Year in Review: From ‘excessive nudity’ to a visit from Justin Trudeau

Some of the Citizen’s top stories of 2018

Cowichan Search and Rescue was told in January it was losing its home base.

Dewi Griffiths, Cowichan SAR president, said the SAR group has been told by the CVRD that it must look for a new permanent space, since the location it is using right now at Bings Creek transfer station will be wanted for a regional Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in future.

“It’s part of the CVRD’s taking a big look at all their planning. Apparently, this is related to all the wildfires in B.C. last summer.”

Seeing other areas able to get their emergency operations centres up and running quickly probably helped focus Cowichan

Valley decision making, Griffiths said.

•••

Student enrolment continues to climb in the Cowichan Valley, especially in the south end we reported in January.

The Cowichan Valley School District (SD 79) welcomed more than 200 new students this year, making this the third straight year of enrolment growth for the district, according to district communications specialist Katie McLaughlin.

With provincial education funding doled out on a per-student basis, more students mean more dollars.

•••

Friends and family of Lake Cowichan’s Darreld Rayner, missing for 10 years, were hoping for answers as the Coroner’s Service investigated human remains found Dec. 23, 2017, found in the area where he was last known to be.

The remains were positively identified as Rayner in February, 2018.

“Dad. I don’t even know where to start with him. He was great. I couldn’t have asked for a better

father,” Darreld’s son Brent said. “He was always the first to lend a helping hand. He always took care of others before himself. Always joking around. He is the dad I aim to be. Family was number one in his eyes. He always made sure we had what we needed and did his best to give us what we wanted.”

•••

Norm Waddell complained about what he called “excessive nudity” in the changing rooms at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre.

“I don’t think it’s right that these men make it so uncomfortable for others with their nudity,” he said.

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure said the municipality does occasionally receive complaints from people who are offended by others in the CAC’s change rooms. But he said he can’t understand why someone would take exception to people’s nakedness as

they change from street clothes to swimming gear in preparation to enter the pool.

“People changing from clothes to bathing suits is part of using the pool,” he said. “For people who are sensitive, we have separate cubicles and showers that they can use by themselves.”

•••

The tiny volunteer-run, community station that broadcasted to the Cowichan Lake area using the amount of power in a light bulb, CICV 97.5 Radio Cowichan closed as of Dec. 31, 2017, because it simply ran out of volunteers to run it.

•••

Anthony Michael Kubica, 61, is facing extradition to California to answer to charges of murder and kidnapping in a cold-case file.

His case was before the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver during 2018, and the court found he could be extradited.

He remains in Canada, however, as his case is being reviewed by the Federal Justice Minister.

•••

The Cowichan Valley Regional District placed the Mesachie Lake Volunteer Fire Department on “operational pause” as of Jan. 24.

The CVRD said in a press release that the purpose of the pause is to allow an independent consultant to conduct a third-party review of the department.

The chief and deputy chief of the department were fired.

The department got back up and running in February, under an interim chief, however its future remains up in the air as the CVRD is reviewing options for its future.

•••

What appears to be a sea lion swam all the way to Somenos Marsh.

Heavy rain and high tides raised water levels all over the Cowichan Valley and Rhonda Vertefeuille of Youbou shot a short video on Wednesday, Jan. 31, showing the sea lion swimming in the flooded marsh near the Trans Canada Highway in Duncan.

The video went viral. The ultimate fate of the sea lion is not known, though optimists hope it made it back out to sea.

•••

The province took action to advance treaty negotiations with Malahat Nation through the purchase of private land.

The government purchased approximately 230 hectares for $9 million on southern Vancouver Island, which is intended to become part of the First Nation’s treaty lands when a treaty is concluded and comes into effect.

The land is within the Malahat Lands, formerly known as Bamberton, located about 40 kilometres north of Victoria. Malahat Nation has renamed the site Malahat Lands to reflect the First Nation’s ownership and a new beginning for the property.

•••

A number of animal cases became high profile in 2018.

In February Duncan’s Robert Carolan was given four months in jail for beating his 16-week-old puppy to death.

On Feb. 28 we reported that Molly the pig, who had been adopted out as a pet from the Cowichan SPCA, had been killed for food. Molly’s owner promptly apologized and sought to make amends.

And in March, the case of Teddy the dog became public.

The SPCA reported the case of Teddy, who died from severe neglect. Anderson Joe and Melissa Tooshley of Duncan are facing charges in the case.

On a lighter note, this fall Cowichan Bay was inundated with sea lions by the hundreds, looking to feast on the salmon run.

Likewise, eagles swarmed into Cowichan Estuary in anticipation of a fish feast.

•••

Cowichan Secondary School was once more split into two separate entities, ending the practice of students walking back and forth between Cow High on James Street and Quamichan School on Beverly Street.

Many parents had raised concerns about students travelling between the two campuses through an area frequented by drug users.

•••

The Cowichan Valley School District spent $1.4 million to re-open Mill Bay Elementary School in September.

The move came to address enrolment pressure in the district. But it wasn’t the same old curriculum at the re-opened school. Elementary students from across the school district had an opportunity to enroll in a nature-based program.

•••

In April the public were invited to find out about a new residential care facility proposed for Duncan.

Island Health and H&H Total Care Services Inc. have partnered to build the facility, which is planned to be located on a 3.5-hectare site on the corner of Beverly Street and York Road.

In its initial phase, the facility, called The Hamlets at Duncan, will include 88 resident complex care beds and a 55-unit assisted living home. Island Health will fund the majority of the complex care residential beds.

The facility was approved later in the year.

•••

Shawnigan Lake’s James Dumont was delighted when he was reunited with his long-lost dog Red in April.

Red, a rare redbone coonhound, had been missing since September before he was found wandering along Bell-McKinnon Road in North Cowichan and taken to Coastal Animal Services in Duncan.

Dumont said he only owned the dog for just two days before he took him to Victoria to show him off to coworkers and friends and left him for just a few minutes in his unlocked car in a parking lot at the Tillicum Centre in Saanich as he went into the mall to buy dog food.

He said that when he returned, Red was gone and the kidnappers had taken his collar and lead off and thrown them back into his car.

•••

Sections of the landmark maple tree from the Island Savings Centre are now part of a public art piece in the centre’s newly renovated lobby.

David Martinello, from Duncan’s Alternative Woodworks, took the trunk and some branches from the approximately 100-year-old maple tree, which was located in the centre’s parking area until it was taken down in the summer of 2016, and created an art piece called “Interweave”.

•••

The Cowichan Valley will have a new hospital built and ready for service by 2024, Premier John Horgan told an excited crowd at the Cowichan District Hospital on July 6.

Horgan said the concept plan for the new hospital, which is expected to be triple the size of CDH with more beds and health services, has been approved and the business plan for the project should be completed within 12 to 18 months.

•••

It was a sight to behold as throngs of singing and drumming First Nations groups, along with Premier John Horgan and other dignitaries, took part in the B.C. Elders Gathering’s Grand Entry Tuesday morning, filling the Island Savings Centre’s arena to capacity.

Up to 5,000 people, including about 2,500 elders, are visiting the Cowichan Valley from July 10-12 to attend the 42nd annual gathering.

Hosted this year by Cowichan Tribes, the Gathering has elders coming from First Nations from all over the province.

•••

Extremely warm and dry conditions prompted the province to announce a Level 3 drought rating for much of coastal British Columbia at the beginning of August, including the Cowichan Valley, and were asking people to reduce their water use.

The areas affected stretched along the coast from the Alaska border to the Lower Mainland and included the Skeena Nass and Stikine basins in the northwest. Haida Gwaii, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands were also included in the Level 3 drought rating.

•••

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thrilled a largely supportive crowd at the BC Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan in August.

Some protesters greeted his motorcade as Trudeau pulled up with his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and their children, but inside the protest was drowned out by applause from the excited crowd that had congregated to meet the prime minister.

“I just wanted to say what a pleasure it is to be here today with all of you,” Trudeau said to the crowd.

•••

The Cowichan Bay Volunteer Fire Department responded in August to a blaze at the Pioneer House restaurant south of Duncan.

The restaurant is a longtime favourite with locals, located in Whippletree Junction. It had not yet reopened by year’s end.

•••

Dean Thomas Hathaway received a sentence of four years for manslaughter and firearms charges in the Duncan Courthouse on Sept. 12. Hathaway, 48, received three years for the death of Brad Good after Good was stabbed four times in Hathaway’s Duncan home on the evening of Sept. 14, 2016.

He also received one year, which he will serve consecutively with his manslaughter sentence, for a number of firearm offences, including having prohibited weapons in his possession.

•••

Catalyst Paper, which owns the Crofton pulp and paper mill, has been sold to Paper Excellence Canada.

Paper Excellence is a BC-headquartered company with close to two million tonnes of pulp production capacity through five operating mills in Canada and two mills in France.

•••

Chris Bloomfield, 27, died after being shot by police in a Mill Bay trailer park on Saturday afternoon.

Officers from the Shawnigan Lake RCMP were following up on an assault investigation in the 1100 block of Shawnigan-Mill Bay Road, police explained in a press release late Saturday afternoon.

•••

Thirty months after Derek Descoteau, a 20-year-old Chemainus man, was stabbed to death, the murder trial for the man accused of killing him has begun.

Colin John is facing a charge of second-degree murder in the death of Descoteau and a second count of attempted murder in connection with an attack on Janelle Guyatt, Descoteau’s girlfriend.

The Crown finished presenting its case in early December, but the trial was put on pause until spring of 2019 to give the defence time to have a psychiatric assessment done on John.

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