From tent city and the royal visit, to the waste water treatment facility and the arrival of hundreds of Syrian refugees, 2016 was packed with big news stories in Victoria and Esquimalt. This Victoria News takes a look back at what made the headlines in 2016. Here are the first four months of the year. Stay tuned tomorrow for headlines from May to August.
• After 61 years of serving signature cocktails, The Fairmont Empress Hotel announces the closure of the upscale Bengal Lounge, sparking a public outcry that included a petition. The news also came as a surprise for many who work at the hotel.
• In response to the growing homeless camp on the lawns of the Victoria courthouse, the province opens up My Place Transitional Home at the former Boys and Girls Club building on Yates Street. The shelter has the capacity to house 40 homeless campers.
• The Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria gets set to welcome hundreds of Syrian refugees by the end of the month as part of the federal government’s plan to bring 25,000 refugees to the country. Since December, the city had welcomed 28 privately-sponsored refugees and raised more than $1 million to help them resettle.
• With more than 80 people now living on the lawns of the Victoria courthouse, the province tells tent city residents they have to leave by the end of the month due to safety concerns. In order to prepare for the eviction, the province has been working to find temporary shelter for the campers to move into and is getting ready to open 88 units of transitional housing and shelter space, along with 40 supplements.
• A number of athletes from the region head to Penticton for the B.C. Winter Games, which include a wide variety of sports such as archery, badminton, biathlon, curling, diving, figure skating, ringette and cross-country skiing.
• Three members on the Canadian navy’s HMCS Winnipeg are detained by Japanese authorities for using a controlled substance while the ship was conducting a port visit in Tokyo. Charges were laid against two crew members, who remained in Tokyo as the ship headed back to CFB Esquimalt.
• A deal is made to proceed with the development of the Esquimalt Village Project in the heart of the township. Located on the former site of the public works yard and original municipal hall, the development calls for a 17,000 square-foot town square that will be surrounded by a six-storey building with 100 condos and 34 rental properties situated above commercial space on the ground level. Another five-storey building will provide just under 50,000 square feet of office space that will also include a new library on the ground level.
• At a cost of more than $1 billion, the CRD approves a two-plant tertiary wastewater treatment system with facilities at Clover Point in Victoria and McLoughlin or Macaulay points in Esquimalt, sparking public backlash in both communities.
• Three months since Victoria’s police chief Frank Elsner steps aside for an external investigation into his conduct on social media, the city’s top cop files a petition with the B.C. Supreme Court, seeking an order to stop the investigation and prohibit its chief superintendent from taking further action.
• The community marks the 25th anniversary of the disappearance of Michael Dunahee. The four-year-old disappeared from the playground of the former Blanshard Elementary School shortly after noon on March 24, 1991.
• A motorhome catches fires at the West Bay Marine Village in Esquimalt, causing extensive damage to it and a neighbouring 36-foot fifth wheel trailer.
• After 25 years, Intrepid Theatre’s Janet Munsil announces she’s stepping down as artistic director at the end of the season.
• Three dragon boat teams based in Victoria bring home an impressive medal haul, including three golds, four silvers and a bronze, from the International Dragon Boat Federation’s Club Crew World Championships in Australia.
• A Victoria mother is arrested and charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of her 18-month-old daughter. Police discovered the girl when they were called to a home in the Hillside-Quadra neighbourhood on Sept. 16. Despite efforts to resuscitate her, the girl passed away.