Posts Tagged "safe"


Province secures safe shelter, supports for people living in major encampments

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The Province is working with the cities of Vancouver and Victoria to transition people living in encampments in Oppenheimer Park, Topaz Park and on Pandora Avenue into safe, temporary accommodations with wraparound supports to protect their health and safety in the overlapping COVID-19 and overdose crises.

Since March 2020, the Province, in partnership with BC Housing and local municipalities, has worked to secure and operate 686 hotel and community centre accommodations in Vancouver and 324 hotel spaces in Victoria. This allows people from the encampments to safely physically distance, with access to important health, social and other supports.

“Providing safe, temporary accommodations and wraparound services for people facing homelessness has been an urgent priority for this government for a long time,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Now, more than ever, with the concurrent emergencies of the pandemic and the ongoing opioid crisis, it is time to implement long-term housing solutions that take care of and protect our most vulnerable people.”

This is a step toward providing permanent housing for people in these encampments. BC Housing, non-profit and health authority staff, provincial community-integration specialists and municipal staff will be working directly with people living in these three encampments and will help transition people into safer accommodations. There, they will have their own living space and access to services, such as meals, laundry, washroom facilities, health-care services, addictions treatment and harm reduction, storage for personal belongings and other supports.

This is the next step in a phased approach, developed in co-ordination and collaboration with local governments and service delivery partners, to support vulnerably housed people living with elevated risk during two public health emergencies – the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing overdose crisis. 

“Having a roof over your head, access to food, health care and social supports are all essential to finding a pathway to hope,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “As we stare down not one, but two public health emergencies, we are saying that we won’t leave anyone behind.”  

By transitioning vulnerable people into more secure accommodations, the Province is focused on reducing the immediate health and safety risks to people living and working in these densely populated encampments, as well as those in the neighbouring communities.

“Every day I am inspired by the tremendous leadership the Province has shown British Columbians,” said Lisa Helps, mayor, City of Victoria. “This approach to helping our most vulnerable residents is thoughtful, prudent and ultimately will keep all of us safer during this pandemic.”

This transition is supported by an order under the Emergency Program Act under the provincial state of emergency issued by Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, as part of the Province’s all-of-government response to COVID-19. The order sets May 9, 2020, as the deadline to transition people out of the encampments.

“In this provincial state of emergency, our priority is public safety: for those living in these encampments, neighbouring communities and front-line workers delivering services to these vulnerable people,” Farnworth said. “We are committed to working in partnership with local governments and law enforcement to address the elevated health and safety risks within and around these encampments, while making sure people have access to the critical services they need.”

The Province is working on comprehensive long-term plans to secure permanent housing with appropriate supports for those leaving the encampments and moving into safe, temporary accommodations. These plans will include strategies that will mitigate a return to homelessness and will also make sure the many public safety concerns at the current encampments are addressed, including fire code violations, property crime and sexual violence.

These accommodations are in addition to the more than 1,739 beds that have been secured for vulnerable people, including those experiencing homelessness, in other hotel rooms, community centres and emergency response centres across the province. This step also supports additional and existing work done to date by the COVID-19 Vulnerable Populations Working Group, regional health authorities, BC Housing and the cities of Vancouver and Victoria.


Cheryl Casimer, political executive, First Nations Summit –

“We would like to acknowledge the efforts of the provincial government and all partners involved in developing a strategy for the Downtown Eastside (DTES). Although the strategy announced today includes a temporary plan to address urgent housing and social service supports needed to curtail the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in the DTES, it will also allow the Province and primary partners to work towards addressing the much needed long-term housing and wellness strategies and needs to support the DTES community. Based on reports that a second wave of COVID-19 is possible, it is absolutely necessary that these long-term needs are addressed on a priority basis.”

Regional Chief Terry Teegee, B.C. Assembly of First Nations –

“These necessary supports for vulnerable members of the DTES community as well as other communities are much needed during this unprecedented health crisis. I applaud the efforts of the provincial government and other partners in addressing the housing and health-related realities that residents are facing. We must continue to advance and ensure long-term collaborative supports as we work to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Learn More:

The related order under the Emergency Program Act under the provincial state of emergency can be viewed here:

For an overview of BC Housing’s work to monitor and respond to COVID-19, visit:

For more information and latest medical updates on COVID-19, follow the BCCDC on Twitter @CDCofBC or visit its website:

For more information on non-medical issues like travel recommendations and how to manage social isolation, visit:
Or call 1 888 COVID19 (1 888 268-4319) between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. (Pacific time), seven days a week.

Three backgrounders follow.


Opinion: A co-ordinated group of family, friends and allies key to keeping disabled safe

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Florence Girard, 54, was found dead in a private home on Oct. 13, 2018. An RCMP probe alleged that the victim didn’t receive the necessities of life, such as food, shelter, medical attention and protection from harm, Coquitlam Mounties said in a statement Jan. 29, 2020.


The news of Florence Girard’s tragic death and subsequent charges against her caregivers reminds us that family, friends and neighbours have a critical and irreplaceable role in keeping disabled people safe. While the courts deal with the RCMP charges let’s not make the mistake of relying solely on formal accountability mechanisms. Instead let’s ensure a network of supportive relationships is in place for every vulnerable person in care so that no one ever has to die alone and unnoticed again.

Our comments aren’t wishful thinking. We write this as co-founders and leaders of the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN.) We have more than three decades of experience developing support networks for disabled people in B.C. and around the world. One of us has a daughter who, like Girard, has Down syndrome. Research studies back up what we’ve learned. When disabled people have a network of supportive relationships they’re safer, healthier, require less paid services, have a higher quality of life, and their risk of abuse and neglect is dramatically reduced.

Caring networks create safeguards. We aren’t referring to an occasional volunteer visit, but to an intentional and co-ordinated group of family, friends and allies. Network members are companions, watchdogs and advocates. They serve as trustees. They monitor guardianship arrangements. They assist with health care, banking and everyday decisions. Because they’re in a committed, continuing relationship with the disabled person, they know when something is wrong, they spot changes to the person’s health and temperament, and motivated by love they take action to make things better.

The outcry for more formal safeguards is understandable but misplaced. Compare the difference in coverage. An occasional monitoring visit by a government agency combined with a once-every-three-years formal certification process versus a network of friends that is always checking in, visiting regularly and sharing updates with each other.

There are many ways to establish a stable network that lasts. PLAN’s approach is to hire a community connector who works closely with the individual. When there is no family nearby, network members come from neighbours, service clubs, faith groups and people who share similar interests. In our experience most people welcome the opportunity to join with others in a caring network.

We have witnessed network members identify changes in a person’s mental health, detect tumours and arrange for medical care that was missed by service providers. They have found jobs and volunteer opportunities. They have taken up the slack when aging parents or family members weren’t available. They have protected people from being exploited and abused. They have made sure they have suitable clothing and nutritional food. And they have helped people with a terminal illness die in peace and love.

Sadly, most disabled people in care don’t have caring networks. It’s time for the B.C. government to make these relational safeguards a fundamental ingredient of our service-delivery apparatus. Not as a “nice-to-have.” Not as part of another study or investigation. But as essential in keeping people safe as all the formal safeguards combined.

We recommend the B.C. government:

1. Mandate the funding body Community Living B.C. (CLBC) to ensure relational safeguards exist for every one of their clients. This will take a modest investment of money in community groups who aren’t service providers but nowhere as much as implementing yet another system of monitors monitoring monitors, monitoring contracted agencies.

2. Require all relevant government and service-provider agencies to take courses in relational safeguards. This orientation is just as important as safety and health certificates or criminal record checks.

3. Appoint a vice-president of relational safeguards at CLBC. Unless there is a senior position with power and resources nothing will change.

4. Document the difference. The added benefit of relational safeguards is that it results in happier lives for disabled people and reduced program costs. Use the data and any savings as the basis for improving supports for British Columbians with a disability.

We can’t think of a better way to honour Girard’s memory.

Vickie Cammack and Al Etmanski received the Order of Canada for their work with disabled people and their families. They co-authored Safe and Secure — Seven Steps to a Good Life for People with Disabilities. Rebecca Pauls is executive director of the Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network.


The Robson Square steps are beautiful but are they safe? | CBC News

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The path at Robson Square in Vancouver that zigzags across the stairwell like a switchback trail on a mountainside is a crown jewel in the late architect Arthur Erickson’s portfolio.

Arnold Cheng doesn’t like it.

“There are two competing camps — people who think it’s beautiful and wonderful and people who don’t think it’s beautiful and wonderful,” Cheng said.

“Quite often, one [camp] is people without disabilities and the other is people with disabilities.”

Cheng, who works as an accessibility consultant, says it’s dangerous to travel down the steep ramp in his wheelchair.

Conversely, anyone pushing a stroller uphill would have a hard time making it to the top of the steps.

“You need stamina,” he said. “Muscles, too.”

Cheng pushes his wheelchair up the ramp at Robson Square in Vancouver. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Is it dangerous?

It’s not just the ramp Cheng takes issue with.

The stairs are all the same colour, which he says can make it difficult for a visually impaired person to tell where one step begins and the next one ends.

“That’s how people start tripping,” he said. “It’s quite a hazard.”

Cheng has a list of suggestions to make the space more accessible: make the ramp less steep; add more handrails and place coloured strips on each step to increase visibility.

Accessibility advocates have raised concerns about the wheelchair ramp at Robson Square in Vancouver on Tuesday, August 20, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)


A third-party property management company looks after the complicated land share agreement between the province and the city of Vancouver, which both own portions of Robson Square.

Any alterations to the steps would fall under the province’s jurisdiction. The B.C. government didn’t respond to CBC’s request for comment before deadline.

Arthur Erickson Foundation director Simon Scott says accessibility was an issue that was close to Erickson’s heart.

Erickson’s father lost both of his legs in the First World War, which deeply impacted his son’s designs.

“He wanted to make public spaces accessible and enjoyable,” Scott said.

“The steps here, which are part of this wonderful public space, have stairs and ramps so that everybody can enjoy it.”

Scott says Robson Square was built to code when it opened between 1979 and 1983 and entrances to all buildings on site are equipped with elevators.

James Cheng, architect with James KM Cheng Architects, is pictured in his office in Vancouver on Tuesday, August 20, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Working for Erickson

Architect Jim Chang worked on the Robson Square project shortly after he graduated from university.

He remembers working under Erickson’s leadership with a team to incorporate an accessibility ramp into the stairway, which was a brand new idea at the time.

Chang says similar designs are now used all over the world, including a recent project along the river walk in Chicago.

“It’s identical to the same solution we had,” he said. “This is 40 years later.”

Chang is open to making minor alterations to the Robson Square ramp and stairwell but says it’s also important to preserve Erickson’s vision.

“I’m of the opinion that as long as there are other options, like elevators, that if you aren’t comfortable taking those ramps, take the elevator,” he said.

“Everybody has got choices.”

Arnold Cheng, Accessibility Assessor for Spectrum Ability, rolls his wheelchair up the ramp he says is unsafe at Robson Square in Vancouver on Tuesday, August 20, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Cheng hopes speaking publicly about his concerns will persuade the government to take action.

“Just because something is old doesn’t mean it can be improved,” he said.

“The Great Wall of China is actually accessible right now because somebody had the vision to actually make it accessible.”



Low doses of peanut a safe, effective way to fight allergies: study

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Five year old Saiya Dhaliwal would break into hives if she accidentally ingested peanuts but after participating in a study led by B.C. Children’s Hospital, she can now eat 10 peanut M&Ms without reacting.

Ravinder Dhaliwal

Most preschoolers who are allergic to peanuts can be safely and effectively desensitized by eating small amounts of peanut protein as directed by allergy specialists, a study led by University of B.C. and B.C. Children’s Hospital researchers shows.

In the study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, 243 children (90 per cent) reached the desired, desensitization dosage in an average period of 22 weeks. The other 10 per cent dropped out for reasons such as repeated allergic reactions and child and parental anxiety. Participants lived in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

“According to our data, preschoolers with peanut allergies can be considered for oral immunotherapy,” said the lead author, Dr. Edmond Chan, who is the head of pediatric allergy and immunology at UBC and at B.C. Children’s Hospital. “However, it’s important to note that it should always be done under allergist supervision, and not attempted by parents on their own or with health care providers who aren’t allergists.”

He said older children with a history of severe, life-threatening reactions to peanuts and those anxious about the treatment are not good candidates for the desensitization approach.

While some experts have opined that allergic reaction effects can compound and get worse each time anaphylaxis occurs, Chan said the severity of food allergic reactions is difficult to predict. “The likelihood of outgrowing a food allergy depends on the type of food and other factors (and only) only about 20 per cent of children outgrow peanut allergy.” 

Oral immunotherapy is a new approach in which children consume small amounts of an allergy-causing food with the amount gradually increasing to a predetermined maximum or maintenance level that is held for a year or two. The goal is to desensitize them so that if they are accidentally exposed to the allergen, they won’t have a life-threatening reaction.

In the study, children with a median age of 23 months went to an allergy clinic every few weeks — a total of eight to 11 times — to be watched each time their peanut protein dose was increased. The top daily dose was 300 mg of peanut protein, the equivalent of one peanut or 1/4 to 1/3 of a teaspoon of peanut butter.

Children in the study ate their doses of peanuts in powder form (mixed into yogurt, for example) or in popular Israeli peanut snacks called Bamba.

Nearly 68 per cent of preschoolers experienced at least one allergic reaction during the buildup phase, but the reactions were largely mild.

Only four per cent of the children in the trial required epinephrine to counteract allergic responses, while 1.5 per cent experienced severe reactions requiring a trip to the hospital emergency department.


Dr. Edmond Chan, head of pediatric allergy and immunology at B.C. Children’s Hospital and the University of B.C.

Arlen Redekop /


Chan said the study, which had 18 co-authors, should help calm fears about such an approach.

“The goal of our group was to be as safe as possible since this was not a clinical trial and allergists were not always available if an allergic reaction occurred at home.

“So we erred on the side of caution and encouraged parents to give epinephrine if there was a possibility that anaphylaxis was occurring.”

Ravinder Dhaliwal entered her then four-year-old daughter, Saiya, in the study because, as a pediatric emergency nurse at Surrey Memorial Hospital, she has seen how serious peanut and other food allergies can be.

“I’ve seen a lot of anaphylaxis, never a death, thank God, but it’s my biggest fear. At work just recently, a child in anaphylaxis had to be put in the intensive care unit and was then transferred to B.C. Children’s Hospital,” she said.

While her daughter’s allergic reactions in the past were mild, there is no way to predict when a life-threatening response might happen. Her daughter, now five, had only one bout of vomiting after the peanut dose was increased.

Bamba snack ingredients

It’s about a year and a half since Saiya entered the study, and she can now eat the equivalent of 10 peanuts without a reaction.

“We will always have a certain level of anxiety about this,” Dhaliwal said. “We still carry an EpiPen and she is still considered allergic to peanuts but now it’s like having a protective shield around her,” she said.

Saiya is also allergic to tree nuts and is on the same immunotherapy protocol for those.

Chan believes the protocol is ready for wider use.

“Our data suggests peanut oral immunotherapy in preschoolers is ready for prime time. A strength of our study is that about 90 per cent of the allergists who participated practise in the community.

“To ensure patient safety, it should only be offered by allergists with adequate training and experience in performing oral food challenges and managing life-threatening anaphylaxis.”

Offering the treatment to children when they are young “will give parents valuable peace of mind and help improve children’s quality of life and reduce their anxiety as they grow up.”

The study says the rate of epinephrine use in the study was about 1/50th of what it is among allergic children who are accidentally exposed to peanuts.

The desensitization protocol is, therefore, a way to “seek a safety margin for accidental exposures.”

Twitter: @MedicineMatters

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‘Safe and accessible’: Granville St. Bridge renewal open houses begin

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The City of Vancouver wants you to have your say on the future of the Granville Street Bridge.

To do so, they’re hosting open houses Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday, April 16, and inviting the public to speak their minds about the planned renewal project. 

The city says the planned improvements would make walking, rolling and cycling safer and more easily accessible for people of all ages and abilities, while still accommodating drivers, transit and emergency vehicles.

According to the project’s website, the eight-lane Granville Bridge was originally intended as a high-speed, freeway-style connector. Granville Street is the main thoroughfare from the Arthur Laing Bridge in Richmond; the closest bridge to the Vancouver International Airport and a major connector from the airport to the city’s core. 

Now, they say the current design presents “significant safety and accessibility challenges in today’s urban context.” 

In an information sheet, the city says the bridge has “extra capacity” and could reallocate up to four car lanes for a pathway. 

The same info pack says on a typical weekday, the bridge can see as many as 65,000 motor vehicles daily, plus 25,000 transit trips.

Currently the bridge does not feature any bike lanes or signaled crosswalks. The sidewalks are narrow and elevated, which the city says makes it inaccessible for pedestrians with mobility aids like wheelchairs or scooters.

Apart from safety and accessibility, the city says they are open to “big ideas” for the public space around the bridge, including art, seating and lookout stations. 

The open houses are being held at CityLab at 511 West Broadway on the following days:

  • Friday, April 12, from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 13, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
  • And Tuesday, April 16, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

An online survey is open until May 10 for anyone that can’t attend the live consultations, and four workshops are planned for April 27 and April 30.

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Elections B.C. confident referendum safe from fraud

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Not all of the voter packages mailed out for this fall’s elections referendum are making it into the hands of the voter on the address label, but Elections B.C. says the odds are against voters committing fraud.

Some of the three million brown envelopes containing a chance to vote on future provincial voting systems — maintain the “first past the post” or adopt a new proportional representation — mailed out between Oct. 22 and this Friday, have been seen piling up in the lobbies of multi-family residences.

They are addressed to residents listed on B.C.’s election rolls, but some may have moved and others may have discarded them, not knowing, or knowing, what they are for.

Ex-MLA Judi Tyabji has said she feared a lot of these envelopes would end up in recycling and picked up by anyone, leaving the system open to abuse.

Handfuls of Elections B.C. voter packages, with specific address labels for voters, for the fall 2018 referendum on voting systems were discarded as junk mail in a downtown Vancouver condo building.

Scott Brown /


The Election Data and Science Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has collected and analyzed data from U.S. elections about absentee voting, or voting by mail (VBM), to determine “whether it increases voter fraud.”

It said VBM increased “opportunities for coercion and voter impersonation” and raised concerns about “ballots being intercepted and ballots being requested without the voter’s permission.”

“As with all forms of voter fraud, documented instances of fraud related to VBM are rare,” the lab found. “However, even many scholars who argue that fraud is generally rare agree that fraud with VBM voting seems to be more frequent than with in-person voting.”

“We have a number of safeguards to protect the integrity of the system,” said Elections B.C. spokesman Andrew Watson.

He said he couldn’t reveal all safeguards because it could jeopardize their effectiveness, but did say Elections B.C. would confirm the voter’s date of birth by matching it against the electors’ roll.

The ballot would also have to be signed, but the signature isn’t verified.

Watson said anyone who is delivered a package for someone who is no longer living at the address, should mark it “return to sender” and mail it back to Elections B.C.

He noted that during the 2011 harmonized sales tax provincewide mail-in referendum, two per cent of returned ballots, or 38,000, were “set aside” because they weren’t completed properly. The reasons were varied but could have included evidence of an unconfirmed identity.

During the 2015 mail-in plebiscite on transit and transportation in parts of B.C., the percentage of returned ballots “set aside,” was almost five per cent, or around 38,000 ballots, according to the chief electoral officer’s report.

Watson said its post-2011 referendum survey of more than 6,000 voters indicated that 99.7 per cent of respondents confirmed they participated.

He said there were “significant penalties” for those convicted of voter fraud, including fines of up to $20,000 and up to two years in jail. There have never been any such charges in B.C., said Watson.

He also said it’s an offence if a voter’s envelope is opened without the voter’s permission. Also, a ballot must by law be filled out only by the registered voter, but there are exceptions, including those needing assistance because of a disability or language barrier.

Each voter should receive a voter’s package by Friday, said Watson. He said because of rotating postal strikes affecting mail delivery in some cities, the mail-out deadline may be extended.

During the 2011 HST referendum, mail delivery was halted for several days because of a management lockout of employees and the chief electoral officer extended the mail-out and mail-in deadlines to “ensure the integrity of the referendum,” his report said.

Voters not receiving a package by Friday can request a ballot up until Nov. 23. All ballots must be mailed back by Nov. 30.

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