Healthy Living in the North

Off-road wheelchairs bringing Prince Rupert hiking trails to everyone

A group of smiling, excited people wave their hands in the air. They are all posing on a bridge with a wooden railing behind them and trees and a river beyond that.

Rider volunteers pose for a group shot on Butze trail in Prince Rupert. Jessie is pictured in a red tank top.

When you meet Jessie Gibson for the first time, two things become very clear: she loves her work as a physiotherapist, and she loves her community. Jessie is based in Prince Rupert, a place she’s called home since 2016. For the past couple of years she’s been involved in a community program called the Kaien Coastal Riders.

Kaien (pronounced KAY-en) Coastal Riders is a program that uses an off-road adapted wheelchair to help people who are wheelchair-bound or have unique mobility needs access outdoor trails. I caught up with Jessie to learn more about her and the program.

What is Kaien Coastal Riders and how did it get started?

Morgan Foisy — a past colleague — and myself worked together to get the program going. Morgan was a rehab assistant in Prince Rupert and spearheaded the program. Since we started working together on this project in 2017, we’ve had two trail rider seasons, in 2018 and 2019. We’re part of the Kaien Island Trails and Recreation Society (KITAERS), a not-for-profit in town. We have huge support from KITAERS and definitely couldn’t run without them.

A group of people pose on a beach at the edge of large trees, with a woman sitting in the Trail Rider equipment.

The Trail Rider is run by volunteers. Anyone with needs can access the program for free. It’s available in Prince Rupert and for nearby communities!

What exactly is the Trail Rider?

The Trail Rider is a mix between a wheelchair and bike. It’s really good for manoeuvering over rocks, roots and corners. It’s been around since the 80s and was invented by a man named Sam Sullivan – former mayor of Vancouver. When he was young he had a spinal cord injury. He still loved hiking, so he partnered with a friend who was an engineer to create the device, and the rest is history. There’s been lots of versions of the device since then, and our program has the most up-to-date version.

What inspired you to do this?

Before I moved to Prince Rupert, I was part of the BC Mobility Opportunities Society (BCMOS), an adaptive sport society in Vancouver. Morgan was also involved in a similar endeavour in the Okanagan. We both moved up North at similar times and realized there was no trail rider here, and not a lot of accessible sporting options in the community. The BCMOS supported us in making the program happen.

I like helping people – especially helping them get outside. I love trails and hiking; it’s something that makes me happy, so I like sharing it with others.

How does the program work?

The Trail Rider is run by volunteers called Sherpas who push the rider. Anyone with needs can access the program and it’s totally free! It’s also not just for Prince Rupert – we’re open to traveling to surrounding communities. We went out to the community of Metlakatla nearby, which was awesome. The trail rider is for whoever wants to use it: contact us and let us know if you’re interested!

What kind of impact has this had on the community?

It’s nice for people to know there’s another means for people to get out and access the outdoors. For individual riders, there’s been an overwhelmingly positive response. When they get out, they enjoy it. Most riders like to come out with their friends and family. It’s really cool to hear excitement from riders when they first experience a local trail that they might have never previously been able to access, even if they’ve lived here for years!

Kaien Coastal Riders also has a partnership with the Prince Rupert Ground Search and Rescue team. The trail rider is available for them for training and rescues if they ever need it.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the Kaien Coastal Riders?

I’m super grateful that we were able to get the program going! I’m thankful for the community of Prince Rupert and for the individuals and businesses that supported us to bring the Trail Rider to town (there are many).

We have so many supports, from our own personal bike repair guy, to the rehab department at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, which has always supported this out of work project! I’m thankful to see it as an option here. The program combines the things I love – rehab and hiking – and takes it outdoors. I’m always really stoked to get out with the Trail Rider.

We want more people to know about it! Kids and adults can use it. It’s available in Prince Rupert and for nearby communities.

For more information, check out

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Helping Patients Achieve Surgical Success

A side angle shot of a woman in a green sweater sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen that says "Surgical Patient Optimization Collaborative."

Nicole Dron, Surgical Optimization Nurse.

Some health care professionals compare having a surgery with running a marathon; would you run a marathon without any training?

Running a marathon can be stressful – even traumatic – for your body, and so can major surgery. But by preparing your body for those events, you can help make sure they’re successful.

Some patients already know that preparing for surgery helps ensure success:

  • “They said I would be staying in the hospital about four days and returning to work six weeks later after the surgery. I stayed in the hospital three weeks and returned to work six months later because I developed complications. Much of my everyday life was put on hold. If I had known that getting healthier before the surgery could have helped me to avoid this, I would have done something about it.” (patient report)
  • “They were worried about a couple of things in my health condition right before surgery, so they had to cancel at the last possible minute. I wish there was a way to catch those worrisome things much sooner, so that I didn’t have to wait months again for a much-needed surgery.” (patient report)

Doctors and other health care professionals have long recognized that a patient who’s fit for surgery is more likely to have a good surgical result. This means minimal, if any, complications in the short or long term, a short hospital stay, no readmissions to hospital, and a smooth transition back to everyday life.

Four sites in Northern Health and 13 other hospitals in BC are taking part in an exciting pre-surgical optimization project to help patients become as healthy as possible before major surgery.

The project is the Surgical Patient Optimization Collaborative (SPOC), and it’s a priority of the BC Ministry of Health. The organization Doctors of BC, in partnership with BC health authorities, is leading this project.

The four Northern Health sites are Dawson Creek and District Hospital, the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia (UHNBC) in Prince George, Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, and Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace.

Working from evidence-based studies, project leaders have established 13 areas of focus:

  • Diabetes management
  • Heart health
  • Nutrition
  • Mental health
  • Anemia management
  • Exercise
  • Preventing blood clots
  • Frailty
  • Pain management
  • Stopping smoking
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Social supports
  • Sleep disorders

Each site will focus on two to five components. For example, UHNBC will start preparing patients who are scheduled for urologic and gynecologic surgeries by focusing on diabetes management, frailty, social supports, and smoking cessation.

Other sites have chosen other areas of focus. What all sites have in common, however, is the goal of helping patients succeed in their surgical journey.

Pre-surgical optimization nurses will be reaching out to doctors and primary health care teams that have patients booked for major surgery at any of the four NH sites. These nurses will work with doctors and interprofessional teams to ensure patients are prepared for their surgery.

Nicole Dron

About Nicole Dron

Nicole is a registered nurse with the pre-surgical optimization collaborative in Prince George. She is specifically passionate about aspects that focus on health promotion and prevention, and system improvement in rural, acute, and community nursing. Nicole is hoping to use her professional interests towards supporting the Prince George community to become more healthy and active. Nicole raises her three kids with her spouse, and enjoys exploring local and surrounding communities, reading, and various sports.

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Prince Rupert staff blaze the (Kaien Island) trail

Three Prince Rupert staff who took part in a trail run are pictured wearing running gear.

Left to right: LPN Bailey, RN Miranda Jaques, and Staffing Clerk Jessica Lindstrom.

What did you get up to this summer? Did you get a chance to get outside and enjoy beautiful Northern BC? For some Prince Rupert staff, summer plans included running in the Kaien Trails’ Trailblazer Run on August 24, 2019.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Bailey, Registered Nurse (RN) Miranda Jaques, and Staffing Clerk Jessica Lindstrom all participated in the inaugural trail run, which took place on the recently restored Kaien Island Trail Network in beautiful Prince Rupert.

Good exercise? Check. Breathtaking views? Check. Supporting an awesome community event? Check!

Way to go, ladies!

To learn more about the Kaien Island Trail Network and the race, check out the video below or visit: kaientrails.ca/trailblazer.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Public health resource nurse providing support to primary care nurses in Prince Rupert

Editor’s note: May 6-12 is Nursing Week! This story is one of several we’ll post this week to celebrate and showcase the many different types of nursing roles in Northern Health in honour of Nursing Week!

Headshot of Kim Hughes.

Kim Hughes, public health resource nurse in Prince Rupert.

Kim Hughes is a public health resource nurse in Prince Rupert, supporting primary care nurses, by providing them with practice support and mentorship in the area of public health.

“I really love mentoring and teaching. That’s always been an area of passion for me. When I’m able to do that and help people develop – that’s exciting for me,” says Kim.

Public health includes areas such as: provincial immunization programs (all ages); early childhood support for child health clinics and child health assessment; care during and after pregnancy; harm reduction; communicable disease (e.g., measles); school programs; and sexual and reproductive health. All of these areas support a complete state of physical and mental health that enables a person to lead a socially and economically productive life.

One of many public health resource nurses across the Northern Health region, Kim provides support to nurses, both experienced and new, to the practice area of public health. She works closely with them to develop orientation plans and supports them with their practice. She’s there to answer any questions and works alongside registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) in clinics when they’re new and learning. She provides information to nurses to keep them up to date on best practices, new practice changes, and regional or provincial programs in the various areas of public health.

Kim started in her role as a public health resource nurse when the role was first created at Northern Health in 2016. Preventive public health leadership provides guidance and then Kim is able to develop the role at a community level.

“Because I’m one of the original public health resource nurses, I’ve been able to be really involved in the development of the role and how it looks,” says Kim.

Kim walks alongside the nurses in their own practice and helps them develop their role. She gets to watch them become well-rounded primary care nurses – able to provide all services to their community. Kim can also sit in with a primary care nurse when they see a patient and provide in-the-moment support in more difficult situations.

Kim hopes that this story will show nursing students that there are so many nursing positions out there that go beyond providing direct care to patients. She encourages all nurses to learn about a variety of nursing roles and to see how nurses can support other nurses to provide the best care they can!

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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Prince Rupert radiologist Dr. Giles Stevenson presented with prestigious award

Headshot of Dr. Giles Stevenson.The Canadian Association of Radiology has presented Prince Rupert radiologist Dr. Giles Stevenson with the Distinguished Career Award, an award that honours individuals who have made significant contributions to radiology in Canada over the course of their careers.

Dr. Stevenson’s many accomplishments over his 42 year career in health care have been featured in an article by Canadian Healthcare Technology. His achievements include teaching medical students since 1976, authoring more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and 42 book chapters, winning multiple awards, and gaining international renown in his specialty.

Dr. Stevenson started in the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital in 2007 and recently retired in December 2018. He says that the hospital in Prince Rupert was a “wonderfully friendly hospital to work in, with terrific staff and a warm and supportive atmosphere. It always felt like a privilege to be part of it.”

Please join Northern Health in congratulating Dr. Stevenson on his service to our Northern communities!

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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All Native Basketball Tournament 2019 – The Diamond Anniversary

Person holding sign with their most valuable teaching.

My most valuable teaching…” Learning how to deal with loss. I learned not to isolate and at 72 years old I joined an Elders’ walking club. 3 times a week!”

From February 10-16, the 2019 All Native Basketball Tournament celebrated its diamond anniversary in Prince Rupert. The 60th annual tournament and cultural event drew participants and fans from as far as Ahousat on Vancouver Island to Hydaburg, Kake, and Metlakatla.

The original tournament was called the Northern British Columbia Coast Indian Championship Tournament and ran from 1947-1953. The inaugural 1947 tournament was held in the Roosevelt Gymnasium at what is now École Roosevelt Park Community School, attracting about 400 spectators. Due to lack of interest, the first version of the tournament was cancelled in 1953, but by 1959, the tournament was rekindled with a new name – The All Native Basket Ball Tournament (ANBT). The first ANBT was held on March 2, 1960 and continues to the present day as British Columbia’s largest basketball tournament and the largest Indigenous cultural event in Canada.

This year, the tournament saw thousands of spectators cheer nearly fifty teams competing in four divisions: intermediate, seniors’, masters’, and women’s.

All but one of the defending champions reclaimed their titles with the PR Bad Boys losing out to Skidegate Saints 85-83. The seniors’ division title went to the Kitkatla Warriors who beat out newcomers, Pigeon Park All-Stars, 102-85. The Hydaburg Warriors took home their fifth straight masters’ division title beating out the Lax Kw’alaams Hoyas 98-74. Finally, two-time defending champs, Kitamaat Woman’s Squad, bested the Similkameen Starbirds 45-36 to take home the women’s division title for the third time.

The Northern Health sponsored Raven Room

Person holding sign with their most valuable teaching.

My most valuable teaching… “Respect one another and respect your Elders; share and be thankful for what you have.”

Northern Health is proud to have partnered with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) to sponsor the Raven Room. The Raven Room is intended to be a peaceful space for Elders to rest and take a break from the bustle of the tournament.

Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson) was the room’s official host while many Elders and others dropped in for k’wila’maxs tea, coffee, baked goods with locally-harvested berry jam, fruit, and good conversation. Northern Health and FNHA staff and volunteers were on hand to offer wellness checks and advice about blood pressure, blood sugars, and cholesterol. Over 200 people visited the Raven Room and 191 people received wellness checks.

The Raven Room and wellness checks are designed to create a safe space for community members to learn about health care from a perspective outside the mainstream health care environment which can often be intimidating and uncomfortable for many. This more public space provides a safer and perhaps more familiar way to access services because others are there to witness and offer support.

Person holding sign with their most valuable teaching.

My most valuable teaching… “Pass my knowledge to the next generation.”

When asked what they enjoyed most about the Raven Room, one visitor responded, “I think that this service is an excellent idea – as it is hard to try and get to see your Dr. [The] waiting period at hospital is so out of this world.”

This year’s Raven Room theme was “the strength and wisdom of Elders.” Many Elders offered “their most valuable teaching” or “what they want to share with the younger generation” for an Elder’s Wisdom Wall (see photos).

FNHA also used other rooms to host great workshops about sports physiotherapy and taping, painting, and cedar weaving. Tournament participants and spectators were also invited to meet with traditional healers throughout the week.

Congratulations to all competitors and all those involved in organizing this event!

Person holding sign with advice for the younger generation.

What do you want to share with the younger generation? “Respect everyone! Compassion! Abuse of drugs and alcohol – say no!”

Woman holding sign with her advice for the younger generation.

What do you want to share with the younger generation? “Never give up, LOVE yourself is to respect yourself as a person. Find help when life pressure gets to hard. We DO LOVE you. you are not alone.”

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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IMAGINE grant: Discover Daycare

The outdoor play equipment and safety surface at the Discovery Childcare Centre.

It’s no secret that active outdoor play is important for children. In a recent paper on the benefits of outdoor active play, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and their partners state that kids who are outside move more and sit less, which contributes to a wide variety of health benefits.

The importance of outdoor play was clear to the Discovery Childcare Centre in Prince Rupert, but they just didn’t have the equipment to support that active play outdoors. And so, when the Board of Directors for the centre identified a new playground as a priority, they turned to the IMAGINE Community Grants program to help make the vision a reality.

More of the outdoor play equipment at the Discovery Childcare Centre.

Through years of focused effort, the daycare fundraised almost $40,000 to put toward the purchase and installation of new playground equipment for the 32 kids in their care. Their efforts took dedication and commitment, and in fall 2017 they were very close to achieving their goal!

However, one key piece remained: site preparation, including the purchase and installation of Playfall Tile, a rubberized safety surface manufactured from recycled tires that would cushion the inevitable falls of the hundreds of children who would enjoy the equipment over the years.  The quote for this work came in at roughly $5,000, and so the Board approved the submission of an application for an IMAGINE grant. The application was approved in spring 2018 and work began in June.

After its completion in August 2018, the new playground was an immediate hit with the kids attending the centre. Having a safe place to play outside, and the right equipment for that play, made a big difference for everyone. The centre has already observed that there is room for more growth in the future, with a key focus being the development of a garden area near the playground that will let kids learn about planting, growing, and eating fresh food. IMAGINE is proud to have contributed to this amazing project, and look forward to hearing about the centre’s successes in the future!

The IMAGINE Grant spring cycle is now accepting applications! Get yours in today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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Our People: Shelley Bondy

“I feel like I have a purpose here.” Find out what makes Prince Rupert so special for Shelley Bondy (Manager, Perioperative Services and Registered Nurse).

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

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Creative new approaches help people in Prince Rupert get occupational therapy

Emily Bennett posing with a spectacular mountain landscape view.Northern Health has a strong vision for creating teams of health care professionals that centre on the person and their family, but making big changes can be challenging. This article is my story of bringing better care to people in Prince Rupert.

I’m an occupational therapist (OT). This means I help people solve problems to make it easier and safer to do everyday things:

  • Self-care: getting dressed, eating, or moving around the house
  • Being productive: going to work or school, or participating in the community
  • Leisure activities: sports, gardening, or social activities[i]

The problem

In 2017, I started working as an OT on the community health care team in Prince Rupert. When I started, there was a large backlog of referrals for me, some from as much as three years ago. It was impossible for me to see everyone quickly enough.

This meant a lot of clients were getting by at home without much support. Some of them suffered falls. Others couldn’t leave their homes because they had pain or problems with mobility. Others weren’t using equipment, like walkers, that could have made them safer.

I wanted to set things up so that people could get therapy earlier, before things got serious. This way, we could head off problems before they happened, and we could help keep people independent and out of the hospital.

But, using the normal channels, I didn’t have time to see all the clients. To solve this problem, I had to think creatively and try new things. I’m passionate about quality improvement, so I enjoyed this process. Here are some of the solutions I came up with.

One-time sessions with clients

The community health care team helped me set up sessions with clients. With their support, I was able to set up one-time face-to-face visits with people who needed help. During the visits, I offered education and gave people advice, such as how to use equipment, and also gave them referrals to community resources and programs.

A couple of months later, I checked in with the clients. They reported that they’d made changes based on my advice, and that they now felt safer at home and more confident. Some of them had started using walkers regularly, some had adapted their home setups, and others had asked for more support from family.

This was a great example of how health care teams can work together to improve their practice and build partnerships with other team members.

Really understanding where people needed help

In collaboration with other OTs across Canada, I created a questionnaire called Occupational Therapy Outcome Indicators to measure people’s overall functioning and quality of life. This made it easier to figure out exactly what areas people needed help with so that we could set goals and make recommendations. It also helped clients understand what I, as an OT, could and couldn’t do.

Working with other health care professionals

I also started three other partnerships with health care professionals with the idea of making services more efficient, enhancing collaboration, and making clients more able to cope on their own:

  • Together with a physiotherapist and rehab assistant, I set up a walker clinic.
  • I presented as a guest speaker to the Adult Addictions Day Program.
  • I presented to a falls prevention group at the Prince Rupert assisted living facility.

These programs let me see more clients at once and provide education and treatment in groups.

It was so beneficial to work with the physiotherapist and rehab assistants on the walker clinic. We completed assessments together and this model offered an opportunity for students that were on clinical placements at the time to learn to work collaboratively with other healthcare providers.

Making changes and trying new things can be difficult, but a preventive approach can help people stay safe, independent, and out of hospital. This also helps reduce the demand on the health care system and, most importantly, gives people improved quality of life and better health.

___

[i] From https://caot.ca/site/rfs/res_for_students?nav=sidebar

Emily Bennett

About Emily Bennett

Emily is an occupational therapist from Northern British Columbia. She returned to work for Northern Health after completing her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy in Hamilton, Ontario. She is invested in the well-being of our northern communities and is passionate about quality improvement and health promotion. When she is not immersed in her clinical practice, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her friends, her family, and her dog, appreciating the beautiful nature throughout

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Fatherhood, community, and culture: Reflections on parenting in Prince Rupert with Duane Jackson

Duane Jackson and daughter

Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Duane Jackson has worn many hats in his years serving children and families on the Northwest Coast. His many positions held include former Aboriginal Coordinator for Success by Six and Regional Coordinator for Children First. He now works with the Hecate Strait Employment Development Society as a Trainer/Facilitator and Employment Counsellor. Jackson is also co-chair on the Aboriginal Steering Committee with the Human Early Learning Partnership.

Most importantly, Jackson is a family man – he and his wife are the proud parents of three children. Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I grew up on the Northwest Coast, but I’m Gitanmaax from Old Hazelton. I actually lived at one of the fishing canneries, North Pacific Cannery on Inverness Passage, when it was an operating cannery – now it’s a museum! I’ve been in Prince Rupert the majority of my life, grade 3 on, and went to high school here.

When I was 26, I met my wife, Christine, and we’ve been together for 23 years now. We have three children, a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old.

As a father of three, what have you found most unexpected in fatherhood?

I didn’t expect it to be the humbling experience that it was. I realized right from the birth of my first child that the importance of this job was so completely over and above anything that I understood in my life at that point. This small individual was going to encompass me so completely. With my first boy, with Caleb – I actually never put him down once! I carried him everywhere. I never put him in a buggy or a stroller; I carried him. He was in my arms all the time.

The biggest thing was the level of humility that was required, and the beauty of that was how much growth was involved in that process because of the fact that if you don’t embrace that humility, it will totally uproot you.

You graduated from college at age 40 and immediately began your work in serving children and families. How do your life experiences and education combine in your approach to your life and work?

Throughout my Early Childhood Education learning, the one thing that really got me was advocacy. But then of course, according to my culture, as a Gitanmaax person, I must advocate for children. Every child within my society is my responsibility. Not every Gitanmaax child, every child. My culture speaks to it, and as an Early Childhood Educator, my code of conduct speaks to it as well, that every child is my responsibility.

Prince Rupert harbour front

For Duane, Prince Rupert’s many activities and diverse population make it a healthy community for kids. Access to activities, however, can be a challenge.

What makes Prince Rupert a healthy community for children?

We have many activities for children, from minor league soccer and basketball, to the recreation centre for more activities. But we must remember that Prince Rupert is leading the province in unemployment. There is a huge societal barrier to accessing some of these activities. It’s not just Indigenous people who believe these programs just aren’t for them. It’s societal. In Canada we have the lowest percentage, globally, of children and families who access community programming.

We see a lot of families out at some great community events here: the Halloween Fest, the Winter Fest, the Children’s Festival … you see all generations of families out together, from the elders down to the smallest children.

One of the things I am always excited to see is children from diverse backgrounds who speak their language. Not just Indigenous languages, but all cultural groups. When they speak the language of their parents, I think that’s really exciting. You see that a lot here in Prince Rupert because there are many ethnicities represented here.

In your opinion, what small things do you do, that others can do, that may have big impacts in supporting healthy childhoods?

I think it’s in doing things together – doing activities together – and getting kids off of the computer. Getting kids off of screens! We’re steadily raising a generation of young people that will not have the ability to communicate effectively and positively. There’s just no amount of emoticons that you are going to attach to a text message that are actually going to tell me how you feel. This is starting younger and younger. You can go to a restaurant and see a family of four where all four people are on screens, no one is having a conversation. At our table here at home, where we have dinner together every night, there are no phones. My phone goes away. I have that deal with my family – and we talk. At the table – no one is watching TV!

These are the pieces – do things together, be involved, be supportive. And not just going out and watching your children do their activities. One of the most exciting things for me this year was having my daughter come and watch me coach basketball. She would come and watch my team play, and watch me coach. Bring your children with you into a social setting so that they can see how you are in that setting. All of us are different in our own homes than in a social setting. I think the secret is to get your children out with you in social events.

Knowing what you know now – if you were to go back to those early years with your children – what would you try to do more of with them?

Play, play, play. Hold onto them as much as possible, which is what I do now – even with the older boy and my 14-year-old. Squash ’em, squash ’em, squash ’em as much as I can! And never show them anger. I can show them disappointment, I tell my children I can be disappointed with your decisions, but at no time, ever, are you a disappointment.

If I were to go back, punishment would go out the door. I would go with restorative justice. I would walk, and talk, and teach and do nothing else but that.

If I was to talk to a parent, or talk to myself when I was a new parent, I’d tell them just to love and give and respect your children unconditionally. To give them these three things throughout our lives together and expect nothing in return. That’s what I would do … and advise.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about child health in the Summer 2016 issue:

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is the Communications Lead for Capital Projects at Northern Health. She’s happy in all four seasons in Northern BC and loves getting out into the wild with her family. Andrea is a Southern transplant who came to the North “for just one year” to attend UNBC… more than twenty years ago. Suffice it to say the academic and professional opportunities, wild spaces, and open-hearted people are what make the North home for Andrea. Sunny winter skies and fresh powder for days don’t hurt either.

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