Residents of a neighbourhood where repeat child sexual offender James Conway lived are “completely thrilled” that he has left Abbotsford, says the woman who organized several protests against his presence in the community.
Kim Iverson said word spread quickly among residents of Joanita Place – located in the rural community of Bradner in southwest Abbotsford – when Conway, 41, left the neighbourhood on Sunday evening and it was confirmed through the media that he was moving to Mission.
“People are pretty happy,” Iverson said, adding that residents are organizing a barbecue later this week to celebrate.
She said they are concerned that Conway has moved to another community, but some residents of Joanita Place are willing to work with concerned citizens in Mission to assist in any legal activity they might want to take.
The announcement about Conway’s move was made through a press release issued Sunday evening by BC Corrections. The exact location where Conway will reside was not released.
Mission city council held an in-camera meeting on Tuesday evening (after press deadline) to discuss the announcement and how best to deal with the situation.
Mayor Randy Hawes said they had no prior knowledge about the move and learned about it through the media.
“We don’t believe we have the resources in this community to look after a high-profile, dangerous sex offender. One that requires this kind of supervision doesn’t belong in a community like Mission,” Hawes said.
Conway, who is developmentally disabled, has a long criminal history, including three sexual offences against children, as well as sexual interference of a person under 16, sexual assault and arson.
He has also breached the conditions of his release at least twice.
In April 2014, he was caught staring at young girls on SkyTrain, looking down their shirts, and engaging them in conversation by producing a teddy bear.
He was sentenced to 10 months in jail and three years’ probation for breaching his conditions.
Police issued a public notice about his release from prison in February 2015, when he settled in the Surrey area. At that time, BC Corrections said he has a pattern of “sexually offending against female children in a predatory and opportunistic manner.”
Conway was back in jail 10 days later, after breaching his conditions when he sat down on a bus beside a 14-year-old girl, even though other seats were available.
Public notices were issued again in April 2015, when Conway was released from prison and planned to reside in Delta, and then on Aug. 1, 2015, when he moved to Abbotsford.
Residents of Joanita Place soon discovered he was living in their neighbourhood with a supervisor – in a privately owned residence leased to the company W.J. Stelmaschuk and Associates, a service provider of Community Living B.C., which funds support services for adults with developmental disabilities.
Conway was under 24-hour house arrest and was on electronic monitoring.
The residents held several protest rallies in a bid to have Conway moved from the home. At one of them last September, Mayor Henry Braun announced that the city had launched a lawsuit against the property owners because the residence was operating as a “commercial use” and was in contravention of zoning bylaws, which permit only agricultural and residential uses in that area.
Iverson said the home also housed one or two other offenders, but all have now left the home and a sign saying “New Tenants” is posted on the fence.
Property owner Brian Vos would not speak with the Abbotsford News when reached by phone, but Iverson said her husband talked with someone who is temporarily living on the property who said the home is going up for sale next month.
City of Abbotsford spokesperon Katherine Treloar said the city has withdrawn its lawsuit against the property “as the zoning compliance for this property is no longer in question.”
Mayor Henry Braun speculated that Conway was removed from the home because of the lawsuit.
“I’m not surprised that they moved him, because they were on the wrong side of this issue … I think in court they would have lost (on the zoning),” he said.
Conway must continue to abide by several conditions, including that: he remain in his residence at all times unless supervised; he remain under electronic monitoring; that he not communicate with people under 18, including online; and he not travel alone on public transit.