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Alberta

Edmonton council to ask province to support new centre to fight downtown crime

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By Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

City council has voted unanimously to ask the government of Alberta to support the creation of a hub in Edmonton’s Chinatown where social workers, firefighters and peace officers could work together to reduce crime.

City administration submitted a report to council Monday that describes the proposed Healthy Streets Operations Centre.

David Jones, who is with the city and presented the report, told councillors it would not be a traditional police station.

“The people who will see the benefits of this include Chinatown residents and businesses, but also people who are on the streets who are vulnerable and being preyed on by some of the criminal element,” Jones said.

The creation of the centre is one of several actions the city has promised to address a spike in violent crime downtown, in nearby Chinatown and on the transit system.

Edmonton police officers have already increased their presence in problem areas.

In May, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro used his ministerial power to demand a report from the city on what is being done to get crime under control.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said during Monday’s council meeting that the city has delivered with its plan for the centre and now it is time for the province to step up.

“Edmonton gets the lowest per-capita funding to support ending homelessness compared to seven other cities (in Alberta). I think it’s really important that we ask the people whose inaction has caused harm to the community to be stepping up,” Sohi said.

“Most of the violence in Chinatown is related to houselessness … and addictions causing a lot of harm to the community and to individuals. We’re asking city taxpayers to pick up the pieces or pay for the consequences of lack of investment in health and lack of investment in housing.”

Sohi added he gets the sense the province wants to help.

The provincial government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report says the centre will operate seven days a week, 21 hours a day, and could cost up to $18.1 million over the next four years.

The city and Edmonton Police Service could partially support the centre and Jones said there have also been offers from different businesses in Chinatown to provide a building for the hub at no cost.

But council voted in favour of asking the provincial government to determine how it can provide mental health, housing and shelter support.

Sohi said he plans to engage with the province and will report back to council on Aug. 15.

Jones said to get the centre up and running by next summer, the city aims to hire four peace officer sergeants, 16 community peace officers, two community safety liaisons and three firefighters or fire prevention officers.

The report said community members asked for increased security in problem areas and that building a centre in “hot spots” can effectively reduce crime. Research cited in the report has also shown it wont displace violence to other areas.

“Studies have consistently found no noticeable displacement and, in some cases, a diffusion effect, meaning that hot-spot policing reduces crime in the areas adjacent to the hot spots as well.”

Dr. Temitope Oriola, a criminology professor at the University of Alberta, said the hub model has been around for at least a decade in Canada and the centre is a good start.

“The real test is to ensure it is not too heavily tilted toward and reliant on policing,” he said in a email.

“The approach needs to have law enforcement as one of several critical components with people, community revitalization and customized social service at the epicentre.”

Oriola added the centre would be most effective in reducing crime if it also goes hand-in-hand with other initiatives in the city that address addictions issues and homelessness.

“Employment created should also focus on those most directly connected to Chinatown,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 4, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Alberta

Red Deer South MLA lambastes Premier Kenney for weighing in on the race to replace him

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Article submitted by Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan

Kenney, the time for you to be quiet is now

When you are a departing leader of a political party, one of your responsibilities is to build unity. One way of doing so is to stay out of the leadership race to replace you. Jason Kenney promised he was not going to be a “color commentator” in the race, and then proceeded to become one. Kenney misrepresented a platform commitment of Danielle Smith —a leading candidate—sowing division and creating disunity.

While misrepresenting the ideas of others and then attacking the straw men manufactured out of the misrepresentation may be standard practice in a junior high school debate, it’s dishonest and disrespectful.

Kenney called the Alberta Sovereignty Act “nuts” and “nuttier than a squirrel turd”. Is that going to produce unity? In his leadership review, when he called those who disagreed with him “bugs”, “kooks” and “lunatics”, how did that work out
for him?

Kenney says the Sovereignty Act would make Alberta the “laughingstock” of Canada. Perhaps we already are.

When Albertans held a provincial referendum and rejected equalization, who did Trudeau appoint as environment minister? He chose Steven Guilbeault, the Greenpeace activist, arrested for climbing on Ralph Klein’s roof when he was away, frightening Klein’s wife who was home alone. I bet Trudeau thought that was funny.

What does Trudeau do with Kenney’s sternly worded letters? Perhaps they are trophies he hangs on the walls.

The premier of Quebec said one of his favorite things about Canada is equalization, so what progress has Kenney made on equalization? None.

The Sovereignty Act seeks to do what Quebec does. Is Quebec a laughingstock?

Kenney says the Sovereignty Act would be a “body blow” to Alberta jobs and the economy and “draw massive investment away”. Isn’t that going to be the result of Trudeau’s new “discussion paper?”

This paper was released in August with a submission deadline in September. It proposes either a new cap-and-trade or carbon tax only on oil and gas development, disproportionately punishing Alberta while sparing Quebec and other provinces that Trudeau bribes for power.

Kenney should consider stopping his straw man attacks and start focusing on Ottawa where he came from. No straw man is required as Ottawa is already responsible for driving away hundreds of billions in investment out of Alberta and thousands of Alberta jobs with it along with more “body blows” to come if we get this imminent new cap and trade or new carbon tax imposed on our natural resources.

Is Kenney working on his latest sternly worded letter?

But wait, under section 92A of Canada’s constitution, isn’t Alberta supposed to have jurisdiction over the development of our natural resources? Isn’t Trudeau again seeking to do indirectly what he cannot do directly? Isn’t this a sneaky,
backdoor, constitutional trojan horse? Isn’t this what the Sovereignty Act is intended to address, to assert constitutional boundaries that Ottawa continually seeks to circumvent, trespass, attack and undermine? When Ottawa abuses its
power, isn’t the Sovereignty Act to be a check and balance?

Yes, a good idea, improperly applied can be detrimental, and if that is the version that Kenney wants to manufacture, attack, and fearmonger, that is his choice.

Properly applied the Sovereignty Act will benefit Alberta, counteracting the commercial uncertainty and chaos from Ottawa by asserting the constitutional boundaries that Ottawa habitually disrespects, seeking to undermine and intrude into
Alberta’s constitutional jurisdiction to develop its oil and gas resources.

Kenney says the Sovereignty Act does not respect the rule of law.

Properly applied the Sovereignty Act supports the rule of law as it asserts Alberta’s constitutional jurisdictions and resists abuses of power emanating out of Ottawa.

Kenney says he “isn’t really following the leadership race”. He is.

Kenney started saying he does not know which candidates are supporting the Sovereignty Act. He knows.

He also knew the deadline for members to participate in the leadership race had ended the day before he chose to improperly misrepresent a platform policy of a leading candidate who is not part of his inner circle.

Great leaders speak the truth in love inspiring the best in those they serve. They do not fearmonger, they do not call names, they do not misrepresent others’ ideas and then attack the straw men they manufactured with their misrepresentations.

It is disappointing to see Kenney failing in his responsibility to build unity. I have faith his successor will do better.

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Alberta

Edmonton gondola needed better Indigenous consultation, councillor says

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By Angela Amato in Edmonton

The sole city councillor to vote in support of a gondola across Edmonton’s river valley says the outcome may have been different if there were better Indigenous consultation.

A recommendation that a city agreement with Prairie Sky Gondola be terminated passed 12 to one on Monday.

Karen Principe, councillor for Ward Tastawiyiniwak, was the lone vote against nixing the project.

But she says more meaningful consultations with Indigenous people were needed before signing the land-lease agreement with Prairie Sky.

The gondola project has been criticized for several reasons, including financial risks to the city and controversy around building on the Rossdale Burial Site.

The Rossdale Burial Site is an Indigenous burial ground that has been recognized as a cemetery by the City of Edmonton since 2005.

The decision comes after a meeting last week where citizens, councillors and the Prairie Sky Gondola team discussed the project.

“It was a very tough decision,” said Principe. “I just thought that it was such a great, creative idea and something unique for Edmontonians.”

Chief Darlene Misik of Papaschase First Nation sent out a statement Thursday, saying her community supported the Prairie Sky Gondola Land Agreement.

“Without this opportunity to access and develop our significant presence beyond the appearance of what is quite frankly an unkept cemetery, the city will wait yet another 15 years or until something else triggers a discussion before considering that perhaps something should be done at the Rossdale Flats,” Misik wrote.

Nisha Patel,The sole city councillor to vote in support of a gondola across Edmonton’s river valley says the outcome may have been different if there were better Indigenous consultation.

A recommendation that a city agreement with Prairie Sky Gondola be terminated passed 12 to one on Monday.

Karen Principe, councillor for Ward Tastawiyiniwak, was the lone vote against nixing the project.

But she says more meaningful consultations with Indigenous people were needed before signing the land-lease agreement with Prairie Sky.

The gondola project has been criticized for several reasons, including financial risks to the city and controversy around building on the Rossdale Burial Site.

The Rossdale Burial Site is an Indigenous burial ground that has been recognized as a cemetery by the City of Edmonton since 2005.

The decision comes after a meeting last week where citizens, councillors and the Prairie Sky Gondola team discussed the project.

“It was a very tough decision,” said Principe. “I just thought that it was such a great, creative idea and something unique for Edmontonians.”

Chief Darlene Misik of Papaschase First Nation sent out a statement Thursday, saying her community supported the Prairie Sky Gondola Land Agreement.

“Without this opportunity to access and develop our significant presence beyond the appearance of what is quite frankly an unkept cemetery, the city will wait yet another 15 years or until something else triggers a discussion before considering that perhaps something should be done at the Rossdale Flats,” Misik wrote.

Nisha Patel, former Edmonton poet laureate and disability justice activist, wrote an essay against the gondola.

“I feel immensely grateful to the amount of people who fought and reasoned for this outcome,” Patel said.

Patel’s essay focused on the Indigenous burial site, the city’s transit needs and the financial implications of the project.

“As someone who has lived in areas with low to no transit options and now lives in a high transit corridor, I’m very sympathetic to the many folks who rely on transit alone.”

While the city has halted the project, Prairie Sky Gondola could still revise its plan and propose the project again.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2022

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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