Early fall heat wave shatters daily temperature records in 20 B.C. communities

Fall heat records smashed

Twenty daily temperature records tumbled across British Columbia on Monday as conditions in the province remain unseasonably warm for the first week of fall.

Environment Canada says a preliminary review of daily maximum temperatures shows records were set in areas from the south and central coasts to the central Interior and northeastern sections of B.C.

Squamish posted the highest daily record as the mercury hit 29.9 C, breaking the old setting of 26.5 posted in 1991.

Other hot spots included Port Alberni at 29.5 C, shattering the high of 27.8 C, set 104 years ago in 1918.

Records were also set in Bella Bella and Sandspit and east to Blue River, Prince George and Dawson Creek.

The weather office shows rain is expected in many areas by Wednesday, but Lytton remains in the running to set a record as forecasters call for a Tuesday high of 32 C in that Fraser Canyon village.


'Perplexing problem': Whale mystery solved by B.C. scientists

Whale mystery solved

Scientists at the University of British Columbia believe they’ve solved a whale mystery. 

A group of researchers has spent decades trying to understand why whales don’t get brain damage when they dive (also called fluking) or move. 

Lead author Margo Lillie and her team used computer modelling to support their theory and studied 11 cetacean species. 

“They are the biggest animals on the planet, possibly ever, and understanding how they manage to surge and live and observe what they do is a fascinating piece of basic biology,” says Lillie. 

Their research suggests whales have special blood vessels in their brain to protect them from "pulses," which are caused when they swim. Those pulses could damage the brain.

Land mammals such as horses experience pulses in their blood when galloping; their blood pressure goes up and down on every stride, according to Lillie. 

Her team suggests for the first time that the same phenomenon occurs in marine mammals that swim with dorso-ventral movements. However, whales are able to avoid long-term damage.

"Long-term damage of this kind can lead to dementia in human beings," explains Lillie. "But while horses deal with the pulses by breathing in and out, whales hold their breath when diving and swimming. So if cetaceans can’t use their respiratory system to moderate pressure pulses, they must have found another way to deal with the problem.”

Her team believes whales use a ‘pulse transfer’ mechanism to ensure there is no difference in blood pressure during movement, which is why they don’t have brain damage. 

Her colleagues, Wayne Vogl and Bob Shadwick, say it’s been a mystery they’ve been trying to solve.

"It's always been sort of a perplexing problem, you know, how is this actually related to the diving behaviour of whales. So it links it very nicely to whales that actually swim sort of like this, rather than lateral movements like seals do,” says Shadwick. "So seals do not have this because they don't experience the same sort of internal body cavity pressure changes when they swim.”

Vogl started his career looking at this system and is pleased to have an answer to it. 

“The arteries will actually pass through the veins so you can really see how pressure in one will be transmitted to the other and equalized,” he says. 

Shadwick says the model could be used to ask questions about animals and what’s happening with their blood pressure pulses when they move. 

The research was done through computer modelling; it still needs to be tested directly by measuring blood pressure and flow in the brain of the swimming cetaceans, which is currently not ethical or technically possible.

Understanding how the thorax responds to water pressure at depth and how the lungs influence vascular pressure is an important next research point, according to Vogl.

Colwood mother sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison for sexual assaults and luring involving teen boy

Jailed for sex assaults, luring

A Colwood mother has been sentenced to five-and-a half years in prison after being convicted of internet luring and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in April 2020.

Provincial court Judge Ted Gouge imposed the maximum sentence of two years less a day for each count of sexual assault and an 18-month sentence for internet luring. The sentences are all consecutive.

The 27-year-old woman was identified in court document as Ms. P.

Parliament has chosen to prioritize denunciation and deterrence in cases of sexual assault upon children and the Supreme Court of Canada agrees with that approach, Gouge wrote in his judgment.

“In this case… it is important that the message be clear. The message is: If you are an adult, and you have sex with a child, you should expect to go to jail for a long time,” he wrote.

Defence lawyer Rolfe Horne said Monday he has instructions to appeal the sentence.

The trial, which took place over five days in late June, heard that in April 2020, Ms. P lived in a townhouse in a Colwood development.

One evening, a group of four boys gathered on the sidewalk outside her home. She and a friend were on their way to the liquor store. The teens offered to trade marijuana for a six-pack of vodka coolers. The women agreed and came back with the six-pack and their own two litres of wine. By this time, the 15-year-old boy had joined the group.

The two women drank wine. The boys smoked dope and drank the coolers. Everyone was intoxicated to some degree. Then the woman began an erotic solo dance, removing some of her clothing. She sat on the 15-year-old’s lap. They began to kiss, then went upstairs and had sex. The woman testified that she asked “Are you sure you’re 18?” three times. The boy replied “Yes” and “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.”

A few days later, she sent a text inviting the 15-year-old to a “hot make-out sesh.” He came over and they had sex on a couch in her garage.

During the sentencing hearing, court heard that Ms. P is the mother of a six-year-old boy who suffers from attention deficit disorder. Their family doctor believes her son’s mental health and development will suffer if she is incarcerated.

Ms. P was sexually abused as a child and has received treatment for anxiety and depression since the age 14. She has no criminal history and her risk of re-offending is low, court heard. She is employed, is in a stable relationship with an intimate partner, and has the support of her mother.

However, a probation officer found Ms. P minimized her behaviour by saying that there aren’t any laws to hold “a minor to account for lying about their age.” The judge found her expression of remorse at the sentencing hearing “unconvincing” because she continued to blame the youth for misleading her about his age.

The effect of Ms. P’s offending behaviour on the victim, now 17, “has been very grave indeed,” said the judge, who described the victim impact statement “a powerful articulation of the effects of sexual abuse on children.”

“I stopped caring about life and I don’t really try anymore,” the teen wrote adding that his relationship with his family has been affected and he doesn’t enjoy the things he used to.

“I really struggle with my self-esteem now. I don’t like myself,” the teen wrote. He said he had “hit a wall” and is “lost and confused.”

It is necessary to reject the stereotype that teenage boys are less vulnerable to sexual assault than teenage girls, said the judge. And to impose a lesser sentence on a female offender than a male offender infringes the rights of male offenders under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, wrote Gouge.

Although the judge said he is concerned about the impact on Ms. P’s son, he did not think he should reduce an “otherwise-appropriate sentence” for that reason.

“Many offenders have children. If I were to impose a lesser sentence on Ms. P because of the impact of the sentence on her mother and son, I would dilute the deterrent effect of the sentence,” he wrote.

The son will continue to have a close relationship with his father and grandmother.


Engine revver awarded $75,000 after being injured by angry neighbour

Engine revver attacked

A former Tofino man has been awarded $75,805 after his elbow was injured and his car repeatedly struck by another man wielding a piece of wood like a baseball bat, in what a B.C. Supreme Court judged described as a “frenzied attack.”

It started between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Jan. 22, 2018, when Clayton Giesbrecht was in the parking lot of a store he helped out at. When he tried to leave, the car would not move.

Thinking the engine was cold, Giesbrecht began revving the engine.

Ole Marvin Hansen, whose house was next door, was awakened by the noise and got out of bed “not happy,” Madame Justice Catherine Murray said in her decision, posted online Monday.

On his way out of the house, Hansen grabbed a piece of wood similar to a two-by-four, Murray said in a review of evidence.

“Wielding the piece of wood like a baseball bat, Mr. Hansen repeatedly struck Mr. Giesbrecht’s car, shattering the front and rear windshields and denting the window frames.

“Mr. Hansen then struck the driver’s side window, breaking it and hitting Mr. Giesbrecht’s arm, causing injury.”

Giesbrecht testified that as Hansen wound up to strike the driver’s side window, Giesbrecht put his left arm up, crooked at the elbow, to shield his face and head. When Hansen broke through the window, he struck Giesbrecht’s elbow.

“Glass flew into Mr. Giesbrecht’s car, hitting him on the left side of his neck and cutting his skin,” the decision says. Giesbrecht said he told Hansen he had broken his elbow.

Giesbrecht went to a hospital’s emergency room, where a photo shows his left elbow was bruised, swollen and abraded.

Hansen admitted losing his temper and taking a two-by-four to Giesbrecht’s vehicle, smashing windows and a tail light, Murray noted, adding Hansen said he was ashamed of his actions.

“I have no difficulty finding that in his fury, Mr. Hansen struck Mr. Giesbrecht’s elbow with the piece of wood when he smashed through the driver’s side window.”

Giesbrecht said he is constant pain and cannot do things he used to enjoy, such as cycling and off-road biking. He used to salvage and repair bikes, selling them for a reasonable cost, which gave him a feeling of contributing to the community, but cannot do that any more and continues to experience anxiety, the judge noted.

Murray ordered Hansen to pay Giesbrecht $75,805 in damages, imposing $8,000 in punitive damages.

Hansen had argued that punitive damages were not justified as his behaviour was not malicious and did not depart from ordinary standards of decent behaviour.

But Murray said Hansen’s behaviour was “unprovoked, malicious and uncontrolled. It was definitely a marked departure from the ordinary standards of decent behaviour.”

While she said she can understand being annoyed by being woken up by engine revving, smashing the car over and over again without regard to the damage or injury that could cause was “highly reprehensible.”

No money was awarded for lost wages or for loss of future earning capacity, as requested by Giesbrecht, because of lack of records and unclear evidence regarding his ability to work, the judge said.

Hansen had argued that Giesbrecht’s evidence was questionable because he has unrealistic ideas or ideals, but Murray disagreed, saying Giesbrecht has non-mainstream ideas but was credible.

“He is not driven by money but rather by his passions.” For example, Giesbrecht, a surfer, said he has told employers and potential employers that if there were big waves, he would not come to work, she said.

Human remains found near Chetwynd now identified

Human remains identified

A sad ending to a missing persons case last month in Mackenzie.

A body discovered Aug. 20 at a boat launch outside the community of Chetwynd has been identified as that of Andrew Santos.

The 30-year-old was the centre of an investigation in early August after family reported he hadn't shown up for his mother's birthday Aug. 4.

The last time he was seen was three days earlier.

RCMP in both Mackenzie and Chetwynd continue to investigate both his disappearance and the discovery of his body.

No cause of death was given.

Anyone with information on this case is being asked to contact authorities in Chetwynd at (250) 788-9221 or (250) 997-3228 in Mackenzie.


Burnaby delivery driver fined for doctoring licence plate to dodge parking tickets

Driver doctored plates

A Burnaby food delivery driver who changed his licence plate with a black marker to dodge parking tickets during deliveries got a $200 fine and some plain talk from a B.C. provincial court judge this week.

“That was kind of dumb,” B.C. provincial court Judge Bonnie Craig told Jun Ou John Liu during a sentencing hearing Monday in Vancouver provincial court. “Don’t do this again. It’s not fair.”

Police had pulled Liu over just inside the Burnaby border at Joffre Avenue and Rumble Street on the evening of June 27, according to facts presented in court.

The 40-year-old's licence plate number had sent up a red flag because another driver had complained to police after getting multiple mysterious bylaw infraction tickets.

“He believed his plates had been duplicated in some fashion,” Crown counsel Louise Gauld told the court.

The Mounties who pulled Liu over discovered a three on his plate had been changed to an eight with a black marker, duplicating a number already in use.

“Mr. Liu did not admit right away but he later admitted that he had altered the plates as he stated he was a food delivery driver and he used the plates to avoid getting parking tickets while making his deliveries,” Gauld said.

Liu, who represented himself in court, pleaded guilty to driving a vehicle with an altered licence plate number between June 18 and 27 contrary to the Motor Vehicle Act.

He was ordered to pay a $200 fine and a $30 victim fine surcharge.

Craig did not impose a driving ban.

B.C. man guilty of sex assault after befriending victims at Metro Vancouver churches

Guilty of sex assaults

A British Columbia man now in his late 70s has been found guilty of numerous counts of sexual assault.

Coquitlam resident Raymond Gaglardi appeared in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster on Monday, and court records show he was convicted on 11 counts.

The charges related to historical sexual assaults of young men or teenage boys who attended several Coquitlam-area churches between 1993 and 2007.

RCMP said in 2020 that the offences happened at Gaglardi's home, where he offered therapy sessions to the victims after meeting their parents at the Metro Vancouver churches.

An investigation began in 2019, and the first charges were laid the following year, when Gaglardi was 75 years old.

He is scheduled to return to court for a pre-sentence report on Dec. 8.

Most British Columbians will be at work on Sept. 30, but that may change next year

No long weekend for most

Government employees and students will be getting the day off on Friday, Sept. 30, for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The federal holiday, for now, applies only to federally regulated workplaces, such as banks, airlines and the post office. Government offices and the school system will also be closed.

In Kelowna, for example, city hall will be closed and the Parkinson Recreation Centre will be open on holiday hours, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Most, if not all city halls will be closed for the day.

Now in its second year as a federal holiday, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is intended to commemorate the history and legacy of the residential school system. Orange Shirt Day had been recognized informally on September 30 since 2013.

The provincial government announced consultations with employers and employees in August on whether September 30 should be established as a statutory holiday in 2023 under the Employment Standards Act — meaning that it would be recognized and treated like any other major statutory holiday.

The government has not yet revealed the results of those consultations.

There are a number of events taking place in the Okanagan this week to mark the day.

The Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society is holding an event at their Leon Avenue location in Kelowna on Sept. 29 from 1 to 4 p.m.

“We will be hosting ourselves as well as a few collaborators to spread awareness and encourage the general population to care for Indigenous rights by offering education, information, ways to support our cause, and wellness,” said an event description.

Okanagan Nation Alliance is hosting Walk for the Children on Sept. 30 in Penticton, a 5 km walk to mark the day.

The West Kelowna Warriors hit the ice for the first time at home on Truth and Reconciliation Day to take on the Wenatchee Wild. The team will be wearing special "Every Child Matters" jerseys for the game with the threads being auctioned off with a silent auction during the game with proceeds benefitting the Residential School Survivors Society.

Okanagan College is also hosting a number of events this week, culminating in a brief ceremony at 2:15 p.m. at the Kelowna campus.

The Westbank First Nation is recommending orange "Every Child Matters" shirts be purchased at any London Drugs location, the Sncewips Museum in Westbank or Spirit of the Lake Native Boutique (1960 Nancee Way, Westbank).

Suspect allegedly attacks woman and hits her in head with hammer

Woman hit with hammer

A woman was allegedly attacked and struck in the head with a hammer in an unprovoked attack in downtown Vancouver Sunday (Sept. 25) evening.

Just after 6:15 p.m., a 33-year-old Coquitlam woman was walking with a group of friends on Seymour Street near Pender Street "when she was suddenly attacked from behind," explains a Vancouver Police Department news release.

Before the victim's friends could intervene, the suspect allegedly hit her over the head with a small hammer.

“The suspect did not know the victim and didn’t have any previous contact with the group,” says VPD Const. Jason Doucette. “This random attack could have been much worse if bystanders hadn’t helped out by sheltering the victim and calling 911.

"The victim, obviously shaken, was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries."

Using information provided by witnesses, VPD officers arrested a 27-year-old suspect nearby and recovered the weapon.

Shaundrea Janette Lynxleg has been charged with assault with a weapon and remains in custody.

Members of the public are encouraged to call 911 if they are witnessing a crime, or have an immediate concern for their safety or the safety of others.

Men involved in Chilliwack workplace accident awarded over $20M

$20M for job site accident

B.C. Supreme Court has awarded a combined $19.6 million to two men involved in a March 2016 Chilliwack industrial accident.

On March 11, 2016, a construction crew, including Gerson Alvarado, Robert Clegg and Surrey resident Sebastian Gomez, was pouring concrete at a townhouse development.

To reach far corners of the site, concrete was pumped from a 12-wheeled truck through a hose attached to mobile metal boom. The weight of the truck’s outstretched boom was stabilized by four outrigger legs.

The courts found that when a metal outrigger on the concrete pump truck operated by Clegg failed, it caused an outstretched boom laden with concrete to fall.

One judge said one of Clegg’s co-workers, Gomez, was killed instantly and another, Alvarado, was crushed. He was paralyzed from the chest down as a result.

In a pair of September judgments, Alvarado was awarded $15.4 million and Clegg $4.177 million.

On July 11, B.C. Supreme Court awarded $875,000 to Gomez's widow.

The defendant was KCP Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. 

The Alvarado case

When the truck’s boom fell on Alvarado, he experienced seven fractured vertebrae; a broken sternum; a dozen broken ribs; damage to both lungs; lacerations to his liver, spleen and left kidney; a broken femur; shattered ankle; torn spinal ligaments; a torn carotid artery; and dangerous blood loss.

The injuries involved two spinal cord injuries and have left him wheelchair-bound for life, Justice Michael Tammen said in a Sept. 15 decision.

The judge said despite the loss of nerve function, Alvarado described constant pain akin to intense burning sensations across his stomach, groin, buttocks and legs.

“At times, it feels to the plaintiff as if waves of electricity are coursing up and down his body,” Tammen said, adding Alvarado has lost all ability to use his abdominal muscles, and requires assistance for almost all routine activities.

“Not surprisingly, Mr. Alvarado, who previously had no history of depression or other mental health issues, suffers from depression and anxiety post-accident,” the ruling stated.

Both Alvarado’s wife and mother described differences in Alvarado’s mental and emotional functioning since the accident.

“The evidence of both was compelling and poignant,” Tammen said.

Alvarado sued for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life; reimbursement for past expenses associated with care needs, what are often called special damages; compensation for past wage loss; compensation for loss of future earning capacity, or future income loss; damages to cover cost of future care; and damages for loss of housekeeping capacity, both past and future.

Alvarado was 26 at the time of the accident.

“The evidence before me is overwhelming that Mr. Alvarado should receive the maximum available amount for non-pecuniary damages, to attempt to compensate him for the pain and suffering caused by these catastrophic injuries,” Tammen said.

KCP did not file a response to the notice of civil claim, which resulted in the default judgment and an award of $15,456,192.

Unlikely ever to work again

In a Sept. 23 ruling, Justice Andrew Mayer said Clegg remains traumatized by the incident, will require medical care for the rest of his life and continues to have family difficulties.

Clegg sought damages from KCP for the psychological trauma he claims was caused by witnessing the accident.

He claimed for income loss, loss of housekeeping capacity, non-pecuniary damages, a past in-trust claim, and cost of future care, totalling approximately $4.7 million. Mayer said KCP filed no defence in Clegg’s claim and a default judgment resulted.

On the day of the accident, Clegg had been pumping concrete for approximately 45 minutes. The concrete pump truck boom was extended and workers were placing concrete on what would be the floor of a parking garage.

Mayer said Clegg heard a crack, later determined to be the sound of one of the pump truck’s outriggers breaking.

“Within milliseconds, Mr. Clegg saw Mr. Alvarado hit in the chest by the falling boom and bend backwards, sustaining gruesome compound fractures,” Mayer said. “The boom hit Mr. [Gomez], who was instantly killed. Mr. Clegg was sprayed with his blood.”

Clegg passed out and awoke in an ambulance on his way to the hospital.

Clegg was placed under a psychiatrist’s care and prescribed medication, including antipsychotics, and received treatments, including light therapy.

“He participated in group sessions for trauma survivors. He testified that he became hyper-vigilant on safety matters,” Mayer said, noting he has attempted to return to work numerous times but experiences trauma from triggers on construction sites.

Mayer said the repercussions of the incident continue to haunt Clegg.

“He experiences hallucinations, including seeing Mr. [Gomez], and he regularly experiences flashbacks of the accident itself. He testified that his sleep continues to be disturbed by nightmares of the accident and that he now only sleeps two hours each night. He testified that he is miserable, irritable, and described his life as a living hell.” 

The situation has also caused family problems, according to the ruling.

Mayer said Clegg’s mother, Bonnie McLean, testified that before the accident, Clegg appeared to be a happy, content, hands-on father. Since the accident, she testified Clegg has become unpredictably emotional, laughing one moment and crying the next.

A psychiatrist testified Clegg continues to experience PTSD, depression, and other psychiatric difficulties — which are chronic in nature and will likely never return to his pre-accident level of functioning. The doctor said Clegg would require medications and psychotherapeutic treatment, including psychotherapy, for the remainder of his life.

Non-binary customer denied haircut at Squamish barbershop

Customer denied haircut

Just a few months after returning to Canada after living abroad, Lindsay Petley-Ragan decided to move to Squamish.

Petley-Ragan, who self-identifies as non-binary, said they previously lived in Vancouver, which they described as Queer-friendly and liberal. When they came to Squamish and saw the rainbow crosswalk in the heart of downtown, they expected to be welcomed just the same.

In need of a haircut, Petley-Ragan entered the Chicago Hair Gallery, which is just a few steps from the crosswalk.

"I went in with very high expectations that I could probably just sit down and get my hair cut right there," they said. "I was just shocked when he had no hesitation at all. He said, 'No you can't get your hair cut here.'"

After some further discussion, Petley-Ragan decided to leave.

Petley-Ragan took their business elsewhere, but was uneasy about what happened. After talks with supportive friends and seeing the Pride flag being raised at Squamish's Municipal Hall, they decided that they should talk about what happened to them.

"When I saw the flag going up for Pride Month, I was like maybe I have a second chance here," Petley-Ragan said.

The barber Tony Bortolotto, who also owns Chicago Hair Gallery, said he caters to men exclusively.

"I want to keep it as a barbershop, strictly as a male barbershop," Bortolotto said, adding that he has been a barber for approximately 53 years. "This is a barbershop and I do male hair. It's as simple as that."

When asked if perhaps someone with short hair might deem the best person to cut for short hair, he responded, "That's true, that's true." But he also said that female salons would be able to do the short hairstyle just as well as him.

Bortolotto offered to Petley-Ragan that if they could not find another place that would cut their hair, then he would cut their hair. Overall, however, Bortolotto insisted that he did not want to cut women's hair.

"Now, what happens if I give one female a haircut and then another female and then another female? And then all of a sudden a lot of females that want a short haircut, they're in here," said Bortolotto. "Now, I got all these females and my customers, all male customers, have gone away. Am I going to lose those customers?"

"I had four or five females come in. And I turned them all down. I said, 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry. This is a male barbershop.’"

Greg Robins, the executive director of the BeautyCouncil, said that he was unsure if the salons and barbershops that are geared toward specific genders have had the time to fully adjust.

“I don't know that the industry has had time necessarily to adjust to it, if their services are geared towards men or women,” he said.

A spokesperson for Pride Squamish, the local LGBTQ2S+ advocacy organization, said that its members have been working on inclusivity in town.

“We have been having ongoing conversations with local businesses, the District of Squamish and our community of allies. We acknowledge that information is available, but understanding ‘what to do’ can be confusing,” said the statement. “We encourage people to try. If you're going to make a mistake, make a mistake by including someone and making space for them to join.”

The statement added that they are here to celebrate and challenge the notion that people should handle incidents on their own.

“If tough conversations need to happen, we are here to have them with you.”

Petley-Ragan pointed out an organization called Strands for Trans, which operates a map of trans-friendly haircut spaces. At this time, the map shows no locations in Squamish but several in Vancouver and one in Pemberton.

But when it comes down to it, Petley-Ragan said getting a haircut just isn’t that simple for them.

“Do I go find a friend who's willing to cut my hair? Do I go pay the $60 to get an appointment where I feel comfortable? Do I go try another barber shop?” Petley-Ragan questioned. “It just isn’t easy.”

Ultimately Petley-Ragan hopes that by telling their story, it will spotlight ways the community can continue to grow.

“I wanted to share my story to highlight that while we have made some great strides, there is still a long way for us to go in making sure that people from all walks of life feel welcome and are treated equally.”

School board lacked authority to suspend trustees over alleged bullying: B.C. judge

Judge overturns board

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled the Greater Victoria School Board lacked the authority to censure and suspend two elected trustees over allegations of harassment and bullying.

Justice Briana Hardwick says in a written decision that the trustees argued the board breached procedural fairness by relying on events other than the findings of investigative reports into the complaints.

The decision following a judicial review means trustees Diane McNally and Rob Paynter have been reinstated.

They were censured and suspended in February after a third-party investigation produced two reports a month earlier.

That meant they could no longer attend meetings or access any confidential information from the board for the remainder of their terms in office, set to expire in November following municipal elections.

Hardwick says two school district administrative staff members made formal complaints in July 2021 against the trustees, who have each been elected twice to their positions.

The complaints stem from the trustees' social media posts about the performance of staff, as well as McNally's comments to the complainants and Paynter's comments at public board meetings.

Hardwick says in a ruling dated Friday and posted online Monday that the School Act does not authorize the board to sanction them, adding: "The Board does not have the power to suspend a trustee in a manner that amounts to a de facto removal of a trustee from their elected office."

The ruling says investigator Marcia McNeil found the trustees' conduct constituted bullying and harassment, but that her correspondence to the board speaks to whether the board had the authority to sanction or censure them.

McNeil had said that making recommendations to meaningfully address their conduct had therefore been a challenge, the judge noted.

McNeil had also expressed concerns that any sanctions would lead to "further divisiveness on the board and would not improve interactions between trustees and senior staff."

"At present, there are few meaningful remedies available to address the conduct of elected officials," McNeil had said.

Hardwick says relations between certain trustees, school board administration staff and parts of the electorate within the school district since the October 2018 election could generally be defined as strained, creating two factions within the board, with McNally and Paynter aligned with the minority.

Neither trustee was immediately available for an interview.

Board chair Ryan Painter said the board is reviewing Hardwick's decision while considering its options.

"What is most important is that the community has a board of education that can properly function in an honest, legal and respectful way to further the interests of our students," he said in a statement.

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