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And a voice for the city's unhoused folks
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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER  28
Good morning, Carol-Ann!

I am once again writing about books. After my initial call out for book suggestions, I received a couple of folks asking for a list of local book clubs in the city that they could join. A few readers have already written in about their book clubs, but if you're currently part of one and are looking for more folks to join, let me know and we can put together a snippet for the newsletter.

Also, while I'm here, I would like to know if you all would enjoy a book suggestion from Beacon readers to be included in the newsletter on the regular? If that's of interest, we can make it happen!

Simran Singh, managing editor

HAVE A STORY BURNABY NEEDS TO DIG IN TO?TIPS@BURNABYBEACON.COM
 
TODAY'S EDITION:
HOPE FOR THE VOICELESS
20 UNDER 20 BBY
 
Photo of two young reporters standing side by side smiling.
We cannot have another 4 years pass by with homelessness placed on the backburner says Abhi Gill of the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby. 📷 Srdjan Randjelovic / Shutterstock
Opinion: Homelessness in Burnaby is not an issue we can silence
With the federal election once again making headlines, is there hope for the voiceless?

This opinion piece was written by Abhi Gill, events coordinator for the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby.


Tonight, more than 300 Burnaby citizens will sleep in the streets because they lack a place to call home. They will come together in city parks, seek shelter under a bridge or in stairwells, parking lots, and perhaps even pitch tents in Burnaby’s many green spaces, all the while anxiously awaiting for the merest of space to open up in Burnaby’s only temporary shelter.

Whether they are completely lacking a place to live or struggling to pay rent, their lives are falling apart. The fight to stay healthy was only magnified with the onset of the pandemic and now the struggle continues with the increasing cost of living in Burnaby. Not only is there a desperate need for more housing, but the leaders of our country also need to commit to protecting and fighting for our most vulnerable citizens.

With the federal election once again making headlines, is there hope for the voiceless? I would like to think so. There’s always room for improvement and here’s how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can commit to permanent solutions rather than relying on emergency aid: The rising grocery prices are affecting families all across the region, but for the ones who live at the poverty line, things just went from bad to worse. The returning prime minister can help by capping the prices of necessary grocery items such as eggs, milk, rice, and certain fruits and vegetables. These are basic foods that provide sustenance and should not be exploited for the utmost profit. Perhaps implementing a food stamps program, that’s accepted by all major grocery store chains, might be a long-term vision but leaders can start helping now by making basic goods affordable for everyone.

Furthermore, Trudeau and his team can support the vulnerable by addressing the drug addiction issues Burnaby’s streets continue to face day and night. A large proportion of the homeless population struggle with different types of pain and PTSD associated with various events experienced by individuals. And for some, drugs seem to be an escape. Whether this can be addressed by implementing a mental health program, more harm reduction strategies (clean needles, safe access, etc) or more drug rehabilitation services, the wave of drug-related deaths requires the attention it demands by all levels of government.

The biggest and perhaps the most important contribution our government representatives can make is to prevent more of our citizens from becoming homeless. Currently, many people are considered rent-poor and on the verge of eviction. What that means is, although they are doing what they can to make ends meet, the burden of increasing rent is decreasing their quality of life. Of course, the pandemic didn’t help; causing families to fall further behind on their bills and other responsibilities. We did, however, see some form of rent assistance at the start of the pandemic but if that becomes a permanent resource, the chances of more citizens becoming unhoused would significantly decrease.

Simply put, homelessness in Burnaby, along with other metropolitan regions, is not an issue we can silence, especially when the chances of someone being forced to live a life on the streets increases with every passing day. We cannot have another 4 years pass by with homelessness placed on the backburner. We cannot simply acknowledge the problem without committing to the good fight.

—By Abhi Gill

Photo of two young reporters standing side by side smiling.
The Burnaby Fire Department says it was hindered by a lack of staffing at E-Comm during this year's heat dome. 📷 Burnaby Family Life / Facebook
'Our 911 system completely failed us'
The mayor wants to bolster the city's emergency response so Burnaby isn't affected by provincial shortcomings in future events like the summer's heat dome

The City of Burnaby is going to have to improve its emergency response services during catastrophic events because it can’t rely on provincial services, Mayor Mike Hurley said.

The comments came in yesterday’s meeting, in which staff presented council with a report on the city’s extreme heat initial response guideline and ways it can be improved.

The report specifically looked at the three heatwaves BC experienced this past summer, including the intense heat dome of late June/early July and two later heatwaves.

Scientists broadly agree that the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and other extreme weather events are directly related to climate change. These events will get worse in the coming decades.

Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health authorities had morbidity forecasting for the extreme heat. But the city report, compiled by the public safety department, said those forecasts "dramatically underestimated how many people could die during the heat dome."

The health authorities suggested an excess of 10 deaths per day in the Fraser Health region.

During the heat dome, 569 people are believed to have died as a result of the weather, making it the deadliest weather event in Canadian history. Of those, 49% were in the Fraser Health region, "a 363% increase over the modelled estimate."

Burnaby Beacon filed a freedom of information request with Fraser Health regarding the heat dome. The deadline for that request was unilaterally moved back by the health authority to Sept 27.

Fraser Health did not meet its deadline.

Ambulance waits, 911 on hold


The heat dome brought record-breaking temperatures, with the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada in Lytton multiple days in a row.

The province has since been heavily criticized for the preparedness of the BC Emergency Health Services, which critics have said is vastly under-resourced.

Indeed, Burnaby Fire Department emails obtained by the Beacon refer to "excessive delays in the arrival of BCAS [BC Ambulance Services] crews to many incidents."

"Dispatch personnel faced heavy workloads and experienced stressful situations," said deputy fire Chief Dave Samson in a June 30 email to all fire staff.

And in a June 29 update to Mayor Mike Hurley, fire Chief Chris Bowcock said his understanding was that paramedics could not "provide any medical response for a period of some 5-8 hours to any but the highest acuity medical calls."

But it wasn’t just the paramedics who were understaffed.

"I was going to be somewhat crass: the assistance from E-Comm, we need them to answer the phone," said public safety director Dave Critchley of the provincial service that manages 911 calls and dispatch.

"Although that might sound a little glib, I couldn't be more succinct. And that's one of the challenges that we've had, obviously, and we need to prepare for, is what happens when E-Comm isn’t answering the phone. And that’s a significant piece."

In Bowcock’s June 29 update to the mayor, he noted that E-Comm was "currently not able to address the 911 call volume load it is receiving from the public for calls for assistance."

"As a result, it is understood that Burnaby fire dispatch is not receiving all the calls for assistance that are made within the city, which has and may continue to result in response from fire crews not being provided solely on the basis that we have not been provided the event," Bowcock wrote.

"Additionally, Burnaby fire dispatch is receiving notification from BCAS dispatchers outside of the automated dispatching system via direct phone calls."

'Stand on our own'


In response to the high call volume, the fire department increased its dispatch from two staffers to three, a move Critchley praised in council.

Critchley’s statement was in response to a question from Burnaby Citizens’ Association Coun. Alison Gu, who asked if data from E-Comm and emergency responders could be overlaid on a map to see where there was more need.

Critchley said the city would "absolutely" be seeking more data from E-Comm to understand where fatalities were concentrated. He said that information can be used to help identify community groups that emergency services need to reach out to proactively in events that follow.

BCA Coun. Sav Dhaliwal called the event a "wake-up call for all of us," as climate change continues to make events like these far more frequent and intense.

"The event is going to be repeating again, probably more frequently than we dare to believe," Dhaliwal said.

He added that it’s a call to action for the city to both reduce carbon emissions and improve the city’s resilience to extreme weather.

Hurley agreed that the event was a wake-up call, but he said it’s not just climate-related events that this applies to.

"Our 911 system completely failed us during this time. It was another lesson that, during times of big emergencies, we’re going to have to learn to stand on our own for six, seven days. We really need to prepare for that," Hurley said.

"At some point, we will have an earthquake, and we do have to keep preparing for that, and this is part of that."

Find a web version of this story at burnabybeacon.com.


—By Dustin Godfrey

BURNABY BULLETIN

🟠 Orange sidewalk proposed in Burnaby: The Stand With Asians Coalition (SWAC) has written to Mayor Mike Hurley and Burnaby city council to propose an orange crosswalk to commemorate the victims and survivors of residential schools ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. "While I would like to commend the city’s effort to partner with the Stand With Asians Coalition (SWAC) in June and to set up the shoe memorial at the Burnaby Civic Square, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to truly address meaningful Truth and Reconciliation," said Doris Mah, SWAC co-founder, in a statement.

🚧 Construction starting on FortisBC gas line replacement project:
FortisBC says the work will take place along a 6-km stretch on Sperling Ave, Glencarin Dr, Lakefield Dr and 4th St starting in November and should be completed by the end of next year. There will be some road and lane closures in the area, and FortisBC says it'll be working with residents and businesses to minimize disruption as much as possible. Part of the work will include adding a walking and cycling path along the route, in partnership with the City of Burnaby. Find details on an information session for residents here.

🛂 Reminder: transition period for BC Vaccine Card program is now over: A 2-week transition period to allow British Columbians to access discretionary services like restaurants, bars, and indoor ticketed events using their paper vaccine card has ended. As of yesterday, you need to download the electronic copy of your card to your phone to get into those services. Find out how to download your vaccine card here.

⛰️ SFU drops misconduct allegations for students who painted climate justice mural
: The university had earlier warned that students involved in the creation of the mural with water-based paints may be subject to "corrective and/or disciplinary action". SFU has now agreed not to pursue those actions, or to remove the mural until a previously planned meeting with the Board of Governors. In a joint statement, SFU and the SFU Student Society agreed on a commitment to protect the right to peaceful protest on campus.

Burnaby's 20 Under 20 continued

As part of our ongoing 20 Under 20 series, we'd like to introduce you to today's picks for Burnaby youth doing amazing things: Laef Kucheran and Kimi Chua. Learn more about them below and if you want to let us know of a young person making positive change in Burnaby, get in touch with us here.

COVID-19 UPDATE (MON, SEPT 27)

  • 2,239 new cases since Friday (876+657+706). Total 176,354
  • 18 new deaths. Total 1,940
  • 6,098 active cases (+119). 303 people reported in hospital (-16), 141 in ICU (-8)
  • Rolling 7-day average of new cases up to 728 (from 643 a week ago).
  • 87.7% of people 12+ have received their 1st vaccine dose (+0.2%).
  • 80.5% of people 12+ have received their 2nd vaccine dose (+0.5%).
  • 857 new cases in Fraser Health since Friday (38% of BC).
  • 2,218 active cases in Fraser Health (+189).
Photo of two young reporters standing side by side smiling.
CONTEST ALERT: THE REC ROOM GIVEAWAY  

It's contest time! We're giving away 4 game tags (eligible for 2 hours) and a $100 meal gift card to the Cineplex Rec Room at The Amazing Brentwood.

The Rec room is a 44,000 sq ft space packed with over 90 arcade and amusement games, as well as plenty of delicious dining and drink options for you and your crew to enjoy.

To enter this contest, tag 3 friends you'd want to bring with you on our Instagram post and follow Rec Room on Instagram. For an extra entry, share the post to your Instagram story.

The winner will be announced on October 4. Good luck!

A misty morning at Deer Lake. 📷 Andrew Allan (Submitted)
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