Clockwise from top left: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation member Timmy Masso set up a blockade at West Main Forest Service Road in an effort to prevent disrespectful visitors from further destroying the area (Andrew Bailey photo), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau vacationing at a beachfront property in Tofino on Sept. 30 (Nora O’Malley photo), People play the Kennedy Hill waiting game during the ongoing construction project that started in May 2018. (George Fifield photo), and Ucluelet senior Ellen Kimoto receives her first dose of the Moderna vaccine from community health nurse Zoe Jewell (Nora O’Malley photo).

Clockwise from top left: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation member Timmy Masso set up a blockade at West Main Forest Service Road in an effort to prevent disrespectful visitors from further destroying the area (Andrew Bailey photo), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau vacationing at a beachfront property in Tofino on Sept. 30 (Nora O’Malley photo), People play the Kennedy Hill waiting game during the ongoing construction project that started in May 2018. (George Fifield photo), and Ucluelet senior Ellen Kimoto receives her first dose of the Moderna vaccine from community health nurse Zoe Jewell (Nora O’Malley photo).

Looking back on the West Coast’s top 10 news stories of the year

Tofino and Ucluelet’s top headlines of 2021

As we enter into 2022, we look back at some of the Westerly News’ most read stories of 2021.

Trudeau spends National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Tofino

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Tofino.

“The Prime Minister is spending time in Tofino with family for a few days. And, following his participation in last night’s ceremony marking the first National Day for Truth & Reconciliation, he is speaking today with residential school survivors from across the country,” the Office of the Prime Minister said in an emailed statement to the Westerly News on Sept. 30.

The prime minister’s itinerary initially stated he was spending the day attending private meetings in Ottawa, but was later changed to private meetings in Tofino.

He is not believed to have attended the community’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation rally led by survivors of Residential Schools with support from the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council vice president Mariah Charleson told the Westerly News after the rally in Tofino that she was disappointed not to see Trudeau participate in the day’s local events.

“It’s disappointing, but it’s absolutely not shocking and we have to demand more from the head of a government that continues to say that reconciliation is a top priority. We need to see action to match those words,” Charleson said.

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Ucluelet woman apologizes after comparing B.C. mask mandate to residential schools

A Ucluelet business owner sparked outrage after comparing children being mandated to wear masks in B.C. schools to the residential school system, sparking concern from a local First Nation chief.

Angie Roussin, the owner of Pina Styles printing shops in Tofino and Ucluelet, made a post on Instagram on April 2. In it, she said “kindergarten kids are being asked to wear masks all day.”

“Our government is harming our kids on purpose like they have done with so many children in the past. All our schools have become residential schools,” read Roussin’s caption. The post was later edited to remove the comparison, but not before it was shared widely on social media.

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations Chief Moses Martin told Black Press Media he was grieved to hear of Roussin’s comments. Martin is a survivor of Canada’s residential school system. His older brother died in residential school. Another of his siblings came home, but with a broken back.

“I’ll put a mask on any day instead of the experience that I had,” Martin said.

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Island Health takes wholesale approach to immunization

In early March, Island Health announced that Vancouver Island’s small remote towns will get community wide vaccination clinics.

“Everyone’s been looking for this day to come and getting the vaccine in our arms and getting the community done all at once is a positive for us,” said Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel. “I’m very happy to see that Island Health has made Ucluelet and the region a top priority for community vaccination. We are a remote community and we’re very vulnerable because we’re a very popular tourist destination.”

Tofino mayor Dan Law told the Westerly that vaccinating the communities all at once is the right decision.

“We’re just so remote and we don’t have the services. We’re such a small community that any outbreak or impact from COVID is going to be huge,” he said.“Realistically everybody can get vaccinated within a fairly short window so, not only is it great for our community, it makes sense logistically from an Island Health standpoint.”

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Canada’s 2021 federal election results by riding

After 36 days of campaign promises, Canada’s historic mid-pandemic snap election came to an end late Sept. 20, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals maintaining a minority government.

The Liberals claimed 158 ridings, the Conservatives 119, the Bloc Québécois 34, the NDP 25 and the Greens two.

New Democrat Party candidate and incumbent Gord Johns was re-elected for a third term in the Courtenay-Alberni riding.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Johns of his win. He met with several media members in his Port Alberni campaign office after a virtual “party” with his supporters. “It’s a humbling experience to get re-elected.”

He thanked his family, campaign volunteers, voters and fellow candidates for their support and their work throughout the election.

Johns said this campaign was “very difficult” compared to his last two campaigns, mostly due to COVID-19 and ensuring the safety of his volunteers.

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West Coast First Nations demand apology from Trudeau for Tofino holiday

Local First Nations members and supporters gathered at Chesterman Beach on a stormy Oct. 2 evening to demand a public apology from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for travelling to Tofino on the country’s first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

“It’s sad that we don’t expect much from leadership anymore. It’s sad that we have to stand here in the rain, in the middle of a pandemic following an election just to be heard, but here we are,” Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation member Hjalmer Wenstob said in front of the gathering of roughly 20 people outside the beachfront property the prime minister is currently staying in.

Wenstob and his brother Timmy Masso were the lead speakers at Saturday’s gathering and also presented a written statement demanding an apology.

“We are disheartened that you did not use this day to further your own personal education, and answer the call and responsibility as Prime Minister to observe, attend, and bear witness to the many events of Truth and Reconciliation,” the letter reads, in part. “It is with heavy hearts to hear that you did not attend the event in Kamloops, where you were invited by the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc band, and instead took time to holiday in our ha’houthee.”

Trudeau did not come outside to address the gathering in person.

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One more summer of construction for delayed, over-budget West Coast highway link

The massive roadwork project improving the link between the Tofino/Ucluelet area with the rest of Vancouver Island was originally slated for completion in the summer of 2020.

That spring, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced the Highway 4 Kennedy Hill Safety Improvements project end date was pushed back to the winter of 2021.

Now, it’s expected to be “substantially complete” by September 2022, with finishing touches continuing into the fall.

“A variety of factors including the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for smaller blasts due to the fractured nature of the bedrock, increased environmental protections, and the repairs to Highway 4 resulting from blasting damage at the project site in January 2020 have contributed to a new projected project completion date,” said the ministry.

The Kennedy Hill construction includes removing over 150,000 cubic metres of rock along 1.5 kilometres of narrow highway.

When a rockfall from a blast compromised the road, a significant three-day road closure followed in January 2020. The event left Tofino, Ucluelet and the surrounding First Nations communities isolated from the rest of Vancouver Island.

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RCMP confirm fatal drowning near Tofino

Sgt. Chris Manseau of the BC RCMP said police were called to Long Beach around 6 p.m. on Aug. 7 and by the time they arrived, a person was receiving first aid. He added the BC Coroner’s Office is investigating the incident.

“It’s a terrible tragedy,” said Tofino mayor Dan Law. “The community certainly feels the depth of this tragedy. We are a very small community and, when something like this happens, it affects everybody… My deepest condolences go out to the people involved. It’s just a very, very tragic event and we’re all very saddened by it.”

While details about the incident remained scarce, the tragedy renewed calls to bring lifeguards back to Long Beach. Lifeguards watched over the beach as part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s Surf Guard program for 40 years before Canada’s federal government axed the program in 2012.

“I can’t think of anywhere else in this country with that many people in the water and no lifeguards,” Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns told the Westerly. “It’s deeply troubling…It’s unbelievable to be honest with you. I don’t understand it at all.”

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Police believe alcohol may have been a factor in crash between Tofino and Ucluelet

Alcohol may have been a factor in a head-on collision that shut the road between Tofino and Ucluelet down for roughly six hours on Aug. 14.

Sgt. Chris Manseau of the BC RCMP told the Westerly News that Ucluelet police responded to the scene on Pacific Rim Highway near Combers Beach around 4:30 p.m. and evidence indicated that a sedan travelling southbound had crossed into the northbound lane and crashed into an oncoming minivan.

He said all five people in the minivan escaped with only minor injuries though the two in the sedan were taken to hospital for further treatment.

“Those in the minivan had some cuts and bruises and the other two were taken away for further medical examination,” he said.

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West Coast leaders meet to discuss tourists destroying Tofino-Ucluelet backroads

Timmy Masso’s West Main Forest Service Road blockade achieved one of his key goals, it got people talking.

“It got people to realize what’s actually happening out there. I think a lot of people had turned that blind eye and thought, ‘It’s not my problem, it’s someone else’s’,” the 18-year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation member told the Westerly New. “Shutting it down gave that system a shock and got everyone to realize that we all have to stand up and we all have to try to do it together.”

Masso set up the blockade on Aug 10 and, surrounded by supporters, turned around tourists heading into the Kennedy Lake backroads, within the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s territory.

The blockade shone a spotlight on the environmental destruction irresponsible campers were causing and the First Nation has since announced the area has been closed to overnight camping

The First Nation also hosted a meeting of leaders from the West Coast’s eight communities last week to discuss gating West Main and work on solutions to address the unauthorized camping in the Kennedy Lake area and beyond.

Read more >

Tofino waterfront condo sells for $1 million over the asking price

A two-bedroom, three-bathroom condo backing onto Tofino’s world famous Chesterman Beach was listed for $1.4 million.

It just sold for $2.4 million, confirmed a Tofino-based realtor on May 7.

“This is an anomaly,” the Tofino realtor said.

Because of the privacy act, details about the buyer could not be disclosed.

The 1,206-square-foot condo includes south facing decks, a no-maintenance yard, carport and storage.

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nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

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