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‘Look how many love you:’ Family, friends gather for boy stabbed near Edmonton school


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By Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

The sound of a Sikh prayer echoed across an Edmonton high school field Friday night as loved ones of a 16-year-old boy who died after an attack returned to the place he was stabbed to perform a cleansing ceremony.

Monica Binns said a prayer recited by a leader from a Sikh temple during the ceremony would help Karanveer Sahota’s family cleanse their memory of the McNally High School field as the place where her cousin was attacked while waiting for a bus on April 8.

“Instead we want it to be remembered as a place where those that loved him and were touched by him gathered to love, honor and pay respects for his last moments on earth,” Binns said as she wept and described the ceremony called ‘Ardas’.

“Look, Karan. Look how many people love you and are touched by you. We’re all here because your impact on us has brought us all together,” she said.

Police charged six boys and one girl between the ages of 14 and 17 with second-degree murder soon after Sahota died in hospital a week after the attack.

All seven are out on bail and are to appear in court in May.

Police Supt. Shane Perka has said the youths had a history of disagreeing with each other, but there are no indications the assault on Sahota was gang-related.

On Friday, some students wept, while some family members and friends of Sahota’s stood silently around a tree adjacent to the bus stop where he was attacked. Community members placed flowers and candles around a photo of Sahota that leaned against a tree.

A sign outside the high school for Sahota quoted Toni Morrison: “Something that is loved is never lost.”

Before the cleansing ceremony, several of Sahota’s cousins and friends gave speeches about how intelligent, mature and thoughtful he was.

They said he loved listening to and producing music. He was also a good cook, an even better basketball player, and cared deeply for his mother, father and 13-year-old sister.

“The name Karanveer translates to brave warrior in Punjabi,” said Sahota’s cousin, Shivleen Sidhu.

“That’s exactly what our Karanveer was. Brave and strong. He was a true fighter until the end.”

Sidhu said that while Sahota fought for his life in hospital for a week, family members from across the world came together to send him off to heaven.

“Karanveer has taught us many lessons in his short life but the most important lesson that he has taught us is to cherish all of the times that we have with our family and loved ones because in the blink of an eye, our life can change forever,” she said.

The Edmonton Police Service said in a statement Thursday that it understands Sahota’s death continues to weigh heavily on many students, families and the community, and warned about misinformation circulating about the assault.

“Unfortunately, the EPS has received reports about members of the public publishing the names of accused and witnesses on the internet that they believe are involved in the McNally High School homicide investigation/prosecution,” police spokeswoman Cheryl Sheppard said in the statement.

“While we recognize that this continues to be a difficult time, the EPS must point out that publishing the identity of any accused and witnesses in such matters is a criminal offence under the Youth Criminal Justice Act,” she said.

“We ask that anyone who has published identifying material of this nature to delete/remove it immediately.”

A GoFundMe for Sahota’s family has raised more than $255,000.

A petition calling for the accused to be sentenced, if convicted, as adults has been circulating on multiple online community groups and has attracted more than 11,000 signatures.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 29, 2022.

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

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Alberta’s province wide state of emergency ends as wildfire situation improves

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Saskatchewan landowners fight against illegal drainage washing out land, roads

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WAWOTA, Sask. — Lane Mountney spreads a map over his kitchen table at his farmhouse in southeast Saskatchewan, pointing to yellow and orange arrows slithering across the document. 

Many of the arrows represent existing channels and ditches, moving across fields and out of wetlands to drain water. The arrows eventually make their way to a creek, causing what he describes as a deluge of problems downstream. 

“All these years, guys have gotten away with draining water and the next guy figures he can get away withit,” Mountney said in an interview at his farm near Wawota, Sask., about 200 kilometres southeast of Regina. 

“If this keeps going like it has, I don’t know what Saskatchewan’s going to look like in 10 years.”

Mountney’s map depicts what’s called the Wawken Drainage Project, a plan developed by the local watershed group that has since been taken over by the Water Security Agency, which is responsible for overseeing drainage in Saskatchewan. 

The project is nearly 14 square kilometres and contains 880 wetlands of various sizes representing a total of 2.4 square kilometres of water. 

A project document indicates that 88 per cent of these wetlands have been drained, partially drained or farmed. About 12 per cent remain intact.

Most of this water is supposed to flow into a creek that runs through a parcel of Mountney’s land. 

The plan developers believe the creek can handle the flows, but Mountney is not convinced. 

Last year, he and his wife, Sandra Mountney, dealt with flooding ontheir horses’ pasture. They decided not to use their well water at the time because it was yellow. 

“They were very excited to tell us that nobody inside the project area is going to lose acres, but they haven’t even looked at who’s going to lose acres miles down the line.” Sandra Mountney said. 

Brent Fry, who farms grain and livestock, said it’s common for his land to flood for three days when people upstream get 50 millimetres of rain. 

He said it has caused roads and access points to erode.

“There are about four farms out there and all they’re doing is draining whether they’ve got permission or not,” Fry said. “I don’t even know what to do because the government’s not doing anything — they’re siding with the big guys.”

Farmers have drained water in Saskatchewan for generations and many have done so illegally by digging ditches without permits.  

Most producers drain because it allows them to grow more crops, helping them pay for land that has become increasingly expensive. However, it has caused yearly flooding for people downstream. Roads also wash out and habitat gets lost.

At the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities convention in February, reeves passed a resolution asking the Water Security Agency to require those who are illegally draining to remediate their unapproved works. 

Saskatchewan legislation requires upstream landowners to receive permission from those downstream when they want to drain, but many say that’s not happening. 

Sandra Mountney said the Water Security Agency hasn’t been taking concerns seriously.

“It’s hard to know who’s really protecting our waterways,” she said.

The Wawken project began about three years ago but hasn’t been completed. It’s among many drainage projects underway.

Daniel Phalen, a watershed planner, worked on the project as technician before he left for another job. 

He said landowners had been draining water with no permits before the plan. His job was to determine how many wetlands were drained and what works had already been done. 

Phalen said the plan was to put in structures that would slow down the drainage to reduce problems downstream. 

It’s unclear what work had been done on the Wawken project to mitigate flows since Phalen left. The Water Security Agency did not respond to a request for comment.

Phalen said projects can get held up if affected landowners don’t come to an agreement. Expropriation is allowed but it’s rare, he said.  

Another nearby drainage plan, known as the Martin project, has stalled because of landowner concerns.

Researchers have estimated Saskatchewan has lost half of its total wetlands over time for crop production. 

Phalen, who also worked on the Martin plan, said it was concerning to see the number of wetlands sucked out. 

“The Water Security Agency doesn’t have the manpower to do much about it,” Phalen said. “There’s such low enforcement already that if they had any policies in place, people would just drain anyways. It’s kind of a scary problem to be in.”

Sandra Mountney said she’s worried about losing wetlands because they help recharge groundwater supplies and filter contaminants — particularly important when it’s dry. 

The Water Security Agency has released a drainage management framework that aims to prevent flooding and ensure Saskatchewan retains a “sufficient” number of wetlands. 

Leah Clark, the Interim Executive Director of Agriculture Water Management, told attendees at a Saskatchewan Farm Stewardship Association meeting earlier this year that 43 per cent of wetlands are retained within approved projects. She added the province has “thriving” wildlife populations.

However, she said under the policy, landowners would be able to select which wetlands to retain.

“It will achieve a working landscape for landowners to continue to use their land for farming and ranching. This approach will allow for new development while retaining current drainage,” she said. 

Phalen said Saskatchewan could look to Manitoba for solutions to retain wetlands. 

Manitoba has historically drained most of its wetlands in the agricultural regions, he said, but the province has since developed a policy where landowners are paid for retaining them. 

“You know, $100 an acre is not a ton of money, but it’s another incentive to help producers,” he said. “It’s such a complex problem where you got this huge financial incentive to drain.”

Lane Mountney said regulations just need to be enforced. 

“It’s almost too late,” he said. “They should have been out there checking stuff before we got this point.” 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2023.

Jeremy Simes, The Canadian Press

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