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Alberta cabinet minister reacts to government silence on Edmonton torch parade


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EDMONTON — Alberta’s multiculturalism minister has pushed back against criticism of government silence following a weekend COVID-19 protest that included marchers with torches.

“Right now, I’m actually focused on making sure that junior hockey gets back up on its feet again,” Leela Aheer said initially Monday when asked at a news conference about the march through downtown Edmonton on Saturday.

She then weighed in. 

“Obviously, white supremacy and racism is never ever tolerated in this province, should not be tolerated in this country at all. I think I’ve been very, very clear about that,” said Aheer, who was announcing that junior hockey teams can participate in 50-50 prize draws.

“I’m happy to make a statement right now that peaceful protest is a very, very important part of democracy. I’m very happy to support … peaceful protest.

“However, racism, white supremacy – any of that – is absolutely, imperatively, absolutely and unequivocally unacceptable at any time.” 

Aheer also said she took exception to the question given that she has spoken out against racism in the past.

“I don’t know if you read an article that I wrote about a year and a half ago about white supremacy. I have absolutely been exposed to that in my past,” she said.

“I find this question to be very disingenuous considering my own background, and considering what I have had actually had to put up with in my lifetime when it comes to white supremacy.”

Aheer is of East Asian descent on her father’s side.

Premier Jason Kenney’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the march.

The march was part of duelling protests in front of the legislature — one for and one against Alberta’s COVID-19 public-health orders, which ban visitors inside households and restrict outdoor gatherings to no more than 10. Most businesses must operate at reduced capacity.

Edmonton police said four officers were assaulted during the protests and one organizer was arrested for causing a disturbance.

Afterwards, participants against pandemic restrictions, some carrying torches despite warm temperatures, paraded through the downtown on what they called a “walk for freedom.”

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson condemned the march that day on social media.

“Edmonton unequivocally condemns racism, misogyny and other forms of hate – such speech is not welcome in our community,” wrote Iveson.

On Monday, Notley said the United Conservative premier’s silence on racism is out of step with the “vast majority” of Albertans.

“Let’s be perfectly clear: tiki torch or torch rallies are absolutely, historically associated – and everybody knows it – with some of the most heinous examples of racism against racialized citizens across the world,” said Notley.

“It’s unacceptable that we had that in Edmonton, and it’s certainly unacceptable that our premier has not stood up to speak out against it.”

Notley said she sympathizes with Aheer for having been a past victim of racist attacks, but said as multiculturalism minister, her job is to fight racism.

“You can’t ever stop speaking out against it,” said Notley.  “It infuses communities if it is left unchecked,” said Notley.

“I would take great issue with the idea that saying something once somehow means that you have dispensed with your obligations. 

“She’s the minister. If she doesn’t want to talk about racism, if she doesn’t want to stand up against racism, then I would suggest that … that …”

Notley stopped herself, then said: “Well … I would urge her to do it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta’s Walker into Hearts semifinal with 9-8 win over Manitoba’s Jones

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CALGARY — Alberta’s Laura Walker advanced to the semifinal of the Canadian women’s curling championship with a 9-8 win over Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones in Sunday’s tiebreaker game.

Walker faces defending champion Kerri Einarson in an afternoon semifinal with the winner taking on Ontario’s Rachel Homan for the championship at night.

Jones missed an attempted double takeout in the 10th end, which left Walker an open draw to score three for the win in the tiebreaker.

Manitoba and Alberta were tied for third at 9-3 after the championship round, which required a tiebreaker game to solve.

Jones, a six-time champion at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, was chasing a record seventh title.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Let ‘er buck: Study suggests horses learn from rodeo experience, grow calmer

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CALGARY — Rodeo fans love the thrill of a bronc exploding into the ring, cowboy temporarily aboard. How the horse feels about it hasn’t been so clear.

Newly published research out of the University of Calgary looks at three years of roughstock events from that city’s Stampede in an attempt to peer inside the mind of an animal about to let ‘er buck.

“I try to understand the animal’s perspective,” said Ed Pajor, a professor of veterinary medicine. “We asked the question whether or not horses find participating in the rodeo to be an adversive experience or not.”

Pajor and his co-authors — Christy Goldhawk from the University of Calgary and well-known animal behaviourist Temple Grandin — studied 116 horses in bareback, novice bareback, saddle bronc and novice saddle bronc events. They looked at animals about to be loaded into a trailer and taken to the ring. They also observed how the horses behaved while in the chute waiting to be unleashed.

Horses have all kinds of ways of showing they’re unhappy, Pajor said. They might move back and forth, chew their lips, swish their tail, defecate, roll their eyes, paw the ground, toss their head, or rear up in protest.

The researchers found that the more people were around them, the more likely the horses were to show unease. That’s probably because they spend most of their time in fields and pastures and aren’t used to the bustle, Pajor said.

The other factor that affected behaviour was experience. If it wasn’t their first rodeo, the horses were much less likely to act up.

“We didn’t see a lot of attempts to escape. We didn’t see a lot of fear-related behaviours at all,” Pajor said. “The animals were pretty calm.

“The animals that had little experience were much more reactive than the animals that had lots of experience.”

There could be different reasons for that, he suggested.

“We don’t know if that’s because they’re used to the situation or whether that’s because of learned helplessness — they realize there’s nothing they can do and just give up.”

Pajor suspects the former.

“When the cowboys came near the horses, they would certainly react and you wouldn’t really see that if it was learned helplessness.”

The researchers also noted that the horses’ bucking performance, as revealed in the score from the rodeo judges, didn’t seem to be reduced by repeated appearances as it might be if the animals had become apathetic.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the horses are having a good time, said Pajor, who’s also on the Stampede’s animal welfare advisory board. There are a couple of ways of interpreting active behaviour in the chute, he said.

“An animal might be getting excited to perform. Or an animal might be having a fear response.”

“Understanding if animals like to do something is a tricky thing to do.”

Pajor knows there are different camps when it comes to rodeos and animals.

“People have very strong opinions on the use of animals for all kinds of reasons. I think no matter what we’re going to use animals for, we really need to make sure that we treat them humanely.

“My job is to do the research to understand the animals’ perspective.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021.

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton. Follow @row1960 on Twitter

The Canadian Press

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