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VPD chief responds to video

Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu has responded to national media coverage of a YouTube video in which a VPD officer smashes a car window.

Chu says the officer involved is being criticized for doing his job.

The chief specifically singles out a National Post report headlined: Cops Run Amok.

"In reviewing the article, ... I thought it may be helpful to include some facts that may have been lost in the way the story was reported," Chu said Tuesday.

"This was not a traffic stop, it was a drug arrest. Impaired driving alerted the officer to the danger the driver posed to public safety, and marijuana smoke billowing from the car made the cause of that impairment obvious. In order to make the arrest, force became necessary when the person refused to exit the vehicle, which is understandable since he allegedly knew what would be found in his car if he did."

Chu said the officer acted proactively when he saw a car weaving "that could at any minute strike another car or pedestrian causing injury or worse."

"The video shows the driver was evasive and lying about not having drugs in the car. In fact, there was enough marijuana for Crown counsel to accept a charge of possession for the purpose of trafficking. While it was necessary to use some force to extract the driver, it is also important to remember that no one was injured and no complaint was made."

Chu said officers know that every arrest they make and practically every move they make will be scrutinized, analyzed and occasionally criticized. "Through it all they routinely prove that preserving life and public safety trumps whatever slings and arrows they may endure."

"It would be ideal if force of any kind was never necessary to make an arrest. But for those who are trying desperately to avoid apprehension, it is not always the option they choose," he said.


Freeze on migrant workers

The B.C. government has put a three-month freeze on most new applications for a program used by prospective immigrants wanting to come to the province to work.

Labour Minister Shirley Bond says the pause will allow the province to speed up processing times for the Provincial Nominee Program so people can apply online when applications are accepted again starting July 2.

Bond says the program allows B.C. to nominate 5,500 foreign nationals to the federal government every year for a chance at permanent residency in Canada.

But Bond says B.C. currently has 8,300 applications in the queue so far this year, partly because more people are applying through the PNP rather than the reformed temporary foreign worker program.

While investment-ready entrepreneurs and some skilled workers will have to wait three months to apply through the program, applications will still be accepted for other categories including health-care workers.

Bond says jurisdictions across Canada are also grappling with revamping their own Provincial Nomination Program to meet labour needs.

The Canadian Press

Rockslide closes KVR

A large rock slide has forced the closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Trail and Kettle Valley Rail Trail between Princeton and Coalmont until further notice.

According to the Ministry of Forests, the significant rockfall event occurred last week, approximately 10 kilometres west of Princeton (at the 125-km mark of the KVR).

“The trail is currently impassable and unsafe for recreational use,” writes the ministry.

Recreation Sites and Trails BC is currently working with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and the Vermillion Trails Society to repair and reopen the trail.

RSTBC is also assessing the area's stability and installing signs to warn users of the closure.

The ministry says the trail will be reopened as soon as it is safe to do so.

Auditor rips computer plan

The B.C. government has spent seven years and $182 million trying to modernize aging computer systems in the social services ministries, but the province's auditor general says only one-third of that goal has been achieved.

Carol Bellringer also says personal information in the province's Integrated Case Management system wasn't fully safeguarded and wasn't monitored for inappropriate activity.

Bellringer's latest report says the system that was intended to improve delivery of social programs and supports hasn't met expectations within several government ministries.

The project dates back to 2008 with a plan to replace outdated government computer systems used to deliver social programs, including child protection, child-care subsidies and income assistance.

A report emerged last May that the system was prone to regular crashes, but the government said it was meeting the needs of social services clients.

The Opposition New Democrats say Bellringer's report shows that the system is an unfinished, dysfunctional mess.

The Canadian Press

New calf for J pod orcas

Researchers say yet another baby has been born to an endangered population of orcas off British Columbia's coast.

Scientists say it's the fourth calf to join the J pod group of southern resident killer whales in the last three months.

The Pacific Whale Watch Association spotted the baby Monday near Active Pass off B.C.'s southern Gulf Islands.

Researcher Jeanne Hyde says she first thought the baby was a different, three-month-old calf when she saw it near Galiano Island.

Crews then realized there were two calves and noticed heavy creases — or fetal folds — on the first orca's body, indicating it was a newborn.

The association's executive director Michael Harris says that despite the recent baby boom southern residents are still a long way from recovery, with just 81 whales left in waters off B.C. and Washington state.

The Canadian Press

Furlong feels vindicated

Former Olympics CEO John Furlong says he feels vindicated that he's been cleared of sexual assault allegations after suffering an unimaginable nightmare for nearly two years.

Speaking a day after a B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissed a third and final sexual assault lawsuit against him, Furlong says he felt paralyzing pain but is now ready to move on with his life.

A man who failed to show up for the start of a trial on Monday claimed Furlong sexually abused him 45 years ago at a Roman Catholic school in northern B.C.

Since December, suits against Furlong by two women have been withdrawn or dismissed that made similar allegations, which he says have caused him incalculable financial loss.

Furlong says he has fought against being angry with the three plaintiffs and hopes they find inner peace, though noting they will have to live with what they have done.

Furlong on Tuesday also dropped a defamation lawsuit against a reporter whose story in a Vancouver weekly newspaper in 2012 sparked the three cases against him, but he says he will still defend himself against a counter defamation filed by Laura Robinson.

The Canadian Press

Heiltsuk in fishery talks

B.C.'s Heiltsuk Nation says it is now in talks with federal officials about a disputed herring fishery in its central coast territory but has yet to see a resolution.

The First Nation issued a news release that says its representatives met Monday in Heiltsuk territory with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans regional director general, Sue Farlinger.

Farlinger's visit comes as Heiltsuk members occupied a federal field office on Denny Island by locking themselves inside and camping outside in objection to an expected gillnet fishery.

Heiltsuk Nation says discussions with Farlinger will resume Tuesday, and members will meanwhile continue to occupy the office where protests began Sunday night.

The First Nation says Farlinger has now offered to set aside areas for Heiltsuk food, social, and ceremonial fisheries, but the nation wants a guarantee that the fishery will be closed to commercial harvesters.

Heiltsuk Nation says there's not enough herring for a commercial fishery, but the federal government maintains that the stock can support a modest harvest.

The Canadian Press

Goose control returns

The egg addlers are back.

In an effort to control the Canada goose population in the Okanagan, a regional goose-management program is about to get back into gear. 

Now in its ninth year, the egg-addling (or shaking) program helps prevent an increase in the non-migratory resident goose population of about 2,500 birds. The geese inhabit the valley year round and do not migrate.

Contractors have already been searching for pairs and nesting sites, and hope to complete the addling program by mid-May.

“Most communities along the valley struggle with management of non-migratory Canada geese,” said program co-ordinator Kate Hagmeier. “What many people fail to understand, and a large part of the message that we want to provide, is that the geese we are targeting are not native species to the area. These geese are largely descendants of geese that were translocated here as part of an introduction program in the 1960s and '70s. Young geese and eggs were brought here from different areas in Canada to encourage the creation of an Okanagan goose population.”

What was not foreseen was the inability of these geese to migrate because they had no natural parents to teach them, along with their ability to adapt and thrive to the mild Okanagan climate. The consequences have been a growing population with few natural controls and a need to manage that population.

The egg addling program involves shaking eggs or coating them with non-toxic biodegradable food-grade corn oil within 14 days of incubation to make them non-viable. The U.S. Humane Society supports the technique.

Once addled, eggs are returned to the nest. Geese continue to incubate until they realize the eggs will not hatch. At this point, it is generally too late in the year to produce more eggs. Adults are not harmed. 

Key to the success of the program is finding new nests. The public is asked to report lone geese, pairs of geese, or nest locations on private or public land by emailing [email protected] or calling 1-877-943-3209. Information about the program is available at okanagangooseplan.com.

In addition to egg addling and population surveys, grants from the Western Canada Turfgrass Association in 2012 and 2014 contributed to a leg-banding program, which helps track bird movement patterns and lifespan.

“The data collected during the leg-banding program and addition of the second grant allows us to further improve our understanding of how the population is formed and where to target management strategies,” said Hagmeier. 

The Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program is a partnership between the City of Kelowna, Central Okanagan Regional District, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, District of West Kelowna, City of Vernon, City of Penticton, District of Lake Country, Town of Osoyoos, Town of Oliver, District of Peachland, District of Summerland, Westbank First Nation, Glenmore Ellison Irrigation District and Western Canada Turfgrass Association.

During the past eight seasons, more than 10,000 eggs have been prevented from hatching through this minimally invasive approach. Taking into account natural mortality of young through predation or nest failure, that is equivalent to, at minimum, 7,500 fewer geese in the valley and all their potential young. 

3 rescued from Fraser River

Three boaters have been rescued from the Fraser River near Richmond.

The Coast Guard was called when a passenger vessel began taking on water during some stormy weather at about 1 a.m. Tuesday.

People onboard were able to get the engine running, and were escorted to shore near Vancouver's airport.

No one was hurt, but the Coast Guard is now reminding people that even experienced boaters can end up in trouble during wet conditions.

A similar warning was issued from rescue crews in North Vancouver on Sunday after an experienced canoeist fell overboard in the Seymour River during heavy rainfall.

The woman was able to walk out of the river on her own but was shaken up and taken to hospital with minor injuries.

The Canadian Press

Amazon tests drones in BC

Amazon is testing drone delivery at a secret location in British Columbia.

The online shopping giant has set up several testing sites outside the U.S., including one in rural B.C., to avoid strict rules set by the Federal Aviation Authority.

Spokeswoman Kristen Kish declined to give any further details.

Transport Canada issued a one-year drone operating certificate to the online retailer in December.

The Special Flight Operations Certificate details “maximum altitudes, minimum distances from people and property, operating areas, and co-ordination requirements with air traffic services” the agency told CTV.

Amazon says Prime Air, its drone delivery system, will eventually be capable of getting packages to customers’ homes in 30 minutes or less.

The drones will be capable of travelling at more than 80 km/h, carrying packages weighing two kilograms, Amazon says.

“One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road,” Amazon says on its website.

Transport Canada has had regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles since 1996. It issued 1,672 certificates for drones in 2014.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

Mayor feels vindicated

A British Columbia municipality violated privacy rights by secretly installing surveillance software on computers used by the mayor, councillors and other city hall employees, says the province's privacy commissioner.

Elizabeth Denham said in a report released Monday that the District of Saanich displayed almost complete lack of awareness about privacy provisions enacted in B.C. more than two decades ago.

Mayor Richard Atwell, who raised concerns late last year about his and others' computers being bugged, said he felt vindicated by Denham's report and recommendations.

"I'm very concerned how we got to this point, where essentially, I was right and seemingly everyone else was wrong. And it took Elizabeth Denham to come out with her own independent investigation to validate what I was saying in the first place," Atwell told a news conference.

"What is this doing on my machine?" he said of the spyware that was installed on computers. "What purpose does it serve? Certainly it's a concern for democracy."

The computer spying allegations surfaced last December during a news conference that unfolded like a plot from a TV soap opera.

Atwell admitted to an extramarital affair after the Victoria Times Colonist reported on its front page that police responded to a domestic dispute call where he was present with a woman and her husband.

Atwell countered with concerns about a computer spy network at city hall and said police had stopped him four times on groundless suspicions of impaired driving.

Denham's report said the municipality failed to tell employees and elected officials about the amount of personal information it was collecting.

"One of the most disappointing findings in my investigation of the District of Saanich’s use of employee monitoring software is the near complete lack of awareness and understanding of the privacy provisions of B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act," she said in the report.

Saanich installed monitoring software, enabling automated screen shots, keystroke logging and other monitoring tools "without considering how these actions would measure up to their privacy obligations under the law."

Denham made five recommendations including destroying all data connected to a surveillance software called Spector 360 and disabling the software, which Saanich has already done. She also recommended the municipality appoint a privacy officer.

"Employees do not check their privacy rights at the office door," she said. "There is a right to privacy in the workplace, which has been upheld by Canadian courts and must be respected by public bodies as they consider what security controls are necessary to protect information in government networks."

Atwell, who was elected last November after defeating the former mayor who'd been in office for 18 years, said Saanich council will discuss Denham's recommendations at its next meeting.

He said it was too early to discuss possible disciplinary actions resulting from the report's findings, but he is confident the process will have broad benefits in terms of privacy awareness.

"I think we've actually improved things through this whole ordeal. It wasn't the ideal way of doing it but I think as a result we're going to have better government for all British Columbians."

Saanich issued a statement saying it will implement the report's recommendations.

The Canadian Press

Accident victim identified

The BC Coroners Service has confirmed the identity of a woman who died after a motor vehicle incident near Christina Lake on March 26.                 

She was Amanda Louise Koppin, 33, of Christina Lake.  

Koppin was the driver and sole occupant of an SUV that was travelling westbound on Highway 3 at Christina Lake at approximately 3 p.m.

About 200 metres west of East Lake Drive, her vehicle was struck on the roof by a large, dead tree which had tumbled end-over-end about 28 metres down  from a cliff above the highway.

Koppin was deceased at the scene.

The BC Coroners Service and RCMP Traffic Services continue to investigate this death.

No logging or tree-clearing operations were taking place in the area from which the tree fell.

Judge dismisses Furlong suit

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has dismissed a third sexual abuse lawsuit against former Olympics CEO John Furlong.

The decision ends a series of civil actions brought against Furlong related to his time as a teacher at a Roman Catholic school in northern B.C.

Judge Elliott Myers also awarded special costs to Furlong, calling the behaviour of the plaintiff egregious, reprehensible and deserving of a rebuke.

The man, who had planned to represent himself, failed to appear as the trial began on Monday.

During a pre-trial conference on Friday, a judge refused the man's request to participate by telephone after he became belligerent and called Furlong rude names. He hung up in the midst of the judge making her ruling.

Last month, another judge threw out a separate sexual abuse claim by B.C. resident Grace West, while Beverly Abraham dropped her lawsuit in December.

Furlong has vehemently denied all the allegations, which surfaced in 2012 after a Vancouver-based weekly newspaper published an article saying he abused former students.

Defence lawyer Bill Smart said the man who accused Furlong of sexually abusing him 45 years ago made similar allegations about being abused at another school and received $138,000 in compensation.

Smart read from an affidavit filed by the plaintiff in August 2005 about another teacher he said sexually abused him, hit him with a strap and called him a "dirty little Indian."

The man received settlement money from that case and then "falsely accused" Furlong in hopes of benefiting financially again, Smart said.

"All of it — clearly lies because he wasn't at the school," he said, showing documents that suggested the man did not attend the school where he claimed the other teacher abused him.

"It's the same. Allegations of sexual abuse by a male teacher, (and) racist comments."

The man claims he was a nine-year-old student when Furlong isolated him in a small room at Immaculata Elementary in Burns Lake, B.C., and forced him into sex acts.

The Canadian Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault without their consent.

Smart said the man has served numerous stints in jail, adding that 35 of 53 convictions for break and enter, fraud, theft, forgery and other crimes demonstrate his "dishonest" nature.

Smart played audio of several expletive-laced voicemails left at the law firm in January, when he threatened to bring photographs and a witness to media as evidence of his allegations against Furlong.

Many of Furlong's speaking engagements were cancelled because of the allegations, Smart said, adding his client declined to attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, fearing media attention on him would detract from the Canadian team.

Furlong has turned down job offers and his grandchildren have faced bullying and humiliation, court heard.

"I have been deeply depressed for many months," Furlong said in a statement read by his lawyer.

"Aside from my family, there is nothing more important to me than trying to clear my name and re-establish my reputation and career."

Furlong is suing reporter Laura Robinson for defamation after a story she wrote in a Vancouver weekly in 2012 alleging he abused students in northern B.C.

The three sexual assault cases subsequently surfaced.

The Canadian Press

Arrests made in murder

Two arrests have been made in connection with what police are calling heinous crimes that were committed last year in the Lower Mainland.

A number of murders, attempted murders, and violent home invasions – involving the torture and mutilation of victims – took place in 2014. Investigators with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia, the Edmonton Police Service, and Integrated Homicide Investigation Team determined a group out of Edmonton committed all the violent offences.

Police say the primary activities of the crime group involve murders, home invasions, robberies, kidnappings, extortion and drug trafficking.

IHIT became involved after the October murder of 23-year-old Theoren Poitras in Richmond. He was found face down in a pool of blood on the grounds of R.C. Talmey Elementary School

Authorities have since linked that murder to Sean Jacob Lee Jennings, a 27-year-old Edmonton man now charged with first-degree murder and Peter Blake Edmonds, a 24-year-old Edmonton man charged with accessory to murder after the fact.

One week prior, four men forced their way into a basement suite in Surrey and duct-taped a victim, police say. Two neighbours then heard a commotion and went to investigate. An altercation ensued between the groups and one of the suspects fired three shots, striking one of the men in the jaw. Edmonds has since been charged in relation to that shooting as well.

“The investigation into the murder of Theoren Poitras was an integrated effort involving a number of agencies,” explains Supt. Dwayne McDonald.

“Our investigators were able to make a connection between the murder of Theoren Poitras and the alleged suspects, in part, because of the partnerships we share with other agencies ... The murder of Theoren Poitras, who was connected to organized crime, is believed to have been targeted and represented a substantial risk to public safety."

That point was further enforced by District Commander Dan Malo, who says today’s outcome is a testament to the fact organized crime has no respect for community, city, or provincial boundaries. He also added these types of investigations are not limited by geographical boundaries.

Jennings has been in custody in Edmonton since his arrest earlier this month for the shooting death of Alor Deng. He is charged with second-degree murder and four other firearms-related charges that stem from the alleged killing of Deng on July 20, 2014.

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