2016: The year in review in Abbotsford

Take a look back at some of the stories that grabbed headlines over the last 12 months

  • Dec. 31, 2016 8:00 a.m.

Here are just some of the news stories that grabbed headlines in Abbotsford in 2016:

JANUARY

* The homeless issue heats up, as early in the new year all 40 beds at a new shelter on Riverside Road quickly fill up. By the end of the month, a court decision results in a new municipal bylaw allowing homeless people to set up temporary shelters in most city parks between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 a.m., provided there is no accessible shelter accommodation.

* The City of Abbotsford delivers a written submission to the National Energy Board on Jan. 12, stating that while it neither formally opposes or supports the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal, it still has concerns about the cost to municipalities, as well as the company’s preparation to respond to an oil spill.

FEBRUARY

* Gladys Avenue homeless protest camp occupants are told to remove their possessions from the site by Feb. 10. Camps on Gladys and Cyril Street vacate later that month, but homeless advocates say more support is needed.

* After a remarkable high school football career, Abbotsford Senior Secondary Grade 12 student Chase Claypool (in photo above) officially signs on with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish collegiate football team on Feb. 3.

* The Abbotsford Agrifair cancels its rodeo event, with organizers citing the need to save money after a $51,000 deficit for the event in 2015.

* For the first time ever, the price of an average Abbotsford home exceeds half a million dollars. This comes after an increase of nearly three per cent in just one month.

MARCH

* The Bateman Timberwolves basketball program earns its first-ever provincial banner, as the Grade 9 girls team takes home a provincial championship. The Rick Hansen Hurricanes senior boys team captures AAA bronze later that month.

* A windstorm rocks Abbotsford on March 10, as gusts of 95 kilometres per hour tear through the region. As a result, thousands lose power, flights are diverted and schools close for the day.

* Abbotsford records its second homicide of the year, after one of the victims of a double shooting on Hawthorne Avenue dies of his injuries. The first homicide occurs on Feb. 24, when 63-year-old David Delaney is found dead in his apartment. Murder charges in the Delaney case are laid in May.

* Abbotsford rugby star John Cannon dies at the age of 35 from a heart attack. Cannon suited up for the Canadian national team from 2001 to 2007, and also played on professional club teams in the United Kingdom.

APRIL

* A group of atheists asks the Abbotsford school district to stop the distribution of Gideon bibles in local schools. A total of 112 bibles were made accessible to those who wanted them in Abbotsford’s 21 schools the previous year.

* The inaugural Abbotsford Tulip Festival opens on North Parallel Road just east of the Whatcom Road exit. Thousands attend the event, which runs for the entire month of April. Approximately 90,000 people visit the site during the month, blowing away expectations of organizers.

* Flames rip through the Ledgeview Golf and Country Club’s clubhouse on April 19. The course remains intact and playable, but the clubhouse building is described as a “total loss.”

* Defamatory Facebook comments cost an Abbotsford woman, when B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack orders Katherine Van Nes to pay more than $65,000 for online comments that suggested her neighbour – a middle school teacher – was a pedophile who was videotaping her children.

MAY

* Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline receives the endorsement of the National Energy Board on May 20, despite failing to accept some of the conditions proposed by the City of Abbotsford. The project, which was eventually approved by the federal government in December, includes 30 kilometres of pipeline through Abbotsford.

* Abbotsford Police say a major drug line in the city is disrupted after an Abbotsford man is charged with 66 drug and weapons offences. Officers seize numerous guns, $60,000 in cash and large quantities of drugs. Corey Jim Perkins, 28, is charged.

JUNE

* House prices jump seven per cent in May, with the value of a detached home up 32 per cent from the same period in 2015.

* Charges are laid against two men related to the 2010 shooting death of Mandy Johnson. Gavinder Grewal, the leader of one of two rival gangs battling over drug turf in west Abbotsford, and Jason Himpfen are both charged on June 15. Johnson’s boyfriend at the time, Gater Browne, was the intended target of the shooting.

* A public hearing on June 20 sees more than 140 people attend a public hearing and 30 speak about the new “Abbotsforward” official community plan. The proposed guide for the future growth of the city sees two-thirds of the speakers support the plan, which creates multiple hubs and more transit and pedestrian-friendly spaces.

JULY

* The BC Summer Games take place in Abbotsford from July 21 to 24, drawing some 3,000 athletes from across the province to compete in 18 different sports, including volleyball, rowing, rugby, soccer, baseball and swimming.

* Statistics released for the first half of 2016 reveal a 74 per cent jump in fatal overdoses, compared to the same period in 2015, with much of the hike being attributed to fentanyl, an opioid declared 100 times stronger than methadone. Abbotsford records 16 such illicit drug deaths during that period.

* One of the historic Goodyear Blimps makes a rare appearance in the area when it stops at Abbotsford Airport as part of a Pacific Coast tour. It is one of the last times that the Spirit of Innovation will be seen, as it is being retired next year. The following month, the highly advanced F-35 fighter jet makes a first-ever visit to the Abbotsford Airshow.

AUGUST

* Residents of a Bradner neighbourhood are pleased when they discover that James Conway, previously convicted of sexual offences against children, is leaving the area. Conway had arrived on Joanita Place in August 2015, and neighbours had held several protest rallies and lobbied officials to push for his removal. Similar protests take place in Mission after his relocation there.

* Abbotsford records its fifth homicide of the year, when Gurdev (Dave) Hair, 45, is shot outside of a home on Crown Court. Police converge on the scene, and find Hair lying in a yard. He is transported to hospital, where he succumbs to his injuries. Police say Hair is known to police, although they do not confirm whether the killing is linked to the Townline Hill gang conflict.

* Soccer player Sophie Schmidt returns for a quick visit to her hometown of Abbotsford and celebrates winning an Olympic bronze medal as part of Team Canada’s women’s soccer team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Canada downed Brazil 2-1 in the bronze-medal game.

SEPTEMBER

* A report indicates that nearly two-thirds of Abbotsford schools that were tested had higher-than-acceptable levels of lead in drinking water. The school district states that it will work on a permanent plan to deal with the problem, which could involve new pipes, filtration or automatic flushing devices.

* Fraser Health wins a court injunction to remove occupants of a homeless protest camp from the former MSA Hospital grounds on McCallum Road. The campers began occupying the property in mid-July, and Fraser Health said they were on private land and needed to go.

* A dust explosion during a blaze at a furniture manufacturing plant on Peardonville Road results in a fireball engulfing four firefighters in a 20-foot wall of flames. None are injured.

OCTOBER

* A massive accidental fire destroys Lou’s Grill, a 25-year-old restaurant viewed by many as a landmark in Abbotsford. The incident, which takes place around 6:30 a.m., leaves many without work, but nobody is injured. Owner Michael Loukas says he plans to re-open by summer.

* Abbotsford lawyer Ravi Duhra films a man as he goes on a racist rant in a parking lot following the issuing of a ticket. The video gains international attention. Karry Corbett is later charged with uttering threats, causing a disturbance and two counts of assault in relation to the tirade.

* Police bust two residential meth labs one day apart. The first is uncovered at a home on Marshall Road near Everett Street, and the second is in the 1700 block of Mt. Lehman Road. The Abbotsford Police drug squad, the RCMP clandestine drug lab team and Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service are among those involved in the investigation.

NOVEMBER

* Letisha Reimer, 13, is killed Nov. 1 in a random stabbing at Abbotsford Senior Secondary, while her close friend is seriously injured. Police announce the following day that Gabriel Klein, a 21-year-old transient, has been charged with second-degree murder.

* The highly controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline proposal is approved by the federal government. The project will twin the pipeline, which runs between Alberta and the company’s Burnaby terminal and includes 30 kilometres of pipe through Abbotsford.

* The trial begins for Jeffrey Friesen, charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of estranged wife Leanne Friesen, 40, in 2013. Leanne’s body is found by police in the garage of her Cassiar Court home in Abbotsford. The trial, which is expected to take several weeks, continues in January.

DECEMBER

* A new report from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation indicates that Abbotsford and Mission have the scarcest supply of rental housing in the nation. The region’s vacancy rate is 0.5 per cent, resulting in the average rent in the region increasing from $787 in 2015 to $829 this year.

* Longtime Abbotsford MP Ed Fast, 61, suffers a stroke at his home and is reported in stable condition. A statement released by his office says he is “expected to make a full recovery.”

* Two men are injured in a drive-by shooting on Walsh Avenue that police confirm is linked to the ongoing Townline Hill gang conflict. Police receive reports of gunshots in the area, but there are no victims on the scene when they arrive. They soon receive word that two men with gunshot wounds have shown up at the hospital. The shooters are not found.

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