Bullet missed grandmother’s head by inches in bedroom in Tuesday shooting in Surrey





The garage door of the building on the right is the one through which a bullet penetrated all the way to the back wall of that suite. The victim was chased by the gunman through the narrow pathway between the two houses towards the Strawberry Hills Elementary School situated in the back.

All photos by Jay Sharma of Mahi Photo Studio


The bullet hole just above the bed in the parents’ bedroom.


The spot just above the grandmother’s head from where the bullet entered the second bedroom.


The bullet mark on the back wall of the suite from where the bullet fell to the ground.)



YOU probably hear of this happening only in Hollywood or Bollywood movies.

But for this family from Gujarat it was a surreal experience as that one bullet zipped through the garage door in front of the building, entering the couple’s bedroom then going through the closet between that bedroom and the next one before hitting the back wall and falling on the floor just behind the bed.

And in that process, the bullet could have hit three members of the family – only that the father, who had been reading in bed, had decided to get up and leave his bedroom just a minute before the shooting; the grandmother, who was standing near the wall in the adjoining bedroom, was a few inches shorter than the spot from where the bullet entered that room; and her teenage granddaughter, who she was urging to get out of bed as it was too early to sleep, was still laying down.

That was around 6 p.m. on Tuesday (September 15) at the house in a cul-de-sac at 75th Avenue and 124th Street beside Strawberry Hills Elementary School.

The utter brazenness of the criminal elements involved in the shooting has shocked the residents of that cul-de-sac. One of them told The VOICE that normally at that time he plays with badminton with his kids in front of his house that is just next to the one that was hit by that bullet. Fortunately, he had gone out that day.

When he tried to return home, he complained to me that the police did not let him go back to his kids for a couple of hours although he showed his ID. He said other residents too were told they could not go back to their homes.


THIS was the third shooting incident since last Saturday in Surrey. Surrey RCMP said one person was injured following a confrontation between two groups in two vehicles in the area. Police were contacted by BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) who had received a call from a gunshot victim. Police were on scene within a few minutes and located one person with an apparent gunshot wound in the area.

RCMP said the victim is a 22-year-old male known to police. He was transported by BCAS to a local area hospital. Although serious, the victim’s injuries appeared to be non-life threatening.

Several bullets struck the elementary school behind the houses in the cul-de-sac as one gunman apparently chased the victim who ran through a narrow passageway between two houses towards the school.


DURING that chase, one bullet ripped through that house at the side of the passageway.

Samina Sufi narrated her family’s terrifying experience to me as she pointed out the bullet holes inside her house as her mother looked on.

She said that her family had been living in the house for the past year and were to move out at the end of this month as they had just bought their own house. This was the last thing they could have imagined.

She said that it took them all some time to figure out what exactly had happened. When the bullet crashed through the bedrooms and fell behind the bed, they thought that there was some electrical problem that had caused something to fall down.

She was in an adjoining room and thought the sound was that of her neighbour, who was working on the balcony on top of their suite in the back, falling down. She went out to check on him and he warned her to get back inside as one man was chasing another man and shooting away.

“We had never heard the sound of firing before,” she explained.

Within minutes, the place was flooded with police officers.


SURREY RCMP Cpl. Scotty Schumann said on Tuesday: “The investigation is in its infancy and it’s too early to make any connections to other Lower Mainland shootings. We can say that the incident appears to be targeted given just two vehicles were involved.  Our Major Crime Unit, patrol officers, and Integrated Forensic Identification Services are all on scene conducting a thorough examination of the area. The neighborhood is also being canvassed for witnesses and any other evidence. We’re hoping that anyone with information about these two groups will come forward and help us advance the investigation.”

As a result of this incident, Surrey RCMP cordoned off Strawberry Hill Elementary School and the 7500 block of 123A Street on Tuesday evening in order to collect and search for evidence.

On Thursday, Schumann pointed out to The VOICE, in answer to my question about the incident being possibly linked to the ongoing turf war between two groups of low-level drug traffickers in Surrey, that police have to first identify all the people involved in the incident before they can conclusively say it is or it isn’t connected to that conflict. Police haven’t yet identified the men inviolved.


Previous shootings


MONDAY: Three or four shots were fired by occupants of a white jeep at a black Chevrolet Corvette in the 13200-block of 89th Avenue around 5:14 p.m. on September 14.

Surrey RCMP said they received several phone calls from witnesses about a white jeep chasing a black Corvette in the area of 132nd Street and 89th Avenue. Police went into action immediately with a large number of members; however, they couldn’t track down the vehicles.

Police said they found evidence in the area showing shots had been fired. They could not find anyone who had received injuries and there were no signs of damage.

Surrey RCMP’s Major Crime Unit is following up on leads in this case.  No arrests have been made.

“The investigation is still in its early stages, but initial indications are that this incident is targeted and that the parties involved likely knew each other.  It is too early to tell if this incident is linked to any other conflicts in Surrey,” said police.


SATURDAY: There was a shooting incident involving two vehicles on September 12 in the 6800-block of 128th Street shortly after 6:35 p.m.

Police recovered evidence of shots fired in the 6800-block of 128th Street, but couldn’t find anyone connected to the shooting. They had rushed to the scene after receiving several reports of shot being fired.

Then Surrey RCMP received another call from a male who said that he was driving on 128th Street approaching 68th Avenue when another vehicle pulled besides him and fired several shots at his vehicle. He drove a short distance away and then called the police to report it.

Police said that this shooting did not appear to be a random act. However, they were unable to say whether this shooting is linked to any other shootings. Occupants of the vehicle provided very limited information to the investigators.


If anyone has any information about these shootings, they are asked to call 604-599-0502 or, if they wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or





20-year-old male shot in Richmond in targeted hit on Monday night



A 20-year old male was found suffering from gunshot wounds and was taken to hospital for treatment just before 11:30 p.m. on Monday (September 14) after Richmond RCMP responded to calls about shots fired at an address in the 13000-block of Vulcan Way.

He has been subsequently released.  A second male was involved but neither has been entirely cooperative with police. No other injuries were reported.

A silver vehicle was seen fleeing the scene. This vehicle is believed to be the car found set ablaze a short distance from the scene of the shooting.

“We are very thankful that no one else was injured in this incident. The Richmond RCMP Serious Crimes Unit has taken custody of this investigation. Our officers will continue to work with the victim in an attempt to gain his cooperation. He is known to police and we believe this was a targeted incident,” says Corporal Dennis Hwang.

Richmond RCMP continues to work with partner agencies in the Lower Mainland to determine if there is a connection to other shooting incidents.

Police continue to seek witnesses who may have been in the area. If you have any information on this crime, contact Richmond RCMP at 604-278-1212.

To leave a tip on this crime, email or, to remain anonymous, call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).




RATTAN’S RUMBLE: Slap in the faces of Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney as Federal Court of Appeal rejects their bigoted stand on niqab




SHAME on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his sidekick, Defence Minister Jason Kenney, who are trying  to whip up racism against Muslim women who willingly choose to wear the niqab just to score CHEAP political points with some bigoted Canadians.

Well, thanks to the wise judges that we Canadians have been blessed with, Harper and Kenny had egg on their faces on Tuesday as three justices on the Federal Court of Appeal rejected the federal government’s appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down a ban on wearing niqabs at citizenship ceremonies.

The justices said they had ruled now because they wanted Zunera Ishaq to be able to take her citizenship oath and vote in the federal election on October 19.

This is what makes Canadians proud in the world – NOT the sleazy Reform Party-type of racism against visible minorities in some form or the other.

Ishaq, who came to Canada from Pakistan in 2008, had no problem to show her face to an official before writing and passing her citizenship test two years ago, but she objected to removing the niqab in public at the oath-taking ceremony.

The CBC reported that Judge Keith Boswell said the government policy violated the Citizenship Act, which states citizenship judges must allow the greatest possible religious freedom when administering the oath. He asked how that would be possible, “if the policy requires candidates to violate or renounce a basic tenet of their religion.”

But don’t accept racist and bigoted elements to give up yet. They will still try and whip up racism against Ishaq.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has in a statement announced that the government will seek leave to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Well, what can you expect from such desperate politicians?!

Surely there MUST be more important issues to pursue!


LAST June, in a piece titled “Shame on Tim Uppal for allowing himself to be used against the niqab by desperate Harper!” I pointed out: “How stupid is Multiculturalism Minister Tim Uppal to allow himself to be used by a desperate Prime Minister Stephen Harper against the niqab!

“With Harper and the Conservatives’ fortunes plummeting in Quebec in the face of solid NDP support under Tom Mulcair in recent weeks, Harper ordered Uppal – a bearded and turbaned Sikh – to announce that the government will introduce a last-minute bill to ban face coverings at citizenship ceremonies.”

Mainstream media, too, has lashed out against Harper in the past on this racist move, as the quotes in that article showed.

Back in 2011, Vancouver Sun’s Craig McInnes wrote: “Still, on a functional level, the objections raised by the Conservative government for both swearing-in ceremonies and voting are largely nonsensical. they have no objection to the thousands of votes cast by mail, and even for a swearing in, it would be easy to confirm both identity and intent without insisting on full public exposure.”

Toronto Star’s National Affairs Columnist Thomas Walkom wrote: “It is a remedy to a problem that does not exist, based on complaints from a single Conservative MP and the unverified anecdotes of unnamed citizenship judges. … Playing the Muslim card is a classic remedy. It gets people talking. It discomfits the opposition. It appeals to lurking racism. It changes the channel.”

The Globe and Mail columnist Sheema Khan wrote: “The Harper government has done a 180-degree turn on the niqab. In 2009, the Prime Minister’s Office said: “In an open and democratic society like Canada, individuals are free to make their own decisions regarding their personal apparel and to adhere to their own customs or traditions of their faith or beliefs.””




Jarrod Sidhu joins dad in Vancouver Police Department


(PHOTOS: Jarrod Sidhu and family members with Vancouver Police Chief Constable Adam Palmer.

Jarrod Sidhu with Vancouver Police Deputy Chief Steve Rai.

The newest VPD members: smart, confident and dynamic.

 Photos by Sukhwant Dhillon)



IT was a day of great pride for the Sidhu family on Thursday as Jarrod Sidhu was sworn in as one of the 13 newest members of the Vancouver Police Department, joining his dad Vancouver Police Sergeant Tej Sidhu.

The  Class of 149 also included: Lianne Araki, Jason Barham, Renan Cabrera, Daniel Cameron, Michael Duff, Devon Golchin, Justin Kurtz, Fiona Minty, Robert Pool, Danielle Sayer, Kaithlin Trudeau and Canon Wong – all of whom had outstanding backgrounds.

While in high school, Jarrod was selected to participate in the Delta Student Police Academy, an experience that marked the beginning of his desire to pursue policing as a career.

He earned an associate of arts degree in criminology from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and worked in the service industry managing a large restaurant.

In 2013, Jarrod was hired as an auxiliary community safety officer and jail guard with the Vancouver Police Department, and has volunteered with the Delta Police Department. Jarrod speaks Punjabi.





Vishal Bajaj, involved in Abbotsford conflict between two South Asian groups, charged with drug trafficking and breach of recognizance


ON Monday, September 14 at 11:15 p.m., Abbotsford Police Department’s newly created Gang Enforcement Team, which is currently focused on the Townline Hill conflict involving two groups of South Asians, conducted a curfew check on Vishal Bajaj, 26, and found that he was not home as required under his court-ordered condition of a curfew of between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Police recommended charges based on this incident.

On Wednesday, September 16 at 4 p.m., Bajaj and Kuldeep Gill, 26, were arrested in a vehicle in a grocery store parking lot in the 27500-block of Fraser Highway.  Police said wrapped packages of cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin were located in the vehicle.  They have both been charged with three counts of possession for the purposes of trafficking (cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine).

Abbotsford Police publically identified Bajaj as an individual involved in the ongoing conflict in the Townline Hill area on September 10.

“ We will be continuing targeted enforcement efforts relating to this conflict,” said Constable Ian MacDonald.

Bajaj has been remanded in custody until September 24.

Gill has been released under court-ordered conditions.  He is forbidden from possessing weapons, alcohol, drugs and cellphones.  He is not permitted to have contact with Bajaj.





Tribute paid to Shaheed Baba Nihal Singh and Baba Harnam Singh at India Cultural Centre of Canada




RESIDENTS of Talhan village in Jalandhar district of Punjab have been doing a commendable job in paying tribute to two prominent figures from their village – Shaheed Baba Nihal Singh and Baba Harnam Singh. As part of this process they have raised thousands of dollars for some very worthwhile causes. This year was their 23rd function held at India Cultural Centre of Canada’s Gurdwara Nanak Niwas.

On the 15th anniversary of their remembrance, Talhan residents in Metro Vancouver raised and donated $10,000 to Vancouver Children’s Hospital. Again, on the 20th anniversary they raised and donated $21,000 to the BC Cancer Society. As in previous years, a large number of residents of Talhan along with their friends, well-wishers and relatives turned out to pay tribute to Shaheed Baba Nihal Singh and Baba Harnam Singh on all three days (September 11 to 13 ) at the gurdwara.

One of Talhan residents – Jasbir Jassi – presented a booklet of his research and tribute to both of these distinguished personalities. The booklet was presented by Jassi to India Cultural Centre of Canada’s Chairman Asa Singh Johal. Special guests on this occasion included Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton. She made brief remarks and was then presented with a plaque by Johal.

Then the new Indian Consul General in Vancouver, Rajiv Kumar Chander, was invited to address the audience.

Chander joined India’s Foreign Service in 1983 after obtaining his degrees in history and law. A native of Jalandhar (Punjab), Chander has a distinguished career as a diplomat.  During the past 32 years, he has served around the globe in different capacities starting with his first assignment at the Embassy of India in Moscow. That followed a variety of postings at the Foreign Ministry as well as abroad, including Germany, Nepal and Russia.

He served as India’s Deputy Permanent Representative with the Permanent Mission of India in Geneva from 2006 to 2009. Chander was then appointed ambassador to Ukraine in 2011 and served there till his move to Vancouver as Consul General of India last month. In addition to Punjabi, Hindi and English, Chander is fluent in Russian as well.

Chander along with his wife, Dr. Shalini C. Chander, and their daughter received a very warm welcome by the management committee of India Cultural Centre.


(Contributed by BALWANT SANGHERA / Photos by Chandra Bodalia)




School shooting shows leadership lacking in public safety crisis



BC NDP Leader




A Surrey elementary school was riddled with bullets at six in the evening, a time when children could easily have been playing on the grounds.  This latest violent shooting incident on Tuesday has shocked and outraged all British Columbians.

Gun violence isn’t just happening in Surrey – earlier this month a 74-year-old grandfather and innocent bystander was killed in Abbottsford, while a Vancouver city worker was killed in broad daylight in Burnaby in July.

However, the level of gun and gang-related violence in Surrey this year has reached epidemic proportions.

This Strawberry Hill school incident was the third shooting in as many days in Surrey and is part of a public safety crisis that has been going on for months and has justifiably spread fear among Surrey residents. People have died, one defending his home, and residents are right to be concerned that these deaths won’t be the last.

This is unacceptable and Surrey and the Lower Mainland deserve better than what they’re getting from both senior levels of government.

After months of being promised 100 new RCMP officers, there has been scant progress. The most recent public reports show that only six new officers from the promised 100 have been deployed.

The B.C. Liberal government simply isn’t there for Surrey. Premier Christy Clark and her justice minister are sitting on their hands saying they’ve done all they can. That isn’t good enough.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton often claims that her government has increased the budget for the RCMP but earlier this year she was forced to admit that there was, in fact, no money for actual new police services to communities this year. No new money for Surrey, no new money for any community in need.

We also need a renewed effort on gangs, and a targeted effort in specific communities to tackle the culture of silence.

There is good work being done, but we aren’t doing enough of it.  The anti-gang unit has its innovative End Gang Life program, and the school-based Wraparound program has been very successful – but the B.C. government pledged only enough funding to reduce this prevention program waitlist by half.  Surrey also only has 10 school liaison officers for its 120 schools while Vancouver has 16 dedicated officers for fewer schools.

These are the kind of initiatives we need to see expanded. But instead of expanding this vitally important work, last year the B.C. Liberal government cut the provincial policing budget. This forced the RCMP to cut $2.8 million from the anti-gang task force as a result, and at a time when Surrey already had a growing crime rate and one of the lowest ratios of police officers in the province.  This has only gotten worse because the community’s population has continued to grow far faster than the provincial average.

This failure of B.C. Liberal priorities is unacceptable.

Our New Democrat Surrey MLAs have been proposing solutions to the crisis of not only gang-related and property crime but also homelessness, mental health and addictions issues through the Surrey Accord.

The B.C. Liberal government could be doing more to protect families in Surrey, but they are neglecting the things that matter. Surrey parents shouldn’t have to worry that if they let their children play at the park they will be caught in crossfire.

New Democrats will continue to fight for the things that matter and stand up on the issues that families face in their daily lives. Surrey deserves better than what they have been getting from the B.C. Liberal government.




More than 200 people hit the Grouse Grind trail to raise $70,000 for mental health




MORE than 200 people participated in the 3rd annual Grind for the Mind supporting Mental Health services at Richmond Hospital on Saturday to raise $70,000.

Last year, over 130 people hiked up Grouse Mountain for Grind for the event and raised $40,000 for Richmond Hospital.

The annual event is the brainchild of Richmond’s Sandhu family and their development company, Ampri Group. The Grind for the Mind is designed to help promote healthy bodies and minds. Money raised will be used to develop an innovative, family-centered model of care in the mental health unit at Richmond Hospital. This new model will help families in supporting and promoting the wellness of their family member affected by mental illness.





AMSSA’s Diversity Awards recognize dedicated leaders who strengthen diversity and inclusion in B.C.


(PHOTO: The late Riasat Ali Khan.)


AN independent awards committee selected the following organization and individuals for recognition for the 11th annual AMSSA Diversity Awards that will be presented on September 18 at the VanDusen Botanical Garden to recognize the work that AMSSA member agencies, staff, and volunteers do to promote and strengthen diversity in the province:

* Riasat Ali Khan Award – MOSAIC in Vancouver

MOSAIC, the recipient of the 2015 Riasat Ali Khan Award, was recognized for their innovative and ground breaking I Belong project which aims to build organizational and settlement sector capacity to better support LGBTQ newcomers. The I Belong project helps to create safe and welcoming spaces for LGBTQ newcomers to receive support and grow connections with the community.

* Service Recognition Staff Award – Rajinder Lotay, Kamloops Cariboo Regional Immigrant Services, Kamloops

Rajinder Lotay, the Service Recognition Staff Award recipient, has worked in the settlement sector for over 22 years.  She has worked passionately to bring culturally sensitive health services to the Kamloops area through initiatives such as the mammogram bus clinics, and the Nobody’s Perfect parenting program.

* Service Recognition Volunteer Award – Jason Jones, Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria, Victoria

Jason Jones will be presented with the Service Recognition Volunteer Award. Through his volunteer work with the Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA), he helped grow the Community Partnership Network initiative, bring diversity and sensitivity training to Saanich Parks and Recreation staff, as well as developed a number of innovative programs for newcomers.

“Congratulations to the nominees and recipients of the Diversity Awards,” said AMSSA President Jean McRae. “These champions of welcoming communities are an inspiration as we continue to celebrate and promote diversity and inclusion in B.C. and beyond.”

To learn more about AMSSA’s Diversity Awards visit:





Businessman Bruce Kehler gives $25,000 for back-to-school supplies for over 100 underserved Surrey students




BRUCE Kehler, CEO of Canex Building Supplies Ltd. of Chilliwack, helped make the back-to-school season a whole lot brighter for over 100 underserved Surrey students.  He announced an incredible back-to-school donation of $25,000 in the form of $250 gift cards to the Surrey Urban Mission Society Day Camp Adventures students.  These funds will help to accelerate urgently needed progress for children from disadvantaged families.

The announcement was made at the The Surrey Urban Mission Summer Camp closing ceremony, which took place at the Surrey Urban Mission Place. Organized by Jonquil Hallgate, the event was attended by several dignitaries, including MPs Jinny Sims and Jasbir Sandhu and MLAs Sue Hammell and Bruce Ralston.  The campers, camp leaders, and their parents were there to thank the organizers for a highly successful eight-week summer camp season.  In particular, they gave special thanks to Kehler, who had also sponsored the entire camp with his previous $25,000 donation.

Some children from well-to-do families get to go to summer camp every year.  Those who come from poor families never get to go.  For many children, the new school year means new clothes, backpacks and all the new school supplies that they need.  For children living below the poverty line, reality is very different.  Financial budgets are tighter, and parents often must focus on basic needs like food and shelter.  This leaves very little for extras such as new school supplies.  Students without school supplies have lower attendance rates and do poorly, which leads to higher dropout rates. Teachers often step in and use their own money to buy these children supplies.

Kehler credits his new relationship with SUMS to Sikandar Hayat, a director of Amazing Children’s Foundation, who introduced him to SUMS.  Bruce believes that “sometimes a few hundred dollars stands in the way of a child, and all children should have the opportunity to develop to their fullest.”

For more information about SUMS contact Jonquil Hallgate, Executive director of SUMS at  For more information about Amazing Tutors Children’s Foundation, contact Suzanne Hayat at 604-765-4099 or by e-mail at



Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at applauds Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold religious freedom


THE Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at on Thursday welcomed the decision by the Federal Court of Appeal to dismiss the appeal to ban the niqab in citizenship oath ceremonies.

It stated: “The decision by the Federal Court of Appeal upholds religious freedom, is in line with core Canadian values and is indicative of Canada’s status as a truly free and democratic nation.”

Lal Khan Malik, National President, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada said: “We are glad that the Federal Court upheld principles of freedom of religion. It is a true blessing and privilege to live in a free democratic society where both the government and the courts can ultimately make decisions and reach a resolution that is the best for the collective good.”





Trunk of Golden Tree Monument installed in Abbotsford




CHARAN Gill, CEO of PICS and Gurpreet Pabla of PICS Legal Advocacy Department were on site as the trunk of the mighty Golden Tree Monument was installed in Abbotsford’s friendship garden this week.

The Golden Tree monument is built to pay tribute to three women farmworkers who lost their lives as a consequence of unsafe working conditions in 2007. Sarbjit Kaur Sidhu, Amarjit Kaur Bal and Sukhvinder Kaur Punia were killed when the overcrowded van they were travelling in crashed on Highway 1.

The branches of the beautiful tree will show the figures of the three women and will serve as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices farmworkers make on a daily basis to put food on our tables.

PICS has played a key role in helping build this memorial. Not only is PICS a brass sponsor of the memorial, Gill played an active role along with other labour organizations, service providers and businesses in ensuring that this memorial is built.

With the trunk installed this week and the leaves and branches almost ready, the beautiful tree monument will be unveiled to the public on Saturday, October 3.

“As someone who has always been passionate about the rights of farmworkers, I am pleased that with the help of BC Federation of Labour and other organizations, we have finally managed to build this beautiful memorial which will remind us of the tremendous sacrifices farmworkers make on a daily basis,” said Gill.




How compassionate is Harper Government when it comes to visa for attending funeral in Canada?


DALJIT Kaur Sahota of Surrey lost her only brother as a result of a brain hemorrhage a few weeks ago and she sponsored her sister to come to Canada from India to attend his funeral. However, her applications for a visitor’s visa were refused twice for reasons which she says defy any rationale.

She says: “We are not the first family to undergo this kind of inconsiderate treatment from the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration who have consistently shown a total lack of compassion for bereaved families. We wrote to Minister Chris Alexander requesting him to look into our issue of visa refusal, but we got back a stock reply saying his office will not respond to any queries pertaining to visa refusals.”

In her grief and anger she fired off this letter to Alexander:


Dear Sir,

I would like to bring to your attention how your ministry has let down our family in our darkest hour. It seems the Canadian Consulate staff in Chandigarh and Delhi, India, are devoid of any compassion or grossly incompetent. My sisters and I lost our brother, Harjap Singh Mahil, tragically to a brain hemorrhage last month. Harjap Singh Mahil was the only brother of 5 sisters, three of whom are residents of Canada. All the family members are very distraught and grief stricken. Our elderly parents are in a state of shock and inconsolable. I had sponsored my sister, Rajwinder Kaur, who lives in India to come to Canada to attend our Brother’s funeral but her TRV application (V306683908) was refused.

We then approached Jinny Sims, our local Member of Parliament and requested for her assistance in securing a Temporary Resident Visa for my sister. She was kind enough to visit our grieving family to offer condolences and provided us a support letter.

To our dismay and utter disbelief, my sister Rajwinder’s visitor’s visa application (V306706978) was refused again for reasons which give the impression that the visa officer did not even bother to open and read the file.

Reasons for refusal given were:-

  1. Purpose of visit: Is attending the funeral of your loved one not a valid reason to travel to Canada? Are we not allowed to grieve together as a family? My parents are elderly and grief stricken and not in a condition to travel and it is unbelievable that Canadian Consulate staff could be so inconsiderate, insensitive and utterly lacking in compassion.
  2. Lack of funds: My sister has enough finances to be able to visit Canada. How much do you consider are enough funds to be able to visit Canada.

All relevant documents were attached as proof of our brother’s death, the funeral home’s letter, a sworn affidavit to bear all travel related costs of my sister but to no avail. Purpose of visit not clear. One wonders what it takes to convince your visa officers.

You had called in on The Harjinder Thind Show on 93.1 Red FM Radio about six months back and given the impression that in cases where there has been a death in the family, family members wanting to attend the funeral do not even need a visa. They just need to land here and a temporary visitor’s visa will be issued to them. These refusals for our sister totally contradicts your public reassurances. We have lost all faith in your ministry’s ability to show any compassion, leave aside any remorse at their insensitivity.

We were inclined to go to the media with our story but decided to first request you to investigate this case. We will await your response to our plight.


Daljit Kaur Sahota






Volunteers join the CIBC Run for the Cure Surrey Committee to support women living with breast cancer and survivors



(PHOTO: Ravneet (L) and Isha.)



SISTERS, Ravneet and Inderpreet (Isha) Ghotra, have joined the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure as the Promotions Coordinators in Surrey. This volunteer opportunity allows them to raise awareness about breast cancer and to encourage fundraising for the CIBC Run for the Cure to support the many women affected by breast cancer.

“The fact that one of nine Canadian women is expected to develop breast cancer in her lifetime gave us a reason to stand up and raise awareness and funds to try to stop this cruel disease,” says Ravneet. “Volunteering with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation allows us to be a part of the movement to end breast cancer.”

“There are still many people unaware of the statistics of breast cancer and how many women are affected every year,” says Isha. “Raising awareness and funds helps detect breast cancer in earlier stages and fund research to help find new treatment options. We feel the CIBC Run for the Cure helps women living with the disease know they are not alone. The most rewarding moment will be on Run day, when we can be a part of the encouraging and hopeful atmosphere where all women affected by the disease, survivors, friends and families can take part.”

When they are not volunteering for the CIBC Run for the Cure, the sisters are busy with school or other activities. Isha is currently in Grade 12 and enjoys English, reading, and writing. She also plays volleyball, a passion she’s pursued for eight years.

Ravneet is always ready to give back to the community, and currently volunteers as a UBC Orientation Leader and children’s camp leader. She is in her second year at the University of British Columbia, pursuing a Bachelor of Science. Ravneet also loves to bike, dance, and paint. As Promotions Coordinators, Ravneet and Isha promote the CIBC Run for the Cure throughout the city of Surrey.

Since its inception in 1992, the CIBC Run for the Cure has helped the Foundation fund groundbreaking research from coast to coast. Thanks to the efforts of the Foundation and their supporters, mortality rates have declined by 44% since their peak in 1986. Early detection methods, such as regular mammography screening, have helped many women – and men – improve their chances of survival.

Join them on Sunday, October 4 in Bear Creek Park, Surrey, as they come together to make a real difference in the lives of those affected by breast cancer. For more information about the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure, or to register and / or volunteer, visit




Harpreet Singh Vaid, 21, faces 14 charges in Abbotsford pellet gun attacks, second person yet to be identified




ABBOTSFORD Police announced on Thursday that their investigation into the pellet gun attack spree last July has resulted in 14 charges being approved against 21-year-old Harpreet Singh Vaid.  The accused faces seven counts of discharge of an air gun with intent to injure and seven counts of assault with a weapon.

Police thanked the many individuals who provided information and witness accounts to police that contributed tremendously to the identification of the suspect and the subsequent charges.

However, police still haven’t been able to track down a second person. When police announced on August 6 that they had arrested a 21-year-old man in relation to the 15 pellet gun attacks at various locations in the city between July 18 and 27, Constable Ian MacDonald had said: “Our work is continuing as we seek to identify and locate at least one other person involved in the assaults and mischief.  Recent video footage obtained by police clearly shows a driver and a second person with the pellet gun in the suspect vehicle.”

On Thursday, MacDonald told The VOICE that Vaid “isn’t identifying him, so we are still trying to determine who he is.”

Four female pedestrians and five male pedestrians were struck and injured. Pedestrians, vehicles and homes were struck with pellets that were shot from a vehicle described as a dark-coloured sedan. The incidents took place between 3 p.m. and midnight. According to police, these attacks on people and property appeared to be completely random.




Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Canada visit in April cost more than $373,000 besides security costs


(PHOTO: Narendra Modi and Stephen Harper at a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 15.

Government of India photo)


Toronto (IANS): Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-day visit to Canada this year cost taxpayers more than $373,000, a media report said.
The information on the expenditure on his visit includes $17,600 on beverages such as alcohol, $80,000 on receptions, and $106,400 on motorcade cost, said The Huffington Post Canada on Wednesday, citing Canada’s Access to Information Act’s report.
The other expenditures include $10,448 on hotel rooms, $30,000 on audio-visual equipment, $21,708 on unspecified consultants.
“About 73,213 Canadian dollars on public servants’ travel, 14,790 Canadian dollars on health services were spent during Modi’s visit,” the report added.
Nearly $365,000 on flowers and wreaths, $1,584 on gifts, $5,981 on interpreters and translation and $75 for a flag were spent during the events he participated in.
The bill did not include security costs.
According to the report, the largest expense during Modi’s visit was an event in Toronto and the cost was not borne by taxpayers but by private citizens and businesses.
“The event at the Ricoh Coliseum arena, in which Modi and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed over 10,000 Indo-Canadians, cost 600,000 Canadian dollars,” President of National Alliance of Indo-Canadians Azad Kumar Kaushik was quoted as saying.
The event also became controversial as it proved to be a shot in the arm for Progressive Conservative Party (PCP) MP Patrick Brown, who was campaigning for the leadership of Ontario province.
“We did not look at it from (an electoral) perspective. Our goal was to create bonding between India and Canada,” Kaushik noted.
Meanwhile, Gilles Bisson, leader of New Democratic Party of Ontario, has demanded that Brown, who is now leader of the PCP, should pay taxpayers back for some of the cost of the Modi visit.
“You cannot have somebody do a political activity and then have it paid by the state,” Bisson pointed out.





Langley RCMP release photograph of South Asian suspect in alleged sexual assault




LANGLEY RCMP announced on Monday that they had been able to acquire some still photographs of the South Asian suspect in an August 9 sexual assault.  Police had distributed a composite sketch of the suspect on August 27 that The VOICE published at the time.

Police allege that the male assaulted a gas station employee in the 19800-block of Fraser Highway. He appeared to be intoxicated and entered the gas station shortly before 8 p.m. on August 9.  He came up behind the employee as she ate her lunch and touched her inappropriately – an act that qualifies as a sexual assault.  She was able to push him away and he fled on foot.

He is described as South Asian in his mid-20s, with brown hair (similar to Elvis’ style), brown eyes and a goatee, about 5’6” tall, wearing jeans and a dark blue plaid shirt.  He was carrying a black backpack.

There are four ways to leave an “anonymous tip” with Crime Stoppers:

Talk: 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)


Text: BCTIP and your message to CRIMES (274637)





Toronto Police looking for “Amritpal” wanted for alleged sexual assault





THE Toronto Police Service is requesting the public’s assistance in identifying a man wanted for an alleged sexual assault.

Police said that on Tuesday (September 15), a 25-year-old woman entered an Uber vehicle in the Yonge Street / Eglinton Avenue area. The driver drove the woman to her home in the Lawrence Avenue West / Avenue Road area. He reportedly sexually assaulted her inside the car.

He is described as 26 to 30 years old, with short black spiked hair, and has a short chin strap beard. His Uber driver profile is listed as “Amritpal.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-3200, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637).





Alberta MLA Manmeet Bhullar calls for Canadian action to protect minorities facing persecution in Afghanistan




APPROXIMATELY 300 Sikh and Hindu families living across Afghanistan face constant discrimination, the inability to fully practice their faith, and threats of violence says Alberta MLA Manmeet Singh Bhullar (Progressive Conservative) who just returned from his personal mission to South Asia.

“Since the NATO withdrawal in December 2014, extremists have made it very difficult for minorities to live in Afghanistan,” said Bhullar. “Due to religious persecution in some regions, Sikh children have been unable to attend school for over seven years. Some families can’t even leave their gurdwara. Additionally, militants threaten Afghans who help or interact with Sikhs.”

Many families and organizations within Canada have stepped up and offered their support to bring these families to Canada as refugees. However, the Government of Canada needs to waive a paperwork requirement that says refugees can only apply from outside their own country under the private sponsorship program.

“It’s cruel to send these families to other countries to apply for refugee status, where they may become homeless beggars for months or years while waiting for Canada to approve their paperwork,” adds Bhullar. “Most of them can’t safely leave their homes, let alone survive car bombs, kidnappings, and other ethnic violence perpetrated by militant extremists along the way.”

Bhullar met with Afghan Sikh refugees in New Delhi along with a Sikh delegation from Afghanistan. He heard directly from a father whose son was kidnapped and beaten, along with having his hair and beard cut off because of his refusal to abandon his Sikh faith.

The kidnappers then threatened to murder this young man, but his life was spared after payment of a hefty ransom. Bhullar also learned that Sikh and Hindu families are threatened with death if they fail to convert to Islam.

“Please do what is right and allow refugees directly from Afghanistan to come to Canada under the private sponsorship program” said Bhullar. “Our community is ready and willing to privately sponsor all of these individuals to come to Canada. We are not asking for any monetary support from the Government. We only need them to waive the requirement for these individuals to leave their home country to be sponsored.”

Canada has previously waived this requirement for refugees from countries like Sudan, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. MLA Bhullar wants Canada to make the same exception for Afghan minorities.




Director Baljit Sangra’s “Many Rivers Home” to air on Saturday on OMNI




“MANY Rivers Home,” a personal documentary about aging, love, and community directed by Baljit Sangra will air on Saturday, September 19 at 10 p.m. in B.C. and Alberta on OMNI 2 and on Sunday, September 20 at 10 p.m. (PST) in Ontario on OMNI 1. It’s presented by Vivamantra Films and OMNI TV.

All things contemplative and passionate, soothing and sad, Many Rivers Home is a documentary about the obligations of living and the necessities of old age and death. Sangra follows an examination of aging and family bonds in the South Asian community, and shifts from a personal account of her own mother to a wider view of the community. The story is set chiefly in a nursing home run by the Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS), an organization dedicated to care of South Asian seniors in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

There is sadness blended with good spirits though, as residents face the last days of their lives and try to deal with the burdens as well as the joys, of decades’ worth of memories. Most prominent among the group of elders is Saroj, a wonderfully spirited widow who is determined to live what’s left of her life to the fullest. In her, Sangra sees a likeness of her own mother, and it is the bond between child and parent that structures the documentary and gives it the emotional resonance that lingers after even after the film is finished.

As a portrait of ethnicity in Canada and a meditation on mortality, that is both rich and rewarding; but the ultimate value is an expression of love. This is a family film in the best sense of the word.

Baljit is a Vancouver-based filmmaker who has over a decade of experience working in documentary and factual entertainment. She also directed and produced the award winning documentary Warrior Boyz in association with NFB/Canwest that examines the long running gang scene unique to the Indo-Canadian enclave in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.


For trailer and images:


Many Rivers Home Facebook Page:



South Asian writers are making waves




LOCAL South Asian writers participated in the book launch of the anthology “Rainbow” on September 12 at Strawberry Hill Public Library hall in Surrey. It is for the first time that selected literary pieces of the South Asian writers of  Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Bangla languages were  translated  into English and put together in an anthology.

The South Asian Literary Society of Canada (SALSOC) has already published two anthologies, but in those books the original scripts of the writers – Devnagri (Hindi), Urdu, Gurmukhi (Punjabi) and Bangla – were used. To reach out to mainstream people and young Indo- Canadians also it was decided by the executive of SALSOC to publish the works of writers in the English language. This book contains literary works of 35 writers from across Canada.

Some of the writers translated their own work while others got it translated. Any translation cannot escape the impact of the translator’s own opinions and notions. Another problem is the use of slang, idiom and folksy words. Also, most of the South Asian languages use various degrees of gender while in English it is used in a limited way; then the problem is from gender using to non-gender using language.

Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Bangla languages originated in India where they were developed. They use a lot of common words and are all influenced to some extent by a common culture. But when we translate these writings into English, then we have to make some sacrifices and compromises.

  1. Rafiq, Secretary of SALSOC, welcomed the guests. Acharya S.P.Dwivedi spoke on the theme of translation and M. Afzal Malik, Vice President, outlined the vision and activities of organization. Basant Bath of Basant Motors, who financed the publication of Rainbow, was the chief guest. He launched the book and recited a few lines of his newly composed poem. Ashok Bhargava, one of the members of Editorial Board, emphasized that writers should write fearlessly without care of others’ comments or reaction.

The Kavi Darbar was chaired by poet Narinder Bhagi “Barham.” Other poets who participated: Nadeem Parmar, Suresh Kurl, Herdev Sodhi ‘Ashak’, Janardan Pandey, Brajinder Dhillon,  Madhu Varshney, Anand Jain, Akter S. Mahua,  Surinder Kaur, Uppi Khaira, Amrik Plahi, Vinod Kanwal,  Suman Sharma and Narinder Bhagi.


(Contributed by ACHARYA S.P. DWIVEDI)



Raj Brar’s frankness and honesty about his past alcoholism inspires South Asians in Surrey




RAJ Brar is a tall, handsome Punjabi celebrity, who is an accomplished songwriter, singer, producer and director, among other things.

During his visit to the Lower Mainland earlier this month, he courageously spoke out on a matter that is considered taboo in India for a man to speak about.

He noted that he could be the first Punjabi icon to speak with no reservation of his dark days of being a hard-core alcoholic and then living through the humiliating days at a rehabilitation center. He told it all from the days when he took his first drink to the days he could not part from it and kept a bottle under his bed sheets. He recounted the three-month-long horrible experience at the rehabilitation center, his excessive drinking that continued after he left that center, the financial and marital complexities he faced during this time, the day he was so close to dying to the day he left the hospital fully recovered from his addiction.

Earlier this month, Canadian Pressure Organization, an organization that works in the Lower Mainland to educate the society against drugs, held an event for him at the Grand Taj Hall in Surrey that was a resounding success.

On behalf of Our Global Village Charitable Foundation (OGV), Meera Gill held an open dialogue with Raj in which he shared the harsh realities from his recovery time. Through his simple, honest and blunt remarks not only did he forewarn the attendees about the consequences of alcohol or drug addiction, but also inspired others to find strength within themselves to beat it.

Furthermore, he spoke of the alleged shocking realities of a rehabilitation centre in Bathinda, a well-known town in the state of Punjab, India, where he had been admitted. He said that he had decided to share these horrific details with the Canadian crowd as fees for most of the patients there, are paid by the NRI (Non-Resident Indians) who think they are doing a favour for their relatives living in India.

During his stay at this rehab center, he alleged he was mentally tortured and deprived of many basic necessities of life. He alleged that patients were regularly beaten and there

Although he himself did not suffer such indignities there, it was still demoralizing for him to be living in such a humiliating state where all the patients and staff knew of his celebrity status. He alleged that the people running this facility are not professionally qualified.

He further alleged that whenever a governmental review was scheduled, a middleman used to tip off the business owners. At short notice, all bed sheets were changed, floors were moped, patients were told to clean themselves up and not to speak a word against the facility otherwise they would be badly beaten later. He further alleged that a large number of patients, once released from there, start using drugs that had been introduced to them during their stay.

Raj suggested that such rehab centers should have a large playground, music and dance facilities, fresh air, clean surroundings, proper nutrition and encouraging counsellors to help the patients integrate back into the society as positive contributors and role models.

Canadian Pressure Organization and Our Global Village Charitable Foundation, congratulated Brar for his brave recovery and thanked him for speaking openly about his life experiences to this large crowd of concerned, sincere and supporting people of Surrey.


(Contributed by MEERA GILL)





British Columbians working for minimum wage deserve better, says NDP




NEW Democrat spokesperson for Economic Development, Jobs, Labour and Skills, Shane Simpson, on Tuesday said: “For British Columbians feeling squeezed by endless rate hikes and fee increases under Premier Christy Clark, her dismal $0.20 increase to the minimum wage will barely make a dent. British Columbians deserve better.”

He added: “People working full time jobs should not be living in poverty, yet the current minimum wage still leaves full-time workers $6,000 below the poverty line. These people are working hard but barely making it by financially.

“New Democrats understand that families are facing financial challenges in their daily lives and that British Columbians deserve an economy where everyone benefits, not just the people at the top.

“The $0.20 increase is paltry by anyone’s standards. Reducing inequality needs to be a priority, but Premier Clark isn’t there for British Columbians. With tax breaks for high income earners and a meager minimum wage increase, it’s not surprising that the working poor quite rightly feel abandoned by the B.C. Liberals today.”






B.C.’s budget remains steady in the face of economic volatility


(PHOTO: Mike de Jong)


B.C.’S First Quarterly Report continues to forecast a balanced budget in each of the next three years thanks to built-in prudence that has helped offset the effects of lower commodity prices, economic volatility, and the high cost of the fire season, Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced on Tuesday.

The year-end surplus for 2015-16 is now projected to be $277 million, down $7 million from Budget 2015. Revenues have improved by $374 million, primarily due to stronger income tax revenues from previous years and higher property transfer tax revenue reflecting a strong housing market. Government spending is forecast to increase by $381 million, mainly due to the cost of fighting forest fires.

The Province is forecasting modest surpluses of $336 million in 2016-17 and $388 million in 2017-18, down slightly from the budget forecast.

Government’s continued spending discipline is reflected in further improvements in the province’s debt affordability. Taxpayer-supported debt for 2015-16 is projected to be $857 million lower than forecast at Budget 2015, and the direct operating debt – money borrowed in the past to fund programs and services – is forecast to be $745 million lower than forecast at Budget.

The government says that as it continues to successfully manage taxpayer-supported debt, the direct operating debt is on track to be fully eliminated by 2019-20, which will mark the first time B.C. will have had no direct operating debt in over 40 years – since 1975-76.

B.C.’s real GDP is forecast to grow by 2.0% in 2015, down 0.3 percentage points from Budget 2015, followed by growth of 2.4% in 2016 and 2.3% in the medium term. Year-to-date data show B.C. employment and exports are slightly below levels expected earlier this year. However, many indicators of B.C.’s economic performance so far in 2015 show stable domestic activity, and retail sales and housing starts are performing better than expected compared to Budget 2015.

De Jong said: “This quarterly update shows our fiscally prudent plan is working. Not only are we on stable economic footing in the face of turbulent economic conditions, but we’re positioned to return British Columbia to a place without direct operating debt for the first time in more than 40 years.”


Quick Facts:


* Revenues are forecast to improve by $374 million. This reflects additional revenue from prior-year personal and corporate income tax assessments and strength in property transfer tax revenue.

* Expenses are forecast to be higher by $381 million. This includes $317 million in higher direct fire costs, plus other statutory spending, partly offset by lower debt servicing costs and other expense changes.

* Based on the first quarterly report forecast, by 2017-18 government’s direct operating debt will be at its lowest level since 1985-86. At the current rate, it will be completely eliminated by 2019-20. The last time B.C. had no direct operating debt was 1975-76.

* Retail sales advanced 7.6% year-to-date to June 2015, boosted by notable gains at food and beverage stores, motor vehicle and parts dealers, as well as building material and garden equipment and supplies stores.

* Year-to-date housing starts to July averaged about 31,800 annualized units, an increase of 17.7% over the same period in 2014.

* The value of B.C.’s merchandise exports was up 1% year-to-date to July 2015, over the same period last year. This reduced rate of growth reflects lower prices for metals, minerals and energy products alongside less global demand.







TransLink’s $100,000 Club now 524 people, 21 per cent jump from 2013



THE Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) said Tuesday it was shocked to learn that the six-figure club at TransLink and its subsidiaries grew by 21 per cent last year. New financial disclosure records reveal 524 TransLink employees made more than $100,000. That’s up 90 people from 434 in 2013, and one-third from 393 in 2012.

“Once again, TransLink’s top echelon get richer while demanding more money from taxpayers to fund their system,” said Jordan Bateman, B.C. Director for the CTF and leader of the successful No TransLink Tax campaign. “TransLink constantly cries poor but never seems to lack for money when it comes to lining the pockets of its executives and managers.”

The six-figure club is likely even larger, as TransLink does not have to report salaries for partnerships like the Canada Line or Golden Ears Bridge.

The report also shows that 57 Transit Police officers made more than $100,000 last year. The CTF has repeatedly called for the Transit Police force to be scrapped and replaced with cheaper security options.

“When will TransLink, its board, the mayors and the minister take taxpayers’ concerns seriously? They are all too worried about figuring out how to get the next dollar out of our pockets, instead of working on ways to stretch what they already take,” said Bateman. “TransLink is a top-heavy and bureaucratic organization, but our politicians have been given a mandate to change it. Let’s get on with it.”

Earlier this year, 62 per cent of Lower Mainland voters defeated a proposed TransLink sales tax, which would have helped fund a $7.7 billion TransLink expansion plan. The plan, put together by the TransLink mayors’ council, did not include a single dollar of cost reductions or efficiencies. Further, the TransLink mayors spent nearly $7 million in taxpayer money to try and buy a YES vote.

During the plebiscite campaign, the CTF offered several suggestions for improving TransLink efficiency, and even offered an alternative funding plan, noted Bateman.






Time-delay safes across B.C. to reduce pharmacy robberies


(PHOTO: Bob Nakagawa, Registrar, and Anar Dossa, Board Chair for the College of Pharmacists of BC, with Vancouver Police Chief Constable Adam Palmer announcing DrugSafeBC.)


THE College of Pharmacists of British Columbia on Tuesday announced DrugSafeBC, a new program that mandates enhanced security requirements for all community pharmacies across the province.

College Board Chair Anar Dossa and Vancouver Police Department Chief Constable Adam Palmer addressed the media at a Pharmasave in Vancouver. “The College of Pharmacists of BC works to protect public safety and our announcement today shows our commitment to this responsibility,” said Dossa.

The College of Pharmacists of BC administers the Health Professions Act and protects public health by regulating pharmacists and pharmacy technicians and licensing the pharmacies where they practice. It is responsible for making sure every pharmacist and pharmacy technician in B.C. is fully qualified and able to provide the public with safe and ethical care. DrugSafeBC sets a precedent, making B.C. the first jurisdiction in Canada to mandate security requirements for community pharmacies.

Pharmacy robberies in B.C. have increased dramatically over the past seven years, accompanied by increasing levels of violence. By July 2014, the number of pharmacy robberies and break-ins had already surpassed the total number of incidents in all of 2013. To address the rise in pharmacy robberies, DrugSafeBC requires all community pharmacies to store narcotic drugs in a time-delay safe and post standard signage at all external entrances.

There is proven value of using time-delay safes as a deterrent to pharmacy robbery. Walgreens, the largest retail pharmacy chain in the US, successfully introduced a similar program in 2009 and had a 76-per-cent reduction in pharmacy robbery rates across 1,400 stores. Canadian supermarket chain Safeway also uses time-delay safes within their pharmacies and have not reported a single pharmacy robbery since their implementation.

With a zero-tolerance stance on pharmacy robberies, the College of Pharmacists of BC says it is promoting best practices to safeguard the safety and well-being of all pharmacy professionals, patients, and the public.


Quick Facts


* B.C. is the first jurisdiction in Canada to establish security requirements for community pharmacies;

* Over 2012-13 there was a 200% increase in pharmacy robberies in the Lower Mainland;

* Weapons are used in 92% of pharmacy robberies in BC;

* The average pharmacy robbery takes less than two minutes, with some under 35 seconds;

* Six months after introducing time-delay safes in 2009, Walgreens pharmacy robberies in Washington State dropped from 24 to 3.





Canada announces matching fund in response to conflict in Syria


THE federal government on Saturday announced the creation of the Syria Emergency Relief Fund and will match every eligible dollar donated by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities in response to the impact of the conflict in Syria, up to $100 million, effective immediately and until December 31.

The fund will help meet the basic needs of conflict-affected people in the region, as well as in official development assistance-eligible transit countries for refugees. The government’s contribution to this fund will provide assistance through international and Canadian humanitarian organizations and will meet humanitarian needs such as shelter, food, health and water, as well as protection and emergency education.

To be counted for the purposes of the Syria Emergency Relief Fund, donations from individual Canadians may not exceed $100,000 per individual and must be:

* Monetary in nature;

* Made to a registered Canadian charity that is receiving donations in response to the Syria crisis;

* Specifically earmarked for response to the Syria crisis;

* Made between September 12 and December 31, 2015;

* Used by the registered charity receiving the donation in support of the humanitarian response to the impact of the Syria crisis; and

* Declared by the registered charity receiving the donation to DFATD.

Since January 2012, Canada has committed $503.5 million in international humanitarian assistance funding in response to the Syria crisis.





B.C.’s labour market continued to improve in 2014; more jobs, but wages still below national average




LAST year, B.C.’s economic growth led to positive job creation, lower unemployment, and an increase in average compensation.

According to the BC Check-Up, an annual publication by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC), 2014 marked the fifth consecutive year of positive job creation in B.C. with employment rising by 12,800 jobs to reach 2.28 million. This helped to lower the unemployment rate to 6.1 per cent in 2014, which was below the national average of 6.9 per cent. Employment prospects in B.C. continued to improve, and as of July 2015, a total of 2.33 million people were employed in the province.

Job creation was largely driven by gains made in manufacturing, accommodation and food services, and transportation and warehousing. Manufacturing saw a gain of 9,700 new jobs as both the durable and non-durable goods manufacturing enjoyed accelerated activity.

The accommodation and food services industry benefited from the gains made in tourism, as B.C. had an increase of nearly 250,000 visitors last year, to reach a total of 4,651,244 overnight international and U.S. visitors in 2014.

Meanwhile, growing demand for B.C.’s exports increased transportation and warehousing activity and generated additional employment in that sector.

Despite better job prospects for British Columbians, compensation for workers in B.C. was $52,321, the lowest in our comparison and below the national average, which was $55,841. However, excluding Alberta from the data, which had higher than average compensation for workers, the national average dropped to $52,977.

Richard Rees, President and CEO of CPABC, said on Monday: “More jobs are becoming available as our province’s economy expands, and both the goods and services sectors have seen positive employment growth in 2015. In particular, the service sector made substantial gains between January and July, adding over 63,000 jobs, mostly in the business, building and support services, health care and social assistance, and transportation and warehousing industries. As exports and other economic activities continue to pick up, there will be a higher demand for labour across various industries.”




Seniors Advocate finds one-third of B.C. caregivers are in distress


SENIORS Advocate Isobel Mackenzie released a report on Monday that confirms one-third of unpaid caregivers in B.C. are in distress, one of the highest rates in Canada.

“This is a wake-up call for all of us,” stated Mackenzie. “The evidence is clear that we are not connecting our unpaid caregivers, most of whom are family members, with the many supports that could bring them respite and reduce their stress. When we look at the data files for over 30,000 of our frailest seniors who are living in the community, we find their support system, which is based on having an unpaid caregiver in their life is strained, sometimes to the point of collapse.

“This small army of husbands and wives, sons and daughters and friends and neighbours, is often the last line of defence in a seniors’ battle to maintain their independence and we need to ensure we are supporting them in their paradoxically rewarding and exhausting caregiver role.”

Evidence in the report highlights that 97% of seniors enrolled in the home support program, arguably some of B.C.’s frailest seniors, have an unpaid caregiver in their life. Data shows that over half of these seniors have the same level of complex care needs as those who live in residential care, underscoring how challenging these caregiver roles can be.

There are many ways to support caregivers. Respite is one of the most fundamental supports and is offered to B.C. caregivers through three provincially funded programs. However, when the Office of the Seniors Advocate examined the data on these programs and cross-referenced them with distressed caregivers, it became obvious there are major gaps in the way respite is offered in the province.

Findings in the Advocate’s review, which looked at adult day programs, home support and respite beds include:

* 29% of caregivers are in distress. This increases to 38% for those caring for seniors with complex care needs.

* Unpaid caregivers provide an average of 19 hours of care per week. This increases to 30 hours per week for caregivers in distress.

* 54% of caregivers are caring for persons with complex needs, and thus would benefit from respite services such as an adult day program, home support or respite bed, yet of this group, only 8% used an adult day program in the last seven days, only 49% used home support in the last seven days and only 11% used a respite bed in the last year.

* Clients with a distressed caregiver are less likely to have received a home support visit in the last seven days than clients without a distressed caregiver.

* There has been a reduction of clients and utilization in adult day programs in the last three years.

* Home support services are not keeping pace with the aging population.

* B.C. has seen a reduction in both the number of respite beds and the average length of stay in respite beds over the past three years.

* B.C. has a 45% greater rate of caregiver distress than Alberta, yet Alberta seniors appear to be accessing more respite services.

* B.C. is missing the opportunity to significantly reduce emergency department visits and in-patient hospital days by limiting its adult day programs.

Based on these findings, the Office of the Seniors Advocate is calling for increased access to adult day program spaces and respite beds as well as increases in the frequency of home support for clients with caregiver distress. The Advocate is also calling for more standardization of the assessment for respite services, increased consistency regarding respite fees and processes around waitlists, as well as standardized measurement tools for all types of respite services.

“No matter where a caregiver lives in this province, they should have access to respite services that truly fit their needs,” said Mackenzie. “Consistency is critical in maintaining optimum respite services and providing a solid foundation that enables us to track their efficacy. We need to do all that we can in this province to ensure distressed caregivers are connected to the supports available.”

The Office of the Seniors Advocate was established in 2014 and is an independent office of the provincial government with a mandate of monitoring and analyzing systemic issues that affect B.C. seniors.





Health Minister says Seniors Advocate’s report will be closely examined to determine what improvements can be made


HEALTH Minister Terry Lake, reacting to the Office of the Seniors Advocate report “Caregivers in Distress. More Respite Needed,” said on Monday that the government will examine the report closely to determine what improvements it can make to better support seniors.

In a statement, Lake said: “The ministry shares the seniors advocate’s commitment to high-quality, patient-centred senior’s care and we appreciate her work in examining systemic issues for older adults and their caregivers.

“Government established the Office of the Seniors Advocate to identify issues that may be systemic, and to work with the ministry to improve care for seniors in this province in a sustainable way.

“We recognize the enormous amount of care unpaid caregivers in B.C. provide in supporting seniors’ independence and quality of life. There is no question that caring for an aging loved one with increasingly complex care needs or diminishing physical or mental capacity is stressful.

“While we have made significant increases to our investments in home-health services in the past 10 years, and the number of clients receiving these services has grown, we are also faced with a rapidly aging population. We will examine this report closely to determine what improvements we can make to better support seniors. We must take fresh approaches as we work to address the challenges we face in caring for our province’s growing number of seniors.

“Based on the strategic direction set in our ‘Primary and Community Care in B.C.’ and ‘Rural Health Services in B.C.’ policy papers, we are partnering with health authorities, physicians, unions and other partners across the health system to develop innovative solutions to care for seniors. We know we need to move away from our over-emphasis on hospitals by focusing on better, more integrated community- and primary-care services.

“Health authorities, in collaboration with local health-care teams and the ministry, are finalizing plans to introduce new projects and programs in a number of prototype communities that will better support primary- and community-care for seniors.”




Province gives $400,000 so all kids get the chance to play


The B.C. Government is providing $400,000 to KidSport BC in order to help children and teens play sports, Parliamentary Secretary for Youth Sport Gordon Hogg announced on Saturday on behalf of Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

The announcement took place at the annual KidSport BC Corporate Challenge in Burnaby hosted by Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers and held during KidSport BC Week, officially proclaimed by the Province as September 7-13.

KidsSport’s philosophy is that all kids should have the opportunity to participate in organized sport, regardless of any financial barriers that may exist. Money will be distributed in the form of grants for children aged 18 and under to participate in one season of play in the organized sport of their choice.

Fassbender said: “Sport is a large part of life for many children and teens. It’s where they learn about comradery, hard work, discipline and the ability to work with others towards a common goal. It also builds an important foundation that leads to a healthy and active lifestyle for the future. Every child should have a chance to participate in sport, and I’m pleased that we continue to fund this worthwhile program.”

Hogg said: “Through my own involvement with sport, I’ve seen first-hand how sport participation can impact the lives of young people in positive ways. It not only provides many immediate benefits but it can put kids on the path to future success as adults. By supporting KidSport, the Province is showing its commitment to helping kids from all walks of life experience the many benefits sport has to offer.”

Pete Quevillon, Director KidSport BC, said: “The incredible support that the Province of B.C provides to KidSport allows thousands of B.C. children to participate in organized sport every year. These kids would not otherwise have the opportunity to realize the many benefits of participating in sport including improved health, enhanced academic performance, and increased confidence. Through this generous contribution, the 41 community KidSport chapters across the province are able to leverage additional support locally and to ensure that no child is left on the sidelines.”


Quick Facts:

* Since 2006-07, the Province has contributed more than $3.4 million to KidSport BC – including this announcement.

* Over 7,000 kids were assisted by KidSport BC last year, an increase of ten per cent over 2013.

* Established in 1993, KidSport BC operates 41 community chapters around the province and has helped tens of thousands of kids stay active and follow their dreams.

* This year over 20 corporate teams took part in the KidSport BC Corporate Challenge, along with a number of high-profile Canadian Olympic athletes competing as team captains.




DriveBC data now online and open for business



TRAVEL information for provincial highways, including road closures, planned work and extreme weather conditions, is now available in Open511 format as a real-time data feed that businesses and programmers can use to create new apps and online services for the consumer market.

“Publishing DriveBC real-time data online and under the Province’s Open Government License opens up a world of possibilities for British Columbians to get driver information more seamlessly,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone on Monday. “Companies or individual developers could use this data with their online maps or in handheld apps, letting people know instantly about crashes, detours and extreme weather conditions as they plan or follow their route.”

“DriveBC is an early example of how we are making valuable provincial data available to better inform British Columbians so they can plan their travel route for convenience and safety,” said Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Minister Amrik Virk. “As well, this particular initiative is part of an innovative partnership between the public sector and the tech sector, and I look forward to seeing how we can continue to collaborate in new ways.”

The Open511 standard provides a consistent way to connect with and share DriveBC’s live feed data across multiple users and jurisdictions, for both industry and for the different levels of government: municipalities, provinces, territories and states. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has been involved from the start in this North America-wide project led by the Canadian non-profit organization Open North to establish a data standard for publishing mobility-related data.

“We initiated Open511 a few years ago to increase the adoption of open data and to improve the experience of road travelers,” said Open North executive director Jean-Noé Landry. “We are proud of our partnership with the Government of British Columbia, which is the first to implement the standard on a large scale, and hope that it will benefit all citizens.”

These initatives reflect a commitment to improve highway safety by enhancing and improving driver information systems as part of the Province’s 10-year transportation strategy, B.C. on the Move. This plan will improve British Columbia’s transportation network, providing a comprehensive road map for transportation investments and strategic policy actions over the next decade.



The flip side of B.C.’s infrastructure coin



Executive Director





THERE are those who execute contracts and those who award them. In B.C., when it comes to provincially-funded infrastructure projects, valued at more than $50 million, there’s a gatekeeper: Partnerships BC.

Tough to keep track of all the comings and goings at the Crown corporation.

In 2007, there were 26 senior employees at Partnerships BC (PBC). Only seven of the 26 are still there. The others haven’t gone far.

Two went off to Plenary Group. Plenary has won three bids at PBC.

One moved on to Deloitte Canada’s infrastructure advisory division, another to transportation planning firm Steer Davies Gleave, and former CEO Sarah Clark to Fraser River Pile and Dredge.

Founding CEO and later chair, Larry Blain, is at KPMG where he’s the senior director of its global infrastructure unit.

Blain had a colourful tenure at PBC, from pricey wine to his sideline: Aardvark Insights.

On top of the $179,000 in board fees Blain pocketed over four years, Aardvark billed PBC an additional $223,466, some through sole-sourced contracts.

PBC and Aardvark also came as a team.

In 2012, SaskBuilds, a Saskatchewan Crown corporation, hired both: PBC to prepare procurement options and strategies and Aardvark to assess them.

The teachable moment such practices should have represented didn’t stick.

This summer, PBC awarded a $380,000 sole-sourced contract to its former assistant vice-president Rick Steele, who left the corporation in January.

The contract, for “strategic advisory services” on a Kwantlen Polytechnic University project, has since been torn up and will be put to public tender as government rules dictate.

On its website, PBC has 42 case studies of projects completed or under construction. Ninety-two unique companies are identified as members of the successful proponent teams in those studies.

Forty-one of the 92, have donated a total of $1.32 million to the BC Liberal party, eight have donated $19,650 to the NDP.

Liberal party donors were more likely to be in the winner’s circle at PBC.

Thirty-one per cent of the companies that won just one bid donated to the Liberals. Of the companies that won two bids, 37.5 per cent donated. And of those that won three or more, 80 per cent donated to the party.

In one remarkable coincidence – a little more than a month before PBC announced its preferred proponent for the $302 million Fort St. John Regional Hospital project – the B.C. Liberal party reported receiving three cheques on the same day of $5,000 each, two from Stuart Olson Constructors and one from Acciona Infrastructures Canada.

They were named the preferred proponent a month later.

Last year, B.C.’s auditor general highlighted that taxpayers are still on the hook for a $31 million private equity loan on the hospital. Interest rate? 14.79 per cent.

It’s not all sweetness and light in the industry either when it comes to PBC.

In 2013, the B.C. Construction Association published a review of industry concerns, providing its recommendations on how “to improve the planning, implementation, and operation of assets in BC’s public sector.”

They included using various procurement approaches, rather than one or two and ensuring that bodies such as PBC don’t compete with the private sector, noting: “The government’s funding model for PBC creates a conflict of interest.”

Concerns that were acknowledged when PBC found itself under the microscope of Bill Bennett’s core review last year.

With a passing nod, the review team noted: “PBC is mandated to be both an advisor and service provider to government, and to be a self-sustaining organization. These multiple roles have created the perception that PBC’s advice to government could be biased towards solutions that create opportunities for PBC to earn revenue.”

PBC relies on consulting fees with ministries, local governments and out-of-province clients to pay its bills.

The review also found that “more than half of the consultant and contractor files reviewed didn’t contain adequate documentation such as the justification for hiring the successful contractor, the reasons for direct awarding contracts to individuals or the rates paid.”

PBC may have missed the auditor general’s note in 2013 that PBC was unable to produce documents “showing how they calculated the expected costs for tunnelling delay and scope changes” on the Evergreen line. “It again points to record-keeping weaknesses that the ministry and PBC need to address.”






Online tools make it easier to access BC data, maps


IT is now even easier to access provincial information thanks to the BC Physical Address Geocoder web service and the iMapBC 4 Mobile application.

iMapBC 4 Mobile helps British Columbians create customizable information maps on tablets, phones and laptops, while the geocoder makes it easy to locate and standardize British Columbia civic addresses within web pages and applications.

“Government is working to provide access to consistent and accurate address location and mapping information, which in turn supports services and programs throughout the province,” said Minister of Advanced Education Andrew Wilkinson. “The BC Physical Address Geocoder and iMapBC 4 Mobile are delivering real value to British Columbians by helping them visualize and use data.”

The DataBC geocoder uses high-quality address data from government sources to process B.C. addresses provided by a user and pinpoint locations and standardized addresses. Provincial ministries, agencies, schools, web designers and more can use the geocoder to improve their services and data. For example, BC Registry Services uses the geocoder in an online tool that enables British Columbians to change their addresses with the B.C. Medical Services Plan and other provincial agencies.

“Elections BC has been able to capitalize on DataBC’s ongoing improvements to the geocoder, saving time and money across government agencies,” said Tim Strocel, director of voter registration and boundaries with Elections BC. “The geocoder provides Elections BC with significant performance benefits in the processing of large volumes of address data.”

The geocoder has processed more than 80 million addresses since its launch in January 2013, and the public-facing web service is currently averaging 2.8 million addresses per month. Those numbers are expected to grow as more new users embrace the service.

“The BC Centre for Disease Control recently conducted an evaluation of this tool against other geocoding services; the DataBC Physical Address Geocoder performed amongst the highest in terms of geocoding success and positional accuracy,” said Sunny Mak, senior medical geographer with the BC Centre for Disease Control. “Inputting data into the geocoder is a simple copy and paste procedure. The geocoder is a very powerful and valuable resource for the public.”

iMapBC 4 Mobile offers the ability to mix and match more than 1,800 layers of public geographic information on any desktop browser or mobile device that supports internet connectivity. Users can use the tool to visualize data on schools, health services, the environment and more. iMapBC 4 Mobile can help users make informed decisions, for instance, Aboriginal communities can use the application to combine information about hunting and fishing activity in their traditional territories.

iMapBC 4 Mobile technology supports a government mandate to improve accessibility to services and information. More than 1,000 unique users per month have initiated almost 9,800 sessions since government introduced iMapBC 4 Mobile in January 2015. With the move from desktop to mobile computing this number is expected to grow over time. The iMapBC desktop application has been available since 2013.

These measures are part of a government commitment to reduce red tape for British Columbians by streamlining and simplifying processes to make it easier and faster to access government services.


Learn More:


iMapBC 4 Mobile application:


BC Physical Address Geocoder:



Christmas in September: Why it’s already holiday season at the mall


SHOPPERS have probably noticed Christmas displays going up in stores already and are likely wondering: is it too soon? Kirstin Appelt, adjunct marketing professor at UBC’s Sauder School of Business, explains why the strategy pays off for retailers.


Is Christmas coming earlier every year?


A lot of people think Christmas displays come earlier and earlier every year – they call it “Christmas creep” – but actually, it’s a tale as old as time. Since the 19th century, stores have been putting out ads and displays as early as August. It actually starts around the same time every year. We just have this perception that it’s earlier: the myth of Christmas creep.


Why do stores put up their Christmas displays when it’s still summer?


It’s a time-tested strategy that really works. Essentially, it’s a ‘different strokes for different folks’ thing, as you can consider three different consumer segments: roughly one third are already excited about holiday shopping, one third of people are annoyed by these early Christmas displays and another third don’t care one way or another. But retailers know there’s really no downside for the people annoyed by the early displays: they’re not angry enough to take their dollars to another store. They just ignore them until they feel ready to join in.

And for the enthusiastic third of consumers who want to start Christmas shopping as soon as they can, there’s a huge upside. As it happens, roughly 20 per cent of consumers start their Christmas shopping in September and 40 per cent by Halloween.


So is it just to win over the Christmas fanatics?


Even when it’s more rational to wait for something better, people tend to be impatient and worry about not being able to get what they want if they don’t seize the opportunity straight away. Humans have this biological need to want things right now – whether it’s good or bad.

I’ve done multiple studies on choosing between getting something now, or getting it later – whether it involves anticipation or dread. For the people who really like Christmas, there’s the warm, fuzzy, anticipatory glow of planning and shopping for Christmas, so the earlier you start, the more you get to enjoy that. But early starts can even be good for people who dread Christmas shopping, as they want to get it over with as soon as possible.

Early holiday marketing is also good for the business-to-business segment, which for the bigger box stores is really important. A lot of businesses decorate for the holidays and do holiday shopping for their employees, so for those businesses to put up their displays on time, someone else has to be selling the Christmas wares early. There are industry shows for Christmas goods as early as January, so it’s really being marketed year round, just to different segments of the market.

Also, slow and steady wins the race. From the sales perspective, there’s research showing the value of mere exposure – the more you’re exposed to something, the more demand you have for it. The longer season piles up the cumulative demand. Plus, slow and steady is a lot easier for business planning than having to completely turn over your stock and hire new employees for a month-long holiday rush.






Conservative minority projected as federal NDP falters



IN a random sampling of public opinion taken September 14-15 by the Forum Poll among 1,402 Canadian voters, close to one third will vote Conservative in the coming federal election (32%), compared to 3-in-10 who will vote NDP (30%) and just fewer who will vote Liberal (28%).

These results represent a sharp loss of vote share for the NDP since last week (September 10 – 36%). At the same time, there has been a slightly smaller increase for the Conservatives (from 28%). Few will vote Green (6%) or Bloc Quebecois (4%) or for other parties (1%).

If these results are projected up to the 338-seat House of Commons, the Conservatives would take 138, 32 seats short of a majority, while the NDP would be the Opposition with 113 seats. The Liberals would hold the balance of power with 86 seats, the Greens would seat their leader and no other party would be represented.


Conservatives lead in Ontario, prairies, Alberta; NDP in Quebec, BC


In vote rich Ontario, where the parties have been roughly tied, the Conservatives now lead (37%), the Liberals are second (31%) and the NDP trail (24%).

In strategic Quebec, the NDP are in front (38%), while the Liberals (25%) and the Conservatives (20%) contend for second, while the Bloc Quebecois is in third (13%).

The Liberals dominate in the Atlantic provinces (45%) and the other two parties tie for second (Conservatives – 24%, NDP – 26%).

In the prairies, the Conservatives lead again (42%) and the Liberals (27%) and NDP (28%) tie for second.

In Alberta, it’s all Conservative (52%), and the Liberals (22%) and NDP (20%) vie for distant second.

The NDP leads in BC (38%), and the Conservatives (29%) and Liberals (24%) strive for second place.


Switchers in each party


One quarter of those who voted Liberal in 2011 will vote NDP now (24%), and a fifth of past New Democrats will vote Liberal this time around (21%). Just fewer Conservatives from 2011 are voting Liberal this time (16%) and a tenth are voting NDP (9%). Very few past Liberals or New Democrats will vote Conservative, though.


Conservative voters the most committed


Fully three quarters of Conservative voters are strong supporters of their party (75%), while just more than one half of Liberals (56%) or New Democrats (53%) are strong supporters. This supports the switching hypothesis above, in that many Liberals and New Democrats will switch each other’s parties, but not to the Conservatives.


Liberals, NDP equally likely to be second choice; not Conservatives


About one quarter of voters pick either the NDP 22%) or the Liberals (24%) as their second choice party, but few pick the Conservatives (7%). One half of Liberal voters pick the NDP as their second choice (53%), while a similar proportion of New Democrats opt for the Liberals (47%). One sixth of Liberals will pick the Conservatives second (16%), and a similar proportion of Conservatives will return the favour (15%). Very few New Democrats choose the Conservatives second (7%).


4-in-10 will never vote Conservative


Far more voters avoid the Conservatives (39%) than they do the Liberals (12%) or the NDP (16%). Conservatives are especially likely to never support New Democrats (38%) followed distantly by Liberals (22%). One half of Liberals will never vote Conservative (51%) and two thirds of New Democrats agree (67%). There is less distrust on this measure between the NDP and the Liberals.


Conservatives more likely to be seen as victors


The Conservatives (29%) and NDP (28%) are equally likely to be seen as the victors in this electoral contest, while the Liberals trail (23%). This represents improvement on this predictive measure for the Conservatives since last week (September 10 – 26%) and a corresponding drop for the NDP (from 33%).


Tom Mulcair still seen as best PM


Three-in-ten voters see Tom Mulcair as the best Prime Minister (30%), while one quarter think this description fits Stephen Harper (25%). Fewer select Justin Trudeau (19%). These results represent a slight decrease for Trudeau (from 22%).


Harper’s approval up sharply


Stephen Harper has seen his approval increase from less than 3-in-10 last week (April 10 – 29%) to one third today (33%), and his net favourable score (approve minus disapprove) has increased from a very negative -36 to a less negative -26. Approvals for Mulcair (50%) and Trudeau (46%) are stable.

“It appears the accepted view of the refugee crisis has been incorrect, and the Prime Minister has benefitted significantly from his response to it. Our polling has shown no majorities of Canadians urging more than a measured response to the crisis,” said Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff.







Despite criticism on handling of Syrian refugee crisis, Conservatives lead on issue



Voters say Conservatives (38%) would make best decisions, ahead of NDP (32%) or Liberals (30%)


DESPITE a concentrated attack by the Liberals and NDP, amplified by media, pundits and others over the Syrian refugee crisis and the Canadian government’s perceived slow response, a new Ipsos poll (conducted between September 11 and 13) has revealed that, of the three party leaders, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has the most support to deal with the issue and that many eligible Canadian voters appear reluctant to take in a significant number of refugees or to fast-track the process given security concerns.

Four in 10 (38%) Canadians believe that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives would ‘make the best decision for Canada on the Syrian refugee situation’, placing the Tories significantly ahead of the one in three who believe that Thomas Mulcair and the NDP (32%) or Justin Trudeau and the Liberals (30%) would be best to manage this file. Interestingly, even two in 10 Liberal (18%) and NDP (15%) voters believe that the Conservatives would make the best decision for Canada.

The decision about how many refugees Canada should take in and through what process has largely been centred on the idea of security and whether the process of accepting refugees should be fast-tracked despite security concerns.

On this debate, seven in 10 (71%) voters more closely believe that ‘we can’t compromise Canada’s security, and individual Syrian refugees should go through proper screening to make sure they aren’t terrorists even if this slows down their admission to Canada’, including a majority of Conservative (87%), Liberal (66%) and NDP voters (61%).

On the other hand, three in 10 (29%) more closely believe that ‘the Syrian refugee issue is a humanitarian emergency and Canada should be admitting Syrian refugees as quickly as possible even if this means we have to suspend our normal security screening provisions to make sure that individual refugees aren’t terrorists’.

The poll tested various ideas that have been presented by the parties to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis. Support for taking in refugees is divided (and declines given the number of refugees proposed), although more voters support measures ranging from increased diplomatic presence in the region to increasing military support to fight ISIL.




Former Surrey City councillor Judy Higginbotham is the new Liberal candidate for South Surrey-White Rock




FORMER Surrey City councillor Judy Higginbotham is the new Liberal candidate for the riding of South Surrey-White Rock.

Elected in 1983, Higginbotham served as a Surrey City councillor for 25 years. During that time, she served on more than 40 committees, including the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

She is a recipient of the ‘Business Woman of the Year’ award, presented by the Surrey Business Professional Women’s Association, and has received the ‘Solicitor General’s Crime Prevention’ award for her work in national and international crime prevention.

“As a Surrey City councillor, I advocated for better transportation routes and options, increased services for youth and seniors, and relief from increasing taxes for Surrey residents,” said Higginbotham. “I am proud to represent the Liberals. We have committed $60 billion to infrastructure funding over the next ten years, making Surrey light rail possible; we have pledged $1.5 billion for youth jobs over the next four years, and promised to enhance Canada’s pension plan and boost incomes for low-income seniors; and we will cut taxes for the middle class.”

She added: “We intend to engage and defeat Ms. Dianne Watts, the Conservative candidate, because she represents a party and a prime minister in disagreement with a majority of Canadians.”

Higginbotham’s candidacy was unanimously endorsed by the South Surrey-White Rock Electoral District Association. Her candidacy will be formalized in a nomination meeting later this week.





Conservatives edge upward in seven B.C. ridings as local races tighten, but Liberals and NDP candidates are preferred choices



FRESH telephone polls conducted September 9 to 13 in seven local ridings in British Columbia show NDP and Liberal candidates as preferred choices, with the Conservatives holding steady or growing their support.

The ridings: Burnaby North–Seymour; Courtenay–Alberni; Esquimalt–Saanich–Sooke; North Vancouver; South Okanagan–West Kootenay; Vancouver South; and West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea-to-Sky Country.

The polling, conducted by Insights West for the Dogwood Initiative, comprises interviews with 2,107 residents of North and South Vancouver Island, Metro Vancouver, the Sea-to-Sky corridor, the South Okanagan and the Kootenays.

“The New Democrats are holding on to the lead in four of the seven ridings, but the Conservatives have improved their standing over the past few weeks,” said Mario Canseco, Vice President of Public Affairs at Insights West. “In the North Shore of the Lower Mainland, the Liberal Party is definitely gaining traction.”

This is the second time Insights West has polled in these ridings this year. The first time was July 3 to 7. A third wave of interviews will be conducted ahead of the federal election October 19.

These polls are part of the information being offered by Dogwood Initiative’s nonpartisan “Vote BC” campaign, which aims to increase voter turnout in British Columbia. Visitors to can also find detailed survey responses from their local candidates and maps of past election results.

Dogwood Initiative brings together more than 250,000 British Columbians around issues of democracy, civil rights and environmental stewardship. Through innovative, neighbourhood-based campaigns, Dogwood’s 3,000-person volunteer team works to re-engage citizens in politics and build local power.


  1. Burnaby North–Seymour


We’re seeing lots of movement in this volatile new riding since polling here back in May. NDP candidate Carol Baird Ellan is still in first place, but Conservative candidate Mike Little has made strong gains. Liberal candidate Terry Beech has climbed into third place. Green candidate Lynne Quarmby is now in fourth place.

* NDP – 28%, Conservative – 25%, Liberal – 16%, Green – 7%, Others / Undecided – 24%.


  1. Courtenay-Alberni


NDP candidate Gord Johns has seen a slight dip in support since July while second-place Conservative candidate John Duncan has climbed to within six points. Liberal candidate Carrie Powell-Davidson and Green candidate Glenn Sollitt remain well back in third and fourth place.

* NDP – 30%, Conservative – 25%, Liberal – 10%, Green – 9%, Others / Undecided – 26%.


  1. Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke


NDP incumbent Randall Garrison has seen a dip in support but remains solidly in first place. Conservative candidate Shari Lukens, Liberal candidate David Merner and Green candidate Frances Litman have each seen a slight gain in support and are currently in a three-way tie for second place.

* NDP – 31 %, Conservative – 16%, Liberal – 15%, Green – 15%, Others / Undecided – 23%.


  1. North Vancouver


Liberal candidate Jonathan Wilkinson has seen a surge of support since July, while support for NDP candidate Carleen Thomas has dropped. Conservative incumbent Andrew Saxton is holding steady in second place while Green candidate Claire Martin is in fourth place, just behind the NDP.

* Liberal – 33%, Conservative – 25%, NDP – 11%, Green -10, Others / Undecided – 21%.


  1. South Okanagan-West Kootenay


NDP candidate Dick Cannings is still in first place, but second-place Conservative candidate Marshall Neufeld has gained support. So has Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk, who sits in third place. The Greens still have no official candidate and their support in the riding is very low.

* NDP -31%, Conservative – 24%, Liberal – 13%, Green – 3%, Others / Undecided – 29%.


  1. Vancouver South


Liberal candidate Harjit Sajjan is holding steady in first place but Conservative incumbent Wai Young has climbed back into second. NDP candidate Amandeep Nijjar has seen an eight-point dip in support since July. Newly-nominated Green candidate Elain Ng has seen an increase in support but sits well back of the other parties.

* Liberal – 29%, Conservative – 20%, NDP – 16%, Green – 6%, Others / Undecided – 29%.


  1. West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea-to-Sky Country


Since July, Liberal candidate Pam Goldsmith-Jones has widened her lead very slightly over Conservative incumbent John Weston, whose support appears to be holding steady. NDP candidate Larry Koopman has seen a small decline in support while Green candidate Ken Melamed is in fourth place and showing little momentum.


*Liberal – 28%, Conservative – 25%, NDP – 18%, Green – 9%, Others / Undecided – 20%.






Failed court challenge on niqab just the latest attempt to divide Canadians by Harper, say Liberals


(PHOTO: John McCallum.)


THE federal Liberals on Thursday called for an end to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s two-tiered citizenship.

This comes after the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the attempt by Conservative government lawyers to overturn a Federal Court ruling which removed the ban on face coverings at citizenship ceremonies. The appeal court’s quick dismissal is a clear sign of how far the Harper Conservatives have overstepped when it comes to what is acceptable under Canadian law, said John McCallum, Liberal candidate for Markham–Thornhill and former federal minister.

He noted: “Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party have created two-tiered citizenship in Canada with the passage of Bill C-24. Yesterday’s court action is just the latest desperate attempt by Harper to encourage Canadians to be fearful of one another. In recent years, we have seen Harper increase the cost to apply for citizenship, try to ban niqabs from citizenship ceremonies, and create a new class of citizenship which can be taken away by his ministers.”

McCallum also expressed concerns about Harper’s use of language that was clearly designed to create divisions in Canadian communities. When talking about wearing the niqab, Stephen Harper said it is “not how we do things here,” and called it “offensive”.

“What is offensive is Stephen Harper’s treatment of Canadians, and his failure to recognize that Canada is strong not in spite of its differences, but precisely because of them,” said McCallum. “Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party believe in bringing Canadians together and respecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A Liberal government will reverse the Conservatives’ two-tiered citizenship laws, and protect freedom of religion and expression.”





Harper announces new support for Canadian seniors


PRIME Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday announced new support for single and widowed seniors in Canada.  A re-elected Conservative Government will establish a $2,000 Single Seniors Tax Credit that will extend additional annual tax relief to nearly 1.6 million single and widowed seniors in Canada who have pension income. When combined with the existing $2,000 Pension Income Credit that is claimed by 4.6 million seniors already, this new measure will double the tax relief available to single seniors annually, beginning in January 2017.

“We know that single and widowed seniors can face unique financial challenges,” Harper said. “This new Single Seniors Tax Credit is an affordable and targeted way to provide vulnerable seniors with added tax relief.”

Seniors at all income levels are benefitting from the tax cuts and enhanced benefits introduced by the Harper Government:

* Tax-Free Savings Accounts have provided 2.7 million seniors with a secure and flexible savings option that protects their money from being eroded by taxes.

* Pension Income Splitting is providing significant tax relief to over 1 million senior couples.

* Increases to GIS benefits are helping Canada’s most vulnerable seniors.

* And increases to the Age Credit and the Pension Income Credit are providing significant tax relief to eligible seniors.

As a result of these measures, about 400,000 seniors have been removed from the tax rolls completely.

“Canada’s seniors have saved and worked their entire lives,” said Harper. “Conservatives believe that seniors know best how to make financial decisions about their futures and their retirement. So we’re working to help them keep more of their own money, rather than creating expensive programs that will raise their taxes even higher.”

Harper observed that the Liberal and NDP promises would lead to higher taxes and out-of-control spending. “Canadian seniors – many living on fixed incomes – can’t afford [Liberal Leader] Justin Trudeau’s deficit plans or the NDP’s carbon taxes. Both will put at risk the retirement savings of millions of Canadian seniors.”




NDP to create Mental Health Innovation Fund for Children and Youth, and Alzheimer’s and Dementia Strategy



NDP Leader Tom Mulcair on Tuesday focused on mental health services for young Canadians as he announced another component of his plan to improve public health care and reverse the damage he said had been done by years of Liberal and Conservative neglect.

“Every child in Canada should have access to high quality, effective mental health treatment when they need it and that’s not been the case under [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper’s lost decade,” said Mulcair. “Evidence shows that addressing mental health in children reduces the incidence of serious mental health issues in adulthood, which reduces costs and strain on provincial healthcare systems.”

Nearly 1.5 million Canadians under the age of 24 who are affected by mental illness do not receive access to appropriate support, treatment or care.

To support provinces and territories in the delivery of quality mental health services to young Canadians and their families, an NDP government will establish a $100 million Mental Health Innovation Fund for Children and Youth aimed at wait-time reduction and improved care.

The Mental Health Innovation Fund includes:

* A special emphasis on high-risk populations in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, as well as Canadians in rural and remote communities, and youth transitioning from foster care.

* $10 million per year for research and enhanced healthcare collaboration across the country;

* $15 million per year for healthcare providers and community mental health associations to implement best practices for wait-time reductions for better care.

“Our improvements to mental health services will also be supported through our investments to help build 200 health clinics across Canada as part of our comprehensive plan for healthcare,” said Mulcair. “The NDP will improve mental health care services and balance the budget, by asking Canada’s biggest corporations to pay a fair share. [Liberal Party Leader] Justin Trudeau won’t do that.”

On Monday, Mulcair announced that an NDP government will work with provinces and territories, and invest $40 million to create a national Alzheimer’s and Dementia Strategy that will:

* Support screening, early diagnosis and treatment to help slow progression of the conditions;

* Improve resources for newly diagnosed patients and their families to access needed care;

* Fund additional Alzheimer’s and dementia research, ensuring that activities are being coordinated to maximize resources and results.

“To ensure the effectiveness of our national strategy, we will create the Canadian Alzheimer’s and Dementia Partnership,” said Mulcair. “This will bring governments, researchers, the Alzheimer Society and others together to maximize support for patients and families, while reversing the damage of Stephen Harper’s lost decade.”

Mulcair said the NDP will release a full costing prior to Thursday’s debate and is calling on Harper and Trudeau to do the same.






Mulcair to help five million Canadians access family doctors, invest in home care for 41,000 seniors more


AN NDP government will provide long-term, stable funding and work with provinces and territories to ensure more Canadians can access a family doctor and primary care teams, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair announced on Monday.

“There’s nothing more important than your family’s health, but [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper’s lost decade did nothing to reverse the Liberals’ deep cuts or improve access to family doctors for millions of Canadians,” said Mulcair. “Our plan will usher in a new era of quality public health care, where you need it, when you need it, by adding doctors and providing health services that are more convenient, accessible and closer to home.”

An NDP government will:

* Invest $300 million to help build 200 clinics across Canada;

* Help provinces hire over 7,000 doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and other health care professionals; and

* Maximize access to health services by targeting communities and neighbourhoods that are facing doctor shortages.

On Saturday, Mulcair announced that an NDP government will also:

* Invest in home care for an additional 41,000 seniors that offers patient-focused care from their own homes, by the end of our first mandate;

* Help provinces build 5,000 more nursing home beds;

* Improve access to palliative care and end-of-life care for Canadians’ loved ones.

“Caring for an aging population is one of the significant challenges Canada’s next Prime Minister will face,” said Mulcair. “We will make a major investment in expanding home care to allow more seniors to stay in their homes longer, freeing up beds and reducing overcrowding at hospitals.”

Mulcair added: “Problems with wait times and access to health services started under the Liberals and Stephen Harper has done no better. Our priority is to make needed investments in health care and balance the budget, by asking Canada’s biggest corporations to pay a fair share. [Liberal Leader] Justin Trudeau won’t do that.”



Trudeau offering greater retirement security for seniors




A Liberal government will work to ensure that Canadian seniors get the secure and dignified retirement they deserve, said Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau on Monday.

“Far too many Canadians are anxious about their retirement these days,” said Trudeau. “After a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not have to struggle just to make ends meet. A Liberal government will make sure they get the retirement they have earned.”

Right now, a Canadian who works their entire adult life receives, on average, just $618 per month upon retirement under the Canada Pension Plan. As part of its three-point plan to create jobs, grow the middle class, and help those working hard to join the middle class, a Liberal government will take immediate action, working alongside the provinces and territories, to make significant reforms to our current retirement security system.

* It will restore the eligibility age for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to 65.

* It will help lift hundreds of thousands of seniors out of poverty by immediately boosting the Guaranteed Income Supplement for single low-income seniors by 10 percent.

* Since many seniors live on fixed incomes, it will introduce a new Seniors Price Index to make sure that Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement keep up with rising costs.

* Within its first three months in government, it will begin discussions with the provinces and territories, workers, employers and others on how to enhance the Canada Pension Plan.

* It will not cut pension income splitting for seniors.

* It will introduce a more flexible and accessible Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefit so that six months of benefits are available to those who are providing care to a seriously ill family member, rather than only those caring for a loved one at risk of death.

* It will prioritize significant new investment in affordable housing and seniors’ facilities as part of a Liberal government’s commitment to a new, ten-year investment of nearly $20 billion in social infrastructure.

“Unlike [NDP Leader] Thomas Mulcair, who is adopting [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper’s budget and rushing to eliminate the deficit in just six months, Liberals are able to invest more in our seniors because of the choices we are making. Over the next four years, a Liberal government will invest three times more in payments to our lowest income seniors than the NDP,” said Trudeau. “The promise of a retirement, free from poverty or financial worry, is a promise we can and must keep. A Liberal government will ensure our seniors can live in comfort and with confidence.”




Harper says Conservative Government’s Economic Action Plan is working as budgetary surplus for 2014-15 was $1.9 billion



PRIME Minister Stephen Harper on Monday, responding to the Department of Finance’s posting of the Annual Financial Report for 2014-15, showing a budgetary surplus of $1.9 billion for the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2015, said: “The protection of our economy is our number one priority. Amid increasing instability in the global economy, our Conservative Government’s Economic Action Plan is working; delivering new jobs and economic growth through lower taxes and a balanced budget.”

Harper added: “Today, Finance Canada confirmed that under our Conservative Government’s careful economic stewardship, we ran a near $2B surplus in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, one full year ahead of schedule. This is in addition to last month’s news that we have confirmed a five-billion-dollar surplus for the first three months of the current fiscal year.

“Our low-tax, balanced budget plan has helped the Canadian economy grow for the seventh straight year and create nearly 1.3 million net new jobs – the best job creation record in the G7.

“The Liberals and the NDP are both pledging to raise taxes on families, seniors and small businesses that will endanger job-creation and expose our economy to global instability. The Liberal and NDP plans will kill jobs and destabilize the economy by raising EI payroll taxes by at least $2 billion per year, and imposing thousands of dollars in new CPP payroll taxes on every worker and employer in this country. The wrong government decision on taxes, spending or deficits can upset the fragile economy, causing business closures, downsizing and job losses in communities across Canada.

“Now is not the time for long-term deficits or higher taxes. Only our Conservative government has a plan to protect Canada’s economy by ensuring our budget remains balanced and lowering taxes to create new jobs and make life more affordable for Canadian families and seniors.”



Harper’s covert cuts hurt families, helped send Canada into recession: Liberals


STEPHEN Harper’s Conservatives were secretly pumping billions of dollars out of the Canadian economy, helping send the country into recession, said the Liberals on Monday.

“At a time when the economy and the middle class were already struggling because of Harper, the Conservatives have made it worse by starving the economy further with stealth cuts,” said Liberal candidate Scott Brison. “Instead of investing in our economy, Harper sent Canada into recession. He cannot be trusted on the economy.”

He added: “And despite Harper’s claims of a phony surplus, the Parliamentary Budget Officer already confirmed that Canada is running another deficit this year.” (Toronto Star, July 22).

Monday’s annual financial report shows that the federal government overstated direct program spending for 2014-15 by $1.8 billion in April 2015.

“When they tabled their budget in late April, it is simply unfathomable that the Conservatives didn’t know about the cuts they had already made the previous year. It’s yet another example of the deception that has defined Stephen Harper and his failed decade,” said Liberal candidate Marc Garneau. “And by joining Harper in rushing to eliminate the deficit in just six months, [NDP Leader] Thomas Mulcair is offering the same failed approach as the Conservatives.”

He added: “Canadians have a clear choice in this election between smart investments that create jobs and growth or more cuts that will slow down our economy even further. Harper and Mulcair are both choosing cuts over jobs and growth. [Liberal Party Leader] Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are the only team with a real plan to invest in Canadians and grow the economy in a way that works for everyone.”