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Time for a change

Nick Loenen’s dream of electoral reform may be coming true

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

Nick Loenen is tickled pink.

The voting system the lifelong Richmond resident advocated for since he left politics will now be put to a referendum next May 17.

The 61-year-old has paid close attention to the Citizens’ Assembly for Electoral Reform since it was formed last year as a result of a B.C. Liberal Party election promise. On Sunday, it decided B.C.’s electoral system needed a change and the single transferable vote system is it.

“I could actually get quite excited about this,” Loenen said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

Loenen served as a Richmond city councillor from 1983 to 1987. In 1986, he also won a seat in the provincial legislature. As his term went on, he became bothered by the concentration of power in the premier’s office.

That’s when his life’s focus became electoral reform.

Loenen, who also ran as a Reform candidate in the 1993 federal election, began studying at the University of B.C., finishing his master’s degree in political science in 1995. He turned his thesis into a book and two years later, Citizenship and Democracy: A Case for Proportional Representation was published.

His experience as a local councillor made him realize the importance of genuine, public debate. In the legislature, the quality of that debate is poor, he said, because MLAs are told by their parties how to vote before any discussion.

“You’re not seriously discussing the issue because you’re not trying to change anyone’s mind,” he said.

There’s a long history of promises of electoral reform, particularly among prime ministers, but none have materialized, he said.

“It’s all talk and nothing will happen. So I became convinced that the way to do that is to change the voting system.”

An effective provincial legislature is one that performs a check on government powers. That was the case in B.C. during the first two decades following Confederation, Loenen said. But today, the party system has taken a firm hold and has created a political culture known for its polarization.

Beyond government process, many voters believe the current electoral system is unfair, Loenen suggests. He cites the example of the Green Party in B.C.’s last election, in which it captured 12 per cent of total votes but finished with no seats.

Loenen long favoured the idea of independent citizens coming together to make important political decisions without interference. While teaching a political science course at Trinity Western University, Loenen would often suggest to his students that such a group could tackle constitutional reform.

Most were dubious.

But he was convinced a citizens’ assembly would be the only way to introduce electoral reform to B.C.’s political system. He believed a government, having the most to lose, would never strike up such an group.

But the tide turned after the 1996 provincial election, when Gordon Campbell’s Liberals lost to Glen Clark’s NDP, despite garnering the majority of the votes.

“The time was right to start whispering things to the Liberals,” Loenen said. “They started to listen.”

After the election, Loenen co-founded Fair Voting B.C., a citizens’ lobby group dedicated to changing the way British Columbians elect their MLAs. The group’s big break came during a 1999 B.C. Liberal policy convention, where Campbell promised a citizens’ assembly.

“He has never wavered from that. We have examples of premiers making those promises and not delivering. Gordon Campbell made the promise and he delivered, and he deserves a lot of credit for it.”

Suggesting how the citizens’ assembly would work, Gordon Gibson delivered a report to the government in 2002, months before the legislature approved the idea of selecting 160 British Columbians to potentially change B.C.’s political landscape.

Almost 10 months of study, research and debate—which included 50 public hearings and 1,603 written submissions from the public—culminated Sunday for the assembly. Members overwhelmingly decided the single transferable vote model should replace B.C.’s current first past the post system.

If voters approve the single transferable vote model in a referendum May, 17, 2005, it would be in effect for the 2009 election.

Loenen, who attended almost all the assembly’s meetings, said the “potentially very divisive” process was a success—filled with intelligent debate and no bitter factions.

“What gives the Citizens’ Assembly its drive and motivation is that they’re given real power.”

Loenen prefers to call the single transferable vote model “1, 2, 3 voting,” as voters rank candidates in order of preference, rather than marking one with an “X.”

Its benefits, he said, are many: voters have more choices; nearly all votes count; votes are for candidates, not party lists; independents will get elected; and voters can cast their ballot against an incumbent without voting against the MLA’s party and leader.

The champion of proportional representation said he knows of no downsides to the single transferable vote model.

Such a system would undoubtedly cause a shift in B.C.’s polarized political culture. Loenen suggests British Columbians’ political values would begin favouring effective local representation, greater proportionality, less party discipline and accountable government.

Single transferable votes would lead to minority powers and consensus-style governing, where the minister of finance must convince rival MLAs that the budget is sound.

The often-criticized party nomination process would also be reformed under a single transferable vote system. Since constituencies would grow about five times in size, political parties would be forced to put forward a slate of diverse candidates that appeal to areas of the district.

But what would the single transferable vote system look like in Richmond?

Being constrained by geography, Loenen believes Richmond’s three ridings would be combined with Delta’s two, creating a new Richmond-Delta constituency where the same number of MLAs would be elected.

In the last provincial election, all five seats went to B.C. Liberal Party members. Loenen believes if a single transferable vote system was in place, one seat might have gone to the NDP and another to the Green party.

In order to win a seat in the Richmond-Delta riding, a candidate would need to garner no more than 16.7 per cent of the vote. With no benefit in appealing to all Richmond voters, each candidate would need to strategize where votes will come from.

Loenen suggests a candidate could campaign for an area within the constituency, such as Steveston, or an issue, such as transportation.

In the months leading to the referendum, Loenen will help revive Fair Voting B.C. and begin spreading information about the proposed electoral model, one he believes will finally empower people, not political parties.

As easy as 1, 2, 3?

In a single transferable vote system, constituencies have more than one member each. Voters rank their candidates in order of preference (1, 2, 3, instead of “X”), and are able to mark preferences for as many or as few candidates on the ballot. The total number of voters is counted, which is then divided by the number of seats in the constituency, plus one. That amount is the number of votes a candidate needs to win a seat.

If Richmond’s three constituencies are combined with Delta’s two, a candidate would need 16.7 per cent of the total vote. If not enough candidates garner enough votes, surplus votes of candidates elected or dropped off th ballot are redistributed.

The provincial legislature would remain at 79 seats.

Ireland, the Australian Senate and some municipalities use this model. Nick Loenen notes so few countries use the system because strong political parties don’t allow it. Loenen admits the mathematics behind counting the votes are complex, but said filling out the ballot is as easy as listing one’s top three choices.

Citizens vote for electoral change

Last weekend, the the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform voted 146-7 in favour of proposing a single transferable vote system.

The assembly overwhelmingly voted in favour of changing the current first past the post system.

The Richmond Review asked Richmond’s citizens’ assembly members about how they voted. (Evelyn Krenz was unavailable for comment; two other Richmond members are on leave for personal reasons).

Brooke Bannister, 58

Retired on disability

“STV is the right system for B.C. because it brings the way we vote into the 21st century and beyond. It creates a more inclusive legislature, one that truly reflects the diversity of this province.”

Jack Zhang, 51

Acupuncturist and Tai-chi instructor

“I voted to retain our current system, because I’m not sure the STV will bring a bright future. More arguments will happen in the (legislature).”

Craig Peterson, 36

Professional Engineer

“I’d definitely change the system. In an STV system, the chance of an independent getting in is very good, and that is so important to me, because constitutionally we should be allowed to run as an independent and get in.”

Bid for longer hours blocked

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

The city has reversed its earlier decision to support new late-night hours for a local restaurant after discovering “serious” liquor licence violations.

“It could have been a very detrimental situation for Richmond,” Mayor Malcolm Brodie said at Monday’s council meeting.

Wet Restaurant had applied to the province to extend its liquor-serving hours until 1 a.m. Monday through Wednesday and until 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. The restaurant, located on Alexandra Road, currently closes at midnight seven days a week.

When council was asked to comment on the proposal, councillors Bill McNulty and Sue Halsey-Brandt warned the city needed to do more research before offering support. The provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Branch then reported a liquor licence infraction, and the rest of council changed its tune.

According to a staff report, liquor licensing inspectors visited the restaurant Saturday, Oct. 9 at 5 a.m. and found 10 people were still on the premises consuming alcohol.

They also noted the sale of alcohol “far exceeded” the food sales for the day. The restaurant received a warning.

The staff report also states the restaurant should have alerted the city of the infraction.

“Staff feel the restaurant was not operating in good faith during this process.”

Ilich acclaimed as Liberal’s pick

Developer to run in next provincial election

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

Local developer Olga Ilich was acclaimed Monday as the Liberal candidate for the provincial riding of Richmond Centre.

The campaign manager for Richmond Centre MLA Greg Halsey-Brandt during his successful bid for provincial office in 2001, Ilich has received the support of John Nixon, who at one point considered running against her for the nomination.

In her speech, Ilich noted that Canada’s largest banks have forecasted a rosy economic future for British Columbia.

“British Columbia has turned the economic corner. Private sector job growth is the highest in the country. After a decade of stagnant employment markets, nearly 160,000 new jobs have been added since (the Liberal Party was) elected government in 2001.”

Her motivation to enter the political arena was fueled by the values her parents bestowed on her when they moved to Canada from Holland.

“Immigrants continue to shape Canada’s national character. Certainly that is true in this riding,” she said.

“I know it is not the average person who travels across an ocean to start another life in a completely foreign land. It takes incredible will, persistence, and a willingness to take risks and an ability to overcome the awkwardness of being an outsider.”

She was critical of the NDP’s management of the province during the 1990s.

“The previous government did so much damage to B.C.’s economy. The New Democrats overtaxed and overregulated B.C. workers and businesses. We need to grow our economy and our tax base by having more workers working, not taxing the existing workers more.”

Advocating for more seniors housing is among Ilich’s passions.

“Our mothers and fathers deserve affordable housing and assisted living where there is help with meals and housekeeping...

“I want to take to Victoria the dreams and determination of Richmond’s immigrants, the compassion for our families, and the competence of our commercial enterprise.”

Ilich complemented Halsey-Brandt for the contributions he has made as a politician. “He carried out the duties of MLA with diligence, with integrity and with honesty, and we thank him for all his hard work.”

The Liberals have held the riding since its creation in 1991. In 2001, Halsey-Brandt won Richmond Centre with almost 72 per cent of the vote.

British Columbians go to the polls on May 17, 2005.

Another Edmunds turns himself in

Tyler Edmunds charged with assault

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

After months on the lam, Richmond’s Tyler David Edmunds is behind bars.

The 25-year-old turned himself into the Richmond RCMP last week and has been charged with the beating and robbery of two teens outside an A&W restaurant last June. The victims were robbed of all their clothing. That same day, he allegedly was involved in an assault at a McDonald’s restaurant on Blundell and No. 2 roads.

A Canada-wide warrant had been issued for Edmunds.

Edmunds is the older brother of Chris Edmunds, who is charged in the savage beating of Richmond’s Kevin Venn, a Petro-Canada worker, in July.

Two weeks free parking for veterans

Council decides to offer one more week than original proposal

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

Feeling more generous than city staff, Richmond council approved two weeks of free parking for Canadian war veterans next month to mark Remembrance Day.

A civic committee earlier approved a staff recommendation of one week’s free parking at city meters for veterans who have special vehicle licence plates.

The specialty plates were introduced by the province in June, and are available to veterans who served during wartime, post-war or for service during a United Nations or North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission.

Second World War veteran Norman Wrigglesworth, 78, earlier requested one month’s free parking for veterans.

On Monday, Coun. Linda Barnes suggested free parking from Nov. 1 to 15 “may be more appropriate.”

Coun. Sue Halsey-Brandt, said she’d rather see one month of free parking, and hoped to revisit the issue next year.

“It’s a very small action that we as a council can take to give some recognition to our veterans,” she said.

Sister City delegation to visit Japan

Expo trip to strengthen relations with Wakayama

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

Richmond council is prepared to spend $40,000 to send a delegation to Japan for the 2005 World Exposition, despite objections from some politicians.

Council approved the trip in principle this week, agreeing to fund the Richmond Sister City Committee’s adventure to Japan to visit sister city Wakayama and the site of the exposition, Aichi.

In a presentation to council last week, committee chair Sylvia Gwozd said the trip would provide significant benefits to Richmond in tourism, trade and education. It’s proposing a “Richmond Day” at the expo’s Canadian pavilion to strengthen sister city relations.

The committee told council the total cost would be approximately $34,000, with six members of the committee paying their own airfare, and that efforts were being made to arrange for home stays for the Wakayama portion of the trip.

Coun. Ron Howard said the Richmond-Wakayama relationship is one of the 15 most active sister city relationships in Canada. He said the trip would be a chance to share the excitement about the Olympics coming to Richmond, and suggested the trip would ring in well below what council is prepared to spend.

“Our relationship with Wakayama is 32 years old and much is invested in the relationship. I think we need to work at maintaining that,” he said.

Coun. Bill McNulty called the trip’s budget “responsible” and challenged council members who choose to join the group to ante up $1,000 to cover travel costs.

“Everybody thinks we’re on the free ride. We’re not,” said McNulty.

But just how much the trip will cost is not known.

Coun. Linda Barnes said she can’t support the trip until the amount of staff time needed to organize it is determined.

“My concern is that we need to know how much and we need to have the details ironed out before final approval.”

Mayor Malcolm Brodie, the only other council member to oppose the trip, agreed.

“I believe the sister city relationship is one of the most important relationships we have with the city,” he said.

“However, I think that we need far more information than we now have.”

The committee already travelled to Japan in 2002, Brodie noted. Since then, a Japanese delegation has made one official visit to Richmond.

Busy Byrnes helps out for a cause

Vancouver bluesman to play Richmond diabetes fundraiser

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

Already a songwriter, singer, musician, actor and narrator, Vancouver’s Jim Byrnes is adding something else to his schedule—a stop in Richmond this Saturday for a diabetes fundraiser.

The cause is close to his heart. His mother is diabetic, and since he lost his legs in a car accident almost 30 years ago, Byrnes can relate to those with the disease who seek treatment too late.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of people who have lost their limb or part of their limb to the disease, so it’s something that’s touched me in a way,” says the 56-year-old.

“Once you have (diabetes), you’ve got it. Even if you don’t have it, I’m sure somebody you know does or somebody you’re related to very well may.”

The local bluesman will perform at the Best Chance Cabaret this Saturday at Mayfair Lakes Golf and Country Club, presented by the Chinese Federation of Commerce of Canada and the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Byrnes, a member of the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame, is a legend in Vancouver. He wears many hats, but his first love—other than family—is music.

“Music is a very special gift. It’s a gift you’re given and is so great to share. There’s something so great about being a musician.”

It’s been over 20 years since the release of his first album, Burning, but performing still intrigues him. A good show, he says, is more than the sum of its parts.

“People often ask me, are you still playing music, and I have to say to them, if I didn’t, I’d explode.

“You put this energy out to an audience, and they’ll respond to you in one way or another, and when it’s right, the response you really leaves you with a tremendously alive feeling.”

Juggling all of his show-biz hats is demanding, but his current pace is no longer one of hectic frenzy. Gone are the days of 1986, when Byrnes hit the road for 300 shows, including performing in Edinburgh, Scotland and Vancouver—on the same day.

He recently returned to the studio after going nine years without recording an album. Fresh Horses, released in March, is named after new bandmates half his age. It features Byrnes’ familiar gruff blues sound, but its acoustic rhythms are decidedly more soulful than previous bar-band mixes.

“I feel so positive with the music, and I’m so happy with what’s going on again and I’m having such a good time playing. Every now and then you need a little shake up and revitalize yourself, and this has done it for me.”

Byrnes is also keeping his hand in acting. Best known for roles in the TV shows Wiseguy and Highlander, the actor now has a regular part as an offscreen voice in the science-fiction series Andromeda.

He’s also still seen in TV commercials and movies, including a cameo in the locally-shot film Edison, due out next year, starring Kevin Spacey, Justin Timberlake and Morgan Freeman.

His diverse success began after the tragic car accident that claimed his legs. He found strength in music and in others who challenged him to reinvent his career. It’s partly why he ends his concerts with words of advice from his mother: “Just try to be good to each other.”

All proceeds from Saturday’s event go to the Canadian Diabetes Association, which provides a kids’ camp, nutrition classes and outreach programs. It also supports diabetes research, advocacy and information. For ticket information, call 604-732-1331 ext. 233.

John Horton’s latest exhibition explores life at sea

Daniel Pi, South Delta Leader

The doormat to John Horton’s Richmond townhouse reads “Welcome Aboard,” and it’s just the beginning of a maritime theme inside the house beginning with a boat practically sailing off the canvas.

Horton, a renowned marine artist who has had his work exhibited around the world, will show 50 paintings at Tsawwassen’s Marshall Clark Galleries beginning tomorrow.

The works span historical depictions of Capt. George Vancouver’s exploration of the West Coast, and pastoral scenes of shore life and fishermen drawn from West and East Coast inspiration, to recent Canadian Armed Forces naval combat and training operations.

The exhibition, titled “Through A Mariner’s Eye,” will be opened tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. by Commodore Roger Girouard, commander of all the Canadian naval ships stationed in the Pacific.

Horton paints with realism in mind and his oil paints look almost alive on the canvas. The waves reflect sun or moon light and the ships, weathered with detail, are impressive.

That amount of detail can only be gained from first-hand experience, something Horton gets a lot of these days as the first artist commissioned to do work for the new Canadian Forces Artist Program.

His first project sent him to the Arabian Sea in May 2002 with the Canadian fleet during Operation Apollo, Canada’s contribution to the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.

Whether it’s riding on naval ships during operations or sailing in his 52-foot boat along the West Coast, Horton absorbs what he sees, and with the help of photos and quick watercolour sketches, he turns theses efforts into a breathtaking painting.

“Because of the nature of what it is I’m painting, I can’t sit there and paint it,” Horton said. “It’s all moving. I take a lot of pictures and take the elements I want and I have to put it together into a picture to hang on a wall.”

Horton’s most recent trip was a day on board the Victoria-class submarine HMCS Windsor, one of four subs Canada purchased from the U.K.

While small and crowded, Horton said he was impressed with the complex submarine. “I think they will serve Canada well.”

Just days after his trip, news of a fire crippling the HMCS Chicoutimi made headlines. Nine crew members were injured and one of them, Lieut. Chris Saunders, died while being airlifted to hospital. In retrospect, Horton said he didn’t have any fears about being in a submarine. Accidents happen out at sea, he said, something he understands from his service in the Royal Navy.

Known for his paintings of the mariner’s life, Horton said he’s still pushing himself as a painter saying one thing that was missing in his artworks were the people behind the ships. That is until now.

From his trip during Operation Apollo and another on an eight-nation naval exercise in the Pacific called RIMPAC 2004, Horton is beginning to paint the people who operate the ships.

And that, he said, “is just me growing.”

The show runs until Nov. 21 at the Marshall Clark Galleries (1625 56th St., Tsawwassen). Call 604-943-6033 for information.

Gateway season takes off in fine form

Review, Matthew Hoekstra

  • Here on the Flight Path, by Norm Foster.
  • Stars Jennifer Lines and David Mackay.
  • Directed by Rachel Ditor.
  • Runs until Nov. 6 at Gateway Theatre’s MainStage (6500 Gilbert Rd.).
  • Ticket info: 604-270-1812 or

Love is a tar pit, as one character in Here on the Flight Path quips, and Gateway’s production of the popular Canadian play fashions an amusing intimacy between its characters who help each other climb out of it.

Norm Foster’s clever script is crafted with comedy but does allow serious moments, which connect the audience with the stage. First produced in 1997, Foster’s play arrived in Richmond last Thursday.

The hilarious two-hander is set on the top-floor balconies of Aurora Terrace Apartments, overlooking the big city. John Cummings, a divorced newspaper columnist played by David Mackay, relates the story of his last three-and-a-half years, much of it spent on his balcony.

The plot follows John’s relationships with three women who come and go in John’s next-door apartment. Each woman gets his attention quite easily and helps John crawl out from bitterness left from divorce (his ex-wife took everything from the marriage except the items that “fell off the roof rack” while she drove away).

The three women, all played by Jennifer Lines, have extraordinarily contrasting personalities, but all arrive at Aurora Terrace at crossroads in their lives–between careers, relationships and homes.

The first woman is Fay, an unapologetic and likable hooker. John only discovers her trade later, allowing for comical observations about work and relationships.

Angel, a young “plucky” country girl who aspires to a life in musical theatre, is John’s second neighbour, whom he steers toward an unlikely solution on her rocky road to success.

Gwen is the final neighbour with whom John grows—a prude of a driving instructor who claims she left her husband because of his handkerchief and its “mucous roulette” on wash days.

This engaging and humourous show, which at times borders risque but avoids the offensive, is one of Ontario-native Foster’s almost 30 produced plays, and Lines and Mackay delivered sharp performances.

Both connected with their characters, particularly Lines, whose acting in three distinct roles required a high level of confidence. If anything was missing after the first act, Lines pulled the audience back in with a dynamic and hilarious display of Angel’s bumbling moves and song.

Mackay, playing a lovable, romantic and somewhat immature middle-aged man, had delivery. Rarely missing a beat, he kept the audience laughing.

The set is vibrant and features a tight stage, no doubt supporting director Rachel Ditor’s hopes for her actors–that the chemistry they had in the first audition would capture an audience come show time.

Missing was the feel of a big city.

Set on a flight path, the roar of a jet marked scene changes, but it was strange to hear the thunderous sound so rarely. Certainly the audience didn’t need to be hit over the head with symbolism, but the jet added a certain authenticity to the feeling of a big city, which otherwise wasn’t apparent.

At the final curtain, this production is focused, its humour seemed to resonate with most of the audience and it makes major life changes seem a little less impossible.

Farmland at the fore

Shaughnessy Golf Club eyes new home in Richmond

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

A prestigious private golf and country club is eyeing East Richmond farmland as a possible new home for its 18-hole golf course.

Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club is proposing a new full-size course for 72 hectares of land at No. 6 Road and Westminster Highway. The entire site is within the ALR, or Agricultural Land Reserve.

The club currently operates on leased land, belonging to the Musqueam Nation, on Marine Drive in Vancouver. The Musqueam has told the club it wants the land back when the lease expires in 2032.

Dave Wood, general manager of Shaughnessy, confirmed the club has submitted an application to the city through consultant Kabel Atwall.

“What we’re doing is trying to look for a future beyond 2032,” he said.

Wood said the proposal is “pretty preliminary,” but is “very positive” for Richmond.

“We’ll probably have a better story in a month or so when we go through the next few steps. We’re kind of really preliminary right now.”

Shaughnessy president Jim Sced said the goal of the club is to find an alternate site well in advance of the lease expiration so members would have two courses to play during the transition.

The proposed golf course would remain a private club, equipped with tennis courts, a fitness facility and a clubhouse. Sced said it would be a good source of employment for Richmond. The club currently has 85 full-time employees.

Shaughnessy was established in 1911. It has operated on Musqueam land at 4300 Southwest Marine Dr. since 1960, and boasts 1,800 members. The course is among the top-25 courses in Canada, and is the only site for a Professional Golfers’ Association event next year.

Full members of the club pay a $42,500 entry fee and $260 monthly dues. Green-fee players are welcome, at a cost of $250, or $100 if accompanied by a member.

Forty hectares of the proposed site is farmland currently owned and operated by Mitchell Farms, at 14540 and 14780 Westminster Hwy. Mitchell Farms used to be one of Richmond’s most productive dairy farms, but the owners have since retired.

The remaining 32 hectares is land now occupied by Pacific Coast Driving Range, at 7388 No. 6 Rd. Although within the ALR, the driving range is an approved non-farm use.

Sced said the club will only purchase the land if all approvals are met.

According to the city, Shaughnessy is applying for a non-farm use within the ALR for Mitchell Farms, instead of seeking to remove the land from the protected designation.

“We’ve been working with them since June and just going back and forth on some technical aspects,” said city spokesperson Ted Townsend.

The ALR is a provincial zone, covering 4.7 million hectares across the province, where agriculture is recognized as the priority use, and non-agricultural uses are controlled.

Golf courses previously were allowed to operate freely within the ALR, but now the Agricultural Land Commission requires proponents to apply for a non-farm use. According to Brian Underhill of the commission, there are no firm principles governing such an approval, as each application is judged separately.

But it appears Shaughnessy will offer incentives in the form of drainage and irrigation improvements for neighbouring cranberry and blueberry farms.

The proposal is expected to come before the city’s planning committee Nov. 16.

Coun. Kiichi Kumagai said club members have been talking with him about the possibility of moving to Richmond “for the last six to eight years.” He believes the ALR land is not actively farmed and has heavy bog areas mined of peat.

“I’m a golfer, so as far as having an allowable use like a golf course on agricultural land that can be converted back, I have no problem with it. I look at it from a positive point of view,” he said.

Coun. Harold Steves said he’s seeing the biggest run on farmland since the mid-1970s, and said more local farmland could disappear when current land disputes are resolved.

The Musqueam Nation’s claim to the 50-plus hectare Garden City lands, which are in the ALR and zoned agricultural by Richmond, and the possibility of a large Tsawwassen First Nation settlement are two examples, he said.

Steves also warned that approving the project would open the door to golf course expansion. And even if the land remains in the ALR, it would be nearly impossible to return fairways to fields, as the then value-added land would need to be expropriated.

“It sets a really bad precedent because the province already closed the door on this in the late 1980s and early 1990s,” he said.

Coun. Rob Howard noted economic benefits of having a prestigious golf club move into Richmond, but said he has questions concerning the viability of the farmland in question and the net benefit to the surrounding area.

Schools may not have a taste for junk food ban

‘Complex issue’ is a question of dollars for schools

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

Not all Grade 10 students at Richmond secondary agree with colleague Kirsten Essex, but the 15-year-old believes a ban on junk food sales in schools might be overdue.

“I think they should probably ban it because there’s no nutritional value in it,” she said. “We should get more health convenience food in our schools.”

Essex is not alone. B.C. Education Minister Tom Christensen said this week he is “interested” in banning junk food in schools after Ontario’s Liberal government introduced new guidelines for elementary schools.

The guidelines, which cover students from Kindergarten through Grade 8, restrict the sale of pop, chips and chocolate bars in vending machines to healthier choices, such as milk, pure fruit juice, granola and pretzels.

Richmond School Board chair Linda McPhail called it a “complex” issue.

“I think that it’s something that is not going to go away. A whole generation now of kids...are not physically active and certainly are going to have problems with their health. That’s what the medical profession is telling us.”

She said Richmond’s elementary schools that are equipped with vending machines only sell water and juice—not pop or candy bars.

Some secondary schools, McPhail believes, have an array of vending machines, while others like Richmond secondary have only pop machines, supplemented by a lunchtime store offering candy and chips.

McPhail said the school board needs to examine the issue, but said there are problems with a blanket ban on junk food sales. Many secondary schools are close to stores and restaurants where children can access the foods they want, and vending machine revenues provide income for school sports and clubs.

“We don’t have a district-wide contract,” she said. “Each school makes their own arrangement.

“In large secondary schools, you’re talking a lot of money.”

She estimated Richmond high schools make as much as $20,000 annually to fund extra-curricular programs through vending machine sales.

She suggested school classes could incorporate discussion of healthy food choices, and vending companies could be encouraged to stock and label healthy products and offer them at competitive prices.

Richmond Teachers’ Association president Al Klassen noted a greater concern than vending machines in eastern Canada and the U.S.—the invasion of fast-food giants into schools.

“What you’re seeing I think is a trend that started in the universities and the colleges and now it’s starting to filter down into schools, into public education.”

He said teachers are supportive of kids getting appropriate nutrition and making wise choices, but added eliminating junk food from vending machines would limit students’ choices.

“What are you teaching (students) about banning things?” he said.

Klassen also questioned where money for school programs would come from.

Defence lawyer slams police, Crown

Local man is charged in murder of Raymond Man Yuen Chan

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

The lawyer for accused killer Mark Thrower disputes the Crown’s version of events detailed in a B.C. Supreme Court ruling released Wednesday about the 2003 murder of Raymond Man Yuen Chan.

Lawyer Danny Markovitz contacted The Richmond Review Friday and said his client, a Steveston secondary grad, was upset Thursday by the story detailing the testimony of Maple Ridge’s Aharon Lee Campbell. Campbell, 23, pled guilty to being an accessory after a murder, and conspiring to take part in an indictable offense.

“The version of events that he has provided, which the Crown said is precise, is a false version of events,” Markovitz said. “And they know it’s a false version of events...

“The RCMP, they know that Campbell’s involvement went far beyond what he claims...

“I truly believe that this deal they made with Campbell was an example of the police and the Crown completely compromising their integrity and manufacturing...a version of events through a witness which they, I believe, know is patently untrue just for the purpose of securing, or in the hope of securing, a conviction against an innocent man. That’s my view.”

Markovitz said Campbell wanted to cut a deal with the Crown, and agreed to testify against Thrower, who has been charged with first-degree murder, in exchange.

“The police allowed him to do so on the basis that he was going to give evidence primarily against my client...who is claiming and will claim ’til his dying breath that he is innocent.”

Markovitz said he’s listened to the wiretap evidence obtained by an agent of the police, and said there’s nothing there that incriminates Thrower.

“Not one single (piece of evidence)...and I defy anybody to show you or anybody else one single wiretap which is even in the slightest way incriminating against my client.”

Markovitz said there are no conversations involving his client, or between his co-accused, that incriminate Thrower.

He noted that an agent of police—to whom Burnaby’s Michael Andrew Mercredi bragged and who wore a wire in which statements were recorded that provided sufficient evidence for an arrest—is nowhere to be found and won’t be the Crown’s star witness against Thrower.

“They don’t even know where he is. He’s not a witness against Thrower.”

Markovitz contends his client and Chan were friends, and that both were ambushed inside Thrower’s Burkeville home by Campbell, Mercredi and Vancouver’s Justine Nethanial Po.

Thrower’s judge-and-jury trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 28 in B.C. Supreme Court.

Thrower has apparently retained the services of one of the top criminal lawyers in the province, Glen Orris.

Crown counsel would not comment on Markovitz’ comments as the trial is pending.

NDP starting to sketch line-up against Liberals

Federal candidate Dale Jackaman will seek provincial nomination in Richmond Centre

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

Members of the B.C. New Democratic Party are preparing for a provincial election battle still six months away, attempting to secure high-profile members to oust the B.C. Liberals from Richmond’s three seats.

The NDP has just begun organizing candidates for nomination meetings, which likely won’t be held until January, but already Dale Jackaman has announced his intention to seek the Richmond Centre nomination.

Community activist Balwant Sanghera has expressed interest in running for the NDP in Richmond East, and Coun. Harold Steves has been asked to seek the Richmond-Steveston nomination for the party.

A provincial election will be held on May 17, 2005.

NDP members believe there is a new and growing support for the party in Richmond, but candidates will face tough fights against incumbents Geoff Plant in Richmond-Steveston and Linda Reid in Richmond East. (Plant has confirmed he will run again; by press time, Reid hadn’t confirmed whether she is.)

Local developer Olga Ilich is expected to be acclaimed during the Richmond Centre nomination meeting for the Liberals on Monday.

Ilich, president of Suncor Development Corporation, was the 2001 campaign manager for Greg Halsey-Brandt, who earlier announced he would not seek re-election.

In the 2001 election, NDP candidates in all Richmond ridings lost convincingly.

Jackaman, who received his first taste of politics in the June federal election as the NDP candidate for Richmond, concedes his riding will be a tough fight, but believes the Liberal government’s “arrogance and nastiness” has opened the door for his party.

“We went into the federal election knowing that our chances were very, very slim. But that’s not the case for the provincial (election),” he said. “(The B.C. Liberals) are running this province like they would a corporation.”

Born in Montreal, the 48-year-old Jackaman secured 15 per cent of the vote for the federal NDP riding. He said that campaign taught him a lot and provided his supporters and campaign workers valuable experience for his provincial campaign.

Jackaman is a 20-year Richmond resident and former member of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve and Signal Corps. He served as a United Nations peacekeeper, completing three tours of duty in the Middle East.

He graduated from college specializing in electronics and telecommunications. Today he owns an information technology consulting firm, is married and has a teenaged daughter.

Sanghera, 64, said he’s not yet sure if he’ll make a run for a provincial seat.

“I’ve been approached by a lot of people,” he said. “I’ll be making a decision in the next short while.”

Sanghera, who retired this year from his position with the Burnaby School District as a school psychologist, has been an NDP member for 32 years and has participated in every election campaign since then.

In Surrey-Panorama Ridge, Sanghera has been assisting in NDP candidate Jagrup Brar’s campaign to secure the seat, vacated earlier this year, in next week’s byelection.

“The Liberal government has been a big disappointment,” he said. “This government has hit almost every sector of the community. It’s time for a change.”

Sanghera emigrated from India in 1956. Married with two sons, Sanghera is active in the East Richmond Community Association and the Indo-Canadian community. He holds science and education degrees and completed his master’s of education at the University of B.C. in 1983.

Steves, 67, who has served on city council since 1969, briefly left municipal politics in 1972 when he won Richmond’s seat for the NDP in the provincial legislature.

Steves ran unsuccessfully in the next three elections, capturing an average of 40 per cent of the vote, but the lifelong Steveston resident said he hasn’t given another run at provincial office much thought.

“I’d say it’s a remote possibility, because I’m getting back involved in farmland issues.”

Steves recently stepped down as negotiator for the Lower Mainland Treaty Advisory Committee to concentrate his efforts on fighting the removal of farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

“That’s where I’m putting my efforts right now, and running for provincial office could get in the way of that,” he said.

The Liberals have held all three ridings since their creation in 1991. In 2001, Halsey-Brandt won Richmond Centre with almost 72 per cent of the vote. Reid in Richmond East and Plant in Richmond-Steveston won with 69.2 per cent of the vote. The NDP, which only won two of 79 seats that election, had less than 15 per cent in each Richmond riding, and in Richmond-Steveston, finished just over 300 votes ahead of the third place Green candidate.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Green Party is just starting to organize. It has completed two nominations of the province’s 79 ridings, but said no candidates have been chosen yet for Richmond.

Citizens’ Assembly to decide on new option for voters

New system could go to referendum

Julia Caranci, Regional Reporter

The Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform is poised to decide whether B.C. should adopt a new electoral system.

Assembly members spent last weekend detailing two alternative electoral models: a mixed member proportional system and a single transferable vote system, that they believe may work in B.C.

The assembly is an independent, non-partisan group made up of 160 randomly selected British Columbians (including one man and one woman from each riding) who will report its recommendations to the public by Dec. 15—then be disbanded.

In a mixed member proportional system crafted specifically for B.C., 60 per cent of the province’s 79 MLAs would be elected directly as constituency representatives.

The other 40 per cent would come from lists of names prepared by the parties with seats allocated so each party’s share of seats roughly mirrors its popular vote.

Voters would have two choices on their ballots: one for a constituency member and one covering the party list vote.

Voters would pick their constituency candidate through an alternative vote system, in which they rank candidates.

A party would require at least three per cent of the province-wide popular vote to get any list seats.

Similar mixed member proportional systems are used in New Zealand and Germany.

The system’s advantage is it diminishes the chances of having a government heavily weighted by one party, as it was in the last provincial election when Liberals swept 77 of 79 seats.

The current first-past-the-post system allows candidates to win seats with less than 50 per cent support from their constituency when multiple candidates run.

The person to get more votes than anyone else in a riding gets elected. It is the simplest method of electing someone to represent a constituency in the legislature.

But critics say the current system distorts voters’ preferences and produces artificial majority governments.

The other system under consideration—single transferable vote—allows voters to choose between candidates rather than parties.

Voters rank candidates in order of preference—those with the highest preferences are elected.

In a single transferable vote system, ridings would be amalgamated into larger electoral districts with several MLAs. For example, Richmond could become a district with three MLAs. Each party could be required to run a set limit of candidates, thus diminishing the power of the party and ensure diverse representation in the legislature.

Ireland has a single transferable vote electoral system.

This weekend the assembly will chose between the mixed member proportional system and the single transferable vote system.

Later this fall it will compare the chosen alternative system with the current system and either recommend no change or a switch.

If a new system is recommended, B.C. voters will have the final say in a referendum held with the next provincial election in May.

If voters approve the change, it will be implemented in time for the 2009 provincial election.

The assembly meets this weekend at the Morris J. Wosk Centre fo Dialogue in downtown Vancouver beginning at 8:30 a.m. Meetings are open to the public.

School district strikes committee to look at Sidaway School’s future

Matthew Hoekstra, Staff Reporter

The Richmond School District hopes to present a preliminary decision on the future of Sidaway Elementary School at a public meeting next January.

Declining enrollment and an aging building led the board to call for an investigation last month into the future of the Blundell Road school.

This year, students of Sidaway’s Kindergarten through Grade 7 classes total 59. Two years ago, the student population was 95.

Assistant superintendent Greg Ponsart will lead a committee comprising district, city, school and parent representatives who will consider whether or not the school should close its doors, or offer a different service.

Ultimately, the decision will lie with the school board, which should vote on recommendations by March.

Ponsart said if it was decided that the school should close, he wants parents to have enough time to make arrangements for next year.

Part of the committee’s analysis will focus on whether low student numbers have led to fewer sport and educational program opportunities for students.

“When you have such a small number of students, it’s very difficult to offer those students the same out-of-classroom experiences that you might offer at a larger school,” he said.

Last year, Sidaway was one of four elementary schools threatened with closure due to low enrolment. However, trustees voted to keep it as a school because of its unique value to the surrounding farming community.

Thinking outside of the box

Audio and visual display stand firm features unconventional products

Philip Raphael, Staff Reporter

Thinking outside of the box is not just a well-worn expression for Richmond’s Marcel Newell.

It’s a philosophy that has helped the founder of Avidworx Productions Inc. (Audio Video Interior Designworx) build from scratch a company that is getting ready to break through the million dollar revenue mark after being in the audio visual retail display business for just over a year and a half.

It’s also recently earned the Richmond Secondary School class of 1990 grad the Entrepreneur of the Year award from the B.C. Institute of Technology.

Newell, who completed the electrical technologist’s program at the Burnaby technology and trades school, said the electronic retail display market used to be all about straight lines—uninspiring, mostly wooden box-like structures that pigeon-holed car audio equipment on the shop floor of your average electronics store.

“There’s a rule in the woodworking industry and it’s called ‘CCM’—curves cost money,” Newell quipped.

Newell’s firm has conducted plenty of research and design to develop ways of working with a variety of materials to produce upmarket display units that break out of the traditional way of showcasing products.

“For the 12-volt, car audio market we’re the IKEA of the display industry,” added Newell’s business partner Mark Grenberg.

The display stands and shelves form Avidworx feature ‘swoopy’ architecture using vacuum-formed mouldings, curved aluminum posts, and sparkling European lighting fixtures to produce a high-tech, yet elegant and organic blend of lines and shapes designed to draw customers to the goods.

Newell said electronics firms, and the retailers selling them, want ways of marketing products that are in keeping with the image of the brands on display. And Avidworx is busy providing them with a host of options through the firm’s catalogue of designs, and even custom work.

But that’s what is happening today. Back in late 2002, it was a very different story. Newell was working for a Richmond-based producer of sub-woofer speaker enclosures when the business was sold to a new owner who moved the operation’s production offshore, leaving him without a job.

Undeterred, Newell returned to BCIT and enrolled in the entrepreneur program that was open to Employment Insurance recipients. There he learned the basics, and importance, of putting together a business plan.

“It made me get up off my butt and fulfill my dream of running my own business,” he said, adding the disciplines and realities business were clearly spelled out for him through the three-month course. “It certainly wasn’t sugar-coated.”

And it worked.

Newell was so committed to his dream, and well connected to the industry through his former job, that he managed to begin servicing clients even before finishing the BCIT program and officially opening the doors to Avidworx.

“I remember it well,” Newell recalls. “It was Boxing Day and it was for a company (Auto Sound Labs) in Fresno, California. They were our first U.S. project.”

Today, the company is aggressively courting small to mid-size electronic retailers in the U.S. to purchase their products. Here at home, Beamriders and Visions electronic outlets are customers. So was Great Canadian Casinos, specifically the new River Rock Casino Resort located at the old BridgePoint Market site. That’s where Avidworx was contracted to build the video security surveillance stations used in the high-tech surveillance operations control room which is reputed to be the most sophisticated facility of its kind in the country.

The River Rock Casino Resort contract led to another job for Great Canadian Casino, this time in its new Coquitlam location. And in the near future, Avidworx is scheduled to work with the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation to outfit part of a new casino said to be two to three times the size of the River Rock Resort location.

All of the design and production is done locally, something Newell said he is proud of.

“We’re a business with $1 million in revenue, and keeping things local is an important way of giving back to the community.”

Without giving away any trade secrets, business partner Grenberg said one of the keys to their firm’s success has been to focus the efforts of employees and outsourced work to specific areas of expertise.

“There’s no point in forcing people to do things that they are not good at,” Grenberg explained.

One example of that was an outsourced woodworking company that cut out wooden patterns for the displays, attached hardware, and then assembled and boxed the finished goods. That changed when the firm was tasked to perform just the wood cutting jobs—its speciality—and the rest of the work was re-assigned.

With the $1 million revenue goal in sight, Newell and Grenberg are hoping to use next January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, one of the largest consumer shows in North America, as a springboard to the next level. And that is further penetration of the U.S. West Coast market, followed by expansion to the central and eastern U.S. markets.

“There’s so much untapped potential out there,” Grenberg said

And while they focus on winning a share of that, the two remain committed to keeping the business on local soil.

“I really haven’t thought about living anywhere else and have been trying to grow the business to the $3 to $5 million revenue mark in five years time,” said Newell, whose first job was a carrier for The Richmond Review. “And I have every intention to do that right here.”

The salmon’s incredible journey

Shorelines and Watermarks, Gordon Kibble

Flashes of silver break the stillness of the waters of Steveston’s Cannery Channel.

Incandescent shadows perform an impromptu ballet of aquabatics. Reflections of the sun flicker amongst the floating algae and seaweed camouflages their silver scales and the microorganism lunch that they are feeding on, allowing them some anonymity from the fish buyers above.

This is the world of the salmonid, and their world for all appearances is serene and uneventful, a world almost alien to the people purchasing the fish that one day these salmonid will become.

The salmonid, measuring no more than three inches long, will be feeding on the rich environment that the estuary provides. Salmonids need the cooler temperatures and the sheltered and shaded waters of the estuary, and they stay near the surface to obtain the oxygen that the fresh water provides.

These shaded areas can include marshes, small bays and inlets and the waters beneath waterfront structures such as what we have in Steveston. They are feeding in these estuary areas and acclimatizing to the saltwater before they head out on their immense ocean journey.

Chinook, (spring) one of B.C.’s most endangered and valued salmonid, is a species most dependent on estuary areas. They use the marshes and sloughs of the estuary as transitional resting areas en route to the sea, and appear more dependent on marsh habitat than other salmon species.

Chum salmon, for instance, migrate downstream in the spring with the largest concentrations being in the estuary. These salmon also use the vegetated sloughs and bays in the estuary as rearing areas before going to sea. They can be found feeding in and around the numerous eel grass beds where they feed on a wide variety of things, with one being krill, a micro-sized shrimp-like creature.

But how do these tiny salmon get here? Their journey began upwards of 1,000 kilometres away, some as far away as the Rocky Mountains. Their journey begins in the spawning areas—the hundreds of streams and the dozens of rivers that salmon use.

Try to imagine salmon only a few inches long making a 1,000-kilometre journey. Try to imagine yourself walking that same distance.

Pink salmon for instance, stop here for a brief few hours. They go directly to sea, making their journey even more perilous. In their only two year life-span, they will spend 18 months in the open ocean.

The salmon is an anadromous fish, being able to live in both fresh and salt water and an amazing aspect of the salmon is that it travels one of the farthest distances for a fish its size. Some species will travel as far as half way to Japan.

No matter what the species, from the spawning grounds to the edge of the ocean the salmon face many challenges and perils. Waterfalls that they will later have to swim over on their return journey, will kill many on their seaward migration and river rapids will take a further toll.

An example of that is Hell’s Gate, in the Fraser Canyon. This is an area of treacherous rapids and falls. It was here in 1913, when the Canadian Pacific Railway was blasting to upgrade its main line that they practically filled in that section of the river with blast debris. This in turn decimated the salmon run of that year, and it took decades before fish stocks were back up to be even close to the levels of that time.

But the two main perils salmon will face in their long journey will happen at and near the mouths of the rivers. Those perils are development and pollution. Whether it is industrial and/or residential development, if it happens along the water’s edge it’s bound to affect salmon and other marine and animal life. Shoreline realignment to permit waterfront developments has a major impact on salmon feeding and resting areas.

The Fraser River delta is one of the world’s greatest estuaries, and is at peril on many levels, development included. Since the last half of the 19th century almost 75 per cent of Canada’s wetlands have disappeared due to a variety of reasons and salmon have been most affected in these areas.

Salmon use the sheltered, shaded areas of shorelines for protection and for the cooler water that is there. Places such as half submerged logs, branches of fallen and dead trees and pilings of waterfront buildings will offer ideal residences for them to live in while they rear before venturing seaward. The same applies when they are resting up from their ocean sojourn, before heading back to the spawning grounds.

The Fraser River estuary is a key stopover on their amazing journey.

A fine day for Richmond

City gets $1.3 million in traffic fine revenues from the province

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

The provincial government handed over more than $31 million in new money to cities across the province Friday morning to help make them safer.

Richmond’s share of the pie, or $1.38 million, brings the total it received from the province this year to more than $1.8 million.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said the money could make a significant difference, but what it will be used for will be determined during discussions that will begin in the next couple of weeks.

“It was certainly money we weren’t expecting,” Brodie said.

He said the money could be used for a “mix of community initiatives and community safety priorities.”

Last month, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell told the union of B.C. Municipalities that the province would return all net traffic fine revenues to municipalities starting this year.

“This is part of our comprehensive strategy to help make streets and communities safer, so that British Columbians enjoy the best quality of life,” Campbell said.

“That’s why we are also working with mayors on a multi-pronged and comprehensive approach to address homelessness, mental health and addictions, and why we introduced the Safe Streets Act earlier this month.”

The revenues come from ticket fines and court-imposed fines on violation tickets.

Each city’s share was calculated based on their policing costs for 2002.

Since communities with fewer than 5,000 residents don’t pay for policing, they did not receive any fine revenue funds.

Stiffer penalties for street-racers

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

Police will carry more tools to deal with impaired drivers and street racers thanks to a new law aimed at making local streets safer.

An amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act will further empower police to take drinking drivers off the road and to deal more harshly with street racers.

“Certainly it’s encouraging that the provincial government is...providing officers with the ability to get individuals involved in criminal driving behaviour off our roadways,” Richmond RCMP Cpl. Peter Thiessen said.

For charges involving serious motor vehicle offences—such as street racing—in which drivers have been previously banned from driving, the amendment allows for those drivers to be refused a licence.

Drivers who receive a roadside suspension also now face having their vehicles impounded for a day.

In addition, there will be increased fines for driving while prohibited and vehicles can be impounded for up to 60 days on a first offence, and 90 days for subsequent offences.

Also new is a requirement for drivers with a criminal code drinking-driving conviction to complete a rehabilitation program before they can drive again.

Drivers convicted of three or more alcohol-related offences may be forced to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle which requires a breath sample before it will start the vehicle.

And in the cases of under-age liquor possession or consuming liquor in public, fines for those offences must be paid before a licence is renewed or obtained.

“Alcohol-related traffic crashes claim more lives every year than homicides, fires and drowning combined,” Solicitor General Rich Coleman said. “This government is serious about the safety of the public and this legislation sends a strong message that we will not tolerate drinking and driving in British Columbia.”

Suspended sentence for child porn charge

No jail for man who downloaded images of kids from Internet

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

A 55-year-old Richmond father avoided jail for downloading sexually explicit images of children from the Internet.

The man, whose name The Richmond Review has elected not to publish because he has a pre-teenage daughter, received a two-year suspended sentence in Richmond provincial court last week.

He pled guilty to one count of possession of child pornography and has been ordered to supply a DNA sample and to receive treatment as directed by his probation officer.

The man’s lawyer, Arne Silverman, told The Richmond Review Wednesday that a clinical psychologist assessed his client and found no evidence that “his arousal to child pornography has escalated to contact offences involving children.”

Dr. P. Randall Kropp wrote in his assessment: “Importantly, according to the police, Child Protection Services and (his wife) there is no evidence that he has behaved inappropriately toward his daughter.”

The man was charged earlier this year following a massive child pornography raid of a Fort Worth, Texas business by the Federal Bureau of Investigations in 1999.

A list of 250,000 subscribers was found at Landslide Productions, including those of 400 British Columbia residents.

Richmond RCMP began investigating local names linked to that web site more than two years ago.

The man said his actions never placed children in harm’s way and said this charge has already cost him “one arm” of his family.

He said he’s extremely remorseful and that he’s now paying his debt to society.

Silverman said there is no suggestion that his client photographed any of these children, or that he is a risk to other children.

He also noted that the man’s daughter was assessed by social workers shortly after the charges were laid.

The man’s doctor, a Richmond family physician who has seen him since 1988, wrote in a report that “I don’t see any risk issue with children in his presence and I fully believe he will stop his former viewing practice.”

While Crown counsel Grant Wong asked for a conditional sentence, Richmond provincial court Judge Ron Fratkin opted for a suspended sentence, but with strict conditions.

The man’s probation officer could require his participation in psychiatric or psychological counselling at the Forensic Psychiatric Institute in Vancouver, or an individual or group treatment program for sexual offenders.

Fratkin did not impose any restrictions on the man’s contact with his daughter.

But the man is barred from being in unsupervised contact with children under 14 years.

Charge downgraded in drive-by shooting

Man now faces weapons offences

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

The charge against a Burnaby man resulting from a drive-by shooting at a McDonald’s restaurant earlier this year has been reduced in seriousness.

Avtar Singh Kaur, 18, was originally charged with attempted murder, but that charge was amended by the Crown last week to six less serious charges. Kaur is now charged with assault with a weapon, using a firearm, pointing a firearm, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, occupying a vehicle containing a firearm and possession of a prohibited/restricted firearm with ammunition.

Crown counsel Grant Wong said the charges were downgraded after a review of the evidence gathered by police.

According to Richmond RCMP, the intended target of the shooting was a 19-year-old Vancouver man, who had visited the restaurant and was chatting with friends around 9 p.m on April 28.

Around that time, a vehicle with two people in it drove past the group and several shots were fired in the direction of the Vancouver teen. The vehicle returned for a second pass moments later before leaving the scene.

The violence is believed to have been related to an altercation between the intended target and a 17-year-old Vancouver girl.

Police release sketch of robber

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

Richmond RCMP have released a composite drawing of one of three people involved in the robbery of a Mitchell Island recycling facility on Oct. 12.

Around 2:30 p.m., two men walked into Pan Pacific Recycling (13900 Mitchell Rd.) and robbed it.

One man pulled out a black handgun and pointed it at the head of a 17-year-old boy who was working there.

A struggle ensued and the victim hollered for help before escaping by running out of the office.

The victim saw a van parked in front of the plant.

The van was reported stolen from Vancouver and a woman was sitting inside.

The robber is described as a Caucasian man about five feet 10 inches tall, in his late 20s or early 30s, and was wearing a dark blue fleece hoodie with no markings. He had tanned skin and his face was long, with thin lips.

A woman who was standing near the van is described as Caucasian, in her late 20s, with shoulder-length curly hair and a thin build.

A man seen driving the van is described as having silver short hair, in his 50s, clean shaven, with a scruffy narrow pointed face, hollow cheeks and sunken eyes and a slim build.

Anyone with information about the robbery or the van, may call Const. Sandy Khungay at 604-278-1212 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Drug smugglers get three years in jail

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

Four young Korean nationals were sentenced to three years in prison for trying to smuggle 10 kilograms of cocaine through the Vancouver International Airport in May.

Yong Pack Hwang, Bo Young Kang, Mi Young Kang and Sang Yong Lee, all in their 20s, appeared in Richmond provincial court on Thursday, where they were sentenced by Judge Ron Fratkin.

The men were among six arrested in mid May shortly before they were to board a flight to Australia via Seoul, South Korea.

Two others, residents of Surrey who are landed immigrants, were not sentenced this week.

Charges were stayed against Sang In Choi, while Chol Hwan Kim’s sentencing will take place on Nov. 1.

Chris Argue, chief of airside and special enforcement operations with Canada Border Services, said earlier this year that five of the six men were carrying the cocaine in girdles strapped to their bodies.

They were all pulled aside and asked to make a currency declaration when the discovery was made by a customs officer who attempted to verify the information.

Travellers carrying more than $10,000 cash are required to declare the money under a new federal law.

Argue said there were reasonable grounds to continue the search.

Cambie student gets suspended sentence

Wilson Chan, 18, pled guilty to uttering threats

Martin van den Hemel, Staff Reporter

A former Cambie Secondary School student who was arrested in February for extorting a half dozen schoolmates, received a suspended sentence in Richmond provincial court on Thursday.

Wilson Wan Yiu Chan, 18, was originally charged with two counts of extortion but pled guilty to the lesser charges of uttering threats in both cases.

He received an 18-month suspended sentence and is prohibited from going to Cambie secondary or contacting some specified individuals.

He is also barred from possessing any weapons and must perform 75 hours of community service in the next seven months.

Chan and two young offenders were arrested by the Richmond RCMP after a couple of Cambie students saw what was happening and encouraged the victims to alert school staff.

School staff recognized the hints that were being dropped, and this led to a police investigation that culminated in the charges.

Police credited the positive relationships established between students, staff, teachers and police in recent years for helping to prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

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