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Vernon  

Search enters 5th day

An intensive RCMP search of a rural Shuswap property entered its fifth day Monday.

Last week, human remains were found in a pasture behind the main house at 2290 Salmon River Road, northeast of Falkland, and black fencing went up to protect the scene from gawkers.

On Sunday, an RCMP helicopter was brought in to shoot aerial photos of the farmland.

"We anticipate this search continuing for several days," said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.

RCMP have also been searching "open areas, roads and ditches" along Springbend Road in the Enderby area.

Castanet reported last week that a second area was under scrutiny, with officers in gloves conducting a fingertip search.

While it is related to the same investigation, Moskaluk stressed "efforts in that area were not related to a particular private property."

Meanwhile, a man has been charged in connection with a separate Aug. 28 incident in the Salmon River Road area, where a prostitute was allegedly threatened with a gun before she escaped.

Last year, three women went missing in the North Okanagan, and they've yet to be found. As well, a woman went missing in Malakwa in September.  



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Stickle freeway?

The 20th Street extension project is a major part of the Ministry of Transportation's efforts to stop crashes at the Stickle-Highway 97 intersection.

“It looks like we are getting a freeway instead of a proposed one-way street,” said Jack VanDyk, who sent in recent photos of the roadwork. “About one hundred metres of trees and shrubs have been cut down along the creek to angle the new road across the creek. Once this is all done, the remaining wetland will be meaningless.”

In July, a rally organized by SENS, the Sustainable Environmental Network Society, was held in a last-ditch attempt to save the BX Creek Trail at the north end of town.

The road project was at one time opposed by the North Okanagan Naturalists Club but the group decided to work with the government to protect what would be left once the road had been built.

VanDyk expressed his concern that even more green space could go.

“The developer, who is building the retirement centre, has applied for rezoning the area east of BX Creek behind Rona for another housing project.”



Rally for the missing

A rally calling for an end to violence against women was held on Salmon River Road Sunday, a few miles from a Shuswap farm where human remains have been found. The search of the farm took a new turn when an RCMP helicopter was brought in to photograph the farmland from the air.

“This is in no way criticism of the RCMP. We need their help,” said rally organizer Jody Leon who was wearing an Ashley Simpson T-shirt. Simpson is one of three women who went missing in the area last year.

Leon said there are six women from the region who are missing.

“We want answers and to call for an end to violence against all women of all races.”

Approximately 80 people attended the rally, including two police officers, with a moment of silence, then prayers, stories and drum songs.

“We're gathered here for the murdered and missing women,” said Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian. “We pray for the families of the missing and murdered women and the officers who are working on their behalf.”

Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson pointed to the national inquiry into missing and murdered women which has been criticized for cutting short families who have lost loved ones.

“Are they listening?” Wilson asked, adding that the outcome must have meaning or everything will stay the same.

The Splatsin are hoping a new tactic will help them locate some of the missing women.

Leon announced the formation of a drone search group to cover ground “where our sisters have gone missing.”

She called for volunteers, especially those with technical experience in operating the drones.

To the north of the rally, RCMP continued their search of farm.

The helicopter was brought in around 2 p.m. to capture aerial views of the property.

In one section, behind the main farmhouse, black fencing has gone up where it's believed the human remains were found.



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Trail: thinking too small

Okanagan Valley communities should be thinking big when it comes to the Okanagan Rail Trail and tourism but they're not, according a Vernon city councillor.

“Right now we're looking at it piecemeal,” said Coun. Catherine Lord, pointing to the lack of coordination between communities following the $22 million purchase of the 48-kilometre line between Kelowna and Coldstream.

In April, Lake Country farmer Alan Gatzke urged communities to name and trademark the trail before it officially opens.

However, the one meeting organized to discuss such an endeavour was not attended by the mayors of Kelowna and Vernon or a member of the Okanagan Indian Band – all of whom were busy with other matters. 

“I think (Gatzke's) plan was really, really good,” said Lord. “Nobody was ready for it yet but they should have been thinking about this for the last year now and I think that's the direction we need to go.”

The councillor said the interjurisdictional team that has been responsible for getting public feedback and advising on the trail “has not been forthcoming with that much information so there've been a lot of times when the politicians themselves have said 'how come we didn't know about this?' So the decisions are being made at the wrong level.”

Lord called the trail a huge boon for the region.

“Look at the Kettle Valley, this could be twice as good if we pull it together.”

Lord is also frustrated with planning for the trail in the North Okanagan.

She expressed her concern during a meeting of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee on Thursday that got bogged down in a discussion about toilets for the trail.

“This started as a visioning session,” Lord said during the meeting, urging participants to move forward in a logical way.

“They're thinking way too small,” Lord said following the session. “This whole community has really come on board for this because they envision it as a world tour thing, right?"

Lord said she would have liked to have seen an advisory committee formed involving members of staff, politicians from the City of Vernon and the District of Coldstream and representatives from groups who use the trail, including Ribbons of Green and the Naturalists Club.

“That's not happening. (GVAC) itself is making all of those decisions and I don't think they're equipped to do it, I really don't."



Human remains at farm

After three days of extensively searching a rural property in the North Okanagan, police have confirmed they have found human remains.

On Thursday, dozens of officers swarmed the farm at 2290 Salmon River Road, northeast of Falkland, and they've continued the search into the weekend.

“During the course of executing a search warrant at a property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road, human remains have been located,” Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said Saturday in a statement.

“This matter is being treated as suspicious at this time."

While police have yet to elaborate on what prompted the search, it may be related to an incident in late August.

On Oct. 13, police put out a warning to the public about an incident on Aug. 28, where a 36-year-old man allegedly arranged a meet-up with a prostitute in the Salmon River Road area, and threatened her with a gun, before she escaped.

Police arrested the man at the time, but he was later released without charges.

A Canada411 search of the rural property where the human remains were found turns up Wayne Sagmoen.

A Curtis Wayne Sagmoen, born in 1980, has been recently charged with six charges stemming from an Aug. 27 incident near Falkland, including intentionally discharging a firearm and uttering threats.

A warrant was issued for Sagmoen's arrest on Oct. 17, and he was arrested the following day.

Last year, three women went missing in the North Okanagan, and they've yet to be found, but a family member of one of the missing women says police have contacted him and said the search was not related to their disappearance.



Protest rally planned

A rally is being planned to protest violence against women.

According to a Facebook post, participants are being asked to gather at the Salmon River Store on corner of Heywood Road Yankee Flats Road near Silver Creek at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 22.

“Calling all hand drums women and men. Let's be there to call on continuing support against violence against women,” reads the post.

“There was recent charges against someone holding a weapon to a prostitute in the area and ongoing investigation. Six missing and murdered women and two that were from Yankee Flats Road which connects to Salmon River Road. Let's fill this road up with hand drums and support against violence on our sisters of all colours.”

On Thursday, a massive RCMP search was launched on a sprawling farm at 2290 Salmon River Road.

While police have not said why they are investigating the property, there is speculation it has to do with an incident earlier this year when a man threatened a sex trade worker with a firearm.

The suspect met the victim through an online website used by sex trade workers.

According to court records, Wayne Sagmoen, born in 1980, has been charged with numerous offences, including disguising his face with intent to commit an offence, intentionally discharging a firearm, uttering threats, possessing weapon for a dangerous purpose and other offences.

A Canada411 search found Sagmoen's name connected to the property police are currently searching on Salmon River Road.



Tolko pledges diversity

The head of Tolko Industries pledged today to make changes in his company to support the advancement of women into more leadership positions.

Brad Thorlakson, Tolko’s president and CEO, joined dozens of B.C. CEOs when he added his name to the Minerva Diversity Pledge, pledging to “steer the company toward a more inclusive and diverse future.”

The pledge grew out of a 2015 report, released by Minerva, called the Face of Leadership BC Score Card.

The Minerva Foundation is a B.C. charitable organization that aims to help women and girls gain the confidence and skills they need to reach their leadership potential. Its report measured gender diversity in leadership amongst the largest companies in the province.

The day the report was released, 11 CEOs publicly signed Minerva’s gender diversity pledge.

When Thorlakson added his signature today, he become one of a growing list of CEOs to do so.

“We are committed to building a more diverse and inclusive workplace at Tolko,” Thorlakson said in a statement after signing the pledge.

“From a business perspective, a diverse and inclusive workplace makes companies stronger; from a personal perspective, as the father of two strong and capable young women, it makes me proud to know Tolko is taking steps to build a better future for all.”

Tina Strehlke of the Minerva Foundation said Thorlakson’s support is another small step towards battling gender inequality in British Columbia.

“Research shows that buy-in from top leaders is critical to advancing women in the workplace. CEOs who make gender diversity part of their strategic agenda are more likely to reap the benefits of diversity including increased profits, employee engagement and innovation,” she said.

Minerva’s diversity pledge features seven principles. Current signatories include the CEOs of Canfor, Best Buy Canada, BC Lotteries, and the Jim Pattison Group.



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