Photo: BC Gov Flickr

The provincial government has announced 41 new coronavirus cases, including 16 in the Interior Health, over the past 24 hours.

The new cases bring B.C.’s total since the pandemic began to 148,228, although just 639 cases remain active. Of the active cases, 65 individuals are currently in hospital and 11 are in intensive care.

There are now 157 active cases in the Interior Health region.

There were no new deaths reported on Wednesday, for the sixth day in a row.

As of Wednesday, 79.3 per cent of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 47.3 per cent received their second dose.

Photo: Castanet Staff


Photo: File photo

An evacuation alert has been issued for residents near the White Rock Lake area near the Douglas Lake Ranch.

The fire started Tuesday and has already burned an estimated 300 hectares between Westwold and Merritt.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District issued the alert for Electoral Area M, which covers properties at 12905 to 14279 Douglas Lake Rd.

“This evacuation alert has been issued to prepare you to evacuate your premises or property should it be found necessary. Residents will be given as much advance notice as possible prior to evacuation; however you may receive limited notice due to changing conditions,” a statement from the TNRD says.

What you should do:

  • Locate all family members and designate a meeting area outside the evacuation area, should an evacuation order be called while separated.
  • Pack essential items such as government-issued ID, medications, eyeglasses, valuable papers (e.g. insurance, credit, and mortgage information), immediate care needs for dependents and, if time and space permits, keepsakes for quick departure.
  • Prepare to move disabled persons, children and/or neighbours, if assistance is needed.
  • Prepare to take pets with you and move livestock to a safe area (if possible).
  • Arrange transportation for all your household members. Fill the gas tanks of personal vehicles.
  • Arrange accommodation for all members of the residence, if possible.
  • Wait for an evacuation order to be issued before evacuating. Monitor for information on evacuation orders and location of Reception Centres.

Following extreme pressures on paramedics in B.C. during the recent heat wave, the B.C. government is funding dozens more paramedics, dispatchers and ambulances.

In an announcement Wednesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the government is providing funding for 85 new full-time paramedics, 30 full-time dispatchers and 22 new ambulances.

Additionally, 22 rural ambulance stations, particularly in the Interior, will be converted to run 24/7.

The province is also directing health authorities to add additional staff to receive patients and care for them at hospital emergency departments.

“When we call for help, we need to know help is on the way, and that it will arrive quickly,” said Dix.

“Immediate action on operations, as well as stronger leadership and increased investment at BC Emergency Health Services, will deliver a more effective ambulance service for patients and families who depend on it. Better support for paramedics and dispatchers will help them do the vital work we count on every day.”

Dix is also reconstituting the BC Emergency Health Services board of directors to focus solely on ambulance services. Former chief constable of the Vancouver Police Department Jim Chu has been appointed to chair the new BC EHS board.
A new chief ambulance officer position has also been created, and Leanne Heppell has been appointed to that role.


Photo: Colin Dacre

The International Union of Operating Engineers is calling for mandatory training and regulations governing crane assembly and dismantling following Monday’s devastating tower crane accident in Kelowna.

“Every worker has the right to go to work and expect to return home safely to their loved ones,” said Brian Cochrane, business manager of IUOE Local 115. “We strongly encourage the B.C. government to legislate mandatory training and certification of workers involved in the assembly and dismantling of tower cranes, setting out minimum qualification standards, as well as establishing a registry of individuals who work in this industry.”

IUOE Local 115 says it has been pushing for mandatory tower crane operator certification and higher industry safety standards for nearly 20 years. The Vancouver construction market has close to 80 active tower cranes operating in the city, with another 200 operating throughout the province. Their assembly and dismantling are largely completed under strict timelines in high traffic and congested areas.

“It is a shame that it sometimes takes major incidents like this to prompt action from government regulators. IUOE Local 115 will continue to work with industry, signatory contractors and policy-makers to ensure that industry best practices are in place to prevent any more tower crane accidents from happening in B.C.,” concluded Cochrane.

The union has been working with the City of Vancouver to improve safety with a industry working group.

Vancouver has already implemented requirements such as pre- and post-assembly meetings and checklists, full lane closures and better traffic control, weekday tower crane erection and dismantling, pedestrian and cycling lane closures, larger staging and mobile crane set up areas, granting permit extensions and allowing additional full days for crane assembly and dismantling to reduce pressure on workers to get the job done under tight timelines.

“In addition to advocating for stronger rules to make worksites with cranes safer, we also need to educate the public about the dangers above them,” noted Carr. “People aren’t looking up. Why would they? They’re busy with their day and looking forward when they’re walking down the street, not knowing what’s happening above them without realizing that if something were to fall on them, it could injure or kill them.”

Maria Rantanen / Richmond News – Jul 14, 2021 / 10:51 am | Story: 339942

Photo: BC Gov’t

Richmond residents can look forward to a decade of construction at Richmond Hospital.

On Tuesday, the province announced it will cost $860.8 million to build a new north tower, renovate the south tower and expand emergency, mental health and diagnostics services with a final completion date of 2031.

The project’s original budget was about $350 million, but last summer the premier and minister of health came to Richmond to announce several hundred million dollars were being added to the budget.

Premier John Horgan said, at Tuesday’s announcement, they looked at the business plan and decided to make it bigger “to meet the needs of a growing population.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix added the “re-envisioned project” was necessary, and, if the initial concept plan had been built, it probably would have immediately needed to be expanded.

“It’s an extraordinary amount of money, but in the context of the things that will happen here at the hospital in the next decade, it’s absolutely affordable and it’s what’s needed,” Dix said.

Richmond Hospital was built in 1964 and Horgan said it is “decades beyond its best-before date.”

Extensive consultation was done with hospital staff and the Richmond Hospital Foundation to make the design function for those working in the building, Horgan added, and he touted the design of the plans, saying it shouldn’t be made of “duct tape and bailing twine.”

“This is a state-of-the-art facility that will be having professionals providing services to people,” Horgan said.

The new facility will be 100 per cent carbon neutral.

“We have to make sure, as we build our communities for the future, we’re doing that with climate change in mind and this project does that,” Horgan said.

Kirsten Clarke / Richmond News – Jul 14, 2021 / 10:42 am | Story: 339938

Photo: Metro Vancouver

Costs for the planned rebuild of an aging wastewater treatment plant in Richmond have ballooned more than five times since 2019.

That’s according to a new report by Metro Vancouver, which also notes the upgraded Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant is now expected to miss its regulatory deadline by four years.

The current wastewater treatment plant opened in 1963, and provides primary wastewater treatment – the lowest level of treatment, removing anything that settles or floats such as grease – to residents and businesses in parts of Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, UBC and the University Endowment Lands.

Households in the plant’s service area could also pay an additional $400 to $500 annually to help fund the new plant.

The new facility was still pegged at $1.9 billion as recently as 2019. However, a July 2020 report noted that estimate did “not reflect the preliminary design activity since 2018.”

Since then, “a number of challenges were identified,” according to the latest report, contributing to the new estimate of $10.4 billion, which includes contingencies.

Some of these challenges include dewatering the four sludge lagoons west of the plant, which will take about four years and must be done before construction work can start on the new facility, along with removing biosolids stockpiles east of the plant. Ground improvements are also required, which will take “several years.”

Other challenges include site access – there’s only a single-lane road, also used by cyclists and visitors to Iona Beach Regional Park – a limited working space and ensuring impacts to nearby residents and Musqueam and the Iona Island ecosystem are minimized.

A large number of permits and approvals are also required from various agencies, further risking delays.

None of this was “fully taken into consideration” when the design concept for the new facility was presented to – and endorsed by – the Metro Vancouver board in July 2020.

While the new facility will include secondary and tertiary wastewater treatment, it will fail to meet regulatory deadlines.

The federal government requires secondary treatment at all wastewater treatment plants by 2030, but this won’t happen at Iona until 2034. The project is also not expected to be fully complete until 2042.

A revised design concept will be presented to the Metro Vancouver board in November, ahead of a final decision, targeted for early 2022.

Cameron Thomson/Vancouver is Awesome – Jul 14, 2021 / 10:35 am | Story: 339937

Photo: @strictly_dizniz

Vancouver City Council recently released more details on a pilot project that will turn a stretch of the Granville Entertainment District into a vehicle-free zone for better access to temporary patios, public seating, art and musicians.

Dubbed the Granville Street Promenade, council passed a resolution supporting the idea last month approving the event to take place between Smithe and Helmcken streets.

Last week, council announced the event would take place on Saturday and Sunday only for six consecutive weeks, starting July 24. With set up starting at 8 a.m. and tear down completed by 10 p.m., that’s 14 hours of no vehicles, including taxis or buses, able to travel through the area.

The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association has confirmed it will take on responsibility for the costs of programming and managing events within the promenade zone.

However, the city’s engineering staff have been in discussion with the DVBIA regarding the potential cost for the street closure and other city-related services which, based on current plans, are estimated at $102,500.

The 2021 budget included a $2 million council contingency, which has historically been set aside for unanticipated one-time costs related to external events.

Alanna Kelly / Glacier Media – Jul 14, 2021 / 10:21 am | Story: 339936

A family who spent the evening fishing off Nanimo ended up getting more than they asked for.

Roy Ban and his fiancée were out fishing for ling cod July 6 when he felt something pull on his line.

“All of a sudden, I just had a fish on and I knew it was big. I’ve fished before and I know fish bites. From there, I knew it was a big fish,” Ban says.

He fought with the fish for about 15 minutes and was worried he was going to lose it.

“That’s when I realized I wasn’t sure if it was a shark. I thought it was a dogfish at first, a really big one,” he says.

Video captured by Ban shows the moment the large fish surfaces, splashing in the water.

“I had it by its tail, and that’s why it was that much harder to fight and then I realized it was a big shark,” he says.

Turns out the creature Ban reeled in was a bluntnose sixgill shark.

“Looks as if this is a bluntnose sixgill shark,” says Dr. Jackie King, a research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. “It’s relatively common in the Strait of Georgia.”

The encounter took Ban and his family by surprise.

“I didn’t realize we had that out here, that big of a fish.”

Ban adds the shark even spun his boat around.

“I looked at my fiancée and took her as a measurement, and she’s five feet and the shark was pretty much bigger than her,” he says.

Jack Knox / Times Colonist – Jul 14, 2021 / 10:01 am | Story: 339935

Photo: Glacier Media

The province says the east side of Vancouver Island is in a serious drought – but Peter Luckham doesn’t need the government to convince him of that.

He got a reminder when he and the Thetis Island volunteer fire department tried to draw water from a pond, only to find the water level had fallen below the intake.

Luckham, chairman of the Islands Trust council, also hears plenty from residents of the Gulf Islands, where periodic water ­worries are even worse this year. It’s particularly severe in the south. Wells threaten to run dry as water tables fall. On Salt Spring, the most populous island, many of the 10,000 residents rely on water from St. Mary Lake, which is flirting with historic lows for this time of year.

Meanwhile, there’s real concern for the fate of fish in the creeks and rivers that flow toward the strait from the spine of Vancouver Island. The low-flow episodes occasionally seen in recent summers came ­earlier than usual this year, which when combined with high temperatures has observers fearing for juvenile salmon.

When the heat dome baked B.C. a couple of weeks ago, river temperatures spiked as high as 27 C. They’re down to 22 to 24 now, but that’s still at the threshold that can be lethal to fish, says Dave Campbell, head of the province’s River Forecast Centre. It doesn’t help that the lower water volumes have left fish with fewer places to seek refuge.

Meanwhile, it hasn’t rained at Victoria airport since June 15. That followed the driest spring on record there, with only 32 per cent of the normal precipitation recorded from March through May.

In Victoria, the Sooke Lake reservoir is at 83.5 per cent capacity, not much lower than is usual for this time of year.

Cindy E. Harnett / Times Colonist – Jul 14, 2021 / 9:47 am | Story: 339931

Photo: BC Gov’t

The province is waiting on direction from the community following news that about 160 undocumented and unmarked graves have been found on the foreshore and on land once home to the Kuper Island residential school.

“We stand ready,” Premier John Horgan said Tuesday when asked about next steps following the discovery of the unmarked graves.

The Kuper Island Industrial School, which opened in 1889 and closed in 1975, was on what is now called Penelakut Island, near Chemainus.

Horgan reiterated that in 2017 all his ministers were given mandate letters to work on the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“That does not change at all the tragedy of the revelations that we are hearing from communities right across B.C., whether it be in Ktunaxa territory in Kamloops or on Vancouver Island, which is my home,” he said.

In late May the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation confirmed it used a ground-penetrating radar survey to find what it believes to be 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The band is expected to release a report of the findings into the discovery on Thursday.

The B.C. government allocated $12 million to support the ongoing investigative work at former residential schools and programs for community members re-traumatized by the recent findings. In June the federal government said it was ready to distribute $27 million allocated to assist Indigenous communities in locating and memorializing children who died at residential schools.

The province has been “working and waiting” for direction and guidance from host communities, Horgan said.

“It would be, I think, premature for us to do anything other than to await the direction of the communities that are going through not just the grieving of the revelations of these discoveries but generational trauma,” he said.

Nanaimo-North MLA Doug Routley is in daily contact with people in Penelakut and “representatives from Alert Bay, where there was a residential school, as well as in Port Alberni,” Horgan said.

The premier said he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke last week about the obligation of the provinces and federal government to act. “We are both very, very serious about making sure that our two orders of government are there for Indigenous communities when they call for assistance.”

On Tuesday, Trudeau told a news conference that the findings by the Penelakut Tribe deepen the pain of Indigenous people across the country.

He said the government is committed to telling the truth about what happened at residential schools.

The Canadian Press – Jul 14, 2021 / 6:31 am | Story: 339910

Photo: BCCOS

A two-year-old girl is recovering from bite wounds after she was attacked by a coyote while walking through Stanley Park, in Vancouver.

The Conservation Officer Service says it happened around 9:30 p.m. Monday as the toddler walked with a group of children and adults near the aquarium.

It says the coyote suddenly jumped on the girl but ran off when her father intervened.

The child was treated in hospital for her injuries.

A recent series of attacks has conservation officers warning there is a high risk of encountering an aggressive coyote in the park.

Two coyotes have already been euthanized and the Conservation Officer Service says its members will be in Stanley Park for the next several days and the animal involved in the latest attack will be euthanized if it is found.

The Canadian Press – Jul 14, 2021 / 6:15 am | Story: 339906

Photo: The Canadian Press

People pay respects to the victims of Canada’s residential school system on the steps of the legislature in Victoria.

Canadians need to make sure they don’t become hardened to news about unmarked graves at residential schools after what’s believed to be another discovery of undocumented remains at a Vancouver Island site, an expert and former judge says.

A newsletter circulating online from the Penelakut Tribe on Vancouver Island says more than 160 unmarked and undocumented graves have been found at the former Kuper Island Industrial School site near Chemainus.

The Penelakut Tribe could not be reached for comment.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the director of the University of British Columbia’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, said she believes Canadians want to see more done.

“I think the response has moved from shock to anger to accountability, but also understanding that this needs to be probed properly,” she said.

“As this information comes out and we see the magnitude of it, we cannot get hardened to it.”

What is also concerning is that the investigation of these deaths has been left to the communities involved, which can be re-traumatizing, she said.

Turpel-Lafond said 107 children, which was nearly half of the school’s student population, died in 1896 when students set fire to the building after administrators cancelled Christmas holidays.

Two sisters are reported to have drowned in 1959 while trying to escape the school.

The federal government took over the administration of the school in 1969 before closing the institution in 1975.

Turpel-Lafond visited the nation when she was B.C.’s child and youth advocate, and said the community is still dealing with the hardships caused by the residential school.

“The trauma is enormous. The community has this incredible, historic burden caused by the church and Canada’s residential school system,” she said. “There is the living intergenerational legacy that affects the community.”

There has been a series of recent discoveries using ground-penetrating radar of what are believed to be the remains of hundreds of children in unmarked graves at former residential schools.

Eric Simons, a PhD student in anthropology at the University of British Columbia, has been working with the Penelakut Tribe at the former school site.

He said in an interview Tuesday that researchers have been working off and on at the site since 2014.

The ground-penetrating radar doesn’t find actual bodies but grave shafts, as well as changes in the soil, Simons said.

The school was demolished in the 1980s and Simons said that has been a challenge for both researchers and the community.

“Where it once stood is the core or centre of the main Penelakut town, so people live around that space,” he said.

“That’s part of the emotional and spiritual stress caused by the fact there was knowledge of missing children buried on the landscape but without knowledge, of specifically in many cases where they are.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference Tuesday that the findings by the Penelakut Tribe deepen the pain of Indigenous people across the country.

He said the government is committed to telling the truth about what happened at residential schools.

Premier John Horgan said he’s worked to reach out to Indigenous groups to get a better understanding of what can be done to help, and the government will make resources available for affected communities.

“It would be, I think, premature for us to do anything other than to await the direction of the communities that are going through not just the grieving of the revelations of these discoveries but generational trauma,” he said.

The Tk’emlups band in Kamloops, B.C., announced the discovery of potentially 215 unmarked graves at the site of the former residential school in their community in May.

The band is expected to release a report of the findings into the discovery on Thursday.

More BC News