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Alberta

A Small, Important Opening

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A Small, Important Opening

Chances are pretty good that all major-league sports and some of the lower-profile ones will manage to complete partial 2020 seasons despite growing signs that COVID-19 will not give up without a long and continuing fight for dominance over sports and all else in today’s world.

Experts and observers of all athletic and public disciplines agree, however, that nothing is certain: baseball players are opting to stay home; basketball players express discontent and confusion every day; the NHL waffles over naming so-called hub cities for a wacky playoff proposal that continues to raise more questions than answers.

In the midst of all this uncertainty comes one simple burst of optimism: the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame will welcome the public on Thursday, 98 days after the rampaging coronavirus pandemic forced closure of the building on the edge of Red Deer on March 16. It is fair to concede that reopening a small-city building warrants little public interest when compared with the billions involved in professional sports, but it’s also reasonable to accept that every step of progress in this deadly world-wide struggle is worth recording.

Although none of the $302,000 committed to the Hall in the current provincial budget has been received – a $75,000 commitment has been made but no cash has appeared and a review is already promised for later this year – executive director Tracey Kinsella said some pleasant things have been achieved during the lockdown.

“We have been extremely busy giving our Hall of Fame an update,” she smiled. “Our goal is to improve the entire experience for our visitors from the moment they walk in the door.”

Cleanliness was, and is, essential in the reopening. Sanitizers, directional signs and plenty of obvious messaging are part of the opening, of course. There is no plan for an opening ceremony, Kinsells said. “We would like to do something of a celebration, maybe later in July.”

At one time, fingers were crossed that induction of the 14 members selected several months ago but “we had to decide (last week) that there will be no induction banquet in 2020. We’ve had to tell all the inductees that we’re having to wait until next year.”

The list includes four athletes: skier Deirdra Dionne, hockey player Chris Phillips, chuck-wagon racer Kelly Sutherland and snowboard-cross star Michael Robertson. Five builders – Jan Ullmark, figure skating; Terry Morris, curling; Ken Babey, hockey; Derek Douglas, soccer – were selected along with five Hall of Fame Award winners Nancy Southern and Ian Allison (equestrian broadcasters, Bell Memorial Award), John Currie (Western Canada Summer Games 1983, Achievement Award); Stan Wakelyn (1922 Canadian soccer champions 1922, Pioneer Award); Dennis Kadatz (coach of Edmonton Huskies national junior football champions 1962-64).

Those awards show clearly how broad is the effect of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. Every winner spent years working and practicing toward the world’s most elusive goal: perfection. There is no suggestion that it was reached, just as there can be no hint that they have inspired thousands to follow them.

Discussing the government’s failure to live up to its contracted financial commitment, Kinsella was not especially critical: “We’re sad, disappointed, maybe a little alarmed.” During a lengthy discussion, she finally confirmed receipt of the government’s letter providing the limited amount and mentioned “I’ve asked for meetings, have not had a direct, face-to-face conversation with anyone in the area of culture.”

My unsolicited opinion: this is unreasonable. As the Hall opens its doors, perhaps a government department should also open up.

Learn more about the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.

Our sports history has value

Alberta

Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

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EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says health officials may also have to rebook vaccination appointments for those getting the required second dose.

Hinshaw made the announcement just hours after the federal government said there will be no shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week and reduced shipments for about three weeks after that.

The slowdown is due to Pfizer retrofitting its Belgium-based plant in order to ramp up production down the road.

Hinshaw says Alberta has 456 new cases of COVID-19, with 740 patients in hospital.

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died.

“This is frustrating, but the factory issues in Belgium are out of our control,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a release Tuesday.

“We will continue to use what we have to protect as many Albertans as possible. And we will continue to inform Albertans of any changes to our vaccination plans.”

Alberta recently finished giving first doses of vaccine to all residents in its 357 long-term care and supportive living facilities.

“These are absolutely the highest-risk locations, and people who live in these facilities are the most vulnerable to severe outcomes,” Hinshaw told a virtual news conference.

“Two-thirds of all our (COVID-19) deaths have been in long-term care and supportive living facilities.”

Alberta has given 90,000 first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to those in the high priority cohort: those in the care homes and front-line health-care workers.

Canada was to get more than 417,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and next, but will now get just over 171,000 this week and nothing the following week.  Both vaccines require two doses weeks apart for full effectiveness.

The delay has also forced the province to put off implementing the next phase of priority cases: Indigenous seniors over 65 and other seniors 75 and older.

Alberta remains under strict lockdown measures, which include a ban on indoor gatherings. Bars, restaurants and lounges can offer takeout or pickup service only. Retailers are limited to 15 per cent customer capacity, while entertainment venues like casinos and movie theatres remain shuttered.

The province relaxed some measure slightly on Monday. Outdoor gatherings can have 10 people maximum. Personal care services, like hair salons, manicure and pedicure salons and tattoo shops, can open by appointment only.

Hinshaw said it’s not clear when further restrictions can be lifted.

“Our health system is still under severe strain,” she said.

“This continues to impact our ability to deliver care, not only for COVID-19 but all the other health needs Albertans have.”

There were 11,096 active COVID cases Tuesday, about half the number recorded at its peak in mid-December.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Central Alberta man sentenced to 18 years on 26 charges following child porn bust

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RED DEER, Alta. — A central Alberta man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison following what is being called one of the largest child pornography busts in the province.

The man can’t be named due to a publication ban to protect the identity of his victims, some of whom were sexually assaulted by him.

He pleaded guilty in October 2019 to 26 charges, while more than 50 counts were dropped.

Court in Red Deer, Alta., heard that the man’s victims were between two and 10 years old.

During the police investigation, members of Alberta’s internet Child Exploitation Unit seized more than 180,000 images of child pornography from the man’s digital devices and more than 27,000 videos.

During sentencing, provincial court Judge Jim Hunter called the 36-year-old man’s actions deplorable.

“The offences are extremely grave. Each time the files are viewed, the child is revictimized. The potential for revictimizations are immense,” Hunter said Tuesday.

“His moral culpability is very high. His collection was vast and extremely well organized — close to the highest numbers ever dealt with in Alberta.”

The man was initially charged in January 2019 following a tip from the Queensland Police Service in Australia.

Hunter said the man knew the legal and moral wrongfulness of his actions.

“He not only made child pornography, he traded and distributed it. I acknowledge (the accused) has a number of mental illnesses including pedophilia disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but not enough to mitigate the sentence.”

The man was also given a 10-year long-term supervision order and banned for life from owning weapons and firearms. He must also register as a sex offender and submit his DNA.

After seeking a sentence of 20 years, Crown prosecutor Carolyn Ayre said she is satisfied with the judge’s ruling. (rdnewsNow)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021 

The Canadian Press

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