Posts Tagged "surrey"


Adopt-A-School: Surrey WRAP program looks out for at-risk kids

by admin

The program is seeking $10,000 from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign as WRAP doesn’t have discretionary funds to help with emergencies.

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On Dec. 1, Jon Ross’ plate was full: a family of four had just been evicted — two teenagers, a 10-year-old, and a single mother.


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“The kids were making too much noise. Now they’re homeless.”

Ross is a case manager with Surrey school district’s WRAP program, which helps the most vulnerable, at-risk youth in the city.

And here was a fractured family being dispersed to live among whoever would take them in.

“She’s a single mum from Iraq, doesn’t speak English, has no job, and won’t get a reference from the landlord. So no one’s going to rent her a place here.

“She’s going to Toronto. There’s a big Iraqi-Christian community there. That’s her plan.

“We’re just helping put their stuff in storage.”

Without this help, all the family’s possessions would have been dumped and left on the street.

The program is seeking $10,000 from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign as WRAP doesn’t have discretionary funds to help with emergencies such as this.


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The money allows WRAP to buy food and clothes for youth, some of whom might be homeless and at risk of being criminally exploited without such help.

Two mothers of families being helped by WRAP spoke about the assistance. Neither will be identified.

The first has a 14-year-old son who suffers from attention deficit disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. He refuses to go to school.

Home life is chaotic. She is on disability and they are living on the top floor of a dilapidated house with his mother’s two former spouses — one the boy’s father, both addicts also on disability who share the rent, as well as the boy’s girlfriend who is supposed to be living in a group home.

Michael Sosnowsky, the boy’s case worker, provides grocery cards when there is no food in the house.


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“He helps us survive until payday,” said the mother.

The boy had no bedroom door or usable furniture and was sleeping in the living room, so Sosnowsky took him to IKEA to furnish his bedroom.

It helped Sosnowsky deepen his connection with the boy as he wants him to return to school. If not, he will enrol him in a pre-employment program so he can find a job.

He feels the boy has been let down by various government services.

“It’s been lack of follow-up or lack of patience. But with WRAP, we won’t give up on him.”

His colleague Mark De La Cruz is as dogged with a 15-year-old who is in danger of being drawn into gang life.

“He’s a great kid, but he’s struggling. I’ve been with him since Grade 6. Now he’s made new friends and left home. Are we concerned? Yeah.”


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He has been charged with assault and theft, and police have seized his phone.

He is the eldest of three children living in a $1,500-a-month basement suite. The single mother is clearly worn out trying to provide for them on a low-paying cashier’s job in a restaurant.

That morning she was up at 2:30 a.m. riding buses for 90 minutes to get to work for an early shift.

If she has trouble stretching her wages to buy food, De La Cruz helps.

“He gives me vouchers for Superstore now and again.”

The help has included providing clothes for the children, haircuts, and buying the mother a bed because she was sleeping on the floor in the living room, and it was obvious that for the good of her children she couldn’t go on like this.

“She’s a strong lady and she is keeping her family together, but she needs her rest,” said De La Cruz.


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Meanwhile, he is attempting to stay in touch with the boy.

“We want him back to school, but right now he’s just doing what he wants and we are trying our best to keep him out of trouble.”

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Anatomy of a rescue: How heroic strangers saved injured Surrey family from a mudslide

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The Weiss family’s car was slammed by a mudslide, leaving a 14-year-old son with serious head injuries. He and his family are now recovering, and grateful to their rescuers.

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The massive landslide slammed the Weiss family’s van off Highway 7, shattered the windows, caked the family in mud, tore shoes off their feet, and rolled their Dodge Caravan twice before it finally came to rest in utter blackness.


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Lori-Ann Weiss yelled out for her husband Joshua and her three children. In the back row, 14-year-old Elijah was covered in blood and unresponsive. She thought he might be dead.

They desperately needed help, but what the family didn’t know was that they were sandwiched between a series of mudslides on the highway between Hope and Agassiz. No ambulance could reach them.

The Weiss family’s van. Photo by Jarod Ridge.
The Weiss family’s van. Photo by Jarod Ridge. Photo by Jarod Ridge

Almost two weeks after a devastating rain storm triggered landslides that left at least five people dead, flooded farms, and destroyed roads and other major infrastructure, the Weiss family is recuperating at home in Surrey.

Elijah, who had a skull fracture, a jaw broken in two places, and large gashes to his forehead and scalp, is expected to make a full recovery. The others are healing from wounds less serious, but no less traumatic.


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Parents Lori-Ann and Joshua believe they owe their family’s survival to the selfless actions of heroic strangers who came to their rescue after the Nov. 14 mudslide.

“People we don’t even know, complete strangers. And their ability to show us love and their ability to selflessly give to us, having never, ever known us before …” Lori-Ann said.

” … in the drop of a hat,” Joshua added, finishing her sentence. “All of these people, and all of these efforts, helped to keep our family intact.”

Following the “most harrowing and scary” experience of their lives, Joshua kept a list of the people to thank: The off-duty nurses and other good Samaritans who helped at the scene, Hope Search and Rescue team members   who carried their stretchers over the landslide debris, the strangers in Hope who gave them shelter, and the Surrey medical team who travelled through flooded roads and along rail lines to treat Elijah and eventually arrange an air ambulance to B.C. Children’s Hospital.


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Postmedia spoke with many of those rescuers, who, in turn, are grateful that the family is on the mend and are inspired by how people worked together during a disaster.

“I’m so thankful for everyone that was involved in being able to get them to a hospital. … It took a huge team of people, and it was just so nice to hear that side of humanity, where everyone is so helpful and creative in an emergency,” said Kathleen Sullivan, a B.C. Children’s Hospital nurse practitioner who provided first aid to the Weiss family.

“I’ve cared for hundreds of kids in scary and uncertain circumstances. Stuck between two mudslides with a MVA (motor vehicle accident) trauma teenager certainly takes the cake.”

Nurse practitioner Kathleen Sullivan cares for Elijah Weiss at the scene of the mudslide.
Nurse practitioner Kathleen Sullivan cares for Elijah Weiss at the scene of the mudslide. Photo by Nadia Weiss /PNG

On the morning of the mudslide, the Weisses began driving home from Kamloops. During their trip, rain started to pound down, and a series of accidents and road closures eventually led them to detour onto Highway 7, east of Hope.


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The highway was wet and dark, but traffic was moving well. Around 7:30 p.m., Lori-Ann, who along with her husband is a Surrey high school teacher, was quizzing the two boys for a chemistry test when Joshua saw something falling fast on the steep slope to their right.

“I said to Lori-Ann, ‘What is that?’”

She screamed, “Watch out!” as the mudslide slammed into the side of the van with a deafening roar.

“It sounded like thunder,” recalled Elijah.

It would be the last thing he remembered before waking up in hospital a day later.

Noah, who was in the third row of the van beside his twin Elijah, and Nadia who was sitting alone in the middle row, counted as the vehicle flipped two times down the slope.

“We went off the road and it was so fast. And we rolled twice upside down and we just stopped against a tree,” Noah said.


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Lori-Ann called out everyone’s names. Noah yelled that Elijah wasn’t saying anything. He was making groaning noises and his body had gone stiff as a board. There was a giant rock in the back, which the family believes blew through the window and hit Elijah in the head.

Joshua, like the rest of his family, had mud in his eyes, in his ears, in his mouth. Terrified, he knew he needed to get help. He wrenched open his mangled door, and stumbled towards headlights he could see far above on Highway 7.

The Weiss family van.
The Weiss family van.

When he got to the top, he jumped over a downed power line and ran to the first car. Inside was emergency room nurse Laura Ronson, who gave him a headlamp and promised to come help.

Joshua ran back down the embankment to the van, where Lori-Ann was using bottles of water to try to wash the mud out of everyone’s eyes. The headlamp illuminated the blood covering Elijah’s face, Noah’s blood-soaked arm, and Lori-Ann’s bloodied face and hand.


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As Nadia, 16, was the most able-bodied, Joshua helped her out first. She was in bare feet but found a pair of slippers, which she put on after shaking them free of glass. The flimsy footwear gave her very little grip, though, while climbing over wet boulders, downed trees and large piles of mud.

“I had to crawl up on my hands, on my knees to get up this slope,” she said.

Once they reached the road, Heather and Steve Roseboom, dairy farmers from Chilliwack, offered Nadia refuge inside their warm pickup truck. The frightened teenager started to pray out loud, and Heather prayed with her.

“I have no clue what’s happening in the car right now. I don’t know if Elijah’s OK. In the moment that I was leaving the car, I actually thought that he was gone,” Nadia recalled.


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Back in the van, Lori-Ann got Noah to help her pull Elijah to the front seat, torn between worrying that he shouldn’t be moved because of a possible spinal injury and the certainty that they must get out of the van to safety.

When Joshua returned, he was accompanied by Ronson, who had borrowed boots and a second headlamp. Together, they all lowered Elijah, who couldn’t walk on his own, out of the van onto the uneven ground below.

It was a struggle for the determined dad and nurse to carry the 6-foot-2 teenager over the many mounds of debris lying between the van and a life-saving rope.

A 15-metre rope dangling down the embankment had been tied to a utility pole at the top by another stranded motorist, an infantry soldier with the Rocky Mountain Rangers, a Canadian Armed Forces reserve unit.


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Ronson had flagged down the soldier to help, and he had gone down the embankment with her and Joshua, but realized that an injured person would need help to get up the slope. So he ran back to get his rope and, after tying it to the pole, descended to assist Elijah over a high pile of logs.

“I held him upright while the dad was getting across (the logs), and then I pushed Elijah up so he was almost vertical, so he wouldn’t fall over again. He was just leaning on me the whole time,” said the soldier, Mackenzie, who asked that his last name not be used.

Joshua was not sure they could get the injured teen up the rope. But they pushed and pulled, and Elijah was able to grip the cable. “I’m behind him and I’ve got his bum and I’m shoving him up while he’s hand over hand.”


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Elijah was taken to the Rosebooms’ truck, where Nadia was relieved to see her brother alive. She tried to keep him calm as he mumbled questions: What happened? Where was he? Why did his eyes hurt? Were Noah and his parents OK?

“He has such a kind heart,” she said, tearing up. “It was really hard to see my little brother in this situation.”

Lori-Ann, who had just one shoe, and Noah, who was wearing only socks, also got to the rope with help from Mackenzie.

They were taken to an industrial painter’s van, where Lori-Ann huddled with Noah under a blanket, trying to comfort the teenager. “He was going into a bit of shock. He was shaking. And so I was able to hold him and have body contact with him,” she said.

She also flushed her right eye with water, removing pieces of rock roughly the size of peas.


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Joshua went back and forth between the trucks harbouring his family, but now that the adrenalin from rescuing them had subsided, he started to panic about whether Elijah would recover.

“I knew at that moment that he was critically, critically injured, and that I couldn’t help him.”

Six members of the Hope Search and Rescue team helped the Weiss family. From left to right: Matthew Baerg, Keith Carlin, Kevin Meredig, Walter Miller, Miguel Parra. (Missing from photo is Taysha Grindon).
Six members of the Hope Search and Rescue team helped the Weiss family. From left to right: Matthew Baerg, Keith Carlin, Kevin Meredig, Walter Miller, Miguel Parra. (Missing from photo is Taysha Grindon). Photo by Hope SAR

Farther back in the line of trapped vehicles, Sullivan, the nurse practitioner, was going car to car to ask if anyone needed help. When she learned about Elijah, she assessed him for neurological damage but did not see any signs of a brain injury.

“I talked to him and stayed with him. I cleaned up a few of his lacerations, I assessed where he was bleeding,” said Sullivan. She also called an ophthalmologist to ask about his eyes, still swollen shut with mud and blood.


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At this point, Sullivan got word that a Hope Search and Rescue team had arrived, hauling stretchers over the mudslide.

Elijah was bundled in blankets and put on a stretcher. SAR members carried him through about 10 centimetres of water gushing across the road, and then over the 75-metre-wide landslide field, said team leader Keith Carlin.

“We got him across the water using a couple of rocks to rest the stretcher on. And then we got him through all of the debris field into the ambulance,” he said.

There was only one available ambulance that was able to reach their location, and Carlin had arranged for it to meet them on the Hope side of the mudslide.

His team then returned to carry Noah, whose arm had been splinted by Sullivan, over the mudslide in a stretcher. They also helped Joshua walk across, and then the ambulance took father and sons to the Fraser Canyon Hospital in Hope.


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“I kept telling the family, ‘You know, no matter what happens, you’re all alive, and you’re all together,’” Carlin recalled.

Nadia borrowed new slippers and Lori-Ann wore someone else’s large boot on her left foot, with her own shoe on the right, as the SAR members accompanied them across the mudslide next.

“I was shaking, disoriented, so they were helping me cross over. And I had to clench my toes to keep the slippers on,” Nadia said. “The water was rushing really fast. And if I didn’t have someone holding me, you could be swept away.”

Nadia Weiss (left) and her mother, Lori-Ann (right), after they were rescued.
Nadia Weiss (left) and her mother, Lori-Ann (right), after they were rescued. Photo by Handout /PNG

The SAR truck took mother and daughter to the small hospital in Hope, arriving about 11:30 p.m. Sunday. It was overwhelmed and understaffed due to the floods, and Elijah was in one of the 10 ER beds.


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There the family was embraced by kindness again. A hospital social worker brought them clothes and shoes. A stranger took them in and gave them dinner and beds on Monday night.

While they appreciated the care they received at the hospital, the Weiss family wanted Elijah to get to a larger centre for more advanced medical treatment. But all roads between Hope and Metro Vancouver were blocked by landslides, and the air ambulance was delayed by high winds and horrendous rain.

The family, though, had no idea that a medical team from Surrey Memorial Hospital, led by Dr. Greg Haljan, was already working to bring their ICU department to the injured teen .

Monday evening, police escorted Haljan, along with a nurse, a respiratory therapist, and another doctor over flooded roads and through a gravel pit to reach the rail tracks in Chilliwack, where a CN vehicle drove them to Hope. They arrived at the hospital just before midnight, and provided Elijah with more specialized care.


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Haljan was also in contact with the air ambulance, which arrived early Tuesday and flew Elijah and Joshua to B.C. Children’s Hospital.

“It’s great to be one piece of that huge chain of survival, across all the different organizations,” Haljan said. “I’m really, really grateful that everybody came together to support (Elijah).”

From left to right: Sumeet Gill, respiratory therapist, CN Rail employee Tyson, Dr. Greg Haljan, and nurse Greg Sills. Handout photo.
From left to right: Sumeet Gill, respiratory therapist, CN Rail employee Tyson, Dr. Greg Haljan, and nurse Greg Sills. Handout photo. Photo by Fraser Health /PNG

Lori-Ann, Nadia and Noah flew to Vancouver later Tuesday when a friend arranged a helicopter flight. In the urban hospitals, a large chunk of glass was removed from Noah’s battered left arm, and Lori-Ann received several antibiotics to stave off infections in her badly lacerated right hand.

Elijah, who was admitted for three nights, had surgery and was put through a battery of tests before being released.

Today the grateful family is together and healing because motorists trapped on Highway 7, and later others in Hope and Surrey, rushed to save strangers in need. “There was a wider community …” Lori-Ann began.

” … that had developed in this short, very, very short, intense time frame,” Joshua added, smiling at his son Elijah.

“The amount of people that gathered selflessly for this young man here was nothing short of excellent.”



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IHIT says deadly Surrey shooting was targeted, linked to gang conflict | CBC News

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Police identified the victim in Tuesday night’s fatal shooting in Surrey as Sharnbeer Singh Somal and said they suspect the violence is linked to the Lower Mainland gang conflict.

The incident happened at around 9:56 p.m. PT near 124 Street and 80 Avenue in Surrey.

Surrey RCMP officers responded to reports of shots being fired and found a man suffering from gunshot wounds on a driveway. Paramedics were called but the victim died of his injuries.

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said Somal, 28, who is from Surrey, was known to police.

Investigators released this image of a black Ford pickup truck, which is suspected to be linked to the shooting. (Integrated Homicide Investigation Team)

Police said the shooting was targeted.

IHIT Sgt. David Lee said the violence highlighted the danger to the public.

“This shooting happened in a residential area. It was a total disregard for the safety of others,” said  Lee.

Shortly after the shooting, a black Ford pickup truck was found on fire near 129A Street and 72A Avenue, which investigators believe is connected to the shooting.

Police said the black Ford pickup truck was found on fire in the area of 129A Street and 72A Avenue. (Shane MacKichan)

Homicide investigators are canvassing the area for witnesses and CCTV footage. They ask anyone with dash cam footage from vehicles in the area between 8 p.m. PT to 10:30 p.m. PT to contact them.

The public is being asked to contact police through the IHIT Information Line at 1-877-551-IHIT (4448), by email at, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eliason also hopes health officials will make exemptions.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

by admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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