While the Mazamas have a great training program, it's based in Portland (from what I understand), and pretty time intensive, so probably not convenient for you. There are multiple ways to start climbing:
- Find someone experienced willing to teach you the ropes (aka a "mentor"), around your area. Pro's: cheap, potentially super rewarding. Con's: not easy to find someone.
- Take lessons from guide service, there is a wide variety in the Portland and Seattle areas, so I'm sure the same is true in Vancouver. Pro's: when you want, where you want, excellent technically. Con's: expensive.
- Find a climbing community group in your area (a la Mazamas) that can bridge the gap between the 2 options above. Depends on what's available in Vancouver.
To you specific questions, my 2 cents:
1- I would agree Mt Hood is a good starting ground,but just like many other summits in the region.
2- I would really advise against going up Hood as beginners, for the 1st time, without guidance. If you were experienced, sure, but it's still a technical climb, with avalanche hazard, steep sections and although it's on the easy side compared to other summits, people die every once in a while.
3- Check out the equipment list from the various guide services, those are good starting points (eg: http://timberlinemtguides.com/equip-lists/oregon-california-cascades-equipment-list/)
4- See above.
Good luck! I'm a beginner myself and looking to get some experience in the area as well.