which she paid into from the time she started a part-time job as a high-school student.
To get benefits, she needs a birth certificate and social insurance number. Rachel believes it’s too risky to apply for CPP under her old name, so she needs new documents.
After a flurry of email exchanges and phone calls, nothing has happened, just as nothing happened in the 1990s when Rachel begged police to give her a new identity.
Among the problems is Canada’s disjointed system, name changes and birth certificates are provincial. Social insurance numbers and CPP are federal. Each requires a separate application. Each application costs money that Rachel can ill afford.
But even before she can apply, Rachel would have to apply to be allowed to apply from outside Canada. That’s a whole other process.
For nearly 30 years, Rachel has been told there’s another problem with getting her name changed in Canada.
When she was in her late teens, Rachel defrauded a telephone company of $2,000 worth of telephone service by using a fake name.
“It was kid stuff, poor-people stuff,” she said.
She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years’ probation with 200 hours of community service and the requirement that she repay the money. She tried, but couldn’t manage to do all of that.
Even with the support of her probation officer, the judge refused to amend the probation order and clear the way for a later pardon, or what’s now called a record suspension. Because of her record, her only safe choice was an extreme one. Flight.
The United States gave her a waiver before granting her asylum and a new identity. Why shouldn’t Canada do that for her now?
STILL AT RISK
Rachel has lived in fear for half her life. She still struggles to accept that for as long as her assailant is alive, her life is at risk.
Violence, threats and coercion forced her into hiding, into exile and into poverty that affected not only her but her children.
Unable to return to her country of birth, she missed major milestones in her children’s lives. She is unable to visit her parents’ graves.
But among the facts of her life that Rachel finds most galling is that her punishment for defrauding a phone company of $2,000 was three times as long as any sentence her assailant ever received for nearly killing her.
B.C.’s health officials are set to share an update on novel coronavirus. Genome BC / PNG
Another case of the coronavirus has been diagnosed in British Columbia.
The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, says a woman in her 30s has been diagnosed with COVID-19 after returning this week from Iran. The woman lives in the Fraser Health region.
“Our continued view is that the risk to B.C. is low, we are acting with vigilance,” she said.
Henry said staff were surprised by a new case linked to Iran, which only recently reported it had five cases of COVID-19 and two deaths.
“That triggered interest from people around the world,” Henry said. “I expect there will be an investigation to determine where the exposure occurred.”
Iran has reported at least 20 other people in various areas who are being tested, Henry said. “And we’ll be linking with them to see where this person had been in Iran — we’re tracing her travel all the way back to Iran.”
Henry says the woman’s case is relatively mild and a number of her close contacts are in isolation.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the patient’s samples have been sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Man., for final confirmation.
This brings the number of cases of COVID-19 in B.C. to six.
“So far in B.C. all of our cases have been relatively mild and managed mostly at home,” she said.
Henry said earlier that four of the five people diagnosed with the virus were symptom free.
The fifth person, a woman in her 30s who returned from Shanghai, China, is in isolation at her home in B.C.’s Interior.
Henry said over 500 people have been tested for the virus in B.C. and many of those tested positive for the flu.
“We’re in containment,” she explained, adding that because many cases are mild, the virus can be transmitted when people few symptoms.
“It makes it very difficult to contain the virus. We’re not out of the woods yet.”
Three cases of the virus have also been confirmed in Ontario.
As of Thursday, the World Health Organization said there were 75,748 confirmed cases globally, with 548 new cases reported in the past 24 hours. The majority of those cases are in China, with 2,121 deaths recorded to date in the country.
Outside of China, there have been eight deaths across 26 countries. In Canada, there have only been eight cases to date, with only one case being transmitted outside of China. There have been no deaths due to COVID-19 in Canada.
— With files from Lynn Mitges, Stephanie Ip, and the Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — Getting vaccinated for the flu may have prevented about six out of 10 people from becoming infected in an early Canadian flu season, says a study involving a network of family doctors who monitored patients in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
Dr. Danuta Skowronski, lead author of the study and lead epidemiologist for influenza at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, said the study involved about 2,800 patients who were seen by their physicians for a flu-like illness between Nov. 1, 2019 and Feb. 1.
The current flu season was the most unusual in about five years because of an early spike in influenza B as influenza A was circulating across Canada and the northern hemisphere.
Skowronski said the doctors are part of the Sentinel Practitioner Surveillance Network involved in helping to determine vaccine effectiveness. They took nasal swabs from patients who were at least a year old and were seen within seven days of the start of symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat.
The study, published Thursday in Eurosurveillance, a journal on infectious disease surveillance, epidemiology, prevention and control, found about an equal number of people were sickened by influenza A and B.
“This vaccine prevented about 60 per cent of cases of influenza that would have otherwise occurred in unvaccinated cases,” Skowronski said.
She said vaccination effectiveness was estimated by comparing vaccine coverage of patients who tested negative for influenza versus those who tested positive.
The so-called test-negative method was pioneered by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control in 2004 and has come to be used globally in place of randomized control trials, which would require a group of unvaccinated patients, an unethical scenario given everyone should get the vaccine, Skowronski said.
“Other countries have now adopted that methodology,” she said. “Collectively, we submit our findings to the World Health Organization. Later this month the WHO will be meeting to decide whether it needs to update the vaccine strains for next season’s formulation,” she said of the virus that changes every year.
“This is good news in that the vaccine is performing better than it has in previous years,” Skowronski said of the findings, adding they highlight the fact that the public should get vaccinated annually to protect themselves against various strains of the influenza virus, especially if they have a heart or lung condition or are in contact with vulnerable people including the elderly.
“If you want to prevent a miserable illness, and influenza is a miserable illness, a vaccine will protect you against that. But that might be an individual decision. For me, it’s really a kind of double tragedy when high-risk individuals experience these severe outcomes and they could have been prevented through vaccination.”
Concerns about the novel coronavirus should create a greater appreciation for influenza vaccines, Skowronski said.
In place of no vaccine for COVID-19, people should rely on conventional public health measures used for other coronaviruses, such as washing their hands and sneezing and coughing into their elbow, she said.
However, she said knowing who will or won’t get the flu is complex and could include issues such as which influenza subtypes were prevalent around the time someone was born, giving them a lifelong immunity to those subtypes.
British Columbia, Quebec and New Brunswick are the only provinces that do not offer publicly funded vaccination for influenza for all residents but provide it in limited cases, including for pregnant women.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said an average of 12,200 people are hospitalized for the flu every year and 3,500 people die of it annually.
It says everyone aged six months and older should get immunized, and the best time for that is between October and December, before the virus begins spreading.
In September, a nurse at Abbotsford Regional Hospital was ambushed by a patient who struck her with an exercise weight, leaving her with a broken jaw and fractured cheekbone.
The heavy workload faced by B.C. nurses put them at higher risk of experiencing violence at the hands of their patients, according to new research from the University of B.C.
The study, published in the journal Nursing Open and funded by the B.C. Nurses Union, “validates” anecdotal evidence from nurses on the front lines of the health care system, BCNU president Christine Sorensen said Thursday.
“Nurses are working in a pressure cooker,” she said. “That pressure in the system transfers to patients … which can sometimes lead them to take it out on the first person who helps them.”
According to the union, 26 nurses each month suffer a violent injury at work, accounting for 31 per cent of all injuries from acts of violence in B.C.
Nurses report being verbally assaulted, which includes yelling, swearing and racial slurs, as well as physical abuse, which ranges from throwing food or bed pans to sexual and physical assault.
In September, a nurse at Abbotsford Regional Hospital was ambushed by a patient who struck her with an exercise weight, leaving her with a broken jaw and fractured cheekbone.
The UBC study found complaints from patients or their families are sometimes a precursor to emotional or physical violence.
Complaints can be part of the “spiral of aggression” that eventually leads to violence, said study author Farinaz Havaei, an assistant professor of nursing at UBC.
The complaints often stem from workload issues, which affect the quality of patient care. The study looked at several factors to determine workload, including common measures such as staffing and patient load, as well as the number of interruptions, number of admissions and how sick or how much assistance patients required.
“The evidence shows that when nurses are overworked, they get more complaints. If they don’t have time to deal with the complaints, the situation can escalate,” said Havaei.
Nurses said they received an average of one complaint per month and experienced emotional or physical abuse from patients or their families at about the same frequency.
“We need to address the root cause of the problem, which is the heavy workload,” said Havaei, adding that a system to better track patient complaints would only be a “bandaid approach” to preventing violence.
Sorensen called on the provincial government to provide additional nurses to provide better patient care and help with workload, as well as protection safety officers to ensure safety.
In December, the provincial government announced a new agency to tackle workplace safety for health care workers, earmarking $8.5 million over the next three years.
The province’s health-sector bargaining associations, health employers and the provincial government will lead the new non-profit organization, which was born out of a working group of the same stakeholders.
In 2018, injury claim costs from health care workers totalled more than $107 million, an increase of about $11 million from the previous year, according to the province. It is expected the new agency will be operational by late spring.
A man suing the hosts of a party he attended before getting into a deadly impaired driving crash as a teenager testified during a civil trial in B.C. Supreme Court this week, telling the court how the rollover changed the course of his life.
Calder McCormick suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash after a house party on Salt Spring Island on Sept. 15, 2012. The driver, another teen, was killed.
McCormick was 17 years old at the time.
His injuries and their effect on his career, relationships and personality were raised in his testimony Wednesday and Thursday as his legal team builds its civil case against the couple who owned the home where the party was held eight years ago.
McCormick is suing the hosts, Stephen and Lidia Pearson, for negligence. He claims they owed him a duty of care as their teenage guest. The lawsuit said the couple should have done more to stem underage alcohol consumption in their home and should have tried to stop him from leaving and getting in the car.
None of McCormick’s claims have been proven in court. The Pearsons have denied the allegations.
The trial will examine the law around social host liability in B.C. and how it might relate to minors. The issue is still relatively novel, and a trial judgment in the case could set a standard for how liable adult hosts might be held if underage partygoers injure themselves or someone else after they leave.
McCormick, now 24, told the court he used to love riding his BMX bike before the crash. He described himself as an A or B student at Gulf Islands Secondary School, excelling in shop and woodworking classes.
He said he wanted to graduate high school early and begin pursuing a career in carpentry, having already explored apprenticeships. At the time of the crash, he had just started Grade 12.
McCormick, dressed in a dark suit, said he and his fraternal twin brother each wanted to study trades at Camosun College, on nearby Vancouver Island, after graduation.
“I thought we might volunteer at the fire department together,” McCormick told the court.
He went on to describe how his brother did go to Camosun and became an electrician, and how his twin eventually trained as a paramedic and volunteered at the firehall without him.
McCormick said he now lives in Victoria and receives disability benefits. He said he uses marijuana to manage his pain and can’t balance well enough to ride a bike anymore.
His lawyer claims he’ll never be “competitively employable” due to his injuries.
McCormick was a passenger in the 2012 crash on the Island’s North End Road. The driver, Ryan Plambeck, had been at the same party.
On Wednesday, McCormick told the court he had no interest in excessive drinking as a teen but did experiment with alcohol and marijuana and had consumed alcohol at the party.
McCormick described his general drinking activities as “definitely not too often and definitely not that much.”
The latter characterization has been disputed by the host, the Pearson defendants.
In their response to McCormick’s civil claim, the couple said the teen and his parents were ultimately the ones responsible for his safety.
“His age and experience was such to leave him accountable and responsible for his choices, notwithstanding his legal status as a minor,” the response read.
They also claimed McCormick had a history of using alcohol and marijuana while he was with friends, and said that was something of which his parents were aware.
McCormick told the court he believes others at the party forced him into the vehicle with Plambeck, before they drove away from the party.
A coroner’s report said Plambeck, 18, had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit the night of the crash.
McCormick included Plambeck in his original statement of claim. A settlement was reached between McCormick and Plambeck’s estate on Tuesday.
The trial is expected to continue for several weeks.
One group bills its race day as Vancouver’s Best Running Party, while another club been pumping up its popular Weekend Run Double. Yet another group is serving up two fun green races featuring hot chocolate, colourful costumes and super shamrocks.
There’s also an event for rural medicine, and one to go literally Up The Creek. And many will lace up for adventures on the undulating scenic trails in West Van and North Van.
And, undoubtedly, there will be other secrets and surprises surfacing in March as runners and run clubs begin to ramp up their game, speed and distances for the 2020 racing season. As my old neighbour used to joke, spring makes us so excited that we wet our plants!
Here’s a quick look at some of the events that should make March memorable for all the right reasons:
West Van Run
Saturday, March 7 & Sunday, March 8
5K, 10K, 1K Kids’ Run
If we can look past the great race shirts, sharp finishers’ medals, elite stars and the “bonus bottle” for running Saturday (5K) and Sunday (10K) for a moment, the neat thing about this annual trek through scenic West Vancouver is the fact there are pace teams.
West Van Run club honcho Kirill Solovyev has been actively pushing entrants to “do the double” this year and claim a couple medals and a Specialized colour water bottle in the process.
The first time I ran this fun race there was a super hero costume theme, albeit not everyone seemed to have received that message or embraced it! I dressed as a Ninja Turtle, a crazy one-piece costume that presented some logistical (washroom issues) challenges at the 4K mark but, cowabunga, that’s another wild story for another time!
This year the West Van Run races roll at 8:30 a.m. both days (starting at West Vancouver Community Centre), with the kids’ 1K going at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and 10:30 a.m. on the Sunday.
All West Van Run events support Special Olympics B.C.-North Shore by fundraising for the organization. In addition to monetary support, West Van Run provides all Special Olympics Athletes with a free event entry.
Justin Kent won the 5K last year in 14:25, while Anthony Tomisch took the 10K title in 30:57. Both winners established course records in the process. And neither wore a Ninja Turtle suit. Go figure!
The women’s course records are held by Robyn Mildren (10K, 34:32) and Natasha Wodak (5K, 16:10).
Fresh off their successful Fort Langley Historic Half on Feb. 16, where more than 500 people laced up for the half, 10K, 5K and kids’ races, Mitchell Hudson and his TRY Events team is stoked to present its annual Hot Chocolate Run at Stanley Park.
Karen Warrendorf spotted this blogger horsing around behind the Mahony & Sons bar at Stamps Landing earlier this month, where I was pretending to spike my water bottles with alcohol before competing in the “shorter 16K” division of the Vancouver Hypothermic Half.
“Training for my 5K next month?” Warrendorf laughed, before she clocked an impressive 1:42:48, 15th overall in the windy and sometimes wet half marathon, staged annually by the local Running Room and Steve Mattina.
The St. Patrick’s Day 5K, at Stanley Park, is Warrendorf’s baby and is easily one of the best 5K events in the city or at Stanley Park. It has always been on my “don’t miss” list, even if this runner’s fitness levels “kind of slip and crash” over the winter.
The “best running party” and “come for the race, stay for the party” tag lines have been well-earned over the years as a passionate Warrendorf has found the magic formula to mix serious competition, a charity component (Diabetes Canada), fun runners with costumes (think very green and very wild) and a post-race party fitting of the fun St. Patrick’s theme.
Two course records were set last year, the men’s by John Gay (14:06), and the women’s by Sarah Inglis (15:29). The St. Patrick’s Day 5K is the fourth stop in the B.C. Super Series and the second leg of the Lifestages Lower Mainland Series. Lining up behind the fleet-footed elites is all part of the race-day vibe, as people of all ages and skills, in green and many in costume, always add life to the fun and fast morning.
This year’s race, present by BMO, gets underway at 9:30 a.m. For more information and to register click HERE.
Shamrock ‘N’ Race
Sunday, March 15
Half, 7-Miler, 5K | Burnaby Lake
My in-laws, who in their 70s discovered running, speed walking and costumes, were really stoked to suit up for this event last year. In fact, haven’t seen them this excited since they off-loaded their diamond-loving daughter some 25 years ago. Good thing I’m not bitter.
The folks and their blinged-out daughter will be back at Burnaby Lake Regional Park this year, with “new and secret” costumes and will be part of the crowd assembled for the always popular 5K, 7-Mile and half marathon races.
This is the second event of the month for Mitchell Hudson and his crew and is one of the more popular race days in the TRY Events series. It also offers you a chance to use the costume you decided not to wear a day earlier at Stanley Park. (Trust me on that one!)
Each participant receives colourful Shamrock Race socks, a neat finisher’s medal and post-race pancakes. Can’t wait to taste those piles … I mean race those miles!
Action gets underway at 9 a.m. with the half marathon and 7-Mile races, followed three minutes later by the 5K race.
For more information and to register for this fun event click HERE.
Hitting the trails
Some other events you may want to consider in March include:
• Saturday, March 7: The Dirty Duo. The Foretrails Run Series is great fun and so are the organizers. And this year is the 20th anniversary of the Dirty Duo. This event combines trail racing with mountain bikes and showcases the rugged North Shore trails. I hope to do their Hallow’s Eve and Phantom Run events later in the year.
• Sunday, March 8:UBC Run for Rural Medicine. Click HERE.
• Saturday, March 14: The Cap Crusher. Click HERE.
• Sunday, March 29:Up The Creek Run, Port Coquitlam. Click HERE.
FINISH LINES — I’ll be at Fort Langley this Sunday for PEN RUN’s Fort-to-Fort 5- and 10-Miler event, which is the third and final leg of their 2020 Fraser Valley Trail Run Series. You can still sign up by clicking HERE. … RunGo’s annual Dash for Dogs goes this Sunday at Stanley Park with 10K, 5K and 2K guided runs. If I wasn’t at Fort Langley I’d be at Stanley Park for sure. For more info on that event click HERE.
That being said, there were fewer choices to make in this budget than her first two.
With over three-quarters of the NDP’s election platform already on the way, and a commitment to a balanced budget, there was always going to be little room to manoeuvre — even if reforms at ICBC and a slight slowdown in the provincial economy hadn’t taken place.
But those did things happen, and it meant the government had a decision to make: how would it stay in the black without going back on spending commitments in the expensive health and education ministries?
The answer was a new tax on the people making the most money in the province — giving the province its highest marginal tax rate (20.5 per cent for people making over $220,000) this century.
“If you had taken al look at the past government, what often would happen at this time when you saw moderation in the economy, you’d see programs and services cut … we’re not doing that,” said James.
“In order to do that, we’ve asked the top one per cent to pay a little bit more. We believe they’ve benefited from a strong economy, and we believe they can contribute a little bit more.”
Death by a thousand hikes?
Not surprisingly, the B.C. Liberals feel that the top one per cent have already been asked to “contribute a little bit more” one too many times under this government, whether it be from income taxes, corporate taxes, employer health taxes or the school tax.
“The lack of competitiveness when it comes to the tax regime, when it comes to regulations, is causing serious repetitional damages to British Columbia. People are choosing not to invest here,” said MLA Stephanie Cadieux.
“When tax structures get too uncompetitive, people just leave,” echoed fellow B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond.
It’s a message the Liberals have consistently made while in opposition, but which so far has had limited traction outside its base because the province continues to be among the nationwide leaders in GDP growth.
At the same time, business groups are also becoming more critical of the government’s approach than they were earlier in its term.
“If a couple years ago was death by a thousand cuts, it’s death by 10,000 cuts,” said Val Litwin, CEO of B.C.’s Chamber of Commerce.
“The biggest missing piece today was a strategy around competitiveness … what we’re seeing form small to big businesses is a real paucity around an economic strategy.”
An NDP government will take their lumps from the Chamber of Commerce when it comes to tax policy: distributing wealth to the most marginalized is an article of faith.
At the same time, the budget disappointed a number of groups that have been supportive of the government to date.
“They’ve kicked the can down the road a little bit,” said Jill Atkey, CEO of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association, who criticized the lack of new investments in new housing outside of commitments for more shelter and modular units.
“This is a budget that’s not going to improve the situation.”
Several poverty advocate groups asked why there were no new commitments on disability or welfare rates. And Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, himself a former NDP MP, expressed disappointment about the lack of news on drug policy or a Millennium Line extension to UBC.
“We need bold investments … if we’re to continue to help power B.C.’s economy.”
Of course, the longer you’re in office, the most people you’re likely to disappoint.
But as the clock ticks closer to the next provincial election, James shows full confidence in what has been a consistent governing approach.
“It’s my job to ensure the benefits of B.C.’s strong economy are felt by everybody,” she said, “not just those at the top.”
VICTORIA – B.C.’s finance minister has unveiled a hold-the-course budget, with modest new money for electric vehicle rebates and post-secondary grants, funded by new taxes on high-income earners and sugary drinks.
People with taxable income of more than $220,000 will see a tax hike from 16.8 per cent to 20.5 per cent, in a move the government estimates will generate $216 million in new revenue next year, and $713 million over three years.
“We’re asking those at the top, who benefit the most from our economy, to contribute a little bit more,” said Finance Minister Carole James.
“Nearly half the revenue of this tax increase will come in from individuals with income above $1 million, and even with this tax rate B.C.’s personal income taxes remain very competitive.”
While the new income tax affects a relatively small number of people, a second new tax on sugary drinks will impact far more consumers.
The government will end a Provincial Sales Tax exemption on sugary drinks, like pop, starting July 1, said James. Adding the seven per cent PST to such beverages will generate more than $30 million annually.
“This is a health initiative to look at how we grow healthy young people,” said James.
“I think it’s interesting if you take a look at the largest consumption of pop, sweetened drinks, it is 14-18 year olds. We want to make sure we’re doing our part to set them on the stage of having a healthy life ahead.”
The revenue from the new taxes will help fund a new $24-million grant program to offer up to $4,000 a year for low-income college and university students in September. That grant program will be overhauled to include students taking diploma and certificate courses in trades, education and health-care programs, which were previously ineligible.
“Access to education creates opportunities that span generations,” said James. “It has the power to change a family forever.”
It will also help pay for another extension to existing electric vehicle rebates of up to $3,000, at a cost of $28 million next year.
Overall, the 2020/21 budget, which starts April 1, estimates a $227 million surplus on $60 billion in spending.
Spending is rising faster than revenue, at a 3.1 per cent expenditure increase compared to last year, on 2.6 per cent in new revenue.
The budget, which comes with $900 million in contingency and forecast allowances, is a far cry from the large-scale spending plans delivered by the NDP government since it formed power in 2017.
James continued to warn Tuesday of a softening economy, international economic risks and the need for prudence in spending. The province’s economic growth remains estimated at 1.8 per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“If you took a look at past governments, what would often happen at this time during a moderating economy is you’d see programs and services cut,” said James. “We’re not doing that.”
Business groups gave lukewarm reviews to the budget.
B.C. Business Council president Greg D’Avignon said he was “disappointed” in the budget.
“The budget is virtually silent on the agenda let alone the implementation of a sustainable economic plan,” he said.
Greater Vancouver Board of Trade gave the budget a “B-“ grade.
She said roughly $300 million in internal government cuts to discretionary spending have proven successful. However, government officials could not provide a breakdown of costs saved by ministry and James said no such list exists because the money is reinvested into programs and services.
While some revenue sources are up in the budget, such as the carbon tax and property transfer tax, other revenues are lagging, including personal and corporate income tax.
B.C.’s share of cannabis taxes from Ottawa sat at $6 million in 2019/20 due to the slow rollout of stores and what critics have said are more attractive prices and products in the black market. However, the budget projects a spike in cannabis revenue to $50 million next year, and $70 million annually after that.
James said $18 million is also being set aside on public health and enforcement for cannabis.
The budget largely holds the line for housing affordability and child care, two key election promises from the NDP government in the 2017 election.
Child care funding in particular is largely frozen for the next three years, and it was unclear Tuesday from budget documents how that impacts the 10-year plan to bring in $10-a-day child care.
The federal government recently renewed its child-care funding payments, which allow B.C. to continue to operate several $10-a-day pilot sites across the province.
Sharon Gregson, from the Coalition of Child Care Advocates, said government honoured its funding commitment for next year, but is concerned it is $200 million short for future years. She said she’s confident the government will revise the funding next year to help keep the $10-a-day plan on track.
On housing, James said government will continue it’s $7-billion 10-year plan to build more housing. Although home sales dropped 1.5 per cent last year, and average home prices fell 1.6 per cent, James said the housing market is nowhere near affordable and prices need to drop further.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who would say we’ve reached affordable housing in British Columbia,” she said.
The NDP government’s speculation tax continues to bring in roughly $185 million annually.
Tuesday’s budget also re-announced the Child Opportunity Benefit payment first made public in last year’s budget. The program, which starts this fall, will pay up to $1,600 per child based on a family’s income up to $114,000 annually.
The largest funding increase in the budget was 9.5 per cent to health authorities and hospitals. Total health care spending now accounts for $24.3 billion, or 40 per cent of the entire provincial budget.
The funding was mostly welcome by health groups, but both the B.C. Nurses Union and the Care Providers Association of B.C. said the missing ingredient was an expansion of the new post-secondary grant program to nursing and seniors care workers.
The second-largest increase was a 7.4 per cent jump to post-secondary education, expanding training spaces for in-demand jobs.
Education for K-12 schools received only a 2.2 per cent lift on almost $6.7 billion in spending, with no additional money set aside for a new contract with teachers above the previously-stated two per cent mandate held by James.
More than half the government ministries – 13 of 20 – will see their budgets frozen or reduced next year.
The government has set aside $11 million to fund a public inquiry into money-laundering over the next two years.
The province will also raise monthly earning exemptions for people on disability by $100, at a cost of $20 million over three years.
Other programs received funding just enough to cover caseload pressures, such as $131 million over three years for income assistance, disability and other social supports and $121 million for Community Living B.C.
The budget forecasts other small increases for children and youth, indigenous youth, community safety, wildfire management and legal aid.
Social groups said it was not nearly enough money, and government has failed to address the systemic challenges and wait lists for services such as sexual assault support, youth homelessness and legal aid.
“This budget is overly cautious,” said Iglika Ivanova, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Government should be stepping up with increases to welfare rates and a coordinated plan for youth homelessness, she said.
Independent children’s representative Jennifer Charlesworth echoed the criticism, saying she’s concerned the government has yet to address major caps in youth who age out of government care but can’t get into post-secondary education.
The forestry sector continues to decline as it faces a softwood lumber dispute with the United States, slumping lumber prices, an eight-month coastal strike with Western Forest Products and a shortage of timber in the interior.
Forestry revenue is estimated to drop 12.5 per cent next year and the projected harvest of Crown timber lands is 20 per cent below last year’s expectations over the next four years.
James announced a new $13-million fund, spread over three years, to retrain forest workers, and revitalize the industry, on top of $69 million in aid previously-announced for the interior sector and $5 million in aid to contractors on the coast.
Forestry workers rallied on the lawn of the legislature Tuesday in protest at government inaction on the sector.
Wilderness Committee of B.C. spokeman Torrance Coste said the budget appears to make cutbacks to the forestry ministry that will make it harder to have the expertise and staff required to complete a review of old growth forests that his group hopes will boost protection for forests.
Capital spending was set to rise, at almost $1 billion next year and $3.1 billion over three years, for added hospitals, schools and health care facilities.
Total taxpayer-supported debt will jump $4.6 billion to $49.2 billion. Taxpayer supported debt-to-GDP will jump from 14.6 per cent to 15.5 per cent. Interest on the debt will eat up 3.9 cents of every dollar of revenue.
“We have an election in a year and a half now and I think we’re in good shape fiscally,” said James.
The budget also provided a third-quarter update to the current 2019/20 fiscal year, which ends March 31. The projected budget surplus has risen to $203 million, from $148 million last quarter.
James said that modest increase is mainly due to an increase in income tax revenue and lower spending on refundable tax credits for the film and TV sector.
From the day this government was sworn in, it has made Indigenous rights and reconciliation a priority – not for one ministry, but across the whole of government. On the day each minister was given their individual ministerial responsibilities, they were also given a mandate letter. This letter directed them to seek true, lasting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in British Columbia, and to support the work of adopting and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the UN Declaration).
The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act
In fall 2019, the legislature unanimously passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (the Declaration Act), developed in collaboration with the First Nations Leadership Council, which includes the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit and Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
The Declaration Act requires government, in consultation and co-operation with Indigenous peoples in British Columbia, to take all measures necessary to bring provincial laws into alignment with the UN Declaration. It also mandates government to create an action plan with Indigenous peoples on achieving the objectives of the UN Declaration, along with annual reporting on progress.
Government is committed to engaging with Indigenous peoples, Nations, organizations and leadership about next steps. This engagement will guide government as it begins to move forward toward full implementation of the Declaration Act.
Ongoing work to support reconciliation
The whole of government has been engaged for the past two and a half years in taking steps to work with Indigenous peoples to support healthy and thriving communities.
Government moved quickly to change policies and address gaps long identified as a high priority by Indigenous peoples, including work to address the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Declaration Act builds on the foundation of this work and demonstrates government’s commitment to true and lasting reconciliation, and willingness to work quickly to meet the priority needs of Indigenous peoples.
The following items are a selection of just some of the important work government has been doing over the last two years in anticipation of the Declaration Act.
Fixing the child protection system
No one wants to see a child harmed. And no one wants to see a child unnecessarily taken from their family. Because of the significant cultural harms caused by taking Indigenous children away from their families and communities, the Province has been working quickly to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the care of the Province.
To keep children with their families and in their communities, government boosted support payments to extended family members to match the supports given to all foster parents. Because more Indigenous children are being supported from within their families and communities, B.C. now has the lowest number of children and youth in care in 30 years, and the lowest number of Indigenous children in care since 2014. Still, this government knows much more needs to be done.
One key way government is working to keep Indigenous children out of care is by ending the practice of issuing “birth alerts,” which saw children taken from their parents without consent by service providers who had child protection concerns.
Instead of taking children away because families need help, this new, collaborative approach involves service providers working closely with parents to identify and provide the supports they need to give their children a healthy start.
The continuing overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in B.C.’s care system makes supports for children and youth aging out of government care particularly important. That is why government expanded the tuition waiver for former children and youth in care to all public post-secondary institutions as one of its first actions. It has since expanded the program to invest in a number of trades training programs, and to increase and improve the financial supports former youth in care receive so that they can focus on their studies. Budget 2020 continues to build on this initiative by making these important financial supports available to more youth who qualify for the tuition waiver.
The Province acknowledges and honours the more than 1,100 former youth in care now getting a post-secondary education or trades training, tuition free, and getting started on the path to a bright future.
Supporting Indigenous health and healing
Supporting the health and healing of Indigenous peoples is critical to the well-being of Indigenous families.
In partnership with the First Nations Health Authority, government has invested $40 million to build two new urban Indigenous treatment centres and rebuild or renovate six more in rural communities. It has also helped fund the Kilala Lelum Urban Indigenous Health and Healing Cooperative in Vancouver – a first of its kind in B.C., led by Indigenous Elders using both Indigenous and western medicine and healing practices.
Recognizing that Indigenous peoples have been disproportionately harmed by the overdose crisis, government partnered with the First Nations Health Authority, Métis Nation British Columbia and friendship centres on a three-year investment of $20 million to support First Nations communities and Indigenous peoples in addressing this crisis. Fifty-five grants have been provided under this program.
Making K-12 education more accessible and reflective of Indigenous experiences
For too long, too many Indigenous children and youth have been left behind by an education system that did not include Indigenous teachings and perspectives or reflect the lived realities of Indigenous peoples.
To help reverse this trend, government worked with the First Nations Educations Steering Committee and the First Nations Schools Association to deliver a collaborative tripartite agreement that ensures an equitable education for First Nations students, no matter where they live.
This $100-million, five-year agreement supports First Nations students in B.C. who attend on-reserve First Nations schools or off-reserve public or independent schools.
Thanks to the hard work of Indigenous students, new investments and a new curriculum that better reflects Indigenous knowledge, perspectives and experiences, Indigenous students in B.C. are completing secondary school at the highest rate in history, with almost 70% completing secondary school last year. Still, the goal is to see every student in B.C. succeed, so there is much more work to be done.
To reach that goal, government is continuing to work to improve education for Indigenous students by funding new Indigenous teacher education training spaces, two new Indigenous master of education cohorts and public-teacher education programs so teachers in schools are better equipped to support Indigenous learners. Government has also taken steps to better support Indigenous students in B.C. by bringing in a new professional standard that requires teachers to commit to truth, reconciliation and healing.
B.C. has also funded the creation of 17 First Nations language curriculums, with more in development, and is also committed to moving to full-course offerings in Indigenous languages. There are more Indigenous languages spoken in British Columbia than in any other province in the country. Government has a responsibility to do its part to support their survival and revival.
As part of addressing the vulnerability factors that can lead to Indigenous children struggling in the school system, government is investing $30 million over three years to expand the Head Start program in more than 30 communities across the province. Head Start offers culturally specific early-learning, child care and parenting programs, with services available at no cost to families.
These investments, in addition to new funding in Budget 2020 for vulnerable learners, will help more Indigenous students graduate with their peers.
Opening doors to opportunity
Indigenous students need to see a path forward for them at B.C.’s post-secondary institutions and a way to succeed in the workforce.
To better reflect the needs of Indigenous students, government is co-developing a new Indigenous post-secondary education and training strategy and Indigenous skills training programming with the First Nations Education Steering Committee, Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association, Métis Nation British Columbia, the British Columbia Aboriginal Training Employment Alliance and other Indigenous post-secondary partners.
As part of helping Indigenous peoples access good-paying jobs, government is also delivering more than $24 million a year in job-training funding in Indigenous communities through the Aboriginal Community-Based Training Partnerships Program, the Community Workforce Response Grant and Indigenous Skills Training Development Fund.
The Community Benefits Agreement is being used to keep jobs in local communities, and government investments are being used as an opportunity to provide apprenticeships, skills training and employment opportunities on a priority basis for Indigenous peoples and others who have been shut out from opportunity.
Representation matters. That is why government has made sure there is Indigenous representation on every board of directors of public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia.
In line with Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, government funded the creation of Canada’s first Indigenous law program at the University of Victoria, which is now providing intensive study of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous law, allowing people to work fluently across both realms. Government is also funding the pilot for a new Indigenous language fluency degree.
Supporting revitalization of Indigenous languages
For too long, language revitalization was neglected and all Indigenous languages in B.C. are endangered. Many of the challenges communities face around language and culture are systemic and founded on colonial practices aimed at eradication of Indigenous culture, including the residential school system. By investing in Indigenous languages and culture, the Province is starting to address those systemic social challenges at the community level, connecting peoples to their communities, land and cultures.
Fifty million dollars in provincial funding through the Indigenous-led First Peoples’ Cultural Council is helping communities and peoples to reclaim connections to their language and culture. With this funding, the council has more than doubled the number of community language grants to support language revitalization, with more than $16 million in grants distributed to First Nations since 2018.
The council is now supporting more than 30 language nests, which create cultural immersion environments for preschool-age children and their parents to become fluent in First Nations languages, as well as more than 100 mentor-apprentice teams. They are also significantly increasing the number of dialects archived on FirstVoices.com.
While the continued work of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council supports a foundation for the future, there is also still much to do together to support communities in their work to restore their languages, which are vital to nationhood and sovereignty.
Working together to address the housing crisis
Indigenous Nations and organizations are important partners with government in addressing the housing crisis.
Through the Building BC: Indigenous Housing Fund, government is investing $550 million over 10 years to build 1,750 homes for Indigenous peoples, both on- and off-reserve.
With this fund, B.C. became the first and only provincial government to fund on-reserve housing. Nearly 1,200 new affordable homes are underway through this program.
Additionally, each and every one of the Building BC housing fund streams welcomes applications from Indigenous partners.
The provincial government is working with Indigenous communities, friendship centres and other Indigenous-led organizations to build the homes people need in communities in every part of the province.
Protecting the things that matter
Resource development is a vital part of the provincial economy. Resource jobs sustain families and communities. But resource development must be sustainable and pursued without jeopardizing the clean air, clean water and healthy land that people depend on.
Under the UN Declaration, Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands, territories and resources.
As part of respecting this right, government worked closely with Indigenous leaders to find a way forward on the issue of salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago. Using a consensus-based process, the Province and the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis, ‘Namgis and Mamalilikulla Nations worked together to deliver recommendations to the federal and provincial governments on the future of salmon farms in the region.
Through this process, which included industry, all parties were able to come together around a just transition plan for fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago. This process also resulted in changes to Land Act policy, so that in the future salmon-farm tenures will only be granted where there is an agreement in place with local First Nations within their traditional territories.
The Environmental Assessment Act plays an important role in involving Indigenous Nations in land-use decisions. Recognizing that this legislation is critical to reconciliation, government worked closely with Indigenous Nations to develop a new Environmental Assessment Act, which was passed in November 2018 and came into force in December 2019.
The new act increases avenues for Indigenous and public participation in the assessment process, involves all participants earlier and aims to identify issues of concern at the outset, improving outcomes and reducing conflict. Further, it requires the minister to consider participating Indigenous Nations’ consent to the project before a decision is issued.
The right to self-government, autonomy and self-determination requires that Indigenous Nations have stable, predictable sources of revenue to invest in critical things for every government, like infrastructure, services that build healthy communities and the staff to get it done.
In November 2018, government announced that B.C. First Nations will share in provincial gaming revenue, with a 25-year commitment that will see about $3 billion in new revenues – transferred from one level of government to another – to support First Nations’ priorities for social services, education, infrastructure, cultural revitalization and self-government.
Through the BC First Nations Gaming Revenue Sharing Limited Partnership, $100 million per year is going to all First Nations communities in B.C. to pursue their own priorities and serve the needs of their communities. First Nations are using the revenues to make a real difference in communities. Examples include a community youth centre, a forest-fuel management program to protect homes from wildfires and language programs that build connection to culture.
Friendship centres provide important connections to Indigenous peoples in urban communities throughout the province. Recognizing the important role these community hubs play for urban Indigenous peoples, government tripled the financial support for friendship centres. More importantly, this represents, for the first time ever, stable core funding so that they can focus on their important work.
Justice for Indigenous peoples
Too many Indigenous peoples have had their lives irrevocably changed for the worse by a justice system that has been unresponsive to their needs and culturally unsafe. Meaningful, transformative changes to the justice system are needed to advance reconciliation.
To create these changes, government endorsed an agreement with the B.C. Aboriginal Justice Council, now the B.C. First Nations Justice Council, which identified seven priorities for transforming the justice system and committed partners to developing an Indigenous justice strategy.
To support this work, the BC Prosecution Service has been providing mandatory education and training for justice system staff, updating policy and practice, and engaging directly with First Nations to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous persons as victims, accused and offenders in the criminal justice system, and to make court services more culturally safe for Indigenous peoples.
Multiple new policies have been introduced through the BC Prosecution Service to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the justice system, including new charge assessment guidelines, a new bail provision that directs prosecutors to exercise restraint in all bail matters, especially where the accused is Indigenous, and new guidelines for probation conditions that direct prosecutors to consider systemic factors that affect Indigenous peoples when addressing probation violations. Additional policy changes are under development to further support the goal of making the justice system more fair and equitable.
Recognizing that the adversarial approach often taken by the court system is not in line with Indigenous justice practices, government has also been expanding access to specialized Indigenous courts. Two additional Indigenous courts have opened since fall 2017, with the next one in Williams Lake set to open in early 2020.
Connecting Indigenous communities
Connections are important to communities. Articles 20, 21 and 24 of the UN Declaration require governments to support Indigenous peoples in gaining meaningful access to the internet to support economic activities, health care and social services.
In December 2019, government launched a new intake of the Connecting British Columbia program, offering an additional $50 million to help rural, remote and Indigenous communities expand broadband infrastructure.
Work is already underway or completed under this program to offer high-speed internet access to 83 Indigenous communities in British Columbia.
Physical connectivity is as important as digital connectivity, which is why the Province is working with the federal government to maintain BC Bus North services. Government is also offering driver training to people in Indigenous communities, recognizing that the ability to get around is critical, especially for Indigenous peoples living in rural and remote communities.
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