Province boosts response for at-risk youth

VANCOUVER – One year after a report revealed the tragic life and death of an aboriginal teenager in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the British Columbia government has committed $1.2 million to help youth in the troubled neighbourhood.

But the province’s representative for children and youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, said the funding falls short of what is needed to address the problems facing kids like Paige, the 19 year old at the centre of Turpel-Lafond’s May 2015 report.

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“Anything’s better than nothing, but this is pretty minuscule,” Turpel-Lafond said. “It still doesn’t give me a lot to turn to the kids that are on the street today and say, ‘Something different has arrived.’”

Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux announced Tuesday that $1.2 million, earmarked in the latest budget, would go toward services for at-risk youth in the Downtown Eastside.

She said $800,000 will fund a dedicated adolescent-services unit in the impoverished neighbourhood, focusing on teens caught in a cycle of intravenous drug use, homelessness and prostitution.

Eight new positions will be added to the unit, plus two more with a recently created rapid response team, while $400,000 will permit partner organizations to expand outreach services for youth.

The changes, which follow a ministry review of the files of 124 young people around the Downtown Eastside, also include plans for the development of a low-barrier shelter for the most troubled youth in the area.

The shelter would have a maximum of five beds and is targeted to open in late 2017.

Cadieux said other shelters require entrants to stop using alcohol or drugs or promise to enter a detox program, which can push away high-risk youth. The aim of a low-barrier or “no questions asked” shelter is to gain kids’ trust so staff can help them access services when they’re ready.

“I think it’s very difficult for most of us to understand the draw of street life in a disadvantaged neighbourhood, and it’s even more difficult to understand why a young person would refuse to take advantage of services that are available to them,” she told reporters on a conference call.

“But it does happen, and when it does, we’ll be there like never before to try to catch that young person in a moment of clarity, in a moment of calm.”

Cadieux’s announcement comes almost exactly one year after Turpel-Lafond published “Paige’s Story: Abuse, Indifference and a Young Life Discarded.” The report blamed the teen’s overdose death on “persistent inaction from front-line professionals and an indifferent social care system.”

Last week, Turpel-Lafond published a new special report on an unnamed youth, in which she criticized the province’s response to “Paige’s Story.”

Turpel-Lafond said on Tuesday five shelter beds in 2017 was not nearly enough to meet the need. She also said she was concerned that a low-barrier shelter was not suitable for young people.

There are only 20 addictions beds for adolescents in the entire province, she added.

“It’s a bit of a perfect storm at the moment. I think we’re seeing the face of it, and Paige was one of those faces that we talked about a year ago.”

Doug Donaldson, Opposition NDP critic for children and family development, pointed out that Cadieux said 20 of the 124 youth around the Downtown Eastside are considered extremely high-risk, yet the province is only adding five beds.

“It’s not even a half measure, it’s a quarter measure,” he said. “Here we are a year after the Paige report, and the minister is not even addressing the need that exists today with this announcement.”

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Pierrefonds city councillor regrets voting to build new $20M library

PIERREFONDS-ROXBORO —; Pierrefonds-Roxboro city councillor Justine McIntyre is already regretting her decision to approve the building of a new $20 million library.

The goal was to replace the existing, aging library, but now, the Bois-de-Liesse district city councillor said she now realizes the money could be better spent on other services.

“I think it’s a waste of tax payer money,” McIntyre told Global News in an exclusive interview.

“I think we have other projects that could cost less money and do more to provide services to citizens.”

Architecture firm Chevalier Morales was awarded the contract to design the new library, which will double the existing structure from 2,196 square metres to 4,512 square metres.

The new library will include state-of-the-art technology, as well as more space and natural light.

Officials said it will serve a growing community, especially in the western part of the borough.

“When we announced it way back in 2012, the public and citizens rejoiced and were happy about the fact we’re moving forward,” borough Mayor Jim Beis told Global News.

However, some continue to insist the new library is unnecessary for a community that is decades old, and argue the existing building is fine.

Construction will start this fall and the new library is expected to open in 2018.

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Fort McMurray SPCA spent the weekend rescuing pets—in secret

One week after 80,000 wildfire evacuees fled Fort McMurray, the local SPCA is able to tell residents what’s being done to save their beloved pets.

Click here for our continuing coverage of the Fort McMurray wildfires

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the Fort McMurray SPCA said animals were evacuated from its shelter on Sunday May 1 and put into temporary foster care. By Tuesday May 3, all foster animals, staff and volunteers were forced to evacuate.

RCMP officers will do what they can to assist pets they may come across in carrying out search and rescue operations.

Courtesy: Alberta RCMP

“In spite of some of our homes and belongings also being consumed by the wildfire, we asked for permission to return to Fort McMurray to help our community pets on Thursday, which was subsequently granted,” reads the post.

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    But it was on one condition: the group wasn’t allowed to provide any information to the public for 96 hours.

    “While we understood how anxious and worried local pet owners would be, as the only local animal welfare organization in the RMWB (Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo), it was important to us that we serve our community and did everything we could during this devastating time.”

    Requests to the RMWB for more information on the instructions were not answered by publication time.

    The SPCA said it arrived in the community to find two other animal rescue groups and a number of animal control agencies requested by the RMWB were on scene.

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Over the next 96 hours, the crews worked to rescue as many animals as possible. The shelter was re-opened for temporary housing before the animals were transported to the “pet evacuation pickup centre.” The veterinary clinic treated animals in need and pets were given food, water and “our fair share of love and attention.”

READ MORE: Power, pets and cash cards – Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees pose questions to Notley 

The Fort MacMurray SPCA also gathered hundreds of pet rescue requests and incorporated them to the RWMB pet rescue process.

“We are proud to say that we played a large role in this pet rescue, with the first achievement being a shipment of 244 animals sent by transport truck to Edmonton on the evening of Sunday, May 8,” reads the post. Their owners will be contacted as soon as possible.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire – Good Samaritans from Edmonton rescue 10 dogs, 2 cats, 5 kittens

“Our FMSPCA representatives worked in challenging conditions: sometimes requiring respirators, without running water or electricity until we got power late on Saturday. They also worked tireless hours with little sleep or comfort and spent the last three nights in their vehicles due to lack of available resources.”

Anyone with a pet they were forced to leave behind during the mass evacuation should register online here.

To make a donation, visit the SPCA website here