Trudeau is meeting with Zelenskyy in Ukraine during surprise visit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented Tuesday on the collapse of a wall of a major dam in southern Ukraine that triggered floods, endangered Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, and is threatening drinking water supplies. “It is absolutely devastating for lives and livelihoods across the region. This is yet another example of the horrific consequences of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during an unannounced visit to Kyiv to show Canada’s support for the fight against Russia.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is with him on the trip, which began with a wreath-laying at a memorial wall to honour Ukrainians who have died while defending their homeland.

This is the second time Trudeau has made an unannounced visit to the embattled country since Russia began its large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Trudeau last travelled to Ukraine just over a year ago, where he reopened the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv and met Zelenskyy in person for the first time since the war began.

Trudeau and Zelenskyy also spent some time together just last month on the margins of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, where the Ukrainian president continued his campaign to shore up support among western allies for the defence of his country.

Some media outlets, including The Canadian Press, were made aware of today’s trip ahead of time on the condition that it not be reported until it was made public, for security reasons.

Trudeau looks at an exhibition of vehicles destroyed by war in Ukraine,

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits an exhibition of destroyed vehicles in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday June 10, 2023. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Pool via AP)

Trudeau looks at a wall of those missing and killed during the war in Ukraine

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the Wall of Remembrance to pay tribute to killed Ukrainian soldiers, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday June 10, 2023. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Pool via AP)

Trudeau lays a wreath at the wall of remembrance for those missing and killed in the Ukraine war

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lays a wreath at the memorial wall outside of St. Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, June 10, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

As of early Saturday morning, the Prime Minister’s Office had not published its usual itinerary for Trudeau’s day.

Earlier Saturday, Britain’s defence ministry reported “significant Ukrainian operations” in the country’s east and south since Thursday morning, with gains in some areas.

The ministry reported mixed results from the Russian army, with some units holding ground “while others have pulled back in some disorder, amid increased reports of Russian casualties as they withdraw through their own minefields.”

The ministry also noted “unusually active” Russian airstrikes in southern Ukraine, where it is easier for Moscow to fly planes.

Earlier this week, a hydroelectric dam on the Dnieper River ruptured, flooding a large part of the front line in southern Ukraine and worsening the humanitarian situation — including the need for drinking water — in an area that was already undergoing shelling.

It remains unclear how the dam collapse happened. Kyiv has accused Russia of blowing up the dam and its hydropower plant, which Russian forces controlled. Moscow said Ukraine did it.

Trudeau and Zelenskyy also spent some time together just last month on the margins of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, where the Ukrainian president continued his campaign to shore up support among western allies for the defence of his country.

Canada has joined other countries in condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime for the incursion, including through economic sanctions.

Ottawa has also contributed more than $8 billion to efforts related to the war in Ukraine since last year. That included launching a special immigration program to allow Ukrainians to come to Canada quickly with a temporary work and study permit, instead of going through the usual refugee system.

It also gave some $1 billion in military support, including the donation of eight Leopard 2 main battle tanks to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal visited Toronto in April, when Trudeau announced that Canada would provide assistance in the form of thousands of assault rifles, dozens of machine-guns and millions of rounds of ammunition to help the Ukrainian military fight Russian invaders.

At the time, Shmyhal thanked Canada for its support but also stressed the need for more.

Asked at the conclusion of the G7 summit in Hiroshima on May 21 what else Canada could do to help, Trudeau said: “We’re certainly not opposed to help in all sorts of different ways.”

Days later, Defence Minister Anita Anand announced a team of Canadian Armed Forces medical trainers helping instruct Ukrainian personnel in Poland would increase from seven to 12, and that Ottawa would donate 43 short-range missiles to Ukraine.

Canada has also recently joined Latvia in delivering training to Ukrainian soldiers being promoted to junior military officers, building on a program that focuses on teaching battlefield tactics.

During the G7 summit last month, Trudeau stressed that countries pushing for a negotiated ceasefire must recognize Russia is to blame for the conflict and could end things by stopping its invasion.

“It is not a ceasefire that is needed. It is peace. And that peace can only be achieved if Russia decides to stop its ongoing invasion of a sovereign neighbour,” the prime minister said.

The House of Commons foreign affairs committee took a similar view after its February visit to the region.

“The strategic consequences of allowing Russia to benefit from its aggression would far exceed the monetary costs associated with supporting Ukraine,” reads the committee’s April report.

“A frozen conflict would leave Ukraine facing constant threats and blackmail.”

© 2023 The Canadian Press

Volunteer firefighters are crucial in wildfire battle. Does Canada have enough?

WATCH: Millions at risk of air-quality-related heath issues as wildfire smoke blankets Eastern Canada

With Canada on track for its most severe wildfire season ever, it’s “all hands-on deck,” but a shortage of firefighters across the country is raising concern for the rest of the season.

Canadian soldiers and hundreds of firefighters from other countries have joined the fight amid a staffing crunch and recruitment challenges for their ranks.

Months before the wildfire season started, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CFAC)  had warned of diminishing numbers of both career and volunteer firefighters across the country.

With the current wildfire season projections signalling some challenging months ahead with a higher-than-normal fire activity, more resources are needed now, said Ken McMullen, CFAC president.

“There’s definitely a shortfall. There’s no doubt about it,” he told Global News in an interview.

As of June 8, 427 active wildfires were burning in Canada with 232 out of control, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre

So far this year, 2,391 wildfires have torched 4.4 million hectares of land.

The sheer volume of fires burning in multiple provinces over an extended period of time is putting increased mental and physical strain on firefighters — the majority of whom are volunteers, said McMullen.

The high reliance on volunteer firefighters is “just not sustainable,” he warned.

“We’re starting to see that lack of sustainability in these long, drawn-out events similar to what we’re seeing right now,” added McMullen.

“Unfortunately, the reality is we may see individuals walk away from their volunteer position after they’ve been on such a prolonged event similar to this one.”

The specific qualifications required to become a volunteer firefighter vary by province and territory, but there are some basic requirements for the job.

To start off, you must be at least 18 years of age, hold a valid driver’s licence and live in and/or work in the response area.

Interested candidates should also be physically able to perform various firefighting tasks. People who have a criminal record related to firefighter duties cannot volunteer.

Volunteer firefighters are also expected to train a certain number of hours per month, according to the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and the Canadian Volunteer Fire Service Association.

“You will need to acquire both firefighting skills and attain a certain level of physical fitness that will allow you to do the job,” CAFC and CVFSA state in their information toolkit.

Their duties include but are not limited to suppressing fires, protecting residents, providing pre-hospital care to victims and educating the public.

Volunteer firefighters play a critical role in any wildfire season emergency, giving a much-needed helping hand to permanent staff who have years of training and expertise.

But the number of volunteers has declined nationally in recent years as have numbers for those working full-time.

Last year, there were roughly 90,000 people who volunteered, making up 70 per cent of the total firefighting workforce, CAFC’s census report for 2022 showed. That was an almost 10 per cent decrease from a year before.

In 2016, there were 126,000 volunteer firefighters. That was the same year the ferocious Fort McMurray, Alta., wildfire caused mass destruction and evacuation in the western province.

McMullen said the reduction of so many firefighters within a short period of time is “alarming.”

Because volunteers already have full-time jobs, striking the balance between their firefighting responsibilities and regular work can be “extremely challenging,” said Mike Carter, 6th district vice president at the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).

“When you’re going out to a wildfire, it’s a very unknown, unpredictable situation and it’s not something that we do on a regular basis as firefighters,” Carter, who is an active firefighter in Calgary, told Global News.

“So, making sure that they’re properly trained is critical and they have the right resources and equipment to ensure they can set up those parameters to protect those homes.”

Municipal fire departments are running into recruitment challenges because more than 40 per cent have had to defer training and new equipment amid financial constraints, according to a CAFC survey that was released in December 2022.

Age may be a contributing factor, McMullen said, since many municipalities have an age limit of 60 years for active front-line firefighters given the physical health risks the job entails.

Last year, the number of people above the age 50 made up 25 per cent of the firefighting workforce.

Meanwhile, younger Canadians are less inclined to volunteer, McMullen said.

“We’re having difficulties recruiting the younger population to volunteer the same way that their parents or grandparents did in our communities.”

Since it’s voluntary work, there is no pay but people may be entitled to stipends, reimbursements and a federal tax credit for their services.

McMullen says Ottawa needs to increase the tax incentive for volunteer firefighters – currently at $3,000 annually, to $10,000 – and reinvest in the joint emergency preparedness plan to help attract new recruits.

“We need to invest today to ensure that we don’t run into these same situations in the years to come.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assured Canadians this week the country is expected to have “enough resources to cover the summer,” but the government is developing contingency plans “if things get worse,” he said during a June 5 news conference.

For this season, Ottawa is hiring and training more than 300 Indigenous firefighters and 125 Indigenous fire guardians.

Six provinces and territories have been able to procure specialized firefighting equipment through federal funding, the government said in a June 5 release.

In addition, Natural Resources Canada, in collaboration with the International Association of Fire Fighters has also started a one-year pilot training program to prepare structural firefighters to respond to the dangers of interface fires that threaten homes, communities and infrastructure.

“It’s going to have extremely good dividends for protecting our communities, the people that live there, protecting their homes and making sure that our firefighters are kept safe,” said Carter of the pilot program.

— with files from Global News’ Jillian Piper

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Winnipeg mayor calls for overhaul of bike registry, aims to reduce theft problem

The wheels are in motion to introduce a new bike registry in Winnipeg, as the city’s mayor is bringing the issue to City Hall next week.

Scott Gillingham will bring forward a motion at Monday’s Executive Policy Committee meeting calling for an overhaul of the registry, which is designed to combat theft, enhance public safety and promote sustainable transportation.

It will also call for a more effective way to track stolen bikes. As many as 2,000 bikes are reported stolen in Winnipeg each year, with many more going unreported. The city recovers around 1,000 bikes annually, with less than 10 per cent returned to their owners.

Gillingham says the current registry is online and costs $7.35 to use, and his proposal would make it free and multi-jurisdictional. If a stolen bike showed up outside the province, it could be tracked back to here. He points to apps called Project 529 and Bike index as an example and wants city administration to come back with a report in 90 days and find out what’s possible in our city.

“I’m asking our staff to talk to the Winnipeg Police Service, talk to WRENCH, talk to Bike Winnipeg, so that we can do a better job of tracking bicycles and hopefully reduce the number of bicycles stolen, and get more bikes registered,” Gillingham said.

Charles Feaver, who is chair of Bike Winnipeg’s bike theft working group, says Vancouver has gone through similar changes and theft in that city has dropped 42 per cent since a new registry was unveiled.

The mayor doesn’t believe registering a bike needs to be mandatory, but thinks by making it free, it will reduce barriers and get more people signed up.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Blue Bombers bounce Hamilton Tiger-Cats in CFL season opener

Zach Collaros threw three touchdowns in the first quarter to propel the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a 42-31 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in their first game of the Canadian Football League season Friday night.

It was the 16th time in the last 18 seasons that Hamilton has started the season 0-1.

Collaros threw for 354 yards and connected with Nic Demski, Rasheed Bailey and Drew Wolitarsky for touchdowns in the opening quarter to stake the Bombers out to a commanding 21-4 advantage.

In his first game as a Tiger-Cat, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell went 18-of-34 for 187 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and was sacked three times. Receiver Tim White hauled in the TD but appeared to suffer a right shoulder injury as he landed on the turf.

Running back James Butler also found the endzone in his first game as a Ticat when he scored on a two-yard run in the fourth quarter to cut Winnipeg’s lead to 39-32.

In total, Hamilton committed six turnovers at IG Field in Winnipeg and the Bombers took advantage by scoring 17 points off those gifts. Winnipeg committed four turnovers.

The Ticats got touchdowns from their special teams unit when Carthell Flowers-Lloyd blocked a punt and Omar Bayless jumped on it in the endzone to cut Winnipeg’s lead to 32-10 in the third period.

Hamilton’s defence also found the endzone when defensive lineman Ted Laurent forced Collaros to fumble and the ball was picked up by Chris Edwards and scored a 62 yard TD. That trimmed the Bombers’ lead to 39-23 in the fourth quarter.

The Ticats will look to get into the win column on Father’s Day when they visit the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Big start to season for Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence in 42-31 win over Hamilton

It started incredibly strong, and ended quite shaky, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers did enough to come out with a win in their season opener Friday night.

In front of 29,057 fans at IG Field, the Bombers tamed the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 42-31 to kick off their regular season on a winning note.

Winnipeg led 29-4 at halftime, but allowed 27 second-half points to let Hamilton make a game of it.

The back-to-back Most Outstanding Player was exactly that again on Friday, as Zach Collaros threw for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns. And the kicking game, a hot topic for awhile now in Winnipeg, was perfect as Sergio Castillo was four-for-four on field goals and hit another four extra points.

The much-hyped receiving corps also had a big night with four players picking up at least 57 yards receiving, including Nic Demski, who led the way with 113 yards and a touchdown in his 100th career game.

In a first quarter to remember, the Bombers came storming out of the gate with Demski, Rasheed Bailey and Drew Wolitarsky all catching touchdowns in the game’s first 15 minutes.

Running back Brady Oliveira found the endzone for the first time this season in the third quarter. He ended up cracking the century mark with 117 yards on the ground.

With the Bombers up 39-17 heading into the fourth quarter, things got sloppy as a Collaros fumble was returned 62 yards for a touchdown by Chris Edwards, and then on the ensuing kickoff, Janarion Grant coughed up the football and it was returned by Hamilton to the Bombers two-yard line.

James Butler punched it in on the next play and the Ticats would get the two-point conversion to make it a 39-31 game.

But Castillo would make a clutch 50-yard kick for the Bombers on the next drive.

In his Hamilton debut, Bo Levi Mitchell was less than spectacular throwing for 187 yards and a touchdown, but also tossing two interceptions, both snagged by Demerio Houston.

Bombers defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat left the game in the first quarter and did not return.

The Bombers hit the road for their next game on Friday, June 16, when they will visit the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Ukraine dam collapse makes humanitarian crisis 'hugely worse': UN official

WATCH: Ukraine dam collapse: Kherson residents evacuated, face lack of drinking water

The humanitarian situation in Ukraine is “hugely worse” than before the Kakhovka dam collapsed, the U.N.’s top aid official warned Friday.

Undersecretary-General Martin Griffiths said an “extraordinary” 700,000 people are in need of drinking water and warned that the ravages of flooding in one of the world’s most important breadbaskets will almost inevitably lead to lower grain exports, higher food prices around the world, and less to eat for millions in need.

“This is a viral problem,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But the truth is this is only the beginning of seeing the consequences of this act.”

The rupture of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam and emptying of its reservoir on the Dnieper River on Wednesday added to the misery in a region that has suffered for more than a year from artillery and missile attacks.

Ukraine holds the Dnieper’s western bank, while Russian troops control the low-lying eastern side, which is more vulnerable to flooding. The dam and reservoir, essential for fresh water and irrigation in southern Ukraine, lies in the Kherson region that Moscow illegally annexed in September and has occupied for the past year.

Griffiths said the United Nations, working mainly through Ukrainian aid groups, has reached 30,000 people in flooded areas under Ukrainian control. He said that so far Russia has not given access to areas it controls for the U.N. to help flood victims.

Griffiths said he met with Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, on Wednesday to ask Russian authorities “for access for our teams in Ukraine to go across the front lines to give aid, to provide support for ? Ukrainians in those areas.”

“We’re providing them with details as we speak, to enable Moscow to meet what we hope will be a positive decision on this,” he said. “I hope that will come through.”

The emergency response is essential to save lives, he said, “but behind that you’ve got a huge, looming problem of a lack of proper drinking water for those 700,000 people” on both the Ukrainian-controlled and Russian-controlled sides of the river.

There is also the flooding of important agricultural land and a looming problem of providing cooling water for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, which had been supplied from the dam, he added.

In addition, Griffiths noted that waters also have rushed over areas with land mines from the war “and what we are bound to be seeing are those mines floating in places where people don’t expect them,” threatening adults and especially children.

“So it’s a cascade of problems, starting with allowing people to survive today, and then giving them some kind of prospects for tomorrow,” he said.

Griffiths said that because of the wide-ranging consequences “it’s almost inevitable” that the United Nations will launch a special appeal for more aid funds for Ukraine to deal with “a whole new order of magnitude” from the dam’s rupture. But he said he wants to wait a few weeks to see the economic, health and environmental consequences before announcing the appeal.

Griffiths said he and U.N. trade chief Rebeca Grynspan are also working to ensure the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which Turkey and the U.N. brokered with Ukraine and Russia last July to open three Black Sea ports in Ukraine for its grain exports.

More than 30,000 metric tons of wheat and other foodstuff has been shipped under the deal, leading to a decline in global food prices that skyrocketed after Russia’s Feb. 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine. It has been extended three times and is due to expire July 17.

Part of the deal was a memorandum signed by Russia and the U.N. aimed at overcoming obstacles to Russian food and fertilizer shipments that Moscow has repeatedly complained are not being fulfilled.

A key Russian demand has been the reopening of a pipeline between the Russian port of Togliatti on the Volga River and the Black Sea port of Odesa that has been shut down since Russia’s attack on Ukraine. It carried ammonia, a key ingredient of fertilizer.

“Opening that pipeline and delivering ammonia across the Black Sea to the global south is a priority for all of us,” Griffiths said. “Ammonia is an essential ingredient for global food security.”

A rupture in the pipeline was reported from shelling late Tuesday, but Griffiths said the U.N. couldn’t confirm it because the pipeline is in the middle of a war zone.

“We, of course, are very, very strongly of the view that we need that repaired as quickly as possible,” he said. “So let’s hope it’s not too badly damaged.” He said the Ukrainians have told the U.N. they will get to the pipeline, which is on their territory, “as soon as they can.”

Griffiths said the Ukrainians see opening the pipeline as part of a package that would also include Russian agreement to open a fourth Black Sea port at Mykolaiv to export more grain.

Negotiations have been taking place in recent weeks, including at a meeting Friday in Geneva between U.N. trade chief Grynspan and Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergey Vershinin.

“We’re not there yet,” Griffiths said. “I hope that we’ll make it.”

© 2023 The Canadian Press

Twins edge Blue Jays 3-2 in 10 innings

TORONTO – Missed opportunities proved costly for the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night in a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Minnesota Twins at Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays loaded the bases in the ninth inning but couldn’t score against Twins fireballer Jhoan Duran, who got Brandon Belt on a lineout to force an extra frame.

Michael A. Taylor, who hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning, hit a sacrifice fly in the 10th to plate the go-ahead run as Minnesota (32-32) ended a five-game losing streak.

“Our bullpen was good and the defence was solid,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “We just didn’t really get that hit when we needed to.”

It was Toronto’s first loss in four games. The Blue Jays left 12 runners on base.

Ryan Jeffers started the 10th inning on second base as the automatic runner. He moved to third on an infield single by Royce Lewis.

Taylor’s fly ball off Blue Jays sidearmer Adam Cimber (0-1) was caught by left-fielder Whit Merrifield, who was charged with an error on the throw to home plate.

With Kevin Kiermaier on second base to start Toronto’s half of the 10th, Duran issued a one-out walk to Merrifield before striking out Daulton Varsho and getting Santiago Espinal on a pop-up to end it.

“Throwing 103 with a 99 mile-an-hour splitter is tough,” Schneider said. “He’s been doing it for a while. I thought our at-bats were good against him. That’s an uphill battle. I don’t know how you throw a splitter that hard.”

Duran (2-2) trimmed his earned-run average to 1.44 with his two-inning performance.

“He made a lot of things happen today,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “Just a heck of an outing from him.”

Blue Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi gave up a double to open the game, but the Twins couldn’t capitalize.

The left-hander eventually settled in and retired eight in a row until Lewis beat out an infield single in the fifth.

Lewis would score on Taylor’s ninth home run of the season.

The Blue Jays halved the deficit against Twins starter Sonny Gray in the bottom half when Bo Bichette singled to bring home Espinal from second base.

Toronto loaded the bases with one out, but Gray struck out Belt and got Matt Chapman to hit into a fielder’s choice.

Kikuchi allowed four hits, a walk and two earned runs over five innings. He had four strikeouts.

Gray also lasted five frames. He allowed one earned run, five hits and a pair of walks while fanning five.

Chapman made a highlight-reel defensive play in the sixth. He fully extended his frame to snag a scorching liner by Kyle Farmer near the third-base line.

The Blue Jays tied it when pinch-hitter George Springer welcomed Twins reliever Brock Stewart to the game with a double that scored Espinal.

Springer took third base on the throw, but was stranded when pinch-hitter Alejandro Kirk struck out.

Lewis had a four-hit game for the first time in his career. Toronto outhit Minnesota 8-7.

Announced attendance was 35,222 on the first night of the Blue Jays’ Pride Weekend. The game took two hours 59 minutes to play.


The Blue Jays designated right-hander Anthony Bass for assignment before the game and reinstated right-hander Mitch White (elbow) from the 60-day injured list.

The Twins placed left-hander Caleb Thielbar on the 15-day IL with a right oblique strain. The move was retroactive to June 6.


Longtime LGBTQ advocate leZlie Lee Kam helped kick off Pride Weekend by throwing the ceremonial first pitch.

Bass was originally tabbed to catch the ball, but right-hander Kevin Gausman filled in instead.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2023.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

Driver crashes into West Vancouver Whole Foods, motors through produce section

Police are still trying to work out why an 80-year-old man drove this BMW into a Whole Foods on Friday. One person suffered non-life threatening injuries and was taken to hopsital.

West Vancouver police are trying to piece together exactly how a driver managed to crash their car into a Whole Foods grocery store on Friday.

Emergency crews were called to the supermarket at Park Royal around 11:30 a.m., where a man in his 80s had driven a black BMW into the store.

About 20 shoppers were inside the produce department when the vehicle burst into that part of the store, police said.

One person was hurt seriously enough to be taken to hospital, police said. The driver was also taken to hospital as a precautionary measure.

“While it is unknown what the driver was doing at the time of the incident, he managed to drive into the grocery store, turn left and take out half of the produce department,” police said in a media release.

Firefighters told Global News the driver accelerated through the store’s entrance at a high rate of speed.

Anyone with information is asked to contact West Vancouver police at 604-925-7300.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Majority of British Columbians give ER wait times a failing grade: poll

WATCH: A new public opinion poll has found that British Columbians are almost evenly split down the middle, as to whether they think our health care system is 'good', or 'poor.' Paul Johnson reports.

More than half of British Columbians who’ve landed in the hospital emergency room in the last six months say they’ve faced unacceptable wait times, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by pollster Leger in collaboration with the Vancouver Sun, aimed to put numbers to the recent concerns making headlines about the province’s health-care system.

“All those anecdotal stories of horror stories in the ER room, how extensive are those experiences and how many British Columbians are actually going through those worst case scenarios,” Leger executive vice-president Steve Mossop explained.

Overall, the poll found British Columbians split on their view of the province’s health-care system, with 50 per cent saying it was in good or very good condition, and 46 per cent saying it was in poor or very poor shape.

But among the poll’s more troubling findings: 55 per cent of respondents rated both the total length of time they waited to be treated and the wait time before seeing a doctor as “poor” or “very poor.”

“It’s pretty clear-cut,” Mossop said.

“When you have 55 per cent of people who have been to the ER in the last six months that say the wait times are unacceptable, that’s a significant number.”

The poll also found a large number of British Columbians would consider leaving Canada to access health care, with 23 per cent saying they’d consider it for a surgery, 25 per cent saying they’d consider it for dental work and 26 per cent saying they’d consider it for other diagnostic work or procedures.

Mossop said the polling suggested no quick fix to the ER problems, either.

A large part of the issue, he said, is people attending emergency rooms because they lack access to a family doctor or timely care at a walk-in clinic. About 30 per cent of respondents said they’d used an ER for this reason, he said.

Daniel Fontaine, a consultant who has worked a variety of jobs in politics and as an advocate for long-term care providers said given the size of the health-care system, making major changes quickly to satisfy patients and voters likely isn’t realistic.

“If you’re referring to whether they can do it before the next election I would say they’ll be extremely challenged to do that,” he said.

But while the current NDP government is stuck with the challenge, Fontaine said the problems go back more than a decade and have built up at the hands of both of B.C.’s major parties.

Health Minister Adrian Dix has maintained his government is focused on cutting the Gordian Knot of the province’s health-care crisis.

“We know that the answers that are often felt in the emergency room are really an expression of the need for more community care, the need for long-term care and better primary care,” Dix said Wednesday, in announcing an expansion at the beleaguered Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Despite the findings on ER wait times, Mossop said the poll wasn’t all bad news when it came to British Columbians’ perceptions of their emergency care.

Six in 10 respondents said their overall experience in the emergency room was good or very good, while just under four in 10 said it was poor or very poor.

Seventy-six per cent said their quality of care was good or very good, and 72 per cent said their ultimate health outcomes were good.

The Leger poll was conducted online between June 2 and June 5 of 1,000 adult British Columbians, with results weighted using data from the 2021 census. For comparison purposes only, a similarly sized randomized sample of 1,000 respondents would have a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

'Interact with culture': 2nd annual Indigenous artisan market kicks off in New Westminster

The New West Craft Indigenous Market is back in the city for its second year. The event celebrates Indigenous art - music - and storytelling. Our Travis Prasad has a preview.

Shop First Nations and the Arts Council of New Westminster are kicking off their second collaborative New West Craft Indigenous Market on Saturday, with more vendors, food trucks and performers than ever before.

The market will take place at the River Market on the boardwalk of the Westminster Quay between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., with “double” the number of storytellers, singers and dancers, according to Shop First Nations founder Rob Schulz.

“In addition to the shopping opportunities, it’s an opportunity to interact with culture and learn more about Indigenous culture and connect with it,” he told Global News on Friday.

“We had a really good turnout last year and we’re hoping for even more this year from the community. We appreciate everyone’s support.”

The market will feature beadwork, paintings, carvings, culinary products and more from over 35 Indigenous entrepreneurs and artists. It will also include an art and performance space — a “safe and welcome” environment for the public to learn about Indigenous practices and creative expression.

S^yowah, curator of that reclamation space, said it also gives emerging Indigenous artists space and exposure.

“There’s more to Indigenous art than just painting,” he said. “(Visitors) will experience the other side of the products and the items that artists create.

“They’re also going to get some more in-depth ideas and teachings and concepts of why Indigenous artists create the items that they create … Art is one of the last safest places to express what they need to share and express, especially around reconciliation. ”

That exposure is particularly important, he added, given historical bans on all forms of cultural, spiritual and artistic expression by Indigenous Peoples, enforced by the state and churches in Canada.

Both Schulz and S^yowah said the New West Craft Indigenous Market is an opportunity to engage in “financial reconciliation.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the atrocities of Canada’s harrowing residential school system, released a public call to action demanding equitable financial, educational and employment opportunities for Indigenous Peoples that would result in long-term, sustainable benefits.

“I think it’s a huge opportunity and I think it’s really part of truth and reconciliation,” said Schulz.

“If you’re a consumer or just someone looking to do your weekend shopping, it’s a really easy step you can take to support Indigenous entrepreneurs. In turn that supports Indigenous communities and their families, and helps grow the Indigenous economy.”

“We need to look at the City of New Westminster, where they’re located,” added S^yowah.

“There are businesses that are in this market behind us that are occupying this territory that was once a trading spot for the Indigenous people who would use the Fraser River and to use the river system to share their goods.”

Illustrator and designer Tristan Wright, whose artwork can be seen in multiple New Westminster locations, will be speaking at an artist talk at the market at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. She said initiatives like the  New West Craft Indigenous Market are “wildly important,”, particularly for younger artists, and sends a message they can pursue their passion as viable careers.

“It’s been kind of pushed away from them for so long, so now that we’re kind of bringing it back and letting them engage with the community and themselves and their work is really important,” she told Global News.

“It just proves that art is very much so important. It’s all around us.”

Performances begin at 11:15 a.m. Admission to the market is free.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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