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Alberta

Church whose pastor was arrested for defying COVID-19 restrictions holds service

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EDMONTON — With their pastor behind bars, an Edmonton area church held a service again Sunday where the sermon chastised other churches for bowing to COVID-19 public health restrictions.

RCMP say in a news release that they, along with Alberta Health Services, observed that GraceLife Church held a service that exceeded provincially set gathering limits meant to curb the spread of the virus.

They say police will continue to investigate and decide what to do in consultation with health officials.

GraceLife Pastor James Coates was arrested last week when the church continued to hold services that police allege violated COVID-19 restrictions, and he remains in custody for refusing to agree to bail conditions.

Associate pastor Jacob Spenst conducted Sunday’s service in his place, telling the congregation that messages of support have been pouring in.

Spenst said he spoke with Coates earlier in the morning and the pastor sounded strong.

“If they take one, there will be another that will stand in his place. And when he is gone another will stand in his place, and we’ll continue again and again and again. Why? Because Christ is worthy,” Spenst said in a recording of the sermon posted online.

An Alberta Health Services spokeswoman said the provincial health delivery agency “continues to work within the legislation and cooperatively with the RCMP,” but offered no further comment on the situation.

RCMP said police would not be providing any further updates on Sunday, but may release more details later this week.

Coates’s arrest last Wednesday marked the second time he was charged with breaking public health rules tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is to appear in court this Wednesday.

Faith-based services across Alberta are limited to 15 per cent of normal capacity and mask use is mandatory. Physical distancing between members of different households must be maintained.

Provincial rules allow for music and choral singing, but performers must wear masks.

The police fined the church $1,200 in December. A closure order was issued in January, but it was ignored.

Earlier this month, some Alberta faith leaders called on GraceLife to follow COVID-19 public health rules.

Reverend Scott Sharman with the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton said sometimes people should put their talk of rights aside when it’s for the benefit of others.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2021.

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Alberta

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.

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Alberta

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

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