B.C. growth forecast drops to one per cent for 2023, but deficit projection improves

BC growth forecast drops

British Columbia's economy is forecast to grow one per cent in 2023, a drop from the 1.2 per cent predicted earlier by the Ministry of Finance.

The ministry's second quarterly report also forecasts slower economic growth for next year of 0.7 per cent.

But the budget's September deficit forecast of $6.7 billion has improved by $1.1 billion, with this year's deficit now projected at $5.6 billion.

The ministry says in a statement the province's economy is being impacted by slow growth globally and high interest rates in Canada.

It says employment growth has expanded by 1.4 per cent, while B.C.'s population grew by three per cent.

Finance Minister Katrine Conroy says people's budgets have been squeezed by global inflation, while high interest rates are making the already high cost of buying or renting a home more expensive, but the government will continue supporting people by helping to ease the pressure of everyday costs.


Pilot dead in small plane crash in B.C.'s Columbia Valley

One dead in plane crash

One person is dead after a small plane crash in the Columbia Valley.

RCMP say they were alerted on Nov. 24 at 4 p.m. of a plane crash north of Brisco on the Bugaboo side of the valley.

A hunter had observed the plane apparently have engine trouble then go down in the wooded area. Columbia Valley Search and Rescue, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, and Transport Canada were all called and provided resources.

The crash site was located on Nov. 25 where the pilot, the plane’s lone occupant, was found deceased.

“Our condolences go out to the family of the pilot who is a local area resident,” said Sgt. Ed deJong in a news release.

“We would also like to thank all those partner agencies involved in the search for the plane.”

RCMP says Transport Canada will be the lead investigating agency of the crash going forward.

B.C. SPCA seizes 44 animals from house with 'carpet of feces'

SPCA seizes 44 animals

The B.C. SPCA says it has seized 39 dogs and five cats from an unspecified island community off Vancouver Island, after finding them in “shockingly unsanitary conditions” in a home filled with feces and garbage.

When animal-protection officers entered the home, they discovered the main floor “was covered in what can only be described as a carpet of feces,” said senior protection officer Eileen Drever.

The animals, which included 37-small-breed dogs, were taken by boat to Nanaimo and are being placed at SPCA centres across the Island. It has not been determined when the animals will be available for adoption.

The smell of feces was apparent even before animal-protection officers entered the home, said Drever, who described the conditions as horrific, with “incredible” amounts of garbage in many of the rooms.

She said the unusual size of the seizure has put a strain on the SPCA’s resources. “But I’m just thrilled that we’ve got the animals out of there.”

Based on the condition of the animals, the B.C. SPCA plans to recommend charges to Crown counsel, Drever said.

The animals were very dirty and smelled of feces, as well as urine, she said, with urine-stained paws and overgrown nails.

She said animals were all over the house — even inside the walls — and had no visible food or water. “The home had no running water at all.”

The dogs seized included two females with seven puppies, two of them about three weeks old and five about six weeks old. There were also two Bernedoodles (a cross between a Bernese mountain dog and a poodle), Havanese, Papillons, poodles and Pomeranian mixes.

The dogs and cats are now under veterinary care. Many are emaciated and show signs of dental disease, Drever said.

Despite what they have been through, Drever said the animals are doing “remarkably well.” “A number of the dogs were fearful, but after a night in the animal centre, they were excited to see B.C. SPCA staff,” she said.

She said the SPCA found out about the animals from a call to its helpline at 1-855-622-7722.

A group of donors inspired by Giving Tuesday is doubling donations to the animals up to a total of $125,000.

The matching funds are coming from Eileen and Anna (in honour of Rogue, Jaide and Leo), the Eldon and Anne Foote Fund at the Edmonton Community Foundation and an anonymous donor.

While there was government funding to build its centres, Drever said that the SPCA depends solely on the public to do its work.

Donations can be made at spca.bc.ca/donate/holiday.


Fog advisory lifts after near-zero visibility through Fraser Canyon

Fog advisory cleared

UPDATE: 10:15 a.m.

A dense fog advisory for the Fraser Canyon has ended.

"Visibilities have improved and are no longer expected to meet fog advisory criteria," Environment Canada says.

ORIGINAL: 6:15 a.m.

A fog advisory continues this morning for the Trans-Canada Highway through the Fraser Canyon.

Environment Canada says areas of near-zero visibility can be expected through this morning, with visibility less than 500 metres in some places.

"Dense fog is occurring, with visibility at times near zero over Lytton. The fog is expected to remain until Tuesday morning," the forecaster says.

Turn on headlights and maintain a safe following distance.

DriveBC reports limited visibility and dense fog between Jackass Summit and Spences Bridge.

Similar conditions are reported on Highway 8 between Spences Bridge and Merritt.

Heart patient rattled after Medi-Van loses wheel on Malahat

Patient onboard, wheel not

Heart patient Randall Krall was strapped to a stretcher in the back of a Medi-Van that was approaching the summit of Malahat highway when he felt the vehicle’s wheel-wobble intensifying.

With no call-cord within reach to alert the driver — and having felt the van vibrating since it departed Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria for Nanaimo Regional General Hospital — the 76-year old panicked.

“I coudn’t do anything to alert the driver,” said Krall, who was one of three patients being transported.

There was an attendant in the back of the van, but Krall doesn’t remember any kind of reaction. The Nanaimo man was partially sedated at the time of the Nov. 21 incident, having had heart surgery earlier at Royal Jubilee Hospital, and didn’t think to raise his voice.

“I was between the driver’s wheel and the back wheel, so I was feeling the vibration right away. This thing was bumpy all the way through to the Malahat until it gave up.”

On the Malahat, he felt the scraping of metal on the road and the vehicle dropping down, he said in a phone interview from his home in Nanaimo on Monday. That’s when he knew the wheel had come off.

The driver operating the privately contracted medical transport vehicle was able to pull over onto the side of the highway, said Krall.

Fortunately the weather was good, it was about midnight — so there were few vehicles on the road — and the van, which was travelling highway speed, was heading uphill toward the summit rather than down the north side.

It took about 30 minutes for another Medi-Van to arrive. Krall, still in his hospital gown, was walked about 10 metres to a waiting stretcher, then hoisted into the vehicle to continue the trip.

Greg Leiman, Medi-Van Canada manger for Vancouver Island, confirmed the wheel came completely off the van. “It’s unfortunate this happened but I’m glad everybody was OK.”

Leiman said the incident was a first for the company, adding a wheel coming off a vehicle “is fairly rare.”

“I think the driver did a good job pulling the vehicle over safely on the top of the Malahat,” said Leiman. “I give him credit there. It was a very unfortunate incident that happened. Everybody was safe … and I’m glad there wasn’t a long waiting period for the patients to get to their destination safely.”

Leiman, who was out of the country when the incident occurred, said the driver determined it wasn’t safe for a stretcher to be rolled on the side of the highway in the dark and thus patients were walked to the replacement van. He said he hasn’t yet received a full report from the driver.

Medi-Van Canada is a family-owned company that has operated in Canada since 1976, in Victoria since 2002, and throughout Vancouver Island since 2009. It transports non-emergency stable patients.

Island Health requires contracted drivers and attendants to hold at minimum an Occupational First Aid designation, while some have their primary care paramedic designation.

Krall, a lifelong Nanaimo resident who has had heart trouble for about a decade, had angioplasty surgery this month to open up his arteries to increase blood flow to his heart.

“I’m grateful to be alive to begin with, with my heart conditions,” said Krall.

The van was one of the older vehicles in the company’s fleet of 25 vehicles, and Krall wonders why the wheel problem wasn’t caught in a pre-trip inspection — something Leiman said the driver is required to do prior to every transport.

Leiman said he was told by Kal Tire in Langford, where the van was taken after the incident, that the wheel “shimmied loose.”

“It’s still under investigation so I don’t exactly know what happened or why this happened.”

Leiman said he is leading the investigation, gathering reports, and then reporting to Island Health.

Leiman couldn’t say when the van last underwent a formal inspection.

Island Health said its contractors hired to transport “non-emergency” patients are required to meet “stringent safety standards and ensure regular maintenance of their fleets.”

Mother, stepfather plead guilty to manslaughter in death of Port Alberni boy

Parents guilty in boy's death

Warning: This story contains details about the abuse of a child.

The mother and stepfather of a six-year-old Port Alberni boy have pleaded guilty to manslaughter in his suspicious death five years ago.

Rykel Charleson, 29, and Mitchell Frank, 30, were initially charged with the first-degree murder of Dontay Patrick Lucas on March 13, 2018. On Monday, they pleaded guilty to the lesser included offence of manslaughter in the death of the young boy, who was of Hesquiaht descent.

An agreed statement of fact revealed in horrifying detail how Dontay was brutalized by his mother and stepfather for a period of four months.

Dontay had been removed from his mother at birth and spent most of his childhood in foster care, according to the document, read into the court record by Crown prosecutor Kimberly Henders Miller.

On Nov. 17, 2017, Dontay was transitioned back into the care of his mother and stepfather. They lived in a three-level townhouse in Port Alberni with Dontay’s sisters, ages one and seven, and his aunt, age nine.

From December 2017 until his death, Dontay’s attendance at school decreased dramatically, said Henders Miller.

During this period, school staff noticed injuries on the boy and Charleson “reduced his exposure to others so that the visible injuries and bruises she and Frank inflicted could not be observed,” said Henders Miller.

Charleson and Frank abused Dontay, biting him, hitting him, making him run up and down the stairs and forcing him to hang from his knees from the top of the door until he fell, said Henders Miller.

On Dec. 9, 2017, a video was taken of Dontay crawling up the stairs from the main floor.

On Feb. 27, 2018, a video shows Dontay in a “plank” position with a cloth in his mouth.

“He is crying hysterically in the video and the accused, Charleson, can be heard sometimes laughing,” said Henders Miller. “There is an injury visible on the corner of his right eye.”

Between March 9 and 13, 2018, the abuse continued, said the prosecutor.

Charleson and Frank deprived Dontay of sleep, food and water, she said.

“He was covered with abrasions and bruises over his face, head, neck, torso and extremities.”

On Friday, March 9, Dontay was kept home from school. A photo was taken of him that morning hanging by his knees from the top door leading to the basement.

Dontay was also kept home from school on Monday, March 12. Photos taken in the late afternoon show Dontay with visible bruises on his chest and eyes.

In the early hours of March 13, Dontay had a seizure caused by blunt force injuries to his brain. The two accused tried to treat Dontay’s seizure by putting him in the shower.

Charleson texted her mother several times asking for help. Her mother arrived at 9:22 a.m. and called for an ambulance.

“She advised that her grandson had fallen down the stairs and was not breathing,” said Henders Miller. “At the end of the call, she was heard to ask: ‘When did you notice he was like this?’ Charleston replied: ‘About 3 a.m.’ ”

First responders arrived at 9:28 a.m. but were not able to revive Dontay. The boy was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead. The physician noted extensive bruising on his body that was not consistent with a fall down the stairs, said Henders Miller.

Dontay also had several blunt force trauma injuries to his head and was suffering from multiple respiratory viruses and bacterial infections. Both the blunt force head trauma and the respiratory illness were severe, said Henders Miller.

The cause of death was determined to be severe blunt force head trauma.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Michael Tammen has ordered the preparation of a Gladue report for both offenders to assist at their sentencing in mid-May. Gladue reports help judges consider the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders.

Family dog believed killed by wolf-dog hybrid loose in Coombs

Pet killed by wolf-dog

A Coombs family is grieving after their 18-month old French bulldog was attacked and believed killed by a wolf-dog hybrid that has been on the loose for months.

Greg Salmon said he was walking his dog, Ocean, on leash Saturday around 9:30 a.m. on a trail near Coombs Country Campground when a wolf-dog appeared and grabbed the dog in its mouth.

The wolf-dog pulled so hard, it broke Ocean’s collar and broke Salmon’s finger by pulling on the leash, he said in a statement Monday.

The animal took off into the woods and Salmon chased after it but lost sight of it.

Salmon called police and ran back to his trailer to find his partner and his daughter to look for Ocean.

After searching for a while, they found a trail of blood that they believe came from the dog.

“It was heartbreaking and to see that the blood was still warm. There was no trace of our Ocean anywhere else,” said Salmon, who believes his dog has been killed.

A wolf-dog hybrid has been on the loose in the Coombs area since early September. It’s unclear where it came from, but it’s believed to have been dumped out of a vehicle by its owner.

The family said they want people who abandon animals to be held responsible for the animal’s actions and face criminal charges if it hurts a person or another animal.

After weeks of unsuccessfully trying to catch the wolf-dog, Gary Shade of Finding Lost and Escaped Dogs, or FLED, said he has packed up his trap.

Shade was working with locals who have extensive experience with wolf-dogs to try to catch the animal in a live trap, but those people have decided it’s too much for them, he said.

Shade said he doesn’t have the expertise and isn’t close enough to the area for daily checks to keep attempting to catch the animal on his own.

Two other dogs were attacked previously, and people online have been threatening to find the wolf-dog and shoot it, he said.

“It’s sad to say, but I think it’s going to happen,” Shade said.

He said the easiest way to catch the animal would be to shoot it with a tranquilizer, but conservation officers, who can tranquilize wildlife, say the animal does not fall under their mandate.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service said its mandate is to protect the public from “dangerous wildlife” under the B.C. Wildlife Act, which only covers bears, cougars, coyotes and wolves, and does not include dog breeds or hybrids.

Oceanside RCMP did not respond to a request for comment.

Coastal Animal Control Services has had a trap in place in the Coombs area for several weeks that is monitored daily.

‘Metal detection screening’ put in place at Vancouver city hall

Metal detectors at city hall

The City of Vancouver announced Monday that it will begin to implement “metal detection screening” of citizens and journalists who plan to attend council meetings and other public events in the third-floor chamber at city hall.

The new security measure goes into effect Tuesday when council meets for its regularly scheduled public meeting, according to a news release issued Monday by the city’s communications department.

“This change is in response to the evolving security environment and aligns with similar security measures being implemented by other Canadian municipalities,” the release said.

“The City of Vancouver will ensure Vancouver city hall remains open and accessible, while continuing to be a safe space for the public and media to attend public meetings in council chambers, public events and as they access services at city hall.”

Security increasing at city hall

The release didn’t say whether there was an event or concern that required the additional level of security. The new measure comes as the city has increased its security presence at city hall in recent years, particularly on council meeting days.

Glacier Media first observed the unprecedented presence of security guards at a meeting in May 2019, when guards were posted outside city hall, in the main lobby and in the third-floor lobby leading to the council chamber.

Citizens can no longer freely take the elevator or stairs from the main lobby to the third floor of city hall, unless escorted by security. The elevators and doors leading to the stairs all require security fobs to gain access.

Prior to the increased security, people could fill the chamber and its balcony.

Greg Conlan, the associate director of the city's protective services, told Glacier Media via email in 2019 that the budget for security personnel at city hall was just under $700,000 and increased slightly for 2018 “due to enhanced safety and security practices on council days.”

“Prior to the new procedures put in place, there had been increased acts of aggression and disruption which created anxiety for councillors, city staff and the public, and also interfered with the democratic process,” Conlan said at the time. “Since the new procedures have been implemented, there have been no significant incidents of concern.”

Former city councillor Jean Swanson told Glacier Media in 2019 that she suspected the additional security could be traced to her time before politics when she and other housing activists stormed the chamber in June 2017.

Then-mayor Gregor Robertson and councillors left the chamber, and Swanson went and sat in the mayor’s chair. She led a mock council meeting before all involved left the chamber. No one got hurt.

It was shortly after Swanson’s time in the mayor’s chair that more security guards were put in place at city hall.

“That’s when it started,” said Swanson, who was elected in October 2018 and served until October 2022.

Mayor Ken Sim targeted

The current council, which is led by Mayor Ken Sim and his seven ABC Vancouver colleagues, were targets of protests prior to being elected and after taking office in November 2022.

During the campaign, ABC’s campaign office on Broadway was shut down by protesters, who later showed up outside the Hollywood Theatre, where Sim and candidates were holding an election rally.

On inauguration day Nov. 7, 2022, Sim and some of his council colleagues had police escort them into city hall for their first council meeting. The politicians entered the front door of city hall while about 50 people held a rally on the back steps of the building at 12th and Cambie Street.

The group, which included housing advocates and members of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, had a list of demands, including for city officials to keep their “hands off” tent cities, but to provide bathrooms, showers, running water and food for people living in tents and makeshift shelters.

Sim later supported the decampment of East Hastings — a move that caused some unidentified person to scrawl graffiti on the back steps of city hall in April 2023 that targeted the mayor.

Asked about the incident in an interview in May, Sim said: “Look, it's unfortunate. And the reality is if these decisions [regarding the encampment] were easy, they would have been done long ago. So it comes with the territory. If we could wave a perfect magic wand where everything would be taken care of and everyone was super happy, I would reach for that magic wand.”

Grieving B.C. parents warn of 'predators' after sextortion suicide of son, aged 12

Boy dead over sextortion

UPDATE 6:40 p.m.

Parents of a 12-year-old boy who killed himself last month after falling prey to online sextortion are urging others to talk to their kids to make sure they don't also become victims of internet "predators."

"They're just, they're not built for problems like this. They're not built for adult problems in a kid's world," Carson Cleland's father, Ryan Cleland, told CKPG, a television station in Prince George, B.C.

Mounties in Prince George issued a statement Monday, more than six weeks after the boy died, to warn parents about the risks youth face on the internet.

The statement said officers went to the boy’s home on Oct. 12 and found him with a gunshot wound. Their investigation later determined he killed himself as a result of online sextortion.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail in which threats are made to reveal a person's online sexual behaviour, such as photos or videos obtained deceptively.

Carson's family said he often used the social media platform Snapchat to communicate with others.

His mother, Nicola Smith, called for more parental involvement in children's internet use.

"Be more active with your kids, even if you are active, which we were," she said. “Talk to your kids about predators and all this stuff that’s happening and the safety online.”

The case is not isolated, police say.

RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Jennifer Cooper said the practice of online predators extorting people for money or sexual favours is on the rise.

"Anywhere that youth have access to social media, this is happening," Cooper said in an interview.

Many of the victims of sextortion are young males. A review of 322 cases sent to the national sexual abuse tip line Cybertip.ca in July last year found that 92 per cent of cases in which the gender of the victim was known involved boys or young men.

The Prince George detachment said in its statement it had received 62 reports of online sextortion so far this year, surpassing the 56 they had last year.

"While not every case of online sextortion will end in tragedy, the consequences of this kind of activity can follow a youth for their entire life, which needs to be something we talk about openly with our kids," Cooper said.

She said it can be "very resource intensive" for police to figure out which country the perpetrator is operating from.

"These people committing these crimes come from all over the world as well, so it's basically something that we're facing globally," she said.

"They take lots of steps to protect their own identities while defrauding others of theirs, so that's kind of the ironic part of it all," she added.

Cooper said victims of sextortion are advised to stop all communication with their blackmailer right away, not give in to their demands, deactivate the online communication account and — most importantly — reach out for help.

"These are con artists and they're predators, and they're only out for financial gain for themselves. We need to be really, really sure that our kids know what kind of dangers are out there and what they can expect to encounter if they're going online."

Signy Arnason, associate executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, said Carson's death stuck her as “absolutely devastating” and “a total nightmare” for the boy's parents, who were not to blame.

She said it is social media companies and not parents bear the greatest responsibility for ensuring children are safe online.

"What we, in fact, need to be talking about are these platforms that are released onto market that are not safe. And they're completely unregulated," she said, pointing out that at 12 years old, Carson was younger than Snapchat's minimum age of 13.

She added: “We have completely failed and abandoned children online and we need some guardrails around these platforms when they're released to the market."

In March, the B.C. government passed the Intimate Images Protection Act, creating new legal mechanisms to stop the non-consensual online distribution of intimate images.

In a letter sent in May to companies including Twitter, Meta, OnlyFans and Pornhub, Attorney General Niki Sharma said they could be required to delete, de-index or destroy such images, or provide information needed to help with the removal.

Sharma said Monday that the province intends to launch an online platform in January that will allow people to report if their intimate images are being distributed without their consent. She said the victim can also get an order telling the perpetrator to stop distributing the images and for the online platforms to take it down.

"The goal is to be quick, and to have also support for that person as they're going through this," she said in an interview Monday.

She called the boy's death "terrible" and offered her condolences to his family.

"I just want to send a message to young people that are out there (and who) may be in a similar circumstance, please don't suffer in silence, don't suffer and feel like you're ashamed. Come forward, speak to a trusted adult," she said.

Last month, royal assent was granted for a federal bill that allows those convicted of the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and extortion to be added to the national sex offender database.

Sharma applauded the move.

"I think it needs to be treated like a sexual offence, especially with the harm that's done to people related to that," she said. "I also think that we all need to step up our game and co-ordinate our actions when it comes to making sure that we are protecting citizens from online harms."

But Wayne MacKay, a professor emeritus at Dalhousie University's Schulich School of Law, said policing the internet is difficult and by the time authorities make a criminal charge, tragedy can already have happened.

MacKay said education is more important, although such conversations are difficult.

“I think, on these matters, that really a trusted adult is a key person," he said.

"The parent being the first and most obvious trusted adult, then perhaps teachers and principals or others in their lives, older brothers and sisters … it's really increasingly important to have children discuss these things because they're happening way too often,” said MacKay.

The Canadian Press

ORIGINAL 9:55 a.m.

Police in Prince George are urging parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of sextortion after a 12-year-old boy killed himself.

Police issued the statement weeks after the boy shot himself.

On Oct. 12, police attended the scene of a 12-year-old youth suffering from a gunshot wound.

The investigation revealed that the youth took his own life in response to online sextortion, says Prince George RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Cooper.

"We are calling for parents and caregivers to be honest with their youth about the dangers of online activity, especially if they are engaging in chats with people they don’t know in real life," Cooper said in a press release.

"While not every case of online sextortion will end in tragedy, the consequences of this kind of activity can follow a youth for their entire life, which needs to be something we talk about openly with our kids."

Reports of sextortion, the practice of extorting money or sexual favors from someone by threatening to reveal evidence of their online sexual activity, are rising every year, says Cooper.

"Sextortion is most prevalent in youth between the ages of 13 and 18. Thus far in 2023, Prince George RCMP has received 62 reports of online sextortion, already surpassing the 56 reports received in 2022.

"If you are the victim of sextortion, it is important that you stop all communication immediately with that person and do not give in to their demands. Deactivate the accounts that you are using to communicate with that person and, most importantly, reach out for help and report it."

The police investigation continues to identify a suspect.

BC in court against pharma companies in bid to certify opioid class-action lawsuit

BC's Big Pharma battle

UPDATE 6:35 p.m.

The British Columbia Supreme Court should certify a class-action lawsuit against opioid makers on behalf of all provinces and territories to save time and money on what would otherwise be 13 nearly identical actions, a B.C. government lawyer says.

Reidar Mogerman, a lawyer for the B.C. government, told Justice Michael Brundrett on Monday the court should approve a class made of governments saddled with health-care costs related to the opioid crisis that has killed or injured thousands of Canadians.

"This litigation is about what the defendants did, what the defendants knew, when did they know it (and) how did they react to the information that they had," Mogerman said. "Did they, as is alleged, deceive and mislead the relevant players in the health-care system in order to balloon the sales of opioids, which in turn caused the opioid crisis?"

If the judge agrees to certify provinces and territories as part of the class, the case would then move ahead as a civil trial to determine if the health-care and pharmaceutical companies were negligent and unjustly enriched by deceptively marketing opioid products. The lawsuit alleges the defendants fraudulently misrepresented and concealed the dangers of opioids, and the action seeks damages for health-care costs recovery, Competition Act violations and other alleged misconduct.

Mogerman said the questions at the heart of the lawsuit are common across provinces and territories.

"It's not different for British Columbia," he said. "Ontario will ask the same question."

He told the judge that having a single trial examining those questions would move "the litigation way down the track in terms of how much is left for each individual plaintiff or class member to engage in," he said.

Evidence shows that opioid industry players moved in "unison" as sales of their products "ballooned" in conjunction with "damage from the crisis," Mogerman said.

Moving forward with a single class-action lawsuit would show the “problem-solving aspect of litigation as it grapples with an unimaginably complex and difficult public-health issue," he said.

"It’s not an unimaginably complex legal issue, we know how we’re going to do it,” he said, adding that provincial legislation provides a framework for how the case should be handled.

Mogerman told the court that the industry itself has referred to different opioid products as a "class" of drugs, and he detailed the many "dramatic" revisions over the years of warnings on opioid-based medications.

He told the court the changes — known as product monographs — are evidence of misrepresentation and negligence by pharmaceutical firms where they warned people about the dangers of getting addicted to their products.

The warnings prove the defendants were negligent in marketing the drugs early-on.

B.C. Attorney General Niki Sharma said Monday that the hearing represents a "new step" in the battle against opioid makers and marketers.

Sharma said the action to obtain costs associated with the opioid crisis is a first of its kind in Canada, and one defendant, Purdue Pharma, has already settled with the province for $150 million.

Speaking outside court in Vancouver ahead of the certification hearing, she said the action was started back in 2018 when Premier David Eby was still the attorney general, putting B.C. up against dozens of health-care and pharmaceutical companies.

It comes even after the Supreme Court of Canada agreed this month to hear a constitutional challenge by four of the companies who say a law allowing B.C. to recover costs on behalf of other governments is an overreach.

Sharma said the lawsuit marks a "novel approach" to speed up the process as governments try to hold companies accountable for making, selling and marketing opioids.

She and Jennifer Whiteside, minister of mental health and addictions, issued a joint statement on Monday, calling the agreement with Purdue "the largest-ever government health settlement in Canadian history."

"One part of our work to address the toxic drug poisoning crisis is holding the bad actors who are fuelling this crisis — including opioid manufacturers and distributors, and their consultants — accountable," they say.

Sharma said outside court the province has been up against "numerous challenges" from the defendants, who tried to delay the certification hearing as matters remain unresolved before Canada's high court, but a B.C. judge said an adjournment wasn't in the interests of justice.

B.C. declared a public-health emergency in 2016 over the crisis, and since then nearly 13,000 people have died of overdoses in the province.

"We are holding multinational pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in today's public-health emergency," Sharma said. "While no amount of money will ever bring back the people who have lost their lives due to toxic, unregulated drugs, our battle against the wrongful conduct of businesses and their marketing consultants is another meaningful step to address the toxic-drug crisis," she said.

The certification hearing is expected to last about four weeks.

ORIGINAL 6:25 a.m.

The British Columbia government goes up against dozens of health care and pharmaceutical companies in court today in a bid to get certification for a class-action lawsuit over the costs of the opioid crisis.

It comes even after the Supreme Court of Canada agreed this month to hear a constitutional challenge by four of the companies who say a law allowing B.C. to recover costs on behalf of other governments is an overreach.

Those companies then went back to the Supreme Court of B.C. to seek a delay of the certification hearing while the high court rules, but the judge said an adjournment wasn't in the interests of justice.

The province began the legal odyssey in August 2018 by passing the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, seeking costs from firms alleged to have contributed to opioid addiction.

B.C. declared a public health emergency in 2016 over the crisis, and since then nearly 13,000 people have died of overdoses in the province.

The certification hearing is expected to last about four weeks and a civil trial would then have to be held to determine if the companies are liable for damages.

North Vancouver volunteer soldier dies in Ukraine, source says

BC man dies in battle

Brad Stratford, a volunteer soldier serving in Ukraine, has died in recent fighting in the war-torn country, the unit he was known to be serving with has confirmed.

The Canadian military veteran from North Vancouver was serving in the International Legion for the Defence of Ukraine, a unit of foreign fighters. The International Legion has confirmed Stratford’s death, but is not sharing further details “to protect operational security and the family’s privacy and respect their wishes,” a spokesperson said.

“His brothers-in-arms all loved and respected him and thought of him as an exceptional soldier, a great friend, and someone who was a true leader and friend. His unit is heartbroken about his loss,” the spokesperson said, adding that the Armed Forces of Ukraine is working with the family to repatriate Stratford’s remains.

In Ukraine, Stratford’s duties included training snipers in the International Legion.

News of his passing comes amid a report from The Globe and Mail, detailing the deaths of three Canadians to Russian fire in the past two weeks.

Watch: Brad Stratford explains sniper training in an August 2023 video

Conservative deputy calls MP 'unhinged' for linking Poilievre and Winnipeg killings

Liberal MP called 'unhinged'

Federal Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lantsman is calling a Metro Vancouver MP "unhinged" for a social media post that questioned if there was a connection between Pierre Poilievre and a weekend shooting in Manitoba that killed four people.

Liberal Ken Hardie, who represents the B.C. riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells, posted on Monday that the shooting that left four dead in Winnipeg was "beyond troubling" and asked if it was connected to a "burn everything down" attitude creeping in from the United States.

His post on X, formerly known as Twitter, then referred to Conservative Leader Poilievre, asking if he was the "creep" on the Canadian side.

Lantsman responded by referring to a previous instance when Hardie said Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels would be proud of Conservative MPs, calling Hardie "unhinged then" and "unhinged now."

Conservative spokesman Sebastian Skamski said in a statement it was "appalling" Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had "failed to denounce this shameful message" from Hardie.

Hardie did not immediately respond to requests for comment on his post.

No arrests have been made in the shootings, whose victims included two First Nations sisters.

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