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The French connection

‘Parlez-vous Français’ makes more of a parlay in local schools

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

When Elizabeth Kappers noticed her daughter Madelyn developing strong language skills at a young age, mom searched for a way to challenge her in school.

Just before Madelyn entered kindergarten, the Kappers family discovered French immersion—a program foreign to Madelyn’s U.S.-schooled mom.

“We were looking to do private school,” Elizabeth said. “To me (French immersion) is almost like a private school within public school.”

For almost a decade, the number of students enrolled in French immersion in Richmond has grown steadily. This year is no exception.

As of Sept. 30, 22,297 students were registered in the district, 2,092 of them in French immersion—a growth of 123 French students over last year amidst a student population that shrunk by approximately 875 students, according to draft 2004 numbers.

That brings the percentage of Richmond students in either early or late French immersion to 9.4 per cent of all students, up from consistent levels of six per cent a decade ago.

For Elizabeth Kappers, she believes the French immersion program at Henry Anderson elementary will eventually give her five-year-old daughter a command of two languages.

“I think it expands their memory and things early on. Learning a foreign language as an adult is so much harder, and because her English skills were so good so early, I thought it was a great program.”

Early French immersion is also offered at William Bridge, A.B. Dixon and James Gilmore. T. Homma and James Whiteside offer both early and late immersion programs.

For high school students, R.A. McMath secondary joined Hugh McRoberts secondary to offer French immersion this year. McMath offers immersion for Grade 8 students this year, and will continue to expand the program to the higher grades.

In B.C., Richmond is second to the Saanich School District in terms of fewest students leaving the immersion program, said Adrian Dix, executive director of Canadian Parents for French, B.C. and Yukon.

Dix said French immersion programs are growing throughout the province, and that’s largely due to parents realizing the program really works.

“Students not only learn French, but they develop other skills in the process of learning a second language that is helpful to them in academic and all other endeavours,” he said.

Children are growing up in a complex globalized world where the value of learning languages is enormous, Dix added.

Early immersion begins in kindergarten or Grade 1; late immersion begins in Grade 6.

Richmond School District secretary-treasurer Ken Morris said students in the early French program, on average, tend to gain fluency in French by Grade 5. Most late immersion students are bilingual by Grade 10.

Freak accident claims vacationing teen

Hugh Boyd graduate Noah Yelizarov perishes during Thailand trip

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

Hugh Boyd graduate and midget hockey goaltender Noah Yelizarov died Saturday during a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Thailand that turned tragic.

The 18-year-old was in the city of Phuket with three friends (Drew Keenan and twins Chris and Michael Maguire) when a freak accident claimed his life during a massive monsoon.

Keenan, who was travelling with Yelizarov but didn’t see the accident, said Yelizarov died during a massive flood which saw water levels reach hip level. While monsoons are an annual occurrence, Keenan said this one caused the worst flood in more than a decade.

Yelizarov and his friends had rented a motor bike that Saturday afternoon, but decided to leave it on the beach and return to their hotel when the heavy rains began.

Yelizarov and his friend Chris Maguire headed back to retrieve the bike because they needed their passports back.

The pair pushed the motorcycle through the fast-moving and deep water, but eventually gave up and were walking back to the hotel when they came upon a fire in a building nearby and stopped to watch.

While Yelizarov was leaning against a bamboo pole attached to a metal pole on the sidewalk, and Chris stood beside him, a firetruck drove by and created a wave that immersed the metal pole, which discharged a jolt of electricity that hit both men.

Yelizarov was hardest hit, and his clenched hand was pried off the pole by a firefighter using a wooden stick. The electricity that struck Chris wasn’t as severe and he managed to jump to higher ground and scream for help.

Attempts to revive Yelizarov were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

“He was the greatest guy in the world,” Keenan said of his best friend. “I can’t say enough good things about him.”

The pair struck up a friendship after a mutual friend, Kyle McKinnon, died of cancer in 2001.

Yelizarov’s mother Lori said she spoke to her son the night before the accident.

“They were having the time of their lives,” she said of the four friends who arrived in Thailand on Oct. 5. A month earlier, Yelizarov had travelled to Israel and decided to travel to Thailand because Keenan, whose mother works for the airlines, had offered him a “buddy pass.”

“He was a real family person,” Lori said.

In his Hugh Boyd yearbook write-up, Yelizarov wrote: “By his 10-year reunion, he would like to have a wife and maybe some children.”

Lori described her son as an outstanding goalie who was well known throughout the local hockey community and was a devoted Vancouver Canucks fan.

Yelizarov is survived by his mother Lori, father Michael and 23-year-old brother Jonathan. A funeral was held Wednesday afternoon.

Oval shouldn’t be overcrowded with sponsors

Business prof warns city could tarnish its image

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

The City of Richmond stands to gain from selling naming rights of the Olympic oval but a marketing expert warns against plastering too many logos on the venue.

“The city would be well advised if they’re going to go down this route to be very selective and very limited in how many sponsors they would accept,” said Charles Weinberg, a University of B.C. business professor.

Richmond hopes to earn between $22 and $32 million from naming rights, sponsorships and other sources for the oval, which is scheduled to be complete by October 2007.

Weinberg said a facility built with public funds sporting too many brands could be viewed by visitors as an unbalanced partnership with private businesses, and the city would risk tarnishing its image.

“If you find that there are lots of different sponsors, you begin to think that all these different sponsors have a great deal of control.”

Weinberg said selling naming rights today is a common occurrence, with corporate logos appearing next to everything from university classrooms to major sports facilities.

Companies sink money into naming rights deals for either philanthropic or economic reasons, he said.

With a philanthropic investment, the company feels it’s a good idea to invest in a community project it feels is worthwhile. With the second type of investment, the company decides adding its name to a venue would improve its image and brand recognition of its products.

“Companies are looking for strategies other than peer advertising as a way of communicating with their potential customers,” he said.

The city is seeking to hire a consultant to look into sponsorship opportunities for the oval, recently issuing a request for expressions of interest.

“We want to hire a firm who will manage the process for us,” said George Duncan, chief administrative officer of Richmond. “It’s not just that we’re looking for somebody to go out and get somebody to sign over a cheque.”

Besides naming rights, other sponsorship dollars could come in many forms, he said, such as adding a corporate logo to the facility’s video score clock.

“We will be asking the consultant to identify what all the different vehicles and possibilities are and reviewing that and deciding what is appropriate.”

Duncan said a name could be attached to the venue in time for its opening, but that’s subject to negotiations with the Vancouver Organizing Committee.

The International Olympic Committee restricts such sponsorships during the Olympic Games. That means if a sponsor’s logo is on the building in 2007, it could be temporarily removed during the Olympics.

Duncan said the city has considered what companies might be interested, but added revealing possible candidates could derail future negotiations.

Regardless of what form sponsorship takes, Duncan said all will reflect community values and be in line with city advertising policies.

He added the city doesn’t need sponsorship revenue to pay for the oval, but said the city has to be “fiscally responsible” and should make an effort to secure it.

Residents want to make King George Park safer

Drug dealers, vandals plague East Richmond park

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

East Richmond residents fed up with problems plaguing King George Park are planning a rally to take it back.

“At night the park isn’t very safe,” said Balwant Sanghera, vice-president of the East Richmond Community Association. “Just recently the problems have escalated a little bit.”

He said dark corners of the 45-acre park are attracting groups of late-night revellers, especially where the park borders No. 5 Road.

As a result, East Richmond residents are being pushed out and forced to cope with vandalism, drug deals and other “anti-social behaviour” in one of the city’s largest parks.

Sanghera appeared before council last week, suggesting improvements to help the community take back the park. Those suggestions include new lighting, trimming dense branches, installing an emergency phone and boosting police presence.

In the meantime, the association is organizing an evening lantern festival next April, when residents will walk through the park on their quest to improve safety.

“We’re trying to make it safer so the residents feel more comfortable,” said Sanghera.

The association, which has been talking to the Richmond RCMP, hopes to establish the park as East Richmond’s gathering place, complete with a community garden.

City parks operations manager Gordon Barstow said his department has been aware of problems in the park for some time.

When public washrooms were constructed there, the area began to draw vandals, costing the city up to $30,000 a year. Since then, a residence was built for a caretaker.

Barstow said the caretaker’s role is to establish a presence in the park, not to confront potentially dangerous people.

“That has been a big move to making the place safe for the day,” said Barstow. “It’s still a dark place at night, we’re quite aware of that, and we need to look at possibly lighting.”

A few years ago staff were concerned of possible gang activity. Barstow recalled a time when a city paint crew removed graffiti in the park, but the next day it appeared again, along with a threat directed at the painters.

Security was hired to patrol the area at the time, said Barstow, and some vandals were caught.

The planned lantern festival is a good step to help curb problems, he said.

“If you do some positive things in the park, the negative things go away.”

Parks and recreation chair Coun. Harold Steves said the immediate solution is to improve lighting.

The long-term solution is to offer late-night programs for youth by keeping some city facilities open late and opening a youth centre.

“For those that like the late nights there should be some place where they can congregate,” Steves said.

“Unfortunately, because things shut down at night those that want to stay up have a tendency to congregate in some of the parks.”

Fare hike rides again

Bus fare increase will be voted on again Friday

by Julia Caranci and Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporters

Just weeks after it was rejected by TransLink’s board, a proposal to increase Greater Vancouver transit fares will come back for a second vote on Friday.

On Sept. 29, the board voted down a motion that would have sent the fare hike proposal to public consultation, ostensibly shelving it.

The move killed a significant portion of the revenues required to fund the first three years of TransLink’s transportation plan, which aims to expand the region’s bus fleet, construct rapid transit to the airport and build another crossing over the Fraser River, among other projects.

The proposed fare hike would see the one-zone and two-zone fares go up 25¢ to $2.25 and $3.25 respectively. The three-zone fare would jump 50¢ to $4.50. Children and senior rates would remain the same.

A motion can be brought forward to the board a second time providing one of the directors who voted against it initially requests it be reconsidered.

In this case, director Raymond Louie, a Vancouver councillor, requested the defeated motion be reintroduced at Friday’s meeting.

The motion will require the support of a simple majority to be carried. TransLink Chair Doug McCallum said Tuesday he is confident the fare increase motion will pass at Friday’s meeting.

He said the fare hike is needed to balance funding for the transportation plan and have all groups pay for improvements, namely transit riders, homeowners and businesses.

Translink director and Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie previously voted in favour of sending the fare hike proposal to public consultation.

“I’m not supporting a fare increase yet, I’m supporting the matter going out to public consultation,” he said yesterday.

Public transit users affected by the increase will benefit from TransLink’s 10-year plan, which calls for more buses, replacement buses and road improvements, Brodie said.

“I don’t think that (transit users) will write to us to congratulate us. We’re just trying to hold down fares as much as we can.”

Brodie believes public consultation will eventually happen. A vote without it is something he’d rather not see.

The Bus Riders’ Union has threatened to launch a region-wide fare strike if the fare hike goes through.

McCallum said TransLink has done its part by freezing child and senior rates and ensuring the fare increase will be modest.

Without the hike, the transportation authority will not be able to continue improving the transit system, the demand for which continues to grow, he said.

McCallum promised there will not be another fare increase (if this one is approved) for at least three years.

On-line sports betting has ‘scary’ potential

Steven Addison, MetroValley News

A gambling addictions expert says the provincial government is making a risky roll of the dice by allowing on-line betting on professional sports.

Kevin Letourneau called the scheme, expected to raise millions for B.C. Lottery Corporation, “scary,” and could increase problem gambling among seniors and youth.

“It’s just horrible...rife for problems,” said Letourneau, programs manager for counselling services at Peace Arch Community Services.

The B.C. Lottery Corporation’s Play Now web site lets gamblers place bets up to $100 on four Sports Action games from a computer.

It’s reportedly just the beginning of the lottery corporation’s long-term plan to expand gaming via the Internet.

Letourneau, though, said it’s a risky business. It’s one thing to go to a casino or buy a lottery ticket from the cornerstore. It’s another to place a bet from your livingroom without ever getting out of your pajamas.

“People have a belief their retirement is going to be winning the lottery. But you have a better chance of being struck by lightning waiting in line to get a ticket,” Letourneau said.

“It certainly is a concern how (the Liberals) are expanding from casinos to slot machines to on-line gaming. The government is addicted to gambling.”

Calls to the B.C. Lottery Corporation, run by the provincial government, were not returned by press time.

Wallflowers make a statement

Robbin Deyo galvanizes images of introverts afraid to expose themselves

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

  • Illusion of Sky—Shimmering Spectacles, featuring artists Robbin Deyo and Shelley Ouellet
  • Runs until Dec. 9 at Richmond Art Gallery (180-7700 Minoru Gate). Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday until Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Info: 604-231-6454

Robbin Deyo is standing among 18 crates scattered throughout the Richmond Art Gallery mulling the finer points of her artwork: 8,000 identically-shaped flowers crafted from wood, wax and work.

Starting today, the gallery is showcasing the work of two artists until Dec. 9 in an exhibit like no other, Illusion of Sky—Shimmering Spectacles. Deyo, a pensive, reserved Montreal artist, had the crates shipped from home two weeks before the exhibit’s opening to allow enough time for set up.

Deyo once embraced the traditional oil paint and canvas. Now, as this exhibit proves, convention is set aside in favour of a creative process that is art itself.

Deyo explains her art: “It’s the things I’m questioning in my life–things I have confronted in my life.”

Works from two Deyo series are featured in the gallery: Skyscapes and Wallflowers. A pivotal piece of the Wallflowers series is Forget-me-not—a monumental display of wax-coated flowers resembling candies covering an entire wall of the gallery.

It highlights the often unacknowledged and overlooked labours of women through its repetition and pastel colours.

Deyo cut each flower out of wood, which was patterned from a cookie-cutter, and then sanded, painted and dipped each shape in wax three times. Holes were then drilled in each for gallery exhibitions.

Looking at it in its entirety, Forget-me-not reflects a traditional role of women making offerings, such as with food and housekeeping. Through its name, it also galvanizes images of wallflowers: introverts afraid to expose themselves.

For Deyo, the piece is admittedly about finding herself: “I think I work through things in doing it.

“I lived in my studio 24 hours a day and I worked between 14 and 16 hours a day and I don’t think I took a day off. Deadlines of shows do that to you.”

But creating the piece was her choice, one made in part by an obsessive nature and influence from her workaholic parents.

“Sometimes working is a way of escaping from being out in the world,” Deyo says.

Also an integral part of the exhibit is Skyscape #1, a multi-paneled painting created by pouring wax onto unleveled supports, resulting in wax-coated canvases that have subtle gradations in thickness. The inner wax areas exploit the whiteness of the clouds, while the thicker areas create nuances of pale blue, suggestive of sky.

The piece had its beginnings in France, where Deyo found herself starring out a window.

“For me I realize I look out of a window to escape, to imagine, to contemplate. So I wanted to make something that reflected that desire to leave.”

At its core, the piece points out the separation of the inside and outside world. The negative space around the panels represents the architecture framing the sky, separating its viewers from the outside.

The painting covers three walls of the hexagonal gallery. Its audience may have the feeling of looking out from an interior space, while the mood generated by the piece may reflect a changing sky.

Deyo says her work is open to endless interpretation, but she hopes viewers will see the levels behind each piece, such as the labour and symbolism.

Illusion of Sky—Shimmering Spectacles also features artist Shelley Ouellet, whose bead curtains are large-scale collaborative pieces that required the participation of strangers to complete.

Tonight’s opening reception is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Richmond Art Gallery.

The Twins in tune

Lauren and Grace Hsia join Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra in concert in Richmond

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

Lauren and Grace Hsia are twins. But much to their chagrin, the 15-year-old Richmond teens are often referred to as The Twins. Two of a kind. A pair of aces. Double trouble.

Having similar interests and abilities doesn’t help: “We sometimes think alike, and we don’t even know we think alike. It just turns out that way,” concedes Grace.

But the love of string instruments actually sets them apart.

Lauren plays the violin; Grace plays the cello. Together, they perform with the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra, which ignites its 75th season with a concert performed by its intermediate-level musicians on Saturday in Richmond.

While some twins may be connecting at a higher level of consciousness, the twins are each their own during performances and are recognized as individuals.

“I’m focusing on my music,” says Lauren.

The girls are among a handful of Richmond residents comprising the 70-strong Vancouver-based orchestra.

Conducted by Jin Zhang, the intermediate division is one of four ensemble levels supported by the VYSO, a non-profit organization aimed at developing young musicians, with students ranging in age from eight to 21.

Since joining the orchestra this year, the girls have juggled its demands with private lessons, school band commitments at Crofton House and at-home practice.

With only one recent public performance under their belts with the VYSO, the Hsia twins are looking forward to the rewards of playing in front of an audience. After all, they’ve been practising for a long time.

Lauren began playing the violin at the age of five after some early years learning the piano. With the guidance of her parents, the violin became her focus.

“I guess they wanted me to pick up a hobby of some sort—something that I would pick up for the rest of my life,” Lauren says from her Richmond living room. “And music is a wonderful thing in life.”

Grace, who first tried the violin, passed it up for the cello a few years later. Although not the most common instrument for young musicians, it’s “beautiful” nonetheless.

“Usually on the lower notes–a solid tone–really sets a mood,” says Grace.

The twins first heard about the VYSO by chance. Lauren, having only seen a symphony orchestra perform once before, went to a VYSO Christmas concert with her mom. Not only was she impressed by the group’s music, she was inspired by the fact the players were her own age.

Many former members of the VYSO have gone on to careers as orchestral musicians, but the Hsia twins are happy leaving the strings as a relaxing pastime.

“I don’t plan on pursuing a musical career. I just want to keep it as a hobby,” says Lauren, echoed by her sister.

The orchestra will open its season Saturday, Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Peace Mennonite Church (11571 Daniels Rd.) in Richmond. The concert will feature music by Weber, Faure, Dvorak and Schubert. Tickets, available at the door, are $5; children 11 and under are free.

For more information call 604-737-0714 or visit

Nuisance trees to be replaced

Stefanko Place residents tired of yearly aphid swarm

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

Stefanko Place resident Glenn Lilly pleaded with Richmond city council Tuesday night to fix a decade-old problem in his cul-de-sac. And local politicians listened.

Council approved a parks and recreation services plan to gradually replace problem trees on city property with appropriately-sized disease-resistant trees.

Lilly received assurance that his neighbourhood’s eight nuisance Linden trees would be among the first to be replaced by the city after years of testing other methods to rid his cul-de-sac of the problem: chemical sprays, lady bugs and drastic pruning.

Each spring, countless aphids begin swarming the trees, sending a shower of honeydew down on the sidewalks and cars, coating them in a sticky mess.

“We have to hose down our cars every day,” said Lilly.

“It’s contributing to the loss of enjoyment of our properties.”

City parks operations manager Gordon Barstow said his department is budgeting $30,000 a year for the new program, which will replace 30 trees a year.

Barstow said to replace all 1,000 problem trees in the city would cost approximately $1 million.

“As far as the funding goes, we’re going to have to take it slow,” Barstow said. “I can see us taking four or five years until we get all the problems out.”

The next step, he said, is to negotiate with each neighbourhood as to what trees should be removed.

Coun. Harold Steves, called the problem “a rather sticky situation,” and said some residents have brought forth legitimate concerns the city should address.

Coun. Bill McNulty said the gradual replacement of trees is a good idea and suggested neighbourhoods could help with the cost of replacement trees.

“The city can’t afford to replace trees everywhere,” he said.

According to a staff report, the city receives up to 1,400 tree complaints each year. Five tree species are responsible for at least half the problems, which lead to maintenance costs of $100,000: Linden, London Plane, European Ash, Tulip and Lombardi Poplar.

Police have a suspect in bear-spray attack on five-month-old

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

Richmond RCMP are getting closer to making an arrest in connection with last week’s bear-spray attack on a five-month-old girl.

Shanda Rea, mother of little Seaira, said she and her daughter were watching television last Wednesday around 5 p.m. when an acquaintance used a baseball bat to smash the front window of her home on Steveston Highway, pulled down the blinds and then directed the bear spray at her daughter.

“He didn’t say a word,” Rea said Monday. “I told him to stop.”

Seaira stopped breathing for about three minutes and was rushed to hospital. On Monday, Seaira was back at home, but is having trouble sleeping, Rea said.

The Richmond RCMP’s serious crimes unit is currently investigating the incident and Cpl. Peter Thiessen said police are getting closer to making an arrest.

Rea identified the attacker as a former friend of the father of her baby.

To make matters worse, Rea’s landlord won’t pay for the repairs to the house, where the smell of the bear spray lingers.

Rea has been forced to move in with her mother-in-law.

Study links violence to biochemical disorders

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

Violent tendencies may be linked to chemical imbalances in the body, researchers suggest in a new study released today in the journal Physiology and Behavior.

“The results of this outcome study strongly suggest that individualized biochemical therapy may be efficacious in achieving behavioural improvements in this patient population,” wrote William Walsh, Laura Glab and Mary Haakenson.

The study observed 207 patients with a diagnosed behaviour disorder. Each was screened for chemical imbalances that was previously found in high incidence in this populations, including: metal-metabolism disorders, methylation abnormalities, disordered pyrrole chemistry and heavy-metal overload among others.

The study found that when a standardized treatment protocol was applied for each imbalance, there was a reduced frequency of assaults in 92 per cent of patients. Of that group, 58 per cent eliminated that violent behaviour entirely.

Of patients who destroyed property, 88 per cent exhibited a reduced frequency of destructive incidents and 53 per cent stopped this behaviour entirely.

Patients were given a regimen of amino acids, vitamins and minerals that addressed whatever imbalances were identified. In some cases, dietary restrictions were recommended.

“For decades, researchers have debated the relative influence of nature and nurture in rage disorders, crime, violence, etc. The high incidence of biochemical imbalances in the behaviour-disordered population and the major behavioral improvements following the correction of these imbalances suggest that individual biochemistry has a powerful influence on behaviour. Effective prevention of delinquency and crime may require early interventions aimed at normalizing the body chemistries of at-risk children,” the authors wrote.

To confirm their results, these researchers have suggested that a double-blind placebo controlled study be performed.

Not in our front yard

Councillors don’t want elevated rapid transit system

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

If the No. 3 Road portion of the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver rapid transit line isn’t built at street level, several councillors are threatening to take drastic action.

Councillors Harold Steves and Bill McNulty say they’ve been led to believe an at-grade system remains under consideration by RAVCo and that’s the design they believe is best suited for Richmond.

However if RAVCo, the TransLink subsidiary managing this project, recommends an elevated system—which would necessitate the placement of massive concrete pillars down Richmond’s core—Steves and McNulty said they will oppose granting access to the rights-of-way necessary to build the line in Richmond. The rights-of-way are the property of the city, they said.

Both fear an elevated SkyTrain-like system will permanently scar the city.

And they aren’t alone.

Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt promised to do everything in her power to block an above-grade system.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and councillors Derek Dang and Kiichi Kumagai also prefer the ground-level approach, although they aren’t prepared at this point to jeopardize the system with an all-or-nothing decision.

RAVCo is currently reviewing the bids of two consortia for the project and an elevated system remains an option.

Evelina Halsey-Brandt said that if RAVCo recommends a raised design, she would demand that the line stop at Bridgeport Road before it veers down No. 3 Road. She’s not opposed to the line being elevated in northern Richmond, or on the stretch leading to the Vancouver International Airport.

“It would destroy our city centre and everything we’ve built to make a livable city centre,” she said. “I would do everything in my power as a councillor to stop this.”

She raised the possibility that Victoria might use new provincial legislation (Bill 75) to expropriate the land in the event Richmond doesn’t willingly hand it over.

If the provincial Liberals were to take that drastic action, she said she would fight to ensure they don’t obtain a majority during the next provincial election, even if that put her at political odds with her husband. She noted that her husband, Liberal MLA Greg Halsey-Brandt, supported an at-grade system when he was mayor of Richmond.

“They may have the power to do it, but it is morally wrong,” she said.

Coun. Kiichi Kumagai also favours street-level and said he doubts the province would force RAV down the throats of locals using Bill 75 because that would open Victoria to endless litigation that might delay the project.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie said he takes very seriously the results of public opinion surveys, but said he must also consider the long-term impact this line would have in Richmond. An elevated line would “bisect the city in every unfortunate way” and “would damage irretrievably the livability of our city.”

“I believe very strongly a ground level system is the way to go.”

Coun. Derek Dang said he too prefers a less visually obtrusive system, but is unsure at this time whether he would vote against granting the rights-of-way.

Kumagai and Brodie, however, expressed concerns that stopping a line at Bridgeport would negatively impact the ridership numbers necessary to make this project fiscally viable.

“I am not in favour of a bus option down No. 3 Road,” Brodie said.

Word that council might be lining up to block the RAV line worries Coun. Rob Howard.

“It’s a huge concern if they’re successful. I think that would be a sad day. I don’t understand why they would put the entire project in jeopardy.”

Howard has been a supporter of the elevated line because he’s convinced it will give Richmond what it needs most: a fast, dependable, safe, people-moving system.

A street-level system down No. 3 Road would slow traffic and would be no better than what Richmondites have access to now.

“Then you might as well stick with buses.”

Steves and McNulty are hoping that by putting pressure on RAVCo, the city will get what it wants.

A decision on the design of the rapid transit line is expected by the end of November, with a preview expected later this month.

While Richmond council wants a street-level system, that does not reflect the opinions of locals solicited during community consultation efforts in March about the No. 3 Road stretch of the $1.6 billion line.

Of the nearly 13,000 respondents, 38 per cent preferred at-grade, while 53 per cent said they would rather have one that’s elevated.

But Steves and McNulty say that locals don’t have the full knowledge of the issue, and expressed a preference for an elevated line because they felt this would unclog the traffic nightmare down No. 3 Road.

“That’s been proven wrong all over the world,” Steves said.

Rather, having a raised platform casting large shadows down No. 3 Road would have the effect of slowing down drivers, he said.

In March, public displays were set up at local malls, with photographic illustrations depicting how the two technologies might look at specific points along No. 3 Road.

Of the participants who live in Richmond, 50 per cent preferred an elevated line, with 40 per cent wanting one that’s at street level.

Respondents who live and work in Richmond had an even stronger preference for an elevated system (53 per cent vs. 39 per cent who like the at-grade line).

Brodie noted that in TransLink’s final resolution, which was adopted and allowed the RAV process to proceed to the current best-and-final offer stage, Richmond’s preference for a street-level system was explicitly stated. He’s confident that if the at-grade option is viable, that’s what Richmond will get.

Brodie said that he and Richmond’s chief administrative officer, George Duncan, have hammered the point home to TransLink to ensure there’s “absolutely no question of what the wish of Richmond is.”

It’s off to jail for driver

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

It all boiled down to excessively speeding through a red light.

It’s what killed Richmond RCMP Const. Jimmy Ng and it’s the aggravating factor that landed Richmond’s Yau Chung (Stuart) Chan in jail.

Chan, 21, was sentenced to two years less a day in jail Friday morning by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Harvey Groberman.

While what Chan did wasn’t “part of a pattern of wrongdoing,” and while he did plead guilty to criminal negligence causing death and leaving the scene of an accident, and is remorseful, the principles of deterrence and denunciation required that he be jailed, Groberman ruled.

Chan’s lawyer, Roy Dickey, argued a conditional sentence was appropriate, and pointed to a recent case of a deadly high-speed crash in south Vancouver where the two accused received no jail time.

Bahadur Singh Bhalru, 25, and Sukhvir Singh Khosa, 22, received the maximum allowable conditional sentence of two years for criminal negligence causing death. The pair were street racing in November 2000 when Khosa lost control of his car and ran over and killed pedestrian Irene Thorpe.

But Groberman noted the factors involved in the September 2002 crash that claimed Ng were more aggravating.

In the Bhalru and Khosa case, they were speeding at more than 100 kilometres per hour. Chan was travelling 134 km/h at the time of the crash.

And unlike Bhalru and Khosa, who didn’t ignore any stop signs or traffic signals, Chan ran a red light on one of the main arterial roads in Richmond.

And while Bhalru and Khosa made no effort to flee police, Chan fled the scene with the assistance of his friend, Ying Hua (David) Guan, who earlier this year received a suspended sentence, a three-year driving ban and three years probation for aiding Chan’s departure.

These factors made what Chan did “significantly more severe” than the Bhalru and Khosa case, Groberman said.

“A more severe sentence is needed in the case at bar,” he said.

On the other hand, the sentencing isn’t swayed by the pursuit of vengeance, he said. And “care must be taken not to jeopardize his future,” Groberman, adding that Chan is now a “highly productive member of society.”

Groberman said he doesn’t “believe he poses a real threat of reoffending.”

The severity of the sentence surprised Ng’s father, Dr. Chris Ng. “It’s to us a surprise. I didn’t expect such a long (jail sentence).”

Ng’s mother Therese said the sentence made no difference to her since she’s received a life sentence without her son.

“I’m glad and relieved.”

Richmond RCMP Cpl. Peter Thiessen said attitudes on the street seem to be slowly shifting and hopes this sentence will make a difference.

Groberman initially sentenced Chan to two years less a day for the criminal negligence charge, but that number decreased with the credit he gave for Chan’s time in police custody and the time he was under strict bail conditions while free.

Groberman was also reluctant to issue a lifetime driving prohibition, stating that Chan “must be allowed to get on with his life.”

Before Chan was led out of the court by sheriffs and taken into custody, Groberman said: “I wish the best of luck in your life. I hope you are able to overcome the difficulty as a result of your criminal actions.”

Chan is barred from driving for three years and will have to report to a probation officer for two years after serving his sentence.

Chan was sentenced to 18 months for criminal negligence and to six months for leaving the scene of an accident.

Groberman gave Chan the standard credit for double the six weeks he remained in police custody until he was granted bail.

Five firms have designs on oval

Winner is expected to come up with master plan for site

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

Five architectural firms shortlisted for the Olympic oval design contract competition have one week to finalize their proposals for the biggest capital project in Richmond’s history.

The competitors all have a background in designing major sports venues and some have experience with other oval projects.

According to the city, Bing Thom Architects, IBI Group (with Canadian International Timberwork Design Group), Cannon Design, Hughes Condon Marler Architects and Studio Zoppini Associati are all drafting proposals, due Friday, for the $124-million project.

The winning firm will also be expected to create a master plan for the 29-acre site, which lies along River Road between the No. 2 and Dinsmore bridges.

The five firms will present their proposals to a city panel later this month, after which, the list will likely be narrowed down before being presented to Richmond council in November.

City staff will make recommendations based on a technical analysis, however, the decision on which company will win the contract ultimately rests with local councillors.

Chief administrative officer George Duncan said besides experience in designing a major sports venue, the city is looking for a firm with a history of designing a venue for a major sports event.

“There are a number of design features that are peculiar to the event that is going to be held in the facility that are very important too.”

Before and after the 2010 Games, the oval will house various ice sports and indoor field sports, along with special events, tournaments and exhibitions. During the Games, the venue will support an international long-track speed skating oval with seating for 8,000 spectators.

Most of the competing firms are partnering with other companies for the project, said Duncan.

The city is currently completing a geotechnical analysis of the oval site. That will reveal what type of site preparation work, expected in the spring, is necessary.

Meanwhile, new locations for the current tenants are being secured.

The city is finalizing a new site for the Richmond RV Park, but details of its new home aren’t yet being revealed. The community garden is slated to move to Terra Nova Park by the end of next year.

The competition firms are:

•Bing Thom Architects: The 25-year-old Vancouver firm specializes in “complex cultural buildings,” including performing arts centres, civic buildings and museums. Past projects include Aberdeen Centre, the Chan Centre for Performing Arts at UBC and the Central City tower in Surrey.

•IBI Group: IBI’s Vancouver office is working with the Canadian International Timberwork Design Group on the oval project. Founded in 1974, IBI specializes in urban land, facilities, transportation and systems design. Recent projects include the new B.C. Cancer Research Centre and the Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub.

•Cannon Design: Principal architect Robert Johnston was the project manager for the Olympic oval in Calgary. According to spokesperson David Roach, it was the first time an indoor speed skating oval had been constructed. The company, established in 1945, also helped design the Olympic oval in Salt Lake City.

•Hughes Condon Marler Architects: The Vancouver-based firm has experience in designing civic and recreational buildings, including the Sungod Recreation Centre in North Delta, the Walnut Grove Community Centre in Langley and the West Vancouver Aquatic Centre. The architectural team proposed for the project includes the lead designer of the 1994 Commonwealth Games stadium in Victoria.

•Studio Zoppini Associati: Founded in 1961, the Italian firm specializes in sports and leisure buildings. It has designed 15 sports centres and over 50 sports facilities, including the speed skating oval for the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

Campaign aims to light up city

Richmond Hospital Foundation aims to raise $1 million

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

As a longtime donor of Richmond Hospital, local businessman Milan Ilich listened when he heard about the Celebrate With Lights fundraising campaign.

The goal? To raise $1 million by December to fund upgrades to the hospital’s palliative care unit and to help pay for the new Rotary Hospice House in Richmond. For every dollar raised, a Christmas light will be added to the grounds outside the hospital.

On Thursday, Ilich helpedkick off the campaign with a $100,000 donation during an afternoon reception at the Marriott Hotel Richmond.

The cause is close to his heart. His wife Maureen lost her brother Howard over a year ago. He died in the comfort of the Ilich home. But not all people living their final days have an alternative to a hospital bed.

“I just think it’s so sad when people have nowhere to go,” he said.

With his donation, Ilich encouraged local businesses and individuals to help in the campaign—a joint effort of the Richmond Hospital Foundation and the Rotary Club of Richmond.

Rotary members are committed to raise $500,000 to support the $2.8-million Rotary Hospice House on No. 4 Road. Construction on the 10-bed hospice, which will be owned and operated by the Salvation Army, began last month and is expected to be complete by next spring.

And with a renovated eight-bed palliative care unit at Richmond Hospital, the dying and their families can spend their final days in comfort—at the new hospice, at the hospital or at home—away from the flurry of acute care.

The goal of hospice palliative care is to relieve pain and other symptoms of the terminally ill while enhancing the quality of remaining life when more intensive acute services of a hospital aren’t needed.

Carole Gillam, program manager for in-patient services at Richmond Hospital, said people deserve peace, comfort and dignity at the end of their lives.

“The last days or weeks that you spend with your family are some of the most important days in your life,” she said.

The fundraising committee is asking every Richmond resident to donate a dollar or two for a light bulb to help brighten Richmond Hospital.

Richmond businesses are also invited to join the campaign by lighting their company premises for the winter and asking for customer and employee donations.

The lighting ceremony is set for Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. at the hospital. For more information and to contribute, visit

In recognition of the donations made by the Maureen and Milan Ilich Foundation, the Rotary Club of Richmond and the Richmond Sunset Rotary Club presented a Paul Harris Fellow to Maureen at Thursday’s event.

In philatelic heaven

Stamp collectors in Richmond for exhibition

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

The envelope was destined to land in Bob Ingraham’s hands, albeit slightly charred.

Containing a letter from the Netherlands, the airmail envelope found a ride to what is now Jakarta, Indonesia on the first commercial flight of a Dutch DC-2 airliner.

The plane never made it. All seven people on board were killed after a crash in Syria. Half the cargo was destroyed, but that one letter was still delivered.

Ingraham eventually received the envelope as a gift from a friend. Today it’s one of the 61-year-old’s most cherished pieces of postal history.

Ingraham is in his element this weekend as the B.C. Philatelic Society takes part in the Vancouver Philatelic Exhibition at the Best Western Richmond Hotel and Convention Centre (7551 Westminster Hwy.).

As Western Canada’s largest national-level stamp exhibition, for philatelists, this is the big one.

A 30-table bourse (where dealers sell stamps and other postal history items), a 178-frame competitive exhibit and a postal history auction is expected to draw enthusiasts from across Canada. Collectors exhibiting their goods will compete for medals, awarded by a discerning panel of experts.

Stamps are a mainstay for philatelists, but collecting envelopes—or covers—is akin to nabbing celebrity autographs.

Ingraham recently added a new cover to his collection: a Second World War-era envelope mailed from Germany to Sweden, decorated with chemical sensor stripes.

The stripes are the result of a chemical swab, which could reveal secret writing to flush out possible espionage.

Such stories have fueled Ingraham’s interest in the hobby since the age of 10, when he received his Boy Scout merit badge in stamp collecting.

“For me, stamps and covers have become artifacts that are obtainable–they’re not out of my price range...and they can reveal a huge amount of information you can’t find anywhere else.”

It’s not a hobby with a net financial gain, he warned, adding most collectors do what they do for the love of postage.

But younger generations don’t seem to have that same love. An age of consumerism has children entertained by television, electronic games and the Internet, Ingraham lamented, noting the average age of collectors is 65.

Other challenges to the hobby include new self-adhesive stamps—difficult to remove from envelopes—and the Internet, reducing the number of stamps in circulation.

“It’s entirely possible the use of postage stamps will die out almost completely because of lack of use,” said Ingraham.

Exhibition hours are Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $2 a day for adults and free for children, who will receive free stamps with entry.

For more information, call 604-694-0014 or visit

Abduction report preceded accident

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

The driver of a tan Mazda Protege suffered serious injuries and is in critical condition following a Friday afternoon head-on crash on No. 3 Road, near Bowcock.

The accident occurred while police were trying to pull over the Mazda after receiving a report of an abduction in progress, Richmond RCMP Cpl. Peter Thiessen said.

The 50-year-old driver of the car was taken to hospital, while a 41-year-old woman and her five-year-old son also suffered unknown injuries.

At about the same time, police fielded several 911 calls about a car driving erratically. A police officer in a cruiser turned on her emergency lights in an attempt to pull over the vehicle that matched the description. But a few seconds later, the Mazda hit a silver Toyota Camry head-on after crossing the centre line.

The driver of the Toyota was injured, but not seriously.

Police are continuing their investigation and believe this may have been a domestic dispute, and it’s unclear if there was an abduction.

Theme park casts abroad in Richmond

Western performers are popular at Universal Studios Japan

Don Fennell, Staff Reporter

Universal Studios Japan theme park came to Richmond last week in search of would-be performers.

Thirty Lower Mainland residents answered the call to audition at Richmond Gymnastics Association for a live role in one of several street shows at the theme park from Wild, Wild, Wild West and Waterworld stunt shows to Terminator 2:3-D and a Blues Brothers Show.

“The Japanese love the Western performers,” says Amy Teet, human resources manager for Universal Studio Japan and head of a seven-person team currently on the road overseeing the auditions.

“I’ve been in theme parks my whole life. In Orlando there is a following and people come to see the show regularly, but in Japan they’re always full (3,000 people attend each show) and there are full-on fan clubs.

“The (actors) are celebrities and sometimes we even have to intervene because it can get a little overwhelming sometimes. First off all they’re from the West and kind of stand out anyway and they’re usually fairly handsome guys or pretty girls who definitely get noticed. It’s something we talk about during orientation.”

Teet and her team are midway through their annual tour, which this year began on Australia’s Gold Coast. After the Richmond auditions, the group was heading to Orlando, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. They’ve been conducting the tours since Universal Studio Japan opened in Osaka in 2001.

“Each year we try to venture out into at least one unknown we haven’t been to,” Teet said.

“I did some research and found there was a pocket of stunt performers out here, mostly in film, but thought they might be interested in a theme park opportunity.”

Once they settled on Vancouver, Teet began looking for a place to hold auditions here. By chance, she contacted Cal Jahner, president of the Richmond Gymnastics Association, who was elated to offer the club’s space for the day.

Teet was impressed by the talent locally, but says they won’t notify anyone if they’ve been selected until the end of November, after all auditions on this tour are completed.

“We didn’t know what to expect here, but there is some good talent,” says Teet. “I thought the fight scenes were excellent, personally.”

Teet says the team is seeking performers to fill definite roles and who demonstrate agility, control and, in some cases, have a particular look. But most importantly they must have strong vocal skills and acting abilities.

About 60 performers are needed to fill the various roles, all requiring strong vocal skills and acting abilities.

But about half of the performers ask to sign on for a second season, leaving only about 30 spots open each year.

It’s a good chance to get a foot in the door, while also being quite lucrative, Teet says.

“They earn $2,500 to $3,000 per month U.S., with a monthly living allowance that covers all their daily expenses,” she explains.

The trade-off is leaving home to live abroad for a year, she says.

“The cultural experience is huge,” she says.

Firm doggedly tracks shipments

Richmond firm uses new GPS tracking system to keep goods secure

Philip Raphael, Staff Reporter

Curiosity is indeed the mother of invention for John Cockburn.

After spending 30-plus years in the engineering and security business, a simple drive home one day behind a container truck a few years ago has today become an opportunity to launch a company and its product line of specialized GPS tracking systems into a multi-million dollar industry designed to keep truck and ship cargo secure under a watchful eye.

“I always wondered where the locks were on those containers,” explains the president and chief executive officer of Richmond-based Bull Dog Technologies Inc., adding he soon realized they didn’t have any, except for a small, dime-sized metal seal on the latch handles.

Cockburn said that most of the time three separate groups are involved with the transport of goods by container—the trucker at the start of the journey, the port and ship that the container is loaded on, and then another trucker on the destination end of the trip.

“So, if you had a key, who would you give it to?” Cockburn asks. “It would probably get lost the moment the container left on the truck. Plus, if border authorities needed access to the container, they’d just cut the lock.”

Faced with those facts, Cockburn did some research and found, not much to his surprise that the container industry is rife with theft.

Since many transportation companies are self-insured and are not always willing to divulge loss by publicizing theft figures, Cockburn said official estimates of around $50 billion in stolen goods each year at ports all over the world is a conservative figure.

“It could well be double that,” he says.

Given those sizable numbers, many ports and shipping firms are anxious to find a system that can monitor goods whether they are in transit or stored dockside awaiting delivery.

In trots Bull Dog Technologies, which in 1998 started to develop equipment that hooked into GPS networks which could track container shipments in real-time, and immediately notify companies if any tampering has taken place.

“Of course, the way things are now, the only time you realize a shipment has been broken into is when it arrives at its destination.” Cockburn says. “Then it’s too late. We can tell right away if a container has been opened, and know immediately, to within 30 feet, where it is.”

And that can deter theft, it can also save money, since ensuring that truck containers are tamper-free can speed up shipments crossing international borders. And as the old saying goes, time means money, especially in the trucking business.

“It costs about $20 an hour to keep a truck waiting to clear the border. And when you look at the Mexican border where the waits are up to 12 hours to enter the U.S., that’s a lot of money, and time, that could be saved,” Cockburn says.

To help cover the security needs of the container industry, Bull Dog has developed a range of products with the moniker “Boss” attached to them, which can be fitted into a container to relay its position by a low frequency radio signal to a GPS satellite. It has also produced off-shoots for other sectors since theft problems also spill over to liquid goods being transported.

Cockburn says one petroleum company Bull Dog is in talks with is anxious to stop the pilfering of gasoline from tankers in Saudi Arabia. He explains a common practice has thieves drain off several thousand litres of fuel from the unlocked tankers, then replenish the volume with water.

“They (oil companies) don’t really care about what’s stolen. That’s pretty much pennies to them. The problem is when that tanker ends up getting to a storage facility and empties its load. It contaminates the entire system.”

Bull Dog’s “Tanker Boss” would not only show the location of the tanker, it would monitor access to the cargo through flow sensors.

Bull Dog currently has 18 pilot projects being undertaken at major ports and with large companies across North and South America. One of them involves retail giant Toys “R” Us which is testing the firm’s “Yard BOSS” system that tracks container movements within a storage facility.

All of that interest has helped push the company’s profile into the spotlight. At the recent U.S. Maritime Security Expo 2004 in New York City, interest from the shipping industry, as well as national security agencies, flooded the company’s display booth as the post-9/11 world has opened up another substantial market for Bull Dog’s equipment.

Officials stateside are concerned over tampering with containers which arrive in the United States. Fears are terrorists could use them to ship illegal arms or more dangerous goods. Cockburn says part of America’s security efforts is expected to include locked containers for all tanker trucks.

“And that means tankers carrying pretty much everything, from milk and cooking oil, to gasoline and water. They would all be considered hazardous since they could be used as terrorist weapons.”

On a smaller scale, Bull Dog has produced a tracking system that is the size of a pack of cigarettes called the “Mini BOSS.”

“It can be sewn into the lining of a kid’s backpack and can be used to track the exact location of, say, your child. Because in some countries the children of wealthy families are the constant target of kidnappers.

“And if installed in a car, it could tell you where your kids are at 1 a.m. Or if you sling it in a shipment of cigarettes, if they are stolen, you can tell where the goods are,” Cockburn says.

Another application is adding the “Mini BOSS” to a courier package as a value-added service that would allow the client to tell where their goods are at any given time.

While the idea of a portable tracking device may be the stuff of James Bond flicks, most real-world examples are unreliable and prone to interference, Cockburn says.

“Our one is so revolutionary that it can transmit through concrete and steel.”

Whether its guarding containers, gasoline tanker trucks, or keeping tabs on your toddler, Cockburn is confident his firm is well on its way.

“When you look at the scale of the industries we are dealing with, it’s huge,” he says. “There are 80 million registered containers is use around the world, so that market is pretty big.”

Richmond RCMP sets an example

Proactive approach attracts lens of corporate training company

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

There are apparently quite a few “highly effective people” working for the Richmond RCMP, judging from the attention the local detachment has garnered from corporate training company Franklin Covey.

Producer Adam Abel of Utah-based Go Films was in Richmond last week, shooting documentary footage that will be part of the company’s training seminars. He’s been contracted to put together seven minutes worth of film that will be incorporated into a 300-minute course presentation.

As Abel put it, Richmond RCMP officers aren’t “waiting in the bushes for the bad guys.” Instead they are taking “proactive steps” to preventing crime at its roots through community policing.

“There is something special about the Richmond RCMP that is grabbing the attention of international organizations like Franklin Covey,” Abel said.

Policing agencies have traditionally been viewed as responsible for handling and reacting to emergency situations as they develop. But the Richmond RCMP are shifting that paradigm toward more preparatory and proactive steps, Abel said.

He noted that local police hand out twice as many positive tickets—in the form of free slurpees and movie passes—as the traditional negative variety including speeding tickets.

It is these areas that the documentary will highlight. Franklin Covey was cofounded by Stephen Covey, author of the New York Times bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

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