On Jan. 8, the world lost a pioneer of investigative sports journalism.
Andrew Jennings, 78, died early in a year that includes a Winter Olympics in Beijing and a World Cup in Qatar. He was called “incomparable” in a widely read obituary by Jens Sejer Andersen, the director of Play the Game and the Danish Institute for Sports Studies.
Jens Sejer Andersen (Play the Game)
Andersen is a guest on this week’s edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, celebrating the life and legacy of the reporter, author and documentarian who exposed corruption, bribery, ticket scams and match-fixing at the highest levels of the multibillion-dollar business of world sport.
“Andrew was absolutely unique in being the first who took on the International Olympic Committee, the untouchables, in the 1990s, and then, after the turn of the century, he turned his love at FIFA,” Andersen said.
Laura Robinson and Andrew Jennings in 2002 (Play the Game)
Robinson received the first Play the Game award in 2002 from Jennings, for her book Crossing the Line, which exposed the culture of violence and sexual abuse in hockey. Robinson is best known for her 2012 exposé that revealed how Vancouver 2010 Olympics CEO John Furlong came to Canada as a gym teacher and allegedly abused indigenous children.
Through his courageous, anti-establishment work, Jennings created an environment that empowered journalists like her to pursue stories that were once considered taboo, including stories about powerful sports figures who abused athletes or covered up abuse.
“The rest of us looked like little shrinking violets compared to him,” she said.
Plus Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines and commentary.
Documents obtained under the freedom of information law show that Ballem invoiced $77,175 (including $3,675 GST) for the period of Aug. 1-Sept. 30. The Oct. 28 payment pushed her year-to-date total to $404,913.75 and a likely spot in 2021’s top 10 highest-paid public officials in B.C.
Ballem is contracted for $250-an-hour through her company, Pendru Consulting 354948 BC Ltd., for “analysis and planning” of the COVID vaccine project. During August and September, Ballem billed taxpayers every day, except Aug. 28, Sept. 4-5, 11 and 18.
She also chairs Vancouver Coastal Health, the regional health board where people waited up to five hours in line before Christmas to be tested for coronavirus, while more than a million rapid test kits gathered dust on warehouse shelves. Additionally, the Ballem-chaired VCH closed vaccine clinics for eight days over the holiday period, while shopping malls and bars remained open.
Penny Ballem (left) and Premier John Horgan (BC Gov)
In November, Minister of Health Adrian Dix rewarded Ballem by extending her term as VCH chair through the end of 2024.
The Ministry of Health communications department did not respond to questions from theBreaker.news about Ballem’s contract or the overall cost of the mass-vaccination program to-date.
Ballem’s contract is more lucrative than what a retired general got from the Ontario government in late November 2020. Rick Hillier was paid $20,000-a-month, plus expenses, through the end of 2021’s first quarter, to begin the rollout in Canada’s most-populous province.
The contract is also her most-lucrative government gig in B.C. since 2014 when she was paid $334,617 in her last full year as Vancouver city manager.
The former deputy minister of health from 2001 to 2006 was B.C.’s most-powerful municipal official from 2009 to 2015 during the Vision Vancouver administration at 12th and Cambie. One of the Vision Vancouver councillors, Geoff Meggs, is now Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff.
After her 2015 firing, then-Mayor Gregor Robertson described Ballem as “a force of nature.”
Former Surrey Mayor Bob Bose doesn’t mince words to describe Mayor Doug McCallum.
“Unfit for public office.”
Former Surrey Mayor Bob Bose (SCC/YouTube)
McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition hold a slim, one-seat majority on city council in a polarized environment.
His supporters say he kept his word to switch from light rail transit to SkyTrain and replace the RCMP with a new municipal force. But he wasn’t honest about the costs to taxpayers and waited until just before Christmas to ram-through the 2022 budget.
Some of his most-vocal opponents were refused entry to city council meetings until they hired a lawyer to sue the city. McCallum was charged in late 2021 with public mischief for allegedly lying to police about being injured by a citizen with the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign.
McCallum plans to run for re-election in October. Coun. Brenda Locke is vying to unseat him. Will there be another challenger?
On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, Bose sets the scene for a lively year in political battleground Surrey.
Plus Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines and commentary.
One of the special prosecutors in the breach of trust and fraud case against the former B.C. Legislature clerk suggested the coronavirus pandemic could delay the trial.
Brock Martland (vancrimlaw.com)
Craig James is scheduled to be tried beginning Jan. 24 in Vancouver before B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes. The trial is expected to last six weeks.
During a Jan. 6 pretrial hearing, special prosecutor Brock Martland said all lawyers intend to be ready to proceed on schedule. While he did not ask for an adjournment, he expressed concerns about the rapidly spreading omicron variant.
“Dr. [Bonnie] Henry suggested the variant would be peaking in the range of four-to-six weeks from now, which would put us in the middle of this trial,” Martland said during the phone hearing.
Martland said the Crown intends to call 26 witnesses, mainly from Vancouver Island. But, during pretrial interviews with witnesses, he heard their “repeated concerns” about COVID-19, traveling to Vancouver and being in a courtroom. He said fellow special prosecutor David Butcher was involved in a preliminary inquiry this week in which two of eight witnesses and a prosecutor had the virus.
On Dec. 31, B.C. Supreme Court adjourned in-person criminal proceedings scheduled for Jan. 4-7, except phone hearings to arrange a new appearance date.
“The court will try to give counsel as much notice as possible, but I think we will all know more in a week or two’s time,” said Holmes, who approved applications for two Crown witnesses to testify remotely due to the pandemic.
James’s lawyer Gavin Cameron chimed-in.
“I just want to put on the record that Mr. James absolutely does not want this trial adjourned, and he has been living under this cloud since 2018,” Cameron said.
Holmes scheduled another pre-trial conference for Jan. 18. “Perhaps, who knows, we’ll have a better idea then of how the pandemic is developing and what, if any, action might need to be taken,” she said.
Clerk Craig James swore Christy Clark in as Westside-Kelowna MLA in 2013, near Clark’s Vancouver office. (Facebook)
Meanwhile, the court also heard that 11 boxes relating to James’s expense claims were found in the basement of the Parliament Buildings on Dec. 17 after a witness interview earlier that day. Butcher said police collected the items. Photographs and a spreadsheet of the items are being provided to James’s lawyers.
James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were immediately suspended and escorted out of the Legislature on Nov. 20, 2018. On that day, British Columbians learned that Speaker Darryl Plecas had called the RCMP after he and his Chief of Staff Alan Mullen found corruption in the offices of the two most-senior permanent officers at the seat of government. James was charged on Dec. 17, 2020.
James and Lenz both retired in disgrace in 2019 after separate reports found they committed wrongdoing. They kept their pension entitlements, but they were not forced to repay taxpayers. No charges were announced for Lenz.
Less than a month before the BC Liberals are scheduled to elect their new leader, more controversy that insiders fear could ruin the party’s comeback bid.
Kevin Falcon (left), Michael Lee, Renee Merrifield, Stan Sipos, Gavin Dew, Val Litwin and Ellis Ross (BC Liberals)
theBreaker.news has exclusively obtained a copy of a Jan. 5 letter written by campaign managers for five of the contestants to the Leadership Election Organizing Committee. They claim the election could be tainted by thousands of illegitimate memberships.
“We are collectively concerned about the potential for voter fraud, the current audit process, and the risk of catastrophic reputational damage to the party, party staff, LEOC, the executive and all of us if this race is perceived as anything less than free and fair,” said the letter, which was signed by managers for leadership hopefuls Gavin Dew, Michael Lee, Renee Merrifield, Ellis Ross and Stan Sipos.
The party already planned to randomly audit 10% of memberships. But the managers for all contestants, except Kevin Falcon and Val Litwin, say their independent reviews of the membership list suggest between a third and half of all memberships should be flagged for audit.
“As of this letter, there are around 5,000 members flagged as ‘audit’ which represents approximately 11% of ‘eligible’ members,” the letter said.
The five campaigns claim to have found multiple members who:
Share the same phone number or email address;
Share the same phone number or email address, but list different residences, including in separate ridings;
Provided non-residential addresses, including addresses for businesses, parking lots and even a forest service road;
“Additionally, some campaigns have been contacting members by phone and in-person who attest that they have no idea that they are members, who the BC Liberal Party is, and/or that a leadership race is underway,” the letter said. “We know we all have the same objective, which is to ensure a fair leadership election so our party can begin the work to rebuild and renew so we can be competitive in the next election.”
theBreaker.news reached party president Cameron Stolz by phone on Jan. 7, but Stolz refused to answer questions. A prepared statement delivered later by party communications director David Wasyluk said the party would not discuss auditing and authentication due to confidentiality reasons.
“However, I can confirm our audit system has identified some members who need additional follow up to meet our audit standards. Our registration and voting systems are designed to ensure that members who do not satisfy our audit standards will not be able to cast ballots,” said Wasyluk’s statement.
“As with any leadership election the goal of the party is to deliver a verification and voting system that is safe and secure while providing our membership confidence in the results.”
The five campaign managers want the party to delay the opening of voting registration until concerns are adequately addressed and mitigated; schedule a joint meeting with LEOC and the chief returning officer; and commit, in-writing, to enforce the rules, if any candidate or campaign is found to have breached the rules.
At the time, BC Liberal insiders alleged that as many as 2,500 new memberships sold by Falcon’s campaign were in dispute.
In a Dec. 18 email to theBreaker.news, Falcon dismissed the controversy as sour grapes.
“It’s the typical kind of accusations made from a competing campaign that realizes we have signed up the most new members. The party has a rigorous audit process and if there are any mistakes found in new memberships (very common when campaigns are signing up thousands of new members) then they will be dealt with,” Falcon said.
The party set Dec. 17 as the deadline to sign-up new members and Dec. 29 as the deadline for renewals in order to be eligible for voting in the Feb. 3-5 election.
Each electoral district is allocated 100 points under the weighted voting system. Andrew Wilkinson, the 2018 winner, resigned after losing the 2020 snap election to the NDP. Shirley Bond became the interim leader.
Where were you when the B.C. Place Stadium roof ripped and collapsed 15 years ago, after 12:33 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2007?
It was a cold day with occasional drizzle, even wet snow. I was at home, staying warm and dry, watching Canada beat Russia for the World Junior Hockey Championship on TSN. The phone rang. It was a friend that was not watching the game.
The hole cut in B.C. Place’s roof on Jan. 5, 2007.
“Quick, turn on CKNW! B.C. Place’s roof is down!”
So I did. It was true. Less than a minute later, I called my editor at 24 Hours Vancouver, Dean Broughton. We agreed to rush downtown to the stadium on our day off.
I also called a source who told me that the roof had numerous patches and that management had cut back on use of the snow-melting system to save money. The source gave me the phone number for the control room at the stadium. To my surprise, Linda Bilben from the stadium’s external public relations company, Reputations Corporation, answered and told me there would be a media briefing in an hour.
First, we went to the top of the Hampton Inn hotel on Beatty Street, which afforded us a view of the entire downed roof and the masses of snow, ice and slush strewn across the Teflon-coated Fibreglas surface. Then to the hastily called news conference at the east airlock door of the stadium. Reporters allowed were speechless as they gazed from a safe distance at the underside of the downed roof, the damaged lighting and sound equipment, and puddles of water and piles of snow.
Throughout the next week, B.C. Place management stubbornly and vainly claimed that it came down by way of a “controlled deflation” and that wind was to blame.
B.C. Place’s collapsed roof, as seen from the Hampton Inn.
Meanwhile, my source leaked internal documents that proved otherwise and delivered eyewitness accounts of what was really going on inside the stadium. For instance, stadium operations director Brian Griffin was spotted watching the World Junior hockey final on a TV in the lunchroom, unaware that the roof-hung speaker cluster was drooping toward field level.
What happened? In a nutshell, nobody activated the roof-heating system in the 1983-opened stadium.
Management should have learned a lesson at Christmastime 1996, when staffers were called in to urgently shovel snow from the roof. They earned special golf shirts to commemorate their role in saving the roof and preventing cancellation of the New Year’s Eve Three Tenors concert.
General manager Howard Crosley indicated in a sit-down interview with me a week later that cost was a reason for not turning on the roof heater. He claimed the roof was withstanding the weight of the snow, ice and slush. NDP critic Guy Gentner charged that preservation of annual executive bonuses at PavCo was really behind the penny pinching which put the public asset at risk.
The roof was patched and reinflated in two weeks. But the main ceremonies stadium for the next Winter Olympics in 2010 gained worldwide attention for the wrong reasons.
BC Place general manager Howard Crosley (left) and operations director Brian Griffin in January 2007.
Despite PavCo’s best efforts to spin the story, we reported the key facts:
Snow had been allowed to accumulate, the temperature fluctuated and five snow alarms were ignored. Nobody turned on the snow-melting system.
In the absence of heat, a control room worker spiked the interior air pressure. But that jolted the mass of snow, ice and slush, causing it to cascade on the west side of the roof where it sliced a gash in the roof and air rapidly escaped the building as the fabric roof violently flapped.
B.C. Place, the home of pro sports franchises owned by billionaires, got ahead of the line for capital funding before earthquake-prone St. Paul’s Hospital.
The stadium was eventually renovated and a new roof constructed for $514 million after the Olympics.
The roofing job was too big and too complex to be done before the Games. The entire cost was on the shoulders of taxpayers after elements of the financing came apart.
Cabinet scuttled the $40 million Telus naming rights deal in early 2012. The BC Liberal government had been under fire for handing a $1 billion, 10-year omnibus contract to Telus in June 2011 after abruptly halting a two-year bidding process on nine separate contracts. Bidders Bell, Rogers and Shaw threatened legal action. Bell is the Whitecaps’ main sponsor and the club’s owner, Greg Kerfoot, is a friend of Campbell’s successor, Premier Christy Clark.
In April 2011, Vancouver city council approved the relocation of Edgewater Casino from the Plaza of Nations to the parking lot on the stadium’s west side. But it refused to allow Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming to double its slot machines in the new facility. So the agreed $6 million-a-year lease payments with PavCo were halved to $3 million in a 2013 renegotiation.
The Musqueam Indian Band later negotiated for a piece of the action and received $8.5 million of the first $9 million in revenue when the Parq Vancouver casino/hotel complex finally opened in 2017.
A decade and a half later, five elements of the incident and its legacy stand out.
The spin cycle:
PavCo’s PR company, Reputations Corporation, was quick on the scene Jan. 5, 2007. The company was responsible for the “controlled deflation” spin, which many media outlets wrongly took as gospel.
A quickie engineering report released a week later by Geiger Engineering, another PavCo contractor, put some of the blame on winds and the aging roof.
Winds were not a significant factor on the day. They peaked at around 20 km-h. Geiger corrected itself and completed its final report in October 2007.
Mysterious wish list:
In July of 2007, we learned that B.C. Pavilion Corporation had asked its parent ministry, Tourism, to fund major upgrades more than six months before the incident.
The building would host the Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies in February 2010 but was not scheduled for any significant modernization.
Inside B.C. Place, after the roof ripped and collapsed on Jan. 5, 2007.
Chad Skelton at the Vancouver Sun had unearthed the heavily censored “Infrastructure Improvements” report via FOI. Fourteen of the 15 pages were blacked out.
The June 20, 2006 report said the stadium had “worn out assets which are critical to basic tenant operations” and improvements were required to “bring it up to standards expected by clients and spectators at events.”
As Skelton reported, Minister Stan Hagen was “unavailable.” Hagen’s spokesman first claimed there was nothing in the report about the roof, and then changed his story to say he didn’t know what was in the report. Crosley refused to comment.
Premier Gordon Campbell insisted that the renovation would require a business case approved by cabinet.
Campbell had come to power in 2001, vowing his BC Liberal government would never repeat the mistakes of the NDP’s Fast Ferries debacle. There would be evidence-based decision-making via business plans for every major project undertaken. His BC Liberals would also be the most open, accountable and democratic in Canada.
They failed that test.
My quest to get a copy of that business case and cost-benefit analysis for the renovation and roof replacement finally ended in failure in March 2016 when an adjudicator with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ruled that the documents were protected by cabinet confidentiality.
We do know that Burgess Cawley Sullivan & Associates was hired to review the 2010 to 2014 business plan for the stadium, but we don’t know how deep it went.
Did the consultants consider the impact of an aging population, the end of sports TV blackouts as we know them, the proliferation of high definition TV and desire for content on mobile devices?
All of those challenges have combined to cause major attendance declines for sporting events at the 2011-reopened B.C. Place. The Major League Soccer Whitecaps haven’t opened level 4 once after 10 seasons and the B.C. Lions closed level 4 in 2015.
The skyline of Vancouver, after the B.C. Place roof ripped and collapsed Jan. 5, 2007.
Crosley and operations manager Brian Griffin both kept their jobs. Not only that, but they were key figures in the renovation project.
While Griffin remains employed at PavCo, Crosley was mysteriously fired the day after the 2013 provincial election (the surprise Liberal win) and sent packing with a nearly half-million-dollar golden parachute.
Why did that happen?
Audit avoided, documents destroyed:
Did taxpayers get value for their money?
We may never know.
In early 2013, with a provincial election looming, Auditor General John Doyle agreed to undertake a fact-finding mission after NDP critic Spencer Chandra Herbert complained. Chandra Herbert found a Jan. 22, 2008 letter from PavCo chair David Podmore to Vancouver’s city manager Judy Rogers. Podmore wrote that the cost would be “in the order of $100 million, which includes replacement of the roof.”
Rather than replace the inflatable roof, Podmore and co., with the Campbell cabinet’s blessing, decided on a German-engineered retractable system that would be built under a $365 million funding envelope announced in January 2009.
By the fall of 2009, the budget ballooned to $563 million.
After a power struggle with the BC Liberal government, Doyle went back to Australia without greenlighting an audit. (It would have required the contracting of external auditors, because B.C.’s auditor general is also the auditor for PavCo’s annual report).
Meanwhile, a whistleblower continues his quest to uncover details and seek accountability. John Hardy was an occupational first aid attendant from 2003 to 2009. He said he was fired for contacting PavCo’s insurer, Commonwealth Insurance, alleging that the Crown corporation collected a $7 million claim, despite failing to follow engineering guidelines, safe work procedures and structural warnings prescribed by roof engineer Geiger.
In late 2015, my source gave me a tip about a paper-shredding truck that pulled up to the stadium for an afternoon. PavCo was forced to admit to me under a freedom of information request that it paid nearly $1,700 for a company to destroy 403 bankers boxes full of files spanning 1983 to 2009.
They included operations and engineering work logs.
What would those documents have told us about the events of Jan. 5, 2007?
Welcome to 2022 and theBreaker.news’ first podcast of the year.
Andy Yan (SFU)
Joining host Bob Mackin to forecast what’s ahead are Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s city program, and Mario Canseco, president of ResearchCo.
Research Co. pollster Mario Canseco (Mackin)
It’s a civic election year, the BC Liberals will choose a new leader and the NDP government continues to grapple with crises galore. Hear what Andy and Mario have to say about these issues and more. Including the question on everybody’s minds: Will B.C.’s pandemic mask mandate or Vancouver’s barge on the beach be first to disappear?
Plus commentary and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.
British Columbia’s 150th anniversary came and went without fanfare. The same can’t be said for the extreme weather systems that gained global attention. Record heat and cold, six months apart. Record winds, rains and floods throughout the fall. Even a tornado.
The weather was the province’s newsmaker of 2021.
The Heat Dome
An ominous warning from Environment Canada on June 23.
“A dangerous long duration heat wave will affect B.C. beginning on [June 25] and lasting until [June 29]. The duration of this heat wave is concerning as there is little relief at night with elevated overnight temperatures. This record-breaking heat event will increase the potential for heat-related illnesses.”
June 28, 2021 (NOAA)
The meteorologists did their job. The politicians? Not so much. The NDP government did not warn the public in a province where air conditioned homes are the exception, not the rule.
On June 29, as the death toll mounted, Premier John Horgan admitted his government was focused on the July 1 lifting of pandemic restrictions.
“Fatalities are a part of life,” he shrugged.
The Coroner estimated 526 heat-related deaths — the deadliest natural disaster in Canadian history.
More than 640,000 chickens and turkeys died in the Fraser Valley. Air conditioning failures forced closures at several COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics.
As the mercury shot up, records fell. Lytton set a new Canadian record of 45 Celsius on June 27. Two days later, it hit 49.6C. The next day, a wildfire decimated the town of 1,200.
From July 21 to Sept. 14, B.C. was under a wildfire state of emergency. More than 1,600 wildfires burned almost 870,000 hectares around the province.
First the wings, then the fangs.
The third year of looper moth infestations turned evergreens on the North Shore mountains a shade of orange. Earlier than the previous two years, because of the drought.
Another Asian murder hornet was found in the Fraser Valley, but farmers breathed a sigh of relief when entomologists found and destroyed four nests just across the line in Whatcom County.
Meanwhile, coyotes on the prowl in Stanley Park led to dusk-to-dawn closures beginning July 30. There had been 41 reports of coyotes chasing or nipping park visitors, including children. There were also adults who flouted the law and used food to create Instagram moments.
A month later, just in time for a series of Malkin Bowl concerts, further park closures. The Conservation Officer Service sent hunters and trappers in with a goal of culling 35. They killed four by the end of September when the closure was lifted. The headliner of real estate tycoon Ryan Beedie’s invite-only festival? The Killers, of course.
Da bomb cyclone
The remnants of Typhoon Nametheun made their way across the Pacific and brought wind warnings to coastal B.C. on Oct. 20.
A record low pressure reading of 942.5 mb was detected from an offshore buoy Oct. 24. Heavy winds and rain pelted the coast, leading to power outages. It was surfers’ delight in Tofino and other beaches.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Coast Guard’s hands were full with the Vancouver-bound container ship ZIM Kingston, which lost 100 of the “cans” in rough seas off Vancouver Island. Very Vancouver cargo washed ashore, including yoga mats and poker tables. Meanwhile, the crew was evacuated when a fire broke out aboard the vessel off Victoria.
Tornado topples tees and trees
Late afternoon on the first Sunday of November, a waterspout off Vancouver International Airport and a brief tornado warning from Environment Canada.
The waterspout traveled towards Howe Sound and the North Shore, but not before touching down as a tornado at the University of British Columbia golf club. The twister uprooted trees, leaving parts of Point Grey without electricity and bus service. Environment Canada estimated winds from the brief twister at 90 km-h to 110 km-h.
The heat dome in late June was the deadliest natural disaster in Canadian history. The rains and floods in mid-November? The most-expensive natural disaster in Canadian history.
(City of Abbotsford)
Another atmospheric river spoiled an early season snowpack on Southwestern B.C. peaks and drenched the region from Nov. 13-15 with B.C.’s biggest November super-soaker since 1955. Merritt, Princeton and Abbotsford were hardest hit. A quarter of the Coquihalla Highway destroyed by landslides and bridge collapses.
All road and rail links between the Lower Mainland and B.C. Interior were closed; the Port of Vancouver was effectively cut-off from the rest of Canada during the global supply chain crunch.
As the rains subsided, the winds picked up, keeping the Canadian Coast Guard busy Nov. 15 between the mainland and Vancouver Island. An empty barge in English Bay went adrift and ran aground at Sunset Beach, becoming a pop culture icon.
Just like the heat dome, the NDP government did not warn the public. It eventually declared a state of emergency on Nov. 17 and set about rebuilding the Coquihalla. There was even temporary fuel rationing. The federal government sent soldiers and equipment from Alberta as the Sumas Prairie saw the worst flooding since 1948.
Out of this world
The “intermissions” delivered awesome sights. The clouds parted for heavenly sights twice. Late Oct. 11 and early Oct. 12, the Northern Lights danced across B.C. skies. The weather also co-operated during the longest lunar eclipse of the century during the beaver full moon Nov. 18-19.
Hot start to December
The “parade of storms” that began lashing B.C. on Sept. 14 ended with three more late November atmospheric rivers.
Meteorological winter began Dec. 1 with a taste of… summer?!? Penticton recorded 22.5C on Dec. 1, tying the hottest December day in Canada.
But old man winter had more surprises up his sleeve.
A 3.6 magnitude earthquake jolted Vancouver Islanders out of their beds at 4:13 a.m. on Dec. 17. A week later, a dream come true for some. A White Christmas, to be exact.
Only the fourth in Vancouver in the last 25 years, and the first since 2008.
Pond hockey at the Planetarium on Dec. 29 (Mackin)
Late June brought B.C. the heat dome, late December the ice dome. As the flakes piled up, the temperatures went down around B.C. Environment Canada warned of frostbite and hypothermia, with -35C windchills in northern B.C. and -20C in Metro Vancouver.
Much of the province was under extreme cold or Arctic outflow warnings, which led to 42 record cold temperatures on Boxing Day and Dec. 27.
The thermometer in fire-destroyed Lytton plunged to -25C — a swing of 75 degrees in the space of six months. It was too cold for some COVID-19 testing centres and even BC Ferries sailings between Duke Point and Tsawwassen were curtailed.
It was so cold that many in B.C. weren’t aware it was B.C.’s second major Arctic blast of the year — the first was way back in February, around Valentine’s Day.
All signs of a changing climate or a series of climate coincidences? Scientists lean toward the former.
A Provincial Court judge in Vancouver sentenced a Downtown Eastsider to another 79 days in jail and three years probation on Dec. 29 for scrawling anti-Chinese and anti-Hong Kong graffiti across windows of the Chinese Cultural Centre in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yves Castonguay sentenced to 79 more days on Dec. 29 (VPD)
Yves Gerard Joseph Castonguay, 48, appeared by video before Judge Harbans Dhillon and reiterated his guilty plea to criminally promoting hatred. He had also been charged with mischief to property used for cultural or religious worship.
Dhillon called Castonguay’s actions “utterly contemptible” and the words he used on April 2, 2020 “hateful, full of venom and anger.”
Ultimately, she said, Castonguay’s crime was “morally reprehensible and should shock the conscience of the community.”
The Crown sought nine months in jail and his defence lawyer said he should be sentenced to time served. Dhillon sentenced Castonguay to eight months, but gave him 161 days credit for the 109 days already spent in custody.
The sole condition of probation is for Castonguay to not be found at the Chinese Cultural Centre or on the Pender Street block that it is located.
“I am of the view that the Chinese-Canadian community, all visitors need to feel they can reclaim that space for themselves, they need to reclaim it in an honourable and safe way,” Dhillon said.
Earlier, the court heard that Castonguay arrived at the Chinatown landmark on the first Thursday of April 2020, just before 3 p.m. and approached the doorway at 3:24 p.m. with a permanent marker in his hand. Between 3:26 p.m. and 3:36 p.m., he wrote on several window panes on the west side of the doorway to the David Lam auditorium.
Yves Castonguay on April 2, 2020 at the Chinese Cultural Centre (VPD)
Crown prosecutor Mark Crisp read the graffiti verbatim, including messages in which Castonguay advocated for Chinese to meet the same fate as Jews under the Nazis. “Stop letting the chinks come overpopulate our great beautiful land, Canada,” Crisp said, reading from Castonguay’s graffiti.
Said Dhillon: “Can I just stop you there? While I know that that’s the word that’s used there, the racial epithet for Chinese persons or persons of Chinese origin, may I ask you to reflect the c-word instead of that word, even in court proceedings? I know that the statement of facts says what it its, but I’m not going to countenance the repetition of that word, even in this courtroom.”
Crisp conceded Castonguay was using a “drug cocktail” on the day. Defence lawyer Mark Swartz said his client has a longstanding drug addiction to a variety of substances, including heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, GHG and crack cocaine.
Dhillon said Castonguay has a rap sheet of 155 convictions for property crimes and violent crimes. Crisp called him beyond rehabilitation and “an unrepentant criminal who has been committing offences since the late ‘80s and has not stopped.”
“In his apology letter he says did not intend to harm anyone and he blames the media for his actions,” Crisp said. “No matter what was happening in the media, there is no justification for saying that Chinese people should be shot like Hitler did to the Jews.”
The court heard it cost $100 and 45 minutes to clean up the graffiti. But, according to a victim impact statement from the Chinese Cultural Centre’s director, “emotional scars will last a lifetime.”
Judge Harbans Dhillon (UBC)
Crisp said William Kwok wanted to appear in person to read his statement, but he said his son had been exposed to COVID-19. Crisp recited Kwok’s words, which said Castonguay’s graffiti “brought back vivid childhood memories of living in Winnipeg in the 1960s, I was picked on, pushed, kicked, punched, spit on because I was the c-word. The very same derogatory word that was in your message.”
“Your message advocating violence against Chinese people was the first reported in Vancouver since the pandemic,” according to Kwok’s statement. “Each time I see reports of violence against Asians, I wonder how many people you may have influenced.”
Swartz read from a November psychological assessment that said Castonguay had suffered physical and sexual abuse as a child and likely had a cognitive deficit. The report said he suffered physically from his violent father and he suffered further trauma as a young child in foster care. He continues to have nightmares relating to childhood abuse and that has led to his addictions.
Swartz said Castonguay had spent the last 10-plus years living in the Downtown Eastside, in single room occupancy hotels, couch-surfing or being homeless on the street, and that he has a relationship with an indigenous woman. He called the crime a one-off incident and that Castonguay is not a member or follower of any organization promoting white supremacy. “These are not deeply held, entrenched beliefs.”
Before delivering her sentence, Dhillon gave Castonguay a chance to speak.
“I do not hate Asian people,” he said.
Castonguay was apologetic, claimed he was on different cocktails of drugs and misinformed about the pandemic, so “I vented the wrong way, obviously.”
“I’m not racist by any means,” he told the court. “I don’t have an agenda to hurt people, I messed up, I did what I did, I take full responsibility.”