Family calls for changes after Victoria man dies hours after being discharged from Royal Jubilee

Death hours after discharge

BC United’s mental-health critic is proposing changes to improve communication with family members of patients in a ­mental-health crisis, in the wake of a Victoria man’s death.

If passed, the Mental Health Amendment Act would ensure family members are consulted when a close relative is certified, notified before a loved one is discharged from involuntary psychiatric care, and advised if a patient has withdrawn “information sharing.”

Mental-health critic Elenore Sturko, who introduced the ­private member’s bill this week, cited the example of James Zimmer, who died Feb. 9, 2023 by suicide within hours of being discharged from Royal Jubilee Hospital. His family and others were at the legislature this week to lend support to the bill.

Zimmer, 50, had struggled with depression and ­anxiety, alcohol use, paranoia and s­uicidal thoughts.

When he was hospitalized — involuntarily or voluntarily — his family had consent to inquire about his care and be informed about his ­discharge plans.

But that didn’t happen on Feb. 9.

“By informing family members of a patient’s discharge before their release, we can proactively ensure the supports are in place,” Sturko said in an interview. “What if Royal Jubilee had contacted James’s sister?”

Cindy Zimmer had admitted her brother involuntarily to Royal Jubilee Hospital’s psychiatric emergency services on Feb. 7 after finding him shivering along a path in Oak Bay with plans to kill himself.

They talked, he warmed up in her vehicle, and he went back to Royal Jubilee’s psychiatric unit and told hospital staff his “immediate and detailed” plan for ending his life, Cindy ­Zimmer said.

Cindy Zimmer asked to be called if her brother was due to be discharged and her brother agreed. Their sister Crystal Kenzie, who had earlier talked to her brother by phone for hours, trying to determine his ­whereabouts, said she was relieved that her brother was back in safe hands.

Just two days later, Cindy ­Zimmer had a bad feeling and phoned the hospital’s patient information line around noon. She was relieved to be told her brother was still in the hospital’s psychiatric emergency services unit.

On the morning of Feb. 10, however, sister Kenzie called to inquire about her brother and was told he had been discharged a day earlier.

James Zimmer was found deceased by a hiker in Saanich.

“When I saw the police at the door, I just started screaming and yelling,” said Cindy Zimmer. She said she knew what they would tell her.

The hospital told family ­members that James Zimmer was discharged on Feb. 8 — having revoked permission for family to be contacted about his departure — but was ­voluntarily readmitted a few hours later for suicidal thoughts, then ­discharged again on Feb. 9.

The sisters say the proposed amendments are a small but necessary step to help safeguard individuals from falling through the cracks of the mental-health-care system. “I feel like this amendment to the act could have been the thing — if followed through on — that could have actually saved our brother’s life, because we would have received that call,” Cindy Zimmer said in an interview.

Either way, they say, had they been called ahead of his discharge or notified of his ­withdrawal of consent, they would have known he was in trouble. “They created the crack that our brother fell through.”

Zimmer said her brother’s erratic behaviour and change in consent authorizations within hours should have raised ­numerous “red flags” that he was “vulnerable and in crisis.”

Sturko said the Privacy Act is important in protecting information government ­bodies collect on citizens, but in this case, patient privacy rights are overshadowing common sense and even patient safety in some cases. “It’s not records that we are trying to protect, it’s ­people,” she said.

Section 34 of the act allows people to be involuntarily held in hospital if they require ­supervision to protect themselves or others because of a mental-health disorder. It also says relatives must be informed of an involuntary patient’s admission and discharge.

“But that’s not being followed through with,” said Sturko.

“I know there’s many complaints with health authorities and with the government with regard to this problem.”

What families are “really crying out for” is better ­communication, in particular when people are going to be released, she said.

James Zimmer’s sisters met with Dix in October and have since corresponded with Mental Health and Addiction Minister Jennifer Whiteside.

In a Dec. 8 letter, the minister pointed to the 2005 Guide to the Mental Health Act, which says when an involuntary patient is discharged, the facility must immediately inform a near relative, but when a voluntary patient is discharged, there is no requirement to inform — although relatives “should” be notified in situations where it would be beneficial to the care of the patient as determined by the patient’s care team.

Whiteside said updates to the guide are underway.

Sturko said her amendments aren’t major changes and apply to a small number of people in emergency psychiatric crisis.

“I think we have to look at what is in the best interest of each individual … err on the side of caution to make sure that that safety net is there, that there aren’t gaps for very ­vulnerable people who are dealing with some very serious mental ­illnesses to fall through.”

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Short-term rental owners fighting against province and City of Victoria

STR owners fight back

Victoria’s Angela Mason joined a civil suit battling the ­province’s new short-term rental ­restrictions because she is ­“devastated” by the ­negative impact on her property-­management business and on her personal unit in a historic downtown building.

She predicts her entire income will evaporate under the new rules, slated to come into effect May 1.

Mason runs Amala Vacation Rental Solutions Ltd. with Ryan Sawatsky, where client numbers have plummeted from 90 in the city’s downtown to fewer than 30. Their staff numbers have shrunk from 36, and Mason anticipates that the business will decline further. Her clients do not own ­multiple properties but have one unit for short-term rentals advertised on online ­platforms such as Airbnb, Mason said Friday.

They typically hold the unit as an investment and it might be a retirement property, she said.

Mason, for example, said she cannot afford to buy a house so she rents a house for her family. In summer 2023, she bought a 500-square-foot studio ­condominium in the ­former Oriental Hotel in the 500 block of Yates Street to use as a ­short-term rental, as was legally allowed. It was to be an ­investment for her future.

It’s a “cool space” with ­skylights, but has no storage, Mason said.

She said her legal right to rent the unit is being taken away.

“I’ve done everything right. Nothing illegally.”

Asked where her income will come from in the future, she laughed ruefully and said: “That’s a great question.”

The West Coast Association for Property Rights, also known as Property Rights B.C., and Mason filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court this week in ­Victoria against the province and City of Victoria.

B.C.’s new Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act bars most short-term rental units that are not part of a principal residence. It limits short-term rentals to a host’s principal residence or a ­basement suite or laneway home on their property.

In the past several months, the province has rolled out a series of major initiatives to free up existing housing for the rental market and to foster new housing development to tackle the lack of affordable housing.

The court petition is being reviewed by City of Victoria lawyers and the city will respond in ­accordance with the rules of court, said Colleen Mycroft, ­Victoria spokesperson.

A B.C. Ministry of ­Housing official said: “We’re taking action to rein in short-term ­rentals and turn more units back into homes for people. As this is a matter before the courts, the ministry is unable to comment on this specific situation.”

Orion Rodgers, Property Rights B.C. president, said ­members do not understand why the province did not instead ­target owners of ­properties who were illegally running a ­short-term rental ­business.

It is not fair to penalize the 634 legally operating units that have ­business licences, he said.

The petition is asking the Supreme Court of B.C. to declare that the Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act cannot take away the vested rights of owners to continue using the units for short-term rental.

It is asking the court to decide that the act has or will ­expropriate interests in the land or in businesses affected, and to rule that the new legislation cannot be enforced without c­ompensating them.

The petition is further ­seeking an order or injunction banning the City of Victoria from cancelling business licences related to short-term rentals. It also wants the city to be barred from enforcing bylaws around these rentals.

B.C. rescue team regroups after little orca thwarts capture in remote lagoon

Little orca thwarts capture

The team attempting to rescue an orphaned killer whale trapped in a remote B.C. lagoon is regrouping today after an initial attempt to capture the young orca failed.

Rescuers say the orca evaded capture during Friday's initial attempt to corral her into the shallows of the lagoon with a net, place her in a sling and carry her to open waters.

Fisheries Department marine mammal co-ordinator Paul Cottrell says there was a huge effort to catch the calf but she's "very smart" and they have to rethink their strategies.

He says rescuers including members of the Ehattesaht First Nation, Vancouver Aquarium staff and other experts aren't giving up and remain optimistic, with the calf still in good health and swimming well.

The two-year-old calf has been alone in Little Espinosa Inlet, 450 kilometres northwest of Victoria, for three weeks since its pregnant mother was beached at low tide and died on March 23.

The two whales entered the lagoon last month by swimming through a narrow and fast-moving channel connecting it to the ocean.

Efforts to persuade the calf to swim back through the shallow channel proved futile.


Accused B.C. killer thought victim was a zombie

Thought victim was zombie

A B.C. man charged with second-degree murder in a 2022 Nanaimo stabbing has been found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.

James Carey Turok, 30, was charged in the Feb. 12, 2022 death of Eric Kutzner, 79.

“I find that Mr. Turok’s mental disorder made him incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of his actions because his psychosis caused him to believe that Mr. Kutzner was not human,” B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said. “Under that delusional belief, Mr. Turok could not appreciate that he was killing a person."

In her newly released March 27 decision, Holmes said Kutzner arrived at the Buzz Coffee House in Nanaimo, to prepare for its 9 a.m. opening. His daughter owned the business and he often helped out.

While Kutzner was preparing baked goods, Turok let himself in through the door and stabbed Kutzner 12 times in the face, neck, chest and back, causing his death.

Co-workers arrived soon after and found the door locked, unusual as Kutzner would leave it open for other employees to enter.

“Peering inside, they saw Mr. Kutzner’s blood-soaked legs, and Mr. Turok walking around, dripping blood,” Holmes said.

When police arrived, they found Turok hiding under a desk.

“Mr. Turok resisted arrest and made bizarre and often incomprehensible statements, including statements hostile to Mr. Kutzner, such as that he was a zombie,” Holmes said. “Throughout his further dealings with police and with medical and psychiatric personnel, as well as during some of his early court appearances, he continued to make similar and other irrational statements.”

In admissions made to the court in an agreed statement of facts, Turok acknowledge killing Kutzner, Holmes said.

Holmes said Turok had a history of mental health issues dating back at least a decade, including hospitalizations under the Mental Health Act.

“He has been diagnosed at various times with either schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type) or schizophrenia,” she said.

Two psychiatrists testified in the case. One said Turok’s mental disorder removed his ability to understand the wrongfulness of his actions. The other said Turok could not understand that his actions were morally wrong.

“When he killed Mr. Kutzner, Mr. Turok was suffering from a mental disorder that made him incapable both of appreciating the nature and quality of his acts, and of knowing that they were wrong,” Holmes said.

She ordered the case referred to the B.C. Review Board for a disposition hearing within 90 days and that Turok be detained at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital pending that decision.

B.C. court upholds road rage sentence

Court upholds sentence

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has upheld the sentence of a man convicted of crimes stemming from a road rage incident.

Brent Wei Kuen Chow pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon and causing damage to a motor vehicle, charges arising “out of what is commonly known as a road rage incident” in Surrey on Oct. 13, 2020, Justice Paul Riley said in an April 9 decision.

A provincial court judge sentenced Chow to $2,500 in fines and placed him on 12 months’ probation.

What happened

Chow and Mr. Adjijaj were westbound on 100 Avenue and stopped at a red light, when Chow showed him his middle finger.

Adjijaj responded in kind, Riley said.

Holding a knife with a black handle and serrated edge, Chow got out of his vehicle and struck Adjijaj’s vehicle.

Then, as Adjijaj was rolling down the driver’s side window, Chow smashed the window out with the butt end of the knife.

Chow then struck “Adjijaj in the head with the knife, causing Mr. Adjijaj to bleed profusely, with blood running down his forehead into his face,” the ruling said.

Adjijaj got out of his vehicle and the two men engaged in a physical struggle.

That happened in full view of people on the street, at least one of whom recorded the incident on a cellphone.

Chow got Adjijaj in a headlock and the knife fell to the ground; Adjijaj then seemed to get the upper hand. He got out of the headlock, hit Chow in the head several times and picked up the knife.

Adjijaj stabbed Chow rapidly seven or eight times and then threw the knife into the bushes, according to the ruling.

Again, they started fighting and Adjijaj got Chow in a headlock.

Police arrived and took both into custody. Both were taken to hospital.

Adjijaj was treated for a laceration on his forehead and a contusion to the top of his head.

Chow suffered a stab wound to his stomach resulting in a laceration of his liver that required surgery, a scalp wound that had to be closed with staples and stab wounds to his back and upper arm.

The case

Chow had no previous criminal record and the trial judge found that apart from his role in the road rage incident leading to the charges, Chow was “otherwise a productive member of the community running his own business and employing others.”

Adjijaj gave the court an impact statement saying the incident left him with reluctance to leave his home, feelings of distrust and a sense of paranoia in public places, a lack of focus and composure at work, and a fear of chance encounters with Chow.

Adjijaj was convicted of assault in the incident and was sentenced separately and received a discharge.

The appeal

Chow’s lawyer argued the sentencing judge erred in laying too much focus on the prevalence of road rage incidents without evidence.

The lawyer argued Chow should have the sentence replaced with a conditional discharge.

Riley said the prevalence of road rage was something the judge could note.

“The point was raised in submissions,” Riley said. “Counsel for Mr. Chow had the opportunity to address it but chose to focus her submissions on other things.”

Overdoses prompts B.C. First Nation to declare state of emergency

First Nation sounds alarm

A spike in overdose deaths in the six British Columbia nations that make up the Tsilhqot'in National Government has prompted the chiefs to declare a local state of emergency.

The Cariboo area nation says in a statement that toxic drugs combined with the historical and present-day harms of colonialism are contributing to higher rates of overdose deaths among Indigenous people.

Tribal Chair and Chief Joe Alphonse says in the statement that drugs are a major problem in the community, and while they feel like their hands are tied, they need to act to save lives.

The statement says the RCMP know who the dealers are, and that is something that needs to be addressed.

The Tsilhqot'in says the emergency declaration provides the nation with access to additional government support, however treatment facilities don't have enough capacity, and it's calling on all government ministries to work together to stop the deaths.

Chief Otis Guichon, the vice-president of the national government, says their people are grieving over the recent losses and they need time and tradition while they search for Tsilhqot'in-led solutions.

"We call on the local health authorities to work with our communities and expand facilities to support our members who want treatment. Our thoughts and prayers are with those families grieving right now," Guichon says in the statement.

B.C.-based climate activist seeks deportation stay in Federal Court

Activist fights deportation

The lawyer for a Vancouver-based climate activist declared retroactively inadmissible to Canada for failing to make enough progress as a student while attending Simon Fraser University has filed a stay of removal in Federal Court.

Zain Haq, 23, was scheduled to be deported to his native Pakistan on April 22, while being nearly a year into a spousal sponsorship application with his B.C.-born wife.

Haq, who co-founded the group Save Old Growth, caught the attention of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in 2022 while protesting and speaking to the press about Canada’s climate policy.

He later pleaded guilty to mischief charges after being arrested 10 times since joining an Extinction Rebellion protest on the Burrard Bridge in 2019. But according to his lawyer Randall Cohn, by the time those charges were heard, CBSA had already begun to carry out Haq's removal based on school attendance.

Cohn said the border agency failed to communicate with the university and carry out a full investigation, a procedural shortcut he worries could intimidate other international students looking to speak up for what they think is right.

“We are concerned that there is a chilling effect that will result from his deportation,” said Cohn at the time.

“If they remove him, then what they’re doing is they’re saying they don’t want people like Zain in the conversation.”

In March, a CBSA spokesperson said the agency could not comment or provide details on specific cases.

“The decision to remove someone from Canada is not taken lightly,” said the CBSA’s Maria Ladouceur in an email. “All individuals who are subject to removal have access to due process and procedural fairness.”

“Being engaged in lawful protest activities would not, in and of itself, render an individual inadmissible to Canada.”

A CBSA officer with discretion over the case acknowledged in a letter that “criminal convictions were non-violent in nature and I do not believe he currently poses a risk to public safety in Canada,” according to a statement released by Haq and his lawyer Friday.

If approved, the application to the Federal Court would allow Haq to stay in Canada as a permanent resident, but “does not legally prevent removal in the meantime,” the statement read.

“The CBSA could have exercised its discretion by deferring his removal until after the sponsorship application is decided. We now ask the Federal Court to review that refusal…,” Cohn said.

Former B.C. school trustee to pay $45K defamation damages

$45K defamation award

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered a controversial former Chilliwack school board trustee to pay a political opponent $45,000 in defamation damages.

Carin Bondar alleged in a Nov. 3, 2022 B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim that Barry Neufeld called her a “striptease artist” in comments made on a Sept. 21, 2022 public Zoom meeting called Empower Hour. That’s a program hosted by Action4Canada, an organization that the claim said promotes Canada’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

“The defamatory statement is false,” her claim said. “Dr. Bondar is not a strip-tease artist. She is a science communicator who uses pop culture and other forms of creative expression to encourage science literacy.”

Justice Michael Stephens agreed. He said Neufeld incorrectly characterized Bondar by inaccurately equating a fleeting image of her being shown naked from behind during a science-themed parody music video with a “strip-tease artist.”

“This was an effort to discredit his opponent in a school board trustee election, which crossed the line and constituted defamation,” Stephens said in his April 11 decision.

“I do not accept Mr. Neufeld’s argument that Dr. Bondar willingly entered an ideologically charged political arena that is well-known for ‘use of intemperate, offensive or harsh language aimed at discrediting one’s opponent,’” the judge said.

Bondar has been a school trustee of the Chilliwack School Board since February 2021.

Neufeld is a retired corrections, probation, and youth criminal justice restorative facilitation officer. He was a school trustee of the Chilliwack School Board, from 1992 to 2008, and from 2011 to 2022.

Neufeld said in an early court application to have Bondar’s suit dismissed that Bondar’s YouTube performances are “vulgar, pornographic, degrading to women, a bad example to children, immoral and inappropriate for public officials, especially school board trustees.”

Knowledge of such conduct is in the public interest, said the application, and that his characterization of it is factually correct or a reasonably grounded personal impression.

“Any public comments made by the defendant (Neufeld) reflect his personal impression and would be understood by the general public in the nature of editorial comment rather than an assertion of fact,” the application said.

Neufeld had applied to have the case dismissed under the Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA).

A Canadian Bar Association (CBA) column described the B.C. law as one that “targets litigation aimed at silencing debate on issues of public interest — i.e., strategic litigation against public participation or ‘SLAPP’ lawsuits.”

SLAPP means “strategic litigation against public participation.”

“The PPPA may provide legal protection to individuals who have had proceedings commenced against them for expressing themselves on matters of public interest,” the CBA article said.

“Litigation intended to punish and silence critics in the public arena is the very mischief the PPPA seeks to prevent,” said Neufeld’s application.

That application did not succeed.

B.C. businesses want feds to fight inflation in next week's budget

BC businesses call on feds

In anticipation of the federal budget release next week, B.C. businesses are revealing their top priorities.

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT) and the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC) are calling on Ottawa to tie its fiscal policy with monetary policy to reduce inflation.

David Williams, vice-president of policy for BCBC, said there is “no reason for the federal government to be running large deficits.”

“People are struggling to pay the bills because of inflation and when people are having to watch their pennies, it's only fair that the government should do the same. In October the Bank of Canada governor, Tiff Macklem, underscored that it's going to be easier to get inflation down if monetary policy and fiscal policy are rowing in the same direction,” he said, referencing a comment by Macklem that fiscal and monetary policies are “rowing in opposite directions.”

The feds will unveil the next budget on April 16, following numerous announcements from Ottawa on what Canadians can expect to be included in the government’s spending plan.

“Announcements to-date amount to $43 [billion] with major new spending in housing, pharmacare, military, and AI. About 60 per cent or $26 [billion] of this would likely hit the bottom line directly. Allow for a few more surprises on budget day for a reasonable final budgetary toll of about $31 [billion] over the horizon,” Rebekah Young, vice-president and head of inclusion and resilience economics for Scotiabank, said in an April 11 pre-budget review.

GVBOT vice-president David van Hemmen said in an email the federal government needs to “reduce red tape and the regulatory burden that stifles business growth.”

Williams agreed but said that this needs to be taken a step further with the establishment of a dedicated body to oversee the effort.

“We need a body within government, deputy ministers, to actually have responsibilities and key performance indicators that they need to meet around the regulatory system,” he said.

“It should have a structure, strategy, support from assistant deputy ministers, deliverables that make sense and it should be focusing on how we make our regulatory system thought of as an asset.”

BCBC is also calling for the establishment of a productivity commission to address what Williams described as “Canada's terrible productivity performance.”

Bank of Canada senior deputy governor Carolyn Rogers said in a March 26 speech that the level of productivity in Canada’s business sector is “more or less unchanged from where it was seven years ago.”

For Anita Huberman, president and CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade (SBOT), this goes hand in hand with creating a robust strategy for a manufacturing sector within Canada.

“Surrey has the greatest number of manufacturers within B.C.,” she said.  

“We as a nation need to have federal government support where we're creating our products here in Canada, where we're reducing the red tape, providing tax credits, whatever it may be, to ensure a much more robust manufacturing sector to increase our productivity in this nation. Right now, we're one of the lowest productivity rates in the G7.”

GVBOT and SBOT also see the upcoming budget as an opportunity to enhance trade and gateway competitiveness.

More specifically, Huberman would like to see investment in the Canada Trade Infrastructure Plan.

“As Canada’s gateway to the Pacific and other provinces, the Greater Vancouver region's role in international and interprovincial trade is vital. The GVBOT encourages the government to eliminate barriers to trade within Canada and invest in critical infrastructure to ensure the efficient movement of goods, services and people,” said van Hemmen.

Lastly, both boards of trade are calling on Ottawa to ensure that newcomers to Canada can meet the growing demand for skilled workers across multiple industries.

“Surrey has the highest number of newcomers and refugees in the province and we need to tie industry needs to curriculum development to upskill and reskill,” she said.

“We need partnerships between not-for-profit and private colleges that are much more nimble, and then ensuring accountability to place them in businesses where the need is most.”

Man faces two murder charges after shooting at remote B.C. First Nation

Two murder charges laid

Police say a man has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in connection with fatal shootings in a northern B.C. First Nation community this week.

Mounties in Tsay Keh Dene, roughly 360 kilometres north of Prince George, say in a statement that Orlan Marcel Dennis is being held in custody.

RCMP say officers responded to a call late Tuesday about shots fired at a residence, where two people were later found dead.

They say a man armed with a gun fled to another home as officers arrived at the scene.

Police say hours of negotiations followed before officers shot the man with their firearms and "extended-range impact munition," and he was taken to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

The Independent Investigations Office is looking into police actions in the shooting.

Tsay Keh Dene can only be accessed via flights that are scheduled twice a week, according to the community's website.

Find stink bug eggs? B.C. scientists want to hear from you

Find stink bug eggs?

Brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) have had a foothold in regions in B.C. since 2015 with no signs of leaving. Now, scientists hope people will report only egg sightings to them.

Tracy Hueppelsheuser is an entomologist with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and explains how the stink bug was first detected in Chilliwack and Kitsilano.

“The bug is here to stay,” she says. 

Stink bugs can cause damage to crops. If you find them in your home, it's not their intended location. 

“Even if you see them walking around your house, they're not really feeding. They're not that active there,” Hueppelsheuser says. 

As temperatures warm up, stink bugs want to go outside and lay eggs on foliage. 

“We were kind of anticipating that the populations would gradually increase, and that's sort of where we are on that timeline,” she says. 

In 2022, the warm fall resulted in a large uptick in stink bug sightings in the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Interior.

Stink bugs are known to lay eggs by late June to August. The eggs will grow into nymphs and then become adults. 

Province wants you to report stink bug egg sightings

The ministry does have a project on right now looking for stink bug eggs, including ones that have been impacted by a parasite.

“What I'm interested in is if you find stink bug eggs,” says Hueppelsheuser. “We're trying to get an understanding of how widespread the parasitoid is.”

The public should be on the lookout for egg masses; if they turn black, that means parasites are in them. The parasites lay eggs in the eggs of stink bugs, she explains. 

“It's like an invasion of the body snatchers,” she says. “It kills the stink bug embryo and emerges as a new parasite.”

This results in some of the stink bug population being killed, but it isn’t taking the population down to a rate that the scientists want to see. 

Hueppelsheuser notes the stink bug eggs are normally pale green or white in colour and are found on the underside of leaves. 

“People will be looking for about 28 eggs for brown marmorated stink bugs and they’re tiny globes, about a millimetres in size,” she says. 

Should I report stink bug sightings?

People who see stink bugs in the Fraser Valley, Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan do not need to report stink bug sightings. 

“We already know that those zones have lots of stink bugs, we don't need to report it,” Hueppelsheuser tells Glacier Media. 

However, provincial officials are interested in hearing about stink bugs in other regions of B.C.

"Say you were from Revelstoke, or Kamloops or Dawson Creek and you happen to see something you thought was a brown marmorated stink bug. I would be interested in hearing about that," she says. 

How to get rid of stink bugs

If stink bugs are found inside a home, there are a few ways to dispose of them. 

Hueppelsheuser explains how one way to kill the crop pest is to put it in the freezer. After a couple of days it'll die.

“You can drown them in a bucket of soapy water if you want to,” she says, adding it will be difficult to kill all of them.

It's also OK to leave them alone.

“If I find them outside, I don't do anything about it now. There's just too many of them,” she says. 

She expects stink bugs to gradually increase every year, but it’s difficult to predict what 2024 will bring. 

“As far as forecasting, that’s a difficult one,” she says, noting 2023 was "bad" for stink bugs. “I would encourage people to just keep an eye out there.”

Stink bugs will feed on peppers, tomatoes, corn, beans, peas, apples and pears. Sometimes they’ve also been known to damage flowers (they're not a danger to people or pets).

“They can be a challenge, certainly if you’re trying to grow food or ornamentals in your garden.” 

How can I tell it's a stink bug? 

A distinguishing feature of a stink bug is its shield-shaped body. 

In 2023, a new stink bug was reported in B.C.’s Interior called the conchuela stink bug.

The bug has a distinct orange border around its body. 

“These groups of bugs were desiccating things like grapes or Oregon grapes, so Mahonia native fruit, and just sucking the juices right out of them and shrivelling them up,” Hueppelsheuser says. 

Reports from the Kootenays, Okanagan and Pemberton came into the ministry about the bugs. 

Sightings can be reported online via the B.C. government's website.

Playland's new launch coaster on track to open this summer

New roller-coaster to open

This summer, thrill-seekers will have a new ride to put on their must-try list as the PNE's Playland debuts the highly-anticipated new launch coaster ThunderVolt.

In an April 12 construction update, PNE reps indicated the coaster will be ready to roll later this summer.

A July opening date will be announced sometime in mid-June.

With people experiencing 1.3 G's as the coaster accelerates into a "supernatural environment with extraordinary animals" along with lights and graphics, the attraction promises to be an intense ride.

Riders will be blasted through an illuminated tunnel, getting up to the top before an 18-metre drop.

The new coaster was built by Zamperla, an Italian company that built the former Dragon Coaster that was at Playland until 2003, along with the Runaway Mine Train at Cultus Lake Adventure Park and rides at Disney World, Coney Island, and Dollywood.

Coaster details: What you should know about ThunderVolt

The ThunderVolt will be a three-car ride with 12 passengers at a time around a 380-metre track, which has already been partially built.

ThunderVolt replaces Playland's retired Corkscrew Coaster.

The launch coaster comes with a price tag of $9 million and is the amusement park's largest investment to date.

The name, ThunderVolt, was chosen after ideas were crowd-sourced from coaster fans.

Plans for the new coaster were announced in November 2022.

Playland re-opens for the season in May 2024.

With files from Brendan Kergin

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