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Khamla Wong arrested in massive international cocaine and ecstasy investigation

KHAMLA Wong, who was on the run from the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia (CFSEU-BC) for years, was arrested on February 24 by CFSEU-BC investigators with the support of CFSEU-BC’s Uniform Gang Enforcement Unit (UGET) and Richmond RCMP members after arriving from an international flight at Vancouver International Airport.

Wong has a long crime history and is linked to the UN gang. 

Wong will now face justice after being charged in connection to a 2008 CFSEU-BC investigation into the importation of kilos of cocaine into Canada and exportation of ecstasy to the United States. The investigation resulted in the seizure of tens of millions of dollars worth of illegal and potentially deadly drugs, along with the arrests and subsequent convictions of several people.

Wong, who was wanted on an Interpol “red notice” (an international warrant), was charged in July 2012 after the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) approved charges for conspiracy to traffic cocaine, conspiracy to import cocaine and possession of a loaded prohibited firearm. Wong returned to Canada and is currently being held in custody pending the judicial process.      

In August 2012, charges were laid against six men, including Khamla Wong, in relation to a CFSEU-BC drug investigation that spanned British Columbia, California, Mexico and Peru. A number of seizures took place over the course of the investigation beginning on August 21, 2008, when 23 kilograms (117,000 pills) of ecstasy pills were seized in Princeton, B.C. On December 20, 2008, another 121 kilograms of cocaine were seized at the Pacific Border Crossing. A few days later, on December 24, 2008, a further 97 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside a commercial transport truck carrying bananas were also seized at the Pacific Border Crossing. In May 2009, another 10 kilograms of cocaine were seized in Burnaby. 

The investigation progressed for six more months and concluded with seven warrants executed in June 2009 at residences in Chilliwack, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and the Lake Country in the Okanagan. Those searches resulted in the seizure of four firearms, including a restricted .44 Magnum pistol, and a number of prohibited firearms, including a 357 Magnum revolver, a 38 calibre semi-automatic pistol and a 40 calibre semi-automatic pistol. Several individuals were arrested and charged. See original release.

There were several convictions and significant sentences in relation to this investigation. See original release.

“We will not stop our relentless pursuit of those individuals who cause significant harm and pose the greatest risks to our safety due to their involvement in gang and organized crime activity, even a decade or more ago,” says Superintendent Duncan Pound, Acting Chief Officer, CFSEU-BC. “Time and time again we have sought out individuals living abroad to hold them accountable and face justice in Canada. Those who remain on the run from CFSEU-BC should know that we will not stop until we find you.”

CFSEU-BC thanked the Canada Border Services Agency, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, and the many other agencies who have assisted on this complex investigation over the years.

395 new COVID-19 cases and 10 more deaths in B.C.

DR. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, and Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, on Thursday announced 395 new cases of COVID-19, including 12 epi-linked cases, for a total of 78,673 cases in British Columbia.

There have been 10 new COVID-19-related deaths, for a total of 1,348 deaths in the province.

To date, 239,883 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., 68,157 of which are second doses. Immunization data is available on the COVID-19 dashboard at: www.bccdc.ca.

There are 4,489 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 7,931 people under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases. A further 72,781 people who tested positive have recovered.

Of the active cases, 228 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 62 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.

There have been 86 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 207 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 37 in the Island Health region, 24 in the Interior Health region, 41 in the Northern Health region and no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada.

There have been 16 new confirmed COVID-19 cases that are variants of concern in the province, for a total of 116 cases. Of the total cases, nine cases are active and the remaining people have recovered.

There has been one new health-care facility outbreak at the Revera Sunwood Retirement Community. The outbreak at the Burnaby Hospital (Fraser Health) is now over.

Henry and Dix said: “The vaccines we have available today are doing their job. Their effectiveness has been proven by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) research released last week. Throughout Canada, we are working to use every available vial to safely get vaccine into arms as quickly as possible.

“We are encouraged by the enthusiasm and ask for patience with us to ensure we are getting it right.

“Throughout the province, we are paying special attention to the variants of concern to better understand transmission patterns. The evidence has shown we need to continue doing what we have been doing and the precautions we are already taking are equally as effective with these variants.

“We are all looking ahead to the point where we can safely spend time with our family and friends, when we can travel and resume the things that have been put on hold.

“Yesterday was Pink Shirt day. We spoke about the need for kindness and compassion. We all need to keep this top of mind in the weeks ahead, because with fatigue can come frustration.

“We are confident our collective efforts will slow the spread of COVID-19. However, it is our kindness and compassion that will see us through this pandemic and into brighter days ahead.”

OPINION: Farmers and producers must be treated fairly and given support they need

Aman Singh

BY AMAN SINGH

NDP MLA for Richmond Queensborough

IN recent weeks, many people have written to me expressing their concerns about the reaction to peaceful protests by farmers in India. Many people in B.C. have friends and family who farm in India, and it has been extremely distressing to watch these events unfold and to worry for the safety of our loved ones and their communities.

Everyone has the right to protest peacefully. And we must use our voices to call for this right to be respected. People have been gathering in Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria and elsewhere to show their support for and solidarity with Indian farmers.

Our provincial government has heard these concerns from British Columbians, and we take them seriously. That is why Premier John Horgan has written a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to convey to him the anguish and worry felt by many people in this province. Premier Horgan has urged the Prime Minister to continue to encourage the Indian government to seek a peaceful resolution to this issue through meaningful dialogue with the farmers. I strongly believe in dialogue and the democratic process, and I know that is the only way this issue will be resolved.

At the heart of this issue is the question of respect for farmers. Those who grow and produce food are a vital part of every society. Having access to fresh, nutritious food makes everything we do possible.

And yet, it is easy to forget just how much work goes into every meal we eat. When our food comes from other parts of the province, the country, or the world, we do not get a chance to meet the people who produce it. But behind every ingredient is a farmer or producer who deserves to make a fair living.

As a provincial government, we recognize that we also have a duty to ensure the farmers and producers in our province are treated fairly and given the support they need.

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges for business owners in B.C., including farmers, ranchers, and food producers. As we plan our economic recovery, we are making sure that they are not left behind.

As part of our government’s $10 billion COVID-19 response, we have invested $5.6 million in expanding B.C.’s Food Hub Network. Food Hubs provide shared food processing space, equipment, and services in communities across the province. By sharing the cost among several businesses, smaller food processors can bring their products to market more easily. This means there will be increased demand for local ingredients, giving farmers more chances to sell their food.

When these new Food Hubs are opened, people all over the province will have more chances to buy delicious products that are grown and made in B.C.

Our food system is made possible by hard-working people who deserve our support, gratitude, and solidarity.

U.S. expresses religious freedom concerns in Russia

U.S. Department of State spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday said in a statement: “We are disturbed by reports that a Russian court sentenced Valentina Baranovskaya and her son, Roman Baranovsky, to terms of two and six years in a Russian penal colony, respectively, simply for being practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

He noted: “The sentencing of Valentina, a 69-year-old stroke victim, is particularly cruel.  It also marks the first time a Russian court has sentenced a female Jehovah’s Witness.”

He said: “The decision by the Russian court is the latest development in an ongoing crackdown on members of religious minority groups in Russia.  Since the Russian Supreme Court designated the Jehovah’s Witnesses an “extremist” organization in 2017, 52 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been imprisoned for exercising their beliefs, including Alexandr Ivshin, who was recently given a record-length 7.5 year sentence for a Jehovah’s Witness by a Russian court.

“We urge Russia to lift its ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses and to respect the right of all to exercise their freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief.

Hate crime reports increased by 57% in Ottawa in 2020

IN January 2020, the Ottawa Police Service reintroduced a hate crime unit, which allowed for a specific focus on hate-motivated incidents.

A hate crime is a criminal offence committed against a person or property which is motivated by hate/bias or prejudice based on race, national or ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, or other similar factors.

Officers in the Hate and Bias Crime Unit monitor and triage all incoming reports and ensure a timely, consistent and effective response to all hate-motivated incidents in the city.

Last year, investigators focused on the prevention of hate-motivated incidents through public education, outreach and the development of intelligence to address extremism. Hate crimes reports were up by 56.9% – from 116 cases reported in 2019 to 182 cases reported in 2020. 

The most serious violations seen by Ottawa Police were:

  • Mischief to property
  • Assault
  • Threats/utter to person
  • Theft under $5000
  • Harassing communication

The groups most victimized were:

  • Black
  • Jewish
  • East and South-East Asian
  • LGBTQ+
  • Muslim

Reported incidents in 2020 resulted in 24 people charged with 58 counts of various hate-motivated offences.

“The Ottawa Police Service takes hate-motivated incidents very seriously and they are investigated to the fullest extent,” said Acting Sergeant Ali Toghrol of the Hate and Bias Crime Unit. Hate, in any form, is not tolerated in Ottawa.”

More information about hate-motivated incidents can be found online.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of a hate-motivated crime, report it to the Ottawa Police Hate and Bias Crime Unit at 613-236-1222, ext. 5015 or online.

Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-8477 or at crimestoppers.ca

BC Liberals join coalition to call for pay equity

Karin Kirkpatrick

KARIN Kirkpatrick, BC Liberal Critic for Children, Family Development and Childcare, said on Thursday that she is joining Equal Work – Equal Pay B.C. to call on John Horgan and the NDP to deliver pay equity for non-unionized workers in the community service sector.

“It’s unconscionable that in the middle of a pandemic, the very people who put their health at risk to keep the rest of us safe are being discriminated against because the NDP is making policy decisions based on ideology, rather than equity and fairness,” said Kirkpatrick. “If this is not an example of government interference resulting in unfair labour practice, I don’t know what it is.”

Since April 2019, the B.C. Liberals have been asking when John Horgan would end the practice of pay discrimination against the 17,000 non-unionized workers — mostly women — who are offering the same level of essential community services as unionized workers, but for less money.

“As the Legislative Session is set to begin next week, we ask this government to immediately equalize funding and to pay the wage increases to non-union employers, which have been held back since April of 2019,” added Kirkpatrick. “It’s unacceptable for the NDP to disrespect the hard-working workers and punish them, simply for being non-unionized.”

Surrey seeks input on the new park planned in Clayton Heights

THE City of Surrey has launched a survey to seek public input on plans to build a new 2.2-hectare (5.5 acre) neighbourhood park (temporarily named 58B Neighbourhood Park) located at 72 Avenue and 191 Street, along the Hazelgrove Greenway. The park is split between the West Clayton and East Clayton Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP) areas.  

The park improvements are being planned for Park Site H (58B Neighbourhood Park) located within the Clayton Heights neighbourhood.  

As part of the 2021 Major Capital Projects commitments, the project signals a continued investment on the part of Council in park infrastructure throughout Surrey while increasing public access to green spaces, social spaces and active spaces.  

The 58B Neighbourhood Park plan will be guided by community feedback. The process will include planning the design, development and operation of the future park.  

The survey will be available at www.surrey.ca/newparks through to March 11.

Apna Health in response to disproportionate COVID-19 cases in Peel’s South Asian communities

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario: Community non-profit organizations Indus Community Services (Indus), Punjab Community Health Services (PCHS) and the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) have partnered together to create Apna Health – a collaborative committed to the South Asian communities’ health and wellness during the pandemic and in the long term.

The latest statistics revealed from Peel Region suggest alarmingly disproportionate COVID-19 cases in Mississauga and Brampton’s South Asian community. South Asians make up approximately 32% of the population in Peel, yet constitute 59% of the positive COVID-19 cases [source]. Race and ethnicity are markers for other conditions that impact health – including socioeconomic status, access to healthcare and increased exposure to the virus due to occupation (e.g., frontline workers).

“These numbers are alarming to the South Asian community which is why the Apna Health partnership is committed to supporting those that need our help the most,” says Gurpreet Malhotra, Chief Executive Officer, Indus Community Services. “Peel’s South Asian community needs more culturally sensitive and appropriate information available in a variety of languages.” 

“One-size-fits all strategy during the pandemic has been leaving out the South Asian community as the most vulnerable population during COVID 19,” says Baldev Mutta, CEO, PCHS. “Data supports that many ethno-racial communities have been a worst hit by COVID despite of the best practices and resources available. APNA health team is a grassroots initiative taken by PCHS, CASSA and Indus in order to highlight the unique needs of the South Asian Community and play a key role in help containing the spread. We sincerely believe that there is high need of both financial as well as other wrap around services including hot-meals, isolation centres and PPE for the community.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone light on systemic inequities which have caused disproportionately negative outcomes for South Asian (and other racialized) communities across almost all indicators of wellbeing including health and employment,” says Samya Hasan, Executive Director of CASSA. “Significant resources must be dedicated to develop health equity strategies that are community driven and culturally tailored in order to improve health outcomes for South Asians and to help them recover from this pandemic.”  

Apna Health’s kick-off campaign ‘Help is here! Know the truth! Stop the Spread!’ focuses on three pillars – prevention, resources and risk reduction. Their website, Apnahealth.org has a plethora of information and resources available in Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Bangla, & Punjabi. They have also coordinated a community outreach program accessible through a COVID-19 Helpline 647-846-2233. The help line is equipped to provide recorded information and live intake for inquiries related to COVID-19 relief including food supplies, financial, government supports, vaccines, mental and medical support, all at zero cost.

The public awareness campaign scaled up locally on February 22 with Apna Health advertising their services across the Region of Peel via billboards, bus shelters, radio, local South Asian TV channels, and on digital platform demonstrating their collaborative to the South Asian communities’ health and wellness – during the pandemic and beyond.

Government moves to deny Phoenix victims full compensation: Public Service Alliance of Canada

THE Public Service Alliance of Canada said on Thursday that the federal government is recklessly moving ahead with its plan to tax Phoenix general damages, clawing back the compensation owed to more than 140,000 federal public service workers impacted by the pay debacle.  

It accused the government of refusing to work with CRA and the PSAC to clarify errors in information that CRA needs to revise its initial opinion on the taxability of Phoenix damages; all while moving ahead with reduced compensation to its employees. 

“This is blatant interference by the Liberal Government and rubs salt in the wounds of workers who’ve already endured five years of Phoenix pay problems,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC President. “It is completely unacceptable for this government to deny CRA the information they need before issuing the Phoenix damages payments.” 

The Treasury Board provided incorrect information to CRA when it issued an initial opinion about the tax implications of the Phoenix settlement. When these errors were pointed out by the PSAC, particularly with regards to general damages for pain and suffering, CRA agreed to re-issue an opinion if the Treasury Board joined the PSAC in clarifying the facts.  

The Treasury Board is refusing, however, to sign a joint statement of facts that sets the record straight and is therefore blocking CRA’s ability to review its opinion on taxability, according to the PSAC.   

“On the very week of Phoenix’s 5th anniversary, the government has found yet another way to hurt PSAC members who have already lost so much because of years’ worth of pay problems,” said Aylward. 

The PSAC said it carefully negotiated an agreement that emphasizes the ‘stress, aggravation, pain and suffering’ PSAC members have experienced because of the Phoenix Pay System. The tax treatment of the general damages should reflect the purpose of that compensation – and pain and suffering of this type has historically been tax exempt.  

The Treasury Board’s interference in the tax process could ultimately lead to thousands of unnecessary individual tax challenges and lengthy retroactive payments for PSAC members. 

Already, more than 31,000 PSAC members have sent letters to the government, urging them to stop the taxation of Phoenix damages without a revised opinion on taxability from CRA. 

Background: The PSAC reached a settlement on Phoenix damages in July 2020 with Treasury Board to compensate more than 140,000 members impacted by the Phoenix pay system. The Phoenix damages agreement replaced the five days of leave provided to other bargaining agents with a $2,500 lump sum payment to be distributed to all of the eligible PSAC members who have been directly or indirectly impacted by the Phoenix pay system.

‘Challenging Racist British Columbia’ booklet weaves together history and present day anti-racist work

THE 150th anniversary of British Columbia joining Canada arrives at a time when people and institutions are being asked to reckon with the foundational impacts of racism in our society. Challenging Racist British Columbia: 150 Years and Counting, is a new publication examining the long history of racist policies that have impacted Indigenous, Black and racialized communities in the province over those 150 years, tying those histories to present day anti-racist movements. 

Co-authored by Nicholas XEMŦOLTW̱ Claxton, Denise Fong, Fran Morrison, Christine O’Bonsawin, Maryka Omatsu, John Price and Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, the 80-page, illustrated booklet is being released in advance of the 150th anniversary, which is on July 20, 2021. This engaging resource has been designed to assist anti-racist educators, teachers, scholars, policymakers and individuals doing anti-racism work to help pierce the silences that too often have let racism grow in our communities, corporations and governments. 

The booklet’s publication comes at the end of Black History Month and amidst ongoing necessary conversations about anti-racism in our province. Sylvia Mangue Alene, President of the BC Black History Awareness Society says of the resource, “challenge starts by asking yourself what needs to be challenged. In this booklet subjects have answered in a very clear way what needs to be challenged and that is racism, racism is challenged because we believe that there are better ways to treat people and that is with respect and inclusiveness in all aspects that life has to offer.” 

The resource documents how current cycles of activism — from local actions in the Black Lives Matter movement, to the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs continuing to assert title over their traditional territories, to the Japanese Canadian Community’s current negotiations with the BC government for redress for the province’s role in the ethnic cleansing and dispossession of the community, as well as ongoing community responses to anti-Asian racism that has been heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic — are all a part of a broader story of Indigenous, Black and racialized communities challenging white supremacy on these lands. The material covers different stories from 1871, when BC joined Canada, to the present. 

This resource will be available as a free pdf download on the project website www.challengeracistbc.ca beginning on February 25. An enhanced, interactive digital edition, providing direct access to primary and community-based sources, and a 20-minute video will follow this spring. 

The booklet is co-published by the UVIC History project Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, BC Office. The cover was designed by John Endo Greenaway, using the work titled Flight through the Four Winds by Sanford Williams.

Nicholas XEMŦOLTW̱ Claxton says: “For the Indigenous peoples in BC, the struggles have always been about the Land, and recognition as the rightful owners.” 

Denise Fong says: “What actions do we need to take to work towards reconciliation and building stronger communities? This educational resource is a starting point for students and educators to engage in inquiry about the historical context of racism in British Columbia and to recognize the collective efforts of Indigenous, Black, and People of Color (IBPOC) community activists in fighting against injustices.” 

Fran Morrison says: “In publishing this inclusive cross-cultural history of the fight against racism, it’s value is peerless in that the cultures/communities in this resource came together to produce this resource. It is a collective, resounding call to policy makers and governments to end racist policies and practices that have impacted and continue to impact Indigenous, Black and racialized communities in our province.” 

Christine O’Bonsawin says: “In bringing to light the histories and experiences of Black, Indigenous, and racialized people, this resource is our effort to provide a truthful account of the history of ‘British Columbia’. Challenging Racist ‘British Columbia’ further underscores the critical work ahead for all of us who support Indigenous land defence and a growing anti-racist movement.” 

Maryka Omatsu, National Association of Japanese Canadians, Executive Board Member, says: “The Japanese Canadian community continues to struggle for justice and redress. Japanese Canadians want to ensure that our experience will not be repeated and that racial bigotry will never again be used to target and harm another community.” 

John Price says: “This resource honours the activists and communities that have been fighting racism for 150 years and, as the current anti-racist uprising demonstrates, are still having to stand up to system racism on a daily basis. Hopefully it serves as a wake-up call to governments that no longer should they engage in divide-and-rule policies. 150 years is long enough.” 

Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra says: “This book offers a bold, honest, historical correction to the false narrative that Canada is exempt from white supremacy and racist nation state formations. And for that reason, this book is the exact resource needed in this pivotal moment where an anti-racist movement continues to take shape. It is a resource for activists, students, educators, community professionals — it is a resource for all.”