Timing of BC Coroner's inquest could become issue in civic campaign

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


GlobalTV provides more of their interview with Dave McLellan (video)

It's been almost a year since Garland McKay, Dwayne Rasmussen and Stephen Yellowquill tragically died in a house fire on Pandora Street in Vancouver. Once the smoke had cleared, it was revealed that the house had been inspected by the City of Vancouver on numerous occasions over the previous decade. Various inspection reports indicate the house was in terrible shape.

On October 24th the B.C. Coroner's office will begin a public inquest into what happened and whether the City of Vancouver could have done anything to prevent this tragedy. It's quite likely that one of their star witnesses will be none other than former city employee Carlene Robbins. She quit the city after almost four decades of service and is now suing her former employer. Robbins was acting as Chief Licensing Inspector at the time of the fire.

In her notice of claim filed in B.C.'s Supreme Court, she reveals the timeline of events, and their direct relationship to the Pandora Street fire. The claim describes how Robbins job wound up in limbo, and that a work environment "of hostility, embarrassment and humiliation" ensued.

As you can imagine, Robbins taking the stand and opening up about the toxic work environment at Vancouver City Hall could become a bombshell during the civic election. That is of course if she is called to testify. Regardless, the four-day public inquest is surely to capture the media's attention.

[NEW:] CityCaucus.com also placed an FOI with the Vancouver Fire Department to see if they had any reports regarding what they found. We have finally received a response to our request. The VFD report [click here for document] provides additional details regarding what they found at the flop house. Please note the [blocked] sections were blacked out by City officials:

Structure fire in a two storey, woodframe construction, protected combustible, single family residence used as a rooming (flop) house. Dwelling occupied by seven persons. Five persons occupying the top floor and two occupants residing in the basement.

Occupant in basement stated [blocked] heard popping sounds then an explosion [blocked] also stated there was heavy smoke coming from the rear of the home. FI found occupant [blocked] sitting on the front lawn intoxicated. [blocked] stated that [blocked] was sitting on the front steps having a smoke and does not know what happened inside the home at the time of the fire. Occupant was then taken by VPD to Detox...

Body#1 found in the front hallway approximately 8 feet from the front door

Body#2 found on the East bedroom bed of the main floor

Body #3 and #4 were both found in the Northwest corner bedroom...Two deceased cats found and transported to SPCA.


Given the cost for all parties on FOI requests, wouldn't the best practice to be to automatically post everything to the web that would be made available under an FOI request?

No, totally impractical as it would mean ever document produced by the City would have to be reviewed and redacted if it contained information that can not be disclosed publicly.

Walking back home down Hastings Street, after a very pleasant thanksgiving dinner, I passed two police officers, one female one male, talking to a native woman who had evidently made some complaint to them. Here, on the eve of the Oppal enquiry, is what I heard the male officer say;

"I can't take your complaint because you've been drinking and that would make it not true."

And I (for fear of what?), middle aged and middle class, smartly dressed in in jacket and tie walked by and said nothing!

david hadaway..

Interesting but very sad point..it leads one to question whether any lessons have been learned.

Your compassion, and concern to the point that you had to post this...speaks volumes of your character.

good for you david...you're a good man..

Thank you, George.

It was a sheer fluke that I overheard this, although I live in Strathcona I rarely walk down Hastings. However having seen the huge line up earlier in the day outside Union Gospel for their dinner, a block and a half and growing as I went by, something made me take that slightly out of my way route on the way home.

This was just outside Pivot's offices, of all places. The woman looked more upset than drunk to me, certainly not out of control. The officer wasn't being aggressive either, just bluntly refusing to listen. The female officer was standing aside and looked a little embarrassed. Had I been thirty seconds earlier or later on the scene there would probably have been nothing to grab my attention.

The quote is word for word, I noted it down at once back at my house, a verbal snapshot of our city. The contrast of that woman's life with mine struck me deeply. She, alone in the cold, powerless in the face of authority, Me, returning to a warm home from a party with three generations of family, including a retired judge and former cabinet minister.

I'd been reading the article about Pandora Street just before going out, it was still on my computer screen, and the parallel seemed obvious, people who are ignored and despised, until too many of them die at once and shame us all.

And as a postscript, when I got home this evening there in the mailbox was a request from First United Church for funds to keep their shelter going after December, the same church whose storage facility for the homeless came close to closure so recently because the city had other priorities.

david hadaway
You were meant to be there and to tell this story...something to be very thankful for...
This is the best Thanksgiving story I've ever read....believe it or not, by posting, you have given this woman her power back...
Happy Thanksgiving..

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