Kelowna’s year in review – March 2020

Top stories from the month of March

Kelowna RCMP create sex crimes unit

After months of public outcry over how the Kelowna RCMP was investigating and classifying sexual assault files, the detachment announced it would be further investigating 12 such cases and creating a sex crimes unit.

The recommendation came from the RCMP’s national Sexual Assault Review Team (SART), which investigated local Mounties’ responses to such files, after Statistics Canada data showed nearly 40 per cent of sexual assaults reported to police were deemed “unfounded” through 2018 and 2019.

After review and reclassification of files, the numbers came back in line with the provincial average.

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Adjustments as COVID ramps up

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran addresses media from the front steps of council chambers on March 23. 
(Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran addresses media from the front steps of council chambers on March 23. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

March saw several postponements, which would later become full-on cancellations.

The Kelowna Rockets’ season, several expositions and other events were put on hold, only to later be cancelled entirely.

Classes moved online for post-secondary and grade school students; school trips were cancelled.

Non-essential businesses closed, and most people cooped up inside their homes as provincial health officials recommended social distancing.

Traffic through Kelowna International Airport went down significantly, and has continued at a low rate throughout the pandemic. Airport management said it could be up to five years before the airport returns to pre-pandemic levels. Last year, YLW hit two million passengers for the first time.

This year, it’s expected to it around 700,000.

Jailed two years for 30K child porn files

Protesters gather in front of the RCMP detachment in Kelowna in late November to voice their concerns about the high number of sexual assault reports that were deemed “unfounded” in 2019. (Michael Rodriquez - Kelowna Capital News)

Protesters gather in front of the RCMP detachment in Kelowna in late November to voice their concerns about the high number of sexual assault reports that were deemed “unfounded” in 2019. (Michael Rodriquez - Kelowna Capital News)

A Kelowna man convicted of possessing over 27,000 photos and 1,000 videos containing child pornography was sentenced to two years in prison followed by three years of probation in a provincial courtroom in Kelowna on March 13.

Tanner Klassen, 26, was charged on March 23, 2018, after accidentally selling a TV with a USB flash drive hidden in a secret compartment. Klassen asked the individual to retrieve the device for him, but curious as to what was on the device, the man looked and found various files containing child porn with children as young as three-years-old. Klassen was charged after the individual went to the police.

Klassen said he hadn’t used the drive since receiving it. However, the device was found in a TV manufactured in 2013 – two years after he claimed to have recieved it from a “group of middle school kids.”

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Former mayor dies

Former Kelowna mayor Jim Stewart

Former Kelowna mayor Jim Stewart

Former Kelowna Mayor Jim Stuart died in March.

Stuart, the namesake of downtown Kelowna’s Stuart Park, saw the city’s growth from a primarily farm-based city to the economic centre it is today.

“As Kelowna goes through another extended period of expansion, I can imagine the pressures and the forethought mayor Stuart needed to call upon to steer the city from its past to its future,” said Mayor Colin Basran. “Change is never easy, and mayor Stuart guided the city through probably its biggest shift ever. I know it must have been difficult for him, but he always had the best interests of the city in mind and he guided his council through many difficult decisions and directions.”

Stuart was awarded the City of Kelowna’s Freedom of the City award in 2001, an honourary distinction only granted to 18 people since it was introduced in Kelowna in 1946.

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First murder of the year

View of Trumpeter Court in Kelowna, B.C. on March 24, 2020. (Photo - Daniel Taylor)
View of Trumpeter Court in Kelowna, B.C. on March 24, 2020. (Photo - Daniel Taylor)

View of Trumpeter Court in Kelowna, B.C. on March 24, 2020. (Photo - Daniel Taylor)
View of Trumpeter Court in Kelowna, B.C. on March 24, 2020. (Photo - Daniel Taylor)

An Upper Mission killing in late March was the first of the year in Kelowna.

On March 24, gunshots rang out in the 300-block of Trumpeter Court, just before midnight. Police arrived on the scene to find a man dead inside a vehicle near a home at the end of the court.

The detachment’s serious crimes unit took over the file, but information has been sparse since April.

The RCMP confirmed that no arrests have been made in relation to the death to this point.

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Year in Review