VANCOUVER – With one week to go before the federal election, both the Liberal and Conservative parties say their campaign signs are going missing in the Vancouver South riding.
Conservative candidate Wai Young’s campaign claims more than 30 per cent of their lawn signs have been stolen in the riding. In an emailed news release, Young called the alleged thefts “hurtful and dangerous.”
“I worry about our democracy,” Young said, while a lawyer for the Young campaign, implied the Liberal campaign or its supporters were responsible, without providing proof.
Young’s campaign has not responded to requests for comment from CTV News to further explain that claim or back it up with evidence.
The riding’s Liberal candidate, Harjit Sajjan, who beat Young in the riding in 2015, strongly denied that any of his supporters are responsible for vandalism or theft of other candidates’ signs.
“I find it very disappointing that Wai Young’s campaign is making baseless accusations on us,” said Sajjan outside his campaign office Monday.
“Especially since some of our signs have been stolen.”
Both campaigns provided CTV News Vancouver with security camera footage they say shows people stealing their signs.
In what appears to be home surveillance video provided by Young’s campaign, a car can be seen pulling up outside a house after dark. The passenger exits the vehicle and removes a small sign from the lawn in front of the home.
The video is timestamped Oct. 9 at 11:55 p.m., but it’s difficult to see the name on the sign. Nothing in the video, which appears to have been edited to remove the moment the person pulls out the sign, indicates who the alleged perpetrator might be or his or her motive.
The video provided by the Sajjan campaign is also recorded after dark and shows someone approach a large sign on foot, struggling for a moment to remove it from its base, before carrying it down the street over their head.
In their news release, Young’s campaign says it has reported sign thefts to Elections Canada.
The Sajjan campaign says it is documenting each incident and plans to formally complain to Elections Canada at a later date, but stopped short of blaming any specific campaign or individuals.
A woman holds signs against Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and Hong Kong protests outside the Mercedes-Benz Arena before the NBA exhibition game between Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers in Shanghai, China on Oct. 10. ALY SONG / REUTERS
Next week’s pre-season game in Vancouver between the L.A. Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks could get caught up in the fracas between the NBA and China over the protests in Hong Kong.
There have been minor disruptions at two other North American pre-season games with fans being asked to leave and take down their signs in support of Hong Kong protesters. But Vancouver is one of a handful of cities, along with Sydney and Melbourne, that has become known for tense, physical and verbal confrontations between those for and those against Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.
While there has been talk about the Vancouver NBA game on messaging app channels used by local organizers in support of the Hong Kong protests, nothing is being planned, said Kevin Huang, who has observed several of the clashes.
“It’s going to be interesting if one of the sides tries to take the agenda away from (the NBA). If the pro-Hong Kong side or the pro-mainland Chinese side says, ‘we’re going to make a big deal out of this,” could this heat up? It certainly could,” said Lindsay Meredith, a professor emeritus of marketing strategies for Simon Fraser University.
On Wednesday, security at a Washington Wizards pre-season game dealt with a fan who shouted, “Freedom of expression! Freedom of speech! Free Hong Kong,” according to Espn.com. Other fans in there handed out “Free Hong Kong” T-shirts. On Tuesday, in Philadelphia, two fans were asked to leave by the 76ers and the Wells Fargo Center for “continuing disruption of the fan experience” and after there had been multiple complaints and warnings.” Both of these pre-season games featured American teams playing a Guangzhou team from the Chinese Basketball Association.
Rogers Arena, like other venues, has a policy about signs and message, which says banners containing commercial or politically motivated, religious or obscene messages are not permitted.
There has been immense and emotional reaction from devoted fans, companies and government institutions in and outside of mainland China since a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the Hong Kong protests. It has included high-profile American politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ted Cruz who put aside partisan differences to jointly condemn the NBA for not standing up for free speech.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that “after three days of fanning nationalist outrage, the Chinese government moved to tamp down public anger at the NBA as concerns spread in Beijing that the rhetoric was (spreading beyond basketball fans and) damaging China’s interests and image around the world.”
The flash points related to the Hong Kong protests has been tough for the biggest companies and organizations to navigate. They had already been trying to manage by saying as little as possible, but as the protests in Hong Kong more intensely divides people, there has been a shift.
“Their hands get forced if their employees or consumers or suppliers speak up,” said Meredith.
Even as many peaceful protesters continue to take to the streets of Hong Kong, there are also rioters firmly in the mix of beatings and shootings. The ensuing chaos and violence has both sides vehemently blaming each other.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that some NBA fans in China are asking for subscription refunds from Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings, which has rights to stream U.S. games in China and said it would suspend showing them.
A small group of employees at online game publisher Activision Blizzard’s main campus in Irvine, California staged a walkout after the company banned Hearthstone player Chung Ng Wai from its league for a year and took back his earnings. The Hong Kong-based player was punished for shouting, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” during an interview about his tournament success.
Tiffany & Co., the U.S. jewelry brand, on Wednesday deleted a tweet showing a model wearing a diamond ring on her right hand and using it to cover her right eye after mainland Chinese consumers accused it of being in solidarity with the view of Hong Kong demonstrators who had been using the same pose to call for inquiries into police violence.
Also on Wednesday, after Apple was criticized by Chinese-state media for a mapping app in its app store that allowed Hong Kong protesters to track the movement of police, the American tech giant removed the app from its store.
Meredith said companies have different market segments. When two of these segments involve people deeply opposed over Hong Kong and pleasing one means losing the other, the solution has sometimes been to choose the one with the greater financial potential, Meredith said. But this calculation is fraught with risk when “global product suppliers” find their future and traditional markets pitted directly against each other.
Six-year-old Mattias Thompson loves to play hockey, but he was born with a rare hip disease that is keeping him off the ice. However, thanks to early intervention and surgery, the Grade 1 student from Chilliwack may just have a chance to get back in the game one day.
Mattias is a major Pittsburgh Penguins fan, and loves sports, says his mother Nikki Thompson. While it may be years before he can play hockey, the family is hopeful he will be able to play baseball next year.
Dr. Kishore Mulpuri, the orthopedic surgeon at B.C. Children’s Hospital who performed Mattias’s surgery, said it’s too soon to comment on his long-term prognosis, but said he has a much better chance of a full recovery because of early treatment.
“We caught it very early and that will help him. If he was older he would be more at risk for arthritis. So we want to get it to as normal as we can,” said Mulpuri.
Mulpuri was recently awarded a $450,000 research grant from the federal government’s Canadian Institutes of Health Research program for his team’s project, I’m a HIPpy, which he started three years ago to help children here and in other countries receive early screening and treatment for hip dysplasia and other hip conditions.
Mattias was diagnosed with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, which restricts blood supply to the femur, eventually killing the bone. He spent weeks at B.C. Children’s in April having a full hip reconstruction. Preparation for that surgery included five days where for 23 hours a day he had to be in traction with his legs splayed apart.
In the summer of 2018, Mattias starting limping severely and so his family took him to the local hospital in Chilliwack. At first doctors told the family it was a virus that would go away in six weeks. After his limp got worse, they went back to the hospital and a paediatrician took X-rays and then diagnosed him with juvenile arthritis. They went to B.C. Children’s for an MRI and on that night the radiologist called the family to say he doesn’t have arthritis but instead had Perthes disease.
He really wants to be able to run and play with his friends, but otherwise he is doing so much better, said Thompson.
“Early detection can really change the outcome for these kids,” she said.
She said the family’s steel business recently held its annual softball fundraiser and raised more than $32,000 for I’m a HIPpy to helps kids like her son benefit from early detection. On Oct. 5, the annual I’m a HIPpy fundraiser gala will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Mulpuri says if hip dysplasia goes unchecked, many adults develop arthritis and will need hip replacements.
“People don’t realize that every single child around the world should be screened to see if their joints are loose,” he said, adding that roughly 40-50 people per 1,000 people are born with loose hip joints. “If it is picked up early on then they could have a normal life with an early brace treatment. So the key message is we need to get to them early.”
Overall in B.C. the mean age is three months for detection, he said, but in other countries like India and China the age is two to three years, so that means the kids at nine to 12 will be having 15 to 17 surgeries.
“Their entire childhood goes to just surgery after surgery. It affects their mobility and takes their childhood away,” he said.
Mulpuri and his team created the International Hip Dysplasia Registry, which is the largest research and patient registry in the world. The registry is funded by HIPpy, with the goal that this research will help children worldwide.
While early screening is the best method to prevent the burden of hip dysplasia, Mulpuri said there are still other risk factors that need to be addressed like baby swaddling, for example.
“A lot of people wrap the babies tight for comfort, but that puts them at risk of hip dysplasia,” he said,
Other conditions that put kids at risk include being in a breech condition or having unequal leg lengths.
“As soon as we figure out they have a dysplasia or dislocation based on the severity we then treat with a brace treatment, which has over 90 per cent success rate if you treat early,” he said.
Mulpuri advises watching children for signs of hip dysplasia including if they’re having knee pain or walking with one foot turned out. He also says parents shouldn’t worry about getting a hip X-ray or asking their doctor if their baby was screened. At birth, all newborns in B.C. are tested for hip dysplasia, but there is currently no standardized testing and in some countries, little testing at all.
When not properly diagnosed, children can go on to have numerous surgeries and physical limitations that will impact them for life, causing much suffering and significant costs to medical systems, said Mulpuri.
Mulpuri said thanks to the CIHR grant, the support of B.C. Children’s Hospital, donors and volunteers, they are expanding their network, building data and statistics into the database “at an extremely fast pace.”
The financial impact of missed hip-dysplasia diagnosis to Canada and U.S. health-care systems is about $625 million a year, according to Regina Wilken, executive director of I’m a HIPpy.
Mulpuri works with doctors in Canada, the U.S., Europe, China and India sharing the database knowledge and assisting with hip-dysplasia patient surgeries.
He says the ultimate goal is to help all children improve their quality of life.
People taking an Uber or Lyft within the confines Vancouver’s central core will be paying nearly $1 in municipal and provincial fees.
Vancouver became the first municipality in the Lower Mainland to pass regulations around ride-hailing on Wednesday, with council approving up to 60 cents in fees — a 30 cent fee for every pickup and drop off in the “Metro Core” region — defined as the area east of Burrard Street, west of Clark Drive and north of 16th Avenue.
The fee is in place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, with revenue going toward managing congestion.
An additional 30 cent fee has been created by the province for all rides in B.C., regardless of time, with the money supporting accessibility.
In both cases, the fees will not apply for accessible vehicles. Most major cities in Canada have additional fees of 20 to 30 cents per trip.
In addition to the municipal and provincial fees, ride-hailing companies in B.C. will have to set the same minimum rate as taxi companies, which varies between $3.25 and $3.95 depending on the region.
The province’s regulations around ride-hailing do not allow municipalities to withhold business licences but allows them to put additional regulations on companies operating within their borders.
“It’s important for us to bring in some interim measures immediately to do our best to manage the launch of ride-hailing,” said Lon LeClaire, Vancouver’s director of transportation.
$100 yearly business licence fee
While councillors were on board with the 30 cent fee, there was significant debate over a proposal by city staff of a $100 yearly business licence for each driver.
Representatives for both Uber and Lyft worried that if other municipalities copied Vancouver with their own fees, drivers would choose to stick to the one or two municipalities with the most customers and fewest municipal boundaries.
“Are we putting in too many barriers, so most people choose to just drive in Vancouver because it’s the most profitable market?” asked Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung.
“I [don’t support] a Vancouver-only model that moves ahead without looking at an entire municipal approach. What that smacks of to me is the taxi approach, where we are creating false challenges to having vehicles go across municipal boundaries.”
City staff noted they were also lowering the yearly licence for taxis to $100 ,down significantly from $616, in order to create the more “level playing field” between taxis and ride-hailing companies that council had previously asked for.
In the end, an amendment was passed directing staff to review the $100 licence fee after six months, following consultations with other municipalities in the region.
City manager Sadhu Johnston said he expected Vancouver’s legislation to serve as a template for other municipalities, but Vancouver would continue to fine tune its bylaws when they see the impacts of ride-hailing company operations which are expected to begin by the end of the year.
“This will be very dynamic,” he said. “We’re going to be watching it closely. We’re trying to avoid some of the pitfalls we’ve seen in other cities.”
Brenda Felker (left), Anita Eriksen and Farideh Ghaffarzadeh are members of the seniors advisory committee Seniors on the Move, which released an open letter about transit and transportation on Tuesday, the International Day of the Older Person. Jennifer Saltman / PNG
Brenda Felker is dreading the day when she won’t be able to use her car to connect with friends and family, and still get where she needs to go.
“That’s huge, losing your licence,” she said. “It scares me that I would lose my independence.”
That is why Felker joined an advisory committee of Seniors on the Move, which represents seniors who use different modes of transportation to get around Metro Vancouver.
On Tuesday, the International Day of the Older Person, the committee released an open letter signed by 225 people outlining changes to the transportation system that would make it more welcoming for seniors. The letter was the culmination of three years of work.
B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said transportation is arguably the most important concern for seniors, and was the focus of a report — which included 15 recommendations — that came out of her office in May 2018.
“Your efforts, I think, are starting to resonate,” Mackenzie told the committee. “I think that local governments, regional governments, provincial governments, federal governments are all understanding this need around transportation and this huge group of people that is growing who can’t drive their cars any longer, but they still need to get out and about.”
Mackenzie noted that at age 65 about 90 per cent of seniors have a driver’s licence in B.C., but that number drops to less than half by age 85.
The letter has suggestions in a number of key areas, including walking, mobility aids, public transit, HandyDART, taxis, transitioning drivers to other transportation modes and volunteer ride programs.
“We think these changes would be a great place to start. Our cities may not have been built for an aging population, but we can adapt them,” said Anita Eriksen, a committee member who gave up her car when she turned 65.
Transit users are looking for a long list of changes, many of which concern bus travel. In addition to real-time information at bus stops and covered bus stops with seating, seniors are looking for drivers who make courtesy announcements, get closer to the curb, and wait for seniors to sit or get stable before leaving a stop.
Accessibility alternatives when elevators and escalators are out of order, and more community shuttles with ramps and kneeling capability are also important.
HandyDART users want a payment system and pricing that integrates with the rest of TransLink, coordination and integration with the medical system and better education about the service.
Kathy Pereira, director of access transit service deliver for Coast Mountain Bus Company, said TransLink is looking to address a number of concerns outlined in the letter, and promised to bring the concerns back to the transit agency.
“We do the things that most people do that are obvious … but sometimes we don’t think far enough. So I think that’s one of the big messages I’ve heard here,” Pereira said. “We’re on the right track, but maybe we’re not going far enough.”
Walkers and those who use mobility aids are looking for better-maintained, wider sidewalks, more benches, better street lighting, functional curb cuts and more time to cross the street.
Drivers looking to leave their cars behind need more information on other ways to get around and resources to make the change, as well as medical services plan coverage for required medical exams.
Taxis need to be given incentives to pick up seniors and those with mobility issues, and seniors need more information about taxi savers.
The letters says there should be ways to assess the fitness of volunteer ride program drivers and the suitability of their vehicles, and there should be standardized training along with more drivers.
Beverley Pitman, the seniors planner at United Way of the Lower Mainland and self-identified “young senior,” called the list of suggestions comprehensive, visionary and highly practical.
“By stepping up and taking this on, in effect you’ve made visible a whole bunch of other seniors who haven’t had the opportunity or maybe are really socially isolated because they don’t have access to at transportation system that enables them to get out and about,” Pitman said.
Someone somewhere in the Lower Mainland has a truckload of hot ice cream that Naomi Arnaut is desperate to get back.
That’s “hot” as in “stolen,” not “hot” as in “melted,” although it is conceivable the thousands of dollars in frozen treats burgled from Arnaut’s Say Hello Sweets ice cream truck did not survive the crime.
“I suspect that they targeted me and had a plan, because they were very efficient,” said Arnaut. “They got in there fast, got what they wanted and got out.”
The pink and white truck was hit Sunday night while parked on Industrial Avenue in East Vancouver.
Beside making off with over 100 Ice Dream Sandwiches and eight cases of boxed ice cream, thieves also ripped out the truck’s generator leaving behind extensive damage and smashed doors and windows.
On Facebook Arnaut is asking people to be on the lookout for anyone trying to fence treats from Say Hello Sweets.
“If you see Say Hello being sold somewhere that doesn’t quite seem right, please alert us ASAP!”
Arnaut is hoping a neighbouring business has security camera video of the crime.
A Vancouver councillor wants the city to get back to basics and fix bumpy sidewalks, potholes in the streets and tackle overflowing trash bins and litter.
NPA councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung is putting forward a motion Tuesday urging the city to prioritize core services such as maintaining streets and sidewalks and other public spaces, which she said has deteriorated in recent years, eroding civic pride and creating safety hazards for seniors and people with disability.
“I hear this consistently from the members of the public that they feel the city is looking a lot more rundown and it doesn’t look taken care of like it used to,” she said. “People used to be so proud of living in Vancouver — we’re known as a very clean and green city — and I don’t think people feel that anymore.”
The problem isn’t limited to the Downtown Eastside or the neighbouring areas of Chinatown or Strathcona, but throughout the city, said Kirby-Yung, adding overflowing garbage bins on the street are a common complaint.
From her previous tenure as a park board commissioner, Kirby-Yung said she is concerned about the difficulty park board staff has in accessing street medians the park board is supposed to maintain for the city, particularly along stretches of Knight Street where three-foot weeds and litter could be spotted.
While some may argue the city has more important issues than clean streets on its plate, including an affordability crisis and the homeless camp at Oppenheimer Park, Kirby-Yung said maintaining and cleaning streets and sidewalks are part of a city’s core responsibility — one residents and businesses expect it to fix, especially as property taxes have increased in recent years.
“People feel there has been a neglect of those core municipal services, and I think it goes toward the fact there are other priorities.”
It does not appear the city has shrunk its budget on these services. According to the 2019 budget, money allotted for street maintenance has increased from about $23 million in 2015 to a proposed $30 million in 2019. Street cleaning expenditures also jumped from about $7.3 million to almost $11 million over the same period.
Kirby-Yung said service levels need to be maintained along with population growth. She also noted there are new demands, such as needle pickups and dealing with illegal dumping in specific areas, that also has an impact on resources.
The motion asks council to recognize that maintaining and cleaning Vancouver streets and public spaces is part of the city’s core service delivery, and to upgrade and repair infrastructure as needed to restore civic pride and safety in neighbourhoods.
The motion also asks staff to identify, as part of the 2020 budget process, what expenditures, if any, are needed to clean up the city’s streets and sidewalks, including a proposed reallocation of funds from other budget items that would not add to any increase in property taxes and fees.
Warning: This story contains content some readers may find disturbing.
A man accused of killing a Vancouver couple in their Marpole home two years ago is now on trial for first-degree murder. Rocky Rambo Wei Nam Kam has pleaded not guilty in the deaths of 68-year-old Richard Jones and his wife, 65-year-old Dianna Mah-Jones.
The couple’s bodies were found on Sept. 27, 2017. Prosecutor Daniel Mulligan told the court in an opening statement the Crown contends the pair were violently killed on the previous evening.
“The Crown will argue that the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Kam was the killer, and that these killings were the result of planning and deliberation,” Mulligan said.
Mulligan told the court when Mah-Jones, a highly-respected occupational therapist, did not show up for work at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, a sales representative for a mobility equipment company offered to stop by her home and check in.
Anthony Purcell testified when he went to the house, he noticed a knife on the ground and a hatchet that appeared to have blood on it. He told the court when there was no answer at the front door, he went around the back and saw the back door was open behind the screen door. He testified he also noticed a bloody shoeprint on the step.
“So I banged on the door…and yelled out for Dianna, and just said, ‘Dianna, it’s Anthony, I’m here to check on you, is everything OK?’” Purcell told the court. He testified when he didn’t get an answer, he went inside and saw more bloody footprints. He told the court he went towards the kitchen.
“There was a lot of blood, and there was obvious signs of struggle,” Purcell said. He testified he went outside and called 911, then stayed at the house until police arrived. He told the court he did not see anyone leaving the house while waiting for the officers to show up.
The court also heard from a former newspaper delivery person, Regan Tse, who testified he had spotted the knife and hatchet at the home earlier that morning. He told the court he had also met Jones before when he came out to get the paper, and the last time he saw him he was using a walker.
Mulligan told the court police found the bodies of Jones and Mah-Jones in the shower, and both had “cut-marks” on them. He expects a forensic pathologist will testify Jones’s death was caused by multiple sharp force injuries, including stab and slash wounds. He told the court he expects they’ll hear the doctor documented approximately 103 such injuries.
“Crown will argue that Mr. Jones was the victim of a prolonged, yet controlled attack in his kitchen,” Mulligan said.
Mulligan told the court the evidence suggests Mah-Jones was attacked when she returned home, and added they will hear evidence the cause of her death was blood loss from a laceration to the carotid artery.
“She was dragged to the kitchen where her throat was cut,” Mulligan said, adding that Mah-Jones also had injuries suggesting she had possibly struggled.
Mulligan told the court police discovered a hatchet with the same bar code had been purchased at a Canadian Tire on Sept. 13, along with other items, and the sale was recorded on security camera. That video has not yet been entered into evidence.
Mulligan said he also expected a forensic witness would testify Kam’s DNA profile matched one generated from the fingernails on Mah-Jones’s left hand, as well as from swabs from the knife found in the yard.
Mulligan told the court Kam was living less than a kilometre away from the couple, and Crown will argue he was captured on video in the neighbourhood.
Mulligan also said the Crown has no evidence of any relationship or connection between the accused and the victims. He told the court the Crown’s theory is Kam purchased the axe and other items “specifically to use to kill someone.”
“There is no evidence as to when or why Mr. Kam targeted Mr. Jones. However the Crown will argue the purchase of the items used in the killing, along with the manner in which the victims were killed, is evidence upon which the court can conclude that these killings were the result of planning and deliberation,” Mulligan said.
The court also heard from a former neighbour of Mah-Jones and Jones, Emma Greenhalgh, who testified she saw a Kia Soul drive off after being parked outside the couple’s house on the evening of Sept. 26. She told the court Mah-Jones drove that kind of vehicle, and said it was very unusual for her to leave at that time of night, and added her neighbour usually parked in the garage. She testified she did not see anybody get in, but it appeared there was only one person in the vehicle.
Mulligan told the court Mah-Jones’s vehicle was not located near her home, but was found the next day, and added the keys were found in a flower bed.
Greenhalgh also testified Jones and Mah-Jones had a suite in the basement they rented as an Airbnb. When asked by crown if she recognized Kam as he sat in the courtroom, Greenhalgh said she did not.
The defence has not yet presented its case. The trial continues Thursday.
Warning: Graphic content. CTV News Vancouver’s Maria Weisgarber is covering the case live from court. Follow along below.
The best porcelain throne in the country is located at a gas station in northern Alberta, according to an annual commode contest, and some local loos are also receiving bragging rights for their lavatories.
The washroom at Beaver Hill Shell in Lac La Biche offers a unique rest-stop unlike most gas stations, where people want to get in and out as quickly as possible.
Beaver Hill Shell goes the extra mile to put lavish details in its bathrooms: granite countertops, wood accents and saloon-style doors.
“It’s not often a public washroom turns out to be a highlight from your road trip, but we’re sure travelers from near and far will stop to see these award-winning facilities for themselves,” said Candice Raynford with Cintas Canada in a press release.
Each year, Cintas, a company that specializes in products like restroom supplies, holds a contest for the best bathroom in Canada and awards the winner $2,500.
While the Lac La Bische loo claimed the top spot, two Vancouver businesses were finalists in the restroom competition.
Laurence and Chico Café, named after designers Laurence Li and Chico Wang, placed third for its eye-catching wallpapers and themes.
The colourful café is an Instagram hot spot at every corner and the bathrooms are no exception.
One water closet is covered in whimsical rubber ducky illustrations, while the other is adorned with paper mâché flowers, offering an escape from reality.
Bauhaus Restaurant is already known for its food, having been named one of Canada’s best 100 places to eat earlier this year, and now it’s also being recognized for its bathrooms.
The restaurant’s Berlin street art-inspired washrooms were commissioned by an art duo from Spain, Olliemoonsta, who used original graphic designs and graffiti to match the theme.
Bauhaus placed fifth in the contest.
Honourable mentions also go to Cosmos Café in Quebec City and Cluny Bistro in Toronto.
In the summer of 2013, Matt Straw attended a wedding at Heritage Hall, a brownstone building in East Vancouver known for its elegant ballroom, stained glass chandeliers and historic clock tower.
But all anybody could talk about was that urinal.
A double-sided, or twin, urinal, to be precise, separated by what can barely be described as a divider.
The unsuspecting men who are blindsided by its design must stand upright, a hair’s distance from each other, and count down the seconds while nature takes its course.
“You’re out there next to somebody who you’ve never met before and have to basically look them in the eyes,” said Straw, a 36-year-old lawyer.
“In my long and storied bathroom career, I have never seen anything like that before.”
For decades, the twin urinal has befuddled thousands of men who have streamed through Heritage Hall’s basement bathroom. And that notoriety has spilled outside of the restroom’s marble walls, turning the urinal into a bona fide historical attraction.
“It’s the abominable snowman of toilets,” said Graeme Menzies, who featured the urinal in his 2019 book 111 Places in Vancouver That You Must Not Miss.
The urinal has lurked in the basement bathroom since 1916, when the building originally opened as a post office.
You can thank John Shanks for its cozy construction. The Scottish plumber patented more than a hundred urinal designs in the 19th century, when safe sewage disposal was essential amid cholera and typhus outbreaks, Menzies said.
One of Shanks’ “twin twinklers,” as Menzies calls it, ended up in Heritage Hall. In a biography of the building, an architect speculated the urinal may have been an industrial fitting during the building’s early post office days.
It’s the abominable snowman of toilets.– Graeme Menzies, co-author of 111 Places in Vancouver That You Must Not Miss
But it’s not clear why Shanks shunned privacy in this particular design, Menzies said. In fact, the Scotsman only made it worse by angling both sides of the urinal toward each other.
“It’s kind of startling to look at,” Menzies said. “You wonder if it’s Photoshopped or if it’s a joke. And then no, it gets real.”
The urinal stubbornly survived as the building switched hands over the decades, housing the federal agriculture department from 1965 to 1976, and later the RCMP (proving useful for the male-dominated force, Menzies noted).
The building was then abandoned and fell into disrepair, before undergoing a massive restoration in the early 1980s. In the building’s biography, project architect Susan Parker recalled her delight at discovering the twin urinal.
“There’s nothing like that in the women’s washroom,” she mused.
Today, the building houses non-profit offices and is mainly used as an event space. The urinal remains one of its original features.
Jan Tollefsen, the building manager for Heritage Hall, said she’s barely had to maintain it in her three years working at the site.
“It was made to last,” she said.
While the urinal flushes on its own every 20 minutes, there is, ahem, a smell of pee that lingers. Not even a urinal deodorizer can thwart it, Tollefsen said. Still, nothing stops visitors from revelling in the contraption.
“I’ve even had people do photo shoots down around it,” Tollefsen said.
But gentlemen, if you’re thinking of checking out this one-of-a-kind john, don’t unzip just yet.
It’s only open for private events, meaning you’ll either have to host a wedding — or be invited to one — to take part in what has become a strange Vancouver tradition.
“Everyone’s fascinated by it because it’s so bizarre,” Tollefsen said.
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