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Vancouver School Board to vote on anti-racism motion at Monday meeting



The Vancouver School Board will revisit an anti-racism motion at Monday’s meeting before heading to a vote.


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The Vancouver School Board will revisit an anti-racism motion at Monday’s meeting before heading to a vote.

The motion, put forward by Trustee Jennifer Reddy and developed in consultation with parents and community groups, seeks to create a strategic plan for both the short, medium and long term on how the district should handle and prevent racism and discrimination in Vancouver schools.

An interim report on the progress of the plan is expected in June 2020.

The motion comes after multiple incidents in the previous school year, including one that involved a racist video that prompted a Black student to transfer out of Lord Byng Secondary.

Another aspect of the motion to be discussed Monday looks at hiring an expert to advise the school board on how best to handle such incidents in the immediate aftermath of hate-motivated acts.

The B.C. Community Alliance is among those in support of the motion and will be in attendance at Monday’s meeting, alongside members of the Byng community.

“As we have recently seen several racist incidents at Vancouver schools and the way these incidents are currently being handled, it is urgent that it passes now. If it doesn’t pass, racialized Vancouver students will not see any significant change in the 20/21 school year, as it will not make it into the budget,” read a statement shared by Marie Tate of the BCCA.

“These motions also benefit the broader spectrum of students who need support when incidents of hate arise, such as homophobia, anti-Semitism, gender violence and more.”

The meeting takes place Monday at 7 p.m. at the Vancouver Board of Education office’s boardroom.



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British Columbians fight US billionaire for ‘right to roam’ in wild


MERRITT — When most Canadians come across “No Trespassing” signs, they stop in their tracks and turn around, often in disappointment.

But not everyone gives up.

A few enter into decades-long battles, like the one against B.C.’s giant Douglas Lake Cattle Company, owned by one of America’s richest people, Stan Kroenke. And the lesson these diehards have been able to pass on is that “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” signs in Canada, despite being posted almost everywhere, are often not worth the plastic, wood or metal they’re printed on.


Stan Kroenke.

“Most of the no-trespassing signs you see in B.C. are illegal,” says Rick McGowan, as we travel over a gnarled, grassy track on the magnificent Douglas Lake ranch. This is not just any path, however. McGowan and his allies in the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club have shown in court it is a public right-of-way, even though it crosses the billionaire’s property.

The track leads to peaceful Stoney Lake, one of dozens of public bodies of water in the Cariboo-Chilcotin that locals, including Indigenous people, were able to fish on not long ago, but which have since been blockaded off by landowners.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves has ruled, however, that the American billionaire and his hired hands can no longer keep Stoney or nearby Minnie Lake, which are Crown property, behind locks, gates and no-trespassing signs.

The Nicola Valley club’s case against the Douglas Lake Cattle Company is a boon to Canadians who love the outdoors and seek rightful access to wild places.

McGowan, an easygoing but tough-talking man, is making a point of taking me over some of the long-obstructed public rights of way that lead to Stoney Lake on Kroenke’s ranch. The property is bigger than Metro Vancouver. It’s not only Canada’s largest ranch, it’s the biggest privately owned chunk of property anywhere in B.C.

“Pretty well all the no-trespassing signs around here are shot to s — t,” says McGowan, 67, who spent much of his career with the B.C. Highways Ministry mapping every metre of every road and right-of-way running through the stunning rolling hills southeast of Merritt.

“I’ve surveyed every road in the district. And I knew they were being locked illegally,” says McGowan, whose unique expertise is part of the reason Justice Grove called him an “impressive witness” and took him so seriously as an impartial “public-interest” litigant.

To put it another way, McGowan and his comrades are not in this for the money. Yet McGowan has been arrested three times by the local RCMP though never convicted. The judge criticized the police for their insidious collaboration with Kroenke’s ranch staff. B.C. government bureaucrats and politicians were also bitten by the judge’s rebukes.

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Even though the Douglas Lake ranch conflict has huge implications in its own right for access to wilderness, the Nicola Valley club’s concerted response to the reclusive billionaire’s efforts to lock out the people of B.C. is part of a much bigger movement.

That movement has been called “the freedom to roam” or “the right of public access to the wilderness.” It’s a centuries-old campaign by walkers, fishers, recreational users and other ordinary people to gain justified access to lakes, streams, mountains and wilderness, while showing respect for private property.

Sometimes campaigners try to gain access to government-owned lakes and rivers that end up surrounded by private land, which is the situation in the Nicola Valley case. Other times they battle to forge designated trails through “uncultivated” private property itself.

The freedom to roam is well advanced in Scotland, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Switzerland and other nations, where it’s possible to walk pastoral routes that wend their way through a blend of public and private land for hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometres.

Will Canadians follow the European path?

‘Everything you can see … is owned by Stan Kroenke’

“Everything you can see for 30 miles is owned by Stan Kroenke,” McGowan says, standing at the top of a hill that surveys vast grasslands dotted with horses, cattle, rocks, birds and lakes.

The Douglas Lake Cattle Company is one of many B.C. ranches bought since 2003 by Kroenke, a Colorado-based real-estate baron who owns the Los Angeles Rams, the Denver Nuggets basketball team, the Colorado Avalanche hockey team, London’s Arsenal soccer club and other major-league sports franchises. He is married to Ann Walton, a scion of the family that owns Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue.


Rick McGowan, with his truck, next to Stoney Lake on the Douglas Lake ranch.

The Douglas Lake ranch — together with Kroenke’s recent acquisitions of nearby Alkali Lake, Riske Creek, Dog Creek and Quilchena ranches — encompasses roughly 5,000 square kilometres of deeded and Crown grazing land. Metro Vancouver, by comparison, covers 2,700 square kilometres.

The Douglas ranch has its own airstrip and fishing lodges. It also surrounds Stoney Lake and Minnie Lake, which McGowan and friends used to fish in before they were blocked by Kroenke, the man often known as “Silent Sam” since he never talks to the media. Forbes Magazine estimates Kroenke is worth $8.5 billion.

Since he owns more gigantic ranches in the U.S., Kroenke put a Canadian, Joe Gardner, in charge of the Douglas ranch and the extremely costly court case against the Nicola Valley club, which has had to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the non-resident magnate.

But Gardner, after 40 years at the ranch, stepped down as general manager in July, just six months after Justice Groves decided against the Douglas Lake Cattle Company, saying two of the Crown-owned lakes on the ranch must be reopened for catch-and-release fishing to the public, even if the lakes are stocked by the ranch. Gardner, who still works for Kroenke, was not available for comment.

The judge’s hard-hitting decision — which criticized Gardner for acting above the law and RCMP members for colluding with him — is a huge affirmation that the Canadian public has a right to cherished water bodies, at a time when many believe governments are failing to stand up to private interests.

Groves accused the B.C. government of failing to respond to Douglas Lake ranch’s unlawfulness. “Over 20 years, a privately held corporation, owning a large swath of land, prohibited the public from driving on the public road, and the province did nothing,” he said.

The judge also rebuked Victoria in a scorching epilogue: “It makes no sense to me that the Crown would retain ownership of the lakes, only for there to be no access.” He urged B.C. politicians to re-examine trespassing laws and “guarantee access to this precious public resource.”

The Douglas Lake ranch is appealing the judge’s decision.

McGowan, who acknowledges he’s “a bit of a pot stirrer,” has long found it both provoking and laughable that RCMP officers have arrested him and many others for fighting for the freedom to fish on public lakes. He’s supported by countless people in the Nicola Valley, Kamloops, Metro Vancouver, Victoria and farther afield.

Their donations arrive by many routes, including at Nicola Valley club picnics, where hunting rifles are raffled. “I’ve been fighting this for over 30 years,” including with Douglas ranch’s previous owners, says McGowan, adding how rewarding it is that he’s been joined in the past decade by the Nicola Valley club and people like his lifelong neighbour, retired school teacher Harry Little. 

Little, a soft-spoken 73-year-old, has come along with us for the ride onto the Douglas ranch, where he describes how McGowan and he have frequently cut off illicit gate locks and explains that the overgrown road to Stoney Lake — which bizarrely remains under a highways maintenance contract — now dives under the surface of the lake, since Kroenke’s people have flooded it.

McGowan, leaning his big frame against his white Dodge Ram three-quarter-ton pickup truck, says people often ask him how he can keep going, since they worry the long conflict must be stressful.

But he laughs at the idea, saying: “This is therapy.”

Surveying the near endless hills of the Douglas Lake ranch, he says, “This was all locked for 30 years.” And now some routes are slowly being reopened.

Not that it is mission accomplished. McGowan says there are at least 30 more lakes in the Nicola Valley that landowners are illegally blockading behind gates, boulders and logs.

That includes the former access route to nearby Quilchena Falls, a spectacular waterfall south of the Kelowna Connector highway, which locals decades ago used to love to visit for swimming and picnics. But Quilchena Falls is now also blocked by Kroenke’s vast land holdings.

What, McGowan muses, does one of the world’s richest land barons want? “At the end of the day, I guess the true capitalist wants to own everything.”

The right to public jewels

I have had the pleasure of walking for days on end on trails through Scotland, Denmark, Italy and Wales, which at certain points traverse private land.

The remarkable European hiking and pilgrimage routes, many of which were in use for a millennium, have been reopened in many cases only because citizens fought complex battles for the right to enjoy them. Now they are considered public jewels.


Chris Harvey at Quilchena Falls, a public body of water now surrounded by the Douglas Lake ranch, which is restricting access.

One of the first crusades for the right to cross private land occurred in Manchester, England, in the 1930s. That’s when a rebellious group of young factory workers who called themselves “ramblers” showed just how determined they were to walk in a beautiful, privately owned area known as the Peak District.

The ramblers did so en masse and many, like in the Nicola Valley, were arrested. But over the long run they prevailed. And Britain is not alone in offering the public access to rights of way, including around the edges of farms. Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand and many other countries make a point of offering ordinary people the freedom to roam.

Taking into account local context, each country has carefully worked out viable ways to protect landowners from irresponsible users, who owners fear might venture off designated trails, leave behind garbage, camp without permission, start a fire, damage the environment or sue for an injury.

In Canada, by contrast, private-property signs blocking access to public land abound, thoroughly intimidating the uninformed populace. The Nicola Valley club lawyer, Chris Harvey, says Canadians appear to expect governments to protect their access to the wild. But most governments are doing the opposite.

When it comes to property rights, Harvey says, Canadians are somewhere in between more open-minded European landowners and hypervigilant Americans, many of whom behave as if the right to protect private property, often with guns, is their nation’s most sacred value.

The right-to-roam movement in Canada is slowly gaining legs, however, including in B.C., where even city dwellers feel defined by wild places.

Two years ago, inspired by the Douglas ranch case, B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver launched private members Bill M223: The Right to Roam Act. Even though it died on the order paper, Green representative Claire Hume says it “remains an issue we think is incredibly important and one we would love to see government take on.”

Recognizing the right-to-roam discussion raises “some delicate decision points around traditional (Indigenous) territory and private property-trespass law,” Hume said Weaver didn’t expect his bill — which was intended to make nature “open to all, not just the privileged few” — to pass the way he had drafted it. But he does hope it will spark more discussion in the legislature.

Right-to-roam advocates have never sought unfettered access

The head of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, Calvin Sandborn, is one of many leaders of a loose-knit coalition determined to make it possible for citizens to experience nature by venturing onto private land.

Sandborn and law students Graham Litman and Matt Hulse have created a seminal report titled Enhancing Public Access to Privately Owned Wild Lands, which looks at some of B.C.’s most lively action fronts.

In addition to covering the Douglas Lake conflict, Sandborn’s team is monitoring an effort to create a 700-kilometre walking network on Vancouver Island, called the Island Spine Trail. They’re also tracking roaming disputes on Lasqueti Island, Galiano Island and in Comox.


Rick McGowan and long-time neighbour Harry Little, on the Douglas Lake ranch.

The B.C. Wildlife Federation, the B.C. Federation of Fly Fishers and B.C. Outdoor Recreation Council have prepared positions on the right to roam. And they’re tracking the many ways recreational users constantly come up against landowners.

To ease landowners’ concerns, Sandborn emphasizes right-to-roam advocates have never sought unfettered access to property. “We don’t want people going through a hundred different trails on someone’s property. Access can be provided in a variety of ways.”

And not only to remote wilderness. The Gorge region of the City of Victoria is also in play. Sandborn’s students have surveyed how property owners have built carports and sheds over public rights of way to the Gorge waterway, which are legally supposed to occur every 200 metres.

Sandborn says when one Gorge neighbour who lived across the street from waterfront properties that were illicitly blocking beach access found out what the law students were doing, he remarked, “’I’ve lived here 20 years. And I didn’t realize until now I had the right to take my canoe down to the water.’”

Metro Vancouver has its own access-to-waterfront issues, says Sandborn — in White Rock and West Vancouver.

Washington state can be a model for B.C.

The University of Victoria report suggests which global jurisdictions could be models for B.C. Surprisingly, given Americans’ legendary emphasis on absolute private property rights, one of them is in B.C.’s own Cascadian backyard: Washington state.

The counties that contain Seattle and Bellingham both offer major tax breaks to owners who make portions of their land available to hikers, birdwatchers, sightseers, horseback riders and other nature lovers, all of whom are expected to follow rules for respecting private property.

Creative things have also been happening at the other end of Canada, in Nova Scotia. That province has long provided citizens the right to cross private, uncultivated land and to go on foot along the banks of rivers and lakes to fish, including with a boat.

Which is precisely the kind of freedom the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club seeks on the Douglas ranch and beyond.

McGowan is playing the long game, but he doesn’t, to put it mildly, trust politicians. He knows his comrades will need help, particularly from younger generations. He realizes his encyclopedic knowledge of roads and property bylaws in the Nicola Valley has been an incredible asset for the local cause, but he also knows most people don’t have the same background.

So, at his age, he’s worried.

As geese fly overhead, he says the access-to-land cause in the Nicola Valley needs “somebody else to pick up the cudgel.” The long-term strategy of billionaire landowners and their ilk, he believes, is to use their immense wealth to hire lawyers and others to wear people down.

“This is their dream: That guys like me will die off. And nobody will remember.”

The Douglas Lake ranch’s appeal will be heard March 30  and 31 in Vancouver.

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Twitter.com/@douglastodd





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Jury gets final instructions in case of ex-SNC-Lavalin boss charged with fraud



Former SNC-Lavalin vice-president Sami Bebawi leaves a courtroom in Montreal on Friday, February 15, 2019.


Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Jurors received final instructions Wednesday in the six-week corruption trial of a former SNC-Lavalin executive.

Sami Bebawi, 73, has pleaded not guilty to five charges that include fraud, corruption of foreign officials and laundering proceeds of crime.

The Quebec Superior Court judge presiding over the trial began his charge to the jury late in the afternoon, with deliberations expected to start Thursday.

The Crown has alleged that Bebawi was the architect of a scheme to grease the wheels in Libya in order to secure lucrative deals.

Prosecutors have argued the Montreal engineering giant transferred about $113 million to shell companies used to pay off people who helped the company collect and secure deals in Libya beginning in the late 1990s.

What remained in the accounts of those firms after the kickbacks were paid was then allegedly split between Bebawi and Riadh Ben Aissa, a former colleague, with Bebawi allegedly pocketing $26 million.

The trial looked at several major infrastructure projects and centred on dealings with Saadi Gadhafi, one of the sons of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, to facilitate deals.

The defence argued that the amounts transferred to Bebawi’s accounts were bonuses authorized by the SNC-Lavalin’s ex-president, Jacques Lamarre, for the successful completion of complicated contracts in Libya.

Bebawi’s lawyer argued that the Crown’s key witness in the case, Ben Aissa, was unreliable and that there was no evidence any of the contracts secured in Libya were inflated.

The defence also disagreed that the younger Gadhafi was a foreign public official, describing him instead as a “spoiled child” who had a direct line to the late dictator but no real power or authority.

Bebawi did not testify or present a defence — which was his right as it was up to the Crown to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, Justice Guy Cournoyer told jurors.

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Squamish Nation approves $3-billion housing project in Kitsilano


Squamish Nation voted 87 per cent in favour of moving ahead with the project in partnership with Westbank Development to build 6,000 rental housing units in 11 towers on a 11.7-acre parcel of land in Kitsilano.

The development of the reserve lands at Sen̓áḵw, which is adjacent to the Burrard Bridge and Vanier Park, represents the single largest development on First Nation lands in Canada, according to the Squamish Nation. The city of Vancouver will have no power to regulate what is built.


Artist renderings of the 6,000-unit Senakw development proposed for Squamish First Nation lands in Kitsilano adjacent to the Burrard Bridge.

Revery Architecture /

PNG

“The Squamish Nation Council is thrilled with the outcome of this referendum, which was approved by a landslide. This is truly a landmark moment in our Nation’s history. The Sen̓áḵw Project will transform the Squamish Nation by providing immense social, cultural, and economic benefits to Squamish Nation members for generations to come,” said Squamish Nation councillor Khelsilem, in a statement on Facebook.

Construction on the first phase is expected to begin in 2021.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said earlier this year that this is what reconciliation looks like, and that the prospect of new rental units in Vancouver is “exciting.”

There are two other major real estate projects in Vancouver in planning that involve First Nation groups: the 90-acre Jericho Lands in West Point Grey and a plan for 2,500 homes on 21 acres at the Heather Land in the Cambie Corridor.

In 2014, city council designated Vancouver as a City of Reconciliation and set as its goal the creation of “sustained relationships of mutual respect and understanding with local First Nations and the urban Indigenous community.”



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Journalist ‘rattled’ when masked men stormed Vice offices, trial hears



Pictures of the flyers that were left at VIce’s Montreal offices.


Paul Labonté

Simon Coutu said he felt a surge of adrenaline when it happened: A group of masked men barged into his office, surrounded him and began shouting him down.

They belonged to a far-right group “tainted by violence” whose members were physically imposing, trained in martial arts and had been involved in a 2007 stabbing at a Quebec City nightclub, according to Coutu.

His testimony Monday is central to the trial of Atalante Québec leader Raphaël Lévesque, who stands accused of criminal intimidation for his role in storming Vice Media’s Montreal offices on May 23, 2018.

“When masked men show up at your office, uninvited, it’s intimidating,” said Coutu, a journalist. “It surprises you, it rattles you. … There’s a whole culture of violence associated with (Atalante).”

Since it was launched in 2013, Vice Québec reported on far-right groups like Atalante, La Meute and Soldiers of Odin, often shedding light on their ties to the white supremacist movement.

Coutu said he believes an article published five days before the incident — outlining growing tensions between Quebec’s far-right and anti-fascist groups — led Lévesque to confront him at Vice’s offices with a half dozen masked men.

They tossed clown noses and flyers, and gave Coutu an award for “garbage media.” The plastic trophy was filled with cigarette butts.

A video of the incident, presented in court Monday, appears to show Lévesque thanking Coutu for “starting a war.” Lévesque was the only member of Atalante not hiding behind a mask.

Much of Monday’s proceedings focused on whether Lévesque’s violent criminal record or his membership in the hardcore group Légitime Violence are admissible as evidence.

Crown prosecutor Jimmy Simard argued that those two factors added a menacing dimension to his actions at the Vice offices.

“They project a hard-boiled image, one of people willing to drop the gloves … and commit acts of violence against members of the left,” Simard said. “This isn’t a hearing about the artistic merits of Légitime Violence. This is a political group; they’re not Dadaists.”

Simard argued it might be reasonable for journalists like Coutu to see Lévesque’s tough-guy persona from his band and infer that he carries it with him when he acts on behalf of Atalante.

“When you wear two hats, you cannot chose which one people see,” Simard said.

Performing as his hardcore alter-ego “Raf Stomper,” Lévesque sings lyrics that reference stabbing leftists, and his band’s YouTube videos feature photos of him carrying pistols and of Légitime Violence’s fans armed with brass knuckles.

Lévesque’s attorney, Mathieu Corbo, contends the lyrics and persona of a band have nothing to do with the actions carried out at Vice offices.

Judge Joëlle Roy agreed with the defence, ruling that the issue of lyrics and Lévesque’s music was too broad to be connected to the charge of criminal intimidation for his actions in May 2018. She compared his hardcore persona to a role that an actor might play.

”Now Jack Nicholson has played some violent characters (in his films), but if you saw him at a hotel would you be intimidated,” Roy asked.

Simard objected to the comparison.

”They’re talking about stabbing leftists,” he said. “If Jean-René Dufort did all of these things (at the Vice office), we wouldn’t be here today. He’s a journalist who does satirical work. The accused is part of a far-right group that advocates violence.”

Roy hasn’t ruled on whether Lévesque’s criminal record is relevant to the trial.

Earlier Monday, the defence mentioned that the police officer called to the scene did not report the incident as a crime.

It was only after a series of follow-up interviews with employees at Vice that Montreal police detectives handed the file over to prosecutors. An arrest warrant was forwarded to police in Quebec City, Lévesque’s hometown, on June 18 — almost one month after the incident.

He was released on condition that he promise not to contact Coutu or other Vice reporters. The defence highlighted Coutu’s repeated attempts to contact Lévesque after the May 23 incident, occasionally using a fake Facebook account to reach the Atalante leader.

“I’m a journalist; if journalists took no for an answer, newspapers would be empty,” Coutu said.

During cross examination, Corbo challenged Coutu’s perception that he was being intimidated.

”Did Mr. Lévesque make any threatening gestures … wasn’t he smiling the entire time,” Corbo asked.

”He was smiling … but when masked people come into your office uninvited, it’s intimidation,” Coutu said.

After the confrontation with Lévesque, a colleague of Coutu’s called the police as he began writing an article about the incident.

”I was literally writing the article in front of the police,” Coutu said. “It was my instinct as a journalist.”

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White Rock supporters who bought ‘planks’ thanked by Friends of Pier



The repaired White Rock pier in December 2019.


Geoffrey Yue / PNG

Close to a year after a windstorm sent boats smashing into the White Rock Pier, causing it to collapse in the centre, supporters gathered to receive certificates of appreciation for their donations to help rebuild the span through a fundraiser organized by Friends of the Pier.

Committee member Morley Myren and Jim Purcell, past-president of the Semiahmoo Rotary club, braved a blustery day to personally thank donors who gave $1,000 each to buy a plank on the pier’s rebuilt centre span.

“There are 1,300 planks that we want to sell to raise money to continue the pier rebuild and we’ve sold over 200,” said Myren. Each plank carries a plaque with the donor’s name.

The pier, built in 1914-15, is owned by the City of White Rock. Although insurance and funding from various levels of government covered much of the repair to the 30-metre section destroyed in the storm, the city wants to complete further enhancements, said Purcell.

Piles were changed to steel with a concrete substructure below the timber planks, and will be strong enough to withstand storm surges and earthquakes, and support emergency vehicles.

“The pier is iconic and represents the city,” said Purcell.

For artist Larissa Walkiw, who creates her intricate designs in the sand just below the pier throughout the summer, making a donation to purchase a plank in the name of her artistic endeavours, Pierdoodles, was a no-brainer.

“The pier is the perfect spot to do the artwork, and the pier itself is a major aspect of the art because people stand 30 feet up to see them,” said Walkiw.

She remembers the day after the storm as surreal and heartbreaking.

“This is where I come to make art, to walk and jog and think. It’s a special place,” she said.

Photographer Geoffrey Yue said: “I grew up coming out here with my family since 1967 and it’s a real honour to contribute and see my family’s name out there.”

White Rock Coun. Scott Kristjanson, who also bought a plank, said: “It just gives me goosebumps to see how the whole community has come together over this.”

The pier reopened after partial repairs on the 30-m section that was destroyed were completed in August, but further enhancements to bring the remaining two-thirds of the pier up to code will cost another $12 million-13 million, said Kristjanson.

The pier reopened to the public in August 2019, and is the longest pier in Canada. Anyone interested in buying a plank can go to friendsofthepier.com

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Hudson man, 19, dies in single-car collision in Vaudreuil-Dorion



The Sûreté du Québec is investigating.


John Kenney / Montreal Gazette

A young motorist has died after being involved in a single-car collision on Friday night in Vaudreuil-Dorion, just west of Montreal.

The accident occurred at about 7 p.m. on Route Harwood when, for an unknown reason, the driver lost control of his vehicle and struck a Highway 30 overpass. The 19-year-old man was seriously injured and was in critical condition when he was transported to a local hospital, where he later died.

The man, whose identity was not disclosed, lived in Hudson.

The Sûreté du Québec is investigating.

No one else was involved in the collision.



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B.C. seafood wholesaler admits to illegally importing fish into U.S.



The Heras family’s 7 Seas Seafood was inducted into the BCFB Hall of Fame last month. Flanked by sons Nick and George, John Heras founded the Vancouver Fish Company in 1967.


Fred Lee / PNG

The owner of a Richmond-based seafood has been sentenced to probation and fined US$2,000 after pleading guilty to importing previously refused food to the U.S.

The company agreed to pay a fine of $150,000 and was ordered Friday to do so within six months. Seven Seas will also be on probation for the next three years, with increased scrutiny and surveillance of its imports into the U.S.

The Seven Seas Fish Company and owner John Heras, 78, admitted in October in U.S. District Court in Seattle that between October 2014 and August 2015 they imported more than 4,000 kilograms of potentially adulterated fish into the country.

“This activity leads consumers to be concerned about food safety,” said Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler at a sentencing hearing on Friday.

The fish had previously been refused entry after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that samples of frozen corvina, purchased from a seafood company in Mexico, were “too decomposed and putrid” to sell to consumers, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Corvina is a white fish similar to sea bass, often served in ceviche.

Prosecutors say Seven Seas arranged for the fish to enter the country anyhow, claiming it would not be sold there, but rather continue on to the company’s plant in Richmond for distribution in Canada.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, Seven Seas then broke this arrangement. Once the fish arrived in B.C., prosecutors said, “Heras cooked and ate some of the fish and claimed he found nothing wrong with it.”

He then encouraged others within his company to sell the fish in Washington state after all.

The FDA has not found any illness linked to those who consumed the fish.

The company claims he no longer has a leadership role at Seven Seas.

Seven Seas, which also goes by 7 Seas, was founded in 1967 by Heras, and is described on the company’s website as a “family owned and operated Canadian business committed to providing high quality, sustainable seafood.”

 

In 2008, nearly Cdn$100,000 worth of Seven Seas’ Canadian salmon was seized after it was determined that the fish had been caught by illegal gill netting. In 2009, Seven Seas was fined $50,000 for selling salmon without notifying regulators after the fish had been detained because it was found unfit for human consumption. The fish was sold for mink feed.

“On two prior occasions, this company put its financial success over the food import regulations and the safety of consumers,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. “Now, with a third strike, it is appropriate that the company and its part-owner face a federal criminal conviction and its consequences.”

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West Kelowna RCMP urge high alert after three attempted child lurings



RCMP in West Kelowna have reported a third case of potential child luring in the last week.


The RCMP is warning of “stranger danger” after a third youth in a week was approached by a male driver in West Kelowna and invited to get inside a vehicle.

But because the descriptions of the vehicles and drivers involved differs in each case, there is no evidence the cases are connected at this time, a police spokeswoman said.

“RCMP are reminding parents to reinforce the safety principles surrounding stranger danger with their children,” Const. Lesley Smith of the Mounties’ Kelowna detachment said.

“We’re approaching this case by case. Because of the different vehicles involved we do not feel they are connected at this time.”

The latest warning was issued after a 15-year-old male was asked by a male driver on Sunday evening if he wanted to get in the back of a red late-model mini van in a parking lot in the 1700-block of Ross Road in West Kelowna.

The teen declined and the man drove off. He is described as Caucasian, in his 30s with a full beard and no moustache. He was wearing a black baseball hat.

“West Kelowna RCMP would like to speak with this male in hopes to clarify what events transpired,” Smith said.

Officers at the West Kelowna detachment and with the General Investigation Section continue to investigate, she said. A sketch artist is drawing likenesses based on victim descriptions and the RCMP is looking at any video tape that may help them gain more information.

The first incident occurred on Nov. 29 at 3:50 p.m. when an 11-year-old girl who was walking along Cougar Road in West Kelowna was approached by a lone male in a blue, four-door sedan with rusted rims and squeaky brakes.

The driver pointed to the backseat, encouraging the girl to get inside the car, and she turned and ran home. He was described as tanned, possibly bald, mid-40s, heavy build, white bearded chin and wearing small, circular silver glasses.

The next incident occurred on Dec. 1 at 3:05 p.m. on Pritchard Drive near Barona Beach in West Kelowna.

A 10-year-old girl was offered a ride by a man in a silver or grey vehicle. She said no and ran up the street to where her older sister was waiting. The sister witnessed the vehicle drive away at a high speed.

That driver was described as being about 30, having dark skin with a possible South Asian accent, dark hair, bushy eyebrows, large nose, beard and moustache.

In light of the three incidents involving suspicious vehicles and possible child luring, Smith said the RCMP would like to remind parents and youth to be extremely cautious of their surroundings and stay alert.

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Don’t allow men at our women-only gym in Rosemont, petition demands



Éconofitness Extra au Féminin’s website confirms that starting Dec. 20, the gym on Masson St. will open its doors to men, too.


Vincenzo D’Alto / Photo by vincenzo D’Alto

An online petition is calling on a women-only gym in Montreal’s Rosemont borough to reverse its decision to begin allowing men to become members.

Éconofitness Extra au Féminin’s website confirms that starting Dec. 20, the gym on Masson St. will open its doors to men, too.

The woman behind the petition, Marie-Hélène Gauthier, says the decision was made unilaterally, without consulting members — all of them women who had previously signed on for a women-only environment in which to train.

The gym “allows women in the neighbourhood to have a place where they can feel comfortable to train in peace, surrounded by other women,” Gauthier’s petition states.

“Public spaces where women from all walks of life can meet and feel at ease in their bodies are so rare,” she writes.

Having female trainers as coaches is also an inspiration for members, her petition points out.



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