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Bob Mackin

An executive with British Columbia’s ambulance service joked on the eve of B.C.’s deadly heat wave that people complaining of sunburn could overwhelm the non-emergency 8-1-1 health advice hotline.

Neil Lilley (BCEHS)

At the June 24 B.C. Emergency Health Services board meeting, Neil Lilley, the senior provincial director of patient care, communications and planning, gave a presentation about the 2017-introduced clinical response model that assigns colour codes to different categories of injury or illness.

“Whereby a purple is an immediately life-threatening, for a cardiac arrest, for example, right the way down through a blue call, which is not urgent, we downstream those calls to 8-1-1. They could be somebody who stubbed their toe or has some severe sunburn, which probably is going to happen quite a bit this weekend,” Lilley laughed. “8-1-1 might be busy, but hopefully not.”

LAUGHING MATTER? SCROLL DOWN AND WATCH THE VIDEO 

Environment Canada warned early June 24 of dangerous, record-breaking heat that “will increase the potential for heat-related illnesses” with daytime highs of 38 Celsius in Metro Vancouver between June 25 and 29.

Later in the June 24 meeting, chair Tim Manning asked about call volume trends. Lilley said the reopening from the spring’s pandemic circuit breaker and heat were driving more 9-1-1 calls to ambulance dispatchers.

“It’s the downstream of people finally getting out and letting their hair down,” Lilley said.

“This extreme weather that you’re going to see this weekend is going to have a further boom, so it’s very challenging at the moment. Our staff are doing remarkable considering the excessive work they’ve had for such a long period of time as well, it’s quite worrisome for the summer.”

Manning did not acknowledge the imminent heat wave.

June 28, 2021 (NOAA)

It turned into a record weekend for 9-1-1 call volumes, with hours-long backlogs and ambulance wait times.

BCEHS did not activate its dedicated emergency operations centre until June 29. As many as 719 people could have died from the heat. The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating each sudden and unexpected death, three times the average for the period.

On July 14, Health Minister Adrian Dix said chief operating officer Darlene MacKinnon would keep her job, despite the paramedics’ union campaigning for her firing. Instead, Providence Health COO Leanne Heppell has become the chief ambulance officer on an interim basis.

Former Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu, now an executive with Aquilini Investment Group, is the new BCEHS chair, with Telus CEO Darren Entwistle acting as an advisor.

Another 85 full-time paramedics and 30 full-time dispatchers will be hired and 22 new ambulances bought.

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Bob Mackin An executive with British Columbia’s ambulance

Bob Mackin

A complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal alleges the general manager and president of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association were complicit in a toxic work environment for seven years.

Ex-Cloverdale Rodeo general manager Mike MacSorely (Facebook)

The filing, from an anonymous complainant representing a group, alleges the non-profit association behind the annual Cloverdale Rodeo employed Mike MacSorely as general manager “despite knowing of Mr. MacSorely’s blatantly racist view of South Asian people and ongoing egregious conduct towards female staff and volunteers. The association, through its executive board, continuously dismissed concerns about Mr. MacSorely for years.”

The board includes Surrey city councillor Doug Elford and City of Surrey managers Swanson Kelsey and Farhad Alizadeh.

MacSorely resigned in March for what was officially described as “personal reasons.”

The association has no harassment policy or training for staff or volunteers and no complaint mechanism. Instead, it delegates authority to the general manager — who was the subject of complaints. When an investigation was finally launched early this year, the complaint said it was undermined by dismissive and sexist comments from MacSorely and the association’s four executive directors. MacSorely eventually resigned, but the association has not apologized or acknowledged any harm caused. 

The document, filed by lawyer Rachel Roy, said the association has continuously committed discrimination in employment, “by upholding a hostile and poisoned work environment and by failing to respond to race- and sex-based harassment.”

None of the allegations has been tested and MacSorely has not filed a statement of defence.

MacSorely is accused “of continuously physically and psychologically” abusing and harassing the only woman working in the association office for four years. It also alleges MacSorely refused to interview or hire anyone with an Indo-Canadian name and referred to South Asians as “carpet riders” and Hindu food as “baby diarrhea.”

The complaint also claims association president Shannon Claypool condoned MacSorely’s conduct, allegedly made unwelcome sexual advances to female volunteers and complained that the #MeToo movement was out of control.

Coun. Doug Elford (Safe Surrey Coalition)

“In January 2021, the executive directors received a letter from a former employee setting out a series of examples of Mr. MacSorely’s inappropriate conduct. This included incidents of Mr. MacSorely hitting female staff and making racist comments about racialized staff. The executive directors ignored the letter until the letter was brought to the attention of City of Surrey officials. After City officials directed the board of directors to deal with the allegations, the Board determined it would hire an external investigator.”

The other three executive directors are rodeo chair Rich Kitos, publicity chair Dale Saip and treasurer/human resources chair Gerry Spielmacher.

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Bob Mackin A complaint to the B.C. Human

Bob Mackin

In the wake of Euro euphoria, after Italy upset host England, Premier John Horgan opened the door July 13 to FIFA’s World Cup coming to B.C. Place Stadium in 2026.

A clever deke for Langford’s lacrosse-loving leader, who is under fire for hundreds of preventable deaths in the devastating heat wave just two weeks ago.

Premier John Horgan, April 19 (BC Gov)

In March 2018, the eventually successful U.S.-led bid rejected Vancouver as a potential host city after the NDP government unsuccessfully pleaded for further clarification and negotiation on key legal, financial and logistical terms.

At the time, Horgan said he was not willing to give FIFA a “blank cheque.” A rare cat: a political leader, standing up to the opaque world sport establishment. 

In March 2018, theBreaker reported that FIFA demands the 2026 World Cup host agree to pay all security costs, give FIFA a 10-year tax holiday, relax labour laws, and allow the import and export of unlimited sums of foreign cash. That was almost three years after the FBI’s crackdown on FIFA corruption, which led to the downfall of longtime president Sepp Blatter.

Last week, Montreal blamed cost overruns and withdrew, leaving Toronto and Edmonton as the Canadian cities vying to host a combined 10 matches in the 48-team tournament.

Mexico gets the other 10 matches, with 60 in the U.S., including the quarter and semi-finals and final. Seattle’s Lumen Field is a frontrunner for multiple, late-tournament matches.

“With Montreal stepping away, it does create a real opportunity for Vancouver,” Horgan said.

He said he has had preliminary discussions with FIFA representatives in Canada, but wouldn’t be interested if the terms are the same as 2018.

“FIFA is in a different place, Vancouver, British Columbia is in a different place, we’re prepared to entertain those discussions and see where we go,” Horgan said.

During his Richmond Hospital expansion photo op, Horgan made reference to the B.C. tourism industry, which is struggling to emerge from the pandemic, the delayed reopening of the border with the U.S. and the downturn in Vancouver and Victoria’s cruise ship industries.

An archaic law that required American vessels on the Alaska run to stop in a foreign port is gone this year and could be gone forever next year, which means June and July tourist visits will never reach pre-pandemic levels. 

FIFA VP Montagliani and president Infantino (Twitter)

Zurich-based FIFA is unlikely to have much sympathy for B.C., which hosted the final in 2015’s Women’s World Cup. FIFA requirements tend to be non-negotiable, as B.C. learned the hard way three years ago.

In March 2018, Deputy Tourism Minister Sandra Carroll reiterated the desire of B.C. and Crown stadium manager B.C. Pavilion Corporation to host 2026 World Cup matches, but not on terms dictated by FIFA.

“We are well-equipped to continue hosting and supporting international competitions and expect our partnerships with the Government of Canada, the United States and Mexico would mean a successful FIFA World Cup in 2026,” Carroll wrote, in a document obtained by theBreaker.news via freedom of information. “We agree, in principle, with many of the terms contained in the Stadium Agreement, we do have some concerns about the costs to British Columbia taxpayers. Certain key terms of the SA are so broad in scope that, based on our legal counsel advice, we believe that they may pose unacceptable risks to PavCo and its shareholder, the Province.” 

Also in 2018, theBreaker.news revealed Canadian FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani celebrated his elevation to the soccer world’s elite with the purchase of a $6.6 million West Vancouver mansion mortgaged through sponsor Scotiabank.

The New York Times reported that the insurance salesman boss of soccer’s North and Central America and Caribbean zone grossed $2.6 million in 2017, higher than even FIFA president Gianni Infantino. 

Sepp Blatter’s video greeting to Canada 2015 (Mackin)

Horgan jumped on the world soccer bandwagon just a day after a monumental ruling in favour of theBreaker.news by an adjudicator with B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commission.

After six years, the contract for the Canada 2015 matches at B.C. Place is scheduled to be released by Aug. 24. That means the public will learn about match day stadium fee rental payments, detailed financial summary of the estimated cost, and the guaranteed and maximum costs related to the hosting of matches. It will give British Columbians a better sense of how FIFA conducts business. 

Adjudicator Elizabeth Barker showed the Canadian Soccer Association the red card for failing to provide evidence or a cogent explanation to demonstrate how it could be harmed by public disclosure of the contract.

FIFA will choose the 16 host cities for 2026 in the fourth quarter of 2021, so the public will have at least a few months to learn details of B.C.’s previous FIFA hosting.

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Bob Mackin In the wake of Euro

Bob Mackin

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender is not commenting on the wave of vandalism and arson at Catholic churches.

Harsha Walia/Twitter

Nor will the 2019-appointee to the NDP-created B.C. Office of the Human Rights Commissioner (BCOHRC) address the controversy surrounding the head of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

At this time, we do not intend to make a public statement on the recent arson and vandalism of churches. We continue to monitor the situation and have nothing further to share at this time,” said Elaine O’Connor, acting communications director at the BCOHRC.

Arsonists and vandals have targeted numerous churches across Canada since the May 27 revelation by the Tk’emlups first nation that the remains of 215 children were radar-detected in unmarked graves near the former, Catholic-operated Indian residential school in Kamloops.

BCCLA executive director Harsha Walia tweeted the comment “burn it all down” with a link to a story about the arsons on June 30. Walia later claimed her words were not to be taken literally and the BCCLA president, David Fai, came to her defence.

Wade Grant/Twitter

That prompted practising Catholic Dave Pasin’s July 5 complaint to Govender, whose official website declares BCOHRC’s “core purpose” is to ensure the rights of everyone in B.C. are “protected and respected.” Religious freedom is included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and discrimination on religious grounds is illegal under B.C. law.

“Clearly burning down churches is discrimination and a form of injustice against those practicing a religion,” Pasin wrote. “Interestingly, the BCOHRC has not made a statement regarding this issue which contrasts with your own claim that the BCOHRC advocates for justice and deals with systemic issues and discriminatory behaviours.

“I have to ponder if Ms. Walia suggested burning down a mosque, temple, lodge or synagogue, would the reticence and foot dragging by the BCOHRC be as pronounced.”

Pasin was disappointed by the reply from BCOHRC engagement advisor Meghan Toal, who said Govender would not comment. “Our mandate is specifically to tackle systemic issues and is not focused on the actions of individuals,” Toal wrote.

Govender’s silence is in stark contrast to her recent comments on March 1, Zero Discrimination Day.

Kasari Govender/Twitter

She tweeted a link to a Georgia Straight story about the hateful vandalism of trees in Marpole’s Riverview Park.

Racist graffiti incl swastikas spraypainted on trees in South Vancouver park shows us, yet again, that racism and hate are not a thing of our past, but of the here and now,” Govender wrote.

By email, O’Connor said Govender “is very concerned about issues of hate and the rise of white supremacy and it is one of BCOHRC’s strategic priorities.”

Meanwhile, indigenous people have pleaded for the vandalism and arson to stop.

On July 4, Wade Grant of the Musqueam revealed that Vancouver Police responded to threats against a Catholic church on his reserve by erecting a mobile surveillance camera outside.

“We are upset too, but burning down churches and putting community members is not a solution. It only divides us,” Grant tweeted.

Five days later, representatives of nine South Vancouver Island first nations issued an open letter to condemn the attacks.

“Disrespectful and damaging acts we have seen are not helping, they are perpetuating hurt, hate and divide,” said the July 9 statement.

“All vandalism must stop immediately. Let’s lock arms, walk together, and look out for one another. Please do not lose sight of the young ones that we are honouring, and please listen to our elders and survivors.”

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Bob Mackin B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender

For the week of July 11, 2021:

All-time temperature records melted. The B.C. Ambulance Service reached a breaking point. Hundreds died.

The late June heat wave that sizzled Oregon, Washington and British Columbia is likely to go down as the biggest, non-disease public health tragedy in the region’s history.

It didn’t have to be.

Meteorologists “nailed this event,” said University of Washington atmospheric sciences Prof. Cliff Mass. But the emergency coordination and communication failed.

“One of the great protections against environmental dangers is excellent forecasting and governments have to learn how to use it,” said Mass, a guest on this week’s edition of theBreaker.news podcast with host Bob Mackin. 

Mass said the region has warmed by 1 degree Celsius over the last 50 years. But, in the aftermath of the region’s rare, extreme heat dome, politicians, activists and even some in the media exaggerated the role of climate change as a “political tool.”

“If you blame everything on global warming and fossil fuels, then you don’t do what’s needed to save and protect the population,” Mass said.

Why didn’t Dr. Bonnie Henry declare a public health emergency? Why didn’t B.C. learn from its deadly July 2009 heat wave or the even worse one that hit Chicago in July 1995?

Hear clips of Premier John Horgan and New York University sociologist Eric Klinenberg, author of Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago.

In a 2016 talk, Klinenberg recounted the political apathy and blundering that led to the 739 heat-related deaths in the Windy City.

“Once you recognize that the heat is dangerous, you just have to immerse someone in an air conditioned environment or in water and they will survive,” Klinenberg said. “And hundreds of people did not get the personal attention and the refrigeration until after they died.”

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Cascadia's deadly June heat dome
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For the week of July 11, 2021:

Bob Mackin

The B.C. Legislature is still struggling to overcome last November’s mysterious cyberattack that crippled networks at the Parliament Buildings and MLAs’ offices around the province.

The seat of government was hacked Nov. 10, the website taken down and then replaced with an image that claimed it was subject to “unscheduled maintenance.” The Clerk’s office finally admitted on Nov. 19 that an incident occurred. To this day, both Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd and the all-party committee that oversees the Legislature refuse to release the report about what went wrong.

What the B.C. Legislature website looked like on Nov. 13 (Leg.BC.ca)

The Legislature remains a secretive fortress, more than two years after NDP Government House Leader Mike Farnworth’s promise to add the $86 million-a-year institution to the freedom of information law.

On July 8, the Legislative Assembly Management Committee voted to spend another $750,000 on the information technology department, including security, in the second quarter. That is in addition to the $5.6 million allotted in February’s budget — a whopping $2.6 million increase from 2020-21 when the pandemic forced a shift to videoconferencing.

Only one member of the committee, BC Liberal house leader Peter Milobar, expressed discontent with the spiralling costs, because constituency office network outages persist.

“Several in a day and then stable for awhile and then not,” Milobar said in the meeting.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it, on behalf of our caucus, anyways. Within our own ability to service our constituents has been eight months of complete frustration that seems to not be getting any better — if anything, getting worse.”

The Legislature’s chief information officer Andrew Spence said he recognized the “ongoing challenges we continue to face.”

BC Liberal house leader Peter Milobar (BC Liberals)

“We’re really focused on these priorities to help address that technical debt that exists within our network and infrastructure, and really focusing here in Q2 to try and address those concerns by making sure we have people onsite addressing these issues and proactively working to address this,” said the April-hired Spence.

The IT Roadmap Update briefing note made vague, euphemism-heavy references to last November’s cyberincident.

“While aligned with the strategic direction, the unplanned shift to the Microsoft cloud productivity suite in November 2020 was immediate, and the learning curve and user support left residual issues,” the note said.

The briefing note said a priority response team formed in January, using external resources through the government’s Office of the Chief Information Officer. It was “focused on completing several in-flight priorities, including device deployments, constituency office fit-ups, and network instability challenges. A security project workstream was also initiated in March 2021 to address priority findings, with considerable progress made in Q1.”

Spence said his department needed $279,000 more for client service delivery and constituency office support, $278,000 for infrastructure currency and cybersecurity and $193,000 for the priority response team.

“The increased digital footprint has expanded the cybersecurity surface that must be defended, with controls, processes, and standards that need to be defined, implemented, and maintained,” the briefing note said.

NDP MLAs apologized to constituents after the November hack (Twitter)

The only other department that blew its budget so significantly was the NDP government caucus, which overspent its budget by $1.4 million in a year that it won a snap election. The Greens and BC Liberals both came in under budget.

Farnworth promised in February 2019 that the Legislature would be added to the 1993-written FOI law, but has failed to deliver so far.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ombudsperson and Merit Commissioner pleaded for more transparency and accountability after then-Speaker Darryl Plecas exposed corruption in the offices of Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz.

Both retired in disgrace. James was charged with breach of trust and fraud.

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Bob Mackin The B.C. Legislature is still struggling

Bob Mackin

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum maintains the new police force will not use lie detectors when hiring veteran cops because the tests are not required in British Columbia and are banned in Ontario.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum (Surrey)

That is from his Surrey Police Board letter ordered by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner to a citizen.

Paul Daynes, who is the campaign director of Keep the RCMP in Surrey, complained May 20 that only subjecting rookies to polygraph tests will mean the new police force’s standards are automatically lower than the RCMP, which conducts a standard pre-employment polygraph.

Daynes said he will formally request the OPCC to conduct its own review of the major gap.

“I regard the responses from Mayor McCallum as barely credible,” Daynes said. “I remain convinced that the lack of appropriate security and polygraph screening, as well as the lack of transparency, continues to pose a very serious risk to citizens in both Surrey and throughout B.C.”

McCallum’s letter said the SPS conducts comprehensive interviews, background checks, and reference checks.

“We already know the experienced applicants involved are suitable to perform police work since they have been doing so in good standing for other police services, and the benefit of such a test to determine the same thing is not warranted in the circumstances,” said McCallum’s letter. “Having said that, the option of conducting such a test on a case-by-case basis will remain open to us where we deem appropriate in the circumstances.”

Surrey Police (Facebook)

McCallum justified the board decision by writing that Ontario police forces are not allowed to use lie detectors in hiring and he compared the force-in-development to other agencies that do not subject applicants and current employees to lie detectors, including the Independent Investigations Office, B.C. Prosecution Service, Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, and OPCC.

None of those, however, carry guns and handcuffs. Those agencies also do not have the power of arrest.

SPS recently published a tender call for a contractor to provide 60 to 100 polygraph tests per year.

Meanwhile, Daynes also complained that the Surrey Police Service was creating confusion because it was not clearly stating in its public communications that the only police force of record, until further notice, is the Surrey RCMP.

Daynes complained that SPS was causing confusion for seniors and vulnerable groups who need police services, by not making the distinction.

SPS said it has taken steps, such as adding a red bar to its website that states it is not yet in operation and those needing police services should call 9-1-1 or the 604-599-0502 non-emergency line.

“The Facebook page for the Surrey Police Service does not include such a caution and does not sufficiently notify Facebook users of the current non-operational status of the SPS,” McCallum wrote. “As a result of this service or policy complaint, the SPS will take this opportunity to revise the SPS Facebook page, to include a caution similar to that already on the Internet webpage and the Twitter account.”

May 2019 photo of Patton (left), Coun. Linda Annis, McCallum, Guerra, Nagra and Elford. (Annis is a member of Surrey First)

The letter shifted the blame for any confusion to public debate on social media, unnamed advocacy groups, both for and against the transition, and two parody Twitter accounts.

“Some of those postings promote their own views of what has occurred or not occurred and anticipated events in the future. In fact, there are ‘spoof’ Twitter feeds such as ‘Surrey Police Service … (not)’ (Twitter account @surreypolicenot ) and ‘The Surrey Office of Bylaws (The SOBs) … Not’ (Twitter account @surreybylawnot ) that can cause confusion in the community.”

McCallum’s letter was copied to the OPCC, Wayne Rideout, the director of police services at the Solicitor General ministry, and Surrey Police Chief Norm Lipinski.

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Bob Mackin Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum maintains the

For the week of July 4, 2021:

Just like that, 2021 is half over.

It began during Canada’s second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and continued through the third. The vaccine rollout in British Columbia was bumpy and two months behind that of neighbouring Washington state.

It dominated the headlines of the first six months.

Meanwhile, Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart is mulling a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics in a city grappling with homelessness, drug addiction and crime. The NDP revealed the Site C dam budget had ballooned to $16 billion. The Cullen Commission on money laundering heard from ex-Premier Christy Clark and ex-Deputy Premier Rich Coleman. And hundreds of people succumbed to the worst June heat wave in almost  century after the NDP government failed to activate emergency response.

Plus Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines and commentaries.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Highlights of 2021's first half
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For the week of July 4, 2021: Just

Bob Mackin

“Unprecedented” was the buzzword repeated often by government officials in British Columbia after hundreds of people died in the heat wave that enveloped the West Coast on the last weekend of June.

Dr. Bonnie Henry (left), Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix in March 2020 (Mackin)

But unprepared is the correct word under the circumstances.

On the 96th anniversary of a similar late June heat wave, NDP government officials did not broadcast any public statements to media, to warn the public of the extreme heat and offer help to find temporary relief from the temperatures. Ex-Health Minister Terry Lake of the B.C. Care Providers Association did more to warn the public than the current Health Minister, Adrian Dix, before the sweltering weekend.

“We got out of ahead of it and we saw what was coming,” said B.C. Care Providers’ vice-president Mike Klassen.

The NDP government waited until they were forced to react to the mounting death toll in a province already reeling from the overdose and pandemic public emergencies. By July 2, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said that 719 sudden and unexpected deaths occurred between June 25 and July 1 — three times greater than normal.

B.C.’s death toll is eerily similar to the 739 heat-related deaths over five days when Chicago suffered a record heat wave in July 1995.

An analysis of emergency preparation guides written by the province and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control shows almost no attention paid to the risk of a heat wave — even though politicians are constantly warning of a global warming crisis.

Some, like Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, went so far as to convince his city council to declare a symbolic climate change emergency in early 2019. But Vancouver’s police and fire departments were both stretched to the limit on the hottest June weekend in almost a century, reporting call volumes similar to the 2011 Stanley Cup riot. Stewart has ordered city manager Paul Mochrie to conduct a review. But Mochrie is obviously not going to fault the hypocrisy of his boss for his January 2019 alarmism followed by his June 2021 apathy.

Wildfire warning sign in North Vancouver on June 28 (Mackin)

The Emergency Management B.C. 2012 All-Hazard Plan divides risks into six major categories: Seismic, wildfire, hazardous materials, disease and epidemics, terrorism and hydrological. The latter includes drought, severe weather and storm surge. One of the annex documents mentions heat wave only once, on a chart showing which ministry had responsibility for which disaster type.

Nonetheless, the plan lays out what to do during so-called “notice” emergencies.

“Prior warning may come from outside organizations that have access to scientific methods for predicting floods, forest fires and severe weather. Where reliable prediction is possible, action can be taken before the onset of an emergency.”

B.C. Emergency Health Services did not activate its emergency operations centre until June 29, after paramedics and dispatchers were burdened by 200-plus call backlogs on the weekend.

Ministry of Health has maintained a central pandemic emergency coordination centre since March 2020 to coordinate with federal and municipal officials and communicate key messages to the public. It should have been relatively simple to pivot from virus to heat.

“The Provincial Health Officer is the lead spokesperson for information on public health related matters as a result of a major disease outbreak or emergency/disaster impacting the province,” the plan states.

North Shore Rescue during search for missing hiker Howard Moore, believed to be a victim of the heat wave.

We do not know why Dr. Bonnie Henry or Minister Adrian Dix failed to make a public statement at the onset of the heat wave to offer guidance to the public to shelter in a cool space at home or an air conditioned public library or community centre.

At 6:17 a.m. on June 24, Environment Canada warned of a “dangerous long duration heat wave” from June 25-29. “The record-breaking heat event will increase the potential for heat-related illnesses,” read the urgent advisory.

Later that day, the B.C. Emergency Health Services board meeting heard from Neil Lilley, the senior provincial director of patient care, communications and planning. Lilley gave a sometimes light-hearted presentation on how the ambulance service uses a colour-coded scale to rank the seriousness of injury or illness calls.

“Whereby a purple is an immediately life-threatening, for a cardiac arrest, for example, right the way down through a blue call, which is not urgent, we downstream those calls to 8-1-1 [non-emergency]. They could be somebody who stubbed their toe or has some severe sunburn, which probably is going to happen quite a bit this weekend,” Lilley laughed. “8-1-1 might be busy, but hopefully not.”

On June 25, Dr. Bonnie Henry was in Kelowna, where she posed for a Facebook photo at a sandwich shop. The former head of emergency services for Toronto Public Health has a Twitter account, but has not posted a message since November 2013. The government also did not activate its Alert Ready public safety system via TV, radio and text message.  

The heat wave impacted coronavirus testing and vaccination sites in Fraser Health and in Vancouver; several were closed and appointments for jabs delayed. Yet the NDP proceeded with the July 1 stage 3 of the restart plan anyway (anything to quiet the casino lobbyists).

“In hindsight, all levels of government are going to be asking themselves if they could have been better prepared,” Klassen said. “There is no question any elected official who is not prepared to roll up their sleeves to make it happen, they should probably find another line of work.”

Last fall, while the NDP campaigned in an unnecessary early election, Henry and her staff were busy updating B.C.’s nuclear emergency plan, instead of planning for an inevitable heat wave.

One of the only documents that could be found that directly addresses extreme heat is a 2017 planning guide from the BCCDC that considered municipal readiness. It found limited extreme heat response planning among B.C. municipalities and health authorities.

“Only six municipalities, all of which are located in the coastal ecoregion, were reported to have formalized heat response plans, three of which were reviewed,” said the BCCDC report.

Edgemont Thrity supermarket in North Vancouver suffered a refrigeration failure during the June 27 record heat (Mackin)

“Although consultations suggested this may be the result of the low perception of risk posed by heat and subsequent lack of prioritization, participants also described a lack of local data for risk assessments and absence of contextually appropriate and accessible best practice guidelines.”

The six municipalities were Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, North Vancouver District, North Vancouver City, West Vancouver and Vancouver.

In 2011, Health Canada published a toolkit for public health and emergency management officials to communicate about extreme heat events.

The amount of lead time in forecasts of extreme heat events is now allowing public health officials and the public to prepare for dangerous conditions.”

During an extreme heat event, the Health Canada guide said, “providing effective and rapid communication materials emphasizing only three to seven bits of familiar information that audiences can/should remember is very important. This will increase the likelihood of retention of key messages. By repeating these messages often, through different channels and vehicles, you will increase the reach and number of times they hear your message, demonstrate credibility, and provide needed support to those most at risk.”

The report said older adults, infants and young children, people with chronic illness or physical impairments and the socially disadvantaged are at greatest risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat fainting, heat cramps, heat rash and heat-related swelling.

Said the Health Canada document: “Provide targeted groups with timely, consistent and accurate information to help people make informed decisions and change their behaviour to minimize health risks, such as drinking more water and going to cooling shelters during extreme heat.”

Health Canada echoed some of the conclusions of a 1996 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, which studied the Chicago 1995 heat wave death toll.

“People, especially elderly people, who live alone and do not have networks of social contacts and those with debilitating conditions are at particularly high risk during heat emergencies,” said the report.

Sociologist Eric Klinenberg is author of Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. He pointed out that the June 30, 1995 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report foreshadowed the Chicago heat wave. The study concluded the 5,379 excessive heat deaths in the U.S. from 1979 to 1992 were readily preventable.

“Public health experts know the risk factors associated with heat related illness and mortality as well as the procedures responsible parties can take to reduce them,” Klinenberg wrote.

One of the obstacles in Chicago was political. As Klinenberg reported, Mayor Richard Daley downplayed the disaster with these words: “It’s hot. It’s very hot. But let’s not blow it out of proportion.”

Which sounds a lot like Premier John Horgan’s insensitive “fatalities are a part of life” and “there’s a level of personal responsibility” lines he used on June 29.

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Bob Mackin “Unprecedented” was the buzzword repeated often

Bob Mackin

A Sunshine Coast mansion owner must refund two plaintiffs and a co-defendant after what a B.C. Supreme Court judge called a “real estate investment gone awry.”

North American Royal Aristocratic Castle (Facebook)

Justice David Crerar ruled June 24 that Xuanwen Yang remains the sole owner of a property near Mt. Elphinstone, but he must pay back $631,436.83 plus 10% interest to Shiyou Wang and Chong Feng Wu.

Yang must also let co-defendant Weiguo Jin out of the mortgage, refund him the same amount as Wang and Wu, plus interest, an additional $50,000 toward mortgage payments and USD$180,000 that he paid for a mineral water development at Yang’s behest.

“Mr. Yang misled both Mr. Jin and the plaintiffs, and potential investors and customers, throughout the sorry saga,” Crerar ruled.

At issue is a 12-bedroom mansion on 53 acres near the Langdale BC Ferries terminal, with a Mandarin name that translates as “North American Royal Aristocratic Castle.”

Justice David Crerar (U of T)

Yang lives on the property and organized the investment project, which foresaw development on the property and neighbouring lands that he bought from the YMCA, operator of Camp Elphinstone. The Facebook page includes a photo of Yang and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shot at the controversial 2016 private fundraiser at one of the two Shaughnessy mansions of real estate investor Miaofei Pan.

Yang asked real estate agent Jason Yi in 2014 to look for properties. In early 2015, Yi told him of the one on 1393 Port Mellon Highway. Yang approached potential investors. On March 10 of that year, he signed the Sunshine Coast Resort Housing contract with Wang, Jin  and Li Dejian that said they would each have 25% interest in the expected $7.995 million purchase. Jin and Wang got a $5 million HSBC mortgage in June, 10 days before the completion of the nearly $6.8 million deal.

So began several years of disputes over the joint venture and oral and written agreements.

The court heard that the group met to discuss business at the Kerrisdale McDonald’s restaurant at the end of August 2015 and mid-March 2016. Yang walked out of the second meeting and declared the property was solely his own.

Yang anticipated the property would be developed. Through his Corporation Chinese Cooperation Community of North America Ltd., he bought eight neighbouring properties from the YMCA for $4.9 million in a deal that closed in September 2016. His first offer, for $4.55 million in June 2015, was rejected.

He did not tell Mr. Jin or Mr. Wang about his intention or attempt to obtain those neighbouring properties,” Crerar wrote. “At trial he confirmed that his intention was at that time, as realized in September 2016, to obtain those properties for himself rather than for the joint venture participants.”     

Xuenwen Yang (right) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Facebook)

In June 2015, Yang incorporated another company, North American Sunshine Tourism Co., and gave Jin a memo listing a multitude of business ventures that would require up to 16 government approvals, including dividing the land to build five “super large houses,” producing mineral water for export to China, processing sawdust, obtaining casino licences and rental of “Indian land,” purchase of yachts and buses and the manufacture and assembly of helicopters and yachts.

The 10-day trial in May happened under challenging circumstances, according to the judge. Even with COVID-19 protocols, there were four parties, two interpreters and one lawyer — neither the plaintiffs nor Yang were represented.

All parties had little or no English skill. They required a roster of seven Mandarin interpreters, “who appropriately served the court as much as the parties, and who must have been even more weary than the judge after every day,” according to Crerar.

The biggest challenge?

“Not one of the parties — any of the four participants in the project — was a reliable or credible witness,” Crerar wrote. “All were evasive, despite repeated instructions and admonitions; each repeatedly provided argumentative assertions rather than answers. Their positions, actions, and testimony were inconsistent.”

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Bob Mackin A Sunshine Coast mansion owner must