For 72 years, the first week in February has been “White Cane Week” in Canada.
This year, thanks in large part to the work of Comox resident Pat Chicquen, Feb. 4-10 will also be White Cane Week in the province of British Columbia.
Chicquen, the 2nd vice-president of the Canadian Council of the Blind, BC-Yukon Division, spearheaded the campaign to have the nationally-celebrated week recognized at the provincial level. She received word of the provincial decision by way of email earlier this year, along with the official proclamation.
The document, signed by BC Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon, and Attorney General David Eby, reads in part:
“WHEREAS since 1946, the first full week of February has traditionally been ‘White Cane Week’ in Canada due to the initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind, and
WHEREAS the objective of White Cane Week is to provide education and awareness of vision loss to British Columbians through a network of special events and hands-on demonstrations throughout the province, and
WHEREAS White Cane Week has evolved to reflect the changing situations of the blind community and has begun to emphasize equal capabilities and talents of people who are blind and partially sighted, and
WHEREAS with the province’s aging population, all British Columbians need to be better informed about the effects of vision loss and to work towards creating more supportive, inclusive communities;
NOW KNOW YE THAT, We do by these presents proclaim and declare February 4 to 10, 2018 shall be known as ‘White Cane Week’ in the Province of British Columbia.”
“We have never thought about pursuing this before,” said Chicquen, of her motivation to push for the provincial designation of White Cane Week. “So I had this idea do it and I started it… I just feel that people need to be better educated about the blind, and about sight loss in our country.
“Every day in our country, 135 people are pronounced legally blind, or blind.”
It is a steadily growing community, but Chicquen said there are steps that could be taken to prevent, or at least slow its growth.
“Optometrist visits are so important,” she said. “At least once a year, or once every two years. So many people say ‘why would I go to the optometrist; I can’t afford glasses.’ But can you afford glaucoma, or all those other things that are basically now arrestable? So many people say they can’t afford it, but they can afford 20 cups of coffee, or the other things that they do. Things like teeth can be replaced. Eyes can’t.”
Community chapters of the Canadian Council of the Blind are known as White Cane Clubs, of which there are 29 in the province.