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Looking back on 2021, part three

By Don Fennell and Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 10:38 PST, Wed January 5, 2022

Last Updated: 12:34 PST, Wed January 5, 2022

2021: The Year in Review


Province announces new hospital

When the renovation and expansion of Richmond Hospital is fully completed in 2029, it will have ushered in a new era in community healthcare. But the journey is set to begin almost immediately after Premier John Horgan and the provincial government announced on July 13 approval for construction of a new patient care tower. A new emergency department and intensive care unit will also be included in the expanded hospital.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Natalie Meixner, president and chief executive officer of the Richmond Hospital Foundation. “(This project) touches every area of acute care and the community will end up with innovation throughout.” 

Phases 1 and 2 of the four-phase project will also include relocation of services and demolition of the park centre and rotunda buildings. The park centre is currently home to a cancer care clinic and psychiatric emergency unit, while the rotunda hosts offices and meeting rooms. This stage will be further highlighted by construction of the new Yurkovich Family Pavilion (a nine-floor patient care tower), honouring two of the biggest donors to the Richmond Hospital Foundation. The years between 2024 and 2027 will address the forecasted growth of Richmond with a doubling of the number of rooms, noted Meixner.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie praised the government’s foresight “to go back to the drawing board and expand dramatically the scope of a project (that delivers a) first-class healthcare facility.” 

The four-phase project will add 113 new beds bringing the total to 353. The new Yurkovich Family Pavilion will also feature an emergency department with 82 spaces, up from the current 60, and an increase in operating rooms to 11 from eight. The number of pre- and post-surgical care spaces will nearly triple to 69 from 26.

Night market 

When the Richmond Night Market closed for the season Oct. 14, 2019, excitement for the 2020 campaign was already building. Organizer Raymond Cheung, whose foresight to start the initial market in 2000 led to it becoming one of the biggest annual attractions in Richmond, had no way of knowing it would be close to two years before he could even begin thinking about re-opening. The global COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented disruptions and forced ventures like Cheung’s to cease operating. 

“Everyone has their own story, but for us it felt like I was hit by a dump truck from nowhere,” he said. “The impact was, of course, indescribable. Just because of the nature of our business, being seasonal and counting on a large volume of people, all the elements added up. We couldn’t do anything except sit and wait and see when the storm was over.” 

That hundreds of vendors depend on the market for their livelihoods only added to the chagrin. But finally there appeared to be light at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel with the province entering the third phase of its four-step reopening plan.

Maya and mom lauded

Maya Harpool and her mom Zoe Ahlstrom experienced a full-circle moment of giving when they were named winners of the TELUS #FriendlyFutureDays contest. Because of Harpool and Ahlstrom’s win, Richmond Family Place—which offers resource programs for kids and families—was the recipient of $10,000. 

“We were so excited, I don’t even know how to put it into words,” said Harpool. “It’s an organization that we used when I was a lot younger, and my mom was a new mom.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, Harpool and Ahlstrom have been helping out by doing the laundry for Family Place. 

“I was looking to see if there were any volunteer opportunities in Richmond,” Harpool explained. “I found this one at Family Place, and I thought it would be a really great fit for my mom and I given our circumstances previously.”

Artists prop up pop-up project 

The work of local artists adorned picnic tables around the city this summer as part of a Tourism Richmond pop-up project. There were 31 tables in total, grouped in seven areas. Each area had at least one table painted by a local artist. At Britannia, two tables were painted by Phoenix Art Workshop owner Mark Glavina and several of his youth students.

“One table represents the serenity of lying under a big old tree, the second sitting on (a) rock next to the river teeming with life,” said Glavina. “The youth came up with the ideas, and I helped pare (them) down to something that we could paint within their individual skill set.”

Estella the entrepreneur

At the tender age of seven, Estella Celeste Banez is already an old soul. Two years ago, on the heels of a successful fashion show to help support the Richmond Christmas Fund, the precocious young Richmondite launched her own line of jewelry—Oh My Bling, Designs by Estella. Now, she’s started her own podcast. 

“I am super duper duper excited,” she said. “I asked kids to join me for this (third episode) and be my special guests to talk about how kids feel about the pandemic. I’m so grateful to my special guests who shared their thoughts on my show.” 

Her guests included her big brother Lazarus, Megumi (all the way from Japan), cousins Brielle, D’Angelo, Lisee, Audrey and Addison, buddy Kendrick and best friend Sophie. With the help of her mom Kaye, Estella wants kids to feel empowered to talk about their feelings surrounding COVID-19. And perhaps grown-ups can listen too about what kids are saying about life during these challenging times. 

Expanding the ‘beautiful game’

Known globally by enthusiasts as the “beautiful game,” soccer in Richmond received a positive step in the right direction when, thanks in large part to support by Coho Commissary (which provides commissary kitchens to restaurant start-ups), Richmond FC introduced a complimentary program to players of families registered in the Richmond Food Bank program. 

“We always wanted to start an academy (for boys and girls) that have had a tough time, and we have worked closely with Richmond Food Bank (collecting donations) for the last (several) months,” said Richmond FC executive director Marius Roevde.


Maritime fest offers limited in-person access

After being a fully online celebration in 2020, the 18th annual Richmond Maritime Festival on Aug. 21 and 22 offered limited in-person access. But with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, the“re-imagined” version was also able to again be enjoyed remotely.

Steveston harbour gets funding boost

Emphasizing the importance of small craft harbours and their benefit to local communities, federal Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan announced in person that Steveston would be receiving $17 million as part of a federal commitment to the fishing industry. 

“Investing in this local harbour helps not just the commercial fishing industry, but Steveston as a whole,” said Sajjan. “Investing in people, promoting inclusive growth, and building stronger communities is a key part of our government’s commitment to helping our neighbourhoods grow from coast to coast to coast.”

YVR best airport for 12th year

Vancouver International Airport added to its list of accolades, winning the Skytrax Best Airport in North America award for the 12th consecutive year. The airport also received Skytrax’s COVID-19 Airport Excellence award, which recognizes airports selected by passengers for their health, hygiene and safety protocols. It was the only Canadian airport to receive this award. 

“It’s an honour for (the airport) to be recognized as the best airport in North America for 12 years in a row. To also be recognized in the new award category of COVID-19 Airport Excellence, as one of the cleanest, safest and healthiest airports in the world, is a true testament to the expertise, hard work and dedication of our entire airport community,” said Vancouver Airport Authority president and chief executive officer Tamara Vrooman.

Dunfee makes his mark 

Evan Dunfee maintained a high profile in 2021.

First, the gifted race walker tuned up for his Olympic run in the blazing heat and humidity of Tokyo in July by pounding the pavement around his hometown daily. Then on the day of the big race, he reached deep for a last-minute burst of energy over the final leg of the men’s 50 kilometre race walk, to return home a bronze medallist. 

In one of the most grueling events of the Games, a taxing exercise demanding both determination and endurance, Dunfee discovered he had even more to give. In fifth place at that point, he drew inspiration from within, thinking of family and friends who had supported his journey. And when he crossed the finish line in three hours, 50 minutes, 59 seconds, he had realized a childhood dream. It was a just result for Dunfee, who five years earlier had narrowly missed reaching the podium when he was edged out for third place at the Rio Olympics. He might have had a medal in those Games too, had it not been for his steadfast insistence that the results stand—despite the possibility of interference that may have thrown off his stride.

Then in December he made it official—he plans to seek a seat on Richmond city council in next year’s municipal election. Coincidentally, it will be 20 years after his dad, Don, did likewise as a candidate in the 2002 election.

Politically adverse growing up, he explained that as his sporting career progressed, and his profile rose with increased success at the international level, his interest and appreciation for politics did as well.

“For the last number of years I was privileged to speak for athletes while fighting for what I believe in.”

Luxury hotel opens

Versante Hotel opened during the summer, becoming the city’s only independent boutique hotel. Boutique hotels typically have a smaller number of rooms and are known for their theming and style. Rates for each of the 100 rooms start at $249 per night. All rooms have a rainforest shower, and many also have a separate freestanding soaking tub. The hotel is located near Bridgeport Canada Line station, and also offers a restaurant, a lounge and a bar, as well as bookable meeting and event rooms. 

Bodhi donates $200K to hospital

Supportive of a robust health care system, and in celebration of his 30-year Dharma teaching anniversary, Bodhi Meditation and Grandmaster JinBodhi each made donations of $200,000 to the Richmond Hospital Foundation. 

“As a resident of Richmond, it is my honour and pleasure to be able to contribute to the community,” said Bodhi. “In the face of such a devastating pandemic, it is a brave and remarkable act of all medical workers to serve the public on the frontlines. We admire them and are very moved. Thank you to all the medical workers for their hard work and dedication. This donation is a token of our appreciation, support, and respect.” 

Bodhi Meditation has been a distinguished devotee to health care in Richmond for years. In 2019, the group made a $100,000 gift in support of the ACT NOW campaign to help fund the new Yurkovich Family Pavilion at Richmond Hospital.  

Province forging ahead with eight-lane tunnel 

A new eight-lane tunnel, to be completed by 2030, will replace the aging George Massey Tunnel. Provincial officials announced the plan on Aug. 18, following many years of uncertainty about the future replacement project. 

“The original tunnel has served our communities well (for 60 years), but we’re looking forward to a new crossing, one that fits the region and also takes into account climate change (and) active transportation, one that better connects our communities, one that has the support of residents and the regional leadership,” said Richmond–Queensborough MLA Aman Singh, who acted as master of ceremonies for the announcement outside Richmond City Hall. 

In addition to four lanes in each direction—one of which will be earmarked for transit use—there will also be a five-metre wide separated tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians, who are not permitted to use the existing tunnel. 

Lottery crowns new millionaires

Eiko Yamase has always dreamed of visiting the Maritimes. 

“It has been my dream since coming to Canada to visit out east,” she said. “I would love the opportunity to travel to Toronto, Halifax, or even P.E.I.”

Yamase can now comfortably afford to do so, after the Richmond mom recently won a $1 million Maxmillion prize in the June 18 Lotto Max draw.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Yamase said. “I couldn’t believe it at first…for the whole day I had to make sure my ticket had matched the number.” She eventually called the B.C. Lottery Corporation and confirmed that the winning numbers she saw were correct, and she wasn’t watching a movie. Next, she called her husband, who couldn’t believe it either.

Mere months later, in November, Richmond had another $1 million winner when Zhi Shen won the guaranteed prize in the Nov. 13 Lotto 6/49 draw.

“I got home and check(ed) it on my Lotto app…I though it was impossible, so I called my son and asked him to come over and check,” Shen said. 

Shen said he enjoys the community aspect of playing the lottery and that he has always wanted to donate to charity if he won.

“If I win it would be good, and if not the money goes to charity. It’s a win-win.”


Capstan Canada Line station on tap

Construction began in September on a new Canada Line station that will help deliver better transit to the City of Richmond and the Capstan Village area. The future Capstan Station will provide efficient and environmentally sustainable rapid transit to a rapidly developing Richmond community. 

“Capstan Station will be the cornerstone of making Capstan Village centred around zero-emission, fast, and reliable transit,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “This growing urban community is projected to bring up to 16,000 new residents to Richmond, and this new transit station will help position our city as an even more attractive place to live.” 

Go fishing—at the library

With the introduction of Fishing ExplorePACKS, Richmond Public Library is again reaching beyond its traditional collection to inspire learning in nature. On the heels of the Birdwatching ExplorePACKS which debuted in September, the rods and tackles will help enable patrons to discover more of the abundant waterways the community is blessed to have access to. 

“The library is committed to introducing more interactive kits and ExplorePACKS for the community to enjoy,” said the library’s coordinator of community development Shane Parmar. “As an example, the donation to create the Linda Perron Ukulele Lending Library Collection is almost done, and the library looks forward to selecting and purchasing ukuleles so that we can introduce this new collection for the community to use.” 

There are six Fishing ExplorePACKS to borrow by families of various sizes. The packs can be borrowed for seven days, with up to two renewals permitted unless there is a hold on the kit.

Kajaks mourn loss of legendary coach

His enthusiasm was infectious and dedication unwavering. The kind of individual whose mere presence inspired. While physically slender, Moseley Jack was a giant in the local sports community—particularly in track and field—where he devoted four-plus decades to helping the youth of the Richmond Kajaks realize their potential. That was evident to the end. A long-time Steveston resident, the retired teacher, counsellor and coach passed away in late summer at the age of 85—his long life a reflection of the healthy lifestyle he practiced and promoted.

In May, just months after stepping down from his coaching capacity with the Kajaks, Jack returned to the Minoru track his usual energetic self. Accompanied by his grandchildren, he watched intently as the inter-club trials were held. Cathy Duley, another longtime Kajaks volunteer, recounts the moment.

“I was volunteering with Byron (Jack’s son, and the Kajaks’ longtime jumps coach) at the long jump event. Moseley chatted with us all but, as always, his focus was on his former athletes,” Duley explained. “He commented on how tall each of them was getting since they were with him in junior development and, of course, gave some coaching advice. One of the girls proceeded to perform a phenomenal jump that was a personal best for her. I later heard her say, ‘See, all I needed was some Moseley magic’.” Duley said that brief but poignant interaction “nailed the essence of Moseley.”

Earlier in the year, the Kajaks and the track and field community lost another one of its great contributors with the passing of Jean-Jacques Schmidt. Known simply as JJ to his many friends, Schmidt was drawn to the Richmond Kajaks Track and Field Club in 1980, when his daughter Frederique joined as an athlete.

First-timers elected to Parliament

Richmond voters put their trust in a pair of “first-timers” to represent them in Canada’s Parliament. 

Embracing their national party’s strategy on addressing the need for accessible and affordable housing, Liberal candidates Parm Bains in Steveston–Richmond East and Wilson Miao in Richmond Centre topped the polls in their respective ridings in the Sept. 20 federal election—held just 23 months after the governing Liberals were returned to power with a minority government. In the process, they unseated incumbent Conservatives—Kenny Chiu after one term as the Member of Parliament for Steveston–Richmond East and Alice Wong after four terms as MP in Richmond Centre. 

The campaign period was limited to 36 days, the minimum under Elections Canada rules.

City adopts plastics ban

Even tackling the biggest obstacles has to start with a first step. And in its quest to reduce waste, the City of Richmond is an undisputed leader in the region. 

“Recycling is important, but reducing waste overall is an essential part of responsible waste management and protecting our environment,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie, after city council officially adopted a bylaw to ban foam food service ware, plastic straws and plastic checkout bags starting March 27, 2022.

Skating quad a jump for joy

Wesley Chiu reached the podium at the ISU Junior Grand Prix after the Richmond skater, a member of the vaunted Connaught Figure Skating Club, landed the first quadruple jump of his career en route to a bronze medal in men’s competition on Sept. 17. The 16-year-old skater, fourth after the short program, climbed one spot for the bronze with a personal best 217.59. Skating to music by Muse, Chiu executed a clean long program which included landing a quad toe loop for his second medal on the circuit this season. He earned gold at the second stop in France.

Pause for Truth and Reconciliation

Richmondites took the opportunity to commemorate, learn and reflect on the history and ongoing impacts of residential schools on Sept. 30, Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation that honours the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. 

The date coincides with Orange Shirt Day that honours the story of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, a former residential school student who had her new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, taken away on her first day at residential school. The orange shirt has since become a symbol of remembrance of all Indigenous children removed from their families to attend residential schools. City staff at community facilities wore orange ribbons or shirts during the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 in recognition of residential school survivors.

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