2016 in words and photos: Surrey's year in review

2016 in words and photos: Surrey’s year in review

A spike in fentanyl overdoses, shootings and school overcrowding were just some of the headlines in the city in 2016.

  • Dec. 29, 2016 1:00 p.m.

Photos by Boaz Joseph and Evan Seal / The Leader





• The first of 25,000 refugees headed for Canada begin to arrive in Surrey. Speaking to the public for the first time in Surrey, they say, “It’s beautiful here.”


• Taxes in Surrey are expected to rise as the city considers increases to taxes and utilities totaling $128 for the owner of the average home worth $671,000. The bulk of the hike is a 3.9-per-cent increase in property taxes, which represents $70 of that amount.




• Surrey is slated to spend $11 million over the next five years upgrading its street lighting to new LED technology. Once completed, it’s estimated that the city will save $700,000 per year in power costs, and another $300,000 annually in maintenance.


• A woman, who is found bound and naked with her throat cut is lucky to be alive, thanks to the efforts of her landlord. A 22-year-old man is taken into custody, also due in part to the help of the landlord.


• An employee at a Guildford department store suffers stab wounds after trying to stop a robbery. Police say he was trying to apprehend a suspected shoplifter when an altercation broke out. Police subsequently arrested a 34-year-old man.




• Almost 2,000 more trees were cut down last year than the year prior. Land clearing, primarily for residential development, accounted for the 28 per cent jump in tree cuts.




After an on-again, off-again response from the city, a gun show finally gets the green light to continue in Cloverdale. Surrey council was originally concerned with the sale of pistols and ammunition, but with that resolved, the gun show goes ahead.


• RCMP crime statistics for the first quarter of the year show crime is nosediving. For the first three months of this year, crime has been dropping in almost every category, including violent crime, which is down two per cent.




• More than 100 people pack the Tong Louie Family YMCA to voice objection to a development they say will further crowd already overpopulated schools in Surrey. The proposed development, slated for 5750 Panorama Dr., consists of 181 townhomes and 106 apartments. While delayed, it finally gets the go-ahead from Surrey council.




• A judge rules Gursimar Singh Bedi is not guilty of manslaughter in relation to the killing of Surrey teen Maple Batalia four-and-a-half years earlier. However, he is found guilty of being an accessory after the fact.


• Surrey considers tougher legislation to protect residents from canine attacks after an elderly woman is savagely bitten by a dog believed to be a pit bull. The woman suffers severe lacerations and broken bones. At least one surgery was required. The owner vanishes with the dog.




One man is dead and another in hospital after a shooting near 143 Street and 90A Avenue. Surrey has been home to a rash of shootings, with these bringing the number of shots fired to 49 for the year.




• Two people convicted on terrorism charges are released after a judge determines police manipulated them into planting what they thought was a pressure cooker bomb at the B.C. legislature. The judge said in her ruling: “The world has enough terrorists. We do not need the police to make more out of marginalized people.”


• It will cost taxpayers $1.5 million more for the renovations of the Newton Wave Pool, as early reconstruction reveals the need for more structural work. Surrey council endorses expanding the scope of work at the pool, increasing the renovation costs from $8 million to $9.5 million.




• A Surrey Mountie is arrested and released after allegedly getting ensnared by a vigilante group who asserts the off-duty officer was looking for the company a 15-year-old girl. A group called Creep Catchers, who pose as kids online to lure men who potentially want their company, has video taped several people.


• A man accused in the brazen shooting death of 28-year-old Craig Widdifield in South Surrey more than three years earlier pleads not guilty in B.C. Supreme Court. Robert Paterson chooses to be tried by judge alone in the murder trial relating to the killing of Widdifield in the parking lot of Morgan Crossing shopping centre in the 15700-block of Croydon Drive.




• Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg announces he won’t be running for a sixth term in next spring’s provincial election. The affable politician – a former White Rock mayor and councillor – said he has been mulling the decision for several months.


• The Surrey Public Market, a property often described by politicians as an “eyesore,” is finally slated for demolition and development. A developer is now planning to build 36 apartment units and 40 townhouses at the south end of the property, where the market now stands. The underground parking will be used as part of the new development.




• Surrey announces the creation  a 40-bed emergency homeless shelter on 104 Avenue. It is given near unanimous approval, save for Coun. Tom Gill who thinks its a bad idea to locate the shelter across from a school and next to a busy park.


• It’s a chaotic weekend in Whalley, where there were five times the number of opioid overdoses than are typically seen. On 135A Street, known as The Strip, 10 people had to receive life-saving Naloxone (Narcan) to prevent death from opioid overdoses. Service providers say it’s a dark sign given the welfare Wednesday is approaching.


• Surrey firefighters are grieving after one of their own is killed on his way to work. Ryan Hammerer, 44, was driving the Jeep in the 10400-block of Ladner Trunk Road and is killed in a collision with a parked semi-trailer.




• A Surrey woman who brutalized a dog last year is given two years probation. Lindsey Susan Hirtreiter, 23 at the time of the abuse, pleads guilty to one count of animal cruelty, and along with probation, is given a lifetime ban from owning an animal.


• Fraser Health moves to create two safe drug consumption sites as a pilot project  in Surrey, in response to the growing overdose crisis. The city gives the plan an early nod. Surrey Coun. Bruce Hayne says the city would consider such sites as long as they were part of a suite of other support services.






• The French immersion program that was cancelled at Cougar Creek Elementary before it began last fall is getting a second chance. The district wants to give it another shot, hoping that informing parents and the community well ahead of the new school year will draw more students to the program.


• Just as the Surrey School District was readying to send out layoff notices to immigration workers at its Welcome Centre, the federal government extended the contract for the Newton facility. The Welcome Centre processes newcomers arriving in Surrey and helps assess the needs of new immigrants, including refugees.




• Canadian Football League player and Edmonton Eskimos kicker Sean Whyte brings the Grey Cup to Bayridge Elementary School in South Surrey.


• A Surrey RCMP program teaches teens about teamwork and healthy lifestyle choices. Code Blue is now running at Semiahmoo Secondary, Kwantlen Park, Lord Tweedsmuir, Panorama Ridge and Princess Margaret secondaries.




• Kwantlen Polytechnic University receives $265,250 from the Ministry of Advanced Education towards the purchase of new trades equipment at the Cloverdale Campus. The money will help fund a new Programmable Logic Control Lab and custom cutting mills for the Millwright Electrical Program.


• Five robotics students at Seaquam Secondary in North Delta qualify to compete at the 2106 VEX World Robotics Competition in Louisville Kentucky. The Team of Josh Zindler, Dawson Pasin, Trevor Chow, Michael Milic and Bradley Schellenberg won the B.C. High School Provincial Championship to qualify for the worlds.




• Surrey’s Khalsa School is the host of the B.C. Regional Spelling Bee Championships. Surrey students capture five of the top six spots, four from Khalsa School Old Yale campus and one from Simon Cunningham Elementary.


• Surrey Board of Education is growing increasingly frustrated with the speed at which new schools in Surrey are being funded by the province. Trustee Laurae McNally asks Surrey council to suspend all new developments in Clayton, Grandview/South Surrey and Newton until Surrey School District receives adequate funding.




• Surrey high school wrestler Jason Bains wins the gold medal at at the 2016 Cadet/Juvenile Canadian Wrestling Champiionships in the 110 kg mens division. This is the third gold national medal for the Queen Elizabeth grade 12 student.


• Juno award-winning aboriginal recording artist Susan Aglukark sings O Siem’with Surrey elementary school students in attendance during an exclusive engagement at The Bell Performing Arts Centre. The Inuk singer also speaks about her family heritage and her personal journey as a young girl from Canada’s north to international recording star




• High school students are now only required to write two provincial exams, down from the current five. Minister of Education Mike Bernier says that only Grade 10 math and Grades 10 to 12 literacy will be tested by provincial exams.


• For her work promoting tolerance at her school and in her community, Neelam Sandhar is awarded the inaugural LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered and questioning) Scholarship at Princess Margaret Secondary. It’s the first award of its kind in Surrey.




• Grade 12 Enver Creek Secondary School student Lovdeep Singh is named a Schulich Leader Scholar and is the recipient of an $80,000 scholarship to attend Western University’s engineering program in the fall.


• Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s trades campus in Cloverdale receives another financial shot in the arm from the provincial government  The $3 million investment will help fund 1,238 new seats at the KPU Tech Campus through March 31, 2017 in various trades including welding, electrical, automotive service technician, millwright and carpentry.




• With 1,000 more students expected in the fall, including 300 children from Syria, portables are again in high demand. Despite a  announcement by the provincial government to add 2,700 new spaces for Surrey students by 2020, including a much-needed secondary school in Grandview Heights and an elementary school in Clayton North, overcrowding is still an issue. Currently, the district has 275 portables.




An emphasis on environmental learning and aboriginal perspectives are important components of the new school curriculum that is being  implemented this September from Kindergarden to Grade 9 across the province.


• The Surrey School District welcomes 300 new Syrian students into the district for their first full year of classes.




• A group of parents and education advocates joined forces to offer Advocating for Education 101, an event designed to show parents how to become more engaged and reach specific decision-makers, giving them the tools to initiate change.


• The City of Surrey is suggesting a Public-Private Partnership (P3) to build schools may help alleviate the ballooning enrolment pressure, however the Surrey Board of Education Chair Shawn Wilson says P3s are not something that the district is looking to entertain.




• Simon Fraser University (SFU) receives a combined $90 million from the provincial and federal governments to help fund the construction of a new Environmental Engineering and Energy Systems Building in Surrey City Centre. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes official announcement at SFU Surrey campus.


• The B.C. Teachers’ Federation and other provincial unions celebrate victory in their long-running legal battle with the B.C. government over control of class size and special needs support in public schools. The Supreme Court of Canada ruling brings to an end a long bitter dispute between teachers and the provincial government.




• Finance Minister Mike de Jong cautions B.C. is bracing for significantly higher education budget costs in the wake of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favour of the B.C. Teachers Federation on classroom size and composition requirements.


• Surrey post-secondary institutions see increases in interest following the U.S. election. Many international students looking to study in the United States are beginning to look at Canada as an option to further their education, according to local learning centres.







• Grayson Heinrich Jackson is born at Surrey Memorial Hospital on New Year’s Day and is the first baby in the province to be born in 2016.


• Hundreds of firefighters and community members turn out to pay final respects to 32-year Surrey firefighter Randy Piticcoo, 61, who died of presumptive lung cancer.


• After more than five years of planning and development, Coast Capital Savings, Canada’s largest credit union by membership, moves into its new headquarters in Surrey’s City Centre.


• Cloverdale mourns the passing of Allan Dann, 91, proprietor of Dann’s Electronics from the 1950s to 2013.


• The B.C. government invests an extra $3 million to expand a program that tailors cancer treatment to the genetic make-up of individual patients as the B.C. Cancer Agency up up its Personalized Onco-Genomics project after seeing encouraging results, including reversal of some cancers thought to be all but untreatable.




• A century-old Interurban railcar finds a new home in Cloverdale, where the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society welcomes the new arrival. For most of its life, old Car 1207 ran on the Marpole-Steveston line, a route fondly known as the “Sockeye Express” because many of the commuters were cannery workers.


• Area volunteers found the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society after the Canadian Cancer Society cancels their own program that assists cancer patients get to their appointments.




• The Surrey Football Club launches an Adapted Soccer program at Newton Athletic Park for kids with developmental disabilities.


• Tamanawis Secondary Grade 12 student Joban Bal figures a good send-off before graduating is to organize his school’s first blood drive and DNA match.




• The late Marilyn Stewart, founder of the Czorny Alzheimer Centre in Cloverdale, is recognized at the Investors Group Walk for Alzheimer’s: Make Memories Matter (formerly Walk for Memories).


• Surrey Bend Regional Park opens to the public, offering a major new area of green space and trails along the shore of the Fraser River in North Surrey. The park was 20 years in the making, after land acquisitions by the regional district and City of Surrey ensured the entire 348-hectare park would be preserved rather than developed for industry.


• Jaswinder Toor receives the call he’s been waiting for: He’s told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will offer a “full apology” for the Komagata Maru incident in the House of Commons on May 18.


• Cloverdale’s Arlean Friesen marries her beau, William Newstater, in South Surrey. Both are 86 and met through an online dating site.




• The city announces an addition to the Re-Enactors troupe. The story of Sarjit “Mac” Singh will be retold in group’s touring season in Surrey. Singh was a trailblazing South Asian Surrey resident who owned Cloverdale Produce and was integral to community initiatives. Singh is played by actor Mohit Anand.


• The PopUp Newton Gallery + Creative Hub open its doors for a six-month season of programming, including exhibitions, artist residencies and interactive art projects presented by seven artist collectives.


• Cloverdale’s Mary-Jo Glen Ohl publishes a biography titled “You Can Call Me Vodka: A Cambodian’s Story of Life After the Killing Fields” after meeting and befriending a cruise ship bartender in Cambodia. More than 500 books are sold in the first six weeks of publication.


• Actor and writer Michael Roberds, best known as Uncle Fester in TV’s The New Addams Family and a well-known community theatre and cable TV fixture in South Surrey and White Rock, dies at the age of 52.


• Several community groups work independently to donate truckloads of supplies to victims of the wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta.




• Leanne Buhler, operations manager at the Honeybee Centre, spearheads the Community Bee Garden project, an initiative that aims to increase bee populations. Several 10×10-foot garden plots are planted throughout Surrey.


• The Surrey Museum’s acquires a working 1904 Lansdowne player piano from a Surrey’s Peter Chittim, 81, who has owned it since the late 1960s. The donation includes about 70 music rolls featuring blues, gospel, jazz, classical, honky-tonk and the theme to 1960s TV’s Batman.


• The White Rock and Surrey chapter of CARP (formerly the Canadian Association of Retired Persons) screens the documentary The Age of Love and takes the idea to heart by organizing a speed-dating event for seniors.


• A Surrey glassblower has big, friendly meeting with director Steven Spielberg. Robert Gary Parkes, who owns the Loafing Shed Glass Studio and Gallery in Port Kells, was hired to make six prototype glass bottles and give glassblowing guidance for Spielberg’s new movie, Disney’s The BFG (Big Friendly Giant).


• Surrey’s first gay pride parade links up with city’s 17th annual Pride Festival at Holland Park. Prior to the parade – and after years of pressure by the LGBT community – Surrey hoists the rainbow colours on a flagpole at city hall.




• Lt. Col. Pritam Singh Jauhal, the man responsible for the Royal Canadian Legion’s acceptance of Sikh turbans, dies at the age of 95. Jauhal and his comrades were denied entrance to a legion in Newton in 1993. Following the publicity, the Royal Canadian Legion changed its entrance policy to include religious headgear.


• Surinder Bhogal is named Surrey’s new chief librarian. A veteran of the Surrey Libraries system since 1997, Bhogal takes over from Melanie Houlden, her former boss, who retired in June.


• The South Asian Arts Society hosts the inaugural Monsoon Festival of Performing Arts: Welcome the Storm in Surrey and Vancouver. Producers Gurpreet Sian and Rohit Chokhani hope to expand the festival in upcoming years.


• The Surrey Museum’s promised expansion proceeds, with design plans nearly ready to share with the public, a broad timeline for construction and a bold new feel and vision for the future. Work is scheduled to begin early in the new year.




• Surrey’s Alex Sangha is the first Sikh to lead the Vancouver Pride Parade.


• A centuries-old Douglas fir tree that came to represent fallen Canadian veterans falls down across Highway 1. The tree was named “Charlie’s Tree” after First World War pilot and flight instructor Charlie Perkins.


• Surrey finds itself in the midst of the busiest year ever for movie production. Much of the production centres in Cloverdale.




• Surrey RCMP Speed Watch program volunteer Bill Brand, 89, retires after 23 years.


• TransLink says it will consider buying double-decker buses in the years ahead as it explores possible new vehicle types for its transit fleet. CEO Kevin Desmond says double deckers are run by BC Transit in Victoria, where they’re popular with passengers.




• Harness Racing BC celebrates 40 years at Elements Casino at Fraser Downs in Cloverdale.


• Thank You for the Music (TYFTM) Society hosts its launch party and first fundraiser. Funds raised will be allocated to TYFTM’s start-up operational costs and one of its current projects, to provide new pianos to schools within the Surrey School District.


• Surrey is the first city in Canada to officially offer temporary safe haven to persecuted writers and artists from overseas. The city announced it has become a member of  the Norway-based International Cities of Refuge Network.




• Ten Surrey pyrophiles lose their fireworks and earn $500 fines on Halloween night. The city has had strict regulations regarding the sale and use of fireworks since 2005.


• Gene Simmons of KISS gives a $100,000 boost to the Gala of Hope fundraiser for The Centre for Child Development and Sophie’s Place Child and Youth Advocacy Centre. Simmons also auctions off one of his guitars.


• Eight small dogs are dropped off at the Dhana Metta Rescue Society, a private Surrey-based dog rescue shelter, after being discovered locked in a crate and abandoned next to a garbage can in a remote Richmond parking lot. They’re in fair shape and are expected to be adopted out.


• The Surrey Christmas Bureau finds a new home at the former Sears and The Brick outlet at the corner of 104 Avenue and King George Boulevard. The 31,000-square-foot facility is donated by Bosa Properties.


• Quaffles, bludgers, snitches, hoops and brooms – just some of the pieces of equipment seen at the Quidditch Western Regional Championships at Sullivan Park. Over two days, six Canadian university teams aim for top scores in the game invented by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.


• The Borealis String Quartet plays 20 minutes of their concert in total darkness at the Surrey Arts Centre. The performance is titled “Out of the Dark Into Light.”






After years of delays and technical challenges, TransLink rolls out its Compass fare payment card to all transit users, and eliminates old paper monthly passes and FareSaver tickets. By spring the faregates finally close off at all stations, after last-minute measures are introduced to ensure access for severely disabled passengers who can’t tap their Compass cards. The Compass/faregates system is credited for a significant increase in transit ridership and drop in fare evasion, estimated to translate into at least $25 million in extra annual revenue.




Soaring rates of drug overdose deaths, more than half involving fentanyl, prompt Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall to declare a public health crisis. The decision paves the way for a series of initiatives to stem fatalities, including increased distribution of naloxone kits to reverse overdoses, faster real-time tracking of overdoses and the creation of specialized medical services in high-risk areas.




The B.C. government imposes a new 15-per -cent property transfer tax on foreign buyers of Metro Vancouver residential real estate. The province had been under pressure for months to act to restrain rapidly rising home prices.




Metro Vancouver mayors approve small increases in TransLink’s property tax and transit fares to help pay for a significant increase in bus and SkyTrain service set to take effect early in 2017. The transit service bump is part of the broader transit expansion plan to build new rapid transit lines in Surrey and Vancouver.




Justin Trudeau’s government approves the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline twinning through the Lower Mainland, which is to dramatically increase tanker traffic through Vancouver harbour. The prime minister calls the Trans Mountain project safe for B.C. and the right decision for Canada. Environmental and aboriginal opponents vow to try to defeat the project in court. B.C. Premier Christy Clark says her government is close to supporting the project but must do more work to ensure all five conditions it has set are met.









Surrey North Delta Leader