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Woman held hostage during B.C. bank shooting experiencing roller-coaster of emotions

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Shelli Fryer was wide awake at 2:54 on Canada Day and hoped the stack of messages piling up in recent days could help her close her eyes.

The 59-year-old Langford, B.C., woman said she’s been having trouble sleeping since Tuesday when she was among those held hostage during a violent bank shooting in Saanich.

The messages pouring in since then, she said, have offered some of the comfort she’s sought and commended her bravery during the ordeal.

“There is just so much love I’m getting from all these strangers,” she said in a telephone interview. “It’s overwhelming.”

Six officers were shot and 22-year-old twin brothers identified as Mathew and Isaac Auchterlonie from Duncan, B.C., were killed in the shootout with police on Tuesday outside the Bank of Montreal in Saanich.

Police have said multiple explosive devices were found in a vehicle linked to the two men, who have yet to be identified. Officers are still investigating the possibility of a third suspect.

Fryer has been mentally replaying Tuesday morning’s events ever since.

She pulled her blue Ford Bronco into the bank’s parking lot for an 11 a.m. appointment with the manager about a loan. Within a minute or two of sitting down in his glass-panelled office, Fryer said they heard a loud boom.

“The manager said ‘we’re being robbed’. He knew right away.”

The 17 women and five men in the branch that day all got on the grey floor immediately, Fryer said. She described the suspects as wearing all black including balaclavas, gloves, jackets, vests, body armour and pads covering the calves from the knee down.

One suspect came up to the bank manager and said “vault,” she recalled.

“He stared right at me twice. For 20 seconds,” she said. “But I couldn’t see his eyes. I couldn’t see his mouth. I couldn’t see any skin tone whatsoever.”

The manager tried to hand over the keys but the suspect pointed towards the vault and they walked off together, leaving Fryer in the room. She waited for the gunman to come back for her.

“I think he forgot about me,” she said.

Fryer got down on the floor and called the police. Her phone’s call log shows she dialed 911 at 11:04 a.m.

She whispered a description of the situation into the phone, fearing all the while she’d draw attention to herself by breaking the “eerie silence” that had descended on the branch, she said.

She left the phone on so the 911 operators could hear what was going on, turned down the volume so the suspects couldn’t hear if emergency personnel spoke and covered the phone with her long pink skirt so it wouldn’t be visible, she said.

For what “felt like an eternity,” she said there was “dead silence.”

Fryer said she felt little fear and experienced no dramatic moments as she hid behind a chair she doubted offered much protection.

“It was actually more like, ‘I think we’re gonna get out of this,’” she said. “I need to get the police though here. I’m just gonna let the police know. If the police get here, it will be OK.”

But then an “almighty hail of gunfire” rang out, she said, gasping at the remembered shock.

That’s when she ran and hid alone under a shelf in the manager’s office while others took shelter in a filing room.

Fryer said that while she felt the urge to panic with one half of her brain, the other half was reminding her to “just breathe.”

“‘The worst thing that’s going to  happen is, those shots will go right through the drywall and you’re going to be hit,’” she remembered thinking.

Fryer’s phone shows her call with 911, and the ordeal, lasted one hour, 26 minutes and five seconds.

While Fryer’s recollections of the attack are sharp, she said the rest of the day passed in a blur of police interviews, arrangements to retrieve her car and finally a meal of Asian food with her daughter.

The trauma of being held hostage comes in waves, she said. Fryer has spoken with police and victim services about how she feels, and she said she’s been told it will take time to process what she’s been through.

“It’s back and forth, you know? It’s like grief. You go through the whole stages, right? Sometimes you may never hit the last stage.”

But in the quiet moments, Fryer said she most often remembers seeing police walk through the bank door and hearing their concern for those trapped inside.

“The first words each and every officer said to us was, ‘I’m sorry this is happening to you.’ Even when they just came in from the gunfire,” she said. “… And much, much later we find out that six of their brothers-in-arms had been shot and injured.”

She feels “horrible” and “guilty” because she didn’t think about asking the officers whether any police had been injured, she said, though she and others inquired after the welfare of civilians.

“And each and every one of their energy and body language walking in and out of the crime scene did not give us any reason to even think to ask, ‘were any officers injured?’”

Saanich police Chief Const. Dean Duthie said three of the officers remain in hospital, including one in intensive care, while another will require more surgeries.

Fryer was born in Chicago and came to Canada when she was seven. Her experience with the police last week has made her feel “extra proud” to be Canadian, she said.

Since Tuesday when she started talking about her experience at the bank, Fryer said apart from strangers she’s also got messages from people whom she knew in another lifetime.

She got an email from her first roommate with whom she lived while working her first job after graduating high school when she was 18.

“We lived together for like eight years, and I was a bridesmaid at her wedding. I haven’t seen her since 1989. She reached out. Isn’t that funny?” she said.

“This is going to be life changing in many ways for me and I’m very grateful now because it could be very cool.”

Fryer has also been able to find levity — such as what to do with the outfit she was wearing on Tuesday at the bank – a long sleeve shirt, pink maxi skirt and pink high-heeled sandals.

“I’m going to throw it out,” she said. “I’ve had it for so long anyway. Or I should frame it. I really liked it too, though.”

She even plans to return to the bank, whose employees she said showed incredible professionalism under duress and whose manager she described as unflappable.

“I have to finish my appointment,” she said with a laugh. “I sat down for two minutes. We got interrupted.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022.

 

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

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Canadians favour metric measurements, but use imperial: poll – CTV News

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While many Canadians don’t support moving away from the metric system of measurement, many continue to use imperial measurements in their daily lives, a new online poll by Research Co. has found

Canada is a “metric” nation, having officially converted in 1970, but there is inconsistency in employing such measurements, the poll published Monday has found, with Canadians gravitating toward imperial measurements for height, weight and oven temperature.

It was found that 80 per cent of Canadians measured a person’s height in feet and inches, while only 20 per cent rely on metres and centimetres.

Seventy-six per cent of Canadians determined a person’s weight in pounds, while only 24 per cent did in kilograms. And finally, 59 per cent measured their oven temperature in Fahrenheit while 41 per cent preferred Celsius.

But for volume, speed and outdoor temperature, Canadians preferred the metric system, the poll found.

Eighty-four per cent of Canadians determined the volume of liquid in a container in litres, whereas 16 percent used quarts and gallons.

Eighty-two per cent of Canadians gauged a vehicle’s speed in kilometres per hour, whereas 28 per cent did in miles per hour. For measuring the outdoor temperature, 77 per cent of Canadians used Celsius, compared to 23 per cent who used Fahrenheit.

There were also discrepancies in who wants to adopt which system across the country, with the preferences greatly differing according to age.

“Practically two-in-five Canadians aged 55 and over (38 per cent) would go back to the imperial system of units,” said Mario Canseco, President of Research Co., in a release.

“This wish is less prevalent among their counterparts aged 35-to-54 (23 per cent) and aged 18-to-34 (24 per cent).”

Overall, the poll found that the metric system was preferred by more than half (56 per cent) of its respondents, compared to 23 per cent against it.

The online poll surveyed 1000 Canadian adults from Aug.1 to Aug. 3, and was “statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region,” according to the release.

The only countries in the world that still use the imperial system on a daily basis are the United States, Myanmar, and Liberia.

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Where to look for cheap rent in Canada, as prices soar, again – CBC.ca

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As rent prices spiked over the past two months, affordable pockets of rental housing became harder and harder to find.

In July, the average monthly cost for rental properties across Canada was $1,934 — up 10.4 per cent over last year, according to the data of the property listing company Rentals.ca. A similar hike in June saw the average rent spike 9.5 per cent.

Analysts say the steep prices are being driven by more demand than inventory.

And that demand is being driven in part by some people fleeing larger cities, while others flock to them.

This creates a challenge for people like Joan Alexander.

The senior has rented homes across Canada, in St. Catharines, Ont., and Guelph, Ont., then in Castlegar, B.C., and for the past two years on Prince Edward Island.

Joan Alexander, left, sits with her dog Beau and her partner Elizabeth Huether. They plan to move from P.E.I. to Lloydminster this October. (Submitted by Joan Alexander )

Alexander and her partner chose Summerside, a city about 50 kilometres northwest of Charlottetown, for its small-town feel.

But rising rental costs and other considerations — like proximity to health care — are driving her to relocate.

“We really hoped that P.E.I. would be our last stop on our life journey,” she said. 

Last year, rents on P.E.I. rose higher than they had in a decade. Plus rental places are scarce.

Finding affordable rental housing in Canada after a pandemic is proving a challenge for many, with spiking interest rates, inflation and limited rental stock. 

Ben Myers, president of Bullpen Research and Consulting, a real estate advisory firm that tracks rental pricing in Canada, says if you are looking for a deal there still are some places he’d describe as comparatively “cheap.”

He suggests looking at Red Deer or Lethbridge in Alberta, or Saskatoon.

“You can get a two-bedroom for under $1,150 a month. It’s all about where you can work,” said Myers. 

Alexander says she was able to find a few havens on the Prairies.

“It felt almost too good to be true. There seemed to be a few pockets where we could find what we were looking for. Pet friendly, affordable, safe housing,” said Alexander, who needs monitoring after donating a kidney and a place that welcomes her small, beloved dog — Beau.

Lloydminster — a city that spans Alberta and Saskatchewan — attracted Alexander and her spouse with affordable prices and a pet-friendly property owner.

They move in October to their new $1,200-per-month home.

WATCH | Priced out by rising rents:

Soaring prices leaving some renters priced out

10 hours ago

Duration 2:03

While the housing market may be cooling down, the rental market is on fire, with the price of an average unit up 10 per cent compared to last year. That has left many renters scrambling to find suitable housing.

Rentals.ca listings include detached and semi-detached homes, townhouses, condominium apartments, rental apartments and basement apartments. The company can’t provide an average rent for all cities. Some smaller communities don’t have enough rentals to get an accurate average.

So it’s worth hunting. There are some hidden gems.

Myers says that in a normal year, rent can fluctuate on average three to five per cent. But average rents grew 10 to 12 per cent in 2019, due to a shortage of supply, he says. Then the pandemic hit and rent declined, on average, 15 to 20 per cent.

“We are now adjusting back to pre-pandemic levels,” said Myers.

Renters on the move

Then there are the super-expensive anomalies — like Vancouver, which rebounded even faster from the pandemic, with a per month average rent of $2,300 in June 2022. 

Myers says there have also been significant shifts to cities that used to enjoy low rent, as some people migrate to smaller places where they can get more real estate for their dollar.

Retiring Baby Boomers from the Toronto area are creating demand and raising prices in places like the Niagara Region and Halifax, for example. 

“Halifax has gone kind of nuclear. Definitely a lot of Ontarians moved to Halifax during the pandemic,” Myers said.

Also, he says a lot of students stayed in their university towns like Victoria, London, Ont., and Kingston, Ont., when offices closed during the past two years.

“All the benefits of living in a big city were almost bad because you didn’t want to be around a lot of people during a pandemic,” said Myers. 

Vanishing affordable rentals

But all this change has just put more pressure on the rental market that’s been seeing declines in rental options for low earners for more than a decade, according to housing policy researcher Steve Pomeroy.

He uses Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) data to probe losses in the rental market.

Rents can fluctuate on average three to five per cent, says one expert. But when the pandemic hit they dropped, on average, 15 to 20 per cent. (CBC)

Pomeroy, the senior research fellow for the Centre of Urban Research at Carleton University, estimates that between 2011 and 2016, the number of rental units that would be affordable for households earning less than $30,000 per year — with rents below $750 — declined by 322,600 in Canada.

That has an effect on the one in three Canadians who rent, according to 2016 census data.

Pomeroy says historically Quebec offered the largest rental stock available in the country.

“Quebec has always been culturally very different. Rent is much more culturally accepted. It’s a bit about European influence … You get these very scenic estates of two-, three-storey homes with the wrought iron staircase and with three units, and two are rented. So by definition, two-thirds of your population are renters,” he said.

He says perhaps it’s time for the remainder of Canada to consider a more European model, where renting is more accepted. 

He says there are many cities, in France and Germany for example, where renters almost match owners in population.

North America historically has had a different culture, where owning is seen as better.

“Traditionally there has been very strong support for home ownership. Here in Canada we’ve had mortgage insurance including increasing access to credit for buyers … the political system has very much reinforced that belief system, that ownership is the right thing to do.”

But now, tenancy and anti-poverty organizations are lobbying for more renters’ rights. That’s something Pomeroy sees as a positive shift.

He also says he believes many younger Canadians see renting as their future. It gives them the freedom to pursue experiences, move for jobs and not remain tethered to a property that they can’t afford.

Pomeroy recently asked his graduate students — all employed and in their 20s — if they thought they could buy a home in the next five years. Would you want to?

He says he was surprised to hear for the first time, none of them believed they could.

“Nobody thought they could, and only about half actually wanted to.”

Historically, Quebec has had the most rental stock available in the country, like this Montreal building, seen in May, featuring a wrought-iron staircase and a shared garden area. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

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A year after the fall of Kabul, Canadian veterans urge Ottawa not to abandon Afghans trying to flee – CBC News

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It’s been one year since Kabul fell to the Taliban after American and allied troops — including Canadians — left the country.

Video footage showed Afghans streaming onto the tarmac at the Kabul airport, desperate to escape, as a U.S. air force plane took off. Some fell to their death trying to hold on.

“We watched that terrible situation unfold … we saw that tremendous catastrophe that happened in Kabul,” said Brian Macdonald.

A Canadian veteran who served in Afghanistan, Macdonald leads the non-profit Aman Lara, which is Pashto for “Sheltered Path.” The collective of Canadian veterans and former interpreters has been working over the last year to bring refugees to safety in Canada.

“When we were unable to get them out a year ago, it was devastating. But since then we’ve come together, we’ve doubled down and been able to get 3,000 people out,” he said.

But it’s been a slow and dangerous process when those refugees need to go through the Taliban to get a passport.

“These people that have helped Canada now have to stand up and go to an office that’s controlled by the Taliban and give their name and address and the dates of birth of their children,” Macdonald said.

“It’s a very dangerous thing to do.”

Brian Macdonald, the executive director of Aman Lara, says the non-profit has successfully helped more than 3,000 Afghan refugees to safety in Canada since Kabul fell to the Taliban one year ago. (Derek Hooper/CBC)

There was hope this June, when Pakistan agreed to temporarily allow Afghan refugees approved to come to Canada across its border, without a passport or visa.

But Macdonald says they’ve hit roadblocks bringing those refugees to Canada.

“We were hoping it would be thousands, and it ended up being dozens,” he said.

“We’re dealing with the Afghan-Pakistani border, and it’s a very wild place. And so messages aren’t always clearly communicated, but we believe the window may still be open.”

Ottawa promises to speed up application process

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Canada has added more employees on the ground to process applications as quickly as possible, including in Pakistan.

The department did not say how many undocumented Afghans have successfully made it to Canada through the arrangement with Pakistan.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, Italian coalition forces assist and escort evacuees for onward processing during an evacuation at the Kabul, Afghanistan airport on Aug. 24. (Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/U.S. Marine Corps/The Associated Press)

Canada initially said it would bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada — focusing on Afghans who were employed by the Canadian government and military. The federal government says that, to date, it has welcomed 17,300, with more still to arrive “in the coming weeks and months.”

“We remain steadfast in our collective resolve to bring vulnerable Afghans to safety in Canada as quickly as possible,” says a joint statement released Monday by Fraser, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan.

The statement does not indicate when Ottawa expects to reach its target of resettling 40,000 Afghans.

In the statement, the ministers lamented what they called the “steady deterioration” of human and democratic rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power last year, citing the reintroduction of severe restrictions on the ability of women and girls to go to school and to move freely within the country.

‘We can hold our heads high,’ says deputy PM about evacuation

But the federal government has been criticized for not doing more to help Afghans who assisted Canada in the NATO-led effort and are now at risk of being killed by the Taliban for their ties to Western nations.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said “we need to not think in the past tense” when asked if Canada could have done more a year ago.

“We can hold our heads up high when we think about our response compared to that of our allies. There is a lot more work to do,” Freeland said in Toronto on Thursday.

“We need to keep on working to bring more people from Afghanistan to Canada, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Deputy prime minister answers questions about Afghanistan

4 days ago

Duration 2:23

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada’s priority is to focus on the women and children of Afghanistan ‘who have suffered real setbacks.’

Last month, Canada stopped accepting new applications to its special immigration program, a move that advocates say amounts to the abandoning of Afghans desperate to come to this country.

Macdonald hopes the federal government reconsiders its approach and commits to welcoming every Afghan who helped the government into Canada.

“A year ago, we were panicking to get as many people out as possible,” Macdonald said.

“We all thought — as veterans and other interpreters — that that window had closed, that the people we didn’t get out were stuck in Afghanistan.

“But what we’ve learned over the last year is we can still move them out. It’s at a snail’s pace. It’s not as many people as we’d like. But we are still grinding away every day, moving people out of Afghanistan.  And we’re just going to keep doing that until we get as many people out as we possibly can.”

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