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Albertans working on Prince George pool project, labour rep says

Albertan labourers on job

A Prince George labour representative is raising alarm bells after discovering the contractor is employing workers from out of province on the new Four Seasons Pool project.

Mike Andrews of the B.C. Regional Council of Carpenters said he walked into the lunch room across from the site earlier this month and asked if any of the eight he saw there are from B.C.

"And the guys laughed. They're like 'no,' all from Alberta," Andrews said.

Andrews said the superintendent told him there were two local people working as labourers on the job but they have since been laid off.

"The superintendent was not happy I was there, I just walked in," Andrews said. "That's something that we do."

Andrews said there are plenty of qualified local carpenters who could do the work on what is a taxpayer-funded project.

"As a Prince George taxpayer, you would hope that these projects and the money produced by these projects would stay in our community," Andrews said. "And I find it upsetting that our leaders in the community aren't making sure that this happens."

Andrews said guaranteeing local labour is used could easily have been achieved through a project labour agreement and the work could still have been done at a comparable price because there would be no travel and accommodation costs.

"We have the talent here in Prince George, no doubt about it," Andrews said. "There is no reason why they needed to bring in an outside labour force."

Andrews also questioned the wisdom of bringing in out-of-province workers during a pandemic and noted the provincial health officer has ordered they should be here only for "essential reasons."

"I understand contractors need to rely on key employees within supervisory or management roles," Andrews also said. "However, local tradespersons and apprentices should be sought and offered opportunities that in turn benefit local businesses and our community."

Edmonton-based Chandos Construction is overseeing construction of the pool, a $35.75-million project at Seventh and Dominion for which the City has $10 million in provincial and federal grants with the rest to be borrowed.

In a statement City spokesman Mike Kellett said that to date, Chandos has awarded 15 trade contracts with nine worth more than $11 million combined going to local contractors.

Of the six remaining contracts awarded, he said only one was bid on by a local contractor.

In an emailed response, WorkSafeBC spokesperson Ivy Yuen said contractors do not need to get clearance from the agency to bring in out-of-province workers but must have a COVID-19 safety plan in place.

"When an employer has workers that travel regularly, including workers who cross provincial borders to go to work or who regularly move between workplaces, that employer should have provisions in their COVID-19 safety plan to assess the risk," Yuen said. "This may include monitoring the health of those workers, and mitigating the risk of exposure to other worker."





McBride man handed 26-month jail sentence for sawed-off shotgun

Jail for sawed-off shotgun

The discovery of a prohibited firearm on his property has led to a 26-month jail sentence for a McBride-area man.

Steven Richard Stewart was issued the term at the Prince George courthouse.

On June 8, 2018, a man and a woman walked into the McBride RCMP detachment to report that Stewart had threatened to beat the man up and burn down his house.

They also told RCMP that Stewart had a shotgun, prompting North District RCMP's emergency response team to be called to the property.

Stewart was arrested and a sawed-off shotgun with a pistol grip and a flashlight taped to it was found, as was a sling holding 20 rounds of ammunition in the back of an SUV parked on the property. RCMP also found a number of bladed weapons and several marijuana plants.

Stewart pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited weapon and uttering threats. He maintained he kept the shotgun for protection and claimed $3,000 worth of pit bull puppies he had been raising had been stolen from him.

Defence counsel had argued for a two-year conditional sentence order, in which the sentence is served at home with conditions such as a curfew, followed by three years probation, noting in part that he is employed, has lived up to his bail conditions since he was released from custody and has been working to deal with his substance abuse issues.

However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ron Tindale agreed with Crown prosecution's position that the offence warranted 30 months in jail. Less credit of four months for time served in custody, that left Stewart with 26 months left to serve.

While sentences for the offence can range from 18 months for regulatory infractions to 10 years for serious criminal offences, Tindale found that Stewart's actions amounted to an offence at the "low end of the true crime spectrum."

Tindale also dismissed defence counsel's argument that Stewart's behaviour since his release was enough to warrant the "exceptional circumstances" needed to reduce the sentence to two years and thus allow a conditional sentence order.

A record of previous criminal offences and limited expressions of remorse, insight and responsibility for the crime worked against Stewart.

"Mr. Stewart has worked hard but at this point, I cannot conclude that he has truly turned his life around," Tindale said.

Stewart was also issued a 10-year firearms prohibition and ordered to provide a DNA sample.



Port Coquitlam woman linked to massive immigration fraud granted appeal

Appeal in immigration fraud

A 45-year-old Port Coquitlam woman linked to B.C.’s biggest immigration fraud investigation — and who was scheduled to be deported — has had her case appealed based on humanitarian grounds.

That’s according to an Immigration and Refugee Board decision handed down in August, but not released until this week.

Jie Yi Huang, a permanent resident of Canada, had a removal order made against her on Sept. 11, 2019 after the board found she had committed misrepresentation by submitting false information related to her and her husband's travel and employment history and dates of residence in Canada.

The falsified information came to light following a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) investigation into the activities of Xun ‘Sunny’ Wang, as well as two companies he ran, NewCan Consultants Ltd. and Wellong International Investments Ltd.

When CBSA investigators combed through NewCan's offices, they turned up Huang’s and her husband’s names on several records relating to applications to renew their permanent residency.

Xun Wang’s fraud operation was built on helping permanent residents renew residencies or acquire Canadian citizenship by falsely representing the clients’ time in Canada, according to the board's ruling.

About 1,200 clients paid the company roughly $10 million for its fraudulent services, which included affixing fake stamps to clients' passports; falsely declaring time in Canada on applications; providing fabricated addresses and phone numbers; and providing trumped-up proof of employment by such means as issuing false T4 tax slips.

Or as the immigration board put it in the ruling: “NewCan conducted a large-scale fraud against the Canadian Immigration system.”

The fraud was first discovered when Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) spotted addresses in Edmonton and Calgary used on multiple permanent resident card renewal applications.

After the agency discovered Huang’s husband, Zheng Hong Yang, had lied about his employment status and residence in Canada, he and their son, now 18, were both ordered deported at an earlier hearing.

All three family members then appealed their deportations together, with the older son — who was a child at the time of the misrepresentation — winning his appeal in an earlier decision based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

The court ruling paints a picture of a family struggling to adjust to a new culture at a difficult time in their lives, and a wife who went along with her husband’s plan to hang on to their permanent residency by signing blank documents and providing false information to authorities even though she knew it “was not right.”

Arriving in June 2005, the couple had a second son within three months. Born premature, the family struggled to take care of the new child in an unfamiliar world and without family to help out. By November, they decided to move back to China, go back to their old jobs and buy an apartment as they took care of their ailing parents.

While they visited Canada between 2005 and 2013, at no point did they stay for more than a month, according to the ruling. Recognizing this could affect their permanent residency status, they turned to NewCan for help.

According to the ruling, Wang told Huang’s husband that he could create Canadian income for him so he didn’t have to set up his own company and pay himself a salary. On paper, the husband would be working for Young Dynasty Enterprises Inc., but in reality, Wang never renewed the husband’s permanent residence card based on overseas employment. Instead, altered stamps were added to both husband and wife’s passports, which under-declared their absences from Canada.

Both denied they knew Wang had altered the dates, while Huang said she had been “tricked.”

At the same time, Huang remained in China until 2013, admitting she had falsely represented her time in Canada, including submitting home addresses in Burnaby and Vancouver, neither of which she lived at the specified times.

The board found the misrepresentation to be “egregious” and that it eroded “public confidence in the immigration system and its efficacy.”

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada “must stand on the bedrock of truthful and reliable information or it risks collapse,” reads the decision.

Despite finding Huang culpable of misrepresentation — as well as providing “evasive and somewhat contradictory testimony” — the board noted her husband “was a more active participant in the NewCan scheme.”

Upon returning to Canada in 2013 after her father-in-law’s death, Huang testified she eventually began building relationships in the community, volunteering, actively raising her two children and working to set up a small business until she was diagnosed with cancer in 2016.

But it was her “active part she plays in her sons’ lives” that swayed the board in granting special relief to the Port Coquitlam mother.

Her husband’s appeal, however, was denied appeal and his deportation stands.





Woman sentenced for attacking naked woman who was in partner's bed

Attack on 'helpless victim'

A care aide originally from Venezuela has been sentenced to five months in jail after attacking a naked, unconscious woman in her partner’s bed in Colwood.

The jail sentence for Naimar Dieguez, who pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in the May 2018 attack, will be followed by three years of probation and 16 hours of community service every month during her probation.

The five-month sentence will also allow Dieguez, 42, to appeal any decision to deport her. Permanent residents sentenced to more than six months in jail for crimes such as aggravated assault face deportation without any opportunity to appeal the decision.

In sentencing Dieguez on Thursday, provincial court Judge Ted Gouge called the assault an unprovoked attack with a weapon on an “unconscious and helpless victim.”

Dieguez was in a common-law relationship with Kevin Beairsto, according to an agreed statement of facts, and in May 2018, they were renting the upper suite at a home on Kelly Road while the victim was living in the lower suite with friends.

On May 28 of that year, Dieguez flew to her family home in Alberta to visit family, including her two young children, while Beairsto stayed in Colwood.

That same day, the victim had a fight with her roommates and was kicked out of the lower suite. Beairsto invited her to stay with him. The two consumed a significant amount of alcohol between May 28 and 30, said the statement.

At times, Beairsto turned his cellphone off and ignored calls and messages from Dieguez. However, at some point, the victim answered his phone and told Dieguez she was temporarily living upstairs with Beairsto.

On the night of May 30, Dieguez flew back to Victoria, arriving home around midnight. She found Beairsto and the victim in her bedroom. The victim was naked in her bed. Dieguez attacked the woman with a broomstick and a knife, causing serious injury.

The victim, who was drunk and had blacked out, only had a limited memory of the attack. She told police she didn’t remember anything sexual happening between her and Beairsto and had no memory of going to sleep in his bed.

Beairsto told police he saw Dieguez hitting the victim with a broom. Although he saw a knife in Dieguez’s hands, he didn’t see her use it.

When police arrived at the scene, the victim was outside, bleeding heavily from the head, and Dieguez was yelling at her. The victim was treated in hospital for multiple contusions, two facial lacerations, a nasal fracture and a serious eye injury that now requires her to wear glasses.

Police searched the house and found a red broomstick and two broken knives.

Dieguez and Beairsto are no longer together.

In determining a sentence, the judge said he considered the fact that Dieguez had no criminal history and had entered a reasonably early guilty plea. He also read a number of “remarkably forceful” reference letters describing Dieguez’s personal and professional life.

“In her profession as a care aide, she has made a significant contribution as a newcomer to Canadian society. Her professional skills are much in demand,” said Gouge. “Because of those professional skills, Ms. Dieguez is able to make a much more significant contribution by way of community work service than are most offenders.”

By imposing a shorter jail sentence, with a longer term of probation and community service, Gouge said he could achieve the objectives of denunciation and deterrence while providing a meaningful benefit to the community.

Dieguez must have no contact with the victim and must complete any counselling programs directed by her probation officer. She must provide a DNA sample to the authorities and is prohibited from owning weapons for 10 years.



Canada's oldest man vaccinated against COVID-19

Oldest man gets vaccine

The oldest man in Canada received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine this week.

JaHyung Lee, who celebrated his 110th birthday in September of last year, was administered the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Metro Vancouver's Amenida Seniors Community on Thursday, Jan. 14, the assisted living facility shared in a news release Friday.

Photos of the Korean-born supercentenarian receiving his shot at the Surrey care home where he resides were posted to the facility's Facebook page. Afterwards, Lee posed with a sign that reads, "I had my vaccine at 110 years old. Get yours!"

According to the facility, all residents who gave their consent—or had consent provided on their behalf by a family member or decision-maker—were able to receive their first dose of the vaccine on the same day as Lee.

"We are extremely lucky that we have received enough supplies to vaccinate all of our residents in care," said Rosa Park, Amenida Seniors Community's general manager, in the release. "As many of our seniors are elderly and require complex care, we can feel safer knowing that the virus won't be spreading within our community."

Residents are reportedly set to receive their second doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks.

As both the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent vaccination effort remain ongoing, staff and residents at the assisted living facility say they are continuing to practice all the necessary health and safety protocols.

"While the majority of group activities have been cancelled, certain activities have been modified to meet new regulations and increase morale at the seniors' care home," reads the release. For example, religious services and exercise programs are now offered through streaming services.

2021 is off to a great start! Our Amenida Seniors got vaccinated yesterday.

Posted by Amenida Seniors Community on Friday, January 15, 2021


Surrey protest supporting farmers in India blocked by police

India protest shut down

A protest planned to take place yesterday in Cloverdale was shut down by the Surrey RCMP according to organizers of the event.

"The Surrey RCMP blocked the protest from happening, despite provincial health orders allowing drive-in events," write organizers on their website. "One person was even unfairly issued a $2,300 ticket for hosting a 'non-compliant event' simply for attending the protest and speaking with the RCMP."

However, organizers say the event would have been in compliance with the provincial health orders in regards to the pandemic. The rally they were planning would have been a drive-in protest, which is allowed, and organizers argue they would have been within the conditions outlined.

"Today’s protest was organized with a COVID-safety plan that would meet all the conditions of the Provincial Health Order, including limiting the total number of vehicles, people remaining in vehicles, compliance with the physical distancing requirement if outside their vehicle, mandatory mask-wearing, and gathering of contact information. Audio was to be delivered by radio broadcast," they write.

The protest never got started, organizers write, with police ending things before they began. Beforehand the Surrey RCMP tweeted about knowing of the plan, but did not give any indication it was in violation of anything or would be shutdown.

"Even when explicitly asked by organizers, the Surrey RCMP did NOT state that the event was in violation of or non-compliant with any provincial health order," write the organizers.

Participants feel the police action was unfair.

"One of the only options we have, as Canadians watching the Farmers’ Protests from far away, is to exercise our democratic right to peacefully protest without the heavy-handed interference of the RCMP," says volunteer Pindie Dhaliwal in a press release.

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has become involved in the issue now, as well.

"The shutting down of this protest organized by a racialized community is an affront to the constitutional right to protest. Freedom of expression and freedom of association are fundamental democratic rights that must be respected," says BCCLA lawyer and policy director Meghan McDermott.

Vancouver is Awesome has reached out to the Surrey RCMP for comment and will update this story when we hear back.



Care home staff struggle to isolate dementia patients during outbreaks

Dementia patients struggling

Staff in long-term care homes across Canada are struggling to isolate elderly residents with dementia during COVID-19 outbreaks, accelerating the deadly spread of the virus, experts say.

These vulnerable residents have a tendency to wander as well as a need for social connection and physical touch, leading them to enter other patients' rooms or common areas where they could contract or transmit the virus, say doctors and advocates.

"It's a significant problem in the time of COVID-19 and long-term care," said Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge, a national seniors advocacy group.

"It's also quite inhumane to be locking people up in their rooms. Older people with dementia in long-term care are not prisoners," she added. "The good news is there are some things we can do to help support infection prevention and control while at the same time not isolating seniors exclusively in their rooms."

The novel coronavirus has taken a lethal toll on Canadians living in long-term care homes. More than 3,000 of Ontario's over 5,000 deaths have been in these facilities, as have more than 600 of British Columbia's roughly 1,000 fatalities. Overall in Canada, residents of these homes account for 10 per cent of total cases and 72 per cent of deaths.

A woman whose grandmother died of COVID-19 in a Vancouver care home has raised the alarm about residents wandering during outbreaks. Parbs Bains said she was on a Zoom call with her sick grandmother when another resident entered the room and began hugging her and kissing her on the forehead, remaining for several minutes before a nurse arrived to usher her out.

The care home, Little Mountain Place, is the site of B.C.’s deadliest outbreak in such a facility, with 41 dead. But in all long-term care homes with outbreaks in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, keeping residents with cognitive impairments isolated has been a challenge, said chief medical health officer Dr. Patricia Daly.

The health authority advises staff to monitor residents who wander but not to lock them in rooms or restrain them, Daly said.

Tamblyn Watts said 80 per cent of residents of long-term care homes in the country have some form of cognitive impairment such as dementia. Keeping them in one room without social engagement, exercise or daily routines has a negative effect, she said.

She said more staff, not necessarily with medical training but with dementia training, are needed to compassionately intervene when they see a resident wandering and redirect them to a safe area. Ideally, there would be a separate room where residents could walk to other than their own, Tamblyn Watts added.

"It does, however, mean that you need to have people on deck to be able to help with that," she said.

Quebec announced last year it would hire 10,000 patient attendants to work in care homes and train them over last summer. B.C. and Ontario have also created new jobs in care homes for people without prior experience, but much more hiring needs to be done, Tamblyn Watts said.

She also said more infection control, cleaning, testing and now vaccines are needed, in order to prevent COVID-19 from getting inside care homes to begin with.

Dr. Roger Wong, clinical professor and vice dean in the University of British Columbia faculty of medicine, said people with dementia need a lot of hands-on care.

"Clearly, we always need more staffing," he said.

But he said there are some ways to help residents with cognitive impairments stay in their rooms, including placing a stop sign by the door or hanging a curtain over the doorway. In some secure units, seniors wear wristbands that ring an alarm when they leave, Wong said.

It's also technologically possible, though not common practice, to place GPS trackers in residents' footwear, he said. Playing a familiar piece of music in their rooms can be comforting and help them remain in that space, Wong added.

He said families could plan to speak to their loved ones virtually at times when they are more likely to get confused and wander, often in the late afternoon or evening for Alzheimer's patients. However, it can be a challenge to ensure that residents understand the people on their screen are their loved ones, he said.

Jennifer Stewart, manager of advocacy and education for the Alzheimer Society of B.C., acknowledged that virtual visits can be helpful for some and confusing for others.

Patients may not be able to understand or retain the information about why they need to be separated from others or be able to follow protocols, such as frequent hand washing, she added.

"I think we're in a really tough spot," she said. "I don't think anyone's found a perfect solution here."

However, Stewart said person-centred care is key: looking at each patient as a unique individual and speaking with their families about how to provide them with safety, comfort and meaning.

B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie said the primary way that the virus is spreading in care homes is from staff to residents, rather than from resident to resident. Staff are in close physical contact with many different patients, she noted, and many residents are not mobile.

She said, though, that immediately after a single positive case, all residents and employees should be tested and residents should be isolated. Every patient positive for COVID-19 should be kept not only in their room, but as much as possible in a certain section of the home, she said.

Daly of Vancouver Coastal Health said care homes in the region do not automatically do mass testing after a single staff member tests positive. She said testing depends on the likelihood the employee transmitted the virus to others in the home as well as the timing of transmission.

Mackenzie has also called for frequent, routine testing of staff, which B.C. does not do. Ontario tests staff at least every two weeks and has also deployed some pilot projects for rapid testing.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. considered whether to periodically send staff to a testing site, as is done in Ontario, but that is very "low yield" and challenging to do. As for rapid testing at care homes on a daily basis, that is "not feasible" with the tests that the province has, she said.

"Our focus has been instead on making sure we have the resources to ensure staffing, particularly if an outbreak has been identified. When an outbreak is identified, testing is done," Henry said.

The seniors advocate said understaffing is "absolutely" still an issue.

"I think there have been additional strains on an already strained staffing system," Mackenzie said.

She said family members can be designated essential visitors to be the eyes and ears of a loved one within the care home and flag problems for staff. Some residents don't have family members who are able to play this role but many do, she said.

Mackenzie added that even when dementia patients are isolated, they should be receiving physical touch from staff. Care providers should also use gentle persuasion and de-escalation techniques to assuage any anxieties residents are experiencing, she said.

"If they're mobile enough that they're individually ambulating out of their room in the common areas, they've got some capacity. That is not a person in end-stage Alzheimer's with no capacity to understand anything," she pointed out.

"It's easy to throw up our hands and say we couldn't do anything, we can't isolate these people because they wander. That is not true of every resident or even of most residents. It might be true of some and we know how to manage that."



BC tourism stakeholders ask Liberals to get answers from NDP

Tourism worries about future

B.C.’s tourism industry just wants to hear a COVID-19 restart plan, and the Liberals are vowing to hold the NDP’s feet to the fire until that happens.

That was the message during a two-hour Zoom discussion late Wednesday afternoon between the B.C. Liberal caucus and business representatives from around the province.

“What is the plan for bringing safe, international clients back into this country when it’s safe to do so?” Guide Outfitters Association of BC executive director Scott Ellis said. “If we don’t survive this, if we don’t survive what’s happening today, we don’t have to worry about investor confidence, we don’t have to worry about the future, because we’re going to be living under cardboard houses downtown.”

It’s clear tourism stakeholders feel the $105 million that has been pledged by the government to help the industry isn’t enough. They are currently more concerned about the decisions being made at the government level that are affecting people’s travel plans.

JJ Belanger, who is the general manager of Tofino’s Crystal Cove Resort, isn’t happy with what he’s been hearing out of Victoria, pointing out there was talk from the government about a tourism restart plan before the October election.

“It’s been crickets ever since,” Belanger said. “There was also talk about rapid testing to alleviate some of the restrictions and border closures. Again, crickets.”

He said the province’s decision to limit alcohol sales on New Year’s Eve—on Dec. 30—was just one example of incompetent leadership. Dr. Henry’s latest four-week ban, issued on Jan. 7, is another decision that has irked Belanger, who is also bothered by mixed messaging.

“What are the decisions being based on?” he asked. “Is it science? Because there’s no data to back any of this up.”

Teresa Wat, who is the Liberals’ tourism critic in Victoria, agreed with Belanger that Dr. Henry has not created clear guidelines and plans to put the screws to Tourism Minister Melanie Mark to improve the situation for such an important industry in B.C. and especially in the Okanagan.

“My thought is she doesn’t know what the tourism industry is about,” Wat said. “She doesn’t have a clue what the restart plan is about. Believe me, I’m going to push her hard.”



All hands on deck for Whistler firefighters as massive fire forces neighbours to evacuate

Huge fire causes evacuation

Whistler fire crews were busy on Friday night after a large fire at an under-construction building started and quickly grew.

Whistler Fire Rescue Service Chief John McKearney told CTV News that firefighters responded to a call for the home at Sunridge Drive around 11:30 p.m., which looked drastic from a distance.

One video was posted to Twitter by a witness, capturing the thick orange flames in the distance and heavy smoke filling up the sky.

"The captain registered right away that this looked like multiple houses on fire and called for a full complement of career and paid on-call (firefighters), which was the right move," McKearney told CTV News Vancouver. "Having gotten up there, what looked like it was multiple houses was one large structure that was completely timbers and two-by-fours and had no protection on it."

The building had been stripped "down to the studs," according to McKearney since it was undergoing major renovations at the time. The bare base made it "kindling" once the fire started.

Thirty-seven crew members arrived on the scene to find the home fully engulfed in flames.

"The people that were in that house (next door) were evacuated and they left for a period of time, but there was no damage to that house due to the protection lines that were set up," McKearney added.

Firefighters were keeping their focus on preventing the flames from spreading to another nearby home, moving their defensive attack on the west side of the building.

There were also propane tanks left inside the engulfed building by contractors that fire crews were aware of and some of the tanks ended up exploding during the blaze.

No injuries were reported as a result of the fire and no one was inside the building at the time.

So far, no evidence has been found to suggest the blaze is suspicious and the cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to McKearney.

"We do see that the majority of the heat was in what would be considered the southwest corner of the house, so we're just trying to ascertain just what was going on there," he said.

– with files from CTV Vancouver



Coquitlam RCMP investigate targeted shooting, one person with non-life-threatening injury

Morning shooting injures 1

After an early morning shooting resulted in injury, the Coquitlam RCMP are investigating the incidents that occurred at a residential building and asking for witnesses to come forward.

Police responded to shots fired call early on Saturday morning (Jan. 16), in the 600 block of Whiting Way in Coquitlam.

A woman was found with a non-life-threatening gunshot wound and was immediately taken to the hospital for medical assistance.

Coquitlam RCMP apprehended and arrested a 21-year-old male without incident at the scene and he remains in custody.

The Lower Mainland District Emergency Response Team was also called to assist. The news release stated that it appears to be an isolated incident and there is no risk to public safety.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or who may have further information is asked to contact the Coquitlam RCMP at 604-945-1550 or Crime Stoppers, if they wish to remain anonymous, at 1-800-222-8477 or www.solvecrime.ca.

Coquitlam RCMP are still remaining at the scene as the investigation is ongoing. There is no further information provided at this time.



Possible Bigfoot sighting shocks, excites Silverton residents

Sasquatch sighting probed

‘Twas the night of Christmas

And through the West Koot

Not a creature was sighted

Except maybe Bigfoot

At least, that’s how the famous poem could go after a group of travellers spotted what they say might have been a Bigfoot – also known as a Sasquatch – near Silverton on Christmas night.

The four friends were heading to their home on Hwy 6 just south of Silverton on the evening of December 25 when the people in the front of the vehicle saw what looked like a “huge, man-like figure” on the side of the road.

“I didn’t see the creature myself, I saw the prints,” says Erica Spink-D’Souza, who was in the back seat. She’s become the informal spokesperson for her companions. “But the person on the front seat cried out ‘Oh my gosh look at that!’”

“They said it looked like a huge grizzly, or it was a large man, standing up.”

But before Spink-D’Souza could catch a glimpse, the figure turned, went on all fours, and headed deep into the bush.

“We tried to turn around and look again, but it was gone,” she says.

After arriving home and putting her kids to bed, they returned to the scene to look for signs of the mysterious creature.

“We saw all these different tracks, and then we saw these tracks that were really alarming,” she recalls. “They were bipedal tracks in a straight line into the woods…

“I got a little spooked, it was alarming to see such big prints. But there were no bear tracks.”

Spink-D’Souza and the others examined and photographed the tracks, and then she filed a report with a Bigfoot organization online.

‘Un-hoax-able’

The head of the Bigfoot Field Research Group, Matt Moneymaker (who also co-hosted a long-running Animal Planet TV show called Finding Bigfoot), described the tracks as “un-hoax-able.”

“The surrounding pristine snow proves the tracks were not fabricated by humans,” he says. “The stride length is beyond the ability of a human trying to leap through knee-deep snow. The drag marks and depth of the tracks prove they are not from a leaping rabbit. The linear pattern shows that it was not a bear.”

Moneymaker also says it’s unlikely someone was trying to hoax random travellers on an empty stretch of road on Christmas night.

Spink-D’Souza, who just recently moved to the area, says she’s never had something like this happen to her before – though she’s heard weird animal sounds howling in the bush around her new home.

She says locals she’s spoken to have generally accepted her claim.

‘Well, it’s the Kootenays,” she says, laughing. “I tell them what happened, and they start telling me their Bigfoot stories.

“People were saying ‘oh, that’s The Wanderer, there’s a sasquatch who wanders around here,’” she says. “It sounds like around here people are pretty open to the possibility there is one.”

Investigators arrive

The sighting was strong enough that members of an Okanagan Bigfoot group returned to the location about 10 days after the sighting.

But after investigating the scene and examining the tracks carefully, the team put a damper on the excitement.

“They suspect the tracks are from a very large moose,” says Moneymaker, who’s based in California. “The witnesses may have seen a large female moose facing forward and mistook it for a man-like figure.”

But since nearly two weeks had passed since the initial sighting, Moneymaker says there’s still room to believe.

“It’s up in the air,” he says. “In most cases I can usually say it’s looking more one way than the other, but in this case I can’t. I think there are moose tracks in the area, yes, but there are witnesses who said they did not see a moose.”

Moneymaker says he’d love someone with a drone to fly along the trail of the purported tracks to see where they lead.

Ancient hominid?

Sasquatches are thought by some to be present in the West Kootenay. Paranormal researchers believe it could be a lost sub-species of hominid, like the extinct Gigantopithecus, a large ape-like creature whose remains have been found in southeast Asia. However, no convincing physical evidence has ever been found to support those claims.

For Spink-D’Souza, the incident has left her with a larger sense of the magic of the world.

“It leaves me with a sense of awe and wonderment on all the beautiful mysteries of this world,” she says, noting Indigenous cultures recognize the existence of the sasquatch.

“In terms of looking for evidence, in concrete ways, that’s fine, but I do hold a respect that there are people around who know of the existence of sasquatch and that’s marvellous.”

If you see a sasquatch, you’re invited to contact the Bigfoot Field Research Organization through their website.



Hotels, motels would be devastated by tighter travel restrictions

No to travel ban

With people discouraged from travelling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hotels and motels have taken a huge financial hit.

And operators are concerned more restrictions by the provincial government will make things even harder.

BC’s beleaguered tourism and hospitality industry says a ban on inter-provincial, non-essential travel not only goes against Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it would also further cripple a sector that is hanging on by a thread.

BC Premier John Horgan said a ban on out-of-province travellers is being mulled and the Tourism Industry Association of BC commissioned a legal opinion that states a travel ban would be difficult to implement because the Supreme Court of Canada has held that Canadians’ mobility rights are among the most cherished rights of citizenship that are fundamental to nationhood.

According to the coalition, “These rights are so important they cannot be overridden by the notwithstanding clause. Government will be required to justify any infringement of those rights by showing they are carefully tailored to solve a real problem that other health measures that do not restrict Canadians’ rights cannot achieve.”

The coalition said it would also be challenging for government to justify creating classes of Canadian citizens based on provincial residency, and that the government would have to explain how a provincial ban would be logical and justified when the federal government permits Canadians to travel for non-essential purposes and return to Canada through any province of their choice.

The coalition acknowledges the work by government and frontline health care workers to manage the pandemic, and stresses it is not advocating to irresponsibly open the province to all travel at this time. “However, industry leaders point out that since the start of the pandemic, the tourism and hospitality industry has supported provincial COVID-19 protocols and prioritized health and safety by developing and implementing extensive health and safety measures to protect guests, employees and residents,” it said in a statement.

Industry leaders have repeatedly emphasized that travel is not the culprit for the spread of COVID-19, but rather individual behaviour.

Coalition members are urging the government to steer away from the notion of a travel ban in favour of working with the industry and communities to educate prospective visitors on their responsibilities such as BC health and safety protocols, as well as expected individual behaviour.



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