Stanley Park seawall closed due to high winds and waves, Delta prepares

The Stanley Park seawall between Third Beach and Lions Gate Bridge was closed temporarily Monday morning due to waves and high winds.

The Corporation of Delta issued a flood warning for early Monday morning at Tsawwassen Beach and Westham Island.

Waterfront areas along the Tsawwassen First Nation may also have been at risk.

The combination of an extreme high tide between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. and strong northwesterly winds were expected to create a storm surge, putting low-lying areas at risk in Delta.

Jack Zellweger, who owns a farm on Westham Island, said there was not much he could do but to wait out the high tide and storm.

His farmland is protected by dikes built by the Corporation of Delta, and he was not planning on doing any sandbagging, he said.

He would like to see the dike raised because when water does crest the dike it damages his farmland.

“They’ve improved the dikes, but they are still not high enough,” he said Sunday afternoon.

Delta’s emergency operations centre was ready to be activated early Monday morning if needed.

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“If it’s necessary, we will be deploying crews to do whatever we can do to alleviate any flooding that may occur,” Delta chief administrative officer George Harvie said Sunday.

Delta has provided sand bags for waterfront residents who wished to shore up their properties in preparation of the high water.

Delta had been expecting the storm surge to create problems in the residential areas of Boundary Bay and Beach Grove, but Harvie said updated forecasts expect the high winds to hit the area at low tide, decreasing the risk of flooding.

Harvie said that sand bags have already been put up in Boundary Bay and Beach Grove to protect low-lying areas.

BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said they believe there is diminished risk of problems at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal because the winds are expected to hit at low tide.

“We are certainly on watch at Tsawwassen but at this point it’s not (expected to be) as bad as predicted,” she said Sunday.

On Saturday, severe weather caused BC Ferries to cancel several sailings.

Although ferry service out of Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay had resumed by the afternoon, the cancellations caused traffic to be backed up at the terminals.

BC Ferries also had a separate incident that delayed traffic.

The company said the 3 p.m. sailing to Victoria from Tsawwassen was delayed about 25 minutes after ferries staff sent a rescue boat to help four people on board a sailboat that had sprung a leak and was sinking near the Tsawwassen terminal.

All four adults that were on board the 37-foot vessel were unharmed and safely taken to shore and the boat was towed to a dock at the terminal, according to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria.

With files from Tiffany Crawford

TransLink promotes fare system overhaul to public

TransLink plans to launch a public education campaign today on how to use faregates and a new electronic farecard system slated to come into use late next fall.

The campaign includes social media, videos on TransLink’s website, and a special bus with Compass card validators at both doors that will run through the spring and summer as Trans-Link tests the new $171-million system.

The Compass card system will allow passengers to prepay fares for the day or the entire month in advance, which remains “stored value” on an electronic swipe card until you use it. Fares are calculated and deducted when you scan the card entering and leaving the transit system.

The 1.3-metre-tall faregates are already in place at many Canada Line and SkyTrain stations. There are also blue-tarp-covered Compass Card fare vending machines where people can buy cards or one-day passes as well as add-fare machines and validators, the monitors on buses and faregates that detect whether passengers have the valid fare for a trip.

By this time next year, those machines will have replaced the old fare machines, which run on fibre optics and tend to break down frequently, as well as the paper-tickets-and-passes system.

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Ian Wardley, consultant for major construction projects at TransLink, acknowledges it will take time to educate the public about the new system. As a result, the faregates are expected to remain open for at least three months after the Compass cards come into effect while the old tickets are phased out.

“We recognize it’s a massive adjustment for the local community. We’ve got to provide a period of time to let people get used to it,” Wardley said. But, he added, “there will come a day when we will close the last gate.”

TransLink expects it will take most of next year to test the electronic system and ensure it’s working properly. Next spring, a group of test participants will run through the day in a life of a customer and document their experiences with the Compass card. More test participants will be added over another three-month period to ensure the system will serve the needs of transit passengers.

The system is expected to start running in October, when TransLink expects it will issue 600,000 to 800,000 Compass cards.

It works like this: passengers can register for a Compass card, to which they “add value,” either by phone, on the Internet or at a Compass fare card machine at a SkyTrain station. This could be as little as $10 to pay for a few trips on the system, as much as a monthly bus pass, or a prepaid balance “stored value” before they enter a fare-paid zone.

If they wish, they can link the Compass to their credit card. Or they can use their credit card, if it has the open wave access symbol, on the system itself. They can also buy a single ticket from the Compass fare card machine, a plain white card that includes a chip and can be read by the validators.

Then they just tap the valida-tor, which will detect the amount on the card, as they pass through the gates or get on the bus.

The move ends a proof-of-payment system for SkyTrain, which depended on the honesty of riders to pay for transit in Metro Vancouver.

“You never have to worry about loose change again,” Wardley said. But be warned: if riders don’t tap at the end of the trip, the calculated fare will automatically be a three-zone charge. And if they don’t have valid fare, the bus driver will be alerted by a beep, beep, beep sound, or they won’t be allowed to pass through the gate.

The new system is expected to reduce the number of fare cheats in the system; those caught riding without a valid ticket face a $173 fine. It will also make it safer for passengers, Wardley said, noting those who lose their Compass card can have it cancelled and replaced.

For customers who lose their wallet, can’t add value or experience troubles at a station, there is a phone at the add-value machine to contact a customer service representative, who can monitor the scene through a CCTV camera and remotely let the passenger out of the gate or dispatch assistance.

The project has meant retrofitting 1,600 buses, as well as extensive renovations at some stations, particularly those along the Expo line, which was built 26 years ago. At Edmonds station, for instance, the entrance had to be expanded to provide room for the fare gates, while the New Westminster station required glass partitions to separate the station from retail shops.

Most of the stations, except Metrotown, are expected to be outfitted with the fare gates when the system opens. Metrotown will likely see fare gates in 2014.

Firearms remain just a mouse click away

TORONTO – Three days after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, semi-automatic rifles and handguns are still readily available online from vendors only a short drive south of Toronto.

It’s business as usual at Armslist杭州龙凤, a website for buyers and sellers of firearms. On Monday, a private seller in West Seneca, New York – about 170 km from downtown Toronto – listed a 9mm Luger semi-automatic rifle “brand new in box” for $800, including two 32-round magazines.

A seller in nearby North Tonawanda listed a 12-gauge Remington pump action shotgun for $350. And in Rochester, someone listed a 380 ACP double-action Grendel pistol Monday for $250.

A Buffalo resident put her AK-47 semi-automatic rifle with 30-round magazine and Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle for sale on Armslist on Monday with the message: “After what has happened in CT, I no longer want these weapons in my possession.”

Contacted by Global News, the seller (who declined to give her name) said she isn’t sure why the latest school shooting spurred her to sell the guns. “I don’t even have kids,” she said. “I just don’t want them.”

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Private gun sales are regulated by U.S. federal laws as well as restrictions that vary from state to state. A Canadian resident hoping to purchase a gun in the U.S. would have to find a seller willing to break the law. Even then, a Canadian buyer would have to bring it back over the border illegally.

Armslist, launched in 2009, includes a disclaimer reminding users to “comply with local, state, federal and international law.”

The site is coming under fire, though. Only days before the Connecticut mass shooting, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Armslist on behalf of the brother of Illinois murder victim Jitka Vesel.

The first lawsuit of its kind, it alleges the website facilitated the sale of a gun to her killer, a Canadian resident. (Dmitry Smirnov of Surrey, B.C. pleaded guilty last year to killing Vesel in April 2011 near Chicago and is serving a life sentence.)

An undercover investigation by the City of New York found that more than half of the gun sellers on Armslist agreed to sell a gun to a person who said he could not pass a background check, in violation of federal law.

eBay banned the sale of firearms in 1999 and Craigslist followed suit in 2007.

“Website operators should not enable killers to illegally obtain guns at the click of a mouse,” reads a message on the Brady Center website. “Guns should be sold with the greatest care, to prevent arming dangerous people with the means to kill.”

Alleged Quebec election night shooter’s case put off until January

MONTREAL – The man charged in Quebec’s election-night shooting has refused to speak to a French-speaking psychiatrist, causing a delay in his case.

Richard Henry Bain was expected to receive the results of his assessment on Monday to determine whether he was fit to stand trial.

But the case was put off until Jan. 11 while the hospital that conducts the evaluation finds a different doctor. Bain will remain at Montreal’s Pinel Institute until then.

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Stagehand Denis Blanchette was killed, and another worker was wounded in the Sept. 4 attack at a downtown club where the Parti Quebecois was celebrating its election victory.

Wearing a mask and a bathrobe, Bain shouted that the “English are waking up” as officers ushered him to a police cruiser after his arrest.

Bain faces 16 charges, including first-degree murder; three of attempted murder; arson; and a number of weapons counts. The Crown said Monday the investigation remains open and other charges have not been ruled out.

Premier Pauline Marois, who was on stage when the attack occurred nearby, told a TV show recently she believes the shooting was an attempt on her life.

Crown prosecutor Eliane Perreault told a Quebec court judge on Monday that Bain refused to speak to a psychiatrist who addressed him initially in French.

“This examination could not take place because the last time Mr. Bain was seen by a doctor from Pinel, he didn’t want to talk to her because she was French-speaking,” Perreault said.

“We’re trying to make arrangements that he’s seen by an English-speaking doctor in the coming days.”

Perreault said she didn’t know if the fact the doctor was a woman had anything to do with Bain’s refusal.

Bain’s lawyers say they have not been able to prepare a defence because Bain has been unwilling to co-operate. They had made the request for the evaluation.

Also Monday, one of those lawyers said she and another legal-aid colleague planned to withdraw from the case because a study of Bain’s finances revealed the fishing-lodge owner didn’t qualify for legal aid and could afford to pay for his own defence.

“The people responsible for legal aid decided he was able to pay so they decided he can’t be represented by them,” Perreault said.

The decision about Bain’s legal representation was also put off until Jan. 11 once the assessment is complete.

Bain’s court appearance Monday was far less dramatic than his previous one when he delivered a lengthy rant about being sent on a mission by Jesus Christ to rid Quebec of its ”separatist problem.”

He referred to Jesus Christ several times during the Dec. 7 hearing and that he’d been sent as an ambassador to deliver his vision of “peace and harmony for all Canadians.”

“I fight for freedom, democracy, justice and to speak one’s mother’s tongue,” Bain told the court.

This time, the 62-year-old kept mostly quiet, his eyes darting around the room while the lawyers addressed the judge. At one point near the end of the roughly six-minute hearing, he demanded to address the court, pulling a piece of scrap paper from his sports coat.

Even as Judge Nathalie Fafard told him he could not do anything other than postpone the case, Bain spoke loudly over her and demanded a provincial police investigation into an alleged assault against him at a court appearance in October.

He showed up on that date with a pair of fresh, bloody wounds on his head. Bain’s lawyer, Elfriede Duclervil, told reporters at the Dec. 7 appearance that an investigation didn’t turn up anything.

Bain said he has filed three complaints with the detention centre wanting provincial police to investigate a “bodily assault” on him on Oct. 11.

Fafard told Bain the matter was outside her jurisdiction.

“You bring me into a court with no jurisdiction,” Bain huffed as he was led out of the court. “Anyway, God bless you all, happy holidays.”