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Category "Victoria"

29Jul

Victoria care aide acquitted of sex charges over elderly women’s complaints

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Provincial Court Judge Dwight Stewart praised the women for their bravery during the trial.


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VICTORIA — A provincial court judge has found that collusion, whether intentional or not, was a factor in the acquittal of a care-home aide accused of sexually abusing elderly, disabled patients at a facility in Victoria.

Forty-year-old Saanich resident Amado Ceniza was accused of multiple counts of sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a person with a disability.

He had pleaded not guilty and denied the allegations made last July by three women being treated at Aberdeen Hospital’s extended-care facility for elderly residents.

The court heard the women have mobility issues, two rely on wheelchairs and another uses a walker, and each testified she was groped, hugged and kissed without her consent.

Judge Dwight Stewart ruled there were concerns about possible inadvertent collusion between the women and he also found inconsistencies in testimony about the chronology of events and the description of the alleged perpetrator.

However, he said there was a probability that Ceniza tried to hug and kiss two of the women, and found his conduct to be highly unprofessional.

Stewart praised the women for their bravery during the trial and said greater attention will be paid to these cases because of their advocacy.

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25Apr

B.C. soccer player recovering after scary flesh-eating-disease fight

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VICTORIA — Harry Sandhu walked out of Royal Jubilee Hospital on Wednesday a changed man, 24 days after flesh-eating disease left him fighting for life and limb.

He boarded a ferry to begin his trip to Surrey, where he’ll stay with his parents for the weekend as he continues to recover from his near-death experience.

Until this month, Sandhu, 43, who has played soccer nationally, provincially and professionally, ran about seven kilometres every other day around the Cedar Hill chip trail, lifted weights in a gym and played soccer recreationally.

On March 31, he was playing soccer with the Saanich-based Gorge FC against the Cowichan 49ers for the Tony Grover Masters Cup at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria. An opposing player’s soccer cleat cut open what was already a small abrasion on his right shin.

Sandhu bandaged the bloody wound and kept playing. He has played in India, Honduras, Mexico and never been concerned about sports injuries. “I mean, what’s a cut?” Sandhu said.

He later realized the extent of the bloody gash and sat out the rest of the game. He took a long shower, wrapped his shin in a tensor bandage with ice, watched another game and went to dinner.

He thought no more of it.

In the morning, he woke about 8 to “intense projectile vomiting.” His shin was badly swollen. “I thought what is going on?” said Sandhu. “I tried to stand up and, oh my God, I was screaming at the top of my lungs.”

The pain was excruciating.

He phoned a friend to drive him to hospital.


Harry Sandhu

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Based on the pain and swelling, Sandhu thought he had broken his shin. Infection never entered his mind.

At the hospital, medical staff wasted no time. Sandhu was seen by doctors and whisked into emergency surgery.

Necrotizing fasciitis, commonly called flesh-eating disease, was on a path of destruction, dissolving fat, muscle and tissue from his right shin to his thigh.

If it had been allowed to continue, his vital organs would have been next.

Sandhu said his leg was sliced open to get at the infection.

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief medical health officer, said with flesh-eating disease, bacteria enter a break in the skin and produce powerful toxins that help infiltrate tissue, destroying the tissue and decreasing blood flow. The tissue dies.

“At the microscopic level, the toxins being made are the deadly shock troops for the germs, killing the muscle cells, rapidly advancing the continued growth of the bacteria in the dead and dying tissue, causing even further local destruction and more toxin production,” said Stanwick.

If untreated, this lethal combination results in infected muscle dissolving and dying off, said Stanwick.

The disease is rare, but if it takes hold, it has a fatality rate of about 26 per cent.

It moves at such a rapid pace that amputation or cutting away most of the tissue around the infection is often necessary.

“Antibiotics alone are not fast enough or powerful enough to stop the infection, so they have to do emergency surgery,” said Dr. Dee Hoyano, medical health officer for Island Health.

The symptoms include swelling, redness and excruciating pain out of proportion to the size of the wound.

Sandhu said faced with all that was coming at him, he wasn’t the tough soccer player he imagined himself to be.

He was in tears from the pain, in tears over the thought of losing his leg or life, and in tears at the thought he might have left his nine-year-old daughter, Sahana, without a father.

“You bawl your eyes out,” said Sandhu. “ ‘I can’t go,’ I thought, ‘I have a kid’ — that’s what you fight for.”

Sandhu credits the swift and skilled action of infectious-disease specialist Dr. Eric Partlow and plastic surgeon Dr. Jason Gray with not only saving his limb and his life, but preserving the integrity of his right leg.

Sandhu would have three surgeries and now faces months of physiotherapy.

Where the bacteria came from is uncertain.

It could have already been on his skin and just needed a break in the skin to enter his system.

In general, the bacteria are more commonly found on the skin, nose or throat — rather than lurking in dirt or dirty items — and enters a wound, Hoyano said. Why and when it strikes is less understood.

Necrotizing fasciitis is caused by several kinds of bacteria, but more commonly it is a Group A streptococcus, said Hoyano.

Some of these bacteria also cause infections such as strep throat and impetigo. Usually, infections caused by these bacteria are mild.

But in rare cases, they can produce toxins that result in a dangerous infection.

Sandhu calls the near-death experience life-altering. “I didn’t want this to happen to me, but I think coming out of this has changed me for the better.”

He made a lot of hospital-bed pledges — to be more spiritual, coach more, return to Topaz Sikh Temple, volunteer more and educate kids in sport about washing and caring for abrasions.

“When you see death, it changes the way you think.”

He has also been changed by the outpouring of care he’s received from his family, church, soccer and school community.

Health officials advise practising good hygiene and handwashing and paying attention to thoroughly cleaning cuts and scrapes with soapy water and covering them. If after an injury, there is sudden and disproportionate pain, swelling, heat, fever, chills, vomiting and diarrhea, seek immediate emergency medical assistance.

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An online fundraising page has been set up for Sandhu, who is on unpaid leave from his job in education while he recovers.

Click here to read more stories from The Victoria Times Colonist.


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2Apr

Eby’s bumpy, make-it-up-as-you-go-along ride on challenging ICBC file

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VICTORIA — Portrait of a cabinet minister making things up as he goes along:

Feb. 7: David Eby, wearing his cabinet minister for ICBC hat, reacts to news the government-owned auto insurance company missed its financial target for the first full year under the NDP.

ICBC forecast a loss of $684 million. Instead it will lose $1.18 billion, not much less than the $1.296 billon it lost in the financial year shared with the departed B.C. Liberal government.

Not to worry says Eby, still wedded to the belief that ICBC can be put on a break-even footing by 2020.

He’s already consulting with “stakeholders” on a new way to rein in legal and court costs: “The big one we’re concerned about are the cost of expert reports.”

Feb. 11: Eby, now wearing his attorney-general’s hat, signs a cabinet order rewriting the rules for court cases involving motor vehicle accident claims.

“We’re reforming the Supreme Court civil rules to limit the number of experts and expert reports allowed in certain cases,” he tells reporters.

The new limits are expected to deliver “in excess of $400 million” in savings for ICBC, starting that very day, which is when the new rules take effect.

Supreme Court rules are supposed to be vetted by a committee of lawyers and judges, jointly appointed by Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson and the attorney-general.

How involved was the committee in these changes?

Eby cites “discussions” with “a multi-stakeholder group” and “ministry staff.” But he never says whether these changes were approved in advance by the rules committee or to what extent the committee was even consulted.

Later that day the Trial Lawyers Association comes out and says what Eby won’t say, namely that the attorney-general pushed through the rule changes unilaterally.

“He is doing so despite a protest from the independent rules committee,” reports Ian Mulgrew in The Vancouver Sun.

Feb. 27: It has taken more than two weeks, but the attorney-general finally admits the trial lawyers were correct about the rule changes.

“I would like to clarify the process that was followed in relation to these changes,” reads the statement put out by his office.

He goes on to say the rules committee was “engaged” before the changes were announced. And it did offer “feedback,” which Eby claims to “very much appreciated.”

However: “The rules committee did not recommend these changes and was not asked to approve these changes. These changes were a decision made by government.”

Meaning government in the person of David Eby, an attorney-general who gets to preside over a unilateral rewrite of the court rules to suit the minister for ICBC, who is, of course, one and the same.

And lest there be any doubt on the part of the committee or anyone else, “government will continue its work on additional changes to the rules of court,” says Eby.

March 25: Eby announces via press release that he is pulling back on two provisions in the edict on the use of experts.

The new limits won’t apply to cases scheduled to go to court before the end of this calendar year. Litigants who incurred costs for experts before the Feb. 11 change of rules will be permitted to recover those costs.

All in the name of fairness and avoiding “unintended consequences” according to a followup statement from the ministry of the Attorney-General.

As for the financial consequences for ICBC, the ministry estimates the pullback will knock some $20 million off the projected savings of $400 million.

March 29: Another day, another amendment to the regulations regarding ICBC claims. There’s now more leeway for claimants to recover medical, rehabilitation, disability and other costs, including funeral expenses and death benefits.

“The new (60-day) limit gives people a reasonable amount of time to submit their receipts while ensuring ICBC receives the information it needs to accurately assess the severity of claims, provide additional supports to injured people as needed and better forecast future costs,” says the statement from Eby’s ministry.

This just two days before the new claims and litigation regime takes effect.

April 1: “The key for me is we’ve got to make it to April 1,” said Eby back in February, referring to the date he set last year for the big changeover on ICBC claims.

Those changes, limiting payouts for injuries, steering claims to arbitration and capping costs for ones that go to court, were expected to save $1 billion, even without the added limits on use of experts.

Now the big day is here and the trial lawyers mark the occasion by confirming they will challenge the new regime on constitutional grounds.

All of which recalls something else Eby said back when he was announcing the new limits on the use of experts and predicting savings of $400 million or more.

“The reality is that it will depend very much on the reception of the courts and the approach of lawyers to this,” he said.

“Our hope is that the bench and the bar support the intent of these rules, understand why we’re doing this, and that we do realize these savings.”

Against those hopes, there is Eby’s record, including a lack of consultations, arbitrary rule-making, and changes at the last minute.

Not the approach that most cabinet ministers would choose if they needed co-operation from the bar and bench to make the numbers work.

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18Jan

Victoria police seeking thief who stole senior’s electric-assist bike

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Victoria police are looking for a thief who was captured by CCTV cameras stealing a senior’s brand-new electric-assist bike.

The theft happened Tuesday, police said, at an apartment complex in the 600 block of Toronto Street.

The victim, an elderly male, said he had purchased the electric-assist bike only a day prior, and that it was essential to his ability to get around the city.

The stolen bicycle is a black Raleigh Sprite IE Electric, similar to the one pictured below.


The stolen bicycle is a black Raleigh Sprite IE Electric, similar to the one pictured here.

Handout /

Victoria PD

CCTV footage shows the suspect entering a locked bike area via the building’s parking area and making off with the bike.

The suspect is described as a white male in his mid-40s, approximately six feet tall with a slim to medium build. At the time of the theft, he was wearing a blue parka-style jacket, blue jeans, hiking shoes, and a shiny black helmet on top of a dark baseball cap. He was also wearing a large backpack.

Images from the footage have been provided in the hopes that someone might recognize the thief. Anyone who does, or has seen the bike, is asked to contact Victoria police.


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10Dec

New book from Victoria author scares up some Canadian ghost stories

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Barbara Smith’s lifelong interest in ghosts began over sixty years ago when she walking with her father in Toronto.

“We were walking past a huge bank building. You have to understand I was just three feet tall so it was really enormous and my father said to me I understand that bank is haunted — that it has a ghost in it. I just flipped out,” said Smith, who was seven years old at the time. “I had never been so intrigued by anything in my entire life and so I was just throwing questions at him. He didn’t know the answers, that’s just what he had heard.”

Years later Smith found out the ghost at the bank was that of a young teller named Dorothy who was in love with a co-worker but the affection was not mutual. Distraught the heartbroken teller took her own life with a bank-issued revolver (for protection against bank robbers) in the women’s bathroom in 1953.

The story about Dorothy and her death at the Bank of Montreal (which became the site of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993) and her subsequent haunting of the location is in Smith’s latest collection of ghost stories (her 26th book on the topic) titled Great Canadian Ghost Stories.


Great Canadian Ghost Stories by Barbara Smith. Photo: Courtesy of Touchwood Editions

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“I love that story and didn’t that bank become the Hockey Hall of Fame. So what a perfect Canadian ghost story,” said Smith gleefully.

Canada is not lacking in spooky tales and unexplained phenomenon. Smith loves them all and treats the stories about average folks like Dorothy with the same wide-eyed reverence as tales about historical heavyweights like Henry Hudson.

“I love the combination of history and mystery,” said Smith, when asked why she keeps digging up ghost stories. “It just tickles me. I love social history. There is a feeling that I get called deliciously frightened. I love that.”

B.C. is well represented in the book. Vancouverites will love the tale of the Headless Brakeman who slipped while walking the tracks at the Granville Rail Yard and had his head cut off by a train. Now if you happen to be down at the tracks at the foot of Granville St. late at night and you see a swaying light say hello to poor old Hub Clark.

And because you are at the rail yards why not head over to the Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown. That building’s busy history has apparently made for some regular ghostly manifestations including the Little Red Man. This regular haunter is short, dressed all in red and likes to hang out in the women’s washroom.

To call Smith a prolific writer is an understatement. Great Canadian Ghost Stories is her 36th book. She is thinking of retiring but says when she does she’ll write a memoir and some collections of short stories. Retirement it seems is not a clear concept.

Smith’s writing career began in 1988 when she had a secretarial job working for the Edmonton school system. In the past, finances had kept Smith from pursuing writing but now she was in a better position and as a lover of ghost stories she was thrilled to find out that the old school that housed the Edmonton public school archives was supposedly haunted. She wrote the story sold it. That bit of sleuthing lead to more digging and more stories and soon Smith had her book Ghost Stories of Alberta and as she says she has “been at it ever since.”

“The first book was really hard to write, really difficult,” said Smith, who has lived in Victoria for a little over a decade. “But once that came out I was just inundated with stories to the point that all I had to do was go out and interview the people and wham I had another book within a year and a half.”

While ghost stories can be wildly entertaining — who doesn’t want to now the story of the Dungarvon Whooper — at their root they are usually tragic and usually involve a death that is either nefarious or premature in nature.

“Ghost stories are fun and everything but they imply a death,” said Smith. “Some of them have been profoundly difficult emotionally so I really do feel grateful and humbled that these people would share with me.”

Smith says many of us have our own ghost stories, stories of a room going cold or a feeling of someone standing behind us when there is no one else around. It’s these creepy connections that Smith thinks peaks our interest in the paranormal.

“The pre-orders were strong for this book. They were tremendous. All of my books sold well,” said Smith, with not a drop of arrogance in her voice.

She quickly adds though that one ghostly tome didn’t sell so well. Haunted Hearts, about ghost love stories, died a premature death.

Why is it we want to read about and think about the dead?

“I think we want to understand what happens after. Also if we lose someone near and dear to us it is comforting to feel them around you,” said Smith.

After years of collecting stories, she says with confidence the place most frequented by ghosts is not graveyards.

Instead, common haunting sites include hospitals, firehalls and theatres, where there is a lot of emotion.

“I find firehalls are very often haunted because there is that huge surge of emotion. Theatres are often haunted, I have one full book on theatres (Haunted Theatres),” she said.

Smith herself says the spookiest place she has been was an old Edmonton hospital. There she said she had a huge emotional sadness overcome her. She said it was weird because she is a “tough old boot.”

There are a lot of commonalities in ghost stories.

“Children are more likely to see things because as we grow up we train ourselves not to see them. Animals are very sensitive. If a dog or a cat stares at something that is usually not a good sign at all.”

Cold spots are big and also if you got a ghost there’s a higher chance he’s a dude.

“Off the top of my head I say men (haunt the most),” said Smith. “There’s a lot of routinized behaviour with men in a haunted house. There you hear the front door open and then close, heavy footsteps going up the stairs. They’re there five days a week forever. He’s just coming home from work.”

Women seem to a have a bit of flourish. They want to be noticed and it seems they don’t want to be caught dead in just any old outfit.

“We have a lot of coloured ladies. We have blue ladies, The Blue Lady of Peggy’s Cove. The grey ladies that kind of thing. I think they are more mournful and they are here because they are sad.”

What about her own afterlife? Does Smith want to return as a ghost?

“I hope so. My girlfriend Jo-Anne Christensen, who wrote Ghost Stories of Saskatchewan and a few other ones, she and I have promised each other we’ll try to come back and hang out together as ghosts.”

Where would she like to do her ghost work?

“I guess a childhood home. That would be really nice. But now that I think about it I think a theatre would be fantastic. I’m a big swimmer and swimming pools are often haunted. Gee, I think I’d like the freedom to flit around.”

Smith’s next book is due out in April and is a follow up to one she did focusing on Canadian suffragette, politician, author, and activist Nellie McClung.

“I had compiled a collection of Nellie McClung columns. That book naturally lead me to the Famous Five and the “Persons Case,” in 1929 and so I’m finishing up that book (Famous Five) and it will be out in April,” said Smith. “It is social history so it does kind of fit. You are not going to see a book from me about quantum physics. That’s not going to happen.”

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What ghost stories does a writer of ghost stories like?

Author Barbara Smith offers up her favourite books about ghosts:

“Choosing favourite ghost story books was tough, but The Ghost of Flight 401, by John G. Fuller, has always been a big favourite of mine. I really admire the way he sets the scene for the plane crash — December 1972, one of those huge old L-1011s crashing into a Florida swamp. Very chilling. Also, you can imagine the pilots’ reactions going from mild annoyance to the terrifying reality that they are about to crash the plane they are responsible for and likely kill all on board.

“Then when those pilots faces start showing up in other L-1011s — ones that have been fitted with parts from the wrecked plane — with messages to prompt the crews to look for safety hazards, well, it’s just creepy and so believable.

“On a much lighter note — you really can’t beat A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I like the book way more than any version of the movie. I think we can all identify with different parts of each character, which really brings the story close to the heart.

“The Haunting of Hill House is such a classic — and scary like mad. I think for the same reason as A Christmas Carol is effective, we can all identify with parts of each character and then our imaginations just go into overdrive. Plus Shirley Jackson was such a skilled wordsmith. She just ratchets up the suspense.

“And last is a Ghost Story by Peter Straub. The nice quiet setting of a small town with four old men telling stories to one another is such a bait and switch for what’s to come and again, it gets personal.”




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