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Archive for July, 2007

OBITUARY: HUBERT O’CONNOR, 79
Disgraced priest left legacy of pain
Bishop convicted in 1996 of sex crimes against aboriginal women in the 1960s

TOM HAWTHORN
Special to The Globe and Mail
July 28, 2007

Hubert O’Connor, who has died at 79, was a priest and an educator whose predatory sexual practices were revealed only long after he had become a bishop.

The disgraced church official resigned as bishop of the British Columbia diocese of Prince George after being charged with sex crimes in 1991.

He was convicted in 1996 of committing rape and indecent assault on two young aboriginal women during the 1960s when he was a priest. He was sentenced to 2½ years in prison by Mr. Justice Wally Oppal, who is now British Columbia’s Attorney-General. After serving six months, the bishop was released on $1,000 bail.

The B.C. Court of Appeal later acquitted him of the sexual assault of a student at a Williams Lake residential school, where he was principal.

The appeal court also set aside his conviction for rape of a school secretary, ordering a new trial.

Instead, authorities agreed to drop the rape charge after the former bishop apologized to his accuser in 1998 at a traditional native healing circle held at Alkali Lake, a small native village near Williams Lake in the B.C. Interior.

At the ceremony, during which he listened to friends and family of the woman, as well as to aboriginal elders, he admitted to breaking his vow of chastity, though he did not admit to committing rape.

Afterward, Marilyn Belleau, whose identity had been protected by a publication ban, got permission from the court to have the ban lifted so that she could speak publicly about her ordeal.

“I was able to express to O’Connor exactly how I felt and how I had to live with the pain he had caused me,” she told reporters at the time. “O’Connor no longer has power over me.”

Reached yesterday at the Alkali Lake band office where she now works, the woman reflected on the healing ceremony that came nine years after she had filed a complaint with police.

“It brought a little bit of closure,” she said. “But it still didn’t undo the damage that was done. I still wanted to hold him accountable for that.”

The O’Connor case became a symbol for many of the difficulties in having the justice system handle aboriginal complaints of abuse at church-run residential schools.

News accounts of courtroom testimony generated headlines for several years. Two students and two workers, all over 18, alleged they were sexually assaulted by the priest in the 1960s, when he was principal of St. Joseph’s Mission School, near Williams Lake. As both an educator and an employer, not to mention spiritual guide, the priest was said to be a figure of considerable authority.

In an affidavit, Mr. O’Connor insisted his relationships with the women were consensual.

He admitted to fathering a child who was placed up for adoption.

In a second trial, he faced two charges of rape – as the crime was defined at the time – and two charges of sexual assault.

A former student testified he had ordered her to clean his bathroom before pulling her onto his bed and saying: “Let’s have some fun.”

A former secretary who lived and worked at the school she had also attended as a student, testified the priest came to her room when she was sick at Christmastime. She said he had promised her a Christmas gift of a statue of the Virgin Mary before feeling her breasts and trying to kiss her.

Judge Oppal dismissed charges that Mr. O’Connor raped a woman who bore his child and assaulted another woman, due to inconsistencies in their testimony.

The convictions on the other two sex charges were hailed by native leaders. It also led to heated debate in other venues. Hubert Patrick O’Connor was born on Feb. 17, 1928, at Huntingdon, Que.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1955 as a member of the Oblate of Mary Immaculate. He worked mostly with aboriginal communities, becoming bishop of Whitehorse in Yukon in 1971. In 1986, he was named bishop of Prince George.

He retained the honorific of most reverend and held the title of bishop emeritus.

The bishop had once said during a bail hearing that “if I had not broken my vow of chastity, I would not be here today. I have paid a very heavy price.”

His death by heart attack in Toronto on Tuesday was announced by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He leaves a sister and two brothers. He was predeceased by a brother and two sisters.

A mass is to be held on Aug. 7 at St. Augustine’s Church in Vancouver, which is where his ordination as a bishop took place in December of 1971. The mass will be followed by burial at the Oblate Cemetery in Mission.

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Violence and Abuse Against Indigenous Women and Children
(Warrior Publications)

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Delta paint manufacturer had tainted safety record
WorkSafeBC says Chemcraft Sadolin cited for lax ignition control

Kent Spencer, The Province
Published: Friday, July 27, 2007

A Delta paint manufacturer where a man has died in an explosion was once ordered to change the way it handled flammable liquids.

The 2005 order from WorkSafeBC noted that “flammable gas was handled without all sources of ignition being adequately controlled.”

WorkSafeBC spokeswoman Donna Freeman said the paint company, Chemcraft Sadolin Ltd., was ordered to make other changes in procedures dating back to 2002.

“The company had issues with non-compliance but did come into compliance. There were no recommendations for penalties,” she said.

Freeman cautioned against drawing conclusions from the order to safeguard flammable liquids.

“I don’t know how high-risk the order was. It could be completely unrelated,” she said. “We will look at the records as part of our investigation.”

Company violations in 2004 included failure to ensure emergency eyewash was provided and not supplying adequate first-aid equipment.

The explosion Tuesday claimed the life of a Coquitlam man.

Delta Police Const. Paul Eisenzimmer said the 53-year-old man had “serious burns and blast trauma.” His name was not released.

Eight others — most of them suffering from smoke inhalation as a result of the explosion — were hospitalized and released.

Freeman said investigators are trying to determine the cause of the blast and reviewing safety procedures.

“The explosion of an undetermined substance occurred at 7 a.m. at the start of a production shift,” she said.

She said the company focused “primarily” on making paint.

The plant has been shut down since the explosion, but Freeman said some areas which were not affected could be reopened.

WorkSafeBC’s report will be issued in a few months. Officials of the company could not be reached yesterday for comment.

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Police veteran skirts jail in child porn case
Former sergeant given conditional sentence for possessing computer images of kids

Glenn Bohn, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, July 26, 2007

VANCOUVER – A former Vancouver police sergeant who used his home computer to view more than 2,000 sexual images of children can no longer surf the Internet but won’t be going to jail.

John Alphonso Dragani, a 55-year-old man who once headed the police department’s school liaison program and its missing persons unit, was sentenced Wednesday to a 12-month conditional sentence with a night-time curfew and a long list of other restrictions after pleading guilty to one count of possession of child pornography.

Dragani’s off-duty activities were uncovered after U.S. federal agents passed on credit card and other information to Canadian authorities about the Canadians who had purchased “members-only” access to child pornography websites.

According to Crown evidence presented in court Wednesday, Dragani used his credit card one time on April 1, 2003 to purchase an $88 one-month membership on a child pornography site.

In February 2005, after Vancouver police received a list of suspects in Vancouver, police executed a search warrant at Dragani’s home, seized two computers and later retrieved images in an unused area of the computer’s hard drive.

About two months later, Dragani was suspended with pay and later retired.

Twenty of the images in his computer were displayed Wednesday in provincial court in Surrey, on computer screens that were not visible from the public gallery.

Crown counsel Daniel Pruim briefly described the pose or sexual activity depicted in those images.

According to Pruim, two of the images were of a child crying during vaginal intercourse.

Judge Peder Gulbransen, pointing to expert evidence that the photographs depicted girls who were about 13 years old, said some of the images were “quite disturbing.”

But Gulbransen said they are “not the worst kind” of child porn available on the Web and said it’s not unusual for the courts to deal with cases that involve tens of thousands, or sometimes hundreds of thousands, of those kinds of images.

The judge said he also put significant weight on a psychiatric report by Dr. Derek Eaves, who examined Dragani and concluded he was not a pedophile and there was very little risk that he would re-offend. The judge noted there was no evidence that Dragani was storing the images for viewing later or was sharing the images with others.

“There’s no indication that he was involved with improper activities with any children, at any time,” Gulbransen added.

Some of the other mitigating factors the judge pointed to was that Dragani had no previous criminal record and had decided to plead guilty to the offence — a decision the judge said showed Dragani has “got the moral fibre to stand up and accept his guilt.”

Some of the conditions Dragani must comply with during his 12-month conditional sentence: he must attend and complete a counselling program about child pornography; cannot possess or use any computer or other electronic devices to access the Internet; cannot be alone with children under the age of 14, except for his children and grandchildren. Dragani’s name is also being added to a sexual offenders registry and he has to comply with similar conditions set out in a 12-month probation period that begins after the 12-month conditional sentence.

Dragani, who now works for a tour bus company, chose not to speak in court before sentencing.

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Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers face sex-related criminal charges
(June 2007)

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Violence and Abuse Against Indigenous Women and Children
(Warrior Publications)

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Man dies from injuries in Tuesday’s Annacis Island explosion

Thursday, July 26 – 11:02:57 AM Karen Thomson

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A man who was severely injured in Tuesday’s explosion on Annacis Island has now died. The 53-year-old man was working at the Chemcraft-Sadolin manufacturing plant that morning when the blast and fire occured. He suffered serious burns. Five other victims of the explosion have been treated and released.

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Black Tuesday in Burnaby’s Westridge

By David Weir
Burnaby NewsLeader

Jul 26 2007

The stench of crude oil hung heavy over a North Burnaby neighbourhood as crews continued the clean up effort Wednesday, one day after a backhoe hit an underground pipeline, sending oil shooting up to 12 metres in the air and a river of the black gold flowing downhill toward Burrard Inlet.

At the height of the emergency, as many as 100 homes in the area where Inlet Drive links the Barnet Highway with Hastings Street were under a voluntary evacuation notice as firefighters tried to stem the flow of oil into the inlet.

But by early evening, the evacuation notice was scaled back to the 11 homes most seriously affected on Belcarra Drive.

Meanwhile, crews worked through the night to clean the slick black mess from Inlet Drive in the hopes the major commuter route linking Port Moody with Burnaby could be reopened by Thursday morning’s rush hour.

At the same time, the cost of the disaster is being tallied – both in terms of property damage and environmental damage from oil entering the Burrard Inlet.

“It is bad – there’s no question about it. It’s millions and millions of dollars of damage that’s been done as a result of it,” said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

“There’s some pretty serious property damage to some private home owners. There obviously is some additional damage that’s been caused to our inlet as a result of oil going downhill and into the inlet. Right now they’re doing an assessment of that with the B.C. ministry of the environment and federal ministry.”

The accident happened around 12:35 p.m. Tuesday as a crew from Cusano Contracting Inc. was working on a sewer line for the City of Burnaby. A backhoe was digging near the intersection of Inlet and Ridge drives when it struck a pipeline that was pumping crude from the TransMountain Pipeline terminus on Burrard Inlet to a tank farm on Burnaby Mountain.

The rupture sent crude shooting up to 12 metres in the air, covering the backhoe, a nearby car and the roadway. The oil was also shooting over the fence into the Westridge residential area. There are reports of at least one home on Belcarra Drive being covered in crude, and the cul-de-sac was turned into an oily mess.

“I smelled the smell of gas or oil in my home and the next thing I knew I heard a frantic knock on the door of my upstairs neighbour and it was a police officer telling us we had to be evacuated from our street immediately,” said Natalie Marson, who lives on Belcarra.

“It’s a pretty black slick at the end of my street,” she said when asked to describe the scene. “Belcarra is on a cul-de-sac and the trees and street are black with oil. It’s just not a very good thing.”

Emergency officials initially ordered the evacuation of roughly 30 homes on Belcarra, Sierra and Malibu drives, but the order was later expanded to cover up to 100 homes in the area because of health concerns about the fumes, before scaling it back to the 11 most seriously affected homes.

The evacuees were taken to Confederation Park Seniors Centre while the city lined up temporary lodging. It could be a couple of days before they are allowed to return home.

Corrigan was at a loss to explain how the accident happened. Kinder Morgan, which operates the pipeline, had provided the city and the road crew a map showing where the pipeline was supposed to be.

“The information that they had was that there wasn’t going to be a pipeline affected, and apparently there was in fact a pipeline there – they clipped it and that was what caused the oil geyser,” Corrigan said.

“Obviously we’re going to have a long, hard look at the procedures and protocols that were followed here to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

He added the focus so far has not been on the investigation, but rather on clean up and mitigation.

“The priorities right now are the immediate and urgent circumstances and we’ll try to sort out afterwards where blame is apportioned,” Corrigan said.

On Tuesday, firefighters used sand to create mini dikes to hold back the river of crude flowing down Belcarra. They also raced to block off manhole covers and storm sewer drains in an effort to keep the crude from entering the storm sewer system and flowing out into the inlet.

Still, there was oil that reached the inlet as Burrard Clean rushed to get containment booms set up to control the growing oil slick. Within three hours of the rupture, oil was visible on the shoreline at the eastern edge of Barnet Marine Park, about 1.5 kilometres from where the crude likely entered the water.

Kinder Morgan has also hired Focus Wildlife to clean and rehabilitate any wildlife covered by the sticky, black crude oil. As of noon Wednesday, the organization had rescued five birds from the affected area.

It was approximately 30 minutes before the pipeline was shut down, but it’s still not known how much oil escaped from the ruptured pipeline.

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“Kinder Morgan Marked by Spills”, The Tyee (July 26, 2007)

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Golden Ears Bridge workers burned by acid

By Jeff Nagel
Black Press

Jul 21 2007

A group of workers helping to build the Golden Ears Bridge has been repeatedly burned by hydrochloric acid that sometimes mists down upon them from an adjacent work site.

And WorkSafeBC safety inspectors – despite investigating the situation for more than a month – have struggled to end the dangerous acid shower, which has sent at least two workers to hospital for treatment.

The workers at the 199A Street construction site near the Surrey-Langley border are employed by German firm Bilfinger Berger, one of the private partners in the Golden Crossing Constructors Joint Venture building the bridge for TransLink.

Next to them is APS Architectural Precast Structures Ltd., a business that has been there since well before bridge construction began.

APS workers, who are well protected, sometimes pressure wash precast concrete using a hydrochloric acid solution.

All was well until a wall that had separated the two workplaces had to be dismantled as part of the bridge construction, allowing the acid overspray to drift onto Bilfinger workers when the wind blows their way.

“Our face is burning and itching and there is redness in our eyes and we have difficulty breathing,” workers said in an anonymous letter sent to Black Press.

They say they’ve repeatedly asked for help and don’t understand why they weren’t at least given the same masks and respirators APS workers use 30 feet away.

WorkSafeBC officers first flagged the problem June 6 and returned June 27 to find it unresolved.

“Continued exposure of workers to acid-containing mist is not acceptable,” Bilfinger was warned in a report dated June 28.

Part of the challenge is normal worker safety provisions don’t cover cases like this where one work site is affecting the workers at another site when the two are unrelated and not part of the same overall project.

“Our legislation doesn’t apply,” said Tom Lauritzen, WorkSafeBC’s regional prevention manager for the Fraser Valley.

His officers have still tried to broker a deal that allows APS to continue its work, but in a way that protects Bilfinger’s workers.

Lauritzen said APS has tried hard to contain the airborne acid.

“They’re doing everything within their power to deal with it,” he said. “They’ve tried to put up shielding to stop it, but it hasn’t been effective to date.”

By early July, Lauritzen thought a solution had been found.

Bilfinger workers would put down their tools and leave by 3:30 p.m. every day and APS would only spray after that time.

But he said Bilfinger managers apparently failed to tell APS a few days later when bridge workers were going to stay late.

“There was a communications breakdown,” Lauritzen said. “There were workers there and they ended up getting another spray.”

Adding to the confusion is that APS often uses straight water, rather than acid, in its pressure spraying.

But Bilfinger workers, after being burned a few times, now tend to panic as soon as any liquid starts to fall on them.

WorkSafeBC met with both sides again last week.

“My officers met with both employers and in essence laid down the law and said you’ve got to deal with this,” Lauritzen said.

He’s hopeful there will be no more repeats, so long as the crews communicate.

If acid mist does start falling on workers, he said, Bilfinger Berger must immediately move its people out of danger.

“We’re just doing everything we can to keep them out of the way of that mist,” confirmed Ian McLeod, Golden Ears Bridge project spokesman.

The GVRD is also investigating the acid overspray as a potential air emission violation at the request of the joint venture.

“We think the solution to the problem is for APS to stop emitting toxic substances into the area around its property,” McLeod said.

“How far should an employer go in designing our operations to protect against a localized and preventable problem that is caused by someone else?”

APS managers could not be reached for comment.

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Free Parking for the People! – Anti-Poverty Activists Engage in Campaign of Economic Sabotage!

Anti-poverty activists have begun a campaign of economic sabotage targeting parking meters. So far, in one night, over 300 meters have been damaged in such a way as too make them useless.

According to one saboteur, ‘This is an act of militant solidarity with the CUPE workers on strike. So long as this strike is going on- the city is not going to be cashing in. As well these acts of economic sabotage are a protest against the NPA’s Civil City Initiative that fines street level workers. If the city continues stealing the money from working-poor peoples pockets we will take it from their coffers.’

The launch of this campaign follows a confrontation that happened between strikers who had set up a picket line to prevent parking enforcement agents from leaving a garage. Police were then used by the city to break the strike line.

***Reprinted from a letter sent to the Anti-Poverty Committee***

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Cost of living worries city’s outside workers

Glenn Bohn, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, July 21, 2007

When Vancouver’s outside employees walked off the job at the Manitoba works yard early Friday, The Vancouver Sun asked some of them about their jobs and why they are willing to take action to get a new contract.

Mike Gillan, 56, street cleaner.

Gillan has been employed by the city, off and on, since 1972. He earns about $21 an hour.

Gillan said he was “way further ahead” economically when he began working for the city.

“It’s been a steady decline since,” he said, noting cost-of-living increases and higher housing prices.

Gillan said city services such as roads and sewers have become more efficient over the years, but the employees who have made those services more efficient haven’t been rewarded.

“Productivity has gone up, but the wages haven’t been commensurate,” he said. “People do more, and it’s acknowledged by the public. They’re coordinating things better and things are getting better. We haven’t seen the monetary benefit from that.”

City workers, he said, have become the city’s “pawns.”

“We, as workers, aren’t in the over-all package,” Gillan said. “It’s pretty clear the Olympics aren’t for us. They are 10 days for the business community and upper-middle-class people. There’s no doubt that people on the street are taking the big hit.”

Scott McIntosh, 32, street cleaner.

“The cost of living has gone way up,” he said. “I was lucky and bought my house when I was 20 years old but it’s tripled [in value] in the last 12 years. If I hadn’t had bought then, there’s no way I’d have a roof over my head.”

McIntosh said he was injured in a car accident a few years ago and hasn’t been able to move to a higher-paying job in the city’s carpentry department — a management decision the union has filed a grievance over. McIntosh said he might not remain a city employee if there’s a long strike.

“Technically, I’m a carpenter by trade,” McIntosh said. “There’s so much work now that I’ve already had a few calls offering me work. I’m one of the lucky few that have work. From looking around, there are a lot of jobs with equal or better benefits. Young guys with huge mortgages are probably going to walk away and go other places.”

Teena Girard, 37, traffic controller.

Girard has worked for the city for five years. She makes about $21 an hour and slightly more when she is coordinating a group of flag persons at a road construction site, or as an instructor.

“I’d like an increase,” she said. “Independent flaggers make more than I do. For my seniority and experience, the going rate is about $25 an hour.”

Girard, who is married and has one child, said her husband, a bricklayer, gets paid between $28 and $32 an hour.

“He makes the going rate for a tradesman — more than these guys,” she said.

Girard wasn’t looking forward to a strike.

“It’s very stressful,” she said. “You don’t know whether you’re working next week or even six months down the road. Am I going to be able to support myself and my family? You try to sit back and relax but it’s tough. You don’t know what’s coming. . . . I’ve got a mortgage, like everybody else.”

Doug Storey, 53, street cleaner

“I threw garbage for 17 years but now I’m on light duty because I have back problems. I drive a little motorized litter cart and pick up litter on the streets.”

“It used to be a good job,” said Storey, a city employee for 18 years. “When I drove a truck, I made $23 an hour. But other truck drivers are making $26 or $27 an hour, and it seems like we’re falling behind. “

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89 charges laid in drug crackdown downtown
Follow-up to similar sweep in February nets 34 arrests

Glenn Bohn, Vancouver Sun
Published: Friday, July 20, 2007

VANCOUVER – Sixty-three people face drug-trafficking charges following an undercover Vancouver police operation that targeted street-level dealers of crack cocaine in the Downtown Eastside.

A police roundup of the alleged dealers began Wednesday, leading to 34 arrests as of Thursday.

They are charged with a total of 89 offences, all of them either trafficking and possession for the purposes of trafficking.

Vancouver police drug squad Insp. Dean Robinson said the operation — called Project Tyke II, the follow-up to a similar sweep in February — focused on drug dealers who “repeatedly prey on the city’s most vulnerable people” along Hastings and other streets of the city’s poorest neighbourhood.

“These dealers have little regard for the health of addicts and the well-being of the community,” Robinson told a news conference. “It’s strictly a profit-driven industry. And the effects are felt not only in the Downtown Eastside, but in other parts of the city.”

He noted that addicts go to other neighbourhoods and break into homes and cars to steal things such as laptop computers and cameras, then fence them for about 10 per cent of their value.

“So when you think that an addict or substance abuser could have a habit of $250 a day,” he said, “they need to take $2,500 worth of property to fence and buy their drugs.”

According to Robinson, police first spent several weeks identifying some of the most prolific street-level traffickers in the Downtown Eastside. Small quantities of illicit drugs — mostly crack or “rock” cocaine, but also some heroin — were then bought, between July 3 and 13, by undercover officers. The entire 20-officer drug squad participated in the operation, as well as another 10 patrol officers.

“The message is quite clear,” Robinson said. “Residents and merchants in the Downtown Eastside deserve to feel safe in their neighbourhood. This means they should be able to walk their streets without having drug deals taking place under their noses, and having drug dealers and drug purchasers lurking in alcoves and in laneways. You can expect projects like this to continue . . . .”

Responding to questions from journalists, Robinson said just four of the 63 alleged drug dealers were previously arrested during the sweep in February.

He acknowledged that the Downtown Eastside crackdown is expected to increase drug dealing in other neighbourhoods, but said the police department will monitor activities and run another undercover operation elsewhere if needed.

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Police officers in ‘altercation’

Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun
Published: Friday, July 20, 2007

VANCOUVER – The Vancouver police department has launched an internal investigation into the off-duty conduct of three of its members after they got into an “altercation” with three other men early last Friday morning.

According to a brief written statement released by the department Thursday afternoon, the altercation took place on Granville Street and involved three veteran members of the force.

No official complaint has been filed against the VPD, the statement said, and none of the officers has been suspended.

The investigation will be conducted by the department’s professional standards section.

VPD Const. Howard Chow said the department will not comment further until the investigation is complete.

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