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Alberta

‘It could have been deadly’: Truckers end blockade at Alberta border crossing

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COUTTS, Alta. — A blockade that paralyzed a United States border crossing for more than two weeks ended Tuesday as trucks and other vehicles with horns blaring rolled away from a southern Alberta community.

Protesters had been restricting access to the busy crossing near Coutts since Jan. 29 to rally against COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truckers and broader pandemic health restrictions.

Canada Border Services Agency said operations had resumed at the crossing and RCMP confirmed later Tuesday that traffic was moving smoothly.

The exodus of vehicles came one day after RCMP arrested 13 people and seized a cache of firearms and ammunition.

Charges laid include possession of weapons and mischief to property.

Four people also face a charge of conspiracy to murder RCMP members, said Chief Supt. Trevor Daroux. He said police worked closely with the Crown to ensure they had the necessary evidence to lay those charges.

Some of the accused were granted release in a Lethbridge, Alta., courtroom on Tuesday. A judge also ordered that they can’t contact one another or be within a 200-metre radius of any protest.

Mounties said an early-morning raid Monday uncovered 13 long guns, handguns, a machete, a large quantity of ammunition and body armour. Two additional weapons were seized later in the day.

RCMP also said a semi-truck and farm tractor had attempted to ram a police cruiser on Sunday.

“The dangerous criminal activity occurring away from the TV cameras and social media posts was real and organized,” said Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki on Tuesday evening.

“It could have been deadly for citizens, protesters and officers.”

Daroux said the RCMP became aware of the heavily armed group a few days after the protest began. He said investigations are ongoing into this group and other events that took place during the blockade.

“Alberta RCMP will remain in the area until we are confident that the situation is safe and stabilized for all who travel through here,” he said.

Protesters are dissociating themselves from the group of people facing serious charges. Organizer Marco Van Huigenbos said that is why the convoy decided to leave peacefully.

He said he has no regrets about participating in the blockade.

“I think we’ve started a movement where people are going to get more involved … at the municipal level, provincial possibly, but also more involvement in politics in general.”

Two tactical vests seized by the RCMP had badges on them, which the Canadian Anti-Hate Network said have links to troubling movements.

One vest had a “Diagolon” patch on it, a white diagonal line across a black rectangle, that is linked to an often conspiratorial and antisemitic group, said Peter Smith from the network. He said the group often talks about a soon-approaching civil war.

“(Their) rhetoric is very violent,” said Smith. “One of the, kind of, common phrases used within the community is ‘A gun or rope?'”

The other patch said “Infidel” in both English and Arabic in yellow. Smith said the patch doesn’t indicate membership to a specific network but is known among Islamophobic militias and biker-style hate groups.

He said the biggest worry is having niche extremist networks that could work to inflame supporters linked to what was supposed to be a peaceful protest.

There was celebrating when the protest started winding down late Monday. A video posted to social media showed RCMP members shaking hands with and hugging protesters. People holding hats or hands to their chests or with arms draped across each other’s shoulders sang O Canada.

Cpl. Gina Slaney confirmed the scene was from Monday night in Coutts.Zablocki said RCMP is aware of the video.

“I will say, we do encourage our members to engage with the public and develop respectful, professional relationships with all Albertans,” said Zablocki. “We will be looking further into this matter.”

Jim Willett, mayor of the village of 250 people, said it had been a while since he had seen anything but semi-trailers on Highway 4.

“I can see all the way to Regina,” he said with a laugh.

Willett said he doesn’t blame the blockade leaders for the cache of weapons.

“They were a well-behaved bunch of people,” he said. “I think the organizers were taken aback as much as we were by what the RCMP discovered.”

The number of protesters at a police checkpoint, north of Coutts, had also dwindled and work was underway to start clearing away a first-aid trailer, a sauna and electric generators.

“Last night, emotions were high … I think a lot of people felt that we were giving up, but we’re not giving up,” said John Vanreeuwyk, a feedlot operator from Coaldale, Alta., also a protest organizer.

“Is it a victory? No. A victory means we’re done,” he said.

The blockade was one of several demonstrations in Canadian cities and border points that stalled trade, stranded travellers and disrupted lives of area residents, particularly in Ottawa.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has said $48 million in trade was lost each day that the Coutts border was closed.

— With files from Alanna Smith in Calgary

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2022.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Province advancing plans to build stand-alone Stollery Children’s Hospital

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Investing in a new Stollery Children’s Hospital

If passed, Budget 2024 will allocate $20 million over three years to advance plans for a stand-alone Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton.

With 236 beds, the Stollery Children’s Hospital is the second-largest children’s hospital in Canada and has among the highest inpatient volumes of any children’s hospital in Canada. As the province’s population continues to grow, it is crucial that children in Edmonton and northern Alberta have access to the specialized care they need.

Alberta’s government is steadfast in its commitment to build a stand-alone Stollery Children’s Hospital. A new facility would provide more beds, larger clinical spaces, more private rooms and dedicated areas for children and their families. It would also result in additional teaching spaces and state-of-the-art technologies to enhance health care delivery specifically for children.

“A new, stand-alone children’s hospital will build capacity and enable health care providers to continue delivering world-class care to children. This investment, as well as other capital investments outlined in Budget 2024, is an example of how we are creating a more unified and efficient health care system for Albertans. I look forward to sharing more details soon.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health

“The new Stollery Children’s Hospital project is the latest addition to Edmonton’s health care infrastructure. Building upon the successes of recent projects like the new emergency department at the Misericordia Community Hospital and Norwood West at the Gene Zwozdesky Centre, the new Stollery will help increase health care capacity in the capital region.”

Pete Guthrie, Minister of Infrastructure

Alberta’s government initially invested in the project in 2021, providing $1 million that was matched by the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation. The proposed investment in Budget 2024 will include $17 million in new funding, following the $3 million invested through last year’s budget, for a total investment of $21 million in government funding over four years.

The investment in a new stand-alone Stollery Children’s Hospital is not only important for families in the city of Edmonton and capital region, it is important for families living across northern Alberta. The Stollery Children’s Hospital serves families in a geographical area of more than 500,000 square kilometres, stretching from Red Deer to Alberta’s northernmost border with the Northwest Territories. Almost 40 per cent of inpatients at the Stollery come from outside the Edmonton area and the hospital is the closest and primary children’s hospital for residents of the Northwest Territories.

“The Stollery has an incredible reputation for the impact it makes in the community, and especially in northern Alberta. This stand-alone Stollery Children’s Hospital is a long-awaited, necessary project that will help provide additional health care services to children and their families when they need it the most.”

Martin Long, parliamentary secretary for rural health

“This remarkable investment will take us one step closer to our goal of building a reimagined Stollery Children’s Hospital for the future. A new Stollery is poised to provide the most innovative, modern and family-centred physical and mental health care to help bring hope and comfort to kids dealing with serious illness and injury. Thank you to the Government of Alberta for recognizing the very real need for this hospital.”

Karen Faulkner, interim chief executive officer, Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation

“A new Stollery Children’s Hospital is urgently needed to provide dedicated care for our children. By separating kids from adults, a stand-alone Stollery ensures a nurturing environment and the most modern pediatric equipment and resources to offer families like ours a health care space designed exclusively for our children.”

Shelley Cormier, parent of Stollery patient

Plans for the new hospital include integrating mental health resources, virtual care, research and training facilities to better support patients and improve health outcomes. There will also be a focus on ensuring health care providers, parents and caregivers have the resources they need to support patients.

Alberta’s government remains dedicated to expanding and modernizing hospitals and facilities to provide Albertans with high-quality health care while increasing system capacity and supporting front-line health care workers.

“Alberta’s government is committed to building a stand-alone Stollery Children’s Hospital when planning is complete. A new facility would provide more beds, larger clinical spaces, more private rooms and dedicated areas for children and their families. There would also be more teaching spaces and state-of-the-art technologies to enhance health care delivery.”

Dr. Lyle Oberg, executive board chair, Alberta Health Services

Quick facts

  • Established in 2001, the Stollery Children’s Hospital is a full-service pediatric hospital and centre for complex pediatric care and research.
  • The Stollery Children’s Hospital sees about 300,000 children, 55,000 emergency room visits and 12,000 surgeries annually.

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Alberta

Male suspect involved in tragic incident between Beaumont and Edmonton sought by police; EPS release photos of suspect

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News release from the Edmonton Police Service (EPS)

The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) is assisting the RCMP with the investigation into a tragic incident that claimed the life of an innocent woman last night on 50 Street.

Yesterday, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at approximately 9:40 p.m. various EPS resources were deployed to the area of 50 Street and 22 Avenue SW at the request of the RCMP. It was reported to police that RCMP attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a suspicious U-Haul in Beaumont, when the vehicle fled. The U-Haul subsequently travelled north on 50 Street into Edmonton, where it struck and killed a woman inspecting the exterior of her vehicle. Moments later the U-Haul came to rest just outside a gas station off of 22 Avenue and 50 Street.

After crashing the U-Haul, the male suspect then reportedly stole a Honda Civic that was parked outside the gas station with a child inside. Police did consider an Alert to the public at the time, though thankfully the child was located unharmed in the area of 66 Street and 25 Avenue minutes later. The suspect then fled the scene in the Honda Civic. The stolen vehicle has since been recovered outside of Edmonton.

The EPS and RCMP continue to actively seek the identity and whereabouts of the male suspect described as being approximately 5’11” who was last seen wearing a black hoodie with white text on the front, brown shorts and black shoes. CCTV photos of the suspect are included below.

“We are incredibly saddened to hear about the tragic death of the innocent woman who was killed on 50 Street,” says Det. Nigel Phillips with the EPS Investigative Response Team. “Our hearts are with her family and friends who will now have to carry on with this unfathomable loss.”

“We are doing everything we can to track down the suspect and we trust the public will help us identify and locate him as soon as possible.”

Assist to identify and locate: Male suspect running in area of 50 Street & 22 Avenue SW
While the RCMP is leading this investigation, the EPS is assisting and working collaboratively with its law enforcement partners.

Anyone with information about the suspect’s identity and/or their whereabouts is asked to contact the EPS immediately at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.p3tips.com/250.

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