Prior to being moved from Leon Avenue, residents experiencing homelessness on the road were fed up with their poor living conditions and demanded the city take action.
Aided by Surrey-based advocacy group Alliance Against Displacement, residents held a press conference to draw attention to their situation and set out a list of four demands, including more housing options, no unlawful searches of their tents, no more “stealing” by police and electrical options for heating their tents.
Following months of tension on Leon Avenue, the city shut down a homeless encampment on the street.
Inspections by the Kelowna Fire Department deemed living conditions on the street “too hazardous.”
The city selected two parks for people experiencing homelessness to set up temporary overnight shelter between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m.
A section at the base of Knox Mountain Park near Poplar Point Road (565 Poplar Point Rd.) and a park off Recreation Avenue (551 Recreation Ave.) were established for people to sleep safely at night and included washrooms, garbage disposal, sharps disposal, bottled water and daytime storage.
Disgruntled residents in the Knox Mountain area held a protest after finding out people experiencing homelessness would be allowed to set up tents in their neighbourhood.
Residents said they were worried the camp will bring drugs and crime into their neighbourhood.
Others said they were frustrated they were only informed about the camp at 9:30 a.m. on the morning of the move.
Sexual assault victim
After a Kelowna Capital News story in October shed light on the city’s shocking sexual assault statistics, one local survivor stepped forward to share her story.
According to Statistics Canada, nearly 40 per cent of sexual assaults reported to Kelowna RCMP were deemed “unfounded” in 2018.
That number is more than double the 15 per cent average across the province and dwarfs the under five per cent averages in Vancouver and Victoria.
Heather Friesen shared her experience with the RCMP’s negligence towards her case, saying that the city and local police are “steeped in rape culture.”
The mayor’s reaction to the statistics struck some in the city as cold.
Friesen again stepped forward, calling out Mayor Colin Basran and city hall for being complicit in rape culture.
Following Friesen’s callout of the mayor and a subsequent outburst against him at a city council meeting, a more formal protest was organized in front of the RCMP detachment.
RCMP cut free activists chained to
Continuing their protests from the summer, a group of animal rights activists took a more direct approach in November.
After chaining themselves together in front of Interior Savings in downtown Kelowna to protest its sponsorship of RibFest, seven activists were arrested for mischief.
According to the group of activists, it wants the bank to drop its sponsorship because animal agriculture destroys the environment and the festival allegedly uses meat from farms that have been accused of animal cruelty.
Costco relocation will create congestion
The proposed Costco relocation prompted neighbours of the new site to try and halt the project, concerned about the traffic congestion that could follow.
In September, Costco revealed plans to build a 3.6-acre warehouse with 812 parking stalls and a gas bar near the intersection of Baron Road and Leckie Road, just behind the Real Canadian Superstore.
Ron Ready, a resident in the area of the proposed location, said he is concerned that the already-heavy traffic in the area will become unmanageable if the box store is built.
$12 million needed to beef up
A report given to city council in November called for an additional 56 officers and 28 civilian positions within the Kelowna RCMP detachment by 2025 to combat understaffing and high case-loads.
Within the Kelowna RCMP, members often carry 66 files on average, more than double that of municipal RCMP members in other cities who carry an average of 32 files per officer, according to the author of the report.
The added personnel would cost the city over $12 million.
In December, the city started to make its way towards the goal of 56 additional officers by approving an additional 11 in the 2020 budget.
Kelowna’s Tolko mill to permanently
The Kelowna division of Tolko announced its mill would permanently shut down.
Following an examination of logging costs, market conditions and policies, Tolko announced the closure of the mill, which will affect nearly 130 workers.
The mill will close Jan. 8, 2020.