New calf spotted with endangered southern resident killer whale pod


After months of bad news, there finally may be a glimmer of hope for B.C.’s endangered southern resident killer whales.

On Friday, researchers confirmed that recent helicopter video filmed by the Seattle TV station King 5 News shows a new baby orca swimming with members of L pod.

The video, shot Thursday near Vachon Island in Washington state, shows the calf swimming next to the killer whale known as L77, who had previously been pregnant.

Ken Balcomb, founding director of the U.S.-based Center for Whale Research, confirmed that that this is the first sighting of the new calf. The young whale’s gender is unknown.

Watch helicopter video of the young calf swimming beside its mother

Helicopter footage from Washington State shows a new southern resident killer whale swimming beside L77 0:59

The southern residents have not had a successful pregnancy in three years.

The sighting follows ominous news about the West Coast’s southern resident killer whale population in recent weeks.

The population is at a 35-year low after three deaths in 2018, and earlier this month, scientists said they expect two more whales to die of starvation by summer.

The plight of the struggling population attracted attention from around the world this summer, when grieving mother J35 spent 17 days carrying her dead baby on her head as she travelled more than 1,600 kilometres.

Weeks later, another member of J pod, J50, was declared dead after a cross-border rescue effort to inject the calf with antibiotics and fight an apparent infection.

Scientists say the killer whales have been struggling to find enough food because of a decline in the Chinook salmon population.


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Homeless in the snow? Long-time Whistler resident fears losing his trailer


It’s snowing in Whistler and Paul Mitts is worried.

He moved into a trailer parked at the Whistler Tennis Club two nights ago, after a long stretch living in a tent with his wife.

He’s already been hit with an eviction order.

“They’re putting us on the streets. That’s what’s happening. They say, ‘Oh, you can go to shelters in Squamish or North Van. I’ve been here since 1982,” Mitts said.

Housing is so bad in Whistler one business owner bought his staff somewhere to live

Like almost everywhere else on the South Coast, Whistler is facing a housing crunch, and like elsewhere in the region, people like Mitts are seeing the worst of it.

He told Global News he works as a dishwasher and prep cook in the community, and that there’s no shortage of jobs.

WATCH: Whistler pod hotel nears completion

But finding somewhere to sleep is the challenge — even in a community that has a well-developed subsidized housing program.

“Whistler has got over 1,000 on the wait list. I’m number 708,” he said.

“In the meantime, what do you do? Bylaws runs around the forest, ‘Aw, you can’t camp here, we’re going to fine you.’”

1-bedroom apartment in Whistler lists for $6,000 a month

Camping or sleeping in a vehicle on city property is against Whistler bylaws.

The resort municipality is undertaking efforts to ease the housing crunch.

New developments — like a recently announced 200-bed staff dorm — are going up, and the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) owns 2,000 rental units.

A recent Whistler survey found that 81 per cent of the workforce that keeps the lights on, the lifts running and the coffee fresh does live in Whistler itself.

WATCH: New $66-million investment announced for Whistler Blackcomb

“We don’t know the nature of that accommodation,” acknowledged Marla Zucht with the Whistler Housing Authority.

“But it is important to know that people are finding housing here. It is important to the community.”

Whistler employees being squeezed by real estate boom: Report

Zucht said the resort municipality maintains a stock of housing that ranges from low-income seniors’ accommodations to market rentals, and said more purpose-built rental is under construction.

But she admitted that waitlists have lengthened in the years since Whistler benefitted from a large infusion of housing built as the athletes’ village for the 2010 Games.

In the meantime, that leaves Mitts with few options.

He said if his trailer is towed away, it will leave him homeless once again, this time without a tent site thanks to the buildup of snow.

“Whistler’s got to wake up, get this housing thing going on, put some part modulars up. It’s worse than I’ve ever seen it in my entire life up here,” Mitts said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Regina Pioneer Village resident says long-term solution needed now – Regina


Regina Pioneer Village is Saskatchewan’s largest seniors complex, but the provincially run facility has been on life support for years.

Now, one longtime resident is speaking out and hoping the province will find a permanent solution to the complex’s infrastructure problems.

Regina Pioneer Village not the only long-term care facility on life support

“This used to be my home. Now, it’s just a death trap,” said Cathy Girard, a resident of the complex.

Girard moved to the facility in 2007, but over the years she says the standard of care has deteriorated.

“We have mould, we’re overrun with mice — and the shortage of staff, especially nurses, housekeepers and doctors,” Girard said.

“A lot of people are complaining that their eyes are watering, and they have breathing problems.”

Almost 100 Regina Pioneer Village residents being moved due to mould

The Pioneer Village facility was built in two phases – the first in 1967 and the second in 1972. Due to its age, the building has recently been plagued with ongoing infrastructure issues including weakening brickwork and ageing plumbing and electrical systems.

Back in April, the Saskatchewan Health Authority moved around 94 residents from the facility after a report showed an excessive amount of mould.

Since then, Girard says they’ve been left with more questions than answers.

“What’s going to happen? Are we going to get a new building, or a Band-Aid solution?” Girard said.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says remediation is currently taking place.

“We have ongoing weekly monitoring and we have air quality monitoring so we feel comfortable with the steps that we’ve taken [and] that the environment remains safe for residents to remain in it and staff to work in it at this time,” said Debbie Sinnett, executive director of ongoing care at Pioneer Village.

In 2014, a provincial report indicated the facility needed around $60 million worth of repairs, but over the past four years, the province has invested just over $8 million.

Regina Pioneer Village now dealing with water line break

“Every time it rains, there are tiles falling down on people’s heads, and in the summer there’s water leaks, cracks in the ceiling, cracks in the building,” Girard said.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it’s working closely with the Ministry of Health to come up with a long-term solution, but Girard says the clock is ticking.

“We can’t just be waiting and sitting on our thumbs; we’ve got to have help now,” she said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Kingston resident proposes curfew for Gordon Edgar Downie Pier – Kingston


The first summer with the Gordon Edgar Downie Pier in Kingston has concluded and now many Kingstonians are voicing their concerns over excessive partying during the nighttime hours — with one longtime resident proposing a solution.

Kingston remembers Gord Downie one year after his death

“Young people are going to the bar and then going down to the pier and partying, leaving a large mess. At times, there could be 50 to 60 people down there late at night. What we’re saying is, ‘Let’s put some ornamental gates that close the pier at night,’” said Phillip Brown, a longtime resident who lives near the pier.

Brown is asking council members to consider closing the pier from 10 p.m. to sunrise during the summer months, which he believes will make partygoers much more visible to residents living close by.

According to Brown, if there is a cry for help from Breakwater Park or closer to King Street, someone can actually hear them but if somebody is out on the pier late at night and they have an emergency and cry for help, no one is able to hear them.

Kingston residents sign petition to close the Gordon Edgar Downie pier at night

Brown’s proposal to shut down the pier during the night hours is something city Coun. Peter Stroud is opposed to.

“To think that if you close off the pier, it would actually improve behaviour is a little bit naive and it sends the wrong message. I think we opened up that place, put a lot of money into that place and it’s wildly successful which is a good problem to have,” said Stroud.

Brown says one of the many reasons why he is pushing for more security measures is that he spoke to a local family who almost lost a family member swimming late at night in the area.

“One family commented firsthand what can happen late at night because two strong swimmers pulled their family member out just in time,” said Brown.

A recap of the unveiling of the new Breakwater Park Gord Edgar Downie Memorial Pier

According to Brown, there are 600 signatures for his petition to close the pier at night.

A date has yet to be announced for when council will vote on the pier curfew and gates.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Former B.C. resident says she can’t complete gender reassignment after move to Newfoundland


A woman trying to complete her gender transition says she’s been set back « years » after moving from B.C. to Newfoundland.

Stacey Piercey, who moved to the island last year, had been approved for breast augmentation in B.C., but is unable to get that surgery in Newfoundland and Labrador, a province which has few policies around how gender transition-related surgeries are covered. 

Piercey worked as a business consultant in B.C. for years, and ran unsuccessfully for the B.C. Liberals in the 2017 provincial election. Later that year she decided to move back to Newfoundland to be with family.

She soon discovered that although she’d been approved for breast augmentation surgery in B.C., she’s unable to get that surgery in Newfoundland.

Piercey said her case highlights how a patchwork of provincial rules around which gender reassignment surgeries are covered and how they are approved can leave transgender people stuck in different phases of their transitions.

It’s not an equal standard of care across the country.– Shelley Piercey

« I was ready to transition and the province was ready with me, everything was just great. And then I came back to Newfoundland and now I just feel so far away from that surgery, » she said.

« I’ve gone back probably eight or nine years in my transition and I’m starting over again in a province where there aren’t a lot of procedures in place.

« It’s not an equal standard of care across this country. »

Lengthy approval process

Piercey had her first gender reassignment surgery in B.C. 

Then, after three-and-a-half years of seeing specialists, she was finally approved for breast augmentation. She had a letter from Medical Services Plan, B.C.’s public health care provider, confirming the province would cover the cost, and even had a surgeon in B.C. lined up before she moved to Newfoundland.

But once in Newfoundland and Labrador, she found that there was no mechanism through which the province would recognize that approval. She believes she may be the first person to have requested the surgery in that province.

« It should be as simple now as transferring that surgery to [Newfoundland and Labrador], where a surgeon should be able to perform it, because there are inter-provincial agreements, » she said.

« So I’m waiting to hear something, but it’s a smaller province and we don’t have the medical supports like other places. »

Piercey has met with deputies from Newfoundland and Labrador’s health ministry and the ministry of social services, but has not heard from them since those meetings.

It hurts because I know I’m losing time. I want to be in love, I want to have a family, I want to have a home, that’s important to me. But right now I’m stuck.– Stacey Piercey

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for Newfoundland and Labrador’s health ministry said breast augmentation is not currently available for funding under that province’s medical health plan, but a spokesperson said « work is underway » to make it eligible.

The province does cover the cost of some transition-related surgeries when the procedures are completed outside the province at a publicly funded health centre in Canada. 

To be eligible for surgery through Newfoundland and Labrador’s Medical Care Plan (MCP), a referral is required from the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, Gender Identity Clinic in Toronto, the statement said.


But those options are of no help to Piercey, who is now fundraising to pay for the breast augmentation, which could cost between $5,000 and $10,000.

She said it is particularly frustrating because after years of progress, she now feels she’s taken a step backwards.

« It hurts because I know I’m losing time. I want to be in love, I want to have a family, I want to have a home, that’s important to me. But right now I’m stuck. »

With files from Zahra Premji


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