The Canadian Press - Apr 1, 2021 / 1:30 pm | Story: 329798

Job-protected leave has been written into British Columbia's Employment Standards Act to give workers time off to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Labour Minister Harry Bains says the safeguard will ensure that no one will lose their job if they need time away to get vaccinated.

The changes allow part-time and full-time workers to take as much time as needed to travel and receive the vaccine or to take a dependent family member to get their shot, though no specific time has been set out.

Bains says he know that most businesses understand the importance of having their employees vaccinated to provide a safe place for workers and their customers.

The regulatory changes also include expanding job-protection leave for reasons related to COVID-19, aligning with federal government sickness and caregiver benefits.

Those changes would allow a worker in the province to take leave if they need to care for other family members because of COVID-19 while their job remains protected.

Kyle Balzer, PG Matters - Apr 1, 2021 / 1:02 pm | Story: 329795

Northern B.C.’s newest multi-millionaire is Tammy Manning!

The McBride resident won $13 million from the March 19, 2021, Lotto Max draw, the only person in all of Canada to correctly match the seven numbers in the jackpot.

Early that morning, the BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC) posted the winning numbers to its website, citing the ticket was purchased in the ‘Prince George-Mt. Robson’ region.

Manning bought the ticket from the Husky/Esso station in McBride on NE Frontage Road, where she's a known regular.

“I went to the Husky that I always go to and the retailer knows who I am,” she explained in a release today (April 1).

“I checked the ticket on the self-checker and suddenly the amount appeared across the screen. All I said was ‘No!’ I just didn’t believe it and kept saying ‘No!’ to myself. I had to have the retailer check the ticket on his machine.”

BCLC also spoke with Amber Bhaskar, the lottery retailer at the McBride Husky/Esso, who was behind the counter when Manning scanned her ticket and saw she won $13 million.

“When Tammy validated her ticket… she was about to fall down,” Bhaskar said.

“She’s a loyal customer since we moved here – it’s really happy to see somebody winning from the local town.”

Manning says she’ll never ever forget her big payday as she’s plans to get a tattoo of ‘March 19, 2021,’ on her arm by her son, who’s also a tattoo artist.

“I told my son I won while he was in the middle of doing a tattoo. He said ‘there’s no way mom – no you didn’t!’”

Manning says, after planning to spend the $13-million cheque for herself and her partner, she’s also going to gift some dollars to her family.

“It feels so good that I’m able to help and do something good with it. This will change my life and it means I can retire and can help those close to me.”

Manning explains she plans to pay off her house for her first expenditure from the $13-million cheque, then buying her and her partner a sailboat and property in the Caribbean.

The winning numbers were 2, 7, 8, 26, 30, 43 and 48 with 25 as the bonus.

BCLC says Manning bought the $20 Lotto Max pack and picked those digits using the Quick Pick option.

The Canadian Press - Apr 1, 2021 / 11:51 am | Story: 329781

Expanded supports for local overdose response and awareness for people living in rural, remote and Indigenous communities have been announced by the B.C. government.

More than $1 million in grants will be provided to 23 rural, remote and Indigenous communities where substance use services can be limited and the illicit drug overdose crisis is magnified.

The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions says in a news release data from January to October 2020 shows Indigenous people died from overdoses at a rate more than five times higher than other B.C. residents.

The B.C. Coroners Service reported a record number of illicit drug overdose deaths last year at 1,716 people, while February's overdose deaths at 155 was the largest number ever recorded for that month.

The Coroners Service also reported disproportionately high numbers of overdose deaths last year in communities like Fort Nelson, Keremeos, Hope and Prince George.

The ministry says the local grants will connect people to groups and organizations offering life-saving supports, developing harm reduction policies and building relationships.

"People living in rural, remote and Indigenous communities are best equipped to address the overdose crisis on the ground in their communities," Sheila Malcolmson, mental health and addictions minister, says in a statement.

Nono Shen / Richmond News - Apr 1, 2021 / 10:55 am | Story: 329771

Steveston-Richmond East MP Kenny Chiu has shown his support for a victim who was allegedly assaulted and yelled at with racial slurs at a Steveston coffee shop on Monday.

Chiu paid a visit to the coffee shop on Tuesday to pass on a message of support, hope and solidarity against anti-Asian violence to the staff working there.

The incident involved a couple who poured their coffee on the floor after being asked to adhere to social distancing regulations, according to the victim, who is also a staff member. One of the suspects then threw the remaining coffee and coffee cup at the victim’s face.

The victim recorded the couple leaving the restaurant and getting into a car. In the recording, which has circulated on social media, the suspect appears to be making racists remarks.

Richmond RCMP were called and arrested one of the suspects at the scene.

“I want to reassure people that Richmond is a safe and harmonious community,” said Chiu. “We have zero tolerance for racism and we have to understand that incidents like this don’t happen frequently.”

Regardless, it’s time for everyone to rally together and fight for change, he added.

Chiu also shared a few incidents in which he was the victim of anti-Asian racism, including being told “it’s all your people’s fault.”

Rather than “adding fuel to the fire,” Chiu said he has kept those unpleasant encounters to himself over the past decades. Unfortunately, all three incidents took place in Richmond.

Shortly after moving to Richmond from Saskatchewan, Chiu was walking home from a bus stop when a group of young people yelled at him, “Why don’t you go home?”

As a new Richmondite, Chiu said he felt confused.

“I was on my way home, thank you,” laughed Chiu, adding “but those verbal attacks do hurt.”

“When you feel suspicious or insecure of others, it changes your outlook and your body language. People will react to your suspicion. Interactions between friends and neighbours might deteriorate. That’s not what I want to see in Richmond. We must work together to defend this place,” said Chiu.

Alanna Kelly / Glacier Media - Apr 1, 2021 / 10:45 am | Story: 329770

Warning: This story contains allegations of sexual assault that may be disturbing to some readers.

Members of the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre are commending women for coming forward with allegations of sexual assault against numerous real estate agents in Victoria.

“We are here for you. We believe you. We support you,” says Carissa Ropponen, a manager at the centre. “Thank you for coming out and speaking out and letting people know that this is a real serious issue that's happening here in Victoria.”

Shocking and disturbing allegations have surfaced online by multiple women claiming they were allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted by men in Victoria who were, at the time, working as real estate agents.

At the time of an alleged 2018 incident, two men worked for Engel & Volkers real estate company. The two individuals were employees at The Agency, a luxury real estate brokerage and lifestyle company, on March 25 when they were fired.

The woman, whose identity is being protected, tells Glacier Media she was offered wine and cocaine while inside the real estate office.

“I don’t do any cocaine. That was not something I partake in. Within probably 15 or 20 minutes, I don’t remember anything. Everything went black.”

When she woke up, she claims she was laid back in an office chair.

“My head was off to the side and one of them was to my side trying to put his genitals in my mouth. I remember lifting my arm and it felt so heavy to lift my arm,” she says. “I went to go stand up and my pants were down around my ankles so I fell down.”

She claims to have blacked out again and when she woke up, the two men were allegedly both performing sexual acts on her.

“I went to stand up and said I was going to be sick,” her post online reads. “I don’t remember but they must have moved me to the bathroom because I woke up by the toilet alone.”

A third man was employed by Engel & Volkers and working for them at the time of another allegation. Engel & Volkers severed ties with him last Friday once the allegations surfaced online.

In that case, the woman (whose identity is also being protected) claims to have been invited to a luxurious mansion on Beach Drive and was allegedly sexually assaulted by a “wealthy” real estate agent while attending a party.

“It was around 9 p.m. and I was not drunk at all. The next recollection I have is around 5 a.m. and I am being picked up off the laundry/bathroom floor (the same one I was pulled into and groped) and someone is pulling up my pants and doing them up,” reads a post on social media.

She claims to have been carried out to a waiting cab as she “could not walk.”

“To this day, I know that I was drugged,” the post continues. “I had the forensic exam done at the hospital.”

The woman says she was violated and victimized and she's speaking out now.

“It’s really scary to think about. I wouldn’t want that to happen to anyone else, ever," she says. "I didn’t have a voice. I was so blacked out… I couldn’t fight back, I couldn’t do anything. I had no voice. This is how I can take that power back to have a voice.

"This is my truth.”

A fourth Victoria real estate agent was fired after allegations were also posted online.

"We can confirm that he is no longer associated with our firm and had relinquished his listings at our request after the first allegation last week," says brokerage co-owner Susan Froher, in a statement from Prime Real Estate Team and Remax Island Properties. "He also surrendered his licence to us."

Glacier Media has confirmed that the other three men have had their licences surrendered to the Real Estate Council of BC, by their managing brokers.

“As a result, they cannot provide real estate services to consumers,” says spokesperson Warren Mirko. “Please note: this is different than a licence suspension, which is a disciplinary sanction and part of RECBC’s investigation and discipline process.”

In an email, both Saanich Police and Victoria Police say they cannot comment if an investigation is ongoing.

“We can only confirm an investigation is being conducted when there’s an investigative purpose or a clear risk to the public,” says Bowen Osoko, spokesperson for Victoria Police.

“We are only able to confirm an investigation is ongoing if there is an investigative purpose or if there is a risk to public safety,” says Const. Markus Anastasiades with Saanich Police.

Police continue to investigate a shooting on the Burnaby-Coquitlam border Wednesday evening.

The Burquitlam Capital condo tower was behind police tape for hours as RCMP with guns drawn surrounded the building.

Gunfire was reported about 5:30 p.m. at the building on North Road, Clarke Road and Smith Avenue, CTV News reports.

A witness told CTV two men had been arguing and one pulled put pepper spray, while the other pulled out a gun.

One man was treated at the scene for non-life-threatening injuries.

Police said they do not believe there is any risk to the general public.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

The Canadian Press - Apr 1, 2021 / 9:45 am | Story: 329764

An inspection of a long-term care home that was the site of British Columbia's deadliest COVID-19 outbreak found staffing levels were low and cleaning was inadequate as the virus spread throughout the facility.

The Vancouver Coastal Health inspection report obtained by The Canadian Press through a freedom of information request says these two issues were rectified while the outbreak was underway in Little Mountain Place.

Bernadette Cheung, whose grandmother died of COVID-19 at the facility along with 40 other residents, wants more answers, including details on how the staffing shortage and poor infection control potentially worsened the outbreak.

She filed a complaint that prompted the inspection on behalf of several family members who lost loved ones at the Vancouver care home. Cheung said she feels equally in the dark after receiving the report as she did before.

"I feel like the investigation was very much done just to check off a box, as opposed to properly finding out where the failures were and really digging into finding solutions and ensuring that families have some sort of peace that this is taken seriously," she said.

Little Mountain Place referred questions to Vancouver Coastal Health, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a written statement released in January, the health authority said it worked closely with the care home to bring the outbreak under control, including by screening and testing staff and residents, promptly isolating cases and employing infection prevention and control practices.

The inspection report says a complaint was received on Jan. 6 and a site visit was conducted Jan. 11.

The inspector found when the COVID-19 outbreak was declared on Nov. 22, staffing coverage was sufficient. However, as more employees contracted COVID-19, staffing levels "fell below facility baseline," which temporarily affected daily operations and staff ability to respond to families' questions.

In response, Vancouver Coastal Health redeployed a significant number of staff to exceed the baseline requirements by 20 per cent, the report says, adding that most of the original staff returned to work and one-third of the redeployed health authority staff remained on site as of the inspection date.

The report does not say how many staff members the facility was missing, how long the understaffing persisted and how it affected the home's ability to limit the spread of the virus. B.C. Centre for Disease Control figures show that 72 staff members contracted the virus over the course of the months-long outbreak. None died.

Cheung questioned what the point was of the "vague summary" of understaffing.

"I would imagine that these processes are in place to learn and understand where problems can occur and find maybe where the breakage point is in terms of understaffing," she said.

The report also says that when the outbreak was declared, Vancouver Coastal Health monitored the facility closely for the rate of transmission and any areas of concern.

"Following this audit period, it was identified that the facility household team did not fully comprehend or implement the intended infection control/enhanced cleaning measures appropriately," it says.

On Dec. 13, three weeks after the start of the outbreak, Vancouver Coastal Health deployed a specialized infection control cleaning team to the facility. Education was provided to the staff and regular audits of enhanced cleaning measures continue to be conducted on a regular basis, the report says.

Cheung said she's frustrated that the focus appears to be on the cleaning team not knowing what to do, as opposed to management's responsibility to train them.

She also took issue with the inspector's finding about the care home's communication. The inspector said families were sent letters regularly with updates on the status of the outbreak and weekly Zoom calls were held to answer their questions.

However, Cheung said two weeks passed before the first Zoom call, when families were shocked to hear there were already dozens of positive cases. During the calls, Cheung felt managers were evading questions.

"We felt like we were being kept in the dark," she said.

In its previous statement, Vancouver Coastal Health said it takes all concerns raised by residents and families seriously and any allegations of insufficient care are fully investigated. It also said it shared written communications regularly, in addition to the Zoom calls, and doctors and staff followed up with families directly.

Cheung is still calling for a broader investigation of what went wrong at the care home, where ultimately 99 out of 114 residents tested positive. Cheung also wants to see an oversight board for care homes that exists outside of health authorities.

"I don't feel like anyone has truly taken accountability for what has happened," she said. "I get it. It's a really challenging situation. But at the same time, as family members we would have appreciated forthcoming responses."

B.C.'s seniors advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, is working on a larger review of COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes, which she hopes to publish in July. She said of about 500 sites in B.C., 212 had outbreaks.

Prince George Citizen - Apr 1, 2021 / 9:24 am | Story: 329763

The man killed in an avalanche Monday on Eureka Mountain triggered a "cornice failure" when he walked to the edge of a ridge, Avalanche Canada says in a posting.

He was among a group of snowmobilers who rode to the upper reached of the mountain east of Horsefly.

The agency said the man on the ridge fell with the cornice, which triggered a slab avalanche in steep terrain.

The avalanche was estimated to be 50 metres wide and with a run length of 200-300 metres and a depth of up to 350 centimetres. The victim was buried by about 60 centimetres of snow.

A search and rescue team with the help of an avalanche technician carried out a recovery mission the following day.

"This report is based on preliminary information and will be updated if more data becomes available," Avalanche Canada says.

The Williams Lake Tribune has identified the victim as Ben Morhart, a captain with the Horsefly Volunteer Fire Department. He was 37 years old, according to Williams Lake RCMP, who also said search and rescue did detect a transponder.

In a posting on Facebook, the VFD described Morhart as "someone everyone looked up to."

"He was our Superman! He was an integral part of our department, he also helped countless people in our community and could always bring a smile to your face. Ben will be greatly missed."

The Canadian Press - | Story: 329758

A decision by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal says anyone denied service for refusing to wear a mask must be ready to prove they have a disability if they intend to file a complaint.

The warning is contained in a screening decision published Wednesday as tribunal member Steven Adamson addresses what he describes as a large volume of complaints alleging discrimination related to mask requirements.

Screening decisions are among the first steps in a tribunal investigation and are rarely released, but Adamson says he's publishing his findings because there have been many similar complaints since last October.

In his decision, Adamson rejects that an unnamed customer's human rights were violated when a security guard asked her to leave an unnamed store for refusing to wear a mask.

The ruling says the woman claimed the mask order is "pointless" and masks make breathing difficult and cause anxiety, but she would not explain any physical disability that might prevent use of a mask.

In tossing out the complaint, Adamson says although the woman has reported an "adverse impact" regarding service in the store, she hasn't offered any facts about a physical or mental condition.

"The Code does not protect people who refuse to wear a mask as a matter of personal preference, because they believe wearing a mask is 'pointless,' or because they disagree that wearing masks helps to protect the public during the pandemic," Adamson writes.

He says the code only protects from discrimination based on certain personal characteristics, including disability, and any claim of discrimination must begin by establishing the disability interferes with mask use.

UPDATE: 6:10 a.m.

Residents of a highrise on the Burnaby-Coquitlam border were allowed back into their homes after 10 p.m. Wednesday night following a police incident that involved an apparent shooting.

Police have yet to comment on the incident.

UPDATE: 7:30 p.m.

Residents of a highrise on the Burnaby-Coquitlam border report the RCMP's Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team has responded to the scene of an apparent shooting Wednesday evening.

The scene is behind police tape, and it's unclear if a suspect remains in the building.

Any residents who left the building are not being allowed back in and were told it could be some time before they are allowed to do so.

ORIGINAL: 6:35 p.m.

Police have swarmed to the scene of a reported shooting at a highrise tower on the Burnaby-Coquitlam border.

Residents of the Burquitlam Capital building on North Road report as many as eight RCMP units on the scene and the building is behind police tape.

Officers have guns drawn and told residents who unknowingly left their condos and walked into the unfolding incident to wait across the street before re-entering the building.

Residents were told there had a been a shooting, although it's unclear at this time if the incident happened inside or outside the building.

The upscale tower is on the border of the two Lower Mainland cities, on North Road, adjacent to the SkyTrain line.

Photos from the scene show roads blocked and officers with weapons drawn.

An ambulance was seen some time ago, but it does not appear there are coroners present at this time, however two unmarked vans have just showed up.

It's not yet known if the incident is related to escalating drug trade rivalry between gangs in Metro Vancouver that has led to several shootings in recent months.

Police have yet to issue a statement on the developing incident.

Alan Campbell, Richmond News - Mar 31, 2021 / 6:36 pm | Story: 329731

Questions still surround who is responsible for allowing a convicted criminal with a history of deportation to enter Canada on a refugee claim, before he caused the death of an innocent Richmond woman.

After multiple emails and phone calls back and forth between the Richmond News and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), neither organization accepted blame.

However, information about the process when someone enters Canada and makes a refugee claim — on a link provided by the CBSA — clearly states it’s the CBSA’s responsibility to check a claimant’s record.

“Factors determining an individual’s eligibility to make a refugee claim include whether the claimant has committed a serious crime, made a previous claim in Canada, or received protection in another country,” according to the CBSA’s own site.

The News asked CBSA last Friday to further explain why Albanian native Erjon Kashari was allowed to roam free in Canada for four years, until he caused the death of pedestrian Christy Mahy in 2014, after driving dangerously on Russ Baker Way.

By Wednesday afternoon, we hadn’t received a reply.

Kashari — who built up a long criminal record while living in the U.K. before being deported in 2009 — was sentenced two weeks ago in a Richmond court to time already served, after being extradited in 2020 from Albania to face the charge of criminal negligence causing death.

The News reached out to Steveston-Richmond East’s Conservative MP Kenny Chiu to push for more answers on why Kashari was allowed to enter Canada.

A spokesperson for his office said Chiu will canvass Opposition Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Immigration, Jasraj Hallan, to “determine the best course of action” in engaging the federal government.

Carla Wilson / Times Colonist - Mar 31, 2021 / 6:24 pm | Story: 329729

Canada is spending $7 million to hire a Florida-based marine salvage company to assess the wreck of an old cargo ship that is leaking fuel into Nootka Sound and stop any more fuel from getting into the water.

Work off the west coast of Vancouver Island is scheduled to start in mid-April.

The 483-foot-long MV Schiedyk sank near Bligh Island in January 1968 after hitting a submerged ledge and is now resting 106 to 122 metres below the surface.

A sheen of oil on the water was reported in late 2020, sparking a cleanup and monitoring effort that continues today. So far, 33,109 kilograms of surface oil has been recovered.

A team consisting of the Canadian Coast Guard, B.C. Ministry of Environment and the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation is working together on a unified command post for the operation.

The contract with Resolve Marine Group was announced Wednesday by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, who said wrecked, abandoned and hazardous vessels “pose a serious threat” to the natural environment.

She said the Canadian Coast Guard will work with Resolve Marine Group to address the threat posed by the MV Schiedyk. “This will help preserve the health and beauty of one of Canada’s most iconic coastlines for generations to come.”

Resolve Marine has worked on international cleanup operations before, including the six-month response operation in the Gulf of Mexico to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which affected offshore and coastal waters of four U.S. states.

The company’s job in Nootka Sound is to find and seal any leaks from the MV Schiedyk’s hull and to put on temporary seals to stop or reduce any more oil getting into the water. It must also survey the ship to verify the location of the fuel tanks, which might have been moved when the ship was converted from steam power to diesel.

Workers will measure the thickness of the hull, confirm the depth and position of the ship and identify any structural damage, particularly in relation to the fuel tanks.

They will also confirm the location of oil in the ship’s various tanks and compartments of the ship, map locations and identify any obstacles to oil removal, according to an information website for the unified command post. That will paint a clearer picture of the condition of the vessel and how much of a threat it is to the environment, and determine next steps, including recommendations for oil removal.

The site noted that there is a small risk that the assessment will disturb the ship and cause a larger release of oil, adding spill-response crews will be on the water and ready to respond if necessary.

Resolve Marine will be supported by Canadian subcontractors.

The Canadian-registered Atlantic Condor vessel will act as the operations platform. The ship recently arrived in Victoria from Nova Scotia to deliver two new Canadian Coast Guard lifeboats to B.C.

Also, an oceaneering company from Newfoundland and Labrador will provide remote-operated-vehicle support, and other local marine companies will contribute to the project.

The federal government introduced the Oceans Protection Plan three years ago to tackle the problem of wrecked, abandoned and hazardous vessels on Canada’s coast, an ongoing issue around Vancouver Island.

Since then, hundreds of vessels in Canada’s lakes, rivers, and oceans have been removed, Jordan said.

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