Workers out of hospital

UPDATE: 11:15 a.m.

A fire chief says poor ventilation at a Delta greenhouse is to blame for sending dozens of workers to hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Delta fire battalion chief Neil Shuster says an emergency call came in Saturday afternoon that at least 12 people at Windset Farms were suffering from inhalation of a suspected chemical agent.

He says once on scene, crews determined carbon monoxide was the culprit and that approximately 43 people required treatment on site.

The workers had been inside a greenhouse while a gas-powered pressure washer was running without adequate ventilation.

Representatives from Windset Farms did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Shuster says about 35 people were sent to hospital but all have since been released.

–from The Canadian Press

UPDATE: 6:35 a.m.

Dozens of people were taken to hospital on Saturday after they were exposed to carbon monoxide at a farm in Delta, B.C.

BC Emergency Health Services tweeted that 13 ambulances responded to "a major incident," and that 42 patients were admitted to hospital — 10 in serious to critical condition and 32 others in stable condition.

A spokeswoman for WorkSafeBC, which has taken over the investigation, said it wasn't clear how many remained in hospital on Sunday morning.

The incident reportedly occurred in a greenhouse nursery at Windset Farms, which grows produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

The company website says it's been in business for more than two decades and ships its produce internationally.

Officials speculated the carbon monoxide may have come from the gas powered engine of a pressure washer that was being used to clean the nursery.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas that's produced whenever fuel is burned.

It can cause health problems — and eventually death — because breathing it reduces the body's ability to carry oxygen in the blood.

Representatives from Windset Farms did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

– from The Canadian Press

ORIGINAL STORY: Saturday 8:45 p.m.

Exposure to carbon monoxide at a farm in Delta has led to more than 40 people being transported to hospital.

According to B.C. Emergency Health Services 32 people are in stable conditions and 10 more are in serious to critical condition as a result, BCEHS reported on Twitter.

WorkSafe BC was contacted by the Delta Police Department and has an officer on site, spokesperson Trish Chernecki said.

"We are working with the employer and first-responders and we will know more information tomorrow," Chernecki told Castanet.

Poisoning from carbon monoxide, which is odourless and tasteless, can deprive the brain, heart and other vital organs of oxygen.

Castanet will update with more information when it becomes available.


Remember treaty rights

The premier is being urged to remember the treaty rights of First Nations battling against the Site C dam project in northeastern B.C.

The Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations have been fighting the dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River because a planned 83-kilometre reservoir would flood farmland and traditional First Nations territory, affecting hunting, fishing and trapping rights.

“We call on Premier Horgan to remember the members of Treaty 8 who are defending their land and way of life against BC Hydro’s destructive Site C project,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).

Phillip's statement comes on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.

“Indigenous Rights are human rights,” said Phillip. “We call on federal, provincial and municipal governments to truly commit to the true spirit and intent of the UN Declaration as a fundamental international human rights instrument to advance human rights for Indigenous peoples as a framework for justice and reconciliation.”

Meanwhile, the federal government has released a report with 25 recommendations for establishing a B.C. human rights commission. 

The report includes a recommendation to “collaborate and consult with Indigenous groups to develop commission policies and practices that honour the principles set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Special ed gap warns BCTF

Teachers have their pick of jobs in British Columbia, but the head of their union warns that some students are going without their specially trained educators who are covering substitute positions that districts haven't been able to fill.

B.C. Teachers Federation president Glen Hansman said students requiring one-on-one attention or support in small groups from special education teachers are shouldering the burden of staffing issues.

"The bulk of the time, it's the child who's supposed to be receiving special education services who's unfairly having their program bumped that day," Hansman said.

There was already a lack of substitutes before the shortage of teachers became a crisis in the current school year, he said, adding some school districts don't have enough special education teachers either.

"The students with special needs are legally entitled to those accommodations and we've been putting a big spotlight, as have parents, on the fact that the system has been underserving those students for many, many years."

The Education Ministry couldn't say how many teachers are still needed across the province after a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling last year restored smaller class sizes and composition of classes after the previous Liberal government stripped those bargaining rights from teachers' contracts in 2002.

"Schools and districts are very near the end of hiring over 3,500 full-time teachers, the largest hiring campaign of teachers in B.C.'s history," the ministry said in a statement.

A task force of education experts appointed to assess workforce challenges is expected to provide recommendations by the end of the month, it said.

Hansman said the starting salary for teachers in British Columbia is the second-lowest in Canada, after Quebec, so that's deterring people from moving to the province, where the high cost of housing is an issue.

He said the Coquitlam and Central Okanagan school districts were among those that "got out of the gate" early with hiring strategies after the top court's ruling.

He singled out the Vancouver School District for acting too slowly.

"Vancouver seems to be the number one star with not doing itself any favours when it came to recruiting people," Hansman said.

David Nelson, associate superintendent of the Vancouver School District, said 470 teachers were hired last spring but many have resigned to work in other districts closer to where they live as jobs opened up.

"Our recruitment team has been working countless hours, evenings, weekends, as soon as we knew of the Supreme Court ruling and we did our very best to keep out in front of it," he said. "But it's been hard to keep up when you're also seeing teachers leave on the other end."

Nelson said a team of 10 people travelled to a Toronto recruitment fair of 4,800 teachers last month but only two people accepted jobs.

The district has implemented a $1,500 moving allowance as an incentive for anyone arriving from another province and is also looking into providing temporary home stays, Nelson said.

"So asking employees or individuals who work for the school board if they have a room or a suite they'd be willing to make available either for a short- or long-term to help a candidate in relocating," he said.

Brent Mansfield was an elementary school teacher for three years before he left his job in 2010 to run a non-profit group but the long hours working from home and lack of social contact brought him back to his passion for teaching last June.

"It was a personal decision that came at a really strategic time," he said.

"I actually found that within 24 hours of jobs closing, I'd had multiple offers, which never would have happened before," Mansfield said, adding he got his first pick for a position at a school four blocks from his home in Vancouver, where he teaches grades 3 and 4.

"They have a school garden and I knew a couple of the teachers, and that was my dream."

Several teachers at the school are recent graduates of the University of British Columbia, Mansfield said.

"That was almost unheard of," he said of his previous stint in teaching. "That being said, the struggle on the opposite side is we're actually short of teachers so oftentimes when someone's sick it's actually a (special education teacher) who's covering. It's a little chaotic right now while the system gets settled down." 


Man stabbed in north Surrey

A man is in hospital in serious, non-life-threatening condition after being stabbed in the early evening on Saturday in Surrey.

Forensic investigators are currently on scene at 98th Avenue and King George Boulevard where the stabbing victim was found, Surrey RCMP said in a news release.

Officers were called to the area at about 6:45 p.m., where the man was reportedly located with several stab wounds.

Police added that the attack was not random, and the suspect and victim are believed to know each other.

Homeless camp fire doused

No one was hurt in a fire at a Vancouver homeless camp on Saturday thanks to a response by fast-acting residents.

The blaze was sparked in one of the tents at about 11 a.m. in the camp on Powell Street.

"Apparently some lady was walking by and she yelled fire," camp resident Ward Ferguson told CTV. "It was going pretty good by the time we got there."

Ferguson said he and another resident put out the blaze with fire extinguishers and gallons of water before fire crews arrived.

The man who resides in the tent had reportedly left minutes before the fire began. Minor damage was sustained in his tent.

Ferguson noted that the man's belongings were packed up to move, which likely prevented further damage.

Residents in the homeless camp are being evicted next week.

- with files from CTV Vancouver

Landlord loophole closing

Renters in British Columbia no longer need to worry about their landlords hiking up rates to match high rents in hot neighbourhoods.

The NDP government announced it's closing another loophole in residential tenancy and manufactured home park tenancy regulations by eliminating a clause that permitted landlords to raise rates above the allowable rental increase limit to match rents within a geographic area.

Spencer Chandra Herbert, a New Democrat member of the B.C. legislature, said the change is part of an effort to provide the 1.5 million renters in the province with more security.

"Renters have been threatened with huge rent hikes under the existing rules — that's a scary situation for any renter," he said in a news release.

The current allowable rent increase is set at four per cent but the clause allowed landlords to raise rents at significantly higher rates to match neighbouring prices.

Andrew Sakamoto, executive director of the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, said some landlords took advantage of the clause to "bully" tenants into agreeing to rent increases.

"A landlord will go to a senior and say, 'You know what, the law allows me to apply for this 50 per cent geographic increase but I'm a nice guy, I'll let you sign for a 30 per cent rent increase and we won't have to go through the whole process. I'll give you a break,'" he said. "These often disadvantaged tenants won't know any better and they'll sign the agreement and accept or consent to a 30 per cent increase."

Sakamoto said the move to eliminate the clause compliments changes announced earlier this year to slow skyrocketing rental rates.

The government said in October that it would eliminate vacate clauses and restrict rent increases between fixed-term tenancy agreements. Landlords could previously abuse the clauses to force out tenants at the end of a lease and hike up rents for new agreements.

Sakamoto said the changes will have a significant impact for renters in competitive markets like Vancouver where the vacancy rate hovers near zero.

He adds more changes are needed to improve housing security and affordability for renters. The centre is advocating for greater penalties against landlords who evict tenants for renovations and fail to follow through on the work.

Sakamoto said the burden for reporting that the reason for the eviction was honoured should no longer be on the tenant who is seeking compensation if they were wrongfully evicted.

"It's often challenging, right. You don't live in the unit any more, it's hard to gather evidence of what's going on in there. So we'd like to flip that burden and see the landlords have to prove to an arbitrator that they did follow through," he said.

The elimination of the vacate and geographic clauses and limitation on rent increases take effect Monday.

Time running out for money

Time is running out for several groups to apply for government monies.

First Nations, local governments and not-for-profit organizations must have their applications for the fourth intake of the BC Rural Dividend program submitted before the deadline on Dec. 15.

Single applicants can apply for up to $100,000 for community-driven projects and must contribute at least 20 per cent of the total project cost.

Partnerships involving more than one eligible applicant can apply for up to $500,000 and must contribute 40 per cent of the total project cost.

The project-development funding stream will provide up to $10,000 to help communities with limited capacity build business cases and feasibility assessments needed to develop strong future projects.

Under the BC Rural Dividend program's special circumstances allowance, which is used to help rural communities facing economic hardship, funding will also support those communities hard hit by wildfires in 2017.

Projects will be assessed and approved based on the following criteria:

  • Rural communities most in need
  • Improved community resiliency and economic strength
  • Partnership building and enhanced shared prosperity
  • Project feasibility and sustainability
  • Economic impact on rural communities
  • Attracting and retaining youth
  • Innovation in economic development

The fourth intake program guide and detailed instructions on how to apply are available on the BC Rural Dividend website. Fourth intake results will be announced before March 31, 2018.


1/4 kg of fentanyl seized

Police have confiscated enough fentanyl to potentially kill 125,000 people

The quarter kilogram of the deadly drug was heading for Victoria when police seized the shipment.

Two men were arrested early Nov. 30 after they took a ferry from the Lower Mainland and were heading toward downtown Victoria, according to police.

The men were also carrying 100 grams of cocaine.

The arrests were the result of an investigation that lasted several weeks, police said, adding the drugs were likely intended to circulate in downtown Victoria.

Both men have known gang affiliations and remain in custody. 

- with files from CTV Vancouver Island

Pedestrians seriously hurt

Two pedestrians were seriously injured after being struck by a vehicle in the Newton area of Surrey Friday evening.

On Dec. 8 at 7:37 p.m., two pedestrians were struck while crossing at 128th Street and 80th Avenue in Surrey in a marked crosswalk. 

“The driver of the vehicle remained on scene and is co-operating with police. Both pedestrians have been transported to local hospitals with serious injuries. Alcohol and drugs do not appear to be factors in the crash,” said Staff Sgt. Dwayne Farlin.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502
To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or www.solvecrime.ca

Bevy of bad guys busted

Four people have been arrested in relation to a series of residential break-ins in South Vancouver.

Since Nov. 9, several residents reported their homes were ransacked and personal items stolen.

|”It appears that suspects were circling neighbourhoods looking for potential targets,” said Const. Jason Doucette of the Vancouver Police Deparment. “They would knock on the door, and when no one answered, they forced entry.”

The VPD launched Project Lookout to investigate the break-ins and quickly identified possible suspects. Officers monitored the group, and four of the suspects were arrested after allegedly breaking into a home in Burnaby on Nov. 30. The property allegedly stolen from the Burnaby break-in was recovered, along with a quantity of purses and jewellery possibly related to other offences.

VPD detectives are continuing their investigation and additional charges are anticipated.

“Based on the information collected during Project Lookout, it appears that not all break-ins are getting reported to police. We have recovered a number of valuable personal items that we would like to return to the owners if linked through a police report. It’s not too late to call,” said Doucette.

Crown Counsel has approved one count of break-and-enter against:

  • Brandon Duncan, 33, of Vancouver
  • Corey Philbrick, 38, of Vancouver 
  • Jared Johnson, 32, of Victoria
  • Christopher Sparrow, 33, of Vancouver 

Police seek masked groper

Vancouver police have released a surveillance photo of a man suspected in two sexual assaults.

Police are asking for the public’s help to identify a person-of-interest in a pair of sexual assaults where a man wearing a surgical mask groped two women in East Vancouver. 

The first incident happened just after 10 p.m. on Oct. 29 after the woman got off a transit bus near East 64th Avenue and Victoria Drive when a man wearing a surgical mask grabbed her from behind.

He indicated he had a weapon, and repeatedly groped her before running away.

The second incident took place on Nov. 19 around 9 p.m., minutes after a woman got off the SkyTrain at the Nanaimo Station She was walking on Nanaimo Street near Kingsway when she was grabbed from behind and groped before the masked assailant ran off. 

The suspect has been described as Asian, 20 to 30 years old, approximately 5’8” tall, with a slim build, short dark hair, and dark-rimmed glasses, and wearing a surgical mask over his face at the time of the attacks.

“Detectives from the VPD’s Sex Crimes Unit have obtained a photograph of the person-of-interest in this investigation, but have been unable to identify him. They are now asking for the public’s assistance,” said Const. Jason Doucette.

“Anyone with information about the man in the photo, or information about these incidents, is asked to call investigators at 604-717-0604, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.”

Deer rescued from lake

Two members of a British Columbia search crew carried out an unusual rescue this week after they received a call about a deer stranded on an ice-covered lake.

Mike Ritcey and a fellow member of Kamloops Search and Rescue received a call from a woman who spotted the deer on Tunkwa Lake, about 80 kilometres west of Kamloops.

The pair sprang into action on Monday and decided to personally help the deer, although it wasn't an official Kamloops Search and Rescue operation.

"It was the right thing to do," Ritcey said, adding the doe was on the ice for at least 30 hours. "When they get out on the ice and they lay there, it's a bad deal. The birds eat them alive."

He said he took precautions testing the ice every step of the way. Once he reached the doe, he said he threw a scarf over its eyes to calm it down and rolled it onto a plastic toboggan to pull it back to shore.

"We helped stand it up and the thing took off," he said, adding that it didn't appear to have any broken bones and there was no sign of blood.

This wasn't the first time Ritcey came to the rescue of a stranded deer. He said there was another case a few years ago, but in that instance the deer was badly injured and had to be euthanized.

The B.C. Conservation Service says an officer received a call about the deer on Sunday, but due to a miscommunication, he thought the complaint had been dealt with when it hadn't.

Spokesman Tobe Sprado says it's not unusual for deer to flee to frozen lakes while being chased by predators and then be unable to get up from the ice.

"For whatever reason, they look at the lake as being a bit of a refuge," he says. "We get calls every year about stranded deer in ice."

He says conservation offers do not typically rescue deer in such situations.

"It's a risky situation, to be putting your life at risk for saving a deer," he says.

"We usually let nature run its course in a lot of these incidents. The other option, if we feel it's in public interest and to prevent suffering of the animal, we would possibly attend and euthanize that wildlife."

Another option the service would "possibly consider" would be to reach out to other entities, such as search and rescue or municipal fire departments, who would have the equipment and training to save the deer, he said.

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