Archive for September, 2007

Cops probe sabotage as traffic lights on the blink
Clocks that run city traffic lights flipped to night mode

Doug Ward and Jonathan Woodward, Vancouver Sun
Published: Friday, September 28, 2007

The Vancouver police department is investigating whether someone sabotaged the City of Vancouver’s traffic-light computer system, causing traffic congestion Thursday at many key intersections.

Chief city engineer Tom Timm said the clocks governing the traffic lights were out by seven hours for much of the day.

This meant that morning rush-hour traffic was being managed by lights geared to the middle of the night.

“We weren’t getting the optimal flow of traffic because the signals weren’t functioning in the most efficient manner,” said Timm.

The worst traffic snarl was on the Stanley Park causeway during evening rush hour, when only one northbound lane was open, backing up cars to Granville Street.

Flashing left-turn arrows, which operate on a different schedule at night, weren’t working for much of the day.

B-Line buses on Granville Street could not prolong green lights. And green lights were on for a shorter duration than normal.

Timm said someone could have hacked into the central computer system at strikebound city hall.

Or the traffic lights could have been out of sync due to a computer glitch, because the systems are not reset as often as usual during the strike, he said.

Today is the 71st day that about 5,000 civic workers have been off the job in a strike that began in July.

Police investigators went to city hall Thursday, but so far have not confirmed there was any foul play, said Const. Howard Chow.

City managers noticed the problem at about 7:30 a.m. said Timm.

The city fixed the causeway lane problem late in the afternoon and then moved onto the rest of the system, which was back to normal by about 5 p.m., said Timm.

Suspicion that the traffic-light problem was related to the protracted civic strike was aroused early in the day when an unidentified man phoned all-traffic radio station AM 730, and talked to traffic anchor Michel McDermott.

“This is your traffic CUPE local, and it will continue,” said the man, who confirmed he was talking about the traffic light problem.

“Okay, how long will it continue for?” asked McDermott.

“Until the strike ends,” said the man.

CUPE Local 15 Paul Faoro denied that any striking members hacked into the system.

“Our union doesn’t know who this caller was and we don’t believe this person was a CUPE member. We would never condone this type of behaviour.”

Faoro said he dispatched a CUPE striker, an engineering technician who specializes in traffic lights, to fix the problem later in the day.

The technician found that a central clock that governs the city’s traffic lights had been set back seven hours. Normally, the problem would have been resolved by its connection with the city’s main computer clock, which would have set it straight — but this connection was not working.

As a result, individual traffic lights, which periodically check themselves against the central traffic light clock to ensure they are in sync, began setting themselves back seven hours.

But the safeguards that stop total traffic chaos were still in place, said city officials.

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Skipping SkyTrain fares costly

Metro Vancouver
September 27, 2007

When was the last time you paid full fare for the SkyTrain?

Ciara Nishi, a high school student at North Delta Secondary School, said she didn’t pay for almost two years. And she’s not alone.

“I didn’t pay (because) no one paid. My friends didn’t pay … random people didn’t pay. Sometimes, the fares were too high for me while I was unemployed,” said Nishi, who is member of a Facebook group about fare evasion.

Nishi said she now pays full fare.

According to a 2002 audit, TransLink loses roughly $3 million of its annual revenue of $300 million, as about six per cent of riders don’t pay for their fares.

Sunny, who did not want his last name published, is a resident of Surrey and attends high school in Richmond.

“I go three zones, but only pay for one,” said Sunny. He added it’s easy to scam the system since “no one really checks the tickets.”

But TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie said fare evaders are committing theft.

“Do these people steal milk at the grocers? (Evading fares) is still stealing … and somebody else has to offset the costs,” said Hardie.

Hardie said a Smart Card system will be implemented within the next three years to combat fare evasion.

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Police Recover Own Stolen Car But Not Its Contents

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
CityNews.ca Staff

It was one of their most embarrassing cases – and it’s not over yet. Authorities have located a missing squad car that was stolen from a Halton police officer’s driveway in Dundas, Ontario over the weekend.

Cops put out an APB for the unmarked four-door, grey 2004 Buick Century, which didn’t look like anything special from the outside. But in this case, it’s what’s inside that counts.

A local resident spotted the missing vehicle not far from its original location on Tuesday, but when cops arrived they were dismayed to discover the contents had been pilfered. The car contained a canister of pepper spray, a pair of handcuffs, a bullet-proof vest, a police radio and five black T-shirts with Halton Police markings.

But the most valuable possession is also the most worrisome. There was also a police-issued 40-calibre Beretta pistol and some ammunition stored in the interior. Authorities are worried that if it falls into the wrong hands, a gun meant to stop crime could wind up being used to commit one instead. And they’ve vowed to hunt for it whatever it takes.

There are still no leads in the case, and investigators admit there was no forced entry. They’re at a loss to explain how the thief got into the car and drove it away.


Undercover cop may face charges after car stolen

Friday, September 28, 2007
The Canadian Press

A senior Halton police officer on covert duty with an elite organized crime task force faces possible Police Act and criminal charges.

Officials are looking into possible charges because he left his gun and ammo overnight in a unmarked police car that was stolen from his driveway in Dundas.

But police admit they have another big worry.

If the 20-year veteran is charged or identified, it could destroy several investigations into organized crime in the Golden Horseshoe and endanger the lives of other police operatives.

Police found the car minus the weapons nearby.

And the gun, ammo and pepper spray were turned in to police — but they are still looking for a bulletproof vest, handcuffs and a telescoping metal baton.

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Cop who punched diabetic loses pay

Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, September 24, 2007

An RCMP disciplinary board has fined a Kamloops officer two days’ pay after he punched a diabetic man in the head because he thought, incorrectly, that the man was driving drunk.

In a recent decision, the board found Const. Burke Huschi used “excessive force” without first investigating the circumstances of the situation.

On June 30, 2005, a blue pickup drove through the gate at a parking control booth at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, crossed a four-lane road without stopping and then came to a stop.

Two nurses who witnessed the incident went up to the truck and saw the driver, Howard Oakland, staring straight ahead, his hands on the steering wheel.

After the man failed to respond to their questions, they suspected he might have a medical condition.

However, when Huschi arrived on the scene, he “brushed past the witnesses without giving them an opportunity to speak and went directly to the driver’s door,” said the board’s decision.

Huschi demanded Oakland exit the truck and, when Oakland failed to comply, handcuffed one of his wrists and tried to pull him out.

“Const. Huschi then struck the driver once in the head and again on the upper arms and chest,” the decision states.

A second officer soon arrived and the two were able to pull Oakland out of the truck.

“At this point, a diabetic alert card was discovered in the driver’s effects,” the decision states. “The driver was assessed by the [paramedics] and found to have low blood sugar.”

Huschi was eventually charged with assault and, on Oct. 17, 2006, was found guilty and given a conditional discharge – meaning he won’t have a criminal record as long as he takes anger management counselling.

Huschi filed an appeal, which was dismissed.

In July, he appeared before an RCMP disciplinary board made up of three senior officers.

The board’s decision was released in response to a request from The Vancouver Sun.

The board found Huschi was guilty of “disgraceful” conduct because he resorted to force without first speaking to those at the scene or advising Oakland he was under arrest.

However, the board also noted Huschi has an “impeccable” work history and his assault on Oakland was “spontaneous” and not a calculated act.

Reached by phone at the Kamloops detachment, Huschi refused to comment on the disciplinary case.

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Signs warn users of dangerous debris on city soccer fields
Broken glass, rocks, rusty nails, concrete dumped on field

Jonathan Woodward, Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, September 24, 2007

Several ominous paper signs have been posted outside picketed Vancouver city parks, warning parents and children not to play on the grass because it may contain “broken glass, rusty nails, rocks or concrete.”

Soccer moms are worried that the signs — which preceded dumping of all of those items at Killarney Park last week — mean that other parks, including Douglas Park and Heather Park, could be strewn with debris.

“If there’s a warning out there, there’s an implied threat,” said Joan Lichtmann, 41.

“Who would do this? It’s dangerous for the kids and anyone who uses the field,” she said.

Another mom, Deborah Reiner, told The Sun she found the sign at Heather Park “threatening” when she first saw it.

The signs say: “Use at own risk. Playing field may contain: broken glass, rusty nails, rocks or concrete.” They are printed in black ink on paper affixed to wooden signs with tape.

Some have been ripped down, said Reiner, but at least one is still in place at Douglas Park and Killarney Park.

Both women said that it’s hard not to be suspicious of members of the union locals who are striking at the community centres nearby.

CUPE 1004 President Mike Jackson, who represents outside workers, said his workers were not involved.

Some 5,000 members of CUPE 15, which represents the city’s inside workers, and CUPE 1004, which represents workers including groundskeepers, have been on strike since late July.

While both sides are in mediation with private mediator Brian Foley, neither is speaking to the media.

When garbage was dumped outside Mayor Sam Sullivan’s Yaletown condominium in August, the Anti-Poverty Committee quickly claimed responsibility. Spokespeople for the APC couldn’t be reached Sunday.

Park board chairman Ian Robertson said he didn’t know of any signs, but said the board couldn’t take action against the vandals without evidence.

“Whoever’s doing it, you have to see them doing it,” he said. “We ask for the vigilance and the eyes and ears of the neighbours.”

Sixteen-year-old rugby player Jonathon Wong first discovered the nails on the field in Killarney park on Wednesday, and spent half an hour cleaning it up with his coach, John Falcos.

Then on Friday, when Lichtmann decided to hire a private contractor to mow the field, the contractor was stopped by union workers who said they were crossing the picket line.

Lichtmann announced that she would return on Saturday to mow the field herself, but by the time she and other parents arrived, someone else had dumped two distinct 10-metre trails of ash, broken industrial-sized glass, rusty nails and concrete on the field.

“The mowing was over,” said Falcos, who was there at the time. “If you put a mower on that, you’ll destroy your mower. If [a nail] shoots out it will kill someone.”

B.C.’s labour law says that an employer must not organize people to do the work of union workers during a strike, whether they are paid or not.

Lichtmann said that city managers had agreed to clean up Killarney Park by Tuesday.

Striking workers picketing the Killarney Community Centre would not give their names to The Sun, but denied that they had any involvement.

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Cops lose pay for drunken attacks
Two RCMP officers docked 10 days’ salary for beating innocent people after bar outing

Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Two Ridge Meadows RCMP officers have been docked 10 days’ pay after they got very drunk and then rode around Maple Ridge assaulting innocent people — falsely identifying themselves as “PoCo Police” while they did so.

An RCMP disciplinary board recently found constables Pat Hughson and Steve Frazer both guilty of “disgraceful” conduct as a result of their “intentional, serial abuse of innocent passersby, without reason.”

According to the board’s written decision, both Hughson and Frazer were “highly intoxicated” when they left a bar in Maple Ridge on May 10, 2006, in a truck driven by one of their friends.

As they drove downtown around 3 a.m., the two off-duty officers spotted a man, Colin Frederick, walking down the street — who, for some reason, they wrongly believed had a warrant out for his arrest.

“Hughson and Frazer stepped out of the pickup truck and started fighting with Mr. Frederick,” the decision states. “Const. Hughson punched Mr. Frederick in the face once causing him to fall on the ground. When Frederick got up … Hughson and Frazer grabbed him and threw him up against a sliding glass door.”

During the incident, Hughson identified himself as being with the “PoCo [Port Coquitlam] Police.”

The assault drew the attention of a security guard, identified in the decision as R. Bourassa, who came by to investigate.

As the guard approached, Frazer flashed his police badge and said he and Hughson were with the “PoCo Police.”

“Mr. Bourassa believed the badge to be a fake one and asked Const. Frazer if he could see his badge again,” the disciplinary board said. “Const. Frazer then flashed his police badge for a second time and shoved Mr. Bourassa backwards. Const. Frazer further added, ‘Do you want to get into it with me?’ ”

That same evening, in a separate incident, Hughson and Frazer accosted another man, identified in the decision as D. Cirtwell, who was riding his bicycle without a helmet.

The two officers asked Cirtwell if he was under any release conditions, such as probation.

Hughson — who falsely identified himself as an undercover police officer — then pushed Cirtwell to the ground and Frazer picked up the man’s bicycle and threw it to the ground.

After receiving a call about the first assault, a police officer on duty stopped Hughson and Frazer’s truck and ordered them to immediately attend the Ridge Meadows detachment — which they failed to do.

Both men were eventually charged — Hughson with one count of assault and Frazer with two counts of assault.

In March, Hughson pleaded guilty in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court and received an eight-month conditional discharge — meaning he will not have a criminal record as long as he attends alcohol counselling and performs 25 hours of community service.

Frazer’s case was diverted into an alternative measures program meaning he, too, will avoid a criminal record.

The two officers appeared before the RCMP disciplinary board, made up of three senior Mounties, in June.

The board’s decision was released in response to a request from The Vancouver Sun.

While finding the two officers’ conduct disgraceful, the board also noted both had “excellent” work histories and had abstained from alcohol since the incident.

Hughson, who is now working in the RCMP’s proceeds-of-crimes section, refused to comment on the case when reached by phone on Tuesday.

Frazer, who still works in Ridge Meadows, could not be reached Tuesday.

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Metal thieves steal convention centre roof before installation
$150,000 worth of prefabricated aluminum taken from supplier

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
CBC News

The head of the Vancouver Convention Centre expansion project has confirmed that $150,000 worth of aluminum cut for the centre’s roof has been stolen from a supplier in Surrey, but he says that won’t keep the project from being completed on time.

The aluminum had been cut and shaped for the roof of the new centre when it was stolen from the Deelite Fabrication & Welding facility located in an industrial area in Surrey’s Port Kells, according to Surrey RCMP. The theft occurred over three or four days, Sgt. Roger Morrow said.

Dave Podmore, chair of the Vancouver Convention Centre construction project, said the theft is a blow, but the aluminum parts can be remanufactured and installed later in the construction schedule.

“We’re on target with that budget that I tabled in July of 2007, and we’re on target with the schedule I completed at that time,” Podmore said on Tuesday. “We’ll complete within budget, the $883 million, and we’ll complete it on March 15, 2009.”

Podmore took over the project in April, when it was revealed that construction costs were more than $300 million over budget.

The convention centre roof, at 24,000 square metres, will be one of the largest of its kind in the world when it is completed. It will eventually be covered with plants, as one of many environmental innovations included in the expansion.

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School vandalism spikes

School vandalism spikes

Tri-City News [Port Coquitlam, British Columbia]
Sep 16, 2007

The fact that students are now into their second week of school hasn’t deterred vandals, who smashed 33 windows at 13 schools in the past week.

Eleven of those windows were busted at Maillard middle school, and five at Maple Creek middle. Cans of spray paint were also popular for the week of Sept. 6 to 11, during which 19 schools were hit with graffiti.

The latest vandalism report comes after a particularly damaging first week of school. School District 43 reported 21 windows broken at Banting middle and 10 at Montgomery middle; in total, 46 windows were broken between Aug. 30 and Sept. 5 and 15 schools were tagged with graffiti.

Average cost of a work order is about $150 per window and $40 for graffiti, making the latest bill for repairs slightly more than $5,000.

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Edmonton closes tent city for the homeless

Saturday, September 15, 2007
CBC News

Several homeless people in Edmonton were on the move Saturday as officials began closing a tent city set up in a downtown vacant lot.

About 100 people were drawn to the central location after the spring thaw, but unsanitary and unsafe conditions worried public officials. Security guards and a fence were added, then a water tank and washrooms.

Housing officials and advocacy groups have found homes for about half of the residents. Many say they would rather live in the camp than stay at a shelter.

“We became a close-knit family,” said Dennis Voshall. “We just hate to see each other go [and not] just unzipping a tent and seeing each other, familiar faces.”

Words written on one of the tents summarizes the feelings many have about what they’ll be losing:

“When I come here I find laughter, respect and solid people. Good company cannot be bought.”

Resident Wesley Bourke said he’d like to see another tent city erected when the warm weather returns.

“I hope they do it again next year, because there’s always going to be homeless people. The government’s not going to change that,” he said.

While several of the homeless are reluctant to leave, Housing Minister Ray Danyluk said there’s really no need for a tent city in Edmonton.

“Everyone’s had a place to go all summer and we do have the spaces that are available right now,” Danyluk said. “It was their choice to set up in a tent city.”

Earlier this month, local and government officials closed the tent city to new arrivals after complaints of gangs, drinking and drug use at the site.

About a week ago, a man was sentenced to two years in prison for beating up a 43-year-old woman in one of the tents.

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More unionized workers walk out

Edmonton Sun
Thu, September 13, 2007

Unrest in Alberta’s construction industry edged closer to open revolt yesterday as more unionized tradesmen walked off the job to protest the province’s labour laws.

For the third day in a row, several hundred gathered near the legislature for what organizers called a “study session” over rules they claim violate their charter rights to collective bargaining.

They’re furious over rules in the Labour Relations Code which stipulate that if three-quarters of construction unions reach a contract settlement, the remaining 25% are forced into arbitration and denied the right to strike.

Near Anzac in northern Alberta, about 70 workers lined Highway 881 near the Opti-Nexen Long Lake project as part of an information picket. Company spokesman David Coll said they slowed traffic and eventually blockaded the highway.

Suncor was also hit by protesters.

Neil Tidsbury, president of the Construction Labour Relations Association, said the group is working on back-to-work orders for job sites in Fort McMurray and Edmonton and may be at the labour board soon filing more applications.

In Edmonton, Pipefitter Clayton Marsden said the rules turn the bargaining process into “a game of political hopscotch,” pitting unions against each other in a race to accept whatever management negotiators offer or face having a settlement imposed on them.

“We’re unhappy with our union halls,” Marsden said, “but we also appreciate that their hands are tied.”

He said no one in the crowd was representing their unions. Rather, they were there as “citizens and taxpayers.”

Their fight, he said, is for the good of everyone, including non-union workers and even people making minimum wage, all of whom are paid based on what labour unions negotiate.

He called the demonstrations an “organic process,” not an organized campaign. It evolved in jobsite lunch- rooms as frustrated tradesmen voiced their anger in casual conversation. He couldn’t say what comes next.

Electrician Eric Klyne called on Employment Minister Iris Evans to change the labour code so that each union can negotiate its own contracts independently of others.

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president Doug Knight said yesterday that the uproar in the building trades proves the province’s labour laws are “out of date, unfair to working people and do not reflect the needs of ordinary working families in today’s economy.”

Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry spokesman Stephanie Francis said the code is subject to periodic reviews, but one isn’t currently in the works.

“Now is not the time, during such a period of heightened emotion,” she said.

Francis said that some of the building trades unions that haven’t settled and are now facing arbitration have appealed to Evans to initiate a Construction Industry Dispute Resolution Tribunal to review their complaints.

Ministry spokesman James Frey said Evans is expected to make a public statement regarding the tribunal today.


Show of force

Edmonton Sun
Wed, September 12, 2007

Hundreds of unionized tradesmen defied their own leadership and stayed off the job yesterday in another day of unrest and anger over Alberta’s labour laws.

Walkouts were staged at several sites around the province, including the Petro-Canada expansion on the eastern outskirts of Edmonton.

By noon, workers began gathering downtown near the Legislature.

The tradesmen, who work at energy industry construction sites, were demonstrating against an Alberta Labour Relations Board ruling that forbids members of the carpenters union from legally going on strike.

Carpenters have been offered a $9.96-an-hour increase over a four-year period – about a dollar less than other trades.

Martyn Piper, president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, ordered his members back to work.

But, Piper said, he sympathized with them.

“The irony of this whole dispute is that we’re not looking for anything that’s not already on the table,” he said.

Meanwhile, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers announced yesterday that its members voted 51% in favour of the latest contract offer.

Because of the IBEW’s acceptance, remaining unsettled trades – including carpenters, pipefitters and plumbers – are now forced into arbitration without the right to strike under the Alberta Labour Relations Code.

Some electricians were furious with the result. IBEW member Eric Clyne said business manager Tim Brower, who was part of the negotiations, “not only screwed his own members, but everyone else.”

Clyne said the dissidents will continue with demonstrations planned for today near the Legislature.

IBEW spokesman Barry Salmon said the members weren’t voting in favour of the offer, but instead were trying to avoid being forced into arbitration.

“They chose this over a pistol to their heads,” he said, adding that the real fight now is against Alberta’s labour laws.

“Once tempers cool down, people are going to realize that the real enemy is the labour code.”

Edmonton-Calder MLA Dave Eggen spoke at the demonstration and called on Employment Minister Iris Evans to step in and resolve the issue before the province starts to feel the economic implications of the walkoffs.

“Considering the labour shortage and economy, we don’t need to be derailed by bad legislation.”

Evans said the government will review its labour laws sometime in the future.

“I think that Albertans will be seeing some activity as we look at our labour laws, certainly. But that’s not the issue today,” Evans said.

“The issue today is let’s get a resolution to this and let’s honour the legislation that is currently in place where 19 out of 25 (unions) have said yes.”

Under Alberta labour laws, if three-quarters of construction unions reach contract settlements, the remaining unions lose their right to strike.

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