Year in Review Part 2: Top stories from Cowichan in 2022, July to December

Almost 7,000 people participated in the second annual Every Child Matters march in Duncan on Sept. 30, which is National Truth and Reconciliation Day. Pictured if the front of the march as people turn from Ingram Street onto Jubilee Street. (Robert Barron/Citizen)Almost 7,000 people participated in the second annual Every Child Matters march in Duncan on Sept. 30, which is National Truth and Reconciliation Day. Pictured if the front of the march as people turn from Ingram Street onto Jubilee Street. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
4-H member Brookelyn Buck grooms Patti the Shorthorn-Angus/Maine cow in preparation for the competition at the 113th annual Cobble Hill Fair Saturday, Aug. 27. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)4-H member Brookelyn Buck grooms Patti the Shorthorn-Angus/Maine cow in preparation for the competition at the 113th annual Cobble Hill Fair Saturday, Aug. 27. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Tiny twin cowboys Jamie (right) and Teague Wrightson, 4, check out some of the children’s art and Lego entries in the youth hall at the 113th annual Cobble Hill Fair Saturday, Aug. 27. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)Tiny twin cowboys Jamie (right) and Teague Wrightson, 4, check out some of the children’s art and Lego entries in the youth hall at the 113th annual Cobble Hill Fair Saturday, Aug. 27. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron 744 members participate in the Royal Canadian Legion’s annual poppy flag raising at Duncan City Hall on Sunday, Oct. 30. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron 744 members participate in the Royal Canadian Legion’s annual poppy flag raising at Duncan City Hall on Sunday, Oct. 30. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Phoebe the pup gets a lift from her owner during Christmas Kick-off in downtown Duncan Friday evening, Nov. 25. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)Phoebe the pup gets a lift from her owner during Christmas Kick-off in downtown Duncan Friday evening, Nov. 25. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Annabelle Faustino of the 4H Club sits with her project at the Cowichan Exhibition, 2022. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)Annabelle Faustino of the 4H Club sits with her project at the Cowichan Exhibition, 2022. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)
Delighted kids crowd around a bubble artist at the Cowichan Exhibition 2022. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)Delighted kids crowd around a bubble artist at the Cowichan Exhibition 2022. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)
A glider sails over North Cowichan on the evening of Aug. 8, with the moon as a dramatic backdrop in the crystal clear skies. (Cheryl Trudell photo)A glider sails over North Cowichan on the evening of Aug. 8, with the moon as a dramatic backdrop in the crystal clear skies. (Cheryl Trudell photo)
Crowds lined the streets to see the clowns, marching bands, floats, dancers and more during the first Duncan Day Panago Parade since the pandemic began. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Crowds lined the streets to see the clowns, marching bands, floats, dancers and more during the first Duncan Day Panago Parade since the pandemic began. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dancing duo Olivia Shafer, 16, and Esmée Rush, 15, earned top spot in the 2022 edition of the Duncan Has Talent dance competition. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)Dancing duo Olivia Shafer, 16, and Esmée Rush, 15, earned top spot in the 2022 edition of the Duncan Has Talent dance competition. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
One of these things is not like the other: vessels large and small were dwarfed by the presence of M5, the largest single-masted sailing yacht ever built, that towered over all at the Mill Bay Marina this week. Owned by Texas wildcatter Rod Lewis, the 77.6m (255-ft) long Vosper Thornycroft superyacht launched in November 2003 and was retrofitted in 2013. An avid flier, Lewis also has a float-mountain Carbon Cub aircraft carried on the aft deck, which captured the attention of those walking the dock to view the colossal craft. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)One of these things is not like the other: vessels large and small were dwarfed by the presence of M5, the largest single-masted sailing yacht ever built, that towered over all at the Mill Bay Marina this week. Owned by Texas wildcatter Rod Lewis, the 77.6m (255-ft) long Vosper Thornycroft superyacht launched in November 2003 and was retrofitted in 2013. An avid flier, Lewis also has a float-mountain Carbon Cub aircraft carried on the aft deck, which captured the attention of those walking the dock to view the colossal craft. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Rob Douglas is grateful for the support he received in his successful bid to become mayor of North Cowichan. (Photo by Don Bodger)Rob Douglas is grateful for the support he received in his successful bid to become mayor of North Cowichan. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Editor’s note: What stories do you remember from 2022 in the Cowichan Valley? Here’s a sampling of what we covered at the Citizen from July through December, in part two of our year in review.

JULY

The Supreme Court of Canada has declined the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit’s petition to appeal the November 2021 judgment of the BC Court of Appeal in favour of North Cowichan, again denying the track group the opportunity to expand its operations.

The VIMC had applied for a development permit to expand its motorsport circuit. In 2019 North Cowichan building and planning director Rob Conway opted not to issue the permit citing the proposed use was contrary to zoning bylaws. This brings to a close the lengthy legal matter.

•••

Many questions remain unanswered and some may never be answered as the investigation continues into the brazen bank shooting that left two suspects, twins from Duncan, dead and six members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT) in hospital.

Twenty-two-year-olds Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie of Duncan, B.C., were killed by police in a shootout that left six officers injured outside a Bank of Montreal branch in Saanich on June 28.

•••

One man died after an early morning stabbing in downtown Duncan, RCMP spokesperson Dawn Roberts confirmed.

She said police were called out around 3 a.m. July 16 to reports of an injured man downtown. They found the man near Kenneth and Jubilee streets suffering from stab wounds. The man was taken to Cowichan District Hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries.

“Police have been able to determine that the deceased is a 33-year-old man from Duncan.”

•••

A pedestrian overpass across the Trans-Canada Highway close to where the new Cowichan Secondary School on the Cowichan Place site is being constructed is under consideration.

Over the years, safety concerns have been raised about students crossing the highway at lunchtime from the current Cowichan Secondary School on James Street to fast-food restaurants on the other side of the TCH where there are no crosswalks.

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Environment Canada has issued a heat warning for the Cowichan Valley for Monday, July 25 to Saturday, July 30.

The warning encompasses most of the province, as temperatures are set to soar, with temperatures from Duncan to Nanaimo forecast to hit daytime highs of 31 C to 35 C, which will feel even higher with humidity. Early morning temperatures will be from 15 C to 17 C.

•••

Cowichan Bay will borrow up to $16 million for a new fire hall as it squeaked through the Alternative Approval Process.

The Cowichan Bay Improvement District announced the results on July 17.

It was a controversial decision.

•••

The B.C. government is expanding its speculation and vacancy tax to a number of Vancouver Island communities. According to a statement Wednesday, July 20, the tax will expand into the municipalities of North Cowichan, Duncan, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan, Lions Bay and Squamish, beginning in January 2023.

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AUGUST

Residents of a WestUrban Properties apartment building in North Cowichan have been left scrambling to find new places to live in a region with no vacancies after being advised they’ll likely be getting eviction notices from the building’s managers come December.

The Magdalena building on Crosland Place was constructed over a nine-month period and completed in 2019. The five-storey building has multiple structural deficiencies and other work that needs remediation in order for it to be safe long-term, and residents must move out while the work is being done, according to information sent to tenants by the building’s owners.

•••

A petition to implement dedicated protected left-turn signals at three dangerous intersections on the Trans-Canada Highway garnered more than 2,500 signatures in its first 48 hours.

Petition organizer Chris Lumley, who is also an administrator for the Cobble Hill Neighbours Facebook group, said the petition on Change.org is asking for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to place left-turn signal lights at the Cobble Hill/Kilmalu, Hutchinson Road and Fisher Road intersections.

He said there have been numerous accidents at the intersections over the years, including one involving a fatality on July 26 at the Hutchinson Road intersection.

Later in the month, in a statement, the ministry said it is moving forward with design work for the installation of north and south-bound protected left-turn signals at Kilmalu Road, Hutchinson Road and Fisher Road’s intersections with the TCH.

•••

Two proposed housing projects in the Paddle Road and Drinkwater Road areas would see seven multi-storey apartment buildings constructed, plus a number of townhouses and duplexes, that would provide up to 628 housing units.

•••

Taylor Park will not be developed into a 100-vehicle parking lot that was intended to increase public access to the historic Kinsol Trestle and Cowichan Valley Trail.

The board at the Cowichan Valley Regional District made that decision at its meeting on July 27 after receiving an assessment of the site, an approximately five-acre undeveloped property just off Renfrew Road near Shawnigan Lake, from Aquaparian Environmental Consulting Ltd.

The consulting company concluded that the site includes environmentally sensitive wetlands, and the area that is able to be developed within the park is too small for the planned parking lot.

•••

After three years of hard work by the Municipality of North Cowichan and members of the public, the new official community plan was adopted by council on Aug. 17 in a 5-1 vote.

•••

North Cowichan’s plans to replace the aging Crofton fire hall with a $4.8-million project will likely proceed.

Just six electoral response forms against the project were filed with the municipality during the Alternative Approval Process which closed on Aug. 22, while at least 2,868 forms against it were needed to cause the issue to go to a referendum.

•••

SEPTEMBER

A 56-year-old Vancouver man has died while tubing on the Cowichan River.

On Monday, Aug. 29 just after 6:30 p.m. the Lake Cowichan RCMP were called to help with an incident at Marie Canyon off of Riverbottom Road.

•••

Construction of the new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment building is now scheduled to be completed by October, 2023, instead of this fall as originally planned.

Project manager Mark Frame said the delay is related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the $49-million project, which is being constructed on a five-acre property owned by North Cowichan bordering Ford Road and Drinkwater Road, is now progressing smoothly.

•••

In an effort to get ahead of any criticism, the Cowichan Valley School District has released a video to explain the concept of the gender neutral “Washrooms for Everybody” program that is planned for its new Cowichan Secondary School, which is currently under construction.

The school district’s communications director Mike Russell said the district is trying to be proactive with the release of the video, and address any concerns that may crop up in the community with the new washroom concept, which does away with the traditional separate bathrooms for male and female students in favour of private toilet stalls around a shared sink area in a gender neutral room.

•••

The price of an average single-family house in the Cowichan Valley in August dipped 2.9 per cent from July. According to a report by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board, the cost of an average home in the region was approximately $853,600 in August, slightly less than in July when it was $879,300.

•••

The Cowichan Valley’s crier Ben Buss proclaimed the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the ascension of her son, King Charles III, to the throne in Duncan’s Charles Hoey Park on Sept. 13.

Buss rang his bell in full town crier uniform and yelled to the lunch-time crowd in the park that Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, born on April 21, 1926, became Canada’s sovereign upon the death of her father, King George VI, on Feb. 6, 1952.

“She has reigned with the utmost grace and dignity and dedicated her life to the service of her people, and passed away on Sept. 6, 2022,” Buss said.

•••

Suzanne Fortin, formerly of Duncan, is receiving the prestigious Carnegie Medal for rescuing a man from his mobile home after an explosion at an RV park in Duncan last year.

In its third announcement of 2022, the Carnegie Hero Fund is recognizing 17 civilians from across North America who risked their lives to save others, including Fortin.

•••

A driver veered off the Malahat and plunged between 200 and 300 feet down the highway’s embankment on Sunday (Sept. 25).

The driver, the vehicle’s lone occupant, was taken to hospital with injuries that are now considered non-life-threatening, according to a spokesperson for Shawnigan Lake RCMP.

•••

OCTOBER

The St. John’s Anglican Church property at 486 Jubilee St. will be the location for the complete rebuild of the nearby aging Duncan Manor on First Street.

Shelley Cook, executive director of the Cowichan Housing Association, confirmed that the Duncan Housing Society has chosen the site in a letter to the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

She said the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia is in the process of signing a long-term land lease agreement with the DHS to redevelop the lands to include an approximately 118-unit affordable housing development on the site.

•••

A private cultural ceremony was held to re-install the Stan Modeste Totem, Salish Bear, to its rightful place at the Malahat Summit on Sept. 29.

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A private cultural ceremony was held to re-install the Stan Modeste Totem, Salish Bear, to its rightful place at the Malahat Summit on Sept. 29.

•••

The streets of downtown Duncan were awash in orange on the morning of Sept. 30 as between 6,000 and 7,000 marchers participated in the local Every Child Matters event.

Friday was the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which is set aside to be a day to recognize the horrors of Canada’s residential schools and to honour the lost children and survivors, and thousands of people in the Cowichan Valley answered the call to participate in the march and the day’s activities to show their support.

•••

The Cowichan Valley Regional District is looking to implement a cell-tower siting policy.

The district’s committee of the whole recommended that the board adopt a siting policy that includes a requirement for cell towers to be located more than 300 metres from schools; avoid areas affecting public views; avoid hazardous and environmentally sensitive areas; and there be minimal tree removal.

•••

The runway lights at the privately owned Duncan Airport may soon have to be turned off after dark, and that could impact emergency services and put lives in jeopardy.

Kevin Maher, a member of the Duncan Flying Club that operates the airport and is its safety and regulations-compliance manager, said the club has been leaving the runway lights on 24/7, at their expense, for many years to allow emergency services to use the runway when necessary during an emergency at any time of the day, which they often do.

But he said a number of tall trees at the end of the runway have now grown high enough to impede aircraft taking off and landing, particularly at night, and the dangerous situation may mean the club could have to shut down the lights when it is dark out to avoid accidents.

•••

Municipal election results were in, with Rob Douglas taking up the mayor’s chair in North Cowichan and Tim McGonigle doing the same in Lake Cowichan.

Residents also elected councils in North Cowichan, Duncan and Lake Cowichan, and in the Cowichan Valley Regional District, seven electoral areas chose representatives. A seven-member school board was also elected.

•••

The referendum on a new funding formula for recreational facilities in the Cowichan Valley has passed by 980 votes.

The referendum, which was held in all four municipalities and the nine electoral areas in the Cowichan Valley Regional District during the municipal elections on Oct. 15, saw 8,985 votes in favour of the new usage-based funding model for recreational facilities, while 8,005 voted against it.

•••

The public will be asked to consider four options for the management of North Cowichan’s 5,000-hectare municipal forest reserve starting this fall. The options range from continuing harvesting the MFR as in the past to permanently stopping all logging, other than dealing with blow-downs and for safety reasons.

•••

Many water systems across the Cowichan Valley Regional District have moved to Stage 4 water restrictions, the most extreme water conservation measures ever enacted for the region. Yes, in October!

•••

Big changes may be in the works again for the Cowichan Valley riding in the provincial legislature, as well as some surrounding electoral districts.

B.C.’s Electoral Boundaries Commission is recommending that Shawnigan Lake, Mill Bay and Cobble Hill, which are currently in the Cowichan Valley electoral district, become part of a reconfigured Juan de Fuca-Malahat riding.

As for other changes to the Cowichan Valley riding, the commission is proposing boundary adjustments for the electoral district to include Chemainus in the north and Cherry Point in the south.

•••

Two land-development applications in the Bamberton area that are now before the province for consideration could have disastrous impacts on the environment and residents around Saanich Inlet, according to two citizen groups in the region.

It’s a position disputed by the proponent, Malahat Investment Corporation, who say the applications are simply adjustments to and existing permit and project.

•••

NOVEMBER

More than 10,000 homes and businesses in the Cowichan Valley lost their power on the morning of Oct. 27, the result of high winds in the area bringing branches and trees down on power lines.

•••

There is still no indication as to when Allenby Road, which has been closed to traffic for almost a year, will reopen.

Sections of the road between Miller and Boys roads in Duncan were shut down last November after a flooding event caused a landslide that buried that part of the road in debris.

•••

When Janice and Ken Hiles bought 20 acres of land close to the Cowichan River in 2018 in an effort to subdivide and develop a portion of it, they had no idea about the wall of bureaucracy and red tape at many levels of government they would have to face.

The couple’s problems began when they approached the Cowichan Valley Regional District and offered to donate Little Beach and another section of their property on the other side of Greendale Road as parkland as a community amenity contribution that was part of their rezoning application for the rest of the property.

Little Beach is the approximately 600-foot stretch of waterfront property on the Cowichan River that is used as a pull-out for the thousands of tubers that are on the river every summer.

•••

For the first time in years, thanks to the pandemic, council chambers at Duncan City Hall was near capacity Monday evening. The crowd had gathered to watch the recently elected Duncan city council’s inauguration as well as to honour some of the area’s most upstanding citizens.

•••

A petition against a new 63-metre cell tower proposed for Cowichan Bay has garnered more than 550 signatures to date.

•••

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is citing “Insufficient maintenance and the absence of regulatory surveillance” as contributing causes to the fatal capsizing and subsequent sinking of Cowichan Bay’s Arctic Fox II in August 2020.

The incident occurred some 136 kilometres offshore of Cape Flattery, just south of Port Renfrew.

•••

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP is issuing a public warning regarding an uptick of reported “sextortion” cyber scams.

In the last year, reports of these online scams have increased by 163 per cent in the North Cowichan/Duncan area.

•••

Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone is the new chair at the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

He was elected to be chair again by the newly elected board at its inaugural meeting on Nov. 9.

•••

A war veteran who is a resident of Sunridge Place in Duncan was given France’s highest award on Nov. 17.

Capt. (Ret.) Fernand Labrie was presented with The Legion of Honour, the highest national order of France, both military and civil, by Nicolas Baudouin, the consul general of France in B.C. at a ceremony at the senior centre in Duncan.

The award was given to Labrie, who is 100 years old, in recognition of his heroic service to the people of France in the liberation campaign during the Second World War.

•••

The living wage has gone up to $23.53 an hour in the Cowichan region for 2022, a 21 per cent increase over the 2021 rate of $19.03, this year’s Living Wage Update report shows.

The living wage is the hourly wage that two parents working full-time need to earn to support a family of four.

•••

Six individuals well-known for their athletic contributions, including one posthumously, and one team were inducted into the North Cowichan-Duncan Sports Wall of Fame during a ceremony Saturday night at the Cowichan Golf & Country Club.

The Class of 2022 includes: Sheron Chrysler for her role in athletics; fastball player and golfer Garrett Elliott, softball coach Stan McKinlay, baseball umpire Roy Price, Dano Thorne for soccer, Ken Williams posthumously for soccer and the 1987 Stuart Channel Little League baseball team.

•••

DECEMBER

Snow fell across the Cowichan Valley and much of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland Tuesday, Nov. 29 causing havoc on the roads and even some power outages.

Meanwhile, drivers were encouraged by Emcon Services Inc. to stay home and off the roads if their vehicles were not equipped for the weather, but as the snow began during the middle of the work day, many had to get themselves home first.

•••

Work on the new Cowichan District Hospital on Bell McKinnon Road, the costs for which have increased to $1.45 billion, ground to a halt on Dec. 2 after members of Cowichan Tribes-owned Khowutzun Development Corporation began picketing the site.

The province’s Ministry of Health said talks continue to try to resolve the situation, which involves a dispute of require unionization of workers, which KDC employees say does not apply to them.

•••

The cost of the Cowichan Valley’s new hospital has ballooned to $1.45 billion from the previous estimate of $887 million, a 63 per cent increase.

Finance Minister Selina Robinson said that the dramatic increase in the cost of the new Cowichan District Hospital, where site work has begun on Bell McKinnon Road, is mainly due to supply chain challenges and labour shortages.

•••

As with many on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, Cowichan Valley residents woke up to a major dump of snow Tuesday morning, Dec. 20. More than 30 cm (one foot) fell over- night — the most snow the region has seen in years. The white fluffy stuff began to fall steadily around 5 p.m. Monday and continued throughout the night.

Year in Review