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Year in Review: The first quarter

By Don Fennell and Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 4:59 PST, Thu December 31, 2020

Last Updated: 2:20 PST, Sun January 3, 2021

Inspired by the dawn of a new decade, many Richmond community leaders and residents alike welcomed 2020 with optimism. But the promising future they envisioned was soon overshadowed by the devastation of a global pandemic declared by the World Health Organization in late winter. Since then, COVID-19 has without prejudice sadistically disrupted lives and taken others.

With the promise of first vaccines now cautiously being rolled out, the end may be nigh. Yet it will still be months if not years before things return to “normal.”


JANUARY


One issue that will continue to be front and centre locally is also a global priority: recognizing climate change and the environment. As a city, Richmond was already busy taking action as the calendar flipped to a new year. Richmond is believed to have been the first city in North America to implement an electric vehicle infrastructure requirement, an initiative that was recognized in 2019 with a Climate and Energy Action Award from the Community Energy Association.

Before Richmond residents celebrated the Chinese New Year with many special events befitting such an important occasion, they worked off some earlier holiday cheer by taking to the streets for the annual Steveston Icebreaker 8K road race. A cold snap that had gripped the West Coast thawed by race day (Jan. 19) to feature typical conditions with a forecast high of 7 degrees.

Anticipation was building among the hockey community as it prepared to gather in Richmond in March for a memorable showcase of global talent in the form of the CARHA Hockey World Cup. But the goals of the CARHA Hockey World Cup weren’t limited to the ice. On Jan. 30, CARHA teamed with the Richmond Sockeyes Junior Hockey Club on a special evening dedicated to promoting acceptance and inclusion of autism through community engagement. During an intermission scrimmage, members of the Canucks Autism Network wore World Cup jerseys helping to remind fans of the upcoming tournament.

Richmond received more snow in January than it would normally get in an entire winter. Data from Vancouver International Airport’s weather monitoring station showed that Richmond received 34.6 centimetres of snow from Jan. 10 to 18. That’s more than the annual snowfall received each winter since 2008 (with the exception of 2017, when the city saw 43.4 centimetres). Despite the extensive snow dump over such a short period, crews worked around the clock in back-to-back 12 hour shifts to keep up with evolving weather conditions. Crews attended to 22,818 kilometres of roadways, dispersing 1,434 tonnes of salt—the weight of almost three Airbus A380 aircraft—and used 746,000 litres of salt brine, equal to nearly 5,000 average-sized bath tubs.


FEBRUARY


A decade after having the eyes of the world focused on it, Richmond marked the 10-year anniversary of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games with a special three-day family celebration Feb. 21 to 23 at the Richmond Olympic Oval. The oval was again abuzz as memories were exchanged of the 12 medal events we hosted as the venue city for long track speed skating. 

“In the 10 years since Canada proudly united wearing the maple leaf, the Richmond Olympic Oval has become a living legacy of the games,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie.

Having printed our first edition in February 2017 (a cover story about a couple that made a multi-million dollar contribution to build a new acute care tower at Richmond Hospital), the Richmond Sentinel proudly began its fourth year sharing our community’s stories. 

Dynamo Fencing Club athletes returned from the Canadian championships in Gatineau, Quebec with 21 medals including nine national titles. The unprecedented success (the club placed more members on the national team that all of Quebec), caused club leader Igor Gantsevich to reflect, noting he was the only male athlete from Western Canada to make the national fencing team when he was growing up just a decade earlier.

Leilani Pearson, a Grade 12 student at Hugh Boyd secondary, became one of only 36 high schoolers across Canada to receive a Loran Award, valued at $100,000. Over four years of undergraduate study, each Loran Scholar also receives an annual stipend, tuition at one of 25 Canadian universities, mentorship, summer internships, and networking opportunities with other Loran Scholars. More than 5,000 students across Canada applied for the prestigious award, 500 were interviewed, and 88 made it to the National Selections process. The selection committee looks for students who exhibit qualities beyond academic excellence. Since 2015, Richmond has seen three other students become Loran Scholars: Palmer’s Bonnie Zhang in 2015 and McNair’s Cole Langer and Leon Picha in 2019. 

Every year, the Richmond chapter of KidSport holds a banquet to ensure children are not left on the sidelines. And in keeping with tradition, the 2020 event on Feb. 28 was held at the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel which donates the room, food, and staff for the evening. Longtime volunteer Bob Jackson, who initiated the event, was recognized for his lifetime of service to others. The Robert A Jackson Creating Community Champions Award will pay tribute to the longtime Richmondite by annually recognizing individuals who emulate his commitment to “Champion for the Community.” 

In the fall of 2013, Sanjeet Sadana left a Richmond Sports Council Meeting feeling burdened. It was reported that KidSport Richmond was struggling to provide funds to help kids play in organized sports. There was little money—so little that the grants had been reduced to $150 per year. As well, cheques for approved funding would only be released when enough donations could cover the cheques. Sadana shared his burden with his boss Gary Collinge, general manager of the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel. After some discussion, Richmond Sports Council received an email with a generous offer. The Hilton was willing to donate a 200-seat fundraising dinner that KidSport Richmond could organize. All proceeds would go to the local chapter. All expenses including catering, service, hotel rooms for out-of-town guests, meeting rooms, a VIP reception and more would be donated by the hotel.


MARCH


A Steveston landmark closed until summer as the Richmond Hospital/Healthcare Auxiliary Thrift Shop, on the corner of Chatham Street and Second Avenue, underwent work to strengthen its foundation.

“The building had wooden pillars and they rotted,” explained auxiliary president Ursula van Duin, who noted the floor was so uneven that some areas were 20 to 30 centimetres (eight to 12 inches) higher than others. 

Less than three weeks from puck drop on the 2020 CARHA Hockey World Cup in Richmond, the largest international recreational hockey tournament on the planet that was set to bring together more than 140 teams from 15 countries, organizers were forced to cancel after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic resulting from the spread of COVID-19. It was originally hoped the tournament could be held about the same time this year, but organizers later postponed it again until the spring of 2022.

With a little more luck, the McMath Wildcats could well have become provincial champions. As it was, they reached the Final Four at the BC High School Provincial 3A Girls’ Basketball Championships—their outstanding season ending in a heartbreaking 75-70 overtime loss to North Vancouver’s Argyle Pipers in the bronze medal game. The fourth-place result by the No. 3-ranked Wildcats marked only the second time in school history McMath has reached the Final Four. They placed second in 2016.

Ashley Specht and her Richmond Ravens teammates were able to celebrate winning the playoff title, but then denied the opportunity to add a provincial banner following the cancelling of the BC Hockey Midget Girls’ championships they were set to host.

The pandemic also caused organizations to cancel the 21st Pacific International Cup (PIC), an annual curling event drawing recreational curlers from around the world, that was scheduled to be held at the Richmond Curling Club from April 15 to 19. Organizers also later announced the cancellation of the 2021 event.

Established as a result of the pandemic, the Richmond COVID-19 Community Task Force held its first meeting co-chaired by Mayor Malcolm Brodie and the chamber’s Fan Chun. Meeting once a week via conference call, the 30-person group, representing a broad spectrum of the community, aimed to provide information from various community institutions and keep the community informed. 

Following the closure of city hall to the public, city council allowed for teleconferencing, and many meetings happened online.

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