Chilliwack neighbours of a high-risk sex offender who was first run out of Abbotsford then Mission now want him gone from this community.
James William Conway has been in Chilliwack at an undisclosed location for almost a year.
Undisclosed, that is, until neighbours spotted the 43-year-old wearing an electronic ankle monitor in their Eastern Hillsides neighbourhood.
He is apparently under 24-hour-supervision, and while B.C. Corrections will not confirm Conway is living in the house where neigbhours spotted him, that house is owned by the government of B.C., according to a City of Chilliwack spokesperson.
Conway is a high risk sex offender and is the subject of a public notification conducted by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Corrections Branch, which announced his move from Mission to Chilliwack in a statement in July 2017.
At that time, Mayor Sharon Gaetz expressed her extreme displeasure with his move here and city hall was not informed of where he would live.
Now that she knows, Gaetz wants him gone.
She said Thursday that she spoke with the head of B.C. Corrections and a representative for Community Living B.C. to ask questions and express her emphasis on residents feeling safe.
“I expressed also my request, even though I have no authority, that they remove him from our community for the safety of the residents and for his own safety,” Gaetz said. “People are angry and people are upset.”
Conway has a criminal history which includes three sexual offences against children, including sexual interference of a person under 16, as well as sexual assault, arson damaging property, failure to comply with disposition and breach of recognizance.
He is 193 centimetres (6’4”) tall and weighs 113 kilograms (250 pounds). He is Caucasian with brown hair and blue eyes.
“There are three families just minutes away and yet another with grandchildren and we knew nothing about this,” neighbour Kelly Wood told The Progress.
“We want everyone to be aware. My kids go up past his house. How do I know he’s not watching from the window?”
Another resident of the area who gave his name only as Mike, was upset to hear a convicted sex offender was in his neighbourhood.
“I do understand that people deserve a chance to live out their lives,” he said Thursday. “But we have three kids and we live in the neighbourhood. I think it’s ridiculous that they would relocate him to an area where there are nothing but kids.”
Wood created a flyer that she’s been circulating in the neighbourhood above Unity Christian School in the Eastern Hillsides.
Gaetz said that she was only told he was being moved to Chilliwack a year ago as a courtesy. She was also told he would be in a “remote” location and that the neighbours would be informed. It’s unclear if any neighbours were informed, and some neighbours, and Gaetz, aren’t too sure about their definition of “remote.”
“I wouldn’t say [it’s remote],” neighbour Kelly Wood said. “With all that development going up in the Eastern Hillsides. He’s seven minutes from Unity Christian School.”
Driving through the neighbourhood behind Unity Christian, nearly every house has a trampoline or hockey nets or play structures, pointing to the large demographic of families with children in the area.
“I’m sure that it’s never a good idea no matter how many securities they put in place to have a pedophile live next door to children,” Gaetz said. “I’m glad the community is getting out their concerns. I want them to know that we are using our voices to advocate for them.”
Conway, who is developmentally disabled, was in the news first in 2016 when some residents in Abbotsford and then Mission were vocal about his presence in their communities.
Back in 2015, the City of Abbotsford went to court to have Conway removed from a home on Joanita Place. The lawsuit alleged the property’s owners, Brian Vos and Fiona Mitchell, as well as supervisor Ed Holroyd and WJS Canada, were using a property designated residential for institutional purposes.
In July 2016, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General announced the then 41-year-old was moving to Mission.
Then at the beginning of August 2016, Conway did move from Abbotsford to Mission after a long series of protests by residents to have him removed. A woman who organized protests against Conway’s presence in Abbotsford said she was “completely thrilled” when she found out he was leaving town.
Then it was Mission’s turn for protests, leading to pressure to relocate him yet again. Protesters came out with signs saying that Conway should leave Mission, saying “Keep our children safe” and asking drivers on the road to honk their support.
Then the District of Mission filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court claiming the home Conway was living in did not match the zoning.