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Farmers along lower Fraser River prepare for flooding

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NICOMEN ISLAND—Farmers along the banks of the lower Fraser River were preparing for possible flooding Wednesday as water levels on the iconic river continued to rise.

On Barnston Island, located between Pitt Meadows and Surrey B.C., farmers moved livestock to safer ground after Metro Vancouver officials issued an evacuation alert for the island that morning. Further east, on Nicomen Island just outside of Mission, dairy farmer Sydney Stoker was hopeful he wouldn’t have to do the same.

“It’s a stronger possibility than I would like,” he said.

The Mission gauge, one of several locations where the Fraser River levels are monitored, was at 5.7 metres on Wednesday morning and officials expect it could reach six metres by Friday and 6.6 metres by the middle of next week.

Floodwaters continue to rise elsewhere in the province as well, including in Grand Forks in south-central B.C., where extreme flooding has forced thousands from their homes and local officials have called on the federal government to send in the army to assist worn out emergency responders.

The province has committed to match donations to the Red Cross up to $20 million to help those affected by the flooding.

On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan and MLAs from all three parties toured areas already affected or at risk of flooding in the Fraser Valley.

“We stand together united to make sure that we leave no stone unturned, no sandbag unfilled and whatever resources are needed we all commit to make sure that they’re there for the people in the region,” Horgan told reporters.

While there is a higher degree of confidence that the region will not experience the same level of flooding seen at other periods in the last 70 years, risk remains as higher-than-normal temperatures could continue to force a rapid melt of the snowpack. Any rain could pose a further challenge.

On Nicomen Island, 72 of Stoker’s 177-acres are outside the dike system and he’s already seeing some flooding. With the Fraser River about to crest the bank he and his oldest son Matthew were scrambling to harvest as much grass feed as they could for their dairy cows Wednesday afternoon.

“This is the first time I’ve ever cut grass at 21 days,” Stoker said, standing on the banks of the river, eyes to his field. Normally, he’d wait until 28 days, but even waiting until Thursday it could be too late.

He’s already lost some of the crop from water seeping up through the ground. If the whole crop went under it would mean $20,000 to $30,000 in losses.

Stoker bought this farm in 1991. It flooded in 1997, in 1999, in 2007 and then again in 2012.

While the water levels were about eight inches from flooding the barn in 2007, he evacuated his cows just in case. He’s hopeful he won’t have to do it again, but it depends on the weather. If the temperatures stay a bit cooler that will help, but heavy rains could force his hand.

Stoker has roughly 160 cows in a barn outside dike protection and evacuating them carries its own set of risks, including injury.

“The biggest challenge is trying to do it in such a way that the animals don’t get too excited,” he said.

While most herds are well vaccinated, there’s always the risk of exposing his animals to disease if they’re mixed with another herd. It can also mean a drop in milk production.

In 2007 Stoker was able to move his herd to a property in Matsqui where another farmer had room. If he has to evacuate them this year, he’ll start by moving them to his land inside the dike.

But the dikes are substandard. The Fraser Valley Regional District has a $10.5 million grant to upgrade some of them on Nicomen Island but it would cost $100 million to get them all up to par.

If one of those dikes breached it would put their property inside the dike at risk too and leave them little time to get the cows out.

“Let’s put it this way, there would be a lot of cows making a trip across Deroche,” Stoker said.

At this point, Stoker is doing what he can to prepare for what’s to come and is hopeful this year’s freshet along the lower Fraser won’t be as bad as what’s happening elsewhere.

In south-central B.C., which has experienced the worst of the flooding so far, emergency response workers in Grand Forks are worn out and need help, said Roly Russell, the chair of the Kootenay Boundary Regional District.

“It’s awful what’s going on here,” Russell said. “We’re bearing with it, but people are exhausted.”

In total Russell estimates that roughly 100 homes have so far been lost for good to the flooding, with 3,000 people still under evacuation.

“The request (for military support) has gone up the chain of command. Hopefully someone on the other side of the country hears what we need,” Russell said.

Ainslie Cruickshank is a Vancouver-based reporter covering the environment. Follow her on Twitter: @ainscruickshank

Jesse Winter is an investigative reporter based in Vancouver. Follow him on Twitter: @jwints

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Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur to make court appearance in Toronto

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TORONTO – A man accused of killing men associated with Toronto’s gay village appeared briefly in court today.

Bruce McArthur was remanded in custody until June 22 for what is expected to be another short appearance.


READ MORE:
Toronto police to start searching more properties linked to Bruce McArthur this week

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, McArthur said little during the short appearance via video link.

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He looked downcast while his lawyer and Crown set the new date.


READ MORE:
Case of alleged Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur put over to May 23

The 66-year-old self-employed landscaper was arrested in January and charged with the murders of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen, who went missing from Toronto’s gay village in 2017.

Later that month, he was charged with the first-degree murder of Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, and Dean Lisowick. In February, he was also charged in the death of Skandaraj Navaratnam.


READ MORE:
Toronto police end search of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur’s apartment

In April police charged Mcarthur in the death of Abdulbasir Faizi, who was reported missing in 2010, and days later charged McArthur in the death of Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, who came to Canada from Sri Lanka and was not reported missing.

Police have so far recovered the remains of seven men from large planters at a Toronto home where McArthur worked and stored his equipment.

Police say cadaver dogs — including some from York Region police — are sniffing out about 100 properties both inside and outside Toronto, all with ties to McArthur.

VIDEO: New details about latest victim of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur






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Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur set to appear in court Wednesday

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Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur is expected to make a court appearance by video on Wednesday morning.

The 66-year-old landscaper is facing eight counts of first-degree murder in connection with the disappearances of a number of men, most of whom had ties to Toronto’s gay village.

McArthur was arrested and charged in January with first-degree murder in the deaths of Selim Esen, and Andrew Kinsman, both of whom went missing in 2017.

Last week, police finished an intensive search of McArthur’s Thorncliffe apartment, where they seized 1,800 exhibits and took more than 18,000 photographs. Police have found the dismembered remains of at least seven people in large planters at the home of one of McArthur’s clients.

Toronto police said earlier this month that the investigation has entered the next phase, with the use of cadaver dogs to search properties linked to McArthur.

McArthur last appeared in court on April 25.

with files from Star staff and The Canadian Press

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Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur to make Toronto court appearance

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Bruce McArthur, the alleged serial killer charged with eight counts of first-degree murder, is set to make a court appearance by video link in Toronto on Wednesday morning.

Toronto police have said they don't plan to lay any new charges.

McArthur, a 66-year-old self-employed landscaper, has been charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in connection with the disappearances of a number of men, many of whom were connected to Toronto's Gay Village.

He's accused of killing the following men: Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, Andrew Kinsman, 49, Selim Esen, 44, and Abdulbasir Faizi, 44, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37, Dean Lisowick, 47, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Majeed Kayhan, 58.

McArthur is accused of killing these eight men. Top row, from left to right, Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, Andrew Kinsman, 49, Selim Esen, 44, and Abdulbasir Faizi, 44. Bottom row, from left to right: Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37, Dean Lisowick, 47, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Majeed Kayhan, 58. (CBC/Toronto Police Service)

Police just finished a months-long, inch-by-inch search of McArthur's apartment, which they said netted more than 1,800 pieces of evidence.

Police still searching

Meanwhile, cadaver dogs are searching dozens of properties across the city where McArthur worked.

Police also plan to do more digging at a home on Mallory Crescent, near Toronto's Don Valley, where the dismembered remains of several men were found hidden in large garden planters.

Investigators said they have identified the remains of seven men, but not Kayhan's.

Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga, who is leading the investigation, has said police don't know how long the probe will continue.

McArthur, who was arrested on Jan. 18, remains in custody at the Toronto South Detention Centre in Etobicoke, in suburban Toronto.

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