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One-punch trend alarming

Alcohol and bravado appear to be fuelling a disturbing trend of one-punch attacks that have left three people dead, Vancouver police say.

At least 10 people this year have fallen to the ground unconscious after being hit once in the head, Vancouver police spokesman Const. Brian Montague told a news conference Thursday.

Three of the people who have died from their injuries include a 60-year-old man who was punched in front of a bar on a downtown street in August.

One-punch attacks aren't new in Vancouver, but Montague said officers have been seeing an increasing number recently, particularly in places where people are drinking.

Minor disputes are typically involved and result in serious injuries, he said.

"It's something that's disturbing to us, something that we feel is preventable," Montague said.

"In many cases these are victims who were sucker punched and not involved in any sort of consensual fight."

That was the case on Oct. 25, when a 34-year-old Richmond resident was attacked as he and his wife headed home from a comedy club late one Saturday night, Montague said.

The man was sucker punched as the pair walked past two groups of men who were arguing about a limousine in front of a bar in Vancouver's entertainment district.

"He was rendered unconscious before he hit the ground. He hit his head on the way down, suffered a brain injury as a result."

The victim, whose name was not released, was not associated with either group, Montague added.

He was rushed to hospital, where a portion of his brain tissue was removed, and he has been undergoing treatment for a month.

"The prognosis is that he will have life-altering injuries that he will be dealing with forever," Montague said.

Police are investigating and are looking to speak with anyone who may have witnessed the incident, including a woman who may have a prosthetic leg, and the drivers of the two limousines.

A 23-year-old Coquitlam man was arrested on Nov. 18 and later released on a promise to appear.

Many of the suspects in such punching cases are men who have come into Vancouver from other municipalities, sometimes looking for a fight, Montague said.

"It's other young men who have generally had a little bit too much to drink and little bit too much bravado, who aren't thinking clearly and don't realize that their actions have serious consequences."

Many of the victims have been innocent bystanders so it's difficult to say how people can protect themselves, Montague said.

Police are focusing on warning the perpetrators.

"Their lives will be forever changed because we will arrest them and they will find themselves in court," Montague said.

"Our plea is to those making the conscious decision to make their hand into a fist and take a swing. We really want them to think twice before they do that."


Kokanee on the comeback

Kokanee are doing swimmingly in area lakes, according to the provincial government.

Numbers for the land-locked salmon in main Okanagan lakes are increasing, a fall 2015 survey shows.

The Wood Lake kokanee population continued to demonstrate signs of recovery after poor in-lake conditions led to a significant increase in mortality rates in 2011.

In 2015, more than 20,000 kokanee returned to spawn to Middle Vernon Creek, the main tributary of Wood Lake. That's a more than two-fold increase from previous years.

Given the high numbers, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations will continue to allow a fishery on Wood Lake from April 1 to Aug. 31.

Results from spawner surveys of Okanagan shorelines and tributaries show:

  • Okanagan Lake kokanee spawners totalled 336,500, an increase from 80,500 last year – and the highest return since annual counts began in 1992.
  • The large return was primarily a result of an increase in shore-spawning kokanee.
  • Stream-spawning kokanee totalled 31,500.
  • Shore-spawning kokanee totalled 305,000 fish.

In Kalamalka Lake, Kokanee numbers totalled 36,500, well above the 10-year average return of 20,000.

Kokanee are land-locked sockeye salmon found in all of the Okanagan main valley lakes.

Changes coming to Hwy 16

Transportation Minister Todd Stone says he's set to announce a series of transportation service changes along Highway 16, British Columbia's so-called Highway of Tears.

Eighteen women have been murdered or disappeared along the highway and adjacent routes since the 1970s.

Stone says meetings earlier this week brought together First Nations leaders, community and ministry officials, providing several options to improve transportation services along the 750-kilometre corridor from Prince George to Prince Rupert.

Stone says the options he's considering include supporting volunteer-driven vans that link First Nations reserves with communities, improving transit schedules and expanding use of a bus that takes people to and from medical appointments.

He says a regional shuttle bus service favoured by many First Nations in the area remains a non-starter.

Stone says he's weeks away from announcing changes.


Chase leads to arrests

What began as a break-and-enter in Surrey ended several communities away in West Vancouver.

In between, a police cruiser was rammed and several RCMP vehicles gave chase through Metro Vancouver during the early hours of Thursday morning.

RCMP say events began unfolding about 1 a.m. when a call came in for a reported break-and-enter in Surrey.

Sgt. Duane Honeyman told CTV  a police dog unit was heading to the scene when a silver Honda Civic approached head-on, swerving into their path.

The suspects then led police on a chase through Surrey, onto Highway 1 to West Vancouver.

Police said they were able to eventually stop the vehicle with the use of a spike belt.

"It got off at Exit 4 where the vehicle lost control and struck a concrete barricade," Honeyman told CTV.

Two suspects, a man and a woman, were arrested.

They face charges of dangerous driving and causing a pursuit.

Police believe the vehicle had been stolen earlier in the day in Coquitlam.

                                                                                                                           --with files from CTV

Pimm won't run in 2017

British Columbia MLA Pat Pimm is retiring, but the Peace River North politician won't be leaving the legislature for a while.

Pimm has announced he will not seek re-election when voters go to the polls in 2017.

The 58-year-old says he will continue to advocate for his northeastern B.C. constituency until then.

Pimm was first elected in 2009, was re-elected in the 2013 general election and promoted to the front benches as agriculture minister, but had to leave the post to focus on his battle with colon cancer, although he remained an MLA.

In a statement, Premier Christy Clark thanks Pimm for his hard work and commitment, noting he fought cancer into remission in the same tenacious way he handled all his elected duties.

Clark says she understands and respects Pimm's decision not to run again, but will be sorry to see him go.

Moore UNBC chancellor

Former federal Conservative party cabinet minister James Moore has been named chancellor of the University of Northern B.C.

Moore becomes the sixth chancellor at UNBC and will be sworn in during the convocation ceremony in Prince George next May.

The 39-year-old former politician who held senior positions such as industry minister did not stand for re-election in October after representing his Metro Vancouver riding for 15 years.

Moore was elected in 2000, at the age of 24, becoming the youngest MP in B.C.'s history, and his election came even before his 2001 graduation from UNBC with a bachelor's degree in political science.

Earlier this month, Dentons, a law firm with offices around the world, said Moore would join its Vancouver office as senior business adviser.

Moore did not rule out a return to politics when he announced his political retirement in June, and he has long been rumoured to have leadership aspirations.

Two arrested in standoff

A woman and a man are in custody after a lengthy standoff at a motel in Merritt, Wednesday.

Police say the incident began mid-morning as an attempted carjacking in the Merritt area.

According to RCMP, the male victim picked up two stranded motorists on Highway 97C who asked for a ride into Merritt.

Once in town, the suspects had the man drive them to a remote location on Lindley Creek Road and attempted to carjack his vehicle at gunpoint. After a brief struggle, the suspects took off on foot toward Merritt.

"RCMP and the helicopter were able to track the suspects to a nearby ranch and determined that the suspects had taken a cab to a local hotel," said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.

A female suspect was arrested outside the Road Runner Motel before noon, and the motel remained barricaded until the Emergency Response team arrived at 4:30 p.m.

On entrance to the motel, the male suspect was taken into custody.

A portion of Highway 5A was shut down to traffic for much of the afternoon.

RCMP in Kelowna confirm the vehicle that broke down on Highway 97C, stranding the couple, had been stolen in the Okanagan sometime earlier.

The investigation is still ongoing.

Furlong 'moving on'

John Furlong felt accused of letting Canada down when a newspaper published allegations that he abused First Nations children, the former Vancouver Olympics boss said in his first major speech in three years.

The man who steered the 2010 Winter Games was introduced by Vancouver Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden and welcomed with standing ovations at a Vancouver Board of Trade event on Wednesday.

"I don't mind telling you I am pretty nervous," he said as he took the stage. "For a long time I thought I would never have the chance to do this again."

Furlong said his world came "crashing down" in September 2012 when an article ran in the Georgia Straight newspaper that included allegations that he beat and taunted students at a northern B.C. school more than 40 years ago.

"I know I had thousands of friends, definitely hundreds of friends, here and around the world, and it just seemed like almost immediately most of them went away," he said.

"I think most people just didn't know what to think or say ... It was a very lonely and difficult time."

Journalist Laura Robinson obtained eight sworn affidavits from people who said Furlong physically abused them while a gym teacher in Burns Lake, B.C., in 1969 and 1970, a chapter of his life that had been omitted from his memoir "Patriot Hearts."

Robinson filed a defamation suit over public comments Furlong made after the article's publication, and last month a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled he had a right to defend himself from her "attacks" on his character and credibility.

While the judge found numerous errors in Robinson's reporting, the allegations in her article have not been tested in court because Furlong dropped his own defamation suit this year.

Furlong told a packed room of about 500 business leaders that as an Irish immigrant, he always wanted to prove he was worthy of being Canadian.

"So when the sky fell for me and for our family, I felt in a way I was being accused of letting the country down," he said.

Speaking in front of his daughter and brother, he said the allegations took a grave toll on his family. After he and his wife Deborah retreated to Ireland, she was killed in a car crash.

But he always remembered advice from his father: "When people are saying horrible, horrible things about you, and you can see no hope ... The only thing that's standing between you and survival is the answer to one simple question: 'What is true'?"

In a brief interview after the speech, Furlong said despite dropping his own suit, the scathing judgment in Robinson's case said "loud and clear" he was "completely exonerated."

"Observers of what took place in court are of the view that if that's what the judge was willing to write, you can only imagine what she was thinking."

He reiterated his firm denial of ever being too rough with his students. Asked whether he thought Robinson's sources were lying, he replied, "I'm not going to answer that question."

Furlong said he would have included his time in Burns Lake in "Patriot Hearts" had he known what would be written about him later.

"It's a massive chasm from not putting it in the book to having to deal with what was said."

After the years-long ordeal, Furlong said he's ready to move on and does not plan to go after Robinson for costs.

"This was more about ... getting to the truth, and people will decide what they think about what she did."

Anger over dam deal

BC Hydro's decision to push forward with a massive construction contract for the Site C dam megaproject has prompted an outpouring of opposition from First Nations, environmental and advocacy groups across British Columbia.

The Crown corporation's president and CEO, Jessica McDonald, announced on Wednesday that the utility is poised to sign the largest deal in its history with Peace River Hydro Partners as the preferred proponent.

The deal is estimated at about $1.5 billion, though a spokesman for BC Hydro said the final amount is expected to be more once the contract is officially signed early next year.

The work will include building a concrete foundation for the generating station and spillways, a pair of diversion tunnels and an enormous earthfill dam more than a kilometre long and 60 metres above current river level.

At a cost of almost $9 billion, the dam will be the third on the Peace River in northeastern B.C., creating a 83-kilometre-long reservoir and enough power for 450,000 homes a year.

The West Moberly First Nation is one of several groups with outstanding legal challenges against the megaproject over concerns about the impact flooding and the creation of a new lake will have on the Peace River and the surrounding valley.

Moberly Chief Roland Willson described the decision to carry on with construction as a "standard tactic" used against opponents of infrastructure projects.

"They try and get as much done to go in front of the courts and say, 'Well look, we've spent all this money. You can't shut us down now,'" he said in an interview on Wednesday.

"I hope (the province) doesn't get too far involved because there's still a strong possibility we could get this project shut down."

Ken Boon of the Peace Valley Landowners Association was similarly disappointed by the news, adding that B.C. is "making a big mistake" by pushing the project forward in the face of ongoing legal battles.

Boon dismissed what he saw as the province's disproportionate focus on employment to be generated by Site C.

"If you're going to spend $9 billion of public money you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that lots of jobs are going to be created," he said.

Boon added that his group, which is also suing the province, is not opposed to job creation: "We're arguing that there are a lot better ways to create those same jobs without destroying a river valley, and probably getting more bang for your buck.

"This is stupid to the last drop of the Peace River."

The Sierra Club of B.C. also spoke out against the contract, which spokeswoman Ana Simeon described as another step toward flooding the Peace River Valley and destroying a "unique food oasis” capable of producing food for a million people.

Premier Christy Clark dismissed concerns over the legal wranglings, saying she was confident in the years of preparation work done by Hydro.

The clean energy that Site C will produce is vital to Canada's contribution to fighting climate change, she said. "There is no better example of environmental protection and job creation in British Columbia — I would argue no better example in all of Canada," she said. "It doesn't get cleaner than hydro."

The partnership that is expected to be awarded the $1.5 billion contract — made up of Acciona Infrastructure Canada, Petrowest Corporation and Samsung — is one of four groups shortlisted in April of this year. BC Hydro predicted the eight-year contract would create 1,500 jobs at its peak.

Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan said he wants the premier to send the entire project the B.C. Utilities Commission for a review on whether to proceed.

"I think we're building it before its time," said Horgan. "I'd rather have someone else other than Christy Clark tell me this is a good idea."

Horgan suggested an NDP government would consider cancelling the project even if construction was underway following the 2017 B.C. election.

Victim dies of injuries

A 68-year-old pedestrian struck by a car in Richmond on Saturday has died from her injuries.

The woman was hit near No. 3 Road and Granville Avenue.

She was walking along in a marked crosswalk about 11:30 a.m. when she was struck by a vehicle driven by a 61-year-old driver. The victim was rushed to hospital with life-threatening head trauma, but did not survive.

The driver was co-operative with police, and speed and alcohol were not factors in the collision.

Police continue to investigate the incident.

“These types of investigations are always difficult, emotionally, for all of the parties and the investigators. We have a first-rate Victim Services Unit ... they have been engaged in this difficult process," said Richmond RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dennis Hwang.

Police are seeking witnesses and any dashcam video of the collision.

Call Const. Jimm Janson at 604-278-1212, email [email protected] or call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Standoff in Merritt

UPDATED: 4:53 P.M.

Highway 5A in Merritt has been opened Wednesday afternoon, according to DriveBC, after it was closed due to a standoff earlier in the day. 

The RCMP have yet to comment on the situation at the Road Runner Motel, and have not confirmed if the standoff is over. 


A police incident has shut down Highway 5A between Huston and Menzies streets in Merritt.

According to a witness on scene, police are in the middle of a standoff with a man who has shut himself in a room at the Road Runner Motel. Police consider the man to be armed and dangerous.

Those in the area were asked to leave, although it’s unclear if any surrounding buildings have been evacuated.

The street will remain closed until the man is brought safely into police custody, the witness was told.

Castanet will have more information as it becomes available.

Refugee sues over solitary

 A teenage refugee from South Sudan is suing the Children's Ministry in British Columbia over allegations he was held in solitary confinement for four months.

The youth, known in court documents as K.C., filed a civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court saying his rights were infringed at the Burnaby Youth Detention Centre.

He says in the documents that he had an altercation with a correctional officer and that the ministry held him alone for the allowable 72 hours, but then cleared out an entire living unit and locked him up.

K.C. alleges he was confined between Nov. 4, 2014 and March 17 of this year, when he was 17 years old.

His lawyer Chris Terepocki says the youth came to Canada as a convention refugee at least five years ago, but has been imprisoned since October 2014 on allegations of murder and attempted murder.

Ministry spokesman Bill Anderson would not comment while the case is before the court, but says separate confinement arrangements are made only in very rare circumstances.

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