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Monday, 26 November 2007

THE PERLEY VETERANS SAGA CONTINUES

First they took down their smoking room as it was no longer compliant and were kicked outside in the elements. Then they were told that a smoking room that would meet Ontario’s stringent requirements was too expensive and that they were not worth the expense. The population was sympathetic to their plight and answered the ever combative veterans’ call, by helping raise the $ 80 000 needed to build the room. The plans for the smoking room have been approved since October. Finally these old, some who are sick and frail people would not have to face another Canadian winter to enjoy one of the only pleasures left to them, many thought. However we’re well into the cold season and the veterans still have to drag themselves outside unattended to smoke. Why? Because apparently some bureaucrat in some cozy Ottawa City Hall office, for some unknown reason, has not issued the building permit. They are further told that the $ 80 000 smoking room that private donors will have helped build, will be dismantled in five years as the Perley will go totally smoke-free by then. Why? To protect who? To punish who? To prove what point? To set what precedent?

In the name of exactly what virtue can a supposedly civilized society accept this kind of treatment towards the most deserved members of its citizenry, those that have helped build it, shape it, fought for its freedom and honor? In the name of exactly what virtue do some moralistic and control thirsty do-gooders play with the dignity and safety of a segment of our society shoving their moral values down their throat?

It is time citizens get mad, very mad, and express it loudly and clearly. It is time that citizens serve the same treatment and show those self-righteous zealots that make it a lucrative business to mind other people’s business, the door leading out of our personal lives and into the elements of the real world to earn their pay.

Shame on the tobacco control cabal and public health that lost all sense of measure, shame on the Perley administration for thinking that adult smokers are expendable, shame on the City of Ottawa bureaucrats for their unacceptable delays in issuing the permit, shame on us citizens if after reading this we are not compelled to cry out our indignation and do something about it.



Delay fires up smokers

Dave Brown, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, November 19, 2007

The funding's in place, but Perley residents are still waiting for a room of their own
One of three people in wheelchairs huddled outside the Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre on a drizzling November morning is Nicole Allarie, 52, outspoken stroke victim and unrepentant smoker.

She believes she's not fighting just for her right to make her own risk assessments, but also intolerance. That's her view of the anti-smoking campaigners in the ongoing fight to not just control, but ban smoking.

She says she purchases a legal product (duMaurier ultra mild) and, on every transaction, the government pockets a large part of her payment.

She is a resident at the institution -- not a prisoner.

"I respect the rights of other residents to be free of smoke. That's why I got involved in passing around a petition for a smoking room."

Others have conducted a successful fundraising program that met the $80,000 estimated cost of equipping a room. The money came from those worried about elderly people with the dangerous combination of addiction and mobility problems. The smokers' side thought they had everything in place a year ago.

One of Ms. Allarie's smoking buddies was an 82-year-old woman. The other was a man of similar vintage, who grumped that he believed authorities were playing with them, and the smoking room was never going to happen.

They're wrong, says the health centre's executive director, Greg Fougère. "We hope to have the room operating before the end of the year."

As for delays: "We're operating in an area where people have strong feelings and emotions on both sides. There's lots of debate. No consensus."

Ms. Allarie wonders about minority rights. She knows that, as a smoker, she's part of a minority. A Centretown kid when she first lit up at age 12 or 13, smokers were then the majority. Now, at the Perley, according to Mr. Fougère, of the 450 residents, only 17 are smokers.

When the Smoke Free Ontario Act kicked in on June 1, 2006, there were 27 smokers in the centre. On that date, the institution shut the smoking rooms that served individual units, and smokers were forced outside. The situation was repeated throughout Ontario's 617 long-term care facilities, which house about 75,000 seniors.

Mr. Fougère says the Perley is one of only 20 of those facilities that is planning to operate a smoking room. The planned smoking room has five-year approval and, after that, the institution is intended to go smoke-free.

The equipment needed to vent the room has been purchased and provincial approvals are in place. The delay seems to be from the city's end, and it includes a building permit that appears to be stalled.

If the delays are part of the anti-smoking campaign, they're dangerous. Ms. Allarie's 82-year-old friend slipped and fell outside the building last winter. Her addiction overruled her concerns about safety and she went out on an icy day.

Addictions are like that. The anti-smoking campaigners are likely the same people who would provide the pipe, should the woman become addicted to crack cocaine.

Ms. Allarie also had a close call. She slipped out for a smoke one night and was in a courtyard with limited access. She fell out of her wheelchair.

Paralysed on one side, she was unable to get up. She figured sooner or later, another smoker, resident or staff, would come out for a smoke and find her. What she didn't figure was that she'd have to wait 45 minutes for that to happen.

"It was cold, but not freezing. But if it was below freezing, I could have been in big trouble."

The Perley is no stranger to the business of minding other people's business. Since it is also the major facility for veterans in need of assisted living, a pleasant bar with a military atmosphere was built into it. There was resistance from anti-alcohol campaigners.

A typical Ontario compromise was found.

Build the bar, but count the drinks. The lounge will not serve more than two drinks to any one customer. It's a strange attitude, in that every free citizen is, as the provincial government advertises, his or her own liquor control board. Residents can drink in their own rooms and not keep count.

That the drink count has been accepted could be an indicator of things to come. Move the attitude to main street, and your favourite bar could be telling you when to go home -- and not smoke when you get there.

dbrown000@sympatico.ca

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