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Cash for PACs

Parent Advisory Councils in the Okanagan and Shuswap are benefitting from grants handed out by the provincial government.

The province provided $148,920 to PACs and the District Parent Advisory Committee in the Vernon School District to help support student activities outside the classroom.

Councils in Vernon, Coldstream, Lumby and Cherryville are also receiving grants.

PACs in the North Okanagan-Shuswap school district also had an influx of $114,580 from the province, with councils in Armstrong, Canoe, Celista, Enderby, Falkland, Grindrod, Salmon Arm, Sorrento and Tappen receiving grants.

PACs in the Kelowna area will reap $466,500 from the government.

The funds are to be used to enhance the student experience through extracurricular activities and will help cover various costs, including sporting equipment, musical instruments, playground equipment and field trips.

“Teachers do a great job in the classroom, and parents play an important supportive role in organizing extra-curricular activities,” says Steve Thomson, MLA for Kelowna-Mission. “Together, these experiences are creating a varied and beneficial learning environment for our students.”

The parent-run councils help school children have access to activities that ensure the development of a well-rounded educational background.

Overall, nearly $11.1 million has been delivered to more than 1,400 PACs and DPACs throughout British Columbia for the 2015-16 school year. The funding is through the provincial government’s community gaming grant programs.

Local PACs receive $20 per student, while DPACs receive a flat rate of $2,500. The grant funds must remain under the management and control of those that receive them. Funds cannot be used for, or transferred to, curricular purposes or to schools or school districts or their activities or programs.

Bear-hunt apology sought

A British Columbia group against trophy hunting is hoping the case of an NHL player charged with killing a grizzly bear becomes a rallying cry to protect the animals.

About a dozen members of Bears Matter gathered outside provincial court in Vancouver today ahead of a court date for Anaheim Ducks defenceman Clayton Stoner.

Stoner is charged with five counts under the provincial Wildlife Act after a bear was shot on B.C.'s central coast in 2013, including two counts of knowingly making a false statement to obtain a hunting licence.

Group member Barb Murray says she hopes the case raises awareness that an increasing number of people are against killing bears.

Stoner has never denied the hunt, and Murray says she wants him to apologize for trophy hunting, pay a large fine and contribute to conservation in B.C.

The case was put over until Nov. 13, and a lawyer who appeared in court on Stoner's behalf says he does not know how the hockey player intends to plead.

The Canadian Press

Spike in drug overdoses

UPDATE: 12 p.m.

Interior Health is urging drug users to think twice in the wake of several overdoses in the Oliver and Osoyoos area during the last two weeks.

The unusual spike in overdoses has officials concerned.

“All substance use carries an inherent risk to a person. The risk is even greater with street drugs because you never know what they may contain. Often street drugs have been mixed with other substances, and that can have serious consequences for the user,” said Jeff Walsh, IH harm-reduction co-ordinator.

It's still uncertain what is causing the overdoses, but IH is working with RCMP to investigate further. 

While not using drugs is the safest bet, the following tips can help reduce risk:

  • Don’t mix different drugs (including pharmaceutical medications, street drugs, and alcohol).
  • Don’t take drugs when you are alone.
  • Take a small sample of a drug before taking your usual dosage.
  • Never experiment with higher doses.
  • Keep an eye out for your friends – stay together and look out for each other.
  • Recognize the signs of an OD. Headache, nausea, confusion, vomiting, shakes, fainting are serious. Get medical help ASAP.
  • If someone thinks they may be having an overdose or is witnessing an overdose, call 911 immediately.

More information about harm reduction and overdose prevention is available at


The Osoyoos and Oliver RCMP have become aware of a recent increase in illicit drug overdoses in their communities.

The investigation to date, in partnership with health authorities, has not confirmed the cause or type of drug ingested.

It is not known what has caused the overdoses, and the police are urging caution.

Anyone with information on this matter is asked to contact the RCMP.

Parent-killer granted parole

A British Columbia man who murdered four people as a teenager has been granted day parole.

James Ruscitti is serving a life sentence for the June 22, 1996, shooting deaths of his parents Rocco and Marilyn Ruscitti, his brother's 17-year-old girlfriend and a boarder who lived in their home near 100 Mile House.

Now 34, Ruscitti was 15 when he and a 14-year-old accomplice committed the crimes.

A National Parole Board decision said Ruscitti is considered a moderate to high risk for violent reoffending and has made some progress.

"You present as remorseful for your criminal behaviour and determined to remain crime free in the future," the board said in a written decision.

However, it also noted that a psychologist said in April that he was "cautiously supportive" about day parole as the next step in Ruscitti's reintegration into society.

Ruscitti must return nightly to an undisclosed minimum-security facility where he has been living since 2010.

His last bid for day parole was denied in 2013, after which he was cited for using marijuana.

Last year, Ruscitti was granted temporary unescorted absences from prison to participate in a residential treatment program on Vancouver Island as part of a "very gradual" reintegration into society.

But the board said Ruscitti failed to fully disclose a female relationship during that time, contrary to conditions.

His day parole requires the same condition, along with four others, including not using or buying drugs or alcohol and to get counselling to address his emotional instability and adjustment to the community.

"Your program participation was good and you made positive gains but there were concerns regarding the consistency of open communication with your parole supervisors," the board said.

"In particular, you failed to be completely open and honest with your parole supervisor in regard to your signouts and destinations from the community residential facility in which you were residing."

Though he sold drugs and used marijuana, cocaine and LSD, Ruscitti was "sober and enraged" during the execution-style shootings, noted the parole board previously.

Ruscitti was living alone and dealing drugs at the time and returned home one day to learn his residence had been searched. He found out his father and the boarder, Dennis O'Hara, were responsible.

After the murders, Ruscitti left his two-month-old niece in a room with her dead mother, Christine Clarke. The child was discovered two days later near death from dehydration.

Ruscitti shot all the victims and his accomplice, Chad Bucknell, also shot O'Hara. Bucknell was granted full parole four years ago.

The Canadian Press

Doctors slam pot rules

The Canadian Medical Association and the federal government apply a far more rigid standard to prescribing marijuana than other drugs, resulting in negative — or even deadly — consequences, say experts from the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Medical marijuana is held to a different standard than other prescription drugs despite research suggesting it has therapeutic benefits, say three experts from the centre in a commentary published Friday in the Journal of the Canadian Public Health Association.

"When it comes to prescription marijuana, patients' needs should be considered above political considerations," Dr. Julio Montaner, one of the authors, said in a news release. "There could be great harm in ignoring the medical uses of marijuana."

The government and the CMA are being overly cautious, co-author Dr. Thomas Kerr said in an interview.

"This is just not how we deliver medical care and why we're doing it in the case of cannabis is beyond me," he said.

Several recent studies have shown prescription cannabis can have therapeutic benefits, but the CMA and others have failed to acknowledge the research, resulting in a position that isn't based on evidence, Kerr's commentary said.

Other studies have shown prescribing cannabis may lead to a reduction in overdoses and deaths associated with prescription opioid.

"This can't be taken too lightly because Canada, like the U.S., is in the midst of an epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and related overdose deaths," Kerr said.

While marijuana is not associated with an elevated risk of mortality, prescription opioids contribute to nearly half of all overdose deaths — a leading cause of accident related mortality, the article points out.

Under Canada's current medical marijuana laws, patients must obtain prescription cannabis from federally licensed producers, generally through the mail. There are currently 26 licensed producers listed on Health Canada's website.

The idea of sending prescription drugs through the mail is odd, Kerr said.

"We would never do that in the case of treating someone with diabetes," he said. "Really, people should have access to experts who can counsel them on appropriate dosing, potential side effects and their management and who can also provide other options and clinical followup."

The caution towards cannabis comes because it is illegal and because the federal government "has been making up the science on the fly," Kerr said, pointing to the example of Stephen Harper saying that marijuana is "infinitely worse" than tobacco.

"It's unfortunate that the federal government has really failed to deliver an effective medical-cannabis program and it's unfortunate that they've also misrepresented the science in this area," he said.

Kerr said government and other interested agencies should consider implementing a system where cannabis is legalized, and both medical and recreational use are regulated using evidence-based discussions and approaches.

Kerr is co-director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS's Urban Health Research Initiative. His co-authors are Montaner, director of the centre, and Stephanie Lake, a research assistant at the centre.

The Canadian Press

Punished and isolated

An inclusion advocacy group is calling for an end to the use of seclusion rooms and restraints on special-needs school children.

Already this school year, two parents in Salmon Arm have removed their child from a local school after learning he was put in the isolation room.

Inclusion BC is demanding something be done.

The organization claims the province has failed to fulfil its promise to protect students with special needs and that it continues to hear from families whose children are being restrained and secluded.

Inclusion BC is calling for a ban on such methods through legislation and a targeted plan of action to prevent "the serious and egregious harm done to students."

An initial report, “Stop Hurting Kids: Restraint and Seclusion in B.C. Schools,” was released in 2013. At that time, Premier Christy Clark said government would conduct an investigation into the issue.

In response to this week's news that an autistic boy was locked in a "quiet room" in Salmon Arm, provincial officials promised to look into the issue again and find a solution.

Education Minister Mike Bernier said Tuesday that government guidelines are being drawn up and should be ready for release soon.

“The last 18 months, we’ve been working on making policies to make sure that school districts and teachers are appropriately using these rooms, these quiet rooms, for safety purposes,” Bernier said.

There are no plans to ban the practice, he added. 

According to Inclusion BC, those guidelines have yet to be finalized and there are still no requirements from the ministry for school districts to track and report use of the seclusion rooms.

“Clearly, we are in desperate need of a strong position by our Ministry of Education. Even definitions of what is a time out, a quiet room or a de-escalation room varies greatly as does the use of such rooms," says Faith Bodnar, Inclusion BC executive director.

The Salmon Arm incident clearly shows the rooms are not being used appropriately, she says.

“These are not safety rooms or quiet rooms. They are being used systematically to punish and isolate children and will continue to be used this way until legislation is enacted to ban the practice,” says Bodnar.

“These rooms and aversive practices must not be part of the routine behaviour management strategies in our schools. We know how to do better. We have the evidence, we have the research. This is about lack of leadership and a failure to do what’s necessary to protect vulnerable students in BC.”

Car smashes into bus shelter

UPDATE: 10 p.m.

Surrey RCMP are seeking witnesses to a bus-stop crash in the King George Highway and 96th Avenue area.

About 6:15 p.m., police responded to a report of a vehicle going up onto the sidewalk and striking a pedestrian at a bus stop on the 9600 block of King George.  

A white Corvette was travelling north on King George when the driver lost control, striking a fire hydrant and the bus stop shelter. The vehicle struck a male who was in the bus stop and continued through the shelter, stopping a short distance away.

The driver fled the scene on foot, leaving the vehicle behind.

A passenger remained in the vehicle and was taken to hospital with non-serious injuries. 

A witness followed the fleeing driver a short distance before he was seen to get into a taxi. Police stopped the taxi and took the male suspect into custody.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation, however, alcohol is believed to be a factor. 

Anyone with information is asked to call the Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or, quoting file number 2015-145533.


Two people are in critical condition after a car smashed into a Surrey bus stop, Thursday evening.

The crash happened near King George Highway and 96th Avenue.

Witnesses say the car crashed right through the bus stop. 

Two patients were taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Debris from the bus shelter was scattered several metres from the site of the impact.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

Spectator charges PM

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was rushed by a man at campaign rally in Surrey, Thursday evening.

Police grabbed the man and removed him from the Conservative party event.

Minutes earlier, another protester stood up with a sign reading "Climate Justice" before being taken away.

A third person who stood up to shout was also removed from the hall, where about 300 people gathered to hear the prime minister speak.

He was in the middle of a stump speech painting the opposition parties as risks to the economy when the man ran towards Harper.

"They (the Liberals and the NDP) would significantly raise those risks friends," Harper said, as the man leaped towards him.

"A lot more than that," he added calmly as the man was detained.

When another protester interrupted, Harper said, "let me finish." Seconds later, the woman was ejected.

"Friends you know they're worried when they don't come to their rallies and they come to ours instead," Harper quipped.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

Boy run over named

An eight-year-old boy who died after being hit by a garbage truck in Hope has been identified by the coroners service.

Jorin Dann-Mills was crossing a road in the community approximately 150 kilometres east of Vancouver just after noon on Wednesday when he was hit by the truck.

The coroner says he was transported to Fraser Canyon Hospital but died soon after arrival.

Members of the RCMP and coroners service are continuing their investigations.

Mounties said at the time of the accident that the driver was co-operating with investigators and officials from victim services were assisting the boy's family.

The Canadian Press

Keep away from the whale

Stay away from the whale.

That's the warning from fisheries officials after several Vancouverites were seen getting a little too close to a grey whale in English Bay.

Twitter photos show several kayakers, canoists and paddleboarders venturing close to the whale while it basked near the shore, Thursday.

Fisheries spokesperson Leri Davies told CTV the presence, and noise of people in the area could have a negative affect on the whale, disrupting its search for food or preventing it from getting the rest it needs.

“In short, our interactions with marine wildlife may cause them unnecessary stress, which could potentially threaten their lives,” Davies said.

"Marine mammals are so sensitive to that noise. It can really affect them."

Moving in front, or behind the creature can impede its ability to avoid crowds or hunt for food.

Boaters or sea lovers face penalties of up to a year in jail or fines of up to $100,000 for disturbing marine mammals under the Fisheries Act.

This isn't the first time people have been seen getting too close to nature. According to fisheries, similar incidents occurred when a pod of orcas were spotted around Coal Harbour and when whales were spotted recently in the Deep Cove and Burrard Inlet areas.

People have also been seeing flying drones overhead to get a better view.

Anyone who sees someone interacting with a whale is asked to call the Observe and Report line at 1-800-465-4336.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

Library adds streaming

As Arthur the aardvark teaches children, having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.

And card-holders will soon be able to have even more fun in the Okanagan.

Okanagan Regional Library has added a new streaming video service to its offerings that will be available to anyone with a library card.

IndieFlix hosts a collection of more than 7,000 independent movies, including festival hits from Sundance and Cannes.

Those with an Okanagan Regional Library card will be able to stream videos using the Netflix-like service on any Internet-connected computer, tablet or smartphone.

“What’s great about this collection is that the content is always available for streaming. There are no holds or waiting or downloading needed,” said Chantelle McGee, the library’s virtual branch head.

IndieFlix offers documentaries, films and television shows.

The streaming service is $5 per month for those without a library card.

Pipeline decision to wait

The fate of the Northern Gateway pipeline project is now in the hands of a trio of Federal Appeal Court judges who reserved their decision on whether to uphold or quash the government's approval of the controversial project.

Over six days of legal arguments in Vancouver, the court heard the government didn't get aboriginal consent or consider the impact on the environment when it approved the project, while proponents claimed a decision to overturn the pipeline approval would kill the project.

The government approved the $7-billion Enbridge Northern Gateway project in June 2014 with 209 conditions, following the recommendations made by a review panel considering the environmental impacts of the interprovincial pipeline.

A collection of First Nations, environmental groups and a labour union launched the appeal, asserting that the panel tasked with reviewing the pipeline proposal didn't adequately consult with aboriginal groups nor sufficiently consider the environmental impact.

"At its heart, the duty to fair consultation is a conversation to reach mutual understanding and the Crown simply failed to do that," said lawyer Robert Jains, speaking on behalf of the First Nations.

"What could have been used here was a bit more diplomacy rather than what I would say is the somewhat dishonourable approach that the Government of Canada took to dealing with the core issues of title and governance rights."

Jains also dismissed the suggestion that First Nations' concerns could be addressed further along in the regulatory review process.

"The submissions made by Canada and Northern Gateway that, like Orphan Annie looking forward to tomorrow, the real consultation is yet to come simply cannot be sustained," he said.

The project's proponents have argued throughout the appeal that the review process was thorough, fair and reasonable.

Lewis Manning, lawyer for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which is an intervener in the proceedings, told the court the Joint Review Panel made "every conceivable effort" to accommodate participation and did its best to mitigate concerns.

"That some parties chose not to participate is truly a shame," he said. "Those who didn't participate in the process lost the opportunity to make their views known."

Federal government lawyer Jan Brongers acknowledged there might have been flaws in the process, but he raised the question of how much imperfection should be allowed.

"It would be hard to imagine a truly perfect consultation," he said. "In our submission the process was reasonable.

"Detailed information was provided to the First Nations about the impacts the project would have. They had an opportunity to be heard. Their concerns were taken seriously," he said. "They were not dismissed out of hand, and accommodation measures were implemented where possible. And when not, an explanation was given."

In a statement released Thursday, Northern Gateway president John Carruthers said the company still has more work to do to secure aboriginal support.

"Northern Gateway is open to change," said Carruthers. "We will continue to adapt and address First Nation and Métis concerns as they arise and seek opportunities for meaningful, respectful dialogue with all groups."

Northern Gateway would see a 1,177-kilometre double pipeline installed that would carry diluted bitumen from Alberta's oilsands to B.C.'s coastline for export overseas.

The company estimates it would boost Canada's gross domestic product by $300 billion over 30 years, as well as provide employment opportunities and sizable tax and royalty revenues.

The Canadian Press

CO2-capture breakthrough

The mountain air in Squamish could soon be even fresher with the launch of a groundbreaking carbon capture operation.

The pilot project will suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, not from an industrial plant like other such operations, with the goal of turning the gas into fuel.

Built and operated by Calgary-based Carbon Engineering, the $9-million plant will capture about one tonne of CO2 per day, which is the equivalent of taking about 100 cars off the road annually.

Founded by Harvard climate scientist David Keith and backed by big-name investors including Bill Gates, Carbon Engineering has spent several years turning academic research into technology that could be commercialized.

The company will unveil its pilot plant in Squamish on Friday.

The operation has been capturing CO2 since May, but its primary purpose is to prove that the technology can work on a much larger scale, taking in up to one-million tonnes per day.

"It's still a pilot-scale plant," explained Adrian Corless, Carbon Engineering's CEO. "But it's very important, because it's the first time that anyone's demonstrated a technology that captures CO2 that has the potential to be scaled up to be large enough to be relevant from an environmental or climate point of view."

The plant works by moving large volumes of air through a piece of equipment where CO2 is absorbed by a liquid solution, and then transformed into pellets of calcium carbonate. The pellets are then heated to 800 or 900 degrees Celsius and break down, releasing pure carbon.

"There's no real magic to it," Corless said. "The pieces of equipment already exist today in very large scale. And we've really adapted them from other industries."

It may not be magic, but it is innovative — Carbon Engineering is a world leader in direct-air carbon capture, Corless said.

Soon the company will take the technology even farther, building another system that will turn the captured carbon into useable transportation fuel by adding hydrogen from renewable sources, such as solar, wind or hydro.

"It's not something that we were the first to think about it," Corless said. "I think we're just the first to be in position with that key piece of technology — which is the scalable source of atmospheric CO2 — that allows you to think about making a larger scale fuel synthesis plant."

Once that plant is running in 2016 or 2017, it will produce 200 to 400 litres of gasoline or diesel per day, and there are already groups interested in buying the product, Corless said.

Eventually, the fuel could be used for ships or planes.

"The nice thing about the technology is that there are no real limitations for it to ultimately, in theory, displace all of the existing fossil-based transportation fuels," Corless said.

Built on the site of a former Nexen chemical facility in Squamish, Carbon Engineering's pilot plant is bringing new technology to an area undergoing long-term development.

The pilot plant could be game changing in terms of reducing the global carbon footprint and it could make the mountain town a hub for green technology in the process, said Mayor Patricia Heintzman.

"When you start to bring in people who are problem solvers and entrepreneurs who see opportunity when it's there and aren't blind to it, that's an exciting place for a community to be. You can really grow on that," she said.

"I think it's great when smart innovators are coming into a community. That's where your future is."

The Canadian Press

Sawmill safety tightened

Recommendations from inquests into two sawmill explosions have prompted the B.C. government to introduce legislation it says will improve safety in the workplace.

The ministry responsible for jobs and labour says Bill 35 will require employers to immediately report all fires and blasts that could seriously injure workers.

Bill 35 adds to workplace-safety legislation introduced earlier this year and calls on employers to specify meaningful participation for worker and employer representatives in accident investigations.

Other changes would allow WorkSafeBC to proactively assist workplace health and safety committees in resolving disagreements over health and safety matters.

Seven recommendations aimed at the government came out of the inquests into the blasts — at the Babine Forests Products Mill in Burns Lake and at the Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George.

Both explosions happened within months of each other in 2012, killing four men and injuring dozens of other workers.

The Canadian Press

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