A local Kingston business owner believes recent vandalism is linked to 'faux-coming' weekend

WATCH: Vandalism across the downtown region during the second weekend of Homecoming festivities

A familiar sign along Division Street, the ‘Go Green Baby’ sign, is gone. The sign has been up for years between Queen and Concession streets and has been removed after it was vandalized early Saturday.

Owner of Go Green Baby, Amanda Findley, says, “I feel personally hurt by it. You know, we put our blood and soul into this business and we’ve been doing everything we can to support our community through the pandemic.”

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Security footage captured a group of eight people walking northbound on Division just after 2 am. Findley says while the camera didn’t catch the act of destruction, the audio is crystal clear.

“Maybe there’s a sense of entitlement that someone can just do what they want and not take any responsibility for it and that feels upsetting,” says Findley.

Amanda Findley filed a police report but says she doesn’t plan to press charges. This past weekend was a busy one for police, with officers dealing with crowd control and clearing the streets in the University District during a second consecutive weekend of homecoming celebrations.

One of three mischief calls was called in not far from Go Green Baby.

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Someone was attempting to remove signs at Montreal and Queen. Police were also called about people using construction signs to play tennis and hockey at Johnson and Toronto streets Saturday, and an airhorn was thrown through a window on University Avenue.

Another downtown business, Amadeus Cafe, located on Princess Street, shared on Facebook that their mascot “Uncle Fritz” was taken Friday night — but he was returned two days later.

As for Findley, she says she’ll be writing a letter to the Queen’s Alma Mater Society and Principal Patrick Deane.

She says, “It feels pretty obvious to those of us who live and work in the community that, with the timing of what was happening, that this is somehow related to the festivities that were happening for homecoming.”

Findley says despite the extra cost she’s going to replace her old sign, and is hoping her new one will be in place for the holiday season.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

London man facing additional charges for harassing women near Western University

A London, Ont., man is once again facing charges for criminal harassment for allegedly following a young woman home on Saturday afternoon.

Police say on Oct. 23, a 21-year-old woman reported a black Honda Civic following her at a slow pace on Patrica Street near Western University.

Fearing for her safety, police say, the woman continued walking and entered a home on the street where she contacted police.

The man then reportedly parked his car and repeatedly knocked on the door of the house.

When the woman did not answer police say the man returned to his car and sat outside the home.

Police arrived on the scene and were able to arrest the suspect without incident.

Saranjeet Singh, is charged with criminal harassment for repeatedly following and criminal harassment for watching.

Read more:
London man charged after 5 women report being followed near, on Western campus

Singh is facing additional charges for the same offences for three separate incidents involving five women last week on or near the Western University’s campus.

The first incident occurred around 7:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18, when police say three women, all 18, reported being approached by a man near Richmond Street and University Drive.

The unknown man, police said, jogged up to the women and offered what was believed to be cannabis. The women, fearing for their safety, walked away from the man, police said.

A short time later, the man allegedly entered a black four-door Honda Civic and followed the trio, stopping beside them and attempting to speak with them.

The three ignored the man, who then allegedly turned the vehicle around, drove the wrong way through traffic along University Drive, and approached the women again in an attempt to begin a conversation with them.

Western’s Special Constable Service (SCS) were then notified, police said.

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London police issue public safety warning after man, 32, charged again with criminal harassment

Less than 30 minutes later, around 7:40, another 18-year-old woman not associated with the first group, reported being approached by a man in a black Honda Civic along Elgin Road on the west side of campus.

The man allegedly gestured to the woman that she get into his vehicle, prompting her to contact police.

The third incident occurred on Oct. 19, around 5 p.m., also along Elgin Road, when police say a woman, 21, reported being approached by a man in a black Honda Civic.

The woman said the vehicle passed her, then turned around, “ultimately stopping directly in front of her,” according to police.

The woman continued to walk past the vehicle, but the suspect pulled in front of her a second time, prompting her to contact members of SCS.

Singh remains in custody and is expected to appear in London court Thursday in relation to the charges.

Anyone with further information is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Family of Scarborough father shot to death says they never imagined he'd be victim of gun violence

WATCH ABOVE: The family of a hard-working Scarborough father shot to death never imagined he would be a victim of gun violence. Catherine McDonald sat down with the family of Craig MacDonald, who says it all began with some sort of altercation inside a Boston Pizza restaurant.

Drema MacDonald has not stopped mourning for her younger brother Craig MacDonald since learning he was fatally shot in the parking lot of a Scarborough Boston Pizza restaurant two weeks ago.

The murder caught the whole family by surprise. Craig MacDonald was a hard-working man who had five children, two stepchildren, a granddaughter and got along with everyone.

“It could happen to anyone because my brother was just a regular guy and I’m telling you, everyone loved him,” said Drema, who said her brother worked at Providence Health.

He had worked his way up over the past 25 years, starting in linen services before eventually being named manager of maintenance and plant services.

Read more:
Canada-wide warrant issued for man wanted after fatal shooting outside Toronto restaurant

It was Oct. 13 around 11:40 p.m. when police were called to a shooting in the Cinemart Drive and Milner Avenue area.

They found a man in the parking lot suffering from a gunshot wound. The man was rushed to hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

On Saturday, the Toronto police homicide squad announced they had identified a suspect: 32-year-old Abilaziz Mohamed of Toronto, wanted for first-degree murder. A Canada-wide warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Police also released a mug shot of Mohamed and described him as armed and dangerous.

Abilaziz Mohamed is wanted for first-degree murder.

Abilaziz Mohamed is wanted for first-degree murder.

Handout / Toronto Police

Drema MacDonald said her brother, a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, had gone to the Boston Pizza with friends and family to watch a Leafs game.

While inside, she said, there was some sort of altercation with another customer.

“He came across this person and there was an altercation. I don’t know the details around that. That person left and later on when Craig left the restaurant with family and friends, that man came up and shot him,” said Drema, explaining that’s why police are seeking to lay the first-degree murder charge.

“He could have just left, but he waited for him to come out,” Drema said, calling the shooting a cowardly act.

Read more:
Shooting in parking lot of Scarborough restaurant leaves man dead

“You have a beef with somebody, you don’t settle a score that way. This has impacted hundreds of people.”

MacDonald’s mother, Diane Lobo, talked about the hundreds of people who came to her son’s funeral and expressed sadness after hearing about subsequent shootings since the one that claimed the life of her only son.

“The violence is just getting worse and worse. It’s got to stop. It’s just too much. Too many people are getting hurt and too many people are hurting,” said Lobo.

Craig’s sister begged the shooter to turn himself in.

“He can’t hide for long. He needs to turn himself in or if someone knows where he is, they need to contact police so my family can have some closure and resolution,” she said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Assiniboine Park Conservancy project aims help to protect polar bears from wildfire

The Assiniboine Park Conservancy says it’s working to help protect polar bears from wildfires in Manitoba’s north.

A new research project announced Wednesday will see the conservancy help map the denning habitats used by polar bears that may be at risk from wildfires.

“The Western Hudson Bay sub-population of polar bears is currently most at risk due to the impact of a warming Arctic environment,” said Dr. Stephen Petersen, director of conservation and research with the conservancy.

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“Protecting their denning areas from forest fires is critical to the conservation of the species in Manitoba.”

Female polar bears build dens to give them a safe space to give birth and take care of their cubs during the first months after they’re born, according to a release from the conservancy.

“For polar bears, the impacts of climate change include a shorter annual sea ice season, a longer fasting period on land, changes in the freeze–thaw cycles that can result in den collapse, and disruption to their food chain,” said Petersen.

“Climate change is also a key factor influencing the frequency and extent of wildfires, which can destroy denning habitat for southern sub-populations of polar bears.”

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The conservancy says the project will build on previously published work mapping denning areas across Canada using existing scientific data, knowledge from resource users, and new information about polar bear denning in Manitoba.

The data collected can be used by the Province of Manitoba in future fire management strategies, the conservancy says.

The project is funded in part through a $90,000 grant from the Canadian Polar Bear Habitat, a not-for-profit charity dedicated to supporting polar bear conservation in Canada.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Fluvoxamine, an antidepressant, could help to treat COVID-19: study

The drug fluvoxamine, commonly used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression, shows promise as a treatment for COVID-19, according to a new study.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Lancet Global Health, found that high-risk patients who took the pills shortly after being diagnosed with COVID-19 were less likely to end up in hospital than others who took a placebo.

“I think almost everybody at an early stage of the infection will benefit from this,” said the study’s lead author, Ed Mills, a professor of health sciences at McMaster University.

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The study involved about 1,500 people in Brazil who were randomly assigned to receive either fluvoxamine or a placebo after they had tested positive for COVID-19 and showed symptoms. The patients were all at high risk of developing complications from COVID-19 due to either advanced age or other comorbidities, Mills said.

Patients who took fluvoxamine were 32 per cent less likely to be hospitalized than those who took the placebo, the study found. Fluvoxamine patients were hospitalized 11 per cent of the time, compared to 16 per cent of placebo recipients. This effect increased when patients carefully took all of their drugs.

“The absolute risk reduction is huge in the circumstance,” Mills said. “What we find is that you only need to treat 20 people to prevent one hospitalization.”

The drug is relatively cheap and accessible, too, Mills said, costing around $4 for a course of treatment. This means a hospitalization might be prevented for only around $80 to $100, according to Mills, “as opposed to thousands and thousands of dollars if somebody is hospitalized.”

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Fluvoxamine belongs to the family of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs (SSRIs) and is currently approved in Canada and many other countries to treat depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. But this drug has some other effects that made it worth investigating, Mills said.

“One of the other aspects of this particular drug, for me, is that it has immunomodulatory effects. In particular, it has anti-inflammatory effects,” he said.

Dr. Emily McDonald, an associate professor of medicine and a scientist at the research institute of the McGill University Health Centre, who is also studying the effects of fluvoxamine on COVID-19, said the drug is an interesting candidate for treatment.

“It looks like it has all of those properties that we tend to like in anti-COVID medications,” she said. “It’s been shown to have antiviral properties in the lab, anti-inflammatory properties. It also has an antiplatelet effect, so that means that it decreases your chance of getting blood clots somewhat.”

So far, she said, while there haven’t been many trials involving the medication, they have generally been positive.

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Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist with Toronto General Hospital, said that while this research isn’t a “game-changer,” it might prove useful in some situations.

“This is something that might benefit the group of patients who are at risk of hospitalization, who are sick enough to at least receive some care and receive some medical attention with an outpatient COVID-19 infection,” he said, adding that he’d like to see more research before it is added to common clinical practice.

McDonald noted that the trial – which was conducted in Brazil – showed a higher rate of hospitalization in both the study and placebo groups than would be expected in a North American population. Finding out whether these results are transferrable to another population, especially a highly vaccinated one like Canada’s, would be valuable, she said.

Fluvoxamine is not currently indicated to treat COVID-19 in Canada, but Health Canada said it will examine any information sent to it by the clinical trial researchers.

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“As the drug is already approved for use in Canada, there would not be any requirements to approve it again,” the regulator wrote in a statement. “If clinical trials are conclusive, the manufacturer will be permitted to add an indication on its product monograph indicating it is approved to treat COVID.

“Health Canada will look into the final results of this clinical trial and analyze data in a timely manner once submitted by the clinical trial holder. We can’t provide a timeline for completion, just indicate that HC will take the time it needs to make sure the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.”

Fluvoxamine does have side effects, like drowsiness or stomach trouble, and sometimes causes more serious issues, according to information on Medline Plus.

However, the drug is generally well-tolerated, McDonald said, while cautioning that it can interact badly with other medications and as such should only be taken under medical supervision.

Mills said the next stage of research is to see whether fluvoxamine can be used in conjunction with other drugs to improve COVID-19 treatment.

“There’s a desperate need now to see whether or not this drug, in combination with other drugs, can give additive effects,” he said.

McDonald said it will also be helpful to find out whether other SSRI drugs can help with COVID-19, too, or if this effect is specific to fluvoxamine.

Although vaccines are the most important piece to get us out of the pandemic, Mills said, it’s important to have good, accessible treatments, too, for those who still catch the disease.

“The complex interventions for COVID, while there are some in the pipeline, they’re not going to solve that. They’re not going to be the solution,” he said.

“We need simple strategies. And that’s going to come from generic drugs and combinations of those generic drugs.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

'Disgusting' Halloween display featuring Confederate flag and noose haunts Kelowna resident

Warning: This story contains graphic content that may be disturbing to some viewers. Discretion is advised.

A Kelowna, B.C., man said he’s haunted by what he describes as a racist Halloween display, which includes a Confederate flag and a figure depicting a man hanging by a noose on a tree.

The resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told Global News the decorations he passed by at a Richter Street home in the city’s north end are ignorant and brought him to tears.

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“As a black man in B.C I feel like fighting against racism is an uphill battle with so few of us around here,” the resident said in an email.

“I looked over at a tree in front of the house and saw they had a figure hanging from a noose. Black latex gloves for hands and a stuffed black piece of cloth for a head….We all know what this is. I had asked to be excused from my exam and went home to just cry and get my frustrations out.”

A viewer sent this photo to Global News, appearing to show a male figure hanging from a tree with a noose around its neck. Credit: Castanet

A viewer sent this photo to Global News, appearing to show a male figure hanging from a tree with a noose around its neck. Credit: Castanet

Submitted

When a Global News crew arrived at the site, the mannequin had been taken down from the tree and the noose removed from around its neck. It was propped up against the house.

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The large Confederate flag, a common white supremacist symbol, was still erected above the home.

A Confederate flag with a skull face wearing a cowboy hat that says "CSA," or the Confederate States of America, hangs above the Kelowna home.

A Confederate flag with a skull face wearing a cowboy hat that says "CSA," or the Confederate States of America, hangs above the Kelowna home.

Global News

The detailed spooky display also included fake zombies, skeletons, dragons and tombstones.

The homeowner did not respond to a request for comment.

Bruce Ganton lives beside the home in question and said his neighbour creates a shocking display every year before Halloween, and he didn’t see anything wrong with it.

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“As you can see from the display, he has gone to great lengths to make it look really Halloweeny, and I don’t think there is a sinister thought behind anything he does,” Ganton said.

A Kelowna RCMP cruiser was parked outside the home when Global News arrived at the home.

At approximately 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Kelowna RCMP issued a statement saying it was investigating the display.

The male figure, which was spotted hanging from a tree by a noose, had been taken down when a Global News crew arrived at the home on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.

The male figure, which was spotted hanging from a tree by a noose, had been taken down when a Global News crew arrived at the home on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.

Global News

“We have opened an investigation in relation to the circumstances of the effigy and the flag at that location,” said Insp. Adam MacIntosh.

An effigy is a life-size sculptural representation of a specific person.

“We are taking this incident extremely seriously and are collectively working with City By-Laws as to the appropriate course of action. These symbols only serve to fuel hatred and division and such behaviour cannot be tolerated in our community and society.”

Mounties are attempting to reach the resident of the home in regards to the display and will be requesting the flag also be removed, police said.

“The City of Kelowna is encouraged and grateful to the RCMP for following up on this terrible public display,” said Kelowna Colin Basran in the release.

“There’s no place in Kelowna for this kind of racist imagery, which is hurtful to people of colour and all who cherish an inclusive community.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Former Alberta UCP staffer alleges sexual harassment, heavy drinking in lawsuit against premier's office

A former chief of staff at the Alberta legislature is suing Premier Jason Kenney's office, claiming she was wrongfully terminated after raising concerns over sexual harassment and intoxication among employees and elected officials.

A former UCP staff member has launched a lawsuit against the office of the premier of Alberta and it has at least one UCP MLA calling on Jason Kenney to resign.

In a statement of claim filed Oct. 1, Ariella Kimmel — the former chief of staff to the minister of jobs, economy and innovation — alleges sexual harassment, fabrication rumours of her leaking stories and heavy drinking by ministers and senior staffers inside the legislature.

None of the allegations has been proven in court. A statement of defence has not yet been filed.

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The statement of claim says that on Oct. 19, 2020, Kimmel went into the office of Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen, where she discovered him drinking alcohol with another chief of staff. The statement also notes Kimmel was previously in an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with Dreeshen prior to her role as chief of staff.

The pair in the office told Kimmel they were going to another legislative office for drinks, to which Kimmel said she would meet them there after she finished work.

Later that evening, the statement claims Kimmel met the pair at another minister’s office, where they had been joined by another minister, staffer and a former MLA.

“The plaintiff immediately observed that all the individuals were heavily intoxicated,” the statement of claim reads.

Kimmel was concerned about how intoxicated Dreeshen was and encouraged him to stop drinking, after which he “aggressively yelled at her to the point of where she was in tears and a concerned bystander intervened,” the statement alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that on Oct. 21, a group of staff gathered in the then-health minister’s office, during which time Ivan Bernardo — a principal secretary in Kenney’s government — made a sexually inappropriate comment to one of Kimmel’s female staff members.

“Mr. Bernardo looked at this female’s body and told her ‘I haven’t seen you on this floor before because with a body like that, I would have noticed you!'” the statement reads.

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The next day, Kimmel reported the incident to the chief of staff to the health minister, as well as the premier’s director of issues management, according to the statement of claim.

About a month later, on Nov. 17, Kenney’s principal secretary met with Kimmel and allegedly told her Bernardo “was not going to be fired” and had decided to leave his post by the end of the year.

Kimmel alleges repeated attempts to have her issues addressed were ignored, before she was eventually fired this past February. Kimmel is seeking just under $400,000 in damages.

The government has responded to the allegations. In a statement Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney’s chief of staff said sexual harassment is abhorrent and has no place in our workplaces or society.

“Any Government employee who believes they have witnessed or been personally subjected to harassment is strongly encouraged to come forward so that appropriate action can be taken,” Pam Livingston said.

“We cannot comment on the specifics of confidential human resource matters, but note that Mr. Bernardo has not been an employee of the Government of Alberta since December 2020.

“The decision to end Ms. Kimmel’s employment with the government was unrelated to the matters contained in her statement of claim. The government will fully respond to the allegations in court as appropriate and required,” the statement continues.

“This government has zero tolerance for harassment and takes all allegations of this nature very seriously.”

“The government will also initiate an independent review of human resource policies for political staff, ensuring that processes are clear and that all staff are fully aware of procedures and policies.”

The statement goes on to say respect in the workplace training is already mandatory for all government employees, including political staff.

In a statement, Bernardo said:

“This matter is now before the courts. It would be inappropriate for me to comment in any manner on the statements made within the claim, as I will likely be called as a witness in any proceedings. I welcome an independent and impartial review by the court, and I look forward to providing my testimony.”

Global News has reached out to Dreeshen’s office for comment and will update this story once a response is received.

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Responding to a question about the allegations by NDP MLA Janis Irwin during question period Wednesday afternoon, Kenney said sexual harassment and harassment of any kind is always abhorrent.

“We must have workplaces and society that is free of that harassment. People who have been victims of harassment must feel comfortable to come forward to tell their stories and to see action taken,” Kenney said.

“In this instance, Mr. Speaker, I was informed by my chief of staff late last fall about rumours circulating about inappropriate comments being made to female staffers by that individual. I was assured that action was being taken and shortly thereafter, that individual’s contract ended with the government.”

Irwin pressed Kenney on the issue, asking whether any matter like this in the future will be investigated by an external body.

Kenney said “we are appointing an independent review to advise the government of how to improve human resources practices for political staff so that they know that they are safe to come forward to report their experiences to ensure that action is taken.”

In the wake of the allegations, a member of UCP caucus is calling on the premier to step down.

In a tweet sent Wednesday, MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore Leela Aheer said in part “Ariella Kimmel is an incredible and courageous women. Premier Kenney-you knew! Step down!”

At the Alberta legislature later Wednesday, Aheer went on to say “this is failure of leadership and a failure of being human.”

“When a person discloses that harassment is happening, we have a responsibility to follow through with that and find out and at least make sure that that person is safe within the organization that they’re in,” she said.

“Premier Kenney should step down.”

Kimmel’s lawyer said in a statement that everyone deserves a safe work environment free from harassment.

“Political staffers are often forced to suffer in silence and have little to no recourse. It is wrong, and it needs to end. Politicians need to lead by example. Every political office should have a clear sexual harassment policy and no political staffer should ever be fired from his or her job for blowing the whistle on sexual harassment, as was done in this case,” Kathryn Marshall.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

2 charged, replica firearm and drugs seized in theft probe, London police say

A 39-year-old from London, Ont., and a 35-year-old from St. Thomas, Ont., are facing drug and theft charges in connection with a theft at a Wellington Road South store, London police say.

Officers responded to the scene at 1105 Wellington Rd. S around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday for a reported theft, and upon arrival, say two suspects attempted to flee but were taken into custody.

Police allege they seized a replica firearm, $1,107 in Canadian cash, 21 grams of cocaine, seven grams of crack cocaine, 21.5 oxycodone pills, 63 grams of cutting agent, and two cell phones.

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Both accused face charges of possession of a Schedule I substance for the purpose of trafficking, possession of a Schedule I substance, and theft under $5,000.

The 35-year-old faces an additional charge of dangerous operation of a conveyance, and flight from a police officer, police said.

The 39-year-old appeared in court in London on Wednesday, while the 35-year-old is expected to appear in court on Jan. 21, 2022, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Staff at B.C.'s 911 dispatcher flagged understaffing up to a year before deadly heat wave: emails

Troy Clifford, president of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, shares with Global News how the heat wave starting in late June impacted dispatchers and paramedics on the job. Calls for ambulance service spiked during this time and a review by the B.C. coroner service found 570 sudden or unexplained deaths were heat-related, a 300-per-cent increase over what they would normally see during that week.

Senior management at B.C.’s emergency dispatching agency were expressing concerns about understaffing up to a year before the historic heat dome in June that led to the deaths of more than 500 people, emails released through freedom of information requests show.

According to internal emails released by the BC Liberals this week, senior leaders at E-Comm were discussing how to communicate their concerns about 911-call wait times and lengthy delays in ambulance response.

The emails show at one point, E-Comm bosses felt so frustrated that they considered holding a news conference to directly appeal to the government.

“The message we need to land with (BC Ambulance Service) is that their answer delays are compromising provincial 911 service delivery,” reads one email from executive director Suzanne Halliday.

“BCAS is compromising public safety overall by negatively impacting 911 call answer ability due to delays with BCAS call answer.”

The BC Ambulance Service and E-Comm are both under the authority of BC Emergency Health Services.

In July, B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said 815 deaths were reported to the coroners service from June 25 to July 1 — a 300-per-cent increase over what they would normally see during that week. Temperatures in that time had hit the high 30s and low 40s.

Several reports emerged during the heat wave of people waiting hours for an ambulance or to even talk to a dispatcher, or in some cases, that emergency responders never arrived. Firefighters’ union officials said people suffering from overheating were showing up at fire halls asking for help after not getting a response from BC Ambulance.

Interim Liberal leader Shirley Bond raised the issue in Question Period on Tuesday, describing it as “alarm bells ringing” at E-Comm well in advance of a heat wave.

“British Columbians expect someone to answer the phone and an ambulance to show up when they call 911 for help,” she said.

“Call wait times had been steadily increasing over the 12 months before the heat wave and these documents make it clear that the crisis at 911 dispatch and the ambulance service was ignored.”

Bond read out a June 3 internal email: “There are spikes we cannot manage in our current underfunded model. BC Emergency Health Services is compromising public safety due to delays with their call answers.”

In response, Health Minister Adrian Dix said he is well aware of the challenges at E-Comm and raised his own concerns in public around the time of the emails.

“We were seeing an extreme uptake in the use of our ambulance service, such that I think that it was June 4 or 5, in that range, that it was the highest day of ambulance calls at that time in the history of British Columbia, except for New Year’s Eve 2017 and 2018,” Dix said.

“We have been adding extraordinary resources to our ambulance system. We’ve gone from a funding level of $424 million to $559 million.”

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The province has hired 30 new dispatchers since concerns were raised to start addressing the ongoing issue.

The BC Emergency Health Services board of directors has also been ordered to focus solely on ambulance service and to report directly to Dix, with former Vancouver police chief Jim Chu as chair.

“There are extraordinary challenges facing our ambulance system and health-care system today because of two public health emergencies,” Dix said.

“We are responding with more resources, more ambulance paramedics, more ambulances, more air ambulances and more dispatchers.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Judge finds man guilty of hit-and-run, criminal negligence in Brampton cyclist death

WATCH ABOVE: A judge has found a man guilty of criminal negligence and failing to remain at an accident scene causing the death of a Brampton cyclist. The family of Paul De Pledge says the guilty verdict is bittersweet.

Standing outside the Brampton, Ont., courthouse, Paul De Pledge’s family said they are relieved that the man responsible for the 39-year-old cyclist’s death was convicted on the most serious charges he was facing.

Pritpal Lehl, who has been out on bail since his arrest three years ago, was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death, failing to remain at the scene of an accident causing death, and two counts of failing to comply with bail conditions after a judge-alone trial this summer.

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It was Aug. 1, 2018, around 6 a.m. when 39-year-old Paul De Pledge, a forklift operator, was struck by an open-air trailer that became detached from a white cargo van on Summerlea Road as De Pledge was riding his bicycle to work.

De Pledge was dragged onto the curb and across a grassy area before becoming pinned between the trailer and a commercial building.

Video surveillance shown in court captured the van driving off. De Pledge was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police recovered the abandoned van about six kilometres away where two people had been seen fleeing on a motorcycle. The main issue at trial was the identity of the driver of the white van.

The Crown argued that the trailer had been stolen from a U-Haul lot about one kilometre away and that the van Lehl was driving was also stolen.

Justice David E. Harris found Lehl not guilty of possession of property obtained by crime in relation to the van he was driving at the time of the fatal collision.

Harris found the Crown did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Lehl knew it was stolen. It had been stolen almost a month earlier.

Mark De Pledge, the victim’s brother, told Global News the family is anxious for Lehl to be sentenced to the maximum penalty possible.

“I don’t have any forgiveness, zero. I want whatever the maximums are. That’s what I’m hoping for. That’s what we’re all hoping for,” he said.

The victim’s sister-in-law thanked Peel Regional Police’s major collision unit and the Crown attorney who worked the case for all their hard work and getting justice for Paul.

“I don’t think there is anything that Paul could have done differently to avoid the situation. I think this person was just a reckless individual who has a long history of criminal activity and it eventually killed somebody,” said Keyden Gordon.

“It’s definitely bittersweet. It’s been a long three years of waiting. We are somewhat relieved we got the guilty verdict but it will never bring Paul back.”

A sentencing hearing will be held in January.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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