Michael Rodine will be in Vernon court on Feb. 29 on numerous charges surrounding a fatal crash

Rodine back in court

A Vernon man facing multiple charges in a deadly crash that killed two people will be back in a Vernon courtroom later this month.

Michael Rodine is charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death, two counts of causing death while driving with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit, and two counts of impaired driving causing death.

Rodine will be in Supreme Court Feb. 29 for that purpose and to confirm the election of being tried by a Supreme Court judge without a jury.

The head-on collision resulted in the death of two grandparents on vacation in the Okanagan from Vancouver.

The crash happened in the early morning hours of Aug. 5, 2022, on Highway 97 near the Vernon Cadet Training Centre.

Trial for men accused of Lumby home invasion, shooting opens without one accused

Trial opens without accused

The BC Supreme Court trial for two men accused of a home invasion robbery at gunpoint in Lumby in the fall of 2019 will continue even though one of the men failed to show.

Justice Gibb-Carlsey is proceeding without Stewart Wayne Tkachuk and considers the accused to have “deliberately absconded” from his own trial. On Tuesday, court heard how Tkachuk's electronic monitoring bracelet was found on a Vernon road and appears to have been cut off.

Tkachuk stands co-accused with Edward Scott Coghill on eight separate charges stemming from an alleged robbery on Dure Meadow Rd. on Sept. 18, 2019.

During Crown Counsel’s opening address, Brock Bellrichard told the judge he will be submitting evidence to prove the two men are responsible for breaking into a home while wearing masks, tying up the couple inside, and robbing them before shooting them both.

Bellrichard plans to submit photo and video evidence from the victim’s visit to the hospital after the ordeal.

One photo shows a blue piece of plastic that was removed from the male victim’s chest after he was treated for a suspected gunshot wound.

According to the BC Prosecution Service the two men are charged with the following eight offences:

  • breaking and entering a dwelling house and committing robbery therein
  • robbery with a firearm
  • discharging a firearm at two people with intent to wound, maim or disfigure them
  • intentionally discharging a firearm into or at a place, knowing or being reckless as to whether another person was present, or while being reckless as to the life or safety of another person
  • having their face masked with intent to commit an indictable offence
  • unlawful confinement
  • aggravated assault
  • unlicensed possession of a firearm

Tkachuk is also charged with possessing a firearm while being prohibited from doing so and could face additional charges after not showing up for his trial.

Coghill pleaded "not guilty" to all charges in court on Wednesday while Tkachuk pleaded "not guilty" during a December 2023 court appearance.

During the seven remaining days of the trial, the court is expected to hear testimony from a DNA expert, police involved in the case, and both victims.

RDNO to discuss increased operating grants for Vernon area not-for-profits

Grants up for discussion

Arts and culture societies in the Greater Vernon area could be getting increased funds from the Regional District of North Okanagan.

Operating grant increases will be up for discussion at the RDNO’s board meeting on Wednesday.

A staff report is recommending directors approve funding increases for the Arts Council of the North Okanagan, the Vernon Public Art Gallery, Gallery Vertigo, Allan Brooks Nature Centre, and BGC Okanagan. The report also recommends “the RDNO enter into multi-year funding agreements with all not-for-profit organizations receiving annual operating grants; and further,

“That requests exceeding the amounts within the multi-year funding agreements be referred to the subsequent agreement renewal."

RDNO says the benefit of having multi-year funding agreements is mutual. It would allow the RDNO to complete a review of the goals and budgets of organizations, and the position of RDNO grants within that plan.

“This will also provide a mechanism within which to measure success of the public investment — are the goals that were set, achieved within that planning period — allowing the RDNO to consider the next term of funding with this performance in mind.”

RDNO says entering multi-year funding agreements would benefit organizations planning and sustainability.

“Having documented and committed annual funding can better allow the organization to leverage the annual grant from other funders, or plan for changes to the organizations operations that have been built into the plan for the term,” reads the report.

RDNO already has an established multi-year funding agreement with the Arts Council of the North Okanagan, it also has an expired agreement with BGC Okanagan which could be renewed.

The Vernon Public Art Gallery, Gallery Vertigo and Allan Brooks Nature Society are all without multi-year funding agreements.

The arts council has requested an 8.3 per cent increase from its 2023 grant for a total of $267,226 in 2024. The public art gallery requested $260,000 in 2024, which would be a 12 per cent increase over 2023.

Both Gallery Vertigo and Allan Brooks Nature Centre have requested additional $10,000 to make their respective 2024 grant’s total $30,000.

An increase to the BGC’s annual funding has already been tentatively approved by the board for an additional increase of $4,400, or 5 per cent. Read the full report here.

Enderby will know on March 9 if it is a finalist in the 2024 Kraft Hockeyville contest

Waiting game for Enderby

And now we wait.

The nomination period for the 2024 Kraft Hockeyville contest has closed and the final four will be announced March 9.

And organizers are hoping Enderby will be one of them as their arena is in desperate need of upgrades.

Kaylee Wells has been helping to organize the nomination process and said the North Okanagan community received 299 nominations, 486 pictures and 428 notes which go towards total points that are used by the selection committee.

Wells said there were more than 3,000 nominations for communities across Canada.

The winning community will receive $250,000 for arena upgrades and will host an NHL pre-season game.

Three runner-up communities will receive $25,000 each.

Wells said there is no way of telling exactly how Enderby stacked up against other communities, but she is optimistic of the results.

“We were sort of tracking communities that we thought were the top leaders of it and we feel we were one of the leaders in Canada,” she said. “We are not sure we made it to the top four, but we are hopeful.”

Wells said should Enderby win the contest, they hope to leverage the prize money into other grants for the arena.

“We've had lots of support from surrounding communities,” Well said, adding the arena serves not only Enderby, but surrounding communities like Splatsin and outlying areas.

Following the nomination period, the winner of the final will be decided by the number overall votes they collect during the final phase of the contest.

The City of Enderby closed its arena for the season last month because of a problem with the refrigeration system.

A sudden increase in corrosion inside of the refrigeration system has led to a build-up of sediment affecting one of its critical components.

As a result, brine circulation pumps are drawing air into the system. If left unchecked, this causes deterioration in the system.

Two Vernon boys honoured with provincial award for helping during medical emergency

Boys honoured by BC EHS

A pair of young Vernon hockey players will be honoured Thursday for helping a man having a medical emergency.

Jesse Wunderlich is a parent and on the board for Greater Vernon Minor Hockey. He says 12-year-old boys Carson and Benji were fundraising for their team when a man went into medical distress, adding he wants to bring attention to the boys' actions.

“They were out selling Purdy's chocolates for their hockey team, and when they knocked on one of the doors, a homeowner answered, and then had a medical emergency and became unresponsive and fell down,” Wunderlich said.

“They ran next door, got an adult, [and] called 911. Then, along with the adult, spent the time with the person until the ambulance had arrived. And then that person was safe, was able to regain consciousness.”

The boys are being presented with a BC EHS Good Samaritan award ahead of their practice Thursday evening. Carson and Benji will receive the award at about 6:30 p.m. at Priest Valley Arena in Vernon.

Wunderlich says there’s not a lot of room in the arena, but wants to draw attention to the good these boys did.

“We're trying to get as many people, including the whole hockey community, out to support them and encourage this kind of behaviour from hockey players as opposed to the other stuff that's in the news all the time."

According to the BC EHS website, the Good Samaritan Award is “presented to individuals who have provided unselfish and humanitarian assistance during a medical emergency."

Vernon Chamber names Rusty Spur 'Small Business of the Year,' and they have plans to grow

Small business for now

Tracey Prediger

An award-winning North Okanagan small business has its sights set on growth.

Vernon's The Rusty Spur opened up a new larger location for their pet, farm and feed store in Lumby in August and they have also been named Small Business of the Year by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.

Owner Stuart Anderson applauds the Chamber for making the Business Excellence Awards possible and truly appreciates the process.

“I’d like to thank the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce for the process that you go through for this award. “A lot of people might not know that once someone nominates you, you fill out a very detailed questionnaire for them and then it goes to an independent panel of judges,” he explains.

The judges are made up of business owners, service providers and professionals within the community making the award even more meaningful for Anderson.

Since buying both the Enderby and Lumby locations of the Rusty Spur almost five years ago, Anderson and his wife have not only opened a larger Lumby location, they have hired more staff. What was once a one-employee operation has now grown to 11 full-time positions.

Throughout their growth, Anderson and his wife have seen the benefits from their membership with the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.

“They’re well connected in the political arena, and with all their contacts. It’s a really good way to connect with other businesses and get a real vibe for what’s going on in the marketplace," he said.

"We spend a lot of time networking with other businesses of all sizes so that we can share ideas, bounce ideas off, teach, learn and it’s something that’s a real presence in our business.”

Anderson considers The Rusty Spur to be a solution-based business.

“If we can improve the safety, health or nutrition of even one animal or pet, that’s what we are here to do, we’re not here to sell product.”

But that doesn’t mean expansion is out of the question. In fact, Anderson hopes the next five years will see up to eight more Rusty Spur locations throughout the Okanagan with the hopes of being nominated for Large Business of the Year one day.

Thankful Thursday to benefit Vernon-based choir at the Towne Theatre

Thankful Thursday at Towne

Watching a movie at the Vernon Towne Theatre Thursday evening will benefit a local choir.

It’s Thankful Thursday at the Towne, where 100 per cent of ticket sales are donated to a local charity. This month, the theatre has chosen not-for-profit AURA Chamber Choir.

“We’re so grateful for the generous donations from individuals,” said Margaret Hundeby Hunter. “We’ve partnered with the Watkin Motors Ford and Vernon Towne Theatre to make it even easier to support us.”

The Towne will be showing Maestro starring Bradley Cooper on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. The film is about the conflicted relationship between famed conductor Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia Montealegre.

“This is a win, win,” Hundeby Hunter said. “Not only do you get to see a seven time Academy Award nominated movie, but you also get to show your support for AURA."

The choir produces choral music throughout the Okanagan. The group will perform J.S. Bach’s masterpiece The Passion according to St. John at its spring anniversary concert on April 6 and 7.

“It’s a massive undertaking,” said Terry Pitt-Brooke, musical director.

“We've engaged professional players from the OSO [Okanagan Symphony Orchestra] and Vancouver, local vocalists, and celebrated tenor Benjamin Butterfield — well known to Vernon concertgoers from his recitals for NOCCA [North Okanagan Community Concert Association] — to realize this most dramatic of Bach's settings of Jesus' last hours on the exact 300th anniversary of its first performance."

Pitt-Brooke and the choir have been working on perfecting the music since early January.

Alongside rehearsing, the choir has been fundraising for the spring concert, holding performances downtown and at various senior centres, and hosting a silent auction. Local philanthropists Janet Armstrong and Lloyd Davies have donated over $3,000 in support of the concert.

You can see Maestro at The Vernon Towne Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7p.m. Tickets can be purchased online, here.

Warrant expected after accused fails to show at Vernon trial

Accused no-shows at trial

What was supposed to be the start of a nine-day trial in Vernon Supreme Court ended in an unexpected adjournment after one of the accused parties was a no-show.

Justice Gibb-Carlsey adjourned the proceedings Tuesday afternoon after Stewart Wayne Tkachuk failed to appear.

Both Edward Scott Coghill and Stewart Wayne Tkachuk are charged with a number of offences relating to an incident in Lumby in the fall of 2019.

Coghill was present in the courtroom, but Tkachuk was no where to be found. In fact, the court heard from Crown Counsel Brock Bellrichard, who reported that Vernon RCMP found Tkachuk’s electronic bracelet Monday night on the side of a road.

Bellrichard was told by police that the bracelet was found between Okanagan Avenue and Longacre drive before 9 p.m.

The device appeared to have been cut and run over by a vehicle.

Richard asked the court to consider Tkachuck's actions as "absconding," but Justice Gibb-Carlsey opted to adjourn the proceedings until the morning.

According to BC Prosecution Services, the two men are charged with the following eight offences.

  • breaking and entering a dwelling house and committing robbery therein
  • robbery with a firearm
  • discharging a firearm at two people with intent to wound, maim or disfigure them
  • intentionally discharging a firearm into or at a place, knowing or being reckless as to whether another person was present, or while being reckless as to the life or safety of another person
  • having their face masked with intent to commit an indictable offence
  • unlawful confinement
  • aggravated assault
  • unlicensed possession of a firearm

While the two men stand co-accused on all charges, Tkachuk faces an additional charge of possessing a firearm while being prohibited from doing so.

Although some court time has been lost, the trial will continue with or without Tkachuk and both the Crown and defence lawyers agree the days remaining will still allow for the submission of all evidence.

More international students than ever are studying in Vernon

Students flock from abroad

The number of international full-time students studying with the Vernon school district has reached an all-time high.

A report prepared for Wednesday’s school board meeting shows 327 foreign students have chosen to learn with SD22 during this school year. 250 of those are full time. This is the highest enrolment in the history of the district's international student program.

South Korea, Germany, Japan and Mexico continue to be strong supporters of the program which hosts students from 18 different countries in 14 local schools.

The report says district staff will continue to develop growth and diversity in markets such as Brazil, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Denmark, Turkey, Philippines.

Over the past year the program has undergone a complete rebranding, improved staff levels and increased homestay program recruitment.

While the program is touting much success, the report prepared for trustees also points to a few troublesome trends.

Student mental health concerns remain high, and the time it takes some countries to produce visas and study permits can either delay student start times or result in complete denials.

The report also states there is an increased number of families applying for the international program, then converting their status to non fee-paying students.

Anyone interested in attending Wednesday’s board meeting is asked to join virtually. The link can be found on SD22’s website.

Hiring fair taking place for summer job openings at Predator Ridge

Work for Predator Ridge

In need a summer job but hoping to still have fun this summer?

Predator Ridge says look no further.

The resort is hosting a hiring fair Saturday and says its team will grow from 125 to 400 for the busy summer season.

The fair takes place Feb. 24 form 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., in the Main Lodge building. The resort encourages job seekers to “Choose Team Pred” so work doesn’t get in the way of Okanagan summer fun.

Workers are promised flexible shifts, resort lifestyle perks and a supportive culture.

Senior vice president Brad Pelletier says Predator Ridge has a “campus environment”.

“Every department here at Predator Ridge collaborates to deliver the iconic resort lifestyle we’re famous for, which offers a dynamic and multifaceted work environment. We offer a playground of unique career possibilities waiting to be explored - all in one vibrant location."

Jobs are available in all departments with more than 30 current openings, a full list of open positions can be found online here.

Interviews will be conducted on the spot, based on arrival, and do not require appointments.

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