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Man arrested after reported shooting in Coquitlam overnight

Arrest after shooting

A massive police response descended on a Coquitlam condominium complex early Saturday morning, after reports that a woman was shot and lying bloodied in the lobby.

Paramedics rushed the victim to Royal Columbian Hospital with undetermined injuries and a man was taken from the scene in handcuffs.

RCMP Emergency Response Team units were seen outside the building at 652 Whiting Way and large sections of the sidewalk outside had been taped off by police.

The shooting, thought to have occurred just after midnight Saturday morning emptied the building just south of Burquitlam Station of residents after someone had triggered a fire alarm. Residents were kept outside for hours while police officers dealt with any potential threats

Whiting Way and Foster Street were blocked in all directions.

Coquitlam RCMP has yet to release any details of the shooting.

This is the second shooting in the city in the past week. On Jan. 10, residents of a Burke Mountain neighbourhood were left in shock after a drive-by shooting sent one man to hospital and left the street littered in shell casings.

At the time, Coquitlam RCMP said it was unclear whether the shooting was connected to a rise in gang violence seen across the Lower Mainland of late.





New COVID cases fall in Central Okanagan, rise elsewhere in Okanagan

New cases up and down

New cases of COVID-19 continue to drop in the Central Okanagan, while they're rising across much of the rest of the Okanagan.

On Friday evening, two days later than usual, the BC Centre for Disease published the latest map of new COVID-19 cases by local health area, the most detailed geographical data the province releases.

Between Jan. 3 and 9, 110 people in the Central Okanagan contracted the virus, down from 139 the week before and nearly half of the new cases in the region from the week before that. This gives the area a weekly rate of 52 infections per 100,000 people, which is significantly less than the provincial average of 75.

But the Central Okanagan is one of the few areas in the region that continues to move in the right direction.

The South Okanagan saw weekly cases jump to 43, up from 27. This puts the region at a rate of 211 weekly infections per 100,000 people, one of the highest rates of infection in B.C. New cases in the region have been largely attributed to outbreaks at two care homes, including the McKinney Place care home where 17 residents have died.

Cases in the Kettle Valley area more than doubled the new cases from the week before, with nine new cases. With a population of just 3,591 people, the nine new cases give the region a shockingly high weekly rate of infection of 250 per 100,000 people.

In the Vernon area, 98 new cases were identified from Jan. 3 to 9, up from 76 the week before, while cases in Penticton have remained relatively low, with 13 new cases, compared to 15 the week prior.

Five new cases were identified in the Grand Forks region, up from zero the week before, while new cases also rose dramatically in the Salmon Arm region, to 17 from just four from the week prior.

New cases stayed relatively stable in the Kamloops region, while cases rose in the Cariboo regions.

Last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said cases have been rising across the entire Interior Health region, largely stemming from holiday gatherings and other small social gatherings.

To date, 46 people in the Interior have died from COVID-19, including 31 who were residents of long-term care homes.



Impaired driver found guilty in pair of 2016 deaths near Chetwynd

Guilty in fatal head-on crash

Cole Kenneth Archibald MacDonald was found guilty Friday for the impaired driving deaths of a man and woman near Chetwynd in 2016.

Dawson Creek Supreme Court Justice Michael Brundett said the 38-year-old MacDonald was impaired by fentanyl and benzodiazepines when he swerved into oncoming traffic on Highway 97, killing the pair in a head-on collision on June 24, 2016.

“I find that the collision was caused by the accused’s impaired ability to drive,” said Brundett. “I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused’s impaired ability was a deciding factor in these deaths.”

Though RCMP found no pills or alcohol in his vehicle, MacDonald was found stumbling at the scene as if drunk, and later tested positive for the drugs while being treated for minor injuries at the hospital.

MacDonald denied accusations of drinking by RCMP, Brundett noted, and said road and weather conditions were not a factor in the collision.

MacDonald appeared in person for the judgment, and was convicted on two separate charges of impaired driving causing death, one for each victim.

He’ll return to court next month to set a date for sentencing.





Passenger traffic down 70 per cent last year at Victoria airport

Victoria airport hurting

Only six flights are expected to arrive and depart over a 12-hour period today at Victoria International Airport. Four other scheduled flights were cancelled, likely because of low passenger counts that wouldn’t even cover the costs of starting a jet.

There are no international flights and certainly nothing flying south to vacation hot spots as in previous years, when there were as many as 100 flights a day to and from destinations across Canada and into the U.S. and Mexico.

Amid the pandemic, this is a typical weekend at YYJ, as public health orders continue to crush air travel and suffocate one of the region’s major economic drivers.

Passenger traffic declined sharply in 2020, ­sliding 70% per cent from the year before, according to the Victoria Airport Authority. The 590,076 passengers who passed through the terminal last year represent a precipitous drop from the 1.924 million in 2019 and the record 2.04 million in 2018.

Authority chief executive Geoff Dickson said since 90% of the revenue generated at the airport is tied to passenger traffic and aircraft activity, the effect on revenue has been severe. “It’s been astonishing,” Dickson said Friday. “It’s a struggle.”

In its year-end report, the airport authority said revenue for 2020 was down 55% from 2019, at $17.5 million — and it would have been worse if not for two normal months at the beginning of the year and the benefit of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which was treated as revenue.

Landing fees, terminal fees and airport improvement fees were all squeezed, and contracts with restaurants, retail, car rentals, parking and ground transportation were either renegotiated or moved to percentage rent, where rent is based on the ­tenant’s gross income rather than a fixed amount.

The authority said the only stable stream of revenue was rent from various aviation-related businesses on Victoria airport lands.

Similar hits have been seen at airports across the province, including in Kelowna and Prince George.

Overall, net income for the Victoria airport authority has gone from a surplus of $9.2 million in 2019 to a loss of $7.5 million in 2020, even though the airport trimmed operating expenses by 25% during the year. The authority said in its report that YYJ is vital to the economic health of the region, and it’s critical that safe air travel restarts quickly to put YYJ in a position “to continue to drive growth for southern Vancouver Island.”

Dickson said Victoria is involved with other ­airports in discussions with the federal ­government on relief measures, including the indefinite suspension of the rent Ottawa charges airports, and on restoring confidence in air travel by funding “consistent” COVID-19 testing to reduce quarantine times.

In late November, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced plans to eliminate rent for airports the size of YYJ for one year, which is expected to save the airport about $350,000.

Dickson said the airport authority would like to see its rent requirements waived either in ­perpetuity or at least until passenger traffic is restored to 2019 levels, which it anticipates won’t happen until at least 2024.

As for COVID-19 testing, Dickson said in his report that a patchwork of travel restrictions and health-safety measures across provinces has ­created confusion. Rapid testing, along with ­vaccines, would eliminate the need for quarantine periods and increase confidence for everyone, he said, “knowing that anyone in an airport or on a flight tested negative.”

In ongoing discussions with Ottawa, airports have raised proposals such as interest-free loans or direct operational support for airports and a new stream of funding for safety and security-related infrastructure.

But Dickson said a national approach to COVID?19 rapid testing of air travellers to reduce or eliminate 14-day quarantines is key to restoring confidence in air travel. He noted that COVID-19 exposures have been reported on less than 1% of domestic flights.



UBC expert addresses COVID-19 'vaccine hesitancy' in Canada

'They work and are safe'

While many Canadians are still apprehensive about getting immunized against COVID-19, a recent poll suggests that the majority are willing to roll up their sleeves.

Angus Reid polled Canadians this month and found that a firm majority – 60 per cent of respondents – are now willing to be immunized.

But while more people are willing to take the vaccine, 23 per cent of respondents indicated they would prefer to wait, while 12 per cent reported they would not get vaccinated and five per cent remained unsure.

The number of those who outright say they will not be vaccinated is below one-in-ten, for example, in British Columbia (8%) and Ontario (8%) but is one-in-five in Alberta (20%) and Saskatchewan (19%). In those two latter provinces, just half of residents say they would like to be vaccinated right away.

Why are some people hesitant about taking a COVID-19 vaccine?

Dr. Julie Bettinger, an associate professor in UBC’s faculty of medicine, is a vaccine safety scientist at the Vaccine Evaluation Center at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and a member of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

For Bettinger, the "newness" of the vaccine causes reluctance for some people. "Many are concerned about whether or not the vaccine will work, about short- and long-term safety of the vaccine, about its “newness” and the unknowns that come with a new vaccine," she explains in a news release.

Bettinger adds that most of these concerns can be addressed. Further, the two vaccines Canada is currently using--the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines-- work incredibly well.

"The clinical trial results were striking in terms of efficacy. We expect to see some decrease in terms of how well these vaccines will work when used in real-life settings, but given how well they performed in clinical trial settings they will still be very effective," she says.

What can be done to combat vaccine hesitancy?

Currently, British Columbia isn't seeing an issue with vaccine hesitancy since there is such a limited supply of vaccines. That said, Bettinger notes that improving vaccine literacy--especially among children--is key to combating the issue down the road.

"It’s important to educate yourself and your friends and family about the immune system and how vaccines work. Recognize and counter vaccine misinformation and disinformation, in-person and online," she advises.

"There is no debate in the scientific community about vaccines. They work and are safe."

Will Canada reach herd immunity if not everyone is vaccinated against COVID-19?

Bettinger says that health officials don't know if any of the vaccines will lead to herd immunity. "We know they prevent symptomatic disease, but we don’t know if they stop transmission of COVID-19. If they can stop transmission, then it would require high vaccine coverage to reach herd immunity."

Short-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines

For the most part, Berttinger says people can expect a sore arm after receiving the vaccine. And while some may feel like they are sick for two or three days--like they have a cold or the flu--they will generally feel fine after that time. "These are normal side effects to the vaccine and demonstrate the immune system is responding."

That being said, some people do have allergic reactions following vaccination. However, Bettinger says this is expected and reactions "are not occurring at a rate higher than what we would expect with a new vaccine."

Long-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines

In terms of long-term side effects from the vaccine, Bettinger says "we don’t have the data and will need to continue to monitor to ensure the safety of COVID-19 vaccines."

With this in mind, she adds, "We also don’t know the long-term effects of being infected with COVID-19. But what is emerging shows there are long-term effects from COVID-19 infection, such as “brain fog,” which severely alter an individual’s health.

"Based on what we know about how COVID-19 vaccines work, we would not expect them to have long-term adverse effects."



COVID cases identified on 13 recent flights in B.C.

More COVID on B.C. flights

The BC Centre for Disease Control has identified 13 more B.C. flights on which passengers may have been exposed to the coronavirus while travelling this month.

All but two of the recent affected flights involved the Vancouver International Airport, and none involve Kelowna.

The public health agency warned passengers that they could have been exposed to COVID-19 while onboard the following recent flights:

  • Jan 5: Air Canada 127, Toronto to Vancouver (Affected rows not reported)
  • Jan 5: American Airlines 1539, Dallas to Vancouver (Affected rows not reported)
  • Jan 6: American Airlines 1539, Dallas to Vancouver (Affected rows 9-13)
  • Jan 7: Air Canada 107, Toronto to Vancouver (Affected rows 1-6)
  • Jan 7: Air Canada 344, Vancouver to Ottawa (Affected rows16-22)
  • Jan 8: WestJet 3176, Abbotsford to Calgary (Affected rows 15-20)
  • Jan 9: Air Canada 115, Toronto to Vancouver (Affected rows not reported)
  • Jan 8: Lufthansa 492, Frankfurt to Vancouver (Affected rows 23-25)
  • Jan 9: WestJet 725, Toronto to Vancouver (Affected rows not reported)
  • Jan 10: Air Canada 106, Vancouver to Toronto (Affected rows not reported)
  • Jan 10: Air Canada 241, Edmonton to Vancouver (Affected rows not reported)
  • Jan 11: Air Canada 305, Montreal to Vancouver (Affected rows 14-20)
  • Jan 11: WestJet 3231, Calgary to Abbotsford (Affected rows 15-20)

This announcement is the latest in a string of notifications identifying recent flights that carried one or more individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 since their flight. This week alone, the BCCDC already added 65 recent flights to its list of possible COVID-19 exposures.

With the number of new COVID-19 cases remaining in the hundreds each day, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry implemented new orders last month instructing British Columbians to avoid any non-essential travel outside their home communities. As of this week, those orders have been extended until at least Feb. 5.

The BCCDC is encouraging travellers who recently arrived in B.C. to check the public health agency's website for updates about flights identified for potential exposures. Passengers who flew aboard a domestic flight flagged for carrying a COVID-19 case are encouraged to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days following their flight.

While self-monitoring for symptoms of the virus— which may include fever, cough, chills, sore throat, loss of sense of smell or taste and many more—individuals should take and record their temperature daily, and avoid taking fever-reducing medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, if possible, for the full 14 days. The average normal body temperature taken orally is about 37°C, according to the BCCDC.



Woman faces charges after gun shots were fired in a Salmo home early Friday morning

Shots fired in Salmo

A 43-year-old Salmo woman is facing potential criminal charges after she allegedly fired shots in a Salmo home early Friday morning.

Around 3:50 a.m., Salmo RCMP received a report of a situation unfolding in the 1800-block of Airport Road in Salmo. Initially, police were told a woman had entered the property and allegedly discharged a firearm at the home.

Four adults were inside that home at the time of the shooting, all were reportedly uninjured. One person sprayed bear spray at the suspect, who fled the area.

"The police investigation led officers to the location of the suspect at another nearby property where she was taken into custody without further incident," says Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey, spokesperson for the BC RCMP in the Southeast District.

"RCMP believe the incident was isolated in nature, and therefore do not believe there is any further risk to the general public."

The investigation is ongoing and will be supported by forensic specialists. The suspect, a 43-year-old Salmo woman now faces potential criminal charges. She remains in custody at this time.

Anyone with any additional information is asked to contact the Salmo RCMP at 250-357-2212.



Kicking Horse Canyon closure on Highway 1 gets extended to Spring

Work continues on Hwy 1

There will be an extended spring closure on Highway 1 construction in Kicking Horse Canyon.

People driving along Highway 1 through Golden should expect to start seeing more crews working to convert the last 4.8 kilometres of narrow, winding two-lane road, to a modern four-lane standard, the province says.

Highway 1 through the canyon just east of Golden will be closed for a month during the spring 2021 shoulder season.

"This closure will allow crews to proceed with work that cannot be carried out safely during shorter interruptions, such as major excavation, piling and hauling," explains the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

From April 12 to May 14, through traffic on Highway 1 from Golden to Castle Junction will be routed via highways 93 and 95. This adds up to 1.5 hours of travel time. Signs for the closure and alternative routes will be posted in advance.

"The construction zone will be opened briefly to local/commuter traffic twice daily, escorted by a pilot vehicle during one half-hour period beginning at 7 a.m. and one half-hour period beginning at 4:30 p.m. Similar escorts will be provided for school buses so students will have uninterrupted access to school. Emergency vehicles in response mode will be provided escorted passage on short notice," the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure adds.

Updates on delays will be available online.



B.C. hospice refusing to provide medically assisted dying must vacate premises

Eviction looms for hospice

A hospice that has refused to provide medical assistance in dying based on religious objections will have to vacate a facility in Delta, B.C., by the end of March.

Health Minister Adrian Dix joined two officials from the regional health authority in saying a contract with the Delta Hospice Society will end in accordance with the termination of its $1.5-million contract announced a year ago.

They say in a statement that Fraser Health will serve 30 days' notice to the society on Feb. 25.

The statement comes a week after the society's board sent layoff notices to all clinical staff at the hospice before the cancellation of its service agreement.

Angelina Ireland, board president of the Delta Hospice Society, did not return a request for comment.

Dix, along with Jim Sinclair, the chairman of the board for Fraser Health, and the authority's president Dr. Victoria Lee, say access to hospice services is fundamental to people in B.C.

They say they have strong support for their decision, which was not taken lightly.

"It is important for people at the end of their lives to have peace, comfort and choice related to their own health. We are committed to providing a public health system that includes a full range of options for people in our communities, including those in hospice settings."

Delta Mayor George Harvie says in a statement the issue of hospice care has deeply impacted residents of the city south of Vancouver.



Snowshoer missing overnight on Howe Sound Crest Trail has been found dead

Snowshoer found dead

UPDATE 5:30 p.m.

A search for a missing 21-year-old snowshoer who was lost overnight in the North Shore backcountry has ended tragically.

Search crews spotted the woman from a helicopter Friday morning, in a steep gully in the Lembke Creek drainage area and long-lined rescuers, including medical personnel, in to the scene.

Squamish RCMP confirmed in a statement late Friday that the woman had been pronounced dead by medical teams.

"First our thoughts are with the woman's family and friends, as well with all the responders and search teams to the St Mark’s area last night and today," said Sgt. Sascha Banks of the Squamish RCMP in a press statement late Friday afternoon.

The Squamish RCMP will work with the BC Coroners Service to determine all the facts surrounding the woman’s death, said Banks.

North Shore Rescue crews had been out since late Thursday afternoon searching for the snowshoer, who was missing in the backcountry near Cypress Mountain after becoming lost on the Howe Sound Crest Trail.

Ground crews and helicopter search teams had been combing Lembke Creek on the east side of St. Mark’s Peak.


ORIGINAL 1:15 p.m.

A 21-year-old Instagram Influencer from Toronto, missing overnight in the North Shore backcountry has been found.

North Shore Rescue said the snowshoer was located by helicopter search crews around 10:45 a.m. Friday morning. Rescue teams were being sent into the area where the woman was spotted. It was unclear immediately what the woman's condition was.

North Shore Rescue crews had spent the morning and hours Thursday night searching for the snowshoer, who was missing overnight in the backcountry near Cypress Mountain after becoming lost on the Howe Sound Crest Trail.

Ground crews and helicopter search teams had been combing an area near Lembke Creek on the east side of St. Mark’s Peak.

The woman – a tourist from Toronto – was snowshoeing alone and had been missing since about 3 p.m. Thursday.

Search manager Doug Pope with North Shore Rescue said Friday they knew the woman reached St. Mark’s Peak just before 3 p.m. Thursday because she phoned her boyfriend in Toronto and posted photos on Instagram.

After that, the woman began descending back down the trail and became lost, said Pope. She called her boyfriend again “to say that she was lost in very deep terrain. And she sounded quite distressed and then the phone connection dropped,” he said.

The boyfriend then called police and a search was immediately started.

Pope said searchers were able to get information from police that the woman’s last phone call pinged off a cell tower in Surrey, indicating she was probably on the east side of the ridge, an area of steep terrain that descends down into the Capilano watershed.

Ground search crews and a helicopter crew using night vision goggles searched last night for several hours, said Pope. Searchers also landed in the watershed and attempted to make voice contact with loudspeakers, but did not hear anything back.

Weather conditions in the area were good earlier Thursday afternoon but deteriorated through the evening, said Pope, including gusting wind and blowing hail during the night.

The Lembke Creek drainage – where a number of creeks end in waterfalls and cliffs - has been the site of multiple searches over the years, said Pope.

The snowshoer had some decent gear with her, he said. “She had snowshoes, microspikes, poles, a water filter.”

But searchers didn’t know if the woman was carrying a headlamp or warm clothing layers.

And “travelling alone in avalanche terrain like that is a worry,” he added.

Pope added when someone is lost, it’s always the best idea to call police first. “Calling 911 often allows us to get your actual location,” he said.

When lost in the North Shore Mountains, it’s always a better idea to ascend to a ridge, he added, rather than descending – both because terrain usually gets more treacherous further down and because there’s a better chance of getting a cellphone call out and being found by searchers.



B.C. had 509 new COVID-19 cases, nine deaths, in past 24 hours

509 new cases, 9 deaths

In the past 24 hours, 509 more British Columbians were diagnosed with COVID-19, including 86 in the Interior Health region.

The new cases bring the total positive tests in B.C. to 60,117, but there remains 4,604 active cases. Active cases across the province have continued to drop in recent weeks, dropping by 20 since Thursday.

Of the active cases, 349 people are hospitalized, a drop of 13 since Thursday, and 68 are in intensive care.

Nine more people have died from COVID-19 in B.C., including two residents of Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home. To date, 1,047 British Columbians have died from the virus in B.C.

Another 6,168 people received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in B.C., for a total of 75,914.

A new outbreak was declared at Hilltop House care home in Squamish, while two other care home outbreaks were declared over.

Outbreaks remain at 10 Interior long-term care homes and at Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake, where six staff member have tested positive.

Earlier Friday, the federal government announced production issues will temporarily reduce the number of Pfizer vaccines shipped to Canada. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the reduction would have a significant impact in B.C. in the next few weeks, but they would be providing information on that “in the coming days.”



Tourism sector fears 'disastrous' effects if B.C. halts leisure travel from Alberta

Tourism sector anxious

B.C.’s tourism sector fears a major setback if the provincial government is able to somehow keep leisure travellers from crossing B.C.’s border with Alberta in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – a move that Premier John Horgan said yesterday that he was looking into.

“We think it would be disastrous,” Tourism Industry Association of BC CEO Walt Judas told BIV. “It clearly would send the wrong message to visitors that they're not welcome here.”

Most British Columbians, however, are likely to cheer the government telling non-British Columbians travelling for non-essential reasons to stay home – even those from neighbouring Alberta.

A Research Co. poll in November found 87% of British Columbians were in favour of having travel restrictions across B.C.-Alberta border. That’s more than the 82% of Canadians who supported restrictions on crossing provincial borders across the country.

That proportion of British Columbians supporting border restrictions with Alberta is almost as high as the 89% of British Columbians in November who said they wanted to keep the ban on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border, according to Research Co. data.

“The numbers are huge,” Research Co. president Mario Canseco told BIV. “I don’t think that it’s an issue that would lead to people being upset with the government.”

Horgan on January 14 sounded tired of being asked about whether his government would try to enact any restrictions at the Alberta border.

“People have been talking about it for months and months, as you know, and I think it's time we put it to bed, finally, and say either we can do it, and this is how we would do it, or we can't [do it] and this is the reason why,” Horgan said. “That’s the objective over the next couple of days.”

The Canadian Constitution guarantees residents freedom of movement in its Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but notes that this right is “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

The legal debate would centre on whether protecting the health of Canadians during a pandemic is a reasonable limit on freedom that a government could put into law.

Regardless of how courts might interpret attempts at interprovincial travel restrictions, the initiatives are wrong-headed, Judas said.

He stressed that tourism-sector operators are acutely concerned about health and safety protocols, and have “gone above and beyond the call,” to limit the spread of the virus that has spawned a global pandemic.

“We don't think that targeting visitors is the solution,” he said.

“We haven't seen any data that would suggest that visitors are a big part of the problem in transmission rates. We can't be targeting visitors or people by where they live. It's really about individuals’ behaviour, which leads to increases in transmission rates.”

One large community outbreak in the Okanagan stemmed from groups of people – including some from out of the province – gathering at multiple parties during the Canada Day weekend. Another Okanagan outbreak, in December, involved more than 100 cases, and stemmed from staff and others at Big White socializing in close proximity.

Aside from outbreaks that involved non-essential socializing, many COVID-19 outbreaks have taken place at work camps that involved Albertans working in B.C., or British Columbians working in Alberta. Horgan is not at this point considering banning that kind of travel.

The tourism sector has been hit hard, however, and it is a significant part of B.C.’s economy. Visitors not only contribute to the province’s hotel sector, which generated about $3.2 billion annually pre-pandemic, but also the restaurant industry, which generated about $15 billion annually pre-pandemic, according to industry association statistics.

The border between B.C. and Alberta also has many roads, meaning that a ban on leisure travel could be challenging and expensive to enforce.

A better use of resources, Judas said, could be to start to allow non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border and put in place a program that screens those who cross it by land for COVID-19. That border has been closed to leisure travellers since March, despite leisure travellers from around the globe being free to enter Canada, and B.C., by air.



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