UNBC No. 2 in Maclean’s rank­ings

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - Bar­bara GEERNAERT Cit­i­zen staff bgeer­naert@pgc­i­t­i­zen.ca BJORN­SON

The Uni­ver­sity of North­ern Bri­tish Columbia has been rec­og­nized yet again as one of the top uni­ver­si­ties of its size in Canada, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est rank­ings re­leased by Maclean’s mag­a­zine.

UNBC placed sec­ond in the Pri­mar­ily Un­der­grad­u­ate cat­e­gory, which in­cludes 19 uni­ver­si­ties, mark­ing the 10th year in a row with UNBC fin­ish­ing in the top three.

Mount Al­li­son Uni­ver­sity in New Bruns­wick fin­ished first fol­lowed by UNBC. Trent Uni­ver­sity in Peter­bor­ough, Ont., placed third.

“Sus­tain­ing this level of ex­cel­lence re­quires the com­bined strengths of our fac­ulty, stu­dents, staff, alumni, donors and sup­port­ers work­ing to­gether to con­tin­u­ally en­hance the qual­ity of our aca­demic pro­gram­ming and re­search cul­ture,” said UNBC pres­i­dent Daniel Weeks.

The rank­ing is another demon­stra­tion of how UNBC is in­spir­ing next-gen­er­a­tion lead­ers who are cre­at­ing lo­cal so­lu­tions with global im­pact, ac­cord­ing to Weeks.

“We are re­ally well known here in the north but now, we need to think glob­ally and we have been. We are no longer the best kept se­cret and we are mak­ing a broader im­pact. Our en­roll­ment is up and we re­cently made the world rank­ing list. It’s be­cause of our rep­u­ta­tion that peo­ple are re­ally be­gin­ning to no­tice,” Weeks said.

UNBC placed first in three of the 14 cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing num­ber of stu­dents who have won na­tional awards, and it also re­ceived high hon­ours in two cat­e­gories re­lated to re­source al­lo­ca­tion.

UNBC stands out for its stu­dent to fac­ulty ra­tio, the num­ber of fac­ulty mem­bers win­ning na­tional awards and the amount of so­cial science and hu­man­i­ties grants re­ceived.

As for over­all stu­dent sat­is­fac­tion, Maclean’s once again gave UNBC top grades for men­tal health ser­vices avail­able on cam­pus as well as ser­vices pro­vided by ad­min­is­tra­tive staff, aca­demic ad­vis­ing staff and in of­fer­ing ex­per­i­men­tal learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“UNBC con­tin­ues to ed­u­cate, in­no­vate and lead in North­ern Bri­tish Columbia, across the coun­try and around the world,” said UNBC board of gov­er­nors chair Tracey Wolsey.

“UNBC has re­peat­edly placed at, or near, the top of the Maclean’s rank­ings, a tes­ta­ment to the hard work and com­mit­ment of the en­tire UNBC fam­ily.”

McGill Uni­ver­sity main­tained its top rank­ing in the Med­i­cal Doc­toral cat­e­gory and Si­mon Fraser Uni­ver­sity placed first in the Com­pre­hen­sive list.

UNBC placed first in the Pri­mar­ily Un­der­grad­u­ate cat­e­gory for the last two years.

“For us, it’s all about qual­ity and all in­sti­tu­tions strive for qual­ity,” Weeks said.

“We have such suc­cess in our staff, fac­ulty, re­sources and our com­mu­nity and when all of these things come to­gether, this pro­duces qual­ity in our stu­dents.”

Ahis eyes. Af­ter hear­ing tes­ti­mony over a span of five weeks, jury mem­bers de­lib­er­ated for two days be­fore reach­ing their ver­dict in re­la­tion to the Jan­uary 2012 death of Frib­jon Bjorn­son.

The Van­der­hoof fa­ther of two young chil­dren had gone to a home on the re­serve just south of Fort St. James to buy drugs.

What hap­pened next re­mains largely a mys­tery but ev­i­dence pre­sented dur­ing the trial had sug­gested Char­lie and three oth­ers – Wes­ley Dun­can, Jesse Bird and a third per­son whose name is pro­tected by a court-or­dered pub­li­ca­tion ban – launched an ap­par­ently-un­pro­voked at­tack on Bjorn­son. Ac­cord­ing to an agreed state­ment of facts, he was dragged into the home’s base­ment where he was punched and kicked into un­con­scious­ness and then stran­gled with a tele­phone cord, although it’s pos­si­ble Bjorn­son was al­ready dead by that time.

Theresa Char­lie, mean­while, had emp­tied Bjorn­son’s wal­let and dis­trib­uted about $800 in cash be­tween the cul­prits.

The in­ci­dent oc­curred in an at­mos­phere of chaos fu­eled by drugs and al­co­hol.

When he tes­ti­fied, Dun­can de­scribed Bjorn­son’s death as an “ac­ci­dent.”

“We got in a scuf­fle with him and that and it just went bad,” Dun­can con­tin­ued.

In June, Dun­can and Bird were sen­tenced to life with­out el­i­gi­bil­ity for pa­role for 15 years af­ter they pleaded guilty to sec­ond-de­gree mur­der.

Char­lie’s sis­ter, Theresa, who had been in cus­tody for 3 1/2 years, was sen­tenced to time served on a count of in­dig­nity to a dead body.

Given a chance to speak, Char­lie stood up and turned to Bjorn­son’s par­ents, Fred and Eileen, and apol­o­gized.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t know what hap­pened.”

“I don’t doubt that, I don’t doubt that you’re sorry,” Bjorn­son’s fa­ther replied. “But I know what you did. I know you were there.”

Fred Bjorn­son pumped a fist upon hear­ing the ver­dict and within mo­ments Eileen was in tears, her head on his shoul­der.

The out­come had been a long time com­ing and the process has ex­acted an emo­tional toll, they said in an in­ter­view out­side the court­room. “It’s huge,” Fred Bjorn­son said. “Not only did they take my son’s life, they (Char­lie, Dun­can and Bird) took their own lives be­cause they’re be­hind bars now,” Eileen Bjorn­son added. “Let’s just hope they make some­thing of it now, you know. Not for noth­ing.”

They de­scribed Frib­jon, who was 28 at the time of his death, as kind, gen­er­ous and thought­ful.

“I’d like to say he was a true north­ern boy. He liked to fish and hunt and he loved the out­doors and he was just ours and we love him and miss him,” Eileen said as she broke into sobs.

Frib­jon had ad­dic­tion is­sues they ac­knowl­edged but added no one is per­fect.

“He had a good heart and he was con­stantly do­ing things for peo­ple,” Fred said.

While happy with the out­come, they said key a ques­tion re­mains unan­swered: Why was their son at­tacked?

Out­side the court­room, de­fence lawyer Danny Markovitz spoke to the cou­ple about the pos­si­bil­ity of meet­ing with Char­lie face-to- face with the hope of get­ting an an­swer.

“If it comes to noth­ing, then we’re no worse off than we are now, but at least we have tried,” Eileen said.

Also unan­swered is why Bjorn­son’s head was cut off in the process of dis­pos­ing of his body in the days that fol­lowed.

Char­lie ini­tially de­nied car­ry­ing out the act but in an agreed state­ment of facts ac­knowl­edged he was the one who did it and pleaded guilty to in­dig­nity to a dead body.

On that count, B.C. Supreme Court Jus­tice Ron Tin­dale went through the for­mal­ity of sen­tenc­ing Char­lie to three years, to be served con­cur­rently to his life sen­tence.

First-de­gree mur­der au­to­mat­i­cally car­ries a term of life with­out el­i­gi­bil­ity for pa­role for 25 years.

Even then, he must con­vince a panel he de­serves to be let out and if he is, will re­main un­der the eye of a pa­role of­fi­cer for the rest of his life.

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