TOP LEFT: A COVID-19 testing centre opened at MSA Arena in March. TOP RIGHT: A Black Lives Matter solidarity protest took place in historic downtown Abbotsford on June 5. BOTTOM LEFT: Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr spoke to reporters in New Westminster following the sentencing hearing in February for Oscar Arfmann, who killed Const. John Davidson on Nov. 6, 2017. BOTTOM RIGHT: The Abbotsford Panthers seniors’ girls basketball team celebrated their 3A provincial title on Feb. 29.

TOP LEFT: A COVID-19 testing centre opened at MSA Arena in March. TOP RIGHT: A Black Lives Matter solidarity protest took place in historic downtown Abbotsford on June 5. BOTTOM LEFT: Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr spoke to reporters in New Westminster following the sentencing hearing in February for Oscar Arfmann, who killed Const. John Davidson on Nov. 6, 2017. BOTTOM RIGHT: The Abbotsford Panthers seniors’ girls basketball team celebrated their 3A provincial title on Feb. 29.

YEAR IN REVIEW: A look back at 2020 in Abbotsford

It was a year like no other in recent memory

JANUARY

• Skully White, owner of the Lullys Food Experience hotdog stand in Abbotsford, revealed that he had agreed to donate a kidney to one of his customers, Tim Hiscock, whose own kidneys were failing due to diabetes complications. The two were found to be a match, and transplant surgery took place on Dec. 14 in Vancouver. Both are now doing well.

• A wild week of winter weather resulted in more than a foot of snow falling in Abbotsford during the week of Jan. 12, including 10 centimetres in one night. Highway 1 was like a skating rink the following morning, and blowing snow resulted in the freeway being closed for several hours from Lickman Road in Chilliwack to Whatcom Road in Abbotsford.

• Abbotsford Police officer Ryan Masales (known as “Chopper”), who was battling a rare form of brain cancer, received a police escort on Jan. 3 as he left the community to begin his journey for treatment at the Ivy Brain Tumour Centre in Phoenix, Arizona. Masales, 46, had surgery on Jan. 15 and was sent home to continue treatment, but he passed away on March 26 with family and friends by his side.

RELATED: Abbotsford homeless advocate killed by RCMP leaves behind complicated legacy

• Barry Shantz, an outspoken advocate for the homeless in Abbotsford and for those with drug addictions, was killed by Lytton RCMP officers on Jan. 13 when they were called to his home. Shantz reportedly told a 911 operator that he was going to walk out of his property and towards police with a shotgun. The standoff ended six hours later, when Shantz was shot six times on his front porch.

Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor holds high the trophy he earned for winning at Pebble Beach. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

FEBRUARY

• The sentencing hearing was held for Oscar Arfmann, the man who shot and killed Abbotsford Police Const. John Davidson in the line of duty on Nov. 6, 2017. Arfmann was convicted of first-degree murder, which means he will serve a life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years. Davidson’s wife and three grown children read emotional victim-impact statements at the hearing.

RELATED: ‘Void that can never be filled’: Const. John Davidson’s family details impact of his death

• Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor became the first Canadian to win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Feb. 9, outplaying one of golf’s giants, Phil Mickelson. Over the four-day event, Taylor shot 63, 66, 69 and 70 for a total of 268 – four shots up on American Kevin Streelman and five on Mickelson.

• A body was found Feb. 15 at the side of the road in the 37000 block of Keeping Road. The body was later identified as 36-year-old Michael Ray Day, and police confirmed that his death was Abbotsford’s first homicide of the year. The cause of death has not been released, and no charges have yet been laid.

• More than two dozen protestors set up barricades on two rail lines running through Sumas, Matsqui and Abbotsford in late February in response to the RCMP arrests on Wet’suwet’en and Tyendinaga territory. The arrests were related to protests over the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

• The Abbotsford Panthers senior girls’ basketball team ended a 36-year drought by capturing the 3A girls provincial title at the Langley Events Centre on Feb. 29. The team’s historic achievement was immortalized on the front of the March 3 edition of the Abbotsford News. The Panthers defeated the Okanagan Mission Huskies 85-77 in the championship game.

MARCH

• The University of the Fraser Valley Cascades men’s basketball program announced that longtime head coach Adam Friesen would not be returning with the program. He spent eight years with the team and finished with a career record of 98-66. UFV chose not to share the reasons behind the parting of ways.

• The first rumours of a new coronavirus began hitting the pages of the Abbotsford News in print and online in early March. As the month continued, the rumours turned into an all-out war against the virus. A website and assessment centre were established to help deal with cases in Abbotsford, and Mayor Henry Braun stated that drastic action would be required in the fight. Later in March, charities began struggling and the City of Abbotsford considered its course of action. Many local businesses shut down for some time in March and were also tasked with adjusting to the new normal.

• The expansion of Abbotsford Police headquarters was discussed by city council, but the costs were estimated to be $60 million to renovate the existing building or $85 million for a brand new one. APD chief Mike Serr endorsed the renovation option, stating that it is difficult to find space for new officers to work in the current building.

• Gabriel Klein was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 13-year-old Letisha Reimer, who was stabbed to death at Abbotsford Senior Secondary on Nov. 1, 2016. Defence lawyer Martin Peters argued that Klein was suffering from mental illness at the time of the attack, but the judge disagreed. Sentencing was set for September, but that was later changed to a “not criminally responsible” hearing, which continues in January.

RELATED: Gabriel Klein guilty of 2nd-degree murder in Abbotsford high school stabbing

APRIL

• By early April, more than 300 people had been tested for COVID-19 at the Abbotsford testing centre. The number of positive cases was not released because provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stated that she wanted people everywhere to follow the proper protocols regardless of the number of cases in any given location.

• The projected cost of the first phase of Fraser Highway improvements rose from $7 million to $9.3 million. The work includes widening the road and installing left-turn lanes at key intersections to prevent congestion on the local artery. The total cost for the project is estimated at $45 million.

• Abbotsford Regional Hospital became a secure site to treat an outbreak of COVID-19 at Mission Institution’s medium-security unit. By late April, 108 inmates and 12 correctional officers at the facility had tested positive for the virus – the highest total of any federal institution in B.C. by a large amount.

RELATED: Mission Institution: Voices from inside Canada’s worst COVID-19 prison outbreak

• The City of Abbotsford announced that the Canada Day 2020 celebration would move to a virtual format due to the risks posed by COVID-19. Both the Abbotsford Agrifair and the Abbotsford International Airshow stated that they were looking at unique options. The airshow would later choose not to run, and Agrifair ran under a drive-thru format.

• Abbotsford Senior grad Chase Claypool made headlines after he was chosen in the second round of the National Football League draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Claypool went on to have a spectacular start to his rookie season in the NFL with four touchdowns in a week-five win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

MAY

• A large COVID-19 outbreak at Worthington Pavilion prompted the families of at least two deceased residents to publicly question why Fraser Health had stated that no patients linked to the care facility had died. The families were concerned that the public didn’t know the full scale of the outbreak, and they called for better communication.

RELATED: Senior’s death prompt questions about scale of COVID-19 outbreak at Abbotsford care facility

• A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at Abbotsford Regional Hospital, with Fraser Health announcing eight cases (seven staff, one patient). The hospital had been treating COVID-19 patients for more than a month, but it was the first time there was an active case in the hospital outside the COVID-19 treatment ward.

• Police announced on May 17 that human remains found March 19 in the 32000 block of King Road were those of Marie Stuart, who had last been seen in December 2016 near Sevenoaks Shopping Centre when she was five months’ pregnant. Police said foul play was not suspected in her death.

• The Saskatchewan Health Authority announced it was investigating the case of former Abbotsford Panthers football star Samwel Uko, 20. He had sought help at a Regina hospital for mental-health issues on May 21, but was not treated and his body was discovered later that day in a lake. Uko’s family announced in October that they were suing the health authority and the government of Saskatchewan.

Workers were on scene to clean up the oil spill in Abbotsford near Trans Mountain’s Sumas pump station in June. (Shane MacKichan photo)

JUNE

• The City of Abbotsford announced that restaurant, pubs and other eateries could apply to use sidewalks, parking spots and even roads to serve patrons over the summer in order to maintain physical distancing.

• Hundreds took to the streets in the historic downtown core on June 5 in solidarity with anti-racism Black Lives Matter demonstrations across North America that followed the police-involved killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis. The peaceful demonstration was held along Essendene Avenue.

RELATED: Hundreds demonstrate in Abbotsford for end to racism

• Charles (Chucky) Klose, who lived with an Abbotsford family through a supported-living option for adults with developmental disabilities, was the victim of a homicide in Chilliwack on June 6. Klose, 58, was found deceased behind the Scotiabank parking lot in the 46000 block of Yale Road. No arrests have yet been made.

• More than 150,000 litres of oil spilled from Trans Mountain’s Sumas pump station on June 13. Trans Mountain linked the cause to a fitting on a 2.5-centimetre pipe and said there was no risk to the public. But the incident drew criticism from Indigenous leaders, who said their land was being “desecrated” by oil spills.

JULY

• Former Abbotsford Police Department finance director Shelly Mickens was charged with breach of trust, fraud and theft for allegedly embezzling $300,000 from the department over 10 years. A 2017 civil lawsuit resulted in Mickens being ordered to pay back the money. The criminal case is still making its way through the courts.

• Alleged crime boss Jazzy Sran, 43, was gunned down July 10 in the 2700 block of Lucern Crescent. Police said that Sran was known to them, and the shooting had “all the hallmarks of a targeted hit.” Sran was previously identified in court documents as a “crime boss” who was believed to be smuggling cocaine into Canada from the U.S. No one has yet been charged with his killing.

• Former Abbotsford gangster Jamie Bacon pleaded guilty on July 9 to conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the 2008 Surrey Six killings. He also pleaded guilty to counselling to commit murder in relation to the Dec. 31, 2008 shooting of Dennis Karbovanec in Mission. Karbovanec survived the attack. Bacon was sentenced in September to 18 years in prison, but with credit for time served, he was left with five years and seven months.

• Off-duty Abbotsford Police officer Const. Allan Young, 55, died July 21 from injuries sustained during an assault in Nelson on July 16. Police said Young was struck with an object after approaching a man “who was causing a disturbance in the roadway.” No charges have yet been laid.

RELATED: Abbotsford police officer remembered for sense of humour after dying following off-duty assault

• In what was one of the largest drug seizures in Canadian history, police seized nearly 200 kilograms of methamphetamine on July 19 as two men allegedly crossed the U.S.-Canada border illegally with an ATV and a trailer in Abbotsford. One man, Zacchary Hecock, was charged, and the case is making its way through the courts.

AUGUST

• Abbotsford mom Shelley Beyak was desperate for word from her two kids, Liam and Mia, following a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon on Aug. 4. The blast was blamed on negligent storage of tonnes of ammonium nitrate, killing more than 200 people. Liam and Mia were abducted to Lebanon by their dad in 2018. Beyak later received word that the kids had survived, but she is still working to bring them home.

• Four people were charged in relation to a large protest at Excelsior Hog Farm in April 2019. More than 60 people had rushed onto the property to protest what they said was the inhumane treatment of animals at the site. The case is continuing to make its way through the courts.

• The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) issued an apology to a South Asian man who thought a police officer was going to shoot him after he was stopped at gunpoint at his workplace in the early-morning hours. The man, Navee Thandi, took a video of the interaction, but an officer seized his phone and deleted the recording. The APD indicated that the matter would be fully investigated.

RELATED: Plainclothes Abbotsford police officer deletes cellphone video after drawing gun on innocent man

• The Abbotsford school district released its COVID-19 back-to-school plans, including how students would enter schools, when masks would need to be worn and what would happen if a student tested positive for the virus. The plan indicated that students would be in designated “cohorts” of 60 for middle and elementary schools and 120 for high schools.

SEPTEMBER

• Mental health services at Abbotsford Regional Hospital were called into question after a teenager was sent home in the middle of the night, despite worries about her mental state. Advocates said that health facilities need to improve the way they treat people going through a mental health crisis.

• The University of the Fraser Valley received a $1.14 million grant to create a project showcasing the past and current contributions of the Punjabi community in B.C. Haq and History: A Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project aims to improve the historical record of the contribution of South Asian Canadians.

• A police officer shot a suspect in a theft at the Cabela’s store. Police said the man had pepper-sprayed and physically assaulted the officer. The man who was shot was taken to hospital and survived. Two men were charged with an array of offences, and one later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three months in jail. The other is still before the courts.

RELATED: Officer shoots suspect after being pepper-sprayed in Abbotsford

• Parents at King Traditional elementary school were upset that the Abbotsford school district continued to seek to push the limits of maximum class sizes, despite the ongoing pandemic. Parents described a “huge shuffle of classes” as administrators eliminated a division after lower-than-expected enrolment.

Abbotsford West BC Liberal candidate Michael de Jong was re-elected during the provincial election on Oct. 24. (Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)

OCTOBER

• Indigenous organizations called for a thorough investigation into the death of a First Nations teen who was found in an Abbotsford group home four days after he was reported missing from the same location. Staff at the facility said the boy’s mom was told on Sept. 14 that her child was missing. It wasn’t until Sept. 18 that his body was found in his bedroom.

RELATED: Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

• Bruce Banman, who was running for the BC Liberals, apologized for comments he made eight years prior when he declared that drug users were criminals and should be locked up. Banman made the comments in defence of the city’s anti-harm-reduction policies while he was the mayor of Abbotsford. Those policies were rescinded in 2014.

• A developer revealed plans to build a huge development on the north side of South Fraser Way. When complete, the project will have 879 apartment units, along with a mix of retail and commercial spaces. The first phase will include hundreds of apartments for seniors that will be managed by the Mennonite Benevolent Society. While the project itself generated little opposition, the tenants of homes that will be bulldozed said they won’t be able to live anywhere else once they are evicted.

• Nearly two years after cannabis was legalized in Canada, council signaled its approval for Abbotsford’s first four retail outlets. The stores – three private and one a government outlet – were among seven applicants. They were selected, in part, to avoid clustering in one area of the city.

• In 2020’s provincial election on Oct. 24, BC Liberals Mike de Jong and Bruce Banman won victory in their respective ridings, but their party was soundly defeated. The BC NDP won a huge majority, although the number of mail-in ballots meant final results weren’t known for a couple weeks. When the dust settled, BC NDP candidate Pam Alexis had defeated incumbent Simon Gibson in the Abbotsford-Mission riding.

RELATED: Abbotsford BC Liberals de Jong and Banman heading to Victoria

• The provincial government transferred ownership of the land that was once home to MSA Hospital to Matsqui First Nation. Matsqui hopes to build hundreds of rental apartments on the nine-acre McCallum Road site. Fraser Health had originally planned to build a seniors facility on the land but changed its mind. Matsqui says they would still be open to a partnership with the health authority.

NOVEMBER

• A multi-day hearing began to determine whether Gabriel Klein was criminally responsible when he stabbed two girls at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School in 2016, killing one of them (Letisha Reimer). Klein had already been found guilty of the crime, but a hearing was held in November and December to determine his mental state at the time. Lawyers’ closing submissions are set to take place Jan. 13 and 14.

• A resurgence of COVID-19 cases sparked outbreaks at several Abbotsford seniors’ homes. The outbreak at Tabor Home quickly grew to become British Columbia’s most serious outbreak, with more than 150 cases and 25 deaths. Another large outbreak at Menno Home caused at least 10 lives.

• Outrage was sparked when Abbotsford mom Krista Macinnis revealed that her child had been asked to name the positive aspects of residential schools by a teacher at W.A. Fraser Middle School. The revelation of the assignment triggered an apology and a promise to do better by the Abbotsford school district, and disbelief from the Chief of the Sumas First Nation.

RELATED: Abbotsford mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

DECEMBER

• Shots were fired when a prison inmate being escorted to a medical appointment tried to escape from his guards. One of the guards fired their gun before Stephane Bissonnette was taken back into custody. He was uninjured, police said.

• Abbotsford residents gathered to protest in support of what they said is unfair treatment of farmers in the Punjab. The protests took place over several nights, with hundreds gathering at downtown intersections.

• Facing a staffing shortage due to an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, Menno Home put out a plea to the family members of loved ones for housekeeping help. The facility said they would employ family members as temporary workers, and that the arrangement would allow those family members to see their loved ones through the course of their work.

• The provincial government said it was reviewing an application from a gravel quarry operator to remove a peregrine falcon’s nest. Neighbours have opposed the resumption of operations at the Quadling Road quarry for years. An environmental scientist says the nest is uniquely productive and “irreplaceable.”

• Abbotsford’s overdose crisis appeared to have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The city was on pace for a record number of illicit drug deaths, with 47 fatal overdoses through the first 10 months of the year. Advocates stressed the continued availability of naloxone and the need for more services for those at risk of overdosing.

RELATED: Dozens have died as Abbotsford’s overdose crisis has worsened during pandemic

abbotsfordYear in Review

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