In January, Oak Tree Manor staff and one resident dress up in onesies for pajama day. Photo submitted by Paul O'Neil
Nanaimo Vancouver Island

Nanaimo This Week: More seniors’ housing like this

Julie Chadwick May 6, 2021

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After we published my colleague Rae-Anne Guenther’s story about the challenges some low-income seniors face finding housing in Nanaimo, we received a comment from Kathy Anderson, who wrote on Facebook: “Nanaimo needs more senior housing like Oak Tree Manor. Fabulous housing, and affordable.” Naturally, we wanted to know more. 

The result is a story from Rae-Anne, who continues her excellent reporting into seniors housing in Nanaimo with her solutions-oriented piece on Oak Tree Manor, a local independent supportive living facility which offers an example of what a functional, affordable living environment for seniors can look like. It also seeks to answer the question of “how do we make more facilities like this?” Check out an excerpt from the story below:

Johnny Blakeborough helped his mother Eleanor move into the complex in 2017 after the family ruled out much more costly local alternatives. As her Parkinson’s continued to deteriorate her health, affecting her speech and other motor skills, her anxiety about socializing increased, Blakeborough says. 

“She had a lot of challenges eating in the cafeteria. Even though the complex had a policy against eating in your room, they changed the policy so that my mom could stay at Oak Tree Manor and they brought food up to her,” says Blakeborough. “They were very supportive, and looked after my mom until she passed away in September of 2019.”

His mother was supported in her decision to use medically assisted suicide to end her life after her courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease. “She threw a party at Oak Tree and everyone came and they treated her like royalty, like she got a manicure and a pedicure and got her hair done,” recalls Blakeborough. “So as far as ways to go, it was the best. The staff at Oak Tree were outstandingly supportive throughout the whole process.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Family members surround Eleanor Blakeborough in her private room at Oak Tree Manor in 2019.
Family members surround Eleanor Blakeborough in her private room at Oak Tree Manor in September of 2019. From left to right, Allison, Johnny and Eleanor Blakeborough and Tami Joseph. Photo submitted by Johnny Blakeborough

In other news

👉 This week, Snuneymuxw First Nation took time to celebrate the life of Thomas Berger, with a statement from Chief Mike Wyse, which called attention to Berger’s “ground-breaking work in the Supreme Court of Canada R v. White and Bob case that changed Canadian law.” The case Wyse refers to is the famous one in which two Snuneymuxw men, Clifford White and David Bob, were arrested in 1963 for hunting deer out of season. Berger took the case to the Supreme Court, where it was successfully argued that according to the conditions laid out in the Douglas Treaty of 1854, the two men were fully in their rights to hunt as formerly on their own territory.

👉 Nanaimo’s Opal Road is in the news again, as city council voted Monday (discussion of the issue starts at 45:38) to remove barriers put in place in 2019 to stop drivers from over-using the residential area as a shortcut. Councillor Erin Hemmens, who voted to remove the concrete island (50:33) said she was initially in support of the traffic-calming measures until she spent 45 minutes there with residents the week prior, during rush hour. She observed more than half of the vehicles made illegal left turns, that a bumper was on the median that “had been there for weeks” and a “truck passed and hit the stop sign.”

👉 The Vancouver Island Short Film Festival is now accepting submissions for their online 2021 film festival, which will be shown on July 23 and 24. Deadline for submissions is June 1.

👉 Owners Bill and Jean Carter have announced their retirement and the closing of longtime downtown business Bastion Jewellers, which opened in 1985.

Community shout-out

Whoa! Local artist Russ Morland’s artwork will grace the cover of this month’s Heavy Metal magazine. “This is some dream come true shit right here,” wrote Russ, who goes by the artist name Lurk, on his Instagram page. “I was featured inside the magazine before and that blew me away but to get front cover is an honour I don’t take lightly.” Russ also owns the Electric Umbrella tattoo studio in the Old City Quarter and completed a large mural downtown last summer.

On the Island

🌊Vancouver Island-based Nalaga (Avis O’Brien) is working in the field of suicide prevention by developing a series of culturally-based workshops for Indigenous youth focused on self-regulation tools rooted in ancestral knowledge, and yoga-based practices, writes Katłįà (Catherine) Lafferty at IndigiNews.

🌊“On the face of it, this is a conflict like many others. A company proposes some new development, and environmentally-minded community members stand in opposition. It’s rare, though, to find a community so unified against a proposal,” writes reporter Shalu Mehta, in the second part of her series The Discourse West Shore about the community’s response to an impending gravel quarry.

🌊Fifteen-year-old soccer star Tristan Thomas and 18-year-old swimming racer Jakob Brager are two of the six local Indigenous athletes honoured by the premier this month, writes IndigiNews reporter Katłįà (Catherine) Lafferty

🌊May 5 was the National Day of Awareness and Action for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse kin, also known as Red Dress Day. This is how people in Coast Salish and Okanagan territories came together to remember, honour and advocate for change, in moments captured by IndigiNews staff.

Community spotlight 

A while back, reader Don M. wrote to us saying they wanted more “features about what citizens are doing to make the city better.” We’ve heard this sentiment from a number of you. So for the next while, we’ll be spotlighting people in Nanaimo that make this community great. 

This week, our editor Lauren Kaljur spotlights Shiv Sharma, who has hosted CHLY 101.7’s Apna Sur Sangeet, a Punjabi culture radio show, for more than 14 years. “Apna means our. Sur means tune, Sangeet means music,” Shiv says. “So ‘our tune in music.’” 

If you haven’t tuned into the show before, it’s a mix of Bollywood music, descriptions of cultural celebrations like Navratras, a seasonal festival for the memory of the Mother Goddess, and news, like the recent farmers’ protests, presented by Shiv speaking a mix of Punjabi, Hindi, sometimes Urdu and English. (You can listen to past episodes here or stream the broadcast every Sunday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.)

“The purpose is to share my culture, my language, my food and our motherland…with other communities, non-Punjabi speaking people and our new generation—that is our kids,” says Shiv.

“I can say this is the best place to live,” says Shiv. Photo submitted by Shiv Sharma

Before he moved to Canada in 1993, he taught science and mathematics in India and today he’s a community educator for the City of Nanaimo on Punjabi culture. (Classes are suspended due to COVID-19, but you can keep an eye out for offerings in the city’s leisure guide.) Shiv encourages others in Nanaimo to “keep their culture and heritage and the language alive in the coming generations.” 

“Sometimes people have prejudices about the other communities,” says Shiv. “The thing is, we are all related. We have the same colour of blood in our body… Why not have love, peace and prosperity and get together and make this earth and atmosphere more healthier, more beautiful?”

A word for your vocabulary: “‘Namaste’ means bow in front of your soul, because all the souls are related,” explains Shiv. “So, when we see each other, we say ‘namaste’, that means I bow in front of the other soul in respect.”

Have a person to nominate? Drop me a note, anytime. 

Save the date

On Wednesday starting at 7 p.m., I’ll be joining Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly for an online conversation about the forces driving the housing affordability crisis in our region as well as the short and long-term solutions. No registration required, just head to Paul Manly’s YouTube channel.

Image from Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly

What’s going on?

  • OngoingFerries to Saysutshun (Newcastle) Island have started up again, seven days a week, every half hour.
  • Friday, May 7: Carol Anne Hilton discusses her book Indigenomics: Taking a Seat at the Economic Table (from local New Society Publishers) with host Sheila NorthRegister in advance, the event will also be available for viewing afterwards.
  • Tuesday, May 11: Did you know invasive plants are one of the top threats to natural ecosystems? Join the Nature Conservancy of Canada for a Zoom session on identifying invasive species in your backyard.
  • Wednesday, May 12: Discourse Nanaimo reporter Julie Chadwick joins Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly in a live YouTube conversation about the local housing crisis and how it’s affecting residents starting at 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 12: Join scientists Kathleen McTavish and Shinjini Pilon for Southern Resident Orcas: Combatting Contaminants for Healthy Habitats, an online discussion about threats facing endangered Southern Resident orcas starting at 4:30 p.m. Hosted by the Georgia Strait Alliance and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
  • Sunday, May 23: Salish Food Sovereignty Chef (and The Discourse Cowichan contributor) Jared Qwustenuxun Williams hosts Coastal Cuisine—an online event looking at how to prepare West Coast traditional foods. Tickets must be purchased in advance, and all proceeds go to support BC Marine Trails and their First Nations engagement program.

As always, if you appreciate this work, please support it. Thanks again for making this possible. 

Editor’s note May 10: An earlier version of this newsletter stated that “apna” translates to “hour.” It has been updated to reflect its accurate translation, “our.”

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