Top News
  • Laureen Harper interrupted by protester at Internet cat video festival

    TORONTO - An activist heckled Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wife Laureen about missing and murdered aboriginal women while she spoke at a Toronto film festival devoted to online cat videos.

    Laureen Harper was introducing the "Just for Cats" Internet video festival Thursday night when activist Hailey King shouted out from the crowd and demanded Ottawa take action on the aboriginal women issue.

    Harper initially continued her remarks before stopping and telling King that the night was solely about raising money for animals — earning applause from the crowd.

    She then told King "that's a great cause but that's another night — tonight we're here for homeless cats."

    Harper is a cat foster-mom and the feline-starring event was raising money for the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.

    King says security forced her out of the theatre immediately after the interruption.

  • How to find out if ICBC owes you money

    THOMPSON-OKANAGAN — The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia will pay out over $39 million to customers who overpaid on optional insurance—and you could be one of them.

    Due to entry errors in vehicle models, the corporation over and undercharged clients for several years.

    The vehicle model errors come from brokers entering the wrong vehicle model types. Vehicles can have 10-15 model types based on details which can be as slight as a vehicle’s interior. Each carries a different insurance rate.

    The chances of being one of the affected clients are slim. More than 95 per cent of ICBC customers are unaffected by the error. 

    To check if you were rated correctly and to determine if you are eligible for a refund, check your insurance papers on http://checkmyvehicle.icbc.com/

    Whether customers overpaid or underpaid, each client involved in this case will receive a letter from ICBC outlining the errors made. The overcharged customers will receive a cheque.

    It is estimated, on average, each overpaid customer will receive approximately $21 per each year they were charged.

    The average underpayment per year was $34. Those who underpaid will not be charged.

    ICBC also advise each person to update the current address on file to make sure cheques are delivered to the right location.

    Letters and cheques from ICBC will be delivered in July.

    To contact a reporter for this story, email gbrothen@infotelnews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

  • How to prevent domestic violence, the first and second time

    THOMPSON-OKANAGAN — When James Buhler allegedly stabbed his wife and daughter before trying to commit suicide, he was already facing charges for threatening her. He was released on a promise that he not contact her.

    That's not all that surprising to the people who run the South Okanagan Victim Assistance Society. While she wouldn't speak about this case specifically, victim support worker Stevi Nagle says protecting women from domestic violence remains a serious challenge. Breaches of court orders are not uncommon. 

    “It happens a lot more than people realize,” she says.

    But it's complicated, she says. Not all breaches are reported and part of her job is counselling on the importance of reporting them to the RCMP. Once police are involved in a domestic violence case, they are obligated to remove one of the parties—typically the aggressor, whether men or women. But “breaches happen a lot,” especially when kids are involved or there are other familial circumstances. When simple removal is insufficient, the society can help women by providing a safe home in a shelter, says acting agency coordinator Christine Schwarz.

    “It’s not ideal to move the victim because it’s like punishing them," she says. "It causes more stress.”

    Nagle and Schwarz both said there needs to be more focus on prevention education and services. While there are probationary programs for offenders, both men and women need somewhere to turn for help with behavioural or unhealthy relationships, they say. The Society ran a program called Change for Good for people not yet facing criminal sanctions but who volunteered to get help. However after two years, they ran out of funding in March.

    According to research done by the Ending Violence Association of B.C., show the changes in legislation and services for women in violence relationships back to the 1960s, though more significant changes came 1990s. In 1993, courts made a specific “K” case designation to separate domestic violence cases. Three years later, after a man killed eight members of his ex-wife’s family and himself in Vernon, Judge Josiah Wood investigated the case and concluded police need to respond better to domestic cases and violence against women. Since then, police have little discretion in domestic violence cases—someone must be removed.

    That same year, 1996, the Criminal Code was amended “requiring the court to consider a victim impact statement and providing that abuse of a spouse or child, or abuse of a
    position of trust, shall be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing,” according to the study.

    To contact the reporter for this story, email Meaghan Archer at marcher@infotelnews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

  • Aberdeen community comes together again

    KAMLOOPS — It’s been nearly two years since a community association helped plan the conversion of the old golf course to West Highlands Park and now several Aberdeen residents are moving forward with an effort to relaunch a community association for the neighbourhood.

    One of the new directors, Helen Newmarch, says part of the reason the original community association no longer operates is the proposed Ajax Mine.

    Many of the people previously involved in the association are now focusing attention on other groups such as Kamloops Area Preservation Association, Kamloops Moms for Clean Air or Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment and because of those involvements others had begun to see the community association as another anti-Ajax group.

    “(The association) fell to the wayside as leadership became busy in other ventures,” Newmarch says, adding. “There seems to be the perception the association was taking a stand. It was individuals within the association that have become involved in other groups and when you publicly take a stand like that can you really represent the association, all the people in the neighbourhood?”

    Newmarch says she decided to step up because of the work that still needs to be done.

    “It’s really important that the community association continues on, in some way,” she says. “We wanted to have a clean start though, there might be the perception that (the association) was an advocacy group against Ajax, and we absolutely take no stand on Ajax at all. If we started discussing Ajax it would only create diversity in the community as opposed to working together towards common goals.”

    The four new directors decided to change the name to Aberdeen Neighbourhood Association (formerly Aberdeen Community Association) and believes some of the top concerns in the Aberdeen area are walkability, maintenance of trails and the soon to be built community centre. Newmarch notes that is just what the current group of four have talked about and what exactly the new association works on will be dependent of what other residents have to say.

    “The possibilities are endless,” she says. “Is there any way to squeeze in a community garden? Have block parties? What are we doing to protect ourselves from wildfires if it gets hot and dry this sumer?”

    She adds there may be more talk of which areas need to be developed and maintained, there could be concerns over water and of course they would love to see more talk of activities and projects for the community. The group would like to see another 6-8 people step on board as directors and they hope to collect email and contact information to help keep the community more connected.

    Aberdeen residents will get the chance to talk more at a continental breakfast meeting on Saturday, April 26. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to noon in the Community Room at Aberdeen Elementary. A professional facilitator will lead everyone through the conversation needed to start planning the new vision for the neighbourhood.

    To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infotelnews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

  • No need to hunt for things to do Easter long weekend

    KAMLOOPS — Easter egg decorating and hunts, along with your choice of brunch and a parade, will fill this weekend with holiday-themed activities, though there is even more to do if you’re looking to keep busy.

    All weekend the B.C. Wildlife Park will be hosting the annual East Eggs-Citement from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Vancouver Aquarium Aquavan will be at the park on Friday but Uncle Chris the Clown will be on hand all weekend. There will be Easter egg hunts every half an hour, scavenger hunts for older kids, colouring contests for younger kids and miniature train rides for kids of all ages.

    Saturday head down to St. Andrews on the Square for the first annual community Easter egg hunt. There will be crafts (including Easter egg baskets), photo opportunities with princesses from Enchanted Tea Cup, face painting and an egg hunt in the park. The event begins at 2 p.m. with the hunt running from 3-3:30 p.m. On Sunday stop by the Big Little Science Centre from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the kids can learn about colours while they decorate their own hardboiled eggs.

    Sunday also offers the annual Easter Parade featuring vintage cars. Starting at 11 a.m. you can check out the cars on display at the Westsyde Coopers and then at 1 p.m. the convoy to Riverside Park will begin. Downtown the cars will again park and be on display.

    For the adults Privato Vineyard and Winery is taking advance bookings for three Vine to Wine tours daily Friday through Monday and Harpers Trail Winery will have the tasting room open Friday through Sunday. Sunday brunches will take place at both Prestons and the South Thompson Inn.

    This weekend West Coast Amusement Fair is also at Aberdeen Mall, offering rides, games and treats from noon to 10 p.m. through Sunday and noon to 6 p.m. on Monday.

    A little less holiday-inspired but no less interesting, exhibits continue to be shown at the art gallery and Brimful of Asha is playing at the Pavillion Theatre. The Chinese Legacies, Building the Canadian Pacific Railway, exhibit will also run from Wednesday, April 16 through the end of the month at the museum on Seymour.

    Friday and Saturday Rugbyfest, featuring Grade 8 Boys, Junior Boys, Senior Boys and Girls divisions, will take place at various fields throughout Kamloops while the Kamloops Farmer’s Market kicks off the season with the 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday market in front of Stuart Wood School on St. Paul Street.

    If you are looking for live entertainment, The Young’uns are playing at Blue Grotto, Blue Morris’ Dirty Dancing Burlesque is at Cactus Jacks Night Club, Matt Stanley and the Decoys are playing at Chances in the Barside Lounge and Grill, Doc and the Disorderlies are at the Barnhartvale Coffee house, the Caspians are also at Barside Lounge and the Paint it Black Party is taking place at Pogue Mahone.

    Keep an eye on the InfoTel News events page for even more events.

    To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infotelnews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

    -This story was updated at 9:41 a.m., April 18 to add more events.

  • An inside look at growing marijuana, legally, in the Okanagan

    OKANAGAN - I’m following directions few people have to a location even fewer know about: A commercial medical marijuana facility hidden in the hills above the Okanagan Valley.

    The dirt road carves up the mountainside in a flourish of switchbacks, leading me further from the small town below. It’s a nice neighbourhood: Large, modern homes with incredible views and ample privacy.

    When I find the right address, all I can see from the road is a long, steep driveway leading into the woods. Herb, the anonymous producer who invited me to his ‘shop,' has arranged for one of his friends to drive me up the hill.

    January snow squeaks under my boots as I walk over to the truck. I sniff the crisp air and there’s no whiff of what goes on at the end of the driveway.

    Herb’s friend is about 25, clean cut, and a medical marijuana patient himself. It doesn’t take long to get to the shop, a warehouse concealed from outside view. Nothing—not smell, appearance, or sound—gives away its purpose.

    Herb graciously welcomes us inside and begins the tour. We go through a comfortable lounge area into the sound of fans, a gurgle of water, and hum of energy in the production facility itself. It’s not as if I’d expected a basement lair at 420 Sativa St., but the facility is larger, more industrial, and more professional than I imagined.

    Neatly planted potted clones sit under bright grow lights, labeled with names like Liberty Haze and Blue Dream. The heat and humidity in the grow rooms is a welcome change from the cold outdoors. Herb has about 10 strains on the go, all clearly tagged and set out in rows. Carbon dioxide is pumped in to promote plant growth while a ventilation system stirs the air—the perfect balance of humidity must be achieved to prevent mould. The whole facility has a heated floor. A network of black hoses deliver water and a calculated mix of nutrients to the plants, but Herb is careful of what comes in contact with his crop.

    “Unscrupulous producers will spray the plants willy nilly with any kind of pesticide,” he says. “If you had a garden and you were going to eat the produce from it, you wouldn’t be spraying it.”

    Instead, he’s cautious not to attract pests, like spider mites, into the grow rooms. He changes his clothes in the summer months to prevent contamination, but as controlled as the environment is, there’s always potential for unwanted pests to get in. Like any farmer, it’s just one of the inherent risks.

    “All the same skills in farming are applicable,” Herb says. “It’s a lot of work, it’s a full time job.”

    He hasn’t taken a vacation since entering the industry—leaving his shop, his livelihood, in the hands of hired help isn’t appealing. He’s invested thousands of dollars into making the operation fit Health Canada’s new code, with requirements ranging from video surveillance to storing product in a locked vault.

    Herb says he’s not overly concerned about his safety. He doesn’t freely hand out his address and is choosy about who he shares the details of his work with. But he’s more open about his occupation than many growers. 

    “I choose to live a more open life than I think a lot of people would, and that’s partially because I believe in the industry and in what I’m doing. I don’t want to hide or propagate the stigma about how a lot of grows operate," he says. "I’ve brought people through to show them what this kind of operation can and should look like. I want to show there are people who run conscientious operations and take a lot of pride in what they do."

    The career has had its share of bumps in the road. Navigating the bureaucracy of Health Canada has been one, dealing with the police another.

    “The RCMP came in a few years ago when they didn’t know I was licensed. They raided me, they came in cut down all my plants, handcuffed me, arrested me, dragged me off to jail. I was there for a few hours while they phoned Health Canada to see if I was licensed and let me go.”

    He got no reimbursement for the destroyed plants, but was advised by his lawyer not to push the matter. Since then, his relationship with the RCMP has improved. They even give him courtesy calls if there have been break-and-enters in the area.

    Facilities like this, and people like Herb, are the new face of the medical marijuana system. The government doesn’t want people growing in their homes—that was illegal as of April 1. And while Herb doesn’t agree with all of the new system, he needs to be part of it to change it.

    After touring the facility, we sit in the common area and Herb offers tea and cookies. As we chat about the future of the industry, Herb’s voice is full of passion and hope.

    “Hopefully it all comes together and pays off in a more mature, safer, better industry. One that’s easier for people to access,” he says.

    To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

    LINKS:

    City council hazy on how marijuana facilities will be taxed - Infotel News

    Draft marijuana bylaw draws criticism - Infotel News

    How one regional district is proposing to regulate medical marijuana facilities - Infotel News

    Access to medical marijuana growing in Vernon - Infotel News

    Enderby butts out medical marijuana growers - Infotel News

    Marijuana reform still a pipe dream in Vernon - Infotel News

     

  • Building permits up, value down in TNRD

    KAMLOOPS — The month of March was on par with last year for building permits issued and number of units created in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District but the construction value of those permits is down by more than $2 million.

    In total 17 new permits were issued, bringing the yearly total to 37, up three from 2013. The value of those permits sits at just over $2.1 million, down from the $4.13 million in permits issued in 2013.

    Commercial permits were actually up by almost $400,000 but at just $1.54 million for 11 residential permits the value is well below the $3.91 million value for 14 residential permits issued in 2013. The same trend carries over the year to date totals, even with a couple more permits issued in 2014 the total value is down to $4.79 million from $6.84 million the year before.

    The highest value of permits came from the Rivers and the Peaks region, where five permits totalled $1.3 million in value, up from $920,000 across five permits in 2013. The biggest drops were in the north and south Nicola Valley regions, where four permits hit nearly $1.8 million last year. One permit valued at $10,000, was issued in the north this year and one permit for $30,000 was issued in the south this year. Last year a single permit was valued at $1 million in the south region.

    Meanwhile the district is looking at increasing the base building permit fees by up to $2 per $1,000 in construction value as well as the length of time the permit is valid for. Fees have not increased for 18 years and the adjustments will help the district catch up with cost increases considered ‘long overdue.’

    To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infotelnews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

  • Northern lights could dance over Easter weekend

    THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - If the clouds break on Saturday, and there is a chance they will, we could see northern lights dancing high above us heading into Easter Sunday.

    The National Space Weather Prediction Station says a minor storm watch has been issued and those living as far south as the northern United States may have a good chance to view the auroras.

    So far this year the northern lights have been a bit of an enigma in our region, with clouds often hampering views from within the city, but some people have found places outside city boundaries offering a glimpse of the dancing lights.

    Environment Canada is calling for cloud and rain through much of the region Saturday though by Sunday conditions are expected to be a mix of sun and cloud.

    The annual Lyrid meteor shower is also expected to peak early Tuesday morning, though there is a chance of seeing the ‘shooting stars’ anytime between now and April 25.

    To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infotelnews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

  • How to find out if ICBC owes you money

    THOMPSON-OKANAGAN — The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia will pay out over $39 million to customers who overpaid on optional insurance—and you could be one of them.

    Due to entry errors in vehicle models, the corporation over and undercharged clients for several years.

    The vehicle model errors come from brokers entering the wrong vehicle model types. Vehicles can have 10-15 model types based on details which can be as slight as a vehicle’s interior. Each carries a different insurance rate.

    The chances of being one of the affected clients are slim. More than 95 per cent of ICBC customers are unaffected by the error. 

    To check if you were rated correctly and to determine if you are eligible for a refund, check your insurance papers on http://checkmyvehicle.icbc.com/

    Whether customers overpaid or underpaid, each client involved in this case will receive a letter from ICBC outlining the errors made. The overcharged customers will receive a cheque.

    It is estimated, on average, each overpaid customer will receive approximately $21 per each year they were charged.

    The average underpayment per year was $34. Those who underpaid will not be charged.

    ICBC also advise each person to update the current address on file to make sure cheques are delivered to the right location.

    Letters and cheques from ICBC will be delivered in July.

    To contact a reporter for this story, email gbrothen@infotelnews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

    ...More...

  • How to prevent domestic violence, the first and second time

    THOMPSON-OKANAGAN — When James Buhler allegedly stabbed his wife and daughter before trying to commit suicide, he was already facing charges for threatening her. He was released on a promise that he not contact her.

    That's not all that surprising to the people who run the South Okanagan Victim Assistance Society. While she wouldn't speak about this case specifically, victim support worker Stevi Nagle says protecting women from domestic violence remains a serious challenge. Breaches of court orders are not uncommon. 

    “It happens a lot more than people realize,” she says.

    But it's complicated, she says. Not all breaches are reported and part of her job is counselling on the importance of reporting them to the RCMP. Once police are involved in a domestic violence case, they are obligated to remove one of the parties—typically the aggressor, whether men or women. But “breaches happen a lot,” especially when kids are involved or there are other familial circumstances. When simple removal is insufficient, the society can help women by providing a safe home in a shelter, says acting agency coordinator Christine Schwarz.

    “It’s not ideal to move the victim because it’s like punishing them," she says. "It causes more stress.”

    Nagle and Schwarz both said there needs to be more focus on prevention education and services. While there are probationary programs for offenders, both men and women need somewhere to turn for help with behavioural or unhealthy relationships, they say. The Society ran a program called Change for Good for people not yet facing criminal sanctions but who volunteered to get help. However after two years, they ran out of funding in March.

    According to research done by the Ending Violence Association of B.C., show the changes in legislation and services for women in violence relationships back to the 1960s, though more significant changes came 1990s. In 1993, courts made a specific “K” case designation to separate domestic violence cases. Three years later, after a man killed eight members of his ex-wife’s family and himself in Vernon, Judge Josiah Wood investigated the case and concluded police need to respond better to domestic cases and violence against women. Since then, police have little discretion in domestic violence cases—someone must be removed.

    That same year, 1996, the Criminal Code was amended “requiring the court to consider a victim impact statement and providing that abuse of a spouse or child, or abuse of a
    position of trust, shall be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing,” according to the study.

    To contact the reporter for this story, email Meaghan Archer at marcher@infotelnews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

    ...More...

  • Aberdeen community comes together again

    KAMLOOPS — It’s been nearly two years since a community association helped plan the conversion of the old golf course to West Highlands Park and now several Aberdeen residents are moving forward with an effort to relaunch a community association for the neighbourhood.

    One of the new directors, Helen Newmarch, says part of the reason the original community association no longer operates is the proposed Ajax Mine.

    Many of the people previously involved in the association are now focusing attention on other groups such as Kamloops Area Preservation Association, Kamloops Moms for Clean Air or Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment and because of those involvements others had begun to see the community association as another anti-Ajax group.

    “(The association) fell to the wayside as leadership became busy in other ventures,” Newmarch says, adding. “There seems to be the perception the association was taking a stand. It was individuals within the association that have become involved in other groups and when you publicly take a stand like that can you really represent the association, all the people in the neighbourhood?”

    Newmarch says she decided to step up because of the work that still needs to be done.

    “It’s really important that the community association continues on, in some way,” she says. “We wanted to have a clean start though, there might be the perception that (the association) was an advocacy group against Ajax, and we absolutely take no stand on Ajax at all. If we started discussing Ajax it would only create diversity in the community as opposed to working together towards common goals.”

    The four new directors decided to change the name to Aberdeen Neighbourhood Association (formerly Aberdeen Community Association) and believes some of the top concerns in the Aberdeen area are walkability, maintenance of trails and the soon to be built community centre. Newmarch notes that is just what the current group of four have talked about and what exactly the new association works on will be dependent of what other residents have to say.

    “The possibilities are endless,” she says. “Is there any way to squeeze in a community garden? Have block parties? What are we doing to protect ourselves from wildfires if it gets hot and dry this sumer?”

    She adds there may be more talk of which areas need to be developed and maintained, there could be concerns over water and of course they would love to see more talk of activities and projects for the community. The group would like to see another 6-8 people step on board as directors and they hope to collect email and contact information to help keep the community more connected.

    Aberdeen residents will get the chance to talk more at a continental breakfast meeting on Saturday, April 26. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to noon in the Community Room at Aberdeen Elementary. A professional facilitator will lead everyone through the conversation needed to start planning the new vision for the neighbourhood.

    To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infotelnews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

    ...More...

  • No need to hunt for things to do Easter long weekend

    KAMLOOPS — Easter egg decorating and hunts, along with your choice of brunch and a parade, will fill this weekend with holiday-themed activities, though there is even more to do if you’re looking to keep busy.

    All weekend the B.C. Wildlife Park will be hosting the annual East Eggs-Citement from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Vancouver Aquarium Aquavan will be at the park on Friday but Uncle Chris the Clown will be on hand all weekend. There will be Easter egg hunts every half an hour, scavenger hunts for older kids, colouring contests for younger kids and miniature train rides for kids of all ages.

    Saturday head down to St. Andrews on the Square for the first annual community Easter egg hunt. There will be crafts (including Easter egg baskets), photo opportunities with princesses from Enchanted Tea Cup, face painting and an egg hunt in the park. The event begins at 2 p.m. with the hunt running from 3-3:30 p.m. On Sunday stop by the Big Little Science Centre from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the kids can learn about colours while they decorate their own hardboiled eggs.

    Sunday also offers the annual Easter Parade featuring vintage cars. Starting at 11 a.m. you can check out the cars on display at the Westsyde Coopers and then at 1 p.m. the convoy to Riverside Park will begin. Downtown the cars will again park and be on display.

    For the adults Privato Vineyard and Winery is taking advance bookings for three Vine to Wine tours daily Friday through Monday and Harpers Trail Winery will have the tasting room open Friday through Sunday. Sunday brunches will take place at both Prestons and the South Thompson Inn.

    This weekend West Coast Amusement Fair is also at Aberdeen Mall, offering rides, games and treats from noon to 10 p.m. through Sunday and noon to 6 p.m. on Monday.

    A little less holiday-inspired but no less interesting, exhibits continue to be shown at the art gallery and Brimful of Asha is playing at the Pavillion Theatre. The Chinese Legacies, Building the Canadian Pacific Railway, exhibit will also run from Wednesday, April 16 through the end of the month at the museum on Seymour.

    Friday and Saturday Rugbyfest, featuring Grade 8 Boys, Junior Boys, Senior Boys and Girls divisions, will take place at various fields throughout Kamloops while the Kamloops Farmer’s Market kicks off the season with the 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday market in front of Stuart Wood School on St. Paul Street.

    If you are looking for live entertainment, The Young’uns are playing at Blue Grotto, Blue Morris’ Dirty Dancing Burlesque is at Cactus Jacks Night Club, Matt Stanley and the Decoys are playing at Chances in the Barside Lounge and Grill, Doc and the Disorderlies are at the Barnhartvale Coffee house, the Caspians are also at Barside Lounge and the Paint it Black Party is taking place at Pogue Mahone.

    Keep an eye on the InfoTel News events page for even more events.

    To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infotelnews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

    -This story was updated at 9:41 a.m., April 18 to add more events.

    ...More...

  • An inside look at growing marijuana, legally, in the Okanagan

    OKANAGAN - I’m following directions few people have to a location even fewer know about: A commercial medical marijuana facility hidden in the hills above the Okanagan Valley.

    The dirt road carves up the mountainside in a flourish of switchbacks, leading me further from the small town below. It’s a nice neighbourhood: Large, modern homes with incredible views and ample privacy.

    When I find the right address, all I can see from the road is a long, steep driveway leading into the woods. Herb, the anonymous producer who invited me to his ‘shop,' has arranged for one of his friends to drive me up the hill.

    January snow squeaks under my boots as I walk over to the truck. I sniff the crisp air and there’s no whiff of what goes on at the end of the driveway.

    Herb’s friend is about 25, clean cut, and a medical marijuana patient himself. It doesn’t take long to get to the shop, a warehouse concealed from outside view. Nothing—not smell, appearance, or sound—gives away its purpose.

    Herb graciously welcomes us inside and begins the tour. We go through a comfortable lounge area into the sound of fans, a gurgle of water, and hum of energy in the production facility itself. It’s not as if I’d expected a basement lair at 420 Sativa St., but the facility is larger, more industrial, and more professional than I imagined.

    Neatly planted potted clones sit under bright grow lights, labeled with names like Liberty Haze and Blue Dream. The heat and humidity in the grow rooms is a welcome change from the cold outdoors. Herb has about 10 strains on the go, all clearly tagged and set out in rows. Carbon dioxide is pumped in to promote plant growth while a ventilation system stirs the air—the perfect balance of humidity must be achieved to prevent mould. The whole facility has a heated floor. A network of black hoses deliver water and a calculated mix of nutrients to the plants, but Herb is careful of what comes in contact with his crop.

    “Unscrupulous producers will spray the plants willy nilly with any kind of pesticide,” he says. “If you had a garden and you were going to eat the produce from it, you wouldn’t be spraying it.”

    Instead, he’s cautious not to attract pests, like spider mites, into the grow rooms. He changes his clothes in the summer months to prevent contamination, but as controlled as the environment is, there’s always potential for unwanted pests to get in. Like any farmer, it’s just one of the inherent risks.

    “All the same skills in farming are applicable,” Herb says. “It’s a lot of work, it’s a full time job.”

    He hasn’t taken a vacation since entering the industry—leaving his shop, his livelihood, in the hands of hired help isn’t appealing. He’s invested thousands of dollars into making the operation fit Health Canada’s new code, with requirements ranging from video surveillance to storing product in a locked vault.

    Herb says he’s not overly concerned about his safety. He doesn’t freely hand out his address and is choosy about who he shares the details of his work with. But he’s more open about his occupation than many growers. 

    “I choose to live a more open life than I think a lot of people would, and that’s partially because I believe in the industry and in what I’m doing. I don’t want to hide or propagate the stigma about how a lot of grows operate," he says. "I’ve brought people through to show them what this kind of operation can and should look like. I want to show there are people who run conscientious operations and take a lot of pride in what they do."

    The career has had its share of bumps in the road. Navigating the bureaucracy of Health Canada has been one, dealing with the police another.

    “The RCMP came in a few years ago when they didn’t know I was licensed. They raided me, they came in cut down all my plants, handcuffed me, arrested me, dragged me off to jail. I was there for a few hours while they phoned Health Canada to see if I was licensed and let me go.”

    He got no reimbursement for the destroyed plants, but was advised by his lawyer not to push the matter. Since then, his relationship with the RCMP has improved. They even give him courtesy calls if there have been break-and-enters in the area.

    Facilities like this, and people like Herb, are the new face of the medical marijuana system. The government doesn’t want people growing in their homes—that was illegal as of April 1. And while Herb doesn’t agree with all of the new system, he needs to be part of it to change it.

    After touring the facility, we sit in the common area and Herb offers tea and cookies. As we chat about the future of the industry, Herb’s voice is full of passion and hope.

    “Hopefully it all comes together and pays off in a more mature, safer, better industry. One that’s easier for people to access,” he says.

    To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

    LINKS:

    City council hazy on how marijuana facilities will be taxed - Infotel News

    Draft marijuana bylaw draws criticism - Infotel News

    How one regional district is proposing to regulate medical marijuana facilities - Infotel News

    Access to medical marijuana growing in Vernon - Infotel News

    Enderby butts out medical marijuana growers - Infotel News

    Marijuana reform still a pipe dream in Vernon - Infotel News

     

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  • Building permits up, value down in TNRD

    KAMLOOPS — The month of March was on par with last year for building permits issued and number of units created in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District but the construction value of those permits is down by more than $2 million.

    In total 17 new permits were issued, bringing the yearly total to 37, up three from 2013. The value of those permits sits at just over $2.1 million, down from the $4.13 million in permits issued in 2013.

    Commercial permits were actually up by almost $400,000 but at just $1.54 million for 11 residential permits the value is well below the $3.91 million value for 14 residential permits issued in 2013. The same trend carries over the year to date totals, even with a couple more permits issued in 2014 the total value is down to $4.79 million from $6.84 million the year before.

    The highest value of permits came from the Rivers and the Peaks region, where five permits totalled $1.3 million in value, up from $920,000 across five permits in 2013. The biggest drops were in the north and south Nicola Valley regions, where four permits hit nearly $1.8 million last year. One permit valued at $10,000, was issued in the north this year and one permit for $30,000 was issued in the south this year. Last year a single permit was valued at $1 million in the south region.

    Meanwhile the district is looking at increasing the base building permit fees by up to $2 per $1,000 in construction value as well as the length of time the permit is valid for. Fees have not increased for 18 years and the adjustments will help the district catch up with cost increases considered ‘long overdue.’

    To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infotelnews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

    ...More...

  • Northern lights could dance over Easter weekend

    THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - If the clouds break on Saturday, and there is a chance they will, we could see northern lights dancing high above us heading into Easter Sunday.

    The National Space Weather Prediction Station says a minor storm watch has been issued and those living as far south as the northern United States may have a good chance to view the auroras.

    So far this year the northern lights have been a bit of an enigma in our region, with clouds often hampering views from within the city, but some people have found places outside city boundaries offering a glimpse of the dancing lights.

    Environment Canada is calling for cloud and rain through much of the region Saturday though by Sunday conditions are expected to be a mix of sun and cloud.

    The annual Lyrid meteor shower is also expected to peak early Tuesday morning, though there is a chance of seeing the ‘shooting stars’ anytime between now and April 25.

    To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infotelnews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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  • Dutch prosecute man whose child pornography case linked to Canadian victim Amanda Todd

    VANCOUVER - Canadian police confirmed Thursday an arrest has been made in the Netherlands in the case of a Canadian teenager who was blackmailed into exposing herself in front of a webcam. The 15-year-old later committed suicide after detailing her harassment on a YouTube video watched by millions around the world.

    Royal Canadian Mounted Police Insp. Paulette Freill said a suspect has been arrested in the Netherlands and charged with extortion, luring and criminal harassment and possession of child pornography for the purpose of distribution. The 35-year-old man has been identified under Dutch privacy laws only as "Aydin C."

    Freill declined to release specifics of the case but said there were other victims in Canada and internationally. Dutch prosecutors said the man is suspected of blackmailing girls in the U.S., Britain and the Netherlands. Canadian police said they would seek extradition.

    Amanda Todd brought the problem of cyber bullying to mainstream attention in Canada after she posted a video on YouTube in which she told her story with handwritten signs, describing how she was lured by a stranger to expose her breasts on a webcam.

    The picture ended up on a Facebook page made by the stranger, to which her friends were added.

    She was repeatedly bullied, despite changing schools, before finally killing herself weeks after posting the video. It has now been viewed more than 17 million times.

    "This is truly a day we have been waiting for," said Carol Todd, Amanda's mother. She wiped away tears as she thanked police.

    Dutch prosecutors said they filed indecent assault and child pornography charges against the man. Lawyer Christian van Dijk earlier confirmed to The Associated Press that one of the charges against his client involved a 15-year-old girl from British Columbia.

    Aydin C., who has dual Dutch and Turkish nationality, has been in detention since he was arrested in January in a vacation house the town of Oisterwijk. He lived alone, and has no wife or children.

    Prosecutors first publicized his case after a preliminary hearing Wednesday at which his detention was extended for three months.

    "The suspicions against the man are that he approached underage girls via the Internet and then seduced them into performing sexual acts in front of a webcam," prosecutors said in a statement.

    "He is suspected of subsequently pressurizing them to participate in making new material."

    They noted Aydin C. is also thought to have blackmailed adult men in a somewhat similar way, by convincing them that he was an underage boy, convincing them to perform sexual acts on camera, and then threatening to turn the images over to the police.

    Lawyer Van Dijk said he doesn't believe prosecutors have sufficient evidence to convict his client, and said that even if there is evidence of unlawful activity on his computer, it may have been hacked.

    "Prosecutors seem to think they have a big fish here, but if I see the evidence, it's not much," he said. "Lots of references to IP addresses and such."

    Dutch prosecutors said they were co-operating with other national authorities, including the British.

    Van Dijk said U.S. and Norwegian authorities are also involved in the case.

    He said no country has sought to have his client extradited, and so far Aydin C. hasn't entered any plea.

    "He's exercising his right to remain silent."

    ___

    Toby Sterling reported from Amsterdam.

    ——————————————————

    ARREST MADE IN AMANDA TODD CASE

    A Dutch media outlet is reporting the arrest of a 35-year-old man in the Netherlands in connection with the Amanda Todd case.

    The media report says he faces harassment and extortion allegations.

    The 15-year-old Port Coquitlam, B.C., girl killed herself in October 2012, after posting a YouTube video detailing her harassment.

    More coming...

    LINKS:

    Suspect arrested in international investigation into illegal webcam sex - Openbaar Ministerie (Netherlands)

    Arrest made in connection with online bullying of Amanda Todd - Global News

    Amanda Todd bullying leads to arrest in Netherlands - CBC

    Amanda Todd Legacy Society - Official website

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  • Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital; no immediate word on damage or casualties

    ACAPULCO, Mexico - A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

    The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake at about 9:30 a.m. (10:30 a.m. EDT; 1430 GMT) was centred on a long-dormant faultline northwest of the Pacific resort of Acapulco, where many Mexicans are vacationing for the Easter holiday.

    It was felt across at least a half-dozen states and Mexico's capital, where it collapsed several walls and left larges cracks in some facades. Debris covered sidewalks around the city.

    Around the region, there were reports of isolated and minor damage, such as fallen fences, trees and broken windows. Chilpancingo, capital of the southern state of Guerrero, where the quake was centred, reported a power outage, but service was restored after 15 minutes.

    In Acapulco, 59-year-old Enedina Ramirez Perez was having breakfast, enjoying the holiday with about 20 family members, when her hotel started to shake.

    "People were turning over chairs in their desperation to get out, grabbing children, trampling people," the Mexico City woman said. "The hotel security was excellent and starting calming people down. They got everyone to leave quietly."

    The quake struck 170 miles (273 kilometres) southwest of Mexico City, where people fled high-rises and took to the streets, many in still in their bathrobes and pyjamas on their day off.

    "I started to hear the walls creak and I said, 'Let's go,'" said Rodolfo Duarte, 32, who fled his third-floor apartment.

    "This is really strong," said Gabriel Alejandro Hernandez Chavez, 45, an apartment building guard in Mexico City. "And I'm accustomed to earthquakes."

    Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said there small power outages from fallen transformers but officials were working to restore the service.

    The USGS initially calculated the quake's magnitude at 7.5, but later downgraded it to 7.2. It said the quake was centred 22 miles (36 kilometres) northwest of the town of Tecpan de Galeana, and was 15 miles (24 kilometres) deep.

    In many cases of earthquakes in Mexico, it can take time to receive word from remote areas near the epicenter, where damage could be more extensive. There were no early reports of serious damage or injuries near the epicenter in Tecpan de Galeana.

    Friday's quake occurred along a section of the Pacific Coast known as the Guerrero Seismic Gap, a 125-mile (200-kilometre) section where tectonic plates meet and have been locked, meaning huge amounts of energy are being stored up with potentially devastating effects, said USGS seismologist Gavin Hayes.

    The last large quake that occurred along the section was a magnitude-7.6 temblor in 1911, Hayes said.

    He said scientists will be watching the area more intensely because moderate quakes such as Friday's can destabilize the surrounding sections of seismic plate and increase the chance of a more powerful temblor.

    The USGS says the Guerrero Gap has the potential to produce a quake as strong as magnitude 8.4, potentially much more powerful than the magnitude-8.1 quake that killed 9,500 people and devastated large sections of Mexico City in 1985.

    Mexico City itself is vulnerable even to distant earthquakes because much of it sits atop the muddy sediments of drained lake beds that quiver as quake waves hit.

    The 1985 quake was centred 250 miles (400 kilometres) from the capital on the Pacific Coast.

    _____

    Associated Press writers Mark Stevenson, Michael Weissenstein and E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this report from Mexico City.

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  • Take your egg hunt to the farmers market this weekend

    KAMLOOPS – It's time to get reaquainted with your local farmers.

    The farmers market will kick off its spring/summer season this Easter weekend. The first Saturday market will start at 8 a.m. and conclude at 12:30 p.m. on the 200 block of St. Paul Street.

    Shoppers can expect to see bedding plants, hanging baskets, a wide variety of shrubs and perennials. Food items will include potatoes, eggs, dried apples, honey, home baking, jams, jellies, fish and meats.

    The weekday market is set to begin on Wednesday, May 7 on the 400 block of Victoria Street.

    To contact a reporter for this story, email gbrothen@infotelnews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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