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Drunk driving kills each day

The Laurel Packing House was a place of solemn reflection Sunday as the Central Okanagan Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving hosted its second annual Victims’ Candlelight Vigil.

The event was created to honour and remember those who lost their lives or were injured in an alcohol or drug-related crash.

Several guests spoke, music was shared and candles were lit to remember.

MADD Canada’s national president Angeliki Souranis attended and said the event is an important one for both victims' families and friends as well as the survivors.

“Remembering them, honouring them, paying tribute to them,” said Souranis.

“It is important to hold these events to remind people that these things do happen, it can touch anybody, but it also allows those affected to pay tribute.”

Souranis joined MADD after losing her 20-year-old son in a drunk driving accident. He was the passenger in a vehicle driven by an intoxicated driver.

“I lost my son Craig seven years ago,” said Souranis. “It is very important to me. He is my inspiration, my motivation for doing this work. I understand how people feel, I have been personally touched. Especially with the holidays coming around, there will be those people with those empty places at the table – and nothing can ever replace that.”

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater also spoke at the event, a victim of drunk driving himself.

He was T-boned by a drunk driver in downtown Kelowna on March 27, 1981 – the accident nearly cost him his life and still effects him to this day.

“They took me out of the car with the Jaws of Life,” said Findlater. “I was pinned in the car, and I knew I was hurt pretty bad. I asked them as the firefighters cut me out if I would live, and they said they didn't know – I didn't either.”

Findlater spent months recovering in hospital, enduring intense surgeries and subsequent physio.

“I was about 180 pounds and dropped to 120 pounds during that time,” said Findlater. “I went through quite the experience.”

Today, the nerve damage still affects his gait, causes pain and makes wearing shoes nearly unbearable – Findlater has made sandals a regular piece of his wardrobe.

“I can get into shoes, but it is hard to get into them, they hurt. So, my best option is sandals which is why I am wearing socks and sandals on a -6 C day – they are simply more comfortable,” he said. “But, I haven't let it stop me. I have got back to a pretty normal life. I can't run very well, some days I barely walk well, but I did learn to ski again.”

Souranis said the event serves as a reminder that impaired driving continues to be a senseless and preventable crime. Impaired driving continues to be the number one criminal cause of death in Canada – on average four citizens are killed and 175 are injured each and every day in our country.

“There are so many choices, so many ways to get home, after that party, after that event – particularly this time of year,” said Souranis. “Take a taxi, take a bus, stay over. Don't drive and don't get into a car with someone who is driving impaired.”

She added it's important to remember the daily crashes across Canada are not only involving those impaired by alcohol, but also those impaired by recreational and prescription drugs.

“We see that, that is on the rise, particularly in our youth,” said Souranis. The 16-25 year old age group are getting the message that you should not drink and drive, but that message about smoking that joint and driving is not there yet.”

While she believes MADD Canada is making headway and Canadians are listening – there is still a lot of work to do to get impaired drivers off our roads.

For more information check our www.maddokanagan.ca.


Rallying for climate change

More than 70 people filed around a stage near the downtown Sails to join in a worldwide march for climate change.

The Kelowna turnout joined tens of thousands of concerned participants at 180 different events across the globe to bring attention to climate change and urge national governments to do something about it.

Kelowna event organizer Darin Howard was pleased that more and more participants continued to trickle in to the downtown event Sunday afternoon.

“This is a huge global event,” says Howard. “All these event videos are being shown in France right now, which is impressive because the world leaders are watching the whole world stand up and say 'We want this action', 'We want to save the planet', and 'It is important to us'.”

World leaders will be meeting in Paris over the next few weeks to discuss a unified global response to climate change.

Howard believes that such a diverse group, the Kelowna turnout saw participants of all ages and backgrounds, in peaceful protest – can create lasting positive change.

“These are very like-minded people and they represent every demographic that there is,” says Howard. “They are all interested in positive forward momentum. Sure, it is really cold out here, but this kind of enthusiasm and commitment by these Canadians is awesome.”

He believes peaceful protest like the one today can work because politicians take notice.

Howard has also started a new group in Kelowna called Positive Action United that he invites all residents to participate in.

“It is a group of like-minded people literally interested in saving the world,” says Howard.

“We have a little bit of funding, we have some really awesome volunteers and we are going to be creating events that aren't just information based. We will mix fun and Canadian style into it. In 2016, we will formalize the group and you will see a lot more positive, non-violent, intellectual action.”

For more information or to join the discussion, check out the Facebook page here .

Those in attendance at Sunday's rally were also asked to sign a petition demanding all gas pumps in Kelowna carry a 'climate change warning' much like the health warning on cigarette packages. Organizers say the signed petition will be delivered to Kelowna City Hall. 

Speak out on Civic Block

Kelowna residents are invited to provide input into a plan to redevelop an area of downtown referred to as the Civic Block.

This is an area stretching from Okanagan lake to Ellis Street and Queensway to Cawston avenues.

An open house with conceptual drawings of the preferred plan plus the short and long term vision of the area will be held Wednesday, December 2 from 3:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. at Kelowna Community Theatre.

“Over the last eight months, representatives from the arts, culture, business, residents, and community members worked with city staff and consultants to develop a plan for the Civic Block area of downtown,” said planner specialist, Ross Soward.

“They envisioned the Civic Block as a place with dynamic civic spaces for gathering and celebrating, iconic buildings for arts and culture, and active streets for walking and cycling.”

The plan incorporates the area as a complete community where people can live, work and play.

Representatives from the city will be on hand to answer questions.

Those unable to attend can view the drawings and share feedback through getinvolved.kelowna.ca starting November 30 through to Dec. 13.

Feedback from the open house and input from the online engagement tool will be shared with Council when they review the plan in early 2016.


Fun farming for kids

A local day-care program is taking the average hands-on activities, such as puppet making, hide-and-seek and sing-alongs and turning a child’s day into something much more unique.

Clubhouse Farm takes kids from a four-walled room to a much broader concept in the outdoors. This program introduces children to working on a farm designed just for them.

Clubhouse Farm dubs itself an education and child-care centre where the well-being of the  environment and children go hand in hand.

Audrey Hystad, Clubhouse Farm manager believes this program connects children with ecology, while growing farm fresh produce and supporting biodiversity.  

“By getting children active, creative, and learning in nature, we offer them a valuable set of skills that will contribute to well-being and ecoliteracy in their future.”

The farm child-care centre is one of six innovative enterprises that will be pitching their socially-minded business at this year’s ChangeUP, Dec. 3 at the Kelowna Community Theatre.

ChangeUP: Innovating for Social Change is the second audience-voting pitch competition by Okanagan Changemakers and Valley First.

On Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. six organizations will have the opportunity to pitch their idea at the  Kelowna Community Theatre. The evening will recognize the best social impact initiatives in the Okanagan, with the audience choosing the winners.

A freezing rescue

A lost snowboarder is home safe and sound after search and rescue personnel quickly found the boarder as temperatures dropped well below freezing.

Late Saturday evening, Central Okanagan Search and Rescue, Penticton SAR,Vernon SAR, BC Ambulance, Big White Security, Ski Patrol, and the RCMP worked together to locate the missing/lost snowboarder near the Big White Ski Resort who was not dressed for overnight weather or below freezing temperatures.

“Six PENSAR members joined COSAR search teams and after an extensive search of the area, the subject was found by SAR members in good condition,” says Mike Porter with PENSAR.

“Great teamwork and outcome.”

Global climate march

Kelowna will join hundreds of thousands worldwide in the Global Climate March to avert climate catastrophe at 1 p.m., Sunday in Kerry Park/The Sails.

Avaaz and hundreds of local, national and international organizations are taking to the streets across the world on Nov. 29.

The march will take place on the eve of a major summit of world leaders in Paris to discuss a unified global response to the crisis of climate change.

Thousands of events will be held in more than 150 countries to deliver a resounding public call to world leaders to take urgent and ambitious action when they meet in Paris

"The Global Climate March is snowballing into a massive mobilization of millions around the world who want leaders to do more to stop runaway climate change," said Darin, an Avaaz member from Kelowna.

Kelowna residents are taking part to help show the huge level of public concern in Canada that climate talks deliver a deal that will avert climate catastrophe and move the world to a new green economy with 100 per cent clean energy.

In Kelowna, they will also bring a petition to Kelowna City Hall on Monday to have all gas pumps in the city carry a 'Climate Change Warning' just like cigarette packages.

As reported on the Weather Network, a North Vancouver group put forward a municipal initiative to have gas pumps and gas stations carry warnings, just like on cigarettes.

Click here to see a full map of march events: avaaz.org/en/event/globalclimatemarch/

Opening the mosque doors

A dialogue was opened between Muslims and non-Muslims Saturday morning, when the Kelowna Islamic Centre opened its doors to the greater community for its Open Mosque Day.

Adnan Bhat, an organizer of the event originally from Kashmir, Pakistan, said the UBC Okanagan Muslim Students’ Association hosted the open house to educate people on the Muslim faith, let people know what they believe in, and show people how they pray.

“Ever since 9/11 there has been lots of skepticism about Muslims and Islam, and in order to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims in Kelowna … we’re trying to make some of these initiatives,” Bhat said. “People often fear what they do not know.”

Bhat said the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris played a part in getting them to host the event.

“Those attacks were a catalyst in organizing this,” he said. “After the Paris attacks I was speaking to one of my non-Muslim friends and we invited him for breakfast last Saturday and from that we thought, ‘Let’s have this for everyone.’”

In light of those attacks, Bhat said it’s important for Muslims to not only tell others about who they are not, but who they are.

“It is definitely a responsibility for Muslims to tell others about who we are, not only who we are not … so we can develop this mutual understanding and respect among all faiths.”

Bhat said the reaction so far from the community had been very positive.

“People are very happy to check out the mosque and see what we do and how we do it.”

Amber Lipsett was one such person.

“It was awesome to hear,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about it.”

Lipsett said the more she learns about different religions, the more similarities she sees across them.

“It’s neat to see that out of all the religions I’ve learned, they’re pretty similar, there’s no big, huge differences,” Lipsett said. “I mean obviously the way they carry out their practices are different, but as far as their beliefs they’re pretty on point with everyone else, so it’s neat to see.”

So what does Islam mean to Bhat?

"It is a means for me to connect to the divine reality, to God, in a way that I find spiritually and intellectually satisfying," Bhat said.

Castanet's week in review

Castanet's week in review with your host Jen Zielinski, for the week of Nov. 23-27.

Drunk drive for greasy food

A 25-year-old Kelowna woman got more than she ordered after being arrested in the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant in the early hours of Saturday morning for impaired driving. 

At 2:40 a.m., a Kelowna RCMP cruiser saw a black 2011 Ford  F150 driving dangerously along Clement Avenue near Clifton Road.

The officer witnessed the vehicle narrowly miss three parked cars along Clement Avenue and attempted to pull the person over. Police say the driver was oblivious to the police lights and sirens and failed to stop. 

Multiple police vehicles were called in to apprehend the suspect, who eventually pulled into the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant on Harvey Avenue, across from Orchard Park Mall.

“Samples of the driver’s breath were taken, analyzed and determined to be almost three times the legal limit of 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood," said Const. Jesse O'Donaghey of the Kelowna RCMP, in a statement.

The driver was taken into custody without incident. The woman faces charges of impaired operation of a motor vehicle, impaired operation of a motor vehicle over 0.08 and driving while prohibited.

"Kelowna RCMP is asking that if you plan on drinking this Christmas holiday season, please do not drive," said O'Donaghey.

When a bargain isn't a deal

More than 50 per cent of holiday purchases are made on credit – but only 60 per cent of Canadians pay those balances off in full each month.

According to Abacus Data for the Canadian Bankers Association, the average Canadian spent $888 on holiday shopping in 2014.

If that number holds steady this year, those who don't pay their credit cards in full could find themselves paying much more than first budgeted for – making those incredible Black Friday and holiday deals not such a great buy after all.

If left on a credit card for 90 days, that $888 would actually cost $917.76. If left for an entire year, the total bill would be $100 more than the original cost.

“A lot of people make purchases during the holidays and then end up paying high interest rates every month for the rest of the year," said Yvonne Sutton, a bankruptcy trustee with MNP Debt.

"Those gifts wind up costing a lot more than the sticker price. Add the interest accrued to the original cost of the gift, and suddenly that gift doesn’t seem so affordable even at the sale price.”

TransUnion recently reported credit card debt at a two-year high heading into the 2015 holiday shopping season.

“Average credit card debt is now $3,745, making it more important than ever for shoppers to be mindful about how much they are charging," cautions Sutton.

"Even if it seems like there are deals to be had now, it’s not worth piling on more debt."

Sutton says use cash, set a budget and be disciplined.

“Many are managing their interest charges for now but some are delaying the inevitable, allowing their debt to snowball, especially over the holidays. Every January we see many individuals unable to meet their debt repayment obligations from holiday spending,”

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