Salmon Arm  

A mother's plea for help

As the victims of the largest mass murder in Canadian history are honoured, a Shuswap family is making a plea for any information on the whereabouts of their daughter.

It was in 1989 when Marc Lepine shot and killed 14 women in what has become known as the Montreal Massacre.

Vigils are being held across the land, including near Quiliqua RV in Enderby at 5:30 p.m. today.

The vigil takes on special meaning locally as police are still looking for four missing women in the North Okanagan and Shuswap regions.

Ashley Simpson, Deanna Wertz, Caitlin Potts and Nicole Bell have all gone missing from the area over the past two years.

The remains of a fifth missing woman, Traci Genereaux, were found at a farm near Silver Creek following an extensive police investigation.

The parents of Bell have made a public plea for information as they don’t want to “face Christmas without our girl.”

In a letter sent to area media, Jane and Dennis, begged for information on their daughter.

“Our daughter was last seen September 2, 2017 in Sicamous. Christmas is coming,” said Jane. “Who would want to spend Christmas wondering where their girl is? My grandchildren deserve to know one day where their mother is. Nicole’s dad and I love her and miss her.

“As her mother, I am asking anyone with information if you are holding out; to consider the three young children that my daughter has left behind. Consider our hearts at this time of the upcoming holiday season. Our daughter has been missing since September 2, 2017 and we want to know where she is or what has happened to her. If you can give one gift this season, we ask that it is the gift of knowledge. Where is Nicole? What happened to her?

“As such, we ask that you please consider giving our family the gift of knowledge. Even if you have to report anonymously. We want to know what happened to Nicole. Her oldest child knows enough to know their mom is not coming home and her other children miss her. We need to know what happened to our girl. Our family needs answers. To think of where she is, is something unbearable; that no parent should ever have to face. Yet we are.
“We plead to you. Please have compassion for us. Call the tip line and let them know what you know so that we can have closure."

Anyone with any information on Nicole is asked to call the RCMP tip line at 1-877-987-8477.  


Medal for trail legend

Known as a local legend, Connie Harris Crowley recently received national recognition and is to be awarded the Senate 150th Commemorative Medal.

Crowley will receive the medal on Dec. 11 at 2:30 p.m., just ahead of a Salmon Arm city council meeting. The public are invited to attend.

The medal has been awarded to outstanding community volunteers from the interior of British Columbia for their work in building and promoting community trails as a legacy for the future.

“Local trail volunteers had no hesitation in acknowledging Connie as a fitting representative of the thousands of hours invested by members of the Shuswap Outdoors (club), developing recreational opportunities for hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, biking, and paddling throughout the Shuswap,” said Phil McIntyre-Paul, executive director of The Shuswap Trail Alliance, in a press release.

Since the early 1970s, Crowley has been part of a dedicated group whose work led to the evolution of the Larch Hills backcountry trial system, the Larch Hills Nordic Society, most of the Shuswap's iconic alpine hiking trails, the creation of the Mara Meadows Ecological Reserve and helped to guide the creation of the Shuswap Trail Alliance, said McIntyre-Paul.

“All of us owe a deep dept of gratitude to the steady presence and leadership of Connie and Shuswap Outdoors,” he said.

"I truly appreciate the thousands and thousands of trail building volunteers all across our country who have  made it possible for all Canadians to have an opportunity to get out into nature and enjoy healthful physical recreation," said Sen. Nancy Greene Raine.

Cops nab Alberta bad guys

A sharp-eyed member of the Salmon Arm RCMP resulted in two people landing behind bars.

Staff Sgt. Scott West said a patrolling officer noticed a male walking through rows of vehicles in a mall parking lot at 10th Street and 10th Avenue.

“Other officers then patrolled the mall parking lot and noticed a vehicle with no front plates and a driver behind the wheel that appeared uncharacteristically surprised when the police vehicle was seen,” said West.

“The vehicle made a hasty exit of the area at high speed and was located by another officer as two people exited the car in another parking lot which was out of view of the first police car.”

The two were arrested as they walked away from the car.

“A check of the vehicle revealed that it was stolen from Calgary and the driver, a 49-year-old female, was prohibited from driving and under conditions not to be in a motor vehicle. The female also has a number of charges before the courts. She was held in custody for a bail hearing before a justice of the peace.”

The 33-year-old male was released for a court appearance later this year.


Trail builder honoured

Shuswap Trails living legend Connie Harris Crowley has been recognized for her work as a Canadian trail builder by Sen. Nancy Greene Raine with a Senate 150th Commemorative Medal. 

Harris Crowley will receive her medal at a special ceremony at Salmon Arm City Hall Dec. 11 at 2:30 p.m.

The medal is awarded to outstanding community volunteers from the interior of British Columbia for their work in building and promoting community trails as a legacy for the future.

Harris has put in thousands of volunteer hours.

Since the early 1970s, Harris Crowley was a core part of this dedicated group of individuals committed to engaging people in a quieter, more thoughtful appreciation of the outdoors.

Their work led to the evolution of the Larch Hills backcountry trial system, the Larch Hills Nordic Society, most of the Shuswap's iconic Alpine hiking trails, the creation of the Mara Meadows Ecological Reserve, and helped to guide the creation of the Shuswap Trail Alliance.

Greene Raine acknowledged the work of Harris Crowley and the other Senate 150th Commemorative Medal recipients.

"I truly appreciate the thousands and thousands of trail building volunteers all across our country who have  made it possible for all Canadians to have an opportunity to get out into nature and enjoy healthful physical recreation,” said Greene Raine.

391 like outdoor school

Work continues on a proposal for an outdoor learning school in the North Okanagan Shuswap school district.

At a school board meeting in Armstrong last week, the district's director of instruction Carl Cooper said so far 1,003 people had filled out an online survey, with 391 people indicating an interest in signing their child up for a outdoor learning program in 2018.

The school would be located at South Canoe Elementary.

More than 125 people attended at parents meeting at Salmon Arm Secondary on Nov. 7th and intent to register forms were completed for 106 students. Eighty-three of the children were in kindergarten through grade five, Cooper said.

A proposal to move forward with the outdoor learning school is expected to come to the December board meeting.

School District 83's official trustee Mike McKay praised organizers.

"These folks are passionate and committed to making this something special," McKay said. 

Too many future students?

After years of declining enrolment, the North Okanagan-Shuswap school district is now facing capacity challenges in several areas, including Enderby, Armstrong and Salmon Arm.

Remedies have been put in place in Armstrong, including only kindergarten registrations and no cross-boundary transfers with students being referred to nearby Highland Park, and Enderby, where the Grade 7 cohort was moved to A.L. Fortune Secondary, among other things.

"I am pleased to see that the M.V. Beattie transition has gone well. I appreciate all the work that has gone into making this happen," said Superintendent Peter Jory during a school board meeting Tuesday night.

Salmon Arm has three sites, Bastion, Hillcrest and Shuswap Middle School, where projections show the school enrolment may go over capacity in the near future.

Jory said planning will likely be required in the Salmon Arm area.

Possible solutions could include:

  • redrawing of the K-5 catchment boundaries
  • reopening South Canoe school site as a regular school or program of choice
  • establishing a single track French Immersion school
  • purchasing portables or further reconfiguration of K-12 schools in the area

"Before we go any further we need more accurate data and further conversations. We will be reviewing the information again in the next few months,” Jory said.

As well, extensive work on a new strategic plan for the school district is almost complete, he said.

Decision on trustees

The last school board in the North Okanagan Shuswap school district was fired.

Next month, the man who replaced the board in June, 2016 will make a recommendation to B.C.'s education minister about how many trustees should be on a new board when an election is held next year.

At a meeting at Pleasant Valley Secondary in Amstrong Tuesday night, official trustee Mike McKay outlined the options being considered, but added he is still open to other suggestions.

These include:

  • maintaining the status quo (nine trustees)
  • changing to a seven member board
  • changing to a five member board

McKay will present the final recommendation to Education Minister Rob Fleming by the end of December, to give the minister time for review and to make a decision well ahead of the next election in October, 2018.

School District 83's lone trustee stressed last night that whatever option is chosen, once a trustee is elected and swears the oath of office, he or she is responsible for students in the entire district.

A feedback form is on the district's website or, if requested, a paper version is available from neighbourhood schools. 

Missing are not forgotten

They are missing, but certainly not forgotten.

Four women remain missing from the North Okanagan area, and today a banner will be placed on a bridge on Haywood Road near Salmon River Road in Silver Creek at 5:30 p.m. to keep their disappearance in the public eye.

Ashley Simpson, Deanna Wertz, Caitlin Potts and Nicole Bell all disappeared within the last 20 months from the Enderby-Sicamous area.

Traci Genereaux, whose remains were found at a farm near Silver Creek, was last seen alive on May 29.

There have been no charges in her death that police are calling suspicious.

Genereaux was last heard from in Vernon and RCMP are asking people with information about her activities leading up May 29 to contact them at 1-877-987-8477.

The banner on the bridge will read “No more stolen sisters.”

Bell’s parents and Simpson’s cousin will be in attendance to represent their loved ones.

Following the banner drop, a caravan of activists, concerned community members and friends will travel from the bridge to the area where Bell’s phone was located and where she was last seen.

The group will then hand out posters to public in hopes of gathering information for the RCMP on Bell’s disappearance.

Organizer Meghan Louis said the banner drop is in honour of Simpson's 34th birthday Wednesday.

“Her family did a balloon release in Ontario,” said Louis. “So we decided to do something for Ashley Simpson's birthday. This was another birthday without her and they miss her terribly.”

Louis said they will also be asking people in the Yankee Flats, Enderby and Sicamous area for permission to search their property in hopes of finding any trace of the missing women.

A celebration of life will be held Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Vernon’s Upper Room Mission to remember Genereaux.

Drones could help search

John Simpson is determined to use the novel experience he gained in a troubling search for his daughter to help others who have lost loved ones.

Ashley Simpson went missing near Salmon Arm in April 2016, and this spring her father travelled there from Ontario for a second time. He believed her body might be along the banks of a river or creek.

The area had been flooded and it was too dangerous to search on foot, but Simpson had an idea. He told friends he wanted to borrow a drone, and was put in touch with a surprisingly young expert — a 14-year-old boy with a fleet of drones and a strong commitment to his hobby.

"It really got me thinking," said Simpson in a recent phone interview from his home in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. "Watching this young man, and his drone ... He can go thousands of feet in the air and he can hover just three or four inches off the ground. If it was going to come to an obstacle, it would stop. ... It's absolutely amazing."

Simpson hired the boy to search the mouth of the Salmon River where it flows into Shuswap Lake. Although his daughter wasn't found, Simpson was resolved to get more drones into the hands of volunteer crews searching for missing people.

Since Ashley Simpson went missing last year at age 32, her family in Ontario has held an annual barbecue to fundraise for women's shelters. This year, they added a golf tournament and her father used the proceeds to purchase four inexpensive drones, two of which he sent to a missing-women's advocate in B.C.

RCMP wrapped up a wide-scale search of a Silver Creek farm last week. Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said human remains found at the property were confirmed to belong to one person, 18-year-old Traci Genereaux. Her death is being treated as suspicious but no charges have been laid.

At least four other women, including Simpson, remain missing in the region.

John Simpson doesn't believe drones will now find his daughter. His aim is to help others who are searching for their loved ones, especially in the crucial first days after they go missing. He eventually hopes to have a Canada-wide network of volunteer drone search teams.

Investigation into fatal crash

RCMP and the B.C. Coroners Service are investigating a fatal crash involving two vehicles on the Trans Canada Highway.

A loaded commercial motor vehicle and Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck collided near Salmon Arm at about noon on Monday.

Salmon Arm Detachment, Trans Canada East Traffic Services, EHS and Fire emergency services personnel responded to the collision.

A 62-year-old man from Salmon Arm was the driver of the Toyota and succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the semi-truck was from Kamloops and was not injured.

The cause of the collision is still being investigated.

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