Vancouver Zeitgeist
Reflections on Vancouver, British Columbia and other topics, related or not


Arson: The latest trend
in B.C.’s crime wave

Maybe it’s just another cry for help
from “society’s most vulnerable”

Greg Klein | August 27, 2023


Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team respond to another firebug

One recent firebug drew attention from the
Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team.
(Photo: Times Colonist)


It’s getting harder to pretend these are one-off events. A growing but largely unacknowledged phenomenon over the last few years and especially the last few months has been deliberate fires, probably set by junkies. Like a lot of underclass behavioral trends, it’s happening in different locations in southwestern B.C. and probably elsewhere, maybe most notably Alberta and Ontario. The targets, in southern Vancouver Island anyway, tend to be small businesses as well as vacant property and occasionally residences.

This is a category entirely separate from wildfires and from fires related to insurance scams, organized crime or asshole teens. As for many fires attributed to homeless campers, squatters and passed-out junkies, an accidental or deliberate cause can sometimes be hard to determine. Nanaimo Fire Rescue assistant chief Stu Kenning might have coined the convenient category of “a people-experiencing-homelessness fire.” (Shouldn’t that be “person experiencing homelessness”?) But investigators have attributed arson to a great many instances.

Rare acknowledgment of the trend came this month from Canadian Press. Vancouver Fire Rescue Service spokesperson Matthew Trudeau told the agency his department attended 2,113 calls in the first half of 2023, an unprecedented 31% increase over the same period in 2022. CP added: “The fire service also said more than a quarter of all fires have been the result of arson, which it says is part of an upward trend in suspicious fire incidents.”

Limited to Vancouver Island, here are a few individual reports.

On August 25 cops in tactical gear showed up to deal with a guy starting fires on the roof of a bakery on Fort Street, just off Douglas in downtown Victoria. The following day in Nanaimo a crematorium was set on fire along with (most tragically, the local media suggested) a homeless guy’s belongings.


Arson attack hits Nanaimo dental office

Like many professional services in Nanaimo, this dental office
was located in a converted house. The wooden structure made it
an easier target for senseless destruction.
(Photo: Greg Klein)


On August 19 Nanaimo cops nabbed two suspected firebugs for causing extensive damage to a dental office. That same day a blaze hit a Nanaimo sports clubhouse, its second suspicious fire in a few months. Another August 19 suspicious fire struck a Duncan Dairy Queen and spread to a long-term care facility.

Victoria cops have “one really large investigation” underway into a series of recent fires around Government and Douglas streets north of Bay, according to the Times Colonist. Some examples from last month include a car dealership where one vehicle was destroyed and others damaged. A nearby cleaning supplies business and a vacant property were torched earlier that evening, as well as a heritage house under renovation earlier in July. A car rental business was hit the previous month, a week after Ricky’s restaurant at Douglas and Burnside went down in flames. The latter conflagration called for “22 firefighters, three engines, a ladder truck and a rescue and command vehicle,” the TC reported.


Victoria arson 2531 Government Street

Just north of downtown Victoria, this neighbourhood
has had several unsolved fires over the last two months.
(Photo: Victoria Fire Department)


South of Bay Street this month, an incendiary exploded outside a Douglas Street business. Later that day a cop extinguished two deliberately set grass fires on nearby Chatham Street.

In July a Victoria arsonist lashed out at three seniors who tried to stop him from setting a grass fire directly in front of their apartment building. His 67-year-old female victim went to hospital with “serious and life-altering injuries.”

Other Victoria arsonists have been arrested for repeat attacks in Quadra Village this year and James Bay last year.

Hardly attempting stealth, this year an arsonist hit the diaper display at Nanaimo’s Walmart during opening hours, similar to an equally nervy and dangerous 2021 attack inside a Nanaimo Dollarama.

This summer numerous deliberate brush and grass fires have hit parks, vacant properties and other places in and around Nanaimo, Victoria, Sayward and Port Alberni, as well as along the Malahat Highway.

All that just scrapes the surface of Vancouver Island pyromania, and almost all of that happened in the last few months.

Despite Vancouver city firefighters’ “unprecedented” rise in calls, that burg’s media seem reticent on the subject. That could reflect their characteristic fecklessness or, equally characteristic, their perceived duty—stronger even than the Island media—to shield society’s most vulnerable, as they sometimes call it, from negative attention. But the August 20 arson attack on the historic Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret did get publicity.

Then there’s Alberta, Ontario and no doubt other parts of Canada. How do underclass crime trends spread to diverse locations? And why?

Maybe the “how” could be explained by mobility, in which deranged transients influence other deranged cases. Or maybe not. Who knows?

As for the “why,” maybe it’s explained by resentment, an escalation of the increasing vandalism that’s been hitting small businesses especially. Even B.C.’s poverty pimp premier David Eby noticed, offering businesses “vandalism relief” grants. Some municipalities, like Nanaimo, now provide vandal compensation too.

As a trend, arson gets little media acknowledgment but that’s sometimes the case for marginal behaviour. Very widespread and sometimes dangerous panhandling went generally unpublicized for the roughly 15 years that it proliferated in Calgary and Vancouver, eventually spreading to suburbs and smaller cities like Prince George, Yellowknife and especially Victoria. In Vancouver, the problem gradually tapered down, no thanks to B.C.’s unenforced and apparently unenforceable Safe Streets Act. That is, aggressive panhandling tapered down. By no means has it ended.

On the other hand, the “stranger attacks” trend has been noted by media. But trust B.C.’s sub-literate journalists to render the term meaningless by also applying it to robberies.

Again reported as isolated cases, guns seem to have become more prevalent among society’s most vulnerable. In one example this month, a binner shot a guy waiting at a Surrey bus stop.

Media don’t acknowledge looting. Instead they report this Canada-wide vogue as isolated incidents of “shoplifting.” That’s quite the understatement when individuals and small groups march out of shops without even trying to hide heaping armsful of unpaid merchandise. As brazen as they wanna be, some of them even come back for more the same day. This trend—showing absolutely no fear of repercussions—demonstrates obvious contempt for judicial leniency.

And if the perps are blameless for anything, it’s that contempt.


Serial criminal Kym Robert Arkell a suspect in Nanaimo Tim Horton’s arson.jpg

Suspected of torching this Nanaimo Tim Horton’s and several nearby
businesses, junkie Kym Robert Arkell has a lengthy criminal record that
includes arson as well as assault with a weapon, threatening murder,
B&E, theft and other offences dating at least to 2006. If he doesn’t
qualify for David Eby’s violent offender initiative, we can hope for
bail reform or Sheila Malcolmson’s “situation tables.”
(Photos: CTV/Nanaimo RCMP)


Probably furthering the contempt was Eby’s April announcement of his Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative. It sounds like a riff on Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson’s “situation tables” horseshit.

Eby likes to evade real issues with vague talk about addiction treatment. Apart from his lack of action, treatment can’t work unless an addict wants it to work. Additionally, effective treatment might not exist anymore. Psychology and related disciplines follow the same ideological flakery that pervades everything else in official culture.

At any rate, justice is primarily a federal mess. While all political parties pretend rampant crime can be addressed through bail reform, the real problem lies in sentencing. And it can’t be fixed. Any government that tried would need a strong majority, a stacked senate and indifference to the vitriol that would spew forth from media, opposition parties, the legal establishment (including Crown prosecutors), the SJW industry and the rest of Canada’s enlightened class. Then, thanks to Trudeau I’s constitution, courts would simply disallow the legislation.

Anyway, no political party even wants to try. This is another issue on which most Canadians have been disenfranchised.

Actually disenfranchisement—the anti-Canadian consensus of Canadian politicians—applies to all of Canada’s most important issues. Such is the state of our democracy—not so much a blazing infernal as a smoldering ruin.

Meanwhile, here’s an incident mentioned by a Torontonian whose neighbourhood has suffered mightily due to a B.C.-style drug injection centre:

Not long after the drug dealers distribute their goods, the chaos on Heward Avenue often picks up. Two weeks ago, an angry, drug-addled woman stumbled down our street in the middle of the day, screaming at people on their front porches. When she got to one specific house, she stopped, not knowing she was being recorded, and cited the address of that house out loud. “Mark my words,” she said, “I got something for you!” She then proceeded to tell the occupants of that house that she would be returning to burn it down. She emphasized that she would be doing so while the children who lived in the house were in it.


Condo arson Prideaux Street Nanaimo Sept 18 2023


Update: The arson attacks continue, including a September 18 fire that wrecked 20 Nanaimo condos. Residents escaped without injury but some of the homes will be uninhabitable for an estimated 12 months.

As reported by CHEK News, “Residents said it was just the latest in a string of incidents involving drug users and homeless people setting fires and openly using behind the downtown building [actually it’s in a residential neighbourhood], and they fear it could happen elsewhere.”

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