Local woman help Indigenous communities thrive in businesses and research

Helping First Nations thrive

A local West Kelowna woman is out to change the narrative of Indigenous research in Canada.

Candice Loring, 36, a member of the Gitwangak band from the Gitxsan nation, is the first Indigenous person to be hired by Mitacs — a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions

“Historically, research was done ‘on’ Indigenous people, not ‘for’ or ‘with’ Indigenous people,” explained Loring, director of business development and Indigenous community engagement for Mitacs.

An initiative launched by the company allows Indigenous-owned businesses and organizations to connect with the academic talent to help them achieve their innovation goals.

“I’m working for an organization that’s not only hearing my voice but is my voice, helping to make real change within Indigenous research and academia,” said Loring, who joined Mitacs in August 2019.

“To have a seat at the table in an organization that truly believes in advancing the Indigenous portfolio because it’s the right thing to do is one of the most profound moments of my life.”

According to Statistics Canada, the Indigenous population is the fastest-growing in the country, increasing by 42.5 per cent between 2006 and 2016.

Loring believes given the same opportunities as non-Indigenous people, their communities can significantly boost the Canadian economy.

“Our team is committed to empowering Indigenous innovation in Canada,” said John Hepburn, CEO and Scientific Director of Mitacs.

“Mitacs consults with Indigenous organizations to identify and solve their research challenges, and to leverage available funding; we also make the research connections and enable real job experience that Indigenous students rely on to advance their careers,” he added.

To qualify, the organization must be 50 per cent owned by an individual who self-identifies as Indigenous, or the selected intern must self-identify as Indigenous. Partner organizations need to invest only one-quarter of the project’s cost.

“This is the most aggressive call we’ve launched to date. The societal impact will go far beyond research because an entrepreneur’s success with their business really lifts up an entire community,” she added.

Through a partnership with EcoTrust Canada, Mitacs Indigenous interns are currently working on hydroponic innovations to boost local food production and security, programs to help small businesses pivot amid COVID-19, self-sustaining restorative farming solutions, art programs that encourage youth to share their voices, and much more.

West Kelowna council has reduced a planned 2021 tax increase

Planned tax hike chopped

The City of West Kelowna has handed taxpayers a bit of a break.

Council Tuesday agreed to reduce the proposed 2021 tax increase from 4.75 per cent to 4.05 per cent.

The lower rate came about as a result of reductions and amended supplemental requests through operational efficiencies in the 2021 budget.

Those were brought forward at the request of Mayor Gord Milsom, who suggested at the last meeting that staff take a second look at several new hirings included in the provisional budget.

The tax increase also includes a one per cent infrastructure tax designed to accelerate road, active transportation and drainage improvements pegged at nearly $41 million.

Council also approved cash grants in aid to 21 community groups totalling more than $114,000, as well as in-kind grants of $314,000 to reduce facility, field and rink rentals for a dozen youth sports organizations and service clubs.

An online public engagement for the 2021 budget will take place next month.

Council will adopt the final budget in the spring.

Copper Mountain Mine near Princeton hit with $51K in environmental fines in 2020

Environmental fine for mine

The Copper Mountain Mine near Princeton was issued two administrative penalties in 2020 for non-compliance with the Environmental Management Act, totalling $51,000.

The mine was found do have an “unauthorized discharge” and “multiple nitrate and sulphate exceedances” in some of its seepage points to nearby waterways, including Wolfe Creek.

Nitrate concentrations in the water at the Wolfe Creek site should not exceed 3 mg/L, but testing showed it at 4 mg/L on multiple occasions.

The full report also notes the mine was out of compliance for unauthorized discharges into waterways that connect to the Similkameen River.

At the west dam of the tailings management facility, seepage water was found to be making its way into the waterways for significant portion of 2020. The report found that the mine was in contravention of the Environmental Management Act.

“An August 13, 2020 inspection found that Copper Mountain had installed works to cease these unauthorized discharges; however, since the unauthorized discharges continued for different periods in 2020 and the nitrate exceedances continued in 2019 and 2020, the file was referred for consideration of another administrative penalty,” reads a statement from the Ministry of Environment.

BC Hockey Hall of Fame jersey raffle features six signed Vancouver Canucks jerseys

Signed jerseys up for grabs

Calling all Vancouver Canucks fans!

The BC Hockey Hall of Fame Winter 2021 Jersey Raffle is running online now until mid-February with six signed jerseys up for grabs.

The jerseys are from different eras of Vancouver Canucks history and each of the signatures are from players who played during that specific era with the Canucks.

All players have also been inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame including Orland Kurtenbach, Harold Snepsts, Kirk McLean, Trevor Linden, Brendan Morrison and Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

“Like many not for profits, our organization has had to come up with creative ways to keep the lights on given the onset of COVID-19, and this is one of the ways we’re trying to do that,” says executive director of the BC Hockey Hall of Fame Blain Ford.

Raffle tickets are $5 each, or you can purchase a three-ticket package for $10, a 10-ticket package for $20 or a 50-ticket package for $50.

Family Literacy Week encouraging people to get active while improving their literacy skills

Read your favourite book

Family Literacy Week has officially started and British Columbians are encouraged to read their favourite book, get outside, play games and connect with their loved ones virtually while improving their literacy skills.

The Ministry of Education and The Ministry of Municipal Affairs has proclaimed Jan. 24 to 31, 2021, as Family Literacy Week. This year’s theme is ‘Lets Be Active! Move, Play, Learn.’

“Children’s literacy skills expand and grow much faster when families read, play and learn together,” says Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside. “Family Literacy Week is a great opportunity to focus on dynamic ways to support our youngest learners so they can develop the skills they need to succeed in their school years and beyond.”

The 2021 theme is focused on the longterm and wide-ranging benefits of being active. The province has proclaimed Jan. 27 as Family Literacy Day for the last 21 years. 2021 is the fifth year that B.C. has extended the celebration from one day to more than a week.

“Families have learned to adjust to doing things differently under COVID-19, spending more time together and embracing creativity while learning,” says Minister of Municipal Affairs Josie Osborne. “Family Literacy Week is a wonderful time to connect with children, have fun together and read inspiring stories, and these activities help to build a solid foundation in literacy and lifelong learning.”

The government has provided more than $2 million this year to Decoda Literacy Solutions in support of community literacy. The funding is used to support literacy services and initiatives throughout B.C.

The province also contributes $500,000 to Postmedia’s Raise-a-Reader campaign each year.

“Active play is essential for children’s development. It builds strength in so many areas – physical, social, emotional, language and thinking. Children learn by watching, so join in the fun,” says Margaret Sutherland, executive director at Decoda Literacy Solutions.

Decoda Literacy Solutions has provided a full list of Family Literacy Week events happening throughout the province.

UBCO’s annual fiction writing competition is now open until March 1

Short story contest open

UBC Okanagan’s annual fiction writing competition is now open and participants will have the opportunity to get their work published along with winning a cash prize.

The Short Story Contest, now in its 23rd year, has helped new writers emerge in the Okanagan.

Previous winners have been published with Penguin Random House, Arsenal Pulp Press and NeWest Press as well as being featured in various magazines and journals across the world.

“Competitions like the Okanagan Short Story Contest are where a lot of writers get their start,” says Nancy Holmes, creative writing professor in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies.

“We are always impressed with the calibre of entries we receive and we are excited to see what this year’s submissions will bring.”

This year’s contest judge is acclaimed Canadian author and English professor at Okanagan College Frances Greenslade.

Shelter, a 2012 novel written by Greenslade was named one of UK’s Waterstones 11 most promising debut novels that year and was nominated for both an Ontario Library Association Evergreen Award and the BC Book Prize Ethel Wilson Award.

The contest is open to fiction writers in the Southern Interior – east of Hope, west of the Alberta border, north of the U.S. border and south of Williams Lake.

Submissions are being accepted now until March 1 at midnight.

Entries must be between 1,000 and 4,000 words and a writer is welcome to submit as many entries as they wish. Each entry is subject to a $15 entry fee with no entry fee for high school students.

All proceeds raised will go towards UBC Okanagan’s creative writing scholarships.

Cash prizes are available for the top three stories – $1,000, $400 and $200. The first prize winner also gets a one-week retreat at the Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre in Kelowna.

The top short story written by a high school student will receive $200.

The winners of the Short Story Contest will be announced during a virtual event this spring.

Penticton businesses finding innovative ways to keep going during the pandemic

Businesses get creative

“Four seasons of fun” is new a collaboration between Castanet and Travel Penticton showcasing what Penticton has to offer all year round. Watch for it every Monday morning.

Penticton is home to some pretty creative local business owners who have come up with innovative solutions to continue providing exceptional service (and a sense of normalcy) to customers as the COVID-19 continues into its second wave globally.

Pure Gym & Juicery owner Vanessa Jahnke has had to think of many innovative solutions in order to keep her gym safely running as the province continues to enforce a variety of social distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had been running spin in the east ballroom at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, which was phenomenal,” she said. “The space is 10,000 square feet, so we had 10 feet of space between each bike which was amazing.”

But recent orders enacted by the provincial government which require high-intensity workout classes to cease quickly put an end to that. Luckily, Jahnke knew the solution, having faced a similar situation in March 2020.

“We have such a spin community (here),” she said. “Everyone wanted to continue moving their bodies, so having them at home was a good solution.”

Last year, as the first wave of COVID-19 began to spread globally, Jahnke rented out her spin bikes to class members and launched an online Zoom class for participants to follow along at home.

“It was good. We did it for two months,” she recalled.

Now, well into the second wave of COVID-19, Jahnke has several innovative ways to bring spin classes safely into the home for those who wish to continue, renting out bikes to those interested once again.

“It’s really important for us to stay connected to our community,” she said. “We’re all kind of struggling together to get through this. In March, we did a Facebook group. This second time (now), our software provider created a live streaming portal which is so much better and much better quality.”

Signing up for a membership, she added, is now done completely online, a new feature for Pure Gym & Juicery.

And of course, the gym is still open for day-to-day fitness and low-intensity classes such as yoga, with strict social distancing and cleaning measures in place.

“It’s been interesting, constantly pivoting,” she said. “It’s been wild.”

And getting through it? Jahnke said this past year hasn’t been possible without her biggest, most important asset: the help of her dedicated, hardworking staff.

“We have the most incredible team that has been so constantly rolling with the punches. We could not do it without them,” she said.

It’s a sentiment Tratto Pizzeria co-owner Christopher Royal echoes.

“I’ve got a staff that’s loyal,” he said. “It’s amazing and a blessing.”

The restaurant, well-known in the community for their brick oven baked pizzas and unique wine menu, had to adapt to a world of online ordering, take-out, delivery and pickup shortly after opening in the fall of 2019.

Royal said delivery and takeout hadn’t originally been a plan for the restaurant, since food is enjoyed best within the first 15 minutes. That meant the team had to quickly adapt to the new world of delivery and take out while making a fresh pizza in five minutes not only for those orders, but also for customers inside the restaurant.

“The max we can do is about 50 pizzas an hour,” he said. “That’s pretty quick.”

That’s where the loyal staff comes in, to make it all possible.

And sending a pizza home, he added, means not cutting it into slices since “the integrity of the pie survives better” for the trip home that way, and makes it easier for customers to give the pizza a quick reheat in the oven when they get home.

The team is now working around tweaking the recipe just slightly, in a way where taste and customers’ favourites will not be altered, in order for delivery and take-out to continue well past COVID-19.

The restaurant is also looking into updating its software so online orders can be placed through their own website, since the original software didn’t include that feature as the team never thought they would need it.

“We’re going to adapt,” Royal finished. And similar to what Jahnke said, “it’s pivoting.”

That pivoting in restaurants has also seen the rise in digital menus for customers, with Slackwater Brewing quick to pick up on the new feature to keep customers safe while dining in.

Customers are able to open their camera on their phone and scan a QR code available at each table, which will then launch the restaurant’s menu for the customer to view, eliminating one more surface to have to touch and also cutting down on paper usage.

Of course, menus are still available for those who may have forgotten their phone at home or lost the last percentage of battery upon arrival.

For Freedom Bike Shop on Penticton’s Main Street, shop manager Josh Shulman said he and the team found quite the innovative solution to help solve wait times for customers lining up down the street as the popularity in outdoor sports such as cycling boomed in the South Okanagan.

“The idea came from a few other bike shops we’ve seen around North America,” he said. “We just kind of saw it as an opportunity.”

That opportunity? Take common needed items such as tire tubes, brake pads, water bottles and a variety of other items and make them available in a vending machine outside the shop.

“There’s no sense in waiting in a line for five or ten minutes when you can just tap your card and grab and go,” Shulman said.

“It’s definitely been seeing some usage. I think it’ll be very busy and very popular when actual riding season hits. People need something on a Sunday or after 5:30, (it’s there).”

And for those concerned, Shulman says not to worry: he’s confident in the safety of the vending machine which features no cash (with a tap feature and Apple pay option only) and is encased in heavy-duty steel with a security camera monitoring it at all times.

“It’s right downtown, so you’re going to have to make a huge ruckus and cause a pretty big scene in order to try and break into it.”

Learn more at www.visitpenticton.com and on social @visitpenticton

Westbank United Church hoping to sell location, move to smaller location

Westbank church for sale

The Westbank United Church congregation is on a mission to sell their current property and relocate to a more suitable and smaller location.

“We have an elderly congregation and our numbers were going down,” says Shelley Marks, chair of the Westbank United Church’s board.

Out of the 65 church members, only 10 aren’t elderly and with the extensive repairs needed for the building, Marks thought they were in over their heads when considering redevelopment.

“Financially, the writing was on the wall as the church is getting older and the repairs were getting bigger,” she says.

“We had a consultant in looking at what we actually needed to do to the church – the roof, plumbing issues, kitchen issues. So it came to repair, sell or redevelop – those were the three things we put on the plate.”

The church went up for sale in early 2020, originally listed at 1.75 million but it is now sitting at 1.65 million.

The large for-sale sign outside of the church was recently posted in December, catching the attention of media.

Some people have expressed interest in purchasing the property but no concrete offers have been made yet.

After the property sells, the Westbank United Church will continue.

“If the church was to sell, we have the option of purchasing a new building, something smaller. We would like to stay in downtown Westbank if we could…Or renting a building and I have a feeling we would lean towards renting a building at this point.”

Marks says the church would love the opportunity to lease back the current site if the buyer was not in a hurry to demolish it or if they were holding it for redevelopment.

“It was a very hard decision. I’ve been there 33 years and a lot of the congregation who are older than me, that’s been their home church for a long time so obviously quite a few feel sad but they also understand,” says Marks.

The church located at 3672 Brown Rd remains active and in the meantime, the congregation is trying their best to meet virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.

BC Housing has been renting a portion of the building since 2018, providing 38 beds for a transitional housing program and a temporary mat program is set to start soon.

Canadian business group backs MP bill in favour of cross-border shipping of alcohol

Support brews for booze bill

A national business federation has joined Dan Albas in advocating in favour of the cross-border shipment of alcohol.

The Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola MP introduced a Private Members Bill, C-260, which would amend the Canada Post Act and make it legal for producers of Canadian wines, spirits and craft beers to ship their product within Canada by Canada Post.

Albas received a letter of support Friday from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“Like many sectors of the economy since the beginning of the pandemic, many small brewers, vintners, and distillers have had to make considerable efforts to sell more of their products online in order to generate revenues. As a result, being able to access a wider range of customers across the country is now vital to their survival,” the letter stated.

“Allowing small producers to ship across the country would enable Canadians to safely access their products while directly supporting local businesses and jobs.”

Albas says he was pleased the business federation shared his view that the bill will help small businesses across the country open up new markets.

“I look forward to seeing similar support coming from local and provincial governments, as well as chambers of commerce,” said Albas.

Summerland winery owner Ron Kubek has started a House of Commons e-petition in support of the bill.

Kelowna seeking grant funds to connect Rutland active transportation corridor with rail trail

Grant funds for cycling link

The City of Kelowna hopes it can leverage funds from senior levels of government for a project linking the Houghton Road active transportation corridor with the Okanagan Rail Trail.

The project, at a cost of $2.6 million, was approved as part of the city’s 2021 provisional budget adopted last month.

Only about $650,000 was earmarked from taxpayers, with the rest of the funding through existing reserves.

However, city staff is hoping it can successfully obtain a grant through the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream to pay for the project.

According to a report prepared for Monday’s city council meeting, the grant is structured in such a way as to pay for 100 per cent of eligible costs.

If successful, staff say the grant would accelerate the design and construction of active transportation infrastructure in the city’s 10-year capital plan.