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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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Alberta

Smith won’t seek early vote if she wins UCP leadership, becomes next Alberta premier

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United Conservative Party leadership candidate Danielle Smith says if she wins this week’s vote and becomes the next Alberta premier, she would not call an early election to seek a broad mandate on her policy ideas.

Smith, the perceived front-runner in the race, says the public tends to punish leaders who call an early election.

She says she would wait until the next scheduled election in May 2023, but believes she has a mandate now to proceed with her plans.

Smith has said she would immediately pass an Alberta sovereignty act, which would allow the province to ignore federal laws and court rulings deemed not in its interest.

Legal experts, some of Smith’s leadership rivals and Premier Jason Kenney have labelled the act not only illegal but a recipe for constitutional and economic chaos.

Smith has also talked about revamping the health system by using health spending accounts and firing the board of Alberta Health Services, which oversees the front-line delivery of care.

Today is the last day for advance voting, as seven candidates dig in for the final campaign push before UCP members select a new leader to replace Kenney on Thursday.

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Alberta

Alberta commits $20.8 million over the next four years to fight human trafficking

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By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

The Alberta government is providing $20.8 million over the next four years to implement recommendations from a star-led task force on human trafficking.

Country singer Paul Brandt, chair of the Alberta Human Trafficking Task Force, personally thanked Premier Jason Kenney during the funding announcement Sunday at Edmonton International Airport for his willingness to prioritize the issue, and for putting faith in Brandt to lead the group.

“Premier Kenney’s longtime personal dedication and commitment to the issue of human trafficking is authentic and is admirable,” Brandt said.

“He’s the only political leader I’ve met in my 17 years of advocating for trafficking victims and survivors who took the time and initiative to personally write a plan to address this horrific crime.”

The money will establish an office to combat trafficking as well as a centre of excellence for research and data collection — recommendations the government accepted when the task force presented its report in March.

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said the goal is to launch the office by next summer.

Other task force recommendations that will be supported include a new grant for community projects and Indigenous-led and culturally appropriate services. Civilian positions that will focus on supporting victims and survivors throughout human trafficking investigations will also be funded.

“Human trafficking is far more prevalent — way more common — than the stats would suggest because it’s a hidden crime,” Kenney said at the announcement.

“It festers in the dark. There are victims who face fear, shame and self-doubt and some who will never report what they’ve gone through.”

The task force was appointed in May 2020 and engaged with nearly 100 experts and survivors of trafficking to provide guidance on how to best implement the government’s action plan to fight human trafficking.

The government has said human trafficking includes sexual exploitation, forced labour trafficking and trafficking in human organs or tissues.

Kenney, who will be replaced as premier when his United Conservative Party selects a new leader on Thursday, noted he started fighting human trafficking over 20 years ago when he was an MP and joined a group of international parliamentarians on a coalition to fight the practice.

Later as Canada’s immigration minister, he said he took steps to make it easier for human trafficking victims who had migrated to Canada to obtain safety and protection.

In winter 2019, he said he committed the UCP to a nine-point action plan to combat human trafficking, which led to the Protecting Survivors of Human Trafficking Act, which took effect in May 2020.

Brandt said it was exciting to be part of the funding commitment at the airport, where he said he stood in 2019 for a partnership with the facility and other groups in the Edmonton region to fight trafficking, which he called “modern day slavery.”

“It has been our dream that special focus and permanent funding would one day become a reality. Today is that day,” Brandt said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 2, 2022.

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