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The BC Coroners Service is expected to release data today on drug toxicity deaths for all of 2022. The update comes as it is now OK for people in British Columbia to carry small amounts of illegal drugs for their own use. BC’s Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside says decriminalization is aimed at reducing stigma so people seek the help they need as the province ramps up services. More than 11 thousand people have died of illicit drug overdoses in BC since the province declared a public health emergency in 2016.

The union representing transit drivers in BC’s Fraser Valley has given strike notice and could stop collecting fares on Thursday. CUPE 561 served the strike notice to First Transit, the contracted company that operates BC Transit services in Chilliwack, Abbotsford and the surrounding region. Along with halting fare collection on Thursday if a deal isn’t reached, the union says two days of full-service withdrawal, excluding HandyDART services, are slated for February 27th and 28th. The union says its members make significantly less than transit workers across the Lower Mainland and have no pension plan.

The inquest into the death of a Vancouver police officer is expected to conclude today. Constable Nicole Chan died by suicide in January 2019 following a mental health crisis after sexual relationships with two senior VPD officers. The jury heard from Chan’s friend Monday who said Chan believed she would never return to work because human resource officers went to the hospital when she was apprehended under the Mental Health Act. The inquest’s five-member jury can’t place blame for Chan’s death but it can make recommendations to prevent deaths in similar circumstances.

A joint operation between fisheries officers and the coast guard seized 270 crab traps suspected to have been set illegally in Boundary Bay, near Whiterock, B-C. A statement says, the operation spanned five days and included 27 strings. Hundreds of Dungeness crab, red rock crab and fish were returned to the water from the traps that were seized. Fishery officers will now attempt to identify the seized traps and gear to find the perpetrators.

The Victoria Police Department and Island Health have launched a new program that pairs registered mental health clinicians with police officers to respond to calls that involve a mental health component. The Co-Response Team operates from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.,  seven days a week and can refer people for community-based mental health follow-up or provide emergency intervention. Island Health board chair Leah Hollins says collaborative efforts aim to reduce harm to people in crisis, the community and clinical mental health staff. The team responds to calls in Victoria and Esquimalt.

A former elementary school in Lake Cowichan, BC, is slated for demolition 15 years after students were transferred out because of its condition due to “environmental conditions” inside the  39-year-old building. Now, Cowichan Valley School District says it has secured funding from the province to demolish and remediate the old school site. Demolition is expected to wrap up at the end of March and the Crown land returned to the province.