315 Queens Ave, New Westminster
315 Queens Ave, New Westminster
I’m a prairie kid. I’ve lived on the west coast for half my life now, but my shoulders still relax when I hit the flat land. Sometimes I pretend I am there when I drive the 17 to Tsawwassen . . .
I came to Vancouver for grad school, and landed a federal job as I was finishing my thesis. I used to say I got stuck. Used to say I don’t get this rain thing; you get wet. But after 24 years I can now maneuver an umbrella with the best of them.
My first husband used to say that if you are going to live in Vancouver, live in Vancouver. Then we moved to Burnaby. We purchased a brand new townhouse. Got a dog. Had a kid. Then we ended.
Leap forward ten years. Ten soul searching, demon releasing, voice finding years. I can hear the rain as I write this – the cars on Columbia – and perhaps catch a glimpse of a tug on the Fraser if I get up from my chair and look out the living room window of my high rise apartment.
I was still living in Burnaby when I met the Man from New West. I want to use geography and weather analogies to describe him but that feels trite. He was a force. A big, huge, rolling personality. His dog is mine now, and the aging Boston Terrier can get some air when he greets you. With all four paws off the ground and a teethy grin, I am always reminded of his first owner.
My second husband lived in New West for most of his time on the West Coast. He was a Toronto boy, but you couldn’t hear it in his intonation. When I met him he had been a bus driver for over five years and so he knew parts of the Lower Mainland in great detail, but he most especially knew New West. And when I – out of a very old habit – wanted to drive into Vancouver for something, he would always suggest that we could find the same closer to the Fraser.
It’s thanks to the Man from New West that the pier boardwalk became a regular part of my life, and that 3rd Avenue hill. Angelina’s and Amelia’s. The Neil Douglas Guitar Shop and Royal City Jewellers were part of our regular routines, as we went down an ever refreshing, stringed rabbit hole.
It was on the day Donald Trump was elected that we became uncomfortably familiar with Royal Columbian Hospital. A month before we hopped on an aquabus near Granville Island and tied the knot, the Man from New West received a diagnosis of stage four colon cancer. We walked the blue line on the floor of RC many times until we shifted treatment to BC Cancer in Surrey, at which point we crossed back and forth on the Pattullo Bridge. Back and forth. Back and forth.
We received support from Polo Health + Longevity Centre as that New West man struggled to manage his cancer. And eventually we took over the back room of Heritage Grill, for a living wake.
On 25 September 2017, my husband was the recipient of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) in the home we boldly purchased together during a year of disease, near the Fraser. His was the first assisted death in New Westminster. And thanks to the New West Hospice Society’s efforts to have New Westminster declared a Compassionate City, I don’t have to fear speaking about this end of life choice.
Being a Compassionate City will change how we act and what we we believe to be true by encouraging people and organizations to talk about dying, death and loss. Everyone becomes a compassionate neighbour, knowing what to do and what to say to those that are experiencing end-of-life. We envision a city with open dialogue in coffee shops & schools and caring for our neighbours when they need it. https://newwesthospice.ca/compassionate-communities/
MAID has been a legal right in Canada for over two years, but there are still so many – horrific – obstacles to its access. Since my husband died I have been learning about these obstacles, and raising my voice to bring change. Our experience was such a blessed one. The Fraser Health New West Palliative Team had never supported a MAID until they began to work with us, but they did not show the fear and judgement that some health care professionals are expressing. Instead they showed us the most beautiful mix of humanity and professionalism. And thank goodness for that, because the Man from New West released a lot of anger and fear in his dying. Perhaps you read about the elderly couple in Toronto who had simultaneous assisted deaths? They are somewhat the poster children for the peace that can come with this choice. And so I will continue to speak as I am to you right now, of what is most simply a choice. Just as in grief, there are no norms in death beyond the ones we make for ourselves.
The rain has stopped outside my window as I round these words out. The days are getting shorter and for each one of late, I hold a singular passage of the earth around the sun. Hold my year old heart. Hear the echo of an angry, insular man as he let go. But it’s not his anger I hear when I descend the wooden steps to Front St and Rain City Juicery, Hive Cafe, Old Crow, Fridays on Front. I hear the taunt of a broad shouldered, bearded man brimming with life, slipping his hand into the back pocket of my jeans and saying, “See?”
Photo credit for feature image: Ellie Ericson Photography
It’s Election time New West! (But you already knew that, right?) Saturday, October 20th is the big day to reach for the pencil and select your choice for Mayor, Council and School Trustees. There are a number of All Candidates Meetings popping up around town.
On October 3rd the New West District Parents Advisory Council (NW DPAC) will be hosting an all School Board Candidates Meeting. Questions from the 12 parent advisory councils (PACs) that make up the DPAC will be put to school board candidates. Find your school’s PAC contact information on their webpage.
The event will be held at New Westminster Secondary School’s Library at 835 8th Street in New Wesminster between 6:30 and 9pm.
Professional childcare and snacks will be provided. No RSVP required, just show up!
What does a Trustee do?
The British Columbia School Trustees Association gives a bit of info on their webpage:
“As locally elected representatives, the trustees on these boards best understand their respective communities’ particular strengths, challenges and demands…School trustees listen to their communities, guide the work of their school district and set plans, policies and the annual budget.”
The next General Local Election for our municipal government is on Saturday, October 20th from 8am-8pm BUT there are several opportunities for advance voting including October 10th, 13th and 17th. The City of New West has complete information posted online with dates, times and locations.
There are a number of ways to find out what city council candidates values and priorities are: their websites, print pamphlets, social media accounts, door knocking and of course all candidates meetings.
With full honesty I will admit that this is one of the first years that I have followed local elections relatively closely. Perhaps it’s my circle of friends and acquaintances that have encouraged me to get involved or my role with the New West Farmers Market that has me engaging more regularly with our local government. Either way I’m following along and engaging more as a resident – like playing BINGO!
I have not attended an All Candidates Meeting yet but I do hope to attend one or two this time around. There is no shortage of meetings planned! The City of New West posts All Candidates Meeting information online (they do not solicit information but they do accept submissions and share it).
I also went looking for some useful information on how to organize an All Candidates Meeting and while I couldn’t find anything BC-specific, the Scarborough Civic Action Network published a fairly comprehensive guide. There are different format options, tips about logistics (like providing an accessible space for people with disabilities) and how to publicize your event.
So the call to action for you? Attention one All Candidates Meeting this year and meet some new faces! Find one that has a format that fits your comfort level or reach out to the organizing committee to see what they are planning.
And don’t forget to vote!
Like many folks in New West I live in an apartment. This means that knocks on my door are pretty rare (I’m a quiet neighbour). But if you live in a detached home and some townhomes you may find knocks at your door a more regular occurrence. Door knocking or canvassing is going to be picking up soon and for many candidates intending on running in October’s municipal elections, it’s already begun.
Gurveen Dhaliwal, candidate for New Westminster School Board Trustee, invited me out on Tuesday, September 4th to see what door-knocking involves and hear what some residents in New West had to say. We picked a corner and a time to meet up and promptly lay out our course for the evening.
My observations and lessons:
Door knocking was largely a positive experience. I would recommend that anyone interested in gaining experience or testing the water of your future political career reach out to a candidate and ask them if they need help for an hour or two. You don’t only gain perspective and experience, you get one-on-one time with the candidate. I learned that Gurveen grew up in New Westminster and is the daughter of immigrants from India which has helped shape her desire to increase transparency and engagement in the New Westminster school system, especially for new immigrants and working class families. She recently completed her degree from UBC and we completed very similar undergraduate courses (my major was Women’s Studies at SFU and Gurveen’s was Sociology with a minor in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice.
Two final thoughts as an apartment dweller. In the 2011 Census it was reported that approximately 18% of New Westminster residents lived in detached homes while over 70% lived in an apartments (of all types).
Candidates: If door knocking is only targeting detached homes, how are you proactively seeking input, opinion and ideas from residents living in other structures?
And fellow apartment dwellers:
How are you making your voice heard for the next municipal election? Are you speaking directly to candidates? Are you attending any of the all-candidates meetings? Are you inviting candidates into your building? Your voice and vote count.
The groups are working with two local, independent filmmakers to bring this vision to life, and are seeking volunteers to help them raise funds to make this project a reality.
A meeting will be held at Judy Darcy’s constituency office (301-625 5th Ave, New Westminster) on Wednesday, August 29th at 7pm to discuss potential means of fundraising (time to get creative!)
This is an ambitious project that needs as many hands on deck as possible. We would love to see you on the 29th! For more information please contact Kyle Routledge at email@example.com.