The cost of living in Prince George goes up, and the victim of a 32-year-old murder is found in the heart of the city
Living wage in Prince George is calculated at $21.19/hour
Good morning. Today’s newsletter contains distressing details. I am placing all those details below the fold, so you can read the other stories first and then close if you’d prefer not to see it. There will be plenty of warning.
Expect rail lines and highways in Prince George to be even busier as a $75M expansion is underway at the Port of Prince Rupert.
Prince George will now be represented provincially by members of the B.C. United party, assuming B.C. Liberal party leadership agrees with their members on the change.
UNBC professor (and new Canadian senator!) Margo Greenwood is part of a team behind a new textbook on Indigenous experiences in healthcare.
Two earthquakes were detected near Fort St. John over the past week.
The ice oval is now aiming for a Sunday opening.
A preview of Theatre Northwest’s production of a Patsy Cline musical.
Everybody’s got to make a living (wage)
What does it cost to make a living in Prince George? According to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives $21.19 an hour — $5.54 more than our current minimum wage of $15.65.
The CCPA has not included Prince George in previous calculations but in 2013 UNBC and the United Way pegged living wage at $16.90/hour. Different times, though perhaps notable that our minimum wage isn’t even high enough to match the cost of living in Prince George a decade ago, before we had a housing and rental crunch.
Anyways, at $21.19 Prince George is kinda smack-dab in the middle of the cost of living in B.C — higher than Kamloops and Nanaimo, but lower than Kelowna or Prince Rupert.
I also headed over to Indeed and it looks like major employers — Northern Health, the school district, the city, Canfor — are offering at or above living wage for their postings, but if you’re in the service industry, you’re looking at offerings well below it.
Also, speaking of the cost of living, Prince George was not included in this analysis on the cost of rent across Canada, possibly because there are currently only four listings on the website from which data was scraped. The listings that ARE there, though, which include the new units at Recplace (by Mr. PG), are all in the $1,100 to under $2,000 range which would put us somewhere in the yellow/orange range if they were at all representative. On Kijiji it seems to be about the same.
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Ok, this is the content warning. Disturbing details follow.
The disappearance and death of Donna Charlie, as told through newspaper archives
Yesterday, RCMP in Prince George announced they had found the remains of a 22-year-old woman who went missing 32 years ago, in 1990. The word they used was “remains” but since it was well-reported that they found her body but not her head back in 1991, media quickly confirmed what those remains were. Here’s the release:
“In October 2022, Prince George RCMP’s Serious Crime Unit entered into an investigation of found human remains located by a member of the public on Connaught Hill.
“‘With the assistance of the B.C. Coroners Service, the RCMP is now in a position to publicly confirm that the human remains located are those of Donna Charlie, the victim of a 1990 homicide. Though this initial investigation resulted in a conviction, it remained an open file with our Missing Persons Unit until such time as the last of the remains were located,’ states Cpl. Jennifer Cooper, Media Relations Officer for the Prince George RCMP.
“The family of the victim has since been notified of this discovery.”
This was a fairly high-profile case at the time. The first mention of Charlie in the Prince George newspaper archives is in a missing persons bulletin issued by Crimestoppers on Oct. 4, 1990:
In February 1991, she was still being referred to as missing but by April 1991 her body had been found in a lot on Ingledew St and there was an active investigation (to orient yourself, the Sportsmen’s Hotel was at 1656 Queensway and Ingledew Park is still there. Here’s the Google Map link).
The details later emerged: The body was found in a grave near the motel where Charlie had been staying with her boyfriend, Gerald Smaaslet. Her head was not found.
Smaaslet was charged and convicted of second-degree murder, according to newspaper reports, but insisted he was not guilty. Instead, he testified he found her dead in a motel room, panicked, so buried her. Here are the reports on the conviction, and a wrap of the testimony:
Smaaslet testified the head was buried on Connaught Hill but a “dawn-to-dusk” search by police failed to turn anything up.
And now, 32-years-later, the remains have been found. RCMP told CBC it happened when someone “noticed something in the ground that he believed could be a human skull.”
As for Smaaslet, he was released but was later declared a dangerous offender, in 2007. According to a Prince George Free Press at the time:
“Smaaslet had several run-ins with the law. The final one stemming from a 2001 incident in Prince George. Smaaslet held a local woman against her will and was used violence to ensure she did not escape. There is a ban on publication of the woman involved and witnesses in the case.”
The report also revealed that he had already been convicted of kidnapping when Charlie’s body was found:
“Smaaslet has an extensive criminal history which includes convictions for a number of breaches of conditions, numerous convictions for violence, including a conviction for manslaughter. He incurred his first conviction at the age of 19 and since then, he is now 45 years old, has spent less than three years of his adult life without being under either a provincial or a federal warrant. In addition, he has offended frequently while on supervised releases and at the time of the 2001 offence he was under two probation orders. In February 1990, Smaaslet was charged with aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping of another local woman. In November 1990, he pled guilty to assault causing bodily harm and was sentenced to 30 months in jail.”
I’m aware this is two days in a row with victims of violence being found in Connaught Hill park in this newsletter. Hoping for something cheerier tomorrow.