Man dies in shipping container he called home
A 53-year-old carpenter died on Jan. 3 after a fire broke out in a shipping container in which he had been living behind a business in the 200-block of Lloyd Avenue.
Douglas Lalonde, 53, had recently been denied a disability payment by the provincial government. After a day of heavy drinking he lost consciousness. While asleep, an unattended candle set light to a chair and his cramped living space quickly filled with smoke. Lalonde never woke up.
Dealing with limited mobility due to serious falls, Lalonde could no longer work full-time. He turned to government assistance, lost his home and his car. He also lost his tools when the owner of a storage locker repossessed the contents.
Lalonde may have been living in the storage container for a year, according to police.
Jail for fraudsters who stole $911,000
Two men who ripped off close to $1 million from two West Vancouver-based aboriginal organizations - ultimately contributing to their collapse - were sent to jail Jan. 18.
B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen handed a two-year sentence to Craig Ashley Morrison, 34, while his cousin Dennis James Wells, 56, was sentenced to 18 months for defrauding the Aboriginal Council and the Aboriginal Fisheries Commission. The scheme was carried out over a three-year period between 2002 and 2005, while Morrison worked as a bookkeeper for the two organizations.
Morrison used his position as a trusted employee to divert more than $911,000 of the organizations' government funding to Wells' bank account. Wells then funnelled half the cash back to Morrison.
Morrison created 199 fraudulent transfers, usually using false invoices for researchers and consultants to balance the books.
Bodychecking hit out of the rink
Bodychecking was bounced out of North Shore hockey for recreational players up to the age of 19 after a rule change voted in by the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey League.
The new rule took bodychecking out of C-level recreational leagues at the pee wee (age 11-12), bantam, midget and juvenile levels within the PCAHA. Bodychecking is still allowed in A-level rep leagues from pee wee and up for players intent on pursuing the game at its highest levels.
The change addressed player safety and enjoyment in light of concerns about head injuries and concussions.
City scraps Harbourside task force
The City of North Vancouver abandoned plans for a public task force to study the future of the Harbourside area Feb. 6.
Rather than a developer-funded city working group consisting of local residents, business owners and city staff, council opted to deal with possible official community plan revisions in town hall meetings.
The city's previous council unanimously endorsed the idea of a task force being recruited to study the wisdom of building up to 370,000 square feet of business space in the lots immediately south of the auto mall, as well as introducing up to 800 new homes into the undeveloped commercially zoned area.
Following the Nov. 2011 election, Mayor Darrell Mussatto and Coun. Craig Keating each had a change of heart, voting with newly elected Coun. Linda Buchanan for the issue to go directly to public hearing.
Couns. Guy Heywood and Don Bell also reversed their positions, calling for the task force idea to be discarded.
Later in the year, council voted 5-2 in favour of amending the OCP to allow residential use on the site.
RCMP investigate park tree cutting
Police launched a criminal investigation after as many as 35 mature trees were chopped down in Capilano River Regional Park.
Metro Vancouver staff came across the stumps and trunks just west of Capilano Road after a neighbourhood resident said they heard chainsaws the night before.
Cleanup will cost approximately $50,000, according to staff.
CapU unveils film and animation centre
Capilano University formally unveiled a new addition to what is now the largest film school in Western Canada Feb. 17.
Nearly 72,000 square feet, the Nat and Flora Bosa Centre for Film and Animation includes sound mixing and recording studios, digital commercial animation labs, two visual effects labs and a 200seat high definition and 3-D theatre, sound-designed by THX.
2011 exports a record for Neptune
Neptune Terminals recorded a skyrocketing climb in exports for 2011, pushing the overall volume of commodities shipped from the North Vancouver terminal into a record year.
Neptune handled just under 13 million metric tonnes last year - the most ever shipped through the terminal, according to Neptune.
About half of that, or 7.2 million metric tonnes, was potash, a 30 per cent increase over the previous year. West Van teachers take to the streets
North Shore public school teachers took to the streets starting March 5 as part of a three-day province-wide walkout.
The walkout was largely in response to Bill 22, which imposed a six-month suspension on all job action and appointed a mediator to negotiate a deal between the BCTF and the employer within strict guidelines.
Teachers later voted 73 per cent in favour of a plan that includes refusing to participate in any extracurricular or voluntary activities as a protest against Bill 22.
The provincial championships for both mountain biking and golf were cancelled as a result of the job action.
The three-day walkout saved the province $37 million, leading to an unexpected windfall for special education programs on the North Shore. About $30 million of those savings was funnelled into the Learning Improvement Fund, a program designed to help students with special needs. That boost translated into $657,844 for the West Vancouver school district, more than double what they were expecting. The North Vancouver school district received approximately $1.5 million.
The protracted labour dispute concluded with a new deal in June, following a months-long suspension of extracurricular activities.
The one-year deal does not include any of the teachers' requests for salary increases or more control over class sizes, but it does offer increases in benefits and control over professional development and teacher evaluation.
District of North Vancouver wrestles with longboard ban
District of North Vancouver council drafted a new bylaw March 5 giving the district the right to enforce $100 fines for offences such as longboarding at night, skating on the wrong side of the road, and skating without concern for others.
The bylaw also gives the district the right to impound longboards.
In July, council subsequently voted to ban skateboards from Skyline Drive and the adjoining Glenview Crescent, a long, winding stretch of road that regularly draws dozens of boarders, and had been a focal point of the debate about the sport.
Yamamoto rejects call to resign
North Vancouver MLA Naomi Yamamoto said she did nothing wrong by allowing a staffer to share a Province reporter's questions with a cabinet colleague.
The Province newspaper had been working on an investigative story about private post-secondary education provider Eminata Group. A series of questions from the newspaper about Eminata were sent to Yamamoto, who had been serving as Advanced Education Minister. Former Burnaby-Lougheed MLA Harry Bloy later leaked the email to Eminata.
Bloy stepped down after his part in the leak was revealed. Yamamoto rejected calls to resign from Opposition Leader Adrian Dix, stating that information is often shared among cabinet colleagues. In this case, the staffer passed it to Bloy because as Minister of Multiculturalism, he often deals with issues affecting foreign students and immigrants, she said.
The Province story involved a number of complaints by students in private post-secondary schools run by the Eminata Group. Opposition MLAs also pointed out in the Legislature that Eminata has been a significant contributor to the Liberal party.
West Vancouver council votes itself 36 per cent pay hike
District of West Vancouver mayor and council voted unanimously to give themselves their first pay hike in nearly a decade March 26.
Salaries rose from $21,972 to $30,000 for councillors. Mayor Michael Smith's pay went from $65,915 to $75,000.
Due to his 30-year track record of advocating for fiscal prudence from elected officials, Smith said he decided to donate his increase to the West Vancouver Foundation.
More ships to be built in North Van
Seaspan Shipyards cheered news that the company will be building $4-billion worth of Canadian Coast Guard vessels on top of its existing shipbuilding contract.
The federal government had already contracted Seaspan to build non-combat ships, including fisheries vessels, navy support ships, and an icebreaker.
Jury deems Wilcox death homicide
A coroner's jury concluded a North Vancouver RCMP officer's 2010 Deep Cove shooting of an unarmed, mentally ill man was homicide.
The constable, who cannot be named under a publication ban, told the five-person jury he was in fear for his life from Matthew Wilcox. The officer stated he was responding to a hit-and-run when he caught up with Matthew Wilcox's vehicle in Deep Cove following a brief chase.
After initially following the officer's command to get down on the ground, Wilcox stood up, jammed his hand in his pocket and started to come toward the police cruiser, according to the officer.
The officer fired one round from his service revolver, hitting Wilcox. Once Wilcox was on the ground, the officer noticed he was holding a phone.
Wilcox died the following day in Lions Gate Hospital. Family members were prevented from seeing him.
Police said they had lifted the ban on family visits but that message somehow was not communicated to hospital staff. "We do not have any record of being made aware by the police of this patient's change in custody status," said Vancouver Coastal Health spokeswoman Anna Marie D'Angelo.
Tsleil-Waututh oppose Inlet oil shipments
The chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said his band is adamantly opposed to Kinder Morgan's plan to dramatically increase the volume of oil being shipped by tanker through Burrard Inlet.
"We believe it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when an accident occurs," said Justin George, elected chief of the Tsleil-Waututh, whose North Vancouver territory lies directly across Burrard Inlet from the company's Westridge port facility in Burnaby.
Kinder Morgan has announced plans to increase Alberta crude oil exports from 300,00 barrels a day to 850,000.
The Tsleil-Waututh joined with the Squamish First Nations and more than 100 other bands from the Arctic to the U.S. border to sign a declaration opposing further pipeline development and oil tanker traffic off B.C.'s coast.
Sex offender Berry to die out of jail
A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled April 24 that convicted child sex offender Michael Berry would live the remaining weeks of his life confined either to his home or a hospital bed, but won't go to jail, .
Justice Paul Williamson handed Berry - a former West Vancouver acting coach and Capilano College instructor - a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served under house arrest in his dying days.
Berry, 73, is terminally ill with cancer. Williamson said if it wasn't for Berry's medical prognosis, he would have handed him a seven-year jail sentence. Berry had been convicted of child sexual abuse against five girls in incidents dating back over 30 years. Most of Berry's victims were between 10 and 13.
North Vancouver man guilty of first-degree murder
A North Vancouver man was found guilty of first-degree murder for killing a fellow drug dealer with an axe after kidnapping him.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Barry Davies convicted Babak Na-afi-Chaghabouri of first-degree murder for killing Ronak "Ronny"
Wagad at a remote site near the Fraser River on Feb. 23, 2009. Charles Anthony Leslie was found guilty of second-degree murder.
Both men pointed to the other as responsible for the gruesome killing.
Davies ruled both men were responsible for Wagad's death, but Najafi-Chaghabouri was the one who wielded the hatchet for the fatal blows.
Witness Travis Winterlik described how the three men - all of whom were involved in drug dealing - made a plan to kidnap and rob Wagad of drugs and money. Winterlik testified the three men overpowered Wagad in the parking garage of his upscale West End apartment, beat him and shoved him in the trunk of a car.
Ali Reza Alamdari, 60, who was Najafi-Chaghabouri's roommate in North Vancouver, testified that Najafi-Chaghabouri confessed to killing Wagad. Najafi-Chaghabouri's life sentence was confirmed in December.
MP apologizes to election opponent
Former Liberal candidate Dan Veniez dropped his defamation suit against John Weston after the Conservative Member of Parliament apologized for information distributed by Weston campaign workers just before the 2011 election.
Weston wrote a letter to Veniez's lawyer on May 11, stating he had no knowledge of an email and YouTube video before they were distributed during the campaign.
Veniez filed a notice of civil claim for defamation in April, 2011, three days before the federal election.
Veniez was president of Skeena Cellulose before it went into bankruptcy in Sept. 2004.
During the campaign, people wearing Weston buttons and T-shirts "were openly distributing copies of an email claiming that Veniez was somehow responsible for pension shortfalls," according to Veniez's original court filing.
North Van bus depot to close in 2015
The 70-year-old North Vancouver bus depot will be closed in 2015, following a May 17 announcement from TransLink.
The 85 North Vancouver buses will likely move to TransLink's Burnaby centre, although the City of North Vancouver and unionized transit workers are attempting to find another option.
A move means that 250 jobs based at the East Third Street and St. Davids Avenue depot would move to Burnaby.
TransLink had scuttled plans to purchase a site in Norgate in 2005 after facing strong opposition from residents. JUNE
North Shore population is greying
Census details released in June showed the number of North Shore seniors grew by more than 14 per cent in the past five years, while the number of children under 15 shrank by three per cent.
West Vancouver was also ranked as the 12th oldest municipality in B.C. in 2011.
More than 25 per cent of the people who called West Vancouver home in the census are 65 or older.
City OK's Low Level Road upgrade
The massive Low Level Road project was given the green light by City of North Vancouver council June 18.
Councillors voted 5-2 to sign an agreement with Port Metro Vancouver that will allow the raising and relocation of the east-west thoroughfare to make room for two new rail lines. The municipality
will contribute 2.39 hectares of land underneath the road for the project, as well as $800,000 in exchange for a bundle of community amenities.
The amenities include bike lanes, slope stabilization, a new section of the Spirit Trail, traffic safety improvements and noise mitigation.
West Van fells old growth in error
North Shore conservationists were seeing red after news came to light about the loss of old growth trees near Eagle Lake that were cut down in error by the District of West Vancouver to make way for an access road.
Staff reductions were blamed for the mistake.
West Vancouver engineering cut down 69 trees in November last year to make it possible to bring in heavy equipment for the municipality's Black Creek diversion rehabilitation project. Hikers on the Baden Powell Trail came across the downed giants and lodged a complaint.
Twelve of the trees were old growth - some upwards of 700 years old - and were thus protected under the municipality's environmental guidelines.
The diversion of water feeding Eagle Lake - the source of roughly 50 per cent of the community's drinking water - had to be completed, according to district staff.
The district used to employ a community forester and an environmental co-ordinator. When the forester retired in 2010 the district shifted the job duties to senior members of the parks department, according to communications director Jessica Delaney. The environmental coordinator job was vacant for nine months prior to the trees being felled.
The district enacted new policies to make sure old growth trees would never be inadvertently cut down in the future.
Later in the year, approximately 15 protected trees were felled on privately owned but covenanted land bordering McDonald Creek Park. Required written consent was not sought.