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Looking back on 2021, part four

By Don Fennell and Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 10:40 PST, Thu January 6, 2022

Last Updated: 11:21 PST, Thu January 6, 2022

2021: The Year in Review


Non-traditional offerings mark Gateway season

Following a challenging 18 months, Gateway Theatre’s creative team looked forward to the upcoming season with optimism. A new mural by artist Carmen Chan on the facility’s exterior wall coincided with the announcement of its lineup including some untraditional offerings as opposed to only seated in-person productions.

“For us as an organization, really learning how to connect with our community in a different way has been challenging and exciting, and I think in some ways a gift,” said director of artistic programs Barbara Tomasic. 

RCMP detachment chief promoted

The City of Richmond learned its RCMP police detachment will have a new officer in charge with news that Will Ng, who held the post for five years, was set to become Assistant Commissioner in charge of federal investigative services and organized crime for the BC RCMP.

“Under Chief Superintendent Ng’s leadership, Richmond has continued to be one of the safest communities in the region,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie. 

Duzita’s swan song

The Richmond Christmas Fund will have a new leader in 2022 when Linda Reid takes over from long-time chair Wayne Duzita. The announcement was made by Ed Gavsie, president and chief executive officer of Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives (RCRG), which operates the Christmas Fund. Each holiday season, the program supports low-income residents, providing them with grocery vouchers, toys, books, and gift cards. Reid brings considerable experience to the role, having a well-established background in education, management, and community service, to go along with a decorated political career, having represented Richmond in the B.C. Legislature for more than two decades.

Hobby baker rises to challenge

With more free time during the pandemic’s early days, many Canadians turned to baking as a new hobby. But for Richmond’s Caron Lau, 26, that hobby landed her on CBC’s The Great Canadian Baking Show. 

I got a crash course (in baking) with my friend in a convent in 2019,” said Lau. “(My) friend is becoming a religious sister, so I went to visit her and she loves baking. A big thing in that convent and in convents in general is the idea of service, so one day of my visit there was spent in service, baking for the whole convent.” 

An occupational therapist, Lau practiced making things like meringues and pie crust, but her biggest takeaway was the ability of baking to bond people together.

City gains eight parademics

Richmond benefited from the province’s push to strengthen the ambulance system when it gained eight additional paramedics as part of the largest hiring campaign in the province’s history. 

“When we call 911 for help, British Columbians need to feel confident that help is on the way and that it will arrive quickly,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said. “The significant progress made by BC Emergency Health Services over the summer will ensure a more effective ambulance service for patients and families who depend on it. Better support for paramedics and dispatchers will help them do the vital work we count on every day.”


Richmond remembered

When Canada assembled as usual on Nov. 11 to remember the sacrifices made in the name of peace, Richmondites too offered their appreciation and paid their respects to those who served. As in 2020, the annual Remembrance Day service was a virtual event broadcast on the city’s website.

This year, Cambie Secondary School students also offered special recognition at their Nov. 10 Remembrance Day service of Indigenous peoples’ contributions. Grade 12 student Saniya Mann spoke about her trip to the Kamloops Residential School in October where she dropped off a $600 donation to the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Centre. 

Prized facility

The Minoru Centre for Active Living was recognized with the 2021 Architecture Prize for Accessibility from the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, and International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities. The annual Distinction for Accessibility Award aims to increase the accessibility of all sports and leisure facilities and architectural structures worldwide so that everyone has an opportunity to practice and view sport freely and without barriers. The facility, which opened in 2020, received the honour for its integration of many accessibility features. 

Light emanates at Jewish Day School

Light emanates often when it seems darkest. In the wake of the atmospheric river that flooded parts of Richmond, and indeed a sizable portion of the province mid-month, at least one Richmondite was able to see the positives. 

“There’s always a silver lining,” said Sabrina Bhojani, principal at the Richmond Jewish Day School on No. 5 Road. “There is a togetherness that happens through adversity and trying times. I think it is rather remarkable the kindness that exists among the members of the different faith groups.” 

The school was able to open its doors three days after the massive flooding because of the kindness. All its staff and visitors were granted permission to park at the Gurdwara Nanak Niwas on the north side of the Jewish Day School and on the south side, Subramaniya Swamy Temple also permitted the use of its parking as a pick up and drop-off point.

Beacon of light

The 25-foot menorah that goes up outside Richmond Cultural Centre annually serves as a beacon of light and togetherness. The first night of this year’s Jewish Hanukkah celebration on Nov. 28 was special as Shalom (né Imre) Lichtmann, an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor, was the one to do the lighting.

In 1943, three-year-old Lichtmann was deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where he remembers crying all the time because of his hunger. But he was able to survive and escaped with his mother, siblings, and grandparents on the Kastner train, which freed a train-load of Jews in exchange for money. He ended up in Switzerland and later moved to Israel and then to Canada. 


City lauded for Culture Days 

Richmond was again named among Canada’s top 10 cities for its annual Culture Days (Sept. 24 to Oct. 24) festivities, ranking fifth among mid-sized cities.

“Richmond has a proud history of supporting a vibrant arts and culture community and has placed among Canada’s top 10 cities every year since 2012,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “This ranking once again highlights the quality of our events and creative festivities and demonstrates our city’s commitment and support to engage the community in the arts scene.” 

Hair to help

For children struggling with hair loss due to cancer treatments or other illnesses, a wig can help with confidence. Richmond–Steveston MLA Kelly Greene donated about 30 centimetres (12 inches) of her hair to Wigs for Kids BC to help the cause.

“I have kids, and thinking about a kid that’s trying to navigate a really difficult situation but (also) be a kid who’s just at school and blending in with their friends and not showing a visible change, I think is important,” said Greene. 

Ho Ho Ho

For nearly 40 years, the Woodman family has been bringing holiday cheer to Garry Street. It did so again in 2021.

“My family started doing the display in the early 1980s,” said Jen Woodman of their home, known as “The Ho Ho Ho House.” “My grandfather was a skilled woodworker, and he and my dad started building it together with a love for Christmas.” 

The elaborate decorations began with a snowman family, reindeer and a “HOHOHO” sign on the roof of a bungalow. The house was re-built in the 1990s, but the new roof was too steep for the reindeer, so they moved to the ground. 

“Now, my brother is the lead on putting up the display with my dad, and thankfully friends also go by and help,” said Woodman. “The display takes over a month to put up for one or two people. Thankfully with helping hands this can get done on weekends, a few random days off from work during the weeks leading up, and then a big push at the end.” 

For the last few years there has also been a donation box for Wigs for Kids B.C.

Winter wonderland

With the current winter projected to be colder than average for the second year in a row, the city began summarizing its plans to be prepared for inclement weather and poor road conditions.

Last winter, Richmond experienced 41 frost/ice events and one snow event and 13 centimetres of snow accumulated at Vancouver International Airport in total. The city has an experienced team prepared to respond to weather extremes 24/7.

The city’s snow response route map prioritizes roads based on key travel routes. There are 217 kilometres of first priority routes, which includes all bus routes.

Christmas Fund helps families

After over 1,000 bids from 200-plus bidders, the Richmond Christmas Fund online auction raised $46,611 to make this Christmas a little brighter for local families in need. The most popular items this year were restaurant gift certificates, all of which went for full face value or close to it.

The highest single-value bid was $6,000 for a “Live Like a Billionaire” package, including a lavish stay at the city’s new Versante Hotel. 

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