Get back-to-school ready

It's that time of the year parents love best – back to school.

Across B.C., more than 600,000 students head back to class Tues. Sept. 6.

Students in kindergarten to Grade 9 will all be learning under a new curriculum this fall.

The B.C. government says students will learn “the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic in a way that connects them to the collaboration, communications, and critical thinking skills needed in college, university, and the work force."

The government also has a program to help parents kick-start education savings. Parents can apply here for the $1,200 BC Training and Education Saving Grant.

“The new school year is exciting for parents and students alike and everyone wants a stress-free start to the year. We are investing a record $5.1 billion for public education this year,” said Education Minister Mike Bernier.

Meanwhile, BC Children's Hospital has tips on how to deal with junior's back-to-school anxiety.

Adjusting to a new routine, new teacher, pressure to make new friends and bullying can all take a toll.

“Taking time to acknowledge your child’s worries about the new school year and problem solve solutions can help them shift their focus to the positive aspects of school," said Dr. Susan Baer, psychiatrist in the mood and anxiety disorders clinic at BC Children’s.

Parents have their share of stress, too.

According to marketing research company Field Agent, Canadian parents are only 53 per cent done their back-to-school shopping.

Field Agent polled more than 200 parents last weekend and found they are only about half done shopping. 

Based on its findings, Field Agent expects a busy couple of weeks at Canadian retailers.

Check out the full findings here.


IED in storage locker

UPDATE: 10 p.m.

Vancouver police it was an "improvised explosive device" that was found in a Mount Pleasant storage locker.

Staff Sgt. Randy Fincham said the device was large enough it could have done significant damage to the building or anyone inside.

"Our focus right now is to determine exactly how that explosive device ended up in that storage locker, who placed it there, and any other information we can find in regards to that storage locker," Fincham told CTV.

The building was evacuated, and officers closed off an entire city block as a precaution.

A remote-control robot disabled the device with targeted water charges that witnesses said sounded like explosions

Police are still trying to determine who the storage unit belongs to.

UPDATE: 1:45 p.m.

Police are continuing to investigate after explosives were found inside a Vancouver storage locker.

VPD explosive technicians were called to Guardian Storage, where they examined the contents of the locker.

The storage facility and adjacent residential and commercial units were evacuated while the suspected explosive devices were disabled, using a robot.

Several explosions were heard in the neighbourhood.

The Vancouver Police Major Crime Section continues its investigation.

ORIGINAL: 6:25 a.m.

Several loud explosions were heard in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood late Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, police evacuated a building near 7th Avenue and Columbia Street after the discovery of possible explosives was reported to authorities.

The explosives were found in a storage locker.

The RCMP's Emergency Response Team and a bomb squad was called to the scene to investigate the suspicious materials.

Witnesses told CTV News a remote-controlled robot was also being used.

Police evacuated the building and have yet to confirm the nature of the discovery.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

Trouble for ex-MLA's son

The son of former Kelowna MLA Judy Tyabji is in more hot water.

Kasimir Tyabji-Sandana, 28, has been charged with assault stemming from an incident nearly three months ago in Powell River.

At the time, Tyabji-Sandana was out on bail after he was arrested and charged with importing fentanyl in July 2015. He is scheduled to stand trial on that charge in Calgary next September.

He was under house arrest, living with a family friend in Powell River.

The latest incident occurred at the government house of the Tla’amin Nation on June 9.

Tyabji-Sandana is alleged to have struck a person in the face.

He is to appear in court again next month in Powell River on the assault charge.

Judy Tyabji was the youngest MLA in B.C. history when she was elected to represent Okanagan East in 1991. She was 26 when she was elected.


Coroner ID's Terrace man

Nicolas Allan Jeppesen, 29, has been identified as the man who died following interaction with Terrace RCMP earlier this month.

On Aug. 21, police responded to a complaint near Mills Memorial Hospital.

They encountered Jeppesen, a local resident, near the hospital’s helicopter landing pad. During the interaction, Jeppesen was injured and died a short time later at the hospital.

The BC Coroners Service and Independent Investigations Office continue to investigate the death.

The mandate of the IIO is to investigate whether any offences may have been committed by the police officers involved.

The mandate of the BC Coroners Service in such cases is broader, and the coroner’s investigation may look at the events which led up to the final fatal outcome and whether there are reasonable and practical recommendations that could be made which might prevent future deaths in similar circumstances.

Regulate THC: doctors

The Canadian Medical Association says 72 per cent of doctors who responded to a survey it conducted want the federal government to regulate THC levels in recreational marijuana.

A total of 788 doctors, or 19 per cent of the association's membership, responded to the survey earlier this summer, the group's annual meeting heard Wednesday.

Dr. Jeff Blackmer, vice-president of medical professionalism at the association, said the survey was based on federal Health Minister Jane Philpott's request for feedback from physicians.

"We really want to take a public health view to this and represent the views of physicians the same way we would on other issues, for example, smoking or alcohol use," he told the meeting.

"It's not to say that we do or don't support legalization, it's to say if it is legalized, here's what we think that should look like."

THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Blackmer said doctors who responded to the survey were split on whether the government should combine recreational and medicinal marijuana regimes or deal with them as separate issues as part of legislation that is set to be introduced next spring.

Over 57 per cent of survey respondents said they did not want medical marijuana to be sold in health-care settings, such as pharmacies.

"The feeling was that that would send the wrong message, that in fact recreational marijuana was somehow equated with other types of pharmaceutical products," Blackmer said.

Forty-seven per cent of respondents said pot should be distributed in non-health care settings, such as liquor stores, where there would be regulatory controls on who could buy it, along with requirements for identification.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has mused about selling marijuana through the province's liquor stores.

In British Columbia, the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and the B.C. Private Liquor Store Association have joined forces to advocate for the right to sell recreational cannabis through public and private liquor stores.

Bear had to be put down

After being hit by a car, a black bear had be euthanized by police in Port Coquitlam.

The Mary Hill Bypass was partially shut down late Tuesday to deal with the incident.

Witnesses wanted to help the bear, but stayed in their cars for safety.

RCMP say the injured animal had to be put down.

"We were just driving, and I saw a shadow in front of me," Ness Hanbury told CTV. "There was a car in front of me that swerved around something."

Two cars collided during the sudden stop.

Hanbury called 911 when he saw the bear had blood on its face and was staggering around.

"It's unfortunate, and it's very sad that the people that hit the bear continued driving away without doing anything about it," Hanbury said.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

Doubt cast on green LNG

A new study is raising doubts that Canada's ambition to export liquefied natural gas would help reduce carbon emissions abroad — a core justification for developing such an industry.

The C.D. Howe Institute released a report Wednesday that concluded that Canada's LNG exports could reduce carbon emissions in parts of Asia, but would likely increase emissions in the majority of other potential markets.

The development of LNG exports requires power to cool it into a liquid, as well as energy for the tankers that would ship it overseas so that it can be used in gas-fired power plants.

LNG exports would still reduce overall emissions if they replace coal and oil-fired power production in China, India, Japan and Taiwan, study authors James Coleman and Sarah Jordaan said. But they found that emissions would likely go up in Canada's nine other likely export markets because those countries have greater supplies of renewable and lower-emission power sources.

It is "far from certain" that Canadian LNG exports would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, Coleman and Jordaan concluded.

The study deals a blow to one of the British Columbia government's selling points for an LNG sector. It also comes as the government's hopes of a thriving export market are fading, with several projects recently shelved.

The Pacific Northwest LNG project, led by Malaysian energy giant Petronas, remains the biggest and most high-profile project on the table, with an estimated cost of $36 billion. It is awaiting a final decision from the federal government expected by the end of September following a report from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

But the development has faced criticism for both direct environmental impacts on fish habitat, as well as its potential to increase domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

The Pembina Institute figures that Pacific Northwest could become the largest source of carbon pollution in Canada — when the associated emissions in supplying it with natural gas are factored in — releasing upwards of 14 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.

The authors of the C.D. Howe study recommend that federal and provincial governments focus on reducing emissions domestically and encourage similar policies elsewhere, rather than banking on the prospect of LNG exports bringing down emissions abroad, because final markets for Canadian LNG, and what sources of power it would replace, are too difficult to determine.

"Regulators should not focus on how LNG exports will impact GHG emissions overseas," they wrote.

"The full impact of an individual facility on global emissions is nearly impossible to estimate unless regulators know where the LNG will be sent when they approve a project."

They said particular attention should be paid to reducing methane leakage during transportation and greenhouse gases vented during the processing of natural gas, and the need for a better understanding of how much gas escapes along the whole supply chain.

The B.C. government has taken some action on methane, committing in its climate plan released last week to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas production by 45 per cent by 2025.

The plan also called for increased electrification of natural gas production fields to reduce emissions. But rather than firm commitments of funding, B.C. said it was discussing with the federal government the possibility of helping pay for the expensive infrastructure required to make that happen.

Seal escapes killer bite

One seal's epic story of escape is going viral.

B.C. resident Kirk Fraser was out on his boat with family in Powell River when they witnessed a pod of 12 killer whales chasing a seal.

In a desperate attempt to avoid becoming lunch, the seal sped towards their boat and scrambled on board.

Both the seal and humans were nervous at first, but quickly got used to each other and hung out for nearly 45 minutes waiting for the whales to give up.

A one point, a person on the boat jokes about pushing the seal into the water for the whales, while another on the boat cheers: “That guy deserves to live!"

After the whales take off, the seal slips back into the water with cheers of survival from those on the boat.

“It fell off three times in panic and finally stayed on until the whales gave up after about 30-45 minutes,” wrote Fraser on YouTube.

“Most intense epic experience ever. Love you, Nature. What a lucky seal.”

Dog tossed into dumpster

The SPCA hopes someone can help them identify two people seen tossing the body of a dog into a dumpster in Coquitlam.

The remains were dumped on July 26, but the information is being released now because the SPCA says necropsy results show the young female boxer-cross died from extreme heat.

Security video from a parking lot in an industrial and commercial area of southeast Coquitlam shows a light-coloured mini-van pulling up behind the building.

Two people get out and throw the dog's body into the container before driving away.

It's hoped someone will recognize the people or the vehicle in the footage, or the distinctive blue-and-grey collar and a red-and-black leash the dog was wearing.

The senior animal protection officer for the SPCA in B.C., Eileen Drever, says investigators want to know conclusively how the young animal died and why it was discarded like garbage.

"Based on the necropsy results we believe the dog died from extreme heat exposure, where the body’s temperature is elevated beyond its ability to release the heat, resulting in a very painful death," she says in a news release.

Anyone with information about the dog or its fate is requested to contact the provincial SPCA.

Fireproof goat returns

A resilient goat made his triumphant return to Rock Creek this past weekend, at Ponderosa Music Festival.

As buildings and trees burst into flames and collapsed around him during the Rock Creek wildfire that destroyed 30 homes last August, Leo remained in his pen and rode out the heat.

Other than a singed tail, Leo was unscathed.

After he was found alive, Critteraid, an animal rescue charity, took Leo in, where he stayed until February.

“He was there with five alpacas, but goats do much better with goats, they're herd animals,” said Jeff Campbell, the current owner of Leo.

Critteraid reached out to the Campbell family, who had previously worked with Critteraid.

Leo moved to the Campbell farm in Penticton in February, where he has become best of friends with the Campbells' five female goats.

“He's been awesome, he's got five other girls that he hangs out with all day long,” Jeff said. “They're best of buds, they play all day long.”

On Sunday, Jeff and his wife Cindy, along with their two kids, brought Leo and his buddy Eretria down to Rock Creek for the last day of the Ponderosa Music Festival.

Jeff said Kris Hargrave and Kia Zahrabi, the organizers of the festival, had reached out to the Campbells in the spring.

“They came out and said hi to Leo and were wondering if we'd be able to bring him out because most people in this area totally know about Leo the fireproof goat,” Jeff said.

Leo and Eretria, along with the Campbells, were housed in a fenced-off area inside the festival, and festival-goers wandered in and out, to pet the goats and hear about Leo defying the odds.

“Most people who have come by to see him are pretty happy that Leo's come by,” Jeff said. “We've had people all day long since we've been here, coming in and out.”

After a long day of being a local celebrity, Leo was worn out, falling asleep in his hay, as music blasted across the field from the main stage.

By all accounts, Leo's homecoming was a success.

Opioids over-prescribed

The medical profession is waking up to the reality that opioids have been over-prescribed in Canada and is actively searching for solutions, says a national association that represents doctors in legal matters.

Dr. Gordon Wallace, managing director of safe medical care with the Canadian Medical Protective Association, said the group was bringing in a panel of experts on Wednesday to advise doctors on the safe management and prescription of the medications, as opioid addictions reach crisis levels in Canada.

"We've been over-prescribing and we need to reset this," he said in an interview on Tuesday. "The challenge is to reset this in a way that you actually are adequately treating pain."

The issue is on the group's agenda at its annual meeting in Vancouver, held in conjunction with the Canadian Medical Association's annual conference.

Opioids, including fentanyl and oxycontin, can be prescribed for pain caused by injury, cancer or a chronic condition. It's common for patients to become tolerant of the drugs, and nearly all patients become physically dependent after daily use for more than several weeks, according to the medical protective association.

Wallace said opioids rose to prominence about 20 years ago when there was a push for doctors to do a better job of treating pain. The pharmaceutical industry also played a role in the greater use of the drugs, he said.

But today, with rates of addiction to the dangerous drugs rising drastically, doctors are realizing that they have to turn to other options. Canada ranks second only to the U.S. in per capita consumption of prescription opioids, Wallace said.

"I think the profession is waking up. I don't pretend that we're as far along as we need to be, but I think we're waking up to this and we are trying to determine how best to do this."

Between 2010 and 2015, the medical protective association was involved in 151 legal cases involving allegations of patient harm related to opioid prescription and administration. The cases included civil actions, regulatory complaints and hospital complaints, and most related to drugs prescribed for treatment of chronic non-cancer pain.

Wallace said the association found three major themes when reviewing the cases: failure to assess patients appropriately before prescribing opioids; the concurrent prescription of opioids and other sedatives; and challenges in identifying drug-seeking behaviour.

British Columbia has declared a public health crisis over a surge in drug-related overdose deaths, in part due to the rise of fentanyl. While many overdoses are caused by illegally-obtained drugs, Wallace said over-prescription also plays a role.

But there is also controversy about how to proceed, he said, and Wednesday's panel was set up to examine a variety of views, including the Canadian Pharmacists Association, Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.

Dr. Gary Franklin, medical director of the Washington State Department of Labour and Industries, was asked to be a panellist because his jurisdiction has taken a unique approach to tackling opioid over-prescription.

Washington has created an organization called the Agency Medical Directors' Group in which all state agencies involved in health care — including the labour, health and corrections departments — collaborate on policy.

The group has developed three opioid guidelines since 2007, when Washington became the first state in the country to suggest a dosing threshold, Franklin said.

"You can't get these things done unless you work together across the public agencies and in collaboration with clinicians in practice who want to help out, who realize there's a problem and want to help," he said.

Better bear safety urged

Residents of Revelstoke are being chastised after nine black bears were killed in a single week for raiding garbage cans and becoming too accustomed to humans.

The Conservation Officers Service in British Columbia euthanized the problem animals in and around Revelstoke last week, where one animal was brazen enough to approach the downtown.

Gordon Hitchcock, a 28-year-veteran with the conservation service, said it's very unusual for so many bears to be killed in such a short time period. But he insisted the deaths are unnecessary.

"It's avoidable. That's the key message," Hitchcock said Tuesday. "It's pretty much around managing food attractants."

Once they're conditioned to eating garbage, bears become indifferent to people and can no longer simply be transported further into the wild, he said.

Maggie Spizzirri of the Revelstoke Bear Aware Society said it's always a little devastating to see an animal be put down and that it's the community's responsibility to deal properly with items that typically entice bears, such as garbage and fallen fruit.

"It's up to the people to make sure their attractants are secure. It's up to the people to maybe nudge their neighbours to do the same. And it's up to the city to make sure they're enforcing these things as well," she said.

Spizzirri said compliance with proper bear-aware practices appears to be on the rise in Revelstoke because residents know there has been more bear activity than usual this year.

"We just have to make sure that that momentum continues in the future so this doesn't happen again," she said.

The animals killed around Revelstoke were all solitary black bears, and the challenge of problem animals isn't restricted to the Rocky Mountains.

"It's an issue that's across most British Columbia, particularly places like Revelstoke that have a natural wildlife corridor," Hitchcock said.

He said residents in the community of about 7,000 people need "more of a heightened realization that they're in a wildlife corridor, particularly for bears."

Bears have a built-in fear of humans, but their strong instinct to feed can sometimes override that fear and weaken that natural suspicion, said Hitchcock.

Public education and bylaw enforcement are the two main tools used by the Conservation Officers Service to minimize the threats posed by problem animals.

Hitchcock said he hopes the media attention last week's killings have garnered will make people more aware of the need to secure bear attractants.

He also commended the work of groups like Bear Aware and WildSafeBC for their efforts in raising awareness around how to interact safely with wildlife.

"The bottom line is keeping communities safe and bears wild," Hitchcock said.

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