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Opinion  

Dealing with homelessness in Summerland

Small town homelessness

Approaching homelessness with empathy, respect and action

While often unnoticed, homelessness has long existed in Summerland in the form of transient agricultural workers camping in tents in orchards or local residents couch surfing at friends’ homes, sleeping in cars or staying in motels.

Increasingly, however, we see a type of homelessness more familiar in urban centres, where individuals with no connection to the community arrive to sleep rough on the streets or in tents under bridges or alongside a creek.

In such cases, a District of Summerland bylaw officer is sent to address the unauthorized occupancy of municipal property, while an RCMP officer may be called upon to provide assistance and deal with any illegal activity.

The district's approach to enforcement is governed by three principles:

• Empathy—We listen to their issues

• Respect—We treat unsheltered individuals with professional courtesy while enforcing municipal bylaws, provincial and federal law

• Action—We help connect individuals to the right services to support them

Homeless people coming to Summerland often have complex needs and require special supports and some have been denied access to shelters or assistance elsewhere, which makes finding appropriate support more difficult.

Due to the traditionally hidden nature of homelessness in rural areas, and the fact government allocates resources based on population, small communities like Summerland lack the social infrastructure and so-called “wrap-around” services homeless people need.

District council provides the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre with an annual grant – $15,500 this year, an increase of $1,000 from last year. The organization does an outstanding job with its limited resources, including acting as a winter warming centre during weekday opening hours.

Over the winter, the food bank recorded a homeless population in Summerland of 15 people and, dealing with extreme cold at the time, requested that the district step in to provide an emergency shelter with six to 10 beds, along with staffing.

Council discussed the food bank’s request and concluded the district does not have the resources or capacity to address this genuine concern. A shelter is only one piece of the puzzle. Summerland is also lacking in crisis care and outreach, special education and training services, community-based psychiatric care, substance abuse and mental health counselling and other specialized health and social services.

Given that homelessness and supportive housing are provincial responsibilities, I wrote on behalf of council to Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon in February asking for a better understanding of the government’s approach to dealing with homelessness in small communities such as Summerland. I have yet to hear back.

In January, council also supported a joint letter with other Okanagan municipalities to Premier David Eby in support of Bill 34, to ban open drug use in some public places like playgrounds, at bus stops and in front of businesses.

The letter, signed by eight Okanagan mayors, called on the government to make unprecedented and expedient changes to the health and mental health care systems. We continue to urge the province to create more treatment, support and complex care spaces across the region and ask that the opioid crisis and homelessness be truly addressed to preserve health, safety and social order in our communities.

Doug Holmes is the mayor of Summerland



Opinion: Seismic shift in store for B.C. politics if Rustad's Conservative ascent continues

Seismic shift in store

The meteoric rise of the BC Conservative Party – “from three to 39,” as leader John Rustad puts it in poll terms – is without question Canada’s political phenomenon of 2024.

From the relative disgrace less than two years ago of being dispatched into the political wilderness by Kevin Falcon in what was then the BC Liberal party, Rustad has turned the setback into an extraordinary comeback. How far he takes this ascension by Oct. 19 is anyone’s guess.

But it was instructive to see him inside the belly of the beast Wednesday evening – at one of those plentiful campaign-style events in a supporter’s home, but in Point Grey, BC NDP Premier David Eby’s riding – as a man of the hour without the trappings and accoutrements of a possible provincial leader.

He arrived and circulated alone, talked about anything anyone wished, fielded some hard questions, and laid out enough of his vision to make clear a Premier Rustad would be a different species. By the time he was waiting for a taxi about three hours later, enough people knew enough to then take his message forward.

The tendency when someone catches fire like this is to disbelieve there is staying power, so Rustad has been swallowed in recent days into speculation that his Conservatives will find a way to merge with Falcon’s BC United.

He is candid about the party’s first reach-out to Falcon some time ago about whether they could work together to defeat Eby. Falcon’s response was the more visceral version of “take a hike,” and Rustad wasn’t shy about expressing the term verbatim.

But the pressure remains because the poll numbers suggest neither his party nor Eby’s would today take a majority of legislative seats, so the question remains on whether some sort of anti-NDP alliance in some ridings might make sense.

Rustad isn’t categorical in rejecting that, but he also recognizes that his popularity has nearly as much to do with him not being Falcon as not being Eby. Besides, if the two opposition parties chose not to run candidates in some ridings to give the other party a greater opportunity to win, “we would have to defend some of their policies and they’d have to defend some of ours,” he notes.

And, well, in a campaign that would be red meat for Eby, who has been spending far more time of late defiling the Conservative flank than in worrying about the more politically proximate one in opposition. That said, the road remains long to election day, and it doesn’t sound entirely suffocated as a practical premise if it means the assumption of power.

Rustad was booted by Falcon for a social media post that suggested skepticism about climate change science and urged people to “celebrate CO2.” But it was a last straw, not a first straw, in a strained relationship over their conservative visions. In his talk to the room Wednesday, Rustad didn’t deny climate change, but said more had to be done to cope with it than to plan for it. He sees resources in the ground as the best route to prosperity, decries the policy discouragement of forestry as a key industry and rues the disincentives in place to expand upon LNG development. He is also skeptical of B.C.’s objective to protect 30 per cent of its land base as parkland by 2030 in terms of what it will do to thwart resource development and agriculture.

The 61-year-old former cabinet minister didn’t raise the most poignant social issue dividing him from Eby and Falcon – the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) curriculum in schools – but in answering a question about it made clear it would be scrapped. He does seem eager to take on the B.C. Teachers Federation, saying that if they won’t bend to his will he’s prepared to finance education so “100 per cent of the dollars follow the student.”

One of his most intriguing ideas is for B.C. to have its own immigration policy, as Quebec has, in order to import greater skills to the province. He seems willing to use the notwithstanding clause in the Constitution to drive mandatory treatment of addicts, but also said that there needs to be compassionate care for those who are simply too far gone and can’t escape their dependence. He wants universal health care, but both public and private delivery. He thinks health-care workers without COVID vaccines ought to be reinstated.

The list of differences is lengthy. His views are going to make the campaign the most vigorous evidence in memory of the breadth of differences politically in British Columbia. That Rustad improbably has emerged to potentially break the 33-year reigns of Liberals and New Democrats in B.C. shows, if nothing else, the depth of despair about the paths provincial governments have taken. A switch to him would be seismic.

Kirk LaPointe is a Glacier Media columnist with an extensive background in journalism.



Rob Shaw: A Gordon Campbell intervention could re-shape B.C.'s fall election

A Campbell intervention?

B.C.'s centre-right movement is urging former premier Gordon Campbell to help broker a deal between the upstart provincial Conservatives and the flagging BC United parties, as the prospect of a vote-split and enormous BC NDP re-election victory looms large over this fall’s provincial election.

Campbell is being asked to intervene and mediate talks between Conservative and United officials, as part of an intervention by the province’s business community, as well as by those in and around the United party who see catastrophe on the horizon under the current trajectory.

Both Conservative Leader John Rustad and United Leader Kevin Falcon served as cabinet ministers in BC Liberal governments when Campbell was premier from 2001-11. Falcon considers Campbell a personal friend and mentor.

Conservative and United officials are waiting to hear if the former premier will agree to facilitate discussions. His participation is not at all assured, but on a short list of names of political heavyweights with the influence to inch the leaders to a solution.

The move comes as Falcon and Rustad spoke more openly about possible co-operation during duelling press conferences at the legislature Tuesday.

“I think it behooves us to make sure that we're doing everything we can to try and defeat that government,” said Falcon.

“We've got emissaries from both parties that are having discussions to see if we can find common ground, recognizing that the real enemy is the NDP government, and four more years of that government, I think will be frankly economically devastating for the province of British Columbia.

“That's why we have to put aside our own egos, our own party issues, everything else, and just figure out whether there's common ground that can keep in mind what the most important goal is, and that is making sure we don't end up with another NDP government.”

Rustad said there are limited opportunities for co-operation now that his party has more than 62 candidates in place. He said BC United should have agreed to talks before Christmas, and blamed the party for brushing him off at the time.

“There has been conversations that have been going on between various business groups with regards to what a potential could be between the United party and the Conservative party,” said Rustad.

“But I can tell you, we will not compromise our principles. We will not compromise what we have been building as a party. People are tired of 33 years – it's been 16 years of BC Liberal and 17 years of NDP – they're looking for something different. And that's what we are going to deliver for people in the province.”

A new poll from Abacus Data on Tuesday put BC Conservative support at 34 per cent, up eight points from November, and within striking distance of the NDP at 40 per cent. BC United sat at 13 per cent support in the poll, down four points from November.

Several other polls recently have reported similar results. They indicate the combined popularity of the United and Conservative parties could be enough to unseat the governing BC NDP. Apart, the two parties risk splitting the centre-right vote, paving the way for an NDP supermajority.

Still, any merger talks between the two parties run into immediate logistical hurdles.

Who would be the leader of a new, combined party?

Falcon and Rustad personally dislike each other after Falcon fired Rustad from the United caucus in 2022 over Rustad’s views on climate change.

Falcon has the most MLAs, but is less popular in the polls. Rustad has less support in the business community, but more widespread public support.

BC United has better fundraising and organizational capacity. Conservatives have the better name, with a linkage to Pierre Poilievre’s surging Conservative Party of Canada (though there is no official relationship between the two parties).

Neither party leader has indicated a willingness to quit to make a deal happen, though Falcon’s language on Tuesday was the closest yet to opening that door.

“Everyone should know this about me, I came back to do this not because I wanted a job or I needed to be back in public life, but because I was concerned about my kids’ generation,” he said.

“That's what's motivated me to come back into public life. And what I care about is putting the interests of the province well ahead of my own interests. I will always do the right thing for free enterprise and for the province of British Columbia.”

It’s also unclear how the parties could merge when, under such a scenario, either incumbent BC United MLAs would have to agree to resign in key ridings, or already-appointed Conservative candidates (technically, leading in the polls) would have to agree to withdraw.

Others have proposed exploring some sort of non-compete clause between the two parties in key provincial ridings, followed by a coalition-type government should the two parties hold the balance of power after an election. But the idea is at this point nothing more than wishful thinking.

Most in and around the parties believe it’s too late to cut any type of deal between United and the Conservatives, even if Campbell comes to the table.

In that case, the most realistic merger for the centre-right will be the one that emerges from the rubble of the Oct. 19 provincial election.

Rob Shaw has spent more than 16 years covering B.C. politics, now reporting for CHEK News and writing for Glacier Media. He is the co-author of the national bestselling book A Matter of Confidence, host of the weekly podcast Political Capital, and a regular guest on CBC Radio.



Celebrating students' success in the Kamloops-Thompson School District

Students' winning ways

Celebrating and supporting learning opportunities that inspire students to thrive is the core mission of the Kamloops-Thompson School District’s Strategic Plan priorities, and the following student successes are just a few examples of the way in which our students are thriving.

The past month was filled with numerous events celebrating the hard work and dedication of Kamloops-Thompson School District students and staff. Students throughout our district showcased artistic talents, creative writing skills, Indigenous student leadership, trades and technology learning, historical research and award-winning ethical debate knowledge.

The 37th annual Kamloops-Thompson Young Artists’ Conference

On April 30, we celebrated creative young artists during the Young Artists’ Conference gallery at the Old Courthouse on Seymour Street. Student artists, in Grades 4 through 7 from every school across the district shared their remarkable talent for drawing, painting, sculpting, weaving and creating mixed media—with stories connected to each art piece that spoke to the heart of each student’s passion and inspiration.

When asked what it meant to have their art featured in the gallery, several young artists expressed feeling proud and having a goal of creating one of the featured art pieces next year. As one young artist named Emma expressed: “It means a lot because I don't know what I want to be when I grow up, and this kind of is a sign. It makes me really happy that people get to see what I did. It is very important to be able to express yourself.”

The Kamloops-Thompson Young Authors’ Conference 45th anniversary

On May 3, 320 students in Grades 4 through 12, representing 37 schools, participated in the Young Authors’ Conference at Thompson Rivers University.

Students attended three writing workshops, each facilitated by a highly regarded author as organized by the committee. Read more.

It was a day about writing, learning and sharing the power of words with students who are truly passionate about language and storytelling. The conference culminated in a closing ceremony that highlighted exceptional writing. A select number of students were recognized for their creative compositions, including this year’s Marg Van Dusen Award winners—elementary student Sydnie Westran and secondary student Ashlee Crawford.

“It’s a good environment. I like the authors who present,” said Lloyd George Elementary student Siena Vincenzi. “I liked my workshop with Emily Seo because we got to create the character. My character’s name was Emily. She had orange hair and was shy.”

The second regional Indigenous Student Summit

On May 7, the Okanagan Mainline Regional Indigenous Education Council (OMRIE) came together in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Child Care, the Kamloops-Thompson School District and Thompson Rivers University to host 11 school districts at the Brown Family House of Learning at Thompson Rivers University.

At this year’s summit, students gathered to share their experiences and thoughts around the topics of personal and interpersonal racism and structural and institutional Racism. At the end of a day filled with open dialogue and important discussions, students shared their final thoughts and feedback for their school districts and the Ministry of Education that included, incorporating Indigenous teachings into everyday classes, the need and want for more cultural events, and open minded and inclusive education opportunities.

The Kamloops-Thompson region Heritage Fair

This year’s Kamloops-Thompson region Heritage Fair took place May 9 and 10 at the Henry Grube Education Centre. The multi-media, multi-discipline annual event has been supported by the school district since 1994 and aims to inspire students to learn the history of their families, their communities and their cultures.

This year, 50 participants from Grades 4 through 7 were selected from 200 entries to present their Heritage Fair projects for judging—with the top three entrants winning an all-expense paid trip to Victoria to participate in the B.C. Provincial Heritage Fair in July.

Student presentations featured topics on Canadian historical events and people, including the Canadian Gold Rush, prospector Billy Barker, universal health care, civil rights activist Viola Desmond, Japanese internment camps and Olympic skier Nancy Green-Raine, to name a few.

There were also several projects that highlighted Indigenous history.

“I chose residential schools and the mission of reconciliation because this is a history that happened to kids our age” said one student named Clover.

When asked about her experience at the Heritage Fair, she added: “I learned a lot about Indigenous people, so it also helped me understand my project better.”

South Kamloops Secondary students win the 2024 national Ethics Bowl

Finally, a huge congratulations to South Kamloops Secondary School (SKSS) students, who won the Canadian national Ethics Bowl in Winnipeg on May 4.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights hosted 12 finalists, from approximately 150 teams that entered across the country in a competition over an intense two days. Among the winning SKSS team were Grade 10 and 11 students Jorden Atherton-Wyatt, Maeve Belomon, Izumi Heyland, Ava Rieger, and Yusra Rahman.

SKSS teachers, Graeme Hallett and Don Wilson supported students by being mentors, coaches, and key supporters during the challenging moments. The depth of the team’s philosophical knowledge put into practice, their ability to support each other’s statements and their unflappable demeanour were some of the key facets that made the difference over the course of the competition.

“They worked hard for this,” said Hallet, “They’re amazing.”

An Ethics Bowl is both a collaborative and competitive event, where teams discuss current ethical dilemmas of social, political, economic, scientific or cultural nature. Students were evaluated on communication, use of relevant information, critical thinking and collaboration, among other academic skill sets. Some examples of the issues SKSS competitively discussed were progressive fines, privatization of health care, prison reform and systems in place for Canadian wildfires.

The Kamloops-Thompson Board of Education is extremely proud of all the students who participated in these wonderful events and the staff who bring out the best in our students every day.

Kathleen Karpuk is a board member on the Kamloops-ThompsonBoard of Eduction.



Opinion: Kingmaker Kevin Falcon? B.C.'s fall election shaping up for some major twists

Kingmaker Kevin Falcon?

If in politics a week is a long time, these last few months are an epoch unto themselves.

Not terribly long ago we could conclude that the David Eby NDP government’s poll advantage appeared insurmountable. Sure, a sizeable number of British Columbians were telling pollsters that they’d like change, but to what?

Few considered the BC Conservatives under John Rustad a readied organization. Fewer still thought the BC United, the former BC Liberals led by Kevin Falcon, was the answer.

The numbers were predicting another NDP win, a rout of the BC United, with Eby even capitalizing on the Conservatives’ presence on the ballot to split the anti-NDP vote and bestow extra seats in his re-election.

But more recent public opinion research is suggesting a significant Conservative surge, even a lead over the NDP, and at the moment such that neither the NDP nor the Conservatives would salt away a majority in October.

In that instance, Falcon could find himself in a more enviable position than anyone could have until recently anticipated: a repeat of a 2017 scenario in which a third-place party with few seats determines which of the bigger winners gets to form government. Then it was the Greens under Andrew Weaver; in October, it could be Falcon as kingmaker, perhaps deal-making with the person he pushed out of his own party only two years earlier.

Before anyone locks in on this as a likelihood, though, there are many coulds, mights and possiblies to consider.

First, the election isn’t tomorrow, isn’t next month, isn’t even next season. That generous amount of time – epochs, so to speak – will be used to take some steps back on unpopular policy.

Take, for example, Eby’s frenetic end to his pilot project to decriminalize the public use of drugs. When it became evident that his MLAs were losing interest in defending an experiment that the public thought was a careless affront to personal security, he prompted Ottawa to recriminalize and pull the plug on his project.

One wonders, for instance, if there will be more work to do to contend with accusations of antisemitism levelled at his party by former finance minister Selina Robinson, given the challenges all political leaders are facing in this complex climate of the war in Gaza.

Mind you, not all issues are feasible do-overs: the public seems to have concluded that affordability, health care and housing are what they are under this government. These are the sources of calls for change. Problem for Eby’s NDP is, these are not addressable in anything but the long term.

But just as there might be time to heal some open wounds, there might also be time for greater clarity to emerge on the rapidly rising Conservatives.

Pollsters acknowledge that Rustad isn’t as well known as his party’s name – roughly one-quarter don’t know who he is – and that there lingers a very useful public perception (for him, anyway) that the provincial Conservatives are the branch plant of Pierre Poilievre’s federal party. That myth ought not to last in the thrust of a campaign, although it will be fascinating to see how Eby will want the perception to stick and Falcon will want to peel it away.

A large issue for Rustad is the tangible challenge of mounting an effective operation in short order – how quickly his party can raise money, build an apparatus to organize in ridings, nominate a team, identify its vote and get it to the polls on election day.

Arguably the most significant issue to settle for all parties remains the question of what people mean when they say they want change. It’s a very loaded word. A change in policy? A change in tone? In responsiveness? In leadership? In government?

At the federal level, it’s becoming easier to see what change might look like if the Liberals were displaced. But at the provincial level, Rustad still has to show what change under his party would represent; no matter today’s polls, it feels as if that’s pivotal to the shape of the next provincial government.

Remember, though, that many governments have faced these same calls for change before – think Gordon Campbell in 2008, Stephen Harper in 2011 – and gone on to win solid majorities.

Rustad has an opening all of a sudden, but can he make enough British Columbians believe the change they want can be produced by him?

Kirk LaPointe is a Glacier Media columnist with an extensive background in journalism.



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