Posts Tagged "News"

28Jul

B.C. community sport organizations to receive $1.5 million to survive pandemic | CBC News

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Community sport organizations in British Columbia will share $1.5 million in provincial government funding to help them survive the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lisa Beare, B.C.’s minister of tourism, arts and culture, says the funding will help many of the province’s 4,100 local sports organizations facing financial hardship without their registration fees, event revenues and sponsorships.

Beare says the pandemic has been difficult for community swimming, gymnastics, baseball and other local sports that rely largely on volunteer support but also have fixed costs.

A Victoria-area baseball team accompanied Beare for her outdoor announcement on the front lawn of the B.C. legislature.

Beare says the funding will be provided to amateur organizations and does not apply to B.C.’s semi-professional hockey and soccer leagues, that are also facing financial difficulties in the pandemic.

Minister Lisa Beare says underrepresented populations are often disproportionately affected by a reduction in physical activity opportunities, as a result of COVID-19. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

She says the $1.5 million contribution is accompanied by federal Heritage Canada funding of $3.4 million to assist B.C.’s provincial, disability and multi-sport organizations.

“We have 4,100 various community organizations throughout the province, and it could be your local swim club or your local gymnastics team or community soccer club,” Beare said.

“These funds are going to be for the operational costs of the organizations so that they are able to keep their doors open.”

Despite the funding announcement, Beare says the province has no set date for when sports organizations will be allowed to start their seasons. That decision, she said, lies with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Lack of information, say sport organizations

While the financial assistance is more than welcomed, many in youth sport organizations in B.C. say they feel like they’ve been completely left in the dark by the province about what the future holds.

Jeff Clarke, technical director at Surrey United Soccer Club, says families and parents are desperate to know not just whether their kids can participate in youth sports in the future, but how it will look, and whether it can be done safely during a pandemic.

Unfortunately, Clarke says his team doesn’t have the answers, as they await instructions from the province that never seem to materialize.

“You’re just chasing your tails a little bit and trying to give people diplomatic answers, which only goes so far. Now, every day that ticks on, we’re getting closer to the season,” he said.

A soccer pitch sits empty amid COVID-19 lockdowns. (Colin Butler/CBC)

Pasquale Balletta with the Burnaby Soccer Association agrees that there’s been a lack of information provided from the government.

He says most sport organizations are planning three, six months, sometimes even a year, in advance — something that has become impossible in the current climate.

“It has been very stressful,” said Pasquale.

And both Pasquale and Clarke worry what kind of effect a prolonged absence from youth sports can have on young people.

“This is more than just the Surrey United Soccer program. This is about raising young individuals and giving them structure and [keeping] them away from temptation,” said Clarke. “This is worrisome for us on many levels.”

 

28Jul

Vancouver city councillor wants temporary restaurant, bar patios made permanent | CBC News

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A Vancouver city councillor wants to make the temporary patios that have popped up outside restaurants, cafes, bars and breweries during the COVID-19 pandemic a permanent fixture in the city every summer. 

Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung says she’s filed a draft motion to Vancouver city council asking staff to report back on the results of the city’s Temporary Expedited Patio Program, as well as options to have an annual seasonal patio program. 

“I think it’s something that people would like to see stick around,” Kirby-Yung said.

“We’ve unleashed an appetite for much more creative, people-focused use of our public space, and I’d like to see that continue.”

260 patios approved

The city started accepting applications for the temporary patios on June 1, after the provincial government decided to allow businesses like restaurants, cafés and breweries to apply to expand their service licenses.

The province recognized the need to help the hard hit restaurant industry recover from the pandemic. The wider service area was not meant to increase occupancy levels, but to allow for physical distancing. 

Local governments were tasked with approving the patio requests, and since then, more than 260 patios have popped up throughout Vancouver. 

Motion to be reviewed on Sept. 15 

In addition to the social aspects of more patios, Kirby-Yung said they have been a lifeline for the city’s struggling restaurant sector. 

“They said they just couldn’t have made the numbers work with the physical distancing requirements if they had been limited to their indoor spaces,” Kirby-Yung said.

“This is something that has honestly kept them going.”

Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said it makes “complete sense.”
 
“Business likes certainty and as a result they will be able to build patio sales into their business plan in the future,” Tostenson said.
 


 
As far as opposition goes, Kirby-Yung says she’s heard little pushback besides some accessibility concerns that have more to do with items like bicycles resting near the patios, which have to be taken down every day. 
 
The motion also proposes a review of the nine pop-up plazas across the city that provide commons-style gathering and eating spaces.

Kirby-Yung says the motion will be reviewed during a Sept. 15 meeting following the council’s summer break.

For now, people can enjoy Vancouver’s new patios until the end of October, when the current licenses expire. 

24Jul

Indigenous man sues RCMP in B.C., claiming ‘abusive’ use of police dog left him in ‘agony’ | CBC News

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A man from Kamloops, B.C., is suing an RCMP officer from Prince George after being attacked by a police dog during a violent arrest caught on surveillance video more than four years ago.

Cuyler Richard Aubichon, who is Indigenous, claims Const. Joshua Grafton and the RCMP were “reckless, arrogant, high-handed [and] abusive” with a “callous disregard” for Aubichon’s well-being when he was arrested in an alleyway on a snowy night in 2016.

“Grafton acted with complete and deliberate indifference towards the Plaintiff,” alleges a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Thursday.

Grafton, along with two other RCMP constables, were criminally charged last month in connection with Aubichon’s arrest in Prince George, B.C., on Feb. 18, 2016. 

None of Aubichon’s allegations has been proven. No response to the notice of claim has been filed.

Takedown caught on backyard camera

Video of Aubichon’s arrest was captured by a backyard security camera. It shows the truck he was in boxed in by police, flood-lit by headlights of an RCMP cruiser.

The video then appears to show a man pulled from the truck by RCMP working with a police dog. After the man exits the truck, the dog lunges at him. An officer then appears to strike the man while he is on the ground.

WATCH: The arrest in Prince George, B.C., was captured on surveillance footage

Two men are stomped and kicked after police pull them from an allegedly stolen truck. One suspect’s legal team seeks an investigation. 2:48

In his lawsuit, Aubichon claims Grafton “encouraged” the dog to bite his arm. It also alleges Grafton allowed the dog to continue biting him once he was face-down on the ground.

“Grafton encouraged the dog to continue biting the plaintiff, even though Grafton could hear the Plaintiff screaming in agony and begging Grafton to stop the dog,” the claim reads.

“Grafton’s conduct … was physically and psychologically abusive and repetitive in the extreme.” 

The notice said Grafton kicked Aubichon in the stomach and hit him with a police baton while he was laying on the ground, “semi-conscious.”

Aubichon, then 22, claims to have suffered injuries to his face, leg, ribs, sternum, hand and the back of his head.

Aubichon claimed RCMP did not offer him medical assistance after taking him back to the RCMP detachment in Prince George. He said the incident caused physical, emotional and psychological trauma and left him “humiliated.”

Police have previously said the case involved two suspects who were evading arrest in a stolen truck.

The same day the video was made public, the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. sent investigators to Prince George, at the request of the RCMP. 

Const. Joshua Grafton was charged in June with assault, assault with a weapon and obstruction of justice. Const. Wayne Connell and Const. Kyle Sharpe were charged with assault causing bodily harm.

The three officers are scheduled to appear in provincial court in Prince George on Aug. 12. As of June 8, the officers remained on active duty.

“The officers’ fitness to continue to be on active duty has been assessed. We are confident they can continue their duties in a manner that is safe and meets public expectation,” Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet told CBC News last month.

22Jul

Para-cyclist sets new record on 1,000-km ride, raises thousands for disabled athletes | CBC News

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Just over three days of gruelling cycling through B.C.’s Interior has earned para-cyclist Tristen Chernove a new record.

Chernove completed the BC Epic 1,000 on Tuesday — a 1,066-kilometre route that runs mostly along the Trans Canada Trail, from Fernie through the back trails of the Kootenays and Okanagan to Merritt. The route includes gravel forestry roads, mountain bike trails and paved roads. 

According to Chernove, the previous record for the route was three days, 15 hours and 22 minutes. He said he beat that record by about eight and a half hours.

“It’s great to be finished,” he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker. 

“I had my first sleep in several days and a long one at that. So I’m feeling pretty good actually.”

Chernove pulled into Merritt just before noon on Tuesday. 

He posted updates on Facebook along the way, sharing both the highs and the lows of the adventure. 

“I’m not feeling great this morning,” he said on the second day, after only a few hours of sleep. 

“I’m hoping that now that the sun is up I can … find some energy and hopefully get a bit more positive spin going because it’s been slow, rough going and I’m hurting.”

He used strategies from mental strength coaches at Cycling Canada, such as asking himself if negative thoughts were helping him accomplish his goal, and if not, finding more productive, positive thoughts. 

In 2009, Chernove was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a degenerative but non-life threatening disease that affects his lower legs. He says it affects his peripheral nervous system, meaning he has very little use of his legs below the knees and his lower arms and hands are also impacted.

After discovering para-cycling, he became a triple Paralympic medallist in 2016 and won silver at the para-cycling track world championships in February.

Canadian cycling Tristen Chernove is a triple Paralympic medallist and won silver at the para-cycling track world championships in February. (Photo courtesy Canadian Paralympic Committee)

Aside from setting a new record, he also raised more than $30,000 for the Paralympic Foundation of Canada to help other para-athletes access equipment and training needed to participate in sport. 

“I am super happy and probably will try to continue doing something like this,” Chernove said. 

“Any other athletes with a disability out there … I would challenge you to think of things that matter for you and to get out there and raise some money as well. It’s a great feeling.”

21Jul

RCMP watchdog calls out ‘unreasonable’ use of force during wellness checks | CBC News

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The independent watchdog for the RCMP says it frequently has concerns about Mounties’ “unreasonable use of force” during mental health wellness calls.

In response to some recent high-profile and controversial incidents involving the RCMP, the chair of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) put out a statement today highlighting some of her agency’s concerns about Mounties’ actions.

“With respect to interacting with people in crisis, the commission’s findings have consistently highlighted concerns about police adopting a ‘command and control’ approach — an authoritative style of dealing with a non‑compliant person,” said Michelaine Lahaie.

“The commission’s reports have repeatedly found that this ‘command and control’ approach has led to the RCMP’s unreasonable use of force in apprehending persons in crisis.”

The CRCC is the independent body created to review Mounties’ behaviour. It receives, on average, more than 2,000 complaints from the public every year, ranging from allegations of wrongful arrest and improper use of force to reports of bad driving.

Over the past five years, the commission has issued 14 findings which concluded the RCMP’s actions involving a wellness check or a person in crisis were “unreasonable,” said Lahaie.

The reports have not been made public for privacy reasons, says the statement, but the chair said it’s in the public interest to convey the commission’s “general pattern of concern.”

A still from a surveillance video shows Const. Lacy Browning stepping on student Mona Wang’s head after a wellness check by the RCMP Jan. 20. Browning’s conduct is now under review. (Submitted by Bridge Law Corporation)

The RCMP is under pressure to explain why an officer shot and killed Rodney Levi, a member of the Metepenagiag First Nation in New Brunswick, last month. His family said he suffered from mental health problems.

Levi was the second Indigenous person in New Brunswick to be shot by a police officer in just eight days. Chantel Moore, 26, was shot by an officer with the Edmundston Police Department during a wellness check.

On the other side of the country, an RCMP member is the subject of a criminal and code-of-conduct investigation and a lawsuit after a video emerged last month showing the officer dragging UBC-Okanagan nursing student Mona Wang down a hallway and stepping on her head during a wellness check in January.

CRCC recommends limiting police presence 

These types of incidents have spurred advocates, and Canada’s largest psychiatric facility, to demand officers be removed from the front line response to people in mental health emergencies.

In a report from earlier this year, Lahaie said she recommended that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki direct her commanding officers to work with the provinces and territories to develop different health care‑led options.

That report also asked the commissioner to consider amending RCMP policies to limit police involvement during wellness calls to instances where a police presence is necessary, based on criminality or a risk to public safety.

“I await the commissioner’s response to my report,” said Lahaie.

“I am hopeful that the increased public attention on this developing area of policing will allow the RCMP to find the right balance and establish effective policies, training and procedures to respond to people in crisis and to handle requests for wellness checks.”

The CRCC chair isn’t the first person to call out the RCMP’s use of force when dealing with mental health calls.

Lahaie notes that the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, who died after being stunned multiple times with a Taser in the arrivals lounge of Vancouver International Airport in 2007, found that the “command and control philosophy underlying police recruit training, however appropriate generally, is both inappropriate and counterproductive when dealing with emotionally disturbed people.”

Retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci echoed those findings during his 2014 review of how Toronto police approach people in crisis. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair was the chief of the Toronto Police Service at the time.

“The challenge, and one of the most critical requirements for police, is to know how to de-escalate a crisis involving a person who, as a result of what is effectively a transient or permanent mental disability, may not respond appropriately (or at all) to standard police commands,” he wrote.

“The use of force by police should always be a last resort.”

CBC has requested comment from the RCMP.

21Jul

House passes bill to extend and reform wage subsidy, introduce disability benefits | CBC News

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Legislation introduced by the Liberal government to change the federal wage subsidy and provide relief to people with disabilities passed the House of Commons today by unanimous consent. 

The legislation, C-20, expands the number of companies that qualify for the wage subsidy, changes the amount companies can put toward their workers’ wages and extends the wage subsidy program to the end of the year.

The bill also sends a one-time payment of $600 to people with disabilities and extends some legal deadlines for court cases.

The original version of the wage subsidy covered 75 per cent of wages, up to a weekly maximum of $847, for eligible companies and non-profits. Companies had to show a 30 per cent drop in revenues.

The revised program pays out on a sliding scale based on revenue drops due to the pandemic, with the hardest-hit businesses eligible for a 25 per cent increase to the previous maximum payment.

The Bloc Québécois indicated early on that its MPs would support the bill, giving the Liberals the votes required to ensure its passage.

An agreement between the parties that allowed the legislation to pass today also provided for getting two more House of Commons committees — the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations — up and running. Conservative MP John Brassard said his party pushed for those committees to re-start.

The Canada-China committee hasn’t met since the pandemic began, while the public safety committee has met just twice.

The one-time disability payment — which originally was only going to benefit Canadians who qualify for the federal disability tax credit — will now also go to those receiving disability benefits through the Canada Pension Plan, the Quebec Pension Plan and Veterans Affairs Canada.

The Business Council of Canada welcomed the passage of the bill and the changes made to the federal wage subsidy. 

“The revised program — expanding the eligibility requirements, extending the length of the program, and introducing a sliding scale for the wage subsidy — effectively transforms the [Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy] into a broadly based economic stimulus program,” said the council’s CEO Goldy Hyder in a statement.

21Jul

Overdose crisis: B.C. premier calls on Trudeau to decriminalize drug possession for personal use

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VICTORIA —
British Columbia’s premier is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take an “enormous step” to reduce stigma associated with illicit drug use by decriminalizing possession for personal use.

In a letter sent Monday to the prime minister, John Horgan says people in B.C. are experiencing unprecedented rates of overdose-related harms, including deaths because of the toxic street drug supply.

The letter says criminal prohibitions are ineffective in deterring drug use and criminalization prevents people from seeking the help they need.

Horgan says he supports the recent call by Canada’s police chiefs to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use as the best way to battle addiction.

He says his ministers will reach out to their federal counterparts to take further steps.

The BC Coroners Service said last week that a record 175 people died in June of illicit-drug overdoses, surpassing the previous record of 171 deaths just a month before.

A public health emergency was declared in 2016 and since then about 5,000 people in B.C. have died from illicit-drug overdoses, with many caused by the powerful opioid fentanyl.

“Behind these statistics lies a very personal tragedy,” Horgan says. “We are losing our family members and our friends, our neighbours and our colleagues. We must do more.”

Overdose continues to be the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C. and life expectancy at birth is declining in the province largely due to the overdose crisis, he says.

By changing the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to decriminalize possession for personal use, “the federal government would take an enormous step to reduce the systemic stigma associated with illicit drug use and support people to access the services that they need to stay safe and start their path to recovery,” Horgan says.

The federal Ministry of Health said in a statement Monday it has expanded the accessibility of vital health and social services for people who use drugs.

“These actions include supporting the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, funding programs like drug treatment courts for those whose substance use contributes to their offending, supporting enhanced access to harm reduction services such as supervised consumption sites, access to pharmaceutical-grade medications, also known as safer supply, and an expanded range of treatment options,” it said.

“Our government remains committed to advancing evidence-based responses to help reverse the trend of opioid overdose deaths and other substance-related harms in Canada.”

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has proposed increasing access to health care, treatment and social services in order to divert people away from the criminal justice system, which would apply to those in possession of a small amount of illicit drugs for personal consumption.

It also called for the creation of a national task force to research drug policy reform that looked at the law that covers simple possession.

Association president and Vancouver Chief Const. Adam Palmer has said that the fentanyl crisis and a poisoned drug supply have devastated communities and taken thousands of lives across Canada.

“We recommend that enforcement for possession give way to an integrated health-focused approach that requires partnerships between police, health care and all levels of government.”

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has also called for the decriminalization of people who possess small amounts of drugs, saying people use substances for many reasons.

“Nobody grows up thinking ‘I want to be addicted to substances, I want to have a substance use disorder, I want to have this controlling my life,”’ she said last week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2020.

20Jul

B.C. premier asks Trudeau to decriminalize drug possession as overdose deaths spike  | CBC News

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British Columbia’s premier is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take an “enormous step” to reduce stigma associated with illicit drug use by decriminalizing possession for personal use.

In a letter sent Monday to the prime minister, John Horgan says people in B.C. are experiencing unprecedented rates of overdose-related harms, including deaths, because of the toxic street drug supply.

The letter says criminal prohibitions are ineffective in deterring drug use and criminalization prevents people from seeking the help they need.

Horgan says he supports the recent call by Canada’s police chiefs to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use as the best way to battle addiction.

He says his ministers will reach out to their federal counterparts to take further steps.

The BC Coroners Service said last week that a record 175 people died in June of illicit-drug overdoses, surpassing the previous record of 171 deaths just a month before.

About 5,000 dead from overdose since 2016

A public health emergency was declared in 2016 and since then about 5,000 people in B.C. have died from illicit-drug overdoses, with many caused by the powerful opioid fentanyl.

“Behind these statistics lies a very personal tragedy,” Horgan says. “We are losing our family members and our friends, our neighbours and our colleagues. We must do more.”

Overdose continues to be the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C. and life expectancy at birth is declining in the province largely due to the overdose crisis, he says.

By changing the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to decriminalize possession for personal use, “the federal government would take an enormous step to reduce the systemic stigma associated with illicit drug use and support people to access the services that they need to stay safe and start their path to recovery,” Horgan says.

The federal Ministry of Health said in a statement Monday it has expanded the accessibility of vital health and social services for people who use drugs.

“These actions include supporting the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, funding programs like drug treatment courts for those whose substance use contributes to their offending, supporting enhanced access to harm reduction services such as supervised consumption sites, access to pharmaceutical-grade medications, also known as safer supply, and an expanded range of treatment options,” it said.

“Our government remains committed to advancing evidence-based responses to help reverse the trend of opioid overdose deaths and other substance-related harms in Canada.”

Canadian police chiefs call for decriminalization

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has proposed increasing access to health care, treatment and social services in order to divert people away from the criminal justice system, which would apply to those in possession of a small amount of illicit drugs for personal consumption.

It also called for the creation of a national task force to research drug policy reform that looked at the law that covers simple possession.

Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer is president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. (CBC/Ken Leedham)

Association president and Vancouver Chief Const. Adam Palmer has said that the fentanyl crisis and a poisoned drug supply have devastated communities and taken thousands of lives across Canada.

“We recommend that enforcement for possession give way to an integrated health-focused approach that requires partnerships between police, health care and all levels of government.”

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has also called for the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of drugs, saying people use substances for many reasons.

“Nobody grows up thinking ‘I want to be addicted to substances, I want to have a substance use disorder, I want to have this controlling my life,”’ she said last week.

20Jul

Majority of B.C. residents support major economic shifts post-recovery, poll suggests | CBC News

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A new poll suggests the majority of British Columbians approve of the province’s COVID-19 response, but also support a transition toward a more equitable and sustainable post-pandemic economy.

The online poll conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives showed a strong majority of people across the political spectrum — and across B.C. — believe further government action is key to a successful recovery. 

Alex Hemingway, an economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said the broad support for several major policy ideas is surprising.

“We see a strong majority saying as we look to the recovery, we don’t want to simply rebuild the economy we had, but rebuild a more equitable and sustainable economy,” he said. “And 73 per cent want to see that.”

Of those surveyed, 83 per cent supported a transition to a system for universal public senior care, and 77 per cent supported paid sick time for all workers. As well, 67 per cent were in favour of increasing social assistance rates to above the poverty line.

“People are recognizing, as part of the result of the pandemic itself and the economic difficulties that it’s created, how connected all our fates are and how dependent we are on each other,” Hemingway said.

Seventy per cent of those surveyed supported increasing taxation on corporations and on the wealthy — a viewpoint that was also notable in polling conducted before the pandemic.

“I think one thing that suggests that these results will be robust over time is that you see consistency in the appetite to tax wealth and corporations during the pandemic and also pre-pandemic,” said Hemingway.

“It may be a case that those issues have been brought to prominence and those opinions will crystallize over time.”

Concern around childcare

The British Columbia government is forecasting a $12.5 billion deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, five months after the provincial budget featured a marginal surplus.  Yet 77 per cent of respondents said they believe the province is on the right track.

The survey also revealed that many British Columbians are worried about the pandemic’s impacts on themselves and others — but that stresses are unequally distributed.

For example, respondents with lower and middle household incomes (under $100,000) were significantly more likely to be concerned about collective well-being compared to those with higher incomes (over $100,000). People with annual household incomes under $40,000 were most likely to be concerned about their own personal situations.

But with respect to child care support, concern was evenly spread up the household income ladder to $100,000.

A report from the centre that summarizes results also shows many people are worried about access to mental health support, access to health care — and even food.

“People working part-time jobs, those who rely on disability income, students, and those who are unemployed are also more likely to be worried about their mental health compared to those with full-time work, run a small business or who are retired,” reads the report.

“These same groups are also most likely to be concerned about the pandemic’s impact on their ability to obtain adequate food or groceries.”

The poll also revealed women were more likely to be concerned about a rise in domestic violence as a result of the pandemic.

“I think it’s clear that there are some very gendered elements to the crisis that we’re in,” Hemingway said, adding that a large percentage of men also expressed concern about gender-based violence.

The online poll surveyed 2,289 B.C. residents aged 18 or over from May 16 to June 1. A comparable margin of error for a probability-based sample of this size would be +/-2.3%. percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

17Jul

‘Price of having COVID-19’: Richmond, B.C. survivor deals with symptoms months later

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VANCOUVER —
Life for Lorraine Graves has taken a dramatic turn.

Before March, she says she was living a vibrant life: public speaking, hosting workshops and working as a journalist in Richmond, B.C.

Now, having one phone call with a friend in the morning will exhaust her energy for the rest of the day and she will be forced to lie down — and that’s on a good day, she says.

“I’m incredibly disappointed that the price of having COVID-19 is that my life is going to be a pale imitation of what it could have been,” she tells CTV News.

She didn’t know it at the time, but back in early March, she had been infected with the coronavirus.

She and three family members in the house were all sick around the same time with various symptoms.

“Everybody had a different collection of symptoms from the grab-bag of possibilities and everybody had a different severity and I drew the short straw.

“I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a bus. My lungs, instead of air, were full of egg white. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t cough out. I had headaches; I had pains; my brain was foggy.”

She also couldn’t taste or smell a delicious dinner her husband had prepared.

Some of symptoms her family had weren’t considered hallmark COVID traits in the early days of the pandemic, so they weren’t tested at the time.

“My GP told me I definitely had COVID-19. The lack of sense of taste is very rare in a viral condition, plus the lung problems, plus all the other things,” she says.

She says she was symptom-free one month later but then suddenly, her lungs felt like an “old helium balloon” that had unexpectedly deflated.

She’s been experiencing a wave of symptoms ever since.

“I thought it was binary, you live or die,” she says coughing. “I didn’t understand that it’s like polio, where there were people who lived, people who died and people who lived with long-term consequences.”

She is now part of a club called the Long-haulers, a club she never thought she’d be part of.

“We’re in it for the long haul. It’s not one and done,” she says.

She’s found a community of other COVID survivors who are still dealing with the aftermath of the disease.

There’s COVID Long Haulers Support Group Canada which has more than 700 members and Survivor Corps which has over 70,000 members.

“This disease can be debilitating. It can be deadly. But it can cost you the rest of your life’s health as well,” she says.

New study looks at long-term health impacts

Why some COVID patients are still suffering from lingering symptoms while others are symptom-free is the focus of a new study.

The Canadian COVID-19 Prospective Cohort Study looks at roughly 2,000 patients, some who were in the intensive care unit and put on ventilators, and some who were never hospitalized at all, like Graves.

“Why are patients who are not as sick, why do they still have lingering symptoms? And so I think it’s still in the early days, in terms of trying to understand that piece,” says Dr. Angela Cheung with the University Health Network, a co-lead in the research. “We’re looking at their genetics, how their — what we call biomarkers — to see how we can separate the people who are going to be really sick versus those who are not as sick.”

Another piece of the study is understanding the caregivers of those patients who were sickest with COVID and the impact the disease is having on those families and their mental health.

“These patients will have very significant disability — after critical illness and after severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is the life-threatening complication of COVID-19 — the patients will be weak,” explains Dr. Margaret Herridge, co-lead in the study.

Dr. Herridge says some patients may still struggle with persistent coughs up to eight weeks after a viral illness, but other symptoms, like fatigue, are a cause for concern.

“These systemic complications that might lead you to think that there are other organ system issues would be unusual. And I think if people are suffering from these symptoms they definitely should be seen,” she says.

Experts from Ontario, Quebec, B.C., Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are now helping to find out more about the health implications of this mysterious disease.

“It will be extremely helpful to plan for how to best look after these folks and to help inform public health policy,” explains Dr. Herridge.

Patients are still being recruited for the study. Anyone who’s still experiencing symptoms after testing positive for COVID-19 and is interested in participating in the study is asked to email CANCOV@uhn.ca.

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