2017 – 2018

Protecting Our Nurses From Violence

September Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News

There’s an urgent need to upgrade the way health care is being delivered—and not to patients. Nurses are now more likely than law enforcement to have a violent injury claim—and, according to the BC Nurses Union, violent incidents are being under-reported by as much as 70%. In an attempt to raise public awareness and support, the BCNU recently released a series of videos so shocking and graphic it makes me wonder how many nurses have post-traumatic stress disorder. (“Violence. Not Part of the Job” on YouTube)

Some hospitals, especially rural ones, have no security guard on staff so entrance doors have to be locked after hours. People who go to the Emergency Room must ring the nighttime doorbell and the nurse on duty decides whether or not to let the person in—or call the RCMP to attend first.

That decision is complicated by the severity of the person’s injury: if someone is bleeding heavily, for example, the nurse’s instinct to protect life can override her instinct to protect herself. And on the night shift in a small hospital when only two nurses are on duty, if the nurse lets the person in and then finds herself in danger, the other nurse can be in a different area and way out of earshot.

There’s been so much shame and silence around mental illness in our society that there are gaps in our collective knowledge and awareness. I don’t like to talk about the mental illness in my family, but my elderly mother is mentally ill and now living in long-term care. Despite being medicated, she can have sudden violent outbursts if she gets frustrated or triggered. And she is still physically strong so I sure feel for the nurses who care for her. Yet they do their job with such steely, cheerful professionalism—not to mention kindness and compassion. Maybe their professionalism is another reason why we don’t realize just how risky a nurse’s job can be.

When you ponder what needs to change, some questions arise. How it is that WorkSafe BC has policies which protect workers from violence in the workplace and yet hospitals can sometimes be so dangerous? What’s the hold-up to upgrading safety? Shouldn’t there be a security guard on duty during the night shift? Shouldn’t it become standard practice that nurses work in pairs? And what about providing nurses with alert communication devices they wear on their uniform (such as Vocera) which instantly calls for help if the nurse finds herself in danger?

If the healthcare industry was adequately funded by the federal and provincial governments there would be more money to invest in safety measures. It’s time to let our elected representatives know that we stand with nurses and want a better job done to protect them from violence.

Provincial Liberal MLA Jackie Tegart’s phone number is (250) 453-9726. Her email address is jackie.tegart.mla@leg.bc.ca

Federal Liberal MP Jati Sidhu’s phone number is (604) 814-5710. His email address is Jati.Sidhu@parl.gc.ca

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The 1% and The 2%

June Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News

Given the daily fiascos in American politics it might be easy to miss the fact that the Military Industrial Complex is doubling its revenue, now that President Rump has convinced/ frightened all NATO members into increasing their military spending.

I’m not sure when it happened, maybe it was when the millions of refugees started pouring out of the Middle East, but it dawned on me that our global community is constantly being manipulated by a small group of weapons dealers, all of whom are virtually invisible and unknown to the rest of us.

And these guys are businessmen. Profit is their god, peace is their enemy. They don’t care one iota what your flavour of ideology might be—worship Allah, Buddha or Christ, believe in capitalism, believe in nothing, dance circles around trees, they don’t care, as long as enough of us believe we have evil enemies worthy of being destroyed.

If your region isn’t at war, if your infrastructure isn’t being pummeled into rubble, if your population isn’t being reduced to traumatized refugees, then you’re on the other side of their balance sheet. You’re one of the lucky nations, but to stay lucky you must increase your defense spending to 2% — which isn’t a true measure of your costs, of course, because you’ll also have to pour multi-millions into foreign aid. Maybe the MIC should be taxed to help with all the clean-up and restoration.

All this madness is starting to feel like a very slick form of manipulation. For decades the media has contributed a steady drumbeat of fear, always a new and improved bogeyman: those Commies, those counter-revolutionaries, those radical extremists, those leftist guerrillas, those terrorists, etc etc. How many of these threats are legitimate and how many have been conjured?

I think we really need to know about the weapons trade—the names of the people involved, from whom and to whom the money flows, how the supply chain operates. I’d like to see their balance sheets. Because peace decreases profit, the war industry must have developed some tried and true methods for seeding new combat zones.

Give any Third World thug or would-be dictator a few guns and you’ve laid the groundwork for future sales. Soon tensions are stoked, the media is reporting on murders, rapes and destruction, and a conflict becomes ‘legitimized’. Violence causes communities to fracture into loss and revenge and before you know it, people no longer see their common bonds and shared humanity.

Peace isn’t idealistic, naïve, or impossible. Peace is intelligence. Peace represents an evolution. Choosing peace means you’re educated and will resist the manipulation.

When President Rump demanded that NATO nations increase their military spending, was it another manifestation of him playing to his strength? After all, if there’s one thing we know for sure, he understands how to make money. Or was it a demonstration of a dumb, powerful man being duped into the role of salesman?


We Need a Dog Park

April Op-ed for Bridge River Lillooet News

I’m tempted to write about Rump and Pooh Tin because there’s so much to criticize about those billionaire politicians but let’s talk about dogs of a better kind.

Dogs are by nature social animals who live in packs. Sure, they successfully live with humans but they still need to be among their kind on a regular basis.

When dogs aren’t socialized they develop behaviour problems like neurotic barking or chronic aggression, not to mention destroying a yard by digging holes or harassing anything that moves. There’s a difference between a dog that’s guarding its property and one that’s acting out because it’s desperate to join the activity going on beyond the fence.

For the last six months I’ve been walking my puppy nearly every day. The other walkers I’ve encountered have enthusiastically agreed that we need a dog park. A dog park would be a pretty small investment for the big payoff it would bring to the community. And it wouldn’t take much labour to create and maintain—a few acres, a durable fence with a gate, two benches, a garbage can, and a sign reminding users to pick up and the fine involved if they don’t.

If it’s centrally located people can combine their trip with shopping or other errands. What about allocating a section of the green space across from Cayoosh Elementary? That area seems very under-used.

When we talk about dogs we also have to talk about the people they own. When we get a dog we mean well and we love them to bits but life can get in the way. Family responsibilities, physical injury and work can squeeze out walking time. Many people have mobility limitations, especially the elderly. Many people aren’t outdoorsy hikers. And the weather can prohibit walking, especially in winter where steep, icy grades increase the likelihood that a walker could slip and fall.

For some breeds, unless you’re a long distance runner it doesn’t matter how long the walk is, it’s not enough. There’s just nothing like the all-out dash and tumble among dogs to get them happy, panting and tired. I was lucky enough to meet another dog owner and our schedules lined up so we’ve been arranging doggy playdates. Over time the dogs have learned to play well together. I’ve noticed that when my dog is well exercised he’s calm, relaxed and more ready to obey commands and learn new ones. And it seems to me that just like taking care of our own health, getting our dog regular exercise is insurance against big vet bills later in life.

All communities big and small have dog parks because so many people have dogs. A dog park increases the livability—and civility—of a place. In a dog park you meet people, share knowledge and tips about training and diet. Or you can sit and catch up on texts and emails on your smart phone. Or you can just sit, watch and giggle at all the fun.

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Keeping Ourselves Safe

January Op-Ed for Bridge River Lillooet News

A friend had a frightening encounter last summer while walking with her dog on the road near the Old Bridge. Two men in a white BMW SUV drove up alongside and kept pace with her steps. The driver acted friendly and told her she was beautiful. The other guy stared straight ahead and didn’t speak; he looked at her only once and it was with hatred in his eyes. She recalled afterward that she thought to herself, What’s his problem?

The driver asked if she had a boyfriend. He asked if she’d get in the vehicle and help with directions. She knew she was in trouble. Steep terrain on both sides, no safe escape. Luckily, a pick-up truck came along and she stepped into the road, forcing it to stop. Then the white SUV took off.

Both men were black-skinned, clean cut, well-built, and wore Polo shirts. Both had close-cropped hair, had no facial hair, and their faces were round. She said she held back from reporting because she’d have to describe the men as black-skinned—she didn’t want to appear racist.

Then someone told her that in 2015 Crime Stoppers published a notice about two black men who tried, unsuccessfully, to pull a young woman into their vehicle (also a white SUV) when she was walking near Capilano Road in North Vancouver. Then my friend contacted Lillooet’s RCMP.

Two months ago in Fort McMurray, the news reported that two black men tried to abduct a woman out walking at night. The woman fought them off. Their vehicle was described as light-coloured and high-end.

My friend received no follow-up from the Lillooet RCMP. When she heard about Fort Mac she contacted the RCMP there, left details about her encounter, and was told an officer would get back to her. Again, no follow up.

My point is not to criticize but rather point out that predators are exploiting several things: a geography which allows them to troll widely for victims and quickly disappear on highway networks; a chronic deficit of policing resources; and unsuspecting people who trust too much or feel compelled to be polite to strangers.

According to Global Research, right now the slave trade operates in 163 countries—including Canada—and brings in at least $38 billion annually. Only guns and drugs are more lucrative. The slave trade is well developed, with supply lines and established smuggling routes across international borders.

Whether it’s men working in pairs, or snatchers cruising our neighbourhoods looking for children, it’s open season on men, women and children. We don’t like to think about this because too much fear isn’t healthy—but too little caution can be worse. We need to wise up and become more aware and more proactive.

Utilizing social media, such as a Facebook page, could be a good way for people to post details of frightening encounters, alert others, compare notes, and educate. Maybe such a site would also assist police agencies in building profiles and making connections between attacks.

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