A local firefighter cans the devastation of the Interior forest fires. (Contributed)

A Year in Review 2017

We felt curiosity, outrage, and joy as we delved into the events in our world of local news

JANUARY

Sooke war veterans and schools were visited by a bit of Canadian royalty when B.C. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon stopped by to say hello.

Guichon toured Journey Middle School and Edward Milne Community School, followed by a luncheon at the Royal Canadian Legion, where she met with every veteran in the legion hall thanking them for their military service.

Also in January:

• RCMP checking on a burned-out vehicle on the Pacheedaht First Nation reserve in Port Renfrew found human remains inside. Police later deemed the death as foul play. So far, no charges have been laid.

• A network of freeways and rail lines needled through every stretch of Vancouver Island, a massive bridge near Campbell River connecting the Island to the mainland and trains rolling in and out of Sooke around the clock . It’s all part of the Vancouver Island Party’s grand vision of a more connected region, one it hopes, if elected as government, will create the Island as the 11th province.

• B.C. school districts received $50 million in interim funding from the provincial government to help pay for up to 1,100 new teachers across the province.

FEBRUARY

Sooke worst intersections and roads for serious crashes were revealed in a new report from ICBC.

The worst: Murray and Sooke roads, Church and Sooke roads, and Phillips and Sooke roads.

Total accidents recorded in Sooke in 2015 was 161, which included fatal, injury, no injury, single vehicle and multi vehicle collisions.

Also in February:

• Sooke Coun. Kerrie Reay announced she will not seek re-election citing what she calls “an unrelenting campaign of controversy” against her, council and district staff.

• About one-third of B.C. HandyDart riders say the ride service is not meeting their needs specifically when it comes to ride availability and wait times for rides, according to a report released by the Office of the Seniors Advocate.

• The new year started off on a high note for local realtors. Homes in Langford, East Saanich and Sooke are the fastest selling in the Greater Victoria region, according to a report provided by the Victoria Real Estate Board.

MARCH

A Sooke man who had ties to the Nanaimo chapter of the Hells Angels was found dead in Port Renfrew, the victim of a murder.

Michael Gregory Widner, 39, was last seen March 8 in Sooke and reported missing the following day.

Police have released few details of the investigation.

Also in March:

• Sooke residents saw a 5.5 per cent increase in property taxes. “Nobody likes a tax increase, but we’ve held them at near zero for five years,” said Sooke Mayor Maja Tait.

• Port Renfrew’s capability to transmit early warnings of a possible tsunami were bolstered with a new high-tech system set to begin operations within a year.

• The Victoria Regional Transit Commission delayed future expansion projects following the province’s decision to not boost the gas tax to help meet costs. The commission was hoping for a two-cent-per-litre fuel tax increase in the provincial budget.

APRIL

Sooke council floated a post-budget proposal to borrow $1 million as the district looked at solutions focusing on the district’s crumbling roads.

The condition of roads urgently came back to council following a long and unforgiving winter season, which left entire stretches of the municipality’s infrastructure riddled with potholes, bumps, cracks and craters.

Also in April:

• A new group is driving improvements to Sooke Road. #DividedBy14 wants to hear about incidents on the maligned roadway in an effort to create awareness.

• The Sheringham Point Lighthouse received the largest private donation to a lighthouse restoration project in Canada. The $550,000 was pledged by Westaway Charitable Foundation, an Ontario-based charity.

• Five people were rescued from a sinking fishing vessel near Sheringham Point by a Sooke resident and the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue. No one was injured in the incident.

MAY

John Horgan won his fourth consecutive victory as Langford-Juan de Fuca MLA on election night by capturing more than 50 per cent of the popular.

All that hung in the balance on election night was whether the NDP would win enough seats to carry a majority government.

It was weeks later that Horgan became premier, when New Democrats formed an alliance with the Green Party forming a minority government.

Also in May:

• Sooke received major backing in a bid for a new health-care facility. The Capital Regional District’s hospitals and housing committee and the NDP said it would create urgent care centres across the province.

• Juan de Fuca Electoral Area residents were introduced to a new emergency notification system through the Capital Regional District. The system notifies residents by phone, text or email in the event of a disaster or emergency.

• The District of Sooke announces a road repair plan. A staff report highlights six roads that “desperately need repair.”

JUNE

Sooke’s chief administrative officer and its former corporate officer filed for $38,727.74 in expenses in 2016 – more than double collected in recent years by senior staff.

CAO Teresa Sullivan billed the district $22,314.37 in 2016, according to financial documents. Gabryel Joseph , who left the district in March, claimed $16,413.59 in expenses.

Top expenses filed by the district employees over the last three years averaged about $10,000.

Also in June:

• Sooke and the West Shore expect a boost in transit bus service this fall, with 20,000 additional service hours earmarked for the region in December.

• Sooke Board of Education chair Bob Phillips resigned after 18 months in the position. He was replaced by rookie trustee Ravi Parmar.

• Three men were rescued from the Sooke Basin after boat capsized. The 12-foot vessel overturned between Billings Spit and Goodridge Island.

JULY:

Sooke resident Ken Davies shares his story about unknowingly buying cocaine laced with fentanyl. After overdosing, Davies was on the floor for 40 hours – 30 unconscious and 10 yelling for help.

His ex-wife eventually came to his home, found him, and called 911. Six months after, he still suffers from the incident, with no feeling from his knee down on one of his legs, leaving him unable to work.

“This screwed my whole life up. I went from making $6,000 to $8, 000 a month, to losing everything,” said Davies. “But I’m lucky to survive. I’ve put my family through hell, and I’m happy I get a second chance at life.”

Also in July:

• Sooke MLA John Horgan takes over as premier on July 18, after B.C.’s closest ever election results.

• Kenneth Jacob Fenton gets sentenced to four years behind bars for his role in the death of RCMP Const. Sarah Beckett, a 32-year-old mother of two young boys. He will also be prohibited from driving for five years following his incarceration.

• Four young Sooke residents, including Presley Banys, 11, Ella McDonald, 14, Luke Hopkins, 11, and Rhys Neveu earn their black belt in Taekwondo. The students are now allowed to start assisting and learning how to teach their own classes, but can continue training and in two years can take their second-degree black belt.

AUGUST:

Two Sooke fast pitch players – catcher Kyle Cowick and pitcher Scott Lieph – are selected to represent Canada in the 2017 Pan American Men’s Softball Championships in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

“It means a lot to move forward and represent Sooke, and not just to have one player but two players do it is pretty cool. So hopefully we play well and make everyone proud,” said Cowick. “It shows that Sooke is a hotbed for fast pitch.”

Both players said their goals for the championship are to show that they can contribute to the team, and to be chosen to play for team Canada again in 2019.

Also in August:

• RCMP arrest a 44-year-old man with an “extensive police history” for impaired driving after a high-speed car chase on Sooke Road. Six police officers arrived at the scene and witnesses say the driver had alcohol in the vehicle and was causing havoc on the road.

• Riverdale stars KJ Apa who plays Archie, and Charles Melton, who plays Reggie on the show, make an appearance at Sookapalooza at the 17 Mile Pub House. Apa ended up getting on stage with Jason Buie and treated the crowd with some guitar playing.

• Sooke psychiatrist and former Greater Victoria school board trustee Philip Ney is disputing a charge of animal cruelty in connection with the death of his dog, Star, last January. The dog needed a $4,800 surgery, which Ney was unable to pay for, so he took the dog home, fed her antibiotics and she ran away. The SPCA found her and said in a press release that she died of a ruptured uterus after birthing 14 puppies.

SEPTEMBER:

Desmond Vallee, 19, is charged with a single account of speeding after being the driver in the crash that killed Sooke teen Carter Navarrete last year.

Navarrete’s parents, Nicole and Mauricio Navarrete, have also filed a lawsuit against the District of Sooke, B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Mainroad South Island Contracting LP, with hopes of improving the safety of Sooke Road.

The suit suggests that the three organizations failed to address risk factors when they knew about the increasing amount of injuries and fatalities on the road. Both the District of Sooke and Mainroad South Island Contracting denied all claims against them arguing that Sooke Road falls under the responsibility of the B.C. government.

Also in September:

• Two Sooke military veterans, Elizabeth Steeves and Liz Newman, head to Toronto to compete in the 2017 Invictus Games. The games were established by Prince Harry and are for troops who have suffered both physical and psychological injuries.

• Months after the murders of Michael Widner and Bruce Carleson, RCMP are releasing few details, but say the Sooke Region investigations “remain open and active.”

• New after school affordable arts program, Amber Academy, begins in Sooke, allowing children of all ages and from all walks of life to learn about fine art and theatre production.

OCTOBER:

Mayor Maja Tait seeks funding for improved health facilities and programs in Sooke, and is optimistic after meeting with Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Tait has been working with stakeholders from across the region to advocate for a local primary care home facility.

The facility would create space for more family physicians, allow for urgent care treatment with extended operating hours, and give Sooke residents improved access to medical services.

Dix committed the province to a seat on the Sooke Region Primary Health-Care Working Group, which could speed up health initiatives in the region.

Also in October:

• Former EMCS student and current computer network electronics student at Camosun College Triston Line uses computers he refurbished to help research processors all over the world.
So far, Line has completed 67,592 tasks for a project that maps cancer cells, 30, 714 tasks for a project to cure Ebola, and have also helped with HIV/AIDS research, a cure for childhood cancer, a cure for Zika virus, and more.
Also in October:

• Sooke School District chair Ravi Parmar says district is “in a state of crisis” as it tries to deal with too many students and too few buses. The education board asked for an additional $175,000 of provincial funding to cover the cost of the 300 additional riders this year.

• Tour de Rock returns for the 20th year, and in celebration of the anniversary, this year’s team was made up of 24 members who are not only police officers and media, but also firefighters, paramedics, and community advocates. EMCS students raised $8,000 for the event, and in turn, got to shave their teacher Angus McCowan’s head.

NOVEMBER:

A 42-year-old man from Duncan who is well known to the police is facing charges of impaired driving, possession of an unregistered restricted weapon, refusing to provide a breath sample and dangerous driving, after a single-vehicle accident on Sooke Road.

Witnesses said the Jeep was travelling at excessive speed heading towards Sooke, and was swerving “all over the road” before hitting a hydro pole, knocking out a fence, and rolling into small ravine.

“So many calls were received on 911 it overwhelmed the South Island Operational Communication Centre,” Sgt. Jeff McArthur said. After a search of the area where the vehicle was resting, police found open bottles of alcohol and a loaded handgun.

Also in November:

• The EMCS senior girls volleyball team makes it to Island AA Island Girls Volleyball Championships for the first time in more than 15 years. The girls finished seventh overall in the tournament.

•Sooke residents joined together to bring Christmas cheer to a local man who is unwell. More than 30 people showed up outside the man and his wife’s house to sing. Melissa Brilling, who organized the carolling event, said she just wanted to brighten up the holidays for the elderly couple.

• The Sooke Philharmonic celebrates 20 years of making music, and founder Norman Nelson hopes this is only the beginning for the orchestra. “I remember our first performance well. We played the first Beethoven symphony and we were lucky to get through it,” laughed Nelson. “Now 20 years later and we’re still having fun.” The orchestra now has more than 60 members, and 12 of the original 14 musicians still perform with it today.

DECEMBER:

B.C. Hydro is preparing to sell more than 28 hectares of land at Jordan River, and the Pacheedaht First Nation is a likely buyer.

Two years ago, B.C. Hydro announced a major earthquake would destroy its dam and wipe out the community below and bought all but one home along Jordan River’s main strip.

Capital Regional District Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks expects the Jordan River lands to be part of treaty negotiations. The CRD land use committee has given the first two reading to a bylaw for the zoning change. A public hearing is expected early in the new year.

Also in December:

• Sooke resident Wendy Morton is appointed to the Order of British Columbia, the provinces highest honour, for her nationally recognized poetry projects and impact on the Indigenous community.

• A human foot with part of a leg attached was discovered at Jordan River, by a man who was out walking his dogs. Sooke RCMP handed the case over to the B.C. Coroners office for further investigation. This is the 13th foot to wash up on B.C.’s coastline in the last decade.

• The Ancient Forest Alliance discovered a “magnificent old-growth forest” located 10 minutes away from Port Renfrew, and nicknamed it FernGully Grove due to vast understory of ferns. The AFA hope to purchase the land, which is owned by TimberWest, and protect it.
• The new turf field opened in Sooke. The $1.6-million project took approximately eight months to build, and was created entirely by the generosity of local volunteers and businesses in the community.

 

Nick Walker won the Sooke 10K road race in March. (Contributed)

A Sooke firefighters tends to a fire on Sooke River Road. Three power lines were knocked down by a tree, causing the lines to fall onto the road and start a fire. (Sooke News Mirror)

Zoey Tremblay who raised $1,500 for Tour de Rock and shaved her head in support of the riders won the right to shave the head of EMCS teacher, Andrew McCowan to support the cause.

Just Posted

Thieves target Sooke school’s emergency supplies

Journey middle school victims for a second time

Hundreds go for punches at Sooke Slam Stiff Jab

500 fans took in the Sooke Boxing Club’s Sooke Slam Stiff Jab card on Saturday night

Physician assistants say they can help B.C. health care woes

Reducing wait times, improving doctor efficiency is the goal

Two people sent to hospital in View Royal crash

Crash on Island Highway near Six Mile Road snarled the evening commute

2 charged for feeding bear Tim Horton’s timbits

Court documents show that Randy Scott and Megan Hiltz have both been charged with feeding or attempting to feed dangerous wildlife.

Legal pot price must be ‘competitive’ with black market: Blair

Bill Blair shared final words on journey to legalization ahead of official day Wednesday

Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

The polls open at 8 a.m. for the 2018 municipal election with the general election taking place Oct. 20

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

Mayor of Kamloops says ‘history has been made’ with vote on B.C.’s lone pot shop

The store to be run by the province in B.C.’s Interior is opening Wednesday as pot sales become legal across Canada

New bus route to ‘replace’ Greyhound along Trans-Canada Highway

Rider Express Transportation says they will soon begin a bus service from Winnipeg to Vancouver

U.S. pot firm urges Trump to deny Canadian producers ‘competitive advantage’

The challenge for U.S. firms lies in the fact that while recreational cannabis is legal in nine states and medicinal pot in 22 others, it remains illegal under federal law

Government says imprisoned Canadian terror suspects must face consequences

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale showed little sympathy Tuesday for such individuals who now want to return to Canada

How rules for inmate segregation in Canada will change under Bill C-83

Federal government proposing changes to rules around inmates in federal correctional institutions

Canada Post union issues strike notice; rotating strikes could begin Monday

Union says rotating strikes will begin if agreements aren’t reached with bargaining units

Most Read