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Millions of Canadians live in inadequate housing: Report

OTTAWA – Lone parent families in Canada were twice as likely as other households in 2006 to be living in places that don’t meet basic needs, says a new report.

The report also says seniors, younger Canadians, new Canadians, aboriginals and the jobless were among those most likely to have inadequate shelter.

The report, released Thursday, was prepared for the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada and based on analysis of the most recent data (2006) provided by Canada Housing and Mortgage Corp.

It says almost four million Canadians, among them 750,000 children under the age of 15, fell into the category of living in "core housing need." This means their accommodation is in the state of disrepair, is unsuitable for the number of people living there or eats up more than 30 per cent of the household’s pre-tax income.

Almost 13 per cent of Canadian households met one or more of the three measures, a percentage that represented almost no change since 2001.

The report suggests core housing need could fall between 2006 and 2008 because the country was enjoying relatively good economic times and low unemployment.

But, it says, the onset of the severe economic recession in the latter half of 2008 has put more Canadians out of work, and will likely push more households into inadequate accommodation.

Among the provinces, the incidence of people in deficient housing was greatest in British Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Among the finding:

-Twenty-six per cent of single-parent families were in inadequate housing, compared with 13 per cent of all households in core housing need.

-Immigrants were more likely to live in inadequate housing than non-immigrants. The margin was 18 per cent to 11 per cent.

-Households whose primary wage earner was unemployed were three times more likely to be in deficient housing than households where the chief breadwinner was employed.

-Aboriginal households were substantially more likely to be in inadequate housing than non-aboriginals. The margin was 20. 4 per cent to 12. 4 per cent.

The report was prepared by Will Dunning, who specializes in housing research.

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Chopper crash survivor says his survival was ‘just luck’

The lone survivor of a helicopter crash off Newfoundland last March said Thursday he doesn’t know the answer to the question so many have been asking – why he survived when 17 others did not.

"There probably is no reason – just luck," Robert Decker told an inquiry into offshore safety in St. John’s, N.L.

In testimony given in a calm, clear voice, Decker – who will never fly offshore again – said he lost consciousness when the aircraft crashed to the ocean and came to as it plummeted to the sea floor.

Decker said it was dark in the crumpled cabin, but he could see by the light of his survival suit. The helicopter had quickly filled with sea water and was on its side, "sinking the same way it (had dropped) from the sky."

"There was a lot of pressure in the helicopter because water was rushing through it," he said, but he managed to undo his seatbelt and pull himself through his window, which was broken by the impact and, with the chopper on its side, directly over his head.

"Then it was a long ascent to the surface. I didn’t know how deep the helicopter was . . . I could look up and see it was getting brighter and brighter and eventually when my arms broke the surface, I could tell I had survived."

The 28-year-old Newfoundlander also described his long wait alone on the surface – suit leaking, hands frozen – trying to remain calm as the seas beat over him and his body grew colder, his vision eventually fading almost to blindness.

A search plane circled overhead, he said, and later a helicopter arrived and a basket was lowered. Decker was unable to get in, though, and a rescuer was lowered to his side

Clinging to the man’s shoulder, Decker pleaded: "Please don’t leave me."

A tall, trim man with close-cropped dark hair, Decker spoke publicly for the first time Thursday since the Cougar Helicopters Sikorsky S-92 aircraft crashed and sank east of Newfoundland on March 12, 2009. The chopper had lost oil pressure in its main gearbox and was making an emergency return to St. John’s airport.

Seventeen people died in the crash, which was heading to the Hibernia and White Rose oilfields when it ran into trouble.

The body of Allison Maher was recovered on the surface. The bodies of the 16 others were recovered from the floor of the Atlantic and returned to their grieving families in a painstaking operation over the following days.

In a statement he read after his testimony, Decker said his survival may have come down to luck.

"There are several things that might have made some difference to my survival. I don’t know whether they would have made a difference to anyone else or not. First thing, I guess, is I was relatively young, healthy and fit at the time of the crash. The other is that maybe the fact that I braced myself against the seat in front of me reduced the force against my chest when the helicopter hit the water, and that might have left me with a little more air in my lungs.

"Also, when I regained consciousness in the submerged helicopter cabin I know that I stayed calm and I didn’t panic. I was able to concentrate on getting out of the helicopter and to the surface as quickly as possible . . . It was like a reflex to take a breath and to hold it and to stay calm until I could get to the surface."

In his opening testimony, Decker, a weather and ice observer for Provincial Aerospace who had made 50 previous helicopter trips to the rigs some 350 kilometres east of St. John’s, said there was nothing unusual about the day of the crash.

"It was a nice, clear, sunny day . . . light winds. Everything seemed like a regular day," said Decker, who testified he was not supposed to have taken the flight on March 12, but got a call the night before asking him if he could fly then instead of the following day.

Decker said the flight was so routine that he quickly fell asleep, and was awakened by another passenger some time later.

At first, he thought they were still heading for the rig. Although he noticed the aircraft was lower in the air than he expected,there was no change in its movement or sound level in the chopper, he said.

"Shortly after I was awoken, the pilot got on the PA and said there was a major technical problem and . . . that we were heading back to land."

The pilot told them to seal their suits, and then advised them they were going to land, giving the command "brace."

"I grabbed the seat in front of me," Decker said.

Shortly after, the helicopter started making "erratic" motions, he said.

"Our heading changed quickly from left to right. The sound changed, there was a high-pitched noise and the helicopter dropped. . . . It was at that point that you realize something serious is happening. I guess that’s why I clung to the seat in front of me."

Soon after, the pilots made a call for ditching.

"They called ditch three times – ditching, ditching, ditching . . . it was almost as the helicopter was crashing.

"Almost as soon as they said ditching, the helicopter lost control. The nose was head down and heading straight for the ocean . . . just before it crashed, the bow came up and it turned to the side," he said, miming with his hand the motion of the aircraft.

Decker said he has no recollection of hitting the water, but that the helicopter rotors were still turning.

When he got to the surface, he could see debris and the helicopter’s life-rafts, but no other survivors.

He said he remembered an airplane circling above, and later the Cougar Helicopters rescue craft approaching.

"I could feel the downdraft from rotors of helicopter," he said.

Decker said the last recollection he has is of a basket being lowered, which he couldn’t get into, and a rescuer beside him in the water.

"I grabbed at his shoulders and said ‘please don’t leave me here.’ "

Decker said in his statement he will never fly offshore again.

"But others continue to do it every day and they deserve to be able to do it safely. Training to escape from a crashed helicopter is important. Having the survival suits is important and having search and rescue capacity nearby is important. But all those things are what’s needed after there has been a crash into the ocean. If we really want to make offshore helicopter travel safe what we have to do is make sure that every helicopter doesn’t crash. The best way to keep every offshore worker safe is to keep every helicopter in the air where it belongs. Safety starts with the helicopter and I think everything else is secondary."

His testimony has been hotly anticipated and is being closely watched in this province where the sea provides a sometimes dangerous livelihood to many.

But no one is paying greater attention than the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the crash.

They have packed the inquiry room in St. John’s to hear directly from Decker about the last moments of their loved ones’ lives.

Thousands turned out for a memorial service for the victims.

Mourners included Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Premier Danny Williams, family and friends and many others with no direct connection to the victims, but who felt the need to be their at a time of grief.

The inquiry is being webcast at 杭州桑拿按摩论坛杭州夜生活oshsi.nl.ca/?ContentLive-Video-Stream

List of victims:

The victims are: Maher, 26, of Aquaforte, N.L; the captain, Matthew Davis, 34, of St. John’s; first officer Tim Lanouette, 48, of Comox, B.C.; Thomas Anwyll, 46, of Langley, B.C.; Peter Breen, 55, of St. John’s; Gary Corbett, 46, of Conception Bay South, N.L.; Wade Drake, 42, of Fortune, N.L., Wade Duggan, 32, of Witless Bay, N.L.; Colin Henley, 38, of St. John’s; Ken MacRae, 47, of Greenwood, N.S.; Derrick Mullowney, 51, of Bay Bulls, N.L.; Burch Nash, 44, of Fortune, N.L.; Paul Pike, 49, of Spaniard’s Bay, N.L.; Corey Eddy, 32, of Paradise, N.L.; John Pelley, 41, of Deer Lake, N.L; Keith E. Escott, 39, of St. John’s and Gregory Wayne Morris, 40, St. John’s.

Statement from Robert Decker, 28, the lone survivor of a helicopter crash that claimed 17 lives off Newfoundland in March 2009:

"I don’t think anyone will ever know why I survived the disaster and the others did not. There probably is no reason – just luck. What I do know is that I came incredibly close to losing my life also. There are several things that might have made some difference to my survival. I don’t know whether they would have made a difference to anyone else or not. First thing, I guess, is I was relatively young, healthy and fit at the time of the crash. The other is that maybe the fact that I braced myself against the seat in front of me reduced the force against my chest when the helicopter hit the water, and that might have left me with a little more air in my lungs.

Also, when I regained consciousness in the submerged helicopter cabin I know that I stayed calm and I didn’t panic. I was able to concentrate on getting out of the helicopter and to the surface as quickly as possible. Many people know that I do sailing in small boats, mostly on Conception Bay since I was quite young and I’ve taught sailing at the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club. Many times I’ve been thrown into the cold sea water from an overturned boat. I think that that experience meant that when the helicopter suddenly filled with icy water I could react instinctively without having to consciously plan what I had to do. It was like a reflex to take a breath and to hold it and to stay calm until I could get to the surface.

As good as (our) training is, a couple of days of controlled immersions in a pool every few years is not enough to allow anyone to develop the instinctive reactions that they need to have a chance to survive a helicopter crash like Cougar 491. Other things were just luck. I was seated next to a window. The helicopter sank with the port side down. I was on the starboard side so that the open window next to me was above me when I released my seatbelt and the buoyancy of my suit probably helped carry me through it. Every second counted. Small things like that made a very big difference…

I don’t know what else I can say to you only just to tell my story as I’ve done here today. It could just as easily have been someone else who survived – and I did not.

I’ve already privately thanked the Cougar crew who came to my rescue on March 12 but I want to publicly thank them again here today.

I hope that this inquiry does make offshore travel in light helicopters safer. I will not be flying offshore anymore, but others continue to do it every day and they deserve to be able to do it safely. Training to escape from a crashed helicopter is important. Having the survival suits is important and having search and rescue capacity nearby is important. But all those things are what’s needed after there has been a crash into the ocean. If we really want to make offshore helicopter travel safe what we have to do is make sure that every helicopter doesn’t crash. The best way to keep every offshore worker safe is to keep every helicopter in the air where it belongs. Safety starts with the helicopter and I think everything else is secondary."

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Burrard Bridge cycle lane to stay until at least spring

The trial cycling lanes on Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge will stay – at least until spring.

After studying vehicle, bike and pedestrian patterns on the busy bridge, Vancouver council has voted to continue the project and review it again in the spring.

The extension has cycling advocates optimistic that the lane reconfiguration will eventually become permanent.

“The lane changes now make cycling on the bridge excellent in both directions, and it gives the sidewalk back to the pedestrians,” said Arno Schortinghuis, president of the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition.

“I can’t see them going back – it’s working and there seems to be support from the general public.”

The trial, which began July 13, was to last three months. One southbound lane has been closed to vehicles.

The east sidewalk, now separated from the road by concrete barriers, is for cyclists heading north into downtown.

The west sidewalk is reserved for pedestrians. And southbound cyclists use the empty southbound lane.

Vision Vancouver Coun. Heather Deal said Wednesday that a final decision on the lane changes will come after the bridge gets a railing repair that will take almost a year.

An early option of widening the sidewalks has been rejected.

Deal said the trial project has gone well: “We weren’t sure what would happen. But the mayhem and chaos didn’t happen.”

Some businesses say the traffic reconfiguration is killing sales.

Ron Appleton is the owner of Appleton Galleries on Hornby Street.

The ban on cars making right turns off Pacific Avenue onto Hornby has significantly hurt customer traffic, he said.

“Without consultation or warning, they shut down the street to car traffic,” he said. “We have been here for 15 years and we may not be here by the Olympics in February.”

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