Hundreds of people who perished during the historic heat wave in British Columbia last summer died in homes ill-suited for temperatures that spiked into the high 30s and beyond for days,a report by B.C.’s coroners’ service found this month.
It was hot outside, but inside it was often much hotter, with tragic consequences.
Of 619 deaths linked to the heat, 98 per cent happened indoors, the review from the coroners’ service shows.
Just one per cent of victims had air conditioners that were on at the time.
But one year on, experts caution that residents and policymakers need to think beyond air conditioning as the predominant solution to the risks as climate change fuels heat waves that scientists say are becoming hotter and more frequent.
“What I worry is that we’re talking about mechanical ventilation as this umbrella measure for all buildings, and that’s hugely problematic if that’s what we ultimately end up doing,” said Adam Rysanek, assistant professor of environmental systems in the University of British Columbia’s school of architecture.
“We’re going to get totally accustomed to this air-conditioned society,” with windows closed all year round, said Rysanek, director of the building decisions research group at the university.
Alternative answers can be found in how buildings and cities are designed, landscaped and even coloured, since lighter surfaces reflect more of the sun’s energy, he said.
Two thirds of those who died during the extreme heat last summer were 70 or older, more than half lived alone and many were living with chronic diseases.
Ryansek said it’s important to ensure such vulnerable people have access to air conditioningwhen temperatures become dangerously hot.
But many sources of overheating in buildings stem from design and performance, and focusing on air conditioning ignores proven solutions, he said.
City planners and the construction industry should adopt lighter coloured materials for buildings and even paved roadways, he said, in addition to adding shading to building exteriors.
“In the peak of the heat, a huge chunk of the cooling demand is coming from solar energy being received on the exterior of the building. Let’s reflect that away.”
Alex Boston, who served on the coroner’s review panel, said “underlying vulnerabilities” to dangerous heat are growing in B.C., and across the country, as a result of demographic change and how homes and communities have been built.
The numbers of people over 65 and people who live alone are on the rise, and both of those characteristics compound risk during extreme heat, said Boston, executive director of the renewable cities program at Simon Fraser University.
“On top of that, it’s solo seniors who have chronic illnesses, and then on top of that it’s seniors who have some form of material or social deprivation,” he said.
“That could be income, it could be the nature of their housing and the neighbourhood they live in that (could) have inadequate tree canopy. All of those factors come together and we have to work on many of them simultaneously.”
Failing to ensure that buildings are surrounded by trees to provide shade and evaporative cooling would be “shooting ourselves in the foot in terms of the energy load and the cooling demand of a building in the future,” said Ryansek, calling for “very robust” requirements for vegetation and landscaping to mitigate extreme heat.
Metro Vancouver is aiming to increase its urban tree canopy to 40 per cent by 2050, up from an average of 32 per cent across the region, although a 2019 report noted the existing canopy was declining due to urban development. The goal for the City of Vancouver, specifically, is to increase the canopy from 18 to 22 per cent.
Boston said there are significant co-benefits to many of the measures to improve heat resiliency, such as the restoration of urban tree canopies.
Trees and vegetation help reduce flood risk, he said, and neighbourhood parks serve as social hubs that can ease social isolation and foster a sense of community.
“We have complex problems, and if we only look at one isolated component, we don’t maximize benefit from solving these problems in an integrated manner,” Boston said.
For instance, Boston’s organization is working on a project on Vancouver’s north shore to consider how social service providers could help older single people manage secondary suites in their homes, an approach he said could ease housing unaffordability while mitigating risks stemming from living alone during extreme heat.
“We have to multi-solve,” Boston said.
Meanwhile, a 2020 survey and report from B.C.’s hydro and power authority found residential air-conditioning use had more than tripled since 2001.
Many residents were adding an average of $200 to their summer bill by using air conditioning units inefficiently, with nearly a third of survey respondents setting the temperature below 19 C. Popular portable units use 10 times more energy than a central air-conditioning system or heat pump, the report said.
Globally, the International Energy Agency projected in 2018 that energy demand from air conditioning would triple by 2050.
Continuing on that path would make it difficult for governments to achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets to mitigate climate change, Rysanek said.
“If we exacerbate this problem … the building development costs are a drop in the bucket with regards to the climate impacts we’re going to be facing,” he said.
The B.C. government should incentivize non-mechanical cooling options to spur their adoption in homes and commercial buildings, he said, pointing to measures such as natural ventilation, ceiling fans and radiant cooling built into floors or ceilings, all of which would cool residents before turning on an air conditioner.
“We should be encouraging our policymakers to realize there’s a big world out there of alternatives. We might not have the suppliers here yet in B.C., but it’s a great opportunity for business,” Rysanek said.
Companies all over the world have been deploying these cooling alternatives in Europe, in Asia and elsewhere, and “we should try to invite them here so that we learn about these things, as a public, as consumers,” he said.
The coroner’s report calls on B.C. to ensure the 2024 building code incorporates passive and active cooling requirements in new homes, along with cooling standards for renovating existing homes, and to make sure “climate change lenses” are adopted in regional growth strategies and official community plans.
It also recommends that the province consider how to issue cooling devices as medical equipment for those at greatest risk of dying during extreme heat.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has said the government would consider the report and “take necessary steps to prevent heat-related deaths in the future.”
It’s difficult to predict how often B.C. might see a repeat of last summer’s highest temperatures, but climate change is undoubtedly causing heat extremes to increase in frequency and magnitude, said Rachel White, an assistant professor in the department of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences at the University of B.C.
“When we have a normal heat wave in the future, it will be hotter than we’ve been used to,” she said.
A heat dome refers to a region of high pressure that settles in place as temperatures below get hotter, White explained.
These regions sometimes become “quasi-stationary,” depending on factors such as the strength of winds circulating high in the atmosphere, she said.
As the heat dome blanketed B.C. last year, its effects were amplified by soil that was already stricken by drought, lacking moisture that would evaporate and help cool the land during the long summer days with clear skies, she said.
Earth’s “atmosphere is not in equilibrium,” White warned, “and the longer we continue to put out these greenhouse gases, the more and more warming we’re going to see.”
“We need to act now if we don’t want it to be dreadful in 40, 50 years’ time.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2022.
Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
Hockey Canada trying to ‘salvage’ World Juniors amid scandal, low ticket sales – Global News
The tournament got underway on Tuesday in Edmonton, Alta., with thousands of tickets still available. It was postponed late last year as a result of the Omicron variant surge.
In the months since, the national organization has become embroiled in condemnation and controversy over its handling of the allegations. As a result, regional tourism body Explore Edmonton, told Global News, it paused promotion of the tournament in July.
“As the host city for the upcoming tournament, we continue to have discussions with Hockey Canada officials about their plans to address the need for change,” said Traci Bednard, CEO of Explore Edmonton.
Thousands of tickets still up for grabs for World Juniors Championship games in Edmonton
For sports culture expert Dan Mason, that’s not a huge surprise.
“Hockey Canada is hurting because they’re lacking sponsorship and the usual promotion that they get. I don’t think it’s necessarily something that they would really want to be doing anyway, given the circumstances that they’re in,” said Mason, a professor of sport management at the University of Alberta.
“I think they’re just trying to salvage this opportunity to have some player development.”
The World Juniors is the international championship for players aged 20 or younger competing for spots on teams run by the national hockey league.
It is run by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), which confirmed last week it is now among the growing number of official bodies investigating Hockey Canada over its handling of sexual assault allegations. The Zurich, Switzerland-based world governing body for ice hockey said it wants more information amid a continued storm of criticism and condemnation, which has rocked Hockey Canada to its core.
“These are deeply troubling incidents that the IIHF takes extremely seriously,” the organization told Global News on Aug. 1.
TSN first reported in May that Hockey Canada had settled a lawsuit in which a young woman, “E.M.”, alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight hockey players including members of the 2018 Canadian World Juniors team following a gala organized by the organization.
In the months since, Hockey Canada has been engulfed in scrutiny including: three parliamentary committee meetings focusing on the matter, a funding freeze ordered by the federal sports minister, a financial audit, a renewed criminal investigation by police in London, Ont., and an NHL probe.
The organization has lost multiple major sponsors for the World Juniors tournament including Tim Hortons, Telus, Canadian Tire and Scotiabank, and faced a revolt from provincial hockey organizations vowing to withhold funding. The chair of the board of directors is gone — though the president Scott Smith remains. Former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell is leading a governance review due in November.
Whether Smith will remain in the role after that review remains uncertain.
Meanwhile, Canadian parents are furious, particularly over the revelations of a slush fund used to pay out sexual assault claimants using registration fees paid by parents for their children to play what Stompin’ Tom Connors once called “the good ol’ hockey game.”
Abuse survivors react to Hockey Canada executives’ testimony
Mason said he expects the impact of the revelations will play out in youth enrolment numbers.
At the same time, some locals who planned to attend the World Juniors said they trust that the problems in the organization are being taken care of and don’t want to penalize the players.
Randy Thompson spoke to Global News outside the Rogers Centre in Edmonton. He said he plans to catch a few games, and after years of COVID-19 disruption watching the World Juniors feels like a return to a “nice tradition.”
“I think it’s on all of our minds and we hope that there’s a positive resolution to that,” he said of the allegations and the outcry facing Hockey Canada.
“But hockey still is what it is and we shouldn’t let that affect us too too much. I think we need to stay true to our hockey culture or hockey tradition, and I know that the right people will take care of things.”
‘More diversity’ needed at Hockey Canada following Brind’Amour resignation
The Canadian team is set to face off against Latvia on Wednesday in their first game of the tournament.
Team Canada’s head coach André Tourigny said leaders have been emphasizing to players that they are under the spotlight, but kept his remarks to the media brief about the outcry facing Hockey Canada.
“We’ve addressed that. We recognize that there’s steps to be taken,” said Tourigny earlier this week. “We did a sexual violence thing, we did a code of conduct thing.”
Brenda Andress, who was commissioner of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League for 12 years, told Global News she still sees a “code of silence” in Canadian sports when it comes to sex abuse and sexual allegations.
She said in an interview last week that many still have trouble wrapping their heads around the extent of the problem.
“Being in the sports world as long as I have been, there is a code of silence. There’s a culture that we have created, and I think most of us can’t handle the truth that’s out there — that’s really going on in our sports world,” Andress said.
“It’s time that we take a look at it in a lot deeper avenue than we’re currently doing.”
— With files from Global Edmonton’s Morgan Black.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Sask. woman, accused of faking own death, says she had 'no choice' but to flee – CBC.ca
The Saskatoon woman accused of staging the disappearance of herself and her son has issued a statement to CBC News from an Oregon jail.
Dawn Walker, 48, was the subject of an extensive missing persons search after she disappeared with her son about two weeks ago. She was found and arrested in Oregon City on Friday and has been detained in the U.S. since.
“I left Saskatoon because I feared for my safety and that of my son,” Walker said in a written statement to CBC News. She didn’t name the person she said she fears, but Walker has previously made domestic violence allegations against her ex, who is the father of her seven-year-old son.
Police have said the domestic violence allegations were investigated, but no evidence was found to support them.
Walker’s friend, Eleanore Sunchild, recorded Walker’s statement during a visit at the Multnomah County Jail in Portland on Monday.
Walker is charged in the U.S. with aggravated identity theft, which, if convicted, would lead to a minimum prison sentence of two years. She has also been criminally charged with parental abduction and public mischief in Canada.
U.S. prosecutors allege that Walker faked her and her son’s deaths as part of an elaborate scheme that involved stolen identities and a fraudulent bank account. Police were able to locate Walker and her son last Friday by following bank transactions for gas, food, Netflix and Airbnb rentals.
Walker says justice system failed
Walker said she was “failed by the Saskatchewan Justice system, the family law system and child protection.”
She said she previously filed domestic abuse reports with Saskatoon police and RCMP and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The police services did nothing to assist me. I reported my concerns to the child protection authorities and again nothing was done. I am fighting systems that continuously fail to protect me as an Indigenous woman and protect non-Indigenous men,” Walker said.
“So many women and children before us have had to run for their lives to protect their children. The SPS and RCMP only cared when they thought I was dead and the pressure they were under because of their blatant failures.”
Before Walker was located by police, her friends and family suggested foul play or interpersonal violence could be involved in her disappearance. Saskatoon police were asked Monday about the allegations.
“Any potential or any previous allegations made by Dawn Walker were thoroughly investigated and no charges resulted as a result of those investigations,” Saskatoon police Deputy Chief Randy Huisman said.
The allegations of domestic abuse were also put directly to her ex, the father of the seven-year-old, by CKOM before Walker and her son were found.
Andrew Jansen told CKOM he “would never hurt Dawn or [her son]. There’s no truth to any of that, and that’s all I can say.” CBC News contacted Jansen about the allegations. He declined to comment, saying he is taking time to focus on his son and family.
Walker says she had ‘no choice’
In her statement, Walker had a message for the dozens of family members, friends and others who prayed and searched for her in the days after she was declared missing.
“I apologize to anyone I hurt. I was left with no choice. No one heard me. I love my son so very much. He is my only child…I was motivated out of my immense love for [him],” she said.
She said she witnessed something involving the boy “that scared me to the core,” but did not elaborate.
“More will come out as I further tell my story upon my return to our Treaty lands,” she said.
Sunchild and Walker’s family also emailed written statements to CBC News. They are pressing for Walker’s extradition to Canada and encouraging others to do the same.
“We, her supporters, urge the Canadian and Saskatchewan governments to commence extradition proceedings immediately so Dawn can return to Canada to deal with her matters there,” said Sunchild, a Cree lawyer in Saskatchewan who is in the U.S. supporting Walker as a friend.
The family said Walker “deserves our compassion and understanding.… It’s not easy being an Indigenous woman in Saskatchewan. All she wanted to do was raise her son in peace.”
Saskatoon police said the criminal investigation into Walker — and those who may have helped her — is ongoing. They said there could be more criminal charges laid depending on the outcome.
A rally is being held Tuesday evening at the Legislature building in Regina in support of Walker, who appears back in court next month.
Stable weather allows fire crews to focus on containment of B.C. wildfires
Crews battling the wildfire that has forced the evacuation of more than 500 properties in British Columbia’s southern Okanagan are taking advantage of calm winds and stable conditions to bolster fire lines.
The BC Wildfire Service says the the wildfire covers 68 square kilometres southwest of Penticton, with most of the recent growth due to planned ignitions needed to create the control lines.
An update from the wildfire service says newly created control lines are “holding well.”
It says a key objective is to continue mop-up work along Highway 3A in an effort to reopen the route connecting Keremeos and the evacuated community of Olalla with towns further north.
Crews are keeping a close eye on weather conditions as a storm approaches from Washington state, bringing showers later this week and possible lightning strikes on Wednesday.
The wildfire service has recorded 564 blazes since the season began, 58 of them in the last seven days, and lists the fire danger rating as high to extreme on Vancouver Island, the entire B.C. coast and across the southern quarter of the province.
Of the eight wildfires of note currently burning in the Kamloops and Southeast fire centres, only the blaze near Penticton continues to keep residents out of their homes.
None of the other seven have grown significantly in recent days and the wildfire service website says the roughly three-square-kilometre fire in grasslands northwest of Kamloops is now listed as “being held,” allowing crews to finish building control lines.
Wildfires of note are either highly visible or pose a threat to people or properties.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.
The Canadian Press
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