Posts Tagged "public"

25May

City to consider using public space for public drinking, not just beaches and parks

by admin

VANCOUVER —
Imagine sitting on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery and having a beer with the grilled cheese sandwich you just bought from a food truck.

Two Vancouver city councillors are pitching the idea to create designated public spaces for the consumption of alcohol.

“It’s not going to be possible for all restaurants to have patios,” said Pete Fry, who co-submitted the motion with follow Green councillor Michael Wiebe.

The motion calls for working with Vancouver police and city staff to ensure public safety is maintained, and amenities like garbage and washroom facilities are made available.

Fry said possible locations could also include side streets in some neighbourhoods that could be turned into plazas if they are closed to vehicle traffic, pointing to Commercial Drive as a possibility for this.

“The key point being responsible consumption,” Fry added, “so it’s not about creating wild and crazy, beer garden, yahoo kind of experiences, but allowing us to come together and have a bottle of wine and chat about what it’s been like for the last couple of months.”

The city is already limiting cars on some streets to free up room for physical distancing.

Another motion on the agenda is aimed at the long-debated issue of allowing drinking in parks and beaches.

Parks and beaches are the jurisdiction of the Vancouver Park Board, which voted in December 2018 to study the feasibility of starting a pilot program to allow alcohol in some parks, but OneCity councillor Christine Boyle says that study has been delayed.

She’s drafted a motion calling for the city to work with the board and the province to allow responsible consumption in beaches and parks as soon as possible.

“I bike around with my family and we see people picnicking in nooks of parks all over the place,” Boyle said, “what we’re seeing is people acting responsibly.”

As for ensuring that public drinking doesn’t get out of hand, Boyle pointed to existing rules that already maintain public order, such as laws against public intoxication, public disturbances, and the 10 p.m. closure of parks and beaches.

“For something we’re all kind of looking the other way on anyway, we shouldn’t be punishing people,” Boyle said.

Both motions will be heard during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, which will be conducted virtually.

25May

Vancouver to consider allowing alcohol in certain public spaces outside beaches and parks

by admin

VANCOUVER —
Imagine sitting on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery and having a beer with the grilled cheese sandwich you just bought from a food truck.

Two Vancouver city councillors are pitching the idea to create designated public spaces for the consumption of alcohol.

“It’s not going to be possible for all restaurants to have patios,” said Pete Fry, who co-submitted the motion with follow Green councillor Michael Wiebe.

The motion calls for working with Vancouver police and city staff to ensure public safety is maintained, and amenities like garbage and washroom facilities are made available.

Fry said possible locations could also include side streets in some neighbourhoods that could be turned into plazas if they are closed to vehicle traffic, pointing to Commercial Drive as a possibility for this.

“The key point being responsible consumption,” Fry added, “so it’s not about creating wild and crazy, beer garden, yahoo kind of experiences, but allowing us to come together and have a bottle of wine and chat about what it’s been like for the last couple of months.”

The city is already limiting cars on some streets to free up room for physical distancing.

Another motion on the agenda is aimed at the long-debated issue of allowing drinking in parks and beaches.

Parks and beaches are the jurisdiction of the Vancouver Park Board, which voted in December 2018 to study the feasibility of starting a pilot program to allow alcohol in some parks, but OneCity councillor Christine Boyle says that study has been delayed.

She’s drafted a motion calling for the city to work with the board and the province to allow responsible consumption in beaches and parks as soon as possible.

“I bike around with my family and we see people picnicking in nooks of parks all over the place,” Boyle said, “what we’re seeing is people acting responsibly.”

As for ensuring that public drinking doesn’t get out of hand, Boyle pointed to existing rules that already maintain public order, such as laws against public intoxication, public disturbances, and the 10 p.m. closure of parks and beaches.

“For something we’re all kind of looking the other way on anyway, we shouldn’t be punishing people,” Boyle said.

Both motions will be heard during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, which will be conducted virtually.

24Mar

Some B.C. parks are now fully closed to the public

by admin

VANCOUVER —
A few days after it was announced that provincial parks in B.C. would be off-limits to camping during the COVID-19 pandemic, some have now been closed altogether.

Parks in B.C. have seen an uptick in visitors, but many people have not been observing physical distancing, according to a news release from BC Parks. Public health officials have advised people should maintain at least a two-metre physical distance from others to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On the South Coast, Chilliwack Lake, Joffre Lakes, Murrin, Shannon Falls provincial parks, as well as the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park and Protected Area, are all now closed to the public. Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park in the Okanagan is also now closed.

BC Parks said they will continue to monitor the outbreak and additional closures could be implemented on a “case-by-case basis” if required.

“People who still choose to visit provincial parks should be mindful that they are now responsible for their own safety and that washroom facilities will not be available,” the release stated.

Recreation Sites and Trails BC announced that its campgrounds and amenities would also be closed.

“The temporary closure includes RSTBC campgrounds where there is an increased likelihood of close contact with frequently touched surfaces, including toilets, kiosks, ticket booths, overnight shelters and day-use shelters,” the government agency said. “Day-use shelters, backcountry cabins, warming huts, ticket booths at snowmobile areas and other built facilities will be closed.”

Several Metro Vancouver municipalities have also closed their outdoor areas after people ignored physical distancing guidelines. On Monday night, White Rock’s city council voted in favour of closing the city’s pier, and the City of Vancouver closed its ball courts, playing fields and parking lots near popular beaches and parks.

“The mental and physical wellness benefit of being outside during the COVID-19 pandemic response is important, but keeping people safe right now is the most important thing we can be doing,” said B.C.’s Minister of Environment George Heyman in a news release. “Until we flatten the transmission curve of COVID-19 and people strictly comply with the (provincial health officer) physical distancing requirement, provincial park access will be restricted.”

For the full list of closures, including parks in the north and on Vancouver Island, you can visit the BC Parks website. 

9Mar

Daphne Bramham: Canada’s other public health crisis also needs urgent attention

by admin

There is a very real and deadly health crisis in B.C. from which two people died yesterday and two more will likely die today, tomorrow and the days after that.

It’s not COVID-19, and no news conference was hastily called to talk about it.

Most of those dead and dying are blue-collar guys in what should be the prime of their lives.

This is the reality as B.C. lurches into the fifth year of an opioid overdose crisis. It’s a seemingly unending emergency that by the end of 2019 had already killed 5,539 people here and more than 13,900 across Canada.

Five years in, this crisis has become normalized, with the only certainty as we face another day is that first responders are now better at resuscitating victims because, year over year, the calls have only continued to increase.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed his top ministers to a committee tasked with responding to the COVID-19 crisis. At that point, Canada had only 30 confirmed cases. Of the 21 B.C. cases, four of the patients have fully recovered.

Not to belittle the concerns about COVID-19 becoming a global pandemic, but with nearly 14,000 dead already, no committee — high-level or otherwise — has yet been struck to devise a national addictions strategy that would deal not only with opioids, but also the biggest killer, which is alcohol. A 2019 report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that 10 Canadians die every day from substance use, and three-quarters of those deaths are alcohol-related.

During the 2019 election, the issue flared briefly after Conservatives placed ads — mainly through ethnic media — claiming that Trudeau’s Liberals planned to legalize all drugs, including heroin.

Already beleaguered, Trudeau not only denied it, he quickly disavowed the resolution overwhelmingly passed at the party’s 2018 convention that called on the Canadian government to treat addiction as a health issue, expand treatment and harm reduction services, and decriminalize personal-use possession of all drugs, with people diverted away from the criminal courts and into treatment.

Trudeau disavowed it again this week when a Liberal backbencher’s private member’s bill was put on the order paper.


Liberal member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (in front) pictured in 2018.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Depending on how you read Bill C-236, it’s either calling for decriminalization or legalization. Regardless, the fact that Nathaniel Erskine-Smith’s bill will be debated at least gets it on the political agenda because unless there are some major changes, Canadians are going to continue dying at these unacceptably high rates that have already caused the national life expectancy to drop.

Erskine-Smith, an Ontario MP from the Beaches-East York riding, favours a Portugal-style plan of which decriminalization plays only a small part.

But parliamentary rules forbid private member’s bills from committing the government to any new spending, so he said his bill could only narrowly focus on decriminalization.

The slim bill says charges could be laid “only if … the individual cannot be adequately dealt with by a warning or referral (to a program agency or service provider) … or by way of alternative measures.”

Erskine-Smith disagreed with the suggestion that it gives too much discretionary power to police — especially since in B.C., it’s prosecutors, not police, who determine whether charges are laid.

Still, what he proposes is quite different from what happens in Portugal.

There, police have no discretionary power. People found with illicit drugs are arrested and taken to the police station where the drugs are weighed, and the person is either charged with possession and sent to court or diverted to the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Use to meet with social workers, therapists and addictions specialists who map out a plan.

Since private members’ bills rarely pass, Erskine-Smith doesn’t hold out much hope for his.

It created a firestorm on social media, with some recovery advocates pitted against advocates for harm reduction, including full legalization.

Related

Federal Conservatives also repeated their trope that drug legalization is part of Trudeau’s secret agenda.

Meanwhile, Alberta’s United Conservative government inflamed some harm-reduction advocates with the release of a report on the adverse social and economic impacts of safe consumption sites, even though it didn’t recommend shutting them down.

The report acknowledged that they play an important role in a continuum of care, but it also called for beefed-up enforcement to lessen the chaos that often surrounds them.

The committee questioned some data provided to them that suggested Lethbridge — population 92,730 — may be the world’s most-used injection site.

The committee also questioned why some operators report all adverse events, including non-life-threatening ones as overdoses, leaving the impression that without the sites “thousands of people would have fatally overdosed.”

Among its recommendations are better data collection using standardized definitions as well as better tracking of users to determine whether they are being referred to other services.

More than a year ago, Canadians overwhelmingly told the Angus Reid Institute that they supported mandatory treatment for opioid addiction.

Nearly half said they were willing to consider decriminalization. Nearly half also said that neither Ottawa nor the provinces were doing enough to ease the epidemic.

It seems Canadians are eager for change even if they’re not yet certain what it should look like. The only ones who seem reluctant are the politicians.

dbramham@postmedia.com

twitter.com/bramham_daphne

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5Mar

‘It’s appalling’: Homeless advocates say Metro Vancouver desperately needs more public washrooms | CBC News

by admin

It’s a New Westminster-based petition, but it addresses an issue that’s common all over Metro Vancouver — it’s tough to find a bathroom when you need one, especially if you’re homeless.

SkyTrain stations don’t have them, many businesses only make facilities available to paying customers and washroom doors are usually locked after dark at parks.

Rhonda Cummings, whose organization New Westminster CAT Peer Group started a petition calling for more public bathrooms, says people on the street don’t have many options.

“I’ve seen human feces right outside my parking garage,” she said.

“I just think it’s appalling that there’s nowhere for people to go.”

Cummings’ campaign deals solely with New Westminster, but homeless advocates in other cities hope it sparks a regional discussion.

New Westminster CAT Peer Group Chair Rhonda Cummings says vulnerable people are forced to defecate and urinate in alleys when there are no public toilets available. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Long standing issue

The issue received national attention in 2018 when a video was posted online showing a woman defecating on the floor of a Langley Tim Hortons after she wasn’t allowed to use the washroom.

Friends of Langley Vineyard Church Pastor Leith White says he wanted a portable toilet on his church’s property after the incident but it wasn’t allowed because of zoning issues.

“It’s the No. 1 for homeless people,” he said.

“We’re opening up our doors here all the time for people who need to use the bathroom at our church.”

White says he’s had conversations with municipal officials and local businesses, but little has changed since the Tim Hortons video went viral.

Mike Musgrove, who runs Surrey Urban Mission, says he’s also been arguing for years that bathrooms are a basic human right.

He says concerns about costs, drug use and maintenance should be outweighed by the community’s responsibility to let its most vulnerable citizens live with dignity.

“Let’s build them and then let’s monitor them,” he said.

“We need to invest in these things.”

Friends of Langley Vineyard Pastor Leith White says zoning issues prevented him from installing a portable public toilet on his church’s property. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Relief in sight?

Emily Scoular, who has a master’s degree in architecture from the University of British Columbia, says the biggest deterrent to building new public bathrooms is the cost of maintaining them.

Scoular, who wrote her thesis on washrooms, argues the investment is well worth it.

“I don’t think it’s right to deny people to use a washroom,” she said.

“It is a public issue and it’s something that I think local governments and local government agencies need to address and take ownership of.”

TransLink’s long-awaited customer washroom implementation strategy, which has been in the works since late 2018, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

“We’ve heard from our customers for years that making washrooms available should be a priority,” spokesperson Jill Drews said in an email.

“We have found that it’s possible to offer customers access to washrooms that are clean and safe.”

The transit authority, which currently has washrooms at each of its SeaBus terminals and onboard West Coast Express trains, is considering building washrooms on TransLink property, working with partners to offer a network of third-party washrooms or a combination of the two.

This screen capture from a video posted online appears to show a woman arguing with restaurant staff before she defecated in front of the counter and threw it at staff. (LiveLeak)

Still waiting

Cummings says she doesn’t understand why it’s taking so long and in the meantime, she’d like to see portable toilets placed in high-traffic areas.

Eventually, she’d also like to see the city offer showers and laundry service to its homeless population.

She says the first priority, however, is providing people with a place to do their business.

“We’re all human beings,” she said. “We all need to go to the bathroom.”

CBC Vancouver’s Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email impact@cbc.ca.

 

4Mar

Man who video-recorded 78 women in public bathrooms gets 18 months in jail

by admin


Victoria courthouse


Lyle Stafford / Times Colonist

A homeless man who used his cellphone to record 78 unsuspecting women using public toilets has been sentenced to 18 months in jail, followed by three years of probation.

Garth Galligan, 34, pleaded guilty last week to unlawfully recording the women in places where they could reasonably expect to have privacy. Galligan also pleaded guilty to breaching his probation by being in the women’s washroom at the Empress Hotel on Aug. 26, 2019, and breaching a court order to meet daily with the Assertive Community Treatment team, which supports him in the community.

Judge Jennifer Barrett accepted a joint submission from Crown and defence asking for the 18-month sentence. She noted that although only one woman was identified, Galligan’s voyeurism has had a significant impact on the community.

“The public’s expectation of privacy when using a public washroom is well recognized and accepted. Mr. Galligan’s offending behaviour directly violated this expectation in a very intimate and personally invasive way. The offence of voyeurism is not a victimless crime,” said the judge.

During the sentencing hearing, Barrett heard that Galligan breached his probation on the same day he was released from jail after serving time for a sexual assault in the women’s washroom of the Royal British Columbia Museum, and for a disturbing incident at the McDonald’s on Douglas Street.

In December 2018, Galligan approached a young woman in the women’s washroom at the museum, tried to push her into a stall and groped her. Another woman intervened and he ran off.

Galligan also followed a woman into the washroom at the McDonald’s and propositioned her for sex. When Galligan pushed on a stall door to see if it was locked and would not take no for an answer, the woman yelled at him to leave and called police.

In March 2019, Galligan was sentenced to jail, followed by three years of probation, with conditions that prohibited him from entering or lingering around women’s washrooms.

Within hours of his release, Galligan was found by a member of the Empress Hotel’s housekeeping staff standing topless on a toilet seat with his pants around his ankles. She ordered him to leave.

Related

On Sept. 1, another housekeeper walked into the women’s washroom and saw Galligan naked inside the stall. She was frightened, told him to leave and alerted security, but Galligan fled, court heard.

On Oct. 7, a woman using a bathroom stall at the hotel noticed a cellphone screen coming from the stall beside her when she flushed the toilet. Galligan ran off, but was later identified through security cameras at the hotel.

That same evening, a housekeeper found Galligan again in the women’s washroom at the hotel. She told him to leave and that he was banned from the hotel.

On Oct. 10, Galligan was arrested and his cellphone was seized. The police found a compilation of videos showing 58 women in toilet stalls. Court heard that the Oct. 6 video is 46 minutes and 18 seconds in length and Galligan’s face appears on the video 13 times. It’s believed the video clips were recorded between Aug. 26 and Oct. 6.

A further 20 women were video-recorded between Oct. 6 and Oct. 8.

Of the 78 women, only six were not recorded in a state of undress or using the toilet.

No one’s face was visible on the video, except Galligan’s. It’s not clear where the videos were taken.

Before imposing sentence, Barrett considered Galligan’s personal circumstances.

The Indigenous man’s biological mother struggled with addiction and lived on the streets in Vancouver. He was removed from her care at birth and lived in a foster home until age five, when he was adopted by the Galligans. His adoptive father died when Galligan was 19. At age 20, he left the family home to seek out his biological mother and began experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Galligan has a number of very serious challenges, said Barrett. He struggled academically and socially in school, but got through high school. He now collects disability benefits.

He has a low IQ and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, substance-use disorder for both cannabis and amphetamines and anti-social personality disorder. Psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Dugbartey concluded that Galligan’s voyeurism is driven by his strong sexual arousal and interest in seeing women urinating, and that he is at high risk to reoffend sexually.

Dugbartey found Galligan had little insight into his offending behaviour or his need for treatment. Galligan told the psychiatrist he breached his probation order because he wanted to fulfill his sexual desires of viewing and video-recording women urinating.

Dugbartey found Galligan to be “decidedly unrepentant and lacking in remorse,” said the judge.

“There is a need in this case to separate Mr. Galligan from the community, given his current attitude about his offending, the need to make changes in his life and the need for treatment. Without those changes being made, he poses a significant risk to the community,” said Barrett.

28Feb

Dozens of unsuspecting women video-recorded in Victoria public bathrooms

by admin

A homeless man used his cellphone to record 78 unsuspecting women using the toilet in Victoria public washrooms, provincial court has heard.

Garth Galligan, 34, pleaded guilty to unlawfully recording the women in places where they could reasonably expect to have privacy. Galligan also pleaded guilty to breaching his probation by being in the women’s washroom at the Empress Hotel on Aug. 26, 2019. He will be sentenced next week.

Crown prosecutor Lexi Pace told the court that Galligan breached his probation on the same day he was released from jail after serving time for a sexual assault in the women’s washroom of the Royal British Columbia Museum and a disturbing incident at the McDonald’s on Douglas Street.

In December 2018, Galligan approached a young woman in the women’s washroom at the museum, tried to push her into a stall and groped her. Another woman intervened and he ran off.

Galligan also followed a woman into the washroom at the McDonald’s and propositioned her for sex. Galligan was pushing on a stall door to see if it was locked and not taking no for an answer, said Pace. The woman yelled at him to leave and called police.

Within hours of his release, Galligan was found by a member of the hotel’s housekeeping staff standing topless on a toilet seat with his pants around his ankles. She ordered him to leave.

On Sept. 1, another housekeeper walked into the women’s washroom and found a sign taped outside a toilet stall. The door was slightly ajar and the housekeeper saw Galligan naked inside the stall. She was frightened, told him to leave and alerted security, but Galligan fled, said Pace.

On Oct. 7, a woman using a bathroom stall at the hotel noticed a cellphone screen coming from the stall beside her when she flushed the toilet, said Pace. “She was horrified and didn’t know how to react. The phone was then pulled back into the occupied stall. The woman was shaken and reported the matter.”

Galligan fled but he was later identified through security cameras at the hotel.

On Oct. 10, Galligan was arrested and his cellphone was seized, said Pace. Police found a video which was a compilation of other videos showing 58 women in toilet stalls.

“These are single clips which have been strung together in one video. Most reveal the women’s buttocks and genital areas,” said Pace. “From watching the video, I can say it might surprise the court how proximal and clear the view is. … It’s extremely intimate and invasive.”

The Oct. 6 video is 46 minutes and 18 seconds in length and Galligan’s face appears on the video 13 times, she said. It’s believed the video clips were recorded between Aug. 26 and Oct. 6.

A further 20 women were video recorded between Oct. 6 and Oct. 8.

Of the 78 women, six were not recorded in a state of undress or using the toilet.

No one’s face was visible on the video, except Galligan’s. It’s not clear where the videos were taken.

Galligan suffers from serious mental-health problems and drug addiction. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, substance use disorder for both cannabis and amphetamines, anti-social personality disorder and paraphilic disorder.

Galligan was required to report daily to the Assertive Community Treatment team, which helps him. Although Galligan was ordered to live at the Salvation Army, he didn’t and he began using hard drugs, said Pace.

Galligan was warned by the Crown to abide by his conditions, but breaches persisted.

Mitigating factors are Galligan’s Indigenous background and his early guilty pleas, said the prosecutor.

“This is not a trial that anyone wants to attend,” Pace said.

Galligan’s planned, deliberate, practiced actions are aggravating factors, she said. “It’s not impulsive. It’s not a one-off at all.”

Even though he’s under the highest level of supervision in the community, he still visited women’s washrooms at the Empress Hotel three times in a 2 1/2-month period.

Court-ordered reports prepared to assist with sentencing show Galligan has a high risk to reoffend.

Pace and defence lawyer Alex Tait presented a joint submission to the court asking for an 18-month global sentence followed by a three-year probation order.

“This is a very difficult case and Mr. Tait and I have been struggling with it. We’ve had numerous discussions,” said Pace. After his release for these offences, Galligan will be referred again to the Assertive Community Treatment team, she said.

Tait noted that his client’s offending only started at age 30 in 2016.

Galligan was apprehended at birth from the Buffalo Tribe in Saskatchewan and was eventually adopted at age five.

“His underlying problem is homelessness. He has nowhere to go,” said Tait.

Galligan now understands his behaviour unacceptable, said the defence lawyer.

“He has a long road ahead to get help. He needs to stay away from drugs and get housed. … If he had his own place to go, he may have a much better opportunity for success,” said Tait.

“Last time, he was released to the street or the Sally Ann.”

The judge is expected to sentence Galligan on Tuesday.

ldickson@timescolonist.com 

25Feb

Private clinics would harm ’ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

by admin


Dr. Brian Day, Medical Director of the Cambie Surgery Centre, sits for a photograph at his office in Vancouver on Wednesday, August 31, 2016.A lawyer for the British Columbia government says private clinics would increase wait lists for “ordinary” people in the public system and especially harm those who are most dependent on universal health care.


DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

A lawyer for the British Columbia government says private clinics would increase wait lists for “ordinary” people in the public system and especially harm those who are most dependent on universal health care.

Jonathan Penner told a B.C. Supreme Court judge today that the frail and elderly, patients with complex conditions, and those with severe mental illness and substance-use issues account for most of the resources used in the public system.

He says those patients aren’t being considered by Dr. Brian Day, an orthopedic surgeon whose decade-long constitutional challenge argues patients have a right to pay for services if wait times in the public system are too long.

Penner says a two-tier system would drain public health care of doctors, anesthesiologists and nurses who would be lured to private clinics, like the one owned by Day, and increase costs of regulating both types of care.

Day has maintained that four plaintiff patients have been deprived of life, liberty and security under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms after suffering harms from waiting for surgery in the public system before they sought care at his clinic.

Penner says Day’s legal team has failed to identify whether any harms the patients may have endured were related to wait times in the public system.

4Feb

Andrew Longhurst: B.C. needs to significantly boost supply of public assisted living for seniors

by admin


The B.C. government should provide new capital and operating funding to non-profit organizations and health authorities to increase the supply of publicly subsidized assisted living units as part of a provincial seniors’ care capital funding plan, argues Andrew Longhurst.


AlexRaths / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Too many seniors in our province struggle to find publicly subsidized assisted living where they can be supported as they age. Amidst an affordable housing crisis felt across generations, the need to significantly boost the supply of subsidized assisted living is more urgent than ever before.

Assisted living is a type of supportive housing for people with moderate levels of disability who need daily personal assistance to live independently (meals, help with bathing, or taking medications, etc.). Publicly subsidized assisted living is part of B.C.’s larger home and community care system. There is also a large private-pay assisted living sector, where seniors pay entirely out-of-pocket and fees are completely unregulated. For-profit corporations provide the vast majority of private-pay units, while non-profits provide the majority of publicly subsidized units.

In a new study published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, my research found a number of concerning trends.

Access to publicly subsidized assisted living units in B.C. dropped significantly — by 17 per cent — between 2008 and 2017. (Access is measured as the number of units for every 1,000 seniors age 75 and older).

Perhaps not surprisingly, the private-pay assisted living market has benefited as a result, as seniors and their families look for other options when subsidized care is unavailable. Between 2010 and 2017, 1,130 private-pay units were added throughout the province, while a mere 105 publicly subsidized units were added.

Private-pay care may be an option for some, but it is beyond the means of most low- and moderate-income seniors. Senior couples at the median (middle) income of $61,900 can scarcely afford a one-bedroom assisted living unit, which would eat up 58 per cent of their income. For seniors living alone, even a bachelor suite would require over 80 per cent of their income.

Without access to subsidized assisted living, seniors who can’t afford to pay privately may go without care altogether or wait until their health deteriorates to the point of requiring a nursing home or hospitalization. This situation does not serve seniors or our public health system well at all.

Over the last two decades, the provincial government has not made the public investments needed for health authorities and non-profits to develop new assisted living spaces, which means very few new subsidized facilities are being built.

At the same time, skyrocketing real estate prices have led to a growing financialization of seniors’ care, where real estate assets are bought and sold as commodities on international markets. But allowing assisted living facilities to be treated this way is fundamentally at odds with the basic social purpose of providing care to vulnerable seniors.

It is clear that B.C.’s policy approach is not working. Access to publicly subsidized units has fallen and yet we know that the for-profit sector is more likely to build private assisted living units because the rate of return on capital invested is higher.

What is the solution?

B.C. currently relies on private-sector financing of assisted living, which is more expensive than the provincial government financing new construction. This approach is a relic of the early 2000s when government refused to take on debt in order to build critical social infrastructure.

Aside from an initial injection of federal and provincial capital funding in the early 2000s, the provincial government has provided very little ongoing direct capital funding to expand subsidized assisted living. In fact, over nearly 10 years (2009-10 to 2017-18) the B.C. government provided a mere $3.3 million in capital funding. To put this into perspective, this represents 0.04 per cent of total capital investments in the health sector over this period.

The B.C. government should provide new capital and operating funding to non-profit organizations and health authorities to increase the supply of publicly subsidized assisted living units as part of a provincial seniors’ care capital funding plan. Seniors and their families deserve no less.

Andrew Longhurst is a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and author of the just-released report Assisted Living in British Columbia: Trends in access, affordability and ownership.

6Nov

Oppenheimer Park residents, advocates worried about closure of public washrooms | CBC News

by admin

A handful of activists at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park, home to more than a hundred people living in tents, have occupied the bathrooms in an effort to prevent city officials closing them again, according to advocates. 

The park’s public washrooms were closed overnight Tuesday, leading to hygiene concerns from some who live in the park.   

“There wasn’t any information about why that happened,” said Fiona York, co-ordinator with the non-profit Carnegie Community Action Project. 

“And there was no advanced notice.”

She says the only warning was a handwritten note stating the facilities were closed.

According to the City of Vancouver, the closures were due to the discovery of a sewage backup. Plumbers are expected to be on site Thursday morning, and the washrooms will remain closed until then. 

Roughly 150 people currently live in the tent city, York said, and access to washroom facilities is crucial.

“Sanitation, running water and toilet access is the number one health and safety concern,” she said. 

The city says there are four portable washrooms on site. 

York emphasized the purpose isn’t to shut down repairs but rather push for adequate, alternative sanitation facilities. 

“There’s no running water so it’s not a great solution,” she said. “The discussion is about setting up something in place of the washroom.”

Oppenheimer Park’s tent city has been an ongoing, contentious issue for months. 

Last month, the park board voted against evicting people living in tents, choosing instead an approach to help them find alternative housing. 

This after the Vancouver Park Board resettled around 100 park residents into single resident occupancy (SRO) housing or shelters over the summer — about two-thirds of the people who had been living in the park at the time, according to the city.

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