At its peak, dozens of protesters gathered outside a Chilliwack home on Monday evening waving signs that read: “PUBLIC ACCESS TO NSOR,” “Protect Our Neighbourhood!” and “CORRECT CORRECTIONS!” to name a few.
“It was good, we had a lot of support,” said Kelly Wood, who organized the event. “We still need more numbers and more support, but it was definitely a beginning.”
It’s recently come to light that B.C. Corrections is most likely housing repeated child sex offender James William Conway in a family-friendly neighbourhood in Chilliwack’s Eastern Hillsides. A location the government agency listed as “remote” and “undisclosed” when they publicly addressed his moving to Chilliwack last year.
Undisclosed, that is, until neighbours spotted the 43-year-old wearing an electronic ankle monitor in their beloved neighbourhood.
“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 Wood in an exacerbated tone. “I’ve been told by Corrections on five separate occasions to keep my kids away from him, that he’s very, very dangerous.”
So in a quick movement that follows the pattern established by two of Conway’s previous communities, Wood was able to get Chilliwack residents to rally at the Ruddock Road address to let lawmakers and Conway know his presence is unwelcome.
“It doesn’t just affect his direct neighbour, it affects everyone,” continued Wood. “It affects the whole area. Remote should be remote … this is like dangling a carrot and it’s wrong for him and wrong for our children.”
As word of the protest spread quickly on social media, even the local chapter of Creep Catchers, a controversial vigilante group that attempts to identify pedophiles, invited its followers to voice their concerns at the rally.
“But it’s not about what he’s done,” said Wood. “It’s about Corrections having failed us yet again. It’s frustrating and feels so violating.”
Per his parole conditions, Conway is subject to 24-hour-supervision, and although B.C. Corrections will 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.
“We need the community to start rallying and bringing their resources to help the cause to get him out,” added Wood. “I’m only one person, I can’t do it all. I need help from other people.”
Following that, and based on the momentum of this week’s rally, Wood says she’s going to continue with her mission to get Conway out of Chilliwack. “I’m going to try and plan something else in the (future)—maybe a barbecue the next few weeks.
“So far the response (to our efforts) has been really positive because now we know and can be aware to check for our children,” said Wood. “At the end of it all, everything happens for a reason, so I think maybe this saved a little kid or even my daughter.”
With a file from Paul Henderson.