Wine & Wild Things

For 17 years this one-of-a-kind fundraiser has been a favourite summertime event in Vernon. 

Allan Brooks Nature Centre’s 'Wine and Wild Things' fundraiser returns on June 23.

The event features live birds of prey with 'The Raptors and The Bug Guys with their Reptiles' all while sipping on local wines, mouth-watering appetizers and handmade desserts.

“We’re having a lot of fun connecting kids and the kid in each of us, with nature in the Okanagan," said Aaron Deans, Allan Brooks Nature Centre, executive director. "This important fundraiser helps support our continued delivery of youth and family-focused nature educational programming."

"We are also aiming to raise funds to construct aviaries on-site at Allan Brooks to enhance public’s access and close up experience with raptors."

This year's event will take place at Lone Pine Ranch and Events Centre, while attendees enjoy live music around the campfire by musician Rob Dinwoodie.

“We are thrilled with the new location," said Vicki Proulx, events and communications coordinator at ABNC. “Lone Pine Ranch offers us a spectacular outdoor space allowing guests to have a true hands-on nature experience.”

Tickets go on sale April 23 at 9 a.m. through the Allan Brooks Nature Centre website.


74 guns seized from home

Two people have been arrested after police seized 74 restricted and non-restricted firearms from a home near Vernon.

Just before 7 p.m. on April 19 the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP responded to a call of multiple gunshots allegedly fired on a property in the 1640 block of Simons Road, Spallumcheen.

The guns were apparently being fired unsafely.

Investigators arrived on scene to see guns were being fired in close to public roadways and other homes.

Police found a home where bullet holes were scattered through vehicles on the property.

A man and woman, both from Armstrong, were quickly found and taken into custody.

RCMP searched the property finding numerous firearms and ammunition being stored unsafely.

"Thankfully, no one was injured in this incident," said Const. Kelly Brett. "The seizure of the 74 firearms improves safety in the community as most firearms used in crime are domestically sourced."

"When they are not stored properly it makes it easier for them to be stolen for criminal use."

The pair are facing many firearm-related offences and are scheduled to appear in court this June.

For information on licensing, registration and general safekeeping of firearms, please visit the RCMP’s Canadian Firearms Program website.

If you’d like to surrender unwanted firearms, never bring firearms or ammunition to police detachments or community police offices.

Call your local police and officers will come pick them up. When police attend to pickup your firearm, do not bring it to the door. Leave it securely stored so the officer can make sure the firearm is unloaded and safe to transport.

Register to save lives

In honour of National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week, Vernon City Council is challenging 1,000 locals to sign up on the BC’s Organ Donor Registry this week.

One organ donor can save up to eight lives.

“Becoming an organ and tissue donor is a selfless act and you could be offering the gift of life to someone,” said Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund. “I registered in under five minutes."
"It’s easy and it makes you feel like you have already made a difference in someone’s life by signing up.”

With the recent Humboldt Broncos bus crash that tragically killed 16 people, organ donation is more prevalent now than ever before. 

Logan Boulet, who recently signed up to be an organ donor, was one of the hockey players who died in the crash.

His organs were donated to six different people.National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week takes place from April 22 to 29 across Canada.


Once you've decided to save a life by registering as an organ donor, it's important to talk with family about the decision you've made.

Boulet's godfather, Neil Langevin, said Boulet had signed his donor card shortly after turning 21 in March.

“Logan had made it known, and very clear to his family, that he had signed his organ donor card when he turned 21,” Langevin said in a Facebook post.

To register your wishes, have your B.C. Personal Health Number ready and go online.

If you think you have already registered as an organ donor double check by clicking here.

You can also register over the phone at 1-800-663-6189.

Next step for BX Elementary

BX Elementary School expansion has taken a step towards becoming a reality. 

The Ministry of Education has asked School District 22 to deliver a final Project Definition Report by September 30,  for the expansion.

To advance the BX School Expansion project, The PDR submission must provide a detailed assessment of need and options. It will look into costs, benefits and risks as well as engineering and design, environmental and permit requirements — anything that could affect the project scope, schedule or budget.

"We are very pleased to be able to move on to the next step in the process," said School Board Chair Kelly Smith. "The BX community has seen steady growth over the years, which has resulted in increased enrolment at BX Elementary. An expansion to the school will allow the district, and specifically BX Elementary, to accommodate the long-term growth in the area and eliminate the need for the five portables.”

While this is not yet met approval, a PDR is the second stage of planning and shows that the district has received Ministry of Education support for advancing the project.

The Ministry will rely on the information within the PDR to seek project funding approval by Government in late 2018.

The district must present a Five Year Capital Plan to the Board of Education on an annual basis, along with a Project Request Fact Sheet, the first stage of the Ministry’s Capital Project Procurement

In the 2018/19 Capital plan, the BX School Expansion project was identified as the first priority for expansion projects.

Walking for autism

Chantelle Deacon

The sun came out just in time for Vernon's fifth annual Autism Awareness Walk and BBQ at Polson Park on Sunday.

The event takes place each year in support of Autism Awareness Month.

"We've got lots of different service providers here," said Rebecca Kerr, Autism Awareness Walk committee member. "They've got most of the tables out here just showing what is available to families and children with autism and some for adults too."

A recent study released by the Government of Canada states that one in 66 Canadian children and youth have an autism diagnosis.

"We want to be able to provide this event every year," Kerr said. "There seems to be an increase of people being diagnosed with autism."

"We just want to be able to provide them with different options and let them know what's available for them in their community."

The event featured live music, a barbecue, mini golf and a bouncy castle for families to enjoy.  

"It's amazing to see how they grow and develop," Kerr said. "It's wonderful to be a part of that."

MLA protects water

Residents drawing water from the Hullcar Aquifer have passed a dubious anniversary: it was four years ago in March a water advisory was issued due to high nitrate levels.

Since then, residents have been trying to get action taken to reduce the nitrate levels that have damaged their water supply.

It is believed farming activity is at the root of the high nitrate levels, but Save Hullcar Aquifer Team chairperson Al Price said a surprise motion by a Green Party MLA earlier this week will help with their ongoing battle.

Price said he was happy to hear Green Party Environment and Climate Change critic Sonia Furstenau introduce an amendment to the Environmental Management Act that, if passed, would disallow the deposit of waste materials in a sand or gravel pit, in a limestone or sandstone quarry or above a highly sensitive aquifer.

“Natural drinking water sources are vitally important to the people who rely on them,” said Furstenau. “Replacing them comes at a significant costs. It is essential that we take these potential costs into consideration when determining appropriate sites for waste disposal.”

Price said the move is a step in the right direction and if passed would have far reaching benefits.

“I think it is a positive move not just for the Hullcar Valley and the Splatsin people, but the whole province,” said Price.

“I know there are other vulnerable aquifers that are threatened around the province and it's more than high time that the government made sure the safe water that we have is protected and the aquifers that can be cleaned up is done so quickly.”

Price does not think there will be a quick solution to the Hullcar situation, especially with nitrate-filled effluent still being spread on area fields.

Price said current estimates are 15 years before the aquifer is remediated if the nitrates were to stop today.

'Change is possible'

Josh Winquist

Jacob Philp can pinpoint the exact moment his life changed — the no-turning-back moment.

He remembers walking into the bathroom of his apartment to find his then-girlfriend slumped on the floor, next to her was a piece of tinfoil. 

"She said it was heroin." Jacob remembers she was ashamed.

Without fear of consequence or any nervousness around trying something unknown to him, he grabbed a lighter. He placed the flame under the tinfoil to heat the heroin and drew in a deep breath, inhaling the smoke that came off. 

"I don't remember much after that," Jacob says. "I remember being in my bed, my eyes were closed. She (girlfriend) thought I was overdosing. She said, 'I'm going to put something to your lips. Just inhale, it is going to wake you up. It will help you.' 

I remember the feeling of it on my lips," he says. "I inhaled, and I perked right up. It was meth."

Within a matter of minutes, Jacob had tried both heroin and crystal meth for the first time.

That was it. That was the turning point. 

Up until then, at 24 years old Jacob was a young man on a 'good path.'  He had a good job — an apprenticeship under his dad. He had a car and an apartment. He had passion and dreams for his future. He had a strong, close family.

It only took a matter of weeks for the addiction to cost him his job. 

It was only a matter of months for the addiction to cost him his apartment and car. 

Within a few more months Jacob was sleeping at his dealer's house, relying on theft to feed his addiction.

It wasn't long after that Jacob was completely homeless, living on the streets of Kelowna.

Over four years Jacob's addiction cost him nearly everything. It pushed his family, freedom and life to the very edge.

Jacob says right after his first experience with heroin and meth, he knew he found something. Something to keep him awake when he needed to be awake or to help him fall asleep when he needed to be asleep.

"I had looked at this girl who had done heroin, and yes she was sleeping on my floor, but I couldn't see the truth behind her life. She had a front on ... She had clearly been doing this and her life didn't look like it was in shambles." 

Jacob had dabbled with almost every other drug from his teens to his young adult life. 

He was told, "don't do cocaine, it will ruin your life." He had done it, and it didn't. 

He had even been prescribed pharmaceutical opiates, something he admits to abusing.  

"I took more than what I was told to take, and I felt shitty after, but it wasn't as bad as what people were saying... and I knew that heroin was an opiate."

The fear from past experiences with other drugs wasn't there, and Jacob's immediate view of his girlfriend and her life made it seem like maybe there would be no addiction. No problems. "It didn't look like it was that bad," Jacob says. 

Jacob and his girlfriend would stay up all night using drugs. They would nod out on heroin once in a while throughout the night, and Jacob would wake up exhausted. He would then smoke "a whole bunch of meth" to perk himself up to go to work.

"I would use drugs at work because I would think it would help me. It made me feel like Superman, so I could do my job better. Within a month, I had lost my job."

Jacob was getting skinnier and skinnier, in an unhealthy way. He knew he was physically changing but in his mind, he wasn't changing at all. In his mind, he was looking good.

"I couldn't see this addiction, but I didn't really understand what being addicted meant."

Jacob was doing whatever he could to sustain his addiction. He stole, a lot, mostly thefts under $5,000.

Jacob didn't consider himself an addict, but he would use the term for sympathy, or to get what he wanted. He'd say he was addicted to heroin. He'd tell people he was sick, hoping to get either another hit from his dealer or a few bucks from a friend or parent. 

Jacob says at that point he wasn't thinking of himself in terms of either a good or bad person, he was just a person who used drugs.

"I knew I was a heroin user, but I didn't think of myself as a junkie," he says. "Never once in my addiction did I ever use needles. I only ever smoked the drugs, and I thought as long as I smoke them I wasn't that bad of a heroin addict. I wasn't that bad of a person. I wasn't a junkie."

Three years on, and Jacob was arrested. He spent several months in Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre. He had accumulated several charges while living on the streets and was looking at a substantial sentence. 

He was let out on bail, but while in KRCC things had changed. Heroin wasn't a thing anymore. All of his dealers, all of his people, were using fentanyl. 

Jacob dove in quickly and deeply. He says in just a few months he must have overdosed more than a dozen times from fentanyl. 

He remembers one time waking up in the hospital after being almost declared dead. He says he could see in the corner of his eye his parents crying. 

Jacob says at that moment he didn't feel sad that he had almost died on them, he was mad because they had injected him with naloxone, getting rid of the high.

Jacob was walking the line, straddling life and death, and he knew it. 

He had friends literally die on him. Two friends fatally overdosed while using with Jacob. In both situations, Jacob was too high to save them.  

"The hardest part to process is that I didn't feel a thing. Not a damn thing. I didn't shed one tear for those people or their families."

Jacob called it, just another casualty to the life.

The physical, emotional and mental pain felt when coming off of these drugs was excruciating, says Jacob.

"It can drive a person to do anything to get rid of that pain. It is hard to explain but when you are coming down from these drugs, the pain and loneliness and suffering you feel is unlike anything I ever imagined was real in this world." 

Jacob says the only way he knew how to get rid of the pain was to use more drugs. 

"Every day that I was living that life, every single day I wanted to change, and so did the people that I knew. We didn't want to live that life anymore. It is not that we choose to live that way or want to live that way, it is that we didn't know how to change." 

It got to the point Jacob stopped caring.

"I was at my end. I was praying I got hit by a bus. I was ready for the end of that suffering."

For two months, every day Jacob would call to get into treatment. Every day he would get an answering machine. Then on a day, when Jacob was at his lowest, all options exhausted and looking for an out of any kind, he gets the callback and is admitted to a treatment facility. 

"I was lucky," he says. "But even getting into treatment wasn't guaranteed success."

Going through treatment, every moment in the back of his mind was the thought that "once I get out, I can go back to that life."

But as the days passed he began to see little miracles. He saw the relationships with his family mending.  
For more than a year now, Jacob has been clean and sober. 

He is working with the John Howard Society in Vernon, helping others who are in the very same situation he was in for four years.

"I can see that with some of the people that I work with today there is a lot of bias and unfair views on them."

Jacob believes when it comes to the homeless-addicted there's a lack of funding, a lack of information, a lack of support and a lack of empathy. 

"When you are in that situation and people are looking at you that way, it is hard to feel motivated to try to change... I had that feeling, like people were going to look at me like a criminal addict regardless of whether I want to be that or not."

Jacob hears about the interactions between the people he works with and the larger Vernon community. He can relate to those situations because he has been there. 

Another city, but the same situations. 

"I was that person committing thefts and breaking into people's businesses, leaving garbage around and sleeping wherever I could sleep. I was that person, and I changed."

Jacobs says in order to succeed the person who is addicted has to really, really want it, and then things have to work out. 

He admits he was lucky. He had the family support. He was able to get the help he needed, but not without a lot of luck.  

"Change is possible, Jacob says. "I was responsible for all kinds of shit in my community, there were tons of people who hated me. But, here I am today, a completely changed person, trying to give back to the community that helped me change."

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