Living/Working February 7, 2020


February 7, 2020

First Nations Health Authority claims Nanaimo-based health services providers wrongfully sitting on millions in unused funds

BIV's lawsuit of the week

Photo: Rob Kruyt

The First Nations Health Authority is suing the Inter Tribal Services Association and the New Horizons Indigenous Association, claiming the Nanaimo-based organizations have wrongfully refused to return millions in unused funds meant for health-care services in First Nations communities on Vancouver Island.

The health authority filed a notice of civil claim in BC Supreme Court on January 27. According to the claim, the associations share leadership with what was formerly known as the Inter Tribal Health Authority (ITHA), which was funded by the federal government until 2013 when the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) was established.

“FNHA’s establishment in 2013 marked an important milestone in First Nation health governance and delivery in Canada, in transferring responsibility for the programs and services from Health Canada and into the hands of indigenous communities and decision-makers,” the claim states.

Under funding agreements, the plaintiff dispersed funds to the Inter Tribal Health Authority for “specific expenses,” but complaints began in 2016 “from certain First Nations regarding issues with respect to services and funding that were supposed to be delivered by ITHA to their communities.”

As well, an evaluation report submitted by ITHA executive director Trish Cassidy in May 2016 allegedly failed to address the complaints, causing the plaintiff “to question the quality of the evaluation and the tranparency and accountability of ITHA’s governance.”

Meanwhile, an auditor probing the ITHA reported “interference” with access to records and outlined several issues including “conflicts of interest among board members, senior leadership and staff members.” Moreover, the auditor found a “lack of transparency and board oversight” related to a house rented in Nanaimo for board members and clients as well as “two ITHA satellite offices that apparently do not exist.”

The First Nations Health Authority claims it received complaints from 13 of the 31 communities served by the Inter Tribal Health Authority between 2016 and 2018, including claims of “dysfunctional internal financial management” and “lack of reporting and accountablity to ITHA member Nations, including lack of transparency and responsiveness regarding funding allocations and service levels.”

The plaintiff terminated its funding agreement with the ITHA in March 2019 and claims the defendants have failed to return millions in unexpended funds from surpluses built up over the years.

“The original failure of ITHA to properly allocate the surplus resulted in funding and service gaps to these communities ... and therfore harm to communities and individuals that were the intended recipients of the limited health funding,” the claim states.

The defendants, according to the lawsuit, were incorporated less than a week before the termination of the funding agreement and are now using unexpended funds on “unpermitted uses” such as “significant legal costs.”

The First Nations Health Authority seeks damages for breach of the funding agreements, unjust enrichment, conversion and breach of trust. The allegations have not been tested or proven in court and the defendants had not responded to the claim by press time.


Dust far from settled in wake of Trans Mountain court decision

Sometimes, particularly when it leaves one party dissatisfied, the law is an inelegant instrument.

For now, at least, last week’s go-ahead of the Trans Mountain pipeline project by the Federal Court of Appeal signals a clearer boundary on the “duty to consult” when federal projects intrude upon the vast land in which Indigenous title remains in dispute.

But there remain obvious objections in our midst that will not go away once the construction courses across Alberta to British Columbia and delivers oil to tidewater to presumed Asian markets.

True, the legal scholars suggest it is unlikely that the Supreme Court of Canada will overturn the Appeal Court’s work – firm work, too, in asserting the Justin Trudeau government did what the Stephen Harper government didn’t, in listening and seemingly opening itself to some accommodation of Indigenous communities, even if that didn’t particularly emerge.

True, too, that the four Indigenous parties arguing against the government-owned project in court found themselves critiqued for overreach in wanting a fuller do-over of the case than the court felt it was guided to conduct after its 2018 decision sent the consultation process back to the federal government to fix. Once the court clarified what the case was and wasn’t about, it was able to note that consultation might mean concession but very much might not.

And true, true, true, the likeliest next step for the pipeline project now that it can proceed is Indigenous ownership, even if a few Indigenous communities do not want any part of it. Trudeau’s tightrope has been to pursue what he calls his most important relationship in reconciliation while guiding all Canadians toward a meaningful sharing of power.

The court is somewhat putting a wrench into the works of Trudeau’s grand plan. It is calling the shots on the terms and conditions under which Indigenous communities need to be consulted, making clear that both parties must be good-faith negotiators and proclaiming that opposition cannot convert into a veto if projects have a deemed public interest.

The political challenge for Trudeau now is to dial back the expectations he has raised of nation-to-nation partnerships while effecting substantial progress in both the advancement of Indigenous economic interests and the protection of their land when they feel aggrieved.

The court has made clear that government has the upper hand, that its consultation and accommodation are about process but never about outcome. In other words, no veto or de facto veto for Indigenous opponents.

How all of this squares with the prime minister’s rhetoric is now harder to see.

The most curious part of the decision concerned Indigenous arguments that the government’s ownership of the Trans Mountain project constituted a bias that made impossible an impartial cabinet decision on whether to proceed.

It’s hard to believe that the Trudeau government would have under any circumstances declared the project a national interest, pledged it would be built, bought it for safekeeping, consulted at the court’s direction and concluded that, well, maybe the project wasn’t such a great idea. All the court could do, though, is act upon the evidence that the government improved the marine safety elements of the project and legitimately sought to understand the Indigenous concerns.

Still, there is the feeling that the days are not done in the courts to provide an even clearer picture of the four corners of rights. Even if in 1997 the Supreme Court’s Delgamuukw ruling made clear that “we are all here to stay,” meaning Indigenous and non-Indigenous people with an important role of mutual respect, we can expect future discussions to adopt a different context. The duty to consult has a couple of emerging companions: Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) and the overarching United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). These are no small matters of manoeuvring, and the British Columbian business community would be wise to comprehend their impact. Opposition to Trans Mountain may not be realized, but on other fronts in the future, these tools are not yet tested and the fights are not done by a longshot.

Kirk LaPointe is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and the vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.




B.C. distillers bring home big wins in Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition

For the third year in a row a B.C. distillery has won the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year

Sheringham Distillery’s Kazuki Gin won 2020 Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year. Supplied photo

The best artisan spirit in Canada for 2020 is a Japanese-inspired gin, delicately flavoured with cherry blossom and yuzu, which was also awarded Best in Class spirit in the Contemporary Gin category. Though its name and inspiration may sound exotic, Kazuki Gin, made in Sooke on Vancouver Island, won Excellence in Terroir for its use of local ingredients that evoke a stylistic sense of place, like the only grown-in-Canada green tea (and green tea blossoms), from at the Island’s Westholme Tea Company. The hat trick of CASC awards this year joins a growing list of accolades for the Sooke distillery founded by Jason and Alayne MacIsaac, which also won Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year in 2018, for its Akvavit.

The Terroir designation—expressive local spirits could earn Merit or Excellence in Terroir, depending on their scores—is just one of the new features of this year’s awards, which were judged by a panel of eight nationwide. (Full disclosure: the author is the lead judge.) Monashee Spirits (makers of Ethos Gin, last year’s Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year) won the new Bitters category for the Barrel Aged House Aromatic Bitters it uses in its Revelstoke cocktail bar. A new Branding category, for which design experts considered labels, packaging and brand identity, saw Ironworks Distillery in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia recognized for its ceramic-bottled, wooden-crated Around the world Rum.

Of 16 Best in Class awards, nine went to B.C. distilleries. Other big B.C. winners included category-winning Shelter Point Single Malt Whisky, de Vine Ancient Grains Young Whisky, Odd Society Bittersweet VermouthMaple Leaf Spirits Lady of the Cask Brandy, Arbutus Distillery Barrel-Aged AbsintheTumbleweed Raspberry Moonshine in the White Spirit category, Truth Oat Vodka from the Liberty Distillery for Contemporary Vodka and Garlic Vodka from Monashee Spirits for Infused Vodka.

In addition, B.C. distilleries including Central City Brewers & Distillers, the Dubh Glas Distillery, Fernie Distillers, Merridale Cidery & Distillery, New Wave Distilling, The Woods Spirit Co. and Wynndel Craft Distilleries won Gold medals in spirit-tasting (and some, also for their branding). In the Branding category, additional Gold medals also went to B.C. brands Forbidden Spirits, Montis Distilling, Salt Spring Shine Craft Distillery and Wayward Distillery. Many other B.C. spirits were awarded Silver and Bronze medals. See the complete 2020 CASC results, or view them by region to spotlight B.C. winners.

The Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition, which handed out its first awards in 2018, was started by Alex Hamer, the founder of BC Distilled, an annual artisan spirit tasting festival that happens on April 4 this year, and of Artisan Distillers Canada, a national industry association.

The Alchemist


Vancouver listed as one of the world's best cities for a cycling adventure

Lonely Planet chose Vancouver in particular for the North Shore’s 'legendary mountain bike trails'

Vancouver has been listed as one of the best cities in the world for a cycling adventure | Photo: North Shore Mountain Bike Association

Vancouver has been listed as one of the best cities in the world for a cycling adventure by none other than travel-guide publisher Lonely Planet.

The list released Jan. 22, ranks the top 10 best places for a cycling holiday in 2020 and Vancouver came in second place.

Lonely Planet Writer Keir Plaice chose Vancouver in particular for the North Shore’s “legendary mountain bike trails.”

He highlights the beauty of being in Vancouver was that the most incredible trails were situated just a short drive from the city centre.

“Mt Fromme and Mt Seymour are home to the most renowned and difficult trails,” he wrote.

“Steep tracks that twist down through old-growth red cedars, aided by a range of man-made bridges and teeter-totters (see-saws).

“The riding there will leave you giddy with laughter if your skills are up to it.”

Mt Seymour has 71 mountain bike trails to choose from, offering options for the hard-core rider to the beginner, as well as a further 15 multi-use trails. Similarily, Mt Fromme also offers a lot of adrenaline-pumping fun, with 65 mountain bike tracks and 25 multi-use trails. The mountain’s beginner trail is said to be perfect for newcomers to the sport.

Vancouver was bested by picturesque Siena, Italy. Namely for its famous cycling route which the Strade Bianche race takes place. The trail twists and turns over the surrounding region’s hilly, white gravel roads, before arriving at the finish on the Piazza del Campo, writes Plaice.

“It’s like being on a cypress-lined rollercoaster through vineyards and olive groves,” he writes.

Coming in third place is Yorkshire, England. While the UK isn’t well known as a cycling destination, Plaice writes, “that should change soon.”  

“Quiet country lanes in places like Yorkshire are as enjoyable for riding as Europe’s more famous roads. Up in the Dales, the hills might not be as long as grand tour cols, but they are as steep as heck and come one after the other,” he describes.

“After an hour or two, you will want to stop for tea and scones.”

While mountain biking is regarded as a summer sport, a lot of the trails are open in winter. Just like hiking, you always want to check conditions before heading to a mountain. Here are some winter mountain biking tips by Vancouver Trails.

Here is the full list of Lonely Planet’s top 10 best places for a cycling holiday in 2020:

1. Siena, Italy

2. Vancouver, Canada

3. Yorkshire, England

4. Stavanger, Norway

5. Girona, Spain

6. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

7. Athens, USA

8. Cape Breton, Canada

9. Boulder, USA

10. Chihuahua, Mexico

Be sure to check current weather, terrain, and wildlife conditions prior to embarking on a hike or biking adventure. In addition, make sure that you know your physical limitations, tell someone where you are going, bring enough food and water, wear appropriate clothing, and never hike alone. Don’t attempt dangerous poses for photographs. Visit Vancouver Trails online for a detailed list of safety tips and things to consider before your next adventure.

Vancouver Is Awesome


Vancouver hotel takes top spot in Best Hotels in Canada 2020 rankings

B.C. dominates the list, with nearly half of the country's top-ranked hotels

Not a bad view for a bubble bath | Photo: Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel/Facebook

Ten years ago Vancouver was where winter Olympians nabbed their golds, and now - and in time for its 10th anniversary - one of city's most luxurious hotels has been ranked number one a list of the 25 Best Hotels in Canada for 2020. The Fairmont Pacific Rim, right on beautiful Coal Harbour, has earned the highest spot.

The ranking comes from U.S. News & World Report, which ranks the best hotels in Canada based on an analysis of industry awards, hotel star ratings and user ratings. 

Other awards for the Pac Rim include being named on the Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards 2019, AAA/CAA Five Diamond Awards 2019, and TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2019. The hotel also ranks as the top for U.S. News & World Report in both Vancouver and B.C.

The Fairmont Pacific Rim happens to be a joy to stay or staycation in, thanks to their modern well-appointed rooms and excellent customer service, as well as their on-site offerings like the Willow Stream Spa, and ample food and drink options, from the casual but chic Giovane Cafe (known for their Banana Coconut Lattes and epic Sugar Buns) to the full-service bar and dining room upstairs at Botanist. Additionally, there's the sushi at Raw Bar and cocktails at the Lobby Lounge, along with their on-site retail and special events that focus on music, arts, and fashion. Plus, they've just opened Canada's second TASCHEN bookstore, located within the hotel.


Sushi at the Raw Bar. Photo: Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel/Facebook

Vancouver, however, dominates the top 10, with four of the slots, easily outpacing other cities in the cream of the crop. Overall, Vancouver has five in the Best 25, and other locations in the province an additional six, making 11 of the 25 right here in beautiful B.C.

Here's the top 10 of the Best 25 Hotels in Canada 2020:

1. Fairmont Pacific Rim - Vancouver

2. Rosewood Hotel Georgia - Vancouver

3. Wickaninnish Inn - Tofino, B.C.

4. Auberge Saint-Antoine - Quebec City

5. Wedgewood Hotel & Spa - Vancouver

6. Fogo Island Inn - Newfoundland

7. Ritz-Carlton Montréal 

8. Ritz-Carlton Toronto 

9. Four Seasons Hotel Toronto

10. Shangri-La Hotel - Vancouver

Vancouver Is Awesome


What are we reading? February 6, 2020


Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor: 

John le Carré was awarded the Olof Palme Prize last week. The novelist’s acceptance speech is one of the most thoughtful, reassuringly human things I’ve read in a long time. – Guardian


International trade expert Kirsten Hillman stands a good chance of being appointed Canada’s ambassador to the United States. If she is, it will signal that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “is looking to take politics out of the Canada-U.S. relationship in what is destined to be a crazy political year in Washington,” says columnist Susan Delacourt. – Star


Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

The construction industry, being a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, apparently needs to add more fungi to its diet. – The Conversation


Renewable energy optimism rising: according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind, solar and other renewable energy will displace natural gas and coal as America's leading power generation source by 2045. – The Hill


In need of Academy Awards data to flaunt at your neighbourhood awards viewing party? Have a look at this stats inventory from the United States Census. – United States Census Bureau


Nelson Bennett, reporter:

The zero-emission house that just won’t sell. A builder in New Brunswick built a home so energy efficient it produces no emissions, but he just can’t sell it. At $495,000, no one is buying. Maybe he should have built it in Vancouver. – CBC

Extremophiles are organisms that can survive in extreme temperatures or thrive on food sources that are toxic to most other living things. But here’s a fungus that takes the cake – the yellowcake. Scientists have identified a fungus growing in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site that not only thrives in a highly radioactive environment – it actually absorbs radiation as an energy source. – Popular Mechanics