Christmas of 2019 was marked by a double homicide in Duncan.
North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP blocked off the intersection of Canada Avenue and Trunk Road on the morning of Christmas Day, as they investigated the crime. The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit was called to assist the North Cowichan Duncan RCMP in investigating a Christmas Eve assault that resulted in the deaths of a man and a woman, later identified as Fran Shurie and Nellie Williams.
Just before 11 p.m. on Dec. 24 North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP were called to a report of an assault in the area. When officers arrived they located a Shurie and Williams, both of whom were injured. They were transported to a local area hospital. Shurie was pronounced dead. Williams was taken to hospital where she died later of her injuries.
RCMP released photos of Colin Court, 70, who went missing after a fishing trip to Lake Cowichan on Nov. 15, 2019. His kayak and vehicle were found, but there was no sign of him until later in the year.
In November 2020, a specialized dive team found his body in the lake.
The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society declared a salmon emergency in the Somenos watershed in January of 2020.
The society is concerned that, if actions are not taken immediately to improve conditions for salmon in the watershed, salmon will no longer be found in the water system within a few years.
“The Somenos watershed as a prime salmon rearing habitat is coming to an end, and the stories of walking on the backs of fish may soon drift further into folklore,” Fletcher said. “The end of the salmon may only be a few years off, as confirmed by salmon expert Dave Preikshot, the new environmental manager in North Cowichan, at the most recent Somenos management committee meeting.”
Fletcher said a significant reason for the current situation is the water quality issues in Somenos Lake and its tributaries, streams that continue to transport pollution and chemicals unabated from the Somenos drainage area to the Cowichan estuary.
He said the other significant impacts on salmon habitat are in-stream invasive aquatic plants and the ongoing loss and shrinkage of stream-side habitat bordering salmon-bearing creeks.
Kehar Garry Sangha pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a weapon and forcible confinement. Sangha, 55, who appeared in a Duncan courtroom in January, was sentenced to 5.25 years in prison and two years probation as a result of an incident that occurred in April of 2017.
The case against Sangha stems from an incident in which a woman was confined on his farm and seriously injured, until she managed to escape. The woman in the case suffered partial permanent loss of her sight, and partial loss of use in one arm, along with psychological trauma.
The fight over expansion of the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit continued in 2020.
In January, the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit filed for a judicial review of North Cowichan’s decision on Dec. 4 to deny a development permit for its expansion plans.
Council decided to not allow rezoning for the $36-million expansion — which would have included a new five-kilometre paved motor vehicle circuit, an off-road motor vehicle circuit, a new clubhouse and buildings for maintaining, repairing and storing motor vehicles — after that public hearing. Council again denied the rezoning after a second public hearing on the expansion plans was held at the end of 2019.
In November the judge ruled in favour of the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, quashing North Cowichan’s decision to deny the expansion.
The Municipality of North Cowichan is appealing that ruling.
Police suspect foul play in a death on Cowichan Tribes reserve land Monday, Jan. 20, in Duncan. The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP were called to a home on Mulaqw Road just before 5 a.m. after reports of an assault.
They arrived to find a 53-year-old man with serious injuries.
“First aid measures were started by police immediately, and the man was transported to hospital but ultimately succumbed to his injuries,” said a news release issued by RCMP spokesman Cpl. Chris Manseau. “Initial investigation at the scene has led investigators to believe that foul play was involved in the man’s death.”
Cobble Hill’s long-standing Island Bakery lit its ovens for the last time on Jan. 31.
The bakery, which had been in operation since 1982, announced on its Facebook page that it is closing due to changing markets.
Cowichan Tribes purchased the 350-acre Genoa Bay Farm, located near Duncan, for $10 million. Chief William Seymour said the First Nation is still trying to determine what it wants to do with the property, which currently consists of farmland, forests and a beach front.
It was in January that Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau announced that she was running for the leadership of the BC Green party.
Furstenau was ultimately successful in her leadership bid, and led the party through the surprise fall election, announced mere days after she was declared leader.
Work began on the new 650-metre elevated wooden pathway, located just north of the Malahat Summit.
The approximately $15-million project, called the Malahat Skywalk, is expected to bring a world-class tourism experience to Southern Vancouver Island.
At the end of January the Citizen said goodbye to longtime journalist Lexi Bainas, who retired after decades in the industry. Lexi spearheaded arts and entertainment reporting at the paper, and she is definitely missed.
Rhiannon McCrea and her boyfriend Ryan Tikk are lucky to be alive after disaster struck on an evening ride around Cowichan Lake on a logging road on Feb. 3.
McCrea said she and Tikk entered the logging road near Youbou at about 5 p.m. that day in their 2017 GMC Canyon, just days after heavy rain in the area caused a local state of emergency to be called due to the flooding.
“All of a sudden, through the darkness, I saw two huge boulders fall. Ryan yelled ‘rock slide, rock slide! Put it in reverse!’. I put the truck in reverse, but before I had a chance to step on the gas, an entire rock slide came down on us, instantly disabling the vehicle. It happened so fast.”
Both suffered injuries, but none permanent.
“I’m traumatized but I’m OK. We are so lucky to be alive. I am so very grateful; this could and should have been a lot worse. The truck was completely totalled.”
McCrea said she and Ryan were in the wrong spot at the wrong time. “I’ll be wary of going down that road again, especially in the winter time,” she said.
A seven-month-long strike at Western Forest Products finally came to an end in February, with a deal between the union and the forestry company.
Approximately 1,500 of WFP’s hourly employees, including hundreds at WFP mills in Cowichan Bay and Chemainus, and 1,500 employees working for the company’s timberlands operators and contractors in B.C., were impacted by the strike.
The Cowichan Leadership Group asked the province for urgent funding and support for escalating addictions and housing challenges in the Valley.
The CLG, which includes the heads of local governments, school board, MLA Sonia Furstenau, MP Alistair MacGregor, and RCMP and health authorities, has written to 10 separate provincial ministries seeking aid. The group’s correspondence to the ministries outlines the growing problems in the Cowichan Valley that are arising from substance use and homelessness, and the associated increase in crime and pressure on public safety.
Authorities were called Thursday, Jan. 30 to help search for a man who was last seen in a dangerous place after dark.
Ethan Sampson, 28, was last spotted at 10:40 p.m. in the fast-moving waters of the Cowichan River off Quamichan Road West. The search for Sampson continued for weeks, and included police, search and rescue, as well as private drone pilots, but he has not been found.
Leslie Sjoberg, the long-time president of the Cowichan Music Festival and perennial community volunteer, died on March 25.
A statement from the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre said the arts community is deeply saddened by the passing of Sjoberg.
“She was a fierce advocate for the arts in Cowichan, a proponent for the building of our theatre, the president of the Cowichan Music Festival for many decades, and the first president of the Friends of the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre,” the statement said.
The Cowichan Valley Regional District lowered flags at all its facilities to half mast, starting April 20, in recognition of the lives lost in a horrific mass shooting in Nova Scotia.
Investigators are continuing to piece together one of Canada’s deadliest mass killings, which saw a man who at one point donned a police uniform slay at least 22 people as he travelled across northern Nova Scotia over the weekend.
The world’s largest hockey stick at the Cowichan Arena was also lit up in commemoration. On April 24 Mounties from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP joined their colleagues across the country at 10 a.m. local time for a moment of silence and reflection for Const. Heidi Stevenson, and the other victims of the Nova Scotia tragedy.
The B.C. Conservation Officer Service was investigating after three Roosevelt elk were illegally harvested in the Cowichan Lake area between the middle of March and the first week of April.
Work to bring a new weir to Cowichan Lake to control water flows into the Cowichan River began at the end of April.
The CVRD announced Wednesday, April 22 that a contract has been awarded to Stantec Engineering Services to do designs, engineering and studies needed to build the new weir.
“The existing weir structure, constructed in the 1950s, is no longer capable of storing enough water to maintain flows in the Cowichan River during increasingly drier summer and fall months,” said a press release from the CVRD. “The project follows many years of study, and will support future grant applications for the necessary funding to construct a new weir.”
In the Dec. 10 edition the Citizen reported that a preliminary design for the new weir had been made available for public comment.
The CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation said they can get the Island Rail Corridor back up and running for both freight and passenger service for about $254 million, and he’s hopeful that the province and the federal government will see the wisdom in going ahead and come up with some cash.
That followed a report released last week by the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure that made headlines with its eye-popping estimate that more than $700 million in upgrades and maintenance would be needed to get the corridor, owned by the Foundation, running.
Two officers from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment were honoured in May for their efforts to rescue one man after a boating accident on Lois Lake, southwest of Duncan, that claimed the life of another man in April.
Voters in North Cowichan were given the option to have their say in the borrowing for a new $48-million RCMP detachment through the Alternative Approval Process from June 12 to July 14.
Ten per cent of voters did not object to the borrowing during the 30 process, and so the project has gone forward, with a groundbreaking on Aug. 7.
The Canadian Cancer Society permanently closed its office in the Cowichan Valley, as well as the one serving Campbell River, in June.
Tiffany McFayden, the CCS’s community manager for Vancouver Island, said this difficult decision is largely the result of the financial impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and more office closures on Vancouver Island could also be considered as the society continues to deal with the financial fallout.
Construction was expected to begin this fall on approximately 100 supportive housing units for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the Cowichan Valley.
BC Housing acquired two sites — 2983 Drinkwater Rd. in North Cowichan and 260 White Rd. in Duncan — to develop what the agency describes as “safe, secure housing with wraparound supports.”
Both facilities will consist of about 50 self-contained studio units. Residents will be provided with 24-hour on-site staff and support services, including meal programs, life and employment skills training, health and wellness services, and opportunities for volunteer work. Residents will be required to pay rent.
A safe drug supply pilot program is coming to the Cowichan Valley, Health Canada announced Wednesday, July 16.
Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, along with the Judy Darcy, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer, Island Health, announced approximately $2 million in funding for a pilot project within Island Health. The project will provide pharmaceutical-grade medication as an alternative to the toxic illegal drug supply for people in the Cowichan Valley who have not responded to other forms of treatment for opioid use disorder.
Rod Peters resigned as mayor of Lake Cowichan at the end of July.
Peters, who had been mayor since the municipal elections in 2018, officially resigned on July 28 after sending a letter to council outlining his reasons. In the letter, Peters said the health of his wife Karen is in decline and he wants to spend more time with her.
The Cowichan Valley and much of southern Vancouver Island were treated to a rare spectacle on Aug. 16 as forked lightning danced across the skies and thunder shook buildings.
It’s believed the lightning sparked at least 30 spot fires in the region covered by the Coastal Fire Service, including one near Lake Cowichan at Meade Creek and one near Mount Hayes, close to Ladysmith.
The shovels are finally in the ground for the long-anticipated, new and expanded facility that the Clements Centre Society is building in the south end of the Cowichan Valley. Society members and local officials were on hand on the morning of Sept. 21 for the official sod-turning for the approximately $990,000, 5,000 sq. ft. Clements Centre South on Princess Avenue in Cobble Hill, which is expected to be completed by the spring of 2021.
Anthony Michael Kubica was sentenced in a California courtroom to 25 years to life for murder.
The sentence was rendered on the 64-year-old, who is originally from Shawnigan Lake, by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst on Sept. 24. Kubica was convicted by jury in November after just a single day of deliberations in Banning, California, of killing Marie Darling, 78, 30 years ago.
Lake Cowichan’s mayoral race was underway in October. Five candidates vied for the position, with former Lake Cowichan town councillor Bob Day coming out on top by just a few votes over former Lake Cowichan mayor Ross Forrest, when voters went to the polls on Oct. 24, the same day as the provincial election.
It doesn’t even have an official name yet — in any language — but the Cowichan Valley’s first all-French public school was up and running in 2020.
Currently going by the name École Duncan, the school opened in September with just six students, but it has bigger dreams. Unlike in French Immersion, the program at École Duncan is designed for students from francophone families. Instruction is done entirely in French, and there is a focus on the cultures of the different families at the school.
The federal government has announced $24.2 million to reduce the impact of climate change on the Cowichan watershed’s ability to deal with increased winter storms and summer drought.
The announcement was made by Catherine McKenna, minister of infrastructure and communities, at a virtual news conference on Nov. 4 that included William Seymour, chief of the Cowichan Tribes, and Aaron Stone, chairman of the Cowichan Regional District.
Farmer Ben’s Eggs was cleaning up in November after a fire destroyed a barn at the company’s farm on Herd Road on Sunday night.
Nearly 9,000 hens were killed in the blaze, but fire crews were able to keep it from spreading to other structures.
Island Health sent a memo to all of their staff at the end of November urging caution when outside the hospital doors, reporting that there have been a number of reports of sexual assaults on the grounds of Cowichan District Hospital recently.
North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP confirmed this news, saying they would like the public to help to identify a suspect, after assaults were reported to have happened between Nov. 2 and Nov. 17. RCMP were notified of the assaults on Nov. 17, and believe there are a number of victims who have not come forward.
A huge film studio is being proposed for the Malahat, near Mill Bay.
The Malahat Nation is partnering with Victoria-based Alpha Select Production Services Inc. in the proposal to build an ambitious 80-acre studio project, which would be called Malahat Film Studios, on its land. The project would include six world-class sound stages as well as related offices and workshops, a technical academy for apprenticeships and skills-transfer training, a business park, office park, and an industrial zone, as well as a shopping village and hotel.
At full scale, the project is forecast to provide 1,500 direct jobs for the region, which would make it among the top employers in the area.