B.C. Mountie exonerated in brief conference call, cleared to return to duty

BY DAN FUMANO

After more than 40 months of paid suspension, a B.C. Mountie was exonerated Tuesday in a swift two-minute phone call.

It’s the latest twist in a case that stemmed from a fall 2012 incident in which two cars were reported stolen from the Osoyoos home of Const. Amit Goyal. Since then, Goyal has faced a criminal investigation, a separate civil lawsuit, and has seen his RCMP conduct hearing rescheduled at least six times since disciplinary action began in November 2013.

The saga’s latest chapter ended Tuesday, when the RCMP withdrew all charges and exonerated Goyal, clearing the way for him to return to active duty. The hearing was held via video- and tele-conference, with three RCMP adjudication board officers dialling in from Regina, Edmonton, and Ottawa.

The last time the adjudication board convened in person, in a Richmond hotel in September, the matter was adjourned after Goyal’s lawyer John Benkendorf told the hearing that after reviewing new evidence,  he felt “this hearing would be an embarrassment for the RCMP were it to proceed.”

Goyal was facing “extremely serious allegations,” Benkendorf said after Tuesday’s hearing. He had been accused of committing insurance fraud by allegedly abandoning his Audi S5 and an on-loan Ford Ranger on Anarchist Mountain on the outskirts of Osoyoos, torching them and then reporting them stolen.

In the two-minute hearing, the lawyer representing the RCMP, John Reid, said new evidence submitted by Benkendorf in September was “persuasive enough” to convince Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens “it is not in the public interest to proceed, as there is no reasonable likelihood of substantiation.”

“The member (Goyal) has been exonerated by this evidence,” Reid said.

The chair of the adjudication board, Insp. Bernard Tremblay said from Ottawa: “Alright, well, since the allegations are withdrawn, there is nothing left for this board to adjudicate. So, Const. Goyal, unless you’re suspended for any other reason, I expect you’ll be returning to active duty shortly, and wish you good luck going forward. This concludes the proceedings.”

In a statement after Tuesday’s hearing, Callens said: “This protracted process and lack of timely resolution is why the RCMP welcomed the legislative changes to the RCMP Act in 2014. The new conduct process allows misconduct to be addressed in a more responsive, timely and effective manner.”

B.C. RCMP Sgt. Annie Linteau said in an email that Goyal “will have to complete all mandatory requirements before returning to full duty,” but as for a timeline, “that is a difficult question to answer.”

Goyal was not able to comment on the case, Benkendorf said, but he was “relieved it’s over,” glad to be cleared, and eager to return to duty.

“It’s fair to say, in the 16 years I’ve been a lawyer, I’ve never seen a case like this,” Benkendorf said. “I’ve never had something like that, where it was such a difference between what it appeared to be, and what it actually was.”

An early suspect in the car thefts was a local man with a criminal record, court filings show. But the investigation soon turned to Goyal, and RCMP officers from an outside detachment told The Province in 2014 they recommended criminal charges of arson and fraud against Goyal, though the charges were never approved by the Criminal Justice Branch. Goyal was also named in a civil lawsuit filed last June by a former Osoyoos resident, although there has been no activity on the file in the past year, and it was unclear if the action would proceed.

TransLink finalizes sale of Oakridge Transit Centre lands for $440 million

This is an aerial view from Google Maps/Earth of the Oakridge Transit Centre located at 949 West 41st Avenue, east of Oak Street. The lot has been sold by TransLink to Intergulf-Modern Green Development Corp. for redevelopment into a residential community, at the price of $440 million, it was announced on Dec. 20, 2016. It is believed to be one of the largest real estate transaction in B.C.’s history.

This is an aerial view from Google Maps/Earth of the Oakridge Transit Centre located at 949 West 41st Avenue, east of Oak Street. The lot has been sold by TransLink to Intergulf-Modern Green Development Corp. for redevelopment into a residential community, at the price of $440 million, it was announced on Dec. 20, 2016. It is believed to be one of the largest real estate transaction in B.C.’s history. PHOTO BY SCREENGRAB

TransLink has sold its 13.8-acres Oakridge Transit Centre lot to a developer for $440 million, making it one of the largest real estate transactions in B.C.’s history.

The transit authority announced Wednesday that the sale of the site on West 41st Avenue, east of Oak Street, had been finalized. Intergulf-Modern Green Development Corp. was selected over 13 other interested buyers, and will pay $440 million to TransLink by 2022 in the structured transaction sale.

“This transaction is a tremendous benefit to taxpayers, and is an example of how TransLink is using its resources to better serve customers across the region,” said TransLink board chair Don Rose in a statement.

Operations at the Oakridge site had previously been moved over to the Hamilton and Burnaby Transit Centres in September, allowing the lot to be declared surplus land and put up for sale.

A total of $150 million from the Oakridge sale will go towards funding the pre-construction work for the Broadway Millennium Line extension and the Surrey-Newton-Guildford light rail projects. The remaining proceeds of the sale will fund other rapid transit projects outlined in the 10-Year Vision approved by the Mayors’ Council and TransLink’s board of directors earlier this year.

The Oakridge site, located at 949 West 41st Avenue, was the topic of community consultations before it was listed for sale. In late 2015, Vancouver City Council approved a policy statement that allows for the lot to be redeveloped as a primarily residential community. According to TransLink’s statement issued Wednesday, the city’s approval for residential redevelopment helped boost the land value of the lot.

POSTMEDIA NEWS

B.C. man who scammed three with sham stock scheme banned from trading

BY BETHANY LINDSAY

Vancouver sun

Ayaz Dhanani, shown here in a Facebook photo, is in court this week to face criminal charges of fraud and theft, and is also facing fraud allegations from the B.C. Securities Commission. Dhanani says he is not guilty and the cases against him are without merit.

Ayaz Dhanani, shown here in a Facebook photo, is in court this week to face criminal charges of fraud and theft, and is also facing fraud allegations from the B.C. Securities Commission. Dhanani says he is not guilty and the cases against him are without merit. PHOTO BY FACEBOOK PHOTO

A Vancouver man who defrauded investors with promises of lucrative returns from imaginary companies has been permanently banned from B.C.’s capital markets and fined $225,000.

Ayaz Dhanani bilked three people out of $188,800 in a scheme involving stocks in gold-mining and oil companies. None of the firms or stocks were real, and the B.C. Securities Commission ordered Dhanani last week to pay back the ill-gotten funds, end all involvement in the securities market, and pay a hefty administrative penalty.

“The respondent’s misconduct is an egregious form of fraud,” the BCSC panel wrote in its decision. “It was all a sham. There is no evidence that there ever were any real investments contemplated by the respondent. The respondent simply pocketed the funds obtained from the investors and used them for the personal expenses of himself and his family.”

The gravity of the scam was particularly intense because of the lies Dhanani told, including the use of aliases, according to the decision. The fraudster is known to use at least six aliases.

One victim told a BCSC hearing that he was just 21 when he lost $55,000 in the scam, money he had saved from summer jobs and birthday gifts. Another said he was “in a desperate state” when he handed over $120,000.

Money from two of the investors ended up in a bank account belonging to Dhanani’s father. So far, none of the victims have been paid back, and despite a freeze order on one account, it’s not clear when or if Dhanani will have enough money to reimburse them.

Dhanani also has a history of criminal convictions for fraud. He is currently in jail facing numerous charges including theft, assault, kidnapping, identity theft and fraud.

 

Percentage of single-family homes in Metro Vancouver worth more than $1 million in 2016 widens from 28% to 43%: Andy Yan

BY JOANNE LEE-YOUNG

In his latest snapshot of housing unaffordability, researcher Andy Yan shows the percentage of Metro Vancouver homes valued over $1 million rose from 28 per cent to 43 per cent in 2016.

Marked in red are homes over $1 million for 2016 and 2015.

For the past five years, Yan’s so-called “million dollar line” looking at home values based on data from B.C. Assessment has been a visual way to capture the geographical divide in housing prices.

At first, the symbolic measure sat around Main Street between Vancouver’s west and east sides before drifting eastward beyond Fraser Street. Last year, for the first time, it fanned out as Yan accessed data to include rising prices for homes across Metro Vancouver.

For 2016, which is based on assessments at July 2015, Richmond, Burnaby, Vancouver, North Vancouver and West Vancouver all had over 60 per cent of homes worth 1 million or more — with West Vancouver at the highest with 97 per cent.

Said Yan: “I’m guessing this rise is probably not due to increases in local wages and incomes. I think it’s likely a convergence and combination of constrained supply for single family detached housing, low interest loans, property speculation, and global capital with a sprinkle of trying to secure adequate family-oriented housing for many households with children.”

There doesn’t seem to be an abating of this trend in close sight despite softening real estate prices for some parts and categories of Metro Vancouver in 2016.

B.C. Assessment has warned that single detached homes in Metro Vancouver will be assessed 30 to 50 per cent higher for 2017 taxes than in 2016. It said that these properties went up the most in Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby, the North Shore, Squamish and in the Tri-Cities from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016, which is the date on which yearly assessments for 2017 taxes are set.

Yan, who is director at Simon Fraser University’s City Program, also looked at the impact of transportation costs on housing affordability.

In the City of Vancouver the average cost of transportation over 25 years — assuming two per cent inflation per year and that nothing changes to improve the current situation — works out to be $298,459, according to Yan.

By comparison, if you live in the Township of Langley, the 25-year cost of transportation would be $563,755.

Across the Metro Vancouver region, if you add in amortized 25 year average annual transportation cost estimates, the percentage of homes with a cost of over $1 million rises significantly from 43 per cent to 92 per cent.

In areas such as Vancouver, the North Shore, Burnaby and Richmond, adding in such transportation costs increases the percentage of home values, but it’s in Coquitlam, New Westminster, Surrey, Delta, Port Coquitlam and the township and city of Langley where the contrast is most pronounced. In Coquitlam, the percentage of home valued over $1 million goes from 22.4 per cent to 97 per cent if you account for estimated amortized transportation costs. In the township of Langley, the percentage rises from 4.8 per cent to 90 per cent.

“This is only looking at the (straight) cost of transportation, not even the time,” said Yan.

He continued: “There is ‘phantom affordability’ too, if you will. This idea that you can drive (further from the city) until you qualify (to buy a home) doesn’t take into consideration that as home mortgages (cost less) transportation mortgages (in some areas) go up.”

Yan said this is precisely the direction seen in some U.S. cities, where the areas hardest hit by affordability woes have been the outskirts and suburbs rather than the city centres even when they have seen some of the highest home prices.

Thousands of pilots have suicidal thoughts each day, study says, with industry under a ‘veil of secrecy’

BY HENRY BODKIN, THE TELEGRAPH

Gendarmes and rescuers from the Gendarmerie High-Mountain Rescue Group working at the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320 near Le Vernet, French Alps, 2015

More than 4,000 commercial flights on any given day are being flown by pilots who have experienced suicidal thoughts, a landmark study of the airline industry suggests.

An international survey of pilots by Harvard University found that 4.1 per cent had contemplated killing themselves at least once in the previous fortnight, and 12.6 per cent met the criteria for depression.

Pilots diagnosed with acute depression are automatically deemed unfit to fly, but experts have warned that many cover up their symptoms for fear of losing their careers.

The study was conducted in the wake of the 2015 Germanwings tragedy, when a pilot suspected of being mentally ill deliberately crashed his airliner into the French Alps, killing 150 people.

Its authors said there is a “veil of secrecy” surrounding mental health problems in the cockpit. Last night, however, the British psychiatrist behind the study said screening for depression would be pointless as diagnosis would rely on pilots being honest.

“We found that many pilots currently flying are managing depressive symptoms, and it may be that they are not seeking treatment due to the fear of negative career impacts,” said Professor Joseph Allen, who led the research.

Depression, which affects people’s ability to concentrate and process information, can present as a feeling of failure or listlessness and loss of interest in the task at hand. The new study, which is published in the journal Environmental Health, is significant because most existing data on depression is held by airlines and aviation authorities but is largely kept private.

Almost 3,500 pilots responded to the anonymous survey, although of these more than 1,100 refused to answer questions relating to mental health.

A greater proportion of male than female pilots reported they had experiences “nearly every day” of loss of interest, feeling like a failure and thinking they would be better off dead. However, female pilots were more likely to have been diagnosed with depression.

The study also found a link between depression and higher usage of sleep aid medication.

Rob Hunter, head of flight safety at the British Airline Pilots’ Association, has called for pilots to be routinely insured against being forced to give up flying due to poor mental health, a recommendation that came out of the Germanwings investigation.

Canadians’ rising household debt key risk to economy, Bank of Canada warns

BARBARA SHECTER, FINANCIAL POST

The key vulnerabilities to the Canadian financial system continue to be elevated household debt, imbalances in the housing market across the country, and “fragile” fixed-income market liquidity, the Bank of Canada said Thursday in its year-end review.

But the central bank says new “household vulnerabilities” will be mitigated over time by new housing finance rules, which are expected to slow the housing market.

In the December report, the second of two assessments of risk each year, the Bank of Canada noted that mortgage rates are rising in response to government and regulatory changes to housing finance rules, as well as higher long-term bond yields that are increasing lender funding costs.

However, though global economic growth has picked up in the second half of the year, Canadians continue to labour under record debt loads.

“On a national basis, household indebtedness has continued to rise and, more importantly, so has the proportion of highly indebted households in many Canadian cities,” the report said.

Highly indebted individuals are key targets of the new federal measures aimed at cooling the housing market, but it will take time for the changes to have the desired effect, Carolyn Wilkins, senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, said at a news conference Thursday.

“It’s not something that will be a matter of weeks. That’ll be over the next few years, so it will take some time for that risk to come down,” she said.

Since the Bank of Canada’s last report on financial system stability in June, federal, provincial and municipal authorities have introduced policies and rules aimed at tamping down skyrocketing home prices, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver. These include British Columbia’s land transfer tax that applies to foreign buyers, and more stringent federal requirements to qualify for insured mortgages across the country. In addition, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is ratcheting up the amount of capital banks must hold against riskier mortgages.

“Taken together, the changes will have the greatest effect on household indebtedness by improving the quality of future borrowing,” the Bank of Canada report says.

If new measures requiring a higher qualifying rate for borrowers had been in place during the 12 months leading up to September of 2016, 31 per cent of high-ratio mortgages issued nationally would not have qualified, the report says. High-ratio mortgages are those with a loan to value of more than 80 per cent.

The report notes that tightened rules for obtaining portfolio insurance or other low-ratio mortgage insurance should also influence household debt by making refinancing and long-amortization transactions more expensive or less available.

For now, the national ratio of debt to disposable income is approaching 170 per cent, with strong growth in mortgage credit, and consumer credit. And it is growing at or slightly above the rate of income growth.

“The proportion of borrowers with high mortgage debt relative to income continues to increase in many Canadian cities,” the report said.

“This trend is partly fuelled by rising house prices, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver.”

Almost half of the high-ratio mortgages originated in Toronto in the third quarter had loan-to-income ratios that exceeded 450 per cent, up from 41 per cent a year earlier.

What’s more, the Bank of Canada report says, high loan-to-income mortgages are spreading beyond Toronto to nearby cities including Oshawa and Hamilton. It these cities, the proportion of high-ratio mortgages with loan-to-income ratios exceeding 450 per cent has more than doubled over the past three years to 25 per cent.

One area where risk has diminished slightly since the Bank of Canada’s report in June is the potential fallout from low commodity prices.

To some extent, “we’ve come past that,” Stephen Poloz, Governor of the Bank of Canada, said at Thursday’s news conference. He said prices have come up from lows and shown more stability in the past six months. Still, the central bank is keeping an eye on the continuing impacts on households in oil-dependent provinces.

“We don’t see it as a major risk, but it’s important to understand that it’s not over,” Poloz said.

Beyond household debt and the mortgage market, the central bank’s report also weighed in a segment of the capital markets that is drawing attention at the international level: bond market liquidity.

An in-depth market survey conducted by the Canadian Fixed-Income Forum, an industry group assembled by the central bank, found that there are “pockets where liquidity problems are more evident,” Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said in a statement Thursday.

These pockets include corporate bonds and certain repo markets.

However, it is too early to determine that regulatory changes are behind the liquidity issues, since markets have yet to fully adapt to the new regulatory requirements, Poloz said. In addition, he said comparisons to the market before the 2008 financial crisis may not be the best standard for comparison “because liquidity was excessive and virtually costless at that time.”

Poloz said the Bank of Canada will keep tabs on the fixed income market, particularly since new regulations are likely to make liquidity marginally more costly, and market-making less lucrative.

“We will continue to monitor market behaviour and to engage with market participants, while pursuing work on the impact of regulatory reforms at the international level,” he said.

B.C. government offers down payment loans to first-time homebuyers

VICTORIA — The B.C. government will loan first-time homebuyers some of the cash they need to afford their down payment, Premier Christy Clark announced Thursday.

The program will provide a government-backed loan of up to $37,500, or five per cent, of the purchase price of a home for qualified buyers, starting Jan. 16.

The goal is to match part of a person’s down payment to help them afford to buy their first home, as long as they already qualify for a mortgage under federal rules and the home is worth less than $750,000.

“What we know is for many first-time home buyers qualifying for a mortgage is hard, but getting past that down payment and scraping together the $25,000 or $50,000 you might need to be able to get into your first home is just impossible,” said Clark.

“So we want to be there to help first-time home buyers get over that hump.”

Clark said the move is a way for government to “be a partner in your home” and move renters into home ownership where possible.

The 25-year loan is interest-free for the first five years, and does not require the homeowner to even pay down the principal during those first five years, as long as they keep the home as their principal residence. It will be recorded as a second mortgage on the title of the property.

After the first five years, the province expects monthly payments at the current interest rate, with the loan repaid over the remaining 20 years. Extra payments or full repayment at any time will be allowed, according to the government.

The new down-payment program will cost government an estimated $703 million over three years, and is expected to help 42,000 people, according to government figures.

To be eligible, a homeowner must:

  • Have saved a down payment amount at least equal to the loan amount for which they are applying from government.
  • Have been a Canadian citizen or permanent resident for at least five years.
  • Have lived in B.C. for at least one year prior to the sale.
  • Be a first-time buyer who has not owned an interest in any residential property anywhere in the world at any time.
  • The home must have a purchase price of less than $750,000.
  • The buyer must already be able to qualify for an insured high-ratio first mortgage for at least 80 per cent of the purchase price.
  • The combined gross household income of all people on title must not be more than $150,000.

Provincial officials provided a few examples Thursday of how the program would work.

On a home worth $600,000, federal mortgage rules dictate a person must have a down payment of at least $35,000. If the person has saved only $30,000, the government would provide a matching $30,000 loan, giving the buyer $60,000 for the down payment.

On a home worth $750,000 (the program maximum), the minimum down payment would be $50,000.  If a person had saved a $52,500 down payment, government would provide five per cent of the $750,000, adding $37,500 to the down payment and allowing the buyer to pay almost $90,000 as the down payment. That could save $5,200 on interest payments on the mortgage over five years, say government officials.

Applications for the program will start on Jan. 16, 2017, for purchases that close on or after Feb. 15, 2017. The province said it will be a three-year program.

Government officials told media Thursday they hoped the program would have a very small default rate on the loans, because the owners would be meeting federal mortgage rules and qualifications under federal stress tests.

The premier said she was not concerned the program would raise housing prices.

“Our analysis tells us that it won’t because everybody who is going to be eligible for this program will have to have been accepted for a mortgage already,” said Clark.

The changes for first-time homebuyers are the latest in a series of housing reforms by the Clark government.

The province introduced a 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers in August, which data suggests has sharply curtailed foreign purchases in the Metro Vancouver real estate market. The tax has done little to lower the price of most detached homes, but the real estate industry expects prices to drop next year.

The government had also offered tax breaks to first-time homebuyers in its February budget. The budget reforms included removing the property transfer tax on newly built homes worth up to $750,000 (a tax savings of up to $13,000), while increasing the property transfer tax to three per cent from two per cent on homes sold for more than $2 million. At that time, the province chose not to change the $475,000 threshold on used homes that allowed first-time homebuyers to also avoid the property transfer tax.

Two men with the same face, or one man lying about having two identities to stay in Canada?

By Adrian Humphreys

An Alberta restaurant worker from Pakistan has been ordered out of Canada after facial recognition software analyzed his driver’s license photo and declared he is really someone else entirely.

While Farhan Mahmood says it is a bizarre case of two men with the same face, Canada Border Services Agency says its use of biometric technology caught a man who shouldn’t be in Canada.

It is among the first reported cases of CBSA proactively using facial recognition data to probe immigrant status although the technology has been a priority interest for the agency for years.

CBSA says Farhan Mahmood, 38, and Muhammad Irfan, 39, are the same person — in the flesh but not on paper.

Irfan came to Canada from Pakistan in 2003 and was refused a work permit that year and again in 2004. Immigration records show he left Canada on Sept. 23, 2003.

Although Irfan didn’t get a work permit, he did get an Alberta driver’s license on Feb. 26, 2003, a process that included having his photo taken.

Mahmood says he first came to Canada from Pakistan on Nov. 13, 2005, and obtained a work permit that year.

Even to an untrained eye the Irfan image and Mahmood images have striking similarities.

On April 11, 2007, Mahmood walked into the same Edmonton service office and had his photo taken for his driver’s license. Both photos were entered into the Alberta Motor Vehicle System called MOVES.

Mahmood and Irfan both applied for a permit to work at the same restaurant owned by Tariq Chaudhry, who sponsored both applications.

In 2014, Mahmood filed a lawsuit against Chaudhry alleging abusive labour practices. The split between the two was acrimonious and shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Chaudhry reported to CBSA that Mahmood’s real name was Irfan.

Regardless of the motive behind Chaudhry’s tip, CBSA investigated Mahmood’s identity.

Irfan’s 2003 driver’s license photo was run through the Alberta MOVES database: the system flagged Mahmood’s 2007 driver’s license photo as a 100% match and his 2012 photo as an 82.5% match.

At the request of CBSA, Gord Bryant, supervisor of Alberta’s facial recognition unit, did a manual comparison as well. He concluded the photos are “the strongest possible match.”

CBSA sought to have Mahmood kicked out of Canada on the grounds he misrepresented himself.

It wasn’t easy for the various checks and balances in the system to decide what to do with him.

He continuously denied he is Irfan — or that Irfan is him — and denied previously entering Canada using that name.

Last year, the Immigration and Refugee Board heard from Mahmood and Chaudhry, the spiteful tipster, as well as CBSA at a hearing.

Mahmood said he was in Pakistan, not Canada, in 2003: he got married on Feb. 14, 2003, to Rizwana Kausar and their daughter was born on Dec 17, 2003. But he provided little documentation to prove it.

Chaudhry’s evidence was described in court as “combative and self-serving and lacking credibility in many areas.” Although his words were given little weight, his tip was deemed accurate.

“Even to an untrained eye the Irfan image and Mahmood images have striking similarities,” said George Pemberton, the IRB adjudicator, in his decision.

Pemberton agreed Mahmood and Irfan were the same person, however, he did not declare him inadmissible to Canada because there was no evidence he had ever been asked if he had previously been denied a work permit.

The government’s appeal to the IRB’s appeal division brought a different ruling, finding there was adequate reason to consider Mahmood inadmissible.

Mahood then appealed to the Federal Court, which settled the matter in a decision released last week. Justice Glennys McVeigh dismissed his appeal.

Immigration and Refugee BoardImages from the facial recognition report the government used to determine that Farhan Mahmood and Muhammad Irfan are the same person.

CBSA is increasingly using facial recognition analysis to root out duplicitous duplicates. It is usually touted as a way to catch terrorists, gangsters and human smugglers.

CBSA this year planned to test facial recognition technology through a live video feed to match travellers against a database of previously deported persons in an operational border context, according to a Privacy Impact Assessment the agency filed.

In a 2014 facial recognition pilot project, CBSA ran 1,000 photos of wanted fugitives through databases. The test found matches for 15 who had alternate identities, Canadian Press reported.

In a few previous cases, facial recognition checks have led to immigration charges or removals from Canada of foreign nationals, including a Turkish man who applied for status as a Syrian refugee, but the published cases show the searches were initiated by other government agencies.

In this case, CBSA requested the search of Alberta’s database and caught a cook.

Mahmood’s lawyer, Martin Stoyanov, said he wouldn’t recommend that his client speak with the media about his case.

Requests to CBSA for information on its use of facial recognition went unanswered prior to deadline.

Winter Storm Preparedness and Safety Tips

Environment Canada has issued special weather advisories for several regions of the province for extremely cold temperatures and arctic outflows causing strong winds combined with snowfall.

The Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto is encouraging British Columbians to prepare with the following tips and resources:

Winter Weather Readiness Tips

Arctic outflow warnings are issued when bitterly cold winds that can create wind chill values of -20 or less for six hours or more are forecast. In these conditions, people should limit outdoor exposure or use caution due to the increased risk for frostbite and hypothermia. Be particularly mindful of children and pets being outdoors at this time.
Always wear clothing appropriate for the weather. Dress warmly in layers with a wind resistant outer layer. Synthetic and wool fabrics provide better insulation. Some synthetic fabrics are designed to keep perspiration away from your body which keep you dry and further reduce your risk. Cover as much exposed skin as possible to avoid frostbite by wearing hats, gloves and scarves. Be sure to cover your nose to protect it. Try to stay dry. If you get wet, change into dry clothing as soon as possible. You lose heat faster when you’re wet.
Drive with care. Strong winds combined with snow can significantly reduce visibility. Drivers should monitor DriveBC road conditions and have an emergency kit in their vehicles that includes warm clothes and winter footwear, food and water, a shovel, a flashlight, and a fully-charged cell phone for emergency calls.

Windsor police make record seizure of crystal meth and more

By CRAIG PEARSON, WINDSOR STAR

Following a 12-week undercover investigation Windsor police have seized an estimated $180,000 in drugs, including the force’s largest ever haul of crystal meth.

Officers made buys from street-level and mid-level dealers and seized 850 grams of crystal methamphetamine, among other drugs. The operation started in September and uncovered a growing meth problem in Windsor, including with blue product like that featured on the acclaimed TV series Breaking Bad.

“Meth has gone crazy,” Staff Sgt. Frank Providenti, the head of the department’s intelligence unit, said Thursday during a press conference at police headquarters.

“In Windsor, it’s now the drug of choice. Before we had a problem with crack cocaine. It’s still out there but not to the extent it used to be. Crystal meth is now easier to get and has a better bang for your buck.”

The other alarming finding from the investigation — which included dangerous undercover work from more than one officer — is the rise in fentanyl, including “bootleg” and powdered versions of the sometimes fatal drug.

Providenti said at least two or three people in Windsor have died from fentanyl overdoses in the last year and that further investigation might prove the number is actually higher.

Besides more than 850 grams of methamphetamine the latest operation netted: eight fentanyl patches, six grams of fentanyl powder, 105 oxycodone pills, 3.6 grams of cocaine, 0.3 grams of crack, 129 MDMA pills, 0.1 grams of heroin, seven hydromorphone pills, and 11.7 grams of marijuana.

“This is a significant seizure,” Providenti said, noting that many of the drugs confiscated will now be more difficult to find in Windsor over the holiday period.

Police have charged 15 people, though four suspects have yet to be arrested. Most arrests in the operation were made two days ago.