B.C. officials push back on safe supply critics, seeing 'no sign' drugs are diverted

BC officials push back

British Columbia officials have rebutted claims that drugs prescribed through the province's safe supply program aimed at curbing overdoses are being re-sold to young people, helping fuel the deadly opioid crisis.

B.C.'s representative for children and youth, Jennifer Charlesworth, says her office hasn't seen any indication that youth are using drugs “diverted” from the safe supply program.

Her remarks come after Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre recently told the House of Commons that federal and B.C. government policies are worsening the overdose crisis because prescription hydromorphone "gets sold to kids" by those taking part in the program, with the profits used to buy fentanyl.

B.C.'s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe — who joined Charlesworth and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at a news briefing — says toxicology tests show hydromorphone hasn't been present in any significant number of deaths.

Lapointe says officials are "closely monitoring, continually, for any and all trends that may impact public safety."

Henry says monitoring has not detected an increase in opioid overdoses involving children, although it may be time to re-evaluate the program to ensure safe supply is meeting people's needs as the province emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 12,400 people have died from overdoses since the B.C. government declared a health emergency in 2016.


Woman dies in North Vancouver house fire

Woman dies in house fire

North Vancouver RCMP say one woman is dead following a house fire in the Queensbury neighbourhood Friday night.

The blaze on the 400 block of Queensbury Avenue broke out just before midnight, according to North Vancouver City Fire Department chief Greg Schalk.

It was a relatively small fire, which was quickly put out, but the house was fully charged with heavy smoke, Schalk said.

“Unfortunately, while they were [putting out the fire], they came across the victim. They were able to bring the victim out. Fire crews along with ambulance crews did perform some lifesaving interventions but sadly, we weren’t able to bring her back,” Schalk said.

The victim, a woman in her 30s, lived alone in a suite inside the house. Her family is receiving help from the RCMP’s victim services unit.

Three other people who live in a separate suite within the home have been displaced. They are receiving the assistance of North Shore Emergency Management, Schalk said.

North Vancouver RCMP spokesperson Const. Mansoor Sahak said there is nothing to indicate the fire was suspicious in nature, but they will conduct an in-depth investigation before anything is ruled out.

“We have to investigate it thoroughly to determine what happened. I think we owe it to the victim to determine what happened and we’re working in partnership with the fire department,” he said.

Sahak said they are hoping to hear from any members of the public who saw what happened.

“If anybody was in the area or has video from a dashcam or anything like that, call us,” he said. “Any little information helps.”

Vancouver man allegedly caught stealing 90 minutes after being released

Accused thief tries again

A Vancouver man faces two theft charges after he was caught by police allegedly stealing twice in 90 minutes. 

The Surrey RCMP say officers arrested 26-year-old Donovan Alexander after he was released on an undertaking to appear in court for an alleged theft, and then picked up again an hour and a half later for stealing from a supermarket, according to a news release. 

After being held in police custody, Alexander appeared in Surrey Provincial Court and was later released on the condition that he not be in the "City of Surrey, except under prescribed conditions including attending court."

The Surrey RCMP worked with the Metro Vancouver Transit Police (MVTP) and Delta police to make 26 arrests and recover thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise during a one-day operation on May 25 at the Guildford Town Centre in Surrey. 

Police say the arrests included executing five arrest warrants and recommending 15 criminal charges. Officers also recovered upwards of $5,000 in stolen merchandise including, food, clothing, electronics, and cosmetics.

The individuals arrested ranged in age from teenagers to adults in their forties.

We recognize that criminals are conducting retail theft across municipal borders, often using public transit, and their crimes have a significant negative impact on the community, including local businesses. These crimes result in additional costs to our families with each purchase we make, says North Community Response Unit Commander S/Sgt Nigel Pronger. 

Surrey RCMP is thankful for the assistance and strong partnerships with both Transit and Delta Police, who contributed to this enforcement operation.


Northeast wildfire now the third largest in B.C's history: BC Wildfire Service

Fire the 3rd biggest ever

The BC Wildfire Service says the Donnie Creek wildfire has grown into one of the largest blazes over the last century in the province.

The fire, which is burning north of Fort St. John, is currently estimated at more than 2,400 square kilometres in size.

BC Wildfire Service information officer Julia Caranci says records show it ranks third in provincial history, following the 2017 Plateau Fire at 5,210 square kilometres and the 1958 Kechika Fire at 2,853 square kilometres.

It does, however, exceed the Elephant Hill fire that burned more than 1,900 square kilometres of forests, grasslands and properties in the summer of 2017.

Caranci says the Donnie Creek fire has grown significantly because of two planned ignitions last week that burned a 55-kilometre portion along it's southern flank in an effort to control the fire and create "confinement lines."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference that modelling shows it might be an especially severe wildfire season in several areas of Canada.

"This is a scary time for a lot of people, not just in Alberta, but right across the country, including in the Atlantic, the North and Quebec, too."

Caranci says the service expects to continue fighting the Donnie Creek fire for weeks, and potentially months.

Video: Green fireball shooting across the sky captured by B.C. man

Green fireball on video

A green fireball shot across the sky on Saturday night dazzling those who caught a glimpse of it.

One B.C. man captured the flaming ball on his dash camera while driving home along 36 Avenue in Langley, just after 11 p.m.

“It was very large, as opposed to seeing a meteor shower when all the objects are very small,” says Brody, who only gave his first name, and noted he was with two other friends at the time.

He says he was surprised by how big and bright it was.

"My reaction was just 'wow',” he says. "The three of us who saw it all reacted because it was just not something that you see on a regular basis.”

Brody posted the video to Reddit to see if anyone else saw it and to get more information about the sighting.

UBC physics and astronomy associate professor Aaron Boley did not witness the fireball but did hear about it.

“By the accounts that I can find, witnesses saw a fireball event, which is a bright meteor caused by a meteoroid that was probably in the tens of centimetre range,” he explains.

People also took note of its colour.

"Witnesses are also describing a green colour, which, while less common, is normal for some fireballs, and may indicate a relatively large fraction of nickel,” he says.

Boley explains how fireballs are a normal occurrence, but more rare than the typical meteor.

FOI records show internal discussion around Vancouver TikTok ban

Internal TikTok ban talk

Nearly five percent of CIty of Vancouver-issued staff mobile devices included TikTok before city hall blocked the controversial, Chinese-owned video app in March.

But city employees were allowed to continue using TikTok on their own devices, even when accessing city systems.

According to internal email obtained under freedom of information law, the city’s chief technology officer Tadhg Healy initially expressed reluctance after the federal government announced Feb. 27 that it had banned TikTok on federal devices. Healy noted that Apple and Google extensively vet the apps they carry.

“At this point we don't have evidence pointing at TikTok being a security risk for the City of Vancouver,” Healy told city manager Paul Mochrie.

Later that day, B.C. Citizens’ Services Minister Lisa Beare followed the federal lead and banned B.C. government staff from using TikTok on provincial government devices.

Mochrie mentioned Feb. 28 that B.C.’s information and privacy commissioner Michael McEvoy had announced a joint investigation with federal, Ontario and Alberta commissioners the previous week.

“Are the province or feds sharing any more intel regarding their decisions on this? Is there something beyond ‘based in China’?” Mochrie asked on March 1.

Healy told him that the issue was privacy, rather than cybersecurity, “given that TikTok harvests a lot of data about the user and their behaviours and that that data is potentially available to the Chinese government in a similar fashion to the data harvested by apps such as Facebook could be made available to the U.S. government.”

The city had 132 iPhones containing TikTok out of its fleet of 2,700 devices. Approximately 100 Android devices were deployed in a locked-down configuration, so that users could only choose from a list of approved apps.

“TikTok is not one of them,” Healy wrote. “So it is only iPhones we need to worry about.”

On March 4, Healy told Mochrie that Delta, Maple Ridge and Metro Vancouver were implementing TikTok bans on all staff devices. "At this point I believe we should strongly consider this option,” he said. “Let me know if you want to have a quick chat on it.”

Before doing so, Mochrie asked Healy on March 6 to draft a note to Mayor Ken Sim and city council.

“If there is any major heartburn for them, it would be good for us to understand before we implement,” Mochrie wrote.

Mochrie sent the memo the next day, recommending the app be blocked from city-issued devices at 3 p.m. March 14, citing the data harvested from contacts, calendars and keystroke patterns.

“Can we also ban Twitter? :)” replied Park Board general manager Donnie Rosa on March 8. “I guess that's wishful.”

Instead of “heartburn,” there was support for the ban and questions about the process from the only politician to reply, ABC Coun. Lenny Zhou. Zhou wondered about the technical feasibility and whether a council motion was necessary.

Deputy city manager Karen Levitt said that city technology-use policies allowed staff to act without council approval and that the city was not planning to follow Toronto’s example by issuing a news release.

“Our device management software allows us to block the app so once that block is in place it’s not possible to download it,” Levitt wrote. “Our technology services department can also run periodic scans to confirm that the app has not been downloaded to city issued devices.”

Zhou responded: “Great to see CoV takes leadership in protecting privacy and security of the use of mobile devices.”

City hall notified the Vancouver Police Department (VPD), Vancouver Public Library and Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) the day after the ban took effect. 

In response to Kyle Kennedy, the VEC senior finance and operations manager, Kyle Foster, the city’s acting director of infrastructure and operations, clarified that the ban “has no effect on city employees using city credentials on other devices.”

VPD information and communications technology director Raymond Lai told Healy that users in the force can only install apps from an allowed list.

“TikTok is not on the list,” said Lai. “We also blocked TikTok from our firewall. We also supplied one standalone phone to public affairs for their TikTok needs.”

The Citizen Lab in the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto studied TikTok in 2021. Director Ron Deibert cautioned TikTok gobbles up a lot of personal data, just like other social media apps, and the company is not transparent about what it does with user data. 

“Our analysis was explicit about having no visibility into what happened to user data once it was collected and transmitted back to TikTok’s servers,” Deibert wrote in March. “Although we had no way to determine whether or not it had happened, we even speculated about possible mechanisms through which the Chinese government might use unconventional techniques to obtain TikTok user data via pressure on ByteDance.”

Benjamin Fung, a professor in the School of Information Studies at McGill University, said TikTok’s claim that data is housed on U.S. servers is hollow because workers in China are legally obliged under the National Security Law to co-operate when the Chinese government demands to see data.

North Shore black bears following their noses into people's homes

Black bears invading homes

The North Shore Black Bear Society is urging residents not to have an open-door policy after a string of incidents involving bears following their noses into people’s homes.

Society acting executive director Christine Miller said they are aware of at least three recent incidents over the course of a week.

In one case, a bear entered a kitchen and snagged some “organic material.” Possibly the same bear also made its way into at least on garage as well, Miller said. And in one instance, the home’s residents saw the bear just as it was coming in the door and shooed it away.

That’s the best possible outcome, Miller said. Most often when a bear enters a home, it’s an adolescent male “who hasn’t learned the proper way to behave in a residential area,” Miller said.

“When a bear enters an enclosed space like a house or garage, especially if he obtains any food reward, it usually means that he will be killed because the authorities believe that he will then know there’s food inside those places,” she said.

Despite the warm weather, Miller said residents living in bear territory shouldn’t leave ground-floor doors and windows open unless they are there to monitor them closely. It also underscores the need to keep yards free of attractants like bird feeders and tree fruit, which draw the bruins in.

“It can happen anywhere with any bears,” she said. “We’ve got bears moving around all over the place.”

Miller said unlocked/open dumpsters have also been an issue this year.

Vancouver ex-TV host police assault case dismissed

Ex-TV host sues Facebook

The case of a former Vancouver TV host charged with assaulting a police officer in a court mask-wearing dispute has ended.

Now, Marrett Alexander Green has filed a civil lawsuit in Vancouver against Facebook alleging defamation as well as racial profiling.

Last August, Green had elected a jury trial in B.C. Supreme Court. However, Vancouver provincial court Judge Nancy Adam discharged Green April 23 after a preliminary inquiry. A preliminary inquiry is held to determine if enough evidence exists to proceed to trial.

Green was charged with harming a Vancouver Police Department constable in an assault, assaulting that officer while they were engaged in their duty and attempting to take a weapon from the officer.

The charges relate to a Jan. 26, 2021 scuffle between a man allegedly refusing to wear a mask when entering the downtown Vancouver Law Courts. Court rules at the time mandated mask use.

Police were called when the man refused to comply.

In the subsequent incident, the officer suffered a broken leg.

Green was a CKVU-TV news anchor between 1994 and 1999.

Preliminary inquiries are covered by a publication ban so as not to taint any potential jury should the case proceed to trial.

Facebook suit

A B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim filed May 31 alleges Green is unemployable as a result of alleged defamation.

The claim alleges racial profiling by court sheriffs and the Vancouver Police Department.

It further asserts Green was threatened on Facebook by three people Jan. 26-30, 2021.

The claim said the charges and media coverage left Green unable to find employment.

“No one wants to hire a person accused of trying to kill police,” the claim said. “The false charges were officially dismissed. Thank goodness.”

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Motorcyclist dead in Abbotsford collision, speed a factor: police

Motorcyclist dead in crash

A man driving a motorcycle is dead after a serious collision with a vehicle in Abbotsford on Sunday.

Abbotsford police responded to the crash at Gladwin Road and Nanaimo Crescent just before 6:30 p.m. 

A motorcycle driver and the driver of a car crashed in the intersection.

"Speed is believed to be a factor in the collision," says Sgt. Paul Walker.

The driver of the motorcycle was transported to hospital with life-threatening injuries. The 58-year-old man later succumbed to his injuries.

Police say the driver of the car, a 21-year-old woman, suffered non-life-threatening injuries and is cooperating with the police.

"AbbyPD Patrol Officers are in the early stages of this investigation and are being assisted by the Integrated Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Service,” says Walker.

Police did not state which driver was driving with speed.

Witnesses who have not yet spoken to police are asked to contact the Abbotsford Police Department at 604-859-5225.

Investigators are also asking for dash-camera footage from anyone who was on Gladwin Road during the collision. 

Motorcycle fatalities worst in 20 years

Motorcycle deaths in Canada have reached an all-time high, according to a recent report by Statistics Canada

According to Transport Canada, 242 motorcycle riders died in 2020, making it the highest number of deaths recorded in over two decades. The deaths were a 24 per cent increase from 195 deaths in 2019. 

StatCan stated in the report that "while many steps have been taken to reduce harm to Canadian motorcyclists, such as legislation, safety programs, driving courses, and safety features for both motorcycles and motorcycle gear, riders continue to be considered vulnerable road users.”

Motorcycle fatalities in Canada are most common among men and those aged 40 to 59 years old. From 2016 to 2020, 55 per cent of the fatalities came from a collision between two or more vehicles. 

Intersections were also found to be the leading location of fatal motorcycle collisions in Canada with highways being second. 

Vancouver businessman issued 14-year ban from securities market

Banned from markets

The B.C. Securities Commission has banned a Vancouver businessman from the capital markets for 14 years for misrepresenting funds raised in a private placement related to the Bridgemark Group consulting case.

Robert Earle Dawson, the former CEO of BLOK Technologies Inc., is prohibited from acting as a director or officer of a public company and barred from stock promotion, consulting, and management work in connection with the securities or derivatives market, according to a commission statement Monday.

As well, Dawson’s former colleague David Malcolm Alexander, the company’s CFO, has been issued a likewise ban, but only for three years, and fined $25,000.

Dawson, from Vancouver, and Alexander, from West Vancouver, came to an agreement with the commission with their hearing set to commence Monday. The commission noted Dawson would not be fined as he “isn’t able to pay a financial sanction that would normally be part of a settlement.”

It’s understood that the commission has outstanding allegations against BLOK itself, as well as James Joseph Hyland, its former vice-president and director. However, the commission stated Monday BLOK is in the process of being dissolved.  

In 2018, BLOK, then purporting to be investing in blockchain technology, raised $5.4 million but ended up spending $4.5 million of the funds on consulting fees, the commission stated.

Both Dawson and Alexander misrepresented that “the company would retain just a small portion of funds raised through a private placement,” the commission stated.

BLOK was one of 11 penny stock firms, along with over two dozen consultants and their respective companies, formerly cited in the Bridgemark Group consulting case for alleged illegal distribution of securities and conduct abusive to the capital markets.

Then, BCSC executive director Peter Brady alleged the companies raised over $50 million in private placement proceeds from the consultants only to return much of the money back to the consulting firms as consulting fees “when little or no consulting services had been or were intended to be performed.”

Those administrative charges — once considered the largest proceeding in the commission’s history — were dropped but the commission circled back to many of the companies for the alleged misrepresentations.

Three companies, Beleave Inc., New Point Exploration Corp. and Speakeasy Cannabis Corp. have already admitted to such violations. In addition to BLOK, the commission has hearings scheduled this year for three other companies (Affinor, Green 2 Blue and Preveceutical).

The arrangements included the consultants buying most of the shares in a cash swap and then selling them to retail investors, some of whom have launched an ongoing (and to date, partly successful) class-action lawsuit against the now former Bridgemark Group respondents.

The commission also circled back with amended hearing notices against four individuals it alleges played a key role in the consulting and trading arrangements of some of the companies.

West Vancouver residents (and their respective companies) Anthony Kevin Jackson (BridgeMark Financial Corp. and Jackson & Company Professional Corp.), Justin Edgar Liu (Lukor Capital Corp. and Asiatic Management Consultants Ltd.) and Cameron Robert Paddock (Rockshore Advisors Ltd.) are alleged, in the amended hearing notice, to have conducted themselves contrary to the public interest as company directors and performed illegal insider trading.

The trio face a hearing this September, following lengthy delays.

A fourth accused, Robert John Lawrence, has already admitted to illegal insider trading and been fined $200,000 with three-year trading prohibitions.

BC woman sues insurer over Texas-sized hospital bill

Sues over huge hospital bill

A woman who fractured her femur during a vacation in Texas is suing a Burnaby-based insurance company that denied her claim for a US$51,012 hospital bill.

Chuan Chao, a Surrey resident, bought an insurance policy from Pacific Blue Cross for a trip to Houston from June 4 to July 2, 2022, according to a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week.

Twenty days into her vacation, however, she tripped on a sidewalk and fractured her femur.

She was taken to a Houston hospital for surgery.

After her release on June 26, she was unable to walk, and her surgeon advised her not to travel, according to the lawsuit.

Chao says she contacted Pacific Blue Cross and notified them of the incident, saying she would need to stay in Texas until August because of her injury.

But she did not incur any more medical expenses after her policy ended on July 2, according to the notice.

“At no point did (Pacific Blue Cross) ever advise (Chao) that she would be required to extend her insurance coverage under the policy for the duration of her mandatory stay,” states the notice.

Chao returned to B.C. in mid-August and was told at the end of November that the insurance company was denying her US$51,012 claim.

She is now suing for damages, a declaration that she is entitled to the full amount, and a judgment against Pacific Blue Cross for the money.

She says the insurance company breached its contract by acting in bad faith, failing to tell her she had to extend her policy or face denial of her claim.

She claims Pacific Blue Cross didn’t fairly evaluate the evidence and circumstances involved in her claim and used a provision in the contract to “take advantage” of her health restrictions “to avoid payment for the surgery.”

“(Chao) was in a vulnerable position, and she relied on the knowledge and information of (Pacific Blue Cross) when she reported her claim,” states the notice. “The actions of (Pacific Blue Cross) are significantly improper and egregious, and there is not rational justification for failing to advise (Chao) that she would be required to extend the policy.”

Chao said the prospect of having to pay the fees out of pocket despite believing they’d be taken care of by insurance has caused her “mental distress.”

The claims in the lawsuit have not been proven in court.

Pacific Blue Cross has not yet filed a response to Chao’s notice.

Vancouver marketing firm claims ex-employees stole its customers

Lawsuit over stolen clients

A Vancouver marketing firm is suing what it claims is an imposter that’s stealing its customers.

Antarctica Digital Marketing Inc., which does business as Future Flow Media (FFM), alleges several former employees stole its proprietary information and used it to launch a new business. It also alleges the new business – Ardent Strategies LLC, which does business as Source Path Digital – emailed its customers to claim FFM was operating under the Source Path Digital name.

FFM stated in recent court filings that Ardent Strategies is controlled by FFM’s former vice-president of business development, Chris O’Neill.

The lawsuit also names a host of other former FFM employees, with job titles ranging from HR manager to operations director, that are all a part of what it claims is a conspiracy.

It’s alleged O’Neill had access to FFM’s confidential information, including login details to databases, customer information and other trade secrets.

Ardent began working with FFM as an independent contractor in 2017, according to the lawsuit, which also noted O’Neill’s father began working in 2018 as campaign operations manager for FFM, a role that reported directly to O’Neill.

FFM claims the O’Neills and the other former FFM employees began conspiring in March 2022 to access FFM’s Amazon Web Services and Salesforce Inc. (NYSE:CRM) accounts to steal the company’s customer information. The Amazon account, according to the lawsuit, contained 99 million customer records that were “critical to running FFM’s marketing campaigns.”

The defendants then allegedly began contacting FFM’s customers to say the company had changed its name to Source Path and directed their communications to that company. The defendants subsequently gave notice one-by-one of their resignations in March and April this year, according to the suit.

The lawsuit claims the defendants have since refused to return FFM’s confidential information, to return its electronic devices, to stop passing off as FFM and to stop soliciting business from FFM’s customers.

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are O’Neill’s father, Darrell O’Neill; Chad Hornbuckle, FFM’s former operations director; Laurence-Marie Etienne, a former account supervisor; Monique Robinson, the former digital campaign manager; and Jennifer Whiteaker, a former office and human resources manager.

FFM is seeking an accounting of all profits made by the alleged scheme and for those to be paid to FFM as damages for unjust enrichment and conspiracy.

None of the defendants has filed a response in court as of press time.

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