Protests over Taiwan-China trade pact in Vancouver

In general, Taiwanese people are proud of their economy–one that circulates much of the wealth back into the country as investments. It’s still the norm citizens spend their  money at small to medium-sized businesses where people who work there seem like an extension of family.

It’s not surprising that the recent trade agreement has garnered so much worry among Taiwanese people all over the world. The 6(Medium)reason why the country has been able to transform itself from a poor, farm-based economy to an industrial, high-tech nation in six decades is by fostering companies owned and engineered by Taiwanese entrepreneurs, academics, and scientists.

Here in Vancouver, residents from as far as White Rock gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery on March 30 to protest the lack of government transparency about details of the pact. For some it wasn’t the pact that worried them but how it was handled–quickly and secretively.

Here is more from my coverage for the Taipei Times.


Taipei Times article

Latest update: Kingsway Continental comes to life with first signs of residents

The first signs of life are appearing at the Kingsway Continental after months of renovations.

Kingsway Continental

Kingsway Continental is owned and operated by the City of Vancouver since 2012. It is a non-market housing that accommodates mostly residents from the Old Continental.

Aside from taking down the prominent Ramada Inn sign, the exterior of the building isn’t very different from what it use to be, but the lobby area is outfitted with plain furniture, some comfy leather sofas, few office desks and lots of recreational space. The most high-tech device I noticed was the fob the residents need to get in and out of the building.

However,  there’s not a single women to be seen. The City did confirm the residents are mostly men over 45 from the Old Continental (downtown), with “mental health or addiction issues” but the staff were also all men (according to my visit). This wouldn’t be a concern if there weren’t other residents moving in, but the vague description on the City’s website suggests that other vacant rooms could be occupied by women, children, families, and youths. How will they co-exist? Does the place foster community or isolation?

Safeway’s first ethnic foods pilot project in Western Canada launched on Kingsway

Safeway ice cream

Bok choy. Red bean ice cream. Fish sauce. Coconut jelly. What do they all have in common? Shoppers who usually travel to Asian grocery stores for these items can now find it all under Safeway’s roof.

After undergoing renovations last summer, the 3410 Kingsway location has been quietly testing the first pilot project in Western Canada to adopt an ethnic food initiative. The plan was hatched in Safeway’s Calgary office a year before the program launch.

Manager of ethnic marketing initiative, Fiona Lui, visits the Vancouver location about once a month. She says the program was a logical step, given that the neighbourhood is 70 per cent Asian. Safeway launched a similar program in Marpole last December. Lui added that if the pilot project is successful, more neighbourhoods could see offerings tailored to local tastes.

It just so happens that three smaller Asian grocery stores are 200 meters away. Find out what shoppers have to say about the Safeway alternative in a story I pitched, filmed and edited with journalist Tricia Lo.

Safeway - sauces     Safeway bread

New inner city school funding model rules out poverty in Mount Pleasant Elementary

Is Mount Pleasant an inner city school?grade2_music_RS

Some concerned parents are fuming over Vancouver School Board’s (VSB) new model of designating inner city schools, which would disqualify Mount Pleasant Elementary from funding it’s been receiving for approx. 20 years.

VSB is proposing a ranking system based on three tiers. Schools in tier one receive the most funding because they’re the most impoverished, followed by second and third.

The services these funding provide  include “breakfast and lunches programs, additional special education assistants and literacy specialists, social-emotional support workers, junior kindergartens, and out-of-school programming.”

The new ranking system is based on the Social Service Index (SSI). It identifies the numbers of families who live on income assistance, and the numbers of children in the school who are in care. It is used because there’s a “very strong correlation between the SSI and . . . school enrolment and neighbourhood information,” according to VSB.

Mount Pleasant Elementary will not qualify based on its small number of SSI children. Their numbers are lower (26 out of 187 children) than the 15 elementary schools that will receive support.

But parents are countering their low SSI with several arguments. One of them is their proximity to other designated inner city schools, which makes it “incomprehensible” that it should be excluded from funding.

Mount Pleasant ranking by distance

An ongoing debate between parents, citizens and VSB were held throughout February. Mount Pleasant Parent Group addressed the VSB on Feb. 27, to voice their opinions on the proposed funding cuts. A final decision will be made on March 10 at VSB’s public Board Meeting.

Van. City Council to vote on bus No. 49 route changes affecting Killarney residents

champlain square

Champlain Square is located along East 54th Avenue where TransLink is proposing to eliminate bus service. It could potentially affect businesses and residents who get to and from the plaza using the bus.

Some Killarney residents hope to stomp out TransLink’s proposed changes to the No. 49 bus route.

TransLink proposed a makeover for the No. 49 bus route that runs along East 49th Avenue with major stops like UBC, Langara College and Metrotown Station. The “diversion” TransLink hopes to eliminate is located between Kerr and Tyne Street. Instead of riding along East 49th Avenue to reach the two streets, the bus travels towards East 54th Avenue to service businesses and residents near Champlain Square.

bus 49 diversion

The “diversion” along East 49th Avenue that TransLink says creates a five-minute delay for 95 per cent of its passengers.

TransLink says 95 per cent of its passengers don’t get off in any of the 14 stops along this route, which results in commutes five minutes longer for the rest. However, long-time resident and executive director of Citizens for Accessible Neighbourhoods, Heather McCain says the number is a “distortion” because TransLink is narrowing in on a small neighbourhood. She is alarmed about how different groups of people may be impacted by this change.

”It impacts everybody, but the three main groups are seniors, people with disabilities, and families with small children. We got a couple of seniors here who are on oxygen, who can barely make it to this bus stop. There’s no way they can make 600 metres.

“Personally, I use a walker or a wheelchair. I can use a walker to get to this bus stop, but I’d have to use my wheelchair to get up to 49th. And using a wheelchair versus a walker on a transit system is a big deal. I’ll get passed up with a wheelchair,” she adds.

Coun. Geoff Meggs is a staunch supporter of the current route. In Vancouver council’s upcoming meeting on March 11, he plans to propose a motion that will “advise TransLink that the City of Vancouver opposes any reduction of service to the Champlain Diversion neighbourhood and recommends that service be increased on Route 49 to reduce pass-ups and overcrowding,” said Meggs on his website.

Canada’s residential school past takes centre stage at Fraser Lands Church in East Vancouver

residential school

“The Canadian government developed a policy called “aggressive assimilation” to be taught at church-run, government-funded industrial schools, later called residential schools. The government felt children were easier to mold than adults, and the concept of a boarding school was the best way to prepare them for life in mainstream society.” — CBC News

This past Friday (Feb.28), I was invited to a screening of the documentary We Were Children (2012) at Fraser Lands Church located on SE Marine Drive. The night was part of an awareness campaign on the suffering First Nations children endured in church-run residential schools across Canada.

The three hour event was called Journey Together, Heal Together. In addition to the film, it included First Nations speakers who had personal connections to Indian residential schools.

When I arrived, the first surprise was the large turnout at the event. The parking lot was full, and there were rows of parked cars lining the street outside the church. Inside, there must have been close to 200 people sitting in the pews.

As the story unfolded, it became harder and harder to watch. Graphic details about sexual, physical, mental, and emotional abuse surfaced. (Many of which I had never known before).

Glen Anaquod

Glen Anaquod was a residential school survivor. He endured physical, mental and emotional abuse in the school. Throughout the film, he would say how much he envied children with parents, because he never experienced it.

One of two main narrators of the film, Glen Anaquod, was an orphan when he was taken to a school in Saskatchewan. As a young boy, a priest tricked Anaquod to follow him to a basement in the priest’s home. The priest locked Anaquod in a dark cell, and was raped along with another girl who was also locked up.

As a teenager, Anaquod and a friend attempted to escape. They ran to his aunt’s nearby home seeking safety. The aunt eventually notified school teachers and took the boys away. As punishment, they were beaten by a group of priests and had to stay in the infirmary for a week to recover.

Anaquod died in 2011, a year before the film released. It was his greatest wish that his story be shared.

These experiences  took a toll on the survivors long after they leave residential schools. Ivan Wells, from the Tsimpsian Nation,  didn’t attend a  residential school but his father was taken at five years old to one in Port Alberni. His father was a ‘lively’ young boy. To quell his energy, school officials ‘cemented his feet together.’


Lyna Hart was the other narrator of the film. She was often punished for speaking her own language. As a punishment, she had to hold her tongue for hours. She was also raped in a residential school

Wells recalled how his father was incapable of fathering his children because he was orphaned at a young age. Until he was 17, Wells was tormented by his father’s abusive outbursts. Wells recounts being beaten with sticks, shoes and bottles by his father. Unless his father was drunk, the children lived in constant fear of being beaten.

In total, about 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their families and forced into residential schools. In the 1800’s, the Canadian government thought the best chances for Aboriginals to succeed in the industrialization age was to undergo assimilation in these schools. They were forced to speak English, adopt Christianity, and adhere to Canadian customs.

The last residential school in Canada closed in 1996.

Sad goodbye to a local “safe haven” in Renfrew-Collingwood

When was the last time you mourned the loss of a beloved Starbucks location in Vancouver?

Those days are few and far between as Starbucks seems to colonize almost every major street in the city.

Though on Monday Feb.24,  residents in the Renfrew-Collingwood community bid farewell to one of the most beloved spaces on Kingsway for the past 20 years. On gray, rainy days, we sought refuge in the spacious corner store beaming warm halogen lights inside Starbucks 2-24and mesmerizing customers with the aroma of ground coffee beans.

Writer George Udo brought his family one last time. He has been going to the location almost every day for the past year to home school his son, and complete a novel in Portuguese. Although two smaller Starbucks locations are a five minute walk away, he hopes another cafe will claim the large space.

Peter Greenwell was stationed at the cafe for hours as a homeless program coordinator for the Morning Star breakfast program. A program that was the recipient of the day’s revenues.

Greenwell says the location has meant more than a coffee shop for locals. “I observed a lot of people coming and going, there were a whole bunch of different people sitting in groups and this was their fairly frequent kind of thing.”

“There were this group of guys that was behind me–there were about six of them and they had all been retired. They came for about an hour and a half catching up,” he added.

Greenwell also mentioned that it has served as a “home office,” and “spiritual outreach” for Pastor Daniel Louie who frequents the shop to hold a weekly discussion group.

The news of the store closing was a surprise to nearby residents. Due to the increase in rent, this location can no longer operate.

Starbucks sign                  starbucks memories           

Tug of war among Fraser Street businesses

South-Hill-Banner-2When fitness trainer Darnelle Moore moved to Fraser Street, she was counting on neighbouring business owners to help her attract more walk-by traffic to her sleek, ground-floor studio by reinventing their block.

As part of Moore’s property taxes due every year in February, she renews her business membership along with other owners on Fraser Street, in the South Hill Business Improvement Association. Yet, she was surprised by the lack of consensus among other owners who were “mistrustful” of the association. Some refused to be included in the directory, and ignored workshops on social media to rekindle their competitiveness.

Car Free Day Vancouver Main Street

Car Free Day Vancouver on Main Street. This popular event is a boon for local businesses and establishes Main Street as a hip and trendy neighbourhood. Other participating communities include Commercial Drive and Kitsilano.

That divide among businesses has left the BIA at a loss about what to do to improve the area. When South Hill proposed to mimic the popular Car Free Day Vancouver on Main Street –whereby the entire street is blocked off from traffic–there was an uproar among Fraser Street, according to Moore.

Now, the major annual event on Fraser Street is reduced from an idea to block off an entire street to a family-centred gathering located on parking lot strip with four participating restaurants and children’s activities.

Moore won’t speculate why some owners are resistant to the idea. Could it be a confluence of factors like cultural differences, or that it’s a family-oriented neighbourhood?