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Our Community: For Island Health, diversity pays off

Island Health has been named one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers in relation to an employment program created to encourage workplace diversity and inclusiveness.
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Michelle Morfitt, North Island Employment Advisor; Alegha Van Hanuse, Career Coach, Program Assistant; Rod O’Connell, Strategist, Talent Acquisition and Retention; Sheila White (Yaatqumaat), Central Island Employment Advisor; Steve Sxwithul’txw, Program Coordinator/South Island Employment Advisor.

Island Health has been named one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers in relation to an employment program created to encourage workplace diversity and inclusiveness.

For the third year in a row, Island Health’s Aboriginal Employment Program was recognized by Mediacorp Canada, a medical job-search website, for promoting diversity among its employees.

“The work being done by the Aboriginal Employment Program is an inspiration to all of us at Island Health,” said Dr. Brendan Carr, president and CEO. “Through collaboration, learning and listening, the program supports people to find careers that promote health and wellness perspectives of aboriginal peoples.”

The record has been impressive. In 2014, Island Health recorded its 500th new hire who self-identified as being of First Nations, Métis or Inuit descent.

“With each new hire, we strengthen our commitment to healthy families and culturally safe environments where indigenous peoples feel respected and welcomed,” said Steve Sxwithul’txw, Island Health’s aboriginal employment program adviser.

Highlights of the successful program include:

• Regular visits to the 50 First Nations communities within the Island Health region by Aboriginal Employment Advisers.

• A full-time aboriginal employment job coach who provided career coaching and support with resumé and cover-letter writing to 750 people last year. Career coaching is available before, during and after the hiring process to support people in reaching their career goals at every stage.

• Sustaining a robust aboriginal recruitment and retention strategy to promote the broad spectrum of careers in health care.

• Establishing an aboriginal recruitment and retention advisory committee with staff and community partners to advise on issues affecting aboriginal job-seekers, applicants and employees.

• Organizing yearly Aboriginal Week celebrations across Island Health to celebrate aboriginal employees and the contributions they make toward better health outcomes for indigenous people.

• Co-hosting Island Health’s first Aboriginal Health Careers Forum in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority to introduce aboriginal community leaders to the wide variety of health careers.

• Partnering with the First Nations Health Authority to create 12 education scholarships, worth $1,000 each, at six post-secondary schools for aboriginal students pursuing careers in health care.

For more information, go to

Campaign seeks to aid storm-stricken Vanuatu 

Students will run with flyers and break out in impromptu performances in next week’s TC 10K as part of one of the awareness and fundraising campaigns for survivors of Cyclone Pam.

More than 100 Pearson College students will be running the 10-kilometre race with flags and flyers to draw attention to the plight of survivors of the cyclone, which hit the nation of Vanuatu.

An information booth will also be set up on the sidewalk across from the Empress Hotel.

Locally, a consortium consisting of Pacific Peoples Partnership, Victoria Vanuatu Physicians Association, Disaster Aid Relief Canada, the Williams family and Pearson College have united to assist with relief and reconstruction.

The group is holding Vanuatu, We Are With You, a fundraising gala, April 26.

The event includes cider tastings, appetizers, a silent auction and entertainment from the South Pacific Island community, with performances by dance group Pearls of the South Pacific and musical group Tradewinds, along with Pearson College’s showcase production of One World.

Tickets are $75. The event runs 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Sea Cider Farmhouse and Cider House, 2487 Mt. St. Michael Rd., Saanichton. Tickets at

Volunteer honoured at Rideau Hall

A Victorian who gave back to his community through his love of sport and major sporting events was one of 49 people to receive the Caring Canadian Award last Tuesday.

Terry Wright helped lead the XV Commonwealth Games to success in 1994 and was also a key player in Vancouver’s successful bid for the 2010 Olympic Games. His volunteer service includes the Greater Victoria Hospital Foundation, the Commonwealth Games Foundation of Canada and Victoria’s Corps des Commissionaires.

He has also coached community youth soccer and baseball teams.

Wright received his award from Gov.-Gen. David Johnston during a ceremony at Rideau Hall. The event marked the 20th anniversary of the creation of the award and was part of a program to highlight National Volunteer Week, which concluded Saturday.

Created in 1995, the Caring Canadian Award recognizes living Canadians and permanent residents who have made a significant, sustained, unpaid contribution to their community, in Canada or abroad.

For more information, or to nominate a deserving volunteer, visit

Fundraiser to benefit cancer-stricken youth 

A Victoria West school and co-workers of a woman whose son has been diagnosed with cancer are coming together to put on a fundraising garage sale and bottle drive April 25.

Dakota Cunningham, a 10-year-old who attends Victoria West Elementary School, was recently diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. His mother has been taking him to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver for treatments.

“It is difficult to articulate the emotions one goes through when learning that their only child is going through a life-threatening experience,” said Jacklyn Ellis, his mother. “I truly believe our life is like a book. We all have chapters that collectively tell our story. This just so happens to be another chapter in ours. Although, through this challenging time, I must acknowledge I am in awe of the love and support of my friends and colleagues.”

All the travel has meant Ellis has been unable to return to work, which is straining finances.

To help, the school community and Ellis’s co-workers have organized a Cancer-Kicking Garage Sale and bottle drive to raise funds for the family.

The school is accepting donations of garage sale items 8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays.

Donors can also drop off items between 9 and 10 a.m. on the day of the sale. Recyclable bottles will also be collected on the day of the sale.

The event runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 25 at the Victoria West Elementary School, 750 Front St. For more information, contact [email protected].

Cutting down on plastic in our lives

Victoria business owners and the public are invited to “rise above plastics” and view a 45-minute screening of the documentary film Bag It! on Tuesday, the day before Earth Day.

The event, hosted by the Vancouver Island chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, is to challenge people to take the plastic pledge and voluntarily reduce or eliminate plastics from their stores and personal lives.

A community discussion will follows the film, led by a panel of speakers who will share personal stories of success and struggle with plastics in the environment.

Suggested donation is $5. Doors open at 6 p.m. at the Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad St. For more information, go to 786306558120035.

Nature Conservancy dinner benefits B.C. work 

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is celebrating Earth Day with a special fundraising evening of fine food, cider and conversation on Wednesday.

People will dine on a four-course dinner of locally farmed and foraged foods, catered by Toque Catering and paired with craft-made ciders.

A silent auction and live art creation rounds out the evening.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s work in British Columbia. Since its first B.C. project in 1974, the conservancy has completed more than 100 projects and protected almost a million acres of land and water.

Tickets are $100.

The reception starts at 5:30, with dinner at 6:30 p.m. at the Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse, 2487 Mt. St. Michael Rd., Saanichton.

Tickets can be purchased online at or by contacting [email protected] or 250-479-3191.

Scouts honoured for leadership skills 

Three local Scouts were recognized for their leadership skills with The Queen’s Venturer Scout Award, one of the highest awards attainable in Scouting, at a ceremony at Government House Saturday.

The three, Zachary Coey, 16, Jacob Palfrey, 17, and Ross Sutherland, 18, were among 57 B.C. Scouts invited to Victoria to receive their awards.

The 14-to-17-year-olds earned their awards by acquiring skills of use to them, their Venturer Scout Company and their community.

The award signifies the recipients have the character and ability to be of significant help to other people and have achieved high standards in multiple areas of their lives.

The awards were presented by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, who serves as provincial patron of Scouts Canada in B.C.

This year marks the 60th year of the award in British Columbia. For more information, go to