Category "News/Canada/British Columbia"

26Nov

New Westminster police ask for public assistance following suspected child luring incident | CBC News

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Police in New Westminster are asking for public assistance in identifying a man suspected of child luring in the city’s Sapperton Park on Sunday evening.

Investigators say two boys were walking past a parked brown minivan in the area around 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 21 when a man approached them.

The man allegedly asked the boys if they would like to see a puppy inside his van, but both boys ran away and told an adult what happened.

Police are now looking for the suspect, and have asked local businesses to provide CCTV footage of the area in an attempt to identify him.

“We’re asking anyone who lives or drives through the area to please check to see if they have footage of the Sapperton Park area on November 21st between 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm, specifically of Sherbrooke Street and Fader Street,” said Sgt. Sanjay Kumar.

The suspect is described as a white man between the ages of 45 and 55 with a medium build and short beard.

Anyone with dashcam or CCTV footage is asked to contact the New Westminster Police Department and reference file number 21-18600.

23Nov

Some Merritt, B.C. evacuees head back home in first of 3-step plan | CBC News

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About 1,500 residents of Merritt were allowed to return to their homes Tuesday, a week after the entire city of 7,000 was forced to evacuate after the Coldwater River spilled its banks and caused the complete failure of the municipality’s wastewater system. 

Mayor Linda Brown announced the first phase of a three-step plan allowing people to return home. Certain properties remain on evacuation alert and under a boil-water advisory.

Returning residents have been asked to limit water usage as much as possible and brace themselves for substantial changes. Sewage treatment has been restored to parts of the city and some gas stations and grocery stores are now open.

“What you are coming home to is a city that’s changed,” Mayor Linda Brown said in a video statement.

Joe and Renee Green, along with their daughter Montana, were among those heading home Tuesday. The family had been able to live in their RV for the duration of the evacuation. 

They noted that many others — like some who were sent to Kamloops or Kelowna — were not so lucky.

“A lot of people were sleeping in their cars because they couldn’t get hotel rooms,” said Montana Green. 

“I feel kind of spoiled that we had this RV,” said Joe Green. “I feel kind of guilty all warm and cozy [with some people sleeping in their cars].”

Waiting to go home 

That’s not the same situation for Cherylle Douglas. 

Douglas has been cooped up in a camper with five adults, 10 dogs and four pet birds for eight days when she spoke to CBC Monday. Douglas said the trailer park she has lived in for 15 years was engulfed by the Coldwater River.

“It’s hell, it’s real hell,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion.

Cherylle Douglas is seen in a Walmart parking lot just outside Merritt on Monday. Douglas has been living in a trailer with five people and several animals since fleeing Merritt eight days earlier. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

She has been told she can return to her home after repairs are done, but she doesn’t know exactly when that will be.

“Right now, what I need is not to be forgotten … we need to know when we’re going home,” she said.

Parking lot campers, according to Douglas, are technically within city limits and because people were told to leave town, their requests for help from the Merritt food bank and to the city to bring them some portable toilets have not been granted.

A Walmart parking lot near Merritt, where some evacuees, living in RVs, wait to hear when they can return home. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Douglas is on disability assistance and likely lost her mobilized scooter, which had been parked in her yard, to the raging river.

“What are they going to do to help us to get back on our feet?” she asked.

The city says it’s updating its evacuation plan on Thursday for people still out of their homes. It could be weeks until residents in the hardest hit areas are able to return.

Those who stayed behind

Tom Folks decided to take his chances and stay at his property, which was not directly affected by the floodwaters. 

“We’ve got a house and it’s not got water around it or in it. So we stayed. We had food and water enough to last for a while, so that’s why we decided to do that,” he said. 

Resident Tom Folks, seen here on Tuesday, decided to take his chances and stay at his property, which was not directly affected by the floodwaters. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Folks says there should have been more help from the authorities for the people who stayed behind, like access to bottled water and food. 

“When a flood like this happens, people get a little more stressed out and people should be helping each other and getting some food and water to help these people that stayed behind,” he said. 

“I know that people make the rules and orders for people to go but we decided to stay and I’m glad we did.”

More information about the city’s return plan can be found on the city’s website

19Nov

Mask exemptions don’t allow shoppers to ‘simply do what they please,’ B.C. tribunal says | CBC News

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Two new decisions from a B.C. tribunal have made it clear that store policies requiring masks for in-store shopping do not violate human rights law.

Both decisions outline how face-covering policies implemented by some businesses are justified if they’re adopted in good faith to protect staff and customers from COVID-19, and reasonable alternatives like curbside pickup are available.

In a decision dismissing a complaint against Lululemon, B.C. Human Rights Tribunal chair Emily Ohler explained that while there may be legitimate medical reasons preventing someone from wearing a mask, that doesn’t mean they can “simply do what they please” in a store that requires face coverings. 

That complaint was filed by Yvonne Coelho, who has been an active member of the movement against COVID-related restrictions in Vancouver and who filmed her confrontation with Lululemon staff in November 2020.

“The fact that Ms. Coelho said that she could not wear a mask did not give her an ‘exemption’ from the mask policy that allowed her to simply disregard it and enjoy unfettered, maskless physical access to Lululemon’s stores, which is what she appeared to assert in the video,” Ohler wrote on Wednesday.

“Rather, it obliged Lululemon to reasonably accommodate her to the point of undue hardship to mitigate any disability‐related impact on her.”

In this case, Coelho was told she could shop online or outside of the store, the decision says. She refused and left, saying she preferred browsing in-store.

“This alone would support a finding that Ms. Coelho herself thwarted the accommodation process in all the circumstances,” Ohler wrote.

This week’s decisions are part of a flood of human rights complaints about mask and vaccine rules that have overwhelmed tribunal staff for more than a year. 

Ohler told CBC News earlier this fall that the tribunal is on track to be inundated with triple the number of complaints it’s designed to handle in a year. She explained at the time that many of those complaints are rooted in “a misunderstanding of what discrimination is.”

‘I will pass out and smash my head on your damn floor’

Both Coelho’s complaint and one filed by Karleigh‐Laurel Ratchford against Creatures Pet Store in Victoria involve businesses that implemented their own mask policies before face coverings were mandated by provincial health officials. Both allege discrimination on the basis of disability.

Coelho provided the tribunal with a note from her naturopath that says she has a “medical condition that enhances her stress response and leads to an increased risk of panic attack,” while Ratchford said she has asthma, but did not provide any proof.

In Ratchford’s case, when she visited the pet store in August 2020, staff offered her a $5-face shield as an alternative to a mask if she wanted to enter the store, the decision says.

The human rights tribunal says online shopping and curbside pickup are reasonable accommodations for people who can’t wear masks for legitimate health reasons. (Chris Delmas/AFP/Getty Images)

She refused, and store employees told the tribunal she raised her voice, said they were breaking the law, and explained that she was a friend of the owner and they would be fired.

After the store owner emailed Ratchford to explain that she could use curbside pickup if she couldn’t wear a mask, Ratchford replied to say the mask policy was against “human rights law” and that masks are ineffective but “you go ahead and live in your irrational psychotic fears fuelled by media bullshit.”

In that reply, quoted in the tribunal’s decision, she wrote, “I’ll explain this slowly. If I wear a mask, I will be short of breath within 30 seconds, dizzy within a minute, and I will pass out and smash my head on your damn floor where you’ll then be sued tens of thousands of dollars for forcing me to jeopardize my health.”

In dismissing both Coelho and Ratchford’s complaints, Ohler wrote that there was no reasonable chance of success, and the stores appeared certain to prove they had taken steps to accommodate shoppers who couldn’t wear masks.

In recent months, the tribunal has posted a number of “screening decisions” about rejected mask and vaccine cases, in an effort to educate the public about what constitutes a valid complaint. The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal’s website has also been updated with information about how to determine if a mask or vaccine-related beef warrants a human rights complaint.

12Nov

TransLink reveals prototype for new SkyTrain cars | CBC News

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TransLink revealed a mockup of the redesigned interior for the next generation of SkyTrain cars, the Bombardier Mark V. 

Last year, Bombardier Transportation signed a $721 million deal with TransLink to provide 205 new rail cars for the Vancouver SkyTrain network, with options to include up to an additional 400 rail cars.

The mockup, which includes leaning pads, bike storage tools and new accessibility features, is being used to help TransLink make final decisions on the design.

The Mark V will look similar to the Mark III rail cars, with a few changes. Passenger display screens have been added to provide information, such as wayfinding details and transit alerts if routes have changed, according to TransLink spokesperon Tina Lovgreen. 

Translink spokesperson Tina Lovgreen shows off the new interior features of the Mark V, including passenger display screens. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

New indicator light strips, placed above doors, will signal to passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing when doors open and close. 

The new cars will also feature primarily forward-facing seating, and include more flex space for people using mobility devices, strollers and bicycles. 

Other design features being explored are bike storage options, including a slide-in rack or bike straps attached to the wall.

The new rail cars will feature more flex space with leaning pads and bike storage tools. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

According to Lovgreen, the first of these trains will arrive in 2023, with the complete new fleet arriving by 2027. 

She says the new trains will replace some of the aging Mark I trains and will support new projects, including the Broadway Subway Project.

7Nov

Young stroke survivor shares story in hopes of helping others | CBC News

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Ten years after suffering a stroke, Angela Wright is proving that it’s possible to have a full and active life as she helps other young stroke survivors move forward. 

Wright was 38 years old when she woke up with a terrible headache while on a fishing trip with friends. 

“I honestly thought, we were up late around the campfire, probably a bottle or two passed around, this is just a hangover,” she told CBC News.

Wright, now 48, had suffered a minor stroke, which is not uncommon for people under the age of 60. 

Young stroke patients

The Heart and Stroke Foundation says each year in Canada, 62,000 strokes occur, with 20 per cent of those happening to people under the age of 60.

Strokes are a leading cause of death in Canada and a major cause of disability. And that was what Wright was facing when her situation worsened while being transferred to Vancouver General Hospital for treatment.

She suffered a brain hemorrhage.

“Instead of just dealing with probably a fairly minor stroke, what they were dealing with now was emergency brain surgery and a massive brain hemorrhage.”

100 days in hospital

Wright spent more than 100 days in hospital and doctors were not optimistic about her recovery.

“There was a doctor there that was talking to my mom and step-dad saying, ‘You guys need to figure this out, things are different now,'” she said.

“‘Your daughter is never going to walk again, she’ll never live independently, and she’ll never hold down a job.'”

Over the past 10 years Wright has fought against that prognosis, re-learning how to walk and eventually travelling the world. 

Part of her struggle though, she said, was finding peer support and programs to help her. The majority of stroke survivors are older patients and she said many resources are geared toward them.

She helped develop a program to help others in her situation called Young Stroke Survivors Learn, Engage and Achieve Potential, which has been adopted by the Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia.

It includes services and resources to address the specific priorities for working-age stroke survivors so they can learn, adapt, and set goals for active and connected lives.

Wright is also hopeful about medical advances like those being developed by stroke neurologist Dr. Jaskiran Brar at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

“I’m always looking at why the stroke happens so I can prevent it,” Brar said.

Brar is testing a technology that monitors patients hearts for years at a time in order to prevent second strokes in people like Wright. 

“Once you’ve had one stroke, you really don’t want to have a second stroke, because recovery from a second stroke might not be as great as your first stroke,” she said.

Wright says she will continue to advocate for more treatment options like these for young stroke patients.

In the meantime, she says helping others has played a role in her own recovery.

“It’s been strangely and ironically cathartic to help other people that are going through it.”

1Nov

Criminal charges against 2 RCMP officers over Prince George arrest stayed | CBC News

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Criminal charges against two Prince George RCMP officers have been stayed by the prosecution, after the trial had already started.

Constables Wayne Connell and Kyle Sharpe were charged with assault causing bodily harm, more than four years after a violent arrest in a back alley in Prince George.

The 2016 police incident involved two men in a stolen truck who RCMP said were evading arrest. The takedown was captured by a backyard security camera.

Late last month, the officers went on trial in Prince George.

A spokesperson for the B.C. Prosecution Service said the decision to stay the charges was made “after the trial commenced.”

“After reviewing the evidence and all other available evidence, the prosecutor … concluded the charge approval standard could no longer be met,” Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel for the B.C. Prosecution Service told CBC News in an email. 

McLaughlin said the Crown must assess whether there is a substantial likelihood of conviction and whether the public interest requires a prosecution, based on factors such as material evidence and the reliability of admissible evidence.

“In this case, the prosecutor concluded the test was no longer met and that a stay of proceedings was appropriate.”

If new evidence surfaces, a prosecution that has been stayed may be restarted within one year.

A third RCMP officer involved in the 2016 arrest is currently on trial in Prince George.

Const. Joshua Grafton is charged with assault, assault with a weapon, and obstruction of justice. 

31Oct

4 young activists share their unique approach to climate action in CBC project | CBC News

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Our planet is changing. So is our journalism. This story is part of a CBC News initiative entitled Our Changing Planet to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about it.


Members of a youth-led organization dedicated to fighting climate change shared ways to be more proactive about the climate in a series of new episodes on the CBC’s Creator Network, a platform dedicated to amplifying unique perspectives. 

Sustainabliteens’ Katie Ly, Naisha Khan, Naomi Leung and Tavie Johnson each co-wrote and co-produced their own episode, which features their respective approaches to climate activism.

The non-profit is comprised of high school students fighting for climate justice across Metro Vancouver. In 2019, they organized the Vancouver climate protest, attended by thousands. 

  • Have questions about COP26 or climate science, policy or politics? Email us: ask@cbc.ca. Your input helps inform our coverage.

Katie Ly on holding policy-makers accountable

Katie Ly discusses coordinating Sustainabiliteens through social media

Ly explains how the Sustainabiliteens participated in getting Vancouver City Council to pass the climate emergency action plan. 4:13

Katie Ly, social media coordinator for Sustainabiliteens, says she wants to hold decision-makers accountable. 

After the city of Vancouver acknowledged a climate emergency in 2019, Ly says she wanted to put pressure on elected officials to put action behind the declaration. 

In November 2020, Ly and her peers reached out to city councillors to discuss climate action. They also organized a demonstration in front of city hall, where they later spoke during the vote on the Climate Action Emergency Plan.

“We are a force to be reckoned with,” Ly said.

According to Ly, there is a place in climate action for everybody, and there are many different ways to get involved. 

“It doesn’t have to be protesting or advocating. It can be as simple as having a conversation about climate.”

Naisha Khan on climate action and intersectionality

Naisha Khan talks climate action and inclusion

Khan says the key to greater engagement in climate change is to foster a more inclusive movement. 5:26

Naisha Khan is combining her passions for climate action and racial justice, and says it’s important to approach the climate movement with an intersectional lens — a framework that considers how different aspects of a person’s identity, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status or disability — can cause compounded discrimination. 

“I feel like a resource, or a prop, often asked to speak up about any race-related issue … because I am just automatically categorized as this non-white organizer,” said Khan.

She says while the climate movement has always focused on saving the environment from the effects of climate change, “it has failed to protect the racialized communities affected by the same environmental degradation.”

Khan says the key to feeling safe and heard within the climate movement is through fostering an understanding of intersectionality and uplifting marginalized voices.

“This crisis did not just occur, and its impacts will not occur equally.” 

Naomi Leung on climate education in Canada

Naomi Leung looks at climate education in Canada

Leung spoke to Dr. Ellen Field at Lakehead University, whose research found that 86% of Canadians believe they need more information on climate change. 5:42

Education is at the core of addressing climate change for Naomi Leung.

For her episode, Leung spoke with Ellen Field, assistant professor at Lakehead University, who conducted a survey on climate change education in 2018. 

Field’s study found that Canadians think they are significantly more informed on the science around climate change than they actually are, with 43 per cent of participants failing a brief knowledge test.

The study also found that 86 per cent of Canadians agree they need more information on climate change.

“We deserve to feel informed, engaged, and empowered through education,” said Leung. 

Leung is also involved in Climate Education Reform B.C., another student-led movement that advocates for climate education, including its inequitable impacts, to be woven into all subjects in school.

“What if our educational system taught us about the collective power we have to face the biggest crises of our time?” 

Tavie Johnson on integrating climate action to her career

Tavie Johnson learns how climate activism can fit into a career

Johnson talks to medical professional Rashmi Chandha to learn how she can adapt her career to mitigating the effects of the climate crisis. 4:45

Tavie Johnson says she plans to pursue a career in health care, and is enrolled in a life sciences degree at the University of Toronto this year. She says she hopes climate action can be integrated to her career path. 

“Fighting for climate justice doesn’t mean giving up pursuing your passions … if we are going to create a green economy, every occupation will have to be re-imagined from a sustainability and equity lens,” said Johnson. 

In her episode, Johnson spoke with Dr. Rashmi Chadha, a doctor with West Coast Doctors for Planetary Health, who has found several ways to engage in climate action inside and outside of her work as a health-care professional. 

“Know that you will be able to do your climate advocacy work within whatever profession or discipline you chose,” said Chadha. 

30Oct

New disaster preparedness app coming for Vancouver Island communities | CBC News

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When disaster strikes, minutes can make the difference for people trying to get out of harm’s way.

A new app created by researchers at the University of British Columbia aims to reduce time spent scrambling to get organized by helping households create custom emergency response plans.

The Canadian Hazards Emergency Response and Preparedness (CHERP) app is set to launch in November and will be piloted in a handful of Vancouver Island communities including Tahsis, Tofino, Nanaimo, Oak Bay, Parksville and Qualicum Beach.

After downloading the app to a mobile device, users will be able to input details about their home and who lives there, including pets, and the app will help people create detailed, personalized plans to put into action in the case of a flood, earthquake, tsunami or other major incident.

“You name it, we go through that information and adjust those plans in the app on the fly, protecting your privacy, so that that information is customized to your individual household,” said Ryan Reynolds, a postdoctoral research fellow in the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning, whose team created CHERP.

Reynolds, speaking to Gregor Craigie, host of CBC’s On The Island, said he got the idea after speaking with people in Port Alberni, B.C., following a tsunami warning there in 2018.

He said at least 10 per cent of residents in that community were unsure if they lived in the tsunami zone and another eight per cent thought they did when they were actually not at risk.

Reynolds said it was concerning to him to see such confusion.

Now, people who use CHERP will be able to see if their house is in fact within a tsunami zone. This, he said, is critical because if people who are not at risk evacuate it can cause traffic congestion that could trap people who do need to flee.

The more information you input into the app, the more detailed the plans can be. Considerations can include whether someone menstruates, has anxiety, accessibility issues, is part of the LGBTQ+ community, is hard of hearing, or is a refugee or in Canada on a temporary visa.

Reynolds said the app is in its final development stages and his team has partnered with local governments and regional districts who, he says, will help get the word out in the coming weeks when the app will be publicly available.

He suggests people living in the above mentioned communities look to local government social media platforms for announcements on when they can download CHERP.

On The Island9:14Are you in the inundation zone if a tsunami reaches our west coast communities? We’ll speak with a UBC scientist who will be piloting a new app to provide personalized information on your household risk

Gregor Craigie spoke with Ryan P Reynolds, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning. Reynolds team has created the Canadian Hazards Emergency Response and Preparedness Mobile App (CHERP) app, which will be piloted in seven communities on Vancouver Island starting next month. ___________ 9:14

26Oct

Here are the 4 ministers from B.C. in Trudeau’s overhauled cabinet | CBC News

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a major overhaul to his cabinet on Tuesday, making significant changes to senior portfolios and adding new faces to key seats at the table.

Gov. Gen. Mary May Simon oversaw the swearing-in ceremony earlier in the day at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Including Trudeau, the new cabinet is comprised of 39 ministers — four of whom are from B.C.

All of the B.C.-based cabinet ministers were elected in Metro Vancouver ridings, and two are representing areas of Vancouver itself.

Joyce Murray

Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Joyce Murray (right) arrives at the cabinet swearing-in ceremony. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray is replacing Bernadette Jordan in this role.

Jordan lost her bid for re-election in the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore–St. Margarets in September.

Murray was first elected to her Vancouver riding in 2008. She previously served as minister of digital government.

Carla Qualtrough

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

Carla Qualtrough arrives at the cabinet swearing-in ceremony. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Delta MP Carla Qualtrough is one of only 10 ministers retaining her role from Trudeau’s previous cabinet.

Qualtrough has held a variety of positions in cabinet since her first election in 2015. She has overseen portfolios for accessibility, public services, sport and people with disabilities. 

Harjit Sajjan

Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada

Harjit Sajjan and family members arrive at the cabinet swearing-in ceremony. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Vancouver South MP Harjit Sajjan has been moved from the defence portfolio to take up a new position in international development.

Sajjan, who was first elected in 2015, has been heavily criticized for his handling of sexual misconduct allegations in Canada’s military.

Former procurement minister Anita Anand is taking over as the new Minister of Defence, becoming only the second woman in Canadian history to hold the role.

Jonathan Wilkinson

Minister of Natural Resources

Jonathan Wilkinson arrives at the cabinet swearing-in ceremony. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson is moving on from his job as environment minister to oversee natural resources. Quebec’s Steven Guilbeault will replace Wilkinson on the environment file.

Like Sajjan, Wilkinson has served in the House of Commons since 2015.

In a post on Tuesday, Wilkinson said it had been “an honour to be at the heart of developing Canada’s strengthened climate plan” and said he looked forward to the “challenge and opportunity” of implementing those policies in his new position.

24Oct

As Calgary votes for fluoride, some in B.C. have hope for ‘rotten tooth capital of Canada’ | CBC News

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After a year that saw both Regina and Calgary voting to add fluoride to their drinking water, some British Columbians are wondering whether it’s time for cities in the province to finally consider fluoridation.

About two-thirds of Calgarians who voted in Monday’s plebiscite supported the fluoride measure — hopeful news for Dr. Mario Brondani, an associate professor of dentistry at the University of British Columbia and a self-described “passionate advocate for fluoride.”

“I think it’s time that we perhaps could have this conversation again,” he told CBC News.

The Calgary fluoride vote is part of a recent trend. Regina’s city council made the same decision this summer, and fluoride is expected to return to the Ontario city of Windsor’s water this fall.

Fluoride has never been added to Metro Vancouver’s drinking water. In fact, Health Canada estimated that 98 per cent of British Columbians lived in communities without fluoridated water as of 2017.

That’s despite decades of research showing that fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, making it more resistant to the acid that causes cavities, and carries little risk to people’s health, Brondani said.

For Brondani, it’s not just an issue of oral health — it’s also about equity in a country where dental care is expensive and very little of it is covered by the public health system.

While many people in B.C. are able to access coverage for dental care through the insurance provided by their employers, those who depend on income or disability assistance are afforded just $1,000 of coverage every two years, even though they tend to have the greatest need for dental care, Brondani said.

“People might say that in Vancouver or in Canada, caries [or cavities] are not that prevalent in our children,” he said.

“Well guess what? It is not prevalent in affluent neighbourhoods or affluent families, but it is very prevalent in those that do not have access to care.”

A report from the Urban Public Health Network suggests the rate of dental surgery was 60 per cent lower for children in Canada’s richest neighbourhoods from 2011 to 2015.

Tooth decay linked to other health problems

Those sentiments are shared by Joan Rush, chair of the advocacy committee at the Canadian Society for Disability and Oral Health.

She said dentists in B.C. aren’t required to train in treating patients with disabilities and complex medical conditions, which makes it difficult to access appropriate care. 

Meanwhile, people living in rural, remote and Indigenous communities often don’t have reliable access to any dentists at all, resulting in higher rates of decay and tooth loss.

“The most common reason for day surgery among children in British Columbia is dental surgery, because again, we don’t fluoridate our water and kids develop cavities,” Rush added.

Rush also points out that dental decay can lead to other problems — it’s associated with a higher risk of heart disease and can lead to serious infections.

Tooth decay has been linked to heart disease and infection. (Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images)

A study released earlier this year on the effect of removing fluoride from Calgary’s water in 2011 showed that seven years after that move, Grade 2 students in the city were significantly more likely to have cavities than children in Edmonton, where the water remained fluoridated.

When Brantford, Ont., became the first city in Canada to fluoridate its water in 1945, there was a 54 per cent drop in tooth decay among eight-year-olds, according to the Canadian Public Health Association.

‘Rotten tooth capital of Canada’

Fluoridation is part of a long-running debate for the Vancouver area. The city held a plebiscite in 1968, and while just over half of voters supported fluoridation, it was not enough to see the measure enacted.

In a 1976 CBC Radio report on the issue, then-medical health officer Dr. Gerald Bonham described Vancouver as the “rotten tooth capital of Canada.”

Some of the candidates in that year’s civic election were running on explicitly anti-fluoride platforms, and members of the Stop the Fluoridation Committee told CBC that fluoride advocates were trying to poison the public as part of a shadowy conspiracy that somehow involved the mining firm Alcan.

Back then, opponents of fluoridation were raising concerns about cancer, but numerous studies have failed to support a link. Today the arguments are more likely to focus on discomfort about additional chemicals in drinking water.

Brondani said that while it’s possible for fluoride to be toxic to humans, the same could be said of any chemical — including water itself.

He explained that the recommended concentration of fluoride in public drinking water is about 0.7 milligrams per liter. Fluoride becomes toxic to humans at a concentration of about 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

“You would have to drink thousands of gallons of water a day,” he said.

‘A lack of active support’ from public officials

Inder Singh, the director of interagency projects and quality control for Metro Vancouver’s water services, confirmed there is a “a preference to minimize the use of chemicals in the water treatment processes” as well as “a lack of active support for fluoridation from health authorities, elected officials and the public.”

In a written statement emailed to CBC News, he said fluoridation hasn’t been recommended for Metro Vancouver to date because it’s not required to meet water quality standards and updating water treatment systems would entail additional costs.

Rush still believes change is possible, if officials like Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry get on board.

“If it was promoted by that office and adopted by the minister of health, the premier, I think that we could really go some distance,” she said.

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