News

Here's what made the news in the second half of 2015

It took concerted efforts by Chilliwack officials, but property owners Sobeys came through in 2015 with plans to demolish the old Safeway building at Main and Kipp. - CHILLIWACK PROGRESS FILE
It took concerted efforts by Chilliwack officials, but property owners Sobeys came through in 2015 with plans to demolish the old Safeway building at Main and Kipp.
— image credit: CHILLIWACK PROGRESS FILE

July

 

The record-breaking warm weather in Chilliwack continued to make headlines through the long, hot summer. The heat was blistering at times, and the town suffered through “easily the hottest June in Chilliwack in over 120 years,” according to volunteer weather observer Roger Pannett. Temperatures were hovering at about four degrees above normal. It was also the driest June, with a paltry 8.5 mm of rain, since last time it set a record low in 1965 of only 12 mm of rain, he said.

 

The city added $1 million to the road rehab budget for 2015, and that meant thousands of extra tonnes of hot mix asphalt were ready to go down. The 2015 Asphalt Rehabilitation and Shoulder Paving tender went to GTB Construction for $2.138 million after a council vote in May. That’s almost a million more than the year before. Roads getting fresh blacktop: Lindell, Edward, Ryder Lake, Sumas Prairie, Thornton, Airport, Yale, Young, First, Bailey and Luckakuck.

 

An air quality advisory issued for Metro Vancouver was extended to the Fraser Valley in early July due to high concentrations of fine particulate matter, after wildfire smoke started wafting into local airsheds.

 

Finally the Vedder bridge replacement funds came through. A perennial choke point between Chilliwack and Cultus Lake, the infrastructure project received the long-awaited green light. The $12.5 million bridge project will see the existing two-lane structure replaced with a two-lane steel plate girder bridge, with shoulders and multi-use pathways, and a single-lane roundabout at Vedder and Chilliwack Lake Road.

 

Illegal garbage dumpers around Chilliwack can no longer plead ignorance. The Fraser Valley Illegal Dumping Alliance came together to fight the rampant garbage dumping threatening local watersheds. And it’s working. A Chilliwack man was charged under provincial regulations, said conservation officer Steven Jacobi with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, Fraser Valley zone. Later new anti-dumping signage was rolled out by City of Chilliwack and the Alliance to try to stop the practice of dumping to avoid fees.

 

A traffic glitch arose that made drivers see red. Flaggers can no longer be used to cut traffic congestion near the Vedder Bridge or at the Cultus Lake turnoff. Citing safety concerns, Work Safe BC notified the City of Chilliwack this week that the city could no longer use traffic control personnel at the two locations to keep traffic moving during peak hours.

 

Lawn watering and smoking restrictions materialized as dry weather continued. It was the unrelenting heat has forced City of Chilliwack to move into Stage 3 Watering Restrictions, effective Monday, July 20. Lawn sprinkling is now limited to one morning a week, which puts City of Chilliwack more in line with other cities taking similar action. Anyone caught watering outside of the restricted hours will get a warning before receiving a $100 fine.

 

The Landing Spray Park is set to undergo renovation and expansion in Chilliwack starting next year with new features, expanded spray pad and improved picnic area by 2017.

 

 

August

 

Local athlete Joanne Bunnin arrived home from the Special Olympic Games in Los Angeles with three gold medals in powerlifting. The champion lifter was welcomed back in celebration by friends, family, fellow athletes, and community members at Staples on Aug. 4.

 

Ria Rumph had a warning for the thieves who stole her goat. “I want to let them know that they’ve been seen,” she said. At least two men were spotted sneaking around her farm and loading up her goat. Chilliwack RCMP confirmed they are working on the case, with the help of the Agri-Watch program. “We’re aware of this, and we take it seriously,” says Corp. Mike Rail. “This is livestock.” Rumph has had three goats stolen, causing local farmers to worry.

 

Chilliwack RCMP reported a non-fatal shooting, but that was all anyone knew at first. Social media reports pointed to the Tim Hortons at Eagle Landing as the scene of the crime.

 

There’s light at the end of the toad tunnel.Fraser Valley Conservancy reps, project partners and supporters gathered to cut the ribbon  on a new toad crossing tunnel in the Eastern Hillsides. The Ryder Lake Amphibian Protection Project features a concrete culvert built under Elk View Road that has already been put to good use this summer as various creatures migrated across the road.

 

The residence known as Shannon Court was in ruins, reduced to a chaotic pile of debris that turned out to be contaminated with asbestos. The developers had to have the materials assessed, demolished, and disposed of properly. After the stop work order, workers clad in protective gear were sifting through debris at a Chilliwack demolition site, separating by hand anything that might be contaminated with asbestos. But the work was short-lived. The Yale Road site was shut down by WorkSafe BC following concerns the contractor had failed to ensure the building was free of asbestos before the demolition began.

 

The old Safeway building on Main Street had long been an eyesore and something had to be done, according to city officials. The boarded-up storefront, and the rest of the site, taking an entire city block, was seen by  many as an obstacle to downtown revitalization. A week later, as a result of last-minute efforts, voluntary compliance was offered by property owners Sobeys to demolish both structures on the property within 90 days.

 

Chilliwack took the next step toward becoming completely smoke-free — both inside and out. They drafted a new bylaw to formally ban smoking in outdoor public spaces that packs a possible $500 fine.

 

 

September

 

Chilliwack's food processing industry got a major shot in the arm. A new flour mill will be built by Rogers Foods in Chilliwack that will boost its capacity by a whopping 80 per cent. “The decision to expand was made because sales have overfilled capacity of the plant,” said Vic Bell, president of Rogers Foods Ltd., a subsidiary of Nisshin Flour Milling Inc.

 

City council would have preferred to designate a special zone for growing medical marijuana. But that’s not going to happen. The province changed the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) rules to specifically identify federally licensed medical marihuana production as an allowable farm use.

 

Chilliwack will be picking up organic waste in its curbside collection program by May 2017.

Plans to shift gears on the waste program, and get feedback about the changes, were announced by council. City councillor Jason Lum wanted to know if that two-year timeline to switch to organic waste collection couldn’t be speeded up, but was told it will take that long.

 

City staff looked into adding more red tape to Chilliwack’s demolition permit process. It’s geared to helping curb illegal dumping, while providing safer work environments for construction workers and contractors. Several other cities are bringing in a new step in the demolition permit process that would require contractors to produce a hazardous materials report. In cities like Vancouver, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Saanich and Nanaimo, no renovation or construction permits are issued until the municipality has a completed report on file.

 

The Chilliwack Film Commission got a makeover. The film commission was renamed and rebranded as the Chilliwack Creative Commission to broaden its horizons and incorporate other artistic elements. The name change to "creative" is a shift from an exclusive focus on film and TV industry, to a broader one that includes music, publishing, digital and interactive media.

 

Chilliwack unveiled how it's going to take its fight against homelessness to the next level. A new action plan is underway by a multi-agency task force, said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz. They’re determined to map out bold, new strategies, based on the Housing First principles, despite the fact that the local homeless numbers fell 34 per cent — from 111 to 73 people — last year in Chilliwack.

 

A well-established berry processing business is expanding its operations into Chilliwack. Prep work has already begun at the Kerr Avenue Food Processing Site, where Berryhill Foods will build a 35,000 square foot facility.

 

Long-time Chilliwack school trustee Martha Wiens passed away. Wiens served on the school board for more than 20 years, and was a frequent visitor to the schools where she acted as a liaison for the board of trustees. She was first elected in the Nov. 17, 1990 election, narrowly beating future Mayor Sharon Gaetz. The election results were close enough for a recount, but Wiens won by a mere 12 votes. In that same election, John Les was voted in as mayor, and Clint Hames as councillor.

 

It was Chilliwack school board’s turn to mull over a bonus cash deal with Kinder Morgan at its first official meeting of the school year. Their decision? Thanks, but no thanks.

 

 

October

 

Chilliwack took the next step to creating a more energized and active city on Wednesday with the help of neighbourhood activist and author Jim Diers. Diers was invited by the City of Chilliwack to share his experience in building more caring, more resilient, and more responsive communities in Seattle. His trick is to reclaim and reinvigorate neighbourhoods by channeling the enthusiasm and ingenuity of the people who live there. “There is incredible, untapped power in our communities,” Diers told a crowded Rotary Theatre at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.

 

B.C.’s dairy farmers said they would take a wait and see approach to the idea of a Trans-Pacific Partnership. The federal government announced it had entered into the final agreement of the TPP, which seeks to ease trade between 12 Pacific countries, including Canada, the United States, China and New Zealand. It's seen as a threat to Canada’s supply management program for dairy producers.

 

School trustees have made a small but significant change to their protocol to acknowledge local First Nations history. At the beginning of each board meeting, they will acknowledge that they are on unceded traditional Sto:lo territory.

 

Chilliwack city council is moving to stop monster homes from eating up valuable agricultural land. It is considering a bylaw revision that would regulate the footprint and location of homes on agricultural property. The regulations are aimed at deterring the building of larger homes that are set back from the road, with large driveways that meander through the heart of a property.

 

Chilliwack Connect took place on Saturday, Oct. 3 at the First Avenue Christian Assembly. Nearly 600 guests took part in this all-day event that provided meals, personal services, resources, pampering and support to Chilliwack's needy.

 

Chilliwack joined the short list of cities that support WorkSafeBC’s initiative to make demolition sites safer for workers. From now on, demolition permits will only be issued after the city receives written verification that a hazardous risk assessment has been completed by an occupational and health safety professional with experience in asbestos management.

 

MP Mark Strahl managed to hold onto his federal seat for the Conservatives in Ottawa by several thousand votes. But he’ll be moving to the opposition benches following his Conservative party’s stinging defeat to the Liberal Party. In a federal election result on Oct. 19 that stunned many, the Liberals claimed 184 ridings across Canada – more than enough to eclipse the NDP and form the next majority government.

 

The Chilliwack School District said it desperately needs a new elementary school, according to a staff report laid out for the board. There are 404 new students in the district this year, mostly in primary grades. That’s enough to fill an average-sized elementary school — if only Chilliwack had an empty one.

 

The welcome mat has officially been rolled out in the Chilliwack River Valley. Volunteers have put in hundreds of hours of sweat equity getting more than 70 km of trails back into tiptop shape for hikers. They’ve been brushing and clearing, putting in new foot bridges, addressing erosion and upgrading trail beds that were in need of TLC.

 

The residents around Bonny Park, who had fought hard to cut off access by the public, are gearing up to oppose a rezoning proposal for a 10-lot subdivision on Riverside Drive. It all centred on a short lane way that backs onto Bonny Park. Vehicle access to the park could be reopened for the first time in 15 years, if the rezoning is approved.

October in Chilliwack wasn’t just unseasonably warm, it was a record-breaker. Roger Pannett, a volunteer weather observer for Environment Canada, said October was the warmest since local record-keeping began in 1895. The evidence could be seen in everything from the increased numbers of local flowers, to the lack of snowfall on local mountainsides.

 

November

 

Fraser Valley Regional District said it would not support a run-of-river project at Tamihi Creek based on the “strong community input" against it. The board sought clarification from the ministry “as to how it can justify the trade‐offs for hydroelectricity in such environmentally sensitive and recreationally rich areas for more costly hydro that does not appear to be needed with the decision to build Site C.” The Tamihi Creek power project was proposed by WindRiver Power Corporation, and an open house was held at Tzeachten Community Centre in early October. That was the first public, detailed look at the proposal.

 

City council set its sights on the old Safeway block at Main and Kipp in 2015. A rezoning sign went up and the building is ready to come down in preparation for the long-awaited redevelopment. What is different was that the rezoning was not applicant-driven, but rather council itself was spearheading the zoning changes — almost pre-emptively. It was a deliberate effort to make the zoning dovetail with vision of the Downtown plan in the Official Community Plan. Council rezoned the entire block, with multiple properties going from commercial, to high-density multi-family residential, and commercial, as well as a CD (comprehensive development) zoning.

 

She was the undisputed matriarch and passionate founder of the organic farming world in Chilliwack — and across B.C. Mary Forstbauer, passed away at CGH after a prolonged illness, at the age of 66. The well-loved farmer, wife and mother of 12 children and many grandchildren, was remembered with tremendous appreciation and affection from family, friends, and the organic community, for her kind ways and dedication to fresh, organic food.

 

Chilliwack’s Agropur milk processing plant on Yale Road east will be closed by this time next year, affecting 42 employees. The decision was announced by Agropur Cooperative as part of the “optimization” of their B.C. milk processing operations. Mayor Sharon Gaetz expressed regret that Agropur was moving out of town. The dairy plant had history as a Sealtest site and Milk Maid before that, and Gaetz said she wished there was some way they could remain in Chilliwack.

 

The Remembrance Day ceremony at G.W. Graham secondary is unique. For the past 14 years, it has included a special theatre production. Every year, local veterans are given a special performance a week before at the Chilliwack Masonic Hall. Emotions are raw, and tears flow with the applause. This year was no different.

 

A building that stood vacant for more than a decade took just minutes to come down with a crunch and a crash. Demolition of the old Safeway building on Main Street was underway. Seen as a key piece in the revitalization of the downtown, the property – which occupies a full city block – was eyed for its development potential. Years of inactivity prompted the City of Chilliwack to call on the owners, Sobeys, to tear the two existing buildings down. Council tabled a resolution that would require the owners to demolish the buildings within 90 days and sell the property.

 

The Chilliwack School District attracted 14 byelection candidates – more than twice the number in the last byelection. The official nomination period closed at 4 p.m. on Friday, leaving five weeks before the Dec. 12 voting day. The byelection was called following the recent death of long-time school trustee Martha Wiens. Hoping to win a seat on the board were:

Alisha Atkinson, Ray Blanchette, Paula DeWit, John Edwards, Angelina Gosselin, Karen Jarvis, Brian Mielke, Marion Mussell, Bob Patterson, Megan Praat, Perry Sherstobetoff, Robert Stelmaschuk, Lisa Thébault, and Doug Wiens.

 

The Convergys call centre, formerly Stream, presented a new corporate face to the community. “Today marks the day that we stop talking about Stream, and we consistently and always talk about Convergys,” said site director Mike Robinson. The call centre had been operating as Stream since 2001, but the acquisition by former competitor Convergys is now complete. They celebrated "more" than just new signage. The new sign represented significant changes for their global clients, the growing Chilliwack community, and their employees, those who have been there for years and the 150 new people who were welcomed to the team.

 

Four Chilliwackians flew to Africa on the trip of a lifetime.

Kirsti and Brad Dueck, and Ryan and Trish Huston, were invited by Run for Water to join a team of Canadian runners travelling to Ethiopia. Over 10 days they covered more than 100 kilometres of trails, including the highest road in Africa (14,000 feet above sea level). Eventually, they ended up in the remote village of Kudo, in the Tigray region.

 

Firefighters were called out in the middle of the night to another vacant house fire. The deliberately set fire was the eighth vacant house to go up in flames so far this year in Chilliwack. But despite the high number there is no set pattern to the evidence. So that makes it unlikely it’s the work of a firebug. The arson fire saw crews from two firehalls battle the flames on Nov. 6 at 2 a.m. in the 7000-block of Lickman Road. The structure was completely destroyed by fire, according to Chilliwack Fire Department’s Mike Bourdon, assistant fire chief. He used the incident as a reminder that the Fire Department urges owners of vacant properties slated for future development, to secure them properly, and ensure windows are boarded up.

 

 

City of Chilliwack is moving ahead with its dike upgrading. The next section running through Hope River-Corbould park, is geared to raising the dike elevation by one metre to meet provincial flood control standards. A request for expression of interest (RFEI) went out Oct. 19 to get engineering bids for the preliminary design of the Town Dike Upgrade project, which spans from Young and Hope River Roads, to Schweyey Road at Chilliwack Mountain.

 

Have you called PAM? PAM is the dedicated phone line connecting upper Fraser Valley residents in need with a doctor or primary care provider. Hundreds of people actively sought out a doctor in the past year by contacting Patient Attachment Mechanism (PAM), from Chilliwack Division of Family Practice, according to a report to city council. A total of 1273 people in Chilliwack, Agassiz or Hope, who’d been seeking a physician, were successfully connected, or “attached” to a physician or nurse practitioner, as of September 2015. That included 720 people in Chilliwack alone, according to the report.

 

Blustery winds and steady rain hit Chilliwack with a vengeance on Nov. 17, bringing down transformers, trees and power lines all over town. Power was out for more than 12,000 Chilliwack residents by mid morning with gusty winds of up to 80 km/hr and heavy rain reported. Wolfe, Jones, Majuba Hill, Promontory and Hope River Roads were just some of the locations were power lines came down, according to BC Hydro. Downed lines were logged on Vedder, Ruddick, Yale, Trethewey, Rowat, Chilliwack Lake, Solway, Columbia Valley Roads and still counting.

 

Hospitals in the Fraser Health regions improved slightly on the key indicator of congestion, but large numbers are still waiting too long to get a bed. Fraser’s latest report card suggests that remains a persistent problem despite repeated initiatives to improve patient flow. At Chilliwack general, for example, there were 10 people waiting for a bed; in Abbotsford, that number climbs to 38. Just under 40 per cent of admitted patients got a bed within a 10-hour benchmark as of September.

 

The Chilliwack real estate market was ready to transition from a slower market to a significantly busier one. There were 288 single family homes sold in October 2015 in Chilliwack, compared to 232 houses the same time last year, an increase of 24.1 per cent, according to CADREB stats. “Everything is going fantastic, except for the fact that the inventory of properties for sale has been very low, and that pushes up the prices,” said president Travis Heppner of Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board.

 

Cleanup crews were hard at it in the wake of a powerful storm that hit Chilliwack with gale force winds and heavy rain. More than 20 road closures were reported after 75 trees were downed at various spots all over town. Workers continued clearing debris all week following the worst storm in years. Chilliwack Fire Department fielded 100 fire calls in a 12-hour window – equivalent of three weeks’ worth of calls. Most were for downed power lines, but some were calls for help from people trapped in elevators.

 

The man wanted for the alleged abduction of a Chilliwack woman at a residence in Yarrow 11 days ago was arrested in Surrey. Montgomery James Ash, 21, of Surrey, was wanted for break and enter with intent to commit offence, assault with a weapon, attempting to choke to overcome resistance, kidnapping, assault causing bodily harm, and uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm.

 

It’s is not known yet how many Syrian refugees will eventually resettle in Chilliwack. But volunteers and resources were quickly corralled in Chilliwack, with at least two local fundraising events organized to help sponsor a war-torn family. “It’s a huge undertaking for a short period of time to complete that kind of resettlement effort,” said April Neave, who coordinates Immigrant Services for Chilliwack Community Services. They are still in a “wait and see” mode, until the federal government announces further details on resettlement. In the meantime, the local Community Services is part of larger umbrella group now creating a “provincial map of current and potential capacity of communities to resettle Syrian refugees,” in the short and longer terms, Neave explained.

 

Roofing companies fielded calls from across Chilliwack in the wake of last week’s fierce wind storm. Roof shingles flew off hundreds of homes in gale force winds of up to 70 km/hr. Fraser Valley Roofing said it had about 350 service calls, mostly to repair various types of wind damage, said general manager Ron Peters. Roofers were working on the backlog, even putting a halt on other jobs to focus on this. Heavy winds swept across Chilliwack, tearing shingles and underlay off the bare plywood. In some cases even the plywood came up.

 

Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl was one of five Conservative MPs to make the shadow cabinet picked by interim leader of the Official Opposition, Rona Ambrose. Strahl was named Opposition critic for Fisheries and Oceans, and the Coast Guard. “I think it was a good fit for me, and for the MP of this riding, particularly with the Fraser River running through it,” said Strahl. “Plus we’re close to the Pacific Coast.” Fishing and aboriginal issues intersected quite a lot, he noted, in his previous role as parliamentary secretary for Aboriginal Affairs. “My experience in that role will serve me well,” Strahl said.

 

It’s not really surprising how insanely popular Tourism Chilliwack’s new video was. The #ShareChilliwack promo video offered stunning aerial views, and heart-pumping scenes of white water rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and more. The video took on a life of its own, earning thousands of views on social media after the official launch at their Christmas breakfast, said Vanessa Oddy, Destination Marketing Manager with Tourism Chilliwack. “We’ve had a phenomenal response, which is excellent for the community,” she said. “It’s changing the perception of Chilliwack.” The video artfully produced by Inmist Media House for Tourism Chilliwack will be used to target the tourist market from greater Vancouver and Washington State.

 

A Syrian refugee family could be arriving in Chilliwack shortly. Rev. Karen Medland of Carman United Church said six local churches had joined forces to make it happen under the aegis of the Eastern Fraser Valley Refugee Committee. “We’re poised to do this. Things are happening really fast right now,” she told The Progress. The committee includes reps from Carman United, Chilliwack United, Agassiz United, Rosedale United, Mt. Shannon United, and Christ Lutheran. They have pledged to “walk with a Syrian family” for an entire year.

 

Smoke, screams and blaring signals filled the air, but there was no safer place in Chilliwack than the Justice Institute campus that morning. First responders from the RCMP, fire department, ambulance, search and rescue, border services, as well as nurses, doctors, and plenty of students training in those areas came together to take part in emergency simulation exercises. The Justice Institute of B.C. (JIBC) School of Public Safety often challenges its students with these types of "immersive training simulations."

 

 

December

 

Candidates hoping to win a seat on the Chilliwack School Board faced questions ranging from corporate funding to year-round schooling at the second of two all-candidates forums. Hosted by the District Parent Advisory Council, the event drew 10 of the 12 candidates hoping to win the Dec. 12 byelection. The group included: Paula DeWit, John Edwards, Angelina Gosselin, Karen Jarvis, Brian Mielke, Marion Mussell, Bob Patterson, Megan Praat, Robert Stelmaschuk, Lisa Thébault

 

People were invited to city hall to talk about ways to welcome refugees to Chilliwack. A public meeting organized by Chilliwack Cares was held Dec. 3. “The idea is to pull together people around the refugee issue, and present some ideas,” said spokesperson Vern Tompke of Chilliwack Cares.

 

A rally at Chilliwack Law Courts was held to honour Ele Anthonysz – killed when her Mission home was set ablaze in April – and to raise awareness about women around the world who are victims of violence. Friends and family gathered at the courthouse, said Teresa Bridge, Anthonysz’s aunt “Everyone is welcome. This rally is not only to honour Ele, but also to recognize the 128 women murdered in Canada so far this year, and the children left behind,” Bridge said.

 

A convoy of trucks descended on Chilliwack Saturday as a show of solidarity with a trucker who was killed in a logging incident two weeks ago. Bruce Magnus died when his logging truck went off the road and down a steep embankment north of Hope during the major storm that hit the region Nov. 17. It took RCMP and search and rescue volunteers from Hope, Kent and Chilliwack two days to free the body of the 62-year-old from the wreckage. The rig slid 2,000 feet down the embankment, taking with it boulders and debris that made access difficult. Magnus had been a trucker for 40 years and was well-liked within the logging community. A celebration of life was held at the Coast Hotel in Chilliwack Saturday morning, bringing the convoy of trucks.

 

Liquor stores – both private- and government-run outlets – should be authorized to sell recreational marijuana when the federal government delivers on its election promise to bring in a new regulated system. That was the pitch from the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, which represents government store workers, and the B.C. Private Liquor Store Association. The two groups, normally competitors, joined forces Wednesday to argue their stores are well qualified to responsibly handle legalized marijuana, alongside beer, wine and spirits.

 

Chilliwack council had a choice to make about the city’s greenhouse gas emission offsets. Council was required to satisfy requirements by the Climate Investment Branch of B.C. Ministry of Environment’s Climate Action Secretariat, to either sell the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission offsets (created by flaring methane at the landfill), or put them toward achieving carbon neutrality, if required, at some later date. Chilliwack council voted Tuesday to move forward to negotiate the sale of the city’s emission offsets from operating its landfill gas management system at the Bailey Landfill.

 

Chilliwack asked the federal government to ratchet down the maximum interest rate that can be charged on short-term loans. The focus was on predatory business practices of the firms offering cheque-cashing services and charging very high rates and fees. Council is leaning on the federal government because it’s become a public safety, and healthier community issue for the municipality. “These places are popping up all over town,” said Coun. Sue Attrill about payday loan outlets, as the councillor who moved the resolution to send a letter to the feds.

 

Owners of The Local Harvest Market on Lickman Road are ready to start building anew — after being given until October 2015 to come into compliance with City of Chilliwack bylaws. Since they’re still not technically in compliance, municipal fines were recently issued. But construction on the new structure should kick off in January 2016, with completion set for August 2016. “As it stands, construction is due to begin in just over one month and we’re incredibly excited as we continue to work hard in accomplishing our mission to create a local food system where every citizen of our city has access to quality food year-round,” wrote owner Dan Oostenbrink.

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for "nothing less" than a total renewal of the relationship between Canada and First Nations. “I will be your partner,” the PM told First Nations leadership at the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting in Gatineau. And that was refreshing to the ears of local Sto:lo leaders, such as Doug Kelly, Clem Seymour, and Ernie Crey, who all said they have waited for this moment for a very long time. Grand Chief Doug Kelly and Chief Seymour were in Gatineau, QC this week to hear the PM’s speech, and attend AFN meetings. “It was like a real breath of fresh air,” said Seabird Chief Clem Seymour.

 

Despite the rain, the Rotary Christmas Parade brought thousands to the streets of downtown Chilliwack in the evening of Saturday, Dec. 5. The route was packed as the floats made their way through the downtown core one by one. But Santa almost didn’t make it to the show. Shortly after 2 a.m on Dec. 5, AJ Hutchinson posted a photo to a Chilliwack Facebook group of a float in flames, with the caption, “Put out a fire tonight on my way home. Why would someone light the Santa float for the Christmas Parade on fire the night before the parade? Not so nice…”

 

It takes more than courage to enter a burning building. It takes science. And understanding that science is what a group of Chilliwack firefighters was doing in east Chilliwack. They were taking part in a series of training exercises as they joined the department as full time staff. As smoke billowed from the abandoned bungalow on Annis Road, firefighters planned their attack. Their strategy was backed up by years of experience by incident commanders, and the evolving study of fire behaviour.

 

Chilliwack students will have two fewer days of school as the district prepared for sweeping curriculum changes being introduced this year and next. District trustees agreed to add the extra professional development days to give teachers more time to learn how to best apply program changes. That brought the total number of non-instructional days in the district to eight, providing a total of 175 instructional days in the 2015-2016 school year. The two additional Pro-D days in Chilliwack will fall on Monday, Feb. 22, and Monday, April 25.

 

It’s an unsightly property in downtown Chilliwack that’s changed hands several times in recent years, council was told. The Traders Inn Motor Hotel looks worse for wear, with peeling paint, broken windows and damaged signs. Fencing went up around the 32-unit motel more than a year ago at 45944 Yale Road. A thick file is growing on the dilapidated property, listing a range of health and safety concerns compiled by City of Chilliwack enforcement staff, with complaints from neighbouring business owners.

 

It was an early Christmas present for those trying to protect the Fraser Valley air shed. “It looks like Metro Vancouver has abandoned its incinerator project at this point,” said Sharon Gaetz, chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District, and Chilliwack Mayor. “We just got the news at FVRD, and everyone is taking a moment to let the good news sink in.” Metro Vancouver put out a press release announcing changes its waste-to-energy plans, pledging to direct $30 million at the existing incinerator in Burnaby, for emission control upgrades, and not move forward with building a new one.

 

Chilliwack is not expecting to see significant spikes in residential property assessments for 2016. But several other Metro Vancouver communities are, with increases cited between 15 and 25 per cent, above the average. More than 37,000 early notification letters were fired of in early December by BC Assessment staff, with the bulk going to Greater Vancouver property owners. Most Chilliwack owners were told their assessment notices would arrive in the mail at the regular time, during the week of Jan. 4, while others received them early.

 

His smile would light up a room. Quick with a joke, and always a twinkle in his eye, Bairy Marchuk was an integral part of the Chilliwack Progress family for nearly four decades. Marchuk passed away at the age of 64. For those who knew him, his passing leaves a hole that won’t soon be filled. It wasn’t the 37 years he spent working at the paper that earned him the nickname “Mr. Progress.” It was his commitment to his clients and his willingness to listen and to learn.

 

A group called REaCH, uniting Syrian refugees and Chilliwack, blew past their goal of $30,000, after a sold-out fundraiser was held at Bravo Restaurant. “It made a lot of us tear up to know we had met and surpassed our goal in one night,” said Daris Lapointe, one of the REaCH organizers. “People were giving more than they had at times.” The five-member REaCH team confirmed it had passed the $31,000 mark by Wednesday morning.

 

Bob Patterson is Chilliwack’s newest school trustee. The former teacher and school district administrator easily won the race, earning 833 votes to secure the win. The closest challenge came from Paula DeWit who drew 197 votes to finish a distant second. Finishing third was recent secondary school graduate Megan Pratt. Patterson’s strongest support came from Chilliwack’s south side, where he drew more than half the votes cast at the Vedder Middle School polling station. Patterson had campaigned on bringing his perspective as a teacher and a school administrator to the board.

 

The current MLA for Chilliwack-Hope called changes that will remove Hope and the Fraser Canyon from the riding by 2017 “unfortunate.” But MLA Laurie Throness had no choice but to accept the forthcoming shift in electoral boundaries, along with the upheaval in the impacted communities. Throness described the Chilliwack-Hope electoral district, in his Legislature speech last month, as one of the “most changed” and “most altered” by the work undertaken by the Electoral Boundaries Commission to realign boundaries in more than half of the ridings across B.C. The provincial riding of “Chilliwack-Hope” is set to become “Chilliwack-Kent” by 2017. That means the residents of Hope, Boston Bar, Yale and the Fraser Canyon will become part of the Fraser-Nicola riding.

 

There were a range of options for anyone wanting to help Syrian refugees from Chilliwack. Chilliwack Cares, a local group acting as a hub to bring various efforts together, held a town meeting on this topic at city hall on Dec. 3. “We had a great turnout. It was wonderful to see so many caring people from so many backgrounds,” said Vern Tompke, one of the organizers of Chilliwack Cares, along with Reg Toews, Ron Laser and Joan Hack. The goal is two-pronged: sponsoring refugees coming to Canada, as well as helping those in refugee camps, by working closely with Mennonite Central Committee. “In partnership with MCC we are wanting to see at least $100,000 raised,” said Tompke. They managed to pack their second fundraiser as well at Society Gathering House, selling out early on. Spokesperson Julia Dodge gave an update to city council Tuesday afternoon to talk about how quickly they raised the initial chunk of funds, more than $31,000. “We’ve all come together. This is a sublime example of how community development works at its best,” said Dodge.

 

The RCMP were busy rounding up suspects and seizing firearms, property and illegal drugs as part of an extensive police investigation. Police from the Chilliwack RCMP Crime Reduction Unit supported by officers of the Crime Prevention Office, Serious Crime Unit, Traffic Services, General Duty and Agassiz General Investigation Section executed five separate Controlled Drug and Substance Act search warrants in Chilliwack. The warrants contained evidence gathered during a four-month investigation into a ‘Dial a Dope’ organization operating from two locations within the city.

 

It’s a prime piece of property near the Chilliwack General Hospital, acquired to relieve some of the intense parking pressure — at least in the short-term. A property on Mary Street in Chilliwack was just purchased by Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District Board for $1.2 million, confirmed board chair Henry Braun, who is also mayor of Abbotsford. “We are now the proud owners of this strategically located property.” Braun said even from the outset, as the board began meetings with Fraser Health officials, it became clear there was a pressing lack of parking around CGH. “There’s an immediate need for 50 to 75 parking stalls, but this lot will accommodate more.” It was a seen as a great acquisition and investment, but it's not clear yet what its future holds.

 

A suspect wanted in connection with a shooting at a Surrey elementary school in the fall was captured in Chilliwack. Shakiel Basra, wanted for attempted murder and intentionally discharging a firearm, was arrested by the Surrey RCMP’s High Risk Target Team without incident in Chilliwack Thursday afternoon. Basra, believed to be connected with two groups responsible for a spate of shootings in Surrey this year, is in custody awaiting his first court appearance. Basra is believed to have been involved in a shooting on Sept. 15 in the 7600-block of 124 Street that put one man in hospital and resulted in bullets striking Strawberry Hill Elementary School and a nearby home.

 

It was the largest illegal dump of asbestos — but not the first — in the Chilliwack River Valley. About 70 sealed bags labelled as containing asbestos were found near Chipmunk Creek Forest Service Road, said Orion Engar, FVRD director for Electoral Area E. It’s the third similar dumping incident of 2015 and they are calling for witnesses to call the RAPP line with any information. Engar attended the dump location, off the Bench Road, with federal Fisheries officers. “They estimated that this largest of three asbestos dumps in 2015 alone, was approximately 60 to 70 bags dumped from a tandem axle vehicle, likely a dump truck due to tracks seen in the snow,” said Engar.

 

Chilliwack council wanted to make sure the voices of the local agri-tourism sector were heard loud and clear by Ministry of Agriculture. Council approved a resolution last week, from a recommendation of the Agricultural Advisory Committee, to ask for more time. “We wanted to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard,” said Coun. Chris Kloot, chair of the ag advisory committee. B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture is currently soliciting feedback and commentary from the ag sector on a range of issues, and had originally set a deadline of Dec. 1. That deadline for input on the Ministry of Agriculture’s discussion paper and Proposed Minister’s Bylaw Standard, titled “Regulating Agri-tourism and Farm Retail Sales in the Agriculture Land Reserve,” was extended to Jan. 15, but some said it was still not enough time to complete a submission. “We met with some of the local stakeholders and they’re concerned that they weren’t asked to be part of that discussion,” said Kloot.

 

Some Sto:lo leaders called for the immediate dismissal of Bob Plecas, and Grand Chief Ed John, from their roles as advisors to the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development. In a letter sent to Premier Christy Clark, Grand Chief Doug Kelly, president of Sto:lo Tribal Council (STC) said the just released report on child welfare by Plecas, “demonstrates a calloused and ignorant opinion” about indigenous and aboriginal children in government care. The report should be shelved right away, he said. The issues they raise about Chief John have more to do with the irreconcilable contradiction between his role as MCFD advisor, as well as being a member of the B.C. Leadership Council and First Nations Summit Task Group. Ernie Crey, newly elected chief of Cheam First Nation, backed the STC resolution calling for the resignations, along with Seabird Chief Clem Seymour.

 

A Sardis grad is at the fore in a brain research breakthrough. The blood brain barrier is like a saran wrap around the small blood vessels in our brains. It protects the brain from infections, toxins and other threats, and it maintains homeostasis. “But sometimes it does too good of a job,” said Dr. Ryan Alkins, neurosurgeon. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) slows, and often prevents, the intake of life-saving drugs as well. Alkins graduated from Sardis Secondary in 1999, then continued on to obtain his medical education at UBC.

Half of the accommodations offered up in the Lower Mainland to incoming Syrian refugees are from people willing to share living space with complete strangers. There are more than 360 such offers of a room in a house across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley – a response that has stunned Chris Friesen, the settlement services director for the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. “I have no words to describe how incredible this is,” Friesen said. “We’ve never seen anything like this before – large numbers of people offering a room in their house or a basement suite in their house that does not have a separate entrance.”

 

 

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