June 2024 Health Report

By Kerry Gibson, Health Convenor

A huge win for an Ethiopian refugee with asylum status in Canada this week is also a huge win for other landed medical students and health care practitioners as a ruling by Health Canada sets a precedent by granting Dr. Yonas Fetle permission to train in the US and then return to Canada to practice neurosurgery. As this is a federal rather than provincial decision, this looks to be an opportunity for internationally trained health care workers across Canada to overcome current regulatory hurdles toward contributing their skills to the Canadian health care system.

With high profile data breaches becoming the expected norm in recent years, particularly with government-held data being commandeered by unknown entities, there is even more concern regarding the level of data security protecting medical information. The introduction of third party telemedicine services makes medical data even more vulnerable, as there does not seem to be an industry-specific regulatory standard for internal data protection, and those corporate entities could be even more vulnerable to data leaks than the government. British Columbian residents access many corporate services for health care including remote counselling and mental health support. Both the government and the regulatory structures allowing third party private practice to hold sensitive data must reconsider their security protocols and upgrade across the industry to the most stringent of standards with a uniform standard of care to apply to all data systems. Those standards must also include the requirements for regular upgrades and assessments as technology continues to innovate to not allow the opportunity for hacks, domestic or otherwise, to interfere.

Although most Vancouverites may find it surprising that people still smoke cigarettes, the tobacco industry is still a multi-billion-dollar industry with serious health consequences. Health Canada has just announced a new requirement that each individual cigarette now must have a printed health warning but the World Health Organization has taken smoking cessation to a whole other level. “Florence” was originally developed in partnership with New Zealand/Silicon Valley company Soul Machines to assist with smoking cessation through their web platform as an AI human who is able to converse internationally with built-in language recognition. However, the technology has expanded far past that as in 2022 Florence was enhanced to educate the world on numerous aspects of health and mental health care including answering questions on COVID-19 and vaccinations. It is unfortunate that tools such as Florence (recently rebranded as “Sarah”; Smart AI Resource Assistant for Health) aren’t more widely advertised, as access to Florence/Sarah is universal and is set apart from internet rabbit holes that provide misinformation and cause hysteria and confusion. For more information: WHO and partners launch world’s most extensive freely accessible AI health worker and meet Sarah here: S.A.R.A.H, a Smart AI Resource Assistant for Health (who.int)

The Liberal government is proposing a big win for women’s health care by including free contraception in the first phase of a pharmacare reform initiative. The initiative has been backed by the NDP government and now must secure endorsement from the provinces to launch. NDP has stipulated that the initiative must be active by 2025, or they will withdraw their support of the Liberal government. This initiative is imperative particularly if the Conservative party wins the federal election and makes good on statements that access to abortion will be rolled back, however the pharmacare provision will only mitigate partially the damage that could be done to the health and mental health of Canadian women without ready access to such services.

June 2024 Seniors, Housing and Safety Report

By Sheila Pepper, Seniors, Housing and Safety Convenor

The WNHH Network is a national women’s homelessness group working for all women to improve their local housing and services situations. In BC, several new housing starts for vulnerable women, families and seniors have been reported, in some northern and rural areas, but more is needed in the Lower Mainland. Some residents of this area are opposing more immigration due to the greater pressure on housing and shelters for homeless people.

The Happy Cities group, in Our Urban Village, a group of strangers together in a shared home, with common areas for gathering and cooking, and with private rooms, is a recent example of co-housing in Vancouver. CMHC’s Housing Accelerator Fund is helping to support several rapid affordable housing development.

There is a report on discrimination against gender diverse people for housing from landlords, building managers, and shelter staff; thus addressing housing rights for 2SLGBTQQIA is important.

The National Conference on Ending Homelessness is in Ottawa in October 2024, and is calling for presentations on all aspects mentioned, and experiences from all, especially from Indigenous people. (CAEH24). There is a June 11-12th hybrid event, exploring solutions and support systems, at #HousingMatters. Safety for all these groups above mentioned, and for all women, their families and seniors continue to be of great concern, as so many innovative ways to target these vulnerable groups are circulating on the internet. Many organizations are alerting seniors to these scams, but we must particularly help all seniors who live alone. Many non-profit organizations and religious groups are helping vulnerable people personally, as they arrive in our communities, to find the services they need, as soon as possible.

Seniors, as we know, are a growing cohort, and will continue to be so in the next decades. Many more services are targeting seniors for their continued independence and comfort. My latest is a Drivers’ Refresher course, as I approach my 82nd birthday, and another driver’s test of my abilities and safety as a driver, carer and driver of my husband, and for all my organizational meetings and events.


May 2024 Education Report

By Patricia Gall, Education Convenor

The Controversy around SOGI

For several months a group of people stood on an overpass in North Vancouver with signs and banners. Waving a huge Canadian flag, they shouted as the cars passed on the highway beneath them. I observed this small and vigorous demonstration on my way home from teaching in the late afternoon and wondered what cause they represented – saving old-growth forests? protecting the ocean? protesting the TransMountain pipeline? Rush hour traffic demands that drivers stay focussed, so I could not linger and read the print on their signs. Only after reading the North Shore News did I learn of their mission. These people were protesting the “SOGI curriculum” in schools.

Before looking at the debate, it seems fitting that we understand what SOGI is and what it is not.

What is SOGI?

SOGI is the acronym for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The first, Sexual Orientation, is the enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people. Gender Identity is one’s internal concept of self as male, female, or a blend of both or neither. Gender Identity can be the same or different from one’s gender at birth.

SOGI 123 is a resource endorsed by the BC Provincial Education Ministry and introduced in September 2016 by the BC Liberals. It is not a curriculum but a policy; thus, it is not mandated.

The following is copied from the BC Ministry of Education website.


The B.C. Education Ministry offers SOGI policy because it allows schools to be fully inclusive and welcoming to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). It’s an inclusive term that applies to everyone, whether they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, heterosexual or cisgender (identifying with the same gender that one was assigned at birth).

It’s important for schools to be inclusive and safe spaces for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Being SOGI-inclusive means:

  • Speaking about SOGI in a way that makes every student feel like they belong
  • Not limiting a person’s potential based on their biological sex and how they understand or express their gender
  • Welcoming everyone without discrimination, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity

BC schools and school districts have found the following methods are helping reduce discrimination and risky behaviours among all students: 

Including SOGI in school codes of conduct and anti-bullying policies

This improves the school climate for LGBTQ and heterosexual students by reducing discrimination and harassment.

Teaching about valuing diversity and respecting differences

There is no “SOGI curriculum.” However, throughout K-12 curriculum and school activities, students and teachers explore the topic of human rights and:

  • What it means to value diversity and respect differences
  • How to respond to discrimination

Teachers may include discussions around the BC Human Rights Code, sexual orientation and gender identity.

SOGI 1 2 3 is a resource that supports educators in addressing these topics in the provincial curriculum. It helps schools create safe, caring, and inclusive learning environments for all students regardless of their race, culture, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Educators are not required to use this resource. (my emphasis)

SOGI 123 was created by ARC Foundation in collaboration with the BC Ministry of Education, the BCTF, school districts across BC, UBC Faculty of Education, education partners, and various local, national, and international 2SLGBTQ+ community organization.

Thus, SOGI is a resource for school districts and educators that provides policies, procedures, and teaching materials. The inclusive education curriculum is about students discussing diversity in society and the importance of treating everyone with dignity and respect, including individuals from the LGBTQ community. Individual teachers, however, review and determine the learning resources that are appropriate for teaching their students. This may or may not include using the SOGI 1 2 3 learning resources.

A variety of age and grade-appropriate topics may be addressed in a teacher’s actual lessons. The SOGI 1 2 3 materials are an optional resource that educators may utilize in addressing such topics. They are intended to align with the existing provincial curriculum but can also be customized by educators to meet the needs of their students.

These resources provide the following: ways to answer questions children have about gender expression and sexual orientation, opportunities to change vocabulary to be inclusive and respectful, and lessons discussing gender stereotypes, bullying and the harm people face when they challenge gender expectations.

SOGI is not sexual health education. Nor is it mandatory in any Canadian province or territory.

Sexual health education has been part of the provincial curriculum for decades, and parents have been informed, and continue to be, about what and when sexual health education will be provided to their children. Parents can choose to remove their child from class when sexual health is being provided.

Why are some people protesting SOGI?

Critics of SOGI say SOGI policies are a form of indoctrination. Anti-SOGI protesters believe exposure and discussion of various sexual identities and gender expressions encourages children to change genders and to have gender-affirming surgery. If diversity is presented as “normal,” then young people will be encouraged to adopt diverse genders and sexualities. For other anti-SOGI proponents, SOGI goes against religious values.

The protesters’ website demands the end of the following: the SO and GI (SOGI) curriculum, the use of the pronouns they/them, any gender ideology and lastly, mixed bathrooms.

What does SOGI look like in the schools?

In many of the elementary school libraries in North Vancouver, there is a section identified as Teacher Resources. The books on those shelves offer enrichment in any number of teaching areas. Amongst them are “Picture Books” deemed suitable for teachers to use in teaching. These books touch on themes and messages that teach empathy for others, for the environment, nature, and animals.

SOGI for younger children might be something as simple as teaching about different types of families. For example, a Kindergarten / Grade 1 lesson on families may teach students that families exist in many forms. The modern family is not just the traditional nuclear model of a mother and a father. Families are foster families, families have two fathers, families have a single parent. At the primary level, a teacher might choose to read a book aloud such as One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dad.

For students in Grades 5 – 7, a lesson might cover gender stereotypes and bullying, or teaching how traditional gender expectations limit a person’s potential and self-expression. It also explores the harm, stigma, and bullying that people who challenge gender expectations can face. For example, it may discourage students from saying “That’s so gay,” as the statement holds a negative connotation.

For older students, SOGI 123 offers a lesson in social or Indigenous studies, focusing on Indigenous perspectives on gender.

“There is no influence on students to do anything other than learn to be themselves and to be comfortable with themselves and with everyone in their school.”

Schools today

There is such a variety of expression in youth today – hair colour, body tattoos and piercings, clothing….Growing up is discovering who we are, and the youth of today are exploring and searching actively. Whether or not we are ready for diversity, it is happening!

From the perspective of my generation, gender identity can seem confusing and complicated. But for many of the students in school, it is not an issue. They accept each other and, in many cases, advocate for each other. Whether this is because of the SOGI policies or because of society today, who knows? However, SOGI notwithstanding, a number of students still leave the regular public schools and complete their education in an alternate setting. They may not “fit” the regular school for several reasons.

In previous eras, being gay and/or not fitting one’s assigned gender created enormous angst for the individual and discomfort for those around that person. Academic achievement and mental health derailed because of emotional isolation, often due to censure from within oneself, from family and/or from friends. Being different can be traumatic for many. When society becomes more open and tolerant of individual expression, perhaps we all become freer.

If you are interested in learning more:

An academic, Judith Butler, has written two books: Gender Trouble (1990) and Who’s Afraid of Gender? (2024 not yet released). In the interview about their (yes, the correct pronoun) new book, they commented on the fear many people have around gender identity.

There are podcasts that include studies and personal stories about Gender Identity.

Search on your browser for Gender Identity podcasts. There are many available.

If you are interested in books for younger children on developing empathy and appreciation for others, check your local public library. Children and Young Adult books have come a long way since our youth.





March 2024 Seniors, Housing and Safety Report

By Sheila Pepper, Seniors, Housing and Safety Convenor

Housing: I attended the Intersectional Housing Agenda Organization meeting on February 13th, also attended by Beryl Matthewson and many others. The Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network, the Indigenous Women’s Housing Network, the Pan Canadian Voice for Women’s Housing, and the National Right to Housing Network were all represented.

The discussion repeated the urgent need for more affordable, accessible, available and non- discriminatory housing for women. The ‘Financialization of Housing’ was another aspect discussed. The YM/WCAs across Canada address Social Housing and contribute many of their buildings to it.

We recalled the innovative housing models, such as NORC’s, Oasis, PAL, co-op and co-housing, and new ones, such as tiny and converted containers for homes. Khulud Baig said ”There’s a gendered crisis” in housing, “and all stakeholders should be ‘at the table’ where policy is made”.

There are 15 Calls to Action regarding immediate, medium term (2 to 5 years) and longer term (5 to 7 years) needs for this type of housing. Many organizations and individuals have written  to various levels of government over the last years to address these housing needs, and 1,200 did recently, they reported!

“Ninety national organizations, networks, grassroots and community groups, advocates and individuals” have endorsed these Calls to Action. I reconnected with the local ‘127 Housing Society’ recently. They have three apartment buildings in Vancouver, housing 355 mainly low income seniors, including a community worker in each building.

Seniors and Safety: Since my last report, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) aspects of communication for all seniors’ issues have been discussed in the media and at meetings.
So much electronic communication is changing so rapidly, it’s difficult for seniors to learn how to protect themselves from scams, false news and reports, and claims of many organizations and companies they may need to access. We need younger ‘navigators’ in this field, to help protect us from many types of confusing intrusions into our lives. Contact your MP, MLA and Councillors to help protect BC seniors from the new, ever innovating dangers to our mental and physical health.



February 2024 Civic Affairs Report

By Bernie Florido, Civic Affairs Convenor


As of January 22, 2024 all Translink bus and SeaBus service workers in Metro Vancouver are on strike, leaving buses and SeaBuses out of service for at least 48 hours. This comes after a three-week overtime refusal and unsuccessful talks between CUPE 4500 and the Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC). The strike impacts transit services and raises concerns about SkyTrain disruptions. Bus drivers show solidarity by not crossing picket lines. Commuters are advised to explore alternatives like carpooling. Major schools maintain regular classes, but industry bodies express broader concerns. The dispute involves wage disparity and workload issues, with CMBC offering an improved wage deal.

According to the Daily Hive, “CMBC offered increased overtime pay, improved benefits, and committed to hiring more supervisors. Unfortunately, the union again refused the improved offer. This is unacceptable and unreasonable. Disruption to customers could end immediately if the union accepted the reasonable offer that is on the table. We remain willing to join the union at the table and urge them to accept this reasonable offer.”

“With the help of our mediator, CUPE 4500 put in an honest effort to find some common ground with Coast Mountain. But we are still not near where we need to be in addressing our key issues,” said Liam O’Neill, the spokesperson for CUPE 4500. “For a fair settlement, CUPE 4500 members need wage discrepancies closed between them and other Translink supervisors, and we need to tackle critical workload issues.”

Unless CMBC and CUPE 4500 reach an agreement early this week, there are no guarantees that bus and SeaBus services will resume by Wednesday morning, and public transit riders should continue to try to plan for alternate ways to get around.




February 2024 Seniors, Housing and Safety Report

By Sheila Pepper, Seniors, Housing and Safety Convenor

Our BC government is promising many more social housing builds of various forms in most parts of this province, but many are slow to be approved and funded, as so many other financial pressures are put on the province’s funds every month. Research shows that these promises are for future years, when so many need housing now, particularly our chronically homeless, new refugees, immigrants who have been waiting for weeks or months, as have asylum-seekers, all urgently needing accommodation. Others who must change residences are finding huge increases in costs of housing in all sizes of homes, due to the current lack of supply.

We heard from the CBC and at last month’s meeting, from Alison Silgardo, of the Seniors’ Services Society of BC, that there has been an increase of seniors over 60 who are homeless, and thus are less able to stay well and be safe in winter in particular. Many seniors are finding they must move to smaller homes for mobility and financial reasons, and they are finding many challenges in doing so. Hopefully, some other solutions can accommodate them, such as: house

sharing, co-operative combinations, laneway approvals for small homes. Many seniors are feeling more vulnerable to infections, and hospitals and most health care clinics are struggling to

help those who need their services. As we have experienced colder and severe weather conditions all over BC this January, many communities are struggling to keep roads, paths and highways clear of snow and flooding, and providing more warming shelters overnight, in churches and other community buildings.

Safety is always a concern for us all. It seems there are more ways to entice money from particularly vulnerable people. We see so many more ads recently for gaming and gambling, and more pressure put on everyone to join. Years ago, in Ottawa, we put pressure on our governments to stop gaming companies from putting gambling opportunities in retirement homes, resulting in peer pressure to increase participation. Gaming companies offered incentives to the owners, and many of these companies tried to increase gambling in many places, both online and at local stores. We must be more vigilant and learn all the new ways predators are trying to prey on vulnerable people.



November 2023 Arts and Letters Report

By Gwen Smith, Arts and Letters Convenor

As all musical and stage theatres and concerts are back in full swing I hope you will be taking advantage of the many opportunities in Metro Vancouver.

One exciting item to report is Bramwell Tovey’s  opera “The Inventor”, a digital album release. Bramwell Tovey is a former conductor of the VSO. The opera was recorded at the Orpheum in 2012. It is available now streaming on Spotify and will soon be released in hard copy.

The Vancouver Art Gallery features art works produced in this region. At this time there is a special showing of Emily Carr,”A Room of her Own”, plus many other artists and exhibits. You can view the galleries and then have lunch in the gallery cafe.

Broadway shows are back with a wide variety of offerings. “Hadestown” is playing from November 7 to 12. Elf the Musical is playing from November 2 to December 31, and is a great Christmas show for the family.

The Arts Club, Metro Theatre and Richmond Gatewayare all offering a variety of plays. You can keep abreast of all concerts, plays and performers online or in the newspapers on Thursdays.

Go out and enjoy all the area has to offer!


November 2023 Seniors, Housing and Safety Report

By Sheila Pepper, Seniors, Housing and Safety Convenor

My three issues, seniors, safety, and housing, are continually in the national, provincial, territorial and local news almost every week.

Housing, of course, is an urgent problem for most people these days, whether they own their own homes and are struggling to pay higher taxes, repair and modify as they age, or make major renovations.

Others who rent are paying more each year, or ‘extra’ fees for services which were included previously, and many with necessary repairs and upgrades to appliances and infrastructure are not completed in a timely way.

Landlords are squeezed in several ways too, with higher costs of materials, but ‘renovictions’ are on the rise.

Those who are homeless and must live in shelters or other temporary accommodation experience many other difficulties, such as crowded facilities, mandatory enter and leave times, and safety of their possessions and pets (if they are allowed). Many immigrants and refugees experience additional threats.

Safety is often a problem as people move on streets, in the evenings, on public transportation and when travelling distances. Seniors have experienced all these problems and more and are less able to recover.




November 2023 Civic Affairs Report

By Bernie Florido, Civic Affairs Convenor



Additional VPD officers have been called out for expected gatherings and protests because of the Middle East conflict, with a protests occurring in Vancouver. The VPD aims to ensure events and demonstrations remain peaceful. Mayor Sim voiced his opposition to hate speech and supported police investigations into such incidents.


In September home prices in Burnaby decreased slightly compared to August, especially for single-family houses in some areas. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported more sales of detached homes in Burnaby but fewer sales of attached properties and apartments.  Overall, 257 homes were sold in Burnaby in September, with more listings than in August. In the larger Metro Vancouver area September sales increased compared to the previous year, but they were still below the typical average for that month. The number of homes listed for sale in Greater Vancouver in September 2023 went up significantly compared to the previous year.


A deeply devastating event resulted in the approval of two criminal charges of first degree murder and attempted murder against Nicholas Bellemare, a 25 year old male, in the death of RCMP Constable Rick O’Brien. This event occurred during the execution of a search warrant in Coquitlam. This is an immense loss that has deeply affected both the RCMP and communities across the country. Constable Rick O’Brien had dedicated seven years to the RCMP and leaves behind a wife and six children.





October 2023 Housing and Safety Report

By Sheila Pepper, Housing and Safety Convenor

We are pleased to see initiatives for upgrading, repairing and building new affordable, supportive housing in the Greater Vancouver area. The various city and provincial government departments are better coordinated and committed to solving this urgent problem.

So many more migrants, immigrants, foreign students and homeless people need accommodation in the areas around Vancouver. Monthly rental prices for even smaller apartments and condos have risen dramatically over the last five years in particular, and in the last three decades in general. Many laneway small homes have had City approvals, finally, and many more need to be built in our densely populated downtowns.

Foreign students come to our cities for the fall to spring education institution years in particular, and their situation is critical, as is the situation for the many newly homeless families, youth and singles coming to our area every year. We have been pleased to see so many churches committed to social housing on their attached parking lots and lands. Hopefully, the various city and provincial authorities in charge will improve and streamline the approval processes for building new accommodation for these groups; they have promised to do so.

Safety has always been a concern for us all, particularly for vulnerable populations such as women, children, youth and seniors. Many of us are well aware of the various risks and can prepare ourselves and our families for most of them. When on our streets and in public transportation, we can protect our belongings and our bodies with careful planning and preparation. Courses are available, in person at community centre and educational institutions and online.

Seniors are now more aware of concerns for their health, housing situations, community connections and safety than in decades past. For example, we used to hitchhike with confidence when we were young, but that changed dramatically in the 1970’s and since. Many aspects of seniors’ lives have changed in recent decades and we are more aware of the urgency in cases of our health, fitness, continuing education and training in many aspects of survival than our parents seemed to be concerned with.