Chilliwack Year in Review 2018 – January to June

A look back at 70 of the most important stories of the first half of the year

With another year behind us, it’s time to reflect on 2018 and all that made the news in Chilliwack over the past 12 months.

From controversy at the school board to a new mayor to concerns about crime and homelessness, there was never a dull moment.

Here’s a look back at the first six months of stories that graced the pages of The Progress.

For the second six months, visit Chilliwack Year in Review 2018 – July to December

January

Assessment sticker shock

When Chilliwack homeowners opened their assessments in early January, many were in for a shock.

The majority of residential homeowners in Chilliwack and across the Fraser Valley saw double-digit percentage increases of single family homes, townhouses and apartments in their BC Assessment notices.

BC Assessment examples of local assessments show a single family home valued at $481,000 last year was up 17 per cent to $562,000; a townhouse valued at $236,000 last year up 12 per cent to $264,000; and an apartment valued at $234,000 up 19 per cent to $278,000.

Controversial school trustee doubles down

Chilliwack controversial school trustee Barry Neufeld, likely one of the year’s biggest newsmakers, kicked off 2018 by launching a letter-writing campaign against a volunteer parent, calling her a political activist who has “joined voices with the radicals who are calling for my resignation.”

Justine Hodge, the chair of the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), signed a letter agreed upon in an emergency meeting held by DPAC members that called for his resignation. Several individuals and organizations had already done the same, including the Fraser Valley Labour Council, because of Neufeld’s staunch opposition to the rollout of a sexual orientation and gender identity teacher resource called SOGI 123.

Hodge received considerable hate from Neufeld’s supporters, so much so that the RCMP was called. Minister of Education Rob Fleming weighed in on the matter.

“It is unfortunate that parents who are supporting SOGI 123 in Chilliwack are now becoming targets of hateful behaviour,” Fleming said in an email.

bigmeltAnticipating the big melt

Chilliwack ushered in 2018 with many just trying to get out from under the heavy blanket of snow and ice in the first week of the year.

Temperatures rising meant the big melt was on its way. In terms of roads, the concern switched to potential flooding, and catch basin clearing. Crews had to clear sidewalks so folks could get around.

Mortgage rule spur concern for 2018

After the two strongest years in real estate history in the eastern Fraser Valley, the future for 2018 was the subject of interest and speculation for those in and out of the business.

Just how much increasing demand would be cooled by new, tougher mortgage qualifications could prove the clincher as to whether 2018 comes in below or above 2017 for sales.

Million stolen from local First Nation band

The theft of millions of dollars from the Seabird Island First Nation by a Caucasian employee of the band was nothing short of a reminder of historical trauma experienced by aboriginal people in Canada due to colonialism.

That’s according to a victim impact statement read by a band councillor at the sentencing hearing for Stephen Andrew MacKinnon on Jan. 12.

“As a vulnerable First Nation community, trauma impacts us again,” Seabird Island band councillor Alexis Grace said in the courtroom alongside six other former or present band council members.

“We continue to live with historical trauma.”

Ts’elxwéyeqw book captures art of historical storytelling

The New Year also saw another chapter of Chilliwack’s history hit bookstores when the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe launched its latest book, Being Ts’elxwéyeqw: First Peoples’ Voices and History from the Chilliwack-Fraser Valley, British Columbia.

The 303-page book is full of more than 700 images and stories from past and present elders and community members that have been passed along for hundreds of year.

“This was a great opportunity to capture some of the knowledge and stories about what it means to be Ts’elxwéyeqw,” said David Jimmie, president of the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe and Chief of the Squiala First Nation.

Former school board candidate sentenced

The long, winding case of a Chilliwack man who sexually abused two young girls while filming some of the crimes finally came to an end in January.

Corey Bryan James Neyrinck, who once served as vice-president of the local District Parent Advisory Council and unsuccessfully rant for school board, was sentenced to seven years jail in B.C. Supreme Court on Jan. 19 on four counts of underage sexual activity and child pornography dating back nearly six years.

“I’m sorry and I want to apologize for my actions,” Neyrinck said, in part, from the prisoner’s box. “I realize what I’ve put everyone through must have been excruciating.”

March against misogyny

The Women’s March phenomena came to Chilliwack on Jan. 20

“I attended the Women’s March last year in Vancouver and I just found it very empowering and meaningful,” said organizer Patti MacAhonic, executive director of Ann Davis Transition Society. “There was a strong sense of sisterhood.”

ADTS partnered with University of the Fraser Valley to organize the Women’s March Fraser Valley for those interested in women’s issues from the communities east of Vancouver.

homelessEvicted homeless say they have nowhere to go

The last 10-or-so homeless individuals evicted from a year-old encampment on the Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt reserve behind Townsend Park begrudgingly but peacefully left under direction of a security company.

And while they didn’t fight the eviction, the half-dozen people lingering as the bridge to their camp was dismantled said they had nowhere to go and suggested the timing was cruel.

“They should have let us stay out the winter,” said one camper who asked not to be named. “Why not just let us stay until spring?”

Rolling out group for cycling enthusiasts

Cycle Chilliwack, a cycling advocacy group was set to be established with an introductory meeting at the Sardis Library. From protected bike lanes, to increased bike security and cyclist safety, there were so many issues to discuss.

broadwaymurderFirst homicide of the year

The first of three homicides of the year in Chilliwack happened at a known drug house on Broadway Avenue on Jan. 31.

The RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) was on the scene that day at a bright yellow house on the corner of Broadway and Cedar.

The victim was 28-year-old Cody Isaacson, a person known to Chilliwack RCMP although someone with no recent or local criminal convictions, according to Court Services Online.

Chilliwack square dancers celebrate more than six decades of do-si-do

January 2018 also marked another birthday for the Chilliwack Rhythm Reelers club, which has been a hub for those with a love of the swirly-twirly art of square- and round dancing 63 years now.

“It’s a really wonderful thing,” said Steve Armstrong, the club’s president. Dancing in a club environment helps keep people young, builds lasting relationships, “and challenges you both physically and emotionally.”

At its core, square dancing is about having a good time, and the club is always looking for people of all ages to join. “We’re always ready to help, teach, and support our community members,” said Armstrong. “It’s what we do.”

DaveJimmieNew FN fiscal relationship on the table

It’s a new day for government and First Nations, and a Chilliwack-area chief was right in the thick of it.

Squiala Chief Dave Jimmie co-chaired the national Joint Chiefs Committee on the Fiscal Relationship, alongside National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). Chief Jimmie said he was “honoured” to be working on the pivotal national file for the past 17 months.

February

Life in prison for man who killed his mother

Tears flowed in B.C. Supreme Court as victim impact statements were read aloud following Clayton Jacob Warkentin’s confession that he murdered his mother in 2016.

“I struggle to trust people, as one of the people I trusted most, my baby brother, killed my mother,” Clayton’s older brother Logan said in his victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing after the 21-year-old’s guilty plea to second-degree murder.

When he was just 19, Clayton asphyxiated his 51-year-old mother, Lois Unger, to death in her Yarrow home on Feb. 24, 2016 then crudely tried to make it look like a suicide.

He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years.

Chilliwack artist’s painting chosen for Ducks Unlimited Canada’s 2018 National Art Portfolio

Local wildlife artist Laura Levitsky drew a national bird’s-eye view on Chilliwack’s water fowl when her painting, The Suitors, was selected as Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) Waterfowl Stamp and Print artist in their annual National Art Portfolio.

“The National Art Portfolio is a unique program that not only promotes our country’s outstanding nature artists, but the growing need to conserve the natural areas that inspire their work,” said Michaela Bell, DUC national manager of retail operations.

“I love my job,” said Levitsky with a huge smile. “I get to personally learn about every (bird) I’m interested in.”

Hit-and-run charges

There was finally some hope of justice for a beloved 78-year-old woman killed in a hit-and-run downtown Chilliwack a year prior.

Fourghozaman Firoozian died after she was struck by a pickup truck while walking in a crosswalk on Mary Street on Dec. 1, 2016.

An active Chilliwack volunteer, Firoozian was mourned by many in the community who were touched by her good works.

Charged with one count of failure to stop at an accident causing bodily harm is Linnea Louise Labbee. Her case is yet to be resolved.

Phasing out blue bags

Blue bags would be phased out forever, Chilliwack learned.

City of Chilliwack launched an information campaign to explain what changes from Recycle BC will mean for curbside customers.

Some were asking why the use of single-use clear/blue bags were phased out in 2018, in favour of recycling containers. The answer is that reusable containers are more environmentally friendly, and the clear/blue bags were constantly getting stuck in the sorting equipment and having a negative impact on the process.

AaronDouglasLife sentence for notorious Chilliwack killer

Chilliwack’s most dramatic double-murder in recent history earned some measure of closure with a sentence of life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 13 years for killer Aaron Douglas.

Douglas murdered Tyler Belcourt in a downtown apartment in cold blood on Aug. 7, 2014, and at the same time attempted to kill Penni White who survived. Richard Blackmon was also murdered in the incident, but the jury was undecided on a verdict in that killing.

For White’s attempted murder, Douglas was sentenced to six years, 11 months.

It had been more than a decade since City of Chilliwack had an application to rezone property for a brand-new school.

A public hearing Feb. 20 was set to allow council to hear comments on the proposed rezoning of a Tyson Road property from an RSV2 (Public Use Reserve) Zone and an RSV3 (Special Jurisdiction Reserve) Zone, to a PI (Civic Assembly) Zone to build a new elementary/middle school near the Vedder River.

codiehindleYouth coach faces sex charges

Parents of alleged victims of well-liked Chilliwack youth sports coach Codie Hindle charged with one count of sexual interference of a minor spoke up with more allegations.

And the alleged victim of the sexual interference nearly eight years ago hoped that by coming forward, it will encourage others to speak out about historic abuse.

“The goal of this… is to see if we can get anyone else, any other boys out there in that time span,” the 19-year-old who can’t be named told The Progress. “My opinion is there are more people. Someone like that just doesn’t stop randomly.”

Hindle’s case is still before the courts.

Chilliwack man’s hobby ends up on the big screen

As the tepid temperatures continued, a local woodworker’s hobby began heating up when his work appeared on the silver screen next to Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson in the movie Wonder.

Jeremy Sibley was contracted to create a live-edge dining table for a production company, but it wasn’t until after he was finished the project that he learned of the table’s future. “I was a little bit speechless (when I found out),” he said. “This wasn’t a low-budget kids movie, it was a real Hollywood big-league movie.”

Being so close to Hollywood North, a.k.a. Vancouver, has helped put local Chilliwack artists like Sibley on the cinematic map, and he said he was “proud that the quality of my work has been recognized by people in other industries … (but) I just want to keep doing what I love and see where it goes.”

Taser death probed by RCMP watchdog

The estranged wife of a man who died after being Tasered by police in Chilliwack said she did not want to drop her four-year-old daughter off for a supervised visit, but she was under a court order to do so.

The man fled from the supervised visit with the young girl and witnesses said the 42-year-old ran out into traffic carrying the girl at least twice crossing Vedder Road.

Mounties arrived after a struggle with passersby, and a statement issued by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) said RCMP reported the man resisted arrest and a Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW), commonly referred to as a Taser, was deployed.

The man went into medical stress, and following CPR performed by a Mountie and later medical attention from paramedics, he died.

Privacy breach raises flags for parent of local student

About 1,000 past and present students in the Chilliwack School District may have been affected by a privacy breach that took place between 2005 and 2015.

Parent Brian Mielke was attempting to hold the district accountable for a breach for many years, with the help of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC). That breach was explained on the district’s website on Dec. 22, 2017 but the information did not come up at public meetings.

It happened through the district’s participation in research with a not-for-profit group called Educational and Community Supports, a program of the University of Oregon.

He cottoned onto the breach when delving into his own child’s records several years prior.

Chilliwack locals raise almost $75,000 for grassroots efforts in Haiti

More than 300 people showed up at the Sardis Fellowship Baptist Church in mid-February and raised almost $75,000 for charity efforts in Caiman, Haiti.

The church’s goal for the fundraising event was $50,000, which they exceeded by almost 50 per cent.

“It was truly amazing,” said Pastor Rod Heppell. “We raised $45,000 through the silent auction, $24,000 through extra gifts and donations, and $2,000 through ticket sales – plus some extra – for a grand total of $74,300.”

The money raised was used to help build new dorms for a Haitian university, create bursaries, and pay tuition for students in need.

“It’s about helping the global community and helping where we can when we can,” Heppell said.

NeufeldYoga and mindfulness targeted by anti-SOGI school trustee

Chilliwack Trustee Barry Neufeld decided that a mindfulness class that includes components such as yoga and meditation was a bad idea.

He was the lone voice questioning the course — called Mindfulness and Movement 11 — that to be offered to students at Chilliwack secondary school. It was among a list of new courses presented to the school board, many of which that were already being offered in some capacity by teachers, either in classrooms as an extra challenge to students, to meet new curriculum requirements, or in a club form during lunches and evenings.

Neufeld was already in the headlines over prior months for his hardline stance against the sexual orientation and gender identity teacher resource, SOGI 123.

Blanket ban until it’s legal

Council got ready for recreational pot by creating a new C9 zone for non-medical cannabis (NMC) retail stores.

It also put a blanket prohibition in place for private retail sales in all zones in the meantime, until legalization comes into effect.

Once all the federal guidelines and provincial licensing details are in place, a bylaw for a new draft zone in Chilliwack for private retail sales of NMC will be proposed, requiring public input at a hearing and then council consideration.

March

modularFirst modular units roll in

The new modular shelter buildings were hoisted into place in Chilliwack at the Salvation Army site on Yale Road.

The modular option is going ahead on an interim basis “because the need is so high,” Bohr said, when the project was first discussed at city hall in late 2017.

Throness on childcare

The provincial NDP came out hard criticizing comments made by Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness in speeches in the legislature in his role as official critic on children and family development.

But Throness defends his words saying also that they need to be taken into the context of his entire speech on child care.

On the government’s plan for universal child care to bring in 24,000 new licensed spaces in the next three years, Throness said the child care plan only helps low-income people into the workforce.

“There could be some economic gain if those entering the workforce were high-income earners, but by definition, those who benefit from this subsidy are low-income earners,” Throness said.

Controversy over assisted dying

Hospices across B.C. may have to provide assisted dying in house, something the Chilliwack Hospice Society Board did not yet have a position on but Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness was strongly against.

And while it was the former BC Liberal government that brought into place the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) law, several MLAs from the party now in opposition came out against its implementation in all Fraser Health facilities.

“My concern is that people will fear that their safety is in jeopardy and they will avoid palliative care,” Throness said.

Housing first at last

Another new modular housing facility with wrap-around support services was announced for Chilliwack at the former Traders Inn site on Yale Road.

The 46-unit project will assist the homeless, and those at risk of it, to get off the streets, and transition into stability with vital services in place to help them do it.

The rundown motel property at 45944 Yale Rd. was purchased last year by the Province for $1.7 million, and the project will cost $9 million. City of Chilliwack pledged to contribute $700,000, which had been set aside in reserve for Chilliwack’s first major Housing First initiative.

Average sale price of a home hits half-million dollar mark

The average sale price of a Chilliwack home hit a new benchmark topping half a million dollars.

As buyers from the increasingly unaffordable Metro Vancouver area continue to look east, single family homes continued to be snapped up and prices hit new highs in February.

The average price of all homes, including single family, townhouses and apartments, hit $508,261 with 260 sales in the month. That average sale price was up 21 per cent from the average of $421,546 in February 2017, and 56 per cent from the average price of $325,606 in February 2016.

giantflowersGiant Flowers installation sparks debate

As buds began appearing on trees, the Evans roundabout sprouted giant metal flowers and conversation erupted across Chilliwack about public art and roundabout safety.

“Public art is art in public spaces, (like a roundabout),” explained local artist Sylvie Roussel-Janssens. “It can be very small or very big in terms of scale, content, and budget. Art in the public sphere is important to beautiful the community (and) also to tell the concerns of the people from within the community.”

But as art is subjective, many locals turned to social media to voice their dismay at the project, its cost, and whether it was necessary.

“City council as a whole selected the flowers because they felt it was the most reflective of Chilliwack and pleasing to the people,” explained city councillor Sue Attrill. “People don’t like roundabouts to begin with (and) they have different views on them and whether they should have stuff in them, (but) research shows there should be stuff in there.”

Debbie Anderson outside the Chilliwack Law Courts after her trial wrapped up July 6, 2017. Anderson was convicted on Nov. 3 with evading taxes and fraud for teaching others that paying income taxes is optional. Her sentencing hearing continued Jan. 22, 2018. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Woman teaching fraudulent ‘natural person’ theory

A woman integral to a Chilliwack group that counselled hundreds of people to be income tax cheats was sentenced to 4.5 years in jail and fined $35,000 in B.C. Supreme Court.

Defiant to the end, belligerent to the court process, and seemingly oblivious to the fraudulent nature of the scheme she adhered to and foisted on others, Debbie Arlene Anderson said she would appeal her conviction as an educator with Paradigm Education Group.

Speculation tax causing concern at Cultus Lake

The provincial government’s new speculation tax was causing fear and loathing in Cultus Lake. That’s because close to one third of the owners do not live there year-round and there was concern they might be hit with a new bill for 2018 – one that would quadruple in 2019.

Harrison Hot Springs was another community in the Fraser Valley where many properties are recreational and not lived in full-time.

Some critics of the new NDP-government tax in both communities refuse to call it a speculation tax. One owner in Cultus calls it a “second house” tax, another in Harrison a “wealth” tax.

More transit hours on the way

As Chilliwack rolled out more transit services as part of its multi-year expansion, local ridership numbers were also on the rise.

Chilliwack became “one of the most successful transit systems” in B.C. last year with a nine per cent increase in ridership, said Coun. Sam Waddington, chair of the Transportation Advisory Committee for the City of Chilliwack.

April

Vandalized school sparks outrage

Three teenagers were arrested in connection with a break-in at Promontory Heights elementary school that left the school’s kitchen destroyed.

Two suspects turned themselves into police in April and another was later arrested in connection with the vandalism and thefts, according to Chilliwack RCMP.

“We received overwhelming assistance from the public which aided our investigators to identify three teenage suspects,” said Chilliwack RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mike Rail.

Youth treatment coming

It will be another first for Chilliwack in the continuum of care for addictions. A youth treatment centre for problematic substance from Fraser Health will eventually be a “first-of-its-kind” residential facility exclusively aimed at youth 13 to 18 years old.

The plan is to build a 20-bed centre at 45456 Yale Rd., just past Kerr Road. The regional facility will serve youth from across Fraser Health, with treatment programs tailored to meet their specific needs.

vermeerChurch pastor facing child porn charges

The executive pastor of Main Street Church was hit with multiple child pornography charges.

Johannes (John) Vermeer was arrested in March and had a first court appearance, facing four child porn charges.

The 58-year-old is charged with one count each of possession of child pornography and accessing child pornography from May 1, 2010. He also faces the same charges with an offence date of March 17, 2015.

His case is scheduled for trial to begin July 22, 2019.

Chilliwack approves blueways to provide access

Chilliwack council voted to put in some “blueway” access points along the Hope River and Camp River systems, as well as along the Vedder and Fraser Rivers, as part of the updated Greenspace and Trail Network plan.

Blueways, sometimes called water trails, give people launch points to access to local waterways for recreational use.

Stray bullet changed the shooting area

The impetus for redrawing the municipal shooting-area map was a bullet going through a window in a densely populated part of the Eastern Hillsides of Chilliwack last fall.

Police confirmed that a stray bullet struck a house on Falls Court near the golf course, after RCMP fielded multiple calls from residents who said they heard gunshots that day in November 2017.

Get ready for a new arena

The new $8 million facility in Chilliwack will be called Sardis Sports Complex once it’s built.

The groundbreaking event to mark City of Chilliwack’s new arena addition and third sheet of ice saw both snow and rain showers.

Ice shavings scraped from the rink were gleefully raised in the air by dignitaries breaking ground at the celebration with golden shovels.

City of Chilliwack ‘disappointed’ with NEB approval of pipeline route

The City of Chilliwack was not happy with the National Energy Board’s (NEB) decision to allow the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion realignment closer to the city’s drinking water wells.

“I was disappointed to learn of the National Energy Board’s decision to approve the Kinder Morgan route realignment in Chilliwack, especially given the probability that oil from a leak could make its way to our water wells,” Mayor Sharon Gaetz said in a city hall press release.

“We presented compelling evidence at the National Energy Board hearing in January as an intervenor and will continue to make our case at every opportunity, including the detailed route hearings in September.”

Whether or not the pipeline will ever go ahead at all remains an open question as the provincial government is strongly opposed, and Kinder Morgan announced it was suspending non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline project.

vedderbridgeBeautiful bridge gets award of merit

The Vedder Bridge project in Chilliwack earned a B.C. engineering award.

Its aesthetic appeal and innovation helped. Chilliwack’s beautiful new Vedder Bridge earned an award of merit from the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies of B.C.

Chilliwack chief touts economic benefits of pipeline deal

Chief Ernie Crey pointed out there was no Indigenous wall of opposition to the pipeline twinning project.

Cheam Chief Ernie Crey of Chilliwack actively touted the benefits of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, not only for his own people, but for other Indigenous communities struggling to rise out of poverty.

“If the project doesn’t go through, it’ll hurt our people,” Crey said.

BCTF files human rights complaint against Chilliwack school trustee

Chilliwack’s most controversial school trustee was up against it again as the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CTA) filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

The BCTF complaint said that while Barry Neufeld claims he does not “hate” transgender children, “his statements subject transgender people to hatred.”

Neufeld’s ongoing social media and real life campaign against the LGBTQ community in general and, more specifically, the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI 123) curriculum spurred the complaint.

Secondary suites to get second look

Chilliwack moved ahead with sweeping changes to its secondary suite policies to create more affordable rental housing.

A survey by City of Chilliwack saw 800 responses from locals who submitted feedback on illegal secondary suites, and inlaw suites in Chilliwack, which was an “impressive” number, Mayor Sharon Gaetz noted at the Tuesday council meeting.

CambridgesDoctor reprimanded for lying to College of Physicians and Surgeons

A Chilliwack doctor who lost his licence to practice medicine in B.C. in 2017 for repeatedly failing the qualifying exam was formally reprimanded by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.

Dr. Sean Cambridge and his wife Dr. Rosemarie Cambridge, a married couple, were granted provisional licences to practise medicine in B.C. in 2011, the two taking on a large practice in the city, which faces a shortage of family doctors.

Now more than 1,000 patients are left without a family doctor after the pair repeatedly failed to pass the licensing exam.

But it was Sean Cambridge’s failure to disclose the fact that he had his licence revoked in Saskatchewan that led to the College reprimand, which comes with a $5,000 fine, and a number of other conditions.

SabrinaPilot project to get people off streets

The Housing Hub pilot project was given one year to prove the concept works.

There are hundreds of homeless people in Chilliwack, as well those precariously housed. There are also hundreds of landlords and property owners who need reliable tenants. There were forces in the Housing Hub collaborating, to bring these groups together to find ways to benefit both.

Chilliwack Creep Catchers conduct sting in front of newspaper office

A man who got off a Fraser Valley Express bus in front of the Chilliwack Progress office allegedly to meet a 13-year-old girl was in for a shock when he was greeted instead by the Chilliwack Creep Catchers.

The vigilante anti-pedophile group Creep Catchers are the controversial group that, in their words, “expose people in our community that are willing to have sex with children.”

The incident happened when the Route 66 bus pulled up and a man – apparently from Vancouver according to witnesses – got off and greeted a woman with long blonde hair and a baseball cap, the bait posing as a young girl. He was then met by a group of five so-called Creep Catchers who filmed him and confronted him for trying to meet a 13-year-old.

Progress staff witnessed the entire transaction, which ended peacefully as the man eventually got back on the bus and left.

May

KenPopovePopove announces run for the big chair

Ken Popove announced his candidacy for mayor of Chilliwack in May, and he was the first to declare his intentions, pledging to ensure the community “keeps moving forward together.”

Listening carefully, using out-of-the-box thinking, and uniting the community in collaboration, were the overarching themes at his campaign launch at his place of business.

Snowpack levels closely monitored

The Fraser River was rising slightly with the warmer weather, and Chilliwack would face a “moderate hazard” potentially from higher snowpack, experts said.

Snowpack levels were slightly higher than in recent years, council heard in a report.

Weather patterns in the Fraser River watersheds also play a critical role in flooding potential during freshet, so Chilliwack monitors the snowpack closely at this time of year.

Pit bull that attacked woman to be destroyed

A pit bull involved in a vicious attack of a woman and her dog in Garrison Crossing in 2017 was ordered destroyed.

Provincial court Judge Andrea Ormiston read her decision in the civil case between the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) and the dog’s owner, Kristopher Benson.

The incident leading to the application by the FVRD took place on Aug. 31 at around 4 p.m. near the entrance to the parking lot of Save-On-Foods in Garrison Crossing.

“It was just a horrific experience,” the woman said. “We walk that route all the time and we live in this community. It was a very traumatizing scenario.”

Bad Rock Tours roll out

It was like a road trip through Sto:lo territory.

Bad Rock Road Tours hit the local highways with a cultural vengeance, courtesy of Sto:lo Tourism and Cultural Education. The newly revamped tours became a whirlwind way to gain some insight into the Sto:lo place names researched by Naxaxalhts’i, Sonny McHalsie, a Sto:lo historian.

Hold put on gravel grab

Gravel extraction from the world-class Chilliwack-Vedder River system was put on hold, and that decision drew high praise from local river advocates.

The actual amount of gravel accumulating in the 2km-stretch between the Vedder Bridge and the Vedder Canal couldn’t justify ongoing extractions, despite the authorizations granted. A key decision to forgo gravel extraction for two years in the lower river, taken by the Vedder River Management Area Committee was lauded by conservationists and sportfishing advocates alike.

Marijuana shop opens up on Chilliwack First Nations reserve

A new cannabis shop opened its doors in Chilliwack, but this one wouldn’t face the same pressure to shut down from city hall as the last one did.

That’s because The Kure Cannabis Dispensary didn’t fall under municipal oversight as it’s located on the Skwah First Nation reserve.

The shop is located in a converted container surrounded by a gravel parking lot and barbed wire security fencing.

careypointProperties at Carey point on evac order

Evacuation orders came through Tuesday morning for three Chilliwack properties at Carey Point, which had been put on evacuation alert last week.

“The remaining properties in the area remain on alert,” said City of Chilliwack reps.

During spring freshet, conditions are known to change on a dime. The six properties were outside the city’s diking system at Carey Point, along Ballam Road, Jess Road and Carey Road.

The river was at 5.56 metres at the time of evacuation order, which was at “bank full” conditions.

Secondary suites are a go

Secondary suites will now be permitted in most Chilliwack neighbourhoods.

The unanimous council vote of council capped off more than a year of in-depth study on secondary suites, with the urgent goal of creating more affordable housing for Chilliwack.

“We are hopeful that these zoning amendments will ease some of the pressure on Chilliwack’s housing supply,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

The impetus for the shift in policy and zoning rules is due to record-low vacancy rates and skyrocketing house prices, which have increased the desperate need for affordable housing, in Chilliwack and across British Columbia.

Women’s facility opening in Chilliwack

A specialized transition house was announced for women at risk of homelessness.

A 10-bedroom house that would be known as the Women’s Centre, received funding from BC Housing and support from community partners, said Patti MacAhonic, executive director of the Ann Davis Transition Society.

“This is a perfect fit for the good work that Ann Davis Society continues to do in our community. The road to get here has been extremely difficult,” she said.

fakegoldChilliwack jewellers warn public about fake gold scam

The owners of Thomas Designer Jewellery in Chilliwack have disappointing news for a few customers these days.

That supposedly 18-karat gold ring bought after hearing a sob story from a couple desperate for gas money?

Worthless.

“The stuff looks good,” a local jeweller explained. “But if you check it out, the rings are worth maybe $10.”

Uphill battle to find family doctors

Chilliwack Division of Family Practice is focused on increasing the number of physicians coming to Chilliwack.

But it’s an uphill battle since the exact number of doctors the Division recruited in the past two years have since left Chilliwack, or retired.

Right now there are more than 3,700 people waiting for a doctor on the Patient Attachment Mechanism (PAM) list, said Katrina Bepple, executive director of the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice.

Everything for seniors was under one roof

It was a special event tackling some of the diverse issues affecting Chilliwack seniors all under one roof.

The first ever Seniors’ Expo took over Evergreen Hall.

“The goal of the event is to provide information and resources to seniors,” said Coletta Holmes.

June

TrudeauPM drops into Chilliwack for pipeline meeting

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived at the Cheam reserve all smiles to meet with Indigenous pipeline committee members near Chilliwack.

But there was a crowd of protesters there to greet him.

The PM acknowledged right away that he understood that not everyone was “unanimous” in support of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that he was there to discuss.

He was in the Chilliwack area to meet with members of the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee (IAMC) at Cheam, who have the mandate to oversee monitoring of the Trans Mountain pipeline, both during and after construction.

Killing was targeted

Police were on the scene in June of a targeted homicide at a house on Wellington Avenue.

When Chilliwack RCMP officers arrived at the house on June 7, emergency personnel were already treating a victim suffering life-threatening injuries, according to RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mike Rail.

The victim succumbed to his injuries at the scene. Police did not identify the victim right away, but The Progress learned the victim was 25-year-old Zacharia Nicholli Cross.

ReeceShotsFiredShots fired on quiet street

A quiet residential street downtown was interrupted by a possible shootout between vehicles.

Chilliwack RCMP were out in force on Reece Avenue after the report of shots fired, which occurred just a few hundred metres away from a homicide the day before.

A neighbour said they heard vehicles crashing and shots fired some time after noon on a quiet stretch of Reece between Young Road and Cook Street.

Dozens rally outside presumed B.C. home of repeat sex offender

After learning who was in their neighbourhood, dozens gathered outside the suspected Chilliwack home of repeated child sex offender James William Conway and protested his presence.

“I don’t know how (Corrections) can do this: put a high risk sex offender in a community with children everywhere and be okay with it,” said Kelly Wood, who organized the protest. “I’ve been told by Corrections on five separate occasions to keep my kids away from him, that he’s very, very dangerous.”

Per his parole conditions, Conway was subject to 24-hour-supervision, and although B.C. Corrections would neither confirm nor deny he’s living in the house where neighbours spotted him, the property is owned by the government of B.C., according to a City of Chilliwack spokesperson.

Valley residents fed up with squatters

Questions were swirling in the Chilliwack River Valley (CRV) about people living in RVs and buses next to Borden Creek.

“They have been there for over eight weeks now, and the [two] RVs have grown to four RVs,” long-time CRV resident Paul Jeffery said. “I witnessed a adult male pouring from a five-gallon pail of what looked like human waste into Borden Creek. They have been reported to the RAPP line but with no enforcement.”

Jeffery said the encampment is connected to a homeless camp that was dismantled closer to the city in the CRV last December.

Locals fuming over cost of Chilliwack gas

As the degrees on the thermometers continued to rise, unfortunately for Chilliwack, so did the prices on our gas pumps.

“I can’t figure out why we’re paying so much,” said long-time resident Bruce Holland, who monitored nearby gas prices online. “I’m not going to pay (Chilliwack prices) when I can get it (cheaper elsewhere). So now I buy my fuel in Abbotsford.”

Gasoline is sold at the same base price per litre in each province, but has regional, provincial, and federal taxes added afterwards, which often creates variable prices from one city to another. But distance “shouldn’t make any difference,” said Holland. “If Hope is $1.46, and some places in Langley are the same price or cheaper, you look at (our costs) and ask, ‘Why are we the priciest?’”

Chilliwack’s children at risk for sex trafficking says B.C. anti-trafficking advocate

A B.C. former teacher turned advocate wants to help “make Chilliwack an example for the rest of the province,” when it comes to putting an end to child sex trafficking.

To do this, Peters has been presenting all over the province to police, city councils, schools, churches, and whomever else she can, to talk about what she’s calling a “new pandemic: child sex trafficking in B.C.” And in June, she came to Chilliwack.

“Don’t fool yourselves,” she said, looking around at the dozens of people who attended her presentation. “You have a very big problem here. Don’t be surprised if you find prostitution rings in the high schools.”

To combat that problem, Peters suggests focusing on the “Two Es: education and enforcement. You have a great detachment here, work with them.”

The other aspect of ending this pandemic, said Peters, is ensuring the community has the right services to help victims escape with their lives, because the possibility of help is there.

Mayor files FOI on councillor’s expenses

Councillor Sam Waddington’s expenses were $10,000 higher than any other member of Chilliwack council for 2017.

That blew up in council chambers at city hall into a broader discussion on the need for greater transparency and accountability by council when on the taxpayer dime.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz announced she’d filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to see the exact breakdown of Coun. Waddington’s $17,240.48 in expenses

Woman dies in kayaking accident

A 30-year-old woman from Vancouver died after a kayaking mishap on the Vedder River in Chilliwack.

Chilliwack RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mike Rail said police attended to the scene in Yarrow after a report of an overturned kayak on the river between Lickman Road and the Keith Wilson Bridge.

Waddington announces run for mayor

Ending a bout of online speculation, Coun. Sam Waddington confirmed he would be running for mayor in the October municipal election.

His decision to run was made months before finding out that Mayor Sharon Gaetz had filed an Freedom of Information request to shed light on his expenses.

Waddington was the second councillor to announce intentions to run for mayor. Earlier Coun. Ken Popove put his name forward.

Visit www.theprogress.com next week for the July to December Year in Review for Chilliwack in 2018. And see below for more photos from the first half of 2018.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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Workers replace the hands on the Five Corners clock tower. They were back up on Feb. 16 after being removed Jan. 17 for repair. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress) Workers replace the hands on the Five Corners clock tower Friday morning. They were back up on Feb. 16 after being removed Jan. 17 for repair. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

The Gore Brothers and workers cleaned up a camper full of syringes and other garbage from the Fraser River at Peg Leg Bar in Chilliwack on March 7. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Laura Levitsky’s painting, The Suitors, was chosen by Ducks Unlimited Canada as the Waterfowl Print and Stamp painting for their 2018 National Art Portfolio. (Sarah Gawdin/The Progress)

Mayor Sharon Gaetz and city councillors break ground on the new $8M facility in Chilliwack that will be called Sardis Sports Complex. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress)

Griffin Security guards lug items out of a homeless camp being dismantled on Jan. 23 on the Kwaw-kwaw-apilt First Nation in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Rhoda Apolinar takes a group selfie while holding her son Jaeden at Tulips of the Valley in April. Front right is Archianne Sakolinsky; back row is Renzo (camera shy) and Darcy Apolinar. (Greg Laychak/ The Progress)

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