As we head into fall, it’s important to remember that back to school often means back to being sick.
When it comes to the flu, we often look to Australia’s flu season to help prepare for what’s in store for Canada. And from what we are seeing, Australia’s early start to flu season and high hospitalization rates for children is cause for concern.
Because of this, I’m reminding our community of the importance of preventive health measures as we head into a potentially challenging flu season. With children aged five- to 10-years-old making up a high proportion of children being hospitalized with the flu in Australia to date, it’s important we take any precautions we can to prevent the spread of the flu and keep our most vulnerable community members safe.
Here are a few tips for preventing illness this flu season:
Sleeves up!—Thankfully vaccination is one sure way to protect children against the flu. One of the most effective ways to protect yourself and your loved ones this season is by getting your annual flu shot. Flu vaccines can be lifesaving for children, significantly reducing their risk of flu-related death and also reducing risk of severe, life-threatening influenza by up to 75%. Influenza immunity wanes from year to year, so even if you got the flu shot last year, it is important to get vaccinated again for continued protection. You can book your flu shot appointment at your local pharmacy, including through shoppersdrugmart.ca/flu or through the PC Health app, available to download for free at https://www.pchealth.ca/.
Back to our roots—wear the mask—Despite the worst of COVID-19 seemingly being behind us, it taught us the importance and efficacy of wearing a mask to protect yourself, but more importantly to protect others. Wearing a mask covering your nose and mouth is a simple yet effective way to block the spread of germs, especially in public and enclosed spaces. If you are looking to double down on protection, keep that mask handy for any outings in enclosed spaces. Although it is more difficult for children to mask up, it could protect them against sickness.
Keep your hands, and germs, to yourself—Unfortunately, some of us may still get sick despite the preventative measures we’re taking. If you find yourself with symptoms of the flu or COVID-19, it’s important to be cautious with who you are seeing and where you are going. While an illness may feel like a small cold to you, touching your friend’s baby during flu season could be a fatal mistake. It can be tempting to power through feeling sick, but that ultimately puts others at risk. Stay home and isolate while you are feeling under the weather to prevent the spread of illness. The vulnerable members of your community, workplace, or family will appreciate it.
Be sure to visit your local pharmacy to get your flu shot this season. Your pharmacist is there to answer any questions you have about the vaccine, or additional tips on reducing the spread of flu.
Nathan Klaassen is a pharmacist and owner of Shoppers Drug Mart in Kelowna.
Photo: Brian Zinchuk
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau erred in accusing India in the death of a Canadian citizen in Surrey, B.C. without substantial evidence, Kirk LaPointe writes.
While we depend on our leaders to deliver us difficult news, we also depend on them to keep important secrets from us at the right time. We may not always like it, but it is for our own good.
How to explain, then, why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stunned the world last week with an accusation that agents of the government of India were responsible for the audacious June killing of a Sikh leader in Surrey?
Trudeau’s statement in the House of Commons left so much to be desired: “Over the past number of weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” who was sympathetic to the separatist movement for an independent Sikh nation but who repeatedly denied his allegiance to separatist violence.
Let’s unpack this. For weeks, security agencies have been “pursing credible allegations of a potential link.” Nothing more tangible than this? No specific suspects Canada knows of and now is seeking? No explanation of their connection as agents? No reason to expel an Indian diplomat from Ottawa? No reason given why we heard this statement this week, as opposed to last week or the week before or the week before that?
It is worth asking, is that fractional statement the stuff of leadership, given that it set off angry denouncements by a country we seek as an alternative to China as a major market for our products? Given that it created a dilemma for fellow Five Eyes members America and Britain as they try not to offend either important ally? Given that it prompted the warning by India that its citizens might not be safe to travel here? Given that it generated the ritual tit-for-tat expelling of diplomats? Given that it will trigger rallies in our city streets?
On the surface, utterly, absolutely, no. It was at once too little and too much information. It was a violation of a covenant in which leaders share but do not air their dirty laundry. Why, instead, did our prime minister not see fit to simply notify Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when they met at the G20 gathering this month of the intelligence Canada had received and was pursuing, then leave it at that? Why did he have to go one serious step further and, without the facts we would wish if the shoe were on the other foot, paint the Indian government as the murderers of a Canadian for the world to see?
Upon this we can all agree, if the allegation is true, it is an astonishing act deserving of the world’s wrath. Governments cannot take their grievances abroad to murder other’s citizens. And a national leader has every right to denounce and penalize any country that chooses vengeance over the tried-and-true process of bringing an adversary to face justice.
Canada will pay a profound price if it cannot support its suspicions with substance. Even now it stands, until this statement is either fulfilled or forgotten, to freeze Canada’s rickety venture to make the world’s largest democracy and nation a more formidable friend. Unless there is something stronger than “credible allegations,” and unless they can emerge quickly, Canada has found itself on a tree limb in gale-force winds.
It has placed America, our most important ally, in a delicate place at the wrong time as it courts India and even Saudi Arabia as offsets for Russia and China. Little wonder it did not match Canada’s call for the Indian government to denounce Nijjar’s murder.
One wonders, why didn’t Canada clearly gain U.S. and U.K. support for that call before Trudeau stood in the Commons? (Then again, I suppose, why hasn’t either country questioned what Trudeau said?)
With a possible two years still from an election, Trudeau’s government is waning and public opinion is worsening, so we can only hope that this wasn’t some sort of politically inclined gambit of anxiety to appear statesmanlike momentarily. It is, regardless, an unusually and unnecessary risky path.
Much as we would like it to, Trudeau’s statement won’t find the killers sooner nor encourage peaceable coexistence in Canada of a disparate diaspora. It is the drama teacher in him resurfacing and feels like ego over evidence.
Kirk LaPointe is publisher and executive editor of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.
Photo: City of Kelowna
Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas
On Aug. 15, 20 years—almost to the day—after the start of the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park fire, flames from the McDougall Creek wildfire ignited our city's skyline and quickly reminded us of the power of both wildfire and our regional emergency program.
More than 500 firefighters and 100 RCMP officers from more than 50 cities and towns joined forces with the Kelowna Fire Department, West Kelowna Fire Rescue, Lake Country Fire Department, North Westside Fire Rescue, BC Wildfire Service, Kelowna RCMP and bylaw services to execute an unprecedented, coordinated response.
While there will always be lessons to be learned in any emergency response, I am truly humbled by what was, and still is being, accomplished by the incredible work of our first responders and emergency operations centre.
While a strong emergency response program is key, in the wake of a crisis that threatened lives and destroyed people’s homes, we all want to know what we can do to minimize the risk of wildfire in our community in the future.
First and foremost, we must recognize the intensity and sheer number of wildfires we’ve seen across Canada and beyond are what many are now calling a climate change wake-up call, and one of the many reasons why climate/environment is one of six council priorities. From the way we travel, to the electricity we use, and the food we eat, we all have a role to play in helping to limit climate change. Because, as temperatures rise, so too will the size, frequency and severity of wildfires.
Wildfire risk reduction is also top of mind in the community. Fuel mitigation treatments reduce the amount of available fire fuels in our natural areas, which play a significant role in our ability to manage wildfire as safely and as quickly as possible.
Over the past five years, the city has actioned more than 100 hectares of fuel mitigation treatments on city-owned land, including reducing the amount of woody debris on the forest floor, thinning trees where necessary, and removing the lower limbs of trees to help keep fire from climbing into the canopy.
The success of fuel mitigation, including work done in Wilden during this fire, and earlier in the season on Knox Mountain, speaks to the importance of proactive treatment and the need to look at all the different ways it can be accomplished—including securing ongoing, long-term funding and the way we explore new solutions, such as prescribed burns or the use of animals for grazing in key areas.
Residents can also make a critical difference by visiting kelowna.ca/firesmart to learn how to FireSmart their homes and take advantage of the city’s free community chipping program.
Fire fighters said the homes and areas that were FireSmart made an integral difference in their ability to fight the recent fire safely and save properties.
New subdivisions in Kelowna are subject to review against wildfire hazard development permit guidelines, which are reviewed by professional foresters. Developers are required to perform fuel modification and new single family lots created in fire hazard areas have maintenance obligations registered on their land title related to building construction and property maintenance in accordance with Fire Smart guidelines.
The provincial Community Resiliency Investment (CRI) Program and 2022–2026 Community Wildfire Resiliency Plan, which contains more than 40 recommendations from standardizing fuel management to how we build our communities, have been integral to completing wildfire prevention activities that have, and will continue to reduce risk for our community, especially as we face extreme fire and weather conditions.
The CRI program is a provincial funding program administered through the Union of B.C. Municipalities to provide funds for communities to plan and implement actions to reduce wildfire risk.
Through the program, over the last five years, we have been awarded $730,000, which has supported a variety of important FireSmart and mitigation initiatives throughout the community.
This year we also received a federal grant of $132,000 for ecological restoration and fuel management.
As we return to normal, post wildfire, the city will assess the impact to city property, as well as whether any intervention is required to support a healthy regeneration of the area. In addition, the regional emergency program will look at lessons learned to apply to future events in our region.
I am pleased to see conversations occurring at both the federal and provincial levels regarding resiliency and response, and welcome Premier David Eby’s emergency response task force announced just last week.
We will also reflect on the depth of our city’s spirit and unity through this event. It got us through a crisis and will undoubtedly be the key to achieving our collective community goals and vision for an inclusive, welcoming, prosperous and sustainable future.
Tom Dyas is the mayor of Kelowna.
Photo: Gregory Dahms
The McDougall Creek fire on the night of Aug. 17.
How do you thank thousands of people. I’m not entirely sure, but I am going to try.
My name is Rob Baker and I am one of the 13 volunteer firefighters from the Wilson’s Landing Fire Department who lost their homes during the McDougall Creek Wildfire.
It is coming up on a month since the fire swept into our community, and it is time to acknowledge some of the help and great good that came out of this awful tragedy.
To the first responders, thank you to our brothers and sisters from North Westside Fire Rescue. You sent everybody and everyone came. You fought the great retreat and evacuation with us. Then, you came back in. You fought elbow to elbow with us and together we saved many lives and homes. You joined us day after day. We will never forget how much you gave to help our community.
Thank you to the many structural (firefighting) departments from across the province. You were the army that knocked down 100 fires, and drowned a thousand ash pits. You made a smouldering and smoking community safe and stopped the fire from taking more homes. Some of you have also done fundraising on our behalf, which will help us get back up and running at full capacity. Others have offered training and mutual aid while we work through how to provide fire coverage to our area with so many of us out of our homes.
Thank you to the men and women of the B.C. Wildfire Service and the contractors who worked with you. You fought the fire along side us, in the woods beside us and above us. You are truly the backbone of an effective fire attack. You created retardant guards, humidity bubbles, machine guards and hand guards. And when the fire breached the defence lines, you attacked the outbreaks with vigour. You burned off the fuels that still endangered us and you cut down danger trees to keep us safe while we moved through the community. You created layer upon layer of protection from the beast that is still very active behind our communities.
Thank you to the structural protection crews who gave the next communities a good chance of escaping the fate of ours.
Thank you to the volunteers with Central Okanagan Search and Rescue, for leading the charge on the evacuations of the communities ahead of the fire.
Thank you to the RCMP (officers), who came from all over the province to keep the fire zone and the lakeshore clear. You made sure the only thing firefighters had to deal with was the fire.
Thank you to the officers of the B.C. Conservation Service, who helped protect our borders and end the suffering of the animals mortally injured by the fire.
Thank you to the many private contractors, who kept our trucks fuelled, our generators going and for the septic volunteer who kept the firehall from exploding when Station 42 was the hub of the local fire attack.
Thank you to the many Okanagan restaurants and the Salvation Army for feeding us and keeping us strong enough to do our job.
Thank you to Mamas for Mamas and to the many charities and businesses that gave us food, clothes and toiletries. You enabled us to get clean, fresh, and recharged.
And most of all, thank you to the firefighters and officers of Wilsons Landing Fire Department. You gave everything you had, and more, to fight a beast that seemed untameable. You fought the fire for 21 hours the first night, then came back over and over to fight it again. You were evacuated from the region, but you came back shift after shift. You left your day jobs to stay and help. You stayed and patrolled the area 24 hours a day until Westside Road was reopened Wednesday. You allowed the rest of us to sleep and to get on with life and recovery. You are an amazing group of people. You have displayed the very best of professionalism, commitment and caring during this crazy time. We have been forged by fire into an even stronger team. I am honoured to be one of you.
To the community, Marsha and Chuck, thank you for taking us in and giving us food and refuge. You took our dog for walks. You gave us a base of operations and a home to come to. And then, when we found a place, you made sure we had the essentials to start living.
Thank you to the people of Wilden, who watched the fire from across the lake, then gathered together to support us with kind words and many gift cards. You gave us gas for our tanks, cold drinks after long shifts and a giant hug from the other side of Okanagan Lake.
Thank you to Mountain Equipment Coop, which clothed and outfitted the 13 (Wlison’s Landing Fire Department) firefighters who lost their homes.
Thank you to Chief Dutch for supporting those who lost the most, from your own retirement funds.
Thank you to all the people who supported the 13 firefighters through the Go Fund Me pages. You made sure we had the funds we needed to get started, no matter what our situation. You enabled us to carry on by making sure that we had funds to land on our feet.
Thank you to the many hundreds of people who reached out to us with words of encouragement and offers of support. When we took breaks during the fire, our phones lit up with messages of thanks and offers of help. It made us feel a lot less lonely out there.
Thank you to the staff and administration of Kelowna General Hospital. You allowed me the time to help with the firefight. Some of you literally gave (my wife) Annick and I the clothes off your backs. You gave us the financial means to take care of ourselves, and escape from our odd new reality. You furnished our temporary apartment and made an empty space into a home.
To my wife my wife Annick deGooyer, you are my wife and my partner. While I went out and fought the fire, you did everything else. You got out our evacuation box. You made sure our dog was out and safe. You dealt with the evacuation. You dealt with the insurance company. You were the communication link to all our friends and family.
You found us a place to stay, then a place to live. You dealt with a tired, grumpy and smelly firefighter who had little emotional reserves left. You kept my head together and my spirits up. There are no words to express how grateful I am for everything you are, and everything that you’ve done.
I feel beaten and bloody, I am so very, very tired but thanks to all of you, I am not broken. You, the people of the Okanagan, have held us up. You have been our strong fortress. You are amazing, generous and kind.
I speak for all the firefighters of Station 42 when I express my profound gratitude for everything you have done. We are humbled by your generosity.
Rob Baker is a volunteer firefighter with the Wilson’s Landing Fire Department. He was one of the 13 members of the department who lost their homes in the recent McDougall Creek wildfire while out saving other homes in the community.
More Opinion articles
When we think of grief we often think of a funeral or the separation from a loved one. However, grief is as diverse and expansive in its reach as how it presents itself.
With the recent fires that ravaged British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, we can quickly learn just how unpredictable and sudden grief can be. Even if you have not been directly impacted by the fires, you may be feeling the grief of loss on behalf of others.
You may also be feeling that your own safety and security have been threatened by such a sudden and disastrous event, causing you to ruminate over how similar situations could affect you in the future.
Stages of grief
Many of us have seen grief described as the “Stages of Grief”, described as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Each of these stages alone are incredibly complex and not usually experienced in order. Let’s explore how each stage may present to further understand why these have been identified as the stages of grief.
Denial is a natural response to grief, but can feel offensive when someone isn’t responding how we would deem ‘appropriate’ to a presenting circumstance. With that said, denial can go far beyond being ignorant of a situation, it can actually be your brain’s way of protecting you from the extreme emotion attached to the situation.
The logical side of the brain kicks in, preventing the emotional takeover that our brain deems ‘dangerous’ to our own nervous system. It does not mean that we cannot feel emotion around what is going on, but it may mean that your brain is attempting to delay the realization of the emotion to prevent extreme reactions. If you know someone who seems in denial of a situation, give them grace and be patient with their processing.
How does denial present itself? We may find that our reaction considerably underrated given the situation. There is acknowledgment of what happened, but our acknowledgment may be similar to that of reading a news story, versus something that has personally impacted us.
Sometimes, denial may also look like the outright blocking out facts or acknowledgment of the situation, refusing to come to terms with what has taken place. Denial may also look like preoccupation with seemingly mundane tasks or finally taking on a task we have procrastinated on as a way of distracting from the events.
Anger, a secondary emotion, is often the “coverup emotion” for what is going on. Usually, the primary emotion is too vulnerable to expose, so anger comes out first as a defence mechanism against the true vulnerability. There are, of course, situations where anger is a very appropriate response to grief, perhaps, as an example, an injustice has taken place.
Anger does not always come out loud and aggressive either. Anger can run deep, creating a stoic front when the underlying anger presented as resentment or judgment.
“Why didn’t they” or “How come this didn’t” is how anger may sound during the process of grief. For those who are using anger as a way to process grief, allow them to express this emotion and try not to defend or respond with answers or solutions.
Often the anger needs to vent, like a stove pipe, and once done will subside some. We may find that our fuse of tolerance is short, getting upset over seemingly nothing. Anger can also present as a form of denial as other triggers take over our emotions and our focus away from the event that caused the grief in the first place.
Bargaining can be a tactic to prevent grief from happening. It is also a common stage for those who are faced with death—bargaining with God for more life and time on Earth.
Bargaining is often a response to missed opportunities and the grief around regret, looking for one more chance to live the life or situation as it should have been. Lofty promises can accompany bargaining, but may never be lived out once the crisis of the event has passed.
Depression is the most common form of grieving. We can all, more or less, relate to an aspect of depression that may look like not being able to get out of bed, oversleeping or insomnia, decrease or increase in appetite, hopelessness or lack of motivation, decrease in social activity, and avoidance. The loss itself can seem so large and impactful that we lose the ability to move forward, rebuild, or face life without that which we have lost.
Depression can also indicate a form of denial as we look for excuses to stay in our depressed state and not face the reality of the situation or strive to move forward.
Grief is different for everyone
In our desire to understand the complexities of grief in order to help ourselves through it, we’ve boxed it up in the form of stages or a process that we feel we have management over. Grief, in reality, is an unpredictable rollercoaster.
The process of grief can be short or long depending on how you process it. Grief is also not linear in its stages and can bounce from feeling to feeling or emotion to emotion on a whim.
The important thing is to acknowledge that grief is fluid, confusing, a mixed bag of emotions, and can present differently in everyone.
I would beg to offer that the first stage of grief is acceptance, accepting that you are indeed grieving. This does not mean accepting the loss or what happened, but accepting where you are at this given moment, that you need space to process and heal.
Any loss can cause grief
When we consider the fires that have damaged so many of our communities we have to acknowledge the great loss that goes along with this. Some have lost homes, physical places of memories, and mementos they will never recover.
Others have lost vacation spots and favorite road trip locations that will never look or feel the same. Some have lost businesses and a way to provide for their families. Our physical landscapes will now be scarred for the remainder of our lives as we look to the barren mountains where forests used to be. Even just reading this may stir up feelings of grief.
So what do we do with that emotion? Processing grief alone can be very difficult. Empathy is one of the greatest tools to move through grief, and finding a counsellor or close friend who gets what you’re going through can help you accept the situation and move through grief with grace, coming out the other side stronger and more resilient.
You may need to process the meaning of what was lost to better understand the deeper need inside of you that will now need addressing differently. This could mean redefining what “home” means if you have lost your home due to a forest fire.
I have heard it said that “grief is love with no place to go” (Jamie Anderson). This can make sense if you consider your home to be a vessel to give love away to others. How then do you qualify where or how that love should go now? How do you redefine what home is for you in the transition of rebuilding?
Be careful not to rush through the process of grief. Pause, feel it and process it. Forming resiliency through what has taken place should not rush the rollercoaster of emotions that grief can bring.
Shonah Nykiforuk is a counsellor at Incentive Counselling in Kelowna.