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Alberta

‘Sad to see:’ Edmonton’s Chinatown losing business after killings, rise in crime

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EDMONTON — The 97 Hot Pot restaurant in Edmonton’s Chinatown used to be crowded on weekends, with some customers lining up and craving slow-cooked veggies, lamb and beef.

But that hasn’t been the case lately.

Manager Vincent Lau says the killings of two workers from nearby shops last month and years of social disorder in the century-old downtown neighbourhood have scared away many regulars.

“Business has died down significantly in the last few weeks,” said Lau, who lives a 15-minute walk from the restaurant.

“Chinatown has been here for a long time, so it’s sad to see. Being able to have a safer area would welcome more guests and more citizens to this part of the city.”

Wen Wong, executive director of the Chinatown and Area Business Association, said the district in the McCauley neighbourhood has been deteriorating over the last 20 years.

The decline worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the oldest bakery in the community was burned to the ground and multiple other cases of arson and vandalism followed.

Edmonton police said there has been an increasing trend of violence, disorder, and property crime in areas including Chinatown, the downtown, and the transit system.

Wong said years ago, many Chinatown businesses stayed open late into the night to serve a busy clientele. Many close now by 6 p.m. and, during the day, operate with their doors locked so customers have to knock to get in.

“We surveyed our members and close to 100 per cent said Chinatown is extremely dangerous, especially at nighttime,” said Wong, adding he doesn’t walk outside at night.

Lau said the killing of Ban Phuc Hoang and Hung Trang a few blocks away from his restaurant has made it difficult to attract customers. Hoang was working inside his electronics store when he was attacked. Trang was found dead outside the autobody shop where he worked.

Lau said some of his larger male workers have been regularly walking servers out to their cars after shifts “because we’re scared of what might happen.”

Wong said addiction and mental health issues have worsened and more people have been in the area to access nearby social service centres.

Volunteers have been collecting as many as 300 needles a month in the community, which is just a few blocks from Edmonton’s safe drug consumption sites, he said.

“I don’t understand why and how safe injection sites and these centres were all placed near Chinatown,” Wong said.

“We have a lot of homeless who come in and they don’t want to leave,” Lau added.

“We have to call the police, which sometimes takes up to an hour. By that time, they have made a mess.”

Wong said he counted 150 businesses operating at the start of the pandemic and today there are about 120.

Children of many of the business owners tell their parents they don’t want to continue running their family shops because of how challenging it has become, he said.

“We are having less and less Chinese owners, because they are getting old. It’s hard for the Chinese community.”

Lau and Wong agree two solutions would help Chinatown become the colourful, tourist-friendly and vibrant neighbourhood it was once: more security and fewer social service centres in the area.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi announced a plan last week to address crime. It includes $1 million to revitalize Chinatown, grants for businesses to upgrade their security, more public washrooms downtown and help for owners doing cleanup.

In the long term, the city plans to urge the province to stop releasing mental health patients and those released from provincial corrections facilities onto the streets. This, after questions have been raised about why the man charged with killing Hoang and Trang was dropped off in Edmonton by RCMP when a bail condition stated he could only be in the city for an addictions treatment program.

The city also wants to decentralize social services now concentrated near Chinatown over five years.

Edmonton police said it is also creating a strategy to increase community safety along with more officers in downtown areas.

Wong said 12 security officers in cars, on bikes and on foot have been patrolling the area from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week since the funding was released. It will cover their costs for up to six months.

He’s not sure about what will happen after that.

“We hope we will see a big change for the better.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2022.

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

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Voting deadline looms in race to replace Jason Kenney as Alberta UCP leader, premier

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EDMONTON – It’s deadline day to buy $10 Alberta United Conservative Party memberships to vote for the next leader and premier.

The party is accepting drop offs by 5 p.m. and online memberships until midnight.

The party will then go through the memberships and confirm information and expects to have the final tally ready in two weeks or so.

Seven candidates are on the ballot seeking to replace Premier Jason Kenney in the party’s top job.

Kenney announced in May he was quitting after receiving a lukewarm 51 per cent support in a party leadership review.

The next key date in the race is the second debate, slated for Aug. 30 in Edmonton.

The candidates have been proposing a range of policy ideas from health care to education reform, but the focus of debate has been on how to leverage Alberta’s relationship with the federal government to get a better deal in areas such as equalization.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.

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Alberta

McTavish puts up six points, Canada crushes Slovakia 11-1 at world juniors

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EDMONTON — Mason McTavish didn’t have to pull on the Maple Leaf and play in an unusual summer world junior hockey championship.

The 19-year-old forward will head back to the Anaheim Ducks next month, the NHL team where he put up a goal and two assists in nine appearances last season. Skipping an August tournament to focus on preparing for training camp likely wouldn’t raise eyebrows.

But McTavish has been clear — he loves playing hockey and he loves representing Canada

The dedication paid off Thursday as the captain put up four goals and two assists, powering his team to an 11-1 victory over Slovakia.

“I don’t think anyone’s surprised by his hockey and what he brings to the ice. But what really impresses me is his attitude,” said Canada’s head coach Dave Cameron.

“He has no ego. He probably had every reason not to come to this tournament, just because of the timing of it. And he’s fully engaged in it. And his performance tonight was outstanding.”

McTavish made his way into the history books Thursday, tying a Canadian record for most goals in a world juniors game.

Other players who have accomplished the feat include Mario Lemieux (1984), Brayden Schenn (2011) and Maxime Comtois (2019).

“It’s pretty cool for sure. A special moment,” McTavish said. “Obviously, credit to my teammates. They were looking for me all game, it felt like.”

McTavish plays a special game, said teammate Brennan Othmann.

“He’s fun to play with,” he said. “He’s an elite goal scorer, as you could see tonight. No matter what team he faces, he always finds the back of the net somehow.”

Nine Canadians had multi-point performances in the win, including McTavish, Joshua Roy (one goal, three assists), Othmann (one goal, two assists), Olen Zellwegger (one goal, one assist), Connor Bedard (one goal, one assist), Logan Stankoven (one goal, one assist), Will Cuylle (one goal, one assist), Lukas Cormier (two assists) and William Dufour (two assists).

Zack Ostapchuk also scored for Canada (2-0-0), who were coming off a tournament-opening 5-2 win over Latvia on Wednesday.

“We’re deep from our first line to our fourth line,” Othmann said. “It doesn’t matter who’s in or who’s out, everyone’s contributing in some way.”

Matej Kaslik put away the lone goal for Slovakia (0-0-2) midway through the second period.

Making his first start of the tournament, Canada’s Dylan Garand registered 22 saves.

Tomas Bolo stopped 33 of 44 shots for Slovakia, who dropped a 5-4 decision to Czechia (1-0-1) on Tuesday.

There were just 21 seconds left on the game clock when Ostapchuk buried a shot. He picked up a loose puck at the side of the net and slid it around the front, in past Bolo to seal the score at 11-1.

Roy bumped Canada’s lead to 10-1 at the 15:07 mark. Dufour’s shot hit Bolo’s pad and Roy picked up the rebound at the top of the crease, firing it in over the netminder as he fell to the ice.

McTavish barely celebrated after finding space between Bolo and the post for his fourth goal of the night 3:44 into the third.

“I’m not the biggest celebrator, unless it’s a game-seven OT winner or something like that,” he said. “I don’t really tend to get too excited.”

McTavish completed his hat trick with 35 seconds left in the middle frame.

Bedard took a hit in the neutral zone and sent a puck up the ice to give his teammates a two-man breakaway. Roy put a crisp pass on McTavish’s tape and he fired a shot past Bolo to give the Canadians an 8-1 lead.

About a dozen hats floated to the ice.

It was McTavish’s backhanded flick from the top of the crease 15:16 into the second that gave Canada a 7-1 cushion.

Just 36 seconds earlier, Slovakia finally beat Garand after a battle down low.

Kaslik got the puck and unleashed a shot that hit the goalie’s pad and the crossbar on its way into the net.

A three-man breakaway set up McTavish’s first goal of the night 6:25 into the second. Donovan Sebrango sent him a lead pass and, handling the puck, Team Canada’s captain skated in, sending a rocket soaring past Bolo stick side to boost the lead to 6-0.

The second period was just over a minute old when Stankoven put away Canada’s fifth goal of the night on a five-on-three.

Kent Johnson sent a shot into Bolo’s pad and Stankoven, stationed at the side of the net, popped a shot in before the goalie could get back into position.

Canada was 1 for 4 on the power play and Slovakia went 0 for 3.

After a slow start in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Latvia, Canada was a force in the first period Thursday.

The host nation took a 4-0 advantage into the first intermission after Zellweger scored with 43 seconds left in the opening frame.

The defenceman got a shot off from the hash marks and the puck appeared to tick off another player in front of the net before pinging in off the post.

Slovakia challenged the play for being offside but a video review determined Zellweger’s goal was good.

A scuttled Slovakian clearing attempt set up Canada’s third strike of the night.

Bolo tried to send the puck out from deep in his own end but Cuylle picked it up at the blue line and sent it to Othmann in the faceoff circle The New York Rangers prospect sailed a shot in past the goalie 15:57 into the game.

Cuylle gave Canada a 2-0 lead less than three minutes earlier.

Ridly Greig stepped out of the penalty box and chipped a pass up the boards to Cuylle, who skated in alone on a breakaway and put a quick blast through Bolo’s pads.

Slovakia had a breakaway of its own earlier in the first, but Garand read the play perfectly and the shot thudded off of his pads to keep Canada up 1-0.

For the second game in a row, Bedard opened the scoring for the Canadians.

The 17-year-old Regina Pats centre dished the puck to McTavish, who sliced it back across the slot. Bedard capped the give-and-go by ripping a blistering shot past Bolo from the bottom of the faceoff circle 6:16 into the first period.

The early game Thursday saw Finland (2-0-0) battle Czechia (1-0-1) to a 4-3 shootout win.

“During the game, we got better and better. And that’s the most important thing,” said Finland’s head coach Antti Pennanen.

Czechia and Canada will both be off Friday before going head-to-head on Saturday.

The Czechs know they’ll need to elevate their game for the matchup, said forward Jiri Kulich.

“We just want to keep our game,” he said. “It’s a big challenge, of course, and a big game. So we’re just going to do our best.”

In the final game of the day, the reigning champion Americans (2-0-0) took a convincing 7-1 win over Switzerland (0-2-0).

Friday will see Austria (0-1-0) face Sweden (1-0-0) and Slovakia take on Latvia (0-2-0).

NOTES: McTavish leads the tournament in scoring with eight points (four goals, four assists). … The preliminary round continues through Monday, with the quarterfinals set for Wednesday. The semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 19 and the medal games will be played on Aug. 20. … The 2022 tournament is being held in August after the original iteration was called off on Dec. 29 after just four days as rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials forced games to be forfeited.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

 

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