Last August, residents of Mission came out to protest in front of the house where sex offender James Conway was staying.

Last August, residents of Mission came out to protest in front of the house where sex offender James Conway was staying.

Protest organizer happy to see sex offender leave Mission

But problem has just been moved to Chilliwack

In August 2016, Mission’s Angel Elias heard that a convicted sex offender was moving from Abbotsford to Mission.

She immediately organized a group of parents and concerned citizens to begin protesting his presence in the community and demanding he be moved.

Just under a year later, her demands are being met.

James Conway, 42, a high-risk sex offender, has left Mission and is now living in Chilliwack.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General’s corrections branch announced the move in a public notice issued on Monday.

Conway has a criminal history that includes three sexual offences against children – including sexual interference of a person under 16 and sexual assault – as well as arson damaging property, failure to comply with disposition and breaching his bail conditions.

“I’m relieved that he’s gone out of Mission … but I’ve already received phone calls from people in Chilliwack about what we did to remove him,” said Elias.

“My only hope is that he’s in a suitable location so he can’t be tempted to re-offend. And in my eyes, of course, that would mean jail. But that’s not realistic.”

Conway has not been a welcome resident in the Fraser Valley.

Back in 2015, after many protests by local residents, the City of Abbotsford went to court to have Conway removed from a home on Joanita Place. The lawsuit alleged the property’s owners, Brian Vos and Fiona Mitchell, as well as supervisor Ed Holroyd and WJS Canada, were using a property designated residential for institutional purposes.

In July 2016, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General announced the then 41-year-old was moving to Mission.

It was soon discovered that Conway was living in a house across the street from Riverside College, adjacent to a corner store.

That’s when Elias became involved.

“My daughter rides her bike to that store, with her friends. And when you put my child directly at risk, it hits pretty close,” she said.

Her daughter has not returned to that store since.

Protests took place in front of the Mission home for several weeks, but eventually people returned to their day-to-day activities. Then the District of Mission decided to file a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court, claiming the home Conway was living in did not match the zoning.

Three months later, in December, it was revealed there was a conflict of interest involving the housing in Mission.

Allegations of a possible conflict were raised when it became public that the home, located on Dewdney Trunk Road close to city hall, had been purchased by Lynette Stucky-Mack, and was being leased back to WJS Canada to house Conway.

Stucky-Mack is a manager with WJS Canada, which was awarded the housing contract from Community Living BC (CLBC).

Elias credits the district, especially Mayor Randy Hawes, for getting Conway out of the community.

“Randy was wonderful. He didn’t stop putting pressure on,” said Elias.

Hawes said now that Conway has left, the district will withdraw the lawsuit.

“I’m happy he’s gone. Our problem becomes their (Chilliwack’s) problem,” he said.

But the mayor is still unhappy with how the conflict of interest was handled.

“When CLBC looked at it and admitted, ‘Yes, it was a conflict of interest,’ they told us that when the lease was up, it would only be renewed in that location if there was an arms-length owner … but they continued to pay this woman (Stucky-Mack) until July 31,” said Hawes.

With the lease ending on Aug. 1, Hawes said CLBC solved the conflict by moving Conway.

However, Hawes is concerned that even though a conflict of interest was recognized, they “continued using government money for almost a year.”

“To me, that is highly offensive,” he said, adding that conflicts should be dealt with immediately.

Hawes would also like to see some changes in how a community is notified about the arrival of a sex offender.

“When the warning hit that Conway was moving here, on social media almost immediately was a report that Conway was moving into an apartment building on Second Avenue, because they saw a moving truck there. And everyone should converge on that site right away.”

However, that was not where Conway moved to and Hawes speculates that the people who were moving in “could have been victimized” if a large group of people had shown up to protest.

He believes the warnings should inform people of the general neighbourhood, if not the exact house, in which an offender will be living.

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