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  • 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.

  • 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

     

  • Penticton RCMP release first quarter update

    PENTICTON — Penticton RCMP will discuss their first quarter report with council at next week’s meeting.

    The report, included in this week’s agenda, compares the first quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014.

    According to the report, RCMP responded to 16 per cent fewer Criminal Code files in 2014 than 2013. The decline is a result of high-volume crimes, such as “theft, disturbances and mischief/property damage, which have all declined by between 27 and 32 per cent from the first quarter 2013.

    There are, however, crimes that have increased, including armed robbery, homicides, and theft from vehicles.

    Superintendent Kevin Hewco will present the report to council on Tuesday, April 22 in council chambers.

    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.

  • David Wesley Bobbitt's dangerous offender hearing to last a month

    PENTICTON — A dangerous offender hearing for violent sex offender David Wesley Bobbitt has been scheduled for this summer.

    The hearing will begin the week of June 9 and is expected to last until the first week of July.

    Bobbitt was sentenced last year after he pleaded guilty to the violent sexual assault of a young Penticton woman, who he held in his second-hand store for hours against her will. The woman’s toddler was with her at the time, however he was unharmed.

    The decision was made at a pretrial conference Thursday in Penticton Supreme Court.

    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.

  • 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.