Slow start for Surrey-led petition to eliminate refugee transportation loan

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Photo via

The City of Surrey is asking the community to sign a petition asking the federal government to get rid of a transportation loan for refugees – but signatures are proving hard to come by.

So far less than 200 people have signed the petition which began in November 2013.

Surrey’s social policy advisory committee began a petition in November 2013 asking the minister of citizenship and immigration to stop requiring government-assisted refugees (GARs) from having to pay back the interest bearing loan which funds cover their pre-entry medical exam and transportation costs to resettle in Canada.

Canada is the only country worldwide that issues interest bearing loans to government-assisted refugees. Continue reading


Surrey teams take part in cricket action in Lower Mainland tournament

Several Surrey cricket teams participated in the British Columbia Mainland Cricket League‘s pre-season Twenty20 tournament this past weekend. The Surrey United, Surrey Hawks and Newton Surrey cricket clubs each sent two teams to the tournament, which was held at cricket pitches in West Vancouver, Richmond and South Surrey. Twenty20 is a faster version of the game in which each team bats for a maximum of 20 overs (which consists of six balls pitched, or ‘bowled’).

A Surrey United batter prepares for a ball bowled by Jimmy Hansra of Abbotsford. Hansra is the captain of the Canadian cricket team.

A Surrey United batter prepares to hit a ball bowled by an Abbotsford player.

I headed to Hugo Ray Park in West Vancouver on Sunday to film some of the games for a video project I was working on. While I was there I watched Surrey United face off against Abbotsford. The Abbotsford team had the advantage of having Jimmy Hansra, captain of Canada’s national cricket team, playing for them.

Jimmy Hansra, captain of the Canadian cricket team.

Jimmy Hansra, captain of the Canadian cricket team.

I spoke to Hansra after the game, and he told me he began playing cricket with the Abbotsford team, and continues to play with them when he is not busy touring with the Canadian team. I thought it was neat that he still plays with his hometown team and hasn’t forgotten his roots.

If you didn’t think there was much of a cricket scene in B.C., you’d be mistaken. There are 37 teams from all over the Lower Mainland participating in the tournament, and there are a total of 73 teams in eight divisions that play during the regular season.

I spoke to Alex Turko, president of the BCMCL, who told me that the cricket scene in B.C. has grown rapidly in recent years.

“Twenty years ago there were probably about 20, 25 teams  playing…we have well over 70 teams playing in the league and that’s because of the recent immigration from Southeast Asia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka…and cricket is the game in that part of the world.”

The Surrey school district also has a cricket club, as does the Vancouver school district. The school cricket season runs for six to eight weeks after spring break.

“That’s one of our goals, to try and grow the sport at the school level,” Turko said.

A Surrey United cricket player sits with pads and helmet on, waiting for his turn to bat.

A Surrey United cricket player sits with pads and helmet on, waiting for his turn to bat.

The Twenty20 tournament will continue over the following three weekends, with finals taking place on April 13, 19 and 20. The full schedule of events is available here.

Here is a video I made about the cricket scene in BC:

Longboarding site coming to South Surrey

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Photo via

South Surrey Athletic Park will be the place to be for longboarders in Surrey starting next month.

City council has approved a temporary longboarding site at the park with the aim of keeping longboarders off city streets and helping young boarders learn how to ride safely from those experienced in the sport.

The pilot project will run from April to September 2014.

“We’re going to have actual lessons from experienced longboarders…teaching safety around longboarding, and trying to get longboarders that have been using public streets to engage in this pilot project within the park,” said Coun. Linda Hepner.

The origin of this pilot project dates back to Oct. 16, 2013, when a delegation of local board riders and Surrey RCMP Const. Troy Derrick spoke to Surrey’s park, recreation and sport tourism committee about the need for a designated area for longboarding in the city.

In the previous months media coverage of longboarding accidents during the summer had sparked debate between the longboarding community, concerned citizens and the local authorities about the safety risks of the sport. Longboarding is banned on the streets of Surrey.

The delegation discussed the rapid growth of the sport and the lack of facilities for younger longboarders to learn the necessary safety basics from more experienced riders. Several parks in the region were identified as being potential sites for longboarding.

“It was clear that there was some enthusiasm from the boarders themselves to make this a success,” Hepner said.

“We’re teaming up with them, and they’re the ones that are going to be helping with those that show up and are interested in the programs.”

A report submitted to city council recommending the approval of the site said RCMP officers often see longboarding happening on the streets of Surrey, and that “having this pilot project will also provide the RCMP with the ability to direct longboarders off the streets to an alternate site.”

Hepner said if the project is successful the park may become a permanent site for the sport and the city may look for other potential locations.

Surrey schools aim to attract international students with low tuition fees

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Surrey wants to attract more international students to its schools – which is why the school district is offering the lowest international student fees in the Lower Mainland for the next two school years.

The Surrey school district recently approved the tuition fee for international students for the 2014/2015 school year – a decision which is made annually. When I reviewed the amounts in the minutes of a recent school district meeting I thought it was interesting that the fees for Surrey schools are considerably lower than any other school district in the region.

District 2014/2015 school year 2015/2016 school year
Surrey $12,900 $13,500
Langley $12,900 $13,550
Delta $14,000 $14,100
New Westminster $14,000 $14,050
Coquitlam $14,000 $14,100
Burnaby $14,050 $14,100
Vancouver $14,050 $14,100

I spoke to Angela Olson, manager of international education for the Surrey school district, to find out more.

She said it was “very intentional.”

Olson said this year the board waited to see what other school districts – such as Vancouver and Burnaby – would set their fees to, and how it would be received. The Surrey school district then coordinated with the Langley school district to set their amounts.

“We wanted to remain competitive. We look at where we are with our proximity with Vancouver. So sometimes there are other things that we need to do to appeal to students to get them to come and study in Surrey.”

Olson told me the district has also decided to approve international student fees 18 months in advance from this year onward so that the change in fees can be made known to agents and used in marketing materials and application forms.

While Surrey has a growing school district and doesn’t need international students to counter declining enrollment, diversity and financial gain are some of the benefits for the school district.

“There’s a good financial contribution that goes to the school district, and the funds that come in from international student fees are at the school district’s discretion on how to spend,” said Olson.

See a complete breakdown of tuition costs here:

District 2014/2015 school year 2015/2016 school year
Surrey $12,900

includes $12,100 tuition, $800 medical


includes $12,600 tuition increase of $500, $900 medical

Langley $12,900

includes $12,100 tuition, $800 medical, $150 application fee


includes $12,600 tuition increase of $500, $900 medical, $150 application fee

Delta $14,000

includes $13,000 tuition, $800 medical, $200 application fee


increase to $900 for medical

New Westminster $14,000

includes $13,000 tuition, $850 medical, $150 application fee


increase to $900 for medical

Coquitlam $14,000

includes $13,000 tuition, $800 medical, $200 application fee


increase to $900 for medical

Burnaby $14,050

includes $13,000 tuition, $850 medical, $200 application fee


increase to $900 for medical

Vancouver $14,050

includes $13,000 tuition, $850 medical, $200 application fee


increase to $900 for medical

Pharmacy selling methadone near daycare worries Surrey councillors

A bottle of methadone. Photo via

A bottle containing methadone. Photo via

A pharmacy selling methadone close to a daycare has Surrey councillors concerned. Surrey City council wants more measures in place to ensure the pharmacy is following correct procedures in dispensing the drug. Methadone is an opioid drug most commonly used to treat addictions to other opioids such as heroin and OxyContin.

According to the City of Surrey bylaw regulating the dispensing of methadone, a drug store is required to have at least 65 per cent of its total floor space dedicated to displaying health and beauty products and general merchandise.

Surrey city council is concerned that the pharmacy is not following these conditions, and want measures in place to ensure that other items are also being sold at the store. Council have asked city staff to provide a full report regarding the pharmacy in question.

“The question to our staff is when [drug stores] are registering as a business, how are we confirming they are in fact the broader pharmacies,” said Coun. Linda Hepner.

The bylaw, updated in 2008, also states that methadone-dispensing pharmacies cannot be within 400 metres of one other. The penalty for violating this bylaw is a fine no less than $100 and no greater than $5,000.

Read the City of Surrey’s bylaw regulating the dispensing of methadone below:

A view from the nest – Eagle cams in South Surrey

The Lower Mainland is the bald eagle capital of the world according to biologist and conservationist David Hancock, and the Semiahmoo and Boundary Bays in particular are ideal nesting grounds for the birds.

While you may be able to spot these graceful birds in the sky or perched at the top of a tree, there’s nothing like seeing them up close – and the eagle cameras on the Hancock Wildlife Foundation website allows one to do so.

The website gives viewers a chance to see inside an eagles’ nest by streaming feeds from live cameras aimed on five nests in the Lower Mainland.

A screen capture from the live feed of one of the South Surrey eagle nests. Image via

A screen capture from the live feed of one of the South Surrey eagle nests. Image via

I spoke to David Hancock this week about his eagle cameras, and he told me he began setting up live feeds on his foundation’s website eight years ago. Hancock told me the foundation received 500 million hits for its first eagle cam live stream during the first year.

Hancock said the cameras have assisted in his own research of the birds.

“I’ve been an eagle biologist all my life, so it was kind of awesome for me to have an intimate look at the eagles.”

“Most people who’ve done studies have done them through a telescope,” Hancock said.

“That’s a little bit different than being right next to them and seeing them where they can reach up with their beak and thump the camera, and you can hear it go, ‘click’.”

One of the nests is on the property belonging to South Surrey residents Russell and Ellen Cmolik.

After their house was built they ‘adopted’ a pair of eagles whose previous nest – 500 yards from the Cmolik’s property – had come down. The foundation prepared the framework for a new nest, which the eagles quickly took to when they returned from their migration.

Ellen Cmolik said the live stream has been a big hit – especially when the eagles expanded their family.

“Some people couldn’t tear themselves away when the babies were born,” she said.

Bald eagle parent with two baby eagles. Image via

Bald eagle parent with two baby eagles. Image via

There is also a discussion forum for the nest on the website.

Along with the eagle cams, the foundation website also has live streams of wildlife from a range of other cameras around the world.

Hancock said the Hancock Wildlife Foundation hopes in future to produce programs that will fit in school curriculums and raise awareness of conservation issues.

If you prefer trying to spot these graceful birds with the naked eye, click here for a listing of bald eagle nests around Metro Vancouver

A screen capture from the live feed of one of the South Surrey eagle cams. Image via

A bald eagle watches over the nest in this screen capture from the live feed of one of the South Surrey eagle cams. Image via

Have ice, will skate: Ice skating at Serpentine Fen in February

It’s been an unusual winter for the Lower Mainland. A lot more snow than usual, and a lot less rain – something I’m definitely not complaining about.

Earlier in February I was passing through Surrey to visit my family, and when I drove past Serpentine Fen on King George Boulevard (near Highway 99) I noticed the ponds had frozen over and lots of people were out ice skating and playing ice hockey. I didn’t have enough time to stop and take pictures, but I’ve scoured twitter and instagram to find some pictures of the fun:

Not a bad day for some pond hockey #sundayfunday

A post shared by Jenna Leigh (@hyjennaist) on

Not a bad day for some pond hockey #sundayfunday

Skating on the fen. 2 times in one year! #canadiandream

A post shared by Morgan Seatter (@morganseatter) on

Skating on the fen. 2 times in one year!#canadiandream

This little video by joce_wong captures some dogs running on the ice:

Joey stole the puck. I don’t think he understands the rules #shorkie #hockey

Serpentine Fen was also iced over in December last year.

With or without snow, Serpentine Fen is a beautiful gem in the City of Surrey.