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COVID-19: Warning issued as cases in U.S. states rise while tapering off in B.C.


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The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said there are 183 active cases of the disease, with 16 in hospital of whom four are in intensive care. Those numbers continue to fall.

There have been 2,659 cases reported since COVID-19 appeared in B.C. in late January, and 167 deaths.

The contacts of the people who most recently became ill have all been traced.

Henry said there have been no new outbreaks in health-care settings between noon Friday and noon Monday. There are four active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living facilities.

She said health authorities are working on plans to allow families to start visiting relatives in long-term care homes and that would likely begin in the “coming weeks.”

The outbreaks at Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry and Superior Poultry have ended.

Henry said summer travellers need to be respectful of any community they visit and to practise social distancing.

Dix said B.C. has received 4.8 million N95 respirators, two million sets of goggles and 30 million sets of gloves since the state of emergency was declared on March 18.

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Government hopes for breakthrough in Wet’suwet’en blockades this week


The federal and provincial governments want to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs this week in a bid to stop a series of crippling blockades in support of those chief’s anti-pipeline stance.

The move comes as local protesters prepare for an unknown action starting in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, Scott Fraser, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, met in Victoria to “talk about finding a peaceful resolution to the blockades across the country and other issues arising from the concerns of Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.”

In a joint statement, Fraser and Bennett said last week’s string of Canada-wide blockades of rail-lines, government buildings and political offices were “a significant challenge.”

“We have reached out through a joint letter to the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs about meeting with us at the earliest opportunity and are hopeful we can all work together to establish a process for ongoing and constructive dialogue and action to address the issues at hand. Our primary focus is everyone’s safety and ultimately, a peaceful resolution to the situation.”

Postmedia News has seen the letter dated Feb. 16, 2020, sent to Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs (c/o Office of the Wet’suwet’en) in Smithers.

The letter states that it was the result of a request by Gitxsan hereditary chief Spookw to arrange a meeting between the two senior levels of government and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline being put through the Wet’suwet’en’s 22,000 square kilometre territory. Spookw is acting as a broker – the Gitxsan’s 33,000 square kilometre territory is north of the Wet’suwet’en.

Five of the six Wet’suwet’en reserve bands have signed on with Coastal GasLink, but 10 of the 13 Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have rejected the Coastal GasLink’s pipeline project outright. The hereditary chiefs opposed to the pipeline are Woos, Smogelgem, Knedebeas, Samooh, Way tah K’eght, Hagwilnegh, Madeek, Kloum Khun and Na’moks. All 10 chiefs are men.


Georgia St. blocked during an Indigenous led march to Victory Square in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in January, 2019.

Nick Procaylo /

PNG

According to the Council of the Wet’suwet’en (that represents the nation’s reserve bands, five clans and 13 hereditary chiefs) three chief seats are vacant. There are roughly 5,000 Wet’suwet’en. 

At least three wing chiefs (the deputy to the chief) are in favour of the pipeline and there are claims that two former hereditary chiefs were deposed because they supported the pipeline.

The Feb. 16 letter goes on to state: “We agree that dialogue is the best and preferred way to deal with these issues,” suggesting the government is not prepared at this point to use force against a well-organized nationwide protest movement. 

Local protest spokesperson Natalie Knight told Postmedia News that Wet’suwet’en chiefs were not responsible for the course of action the Metro Vancouver protesters took.

Knight said protestors were meeting on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at 380 East Hastings Street and would commence an action from there. She would not reveal what that action would be, however, last week her group blocked rail lines and two busy intersections.


Approximately 100 people march in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in their opposition to the GasLink pipeline project, along Grandview Highway Saturday, February 15, 2020.

Jason Payne /

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The Feb. 16 letter came three days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote to chief Spookw saying a cabinet minister would meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, and two days after B.C. Premier John Horgan made the same promise — although as part of that deal Horgan said the “blockade of the CN line will be removed to allow for a period of calm and peaceful dialogue.”

The blockade of the main CN Rail line in Northern B.C. (near New Hazelton) was taken down the same day. However, later in the week the West Coast Express commuter train was blocked, as was an East Vancouver rail line.

Protesters also continued to block rail lines as well as highways and bridges in different parts of the country on Monday.

Those included shutting down for the first time the Thousand Islands Bridge border crossing near Kingston, Ont. and a CN Rail crossing on Highway 75 in southern Manitoba.

Trudeau held an emergency, closed-door meeting with cabinet ministers in Ottawa on Monday to discuss the blockades.

He did not answer reporter’s questions after leaving the meeting.


The RCMP set up a checkpoint on the Morice West Forest Service Road on Jan. 13, 2020.

Submitted /

RCMP

Jen Wickham, a Wet’suwet’en band member who belongs to the Grizzly House of the Gitdumden Clan, has been active in ground zero of the conflict — the Morice Forest Road that leads to a Coastal GasLink work camp southeast of Houston.

Wickham said she was not surprised that the protest had become so widespread.

“I think that Indigenous people have been suffering colonization and the exploitation of our lands and resources since contact and Wet’suwet’en are in a very unique position because we have the Delgamuukw court decision that other nations have used to successfully gain title recognition,” Wickham said, referring to the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision that established Aboriginal title to unceded land.

Wickham said she was unsure how the three hereditary chiefs of her clan would respond to the letter issued on Sunday.

However, she said they “want a nation to nation discussion and they want the RCMP and CGL out of our territories.”

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Knight said that the Coastal GasLink pipeline protest was about more than the Wet’suwet’en and pipeline fight, and had spread to “the shared history of violence experienced by Indigenous people, and Punjabi and Chinese communities in so-called B.C. Both Punjabi and Chinese people were displaced from their own lands due to the violence of British colonialism and the parallels between this colonial violence and the violence experienced by Indigenous people here is clear and ongoing.”

The protest movement is backed by the David Suzuki Foundation, B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670km underground pipeline to ship fracked natural gas to the LNG Canada plant being built in Kitimat. The pipeline is scheduled to be complete in 2023.

The company has promised to spend $1 billion of its $6.6 billion budget on contracts, grants and training opportunities for the 20 First Nations bands along the route that it has signed agreements with.

— with files from Canadian Press

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Flood watch issued for B.C.’s South Coast


B.C.’s River Forecast Centre has issued a flood watch for some parts of the South Coast, as flooding in several communities caused road closures, power outages and prompted a local state of emergency on Vancouver Island.

As of Saturday morning, the North Shore and Metro Vancouver remained under the alert that was posted Friday. Areas of concern include the Coquitlam River, Alouette River, Kanaka Creek and MacKay Creek. The western and southern parts of Vancouver Island are also on alert for flooding.

An atmospheric river pounded the South Coast Friday, and overnight, with the heaviest rainfall measured on the west coast of Vancouver Island and along the North Shore Mountains.

Some rivers flooded, and on Vancouver Island a local state of emergency was declared in Cowichan Valley.

A statement from the Cowichan Valley Regional District says widespread flooding forced more than two dozen residents to evacuate early Saturday as key transportation corridors were cut off by rising flood water.

The district says in a statement that about 28 evacuated residents from North Cowichan and the Halalt First Nation were staying at the local community centre.

Several roads were closed because of washouts on Saturday, according to Drive B.C., including Highway 1 on Vancouver Island. The southbound lane was closed because of flooding at Exit 6 in Saanich.

Provincewide telecommunications issues were being reported, with Bell customers and B.C. Transit Police among those affected.

Hundreds of skiers and snowboarders were trapped overnight at Sasquatch Mountain Resort after heavy rain and a landslide washed out a one-kilometre section of Hemlock Valley Road in Agassiz.

The slide had left the road impassable to vehicles in both directions. The mountain suspended all skiing and said it was serving food to guests that had to stay on the mountain.

The Ministry of Transportation said in a statement Saturday that residents of the Hemlock Valley community are advised to stay at home.

“People who are currently at the Sasquatch Mountain Resort are advised to stay at the resort until crews can clear the debris from the road for safe travel,” the statement said.

The route is the only available exit for residents of the Hemlock Valley community and for those at the Sasquatch Mountain Resort.

A statement from the resort said it had no choice but to suspend activities until the road is reopened.

Shelby Lim, the director of marketing at the resort, says more people than usual are at the resort because a race was scheduled for the weekend. She says as many as 500 people are in the village and at the resort, including about 100 staff.

The Ministry of Transportation also said that it will require five to six days to create single-lane alternating traffic. A helicopter company is offering a shuttle service off the mountain to the nearby Chilliwack airport for $150 per person.

DriveBC reports that an update on the Hemlock Valley situation will be next provided at 9 a.m. Sunday.

At Harrison Hot Springs, the ministry reports that Rockwell Drive between Dogwood Lane and Rockwell Lane is closed in both directions due to a washout. There is no detour and some residents are being evacuated as of Saturday evening.

In Coquitlam, thousands of BC Hydro customers were without power after the rainstorm brought down some power lines Friday night.

B.C. Hydro crews were also dealing with the Alouette Reservoir in Maple Ridge, which reached capacity Saturday, for the first time since 1995.

B.C. Hydro spokeswoman Tanya Fish said that despite crews’ efforts to discharge water from the reservoir, the extremely heavy rain caused water from the reservoir to be released over the spillway into the Alouette River.

However, she said the total amount of water being discharged to Alouette River is expected to remain the same, as crews reduce discharge from a controlled gate.

“As the heavy rain from last night has subsided, local inflows into the river downstream of Alouette Dam are receding and under the current weather forecast, we do not anticipate water levels on the river to go above peak levels observed overnight,” said Fish, on Saturday afternoon.

“We are asking the public to use caution around the Alouette River and be aware that water levels may change throughout the day.”

B.C. Hydro reports that crews are working in the eastern Fraser Valley to clear debris in order to restore power.

 

Golden Ears Park Road was also closed because of water damage from the storm, according to a tweet from Alouette Parks.

Highway 1 was also closed because of rock slides from Lytton to Yale, and at Spences Bridge, 19 kilometres south of Cache Creek.

In Maple Ridge, 112 Avenue east of 240 Street was closed due to a slide caused by the intense rain. The city posted on Twitter that the street would be closed until crews were able to remove the debris and stabilize the slope.

Meantime, a rainfall warning that was in effect has been lifted and a much drier day was expected on Saturday. Environment and Climate Change Canada forecasted a mainly cloudy, but windy day, with a chance of showers clearing up near noon, and some sunny breaks.

The agency posted rainfall totals on Saturday, showing that many parts of Metro Vancouver exceeded 100 mm since Thursday, including Abbotsford which saw 119 mm and Pitt Meadows, which record 138 mm. Squamish was drenched in 166 mm, while Vancouver had nearly 80 mm.

The River Forecast Centre said that while some snowmelt was expected during this weather event, snowpack at higher elevations should absorb the water.

Another cold front is moving across the region this weekend, and freezing levels are expected to rise, according to Matt MacDonald, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

On Saturday, the temperature was forecast to drop to 4 C in the afternoon with an overnight low of zero. Then there is a chance of snow at higher elevations on Sunday.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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B.C. law protecting government whistleblowers comes into effect Dec. 1






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