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Police cruiser sex scandal

The RCMP has quietly revealed that it won't pursue further disciplinary action against a female Mountie who said her superior sexually assaulted her in a police cruiser.

Cst. Susan Gastaldo's lawyer said Friday that the way the force issued a statement on its decision suggests it's trying to hide something.

Walter Kosteckyj said the statement clearing his client was buried on an RCMP website instead of being prominently displayed like the first news release in 2012, when she was accused of fabricating the assault allegations in an attempt to hide the truth from her husband.

The case was investigated by Vancouver police, which concluded the allegations were unfounded, and prompted an RCMP code-of-conduct review.

An RCMP review board eventually disciplined both Gastaldo and Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson for what was characterized as a consensual relationship.

The statement posted on the British Columbia RCMP website said the decision in the case of Gastaldo was made in September 2013, but those details only came to light this week.

"She has been asking for the last year that this decision be published in the same way that the original decision was published," Kosteckyj said. "Quite frankly, we couldn't find it anywhere and we thought it hadn't been published."

He said Gastaldo's reputation was damaged by the statement that remained on the RCMP site for two years, preventing her from returning to work "in an unblemished way so that people knew that she had been cleared of this wrongdoing."

A disciplinary hearing heard that Gastaldo had a sex with Pearson in a police vehicle between April and August in 2009.

Gastaldo maintained she was sexually assaulted and compelled into a relationship with Pearson because he had power over her as the orchestrator of her return to work in April 2009 after she had been on sick leave for several months.

Pearson's defence was that he and Gastaldo had a friendship that became sexual.

An adjudication board originally found Gastaldo guilty of conducting herself in a disgraceful manner bringing discredit to the RCMP for falsely accusing Pearson of sexual assault and sending numerous sexually explicit text messages to the same officer.

Gastaldo, who was to be docked seven days' pay, appealed the board's ruling claiming that after rejecting Pearson's advances she was forced into a sexual relationship but the board accepted Pearson's claims that the relationship was consensual.

The board decision was reviewed and overturned in June 2013 by RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, who said the board was biased on the issue of consent and that Gastaldo's arguments in support of her defence were ignored.

"I find that the board's breach of the appellant's right to procedural fairness invalidated the board's entire decision," he said in his written decision.

The police statement revealed recently said assistant commissioner Craig Callens decided in September 2013 not to pursue further discipline against Gastaldo and the charges against her were withdrawn.

Gastaldo remains on stress leave but the RCMP's latest decision has paved the way for her to return to work though it's not known if she will be back to the same job in Vancouver, Kosteckyj said.

The RCMP has long been criticized for its male-dominated culture of harassment and bullying, with seniors members of the force, including Paulson, saying efforts are being made to create respectful work environments.

Kosteckyj said he believes the highest level of the RCMP is trying to make changes, but the statement about his client suggests transparency is still not a high priority for the force.

"I think this is going to be a learning curve for the RCMP, realizing that they would have been better off printing this thing on Susan Gastaldo back in 2013 rather than it coming out the way it has. It seems that they're trying to hide what should have been in plain view.

"They just don't look good," Kosteckyj said, adding Gastaldo is still proceeding with a civil lawsuit against the RCMP.

The Canadian Press

Hwy. 8 re-opens

Highway 8 has now re-opened to traffic.

Highway 8 is closed in both directions 3 km west of Merritt.

DriveBC estimates the time of opening 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. 

Northbound traffic can detour from Merritt to Hwy. 97D then to Hwy. 97C onto Hwy 8., southbound traffic can detour onto Hwy. 97C then onto 97D and then onto Hwy. 5.

Send photos and video to [email protected]


Crown: YVR thief deserves jail


A Vancouver airport security screener's "sleight of hand" should earn him four to six months in jail, a Crown

prosecutor told the man's sentencing hearing.

Yuriy Ruvinskiy appeared in Richmond provincial court on Thursday for a sentencing hearing. He pleaded guilty in August to eight theft charges.

Crown Counsel Gerri-Lyn Nelson said a jail sentence is warranted, noting the breach of trust included 28 separate incidents between Feb. 16 and March 8 this year.

She played videos for the court showing Ruvinskiy pocket cash, including a US $100 bill, and personal items, like a cellphone, in repetitive, systematic and skillful ways.

"The sleight of hand is interesting, the careful body blocking ... it's all quite deftly done over a series of days," she said, noting Ruvinskiy also manipulated the bins that carried travellers personal contents through screening devices so they were in a favourable position.

Over a span of 24 minutes on Feb. 16, Ruvinskiy committed five thefts, said Nelson.

The stealing came to an end March 8, when a traveller from Indonesia who was heading to Edmonton noticed a US $100 bill missing from his wallet after a pre-boarding screening, said Nelson.

The tourist spoke to Ruvinskiy's supervisor who called in the RCMP, she said.

A constable reviewed security video, witnessed the theft of the cash and cellphone, noticed Ruvinskiy's lack of hesitation and level of calm and recommended a review of all security videos of the dates he worked, said Nelson.

She said even though Ruvinskiy has no criminal record and has lost his job, the sentence must denounce the offences and deter others from committing them.

Nelson said restitution isn't an option because the victims were travellers, and not everybody knew exactly what or how much was taken from them.

Judge David St. Pierre has adjourned the case until next Thursday when the court will fix a date for defence counsel to make submissions.

The Canadian Press


A lesson about hangings

It wasn't long ago that an RCMP officer asked Chief Joe Alphonse for some help in understanding the people of his First Nation.

The Mountie, who was from the small community of Alexis Creek west of Williams Lake told Alphonse that every encounter he had with aboriginal people in the Cariboo-Chilcoutin area always involved the same topic: the hangings.

"He wanted to know what our members were talking about," said Alphonse, a Tsilhqot'in Nation chief. "He said every single last Tsilhqot'in person we pull over will look at us and tell us, 'you bastards hung our chiefs.'"

Alphonse said he gave the officer a history lesson about events 150 years ago when British Columbia was a colony and the government tried to build a toll road from Bute Inlet on the coast to the Cariboo gold fields in Barkerville.

The canyons, rivers and mountains were treacherous and going was slow, but the road builders met an even more difficult force, the Tsilhqot'in aboriginals.

The dispute left 20 non-aboriginals dead and six chiefs were later hanged.

The Chilcotin War is known as Western Canada's deadliest attack by aboriginals on non-aboriginal settlers. It started in April 1864, and by the end of May, 19 road builders and a farmer were dead.

First Nations, decimated by smallpox and fearing an influx of settlers into their territory, put up an armed resistance to the workers attempting to build a road through their territory for the gold rush.

A militia army of more than 100 people was sent into the area, but capturing the Tsilhqot'in was impossible.

After three months, the area's police chief invited the aboriginals to a meeting, where the First Nations — believing they were being summoned for peace talks — were arrested.

The men were given brief trials. Five were hanged in Quesnel on Oct. 26, 1864, and another was hanged later in New Westminster.

"This is as deeply ingrained (in us) as you can imagine it to be," said Alphonse, a relative of one of the six chiefs. "How we look at the province has been affected by what these warriors did. Right or wrong, it is part of our history, and it does make the character of the Tsilhqot'in and the make up of British Columbia."

The road was never built.

Alphonse and Tsilhqot'in Chief Roger William joined Premier Christy Clark in the legislature on Thursday to hear her apology on behalf of the province.

"To the extent that it falls within the power of the province of British Columbia, we confirm without reservation that these six Tsilhqot'in chiefs are fully exonerated of any crime of wrongdoing," Clark said.

"The Tsilhqot'in people rightly regard these chiefs as heros of their people. So today we offer this apology, a historic day 150 years later."

Clark is due to travel to Tsilhqot'in territory this weekend to issue a similar apology in person.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the Tsilhqot'in last June when, for the first time in Canadian history, a First Nation was granted title to a piece of land the aboriginals claimed as their territory.

John Lutz, a history professor at University of Victoria, said the events of the Chilcotin War 150 years ago likely played a role in the Supreme Court decision granting the Tsilhqot'in title to their land.

"Today's victory, the court victory, is in a very real way a direct result of their resistance in 1864," he said.

If the road project had been successful, much of Tsilhqot'in territory would have long ago become a major route from BC's coast into the Interior, along with the development and people that come with it, Lutz said. Instead, the first major road into the Interior was the Trans-Canada Highway through the Fraser Canyon.

The Canadian Press

Snow coming to 97C & Hwy. 5

Old man winter is expected to make his first appearance in the Southern Interior.

A special weather statement issued Thursday by Environment Canada calls for snow this evening on both the Okanagan Connector and the Coquihalla Highway between Merritt and Hope.

As temperatures fall behind a departing front tonight, rain will switch over to snow for the highway passes above 1000 metres elevation.

Precipitation will taper off late overnight or Friday morning, with snowfall amounts up to 5 cm are expected.

The public is advised to monitor future forecasts and warnings as they be extended.

Motorists using either highway are reminded that, as of Oct 1, proper winter tires are required on all mountain highways.

Shooter linked to BC

The man alleged to have taken part in the shooting in Ottawa this morning had ties to BC.

Provincial court documents say Michael Joseph Paul Zehaf Bibeau, 32, was arrested in Vancouver in Dec, 2011.

He was charged with robbery and uttering threats.

Zehaf Bibeau was sentenced, two months later, to one day in jail and ordered to pay a $100 victim surcharge.

There is no indication whether he resided in BC at the time and, if so, for how long.

A report in the Montreal Gazette says a man with the same name and age was convicted in Montreal in 2004 on charges of possession of phencyclidine (PCP). He was sentenced to 60 days in jail on that offence and an additional one day for possession of marijuana.

Zehaf Bibeau was killed by police earlier this morning after he was alleged to have shot and killed a soldier at the War Memorial on Parliament Hill.


Tribes protest pipeline

Tribal representatives from both sides of the border spoke in unified opposition today against oil giant Kinder Morgan’s proposed oil pipeline.

Elders, fishers, leaders and youth presented testimony opposing the project to Canada’s National Energy Board in Chilliwack. The NEB will make a recommendation on the future of the pipeline to Canada’s federal government, the ultimate decision-making body for the project.

“We can no longer allow the Salish Sea to be used as a dumping ground,” said Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby. “For more than 150 years we have lived in a pollution-based economy, and today face increased threat of an oil spill in our traditional fishing grounds on the Salish Sea—an event that would very likely lead to irreparable damage to salmon and shellfish habitat, and destroy our way of life along with it.”

The proposed oil pipeline would roughly triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 per day. It would run alongside an existing pipeline that stretches from the Alberta tar sands oil fields to an oil shipping terminal in Burnaby, greatly increasing the traffic of oil tankers carrying diluted tar sands bitumen through Canadian and US waters.

“The proposed pipeline, if approved, will increase the risk of oil spills and cause more disruption of our fishing fleet. The Suquamish Tribe has a duty to stand up to further threats to our Salish Sea fishing grounds, which have sustained our people since time immemorial,” said Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman.

“If the pipeline is approved, there will be a massive increase in tanker loadings,” said Tulalip treasurer Glen Gobin. “This increased traffic will directly interfere with access to traditional and treaty-protected fishing areas, and put the safety of tribal fishers at risk—not to mention drastically increase the chance of a catastrophic oil spill,” he said. “My father, Bernie Gobin, fought side by side with leaders such as Billy Frank Jr. to ensure that salmon, the very essence of who we are as Coast Salish peoples, live on from generation to generation. We fight for our past and our future.“

Canada’s Coast Salish First Nations also oppose the oil pipeline, and testified before the National Energy Board last week. Those tribes included Shxw’owhámel First Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Kwantlen First Nation, Musqueam Indian Band, Peters Band. Katzie First Nation and Hwlitsum First Nation also provided testimony.

“Like the sea, Coast Salish people acknowledge no boundaries. We are united to protect the Salish Sea,” said Chemainus First Nation member Ray Harris. “It’s a danger to the environment, a violation of aboriginal fishing rights, and a threat to all people who call this unique place home,” he said.

"We do find lots of support from far and wide, actually surprising support from the Mayors of the Lower Mainland, huge environmental groups that are on our side. I got lots of faith in the future. Hopefully that'll be there for our kids and grandkids." 

Tulalip councilwoman Deborah Parker said she hoped the protest would be a day for healing.

"Really my hopes are that the NEB and Kinder Morgan will hear our words. and I know they will be some pretty powerful words," she said. "The words need to keep coming forward so we're not living in this fear and in as much pain we have been. 

"I hope today is not only a day to hear and to listen, but a day to heal." 

Coast Salish peoples are the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, and have traditionally lived along the coasts of Oregon and Washington in the United States, and in British Columbia, Canada.

The Salish Sea is a network of waterways between the southwestern tip of British Columbia and the northwestern tip of Washington State, and includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Haro Strait, the Strait of Georgia and the Puget Sound.

- With files from Dwayne Thornhill

BC legislature warned

The clerk of British Columbia's legislature says some provincial politicians were warned this week about heightened security concerns from officials in Ottawa.

Craig James says officials at the legislature received information from Ottawa that there could be a problem and he briefed several elected members of the provincial legislature.

Security has been tightened at BC's legislature and most of the public is being kept out of the building after a gunman opened fire on Parliament Hill.

Provincial sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz says the recent threats were shared among those in charge of security at Canadian parliaments and did not involve the BC legislature, which was the focus of a failed bombing attack on Canada Day 2013.

Premier Christy Clark is expected to make a statement later, but tweeted that the province stands with all of Canada and the brave men and women keeping our capital safe against the violence in Ottawa.

A gunman opened fire on a soldier at the National War Memorial, then crossed the street and injured a security guard on Parliament Hill before he was reportedly shot dead by a sergeant-at-arms.

The Canadian Press

Falling debris at BC Place

Leaking water isn’t the only thing that’s fallen onto the BC Place field since its $563 million renovation was completed three years ago, reports CTV Vancouver.

The stadium’s retractable roof couldn’t be opened or closed while people were underneath for months in 2012 due to fears of falling metal parts, the NDP revealed Tuesday.

“This is a retractable roof that it turns out couldn’t be retracted without pieces of it falling on the playing field and the stands,” MLA David Eby said in the BC Legislature.

The NDP said the BC Pavilion Corporation, the Crown company that owns BC Place, fought to conceal a contractors report on the debris issue for years, but was eventually forced to turn it over by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commission.

Eby said the lack of transparency suggests a government that was “desperate to conceal” embarrassing information on the stadium, whose widely-reported leaking problem has been mocked repeatedly over the years.

Deputy Premier Rich Coleman insisted the debris issue was minor, and quickly taken care of after it was discovered.

“The only thing that’s ever fallen from this roof was a very small washer, and the issue was addressed and [parts upgraded] in August of 2012,” Coleman said during question period.

The washer was 34 millimetres wide, and PavCo said the public was never at risk.

The NDP also criticized the government for failing to put an end to the leaks, which were spotted as recently as last month during a BC Lions game.

Eby alleged that PavCo bought beer for fans who were leaked on rather than publicly address the roof issues and fix them.

Crews were out on the roof Tuesday afternoon replacing fabric panels ruined by lubricant stains. PavCo said that work caused the leaks, and that the problem will stop once it’s finished.

“The fact is that it’s under warranty and the work is getting done,” Coleman said. “There is no additional cost to taxpayers for these repairs.”

8-hour standoff ends

A Vancouver man is being treated for mental disorder and minor injuries after an eight-hour standoff with police.

Cst. Randy Fincham says police arrived at an East Vancouver apartment on Tuesday morning after a woman claimed her ex-boyfriend had broken into her home and was acting irrationally.

Fincham says the woman had already left the apartment by the time officers arrived, but the man barricaded himself inside.

The officers negotiated with the 41-year-old man throughout the day, trying to persuade him to surrender to police.

Fincham says around 6:30 p.m., the man jumped from the second floor apartment and ran off.

Police shot the man with beanbag rounds and took him into custody.

The Canadian Press

80,000 lose power

A wind warning has ended for parts of B.C.'s south coast as severe weather at its height left almost 80,000 BC Hydro customers without electricity overnight.

Environment Canada says a rainfall warning remains in effect in Metro Vancouver, Howe Sound and Whistler, and BC Hydro says roughly 44,000 customers remain without power.

It warns a Pacific frontal system could dump up to 60 millimetres of rain by early Wednesday, though the rainfall is expected to ease in the morning.

The agency warns that heavy downpours can cause flash floods and water pooling on roads.

The south coast was lashed overnight with wind gusts of up to 90 kilometres an hour, forcing BC Ferries to delay a sailing and cutting power to almost 80,000 BC Hydro customers at one point.

The hardest hit areas were Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, and Environment Canada says the system is expected to move into the province's Interior.

Send photos and video to [email protected]

The Canadian Press

Cops cleared of excessive force

A pair of RCMP officers in Penticton will not be criminally charged in relation to an excessive force complaint from earlier this year.

The allegation stems from an incident on March 22 when a vehicle was found in the parking lot of a school, with its engine running around 3 a.m.

When the officers attempted to detain the driver for impaired driving, a physical altercation took place. The driver was then arrested and put in the back of a police car, where he lost consciousness and had to be taken to hospital. The man was released around 1 p.m. the following afternoon. 

The Independent Investigation Office was called in and provided a report to the Criminal Justice Branch, who concluded there was not enough evidence to convict either of the officers of a criminal offence.

However, a charge of assaulting a police officer has been approved against the driver involved in the incident.

LNG tax drop

The British Columbia government has climbed down from its proposed goal of a seven per cent income tax on the province's liquefied natural gas industry, and instead cut the rate in half to 3.5 per cent for the next two decades.

Finance Minister Mike De Jong said Bill 6, the Liquefied Natural Gas Income Tax Act, reflects the plan he announced in February's budget, but changing world-market conditions and increasing construction costs prompted the government to reduce the preliminary tax rate it announced nine months ago.

"Here we are in October with a comprehensive legislative package that will ensure everyone, the public, the shareholders of British Columbia, and the proponents themselves know what the rules of the game are going to be with respect to the LNG income tax," he said in announcing the tax on Tuesday.

The new tax starts in 2017 at a rate of 1.5 per cent and rises to 3.5 per cent, with another increase to five per cent in 2037, once the industry plants roots in the province, he said.

De Jong said the tax also includes a corporate income-tax credit available to LNG companies that establish permanent bases in B.C. The credit, an attempt to attract new corporate income-tax revenue to B.C., could drop to eight per cent from 11 per cent for LNG companies, he said.

Last February, de Jong said the preliminary version of the LNG income tax would be 1.5 per cent at the start of production, and the second tier would rise to seven per cent once plants were running and capital costs were deducted. But he also indicated seven per cent was at the top of the tax range.

Industry groups and individual LNG companies said seven per cent was too high, considering the other taxes and royalties companies already pay, but they all carried on with their development plans.

De Jong said the reduced rate of 3.5 per cent is a result of dropping LNG prices and an attempt by the government to introduce a tax more attractive to investors.

He mentioned possible changes in demand for LNG, including a massive deal China recently made with Russia, as one of the primary reasons behind the reduced rate.

De Jong also suggested some of the Liberal government's May 2013 election promises to eliminate the provincial debt and the creation of a $100-billion Prosperity Fund may take longer to achieve.

"The market has changed," said de Jong. "We set some objectives. We set some targets. If it takes an extra 10 or 15 years to pay down to the extent we'd like, or eliminate our debt, I'll take that. That's in my view, worth pursuing."

The Canadian Press

BC's green LNG law

New legislation introduced in British Columbia requires liquefied-natural-gas plants to meet emission standards or face penalties and makes the industry the cleanest in the world, says Environment Minister Mary Polak.

Polak tabled the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act Monday, saying it will set the province's emission benchmark at 0.16 tonnes of carbon dioxide for each tonne of LNG produced, which is lower than any other LNG facility in the world.

She said it will test legislated GHG emission targets, which have been set at one-third below 2007 levels by 2020, and the province will also consider cutting emissions in sectors, such as transportation and construction.

"It is going to be a challenge, no question," she said. "Sure, it's going to be really difficult but it means we're going to have to be drilling down more and more on the everyday things that we can do to reduce GHG emissions."

Reaction to the legislation from industry and environmental groups was lukewarm, and Opposition politicians labelled the proposed law an attempt to hoodwink British Columbians about the amount of pollution the plants will emit.

"Saying one thing and doing another, where they claim that day is night and night is day, where they claim that brown is green and that standing up for the environment is what they're doing," said Opposition New Democrat environment critic Chandra Herbert.

Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver called legislation a wild west law that will be a laughing stock in environmental circles worldwide because the numbers don't add up.

"It's like playing World Cup soccer and BC has a qualifying process that actually doesn't listen to FIFA rules," he said.

Polak said the government estimates five BC LNG plants will create 13-million tonnes of GHG emissions, adding to BC's current annual GHG emissions of 62 million tonnes.

LNG industry spokesman David Keane said the benchmarks bring clarity to environmental questions companies may have, but many are still not ready to make final investment decisions.

The Canadian Press

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