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Tuition hike exceeds cap

Students In Castlegar are up in arms over Selkirk College’s recently proposed tuition hikes, claiming the increase surpasses a cap imposed by the province a decade ago.

While the government has mandated a maximum tuition increase of two per cent per year, Selkirk’s proposed increase, put forth at a January board meeting, will increase fees by a total of 6.5 per cent.

The Selkirk College Student Union released a statement this week claiming the College is “circumventing provincial tuition fee policy.”

“As students we find it unreasonable that we have to pay for this,” said Shane Fedderson, external director Selkirk College Student Union.

Selkirk College, meanwhile, claims they have had an “indication” the province will allow for the tripling of previous fee increases.

“We got an indication in the fall that the province would allow institutions to consider new fees in three areas: either for new technology, for student experiential learning, like workplace placements or co-op placements, and for student service areas around mental health, student wellness, violence-free initiatives, things like that,” said Neil Coburn, vice-president of education and students at the college. “We did look at the student wellness part and the transitions to employment part. Those are both areas that we either have some programs we’d like to expand or some projects we’ve run as pilot projects through one-time funding.”

The 4.5 per cent fee increase above the mandated two per cent maximum is being called a “Student Services Fee.”

Coburn says for an average student, the extra fee will cost about $140 per year.

“We’ve provided the same information to the province on what we’re proposing and what our rationale is and we haven’t received any objection to us doing that,” he said.

The Minister of Advanced Education, Andrew Wilkinson, says the Selkirk College board is responsible for its own tuition.

“The Selkirk College Board is responsible for approving fees, both mandatory and tuition, at the institution, ensuring the cap on tuition increases of two percent annually,” Wilkinson said in a written statement. “Institutions may introduce new mandatory fees for new services if there is a clear benefit to students.”

But the student union’s Feddersen says the province is “losing control” of the college.

“The BC Liberals have mismanaged colleges and universities to the extent that their policy is now being ignored,” said Feddersen. “Through incompetence, Minister Andrew Wilkinson is losing control of Selkirk College.”

The college’s Coburn says these extra fees are vital to supporting student’s emerging needs.

“I think there’s a recognition that there are other areas that we are now creating new services in that hadn’t existed before,” Coburn said. “I think over the last three years the number of mental health issues we’ve had to deal with students has increased by 260 per cent. And that’s not a Selkirk issue, that’s an issue across the province and across the country.”

The board will vote on the proposed increases on Feb. 23. Coburn says the board has invited the student union to the meeting. 

“The board realizes that tuition fees are a sensitive issue with students so they want to hear what the student voice is.”

While small percentage increases may seem trivial to some, Fedderson says they can have a big impact on struggling students.

“A lot of people think it doesn’t sound like a lot, but for students who don’t have the money and have to come up with this already, it’s quite a bit.”





Feeling satisfied

More than 50 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents are very satisfied when it comes to their sex life.

The information comes to light just ahead of Valentines Day courtesy of Insights West, which featured a poll in Vancouver Magazine.

The poll found while most residents say things are going well in their bedrooms, there are some striking differences in behaviours they find acceptable when it comes to love and sex.

A significant minority, 34 per cent, are "dissatisfied" with the aspect of love in their life.

Those who are in a relationship scored significantly higher on the satisfaction question, 67 per cent, than those who are single, 36 per cent. However, 29 per cent of those who are in a relationship admit they are "dissatisfied" with their sex life.

Steve Mossop, President of Insights West, said unfortunately the level of reported satisfaction drops as we age.

“From a high of 64 per cent among those aged 18-34, to 57 per cent among those aged 35-54 and 52 per cent for Metro Vancouverites aged 55 and over. I also found it interesting that only 24 per cent of those who are in a relationship say they are ‘very satisfied’ with their sex life.”

Residents were also polled on specific sexual behaviours and what they considered appropriate.

According to the poll, three-in-five Metro Vancouverites say sexting is “acceptable” — including 82 per cent of those aged 18-to-34. The majority felt the same way about a one-night stand, 59 per cent, and sleeping with a co-worker. 

Other actions, such as engaging in group sex or having an open relationship, proved more controversial with only 49 per cent and 40 per cent respectively finding them acceptable.

An honest 29 per cent would consent to paying for sex or having sex at the office. The proportion of those who find each acceptable rises to 42 per cent and 35 per cent respectively among men.

When it comes to whether cheating on a steady partner is acceptable the poll found it is a definite no-no, with just one-in-twenty Metro Vancouverites saying it would be reasonable.

The poll also looked at what was considered cheating, and found glaring differences between genders. Among woman, 34 per cent say that flirting at a bar, party or business trip amounts to cheating while 32 per cent of men hold the same view.

Only 30 per cent of Metro Vancouverites say they would forgive somebody who cheated on them.



Shooting now a murder

The shooting in Celista B.C. on Feb. 7 has become a murder investigation after a man died in the hospital Thursday from his injuries.

RCMP arrested Richard Allen Williams in connection with the shooting on Feb. 11. Several charges were laid against Williams, including attempted murder with a firearm, assault with a weapon and break and entering, but charges are expected to be upgraded in light of the victim’s death.

Williams made his first appearance in Kamloops court Friday. He is set to appear in court again on Feb. 18.

Three men were taken to the hospital after the Feb. 7 shooting, two with serious gunshot wounds and a third with minor gunshot wounds.

Police have said the three men involved knew each other and it was not a random attack.

Williams has a minor criminal record, having lost his license for a year in 2002 for operating a vehicle while impaired in Port Hardy B.C.



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Hwy 5 snowfall warning

A snowfall warning is in effect for the Coquihalla Highway from Hope to Merritt.

Environment Canada is expecting up to 15 cm of snow Friday night, with another 10 cm falling on Saturday. A persistent southwesterly flow will funnel moist air into the Fraser Valley causing freezing levels to plummet, according to Environment Canada’s forecast.

Drivers are warned to prepare for quickly changing and deteriorating travel conditions. Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow.

Make sure to check road conditions before heading out onto interior highways.

 



Tsilhqot'in sign accord

The Tsilhqot'in nation's five-year agreement with British Columbia outlining land and resource negotiations has set the stage for settling with the federal government, says the aboriginal group's tribal chairman.

Joe Alphonse said Friday's accord provides a framework for the Williams Lake-based nation to begin talks to improve the lives of its members in six communities.

The agreement covers eight areas including culture and language, children and families, healthy communities, justice, education and training, lands and resources, and economic development.

Crown land within the Tsilhqot'in territory will be part of negotiations, but private lands will not be involved.

Alphonse said a June 2014 Supreme Court of Canada decision granting the nation title to more than 1,750 square kilometres in the Nemiah Valley in B.C.'s Chilcotin region bolsters its fight for control of resources such as trees, gold, sockeye, and oil and gas.

The B.C. government has battled the aboriginal group in court for 25 years.

Premier Christy Clark became the first premier to visit the Nemiah Valley and signed deals with the Tsilhqot'in to negotiate development protocols.

She also invited the chiefs to the legislature, where the government exonerated six Tsilhqot'in chiefs who were hanged 150 years ago during the so-called Chilcotin War of 1864.

On Friday, Clark said the new accord holds the promise of a brighter future for the Tsilhqot'in people and the province.

"A key focus is going to be supporting new economic development for the Tsilhqot'in communities that also makes a positive contribution to the economies of the region and British Columbia," she said in a statement.

Negotiations dealing with children and families are central for the Tsilhqot'in, Alphonse said, adding the nation will ultimately have authority on any deals that are negotiated.

He called on Tsilhqot'in members to get involved in shaping their future and getting their share of resources, especially after the country's top court recognized title to their land.

The nation is looking ahead to negotiations with the federal government on issues such as clean water as it takes control of its own destiny through land-use planning, Alphonse said.

"Now that we have this done with B.C. we will be pointing our arrows to Canada and we will be calling on (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau to come to our table, don't be shy," Alphonse said.

"We want to be a part of Canada, we want to be a part of British Columbia. We feel like we've been non-members, we've been held hostage on our Indian reserves and we see our resources being pulled out of our territories every day, generation after generation.

"We will continue to fight and we will continue to win in court or we can sit down and negotiate and be respectful to one another."



Three cougars say hello

A Vancouver Island man stumbled upon a rare, and somewhat terrifying, sight in the woods recently.

While parked in his vehicle, Adam Nash of Comox, was surrounded by three curious cougars.

Nash captured a five-minute video of the encounter and posted it to YouTube.

Early on in the video, two of the cougars begin moving towards the vehicle in unison, prompting Nash to repeat “Oh my God” several times.

“Oh my God, he wants to eat me, for sure,” Nash says on the video. “Absolutely crazy.”

Nash said the three cougars stayed around his vehicle for about 20 minutes before sauntering off.

Two teenagers have also recently reported seeing cougars in the area.

One told CTV News he saw their eyes near the road while driving at night.

A conservation officer said the large cats in the video appear to be young, and were probably curious about the vehicle. 

- with files from CTV Vancouver



$355M for affordability

British Columbia has committed $355 million toward creating as many as 2,000 affordable housing units across the province.

Premier Christy Clark and Housing Minister Rich Coleman made the announcement in Vancouver on Friday.

Clark said the funding will be spent over the next five years and is the largest single affordable housing investment in B.C.'s history.

The province said it has earmarked $50 million of the investment for each of the first two years, $75 million in the third year and $90 million in the final two years.

Details are still being worked out, and B.C. Housing said it will seek proposals from municipalities, non-profit societies and other community groups interested in creating appropriate developments.

Lack of affordable housing has been a hot topic especially in Metro Vancouver, where the price of a home is beyond the reach of many high income earners.

Clark did not say how many of the 2,000 units would be available in the Vancouver area, adding affordable housing is also an issue in other communities.

She suggested the federal government may contribute some cash if it works with provinces in the future to provide affordable housing.

"If we have a chance to have that (fund) matched or met by the federal government we want it to be as big as it possibly can be," Clark said.

She said 10,000 people from elsewhere in the country have moved to B.C. in the last six months, creating an even bigger housing crunch.



Tot barred from own potluck

British Columbia's Children's Ministry has barred a Metis toddler at the centre of a cross-country adoption battle from attending a cultural gathering in her honour.

The B.C. Metis Federation is holding a fundraiser and potluck on Saturday for foster parents who have launched a court petition to adopt the two-and-a-half-year-old Metis girl they have raised since birth.

The Children's Ministry is fighting the adoption because it plans to move the toddler to Ontario to live with her older sisters and their non-Metis caregivers.

The Metis foster mother says the ministry told her earlier this week the little girl could not attend Saturday's gathering, which will feature Metis jiggers and fiddlers.

The ministry says the gathering was advertised as an opportunity to meet the toddler, which is a violation of legislation that protects the identity of children in government care.

The foster mom says she has taken great care to keep the girl's identity private, but she can't simply shelter her at home, and the event is an important opportunity to experience her culture.



Scrubbed wine tastes better

A Naramata man has invented a CO2-eliminating membrane that he claims will help Okanagan wineries make even better wine.

Dick Jones, a retired professor of medicine and amateur winemaker, believes his invention will allow wineries to keep more of the natural aromas in wine during fermentation – producing noticeably better-tasting wines.

He also believes his invention could sweep through the industry and spark a real improvement in the taste of many wines throughout the Okanagan and potentially around the world.

Jones says he’s pretty sure his new process is a winner.

“It’s very exciting. This could really add value to the wines we make here. I think it will help to bring more awareness of this region to the wine world,” says Jones.

This isn't his first breakthrough. Jones was a University of Alberta professor of pulmonary medicine for 35 years specializing in lung, cardiovascular and exercise physiology, and the inventor of nicotine nasal spray to help people quit smoking.

To come up with the CO2-scrubbing membrane, he conducted controlled experiments over three years, including blind taste tests by experts as well as chemical analyses of the wines by an independent professional researcher.

He took on the endeavour after noticing what he felt was a problem in his own home winemaking. The wine from his small vineyard smelled good, but the flavours were dispersed by the bubbling CO2.

“Up to 80 per cent of a wine’s most important aroma compounds can be lost with the CO2 during fermentation,” explains Jones. “I needed a membrane that selectively allowed the CO2 in the tank’s headspace to escape while leaving the aroma compounds behind.”

That made him think of the human body, which is specifically designed to keep the good and filter out the rest.

Jones found a membrane already being used in Norway to scrub CO2 from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants.

“It acts like our lungs to get rid of CO2, it’s made of food-grade material, and it works at room temperature and pressure. It is perfect for a winery setting.”

The membrane’s inventor, Dr. May-Britt Hägg was enthused about the idea of using it to improve wine aroma and flavour, and she supplied membranes for Jones’ experiments.

After using the membranes to scrub the CO2 during fermentation and later bottling samples of each, the experimental wines were compared with the control wines in both an extensive taste-test and chemical analysis.

Paul Gardner and Julie Rennie, owners of Pentâge Winery in Penticton, organized a panel of 10 wine experts who blind-tasted and ranked the wines on seven key aroma and taste attributes.

All seven preferred the wine fermented using the membrane.

Samples of the wines were then analyzed at the University of B.C.’s Wine Research Centre, comparing their levels of dozens of aroma compounds.

“Overall, the taste-tests and laboratory analyses of the experimental wines proved that using the membranes vs. conventional methods left more aroma compounds, improved mouth feel, and retained fruit flavours in the finished product,” Jones says.

Jones and Gardner are now working at Pentâge Winery to use the membrane commercially.

“Until now the loss of aroma during fermentation has been accepted because there was no easy way to prevent it,” says Gardner. “But Dick’s membrane process makes total sense. The proof is in the pudding – this is definitely a superior wine. I don’t think it will be long before interest in this is worldwide.”

For more information, click here.



Inquest relives fatal standoff

Disturbing footage showing the final moments of Mehrdad Bayrami's life played out before a packed inquest chamber on Thursday as his daughter's muffled sobs were the only sounds heard from the crowd.

A coroner's inquest is looking into the fatal police shooting of Bayrami, 48, who was killed following a five-hour armed standoff with police outside a Lower Mainland casino in November 2012.

The role of a coroner's inquest is not to assign blame for an incident but rather to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar events from occurring.

The jurors and a crowded public gallery watched the stark eight-minute video of the conclusion of what began as a police hostage-rescue operation and ended as a standoff after casino employees saw live security footage of a man threatening a woman with a handgun.

An agitated Bayrami, wearing a reflective vest, lifts a pistol in his right hand in the air and steps sporadically from side to side. Police wearing helmets and body suits can be seen in the background behind in armoured vehicle.

Moments after he begins backing up, Bayrami is shot. He doubles over and falls to the ground, clutching his stomach.

He writhes for several minutes before a police dog grabs his leg to pull him away from his gun. Officers close in and begin delivering first aid.

Delta Police Const. Jordan MacWilliams, who fired the shot that killed Bayrami, told the inquest he had been assigned the role of "lethal overwatch" for much of the event. During that time he was 100-per-cent focused on Bayrami's face and gun, he said.

After hours of sitting on the ground, Bayrami suddenly rose to his feet and began pacing in widening circles, MacWilliams testified.

"I felt like he was deciding what to do, making his mind up about what he was going to do. ... It was a huge change from over the previous hours," he said, adding that Bayrami soon left the 20-metre containment radius police had set up for him.

"I saw him pointing the gun at us. I fired. The gun went down and he dropped to the ground."

When asked by the coroner's lawyer whether it might have been the case that Bayrami was standing up to stretch and "get the kinks out" after sitting for hours on cold asphalt, MacWilliams said "It's possible, but you don't walk towards a group of police officers with a gun in your hand to stretch out your joints."

The inquest heard that at almost the same time Bayrami was fatally shot, he was also hit with four of five non-lethal shots fired from an anti-riot gun and that a flashbang explosive had also been used as a distraction.

MacWilliams was originally charged with second-degree murder, but the charge was later stayed.

Bayrami's daughter filed a civil lawsuit against the officer and the City of Delta claiming he shot her father without warning or justification, but the lawsuit was later dismissed by consent from all parties.

Earlier in the day, the inquest heard from Const. Dave Ogilvy, who had been assigned as a sniper on a hill overlooking Bayrami.

Ogilvy told the inquest he was able to use the magnification scope on his weapon to read Bayrami's lips, where it appeared to say "Shoot me, shoot me. Do it, do it."

The inquest is scheduled to hear from more officers, medical professionals and Bayrami's family before the jury begins deliberations on Tuesday.



'Fair share' for all

The federal infrastructure minister is pledging to disburse a "fair share" of new funding to every region of the country, even while some provincial economies flag and others project growth.

Amarjeet Sohi says his goal is to equitably divide billions in additional cash that the recently elected Liberal government has promised to infuse into the national economy.

The government has pledged $60 billion over the next decade on stimulus.

Sohi outlined the Liberals' broad plan to promote growth to the Vancouver Board of Trade on Thursday and later told reporters his department hasn't determined how the money will be allocated.

The minister wouldn't say whether the government is planning to help the hardest hit regions, like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.

He also wouldn't say whether stronger economies in British Columbia and Ontario will get less.

"I can't tell you at this time how much are they going to receive," he said, adding that no province has been informed of its take of the new money ahead of the spring budget.

He would only say the plan will be designed "based on need" and the money would be spent strategically to make the economy more productive.

"It will vary from one project to another, but in the end we want to make sure every region gets their fair share."

Alberta's petroleum industry is losing billions each year and its government is preparing to rack up a $6.1-billion deficit. The fiscal pain has prompted Premier Rachel Notley's government to earmark $34 billion over the next five years for everything from roads to hospitals.

Meanwhile, B.C. is forecast to lead Canada's growth rate this year at 3.1 per cent and is on track to table its fourth consecutive budget surplus next week.

The Liberals' 10-year plan will divide spending between public transit, green projects and social infrastructure like affordable housing. The first two years will focus on refurbishing deteriorating infrastructure, but Sohi hinted some new infrastructure will get built too.

He refused to give specifics, but said some small funding announcements would be made on Friday.



Excluded from tournament

A young Calgary man says a First Nations basketball organization's decision to bar him from a tournament in northern British Columbia is discriminatory.

Josiah Wilson, 22, said he is a status Indian who was adopted from Haiti as a baby and is a member of the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, B.C.

Wilson said he played for a junior aboriginal team for two years and was about to enter his third All Native Basketball Tournament with an intermediate men's team this week but was told he could no longer play.

"The Heiltsuk people are really upset about it," Wilson said from Calgary. "They're all really mad and upset that I'm not allowed to play with them this year. Everybody's saying why are they coming at me now after seeing me play for two years and now saying I can't play?"

Wilson said he went to visit his grandmother in Bella Coola last year and decided to stay and train with his team for over four months before returning home to Calgary to continue training, only to later learn he'd be sidelined.

The eight-day tournament in Prince Rupert, B.C., ends on Sunday.

His father Don Wilson said the tournament committee claims his son lacks the aboriginal bloodlines to participate based on a so-called blood quantum, which specifies anyone claiming to be indigenous must be one-eighth aboriginal.

"The concept is a colonial concept that has been imposed on aboriginal people. It's not part of our cultural, traditional belief system, certainly not for the Heiltsuk Nation.

"A lot of us are left feeling very confused as to why the All Native Basketball committee would adhere to that type of concept because it's very anti-First Nations."

Wilson, an obstetrician in Calgary, said his son showed the organization his status card when he started playing on a junior team and that he doesn't understand why the committee has now excluded him.

"Somehow my son's participation was protested to the All Native Basketball Tournament committee and they responded by issuing a letter banning him from further involvement," he said in a telephone interview, adding that he will be filing a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

The All Native Basketball Tournament committee did not return calls for comment.

Wilson said he has tried to get the decision reversed so his son can continue playing a sport he loves but the committee has not changed its decision.

"To be fully excluded was very painful for him because he wants to go and participate with his cousins and his friends, his teammates, our family and our extended community that are back home in Bella Bella."

Wilson said the tournament has existed since the 1930s and his family has taken part in it for decades. It is held for First Nations up and down the B.C. coast.

"It's a fantastic time and it really spurred a lot of pride in the achievement of our players, and just a great time of cultural sharing and sportsmanship," he said.

Heiltsuk Nation Chief Marilyn Slett said the tribal council and its traditional leadership sent a joint letter to the basketball committee asking that its decision be reversed.

"We're very disappointed," she said from Bella Bella.

"We felt that he was being treated very unfairly and it was discriminatory against Josiah."



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