Save Our Northern Seniors (SONS)
Margaret Little

Save Our Northern Seniors (SONS) is centred in Fort St. John and dedicated to making a difference for seniors living in northern BC. Fort St. John is located on the Peace River in north eastern BC.  SONS shares information and raises issues of concern with all groups in the areas, serving about 300,000 people, many of whom are Aboriginal.

SONS developed a Community Health Guide which lists most of the services in the South and North Peace Area as well as Fort Nelson.


April 2021

What has SONS been up to these days???? 
Never again!!! Famous last words!!

After our last Community Health Guide was printed, a declaration was made that the 2020 would be the very last one. 

How can one refuse generous offers from the Hospital Employees’ Union, NENAS – Northeast Native Advancing Society, Mackeno Ventures, Frontier Law, and Asuncion Sta. Maria?  Working with NENAS, we have added extra pages for personal contacts, a mini-index, and on page 41, COVID-19 Contacts and Supports which provides a quick list of numbers. 

Your Community Health Guide 2021 Edition is now available at the Alaska Highway News, the Fort St. John Museum or at the Fort St. John Public Library. It can also be sent to you via email. 

As with any project, there will always be changes – additions and deletions. This Guide provides many of the services available in our community of Peace River North as well as provincial and federal agencies. NENAS and SONS has created a document which will be useful for those seeking local information to help their loved ones. 

Supportive Care Aide Course – NENAS/Northern Lights College

This past month, Silvia Marti and I met with a group of Indigenous students taking their Supportive Care Aide Course. NENAS and Northern Lights College in consultation with Northern Health created a programme which would give students an opportunity to support Elders in the Treaty 8 communities. This model would be most beneficial for all students interested in working with our loved ones either in a facility or at home. We were able to provide the students with information about services and supports in our community. What an experience to know that there are opportunities for this type short programme which enables our young people to take the course and be able to follow their dream with further courses. 

Peace River Regional District Scholarships/Sources of Funding For Educational Opportunities

SONS has always presented at the Select Standing Committee on Finance and one of our issues has been educational opportunities, recruitment, and retention. The Nursing Programme is one of the successes for our community.

Jim Collins has been working very hard to find increased funding to support students wishing to enter the Health Care Profession here in Fort St. John. We are pleased to announce that the PRRD has increased the amount of their scholarships. For more details go to the Peace River Regional District Web page.

PRRD Service Scholarships for RN/RPNs are available to individuals enrolled in a RN/RPN (Registered Practical Nurse) degree program.  First priority for this scholarship is given to graduates from the Peace River Regional District.  Six scholarships of $5000 are available.

The PRRD recognized the need for more health care professionals in the region and has developed a Health Care scholarship program.  These scholarships and bursaries will assist in the recruitment of new health care professionals to the region and encourage health care professionals in the region to expand their skills. 

The PRRD also provides funding for Care Aids which is administered by the rural directors/or by the regional health care committee.

Completed applications are to be returned by e-mail to the PRRD at by June 30th of each year. For more information for this opportunity or other PRRD scholarships and bursaries, visit

SD #60 continues to work on dual credits, work experience, and promoting educational opportunities. Drawbacks for the students is travel to Dawson Creek. The issue of graduated licenses and students not always being able to drive due to their level of license is a barrier. Her 

Facebook Page/E-mail 

SONS or Save Our Northern Seniors Facebook page continues to be quite active and receives many likes as well as shares. Our e-mail list also provides information as many people do not use facebook. 

What else is new?

SONS continues to advocate for:

More Staffing at all levels with available educational opportunities as well as funding. Working with the Peace River Regional District, we are pleased to announce that the scholarship amounts will be increased for this coming year. 

Recruitment and retention of Staff is extremely important. 

Transportation for those who cannot get out is critical. We will continue to work on getting more HandyDART hours, especially evenings and weekends. 

More facilities – we need the Third House at Peace Villa which could be a used for a variety of needs in our community, especially Assisted Living. 

This past month, SONS has been continued to keep the information moving through our email list and facebook page. We belong to the BC Rural Health Network, the BC Health Coalition, Council of Senior Citizens’ Organization as well as many other groups which provide support for families, caregivers, Residents, and Clients. 

SONS is able to support families with information and contacts for the health system.  In addition, we are there for support to help make a difference for our loved ones.


Oral submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Finance – 2020

M. Little: My name is Margaret Little. I’ve been a member of Save Our Northern Seniors for 20 years, and for 20 years, we have made presentations to every politician and group that we possibly can. We have worked closely with our community partners, and during the COVID crisis, we have worked even more.

I realize that I sent in a lengthy document, but I wanted to tell you a bit about our dynamic community. I hope that you will take time to look at the recommendations that the select standing committee made last year. Those ones are still really, really important to our community.

I’d like to thank those people who have worked in our community making life better for seniors. It has been a tremendous effort. However, after COVID-19, we can’t be put back on the shelf and say: “Okay, we’ll just do a little bit.” We have to make giant steps in all directions for seniors.

Our priorities for Fort St. John and the area are a third house at Peace Villa designated as a dementia village as well as assisted-living units. We need more staffing at all levels, with more personal time for seniors, either in a facility or at home.

Improved support services, such as physiotherapy and recreation time with space for activities, are an extremely important feature. We’d like to have locally grown food. We need to have enhanced transportation systems and funding for support services and wages.

Finally, we would like to have more educational opportunities to encourage recruitment and retention. The people who work on the front lines sometimes never get the credit that they should get.

In your document, I have provided the page numbers for you. So it’s easy for you to find where my issues are.

I want to talk about the spaces in our community, our facilities. We have 346 spaces for people. There are 199 people waiting on the list.

There are 353 people getting support in the community. Now, I know that one would say: “Well, they aren’t all just in the community. They’re probably on the list somewhere too.” So even if you take that in half, there are 453 people waiting for some sort of support or placement.

The assisted living, as of May 2020, was 28 people.

We need more home support. If the government is really and truly believing that we should keep people in their own homes, then we need to have the support put in place.

Our Fort St. John Hospital for years has had waiting times. They don’t have enough staff, and the emergency always has a waiting list. Pre COVID-19 there were anywhere between 15 and 20 people in the hospital waiting for placement at Peace Villa. Our community needs alternatives for people who are using the emergency — more doctors, more health practitioners, more walk-in clinics.

Staffing is needed at all levels. There’s a real need for a staffing ratio in our care homes, and this is really important. These numbers didn’t come out of thin air. They came out of the seniors advocate’s report. Right now a resident gets 3.36 or, depending on the number you’re using, 3.47 hours of direct care.

Now, I want to ask you. If there’s nobody to give you a bath, nobody to help you go to the bathroom, how would you feel? There have been cases across the province where seniors are not getting that support. It’s time for the government to put their money where their mouth is. We need to have more support and more staffing.

Why do we have difficulty retaining and recruiting staff? Part of it is the public image. I’ve been watching on Facebook and every other social media, just like other people, and every time you turn around, there’s somebody getting slammed because they aren’t doing a good enough job. We need to support the people who are going into the health professional fields.

There are things that we can do to help improve services. There needs to be more recreation. We have groups that go into the care homes, into the North Peace housing and anywhere that they are invited, where they provide music. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our residents. The adult day program needs to be enhanced. Right now there is no daycare program because of COVID. I understand that.

There needs to be a chance for caregivers to have opportunities to have respite, counselling times, financial assistance and just somebody to listen to.

B. D’Eith (Chair): Margaret, if I may, you’re out of time. If you could please wrap up, I would appreciate that. Thank you.

M. Little: Okay. I’m just going to mention quickly…. The handyDART service only runs once during the day, not on the weekend.

My priorities are travel to other centres — we need help for rural people going to other centres, a PharmaCare strategy, a third house at Peace Villa, more staffing; more educational opportunities to encourage recruitment and retention.

B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you so much, Margaret.


SEPTEMBER 26, 2019

Northern Health
Northern Health says it is temporarily suspending new admissions at Peace Villa due to staffing challenges.
The health authority announced the news Thursday morning, saying the move is necessary to “ensure continued safe, quality care” for current residents.

“In spite of aggressive and continuing recruitment efforts and available incentives, a number of positions remain vacant at Peace Villa. Demand for health care aides, Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses is high throughout the Northeast,” Northern Health said.

Northern Health says it’s working on a plan to deal with the staff shortage in consultation with the ministry of health, and is reviewing inter-provincial mobility and training incentives.

“The team will also work with local management to address any immediate care concerns related to staffing, and will work closely with residents and their family members to address any issues or concerns,” Northern Health said.


Jean Leahy (above) sadly passed away at the end of August, 2019. Jean leaves a huge void in the community where she was a tireless advocate for health issues.



Jean Leahy awarded the Ida Peever Award from Better At Home
Jean Leahy awarded the Ida Peever Award from Better At Home

Jean has been an active member of the community of Fort St. John and is the president of SONS since its inception.
Laura Beamish – Better At Home:
“For the second year, we are presenting the Ida award that is named after Ida Peever. This award goes to a person who is an organizer, a go-getter and who has made change for good in her community and takes care of those around her!
Jean Leahy has been active in the community for years. She has represented those who needed representing and has always been a voice for those who needed someone to speak for them. Currently she does both these things as the president of SONS.
There is a saying “I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world,” and I think that definitely applies to this year’s IDA AWARD honouree Jean Leahy”