Cristina Goncalves serves up desserts during the Salvation Army community Christmas Dinner, Saturday, Dec. 21. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Cristina Goncalves serves up desserts during the Salvation Army community Christmas Dinner, Saturday, Dec. 21. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

YEAR IN REVIEW 2019 December

December 2019 highlights from the Tribune

CIBC bank robber sentenced to additional two years less a day in custody

Dec. 4

The man who robbed the CIBC bank just over two years ago in Williams Lake was impaired by crystal meth and had been prescribed anti-psychotic medication at the time, Williams Lake Supreme Court heard Monday.

Christopher Michael Swain, 42, will serve two more years less a day for a guilty plea on one count of robbery. Swain received a five-year sentence in Williams Lake Supreme Court on Monday, Dec. 2, but was credited for time-served as he has been in custody since he was arrested for the robbery on Nov. 28, 2017.

Crown outlined Swain’s four prior convictions including a 1992 robbery as a youth where he was sentenced to seven months and a probation order, a three-year sentence for robbery in 1997, a four years and six month sentence in 2006 for robbery and a six-year consecutive sentence in 2011 for four counts of robbery.

Swain will also be required to provide a DNA sample and attend drug counselling as and when directed by his probation officer.

He is also prohibited from attending the CIBC in Williams Lake.

Longtime Tatlayoko Valley residents lose home to fire Sunday morning

Dec. 4

A longtime, beloved Tatlayoko Valley family lost their home to fire in the early morning hours Sunday.

Les, 84, and Colleen Harris, 79, who moved to the Tatlayoko Valley in 1968 from Michigan to start the Harris Ranch, awoke to an electrical fire in their home at roughly 4 a.m. Dec. 1.

“Everybody’s alright,” said one of their 16 grandchildren, Katrina Beauchamp, who grew up in Williams Lake and the Tatlayoko Valley but now lives in Nelson.

“Everyone was up and dressed and my grandma was able to grab my grandpa’s medication and get him out of there, and the dogs, but nothing is left. The house was built in the 60s or 70s and had two fireplaces — one on each end — and one of the fireplaces wasn’t working so they had electric heaters going and I guess one was faulty and took the wall.”

A GoFundMe established for the couple raised $17,595 by Dec. 23, 2019.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrates new facade at Williams Lake Regional Airport

Dec. 4

While it may have been a frigid morning, the smiles and spirits of council members of the City of Williams Lake were warm as they officially opened the Williams Lake Regional Airport’s new timber facade on Friday, Nov. 29.

The result of the collaboration of several local Cariboo businesses, a brand new timber facade now marks the entrance to the Williams Lake Regional Airport welcoming visitors and bidding a fond farewell to those flying out. Its simple wooden design embodies Williams Lake’s forestry heritage, while a carved cowboy hat to either side of the airport’s name acknowledges the rich history of ranching in the area and the Williams Lake Stampede.

Around a dozen people showed up to witness the official opening of the new addition with a ribbon-cutting early Friday morning with frost thick on the ground. There was little pomp or ceremony but Mayor Walt Cobb took a moment to thank everyone who had been involved in the construction of this project.

Cobb said this project along with other airport improvements has added around $1.5 million in investments to Williams Lake. It was completed thanks to a Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) economic development diversification grant and is designed to spark further grown within the airport. This project came about, Cobb added, thanks to the 2018 Airport Investment Plan adopted by Council.

Murder suspect Jayson Gilbert denied bail

Dec 6

One of two men charged with first degree murder, attempted murder and kidnapping last summer has been denied bail.

Jayson Gilbert, 25, appeared by video from Prince George Regional Correctional Centre for his bail hearing which took place in Supreme Court in Williams Lake on Wednesday, Dec. 4 and Thursday, Dec. 5.

Justice E. David Crossin dismissed the application.

A court ordered publication ban prevents any details surrounding the case and related court proceedings from being published.

City politicians push for electronic monitoring of prolific offenders

Dec. 6

Williams Lake city council is ramping up its request to the provincial government for GPS electronic monitoring of prolific offenders.

“Criminals are being let back on the streets on a regular basis and these are prolific offenders with 100 to 200 charges,” Coun. Scott Nelson said during Tuesday’s regular council meeting. “It goes on and on. The community has been extraordinarily patient, but now they are asking us to protect the community.”

Coun. Jason Ryll said he’s been asked what council is doing to stop crime and said many residents have installed home security systems, home surveillance systems and locking gates out of fear.

“I have a growing concern for the sense of vigilante-ism which I cannot endorse but do understand,” Ryll said.

Lakecity’s Cassius Ford having ‘tons of fun’ performing in Kamloops’ The Sound of Music

Dec. 6

An 11-year-old lakecity musical theatre performer has achieved the chance of his young lifetime to perform in Western Canada Theatre’s (WCT) production of The Sound of Music in Kamloops.

“(Opening night) was so much fun, some of my friends came to see it and they had a great time and it was so exciting just to perform in front of everyone,” said young thespian Cassius Ford. “It was sold out and my music teacher was there to support me, my nana and aunties were there, my grandma and grandpa flew from Winnipeg to come and see me and my uncle.”

Those involved with the Cariboo Festival Society might know Cassius, a young performer known for his love of musicals and his fine singing voice. In addition to singing Cassius, the son of Chris and Robin Ford, is also a dancer, a hockey player and most recently an actor on the Kamloops stage.

When he’s not playing as a goalie in the Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association he practices dance with Corine Stromsten of Dance in Common, and both singing and piano with his vocal coach Angela Sommer of Angelkeys Music Studio.

He is currently a Grade 6 student who attends Cataline Elementary, although he’s had to do some homeschooling this semester.

Clinton man charged with first degree murder for 2018 homicide in Deep Creek

Dec 11

A Clinton-area man has been arrested on a first degree murder charge in connection with the death of a Deep Creek resident a year ago.

The RCMP North District Major Crime Unit and Williams Lake RCMP carried out the arrest of Wyatt Lee Boffa, 29, charging him with first degree murder in the 2018 death of Jamie Sellars Baldwin, 43.

“Major crime investigators have remained committed to Baldwin’s family and the entire community in piecing together the circumstances surrounding his sudden death,” said Insp. Jeff Pelley of the Williams Lake RCMP, noting RCMP will continue to support the victim’s family, the community and the prosecution as the investigation begins to transition to the judicial process.

Chief Sheri Sellars of the Soda Creek Indian Band said she was thankful for the efforts of RCMP.

“We would like to thank the RCMP for their due diligence and work in pursuing a resolution to our community’s tragedy,” Sellars said. “This will offer our community members some closure. We would also like to thank our community members for their patience while the RCMP worked with leadership to bring this tragic event to a close.”

Major crime investigators would like to encourage anyone with any additional information regarding this homicide to come forward and speak with police.

Tsilhqot’in Nation and Taseko Mines Ltd. halt litigation

Dec 11

After several years of battling in court over a proposed gold-copper mine in B.C.’s Interior west of Williams Lake, the Tsilhqot’in National Government and Taseko Mines Ltd. have agreed to pause litigation efforts and meet in person.

Initiated by the provincial government, the two sides will have a year to talk face to face, said Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua.

“We agreed not to share details about the meetings,” Lulua told the Tribune. “It’s complex because our decision against the mine has not changed, but at the end of the day we are spending lots of money on litigation. Maybe we can try talking instead.”

When, where and how the meetings will unfold, Lulua said he did not know.

In a note on its website, Taseko Mines Ltd. chief executive officer and director Russell Hallbauer noted the intent of the dialogue is to try and obtain a long-term solution to the conflict and the parties have agreed to a standstill on certain outstanding litigation and regulatory matters which relate to Taseko’s tenures and the area in the vicinity of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake).

Lakecity to host Bantam Tier 2 Hockey Championships

Dec 11

Williams Lake will play host to a BC Hockey provincial championship this winter.

The lakecity and the Williams Lake Bantam Tier 2 Timberwolves were recently announced as this year’s hosts of the championships.

“It’s awesome, and it’s pretty exciting,” said championship host co-ordinator Mike Rispin of Williams Lake. “The last time we hosted [a provincials] was in 2018 with the midget girls, and that was obviously a huge success [when they won gold]. Arguably for a minor hockey event I’ve been involved with that final had the largest crowd I’ve ever seen in that arena.”

The BC Hockey Bantam Tier 2 Provincials will begin March 14, 2019, with a registration, banquet and travel day, followed by games running between March 15-19 at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.

Provincial government lowers rents for new affordable housing unit in Williams Lake

Dec 13

Many tenants who moved into a new 39-unit affordable complex in Williams Lake recently learned they will be paying less rent in January 2020.

The adjusted rent will see the 27 one-bedroom units rent for $690 a month and three two-bedroom units rent for $825 a month.

Back in July 2019, the ministry confirmed the rates would be $800 a month for the one-bedroom units and $925 a month for the two-bedroom units, which raised the ire of city council because members understood it would be an affordable housing complex.

Four of the units are renting for $375, which is the provincial shelter rate. Four one-bedroom units are renting for $500, and one three-bedroom unit that consists of two accessible rooms and one room for a caregiver is renting for $1,600.

City coun Scott Nelson said he would have liked to see all the units at the $375 shelter rate, but the fact the rents are being lowered on the majority of the units was good news.

Dream comes true for McLeese Lake fire department

Dec 13

Volunteer firefighters in McLeese Lake marked a milestone this weekend after acquiring a piece of property to build a fire hall, something the department have been hoping to get for a long time.

McLeese Lake Volunteer Fire Department president Ian Hicks said it’s been an extremely difficult six years getting to this point.

“There was a pizza-pie shaped piece of property down by the lake that was outside of the Agricultural Land Reserve that we were able to survey and create a legal agreement for with the local recreation society,” Hicks told the Tribune.

“One of our members has a daughter that’s a lawyer and she volunteered to create the agreement, which went back and forth to fine tune the wording.”

Hicks praised the Cariboo Regional District for being “totally on board,” in supporting the fire department in pursuing getting some land to use for building a hall and safely storing vehicles and equipment.

New Indigenous Court for Williams Lake

Dec 18

There will be a new, Indigenous court in Williams Lake, Attorney General David Eby announced Monday.

“Our government is committed to addressing the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in the correctional system, which has its roots in systemic discrimination and the impacts of intergenerational trauma from residential schools,” Eby noted in a press release.

Eby said the Province is working with Indigenous communities to establish Indigenous courts throughout British Columbia to offer alternative sentencing options that honour traditional cultural practices, support rehabilitation and acknowledge the impact the person’s actions have had on others.

He added that he was pleased that Melissa Gillespie, provincial court chief judge, has increased access to these more culturally appropriate approaches in Williams Lake by approving the community’s proposal for an Indigenous court.

It is anticipated that monthly sittings fo the new court will begin in May with a grand opening in April.

Pinnacle Renewal Energy and Esk’etemc First Nation ink three-year fibre deal

Dec 18

Pinnacle Renewable Energy and Alkali Resource Management Ltd. (ARM) have entered into a three-year fibre supply agreement to help feed the Williams Lake plant.

The two announced the partnership, Monday, Dec. 16 which will see ARM process, store and deliver biomass from harvest residuals to Pinnacle, which is currently in the process of receiving a multi-million dollar upgrade.

ARM is a forest management company owned by the Esk’etemc Nation, whose traditional territory is south of Williams Lake. Pinnacle and the Esk’etemc Nation have been collaborating to improve fibre utilization and to support economic development within Esk’etemc managed forests in recent years.

Tickets for second annual Vintage Valentine expected to sell out by Christmas

Dec 18

Back by popular demand, Vintage Valentines returns in February of 2020 for another night of burlesque, body positivity and some racy fun in support of the Women’s Contact Society.

New events starting up in Williams Lake are always worth taking note of, especially when they enjoy early success at their inaugural openings. When Kristen Foote of Kristen Foote Hair and Makeup organized the first Vintage Valentines last year she was blown away and astonished by the support it received, which made her decide to move forward in making it an annual event.

Last year the Foxxie Follies from Prince George came down to treat the lakecity to it’s first dedicated burlesque show with a wide range of acts and performers. For the for over 100 lakecity residents of all ages that were in attendance, the night was raucous and fun with the Ramada’s events hall full near to bursting.

Twenty-two all-time Blue Fins

Dec 18

The Williams Lake Blue Fins wrapped up the first part of their season during the weekend with some spectacular swims from the entire group at the MJB Law Invitational Swim Meet, said head coach Chad Webb.

Of the 18 Blue Fins who attended, Webb said 16 achieved a second swim in finals, which he said made for the most impressive meet the club has ever had in Kamloops.

“The club came second in points in the small team category for under 20 swimmers,” he said.

“The swimmers were amazing every day and then came back at night in finals and were event better. Some had 16-18 swims over the three days and crushed all of them.”

Knapweed, security concerns halt opening of new RC Cotton bridge

Dec 18

Unresolved issues between the City and the Williams Lake Field Naturalist are blocking the opening of the new Scout Island bridge.

At the close of the regular city council meeting Tuesday, the Tribune asked when the public could expect to see the bridge opened, and Hasib Nadvi, manager of planning and development, said not until concerns surrounding the possible transfer of knapweed from the RC Cotton site over to Scout Island and security issues at night are addressed.

Fortis BC to bring new outdoor rink to Chilcotin Road Elementary School in 2020

Dec 18

By this time next year, Chilcotin Road Elementary School in Williams Lake will have a lovely outdoor skating rink to add to its existing country charm thanks to the funds and efforts of FortisBC and its staff.

“We are always looking for ways to give back to communities and who doesn’t like an outdoor rink,” said Matt Mason of FortisBC.

FortisBC staff including Mason, Ryan Brown and Carrie Grant were on hand at the school recently to make the announcement and to have a look at the site where they and other Fortis BC staff and their families will take part in the company’s ‘Community Giving Day.’

Dog’s surgery cost covered by generosity of Cariboo residents

Dec 18

An eight-year-old dog is receiving life-saving surgery thanks to the generosity of people from Williams Lake and afar.

When word got out that his owner Susanna Crocker could not afford the estimated $3,500 for Dobby’s surgery because she lives on disability in Williams Lake, two local women stepped up to the plate and appealed on Crocker’s behalf for donations.

Dobby is a Rotweiller Bullmastif and was suffering from a perineal hernia.

By Tuesday, Dec. 17, enough money had been raised for the surgery, said Marilee Vickers of Cariboo Chevrolet Buick GMC who was accepting donations at her work place.

Students teach students at TRU wellness clinic

Dec 18

A team of six Thompson River University Nursing students came together to teach Nesika Elementary students about the human body, sexuality and drugs during a wellness clinic earlier this month.

As children near the age where they will start to mature into adults, questions will naturally arise about their health, their bodies and responsibilities as developing members of society. While teachers do their best to answer these questions, sometimes it’s best to leave it up to health care professionals.

This thinking, at least in part, is what inspired Nesika and TRU to team up on Friday, Dec. 7 to teach students in Grade 5 and Grade 6 about a wide range of topics the students themselves selected. It was the responsibility of six practical nursing students to then research each topic and share their finding in a digestible way at the wellness clinic.

Falcons hoops game beginning to take flight at LCSS

Dec 18

The Lake City Falcons high school basketball program has come a long way in the past two seasons under the guidance and tutelage of coach Harrison Stupich.

Stupich, after a successful university hoops career on Vancouver Island, himself, has now settled down in the lakecity with his partner of Williams Lake and two young children, and is working as a teacher at the high school.

When he took over the reins of the team last season, Stupich said he wanted to instill his love of basketball in his players — many who had little experience in the sport — which ultimately resulted in a bronze medal at zone championships.

The team will now take a break over the holidays before returning to the hardwood Jan. 10-11 for a tournament in Hope, then travelling to Ashcroft Jan. 17-18 for another tournament. Following, they’ll have two more tournaments in preparation for the upcoming zone championships where they hope to land a spot at provincials.

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