Healthier You Northern Health Fall 2016

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Healthier You Fall




An ambitious project helps everyone enjoy a northern B.C. gem.


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olumbia l, British C e, Quesne rs u N m o o R team Operating job is the

of y m f o st part with. We “The coole urses that I work h n d n ely on eac doctors a oup who r r g it .” n k e r a are a close ide safe patient c v o r p o t r e oth

“I am originally from Bella Coola and when I first moved here, to Quesnel, I didn’t know very many people. My work quickly helped expand my social network! Our community has a ski hill, areas for cross country skiing and a beautiful recreation centre with a pool. One of our hidden gems is our Riverwalk trail. I regularly use this trail to walk and run with my dogs. “Northern Health supports my profession by giving me opportunities to grow in my chosen field. I am given opportunities to train others in the operating room and temporary managerial roles as well as educational training. My team has my back and are always available if I need anything. We are a small team and all work together to ensure that each day runs efficiently and smoothly. When things get hectic everyone pitches in to help each other out with whatever may need to be done.”

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Northern Health Recruitment:


Volume 5, Issue 3







200 volunteers and 6,500 volunteer hours make the Ancient Forest accessible to all. How a local hiking group provided everyone with the opportunity to enjoy a natural wonder.





Including the needs of people with disabilities in emergency planning and response.


BACK IN THE HUNT ������������������������������������������ PAGE 22

A Smithers family shares the joys and challenges of raising a child with a disability in a small community.

FROM TRAIL TO TOWN ���������������������������������� PAGE 28

��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������PAGE 6

DITCHING THE CAN OPENER ��������������������������PAGE 8 A registered dietitian and occupational therapist share tips and tools to make homemade meals accessible to all.

BUILDING SPACES WHERE EVERYONE CAN PLAY �������������������������������������������������������������� PAGE 10

After years of advocacy, a hunting by proxy licence gets a passionate hunter back in the bush.

Developing a new kind of hiking trail in Naikoon Provincial Park creates a huge ripple effect.

DISABILITY, FINANCIAL SECURITY AND … INCOME TAXES? ������������������������������� PAGE 30 A new program is helping those with disabilities get caught up on taxes – and it has been lifechanging!

An accessible playground goes from dream to reality in Quesnel.

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FALL 2016

Healthier You



Accessibility benefits us all When we decided to take a closer look at ability and accessibility for the fall issue of Healthier You magazine, I was inspired by the response we got. I would like to thank all of the groups and individuals who took part in this issue. I am so pleased to be able to share their expertise and experiences with you.

Cathy Ulrich President and Chief Executive Officer, Northern Health

American Sign Language (ASL) fingerspelling of Healthier You.










Often, people see accessibility as something that benefits only a small number. I hope that after you’ve had the chance to read the stories in this issue of Healthier You, you’ll join me as we work to shift that perspective. Good access – and communities that are inclusive and supportive – creates healthier, more vibrant places for all of us to live, work, learn, and play. For example, when the community of Old Massett sought to make Naikoon Provincial Park accessible, this wasn’t just about wheelchair access. Instead, young families with strollers, hikers with visual impairments, seniors with mobility limitations, and others can now enjoy stunning views of Tow Hill. You can, too, on page 28. Accessibility benefits us all! How can you support full participation in your community? I hope that you enjoy reading stories like Reg’s return to hunting after more than 25 years (page 22), Anita’s story of raising her son with Down syndrome in Smithers (page 6), and more in this issue as much as I did. As always, we welcome your thoughts on the magazine. Please send your comments to


4 Healthier You

As we gathered stories for this issue, everyone we talked to was unanimous in the key message they wanted to convey: accessibility benefits us all.

FALL 2016

Healthier You Volume 5, Issue 3 – Fall 2016

Published by:

the northern way of caring


Copyright ©2016. All rights reserved. Reproduction of articles permitted with credit.

Northern Health

Contributors / Healthier You is produced by the Northern Health health promotions team with contributions from Northern Health staff and partner organizations, in partnership with Glacier Media.

Glacier Media Group

Sales & Marketing Kevin Dergez Director of Special Projects Ellyn Schriber Newsmedia Features Manager BC Keshav Sharma Manager Specialty Publications

Advertising Sales Prince George Citizen

Creative Director / Eric Pinfold | COVER PHOTO: Simon Ratcliffe/

Channel Collective.

Advertisements in this magazine are coordinated by Glacier Media. Northern Health does not endorse products or services. Any errors, omissions or opinions found in this magazine should not be attributed to the publisher. The authors, the publisher and the collaborating organizations will not assume any responsibility for commercial loss due to business decisions made based on the information contained in this magazine. Speak with your doctor before acting on any health information contained in this magazine. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without crediting Northern Health and Glacier Media. Printed in Canada. Please recycle.

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With the support of a microboard and various community members, Jesse recently joined the workforce in Smithers.


that moment.

hen you walk into Sport Chek in Smithers and see Jesse Clegg unpacking garments and hanging gear, you may not realize the significance of

You may not realize the number of people, programs, time, and advocacy that created that moment. You may not realize that moment wouldn’t have been possible just ten years ago, or that it shines a light on some ongoing challenges facing families. You may not realize that what you’re seeing is a powerful example of a healthy family supported by a healthy community. And this is exactly why Jesse’s story is so important to share. “When you have a child with a disability,” said Anita Clegg, Jesse’s mother, “there are no days off.” Jesse, now 21 years old, was born and raised in Smithers. Jesse has Down syndrome and, throughout his life, the Clegg family was committed to breaking ground in the community. “We put ourselves and Jesse out there,” shared Anita, “because it was important for us to show that everyone has abilities. As people learn more and connect with Jesse, we’ve seen shifts in thinking.”

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FALL 2016

In addition to being an artist and photographer, Jesse has taken up industrial iron furniture making.

When Anita says that “the village helped to raise our child,” this is not a cliché. While Jesse’s parents continue to assume a strong advocacy role, the impact of community members, organizations, and businesses on Jesse’s life is profound. Consider the local bowling alley … “Anything round that moved, Jesse was on it!” said Anita. “So bowling was a good fit. Jesse couldn’t start with Special Olympics until he was a teenager so, when he was 10, we asked about joining the town league. The bowling alley was very supportive and Jesse joined a team with typical kids. One year, he was the high scorer for the teen youth league! Jesse still loves to bowl and the bowling alley is a safe, welcoming, and familiar place for him.” … and the pediatrician … “Our pediatrician truly went to bat for Jesse. He understood Jesse’s needs, made connections that others wouldn’t have made, and helped to advocate for Jesse from birth right until he turned 18.” … and the family friend … “Safe and reliable respite is so important for families,” shared Anita. “We were very fortunate to have a family friend offer to take Jesse one day each week, starting in his last year of high school. They started out by just playing cards with me around but now they spend the afternoon together. Jesse has dinner with her family.” … and the local business owner … “Jesse is now in the workforce,” said Anita, “and that involved a lot of people coming together. It was a lengthy process but well worth it! When we told Jesse that the employment plan was going to be possible, his exact words were: ‘Everything is perfect!’ This process started with Jesse’s microboard (nine family members and community members) working with Jesse to create a picture of his skills, interests, and strengths. Jesse shared that he’d love to work at Sport Chek – which came out of the blue to us since he’d never been there! Our local WorkBC office asked the manager if they’d be interested in a supportive employment opportunity. The manager instantly said yes and went even further, integrating Jesse as a full team member, without a support person. His colleagues trained him and have been fantastic – many of them knew Jesse from school.”

Jesse puts the finishing touches on a bar stool he built.

These supportive community experiences, however, also point to some of the challenges that Jesse’s story illuminates: A ccess

to health and social services is an important determinant of health. Unfortunately, Jesse’s pediatrician – whose role cannot be understated – recently retired. Anita identified this, along with some other changes to local social service delivery, as a challenge.

R espite

for families is crucial. The Cleggs benefited from the generosity and support of their friend. Unfortunately, Anita shares that funding for organized respite and semi-independent housing for young adults with disabilities is being spread thinner and thinner.

J esse’s

new work life is a fine example of how integration has made a huge difference for him. This hasn’t always been the case. As Jesse made his way through the school system, the Cleggs experienced both integration and segregation, often changing based on policy and funding. They chose to home-school Jesse for a period of time when the school system was unable to meet his needs.

What does this boil down to for Anita Clegg? “Smithers is a wonderful place and an amazingly generous community. My son knows way more people than I do,” she laughed, “and people watch out for him. There are just a few missing pieces, especially for some of the day-to-day, nitty-gritty challenges of raising a child with a disability.” Concepts like healthy and inclusive communities can be hard to define, but in Jesse’s case, they are clear and their impact is profound. It’s the friend offering respite, the welcoming bowling team, and the local business eager to offer him work.

FALL 2016

Healthier You



DITCHING THE CAN OPENER TOOLS, SERVICES, AND TIPS TO MAKE HEALTHY, HOMEMADE MEALS ACCESSIBLE! Rebecca Larson, Registered Dietitian, Northern Health Valerie Pagdin, Occupational Therapist, Northern Health

When you have a disability, making healthy meals at home can present additional challenges. Fatigue and difficulty with jars and utensils can create barriers to cooking. But there are ways to make cooking a bit easier so that everyone can enjoy healthy, homemade meals: B uy

frozen or pre-cut vegetables or fruit so that the preparation is already done.

L ook

for items that don’t require a can opener. Containers with screw tops (like some fruit and peanut butter) or those that are in pouches (yogurt or tuna) are easier to open.

G et

your milk in a jug. Two litre plastic jugs with handles are easier to hold and pour than a milk carton.

If transportation is a challenge, many grocery stores and service groups have grocery delivery options. Meals on Wheels is available in many communities and can provide meals if meal preparation is difficult or if you need a break. Food boxes, which contain fresh vegetables delivered on a regular basis, are available in some communities and may be an option to consider. Your local home and community care department can connect you to these programs. If you need additional suggestions or help to make homemade meals more accessible, contact HealthLink BC Dietitian Services by dialling 8-1-1.

B uy

cheese and bread that are pre-sliced or have the deli or bakery slice them for you.

There are also many tools that can help you maintain your independence in shopping and cooking tasks. Using utensils with larger handles, cutting boards with suction cups to hold them to the countertop, or a mobility device to help you walk or carry items more easily can make a big difference in your ability to buy what you want and cook it the way you like it. An occupational therapist can assess your needs and help you find solutions that work for you in the kitchen. Ask your physician or primary care provider for a referral to an occupational therapist.

8 Healthier You

FALL 2016

A rocker knife, weighted spoon, cutting board with pins and suction cups, tremor spoon, and other tools can help to make homemade meals more accessible to everyone.

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rooke and MacKenzie are twin sisters who cannot play together at Quesnel’s playgrounds. While MacKenzie scampers up and down stairs and slides, Brooke’s chase stops the moment her wheelchair gets stuck in the pea gravel. To help the girls play together, Brooke’s parents carry her around the playground. Brooke and MacKenzie’s situation is hardly unique, and neither is the fact that Quesnel didn’t, until recently, have any accessible playgrounds. Chances are the playground closest to you has pea gravel, steps, ladders, and other features that make it difficult for kids and adults alike to enjoy. Because it’s not

just Brooke and MacKenzie who can’t play together. It’s the family with the baby stroller that can’t roll through the gravel to watch their toddler go down the slide; it’s the grandparents with walkers who are left watching grandkids from afar when a ledge gets in the way; it’s the children with leg braces who can only look on as their friends race over traditionally uneven surfaces. But this is all about to change in Quesnel and, as it turns out, the answer to the question, “how can Brooke and MacKenzie play together?” provides a valuable blueprint of how a healthy community project can take shape in your town.

continued on page 12

10 Healthier You

FALL 2016


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Fresh from the excitement of a long-awaited playground build event on May 28, 2016, Sandy Meidlinger with the Quesnel & District Child Development Centre tells the story from here: This project started in 2012 when Brooke and MacKenzie’s mom came to me and asked for help to get an accessible playground built in Quesnel. I’m a member of the Parent Child Resource Team (a group of service providers and parents) and we agreed this would be a valuable long-term project for us to take on. Having a team was crucial! Our committee included parents, health care professionals, local agencies, government and school district representatives, and others. When we asked community members for letters of support for this project, the response was overwhelming! Why? Until now, there was no playground in Quesnel accessible to people with mobility needs. I’m talking baby strollers, walkers, leg braces, scooters, and more. In Quesnel alone, there are over 100 children who, because of complex developmental profiles, can’t participate in many play activities on typical playgrounds. These kids are cut off from a typical family activity of playing at the park. An accessible playground increases physical activity levels for everyone, promotes inclusive family enjoyment, and helps children with mobility issues develop independence. Our first step was to present to the City of Quesnel and Cariboo Regional District joint planning committee. Both groups agreed in principle to support the idea. Connecting with government early was key to getting support for things later in the process like ongoing playground inspection and maintenance. There’s a wonderful legacy component to this project, too, as the city has committed to incorporating accessible aspects into all future park updates. With government support in place, we looked for a location. The Quesnel & District Arts & Recreation Centre had an old playground in disrepair so we asked about making this the site of the new playground. The Centre and their governing bodies were on board! This location was ideal because it’s central and on a bus route; the Centre will be using the playground daily for inclusive programs; and they offer accessible parking, doors, and washrooms. The next step was to research playground developers. We settled on Habitat Systems. They took our ideas and created a design. We then asked therapists, play specialists, parents, and children about the plan; Habitat tweaked the design. The

12 Healthier You

FALL 2016

Volunteers work to build the Quesnel Accessible Playground – a project four years in the making!

final proposal was about more than just mobility – there are sensory toys, considerations for visual impairments, and other equipment for integrated, inclusive play. We then started the long and sometimes frustrating work of fundraising. We wrote lots of grant proposals; I presented to local agencies; we wrote letters to local businesses; and we all chatted with anyone interested in accessibility. Our generous community really stepped up! We managed to fundraise over $200,000! We finally got to the day of the build. About 25 volunteers and professionals spent 13 hours assembling the park. The recycled rubber surface was poured the following week. The park is open for use this summer and our grand opening is scheduled for early September! It’s hard to believe that it took four years but MacKenzie and Brooke – and hundreds of other Quesnel residents – are now able to play together! We now have a space where everyone can play.

MORE INFORMATION The Quesnel Accessible Playground is still fundraising for its last few pieces. To support this project with a tax-deductible donation, contact Sandy Meidlinger at the Quesnel & District Child Development Centre: 250-992-2481, For project photos and a list of donors, visit

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ne of the things that northern B.C. residents commonly appreciate about living in this area is our close proximity and easy access to nature and outdoor activities, like skiing, camping and hiking. Unfortunately, this “easy access” doesn’t always extend to everyone and truly experiencing nature can be a difficult, even impossible, task for some. This is why the Prince George hiking club, the Caledonia Ramblers, undertook the ambitious project of building a universal boardwalk for the Ancient Forest, a popular trail system 113 km east of Prince George that features huge ancient cedar trees that are protected as part of B.C.’s rare inland rainforest.

Michael StanyerTourism Prince George


14 Healthier You

FALL 2016

“There has to be an equal playing field for all our citizens,” said Nowell Senior, Caledonia Ramblers President, “so all citizens have an opportunity to live a wholesome, inclusive life.” Senior has been president of the hiking club for eight years and was a member for 10 years before that. He has seen the boardwalk, as well as the original Ancient Forest trail, come alive from initial idea through to extensive planning and final development. The idea for the Ancient Forest nature loop trail was conjured up 10 years ago and was built in a six week period over the summer of 2006. The Ramblers knew the area was beautiful, with its unique stands of large, ancient cedar, but Senior and the hiking club never anticipated just how popular it would become. “Each year, more and more people were coming out to the nature trail,” said Senior. “When we realized just how popular the Ancient Forest trail had become, we were aware of those in our community who could not have that experience, and our solution was the boardwalk.” So, in 2010, the club began exploring the idea of the universal boardwalk and approached local and provincial sponsors. The response was “completely supportive and positive,” said Senior. The 450 metre boardwalk that would provide full access to the Ancient Forest would become a reality. The project came to fruition thanks to the contributions of many generous sponsors (a list of which can be found on the Caledonia Ramblers’ website: ) and 200 volunteers. The volunteers helped to build and even carried a total of 60 tons of lumber (by hand!) from the parking lot to the furthest point of the eventual boardwalk (in order to have it safely tucked away after delivery).

ABOVE LEFT & RIGHT: At left, volunteer Mitch Olineck carries a boardwalk plank. On the right, (from left to right) hikers Nowell Senior, Gwen and Bjorn Norheim, and Don Austin at the entrance to the universal boardwalk.

Four seasons and 6,500 volunteer hours later, the universal boardwalk was completed in the fall of 2013. It is now a separate trail - fully wheelchair accessible with rest areas and benches along the way - that goes to a viewing platform above a stream and provides a lovely view of the cedars. In 2015, the Ancient Forest welcomed over 15,000 visitors, and the boardwalk was renamed the Nowell Senior Universal Boardwalk to recognize his amazing contribution and dedication to the project. “I think that going out to nature, we get reacquainted with the natural part of our world,” said Senior, on the importance of being active outdoors. “We’re natural beings that depend on nature. We can sometimes become separated from it, and as a result we’re not living as wholesome a life as we could.” Senior encourages others to look at their communities and find ways to improve their accessibility, whether it’s providing better access to a park or creating a better mobility trail. His advice to get started: “Form a group of like-minded people who feel the same way… Put the idea out to organizations and entities that could be helpful in promoting such a venture.” Now, Senior says the Ramblers are going forward with more awareness of the need for inclusivity. “I would hope the enthusiasm with which the Caledonia Ramblers have approached providing full access to nature would be contagious and effect more groups to become involved in that work.”

FALL 2016

Healthier You



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Disability Alliance BC

INCLUDING THE NEEDS OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN EMERGENCY PLANNING AND RESPONSE An early start to forest fire season followed by devastating floods in northeast B.C. this year were powerful reminders of the importance of emergency planning. To safeguard all residents, Disability Alliance BC (DABC) has been working with Emergency Management BC to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are included in emergency planning and response.

Be prepared! Whether you or someone you love has additional preparedness needs, Emergency Management BC has created a great guide with input from DABC to help you plan for emergencies! Look for the guide, PreparedBC: Resources for People with Disabilities, at How can we make emergency planning accessible? Consider the following when planning for an emergency: U sing

the guide, start your planning with the “C-MIST” framework. This framework takes you through communication, medical, independence, supervision, and transportation needs and has planning considerations for each area.

B uild

a trusted personal support network. Exchange relevant health information with this group and decide on methods for contacting each other in an emergency.

C omplete

As part of a new project, DABC is looking at what an individual’s functional limitations will be, such as seeing, hearing, and mobility, and how these impact their ability to respond in disasters. This project will also assess how communities need to plan in order that people with disabilities do not fall through the cracks during emergency response.

the Health Information Card in the guide. This will provide first responders with the information they need to know!

H ave

a service animal? Build an emergency kit for them using the checklist in the guide.

MORE INFORMATION Want to participate in the DABC project?

Did you know?

Local authorities interested in this consultation process and integrating a Functional Needs Framework into their local emergency plans can contact Karen Martin, Project Coordinator, at or 604-875-0188.

The B.C. government has made a commitment to becoming the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities by 2024. Check out the Accessibility 2024 action plan at Emergency preparedness is one of Accessibility 2024’s twelve building blocks.

FALL 2016

Healthier You


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Health Services Director, AiMHi


uch of the joy and meaning in our lives comes from the connections we share with others and the quality of the relationships we have with people. Supporting someone who needs help or has special needs can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life, whether through paid or personal work. Being in a helping role can enrich our lives, but it is important that during this work we take care of ourselves. If we are not at our best, we cannot be the best for the people we support.

continued on page 20

Getting to know AiMHi AiMHi was formed by a group of concerned parents in 1957 who envisioned “community living� for their children. This vision included a desire to have their children taught within the public school system, a home that provides respite services for their children, having their family members returned from institutions to neighbourhoods in their own community, daytime activities for their adult children to ensure they were valued and contributing members of society, and, finally, services that provide safe and knowledgeable care. Over the last several decades, AiMHi has aspired to meet this vision, growing into its present state. Today, AiMHi is a non-profit agency funded primarily by both the Ministry of Children and Family Development and Community Living BC. AiMHi provides a wide range of services to children, youth, adults, and families. These services include supported living options, employment, family support, life skills, and a variety of community programs. AiMHi strives to be seen as good neighbours, as contributing members of our communities, and, most importantly, as being welcoming and inclusive. AiMHi employs about 450 people and provides services to more than 1,000 people in Prince George, Mackenzie, and surrounding areas.

FALL 2016

Healthier You


Looking after ourselves and each other is essential to thriving in our work and personal lives. Caregiver stress can take a toll on our health, relationships, and overall wellness, so it’s important to recognize the signs of caregiver stress, which may include: 

Anxiety, depression, irritability

Feeling tired and run down

Difficulty sleeping

Overreacting to small things

New or worsening health problems

Trouble concentrating

Feeling increasingly resentful

Drinking, smoking, or eating more

Neglecting responsibilities

Cutting back on leisure activities

Recognizing that caregiver stress is building and taking steps to reduce this stress is critical to preventing caregiver burnout – something that can prevent us from being able to care for our loved ones or do our jobs well. Once caregiver stress is identified, it’s important to: A sk

for help. Speak up, spread responsibility, and be willing to relinquish some control. Give yourself a break. Take 30 minutes each day for yourself, find ways to pamper yourself, make yourself laugh, get out of the house, visit with friends, and share your feelings.

P ractice

acceptance. Focus on things you can control. Share your feelings.

T ake

care of your health. Don’t forget about your own health! Exercise, try meditation or other relaxation techniques, eat well, and don’t sacrifice on sleep.

People who are in caregiving roles, whether with their jobs or in their personal lives, are essential to healthy communities. AiMHi understands the impact that caregivers make in the lives of the people they support and how enriching the role can be in their own lives as well. Practicing self-care improves our overall health and wellness and helps us be the best we can be for the people we support and care for.

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20 Healthier You

FALL 2016


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eg Swanson is a 46-year-old who lives in Falkland, B.C. Swanson grew up in the backcountry around Prince George, with hunting being a huge part of his life until a 1988 accident left him a complete C4-C5 quadriplegic. For the next two decades, Swanson often dreamed of hunting again, but just couldn’t see how it would be possible. Then, in 2008, he approached the Fish and Wildlife Branch of BC’s Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations. Armed with the knowledge that hunting by proxy was legal in other jurisdictions, such as Alaska, he made his case.

Hunter & proxy: Reg Swanson and his high school friend, Ian Gilchrist.

Swanson persisted for the next six and a half years. He provided government officials with everything they requested, such as letters of support from organizations, including Spinal Cord Injury BC. As he waited for the bureaucratic process to grind out change, Swanson stayed hopeful and kept busy preparing for the day he could legally hunt. One of the most important steps he took was to find a reliable and accessible way to travel into the backcountry. His father Andy, a gifted mechanic, modified his Ford F-350 diesel 4x4, lowering the floor and installing a hydraulic lift that safely raises him into the passenger position. On April 1, 2015, Swanson’s lobbying efforts finally paid off when the BC government introduced “hunting by proxy” licences. These licences allow a qualifying hunter with a disability to designate two people as proxies, or hunting assistants, who can aim and fire a rifle, and dress the kill. The assistants also need to hold a valid provincial hunting licence, and both hunters and their assistants need to pass the continued on page 24

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At the YMCA we believe health is a necessity, not a luxury. We support the community to become active and healthy through fitness and recreation programs while building a sense of community and connection. • 250-562-9341


“If you’re interested in getting out there, there’s a way. Don’t let anything hold you back.” – Reg Swanson Ready for the backcountry! The lift built by Swanson’s father is truly a feat of DIY engineering.

Canadian Firearms Safety Course and successfully apply for a Possession and Acquisition Licence. With assistance from his long-time caregiver, Brenda McGuire, Swanson got to work on his application. Three weeks later, he acquired his hunting licence—the first he’d had in more than 25 years. He and his father, along with high school friend Ian Gilchrist, began to make plans for a late summer hunting trip to the Omineca hunting region, located north of Prince George along the Alaska Highway route. Their goal was to each bag a moose. The trio arrived on August 14 at a lodge at Inga Lake, located close to Mile 91 of the Alaska Highway. They set up camp, all the while wondering how long it would take to find and bring down their prey. As it turned out, it wasn’t long at all. “The next morning, which was opening day for moose, we got up well before sunrise and went out,” said Swanson. “We went into a bit of clearing and, wouldn’t you know it, there was a five point (a male moose with five points on each of its antlers) right there. We took that one as mine, because I saw it and pointed it out. I guess if Ian had seen it, it would have been his. Needless to say, it was pretty exciting.” Later that same day, Gilchrist also brought down a moose. Despite the trio’s best efforts, only Swanson’s father was unable to get his moose during the remainder of the trip. But given the team effort,

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the three split the bounty in three equal parts, and after all butchering was complete, everyone had a full freezer of steaks, roasts, ground and sausage for the winter. Swanson said the hunting and the camaraderie of the hunt were both extremely gratifying after such a long absence. “It does amount to a lot of work,” he conceded. “There’s a lot involved for someone like me to go and do something like this—for example, making sure I have a power supply for my CPAP machine and charging my wheelchair. But it’s definitely worth it. Now everything’s set up, and we know what we need for next time, which I’m already looking forward to.” Swanson said he’s hoping that this year will bring an elk hunting trip. Meanwhile, he’ll continue to work on his next ambitious hunting project—a chairmounted rifle with a sip-and-puff control to aim and activate the trigger, which he’s developing with a friend, Lance MacPherson, who is a marine engineer. Such a device could allow Swanson to bring down his target without assistance. But until it’s been tested and proven, he’s ecstatic that he can rejoin the hunt legally with a proxy licence. “I encourage other people who are high level quadriplegics to do it. If you’re interested in getting out there, there’s a way. Don’t let anything hold you back.”

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FEATURED INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE CULTURAL WELL-BEING IS FOUNDATIONAL TO HEALTHY WELL-BEING. DID YOU KNOW... • Aboriginal peoples include three distinct populations: First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. • 30 per cent of the Aboriginal people in B.C. live within the Northern Health region. • Of the 300,000 people served by Northern Health, over 17 per cent are Aboriginal. • In the northwest, over 30 per cent of the population is Aboriginal. Celebrating culture, language, and traditional activities are key to healthy communities. Incorporating culture and language into activities and relationships leads to healthier, more resilient communities. In northern B.C., there are many diverse Aboriginal peoples, territories, languages, and cultures. This issue, we’re highlighting an Indigenous language – Michif – spoken by Métis across the region.

To learn more about Indigenous languages and to hear recordings of words, phrases, stories, and songs, visit: • •F irst Peoples’ Language Map of B.C. • • I nuktitut Tusaalanga

MICHIF Tawnshi Hello

Tawnshi eyishinikawshoyan What is your name? Marsee Thank you Meetsho taak Let’s eat! Meena koshayitwae

26 Healthier You

FALL 2016

Say it again, please

ü Walks every day ü Eats his greens ü Wears his head gear


Prince George Gnats Rugby Football Club

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All Skill Levels welcome. Guys & Girls. For detailed schedule and events contact: James Hope: 250-612-8794 & Troy Mckenzie: 250-961-5355 &

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Place: Dates: Time:


PRINCE GEORGE; 1245 – 20th Ave., Victoria Towers, Penthouse Tuesdays, September 27 – November 29, 2016 6 – 9 PM (snacks & refreshments provided)

Contact Kim Dixon at 250-561-8033 or Family Alliance on Mental Illness-Leaders in Involvement, Empowerment & Support





Health Promotions, Northern Health

Naikoon Park on Haida Gwaii is a wild and pristine coastal site in the traditional territory of the Haida Nation. Naikoon has long been a place of spiritual and cultural importance for Haida people. Visitors seek it out for the long stretches of unspoiled beach, coastal rainforests, dunes, and wetlands. A few years ago local officials looked to improve the trails in Naikoon (namely the famous Tow Hill trail) and decided to prioritize accessibility. Ultimately, learning about accessibility went beyond the trail – the whole community continues to benefit from a new perspective in building and development. John Disney is the Economic Development Officer with Old Massett Village Council and took up the duty to make a wholly new trail type for Naikoon.

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We decided to work together [with the Province of B.C. and accessibility advocates] to run the park in a manner that would be attractive and all-inclusive. On that actual site [Tow Hill], we’ve rebuilt the whole thing. That was our first attempt at launching this new approach and seeing what the result would be. The first person we took out there, when we first opened it, was Rick Hansen! His face was just beaming! He was up onto the boardwalk and down the beach; we could hardly keep up to him. He told us it was great and he said, “You’ve got to keep going in this direction.” He gave us his stamp of approval! You can take a virtual hike before you even arrive! Once you’re here, you can wheel all the way down the boardwalk, ending at a platform right on the rocks. Visitors can go up to a sign and feel the braille, or hear a story from one of the on-site ‘talking signs’ in English or Haida. When the West wind is blowing and the waves are crashing, they may have the salt spray on their faces … this is very exciting. It’s not like Stanley Park here. It’s pristine, it’s raw, and when you’re out, you’re out in the elements. I don’t know why people have ever thought that those living with disabilities aren’t interested in that – they crave it. How can they find it? That’s what we’re learning now.

The positive reception has been gratifying for Disney and his team who toiled on making this project a reality, from securing support and funds, to boardwalk design and the tough work of building it. In fact, support for this project has been so strong that further work on park trails will carry on with a similar focus, extending the wilderness experience for all people in new ways:

I can’t wait to tell you this! Another trail branching off of the current, accessible one is the start of an old homestead trail. It crosses over the island to the east coast. We were going to just upgrade it but I thought to consider making that trail accessible too. I worried that it may be too long, so I called up Rick Hansen and asked him if the idea was insane. He wouldn’t even let me finish my sentence; he said, “John, build it!” So we’re moving forward with this dream. We’re going to build a 10 km trail through pristine old-growth forests and marshlands, ending on the Hecate Strait beaches – and you’re going to be able to do the whole thing in a wheelchair. The old trail had a bunch of steps, now they’ll have to be turned into ramps so that you can wheel up them, or push a buggy up them. You can ride your bike up them! Suddenly, options open up.

Disney makes it clear that learning about accessibility has deeply impacted his work – and his service has impacted many aspects of visitor and community life:

To tell the truth, I never really understood that there’s a segment of our society that can’t get to these places. It never occurred to me, but now it has and it’s a different way of looking at things. Accessibility is now one of the things we take into consideration when we build. When we build a cabin, is it accessible? Has it got a ramp? We built a 12-unit apartment for the community a few years ago and ensured that one whole floor was accessible. We wanted to be sure that the kitchen, the bathrooms, and everything worked for people in wheelchairs. Whenever we are building something new we have to make it accessible. We have to be aware that whatever it is, there are people who will want to use it that were never were able to before. I’ve gained a new understanding and it’s brought me a lot of gratification too, to know that now I’ve learned this, I can do something about it.

John Disney, Cecil Brown (Deputy Chief Councillor, Old Massett Village Council), and Rick Hansen enjoy Tow Hill trail.

MORE INFORMATION • Take a virtual hike of Tow Hill: • Spinal Cord Injury BC article on Naikoon Provincial Park: sci-bc. ca/haida-gwaii-opens-wheelchairfriendly-boardwalks-and-virtual-hike/

FALL 2016

Healthier You



Disability, Financial Security and... Income Taxes? Disability Alliance BC

A NEW PROGRAM PUTS MONEY BACK INTO THE POCKETS OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES! Around B.C., there are approximately 20,000 recipients of provincial disability assistance who do not file their income taxes regularly. Many of these people miss out on hundreds, often thousands, of dollars of unclaimed tax credits such as the GST credit, BC sales tax credit, and BC Low Income Climate Action tax credit. For many people with disabilities, particularly those living on low or fixed incomes, these benefits often provide a much needed source of additional money. A new program at Disability Alliance BC called Tax AID DABC aims to address this issue by offering people on provincial disability assistance free help to file their taxes. Since it started in July 2015, the program has helped people with disabilities around B.C. access more than $400,000 in income tax benefits. Getting caught up on taxes is also important because many programs and services, like subsidized housing and MSP premium assistance coverage, use income taxes to determine eligibility.

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Tax AID advocates are able to provide support and assistance around B.C., including to people living in the North. “We’re really proud of what Tax AID has been able to accomplish,” said Sam Turcott, manager of the program. “For clients who live on provincial disability rates of $906 a month, it can be life-changing to find out that you can get $4,000 or $5,000 back just by getting caught up on your taxes. We had one client who got more than $20,000 back.” Tax AID DABC advocates offer in-person and remote tax filing services and are also available, by request, to offer workshops and tax filing clinics in communities in B.C. “I’ve had great experiences helping people in remote communities to get caught up to date on their taxes,” said Salina Dewar, a tax preparation advocate. “I really want to connect with more people in northern B.C. because I know this service can be a big benefit to them.”

ARE YOU ELIGIBLE? Assistance from Tax AID DABC is available to people with disabilities who have the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) or Persons with Persistent Multiple Barriers to Employment (PPMB) designation and who have a relatively simple tax situation.


or 1-800-663-1278 (toll-free)

 t axaid@disability-



Diabetic & Geriatric


Karen Le Francois BSc Pod. By Appointment Only • 250.563.6808


Whether or not you are diabetic, your feet are the last thing you think of for overall health and wellbeing. Let’s make it the first thing you do for better health, wellness and mobility.

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Diabetes affects the circulation and immune system, which in turn impairs the body’s ability to heal itself. Over time, diabetes can damage sensory nerves (this is known as “neuropathy”), especially in the hands and feet. As a result, people with diabetes are less likely to feel a foot injury, such as a blister or cut. Unnoticed and untreated, even small foot injuries can quickly become infected, potentially leading to serious complications.

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Getting recognized was just the beginning!


Health Promotions, Northern Health


n 2014, the District of Vanderhoof was one of eight B.C. communities to receive an Age-Friendly BC Community Recognition Award. There are now five communities in northern B.C. with this designation: Burns Lake, Granisle, Kitimat, Telkwa, and Vanderhoof.

What is clear, however, is that this recognition doesn’t have anyone in Vanderhoof resting on their laurels!


“Being age-friendly is a lens on everything for us,” said Chief Administrative Officer Tom Clement. “It’s in our Official Community Plan and is an important part of Council’s work.” Age-friendliness is about supporting older people to stay in the community, have access to meaningful opportunities and necessary services, and to enjoy a high quality of life (or, in Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen’s words, “seeing our seniors as the asset they are.”).

continued on page 34

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FALL 2016

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For Mayor Thiessen, the Vanderhoof Community Garden showcases how accessibility and agefriendliness can benefit the entire community. “I see my grandkids sitting with seniors in their 70s and 80s, being mentored on how to garden and what grows in this region. This is what makes a community.” And how did those kids and seniors get to the garden? It’s no accident that Vanderhoof’s trail system is accessible, making it comfortable for power scooters, kids’ bikes, and strollers alike!

The District of Vanderhoof received an Age-Friendly BC Community Recognition Award in 2014. Now, age-friendliness is a lens on everything the District does and facilitates in the community.

“I think of our aging population a bit like the Nechako River that runs through Vanderhoof,” said Thiessen. “If our community turns its back on the river, it can become a problem. But when we embrace the river and make it a part of our community, we become much more vibrant. In the same way, when we embrace our seniors, the quality of the whole community improves.” So, what’s next for Vanderhoof’s age-friendly community work? “We just met with a group of community stakeholders,” said Deputy Director of Community Development Hilary Irvine. “We went through each domain of the age-friendly guide [gov.] and looked at gaps and opportunities. The different voices at the table were very valuable.” The big gaps that Vanderhoof is actively working on are housing and transportation. “These are the front burner issues,” said Thiessen. “We want to avoid a situation where people are leaving the community because of a lack of access.” Whether it’s identifying gaps or facilitating solutions, for Mayor Thiessen, collaboration is key. “My advice to other communities would be to involve various parties and develop connections. When a community works well together, things click! You also need to expand your definition of community beyond typical boundaries. Too often, we see borders when, in fact, people gravitate to a community like Vanderhoof from all over. Our connections with Saik’uz First Nation, Fort St. James, Fraser Lake, and others are so important.” Age-friendly, accessible communities go beyond matters of local government, however. “Each one of us needs to decide how we want to treat our seniors,” said Thiessen. “In Vanderhoof, we’ve got welcoming businesses and a welcoming community. Accessibility is an attitude – buying into the community piece and doing the little things to make sure that nobody is falling through the cracks.”

34 Healthier You

FALL 2016




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