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Year in Review: The final quarter

By Don Fennell and Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 2:13 PST, Sun January 3, 2021

Last Updated: 2:16 PST, Sun January 3, 2021

OCTOBER


The Richmond Arts Council’s annual exhibition looks a little different this year. While an in-person showing wasn’t possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the council began preparing in April for the possibility of offering its Midsummer Art’s Dream show virtually.

“While we didn’t want to give up on a physical show, we (also) didn’t want to get to September and be forced to cancel,” said council president Susan Ness. “So we decided to plan for two versions of the same exhibition, one physical and one virtual.”

Amid an emerging trend in retail, another brick and mortar business prepared to shut its doors. But unlike many shops whose closures have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, the Beat Merchant Record Shop in Steveston village—set to close March 31, 2021—is shifting its focus to the growing online market. 

“I think to have lasted 15 years with a store is a major achievement, as we have had online shopping and streaming to compete with which is more convenient for a lot of people,” said owner Frankie Neilson.

Growing up in the age of Twitter and Facebook, Lindsay Wong is at home online. And so while the opportunity to become Richmond’s ninth annual Writer-in-Residence came amidst a global pandemic, the award-winning author of The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family eagerly shared advice to emerging writers through free virtual public workshops and conversations.

“The pandemic affects everyone differently,” said Wong. “Some people are caring for sick or elderly family, and some parents weren’t sure about sending their kids back to school. I hope our (conversations) will help bring people together to talk and write about our experiences and to put them into meaningful narrative.” 

Richmond city council approved a mandatory mask policy for civic buildings, including city hall and community centres. The idea was first presented by Coun. Bill McNulty, who said he wanted Richmond to “lead and set an example” when it came to measures that could help curb the spread of the virus.

A much-anticipated bus mall in downtown Richmond is now in operation. The Brighouse loop, just south of the Canada Line Station at No. 3 Road and Buswell Street, opened Oct. 19 to replace the on-street exchange on No. 3 Road which has served 13 regular bus routes plus the N10 NightBus. According to TransLink, the previous on-street exchange served nearly 12,000 customers on an average weekday while providing access to local and long-haul bus routes as well as connections to the Canada Line.

In neighbourhoods like Hamilton, where agriculture continues to be a community identifier, one of the longstanding traditions is celebrating Halloween at the pumpkin patch. But in the age of the coronavirus, that simply wasn’t deemed safe this year for students at the local elementary school. So on Oct. 30—they day before trick or treating—the pumpkin patch was delivered to the kids. In a strong display of camaraderie and co-operation that helps define a community, Hamilton residents, parents and local businesses teamed up to make this Halloween as memorable—and joyful— as any previous.

“This year has been very challenging from the start, especially for the kids,” says Mark McCallum, entering his second year as principal at Hamilton elementary.“We thought it would be a fun thing to do, adding to (the kids) coming to school dressed up in their costumes.”

Cyclists and art lovers across Richmond were invited to participate in a cycling art tour developed by the city. Part of the #RichmondHasHeart campaign, the tour aims to bring Richmondites together safely while maintaining physical distancing protocols. City staff said the activity was developed during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic to invite community members to engage with and access the arts in meaningful ways—while staying safe. The program is free, self-guided and contactless, and is available to participants on their own or in small groups.

It was a unique environment with no fans in the stands, but the Richmond Sockeyes were back playing hockey in October. The perennial cup contenders again found themselves in a familiar place as the Pacific Junior Hockey League season (PJHL) got underway—atop the standings. Under the guidance of new head coach Bayne Koen, the Sockeyes won their first seven games before the season was again abruptly halted by health authorities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perhaps best known as mom to two of BC’s top swimmers, Barbara Johns, mother of Brian and Kevin and wife to Lawrie, passed away peacefully Oct. 24 at age 72. Johns was a pillar of the swimming community—and that’s an understatement. Conservatively, she officiated at some 300 meets, and spent another 600 days (the equivalent of two years) on deck, loving every minute. Sports—swimming in particular—were a passion. Like family, she poured everything into sports.


NOVEMBER


Each year on Nov. 11, Canadians gather to mark Remembrance Day, a chance to remember war, loss and sacrifice.

“People use this as a time to reflect back on the losses and sacrifices over time in the various conflicts that have occurred,” said Sgt. Patrick Madderom of the 39 Service Battalion at Richmond’s Sherman Armoury.

“Nowadays war and conflict do continue, they’re present, and it’s important to recognize the sacrifices that continue to this day, and recognize the tragedies that exist on a global scale such as the First World War and the Second World War so we can strive to avoid them in the future.”

Unable to observe Remembrance Day with the usual school-wide assembly because of COVID-19, leadership students at McNair secondary came up with a novel way to pay their respects: via a commemorative video. Students brainstormed how they could get creative and mark the occasion while respecting COVID-19 protocols. Their video tells a story, beginning with a child who comes across a box of his grandfather’s items from the war. The opening is used to link to the historical section of the video, which includes video clips, images and audio from the First World War. 

Dorothy Barnes thought she was going to the store for cat food and toilet paper. Instead, she came home $675,000 richer from a Set for Life Scratch & Win ticket. The Richmond resident, who claimed her prize using BCLC’s alternate prize-claim process, stopped in at the Shoppers Drug Mart on Williams Road where she decided to purchase the ticket.

Richmond’s temporary patio program—recently extended for another year—has been a big success for the businesses that implemented it, including Steveston’s Shady Island Bar & Grill.

The temporary patio program was initially introduced by the city in May in response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Shady Island opened its space in June, and it proved to be the restaurant’s most popular area over the summer. 

A historic result, the Oct. 24 provincial election saw three of Richmond’s four ridings flip from the BC Liberals to the NDP. The NDP’s Aman Singh was officially elected in the Richmond-Queensborough riding with 47.65 per cent of votes after mail-in and absentee ballots were counted. In Richmond-Steveston, NDP candidate (and city councillor) Kelly Greene won the seat with 52.07 per cent of votes after final count. In Richmond South Centre, NDP candidate Henry Yao maintained his election night lead to win the riding by a margin of less than 200 votes—50.67 per cent to 49.33 per cent. Richmond North Centre incumbent Teresa Wat was the lone Liberal to win, holding her seat with 51.26 per cent of votes.

Across Richmond, voter turnout was low. Richmond-Steveston saw the highest turnout, with 55.95 per cent of registered voters casting a valid ballot, followed by Richmond-Queensborough with 49.61 per cent. In the other two ridings, only 40 per cent of registered voters participated in the election. After the final provincial count, the NDP holds 57 seats, the Liberals 28 and the Greens two. 


DECEMBER


Thanks to funding from BC Housing, the Salvation Army Richmond House Emergency Shelter on Horseshoe Way added additional 15 beds this winter season, bringing its capacity to 45 people. All 45 beds were full as of a Dec. 1 update. In addition, the temporary emergency response centre in the old Minoru seniors’ centre is open through March 31 with 45 beds. 

Almost 100 new rental homes are coming to Richmond for people with low to moderate incomes. BC Attorney General David Eby, the minister responsible for housing, said the projects will mean new, affordable homes for a wide range of people—from seniors on fixed incomes to growing families and people with disabilities.

While December is normally a busy time of year for the retail sector, this past holiday shopping season was a little more unpredictable for major Richmond malls.

“The prediction for retail is that people are starting their shopping earlier in the year,” said Lansdowne Centre marketing manager Bronwyn Bailey.

While the usual surge in shoppers was less predictable this year, all four malls surveyed—Lansdowne Centre, Aberdeen Centre, Richmond Centre and McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Vancouver Airport—expected customer numbers to increase in December. 

The City of Richmond announced operation of its animal shelter would transfer from RAPS to the BC SPCA as of Feb. 1, 2021. The new agreement with the BC SPCA coincides with the start of construction of the new Richmond Animal Shelter, which will replace the existing facility at 12071 No. 5 Rd. The new facility will be built on the same site, so the existing shelter will close from next spring until construction is complete in two years. “Continuity of care and service for stray, abandoned and in-need animals in our community is important, especially during this construction phase,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie. 

Steveston’s annual holiday tradition, Winter in the Village went ahead in 2020 with some changes. For the first time, people could vote online for their favourite tree in the Festival of Trees, where local merchants and organizations decorate trees that are then displayed inside Steveston’s Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site. There were 15 trees decorated this year, said marketing and visitor services manager Mimi Horita. She added that, as expected, some groups cancelled due to different circumstances during the unusual year.

“We did not hold a ‘decorating party’ this year, and scheduled the decorating times over a one-week period to ensure safe distancing,” Horita said of the changes to planning.

As the year wound down there were a pair of major contributions toward the new acute care tower at Richmond Hospital.

Local real estate developer Michael Ching donated $200,000 to the cause and also has partnered with South China Morning Post to donate $50,000 towards Richmond Hospital Foundation’s Surgical Restart Campaign. He also donated 25,000 masks to Vancouver Diamonds Lions Club as a part of its disposable masks fundraiser for the Richmond Hospital Foundation.

Longtime friends of Richmond Hospital, Johnny Fong and Rebecca Cheng donated $1 million toward future projects. They collectively pledged $700,000 to the new Yurkovich Family Pavilion (new acute care tower) and donated $300,000 to the Surgical Restart campaign, committing to match further donations dollar for dollar up to $300,000. 

And the Richmond School District circulated students’ art on greeting cards, choosing nine students and a 10th collaborative piece by a Grade 6/7 class) thanks to an initiative thought up by district arts administrator Catherine Ludwig.

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