Year in Review

2020: The Year In Review

The Mission Record takes a look at some of the stories that made headlines in 2020

It has been a challenging year for everyone, but as 2020 draws to a close, the Mission Record is looking back on some of the many stories that made headlines in the past 12 months.

While COVID-19 was clearly the top topic of conversation, many other issues and events took place. We hope you enjoy the brief look back at 2020 and then look forward to a better, brighter 2021.

JANUARY

Cannabis store coming

Mission’s first cannabis store inched closer to reality as council endorsed an application made by the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) for a sales licence for a public cannabis retail store at 31956 Lougheed Hwy. The government store, located in the same shopping centre as Walmart, is now open.

Asphalt plant not welcome

The community of Steelhead banded together in an attempt to prevent a proposed asphalt plant from coming to their area.

A large group of protesters converged on Mission City Hall to voice their opposition to a proposed mobile asphalt plant. The protesters held up homemade signs and chanted “No plant in Steelhead!”

Pawn shop can’t move

A Mission pawn shop owner doesn’t know what to do after council decided not to take any action on his request for a zoning modification that would allow him to move his store from its current location to the building next door.

Corey Sidon of Mission City Pawn Shop leases the building at 33025 First Ave., where his shop is currently located. Last year, the pawn shop purchased the old bookstore at 33027 First Ave., directly beside it. However, district bylaws do not allow pawn shops in the downtown area anymore, stopping him from moving.

FEBRUARY

Sex offender moves to Mission

Mission RCMP issued a public warning about Taylor Dueck, a man with a history of sexual assaults, who had been released from prison and was living in Mission. He was eventually sent back to jail.

Charges filed in Canadian Tire blaze

After more than a year since a fire destroyed the Canadian Tire building in Mission, charges were filed in the case.

According to a press release, “Mission RCMP serious crime unit have conducted an intense and thorough investigation” into the blaze, which occurred on Jan. 30, 2019. As a result, charges of arson with disregard for human life under the Criminal Code have been laid against 26-year-old Quince Chalifoux.

MARCH

Understanding Fentanyl crisis

Raising awareness and understanding of the ongoing Fentanyl crisis is a top priority for Kat Wahamaa. The project coordinator for the Mission Overdose Community Action Team and a member of Moms Stop the Harm, Wahamaa has been involved in a series of events that have been held or will be held locally.

She said people need to rethink how the understand Fentanyl and overdoses.

Covid, covid, covid

Life in Mission slowly ground to a halt as precautions were put into place to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Mission Leisure Centre was officially shut down as was the Mission Public Library. It was just the beginning of social distancing as events were cancelled, playgrounds were closed and the public began to realize how serious the pandemic was becoming.

APRIL

Downtown businesses burn

A fire in downtown Mission destroyed several local businesses. The blaze began at about 1:45 p.m. on April 13 at Warcraft Games on First Avenue. Mission Fire Rescue Service was on scene quickly and, at first, it appeared to be a small structure fire.

However, the seriousness of the fire soon became apparent.

The age of the structure and the layout of the building made it difficult to snuff out the flames. Firefighters were forced to battle the blaze from the outside of the building, and the streams of water could not reach some areas of the fire.

Covid outbreak at Mission Institution

After the COVID-19- related death of a prisoner on April 15 and infection of (at that time) 64 other inmates and nine correctional officers, Mission Institution’s management and Correctional Service Canada (CSC) received sharp criticism from local MPs, Indigenous leaders, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers and civil rights groups.

The data released by CSC has shown a steady increase in positive cases at the medium-security facility since the initial confirmation of an infection on April 4.

MAY

Taxes postponed

Mission property owners had an additional three months to pay their municipal taxes. Council passed a bylaw, which included an increase of 4.39 per cent plus a one-time change in the late-penalty structure.

The move allowed people more time to pay, due to Covid-19, before the normal late charge was enforced.

Providing shelter

The building, formally known as The Stage, in downtown Mission was used as a 44-bed shelter to help provide services for the homeless and other marginalized residents in the area.

COVID-19 prompted the request to providing help for those who need it. Local businesses raised concerns when the shelter was created, however it was a temporary facility.

JUNE

More cannabis stores pondered

Five applications for marijuana dispensaries were put before Mission Council for consideration. The applicants have their eyes on two areas in the city, the 32000-block of Lougheed Highway and the 33000-block of First Avenue.

The district’s zoning bylaws require pot shops to be 250 metres away from public and private schools, as well as 150 metres away from other cannabis retail stores.

Spike in homeless count

Mission’s homeless population almost tripling in the last three years is “alarming, but not surprising,” according to Mayor Pam Alexis.

Alexis says that, although the number of homeless people are definitely increasing in Mission, the spike in the Fraser Valley Regional District’s 2020 Homeless Count and Survey is due to a more accurate picture of the issue than in previous years.

The 2020 count showed Mission’s numbers had grown from 63 people in 2017, to 178 people today. Every other city in the region saw a spike in the numbers, but Mission’s spike was the largest.

JULY

Peaceful protest

A rally in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement took place Saturday in Mission.

“We understand that All Lives SHOULD Matter – without prejudice or discrimination – so let’s unite together and support those that need their voices heard the most!” said Yuliana Bui, an organizer of the event.

She hoped people would gather peacefully in “solidarity with Black Lives Matter. In solidarity with Indigenous Lives Matter and reconciliation. In solidarity with all people of Color. In solidarity with Anti-Racism and Equity. In solidarity with all LGBTQIA2S+ people. In solidarity with equal civil rights for all.”

‘I started to hear other kids screaming’

The spray park at the Mission Leisure Centre was shut down after an incident left several children with sore eyes, burning lips and even burns on their face.

Mission Fire Rescue Services and BC Ambulance Services were called to the scene after several children began to cry and complain of a burning pain.

Police investigated what was believed to be a pepper spray incident.

AUGUST

Service workers, property owners at odds over shelter

Moving forward on Mission’s homelessness crisis saw two opposing viewpoints clash in a public hearing on July 27 – local property owners versus those in the social service field.

The hearing took input over a proposal to change a zoning-bylaw amendment to increase the maximum capacity of shelter beds from 31 to 71 at Haven in the Hollow. In total, there were 28 letters of support, with 15 voices opposed.

Property owners’ biggest concerns were crime, drug use, property damage, devaluation of nearby businesses, real estate and safety- all of which is attributed to the shelter. They fear the issues will grow worse with more space in the shelter.

Body discovered inside structure fire

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is investigating after a body was discovered on a Mission property that was found on fire on Aug. 8.

Emergency responders were called to a fire at a property in the 30800-block of Gunn Ave. in Mission.

Once Mission Fire Rescue Service had extinguished the blaze, human remains were found inside the building.

On Oct. 2, 60-year-old Van Chau Nguyen was arrested and later charged with arson, forceful confinement, assault with a weapon, uttering threats, and first degree murder.

Waterfront development

Development on a large section of Mission’s waterfront could begin in a matter of months – rather than years – according to comments made to council during a public hearing on Monday night.

The District is currently working on a comprehensive plan for the entire waterfront.

However, the Braich family owns about a third of the area and has been negotiating a deal with the Martini Group to sell the property to allow a huge industrial development consisting of 21 buildings.

The owners of the land, along with interested developers, claim elements of the District’s Waterfront Revitalization Plan is standing in the way.

SEPTEMBER

Mother asks ‘Where’s my son?’

September marked the sixth trip Brandon Sakebow’s mother made across Alberta – and the Rocky Mountains to the Lower Mainland – to search for her missing son.

His last known location was a Mission RCMP holding cell on March 21..

They are questioning how investigators have handled the case.

OCTOBER

Mission seniors cry fowl

A pair of Mission seniors are crying fowl over the District’s bylaws restricting them from keeping hens on their property.

Frank and Laurianne Muermann received a letter on their doorstep from a district bylaw enforcement officer saying they are violating zoning restrictions for urban-residential property.

In order to keep their four hens, they would need to be zoned agricultural or small-scale agricultural with four or 1.8 acres available, respectively, according to the letter.

It states they need to get rid of their hens from the property within 30 days, or face daily fines of $450.

Blaze displaces 82 Mission residents

An early-morning fire displaced all 82 residents of a Mission apartment building. Reports of the fire at the building on 12th Avenue and Horne Street were first reported to Mission Fire Rescue Service at approximately 4:30 a.m., Oct. 18. The fire caused extensive damage to the fifth floor, and the fourth to second floors had water damage in the centre of the building.

Mayor steps down, wins MLA seat

The Abbotsford-Mission riding on election night (Oct.24) was a back-and-forth battle but the final results wouldn’t be known for weeks. Incumbent BC Liberal candidate Simon Gibson held a slim 188 vote lead over the BC NDP’s Pam Alexis – Mission’s mayor who decided to run in the BC election.

While Gibson was leading, an estimated 8,119 mail-in ballots were requested from Elections BC within the Abbotsford-Mission riding, and those ballots determined the winner. Alexis was proclaimed the winner and stepped down as mayor. In the Maple Ridge-Mission riding, the NDP’s Bob D’Eith was elected for the second time.

NOVEMBER

Convicted murderer escapes

A man convicted of first-degree murder escaped Mission Institution’s minimum-security unit and may have been able to cross the border into the U.S. Prison staff were conducting the end-of-night head count at 10 p.m., and realized that Roderick Muchikekwanape had not been accounted for. Just after noon the following day, the Bellingham Police reported a sighting of a man matching Muchikekwanape’s description at a Sumas gas station at 7 a.m.

Habitat for Humanity constructing homes

A non-profit is currently constructing 19 homes in Mission to help families break out of the “poverty-rent cycle.” This summer, Habitat for Humanity started construction on a parcel of land sold to them by the District of Mission, and received help from local volunteers and businesses. The “Habitat Model” aims to help struggling families who are spending 50 to 70 per cent of their income on shelter costs.

DECEMBER

Embracing mandatory masks

Numerous Mission stores and workers say they are happy with the new public health orders requiring customers and staff to wear masks in stores. The changes gives businesses government support for enforcement, after many expressed frustration with customers not abiding by rules.

Hiker recounts wife’s rescue

Artur Siewierski had his back turned when he heard his wife scream as she plummeted off the ledge. She had slipped on the rocks, and a simple hike had just turned into a nightmare.

She wouldn’t move. She wouldn’t say a word. At that moment, he thought she had died, and he had never been so scared in his life.” Mission Search and Rescue arrived on scene, located and rescued her.

 

In April, a large fire filled Mission's downtown core with smoke as three businesses went up in flames.  /  Kevin Mills Photo

2020

Covid

Spray park

protest

Missing man

Chickens