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Our Community: Totem pole honouring Indigenous veterans rededicated

Broadmead Care recently held a a rededication ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the raising of the totem pole at Veterans Memorial Lodge.

Broadmead Care recently held a rededication ­ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the raising of the totem pole at Veterans Memorial Lodge.

The pole was commissioned by Broadmead Care in 2002 and unveiled in 2003 at the lodge entrance. It ­honours the contributions of Indigenous veterans, and was carved by Calvin Hunt, Mervin Child and John Livingston. An estimated 12,000 Indigenous, Métis and Inuit people served in conflicts in the 20th century, including the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War.

The eagle at the top of the pole symbolizes nobility, integrity and heavenly pride, while the warrior below protects him from his enemies. Next is a bear that ­represents a fearless, strong and determined spirit.

A digital-preservation project for the pole from Memory Anchor was unveiled, as well. A software company created by veterans and funded by Veterans Affairs Canada, Memory Anchor takes on long-term digital preservation of monuments, memorials, vehicles and artifacts.

Veterans Memorial Lodge is one of five Victoria-area sites run by Broadmead Care. The lodge is a multi-level care facility with 225 beds, 115 of which are set aside for veterans.

>>> Bring paper for shredding to Chinatown club’s drive

The Victoria Chinatown Lioness Lions Club will hold its third annual Paper Shredding and Bottle Drive from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 27 in the Save-On-Foods ­parking lot at Fort Street and Foul Bay Road.

All of the proceeds will go to local charities, with the money generated by the bottle drive earmarked for the Shelbourne Community Kitchen.

The all-women organization was formed in 1991 under the leadership of Georgina Wong to provide for those in need, and has a particular emphasis on ­women’s and children’s issues. It also promotes ­Chinese-Canadian heritage and culture.

The group became affiliated with Lions Club ­International in 2020.

>>> Two recognized for efforts on mental-health challenges

Island Health marked Mental Health Week by ­recognizing two people for their efforts to bring about change for those struggling with mental-health and substance-use issues.

Niki Ottosen, who created an initiative to help the homeless called the Backpack Project, and Emily Olsen, founder of a mental-health platform to destigmatize mental-health issues and provide education about them, have received Island Health’s 2023 Mental Health and Substance Use Community Service Awards.

“Those living with mental-wellness concerns face significant challenges every day,” said Marion Gibson, who chairs the South Island Advisory Committee for the awards. “Our two recipients have shown so much kindness, willingness and an unwavering tenacity to help people, and have touched so many lives in our community in the most positive ways.”

Ottosen’s efforts for the past 14 years have involved the delivery of donated tents, sleeping bags, warm clothes and food to the unhoused.

Olsen was awarded for creating the Connection Project Society in 2018, which facilitates events and offers online resources related to mental health. Olsen also puts on an annual mental health storytelling event, giving people a platform to share stories and experiences involving mental health. Participants can use various forms of artistic expression, including music and dance.

Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said she is inspired by people who step up and help those with challenges.

“Congratulations to the award recipients for being leaders in their communities and creating supports that are making a meaningful difference in people’s lives.”

>>> Students at 12 schools give grants in Vital Youth Program

Students at 12 schools handed over money to 15 community organizations on the south Island through the ­Victoria Foundation’s 2023 Vital Youth Program.

The program distributes $3,000 each to various student groups, which, in turn, choose charities to receive the money.

Each group also receives a $500 grant from the ­foundation.

“Throughout its 20-year history, the Vital Youth ­Program has seen youth in the region step forward as leaders,” said foundation chief executive Sandra ­Richardson. “It is inspiring to see them engage with the organizations working to address various issues and see youth carry this leadership back to their schools, ­families, and communities.”

Deristhi Govender and Chelsea Lee, Grade 10 students from St. Michaels University School, said in a joint statement that the Vital Youth program “opened our eyes to key issue areas in Greater Victoria and shed light on the gap between what the situation is, and what it should be.”

“We appreciated having the means to address an issue of our choice and realized that by connecting philanthropy to a specific need, we could improve the quality of life in our community.”

The students hold visits and interviews with charities to decide where the grants will go.

About $400,000 has been handed out and more than 300 students have taken part since the program began in 2003.

This year, Belmont Secondary School funded the Broadmead Care Society, Claremont Secondary School funded RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and ­Environmental Needs) and the Victoria Women’s Transition House Society, and Esquimalt High School funded the Threshold Housing Society.

Frances Kelsey Secondary School in Mill Bay funded the Shawnigan Basin Society and Cowichan Valley Youth Services, while Glenlyon Norfolk High School funded the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness and RAVEN, and Victoria High School funded the Victoria Women’s Transition House Society..

Oak Bay High School funded the Victoria Brain Injury Society and Parkinson Wellness Projects, Parkland Secondary School funded the Victoria Child Abuse Prevention & Counselling Centre, and Pearson College funded the Open Space Arts Society and the Compost Education Centre.

Reynolds Secondary School funded the Victoria Youth Clinic Society/Foundry Victoria, St. Michaels University School funded the Umbrella Society for Addictions and Mental Health and Stelly’s Secondary School funded the NEED2 Suicide Prevention & Education Society.

• For more on the program, go to

>>> Police dog veterinarian among civic service honourees

Dr. Dan Thompson, who provided over 20 years of veterinary service to the Victoria Police Canine Unit and the Integrated Canine Service, was one of several citizens recognized with the latest round of VicPD Civic Service Awards. Thompson was available 24/7 and even made house calls, police said, as well as caring for retired police dogs.

Gregory Owens received an award for alerting neighbours on Sept. 9, 2022 when their home was engulfed in flames. He ran past the fire and onto the porch, then banged on the door and called 911. ­Everyone got out safely.

Also honoured was Michael Tull, who provided ­medical assistance to a stabbing victim on Feb. 26. He was out for a run when he noticed several vehicles stopped on the side of the road. He happened to have a small medical kit with him and began to give first-aid to the victim. The victim eventually made a full recovery.

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