Clockwise from top left: Baby Troy made headlines early in the year for being born on an Ahousaht dock, the Districts ignited the cannabis retail sales conversation, four people were rescued off Lovekin Rock by helicopter, and the Coast mourned the loss of Tofino councillor and community champion Dorothy Baert.

Clockwise from top left: Baby Troy made headlines early in the year for being born on an Ahousaht dock, the Districts ignited the cannabis retail sales conversation, four people were rescued off Lovekin Rock by helicopter, and the Coast mourned the loss of Tofino councillor and community champion Dorothy Baert.

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

Tofino and Ucluelet’s top headlines of 2019.


With 2020 officially underway, we look back at the stories that made the biggest impacts in 2019.

Baby born on Ahousaht First Nation dock

Healthy baby boy Troy Johnson Atleo Jr. entered the world on an Ahousaht dock on Family Day, Feb. 18. Mom Kazz Thomas-Atleo and her husband Troy Thomas-Atleo had planned to welcome their new baby at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, but weren’t expecting him to arrive nine weeks early.

“He was actually born on the back of his dad’s delivery work truck. I was on a stretcher,” Kazz said, adding that there were no tools around to cut the umbilical cord, so responders used a shoelace to tie it off and the team rode the roughly 30-minute boat ride to Tofino.

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Housing crisis spilling into hospital

During Tofino’s Feb. 26 regular council meeting, Dr. Carrie Marshall said residents with nowhere else to go are seeking emergency shelter at the Tofino General Hospital.

“We have patients that come in that we are providing accommodation for, essentially, and food. There’s no medical need. We admit them for social reasons. There’s not a criminal element to not having a fixed address, so police don’t want to be taking them to cells,” Marshall told municipal council. Tofino mayor Josie Osborne said the district is working to mitigate the crisis.

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Four rescued by helicopter off Lovekin

Three boogie boarders and walker who misjudged the tides were pulled off Lovekin Rock in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve at about 6 p.m., March 26, by a Royal Canadian Air Force Cormorant from 19 Wing Comox.

The four people spent about two hours trapped on Lovekin Rock on Long Beach before being rescued, unharmed, by 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron.

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Ucluelet welcomes new fire chief

The District of Ucluelet hired its first full-time fire chief from just up Highway 4 in the Alberni Valley. Chief Rick Geddes served as the deputy chief for the Sproat Lake Fire Department and Acting Unit Chief for the BC Ambulance Service, and began his new role with Ucluelet on May 13.

“I am both honoured and excited to become the first full-time fire chief for the District of Ucluelet,” said Geddes. “I look forward to developing upon the high level of fire protection and emergency preparedness that has been established within the community.”

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Tofino apologizes for a motion made in 1947 to ‘exclude Orientals’

On May 28 in the Clayoquot Sound Community Theatre, Mayor Josie Osborne formally apologized on behalf of the town’s council for a motion made in 1947 to “exclude Orientals” from the community.

“This is an apology for all the families that lived here years ago and reconciliation for the Japanese community,” Doug Kimoto said. “It’s righting a wrong that maybe should have been done years ago…It took a lot of will to do this. A lot of previous councils kind of swept it under the rug.”

The 1947 motion reads, in part, “The Commissioners of the Corporation of the Village of Tofino, hereby resolve-That at the request of the residents of the Village of Tofino, all orientals be excluded completely from this Municipality, and shall be prevented from owning property or carrying on business directly or indirectly within the Municipality.”

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$45M seismic upgrade coming to schools

At the beginning of June, the province formally committed $45 million for a partial replacement of Ucluelet Secondary School and seismic upgrades at Ucluelet Elementary.

B.C.’s Minister of Education Rob Fleming said this is the first major school project in Ucluelet or Tofino since 1981 and that Ucluelet’s schools have been slated for seismic upgrades for over 10 years. Both schools are expected to be complete by September, 2022.

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Tofino mourns sudden loss of municipal councillor Dorothy Baert

Longtime municipal councillor and stalwart community champion Dorothy Baert died suddenly from a heart condition on Wednesday, July 17.

After years of vacationing on Wickaninnish island with her daughter Natasha, notes her obituary, in 1987 she made her dream of living in Tofino a reality. A pioneer in ecotourism, she established the Tofino Sea Kayaking Company promoting Clayoquot Sound as a valuable wilderness destination and supporting its preservation.

“Councillor Baert was an incredibly hard-working and passionate woman who always put community first,” read a statement from Tofino mayor Josie Osborne. “Whether advocating for public art, heritage initiatives, affordable housing, or preserving viewscapes, Dorothy was highly respected for her determination, consistency, and principled approach to elected office. On top of all that, she was a good friend. She was an invaluable member on Tofino Council and she will be missed terribly.”

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Tofino health food store closes

Green Soul Organics, Tofino’s organic grocery store located in the Cedar Corner building on Fourth and Campbell Street, closed permanently in September after serving the community for 10 years.

Shop manager Katrina Peters worked her last day at the natural health food store on Sept. 6. “It was more than just a job. It was a lifestyle. A passion. I love supporting organic farms,” said Peters.

New tenants Amorita and Scott Adair are investing close to $100,000 of their personal savings to transform the space into a new health food store called ‘Gaia Grocery’.

Westside Surf School, owned by Tofino’s surf pioneer Sepp Bruhwiler, relocated its bricks and mortar shop to the end of Campbell Street accommodate Gaia Grocery.

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Districts ignite cannabis conversation

Following one of Tofino’s most lengthy and formidable community consultation exercises in recent memory, the town’s municipal council unanimously approved two temporary use permits for cannabis retail stores on Aug. 12.

Tofino council picked two frontrunners for cannabis retail shops, West Coast Cannabis Store at 1182 Pacific Rim Highway and Daylight Cannabis at 1-671 Industrial Way. Daylight Cannabis quietly opened its doors this month, marking the first time cannabis has been sold legally on the peninsula.

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Meanwhile, down the road, Ucluelet’s municipal council rejected three separate applications for cannabis retail sales on Nov. 20.

“Reasons allowing cannabis retail sales cannot be based on convenience and tourism. This really needs to be a true fit and benefit the entire community. And, I’m not getting that [from these applicants],” said Ucluelet’s mayor Mayco Noël.

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Fines bring end to Poole’s Land

Poole’s Land was shut down.

The travellers and residents that made up the famous and controversial community on the outskirts of Tofino have largely dispersed and the structures they stayed and lived in are being torn down, according to Michael Poole, who owns the roughly 20-acre property.

“I’ve thanked [Tofino’s fire chief and manager of protective services] Brent Baker many times for giving the three fines of $1,000 each, that really got my attention,” said Poole.

Baker said the three $1,000 fines were related to zoning infractions after an investigation determined that Poole was operating a campground illegally, though the primary focus of the Poole’s Land crack down was centered around health and safety. Baker added that the Tofino Volunteer Fire Department responded to two vehicle fires and one structure fire at the property in 2019.

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