בובות ונעליים לזכר הקורבנות במדרגות שליד הגלריה לאמנות בוונקובר (רוני רחמני)
שרידיהם של 215 ילדים, חלקם היו בגיל שלוש בלבד, נמצאו בפרובינציית בריטיש קולומביה, במקום שבו ניצב בעבר בית ספר גדול. במוסד זה קובצו בני קהילות האינדיאנים שהופרדו בכוח ממשפחותיהם ברחבי המדינה – במטרה להטמיע אותם באוכלוסייה הקנדית הכללית. ההודעה על מציאת השרידים זכתה לפרסומים נרחבים בכל העולם, אחרי שהם התגלו לפני כשבועיים בסיוע מכ”ם חודר-קרקע. מומחים אומרים כי גופות נוספות עשויות להימצא, משום שבאותו האזור נותרו שטחים נוספים שהיו שייכים לבית הספר ושטרם נערך בהם חיפוש.
התגלית הקשה שנחשפה היא עדות לזוועות שחוללו ממשלת קנדה והכנסייה הקתולית לעשרות אלפי תלמידים, שהשתייכו לקהילות האינדיאנים מאז המאה ה-19 ועד לשנות ה-70 של המאה העשרים. למעלה מ-150 אלף ילדים שהשתייכו לקהילות האלה נדרשו באותן שנים לעזוב את משפחותיהם ולעבור ללמוד בפנימיות נוצריות במימון המדינה הקנדית. זאת, כחלק מתוכנית שנועדה להטמיע אותם בחברה הכללית. הילדים אולצו להמיר את דתם לנצרות, לא הותר להם לדבר בשפת אבותיהם, ורבים מהם ספגו מכות והתעללויות מילוליות ופיזיות, בכלל זה התעללויות מיניות מצד מורים. לפי טענות עד 6,000 מהילדים מתו בבתי הספר האלה.
בית הספר שבאדמתו נמצאו השרידים שהוכרזו לפני כשבועיים שוכן ליד העיר קמלופס שבקולומביה הבריטית, והוא היה הגדול מבין 139 בתי הספר המיוחדים שהוקמו בשלהי המאה ה-19 לצורך הטמעת בני האינדיאנים. בכל זמן נתון שהו בו עד 500 תלמידים. הוא הופעל על-ידי הכנסייה הקתולית בשם ממשלת קנדה מ-1890 ועד שנסגר ב-1969.
פרסום הפרשה עורר תגובות נרגשות במערכת הפוליטית הקנדית. ראש ממשלת קנדה, ג’סטין טרודו, מסר כי הגילוי, שאותו הגדיר “מטריד”, שובר את לבו: “זו תזכורת כואבת לפרק אפל ומביש בתולדות ארצנו”, אמר טרודו. ראש ממשלת בריטיש קולומביה, ג’ון הורגן, הצהיר כי הוא “נחרד ושבור לב” בעקבות הגילוי של שרידי הגופות, וכינה זאת “טרגדיה בממדים שאי-אפשר לדמיין”. הוא אמר כי הגילוי הזה מדגיש את האלימות וההשלכות הקשות של הפנימיות שבהן שוכנו בני האינדיאנים.
ממשלת קנדה כבר התנצלה כבר באופן רשמי בשנת 2008 על הסבל הקשה שחוו בני האינדיאנים בבתי הספר המיוחדים שהמדינה הקימה לצורך הטמעתם, והודתה כי ההתעללויות הפיזיות והמיניות בבתי הספר מהסוג הזה היו תופעה נפוצה. רבים מהתלמידים לשעבר העידו כי הוכו רק משום שדיברו את שפת אבותיהם, ורבים מהם גם איבדו קשר עם הוריהם והתנתקו ממנהגיהם. מנהיגי קהילות האינדיאנים טענו לאורך השנים כי מסורת ההתעללויות והבידוד של הילדים האלה, היא הסיבה הראשית לשיעורים הגבוהים של עוני, אלימות, התאבדויות והתמכרויות לאלכוהול ולסמים בקהילותיהם.
בדוח מיוחד שפורסם לפני יותר מחמש שנים על ידי ועדת האמת והפיוס, נקבע כי לפחות 3,200 ילדים מתו כשהם סובלים מהתעללות והזנחה. לא ברור אם הילדים ששרידיהם נמצאו כעת נמנים עם הילדים שמותם כבר תועד. או שקרוב לוודאי שמציאת שדירי הילדים פירושה המעשי הוא שמספר המתים הרשמי גדול ממה שהיה ידוע עד כה. הטכנולוגיות החדישות שפותחו בשנים האחרונות מסייעות כעת בחיפושים אחרי קורבנות נוספים, ומנהלי החיפושים האלה מקווים שהתשובות שיעלו בהם יעזרו למשפחות לסגור מעגל.
ממשלת קנדה כבר הסכימה בעבר לפצות את התלמידים של קהילות האינדיאנים שהופרדו ממשפחותיהם, על השנים שבהן אולצו לשהות בפנימיות האפלות. לאחר שוועדת האמת והפיוס הגדירה את מה שעברו התלמידים האינדיאנים רצח עם תרבותי, החליטה הממשלה להקציב לפיצוי הילדים והמשפחות שלהם קרוב לשני מיליארד דולר.
Members of the Jewish community, as well as members of various professional organizations, are calling on the government of British Columbia to do more to regulate practising therapists and counselors in the province.
According to the Federation of Associations of Counseling Therapists in British Columbia (FACTBC), which is at the forefront of the campaign for this change, there is currently no regulatory body for counseling therapists in the province and, therefore, there are no regulatory standards for the work that counseling therapists do.
As it stands, they claim, someone can call themselves a mental health professional in British Columbia without having the checks that exist elsewhere in Canada. This, FACTBC points out, differs significantly from Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, which have all established regulatory bodies to oversee who can become a mental health professional. And, they add, the remaining provinces have done more than British Columbia when it comes to the consideration of implementing regulation.
A member of the Jewish community recently came to the Independent with her story. In her attempts to remove a social worker from her mother’s life, she encountered what she believes were numerous inadequacies within the present system regarding the protection of the public’s interest and confidence.
“When we seek the help of doctors and nurses, there is a protected title that tells us the person is qualified and safe and that there is a professional regulator to back up this promise,” she said. “Regulation protects people from harm. I cannot change the events of the past, but I can take from that experience and do what I can to ensure that all our citizens are protected, moving forward.
“I knew,” she added, “and had confirmed by other counselors and social workers that what this registrant was doing was in violation of their professional code. I saw my mother become further isolated from friends and family, while her health continued to decline both mentally and physically, while in this registrant’s care.”
The community member filed a complaint with the B.C. College of Social Workers (BCCSW). “Through this experience, I saw firsthand the lack of transparency in the complaint and discipline process that gives social workers the ability to enter negotiated complaint resolution agreements (CRAs) in exchange for keeping matters confidential. How can the public have confidence in regulators if the public is not aware of actions taken by regulators to protect them?” she wondered.
The community member then did what many who lack the financial means could not: she filed a civil claim against the social worker. She was not looking for money, she told the Independent; rather, she was looking for accountability and safety.
In the end, the woman and her family received an apology from the registrant and a promise to not repeat the following conduct: failing to differentiate between professional and personal boundaries; creating a situation of dependence with clients; and failing to limit their practice within the parameters of their competence.
“The college, in their inquiry decision, acknowledged that the time the registrant spent with my mother and the amount the registrant billed were not reasonable. I am not sure I will ever be able to fully reconcile with the events that occurred over a three-year span at the hands of a social worker, who was a friend at the time, and [that] I helped facilitate the introduction to my vulnerable, senior mother,” the woman said.
“To help with my own personal healing,” she added, “I elected to join FACTBC’s stakeholder table. I hope to lend my voice to ensure social workers, counseling therapists and emergency medical assistants who deal with our most vulnerable citizens are recognized as health professionals and regulated under the Health Professions Act.”
For Shelley Karrel of Jewish Addiction Community Services (JACS) Vancouver, the importance of regulation for counselors in British Columbia cannot be overstated. “For counselors working in the area of addiction and recovery, it is critical to know the importance of assessment, understanding the various stages of addiction, being able to identify the options available for treatment and recovery,” she said.
Karrel explained that understanding co-morbidity – i.e., the presence of one or more additional conditions – of mental health issues with addiction requires psychotherapists and counselors to have the proper training and education to know how to help clients deal with their various challenges.
“Having counseling fall under a regulated body will give clients the assurance they are dealing with qualified professionals who have to meet professional standards of practice, ongoing continuing education and clinical supervision,” she stated.
According to Glen Grigg, a Vancouver clinical counselor and the chair of FACTBC, “proper regulation will prevent consumers from harm. A consumer should not have to guess whether the therapist is equipped to deliver the services they promise. Moreover, when harm is done, it is important to know that a registrant’s college has the power to bring restoration and remediation when harm has occurred.”
FACTBC, which is comprised of 14 professional organizations that represent 6,000 mental health professionals in the province, is asking for safety and accountability. On professional title, it recommends one legislative authority and one coherent and fair process that prevents harm and has the power to act accordingly when harm has been done.
The B.C. government has said that it will first implement modernization of the health professions regulatory system – a step that FACTBC enthusiastically supports – and then give attention to the mental health system.
To Grigg, “this response comes down to saying, in effect, ‘despite the opioid crisis and mental health fallout from the pandemic, we can defer this issue.’ When pressed for what is intended after a new regulatory process is put into place, timeline unknown, the response is that government will ‘recommend’ that professions, such as counseling therapy and social work, become a ‘priority.’ A recommendation to a yet-to-be created bureaucracy falls far short of commitment and action.”
Grigg added, “FACTBC has been advocating for public protection where counseling therapy is concerned for more than 20 years and have heard, over and over, variations on the theme, ‘Yes, of course, we are going to protect the public, but later, at a time we’re not prepared to specify.’”
FACTBC does give the province credit for creating a Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions – a huge step forward, in their view, as was the $5 million the province put towards increasing mental health services. What the government needs to do to follow up on this momentum is to regulate counseling therapy, they assert.
At present there is no way of accurately ascertaining how many practising counselors there are in British Columbia. However, Grigg cites what Ontario discovered. In that province, in the time since they implemented statutory regulation on counseling therapists, they found that half the people providing services did not have any form of registration or certification.
“That’s dangerous,” said Grigg. “And we suspect that the situation in B.C. is similar but, because there is no central authority, even the scale of the problem is guesswork.”
He stressed, “It’s easy to see why this is so crucial. Suppose you were sick or injured and went to your local clinic or emergency department and discovered that it was up to you to figure out whether the people working there really were nurses and doctors, and whether they were qualified to provide care? That’s what people looking for counseling services are up against every day in B.C. There is no single title, like doctor or nurse or dentist or pharmacist, that identifies qualified and accountable counseling therapists.”
Sam Margolishas written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
One of the reasons the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver is being redeveloped is that its amenities, like the gymnasium and swimming pool, are aging. (photo from miss604.com)
The government of British Columbia has announced $25 million to support the redevelopment of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.
At a virtual event April 28, three cabinet ministers and Alvin Wasserman, president of the board of the JCC, publicly shared the major contribution to the $155 million project.
The first phase of the redevelopment, which is what the grant supports, will contribute to the construction of the new, 200,000-square-foot community centre. This will be built on the current JCC parking lot. The new facility will allow the JCC to expand childcare, seniors services, arts and cultural spaces and amenities for all. The centre, when opened, will also be home to about 15 not-for-profit organizations, with expanded space for the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, a new theatre, and other facilities. That component is anticipated to be completed in late 2024.
A second phase of the project, which is the largest capital project in the history of British Columbia’s Jewish community, will see the existing JCC replaced with mixed-use rental housing, including units at or below market value. In this phase, King David High School, which is currently located to the east of the JCC, across Willow Street, is expected to move to new, larger premises in the second phase to accommodate growing student enrolment. This phase, expected to be completed in 2027 or 2028, will cost about $272 million.
The redevelopment initiative includes the transfer of the property from the JCC into a community trust, with rent and other revenues being reinvested into the Jewish community in perpetuity.
Melanie Mark, B.C. minister of tourism, art, culture and sport, made the funding official in an enthusiastic announcement.
“The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver is an integral part of our social and cultural fabric, it’s a vibrant, intergenerational community centre,” she said. “But it was built more than 60 years ago and the facility is in desperate need of replacement. Its amenities, like the swimming pool and gymnasium, are aging. Meanwhile, the community of Oakridge has exploded around it.”
Mark added: “We hope this grant will assist the centre to secure other sources of funding for this project. The redevelopment of the centre is a massive undertaking, leaving a legacy for generations to come, which is why I’m encouraging other levels of government to join us in funding this important project. Specifically, I hope the federal government will step up and match our funding commitment. I hope they see the value in meeting the needs of this growing, diverse community.”
The new JCC’s capacity for increased childcare and the residential components of the second phase dovetail, Mark said, with the government’s commitments to affordable housing and childcare.
David Eby, the province’s minister responsible for housing, emceed the event. The JCC’s aim of 500 units of affordable housing is an example of how the province is “going to get to our very ambitious target of 114,000 units of affordable housing across the province,” Eby said.
Also on hand was George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy, who recalled his teenage years hanging out at the centre. He echoed Mark’s call for the federal government to join the province in supporting the project.
“The Jewish Community Centre is a centre not just for Oakridge and the Cambie Corridor but for all of Metro Vancouver, and has been for years,” said Heyman. “Visitors come from all around the region and from a wide variety of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds.”
On behalf of the JCC, Wasserman thanked the provincial officials, all three of whom represent Vancouver ridings in the legislature.
“The centre is in desperate need of replacement,” said Wasserman. “Community needs have hugely outgrown it and, fortunately, we are blessed with options. The centre is in the heart of Vancouver, on land worth more than $325 million. Our community pioneers knew this land would be important for our future needs and that future is arriving…. Thanks to the funding from the province of B.C., we are able to move forward with the plan that will bring benefits to many for many generations to come.”
To find out more about the history of Made in BC – Dance on Tour and its network of artists, visitors to madeinbc.org/history-project just have to hover over one of the images displayed and click on it. (screenshot)
It is easy, in Metro Vancouver, to take certain things for granted, such as access to live theatre, music and dance. But the pandemic, with its limits on social gatherings, has given urbanites an inkling of what smaller communities regularly experience. The relative scarcity of live performance in places like Prince George and Revelstoke is one reason that Made in BC – Dance on Tour was created in 2006. It is unfortunate, then, that Made in BC’s 15th anniversary falls in a time of travel and other restrictions. But that hasn’t stopped the organization from celebrating, and innovatively so.
Made in BC (MiBC) has collaborated with artist and graphic recorder Adriana Contreras to create an interactive online illustrated map “offering viewers the opportunity to take a visual and audio trip through the last 15 years of work, celebrating the numerous artists, presenters and community members that have been a part of this history.” Among these artists are Jewish community members Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg (Tara Cheyenne Performance), Amber Funk Barton (the.response), Naomi Brand (All Bodies Dance Project) and Vanessa Goodman (Action at a Distance).
“Especially in an art form that is so ephemeral, documentation is important not only for our personal memories, but for the history of the organizations and communities that we work with,” Brand told the Independent. “These kinds of records are really valuable for us to learn from what has happened before and to remember the accomplishments and discoveries that came before us. The map is a beautiful and creative way to write our history in the present while it is still relatively fresh in the bodies and memories of those who participated in it.
She added, “The field of contemporary dance in Canada is small enough that most of us are connected through a few degrees of separation that can be traced through our lineage of teachers, mentors and collaborators…. The map project represents all of that visually across the geography of this province.”
Cheyenne Friedenberg also spoke about the ephemeral, or temporary, nature of dance, making it hard to keep track of accomplishments.
“We spend much of our time and energy justifying and fighting for our art and art-making, it’s no wonder many of us don’t take time to reflect or celebrate the wake behind the boat,” she said. “It’s also very important to take note of what artists have brought to communities around the province and how these communities have influenced the art and the art makers. We are an ecosystem and it benefits all of us to appreciate how we have grown and developed as an artistic community. I know my work has been greatly influenced by my relationships across the province. I know folks who started making their own work after seeing a show or taking a workshop. I think part of the reason I’m still making work is because I feel part of this artistic ecosystem that is ever-evolving.”
Made in BC statistics show that, over the past 15 years, MiBC “has provided opportunities for over 50 dance companies incorporating over 200 dance artists to tour their work, reaching over 20,000 people around the province. And over 30,000 people have participated in and experienced the joy of other community-engaged dance activities, beyond the theatre.”
“MiBC as a network is about fostering relationships between artists, presenters, audiences and new communities,” said Brand. “As dance artists, we work with living, breathing, feeling people as our material (as opposed to clay, or an instrument, or paint brushes). This human-to-human, personal interaction is so important to what we do in the studio, as well as through emails and Zoom these days. We’re lucky to have an organization like MiBC that supports artists and has brought so many incredible experiences to communities across the province.”
Brand recalled one experience in particular. “In 2017,” she said, “my colleague Sarah Lapp and I did a residency through Made in BC at the Rotary Centre for the Arts (RCA) in Kelowna. It was our first experience touring with our company All Bodies Dance Project and bringing our artistic practice to a new community. We met such beautiful, courageous and lovely participants in the weeklong workshop and learned a lot about ourselves through sharing what we do with a new community. That residency had a huge impact on Sarah, who actually ended up relocating to Kelowna a year or so later, and beginning an integrated dance project in partnership with RCA with a collaborator that she met during that residency.”
Cheyenne Friedenberg first toured with MiBC in 2009, when the organization selected her first full-length solo work, bANGER, to tour along with Day Helesic’s piece Surge.
“I had toured a lot in the U.S., across Canada and Europe, but this was my first real experience taking my own work around the province,” said Cheyenne Friedenberg. “I was, and continue to be, very interested in connecting with the land and the people closer to home. Why have we as a culture believed touring Europe is more prestigious than touring the West Coast? It’s not. Since that first tour in 2009, I have toured, taught, created and learned around B.C. over half a dozen times and I can’t wait to get back out here!”
She said it was hard to pick just one MiBC experience that was especially impactful or memorable, so she offered two:
“1) Smithers, 2012: after seeing my solo Goggles, a couple (who are now my friends) were so taken by seeing me and my family (who I tour with) taking questions and, probably, breast-feeding after the show, that they decided to have a baby and continue to make art.
“2) Dolly Alfredson, a Wet’suwet’en language speaker and teacher shared many post-show thoughts with me, all in Wet’suwet’en. It felt very special. This was after my show I can’t remember the word for ‘ I can’t remember,’ in 2018.”
Contreras, who collaborated with MiBC in collecting and communicating these types of recollections from the dance artists, said her favourite part of the process was listening to all the stories, “getting a glimpse at a special moment in time from the many artists I had the pleasure to work with in part.”
It was Jane Gabriels, executive director of MiBC, who invited Contreras – in spring of 2020 – to be part of the 15th anniversary history project.
“I had just left my full-time job as director of programming and communications with New Performance Works Society to work as an independent graphic recorder, illustrator and designer,” Contreras told the Independent. “This was also around the time that COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and the province went on lockdown. Needless to say, this project was a bright light in a very uncertain moment.”
On the project, she worked closely with Gabriels, as well as Debora Gordon, MiBC manager of community dance connectors, statistics and promotions, and Zahra Shahab, a dance artist and choreographer who was the 2019 creative residency artist at MiBC.
“The process was one of collective discovery and experimentation,” said Contreras. “I knew that MiBC has a vast archive documenting the work of all the artists that have been part of its programs, but I wanted to go back to the essence, the aspect that makes MiBC so unique, the unifying element of supporting B.C.-based artists to present their work and connect with communities throughout the province; bring contemporary dance to audiences that don’t often get to experience it.
“During my time as an arts administrator supporting dance artists,” she continued, “I had heard many anecdotes and memorable stories that happened during MiBC tours. Many of these occurred in the theatre, others in the liminal space, on the road. Many others in everyday occurrences that nurtured community. We decided that these were the stories we wanted to highlight.
“MiBC reached out to artists and asked if they wanted to share their stories, which were audio-recorded to be featured on the website. We then chose an object to represent each of the stories, and those are the elements you see in the drawing, one for each artist or collective.”
She added, “Creating this work reminded me why I love the performing arts so much, and I can’t wait to sit in a theatre and experience live dance, theatre and music again.”
בפעמיים האחרונות כתבתי ארוכות על הטיול הטוב שעשיתי לוויקטוריה הבירה של מחוז בריטיש קולומביה. זאת בעידן הקוביד כאשר אי אפשר לטוס יותר לאירופה שאני אוהב אלה “רק” לטייל במחוז היפה שלנו.
לאחרונה הספקתי לבקר בשני מקומות בבריטיש קולומביה לראשונה מאז עברתי לקנדה לפני למעלה משש עשרה שנה. הראשון שלא היה מעניין במיוחד – היה לעיירה טופינו בקצה הרחוק (המערבי) של האי ונקובר והשני שהיה מאוד מעניין – היה העיר קולונה בעמק אוקנגן.
לטופינו טסתי במטוס הים שנוחת במים כך שפגשתי מעט נוסעים בטרמינלים הקטנים של ונקובר ושל טופינו. הטיסה לטופינו נמשכה שישים וחמש דקות ובמטוס הקטן מלבד הטייס היו עוד שתי נוסעות. הנוף מהמטוס שטס בגובה נמוך מרשים ביותר. תחילה רואים את פארק סנטלי ולאחר מכן את מי האוקיאנוס השקט השקטים בדרך לאי ונקובר. גם חציית האי מהצד המזרחי למערבי כדי להגיע לטופינו יפה ביותר.
טופינו היא עיירה קטנה שמונה בסך הכול כאלפיים תושבים. מרבית התיירים באים אליה כדי לגלוש בגלים הגבוהים של האוקיאנוס או לעשות ספורט אתגרי אחר. וכן לטייל ביערות הגשם ובסביבה.
בגלל מגפת הקוביד האיים של האינדיאנים שסמוכים לטופינו היו סגורים למטיילים ולכן נאצלתי להסתפק בטופינו הקטנה בלבד. בתור תייר שמחפש תרבות לא מצאתי הרבה לעצמי בטופינו. לאחר הנחיתה הלכתי ברגל בערך כרבע שעה למלון מאק הממוקם ברחוב הראשון בסמוך למים. המלון היה נחמד ונקי אך בגלל המגפה הקפטריה שלו הייתה סגורה ולכן אכלתי במסעדות בחוץ.
הביקור בטופינו התפרש על פני לילה אחד בלבד וטוב שכך מבחינתי כי לא מצאתי עניין בעיירה הקטנה והנידחת הזו. ירדתי לחוף הים הפראי וטיילתי להנאתי. לאחר מכן הסתובבתי במרכז העיירה הקטן ומצאתי קפה נחמד לאחר הצהריים. בחיפושי הנואשים אחר תרבות מצאתי את הגלריה של רועי הנרי ויקרס. מדובר באמן אינדיאני (בן שבעים וחמש כיום) שזכה להכרה ברחבי העולם ואף קיבל פרסים רבים. רכשתי ספר שמכיל את היצירות שלו אותו הבאתי כמתנה לבת זוגתי בוונקובר. לאחר הביקור בגלריה המעניינת חיפשתי מקום לארוחת ערב. מתברר שבערב בטופינו ישנן ארבע מסעדות פתוחות וחוץ מזה כל העיירה סגורה. לאחר הארוחה הסתובבתי קצת באזור ומצאתי שתושבי העיירה הולכים לישון מוקדם מאוד. אחרי שמונה בערב הכול חשוך וסגור.
למחרת בשעות הצהריים המוקדמות הייתי אמור לטוס בחזרה לוונקובר במטוס הימי אך בגלל הערפל הכבד הטיסה בוטלה לצערי. כיוון שבקו טופינו ונקובר יש רק טיסה יומית אחת של המטוס הימי הבנתי שלא אוכל באותו יום לעשות את הדרך חזרה עמו כאמור בגלל הערפל. בנוסף הייתה טיסה אחת בלבד של מטוס רגיל (מופעל על ידי חברת פיסיפיק קוסטל) אך היא כבר יצאה לכיוון ונקובר. לכן לא הייתה לי בררה אלה לחפש אוטובוס הביתה.
למזלי ברגע האחרון מצאתי אוטובוס בקו טופינו אל העיר נאיימו שבמזרח האי ונקובר. היה זה אוטובוס קטן והנסיעה נמשכה כארבע עשות תמימות. באמצע נאלצנו לעצור לחצי שעה כיוון שתיקנו את הכביש בין טופינו לננאיימו. לאחר מכן עצרנו למספר דקות לשתייה ושירותים בפורט אלברני ומשם הגענו במהירות יחסית לננאיימו. המעבורת עדיין לא עזבה את המעגן בנניאמו, כך שיכולתי לעלות עליה ולשוט בנוחות לעבר ווסט ונקובר. משם מצאתי אוטובוס מהיר לדאון טאון ונקובר והגעתי סוף סוף הביתה. אם כן הדרך חזרה נמשכה שעות מרובות עד שהגענו לוונקובר.
For hundreds of years, the basic rules for making a valid will have been the same: the person making the will has to sign it in the company of witnesses, and the witnesses have to sign, too. How can that requirement stand when we’re supposed to stay apart? Is it OK to sign and witness a will with everyone two metres apart from one another and wearing masks and even gloves?
Signing with COVID-19 precautions like distancing and wearing safety gear is legally valid, but not always practical. You’re passing around a paper document, and possibly sharing a pen. As we move into the winter months, it becomes less likely that you’ll all gather outside to sign. Signing indoors, despite social distancing and personal protection equipment, is still considered a greater risk than staying home.
Many of us have become far more familiar with videoconferencing technologies this year than we ever expected to be. How many of us had a Zoom seder or a Skype Rosh Hashanah dinner? Why can’t we update a centuries-old practice for the 21st century, especially given the COVID-19 crisis? We can.
The British Columbia government, as part of the emergency measures brought in this year, made changes to the rules for executing wills to accommodate pandemic precautions, and has also made those changes permanent. The Wills, Estates and Succession Act, which governs how we make wills, was amended to include two new sections on something called “electronic presence.”
The basic rules are still the same – the will has to be signed by the person making the will and by two witnesses, all witnessing one another more or less simultaneously, but they can sign separate paper copies – to be put together and treated as one original document – as long as they are in each others’ “electronic presence.” In other words, it should be the “witnessing a will” version of that Zoom seder.
Like everything with a will, there are technical details and you should always get professional guidance, but it is reassuring that you can remain safe, while attending to your critical planning needs.
Jeremy Costinis a business and estates lawyer practising in Vancouver. He sits on the board of directors and the governance committee of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, and is a frequent guest instructor at the Law Society of British Columbia.
(Disclaimer: This article should not be construed as legal advice. Only your lawyer can give you proper advice specific to your needs.)
It will take about two weeks to verify and count the mail-in ballots from Saturday’s B.C. provincial election. The province saw a 7,200% increase in voting by mail this year, a result of the pandemic and educational efforts to make people aware of what was perhaps the safest option for casting a ballot.
There is no doubt about the overall outcome. The New Democratic Party, under returning Premier John Horgan, won a majority government handily. The NDP increased its vote share in every part of the province and the opposition Liberals, under Andrew Wilkinson, who resigned in the aftermath, had its worst showing in almost three decades. The mail-in ballots will determine the outcome in a small number of close races, but it will not alter the big picture.
Some are complaining that two weeks is a long time for the elections branch to complete the process. However, we do not know the level of complexity involved in validating and counting the vast number of mailed votes. But it seems reasonable to take time to ensure such important work is done properly, rather than quickly.
What we should not lose sight of, regardless of what party we supported, is the small miracle of the election itself. Many or most of our ancestors came from places where free and fair elections followed by a peaceful and orderly transition of power were unfulfilled dreams. Startlingly, in what had been viewed globally as the bedrock model of democracy itself – the United States – we are bracing for one of the most uncertain moments in political history next Tuesday. Polls show that the incumbent president is headed for defeat. But polls were deeply wrong about this candidate four years ago. More importantly, there are concerns about his willingness to leave office if defeated – and even about potential intimidation of voters at the polls and violence in the aftermath of the election.
As Canadians, we should feel fortunate and grateful. As earthlings, we should wish and work for a world where all people are as free as we are to choose those who govern us and to do so with confidence, knowing that we will be physically safe and our elected officials will respect our choices.
Premier John Horgan sent Selina Robinson a message: “A mensch is a good thing, right?”
Robinson, the NDP government’s minister of municipal affairs and housing, is seeking reelection in the riding of Coquitlam-Maillardville. She sees herself as the Jewish maven around the cabinet table.
“I said yes, who called you a mensch?” Robinson recalled. “He just wanted to double-check.”
As she and other New Democrats campaign toward the Oct. 24 provincial election, Robinson and fellow cabinet member George Heyman spoke with the Jewish Independent. (In this issue, we also speak with Jewish candidates and spokespeople for other parties.)
As minister of housing, Robinson takes pride in the development of a major initiative called Homes for B.C.: A 30-Point Plan for Housing Affordability in British Columbia. Her ministry engaged with housing groups, renters, developers, economists, local government officials, planners and other thinkers. Then they convened people in a “World Café,” an engagement exercise in which people from different perspectives sit at a table and must come to agreed-upon recommendations on a topic.
“It was from that that we picked the best ideas and so it really came from all sides of the housing sector rather than pitting them against each other,” she said, acknowledging that she had to convince some to buy into the process because bureaucracy is not always amenable to novel approaches.
She cited two particular areas that she wants to “kvell about.” BC Housing, the agency that develops, manages and administers a range of subsidized housing in the province, is building housing on First Nations land.
“The feds, I don’t think, are building a lot of Indigenous housing and they’re supposed to,” she said. “No other province has stepped up to do that.… You’re a British Columbian and you need housing … if it’s land on reserve, it’s land on reserve – we’ll build housing.”
By providing housing in First Nations communities, it also helps people remain at home, rather than moving to the city, where housing is even more expensive and possibly precarious, she said.
“I’m very proud of that,” Robinson said.
The other point of pride is, Robinson admitted, “a geeky piece of legislation.” When she stepped into the role as the government’s lead on housing availability and affordability, she recognized that there is no data on what kind of housing exists and what’s needed.
“Local governments are responsible for land-use planning and deciding what kind of housing goes where – this is going to be multifamily, this is going to be single-family – but, if you were to ask them, how much do you have, how much more multifamily do you need, they couldn’t tell you, because nobody was collecting the data.”
She brought forward legislation that mandated local governments to do a housing needs assessment every five years to identify whether more housing options are needed for different age groups and types of families.
She also cited the government’s development of social housing, through the allocation of $7 billion over 10 years to build 39,000 units. So far, 25,000 units are either open, in construction or going through the municipal development process.
“My biggest worry is that the Liberals [if they are elected] will cancel all of those that are still in the development stage because they did that in 2001 when they formed government,” she said. “We’re so far behind the eight ball because they did that. I’m not saying it would have fixed everything, but, if there were another 5,000 units of housing out there, it wouldn’t be as bad as it is because there would be another 5,000 units.”
Every Friday, Robinson lights Shabbat candles and then shares a reflection on social media about her week.
“Lighting the Shabbat candles just grounds me in my identity,” she said. “I make myself take 10 minutes on a Friday at sundown to stop and to clear my head and to remind myself why I do the work. It’s not for the pay. It’s not for any of that; it’s not worth it. It’s who I am, what are my values and what’s important to me? What did I hear this week that reminds me of why this work is important?”
Robinson admitted she’s being partisan in saying that she believes NDP values are Jewish values.
“From my perspective, taking care of the world – whether it’s the environment, the people and all that’s within it – is our collective responsibility,” she said, adding with a laugh: “I think all Jews are New Democrats who just don’t know it yet.”
* * *
George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy, is seeking reelection in the riding of Vancouver-Fairview. He is a son of Holocaust refugees, who escaped the Nazis with the help of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese diplomat in Lithuania who illegally issued visas to about 6,000 Jews, many of whose descendants now live in Vancouver.
In 2019, Heyman took a family trip to Poland, which broadened his awareness of his family’s history and where he met family members he never knew he had. The Independent will run that story in an upcoming issue.
Speaking of his record in government, Heyman expressed pride in bringing in CleanBC, which he calls “a very detailed, independently modeled set of measures to get us to our 2030 target and beyond.”
He also said the government “completely revamped the province’s Environmental Assessment Act, incorporating the principles of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Collaborating with the First Nations Leadership Council, the government adapted the legislation to bring in affected local communities at the beginning of a project, before a proponent spends millions of dollars then has to go back to the drawing board due to local concerns.
“We’ve been investing in clean technology, we’ve approved transit plans that were stalled for years that the mayors of Metro Vancouver thought were critically important,” Heyman added. “We’re going to see the Broadway [SkyTrain] line commence to relieve the tremendous congestion on the Broadway corridor, both on buses and on the roads. And we’ll be working on ultimately being able to work with UBC and the city and the federal government to extend that to UBC.”
The government, he said, updated the Residential Tenancy Act to address tenants who were being threatened with eviction for suspect renovations and that saw people getting notices of rent increases as high as 40% because of loopholes in the act.
“We closed those loopholes, we held rent increases to the cost of living unless there is a legitimate demonstrated need to do renovation and repair and it’s fair to receive some compensation rent to pay for that,” he said.
Like Robinson, Heyman cited the construction of affordable housing, as well as supportive housing, to get homeless people off the street and provide them with services they need. He said the government has created 20,000 childcare spaces in the province “with significant fee reductions for families as we work our way toward a $10-a-day program.” Increased staffing in schools, mandated by a Supreme Court decision during the previous regime, is also an accomplishment, he said, as well as adding more investments in new schools for seismic upgrades, fire safety and heating and ventilation systems.
On the opioid crisis, Heyman acknowledged a surge in deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. “While there is much more to do, we managed to flatten the level of deaths up until COVID hit,” he said.
Also parallel to the pandemic was a realization of “the terrible state of many of our long-term-care homes.”
“We saw that deteriorate under the previous government,” he said. “With COVID, we saw the results of that. We saw people dying because workers were having to go to two or three different care homes, increasing the risk of infection, simply to cobble together a living. We took measures to allow our healthcare workers to work in one institution without suffering the loss of pay and we’re also investing in more beds and more equipment for long-term-care homes.”
New Democrats have been governing in a minority situation with the support of the Green party since 2017. Horgan called the snap election on Sept. 21, facing criticism for breaking fixed election date legislation and going to the polls during a state of emergency.
Rachael Segal is media spokesperson for the BC Liberals. (photo from BC Liberals)
Facing a campaign unlike any other, with shaking hands and kissing babies prohibited by social distancing protocols, all parties needed to reimagine how they would reach voters. Rachael Segal, media spokesperson for the BC Liberals, had to figure out how to get her party’s message to British Columbians.
“We can’t have a media bus, so, as the person responsible for media relations, how I connect with media now is very different than how I would do it in a normal campaign,” she said. “I’d be on the bus, I’d be with the leader.”
Instead, the leader is often driving himself to the modest-sized events that typify the 2020 campaign. Instead of facing a phalanx of TV cameras and radio mics, party leader
Andrew Wilkinson speaks to a pooled camera, with his message then shared among the media consortium. It’s an experience all parties are dealing with. But the leaders, as well as candidates in 87 ridings across the province, still have to communicate their positions.
“Obviously, Andrew still needs to get out there and get his message out there,” said Segal. “We’re making announcements daily, just like we would on a campaign normally, they’re just different.”
Wilkinson, a medical doctor as well as a lawyer, is particularly sensitive to the health risks and safety of his team, Segal said.
Segal, who grew up in Kerrisdale, is the official campaign spokesperson for the party during the election and is second-in-command at party headquarters when in non-campaign mode. As senior director of the party, her role is a loosely defined collection of responsibilities that she describes as “basically whatever hole is there, I try and fix it.”
One of her primary responsibilities is stakeholder relations, which means meeting with particular community groups and connecting them with the leader and other members of the legislature.
“Andrew and I have done Shabbat dinners, we’ve done Rosh Hashanah meals, we’ve done tons of Jewish community events,” Segal said by way of example. She also hosts the party’s podcast and started a young professional women’s group “to try to engage the 30-to-50-year-old women demographic, which is the largest swing demographic in British Columbia.”
Segal came to the role in April 2019. She already had a long resumé in education, politics and media.
She attended Vancouver Talmud Torah elementary and Magee high school and received her undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria, where she was the first president of the Jewish student organization when Hillel House opened there. She served as national president of the Canadian Federation of Jewish Students before graduating from UVic in 2005. She then went to the University of Leicester, in the United Kingdom, for a law degree, followed by a master of laws from Osgoode Hall, in Toronto.
She worked on Parliament Hill for Conservative MPs David Sweet and Scott Reid, as well as Senator Linda Frum, and was a senior policy advisor overseeing corrections and the parole board for then-minister of public safety Steven Blaney.
While studying in Toronto, Segal worked full time as an on-air legal and policy correspondent for Sun News, until that network shut down. She worked in criminal law and then civil litigation for a time but found it not her speed and returned to media, joining Toronto’s Bell Media radio station News Talk 1010. She returned to Vancouver in 2018 and covered as maternity leave replacement for the B.C. regional director of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee. She joined the BC Liberal party staff three days after that position ended.
“This election is really about who British Columbians can trust to lead them through economic recovery,” said Segal. “When we think about the ballot question, that’s really what British Columbians are voting on. Who do they trust to lead them through the next stage of this pandemic from an economic perspective? We have an incredible team who are all very experienced. We have former ministers, we have doctors, we have lawyers, we have just a really diverse and interesting team of very smart people.”
Given significant turnover – seven cabinet ministers have opted not to seek reelection – Segal questioned who would be on the frontbenches of a reelected NDP government.
“The question is, what does an NDP cabinet look like in the next government and do they have the bench strength to be the best party to lead this province economically?” she said.
Segal takes seriously her position as one of the few Jewish individuals on the campaign team.
“It’s a real privilege to be able to represent the community within this political sphere and it’s something I take very not lightly,” she said.
Of her job on the campaign and her slightly less hectic role the rest of the time, she added: “My job is pretty different, wild, fun. Every day is a new adventure. It’s pretty great. And we have such an incredible team, so they make it all even better.”
While B.C. residents have been given the go-ahead for local travel, there are still safety restrictions in place, so plan accordingly. (photo by Colin Keigher/en.wikipedia)
What a year so far. For many of us, a driving tour of the Fraser Valley or a trip to a Gulf Island would seem exotic compared to the last months of confinement at home. Which is good, because, while many restrictions are still in place to limit the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19, provincial parks are now open for day and overnight use and residents have been given the go-ahead for local travel. The B.C. government is expected to further expand travel options this month, when it launches Phase 3 of its province-wide Restart Plan.
For now, health experts are urging the public to pick vacation destinations that are close to home. There are limitations to cross-border travel, including to Alberta, and travelers might need to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to the province. As well, people are strongly urged at this time not to travel outside of the country, even if it is a day trip to the United States.
When planning your vacation, be aware that some of the businesses that closed when the economic shutdown was announced may not reopen this summer. Also, B.C. destinations outside of Metro Vancouver won’t have kosher restaurants nearby, so those who rely on kosher restaurants when traveling will want to factor that into their planning. Many travelers who keep kosher get around this problem by stocking ahead and preparing meals in the hotel room, campsite or RV.
Travel restrictions may be easing, but social distancing – staying at least two metres or 6.5 feet apart from others – is still in force and probably will remain a standard for the rest of the summer. A limit of 50 people per gathering is required and travelers are being encouraged to continue to “stay within their bubble” of close family or friends at this time.
Automobile and RV travel provide the greatest opportunities for maintaining a social distance. Air and rail travel have additional restrictions attached – passengers not only are expected to maintain the appropriate distance, but to carry a mask for each person on board, and you may be expected to wear it for the duration of the trip.
Cruise ships are not expected to be back in service until Oct. 31, but B.C. Ferries are running limited sailings and at 50% capacity, so book ahead when possible and arrive early.
Air travel in particular comes with an added risk of exposure, since airplanes aren’t generally designed to accommodate social distancing. However, all public carriers have implemented additional cleaning procedures to reduce the risk of passengers’ exposure to the virus.
There are a number of steps that travelers can take to reduce their risks of getting COVID-19 and to make this year’s vacation all the more comfortable.
Determine your risk before you go. Seniors and individuals with underlying health issues have a higher risk of complications if exposed to COVID-19. If you, your traveling companions or the people you regularly live with would be considered high risk, consult your doctor first, or consider staying home this summer.
Don’t leave home without reservations in place. Pre-plan your trip and find out ahead of time what destinations are open and which aren’t.s
If you plan to stay in a hotel or motel, pick accommodations that can allow for proper social distancing. Popular destinations and attractions that are known to be crowded or sold out during the summer months may be a better choice for next year.
If you’re camping or staying in an RV, choose parks that have the spacing to allow for social distancing. Don’t be afraid to call the park and ask about its amenities, including the distance between campsites. Some parks are already staggering their reservations to allow for more spacing. B.C. Parks, which began opening its campgrounds last week, announced that it will open campsites with social distancing in mind. That means, as well, that reservations are highly recommended.
Plan your meals and stock up. This will reduce your dependence on stores and restaurants, which may be crowded this summer, especially in smaller towns or at roadside stops.
Bring cleaning supplies. We’ve spent months sanitizing and polishing our own counter tops to stay COVID-19-free. Don’t forget to carry on the practice while you are traveling.
Carry a generous amount of patience with you. It’s been a tough spring for everyone and summer is finally upon us. Be kind and enjoy your trip!
Jan Lee’s articles and blog posts have been published in B’nai B’rith Magazine, Voices of Conservative and Masorti Judaism, Times of Israel, as well as a number of business, environmental and travel publications. Her blog can be found at multiculturaljew.polestarpassages.com.