Alex Forsyth, 13, of the Bulkley Valley Cross Country Ski Club, demonstrates excellent offset technique as he sprints to the finish line during his qualifying heat in the BC Cup Freestyle Sprint Race in Salmon Arm on Saturday, Feb. 12. (Ben Forsyth photo)

Alex Forsyth, 13, of the Bulkley Valley Cross Country Ski Club, demonstrates excellent offset technique as he sprints to the finish line during his qualifying heat in the BC Cup Freestyle Sprint Race in Salmon Arm on Saturday, Feb. 12. (Ben Forsyth photo)

2022 Year in review: February

BREAK AND ENTERS ON THE RISE

Two businesses were broken into during the overnight hours of Feb.1 in Smithers.

Free-Lance Automotive posted on their Facebook page they were one of the businesses broken into and commended the Smithers RCMP for their quick action and help.

Smithers RCMP Acting Staff Sergeant Irvine, confirmed two businesses had break-ins on Feb. 1 without significant damage to the business, but property had been stolen.

Irvine said since he arrived in Smithers in July, he has noticed residential and commercial crime is on the rise, a trend that continued throughout 2022.

RECYCLING DEPOT TEMPORARILY

CLOSES

The recycling depot located at the Smithers-Telkwa ‌Transfer Station was temporarily closed in February due to a shortage of Recycle BC supplies.

RDBN suggested that residents stockpile recycling material at home until the depot reopened later in the month.

RED CHRIS GOES ELECTRIC

The Red Chris copper, gold and silver mine in northwestern B.C. received a provincial subsidy to help it switch from a diesel generator to the province’s hydroelectric grid.

The $448,243 represents one-third of the $1.7 million total cost to disconnect a diesel generator running four water pumps and electrify one water pump.

Located south of Dease Lake and east of Hwy 37 North, the mine already draws power from BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line.

The result, indicated a provincial release, should be preventing emissions of 9,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

GOLD MINE DENIED ENVIRONMENTAL

CERTIFICATE

Citing the potential for damage to a population of sockeye that uses the Skeena River, the provincial government won’t be issuing an environmental assessment certificate for the planned Pacific Booker Minerals open-pit copper, gold and molybdenum mine 65 kilometres northeast of Smithers.

In a decision released Feb. 7, mines minister Bruce Ralston and environment minister George Heyman said Pacific Booker failed to submit “information to demonstrate that risks to water quality and fish can be suitably mitigated.”

The project, had it gone ahead, would have had a daily production of 30,000 tonnes of ore.

The company first applied for an environmental assessment certificate in 2010 which was refused in 2012 upon the recommendation of the provincial Environmental Assessment Office’s executive director.

SKI HILL RECEIVES INFRASTRUCTURE

GRANT

In February, the Smithers Ski and Snowboard Club received a $418,000 grant from the provincial government for a comprehensive list of improvements on Hudson Bay Mountatin designed to heighten the ability of the ski hill to host regional and provincial competitions.

“This is really going to position us for the next generation or two for high-quality experiences,” said club president Cormac Hikisch.

In broad terms, the work was slated to improve the racing infrastructure on two runs, Cinderella and Turkey Shoot, mainly used by the club for competition.

The funds were also intended to cover the cost of building an amphitheatre install a high-tech weather station on top of the mountain to provide real-time and accurate weather reports.

PIPELINE OPPONENTS SUBMIT

REPORT TO UN

In February, Gidimt’en Checkpoint, the group opposing the construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline (CGL) on Wet’suwet’en territory near Houston, have submitted a report on their ongoing issues to an expert panel of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

The submission titled “Militarization of Wet’suwet’en Lands and Canada’s Ongoing Violations,” was part of the input for a study undertaken by the UNHRC’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that consists of a panel of seven independent members appointed by the Human Rights Council.

The submission summarizes the ongoing dispute between CGL and the Wet’suwet’en group opposing the construction of a 670-kilometre pipeline in northwestern B.C., which led to nearly 30 people being arrested by the RCMP in November 2021.

Through a timeline of activities that dates back to 2o19, the submission highlighted how “forced industrialization and police militarization” contradicts Canada’s obligations toward the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

TELKWA SEES LARGE UPTICK IN

POPULATION

StatCan’s first release of data from the 2021 census indicated Telkwa added 147 people to its population, an increase of 11.1 per cent over 2016.

Telkwa’s population stood at 1,474 as of 2021.

Meanwhile, the population of the Town of Smithers declined ever so slightly between 2016 and 2021.

Census takers counted 5,378 people in the town in 2021 compared with 5,401 five years earlier, a reduction of 0.4 per cent.

While the town proper experienced minor change, the surrounding area, identified in the census release as Bulkley Nechako A, showed a significant increase in population of 6.3 per cent.

In the 3,674 square kilometre rural area 5,587 people were counted in 2021 compared to 5,256 in 2016’s census.

New Hazelton also saw some growth climbing to 602 people from 580 while the Village of Hazelton saw a drastic reduction in its number of residents, declining 17.9 per cent from 313 to 257.

16-YEAR-OLD YOUTUBER GETS

SPONSORED

An effort to educate people on the proper techniques for ethical catch-and-release fishing has turned into a sponsorship arrangement for a 16-year-old Smithers angler.

While fishing on the Kitimat River in 2021, Marcus Kilb was appalled to see what basically amounted to abuse of a Chinook salmon.

Kilb took video of a man dragging the fish up on the shore where it flopped around on the rocks while the angler took pictures. Eventually, the man returned the salmon back to the river, but Kilb did not think it would survive.

He did not believe the man was being malicious, which inspired him to create a video.

In the video posted to “kilb Outdoors,” the young Smithereen’s YouTube Channel, he goes through, step by step, how to catch, land, remove the hook, ethically take a picture and maximize the animal’s chance for survival.

That video garnered him a sponsorship by the Bulkley Valley Rod and Gun Club.

COMMUNITY HONOURS MMIWG

Family members, friends, allies and community members honoured missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, men, boys and two-spirit persons of the Bulkley Valley with a community action march through Smithers Feb. 14.

Co-organizer Kayla Mitchell said her heart was happy because of the strong showing of community support as she addressed the crowd that gathered at Bovill Square.

“It really starts with our community and us coming together as people,” she said. “Individually we can all do our part, but when we come together to demand justice, to implement the 231 calls to action (from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women and Girls) into our governance structures.”

ART GALLERY HOSTS UNIQUE SEASON

OPENER

The Smithers Art Gallery opened its 2022-2023 season with a unique exhibition featuring art by workshop participants.

Gallery manager Nicole Chernish said during the pandemic, workshops, either online or in-person, had been very popular.

“Art has been a beacon of light for many during the past two years of this ongoing pandemic and the Smithers Art Gallery wants to celebrate all those folks in our community who participated in our workshops — feeding their creative spirit during this time,” she said in a press release.

The exhibition, which opened Feb. 8 and ran until the 26th, featured art created by students in workshops such as Art Without Intent, Little and Young Artists Club, Teen Studio Sessions and Woodcut Printmaking.

COASTAL GASLINK WORKSITE

VIOLENTLY ATTACKED

Conflict over the construction of Coastal GasLink’s natural gas pipeline near Houston erupted again on Feb. 17.

Overnight a group of approximately 20 masked individuals attacked the site extensively damaging and turning over heavy equipment, vandalizing living quarters and attempting to set fire to a company vehicle occupied by some employees.

One RCMP officer was also injured in the attack, police said.

“This is a very troubling escalation in violent criminal activity that could have resulted in serious injury or death. This was a calculated and organized violent attack that left its victims shaken and a multimillion-dollar path of destruction,” said the RCMP’s top officer in the north, Chief Superintendent Warren Brown.

Coastal GasLink described its workers as being shaken by the incident.

No arrests were ever made related to the attack.

GOODACRE PLACE EXONERATED

A review of Goodacre Place released in February found no link between the supported living facility’s cultural safety practices and the deaths of six Indigenous men.

The report, commissioned by BC Housing and supported by the Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA), indicated two independent consultants were asked to determine if the Smithers Community Services Association (SCSA) was fulfilling the terms of its agreement with BC Housing.

“During the course of the review the consultants did not, however, observe any direct linkages between the cultural safety practices employed at Goodacre Place and the deaths, and therefore could not substantiate any of the allegations,” the report stated.

The allegations referred to in the report came out of an April 22, 2021, joint press release from the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre (DLKF) and B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres demanding an inquiry and suggesting the deaths were linked to “Smithers’ lack of culturally safe housing programs for Indigenous people.”

Cathryn Olmstead, executive director of Smithers Community Services Association (SCSA), which runs Goodacre, was pleased that the facility and staff were vindicated, but unhappy that the report did not state that directly in clear and certain terms.

NORDIC SKIERS EXCEL IN SALMON

ARM

Bulkley Valley Nordics racers skied their way to 23 top ten finishes at a BC Cup event in Salmon Arm Feb. 12 – 13 including a first place finish for Ryan Chapman in the Masters Men category.

The largest Bulkley Valley Nordics race team in recent history joined nearly 500 other skiers from more than 20 clubs across BC and Alberta to compete at BC Cup #2 at the Larch Hills Ski Trails.

SMITHERS WRESTLERS WIN AT SFU

Two athletes from the Smithers Wrestling Club qualified in February for the 2022 Canada Summer Games BC Team Selection Trials.

Reuben Hunter and Fiona Sullivan accomplished that during the Western Canada Age Class Tournament hosted by Simon Fraser University in Burnaby Feb. 5 – 6.

Hunter competed in the U20 competition in the 76-kilogram division. He dominated his weight class (the heaviest of the tournament), winning all of his matches.

Sullivan entered the both the U19 and U20 competitions in the 64-kilogram weight class. She won second place in the U19 competition, winning her first three bouts by pinning her opponents before losing a narrow decision (13-11) in the final.

SMITHERS TOPS ALL MUNICIPALITIES

IN EXPLORATION SPENDING

A Report released in February indicated mineral exploration companies spent more money in 2020 in Smithers than in any other municipality in the province.

The town topped the list with an estimated $105.2 million according to the Association for Mineral Exploration’s (AME) report Explore Our Economy (EOE).

That was almost double what was spent in Vancouver ($64.1 million), which came in second and represented 52 per cent of all the spending in the Northwest region.

 

Marchers arrive at the Smithers RCMP detachment following a march through Smithers honouring missing and murdered women, girls, men, boys and two-spirit persons on Feb. 14. (Thom Barker photo)

Marchers arrive at the Smithers RCMP detachment following a march through Smithers honouring missing and murdered women, girls, men, boys and two-spirit persons on Feb. 14. (Thom Barker photo)

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