Posts Tagged "BCTV news"

8Sep

Allow vaccine passport exemptions or face legal challenge, group warns B.C. government

by admin

VANCOUVER —
A Calgary-based legal foundation has threatened to take the B.C. government to court if officials refuse to allow medical and religious exemptions to the province’s COVID-19 vaccine passport system.

The Canadian Constitution Foundation, which previously supported a failed legal challenge of the province’s public health-care system, announced this week that it’s preparing litigation on behalf of individuals who will be temporarily excluded from non-essential activities such as dining in restaurants and going to the gym when the passport system takes effect later this month.

In an open letter sent to B.C. Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Attorney General David Eby on Tuesday, the group described the impact the system will have on unvaccinated individuals as “unwarranted and extreme.”

“The vaccine passport policy prevents people who are unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons or reasons of religion or conscience from participating in public life,” it reads. “A failure to create an exemption or accommodation for these individuals is a violation of their Section 15 Charter-protected right not to be discriminated against on the basis of disability or religion.”

The foundation, which is a registered charity in Canada and named as a partner of the U.S.-based Atlas Network, which supports hundreds of right-leaning think tanks around the world, also suggested the government should exempt everyone with a non-religious but “sincerely held” belief that prevents them from getting the vaccine.

It’s unclear how a passport system would function if those individuals were to exempted as well.

Christine Van Geyn, the group’s litigation director, told CTV News the foundation hasn’t decided what relief it will be seeking from the courts, and might request that the passport system be struck down entirely.

If the litigation does go forward, she said the CCF will likely be focusing on medical exemptions.

“Our preference is not to litigate. We would like to see the government make accommodations to people,” Van Geyn added, pointing to medical exemptions already being promised in other provinces. “If Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia can do it, why can’t B.C.?”

B.C. health officials have previously said there will be no exemptions to the proof-of-vaccination requirement, which is being phased in on Sept. 13 and expected to remain in place until the end of January. Officials hope that COVID-19 transmission, which surged over the summer as the highly contagious Delta variant spread across Canada, will be under control by then.

“This is a temporary measure that’s getting us through a risky period where we know people who are unvaccinated are at a greater risk, both of contracting and spreading this virus,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last month.

“Those rare people who have a medical reason why they can’t be immunized … they will not be able to attend those events during this period.”

While unveiling the details of the government’s plan on Tuesday, Henry stressed that grocery stores and essential services will remain available to everyone who hasn’t been vaccinated for any reason.

She also noted there will be some options for those who are temporarily impacted, such as ordering takeout from restaurants instead of dining in.

26Aug

B.C.’s vaccine passport will ‘ostracize’ people who can’t get the shot, says lawyer

by admin

VANCOUVER —
When the province announced B.C.’s new COVID-19 vaccine passport, Leigh Eliason was stunned.

“I’m sad. I’m sad for what this has become,” she said.

The 41-year-old Maple Ridge woman has complex health issues, including an autoimmune disease called neuro vestibular dysfunction. At its worst, she says, the illness left her bedridden for more than a year.

She’s doing much better now but says with no vaccine studies on people with her condition, she’s worried getting the COVID-19 shot could trigger severe symptoms.

“I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I’m pro-body autonomy and my choice for myself is I’m not comfortable,” she said.

Beginning Sept. 13, proof of vaccination will be required to go to restaurants, gyms, concerts and other ticketed events. There are no exceptions.

“These new measures will help reduce transmission and keep our communities safer,” Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer said on Monday.

But for Eliason, the changes mean she won’t be able to watch her daughter on stage.

“I’m devastated I’m going to miss seeing my daughter perform,” she said.

Human rights lawyers say they are hearing from many people who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons.

“The people that we’re hearing from at the Human Rights Clinic are people with allergies to components of the vaccine, maybe people who received a first dose and had a reaction to the shot and have been advised by their doctor not to get the second shot,” says Vancouver lawyer Laura Track.

Track says she expects the passport mandate to be challenged in court.

“Our human rights laws in Canada protect people from discrimination on the basis of both disability and religious grounds,” she said.

Her concerns are echoed by lawyer Christine Van Geyn of the Canadian Constitution Foundation.

“People who wish they could be vaccinated but can’t be are now sort of ostracized from society and I think that poses a very big constitutional problem,” Van Geyn said.

“There are reasons people can’t be vaccinated. They are rare but in a province the size of British Columbia, that amounts to a lot of people,” she explained.

Van Geyn says the province needs to create accommodations in the vaccine passport program for people who can’t be vaccinated because of a disability.

Eliason also hopes health officials will make exemptions.

“We’re losing empathy for one another. Everybody’s so angry,” said Eliason. “It’s going to cause a lot of division where we already have so much division.”

She says her daughters are both vaccinated but understand their mom’s decision.

25Aug

‘Significant’ increase in vaccine registrations and bookings over past 2 days: province

by admin

VANCOUVER —
The B.C. government says there has been a significant increase in vaccine registrations and bookings for first doses over the past two days, especially among those under age 40.

The surge comes the same week B.C.’s vaccine card program was announced. The program is set to take effect next month.

The government said proof of vaccination will be required for access to a variety of non-essential activities and events, including restaurant dining; going to a movie theatre, casino, or nightclub; working out at a gym or fitness centre; and attending indoor ticketed sporting events and concerts, as well as organized indoor weddings, parties, conferences, meetings, and workshops.

Proof of a first vaccine dose will be required by Sept. 13, and proof of full vaccination (seven days after the second dose) will be required by Oct. 24.

The province announced the program Monday, and said over the past two days, 12,904 people under 40 years old have registered for a vaccine, compared to 4,161 during the same period last week.

On Monday, there were 8,909 new registrations, a 174.8 per cent jump over last Monday.

The day following the vaccine card announcement, there were 10,175 new registrations, a 201.3 per cent increase over last Tuesday.

SFU health sciences professor Scott Lear said a similar response has been seen in other jurisdictions that have implemented vaccine passport systems.

“Probably earliest on in France, when they implemented it country-wide,” he said. “They saw their uptake in vaccination, first shots go up in the millions.”

He noted Quebec, which will also be introducing a vaccine passport next month, saw a jump as well.

“They reported after announcing it was going to go in place … that first shots doubled in the first 24 hours as compared to the 24 hours before,” he said. “The majority of people who aren’t vaccinated, they don’t hold strong vaccine-resistant views. A lot of them, it’s complacency and convenience.”

Lear said the vaccine card provides the type of “nudge” and a further incentive to get people vaccinated.

“We live in a society where we do have individual rights, but we also have rights of others,” he said. “And that’s kind of our social contract, in that yes, we can live a certain way, as long as it doesn’t infringe or harm others. And in this case, there’s a possibility of transmitting the virus. That’s a harm.”

Lear said it’s comparable to tobacco regulation, and wearing seatbelts.

“If someone’s smoking beside you, there’s a potential harm to you inhaling that smoke,” he said. “We do at times have to put limits to certain behaviours so that the greater population can function and be safe.”

He said he’d also like to see the proof of vaccination requirement extended to post-secondary classrooms. Right now, it will apply to student housing and other on-campus locations such as gyms and pubs.

“I’ve heard the public health officer say that vaccines shouldn’t stand in the way of education, and that tried to make it an equity type of argument,” he said. “Unless the province is not distributing vaccines to everybody, there’s no equity argument.”

He added there already are other barriers to higher education, including financing and accessibility.

VACCINE CARD FOR TRAVELLERS

The vaccine proof requirement will also apply to tourists visiting B.C. According to the province, those from within Canada must supply a vaccine record that’s “officially recognized” by their home province or territory, along with government ID. International visitors can display the proof they used to enter Canada, and their passport.

Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia chair Vivek Sharma said the group has been advocating for some kind of proof that people can produce for easing travel.

“So we’re completely behind this,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

However, because not every province has a vaccine passport system, there are still questions about the different kinds of documentation.

“Clarity around how our inter-provincial guests will produce the proof, that’s the clarity that I think more businesses are looking for sooner than later,” Sharma said. “Yes, there’ll be some pinch points and some learning curves around it, but it’s a short-term pain for long-term gain.”

The province will be creating a website and a call centre so people can get their cards before Sept. 13.  

23Aug

No jab, no job? Experts weigh in on legality of vaccine mandates at private companies

by admin

VANCOUVER —
Once it was announced that vaccines will be mandatory for federal government employees, other levels of government and companies in the public and private sector followed suit.

Earlier this month, B.C. decided to make vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for workers in long-term care homes and assisted living facilities.

Canada’s largest banks said last week that they will also require employees working in their offices to be fully vaccinated.

Porter Airlines and financial conglomerate Sun Life made similar moves as well. Numerous municipal governments, universities and public services such as the Toronto Transit Commission have announced vaccine mandates in recent days.

But do employers have the right to impose such mandates? What if the employee is unwilling or unable to get vaccinated?

Employment lawyer Jon Pinkus told CTV News that until the federal or provincial government passes a law, many employers will likely be dealing with a high volume of disputes from employees.

“Employers are not obligated by law to have their employees vaccinated,” said Pinkus, a partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

“I would have thought there would have been laws passed by now. We are seeing some signals from the federal government and some companies that it will be mandatory, but we haven’t seen a law requiring vaccinations,” he added.

Pinkus said refusing a vaccine is unlikely to be cause for termination. If it gets to that point, it will be a risky move for businesses.

“There is certainly going to be a wrongful dismissal liability if they don’t pay severance, and there is also going to be some human rights exposure for doing that,” said Pinkus.

“Mandatory vaccinations sound really simple. It sounds like no jab, no job. Unfortunately, it’s not really that simple. It’s something employers will have to consider very carefully before rolling it out,” said Sara Forte with Forte Law.

Most larger companies that have it made vaccinations mandatory like Canada’s big banks have only made it a requirement for those returning to the office.

Forte said B.C.’s Human Rights Code would protect anyone who is physically unable to get immunized due to medical reason or religious beliefs.

“Our Human Rights Code here in B.C., which is what regulates most employers and employees in B.C., protects people on disability and people’s religious beliefs so that is already in place,” Forte explained.

“If you were to fire someone who was unable to get vaccinated, you’re looking at a human rights issue and that employee could take the case to the Human Rights Tribunal,” said Forte.

Employees who are unable to get the vaccine should have a right to accommodation, added Pinkus.

“It’s going to be very difficult for an employer to say, well we can’t have you work from home, even though you’ve been doing this for the last 18 months,” said Pinkus.

Human resources expert Debby Carreau said those types of accommodations such as continuing to work from home or rapid testing should be discussed with your employer.

“Instead of assuming the worst and having a conflict with your employer, try to have a conversation,” said Carreau.

“Help them understand the barriers that you’re facing. It may not be you not wanting to get vaccinated, there may be some real implications for you.”

As more companies implement vaccine mandates, HR and legal experts are advising businesses to closely watch for any changes and like all things in this pandemic, be prepared to pivot.

20Aug

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal dismisses complaint from woman denied service for not wearing a mask

by admin

VANCOUVER —
B.C.’s Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint from a woman who argued that a jewelry store discriminated against her by refusing to serve her when she declined to put on a face mask.

The complainant, Shera Rael, was refused service at Cartwright Jewelers in New Westminster on July 31, 2020, according to the decision issued Thursday by tribunal member Paul Singh.

In the decision, Singh writes that he had limited information on the complaint because Rael did not respond to the store’s application to dismiss it and “provided only minimal information in her complaint form.” 

On the form, Rael claimed she has a disability, which she described as “breathing issues and cannot wear a mask,” according to Singh’s decision.

Asked on the form how the alleged discrimination related to her disability, Rael wrote: “My human rights were denied. Mask wearing is not a law.”

In response to the complaint, the jewelry store’s owner Susan Cartwright-Coates acknowledged denying service to Rael, saying the store had implemented a mandatory mask policy to comply with public health orders and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The respondents acknowledge that people with disabilities have the right to be accommodated, which may mean exempting them from the requirement to wear a mask or finding other ways to accommodate their disability‐related needs,” Singh writes in his decision. “However, they say that Ms. Rael at no time advised them that she had a disability or otherwise needed accommodation.”

B.C.’s Human Rights Code requires the complainant to demonstrate “alleged facts” that, if proven to be true, could constitute discrimination under the code, according to Singh’s decision.

The tribunal member concluded that Rael’s complaint does not meet this test because she did not provide enough information on the nature of her alleged disability or the harm that came from the alleged discrimination.

“Any claim of disability discrimination arising from a requirement to wear a mask must begin by the complainant establishing they have a disability and explaining why it interferes with their ability to wear the mask,” Singh writes. “Ms. Rael’s mere assertion of ‘breathing issues,’ without more, is insufficient to establish a disability under the Code.”

Singh adds that, without telling the store that her reason for declining to wear a mask was disability-related, Rael couldn’t reasonably claim that the store should have accommodated her.

“While complainants are not required, for valid privacy reasons, to divulge detailed particulars of their disability when seeking accommodation, they should, at a minimum, inform a service provider that they require some form of disability‐related accommodation to trigger a service provider’s duty to accommodate,” Singh writes. 

17Aug

Vancouver’s airport ranked best in North America by customer surveys

by admin

VANCOUVER —
The Vancouver International Airport has been ranked as the best airport in North America.

The 2021 World Airport Award ranking, by Skytrax, came thanks to customer survey ratings.

The awards “are regarded as a quality benchmark for the world airport industry, assessing customer service and facilities,” according to the Skytrax website.

Surveys were completed by those using the airport between August 2020 and July 2021.

YVR was also awarded a COVID-19 distinction award, along with several other airports.

“The survey evaluates traveller experiences across different … performance indicators – from check-in, arrivals, transfers, shopping, security and immigration through to departure at the gate,” continues the SkyTrax award details page.

The survey included questions about ease of transit to the terminal, security wait times, luggage cart and taxi availability, staff friendliness, lounge availability and more.

This year’s survey also included questions related to COVID-19. Specifically, it asked about COVID-19 signage, enforcement of face masks, availability of hand sanitizer, enforcement of social distancing, and washroom cleanliness, among others.

Airports do not pay to be involved in the evaluation or award process, according to Skytrax, which first started giving out the awards in 1999. 

6Aug

Surrey park facilities among runners-up in Canada-wide contest for best bathroom

by admin

VANCOUVER —
It didn’t place first, but a Surrey, B.C., restroom was among the top five in Canada in an annual contest.

Users of public loos were asked to nominate the best places to “go” in their hometowns, and a design made for City of Surrey parks was among the nominees that made the short list.

The design, which was described in a news release by contest organizer Cintas Canada, Ltd., as playful, durable and safe, was one of five options for voters across Canada.

“The washroom was designed to be universally accessible, hands-free with no-touch fixtures and configured for solar power,” Cintas, a provider of services and products that include restroom supplies, wrote in a news release in June.

“It also features public art panels on all four sides of the structure. The design employs a distinct form, strong colours and unique use of materials.”

But the Surrey park design lost to Borden Park in Edmonton. The winning facilities feature wood, glass and concrete, and have hands-free elements meant to reduce the spread of germs.

Others in the top five this year were: Sweet Market Esso Station in Red Deer, Alta.; the Toronto Zoo; and The Rooftop in Calgary.

B.C. bathrooms have often made the shortlist in the contest, including in 2019 when Vancouver’s Laurence and Chico Café and Bauhaus Restaurant were on the list.

Also in Vancouver, Anh and Chi was in the top five in 2018.

The Vancouver International Airport bathrooms made the list in 2014, and the year before that, Vancouver’s Steamworks Brew Pub and Richmond’s Chop Steakhouse were in the top five.

But a West Coast washroom has not held the top title since 2021, when Victoria’s Langley Street Loo resonated with voters.

The title was also claimed by the Byrne Road location of Cactus Club Café in Burnaby in 2010.

4Aug

B.C. rejects calls for individualized air quality supports for people with disabilities and those at risk from wildfire smoke

by admin

VANCOUVER —
Though there is widespread consensus that wildfire smoke has become an annual health issue for thousands of high-risk British Columbians, the provincial government is rejecting calls for individualized air quality measures and defending its one-size-fits-all approach.

CTV News Vancouver has spoken with several people with disabilities and the BC Lung Association, who all agree that the long-term issue of poor air quality during annual wildfire smoke should prompt the province to consider air purifiers an essential health device for those with relevant health conditions.

“I would not be surprised to see more people with underlying conditions going to emergency rooms,” said Dr. Menn Biagtan of the BC Lung Association, noting that the thousands of British Columbians who’ve had COVID-19 are now included in that category.

“I think one of the lessons we’re going to learn from this wildfire season is that air purifiers (should be) available for those who really need it or cannot afford it. I would be in agreement with that, and that should be included in the plan.” 

Disability researcher and policy analyst Gabrielle Peters raised the issue with the province last year, penning a letter to several ministries and urging them to consider an extension to the BC Medical program.

“Disabled people are disproportionately likely to live below the poverty line and already facing extraordinary costs because of COVID-19,” she wrote last fall. “It is simply not possible to purchase air purifiers at this income level.” 

The Ministry of Health rejected the idea of providing air purifiers to individuals in its response to Peters, saying it was too complex and expensive to do so and that the government was focussed on community centres and shopping malls as centres where anyone could find relief during periods of poor air quality. The ministry reiterated this position when CTV News asked about the issue on Wednesday.

“Due to these unique individual considerations when purchasing a portable air purifier, the provincial government does not provide portable air purifiers to the public,” wrote ministry staffer, who said no interviews were possible on the issue.

“BC Housing has an Extreme Heat and Wildfire Smoke Response Protocol for social housing buildings managed by BC Housing, including the creation of cooling rooms, regular checks on tenants and providing tenants with information about how to stay cool and protect themselves from smoke.”

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND COMPLEX HEALTH ISSUES SPEAK UP

While the smoke from wildfires may be an unpleasant annoyance for many people, for others, the weeks of fine particulate matter in the air can have serious health consequences. 

“I get migraines and respiratory distress that triggers heart problems for me,” said Q, a disabled person in Chilliwack with a connective tissue disorder and COPD, among other complex health issues, which are aggravated by wildfire smoke.

“I am likely to faint if I do go outside; I have been hospitalized with wildfire smoke exposure.” 

For those living in the Okanagan, the impacts have been even more intense and long-running.

“I know so many disabled people who, like me, are reluctant to seek medical care unless it’s a crisis since we spend so much time and energy navigating the system,” wrote Kelowna resident Shaunna Muckersie, who has permanent lung damage after mistaking a serious cough in 2018 as wildfire-smoke-related, when she actually had a lung abscess and double pneumonia.

“I am very lucky in my living situation in that I have been able to acquire an air purifier to run in my bedroom,” added Muckersie. “I genuinely don’t know what I would do otherwise. The mall and library are not safe for me now because of COVID, and as my disability has gradually worsened, I have had difficulty driving at times.”

PREPARING FOR WILDFIRE SMOKE IN ADVANCE

The BC Lung Association includes wildfire smoke prominently in its “State of the Air” report, urging British Columbians to start preparing for issues before the smoke sets in. https://bc.lung.ca/wildfire-smoke-and-health

“Exposure to wildfire smoke is associated with a range of acute effects, particularly for those with respiratory diseases,” note the report’s authors. “Evidence of longer-term health effects is also starting to emerge.”

Biagtan reiterated the advice to stock up on medications, have a “clean air room” in each home and make sure that anyone investing in an air purifier gets the right size for the space they want to use it in. She also advocated using the DIY option the B.C. Centre for Disease Control is recommending for those in a budget. It costs just $60 in materials. 

“lf you’re planning to go out, look up the Air Quality Health Index,” she added. “If it’s high, stay indoors and seek clean air shelters. If your symptoms are worsening, consult your doctor or go to the emergency room.”

AN ECONOMIC AND HUMANITARIAN CASE FOR AIR QUALITY SUPPORTS

Peters would like to see wheelchair-accessible hotel rooms reserved for Interior Health residents to be able to escape the intense smoke near their homes, pointing out that unless the flames from a wildfire threaten someone’s home, they can be living in a fire zone for weeks with horrendous air quality and little escape if they don’t have the money or social connections to stay elsewhere.

She added that without access to air purifiers, high-risk people with compromised immune systems, cardiac conditions, various lung issues and physical disabilities can take up critical acute care resources.

“Research has shown emergency room visits and hospitalizations go up when there is wildfire smoke in the air,” wrote Peters. “We also know that (fine particulate matter) can cause both immediate acute symptoms and long term health effects.”

And while the argument that supplying air purifiers is more economical than a hospital stay doesn’t appear to be part of the government’s calculus, Q doesn’t think the government is taking into account the people who feel invisible in their health struggles, which are amplified each summer.

“The government has to rethink messaging and how we’re involved with these decisions,” Q said. “We really do get left on the sidelines. The greatest effects (from wildfire smoke) are against the people who are not cared for and not remembered by most of society.” 

2Aug

Afghan Kitchen restaurant in Surrey targeted with vandalism

by admin

VANCOUVER —
The owners of a popular restaurant in Surrey are reeling after they were targeted with yet another act of vandalism.

Early Saturday morning a man approached the restaurant patio of the Afghan Kitchen, and began smashing the establishment’s outdoor heaters – first by tipping them over and then repeatedly picking them up and dropping them.

“For those visiting us today and this coming week, please do excuse the mess and lack of heating on our patio,” reads a statement from the restaurant on social media.

“Otherwise, we’re lost for words.”

The vandal’s actions were caught on a security camera. He was wearing all black, with a baseball cap and white headphones around his neck. According to the restaurant he came around 6 a.m.

The Afghan Kitchen, located in South Surrey, is owned in part by the Sarwari family, who immigrated from Afghanistan to Canada, and features their family’s recipes.

At one point, in the video, he begins to leave, but then turns back to further destroy the patio heaters by bending them with his hands.

This is not the first time that the restaurant has been subject to seemingly random acts of vandalism. In the spring and summer of 2020, thieves targeted the patio and stole plants multiple times.

29Jul

17 ‘stranger attacks’ in just 2 weeks in Vancouver, police say, releasing video of an incident

by admin

VANCOUVER —
Officers are investigating an incident they say is just one of more than a dozen random assaults reported in Vancouver in the last few weeks.

Police said the incident was reported in the early morning hours of July 11, though the public was not notified until this week.

In a news release, the Vancouver Police Department said a man was walking home along Granville Street at about 3:30 a.m. that day when he was approached by a group of men.

Part of the incident was captured by a nearby security camera, according to the VPD, who released some of that video Thursday.

Police said the video shows a man pushed the victim down. Another helped the victim up, and the victim can be seen walking with the group toward a lane near Granville and Smithe Street.

The VPD said the victim was assaulted while in the lane, and his wallet was stolen.

And it does not appear to be an isolated incident.

According to VPD Const. Tania Visintin, “Stranger attacks have been prevalent in recent weeks throughout Vancouver and this is very concerning.”

The constable said there have been 17 “random assaults” reported across the city in the last two weeks alone.

Three suspects are all described as South Asian and in their early 20s.

The first is about 5’10” with short hair and “large ears,” the VPD said. At the time of the assault, he was wearing a white T-shirt, white pants and a green jacket, and carrying a black satchel across his chest.

Police described the second man as about 5’11” with a medium build and short dark hair. He was wearing a grey hooded sweater and black pants.

The third, according to police, is about 5’9″ with curly dark brown hair, and had on a white sweater and grey sweatpants the morning of July 11.

Police are seeking witnesses, as well as anyone who may recognize the men in the video.

“This happened around the time the bars closed on Granville Street. We know there were people still out and they may have seen what happened and can identify these men,” Visintin said.

“There is no excuse for anyone to get attacked for absolutely no reason.”

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