The Chilliwack Progress continues its look back at 2018, reviewing the last six months of the year.
For the first six months of the year, check out Chilliwack Year in Review 2018 – January to June.
Free $1,200 grants going unclaimed by thousands in B.C.
A Chilliwack financial advisor was on a mission to explain to thousands of parents that, yes, there is such thing as a free lunch.
Terry Brown was frustrated as he banged the drum on social media and face-to-face to encourage parents of children born after 2006 to take the government up on a free $1,200 grant.
By July, much fewer than half of eligible children had received the B.C. Training and Education Savings Grant (BCTESG) across the province. There were 176,000 kids not enrolled leaving $211 million on the table with, as of July 4, just 41 days until the last day to apply for kids born in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Two Sardis homes destroyed by suspicious fire
Five families were left homeless after two homes and three garages were destroyed in a July 11 blaze that was deemed suspicious.
In addition to the five structures destroyed, 11 more suffered minor heat damage. In the aftermath it was evident four vehicles were destroyed in the fire and one motorcycle was either destroyed or suffered damage.
The fire hit so fast according to one witness that working smoke alarms didn’t go off.
Revitalization of downtown Chilliwack
Monumental change for downtown is imminent.
City of Chilliwack awarded the long-awaited redevelopment contract to Algra Brothers to transform 3.75 acres of prime land in downtown Chilliwack. The site near Five Corners will see a combination of retail, commercial, residential and mixed-used development, in a multi-year, multi-phased development.
Council OKs 28-unit project over opposition
Several Vista Place residents showed up at city hall to strongly oppose the rezoning, but in the end it was approved.
They had concerns like tree removal, parking, traffic safety and more. Some wanted access through Jinkerson rather than Vista Place, but that option would be too steep, and would require huge retaining walls.
Vista Place was described as a short street, that was marketed to future owners on the basis that it was a “quiet cul-de-sac.”
Cannabis shops on First Nations land raided by police
The proprietors of two new cannabis retail shops on two different local First Nations reserves in Chilliwack learned that, yes, marijuana wasn’t yet legal.
Mounties executed search warrants at The Kure Cannabis Dispensary on the Skwah First Nation just off Wolfe Road, and at Indigenous Bloom Medical Cannabis Dispensary on the Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt First Nation on Ashwell Drive.
Several people were taken into custody and later released. An RCMP release said drugs believed to be marijuana and cash were seized by officers during the searches.
Both shops opened up the next day, but The Kure has since closed and is in the process of applying for a legal retail licence.
Chilliwack Museum head resigns as executive director
Matthew Francis resigned his position as executive director of the Chilliwack Museum, but the reason was never given.
Charlie Fortin, chairman of the Chilliwack Historical Society board, confirmed that Francis had tendered his resignation but offered no details.
Councillor asked to clarify expenses
The heat was on Coun. Sam Waddington. Scrutiny intensified after council voted unanimously to ask Coun. Waddington to clarify some of his expenses from 2017.
He was asked why he met with certain officials, and what benefit that “wining and dining” offered for taxpayers, to why he was paying for officials who have their own expense accounts while attending meetings as a board member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Chilliwack changes force businesses to move shop
While there’s no denying the revamp announcement of Chilliwack’s downtown core was a welcome albeit overdue one, it left several businesses in the area with uncertain futures. Nine businesses were being displaced by the redevelopment process. And however you look at it, moving comes with a cost, say those required to move.
“For the ones that have to move, they have to spend more money on a new store, signage, whatever else they need, and that’s unfortunate,” said Jason Ooms, who owns Goldsteam Craft Brewing Supplies.
Imagine planning a large wedding on your own, “or working 80 to 100 hours a week, and even when you get home you’re still thinking about work and never have any down time. That’s what starting up is like, and we have to do it all over again, said Sam Khosa, who opened WeVape INC next to Goldsteam in February.
“What we’ve learned from economists is we need to build a neighbourhood downtown to support the businesses,” said former mayor, Sharon Gaetz. “We want it to be a vibrant community with lots of hustle and bustle in that area. Business is important to us (and) we don’t want to lose (it) in that area.”
Punches are thrown inside Chilliwack nail salon over price dispute
As summer continued, Chilliwack’s HD Nails received its 15 minutes of fame when a video recorded inside the salon of an altercation between staff and a customer went viral.
In the video, Ashley Deshaies can be seen batting away five different employees while screaming, “Don’t f—-ing touch me!” while trying to get out of the salon, which had been locked to prevent her leaving due to a dispute over the bill.
Deshaies’s step-father and police eventually arrived on scene: Deshaies was released from the salon and paid a portion of her bill before leaving. No charges were laid.
Local First Nation elder arrested by Israeli army en route to Gaza
A local Sto:lo elder was arrested and possibly injured by the Israeli navy while taking part in an activist mission to bring medical aid supplies to the Gaza Strip.
Larry Commodore of the Soowahlie first Nation was among 22 members of international group of participants who were on the Freedom Flotilla Coalition’s ship Al Awda that was stopped and boarded by the Israeli navy about 50 nautical miles from Gaza.
Knowing arrest and detention was likely, participants on board created YouTube videos to be sent out after the incident.
“If you are watching this it means I have been kidnapped by the Israeli occupation forces,” Commodore said in his video.
Sockeye fishery opened
Everyone who likes to fish anticipates the super sockeye salmon run every four years on the Fraser River.
Anglers found out in August that a recreational fishery opening for sockeye was coming, said Dean Werk, president of the Fraser Valley Salmon Society, and owner of Great River Fishing Adventures.
He’d been predicting it would open after the B.C. Day long weekend, and it was confirmed the recreational fishery would run from Aug. 7 to Sept. 3 with retention limit of two sockeye per day.
Teacher’s request to opt out of union on religious grounds rejected
A Chilliwack teacher won’t get out of paying union dues because of his belief in a Marxist conspiracy taking over Western civilization.
That’s the ruling from the Labour Relations Board (LRB) for the case of Robert Bogunovic who, in his own words, says he adheres to the conspiracy theory of cultural Marxism’s “long march through the institutions.”
“Trade unionism is a major part of the grand Marxist agenda,” he said in his application to the LRB.
Bogunovic appealed but that was rejected by the board that said his fear was a political opposition, not a religious one.
Chilliwack is home to Sasquatch, the first Canadian-designed hops plant
This past summer also saw a chunk of Chilliwack land returning to its roots as the Royalwood Farm began growing Sasquatch hops, Canada’s first patented hops.
Based on a wild strain, Sasquatch “is its own hop in every way,” said Don Konantz, CEO of Hops Connect, the company that designed and patented country’s first homegrown hop plant. “The plant is patented, has been vetted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and we’ve trademarked the name Sasquatch.”
“It’s like a mix between Cascade and Goldings, which is a traditional UK variety,” explained Nick Fengler, Brewmaster at Old Yale Brewing (OYB) in Chilliwack. “So when we heard about the Sasquatch hops, we made sure we were the first” to produce the first Canadian-made beer with the first Canadian-made hops.
Food producers sought with surplus to donate
FoodMesh is a pilot project to divert food waste to a higher end use since the amount of food wasted every year is nothing short of a crisis.
A whopping one-third of all the food produced every year is thrown out in North America.
FoodMesh partnered with the Fraser Valley Regional District on a new project to give edible but otherwise imperfect food a second chance with an online portal.
“Food waste is a crisis,” said FoodMesh founder Jessica Pautsch.
Cattle prod wasn’t there to make bull perform
The Chilliwack Rodeo Association is refuting allegations by Vancouver Humane Society that an electronic cattle prod was used last weekend to make an animal perform.
“This is untrue,” stated CRA president Len Blackstock.
Use of such devices on livestock is prohibited in the arena during rodeo performances, under B.C. Rodeo Association rules. The only exception for its use is for “chute stalling” animals, with contestant and contractor approval, and use of the device is only permitted by a qualified member.
Chilliwack’s Promontory Heights elementary now has eight more classrooms thanks to expansion
Staff and students of Promontory Heights Elementary School celebrated completion of a two-storey expansion project.
“Really, it’s all about the success of the students,” said Evelyn Novak, Superintendent of Schools for the Chilliwack School District.
The $6.1 million project broke ground at the end of the 2016-2017 school year and helps ensure Promontory Elementary is better suited to handle its more than 600 Kindergarten to grade five students.
Man who killed ‘Mikey’ Anderson sentenced to 14 years
When David McKay woke up in a tent in a homeless camp near Townsend Park on July 13, 2016, he confronted his girlfriend Cyndie Markel-Rempel about an alleged sexual encounter.
The two then went to a known drug house where McKay beat John ‘Mikey’ Anderson with a hammer tacker, striking him more than a dozen times in the head. He was looking for someone else and killed the wrong man.
Justice Martha Devlin acceded to the joint submission of 14 years jail.
Councillor explains his expenses
Coun. Sam Waddington answered questions about his 2017 expenses in council chambers. The city councillor was asked to explain receipts totalling $1,456.98, after a resolution of council.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz, and Coun. Chuck Stam put Coun. Waddington on the spot by placing his 2017 expenses under the microscope, with each filing separate freedom of information (FOI) requests for expense details about out-of-town conferences and meetings.
Mayor Gaetz said she still had questions after Waddington finished, noting she had made calls to FCM about the conference timing, and found out the meetings were completely over after Grey Cup weekend. She also called the hotel to check on the in-room dining claim, and she felt Coun. Waddington still had more explaining to do about extra meetings, or travel, that had not been approved by FCM or by council.
Province pledges nearly $49M for new south-side school
Education Minister Rob Fleming was in Chilliwack on Sept. 17 to announce $48.6 million in provincial government funding to build the new school on the south side adjacent to the Vedder River.
Construction on the new 930-seat, Kindergarten-to-grade 8 school is scheduled to begin October 2019 and be ready for students in September 2022.
The school will be built on a 12.43-acre property purchased by the school district last year at the end of Tyson Road along the river. The district will also contribute $5 million to the new school.
Abandoned kitten safe and sound thanks to homeless man
A kitten abandoned next to a dumpster near a Chilliwack pet store got a new home thanks to the homeless man who found it.
The man goes by “Jay” or “Jay Bro” on the streets, and his face lights up as he pulled the little black-and-white kitten out of its carrier for a photo.
“It’s my kitty cat,” he says. “I got him to purr. He was shaking when I found him.”
Jay said he would have gladly kept Sylvester as his own pet, taking him around on a leash, but he readily understood that wasn’t a great solution since he is homeless.
Promise made to Prest descendants honoured
It was the right thing to do. That’s what both parties said once they signed the agreement.
A promise was made to the descendants of Chilliwack pioneer William Prest, pledging they’d have a final resting place set aside near their kin in the cemetery atop Little Mountain. Now that promise is being carried out.
City council to clean up expenses bylaw
Should alcohol be a reimbursable expense for city council members?
That was one of the debates bubbling up from council chambers during the process of updating council’s remuneration and expense bylaw began.
Eventually council decided to exclude alcohol as an allowable expense, and offered staff direction on several related fronts, to assist in cleaning up the bylaw.
Housing Hub helped by realtor
Sabrina vandenBrink was the first Chilliwack realtor to answer the call for help.
When Chilliwack Housing Hub officials unveiled their latest strategy last week to tackle the housing crisis, part of the idea was calling on real estate agents to donate their commissions from one property sale.
When vandenBrink heard that, she thought it over carefully, and got on board.
The local realtor went one further and decided to donate not just her commission from one sale, but also another 10 per cent of all her September sales.
Special meeting to hire auditor
City of Chilliwack hired an independent auditor to review Coun. Sam Waddington’s expenses in detail dating back to the beginning of his term, and to refer findings to the RCMP.
The decision was passed at a special meeting in September, after council heard from Coun. Waddington and his two legal counsel on the subject of the expenses.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz and Coun. Ken Popove, who are also running for mayor along with Coun. Waddington, recused themselves from the discussion and the vote on the audit motion, in order to avoid any conflict of interest.
A unanimous vote of council in August requested who he was meeting met with, why he was paying for elected reps who have their own expense accounts, and what value it offered for the taxpayer, to which Coun. Waddington responded with a lengthy report.
Since then, some of the people Coun. Waddington stated in his report that he met with, or dined with, have come forward to say it was not so. Their responses, indicating they did not meet with Coun. Waddington, as alleged in his report, were in a series of emails to Mayor Gaetz, and those emails were then released to the public.
No pot production in bunkers on farmland
Cannabis producers won’t be allowed to grow marijuana on farmland in industrial-style, cement-based bunkers.
Chilliwack council approved text amendments and new zoning definitions Tuesday for cannabis production facilities (CPFs) to protect the productive ag land.
“It’s a small win,” said Coun. Chris Kloot, chair of the ag advisory committee.
Chilliwack’s public health unit first in B.C. to earn the WHO’s Baby Friendly Initiative designation
It had been a work in progress, but Chilliwack’s public health unit has earned itself the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI) designation—and was the first in the province to do so.
After applying for the designation, Chilliwack’s public health unit was thoroughly assessed by an external body who determines whether or not the unit’s policies and practices aligned with the 10 steps of the WHO initiative, and were bestowed with the BFI designation.
Manslaughter plea in connection with summer ’17 killing
The man charged with the second degree murder of Douglas Presseau downtown Chilliwack pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in BC Supreme Court.
Kirkland Joseph Russell was charged alongside Victoria Sherri Purcell in connection with the killing on July 7, 2017 that took place on or near Princess Avenue on a busy Friday night.
Presseau was stabbed multiple times in an altercation that involved numerous people and spilled from the street onto the sidewalk and up the driveway of a small apartment unit on Princess.
Victim identified in brazen shooting
One person was dead following a targeted shooting in the Yale Road and Menzies area of Chilliwack Oct. 4.
The RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) said the victim was 27-year-old Kyle Cromarty of Chilliwack.
IHIT reported that the murder was targeted, although Cromarty did not have any known links to gangs nor was he known to police.
Cromarty’s death represented the third and last homicide of 2018.
‘The trust has been broken’
The issue of trust on city council almost took over at the Chilliwack Mayoral Debate.
It was near the very end when boos broke out from some of the capacity crowd at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.
The atmosphere on-stage was fairly collegial — that is until incumbent mayor Sharon Gaetz said something as a joke, and later drew boos as well as applause from the crowd.
Gaetz tried to make a joke, “unless there are criminals on council,” she said, when asked about the city’s responsibilities which don’t include other levels of government.
“I need to tell you that trust is broken on city council, and I know that Coun. Popove would agree with me, and every councillor that sits here today would agree the trust has been broken.”
Boos could be heard coming from the audience.
“So the thing is….” she said when the booing started.
“I know, boo is right, absolutely,” the incumbent mayor said.
“I would boo too, but it’s rude,” Gaetz said.
“I do want to go on to say, that it is not just in regard to the items that were brought up, and lies that were told to Coun. Chuck Stam in a public forum, but council agreed to send this off for a forensic audit and the RCMP for the entire term,” Gaetz continued.
“This is a serious issue. It is not about overspending,” the incumbent mayor stated.
Store on FN land operating under cannabis law
Indigenous Bloom was doing some brisk retail business on the day that cannabis became legal in Canada.
The Ashwell Drive location on Kwaw-Kwaw-A-Pilt First Nation was the only storefront in the Chilliwack area where pot was being sold in October.
The Indigenous Bloom store in Chilliwack was operating and licensed under a new cannabis law passed by Kwaw-Kwaw-A-Pilt officials through their land code, said officials.
Popove wins mayor’s race
Chilliwack’s new mayor is team-building two-term councillor Ken Popove.
“I’m overwhelmed and I’m humbled by the support from the citizens of Chilliwack,” said Popove in the wake of a decisive victory. Popove earned 8,432 votes to become mayor-elect.
He took the lead early in the night, and maintained that edge to the end.
“Believe in me. I’m going to do this. I’m going to make Chilliwack as good as it can be,” said Popove after the final results came in. “And thanks everybody!”
Running on a campaign of getting things done in collaboration, during one of the most engaged and contentious elections in years, Popove pledged to keep working hard, as he gets ready to take over from mayor Sharon Gaetz.
Chilliwack school board reveals clear split
Chilliwack school trustees candidates running under the “progressive” banner won a narrow victory in the city’s municipal election.
Incumbent Dan Coulter was joined by Willow Reichelt, David Swankey and Jared Mumford, meaning they hold four of the seven seats on the board.
Across the table they face controversial incumbent Barry Neufeld along with incumbent Heather Maahs, and newcomer Darrel Furgason.
Student enrolment up in Chilliwack yet again
There was good news and bad news when it came to Chilliwack’s public schools: enrolment was up yet again.
A higher birth rate coupled with increasing in-migration from other communities means School District 33’s budget will be larger than ever this year.
But that also means schools are only more and more pressed to find seats.
Changes to ALR championed
Agricultural Land Reserve changes were on the right track, according to local leaders.
Crackdowns on both fill contamination and monster houses on farmland were among the changes being lauded.
The concept of “farmland for farming” was front and centre in the changes with the aim of restoring the integrity of the ALR to one zone.
Coun. Chris Kloot, who was a member of Agriculture Minister Lana Popham’s advisory committee, said their approach was “agricultural first” from the start, and the suggested improvements are headed in “the right direction.”
Winter shelter opened on Yale Road
It was an interim fix to address the urgent need to house people in downtown Chilliwack.
A 40-bed shelter was set up in the former Lions Flea Market building on Yale Road East at Williams Street.
The “24/7 Winter Shelter” will be operated by Ruth and Naomi’s Mission, funded by BC Housing, in collaboration with City of Chilliwack. It will provide daytime shelter, and emergency beds at night for the people living precariously in the downtown core, and in makeshift camps all over town.
Local child care centre part of ‘universal’ test case
Jocelyn Thomas felt a little like her family won the child care lottery as the Chilliwack mother will see a huge reduction in monthly fees thanks to a provincial announcement.
Elm Drive YMCA Child Care in Chilliwack is one of 53 facilities chosen across the province where families now pay no more than $200 a month per child.
Chilliwack drug overdose deaths in 2018 already surpass 2017
Chilliwack saw more illegal drug overdose deaths by the end of September than all of 2017.
Of the 15 top communities for overdose deaths, only Prince George and Chilliwack saw that level of increase, according to third quarter data released by the BC Coroners Service.
By the end of September there were 25 fatal overdoses in the city up from 23 for all of 2017. In 2016, there were 12, 2015 saw 10. And in the seven years between 2008 and 2014 there were a total of 36, or an average of 5.14 a year.
School board to foot $30,000-plus bill for judicial recount
The Chilliwack school district faced a bill of between $30,000 and $35,000 for the judicial recount into the results of the Oct. 20 election.
That was the preliminary estimate provided by the City of Chilliwack, which conducted the recount on behalf of the district. City hall said on Nov. 20 that some of the bills for the recount were still trickling in, including legal costs, which has led to the delay in producing an accurate figure.
The recount came about after the election that saw the final seat on the school board go to Jared Mumford with 7,045 votes, just 34 votes ahead of Kaethe Jones with 7,011 votes.
The recount changed that margin by one vote.
Valley Rail Trail ready to go
Construction wrapped up on the Valley Rail Trail expansion — the future north-south spine for cyclists.
A cantilever bridge was attached to the rail overpass over Highway 1, from just north of where the trail crosses Luckakuck Way. The work was finally done, after being underway most of the year.
Child welfare shifts to FN control
It was a clear indication the federal government is dead serious about cutting the numbers of Indigenous kids in foster care.
With a vow there will be “no more scooping children” and “no more ripping apart families,” Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott announced that the federal government was ready to hand over jurisdictional control of child welfare services to Indigenous governments.
“This is big, and I was really excited to hear it today,” said Grand Chief Doug Kelly, president of the Sto:lo Tribal Council, and chair of the First Nations Health Council.
School district to purchase former UFV site
As Christmas neared, Chilliwack learned the former grounds of the University of the Fraser Valley could soon be home to the city’s newest school, thanks to a $10 million funding promise from the Ministry of Education.
“With the purchase of this land and buildings, students in the growing Chilliwack School District will have a great new place to learn,” said Rob Fleming, education minister.
“The Chilliwack Board of Education is delighted with this announcement, which is a priority in our five-year capital plan,” said Dan Coulter, Chilliwack Board of Education chair.
Young father of three killed in workplace accident
A tragic workplace accident left three young Chilliwack children without their father less than a month before Christmas.
The death of Nathan Appleton after a pre-fabricated wall fell from a crane on him on a construction site in New Westminster also meant the mother of his children is without her spouse, and his parents are without their 28-year-old son.
The only glimmer of positive coming from the tragic death of Nathan, according to his father Mark, is that as many as seven other people will receive or already have received organ donations.
Board votes to keep Trustee Neufeld out of schools
Controversial Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld won’t be seen in any schools in the district as a liaison for the board.
Neufeld’s repeated comments about the LGBTQ community over the last year, and the distress it caused to some teachers and students, led board chair Dan Coulter to put forth a motion to remove his name from the list of trustees who will serve as school liaisons.
The discussion that followed was heated and followed along predictable lines with Neufeld and his two-fellow trustees who have also expressed opposition to the anti-bullying resource SOGI 123 against the four trustees in support of the resource.
Neufeld called the move to exclude him discriminatory.
Trustees Willow Reichelt, Jared Mumford and David Swankey spoke in favour of Coulter’s motion and the need to ensure Neufeld is not in contact with students or teachers in a liaison role.
Four firms vie to open pot stores
Rezoning applications from four companies are in the queue at city hall for non-medical cannabis retail stores.
The Central Cannabis Company Inc. is one of the applicants, looking to rezone property at 42228 Yarrow Central Road to C9, for a private retail cannabis outlet.
“Chilliwack will be our first store,” Amar Sandhu, Central Cannabis co-owner said.
Local company and owner faces charges for 2017 abuse of chickens
A Chilliwack company, its owner, and an Ontario company face a total of 38 charges under the Health of Animals Regulations in connection with alleged animal abuse caught on video at Fraser Valley poultry farms 18 months ago.
The charges come as a result of an investigation by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) following receipt of an undercover video.
Facing 38 charges are Elite Farm Services Ltd., the company’s owner Dwayne Paul Dueck from Chilliwack, and Sofina Foods Inc./Aliments Sofina Inc., Markham, Ont. They are next due in court Jan. 22.
Eastern Fraser Valley voted overwhelming to reject pro rep
While British Columbians as a whole rejected the idea of proportional representation, in the Eastern Fraser Valley the decision to stand by the status quo was even stronger.
Just over 61 per cent of participating voters opted to stay with the first-past-the-post system in the provinces mail-in referendum.
But in the electoral of Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Kent, the results were 74.5 per cent and 75 per cent respectively. Those three-to-one votes to stick with first past the post (FPTP) put the two local areas eighth and ninth out of 87 ridings in the province.
New park on the hillsides
The new park in the Eastern Hillsides of Chilliwack will be known as Lexw Qwo:m Park. The name — pronounced luhw KWOM — was chosen because it means “always lots of moss” in Halqu’emeylem, and aptly describes the rainforest characteristics of the 3.5-hectare park.
It is the latest project by the Chilliwack Park Society, along with City of Chilliwack, Sto:lo reps, and hundreds of volunteers, including a connector trail to the Community Forest from the valley floor.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.