Here’s a look back at the year that was, starting with the months of January to June…
The year started with the customary dip in Kawkawa Lake, attempted by the brave and shunned by the faint of heart. Around 200 showed up to take the plunge, with Brian McKinney hosting the countdown and the Lions Club keeping people warm after their dip with food and beverages. While 2019 involved a snow and ice covered lake, this Jan. 1 was balmy with a high of 13.1C.
Sixty five years to the day of the Hope Slide, radio reporter for CHWK Gerald Pash remembered covering one of the worst landslide disasters in Canada. It was on Jan. 9, 1965 when 50 million tonnes of debris fell away from a mountainside up what is now Highway 3, covering the highway and filling the valley floor in a disaster which left four travellers dead. “Ours were the first reports of the slide…we wrote the first version of history,” Pash said.
January saw the roll out of new waste bins to Hope residents, an endeavour so controversial some in private chats dubbed it ‘garbagegate.’ At issue was the size of the bins, 65 gallons, as well as some concerns around bear proofing and waste sorting. Yet delivered they were, and came into use early this year.
NHL on-ice official Jay Sharrers was inducted into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame, a nod to his skill during 1,419 regular season games and 204 Stanley Cup playoffs. Born in Jamaica and raised in Hope, Sharrers also officiated at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, as well as numerous Stanley Cup finals and All Star Games.
The last weekend of January saw strong winds and torrential rain which had Dogwood Valley homes on an evacuation order and had one man trapped in a midslide in his vehicle up Silver Skagit Road. Further up the canyon in Yale, Michael Gallivan praised the volunteer firefighters of Yale for rescuing people stranded in a local RV park by the ensuing mud and water slide. Gallivan recounts the first person the firefighters hoisted out, 102-year-old Jack, carrying him wheelchair and all to safe ground. “They did a helluva job!” said Jack, after the rescue.
Former Hope resident and business owner Jason Graff pled guilty to charges of child luring, with the offence listed as having taken place in Hope in 2018, in Chilliwack court Feb. 7. Graff, who also faces two charges of posession of child pornography, faces the mandatory minimum of 6 months in jail. The former owner of private security firm BC Protection Services, is set to be sentenced on all three charges on Jan. 28, 2021 at the Chilliwack Law Courts.
On February 18, a body was discovered in the King’s Court apartment complex which had recently suffered a house fire. Police said there was no evidence to suggest the fire was caused by a criminal act, and it was not clear whether the person died prior to or due to the fire.
Hope, a curling loving town, hosted the BC Curling Mixed Doubles Championship at the end of February. Sixteen teams including Deb McKinney and Terry Foord competed in the event, with the Hope duo having a tough go at the event with one win in seven games as Foord tweaked his back in their second game. Hope’s curling community pulled out all the stops in hosting the event, which was kicked off by senior curler Jimmy Toy delivering the first rock.
A years long conflict involving Peters First Nation Band Council and the children of two band members came to a resolution in February, as a federal court judge the council to grant full band membership to Amber Ragan and Brandon Engstrom. Another membership issue involving Guy Peters’ attempts to become a member, has still not been settled.
Hope’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu team brought back medals from a Feb. 29 competition in Kelowna, including two bronze medals, four silver medals and a runner up for Coach Egzon Emile in the Absolute Purple Belt Challenge.
As news of a mysterious new virus began to circle the globe, the first coronavirus-related story appeared in the Hope Standard. Two people with coronavirus had been identified in the Fraser Health region, a Feb. 28 letter to school districts in the health region read.
Our March 12 edition of included a story about UFV researchers receiving $274,000 to study preventative measures to mitigate the spread of the virus, and a warning from since-retired Chilliwack Progress editor Greg Knill about both the virus and irrational reactions to it “like shunning Chinese restaurants, emptying store shelves of surgical masks or stockpiling toilet paper.” “This epidemic is likely to get worse before it gets better,” he penned prophetically, “but panic is never a good response. We need cool heads that can see past the paranoia, xenophobia and political expediency.”
In the same issue, people were still planning for the future – hosting bannock taco fundraisers, planning for the summer Camp Skylark – not knowing that the spread of the pandemic would prompt a shutdown of the local economy and mass cancellations of gatherings and events.
As the pandemic overtook the province and the news cycle, our local paper also carried a slew of coronavirus coverage. Hope’s businesses were taking a hit in mid-March, with a local hotel owner saying they had been receiving cancellations daily and Manning Park Resort suspending operations. Virtually all Hope businesses were affected by the pandemic, AdvantageHOPE found, with 75 per cent of survey respondents stating that they had seen a decrease in revenue and 57 per cent had found a decrease in demand.
Meanwhile, some Hope businesses saw a kind of pandemic boom in demand for their products. Facing empty shelves and what looked like panic buying of certain items, local grocery stores began imposing limits on the quantity of items running low including milk, toilet paper, disenfectant wipes and canned soups.
The list of cancelled events was growing throughout the month, including the South Coast Women’s Hockey League provincial championship slated to take place at the end of March in Hope as well as the hospital auxiliary’s Fashion Show. The library and the rec centre shut down, and the March 19 edition began carrying ads for hand sanitizer.
Then hospitals, clinics and seniors homes began shutting their doors to visitors in late March, a situation which has stretched on for over half a year for residents of local seniors homes. How Hope’s emergency shelter would handle the pandemic guidelines was a question grapped with by the organization running the shelter, the Hope and Area Transition Society (HATS), who in April began operating additional spaces at a local motel to ensure residents could stay physically distanced and have space for isolation should someone test positive for COVID-19.
Three people linked to Hope died of suspected drug overdoses in March, four years since the declaration of a public health emergency in B.C. related to opioid overdoses. The demand for harm reduction supplies also increased in Hope, yet whether this demand was due to the pandemic was too early to speculate said leaders at Fraser Health.
Right smack dab in the middle of a pandemic, a mysterious steampunk robot with the word COVID etched along its chest appeared in the Flood Hope road neighbourhood. At first the art piece was a mystery, then Ray Slanzi filled us in on how he created the 15-foot statue.
As everyone was being told by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stay home and only go out unless “absolutely necessary,” many of you were making tough decisions. To keep their communities safe, local First Nations were putting up signs and installing security at the entrance to their lands as well as helping their members with essential foods which were hard to come by at this time of year. Several local businesses were closing voluntarily and others were reducing their hours in response to new provincial health orders.
Others were figuring out how to care for their loved ones who were most at risk. Jason Crosier told the Hope Standard he had decided to stay home and care for his wife Corinne who required personal care for multiple sclerosis. “There’s a lot of people out there that have to take this time, or might want to take this time because they don’t know how much time they have left with someone,” he said in an interview April 2.
Meanwhile, the phone line at Hope’s transition house for women leaving situations of family violence had gone silent even as a Vancouver domestic violence crisis line saw a 300 per cent spike in calls and police and politicians across Canada warned of increased rates of gender-based violence and domestic violence.
Longtime administrator with the Fraser-Cascade School District Karen Nelson retired this year, serving most recently 11 years as superintendent. “They are hard shoes to fill,” said Hope Secondary School principal Rosalee Floyd, at a January school board meeting. “I only wear a size 5,” Nelson joked. A new superintendent, former Langley principal Balan Moorthy, was announced as the new pick for the role in April.
Both Nelson and Moorthy were administrators during one of the most challenging years on record for the school district, as students were thrust into online learning as schools remained closed following spring break. Schools had to organize online learning and ensure students had access to materials from home, as well as find out how to support students for whom school was a safe haven for services such as breakfast and lunch programs and other support.
Locals were also trying to figure out how to celebrate their loved ones milestones – Vera Murphy marked her 85th birthday with a visit with family from the other side of her window, as well as honks and well wishes from neighbours. Hope mom Laina Rodney organized a ‘wave train’ for her son Elias’ fifth birthday and after a call out to the community to take part, 45 cars drove by their home.
As the majority of Hope and area residents stuck close to home, police saw both more calls to their detachment than usual and a decrease in property crime in March. A new type of call the Hope RCMP dealt with were public health-related calls as businesses including personal services and restaurant dine in were shut down and incoming travellers were mandated to quarantine.
Overcoming the nerves he feels in advance of performing, 15-year-old trumpet player Dylan Andrews began holding concerts from his balcony at Shxw’owhamel First Nation. Inspired by a variety of musicians in B.C. and across the world playing at 7 p.m. in honour of frontline workers, Andrews donned his cadet uniform and played a rendition of The Last Post April 5.
A Fraser Canyon family began the work that no family would want to do, organizing massive community searches for their loved one April Parisian. The 45-year-old woman was last heard from on April 5 and on April 18 her boyfriend Paris Margesson was found by police inside her truck and camper with what police describe as a ‘self-inflicted wound’ at the border of Chilliwack and Abbotsford – despite the work of paramedics Margesson he passed away. After Margesson’s death the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) got involved in the investigation, and family began to contemplate the reality of finding their loved one deceased. “We are feeling in our hearts that we know we’re bringing a body home,” said April’s cousin Tammy Francis, adding that the alternative was even more horrific to contemplate. “Living with that horror is just, it’s really unbearable, of just not knowing.”
This month saw big events cancelled, including the first ever cancellation of Brigade Days in its 51-year history, as well as the postponement of the Ride to Conquer Cancer to 2021.
The sudden passing of longtime Hope educator, school board trustee and community member John Koopman May 6 prompted a large outpouring of grief and memories about the man whose mission was to make a difference for kids. A celebration of life held May 11 saw a line up of cars stretching around several blocks, as vehicles drove by Koopman’s family stationed at the doors of Coquihalla Elementary School to share the grief and give thanks, one of the many schools Koopman taught during his three decades as a teacher in the Fraser Cascade school district.
The trustee seat left vacant by Koopman’s passing continued to be empty as a byelection to fill the seat was cancelled by B.C.’s education minister amid the ongoing pandemic.
While some parks in the area opened to day use, other very popular spots such as the Othello Tunnels would remain shuttered throughout the summer of 2020. And even as AdvantageHOPE continued to ask visitors not to come here during the ongoing restrictions to non-essential travel outside communities, long weekends continued to see high traffic through Hope.
The local real estate market dipped the lowest it had in over a decade and lower than the 2008-09 recession this spring, a situation which would quickly change later in the year as the economy and businesses opened up.
The new Fraser Valley hockey team – the Chilliwack Jets – signed Hope player Dawson Pelletier in May where he will potentially be a starting goaltender. “Dawson will bring stability between the pipes for the Jets,” the team stated.
IHIT was called in and the Trans-Canada Highway was closed for the day June 3 as the body of 29-year-old Alicia Berg was discovered east of the Yale Tunnel. An investigation into Berg’s death continues.
Residents began to see activity along the Trans Mountain Expansion Project route, with pre-construction starting in June. Activity would ramp up significantly in the months following, including the building of a 350-person camp at Shxw’owhamel First Nations land in Laidlaw.
The 2020 homeless count found that shelter spaces, while having increased in number, were far outstripped by the number of people who are homeless in Hope and the eastern Fraser Valley. Hope had 36 shelter spaces and 69 people identified as homeless. As a percentage of the community, people with no fixed address made up 8 per cent of Hope and Boston Bar’s population.
Graduation was not cancelled in Fraser Cascade in 2020, yet it wasn’t the crowd rowsing tear-inducing celebration that grad normally is. Grads lined up along 4 Avenue, physically distanced as per the ‘new normal’, to receive the love and support of family, friends and community who drove by in droves. Then grads gathered outside on the Hope Secondary field, to wave to a drone flying overhead and throw their caps with (not so wild) abandon.
Each graduate then attended their own personal grad, where up to 10 guests could come along to. While the ceremony was a sign of the uncertain times, many of the 43 graduates of Hope Secondary, the 12 Two Rivers Education Centre grads and the one grad from Boston Bar Elementary-Secondary were more certain about their futures. “It doesn’t feel like I’m graduating because it’s not the same as it usually is…I just thought I would be more excited,” lamented Hope Secondary grad Faith Johnny, who was on the road to becoming a social worker after graduation.
Putting together the news this year were reporters Jessica Peters, Emelie Peacock and Barry Stewart as well as reporters from across the Eastern Fraser Valley and Black Press Media. We had help from the ever-diligent proof reader and filler-in of community knowledge Pattie Desjardins, our supportive editor with the creative flair Ken Goudswaard and great leadership from publisher Carly Ferguson. Our contributors made our paper shine, including all of the prolific letter writers and photographers, as well as those who submitted news tips. Hats off to you for making The Hope Standard a true community paper.
Next week’s edition of the Hope Standard will carry our Year In Review special feature for the months of July to December.