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Remembering the lives of Mary Ann Garlow and Dennis Guay on the two-year anniversary of the Winter’s tragedy

April 11, 2024

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Ms. Garlow and Mr. Guay, as well as the former tenants and the community, who continue to remember and grieve for those lost. This tragedy has left its mark on the tenants, the community, and the entire team at Atira who support them.

Earlier this year, the Coroner’s Inquest was held to look into the tragic deaths that occurred as a result of the 2022 Winters Residence fire. We acknowledge and support 100 per cent of the recommendations from the jury.

Over the last two years, we have worked hard since then to improve safety in all the buildings that house our tenants, including ensuring all staff have appropriate training and resources in place in the event of another life-threatening emergency. Below is a full list of actions Atira has taken to date related to the Winters Residence fire:

  • Established an external Safety Task Force that conducts monthly inspections in all the all-gender SROs. Any findings from these reports are immediately actioned by the Operations team and our Health and Safety Team. This task force is led by a current inspector from the Richmond Fire Department who previously was a Vancouver Fire Rescue Services (VFRS) inspector.
  • Continues to hold education sessions for staff and tenants on fire safety in partnership with VFRS’s Community Safety and Public Education Division.
  • Meets monthly with the VFRS Deputy Chief and Assistant Chief to share and review monthly data to identify ways to collaborate to further enhance tenant safety in the buildings.
  • Conducts daily rounds by staff to monitor for potential fire-related issues and complete monthly health and safety inspections.
  • Continuing to use a third-party company that is responsible for regular maintenance calls and conducting inspections which ensure extinguishers are present, have been inspected and are properly tagged.
  • Conducted asset risk assessments using the seven standards that define “Adequate Housing” as recognized in international human rights law and enshrined in the 2019 National Housing Strategy Act (see Federal Housing Advocate’s Observational Report – BC 2022).
  • Developed an asset risk assessment on SROs, in cooperation with Vancouver Fire and Rescue based on data they collected and on critical incident data from Atira. Those assessments have been shared with BC Housing.
  • Hosted the Housing and Safety Forum on February 13, 2024 in collaboration with BC Non-for-Profit Housing Association, where professionals in multiple disciplines, including first responders and safety, will be attending to share data to help plan for better supportive housing.
  • Engaged an external consultant to complete an audit to make recommendations on how to further improve the safety and security at sites for staff and tenants.
  • Security staff is now responsible for leading fire watch inspections at sites to support staff

We also acknowledge the pain and sadness that Ms. Garlow and Mr. Guay’s family and friends have gone through over the last two years, compounding the unimaginable grief of losing their loved ones, and we want to assure them that we also feel this loss deeply at Atira, and will forever.