The biggest news stories in Abbotsford in 2018 revolved around devastating acts of violence.
The city and its residents continued to feel the effects of two recent community-shaking tragedies, while the ongoing gang conflict is now several years old, over which time more than a dozen people have been killed in acts directly tied to the violence.
Many of the year’s other biggest stories can be linked, in one way or another, to the rapid development of the Lower Mainland and its environmental, political and societal ramifications.
1. Ongoing gang violence
Abbotsford experienced six murders in 2018, a figure that is lower than the previous year, but would still put the city above the national average. Most of those killings can be tied directly or indirectly to the continuing and evolving Lower Mainland gang conflict. The murder of Abbotsford gangster Varinderpal Gill in Mission was also tied to organized crime, and the shootings were often clustered within weeks of one another. Worries about crime triggered several public meetings over the course of the year and was also regularly mentioned during the fall’s municipal election campaign.
2. School stabbing suspect unfit to stand trial
The man who killed Letisha Reimer and injured a second student in a 2016 stabbing at Abbotsford Senior Secondary was deemed by a court to be unfit to stand trial this year. Gabriel Klein’s fitness will continue to be periodically reviewed, with lawyers and psychologists hoping that his psychosis and hallucinations can be addressed if the proper medication regimen can be found.
3. Davidson mourning and aftermath
The last year has seen Abbotsford continue to mourn the November 2017 shooting of Const. John Davidson. In November, he and fellow officers were honoured for their bravery. Davidson was also recognized in April for his work battling impaired driving. Meanwhile, legal proceedings against his alleged killer are set to stand trial next spring.
4. Municipal election
Voters went to the polls in October to choose new municipal politicians. Although the campaign was contentious, Mayor Henry Braun claimed 56 per cent of the vote and easily held off Coun. Moe Gill and Eric Nyvall. All seven councillors running to retain their seats also won election.
5. Pipeline declined, clubhouse in question
The future of Kinder Morgan’s plans to expand its pipeline was a major national story in 2018 with significant local implications. The pipeline runs for about 30 kilometres through Abbotsford, making the city one of the most affected by the project. But its future is also linked to plans to build a new clubhouse at the city-owned Ledgeview Golf Course. The city expects to receive more than $2 million from the company to help build the $5.67 million facility. But that money is incumbent upon the pipeline being expanded. The issue cropped up during the election and is set to persist into 2019.
6. Celebrations marred
Canada Day celebrations were marred this year when an elderly man fell off the back of a pickup truck and died. A month later, five people were injured – one critically – when a plane that had been on display at the Abbotsford International Airshow crashed.
7. ALC denies industrial application
In April, the ALC quashed Abbotsford’s request to have about 200 hectares of land excluded from the Agricultural Land Reserve so the city would have room to attract large industrial businesses. The decision was a significant setback for city officials who say Abbotsford is running out of industrial land, but applauded by those who had opposed the request.
8. Habitat for Humanity disintegration and recriminations
The Upper Fraser Valley affiliate of Habitat for Humanity was abruptly shuttered in May by the organization’s national office, which said financial issues prompted the decision. But two top administrators of the local branch – which operated a ReStore in Abbotsford – disagreed and filed lawsuits against Habitat for Humanity.
9. Bad air
For the second straight year, smoky skies choked the Fraser Valley. By early September, 21 air quality advisories had been issued in the Fraser Valley. That was even more than 2017, when 19 advisories were issued.
10. Highway crashes and speed changes
Local politicians stepped up pressure on the provincial government to widen Highway 1 through the Fraser Valley, as statistics showed the road had seen a significant spike in crashes in recent years. The province did announce two new changes. A variable speed system will be installed between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, and the speed limit in the area will also be reduced to 100 km/h. But no announcements were made regarding the clogged stretch between Langley and Abbotsford.