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FREE | APRIL 22 – 29 / 2021 Volume 55 | Number 2775


OneCity Vancouver councillor Christine Boyle gets real about the climate emergency; plus, transportation solutions and reusing old houses

Poetry and true crime

CRAZY8s Short films with bite






Author explores how women came under Raniere’s spell



Georgia Straight: What accounts for the title Don’t Call It a Cult? Sarah Berman: That references a couple


By Charlie Smith Cover photo by Erin Flegg



The founder and CEO of Unbuilders, Adam Corneil, specializes in deconstruction and salvage of old homes. By Carlito Pablo



The Crazy8s festival of short films goes online this year with stories of a cross-dressing husband and a wife with uploaded memories. By Charlie Smith

e Online TOP 5

e Start Here

Vancouver journalist Sarah Berman covered Keith Raniere’s trial while working for VICE.

of things. It is sort of cheeky because, obviously, I’m not saying NXIVM isn’t a cult. A lot of experts look at NXIVM and they say it fits all the characteristics. see page 4

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Vancouver’s News and Entertainment Weekly Volume 55 | Number 2775

The East Side of It All

• poetry • Nightwood Joseph Dandurand Editions Griffin Poetry Prize & BC Book Prize

Pluviophile • poetry • Yusuf Saadi

Fake It So Real • fiction • Susan Sanford Blades

Griffin Poetry Prize

BC Book Prize


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EDITOR Charlie Smith GENERAL MANAGER (ACTING) Sandra Oswald SECTION EDITORS Mike Usinger (ESports/Liquor/Music) Steve Newton SENIOR EDITOR Martin Dunphy STAFF WRITERS Carlito Pablo (Real Estate) Craig Takeuchi SOLUTIONS ARCHITECT Jeff Li

Saltus • fiction • Tara Gereaux

Sunday Drive to Gun Club Road • stories • Marion Quednau

Available from your local bookstore




OneCity councillor Christine Boyle ran for office in part to address the climate crisis— and in advance of Earth Day, she assesses the City of Vancouver’s progress.

by Charlie Smith

hen NXIVM multilevel marketing company leader Keith Raniere was convicted in 2019 of recruiting and branding female sex slaves, it made headlines around the world. The salacious and deeply disturbing story of NXIVM had all the ingredients to attract the interest of the media: female TV stars, including some working in Vancouver; billionaire heiresses; sex trafficking; and a savvy con man, described by the prosecutor as a “modern-day Svengali”, who was sentenced to 120 years in prison. Vancouver journalist Sarah Berman has unpacked the details of this story—and drawn some lessons—in her new book, Don’t Call It a Cult: The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women Of NXIVM. Below, you can read an edited transcript of a phone interview she gave to the Georgia Straight.

April 22 – 29 / 2021

Creeland • poetry • Dallas Hunt

Undoing Hours • poetry • Selina Boan


APRIL 22 – 29 / 2021

Here’s what people are reading this week on Straight.com.

1 2 3 4 5

Two homes flipped within months, each generating a $250,000 profit. COVID-19: B.C. records youngest death amid rising hospitalization concerns. Coal Harbour homicide victim identified as Harpreet Singh Dhaliwal. Large unmasked gathering captured on video at English Bay. Marvel releases Shang Chi trailer starring Canada’s Simon Liu. @GeorgiaStraight

ART DEPARTMENT MANAGER Janet McDonald GRAPHIC DESIGNER Miguel Hernandez PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR Mike Correia ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES Glenn Cohen, Catherine Tickle, Robyn Marsh (On-Leave), David Pearlman (On-Leave) CONTENT AND MARKETING SPECIALISTS Alina Blackett, Rachel Moore CREDIT MANAGER Shannon Li ACCOUNTING SUPERVISOR Tamara Robinson


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But when I first met Sarah Edmondson— who was a whistleblower who first came forward about the branding and other course of ethics—she didn’t want to say the C-word on camera. She was afraid that there was going to be some kind of backlash against her. And that was the first of many sort of upsidedown moments for me where I was like, “What’s going on here?” And then, later on, I realized you can’t really talk to somebody who’s in a group like this with that language. You can’t say, “You really need to get out of that cult. That’s really culty.” That’s going to shut somebody down. So the better approach is to come with good faith, want to understand, maybe even attend meetings if they’ll let you, and sort of get them to start questioning on their own. And, finally, just at the trial, the prosecutors didn’t need to have a cult expert on the stand. They weren’t interested in proving whether or not it was a cult. So those were sort of the sources of inspiration for the title. GS: How important is Vancouver in the story? SB: So in the mid-2000s, NXIVM becomes really popular in this friend group of Vancouver actors. So it started with Sarah Edmondson. And she was already quite close friends with a bunch of folks in local [TV] productions—so on Battlestar Galactica and on Smallville—and she was a true believer. She thought this was the key to success and

Heart Work

happiness and she wanted all her friends to do it. So she became this prolific recruiter and it sort of spread through the grapevine in Vancouver. And they were recruiting young people that they’d actually want to hang out with instead of the sort of middle-aged, stuffier demographic that was, you know, NXIVM’s major demographic in Albany, New York, and Seattle. So I think it was a huge step for the organization to have these people with lots of fame and influence already and to have this younger demographic of women coming to the fold. So…it was one of the major steps towards like what it became because it was always evolving, you know, for decades before it got to be [a] DOS-blackmail-branding thing. [DOS was Raniere’s secret society.] GS: How did Keith Raniere avoid being prosecuted for so long? SB: There’s a lot of variables there too. Certainly, when you have true believers and they’re saying, ”I’m not a victim,” that’s a

pretty strong deterrence to looking into potential crimes. But I think what really kept him protected was his relationship with the Bronfman heiresses, Clare and Sara. So they come from a family—a billionaire family—and they really truly believed in this group and wanted to change the world by putting lots of resources into NXIVM. And that included getting politically connected. Yeah. Donating to campaigns, letting their private jet be used by upstate Republicans, and even getting NXIVM members in the DA’s office in the Northern District of New York. So in all of this time, the Northern District of New York had never gone after NXIVM. It was the Eastern District—so Brooklyn—that eventually did, in 2018, arrest him. So I think the money and influence helped keep authorities off of Keith Raniere’s back. I think, as well, just the nature of the case, where you have women seemingly complying, you know. There’s lots of appearance of consent in terms of being filmed, you know, saying, “Master, please brand me. It would be an honour.” Right? That was built-in. It wasn’t until you sort of unpacked it— in court, you sort of heard how those videos were set up to create the appearance of consent—that it finally could unravel, and in quite an epic way. g

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APRIL 22 – 29 / 2021


Sookfong Lee expands her repertoire with poetry by Charlie Smith

At thirty-nine, you wept and he didn’t even listen. – Jen Sookfong Lee

long text, the kind you have to tap twice to read. He didn’t respond. It was Christmas. During sex, he said he loved you. You pretended not to hear him, went home, and he didn’t call for six months.” The Shadow List is not a meandering, safe escape filled with alliterative, rhyming passages that leave the reader wondering what the poet is trying to convey. Rather, there’s an urgency to this text. It’s direct,

Jen Sookfong Lee’s new collection of poems, The Shadow List, reveals that she can also deliver evocative verse in addition to writing novels and hosting a podcast. Photo by Kyrani Kanavaros.



By Jen Sookfong Lee. Wolsak & Wynn, 88pp, softcover

d WHAT HAPPENS when a critically acclaimed novelist and former CBC books commentator switches lanes and becomes a poet? In the case of Vancouver’s Jen Sookfong Lee, it’s a magnificent ride. The Shadow List is a compulsively readable collection of poems touching on everything from moth infestations to former lovers, and from text etiquette to a

common lie told by writers. It’s tempting to describe the poetry as highly personal, though it’s uncertain whether Sookfong Lee is adopting the role of a narrator or simply baring her soul. The title phrase comes up in a poem called “Wishes”, which opens this way: “There is a stray eyelash on your cheek. You pick it off, balance it on your finger, close your eyes, and blow. So. What do you wish for?” What comes next in this shadow list is a deep dive into the passions of the mind. So many other poems in the collection, including “Five Breakups With the Same Man”, reveal Sookfong Lee’s freewheeling style. Here, she writes: “You sent him a very

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detailed, and courageous. And it delivers rich, contemporary tales through vignettes in the narrator’s life. This shouldn’t come as a surprise from the author of such novels as The Conjoined, Dead Time and Shelter, and The Better Mother. Her brief, evocative descriptions pop up again in “Anatomy”, which is near the end of the book of poems. “At eight, you knew never to cry,” Sookfong Lee writes. “At fourteen, you wrote furious poems. At twenty, you turned to a wall in the emergency room and answered no questions. At thirty-nine, you wept and he didn’t even listen. You press down on your thigh. It was the birth of your son, wasn’t it, that made you this soft?” In The Shadow List, the storytelling always looms large. This makes it ideal for non-poetry readers during National Poetry Month in April. g Jen Sookfong Lee’s The Shadow List will be launched on Zoom at 7 p.m. on Friday (April 23).

D andurand’s BIG MONTH


pril is National Poetry Month, and this year’s theme is resilience. It’s a fitting choice in light of the recognition being accorded Joseph A. Dandurand. He’s an archaeologist, a member of the Kwantlen First Nation, and the author of The East Side of It All (Nightwood Editions). This collection of poems details some of his experiences as a Downtown Eastside drug user trying to reconnect with family and his Indigenous roots. He recently made the Canadian shortlist for the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize, which will be announced on June 23. The two other Canadian finalists are Canisia Lubrin for The Dyzgraphxst (McClelland & Stewart) and Yusuf Saadi for Pluviophile (Nightwood Editions). In addition, Dandurand’s The East Side of It All is on the shortlist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, which is awarded each year as one of the B.C. and Yukon Book Prizes. They will be announced at a gala on September 18. Dandurand was the Vancouver Public Library’s Indigenous storyteller in residence in 2019. He has written 12 other poetry books and produced several plays.

He is also director of the Kwantlen Cultural Centre and artistic director of Vancouver Poetry House, which is putting on the 11th annual Verses Festival of Words from Thursday (April 22) to May 1. One of the highlights is Hullabaloo, billed as B.C.’s Youth Spoken Word Festival, from Thursday to Saturday (April 24) via Zoom. Hullabaloo includes a spoken-word jamboree along with a youth video poem screening, workshops, and a feature performance on the closing night. In addition, Dandurand will give a presentation at the Verses Festival of Words called Talk the Talk: What is your ritual? The other finalists for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize are New Westminster resident Junie Désil for eat salt | gaze at the ocean (Talonbooks), Vancouverite Valerie Mason-John for I Am Still Your Negro: An Homage to James Baldwin (University of Alberta Press), Macalester College professor Michael Prior for Burning Province (McClelland & Stewart), and former parliamentary poet laureate Fred Wah for Music at the Heart of Thinking: Improvisations 1-170 (Talonbooks).

APRIL 22 – 29 / 2021

by Charlie Smith




Author found no dark side to Shuswap Bushman


by Steve Newton

ou may have heard the story of the so-called Bushman of the Shuswap. And if you haven’t, Paul McKendrick has a new book for you. The first-time author tells the bizarre tale in The Bushman’s Lair: On the Trail of the Fugitive of the Shuswap, which details the intriguing crimes and exploits of John Bjornstrom, who managed to evade police for two years while living in the wilderness around Shuswap Lake in B.C.’s southern interior. He survived by raiding summer cottages, pilfering them of food and clothing and whatever else he wanted to take back to the book’s titular hideout, which he’d built into a rocky outcrop above a remote beach. McKendrick had the seed of the book planted in his mind when he became one of the few people to gain access to Bjornstrom’s handcrafted abode shortly after a group of Shuswap Lake houseboat renters happened upon the lair in the summer of 2002, the year after Bjornstrom’s capture. “I was fairly unique in terms of seeing the cave,” McKendrick says on the line from his Canmore, Alberta, home, “because it was only a short period of time between the houseboaters finding it and

It seems crazy enough to be true when you put it all together. – Paul McKendrick

Author Paul McKendrick (above) got a peek inside fugitive John Bjornstrom’s hideout.

when it was blown up [by the Ministry of Forests]. So there weren’t that many people that ventured inside. I didn’t get to see it when it was fully furnished—[the RCMP] had already cleared out quite a bit of stuff

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when I went through it—but even when I went through it, it was pretty comfortable, with the kitchen built out of plywood, and the bedroom chamber being quite large, the custom-built furniture in there.” Bjornstrom had outfitted the rustic bachelor pad with an electrical system powered by a bank of car batteries. He claimed to have carved the living quarters out with a hammer and chisel. “What drives someone to do that?” McKendrick asks. “That was always in the back of my mind. A serious undertaking, not really consistent with wanting to steal from and live off other people. He wasn’t scared of hard work.” Although McKendrick uses the surprising complexity of the Bushman’s 900-square-foot cave home as a starting point, it isn’t long before he’s layering on other engrossing aspects of the man’s story. A significant part of the book involves examination of Bjornstrom’s claim that he was hired as a private investigator to uncover sinister details of the notorious 1990s Bre-X mining scandal—which, he maintained, resulted in death threats and being put on a hit list for knowing too much. So how much of Bjornstrom’s Bre-X story does McKendrick think is true? “That’s certainly one of the lingering questions,” he says. “Other people who knew him well talked of him being an honest person, and I didn’t come across any falsehoods from him. It seemed like [the Bre-X investigation] was a one-off arrangement between him and [Bre-X CEO] David Walsh, so it’s not like other people in the company would know about him, necessarily. I can’t come up with an explanation of why he would make that up.” As well as the startling Bre-X claims, The Bushman’s Lair studies Bjornstrom’s assertion that he had psychic abilities and

that they led to him being recruited for a secret U.S. military program in 1982. He also said that he was first drawn to the Shuswap by a desire to help children being used by pornographers there. “For me, the most intriguing thing is when you put the whole story together,” McKendrick says. “It seems crazy enough to be true when you put it all together, because who’s gonna invent all that? That why I felt compelled to tell the story, because so many things in isolation just didn’t make sense. Like talk of Bre-X, and the child pornography and stuff. There hadn’t even been any talk of Stargate, the secret CIA project, at that time.” Although he was never as notorious a fugitive as someone like El Chapo, Bjornstrom’s capture was similar to the Mexican drug lord’s in that it was brought on by a love of the limelight. The Bushman was only taken into custody after RCMP officers set up a sting where they masqueraded as documentary fi lmmakers interested in telling his story. One wonders if he could have avoided arrest for a lot longer if he’d been less hungry for attention. “He was certainly pretty good at avoiding [the police],” McKendrick says. “I don’t know if he was getting bored or he just thought that he needed to tell his story to try to get people on board with what he was doing and accept him. I mean, there was a fair bit of pressure on the police, and they were pretty motivated to catch him. So I’m not sure how long he could have lasted. Obviously, his weakness that they exploited was that he was keen to talk to the media.” For his B & E crimes in the Shuswap, Bjornstrom was sentenced to 23 months house arrest and three years probation in 2004. Before his death in 2018 at the age of 58, his will to connect with others saw him campaigning to become mayor of Williams Lake. He didn’t come close to winning, but TV footage of his political exploits made him out to be a likable, harmless guy. “The more you get to know him, the more you think he’s an honest man who was trying to help other people,” McKendrick says. “It was my conversation with his lawyer that really cemented my interest in telling his story, because his lawyer did think so highly of him and really came to believe everything that he said. So that was kind of a pivotal moment for me in deciding to write the book. When I set out, I was half expecting him to turn out to have a dark side to him, but I never found that.” g


B.C. must follow Biden’s lead on transportation


by Eric Doherty

n its April 12 throne speech, the B.C. NDP government claimed that CleanBC is “North America’s most progressive plan to reduce carbon pollution” and that “newly announced sectoral emission targets will keep government accountable”. But the B.C. NDP government has a big credibility problem, even beyond subsidizing the expansion of fracking for LNG exports and clearcutting forests for biofuel pellets. Intense campaigning by the climatejustice focused Sunrise Movement and many other groups has led President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to make shifting funds away from highway expansion to public transit a central plank of their climate-emergency response. The New York Times notes that this “transformation is necessary to tackle climate change”, and that the Biden administration has already put a Texas freeway expansion on hold. Biden and Buttigieg are moving with the times as B.C.’s efforts are stuck in the past. In March, B.C. announced “sectoral targets” for greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions in four sectors: transportation, industry, oil and gas, and buildings and communities. Transportation ended up with the least ambitious target range, at 27 to 32 percent below 2007 levels by 2030. B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has claimed that its urbanhighway expansion projects have reduced GHG pollution since Gordon Campbell was premier. In the post-Trump era, this climate misinformation is not politically sustainable.


Traffic quickly expands to fill expanded road space in urban areas. B.C.’s Minister of State for Infrastructure, Bowinn Ma, a licensed professional engineer, is very familiar with how widening highways increases traffic and the resulting GHG pollution. Ma is one of the three ministers responsible for transportation in B.C.. The minister of transportation and infrastructure is Rob Fleming. George Heyman is minister of environment and climate change strategy and has responsibility for public transit and the major road network in Metro Vancouver as minister responsible for TransLink. B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has billions of dollars of urban highway-expansion boondoggles under construction. Its plan to widen Highway 1 to Abbotsford could cost $1 billion, and expanding the Massey Tunnel from four to eight lanes would cost well over $2 billion. The B.C. government is planning to spend far more money increasing rather than reducing GHG pollution in the transportation sector. And, as minister Ma notes, widening highways makes traffic congestion worse.

Rush hour on Interstate 80 near Berkeley, California. The new administration in Washington, D.C., is shifting funds earmarked for highway expansion toward public transit. Photo by Minesweeper.

Eric Doherty is a transportation planning consultant.


When you make a car lane into a bus lane, a protected bike lane, or more space for pedestrians, people drive less, traffic “evaporates” or “disappears”, and traffic speeds don’t change much. Reducing GHG pollution at the speed needed requires that we reallocate a lot of road space to bus lanes, protected bike and roll lanes, wider sidewalks, and pedestrian-priority areas. This kind of climate action makes transit much more efficient and desirable, as well as making cities healthier and more pleasant. Vancouver’s recently approved Climate Emergency Action Plan aims for reallocating at least 11 percent of road space to “walking, cycling and transit [to] greatly reduce dependence on fossil fuels through a reduction in vehicle ownership and kilometres travelled by vehicle”. Transit, walking, and cycling can move many more people than private vehicles in the same road space. Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Plan emphasizes that reallocating road space increases the capacity of roads. It’s not alone. A contingent of leading cities—including Mexico City, Paris, and Seoul—are quickly reallocating space to reduce GHG pollution. B.C.’s approach to climate action in transportation—to deny the need to actually reduce travel by private automobile—was common only a few years ago. But now more and more governments are admitting the obvious. For example, Scotland is now planning to cut car use by 20 percent over 10 years. Shifting to electric cars is extremely important, but the shift to fewer cars is also essential. REAL CLIMATE ACTION

B.C. must stop denying overwhelming evidence for induced and evaporating traffic and join jurisdictions taking effective climate action in the transportation sector. The first step is to stop wasting money on urban highway-expansion projects that make traffic worse and increase GHG pollution. The proposal to replace the four-lane

Massey Tunnel with an eight-lane tunnel costing upwards of $2 billion is just the start of what needs to be rethought. Every region has a list of highway-expansion boondoggles, and every region has transit and active transportation projects that better investments. Shifting funding from highways to public transit won’t be easy. Neither will trying to push climate-destroying highway projects through when alarm about the climate emergency has only temporarily been dampened by the COVID-19 emergency. It is time for people who want real action on the climate emergency to force these three ministers to make the right choice. g

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Reusing old wood reduces emissions and costs


by Carlito Pablo

roperty owners planning to build a new home may want to hold off on calling the demolition crew. There’s another way of tearing down a house, and this one presents a win for all, including the planet. It’s called deconstruction, which involves unbuilding a home piece by piece and reclaiming materials, particularly lumber, for reuse. Adam Corneil is the founder and CEO of Unbuilders, a Vancouver-based company specializing in deconstruction and salvage. Corneil cites benefits from using this method, including protection of the environment. “Reclaimed wood is the greenest building material,” Corneil told the Straight in a phone interview. Reusing old wood means no new trees are cut. Forests, which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, remain intact. Moreover, Corneil related that his company prevents materials from ending up in landfills. Decomposing wood produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. “Last year alone, we diverted nearly 1,550 tonnes of material,” Corneil said. By hiring Corneil’s company, homeowners will also have the opportunity to help others have affordable homes. This is because Unbuilders works with Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver, a nonprofit that assists people to build affordable housing. The way this works is that a homeowner will donate wood reclaimed from their old house to the nonprofit. The wood’s value is appraised by a third party. Habitat for Humanity then issues a tax receipt to the donor. Another company owned by Corneil purchases the wood from the nonprofit and resells it. “In choosing to deconstruct your old home, you’re sup711 428 W 8TH AVE I $999,000

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Adam Corneil, the founder and CEO of Unbuilders, says that reclaimed wood is not only the greenest building material but it also provides tax savings and helps to preserve heritage.

porting the construction of affordable housing,” Corneil said. Online, Unbuilders explains that the federal tax credit for the wood donation could amount to $18,850, and the provincial tax credit might be as much as $9,555. The maximum combined tax credits, in turn, reduces the total cost of a home deconstruction to $14,595. In comparison, traditional demolition costs $26,500. “You’re seeing significant tax savings, because there’s a lot of good materials that get salvaged,” Corneil said. Through unbuilding, Corneil is also involved in efforts to preserve heritage. When 2 bed + solarium/office, 1.5 Bath, 1,059 SF penthouse Fully renovated w/ updated kitchen ft. Bosch fridge, Fisher Paykel range, dbl door DW, builtin wine fridge & gas FP Pets & rentals OK, 1 parking Showings by Appt: THURS April 22nd, 5 - 7pm SAT April 24th, 2 - 4pm SUN April 25th, 2 - 4pm 2 bed, 1 bath, 617 SF House Own a piece of Vancouver dirt and have a place to call home w/ your own sunny south facing backyard. Refinish the oak floors, add a coat of paint & live happy for years to come. Located close to Grandview Hwy, shopping & transit Showings by Appt



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the Unbuilders founder spoke with the Straight, he and his team had just finished deconstructing the old Turner Dairy in Vancouver. In 2018, city council approved an application by Durabilt Holdings Ltd. to rezone the Mount Pleasant location of the 1913-era dairy and build 13 new townhouses. The plan involves reusing wood from the old facility. “Now you’re going to have a brand-new, high-efficiency building that is getting a lot of that material reinstalled in it,” he said. Next on Unbuilders’ list is a 1929 New Westminster winery building at 100 Braid Street, which used to be owned by the old B.C. Distillery company. Wesgroup Prop-

erties intends to develop a new building at the property, with 423 market rental homes and an art gallery. Corneil said the developer will reuse a portion of the materials that will be salvaged. The idea for Unbuilders came to him in 2014 while he was renovating a home in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood. He and his team stripped the house back to its studs. “Knowing how beautiful and valuable the lumber was, I was disgusted at the sheer volume of homes and buildings being demolished and landfilled in Metro Vancouver,” Corneil related. They kept the wood in the garage and later reused it for the home’s staircase and other finishing works. “We did a kind of circular development that Turner Dairy is doing on a large scale,” Corneil said. At about the same time in 2014, the City of Vancouver introduced a green-demolition bylaw that set reuse and recycling requirements for demolition waste. The bylaw covered one- and two-family homes that were built before 1940. It required the reuse or recycling for 75 percent of demolition materials. For homes that have character status, it’s 90 percent. In 2019, Vancouver’s green-demolition bylaw was expanded to include pre-1950 homes. The amendment also required deconstruction for pre-1910 homes and one- and two-family homes on the heritage registry. One of the things Corneil and his team also do is take photos and videos before and during the unbuilding of a home. This way, they preserve a part of a property’s memory before the structure disappears. “We’re literally keeping a digital record of what that building was, and we’re keeping that layer of history alive,” Corneil said. g

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Coun. Boyle gets real about the climate emergency

A Vancouver politician explains how curbing greenhouse-gas emissions will affect the look of the city


by Charlie Smith

ver since the Romans figured out how to create concrete, this substance has come to define the landscape in many cities. The material use to build the Colosseum and the Pantheon—along with Roman arches and later dams, roads, and buildings—reduced their reliance on stone and brick. It’s no different in Vancouver, where concrete high-rises dot the landscape. Whether it’s in the viaducts, at the airport, or in the sidewalks, concrete abounds. But there’s a problem with this building material. According to Montreal author Mary Soderstrom’s 2020 book, Concrete: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future, one of the key ingredients in concrete— cement—accounts for four to six percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. The City of Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan, which passed last year, acknowledged the scope of the problem. It called for a 40 percent reduction in embodied carbon in new buildings and construction projects by 2030. “Typically, underground parking structures can account for 12% to 20% of the embodied carbon in a new building, ranging up to 40% in extreme cases,” the report states. In the document, city staff say that reducing the number of parking levels from six to three in a high-rise can lower a building’s overall embodied carbon by three to five percent. Fewer parking stalls also has other positive impacts on the environment. “This can also support lower rates of private vehicle ownership, which reduces embodied carbon,” it notes. There has been a great deal of public discussion about the City of Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan, particularly the transportation measures. (See page 7.) But there hasn’t been nearly as much attention paid to what it means for the built environment in Vancouver. How will the Climate Emergency Action Plan change the look of the city in the next decade? And what will that mean for residents? In 2019, OneCity councillor Christine Boyle introduced a motion declaring a climate emergency, which passed unanimously. That set the stage for the ambitious Climate Emergency Action Plan, which included a long list of recommendations endorsed by city council. So in advance of Earth Day on Thursday (April 22), it seemed appropriate to check in with Boyle to find out what people can expect to occur with buildings and heating and hot-water systems. Boyle told the Straight by phone that concrete in parking garages is both a

When OneCity councillor Christine Boyle brought forward a motion declaring a climate emergency in 2019, it set off a series of actions that will have a huge impact on Vancouver. Photo by Erin Flegg.

building and a transportation issue. “Council has already given the direction to reduce parking minimums in new buildings,” she noted. “That’s one important step.” Boyle supports sharply reducing construction of concrete-reinforced underground basements. It might result in slightly taller buildings, she acknowledged. However, she added that creating groundfloor units rather than partially or fully underground suites could improve accessibility for people with disabilities. Secondly, she called for the use of loweremission concrete when there isn’t a suitable alternative. “When the plan came to council, we actually had a number of folks from the building sector come and speak in support of both of those approaches,” Boyle said. “So it was great to see that.” WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME

According to the Climate Emergency Action Plan, the world is on track for 3° to 4° C of warming by the end of the century if bold action isn’t taken. That would likely set off climate feedback loops—such as the melting of alpine glaciers and ice caps in Greenland, the West Antarctic, and the Arctic Ocean—that would result in greenhouse-gas emissions ratcheting up higher under the so-called Hothouse Earth scenario. That’s because white ice, which reflects sunlight back into the atmosphere, would be replaced by more dark water, which absorbs heat. This was outlined in a scientific paper published in 2018 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

“If the threshold is crossed, the resulting trajectory would likely cause serious disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies,”

the scientists wrote. “Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state.” Vancouver is among 1,700 jurisdictions that have declared a climate emergency. “The first thing I would say is that this is an ambitious plan in that it’s in line with the science,” Boyle declared. “And of equal importance to me, it’s really rooted in an approach of equity and justice.” Boyle, a United Church minister, spent years in the climate-justice movement trying to persuade faith groups to divest from fossil fuels prior to seeking public office. She was elected to council for the first time in October 2018. She pointed out that this was the same month that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that the world only had 12 years to dramatically lower emissions to avoid the types of feedback loops mentioned above. “I felt pretty conscious that I was just elected for the first four of those years,” Boyle said. see page 12

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A comprehensive guide to making homes in B.C. more sustainable and energy efficient by Mark Sakai

(This article is sponsored by the B.C. Real Estate Association.)


s COVID-19 continues its grip on our communities more than a year after the pandemic began, housing has never been more important. Our homes have become our refuge, schools for our children, our workplaces, and entertainment centres. With vaccinations reaching more and more arms and the hopes of a postpandemic world in the near future, there is no better time than now to talk about how we can sustainably and affordably futureproof our homes. THE CASE FOR ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOMES

Putting the pandemic aside—if that is at all possible—the need for energy-efficient homes comes from the fact that climate change is a global crisis in its own right that demands solutions that are long overdue and require immediate action. Many innovations are already making our homes more energy efficient and reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions. In B.C., zero-emission homes are being built today, and there are plans to build many more. There are also solutions to retrofit existing homes to reduce emissions, and these innovations don’t need to be complex or unduly impact the cost of housing. But continued innovation and collaboration among government, the real estate sector, and homeowners, buyers and tenants is necessary for the change to be substantive. There are three key elements to consider. THE EASY PART: NEW HOUSING

In 2017, the B.C. government enabled the Energy Step Code (ESC), a new way to implement the B.C. Building Code as it relates to the energy efficiency of buildings. Here’s how it works: •Step 0 is the current Building Code standard. •Step 1 retains that standard but requires that an energy model evaluate the efficiency of a building and measure the airtightness. •Steps 2 to 5 gradually ramp up the requirements for building-envelope efficiency and airtightness, with the top level representing the equivalent of Passive House or Net Zero Energy Ready Homes. The government initially allowed municipalities to voluntary adopt the level of the ESC that they deemed most appropriate to their community’s level of high-performance building knowledge and capacity, but that will change in 2022, when Step 3 10


Gentle densification is demonstrated to the community by this fourplex on a single-family corner lot. Photo by JDL Homes.

will become the base requirement for the Building Code. The plan is to then require Step 4 in 2027 and Step 5 in 2032, the target date for the government’s plan to have all new construction meet the highest level of energy efficiency. Why is this considered “the easy part”? Because with each new building, you start from a clean site. The designer and builder are in control of the materials, construction methods, and equipment. Energy modelling and airtightness are simpler, and deficiencies can be corrected with relative ease. At the B.C. Real Estate Association (BCREA), we’re helping realtors learn more about the ESC and home-energy efficiency with a series of new courses we’ve developed. They include Energy Efficient and Sustainable Homes created in partnership with the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia (REFBC) and B.C. Hydro, and Healthy Indoor Environments, created with the REFBC and B.C. Lung Association.

APRIL 22 – 29 / 2021

With this knowledge, realtors can be a source of information for people as they navigate the housing choices available to them—and literacy in home energy efficiency is a big part of that. THE TRICKY PART: EXISTING HOUSING STOCK

Bridging the gap between energy efficiency and existing housing stock is not as simple, because every existing building has a back story. When was it built? What were the building-code requirements at the time? How has it been maintained over the years? What renovations have been done? Because of the endless number of “back stories” in older buildings, there is no onesize-fits-all approach to energy retrofits. In some cases, upgrading windows and improving weatherstripping might significantly reduce air leakage and heat loss. Or upgrading attic insulation. Or upgrading space-heating and hot-water systems. Or maybe all of the above. And not everyone has an unlimited budget to accomplish these up-

grades. With the high cost of housing, it can be very challenging for the buyer of an existing home to immediately undertake a series of energy upgrades. Even existing home owners may not know where or how to start. But there’s good news on that front. There is an effort underway to develop an energy-efficiency assessment tool that can be applied to existing housing. The plan is to make this tool cost-effective and easy to use, and it will provide an energy rating for existing houses, much like the ESC provides ratings for new houses. To maximize the tool’s effectiveness, BCREA would like it to be integrated with existing programs like CleanBC incentives, which offer rebates for improving a home’s energy efficiency through certain upgrades. BCREA’s courses for realtors will equip them to provide important information to sellers and buyers so they can make informed decisions, both when they list their homes for sale and when they purchase and plan future renovations. see next page

New high-performance home in Metro Vancouver. Photo by Barrett Group Custom Builders.


A third element of sustainability in housing involves adopting a community-wide lens rather than focusing only on the building. When you look at any city in the province, the vast majority of the land zoned for residential purposes is intended for single-family homes. There are notable exceptions—the City of Vancouver now allows three or four dwelling units on almost all of its low-density residentially zoned lots (“the RS zone”)—but most municipalities effectively prohibit a diversity of housing types in their single-family areas. However, we can dramatically improve the sustainability of housing by adopting “gentle densification” of these singlefamily zones. By blanket-rezoning these areas to allow duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, with secondary suites and/or laneway/coach homes, we can more efficiently use this valuable land resource. The provincial government projects a population increase of almost 1.4 million people between 2020 and 2041. Where will they all live? Many don’t want to live in high-rise towers, and with climate change and sustainability in mind, we can’t keep paving over farmland and forests to build new subdivisions.

Installing thermal room insulation is one type of energy-efficient upgrade that can be made to existing homes. Photo by Arturs Budkevics/Shutterstock.

By reimagining low-density neighbourhoods, we can provide more and better housing choices for young families, downsizing empty nesters, multigenerational families, and young renters. Revitalizing these neigh-

bourhoods will increase school enrollment and could reverse the trend of school closures. Bringing more households into a neighbourhood generates more customers for local retailers and services and provides

more support to existing infrastructure like transit, community centres, and libraries. Creating more housing choices closer to existing services and employment centres means people can make do with fewer and shorter commutes, further reducing their carbon footprint. Multi-unit housing like fourplexes means fewer exterior walls for heat loss, resulting in higher energy efficiency. Replacing an old single-family home with a new fourplex means the new housing will be built to the current ESC standard, ensuring dramatic improvement in energy performance. Bringing a sustainable future to reality requires collaboration among government, the private sector, professionals, and property owners. Realtors can be a strong communications link to the public to increase the level of energy literacy among those who are seeking information to make their best decision about their next housing choice, and BCREA is committed to being part of the solution to making housing sustainable for the good of our communities and the climate. g Mark Sakai is Advocacy Projects Manager at the B.C. Real Estate Association.

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from page 9


According to her, the city’s approach mirrors that of New York City, which is setting buildings emissions caps that tighten over time. “So, for instance, if you’re a homeowner and you have a natural-gas furnace, you wouldn’t be required on a certain date to just toss that while it’s still working,” Boyle said. “But, instead, the system is set up so that when that gas furnace comes to the end of its life, you would replace it with an electric heat pump instead of replacing it with a new furnace. “So there’s some time to make those transitions,” she continued. “But with a very clear sense of the direction we need to go in.” Make no mistake: the Climate Emergency Action Plan is, in some respects, a road map to get residents and businesses to kick the natural-gas habit. That’s because 54 percent of the city’s carbon emissions originate from natural gas use in buildings, whereas another 39 percent are produced by gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment is furthering these efforts in a campaign called Switch It Up B.C. It seeks to get residents to take a pledge to replace their furnace, hot-water heater, or kitchen appliance with nonpolluting electric equipment. The physicians’ group argues that relying on electricity is better for human health than burning natural gas. That was reinforced by a paper published this month in Journal of Environmental Health. In it, the Massachusetts-based researchers highlighted the links between gas cooking stoves, household air pollution, and childhood asthma. “Cooking with a gas stove releases combustion-generated nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants into household air,” they stated in the abstract. “Both nitrogen dioxide in household air and cooking with gas are associated with increased risk and severity of childhood asthma. “The impact on children can be substantial because at least one third of households in the U.S. cook with gas stoves, children spend most of their time indoors, indoor air is unregulated, and asthma is the most common chronic disease in children.” Boyle said that if people switch from natural gas to heat pumps, they can avoid these problems. Plus, they can get air conditioning in the summer from heat pumps, which is another added benefit. “The declaration of a climate emergency was an important truth-telling moment in recognizing the scale of the crisis,” the OneCity councillor said. “And for those of us who live and breathe the concern for these issues—who are losing sleep regularly about it—it’s important that we recognize that scale.” Another change that residents can expect are more sustainable neighbourhood energy utilities—like the one that captures energy from sewage to generate heat and hot water in the Olympic Village. The city’s 12


This City of Vancouver neighbourhood energy utility generates heat and hot water from sewage. Photo by Franci Architecture/Kristopher Grunert.

oldest neighbourhood utility is owned by Creative Energy, which burns natural gas to produce steam that heats more than 200 buildings in downtown Vancouver. They include Rogers Arena, B.C. Place Stadium, and the Vancouver Convention Centre. Last month, the company announced that it’s collaborating with B.C. Hydro to decarbonize its distributed energy system over 12 million square feet of new development. This will come with the addition of new electrode steam boilers. Creative Energy is still burning natural gas to generate heat for 45 million square feet of real estate linked to its system, but this new approach marks a significant change from the past. “This project helps support electrification goals and reduces greenhouse gas

emissions by the equivalent of removing 12,000 gas powered cars from the road each year,” B.C. Hydro president and CEO Chris Riley said in a news release. COMPLETE COMMUNITIES

Boyle readily admitted that many of the changes to reduce building emissions won’t be readily apparent to residents as they go about their business in the city. But one aspect of the Climate Emergency Action Plan—creating more “complete communities” where people will live closer to where they work and shop—will be noticed. Boyle said that this is essential to reduce the massive commutes and the pressure to develop farmland. “There’s a long list of reasons why housing policy is an important piece of climate


That can be accomplished by walking, cycling, skateboarding, inline skating, rollerblading, jogging, or nonmechanized wheelchair. In addition, the city is also aiming to capture more carbon in forests, wetlands, and soils. A target is expected to come this year.

Trees and active transportation may save us. Photo by Max Harlynking / Unsplash.

d VANCOUVER’S Climate Emergency Action Plan has a great deal to say about transportation. One of the stated goals is to have half the kilometres driven in the city by 2030 done in zeroemission vehicles. City council is also hoping that two-thirds of the trips by 2030 will be done via transit or active transportation, which involves using your own power to get to a destination.

APRIL 22 – 29 / 2021

“Vancouver is already capturing carbon with our urban forest, which added 150,000 trees from 2010-2020, and through restoring our natural shorelines, like at New Brighton Park,” the Climate Emergency Action Plan summary states. “To capture our share of carbon recommended by the United Nations to limit warming to 1.5° C, we will need to capture carbon through land and aquatic-based projects outside Vancouver, too.” g

by Charlie Smith

policy,” she said. “And this plan weaves the two together in an important way.” But she doesn’t want this to come at the expense of equity for low-income people. That’s why she recently voted in favour of requiring one-to-one replacement of rental units that are lost due to redevelopment of commercial zones in midrise-apartment areas in Vancouver. It narrowly passed in a 6-5 vote. Boyle maintained that concentrating development along arterials has led to a land rush that is having negative impacts on small businesses and tenants. She argued instead to weave new housing throughout all the city’s neighbourhoods to accommodate a growing population. She acknowledged that some neighbourhoods, such as South Vancouver, have been historically underserved by public and active transportation. And she said that the city needs to be “really thoughtful about how we’re adding more complete housing options” to ensure that people aren’t displaced and pushed out of the city. So, is it possible to densify single-family zones without causing land prices to rise in the same manner that they’ve shot up in commercial areas? “When those changes are across the whole city, it spreads that pressure out more,” Boyle replied. “It diffuses some of that pressure that we’ve seen so focused on arterials. That’s what I’ve been taught, and that makes some sense to me.” She insisted that she has no interest whatsoever in displacing tenants, even if that’s accomplished by building newer projects to house more renters in the future. “None of those issues are new or surprising,” Boyle added. “But this climate plan, I think, is a really focused way to start to look at how they fit together—and what a more equitable city that welcomes more neighbours, and that is seriously reducing our greenhouse-gas emissions, looks like.” g


Earth Matters invokes grandeur of natural world


by Charlie Smith

or Vancouver artist Niina Chebry, icebergs hold a special fascination. It’s not just their beauty, though that’s undeniable. It’s also what they represent in the 21st century. When parts of them come crashing into the sea on video, it’s a compelling reminder of how vivid and real the climate crisis really is. “There is a kind of spirit about them,” Chebry told the Straight by phone. This keen interest has led her to paint icebergs. And some of these artworks are on display in an exhibition called Earth Matters at Gallery George, which she founded last fall. “Sometimes I get a little depressed on the state of the environment,” Chebry said. “It’s kind of my way of trying to find some beauty in days of doubt.” She doesn’t rely on photographs. Rather, she begins by premixing her colours and starting to paint. Once she spots paint on the canvas that forms a shape, she said it gets amplified into an iceberg, giving the paintings a textural feel. “There are about five versions of a painting before the final painting is there,” Chebry revealed. “There’s no plan. It’s just

Vancouver artist Niina Chebry believes that her icy waterscapes carry suggestions of isolation and impermanence, which parallel the human experience in the pandemic. Photo by Fidelis Art Prints.

I see an image in there and I start carving it with the paint.” In her artist’s statement for her series, which is called “a meltdown”, she stated that these “icy waterscapes have taken on another meaning” since the pandemic began. “The iceberg has become a metaphor, carrying suggestions of isolation and impermanence,” she wrote. “My interest is

in the potential of what these paintings might reveal to the viewer on many levels of understanding and experience.” There are more than a dozen artists showing their works in Strathcona’s Gallery George, which is about 2,000 square feet with a seven-metre ceiling. The large windows make it possible to see the artists’ works from the street.

One of them is Arleigh Wood. In her artist statement, she wrote: “The earth feeds our spirit and needs our protection. Let these artworks connect you to nature and remind you of your fragile relationship with the globe.” Lori Bagneres’s The Ties That Bind is also part of the Earth Matters show. In her statement, she referred to the research of UBC forest ecology professor Suzanne Simard. Simard’s team has examined how fungi networks transport vital nutrients—including water, carbon, and nitrogen—between trees, “essentially mimicking our own neural and social networks”. “Since the onset of the global pandemic, there has been significant disruption to our social networks,” Bagneres stated. “With this awareness of realizing that we are all ultimately connected, my aim in creating this ‘New Arcadia’ series is to communicate the importance of sustaining symbiosis in nature, in order to remain resilient.” g Earth Matters is at Gallery George (990 George Street in Vancouver) until April 25. It’s open from noon to 5 p.m., from Thursday through Sunday or by appointment.

Spencer aims to level playing field for arts groups


by Charlie Smith

here’s a reason why many artsindustry leaders felt they weren’t given a fair shake last November when public performances were banned due to the pandemic. And it’s reflected in an anecdote involving the Chor Leoni Men’s Choir. It planned to put on Translucence: An Immersive Light and Sound Experience in the massive grand ballroom of the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel in December. This gigantic room has a seating capacity of 1,350 but only 50 people would have been allowed to gather there. But it was cancelled when the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, banned public events. Following this order, folks could continue strolling into the bar or eat a meal in the same hotel. It didn’t seem fair to some in the arts community. Donna Spencer, artistic director of the Firehall Arts Centre, is part of an ad hoc group of arts-industry officials trying to create a more level playing field for their sector when the province decides to loosen COVID-19 restrictions. In a phone interview with the Straight, Spencer said that it was “a bit of a shock” when they learned that the ban on public events last November applied to their

I…would rather go see a show than go to a bar for my emotional health. – Firehall Arts Centre’s Donna Spencer

Donna Spencer says cultural groups should be treated as businesses . Photo by Pedro Meza.

operations whereas so many other sectors remained open. “There was no clear explanation as to why we were closing and other businesses weren’t,” Spencer said. The group includes people who operate professional performing arts venues and cinemas, some of which have liquor licences and many of which are nonprofit. Spencer emphasized the importance of only reopening when it’s healthy to do so. At the end of March, about three dozen people in the group joined a Zoom meeting

with Henry, Labour Minister Harry Bains, and Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Minister Melanie Mark. According to Spencer, Henry spoke positively about her enjoyment of the arts and acknowledged how this sector was suffering. Spencer added that she doesn’t think that when this occurred, there was a sense of the impact on the economy, employment, and people’s emotional health. “I personally would rather go see a show than go to a bar for my emotional health,” Spencer said. According to a blog post on the B.C. Alliance for Arts + Culture website, Henry acknowledged at the meeting that there

could be a “gradual allowance for gatherings” of up to 50 people, beginning in May or June. However, the health situation has deteriorated since then, with rising numbers of cases and hospitalizations brought on by the arrival of COVID-19 variants. Spencer said the next step is for the heads of arts organizations across the province to speak to their mayors and chambers of commerce. In some communities, COVID-19 rates were very low through the winter, yet the arts still seemed to face unequal treatment. “Caravan Farm Theatre [in Armstrong] wanted to do a sleigh ride where patrons could buy tickets…There were no actors involved,” Spencer said. “It was all audio, and they would go to destinations. They were told they couldn’t do it, when the local ski hill was operating a sleigh ride at the same time.” She’s hoping that by bringing the industry’s case before Henry, it will heighten the likelihood that arts organizations will be treated like businesses in future pandemics. “We are important parts of our community and there needs to be a way to address what we do in the same way public health was working with the restaurants and the bars and the gyms and all the other places,” Spencer said. g

APRIL 22 – 29 / 2021




Choreographer reflects feelings of being Stuck


by Charlie Smith

hile many in the environmental community are focused on Earth Day on Thursday (April 22), there’s also a big day coming up on the calendar for contemporary and classical dancers. In 1982, UNESCO declared next Thursday (April 29) as International Dance Day. It coincides with the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, the founder of modern ballet. Here in Vancouver, the Dance Centre is planning several virtual events, including six “microcommissioned” short dance films from diverse local artists. One of those participating is Clala Dance Project choreographer Tomoyo Yamada, who graduated last December with a master’s degree in interdisciplinary arts from Simon Fraser University. Entitled Stuck in 2020, it shows dancers barely able to move in a tiny space. “We asked the dancers to stay there and kind of use movement to reflect on how we’re feeling,” Yamada told the Straight by phone. “There were so many emotions that came up, like frustration and sadness. People are anxious. People are worried.” Her goal was to translate emotions that arose from the pandemic into movement. When asked what she would like people to take away from the film, Yamada said that she would be “very happy” if people felt they completely agreed with the sentiment. She emphasized that it’s not totally dreary. “We tried to make the film a little funny for the people watching because everybody is obviously still stuck in their houses,”

The Dance Centre offers six microcommissions, including Stuck in 2020, for International Dance Day; the video will be streamed on April 29. Photo by Sam Mason and Charlotte Telfer-Wan.

Yamada said. “I just want everybody to feel like we’re all in this together and you’re not alone stuck in your house.” The other dancers who received microcommissions included Arely Santana, whose The Show Must Go On features salsa, bachata, and other Latin dances. Bharatanatyam dance artist Ashvini Sundaram’s project is called Swan Alarippu. And Vanessa Goodman is collaborating with musician Scott Morgan on Cobalt. The two other microcommissions went to Meagan O’Shea/Stand Up Dance for Vicarious Time and Xin Hui Ong for Kindred. The Japanese-born Yamada has only

been living in Vancouver for three years but she’s no newcomer to the world of dance. In 2014, she choreographed the autobiographical Femme Facade, which was presented at the All Japan Dance Festival in Kobe. It was inspired by the difficulties she experienced after she moved from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Nagoya, Japan, when her family decided to return to their country of birth. “When I moved back to Japan, I was about 12—old enough to know that Japan is a little different from the States,” Yamada said. “And there were just a lot of unspoken rules that needed to be followed in Japan

Tomoyo Yamada has choreographed a new work that was inspired by the pandemic.

that I did not know of. I always felt like I was the odd one out. I didn’t feel like I fit into Japanese society.” Her parents always suspected that she would return to North America, so they weren’t surprised when she announced that she wanted to attend graduate school at SFU. “I was really surprised by how diverse Vancouver was when I came here,” Yamada noted. “I’m envisioning my career to kind of go on this path of looking at different cultures, different values, and different ideas, and trying to be creative within those new inspirations.” g

The Dance Centre soldiers on in face of COVID-19


by Charlie Smith

he Dance Centre in downtown Vancouver has been a whirlwind of activity in this pandemic. For proof, just look at some of the shows that have been livestreamed since the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, cancelled live events. In December, dancer Mary-Louise Albert came out of retirement after 20 years to dance her own solo in a series of performances that she commissioned. Solo Dances/ Past Into Present also featured her daughter, dancer Rebecca Margolick, as well as dancers Livona Ellis and Vanessa Goodman. More recently, the Dance Centre streamed Proximity, a collection of short works featuring Joshua Beamish either dancing or choreographing. Then there are flamenco performances by Kasandra “La China”, which continue until April 28. Next Thursday (April 29), the Dance Centre will stream events from 11 a.m. into the early evening to commemorate 14


Our mission and mandate is to support dance artists in their careers and their aspirations. – The Dance Centre’s Mirna Zagar

The Dance Centre’s Mirna Zagar says revenues are down this year. Photo by Steven Lemay.

International Dance Day. “I think it’s important for the readers [of the Georgia Straight] to know that while there are no live performances, artists are quite busy regardless—and they’re busy in different ways,” the Dance Centre’s executive director, Mirna Zagar, told the Straight by phone. “Some are reflecting, others are researching, others are

APRIL 22 – 29 / 2021

actually creating work, and many are also performing, although to the camera.” She acknowledged that dance on video can never match the magic that comes with watching a live performance. But the dance community is keeping very busy, notwithstanding the pandemic. The Dance Centre has seven studios, including a theatre. “Our mission and mandate is to support dance artists in their careers and their aspirations,” Zagar said. “And also to bring dance to communities. I admit we are

struggling still to find the best ways of doing it under current circumstances.” That said, she’s very proud of what the Dance Centre has managed to achieve in recent months. But she also pointed out that COVID-19 has had a detrimental impact on the Dance Centre’s finances. She’s hoping that the public is in a mood to step up and support arts groups like hers. “The government has been very generous, but the funding only goes so far and is nowhere near what’s needed to sustain this,” Zagar revealed. In the meantime, the Dance Centre continues with its outreach, offering digital content to seniors, high schools, and, recently (and for the first time), a kindergarten class. She also appreciates the positive feedback when the Dance Centre is able to fulfill various requests that come in. “That means what we do is meaningful and it has a future,” Zagar said. “And that helps us get through the hard times.” g


Crazy8s film tackles after-death memory uploads Luvia Petersen’s iDorothy examines society’s expectations through the experience of a lonely widower


by Charlie Smith

he world of 3-D printing is opening up all sorts of possibilities. But it’s only in the movies—at this point—where a widower can order up a living, breathing, talking facsimile of his deceased wife, complete with happy memories. That’s the premise of Vancouver director and actor Luvia Petersen’s intriguing new film, iDorothy, which takes place in the not too distant future. Written by Huelah Lander, it will be screened at Crazy8s, a Vancouver festival of six short films made within eight days. “If you upload a human being’s memories, are they them? Do you get all of them again?” Petersen asked in a phone interview with the Straight. “So that was something that we were interested in.” The two lead actors, multiple award winner Carmen Moore and Hiro Kanagawa, play Dorothy and Sal, respectively. Petersen said that working with these polished veterans made her feel like a 16-year-old kid who had just received her licence and was driving a Ferrari. “Casting is everything,” she declared. The film opens innocently enough but takes a disturbing turn in a dark and confined house full of secrets. “When I read Huelah’s script, I saw a generational story there,” Petersen said. “I saw my parents, I saw my grandparents, and I saw a story about how we get stuck in the ideas of who we’re supposed to be based on society’s

Director Luvia Petersen wondered if a person can really be recreated using only memories. Photo by Crazy8s Film Society.

expectations. And that’s certainly what happens to our two lead characters in iDorothy. Both Sal and Dorothy are trapped in these ideas of who they’re supposed to be.” Crazy8s receives ample support from B.C.’s film unions,

Telefilm Canada, Creative B.C., and others linked to the industry. The co-executive director of the Crazy8s Film Society, Erin Mussolum, told the Straight that the festival was founded in 1999 and is really about the industry coming together to empower emerging filmmakers. First, applicants must present video pitches, which result in 40 filmmakers moving to the next step. The 12 finalists receive story mentorships before a jury selects the six who get to make their films. According to Mussolum, good storytelling is at the heart of the festival. “Those six are given a lot of different mentorship training, production support, and then, of course, industry support and casting support,” she said. Petersen quipped that there was no sleep for the Download Joy Productions creative team when it only had eight days to complete the film. The company also produced Happiness, a short film that will premiere on Crave. Petersen, a former cast member of Continuum, Riverdale, and Ghost Wars, added that she kept the cast and crew as small as possible because of the pandemic. Rather than hire a third actor, she cast herself in the film. “I was able to jump in in front of the camera,” Petersen said. “Carmen and I finally got to work together as actors as well, so that was lots of fun.” g The Crazy8s Online Gala Screening Showcase takes place on May 1.

Cross-dressing period piece based on true story


by Charlie Smith

achel Rose says her new short film, “Tryst”, tells a story that she’s wanted to share for a very long time. In a phone interview with the Straight, the first-time director acknowledged that for years, she didn’t think she had the resources to do the story justice. The first challenge was that it was a period piece, set in 1979. Secondly, it revolves around a husband who feels compelled to cross-dress outside of the bedroom, which creates a great deal of angst for his wife. “It’s a story that’s super close to my heart,” Rose told the Straight by phone. “It’s based on a true story about a couple that I know.” She pointed out that it was virtually impossible to be a cross-dresser in public in the late 1970s and early 1980s. According to her, the only spaces where this could occur in most communities “were really hidden, on the outskirts of town”. Moreover, it wasn’t safe—there wasn’t even popular vocabulary to discuss nonbinary gender expression or gender identity. “Back then, it was still very much a disease…a mental-health issue,” she said. Rose works full-time as a first assistant director in Vancouver. But it wasn’t until

The tagline for the film is straight people doing queer things. – “Tryst” director Rachel Rose

“Tryst”, one of the 2021 Crazy8s competition’s final short films, looks at marital discord arising from a husband’s desire to publicly experiment with cross-dressing Photo by Sydney Wong.

she was greenlit by the jury at the Crazy8s film festival that she was able to make “Tryst”. Crazy8s filmmakers have only eight days to complete their productions. She credited her cowriter, Shayn Walker, who also stars as the husband, Marcus,

opposite Anesha Bailey, who plays Dina in this deeply emotional drama. “He pitched himself as Marcus,” Rose said. “And as soon as he said that, I said, ‘Okay, I can do this.’ ” Rose self-identifies as a “cis gay woman”,

and her partner, Belén Garcia, worked as the director of photography. And it’s extremely important for Rose to tell authentic queer narratives. She also wanted to ensure that BIPOC people were not only in front of the camera but were also working on set. “The tagline for the film is straight people doing queer things,” Rose noted. “It’s really interesting to try to blur the line between straight narratives and queer narratives…I think that’s where the conversation needs to go. So I think “Tryst” does that.” g The Crazy8s Online Gala Screening Showcase takes place on May 1.

APRIL 22 – 29 / 2021




Alex Little’s “Waiting to Get Paid” is solidly gold star


by Mike Usinger

t’s a decision that’s as crazy as it is risky: making the choice to do something creative for a living. In a more just world, musicians, artists, actors, dancers, and writers would be guaranteed the kind of paycheques that make overachievers become bankers, lawyers, brain surgeons, and stock brokers. Instead, the arts is where the one percent of those who roll the dice become card-carrying members of the hallowed one percent, and everyone else sits around eating Kraft Dinner, Top Ramen, and I Heart Spork. Those who understand this to be true will instantly understand where Alex Little and the Suspicious Minds are coming from in “Waiting to Get Paid”, the title track from

Scan to conffess

the band’s just-released full-length debut. Any doubts about whether you, me, and everyone we know are the target audience are erased 0.75 seconds into the song, when Little launches right into things with “I’ve got no money/I’ve barely got a dime”. What we get from there is a gold-star argument that women continue to rule when it comes to making music with old-fashioned guitars in the 2020s. Little sounds like someone who spent middle school cutting classes and smoking clove cigarettes in the parking lot while listening to old new wave with Amy Taylor, Lucy Dacus, and Courtney Barnett. Which is to say, pretty fucking great. As for the video, one might technically The Georgia Straight Confessions, an outlet for submitting revelations about your private lives—or for the voyeurs among us who want to read what other people have disclosed.

Wherefore art I have been randomly stumbling into relationships, and inevitably ragequitting after a few months or a year, for about 7 years now. How do longterm daters do it?

Drunken confessions My boyfriend has the unfortunate habit of only being able to tell me that he loves me when he’s drunk. The other unfortunate habit is that when he’s drunk he also says things like this: “I love you baby, in spite of who you are.” Or, “I love you even though you make terrible decisions and you’re so messed up.” If it wasn’t so pathetic I’d be laughing. I probably will after I dump his narcissistic ass.

Quieter than a mouse I can’t enjoy my apartment because I am overly paranoid about making noise. My neighbours watch movies, play music, etc regularly. I just can’t do the same, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. The thought of them hearing my movies or music is too much. I don’t want to bother anyone, but also I don’t want them to know what music I like. I tiptoe around even though they are stompers, above and below. I realize this makes no sense, I am basically the quietest neighbour possible, but I still feel like I am bothering people. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I pay a fortune for an apartment that I can’t even enjoy.

One member of Alex Little and the Suspicious Minds learned the hard way that people assume the filthiest things when your hands aren’t visible in a promo photo. Photo by Mat Dunlap.

file it under “animated”, but that doesn’t totally capture the flair of things. In addition to cartoon-world slot machines that never seem to come up Jackpot-JackpotJackpot, there’s pop-culture assemblages of ’70s-vintage television sets, ’60s telephones, and ’50s suit-and-hatted office workers with wind-up keys in their backs. The message, which is delivered with enough confidence, swagger, and worldweariness to impress Chrissie Hynde? Let’s just say that there are two kinds of people in this world, that being doubly true in these COVID-19-ravaged times. In


of singer-songwriters Tyler Bancroft and Ben Worcester, keyboardist Jaycelyn Brown, and bassist Lincoln Hotchen—will perform tunes from its new album Honey Lungs, produced by Steve Bays from Hot Hot Heat.

Love of My Life I’m a bit older now and no longer seem to have the emotional ups and downs of my youth. There is something I did learn through it all. It is not who is with you when you start, it is who is standing beside you at the end. Dear God, I love my wife.

Visit 16


to post a Confession APRIL 22 – 29 / 2021

Vancouver—and no longer restricted to Kits, Shaugnessy, and Southlands—you’ve got the doctors, lawyers, bankers, and stock brokers. Packing up the U-Haul and making the move to Hope, Chilliwack, and a van down by the river are the artists, actors, and musicians. Now put down the Kraft Dinner and start finishing that “Spare Change?” sign, seeing as how you can absolutely and totally relate to Little’s “Waiting to get paid/ Lying in the bed I made/Did I make the grade/Well then I’ll die”. You are not alone. g

LIVESTREAMING PLATFORM eMusic Live has announced that it is hosting three events streamed worldwide from Vancouver this weekend.

c SAID THE WHALE (6 p.m., April 23) The Juno-winning band (photographed above by Vanessa Heins)—composed

c PRISM (6 p.m., April 24) Classic-rock holdouts Prism, with long-time member Al Harlow, will take the virtual stage. c ROYAL OAK (9 p.m., April 24) The final performance will be by an alt-pop indie quartet from the Vancouver suburbs, Royal Oak. Tickets are priced at $12 for Said the Whale, $10 for Prism, and $6 for Royal Oak, with weekend passes for all three shows going for $20. g


Spring is time for cocktails that are fresh and floral


by Mike Usinger

ne of the brilliant things about a great cocktail is the way it can have a magically transporting quality. Been lucky enough to have spent an hour or three lounging on the lawn of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana? If so, the first sip of a back-yard mojito can instantly take you back to a frozen-in-time world of ’57 Chevys, son cubano songs, and $10 Montecristo No. 2 cigars. Remember that happy hour at Huggo’s open-air bar on Hawaii’s Big Island, where humpback whales breached in the distance as you watched transfixed with your toes in the sand? Mix up a Mai Tai, crank Gabby Pahinui’s “Ka Makani Ka’ili Aloha”, and suddenly you’re back at Huggo’s on the Rocks rather than stuck in your 410-squarefoot Yaletown condo wishing desperately you’d sprung for a place with a balcony. That a cocktail can take you away to a happier place somehow seems monumentally important today. More than ever, getting through the latest stretch of what’s become an endless COVID-19 nightmare requires going to a happy-memory place. Like that springtime in Paris where you spent the afternoon crying at Jim Morrison’s grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery. And then washed the tears away with a six-hour haul at the Candelaria cocktail bar, where one Pensa en Mi was followed by a Pais Tropical, La Guepe Verdem, Naked & Famous, and the sudden overwhelming urge to buy a pack of Gitanes and smoke your brains out. (Hey, if Serge Gainsbourg lived to 62 burning through five packs a day, a couple dozen on vacation aren’t going to hurt you). Actually, screw living in the past, because all that’s doing is reminding you how fucked everything has been for the past 14 months and counting. Maybe it’s time to focus on creating some new happy memories. You’re never going to forget this epically weird pandemic period of your life, so you might as well embrace our new reality. Assuming you’ve ignored the news, the past few weeks on the West Coast have been pretty goddamn magical. Who needs springtime in Paris when you’ve got a sunsoaked Stanley Park Seawall. Or Queen Elizabeth Park in full bloom? Tulips are everywhere right now, the cherry blossoms and magnolia trees have popped, and the usual spring monsoons have yet to roll in. The best way to celebrate our freakishly fantastic weather? That would be by keeping things light, bright, and fresh, which is to say this isn’t time for rediscovering the Dark ’N Stormy, Frozen Mudslide, or Damn the Weather as your 5 p.m cocktail-time go-to. So think floral, which is entirely appropriate seeing as, if spring is about anything, it’s flowers. There are all sorts of infused spirits on the market, including Hana Gin (distilled

equal amount of sugar. Voila—you have a rainbow’s worth of floral simple syrups that will work as a sweetener in everything from Gimlets to Margaritas to Old Fashioneds. If that seems like too much work, Francebased Giffard makes killer elderflower, lavender, and hibiscus syrups, although tracking them down locally can be tricky. Check Gourmet Warehouse and Modern Bartender. And while you are there, look for floral waters and bitters (hibiscus, orange blossom, jasmine) that, used sparingly, will add subtle new layers to your favourite cocktails. (Pro tip—you can also find things like rose and orange-blossom water in Persian markets for a fraction of what you’ll pay for a cocktail-emporium version.) Keep in mind that you only need a dash or two in a recipe when working with bitters and flavoured waters. For the syrups, if your Whiskey Sour, Lemon Drop, or Sour Cherry Martini calls for an ounce of simple syrup, try subbing in the same amount of your house-made floral syrup, or 3/4 of an ounce of Giffard’s. That’s it. It’s time to celebrate our crazily sunny spring on the West Coast. And do it now, because, if Environment Canada is to be believed, the spring fucking monsoons are headed our way with a vengeance next week. Here’s a bright, sunny, and floral drink that riffs on a Yellow Bird I had one in Saigon before the world went to hell in a flaming handcart. VIETNAM YELLOW BIRD

While the tulips are blooming, it’s time to go the floral route when daily happy hour rolls around.

with lavender), Peony Vodka, and Gran Centenario’s Rosangel Tequila (which is finished with hibiscus flowers). This being British Columbia, where the government decides what you’ll be buying rather than the free market, you’ll have more luck flying to Uranus under your own power than tracking down such offerings locally. The good news, however, is that making your own floral spirits is pretty simple. To create a lavender or hibiscus-infused tequila, gin, vodka, or rum, grab a 26er and a quarter cup of dried flowers of your choosing. Flowers of various varietals—dried rose petals, gardenia, geranium, elderflower, chamomile, or orange blossoms— are usually available at Modern Bartender, or at grocery stores like Persia Foods. Mix booze and flowers, let sit for half a day or so, and then strain back into the bottle. You can also go the fresh-flower route, although it’s probably wisest to source from your own garden if you’ve got one— the last thing you need to be working with is factory-farm roses dusted with militarygrade Ant B Gone.

Worried about ruining your delicious, delicious, and (assuming Alberta White Lightning isn’t your go-to brand) quite frankly expensive alcohol? Using two cups of boiling water and a quarter-cup of flowers, make a tea and steep for an hour. Adjust to taste with more flowers or time, strain liquid, and then mix tea with an

2 oz. Bacardi white rum 1/2 oz. Galiano 3/4 oz. Giffard Elderflower syrup 1 oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice 1/2 oz. pineapple juice 1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice Two dashes Fee Brothers Hibiscus Water Dried rose petals Pour all ingredients except dried rose petals into a shaker over ice. Shake vigorously, strain into a glass, and top with four dried rose petals. g

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APRIL 22 – 29 / 2021




Married bi guy will need to insist on condom use by Dan Savage

b I’M A CIS bi guy in my 40s who doesn’t have a lot of experience with other men. I’m happily married to a wonderful woman who knows I’m bi, and while we’re presently monogamous, we’ve talked about opening things up in the future. If that happens, I’d like to casually hook up with a guy once in a while, but I’m a little anxious about gay-hookup culture. 1. Will a lot of guys dismiss me for being bi or married? I assume biphobia is more of an issue when looking for a relationship, rather than a hookup, but I dunno. 2. If I meet a guy and we’re going to fuck, is it weird to bring up condoms? I know: I shouldn’t be afraid to ask to use a condom, and if someone can’t respect that, I shouldn’t fuck him. I’m not and I won’t. But will most guys be a little surprised, especially with PrEP these days? 3. On that note, should I ask my doctor about PrEP when all I want is a very occasional fuck (maybe a few times a year) with someone I’ve vetted and trust about their HIV-negative or undetectable status? I want to be safe, but I don’t want to put superfluous meds in my body. 4. Is the “top shortage” I’ve read about a few times a real thing? Are a lot of guys strictly tops or bottoms? 5. And is there anything else I should know before hopping on the apps? - Wondering About Navigating New Arenas Before Indulging

1. There are lots of biphobic gay men out there,

WANNABI, but I gotta say, there are more biphobes in the straight community. Yes, straight biphobia is less gallingly hypocritical, I will grant you, but it does more harm; research has shown that having a biphobic straight spouse is the single biggest risk factor for poor mental health outcomes among

A married bi guy has to be ready to take PrEP. Photo by Christopher Campbell/Unsplash.

bisexuals. So I’m happy to hear that your spouse accepts your bisexuality, WANNABI, and I’m going to apologize in advance for the biphobia you’ll encounter from some dumb gay men. But if all you’re after is some casual sex, WANNABI, you don’t need to disclose your bisexuality to the men you meet on the apps. You also shouldn’t assume the men you meet on “gay” hookup apps are gay; some will be bisexual, just like you. And while biphobic gay men get all the press, WANNABI, there are lots of biphilic gay men out there—that is, gay men who are really into married “straight” men. If you don’t wanna hide the wife and don’t wanna wind up with a FWB who wants you to leave the wife for him, finding guys who are actually turned on by the fact that you have a wife at home is not a bad strategy. 2. Even at the height of the AIDS crisis— even at a time when contracting HIV was almost invariably fatal—condoms weren’t used 100 percent of the time by 100 percent of gay and bi men. Now with PrEP (a daily pill that prevents HIV infection) and treatments for HIV+ men that make it impossible for them to spread the virus (HIV+ men with undetectable viral loads can’t transmit the virus), fewer gay and bi men are using condoms these days. If

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you wanna use a condom because you’re not on PrEP and/or you wanna protect yourself and your wife from all the sexually-transmitted infections PrEP won’t protect you from—and that would be all the other sexually-transmitted infections out there—insist on condoms and pass on guys who argue with you about it. 3. If you wanna be able to have spontaneous and/or anonymous sex with other men, taking PrEP daily is smart. But you can use PrEP without taking it daily if you’re having sex with other men once or twice a year and you’re making those sex dates at least a few days in advance. Intermittent or “ondemand” use of PrEP is highly effective; take two pills 24 hours before you have sex and one pill a day for two days afterwards. 4. Not all gay and bi men are into anal sex or into anal sex with casual partners, WANNABI, and while most of the men I’ve encountered were functionally versatile, there do seem to be more bottoms out there than tops. Not that “bottom” and “top” are static identities: a guy who’ll bottom for you might be more comfortable topping for someone else; a guy who enjoys bottoming when he’s younger might enjoy topping more later in life and vice versa, etcetera. 5. Not every photo is recent, WANNABI, and not every guy is decent. Some guys will lie to get in your pants or in your ass or on your dick or on your face. Trust your gut.

it really helped him for us to live together. Fast forward five years to me coming home one day with him declaring he was moving to a not-atall-rainy state with his new boyfriend. Since then, what I want from a relationship has changed. I miss and want the emotional connection, the day-to-day stuff, the sleeping in the same bed with someone, the incidental physical affection. Sex, that’s a different story. As soon as I have sex with someone once, maybe twice if it’s really good, I don’t want to continue seeing them. I still want and do have sex, just not with a person I might want a relationship with. My questions: 1. How do I get this? 2. Am I nuts? Am I broken? - Down To Fuck Or Marry But Not Both

1. You ask for it. That’s no guarantee you’ll find it, of course, but it ups your chances considerably. And while it’s true that most loving but sexless relationships were sexual at the start, DTFOMBNB, not all of them were. So if loving but always sexless is what you want, well, then you should lead with that. Put it out there. 2. I don’t think you’re broken or nuts, DTFOMBNB, but something has definitely changed. What you want now, post-traumatic breakup, isn’t what you wanted before. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing—I guess—so long as you can find what you want or aren’t driven crazy by your inability to find what you want. Because it’s definb I’M A GAY male in his mid-40s living in a itely gonna be more difficult for you to find Anorexics & Bulimics Anonymous Nar-Anon North might wanna rainy12-step city. I met and fellVan for a recently divorced a partner. So I’m thinking 12 Step basedyou peer support program which program for families and friends addresses the mental, emotional, & AL-ANON FAMILY GROUPS this shit with a shrink. unpack Do what and guyof with fewTuesdays teen from kids. progressed quickaddicts, a meets 7:30We to 9 pm spiritual aspects of disordered eating Does someone else's drinking bother you? 176 2nd Street East in North Van. 7 pm @but Avalondon’t Women'ssign Centre who you @now, ly, moved to the burbs, made a home, and even Al-Anon can help. feels right forTuesdays 5957 West Blvd - 604-263-7177 Info: nar-anonbcregion.org We are a support group for those who have any leases; don’t make any long-term rohad one of his kids come live withbeen us.affected It was by another's drinking problem. For more information call: 604-688-1716 mantic commitments, sexless or otherwise; out of character for me to move that fast, but please we clicked. I thought he knew what it took to and don’t weld yourself to any self-fulfilling make a long-term relationship work, and his prophecies—at a time when you may still be post-divorce finances put him in a spot where reeling from a traumatic breakup. g


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Profile for The Georgia Straight

The Georgia Straight - Earth Day - April 22, 2021  

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