Heritage sites in the Langara area, a look at our community’s past

26 SW Marine Drive

The Chrysler Building's brick wall is braced with metal poles while it undergoes restoration. Click for Flickr photo gallery

By BEN INGRAM


Every city is in some way adorned with a legacy of historic buildings, those fixtures of the past which provide a window into the character of previous days.

Vancouver is of course no different. Places like Casa Mia, a mansion built by bootleggers in the 1930s, offer more than just shelter from the storm. They give the city a story, one which can be shared with visitors and newborns alike.

While the rum-runner mansion, currently rumoured to be on the market for more than $10 million, offers an appealing story of high-class gangsters, all of Vancouver’s heritage buildings have a tale worth telling.

The Langara area is home to several heritage sites. They may not be as flashy as the others, but they each represent a worthy piece of Vancouver’s past.

The nuclear family

The Chrysler Building on 26 W Marine Drive is one such example.

It was built in 1956, a direct product of the post-war boom. Canadians were spending more than ever, families were growing and the consumer age rolled full-steam ahead.

All that stands now is the front wall, protected by a top-rating on Vancouver’s heritage register. The site has been rezoned to allow for the building of a retail complex centred around a large Canadian Tire store.

Marco Bordignon, project coordinator

Marco Bordignon points to the old wall's black support beam. The lead-filled beam will anchor the wall to the new building, he said.

Marco Bordignon is the project coordinator on the site.

“They’re using it like a showpiece,” Bordignon said of the intended design. The building’s remains will be fixed against the opening wall of the store, facing outwards towards Marine Drive. He said that a great deal of care is being taken to protect the wall while the new stores are constructed.

The new store was designed by architect John Cheung.

“Part of the agreement is to make sure we retain the wall, [but also] that we have to restore the wall,” Cheung said, speaking of his design for the retail giant. The wall suffers from damaged brickwork and needs supports to prevent it from collapsing while the new complex is constructed.

While the people who worked there didn’t have high status jobs or stories worth making a movie about, their legends are told just as much. The nuclear family and white-glowing television sets, when smoking was okay and letters had to be physically written.

Award-winning design

While a brick wall might not be much to look at, the Langara area is also home to sites that are protected because of the shear beauty of their design.

One example is the Unitarian Church on W 49th Avenue.

A natural wood interior welcomes light and perfected acoustics.

Reverend Steve Epperson knows all about it.

“You’ve got wood, you’ve got lots of light. He wanted to build it so you’d have that sense of inside being outside, bringing nature in,” Epperson said.

The building was designed by Wolfgang Gerson in 1964 with a careful ear towards acoustics. While serving primarily as a church, the building doubles as a highly regarded concert hall.

Reverend Steve Epperson outside the sanctuary

Epperson stands beside a plaque dedicating the building to its creator

So much has the building been praised for the brilliance of its design that it has also been given a top-rating on the heritage register.

Windows into the past

The Langara area is also home to sites that are valued because of their age.

Sir William Van Horne Elementary will be celebrating its centennial this year during the month of May. Built in 1911, the school continues to educate the children who grow up in our neighbourhood. Even at the age of 100, the building is a well-maintained window into the areas past.

Close to that is the C.G. Johnson house on W 58th Avenue. Built in 1912 by one of Vancouver’s wealthier individuals, it later became a nursing home in 1938. Like the school it stands well-preserved, an age-old building amongst freshly dry-walled suburban houses and sprawling retail outlets.

BC Soccer optimistic about Vancouver Whitecaps MLS debut

Proud fans watch the Whitecaps' first MLS victory. Photo by Rosie Tulips

The enthusiasm surrounding Saturday’s Whitecaps victory over Toronto FC has BC Soccer Association excited about the future of youth soccer in the province.

As a director of BC Soccer, Steve Allen said he expects the Whitecaps’ integration into Major League Soccer will boost interest in soccer for both parents and their children.

“In general we expect to see an increase in youth registration. BC Soccer’s programming has changed over the last year in anticipation of the MLS,” Allen said.

Many of the 23,000 screaming fans that witnessed Whitecaps star Eric Hassli score two goals on Saturday, leading the team to victory over Toronto FC, were parents and children.

“Those kinds of activities tend to generate new registrations in the youth game,” Allen said, adding that when the parents become interested, they’re much more likely to register their kids to play.

This February, BC Soccer announced the eight clubs comprising their new Premier League. Top-level talents in youth soccer will be recruited from multiple age ranges to participate in the first ‘mini-season’ this fall.

The league, which recently enlisted EA Sports as a major sponsor, begins its first full-season in March of 2012. BC Soccer’s Premier League will have youth competing on the national level.

“Our reorganization was to bring us in line with the rest of Canada,” Allen said.

Some adjustments

“BC’s in a very unique situation in that we can play soccer all year round. It’s also a double-edged sword because you get lousy weather, more injuries. Summer time, when we should be playing or training, we’re not.”

Like the Canucks, the Whitecaps sell 50/50 lottery tickets at their games and a significant portion is marked for youth programs. Allen said he also expects increased revenue from the Whitecaps to help development.

“More camps, academies and programs that people can take part in. There’s some revenue generation there,” Allen said. He added that many of the kids involved at this level will have their eyes set on a career in soccer that may include university, college, or even the Whitecaps themselves.

While the new league has been organized around the anticipation of the Whitecaps heading to MLS, Allen hopes the added interest in the sport will show at all levels of competitive soccer in BC.

Beyond simply raising interest in the sport, there are expectations that the Whitecaps will have other positive effects on the province.

Around $563 million has been injected into renovations at BC Place, the future home of the Whitecaps and BC Lions. With this, there is added hope that Vancouver will win its bid to secure the 2015 Women’s World Cup of Soccer.

Hope for growth

While increased revenues are expected by people like Allen to trickle down to the lower levels of soccer in the province, he said he also expects merchandise sales and tourism to have a positive effect on the local economy.

“It’s flying off the shelves right now,” Allen said of Whitecaps merchandise. “There’s a lot of [economic] activity that comes from these events.”

BC Soccer expects that games against Toronto, Portland and Seattle will generate the most tourism, with visitors loyal to these teams staying in hotels and enjoying Vancouver’s culture.

The general confidence in the future of the Whitecaps has also led to an all-star line up of sponsorships. Among the names secured before Saturday’s MLS debut are Bell Canada, Bank of Montreal, Electronic Arts and Kia Motors.

With all the investment, sponsorship and enthusiastic fans surrounding the Whitecaps’ ascendancy, it would seem that Vancouver has caught soccer fever.

“The reality is, when the Whitecaps started to look at [entering the MLS], they had other things in mind as well.”

Hundreds of citizens pack city council for first Edgewater Casino hearing

A crowd gathers outside of the W 12 Avenue entrance to city hall

The corridors of Vancouver City Hall were packed tonight, as hundreds of people showed up to express their distaste over the proposed Edgewater Casino expansion.

Before being allowed into the building, protesters jammed the entrance waiting for the security lockdown to cease, a “standard procedure” according to councillor Andrea Reimer, who entered through the Broadway entrance.

While the anger could be felt from all directions, with various groups lobbing words like ‘greed’ and expressing a strong distaste for what they felt the proposal would mean for the city, a small group of casino workers stood off to the side, wondering why nobody wanted to hear their side of the story.

Edgewater employees

“They help me out a lot,” said Edgewater employee Elela Eremina. A Russian immigrant and 13 year casino employee, Eremina said she was recently diagnosed with cancer and that the company had been quite supportive of her needs.

Beside Eremina stood her friend and colleague Shelly Holden, a 38-year-old blackjack dealer that’s worked at Edgewater for over two years.

“It’s pretty heart breaking to see this many people so adamantly opposed to it,” she said, her eyes watering up indicating she was holding back tears.

“They’re making it more of an anger issue than it is.”

Holden said the critics of the development were ignoring the creation of jobs, expected to number some 1,900 full-time equivalent positions.

“Nobody still has a solid argument as to why [there should be] no casino.”

Gaming addiction

Holden pointed to GameSense representatives who are tasked with identifying problem gamblers, around 4.6 per cent of the population, and providing them with services to deal with their addictions.

“You go online and you don’t get that,” she said. “BCLC seems to be pretty much supporting online gambling and they’re forgetting about the people who actually need jobs.”

Those opposed certainly made their presence felt, with several large banners exclaiming opposition to the casino expansion. The group Vancouver Not Vegas, which distributed signs addressed to various councillors opposing the expansion, had collected over 2,800 signatures for its online petition by the time council proceedings began.

Opposition from an unlikely source

Among the 163 speakers in line to speak was Glyn Townson, spokesman for the BC Persons with AIDS Society.

“I think the politicians need to hear the issues around this that they might not be fully aware of,” he said. Townson expressed a degree of confidence in the mayor and council, but added that he worried about the transparency of gaming funds.

“They’re not giving the percentages they said they were going to in the first place … In the beginning where it was 50 per cent, now [it’s] 30 per cent,” he said.

Townson said that his group depends upon an annual dividend of $210,000 in order to finance much of their operations. While told there would be no cuts to that funding, he said he recently found out that the group will have to budget for $50,000 less.

Saying he had witnessed the effects first-hand of these type of cuts on social programming, like arts and athletics, Townson said his group wanted “A full counting of where that money is going.”

A crowd pleaser

While the highly contenious session of council got underway, the crowd became noticeably unsettled by 8:00 p.m. A drunken individual, who was seen consuming alcohol outside of the council chambers, walked up to the BC Pavilion Corporation speaker and interrupted his presentation.

Security officials asked the crowd if the man should be removed and the group answered with a resounding “Yes!”

It was, perhaps, the least contentious issue of the night.

Growing sustainability through education: teaching children environmental responsibility

These brightly coloured fish were created by the kids of St. Augustine's Elementary. Photo by Yai&JR.

 

Childhood education is perhaps one of the most underrated ways to build towards a sustainable future. While adults are busy trying to change their habits, public education offers the opportunity to instill the values of sustainability in children from the very start.

As public schools often strive to be positive fixtures in their local communities, there are always plenty of opportunities for young green minds to apply these values in an impactful way.

“That’s a really important point,” trustee Mike Lombardi of the Vancouver School Board said. “One of our goals as an establishment is to become the greenest school district in North America.”

The VSB intends to meet this goal through the adoption of a strategic sustainability plan, which according to Lombardi will be released this April.

The plan will outline long-term strategies including several initiatives based on student participation. The aim is to not only be the greenest school district on the continent, but to also educate kids on the value of such a commitment.

Lombardi said the plan will contain several different components, including food-based initiatives like composting and gardening. Recycling and energy conservation will also play a prominent role in the plan.

What this means: at the school level

Mike McEwan is the Principal of Edith Cavell Elementary School on West 20th Avenue.

“There’s all kinds of programs that go through the curriculum that teach kids about their responsibilities,” McEwan said. “It has to be something you’re always talking about.”

McEwan said that educators strive to integrate social responsibility as part of their daily lessons. From English to math, students often receive reminders of the importance of sustainability and conservation.

But beyond the classroom, schools recognize their role as fixtures of the local communities they serve. As such, students, educators, and parents often find ways to take these lessons outside of the school.

“The PAC (Parent Advisory Council) is interested in getting some kind of a teaching garden here,” McEwan offered as one such example. “Our leadership students are going to be involved in either the planting or maintaining of a traffic circle.” These roundabout traffic circles with gardens in the middle have become a regular sight on Vancouver’s roads.

Vancouver roundabouts may be a nuisance to drivers, but they offer more green space in a heavily paved city. Photo by Spacing Magazine.

 

Another example is the work of school kids around salmon enhancement. Community initiatives take the form of painting fish on storm sewers to remind locals to be careful what they dump down the drain.

“That whole social responsibility thread goes through a lot of what we do at all of the levels,” McEwan added.

What this means: cooperation with the city

Vancouver’s own commitment to a green future can, and often is, integrated with the aims of other levels of governance.

As a means of educating children, the city sponsors a two-person theatrical troupe called Dream Rider Theatre. Their mission: to educate kids in environmental awareness.

You can check out videos of some of their work here.

Schools like Edith Cavell Elementary can book the performances free of charge, thanks to city sponsorship.

McEwan said that educating kids in sustainability requires constant input from educators, the community, and parents. This is why it is so vital to integrate the lessons into the normal daily routines of schools.

Looking forward, McEwan predicted more cooperation between those tasked with teaching our youth.

“I would only expect that as these initiatives come forward, as it becomes more and more important, that we all take responsibility.”

 

 

Vancouver school board says human rights legislation fails to target gender discrimination

Feb. 21, 2011’s meeting of the Vancouver School Board welcomed very few observers.


The Vancouver School Board believes changes to human rights legislation in Canada are necessary to fight homophobia and gender discrimination in public schools.

VSB has voted unanimously to formally support bill C-389, a proposal to recognize gender identity and gender expression in the Human Rights Act. The bill, which is now awaiting approval of the Senate, would also include discrimination against transgendered peoples under the Criminal Code’s hate crime laws.

“We spend so much time in our education system trying to prevent [discrimination] and dealing with it,” trustee Mike Lombardi said.

“This is an important legal piece which will make the case from a legal perspective. So, it supports us in what we’re trying to do through our education and training program for kids .”

The Canadian Human Rights Act currently prohibits discrimination on the grounds of “race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, and conviction for which a pardon has been granted.”

Bill C-389

As of now, transgendered peoples currently have no protection from discrimination under law. In public schools where children are often subject to bullying and verbal abuse, administrators currently lack any legal basis to fight the discrimination.

“We’re promoting tolerance and acceptance, and working really hard trying to promote social behaviour [in the schools],” Lombardi said. “What this does is, from a legal point of view, legitimizes that.”

Bill C-389 is a private member’s bill put forward by NDP member Bill Siksay, and was passed by a 143 to 135 vote on Feb. 9, 2011.

“I am proud to stand in solidarity with the transgender and transsexual community, as we finally seek their full equality and seek to establish their full human rights in law in Canada,” Siksay said to Parliament when introducing Bill C-389.

“I have seen and sometimes shared the frustration, the anger, the tears and the deep sadness of people who are not yet equal, who too often face violence, sometimes to the point of death, and who mourn the loss of friends and family for whom the pain was more than they could bear, “ he added.

Conservative opposition

Critics of the legislation have been calling it “the bathroom bill,” arguing that discriminatory protections against transgendered peoples would grant sexual predators access to the public bathrooms of both sexes.

Leading this charge against the bill is Charles McVety, an evangelical minister and far-right conservative activist.

“My daughter turned 13 on Saturday, and I don’t want some guy showering beside her at the local swimming pool,” McVety said in an interview with the Globe and Mail. McVety said he believed the bill to be “a danger to our children.”

Trustees with VSB unanimously disagree with McVety and worry that the bill could be defeated by the conservative Senate.

Trustee Jane Bouey echoed these concerns, saying that forces of intolerance “are spreading information about what this bill would mean.”

“They’re putting intense pressure on the senate to try to stop it from passing,” she said.

Bouey said she considered sexual and gender-based discrimination to be a serious problem in Vancouver’s schools. According to her, VSB passed its own policy prohibiting this type of discrimination in 2004.

“The early indications are [that] it hasn’t resulted in a complete elimination of bullying of transgendered students or queer students, but it does make a difference,” Bouey said.

According to her, only 12 of British Columbia’s 60 school districts currently have such a policy.

Sustainable Vancouver: building towards lean, green transport

This article is the second in a series on living sustainably in Vancouver. Stay tuned for more instalments.

Old Translink buses catch some Sun as they await their fate. Photo by Stephen Rees.


Building towards sustainable transport

Environmentalists in Vancouver were given a reason to smile last week when Translink released its first report on sustainability.

The 102-page report details an extensive amount of data related to environmental and economic sustainability, while also providing a window into the overall operations of the company.

In building towards a sustainable future in transport, the document is a step in the right direction. Transportation currently accounts for up to 33 per cent of green house gas (GHG) emissions in the province of British Columbia, and that is reason enough to begin documenting the specific indicators guiding these emissions.

Taking measure of a system’s performance allows for improvements to be made. To reach higher levels of sustainability in transportation, the data necessary to understand the system must be made available.

I spoke with Translink spokeswoman Trish Webb about the release. She said that the sustainability report is based on regional indicators, and these are only made available every five years.

Read More

Vancouver surgeon, Dr. Robert Taylor, receives the Order of Canada

Of the 54 people awarded the Order of Canada for 2010, 13 were B.C. residents. Dr. Robert Taylor, a professor at the University of British Columbia, received his for donating time and expertise to developing nations in need.

“I’m really busy,” Dr. Robert Taylor said over the phone when contacted for an interview. “I was just out the door, I didn’t even think I should answer the phone.”

Even when running late, the doctor comes across as apologetic, kind, and sincere. He speaks with a tone that is both calm and articulate, lending a sense that he truly aims to be helpful.

But Taylor is a busy man indeed.

When the Vancouver-based surgeon isn’t overseas helping war torn and struggling nations establish some semblance of proper medical care, he’s at home finding other ways to share his expertise.

Dr. Robert Taylor teaching a hernia repair course in Zambia, 2009. Photo courtesy of CNIS.

Taylor works in the surgery departments of both Vancouver General Hospital and Providence Health Care.

In addition to being a professor at University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine, Taylor lends his services to the Red Cross and the Canadian Network for International Surgery, or CNIS.

A quick glance at the 66-year-old Taylor’s resume is enough to make even the most accomplished of us pause.

His initiatives in Vancouver include the establishment of UBC’s international surgery branch, as well as a colorectal cancer clinic at St. Paul’s hospital.

“At the request of the BC Cancer Agency…I initiated and developed the Anal Dysplasia Clinic at St. Paul’s,” Taylor wrote in his resume.

Since the early 1970s, the doctor has been on a wide array of humanitarian missions. The long list of countries he’s worked in includes Bolivia, Malawi, Uganda, and most recently, Sri Lanka and the Ivory Coast.

Working with the Red Cross in Sri Lanka, Taylor established “a sustainable surgical service in the north to serve the several hundred thousand internally displaced people from the long armed conflict in that region.”

In the Ivory Coast, Taylor also worked with the Red Cross to establish hospitals in war zones, following the announcement of a ceasefire.

Taylor practices stitch work with his students on a rather obedient patient, Zambia 2009. Photo courtesy of CNIS

His work as an ambassador of the Canadian medical profession earned him the Order of Canada in 2010, an award a co-worker said he accepted with humility.

“He was quite shocked when they told him,” Karethe Linaae of CNIS said. Linaae said Taylor was not expecting the award at all, and figured the phone call was to request a reference for someone else.

“He’s an amazing, giving, kind person. Very humble,” she said.

Linaae said Taylor is currently awaiting approval to visit Haiti with a group of Quebec surgeons, where he will work to establish medical facilities and train staff.

She added that he also teaches online surgery courses, allowing doctors in the developing world to continue learning once he’s left.