Terrace year in review — 2020

·14 min read

January

At the start of 2020, the Coastal Gaslink pipeline dominated headlines. Around 25 people marched in Terrace in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en as tensions rose surrounding the 670 kilometre long pipeline project.

In the meantime, rail cars laden with tied-down 48-inch diameter pipe lengths were parked in CN’s Terrace yard, waiting for their turn to be unloaded at the Kitsumkalum transload facility just west of Terrace and moved to a Coastal Gaslink laydown yard north of Kitimat.

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The Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace was forced to close briefly after the nose gear of a Westjet aircraft partially collapsed upon landing on Jan. 31, causing the plane to skid before stopping.

There were four crew and 42 passengers on board Westjet Flight 3107, a Q-400, and there were no injuries reported. The incident took place just after 9 p.m. Emergency vehicles did respond, the crew and passengers were taken to the airport terminal.

February

In February — after months of anticipation — it was reported that Keith and Theresa Moffat would take over the Terrace Bowling Lanes’ building lease, saving the city’s only bowling facility from being lost forever.

“I’ve been bowling since I was seven years old and I just didn’t want to give it up right at the moment. My wife and I decided that we needed a change and we wanted to see if we can keep it going,” Keith said in February.

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A man went missing on Shames Mountain after losing a ski and was forced to spend a night in the backcountry. Helped by tips from other skiers and Shames Mountain management, Terrace Search and Rescue used a helicopter and located the man at around 10:00 a.m. the next day.

Dave Jephson, Terrace Search and Rescue vice president said the skier had lost his ski, which had slid over a slope, and left him immobile in the backcountry with no means of self-rescue. The man had built a snow cave, packed enough food and kept warm to survive the night.

March

Terrace health services braced for increased demand as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated. Elective and non-urgent surgeries were cancelled at Mills Memorial Hospital as the hospital worked to increase its bed count and add more staff. The hospital was named as a primary COVID-19 treatment centre to deliver care to the most critically ill patients, one of 19 hospitals in B.C. so designated.

The Northwest Regional Airport suffered a 50 per cent reduction in total flights and plummeting passenger numbers due to the pandemic.

“[We had] an aircraft that takes 78 passengers, we were down to four passengers one flight the other day,” said Carman Hendry, airport manager, on Mar. 24.

April

Northern Health responded to worries as to why it moved a mobile refrigeration unit to Mills Memorial Hospital, saying that it was not directly related to COVID-19. Eryn Collins from Northern Health said that the reefer unit was needed due to impacted timelines for funeral home operations in Terrace.

“As we work and plan to add capacity across our services, the fact Mills Memorial brought the unit on site for other reasons means that if needing additional morgue capacity became part of our plans or needs, as a specific COVID-19 response measure, then the site would already have that in place,” she said.

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Kitselas First Nation closed its villages to visitors in an effort to prevent COVID-19 transmission to its members, following similar moves by the Nisga’a Lisims Government in mid-March and the Kitsumkalum Band Council on Mar. 26.

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The City of Terrace reduced a proposed property tax increase to 4.5 per cent, down from 7.4 per cent, in what the city called a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, taxes were set to increase 7.4 per cent in 2020, and a 3 per cent increase was planned for 2021.

May

In early May, allegations that a Dominos Pizza employee in Terrace delivered pizza with spit on it to a customer’s home spread on Facebook.

Northern Health conducted an inspection of Domino’s Pizza which turned up no violations. Both the customer and Domino’s Pizza Terrace indicated that a sample of the alleged spit was collected for DNA testing.

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A Terrace couple and their two dogs had a terrifying encounter with wolves while camping over the May long weekend. Friday Bailey and her partner Nathan Meakes spent the night of Friday May 15 camping in the back of their truck at a cut block near the Onion Lake Cross Country Ski Trails with their dogs, Cash and Arlo. At around 7:30 a.m., two wolves approached the camp and Cash, a 7-year-old lab mix, and Arlo, a 10-year-old Huskey/collie mix clashed with the them for around 10 seconds before the wolves were chased off.

“[Nate and I] were just running after them and screaming and yelling and just going ballistic,” she said. “Just trying to scare the wolves off, and trying to get our dogs back,” said Bailey.

Arlo suffered only minor scratches on his face, but Cash had a big bite mark on his neck, a scratch on his groin, and other bruises and abrasions.

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In May, Lax Kw’alaams mayor Gary Reece and Metlakatla Chief Harold Leighton threatened to set up a checkpoint on Hwy 16 between Terrace and Prince Rupert on I.R. 26 Reserve lands straddling the highway. They called on Premier John Horgan to take a stronger stance against non-essential travel to their communities.

“We may also set up a blockade of non-essential travel,” Reece said in a May media release.

The prospect of a hard blockade left Terrace businesses feeling anxious, but ultimately there was no checkpoint or blockade established on Hwy 16.

June

Approximately 100 people gathered for an anti-racism demonstration in front of Terrace city hall June 7.

The demonstration was part of a global wave of protests against systemic racism that began in the United States when George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis May 25. Organizers said the rally was also to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

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Terrace Riverboat Days was officially cancelled in June due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Terrace’s largest community festival did not happen, but the Terrace Riverboat Days Society still encouraged residents to “Celebrate the Spirit of the Skeena” in August.

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The Caledonia Secondary School Grad Class of 2020 stood along the Millennium Trail next to Hwy 16 from 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday June 20 to celebrate graduation during the pandemic.

Community members drove by and honked to show support for the grads, but were reminded to not stop along the highway for safety reasons. Caledonia Secondary School and CityWest also prepared a video grad ceremony that was filmed in early June to accommodate physical distancing. It was aired on channel 310 and broadcasted on the CityWest Community Television Facebook page.

July

A large procession of emergency response vehicles drove through Terrace July 7 in honour of a colleague who passed away.

Mike Sorensen, a paramedic and patient care delivery manager for northern B.C. who worked out of Prince Rupert, died July 4, according to a BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) statement. He served with BCEHS for 20 years, beginning his career in Terrace and working in Masset, Prince Rupert and Vancouver before returning to Prince Rupert to take on a leadership role.

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Flags were lowered in front of city hall in memory of City of Terrace Freeman Bill McRae who passed away July 9. He was 96. McRae was remembered as a person who put a firm stamp on the city during his decades of business and public involvement.

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Construction began on new $19.7 million student housing project at Coast Mountain College in Terrace. Prince George-based IDL Projects Ltd. has the contract for the modular unit construction project, to provide 104 rooms and four guest suites emphasizing First Nations design principles and art. The construction schedule calls for completion next August, in time for fall 2021 classes.

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A group of Catholic nuns in a van with an Alberta licence plate was seen driving around communities in Northwest B.C. causing a social media furor.

People were sharing photos of the nuns on Facebook, and many claims were made involving possible sex trafficking. Parents were urged to keep their children safe and away from the van, as the nuns made their way around the Northwest.

Father Terry Brock from Annunciation Church in Prince Rupert wrote a letter to the editor of The Northern View, saying he knew the nuns and that they were on vacation from Edmonton and “simply wanted to ‘see’ the ocean and enjoy nature.”

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Progressive Ventures’ proposed inland port development received preliminary approval from city council. The proposed develoment would see a facility for loading and unloading cargo containers from trains be built on the north side of the former Skeena Cellulose mill site on Keith Ave., as well as a row of commercial or light industrial buildings along the south side of the former mill site.

The project required changes to the city’s zoning bylaw and official community plan.

Council passed first and second readings of those bylaw amendments — a necessary step in order for the proposal to proceed to a phase where the public could provide feedback on the project.

August

Federal New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh talked about the need for universal affordable childcare during a visit to Terrace on Aug. 19.

Local NDP Member of Parliament for Skeena – Bulkley Valley Taylor Bachrach accompanied Singh on a tour of the former ET Kenney School building, which is now used by Coast Mountain Children’s Society as a childcare centre.

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David Edwardsen, a former Terrace man convicted of 14 drug and firearm charges, was released from custody after serving about two years of an eight-year sentence.

Now 57, he was arrested in 2012 following an RCMP undercover investigation, during which he sold cocaine and cannabis to undercover officers on several occasions. Police executed search warrants on Edwardsen’s house on Old Lakelse Lake Rd. and several other residences connected with Edwardsen. They found significant quantities of cocaine, ecstasy, magic mushrooms and cannabis. They also seized several handguns and 110 long guns from the properties.

Edwardsen was granted full parole.

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Dr. Joseph Gosnell, the Nisga’a leader who was at the forefront of the Nisga’a Nation’s 2000 land claims and groundbreaking self-governing treaty with the provincial and federal governments passed away in August. A vehicle procession was held on Friday, Aug. 21, at 11 a.m. in Terrace to honour the late Nisga’a Nation leader.

September

A totem pole in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls was raised just off Hwy 16 on Kitsumkalum territory west of Terrace on Sept. 4. The raising was live streamed on CFNR’s Facebook page.

Organizers had originally planned hold a “virtual potlach” on Sept. 5, with dancers, matriarchs and chiefs visiting in small groups to breathe life into the totem pole. That second day of ceremony has since been cancelled, following a possible COVID-19 exposure at gatherings including a feast in Nisga’a territory.

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A fire in Terrace’s downtown core drew firefighters from the Terrace and Thornhill fire departments and police on the afternoon of Sept. 9, as smoke billowed from the awning and roof of the storefront at 101-4615 Lakelse Ave., between West Coast Vape and Divine Ink, a tattoo parlour.

One unidentified onlooker, who said it was his family’s business burning, confronted a Terrace Standard journalist at the scene, physically grabbing the reporter’s photography equipment, saying he didn’t want the fire made public. The man, who was shirtless, later appeared to have a disagreement with a firefighter and was then handcuffed and taken away from the scene by RCMP.

VIDEO: Fire smolders in downtown Terrace

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Coast Mountains School District 82 welcomed children back to school on Sept. 10, with COVID-19 protocols in place. Parents had the option to register their children in traditional school, homeschooling or distributed learning.

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On Sept. 21, it was announced that there would be a snap provincial election to be held on Oct. 24. For the Skeena riding, Liberal MLA Ellis Ross sought re-election under the BC Liberal banner, Nicole Habauer secured the BC NDP nomination and Martin Holzbauer ran as an independent. BC NDP leader John Horgan made a campaign stop in Terrace and Kitimat on Saturday, Sept. 26.

October

People in Terrace and Thornhill heard a loud bang around 9 p.m. on Oct. 14, as RCMP conducted a controlled detonation of old explosives discovered in a shed in Thornhill. The explosives — fuses, detonation cords, and possibly nitroglycerine — were discovered by a homeowner who was cleaning out a shed in their yard at the Evergreen trailer park on Old Lakelse Lake Dr.

The homeowner contacted authorities and the RCMP called in its Explosives Destruction Unit (EDU) based in the lower mainland.

Neighbours were evacuated and fire departments, ambulances and BC Hydro were notified of the situation. A contractor dug a hole in the ground which the EDU used to detonate the material.

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B.C. Liberal and incumbent Ellis Ross retained his seat as the MLA for the Skeena riding following the Oct. 24 snap provincial election.

“I’m very humbled and honoured, but I’m also stunned,” Ross said. “The support Skeena has for me is actually incredible, it’s inspiring. Because I think — I hope — Skeena realizes that I actually support them just as much as they support me”

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The City of Terrace changed its approach in handling the inland port proposal process after it became clear that there was significant public opposition to the proposal (or details of the proposal), as well criticisms of the city’s handling of the proposal.

The city extended the public feedback period for several months, planned to host an open house information session, and created a dedicated page on its website for information about the proposed development.

An official public hearing, where all public feedback about the project received by the city would be presented and members of the public would be invited to provide new feedback, was planned for December, after which council would have made its decision on whether or not to allow the project to proceed.

The public hearing was postponed to January 2021 after B.C. increased its COVID-19 restrictions.

November

Eva Clayton was re-elected as president of the Nisga’a Lisims Government, easily besting her closest competitor, H. Mitchell Stevens, by 958 votes to 454.

Voting day for Nisga’a national and local government positions was held Nov. 4 but final votes were not released until the weekend once mail in, electronic and other ballot counting was complete.

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On Nov. 17, Terrace saw its second-snowiest November day since 2013, and the most snowfall on a Nov. 17 since data started being recorded in 1953.

Environment Canada measurements at the Northwest Regional Airport indicated that 38 centimetres of snow fell on Nov. 17 — over three quarters of all snowfall during the month so far. The fastest wind gust of the day was clocked at 42 kilometres per hour.

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Terrace saw its first reported COVID-19 exposure at a school between Nov. 23 and Nov. 26 at Centennial Christian School. Northern Health then reported Nov. exposures at Suwilaawks Community School, Uplands Elementary School, Caledonia Secondary School and Veritas Catholic School.

December

The 2021 City of Terrace draft budget was presented to council on Dec. 1, and the city launched an online survey for feedback from the public. The draft budget calls for a 7 per cent increase to property taxes in 2021. The 2021 tax increase would cover additional city operating costs and services being added to the budget in 2021, such as an additional RCMP member and two new positions in the public works and engineering departments.

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COVID-19 exposures continued to take place in schools throughout December. As of De. 22, there were 16 school exposures in the Terrace area, spread across eight schools.

Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News