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Firefighters mount AHS court challenge over ‘unconstitutional’ vaccine mandate

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A group of firefighters have said they plan to take Alberta Health Services to court over the vaccine mandate.

Last week a group of Alberta first responders sent a letter to Alberta Health Services saying they will take AHS to court over what they call the “unconstitutional” vaccine mandate.

The group, known as Fight for the Frontline, is made up of firefighters, paramedics, and other front-line staff who have hired a law firm to take up their case in court.

Spokesperson Tim Moen, who is a firefighter-paramedic, said he speaks for those who may have medical conditions, religious exemptions, or what he calls natural immunity from contracting the COVID-19 virus.

Moen said, in listening to his colleagues, he found many who may lose their jobs because they are unvaccinated.

“Hearing their stories kind of broke my heart and so I wanted to get involved and help them out,” Moen said.

“Our communities are less safe without these guys working for us.”

Moen expects around one to two per cent of first responders may lose their jobs on Nov. 1, after the AHS mandate kicks in. Right now, the group is made up of around 40 to 50 front-line firefighters and 200 front-line workers.

The group wrote a letter to AHS demanding it provide rapid-testing options, and recognize: natural immunity; exemptions under the Alberta Human Rights Act; that an unpaid leave of absence is a constructive dismissal; that unvaccinated employees are entitled to severance upon dismissal; and that it compensate individuals who suffer vaccine injuries because of this mandate.

Moen said some people would prefer to get tested regularly, and other staff have “taken the vaccination under coercion.”

Moen said he is vaccinated, but may not want a future series of booster shots, or he may have a health problem that could prevent him from getting the vaccine.

The letter sent to AHS said the mandate is unfair because none of the COVID-19 vaccines have been satisfactorily proven safe. The letter said those who are vaccinated should be required to undergo testing to ensure they are not unwittingly spreading infections.

The World Health Organization and all other leading health organizations say the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and there are strict protections in place to help ensure the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines.

“Before receiving validation from WHO and national regulatory agencies, COVID-19 vaccines must undergo rigorous testing in clinical trials to prove that they meet internationally agreed benchmarks for safety and efficacy,” the WHO website reads.

“Unprecedented scientific collaborations have allowed COVID-19 vaccine research, development, and authorizations to be completed in record time — to meet the urgent need for these vaccines while maintaining high safety standards. As with all vaccines, WHO and regulatory authorities will continuously monitor the use of COVID-19 vaccines to identify and respond to any safety issues that might arise, and through that process to assure they remain safe for use around the world.”

Experts say natural immunity doesn’t replace immunity from vaccination.

The group said they have other concerns, including that religious and medical exemptions are exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to attain.

Moen said they have heard back from AHS, who is asking them for the identities of those behind the letter. Moen said they are reluctant to reveal their identities for fear of retribution.

Firefighters and paramedics are often employed by municipalities that have contracts to provide emergency medical services, such as the situation in St. Albert, and Moen said they just want to follow the same rules municipalities have in place, such as regular testing, rather than have a vaccine mandate.

The letter said that if the demands listed are not met, they will be moving forward with a Constitutional challenge in court. Moen said they hope to have the issue resolved before it reaches the justice system.

Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette

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Alberta

Alberta legislation would set up independent agency to investigate police complaints

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The Alberta government has introduced legislation aimed at making police forces more accountable and responsive to the communities they serve.

The Police Amendment Act introduced Thursday would establish an independent agency called the Police Review Commission to receive complaints, carry out investigations and conduct disciplinary hearings to do away with the idea of police investigating police.

Mike Ellis, the minister of public safety and emergency services, said the province has been consulting with Albertans since 2018 to come up with the first major overhaul of the Police Act in 34 years.

“One thing that came up consistently was the need to change how complaints against the police are investigated to end the system of police investigating police,” Ellis said.

“The legislation answers those long-lasting calls to reform the public complaints process by establishing an independent agency to handle complaints against police.”

The Alberta Serious Response Team will continue to handle all cases involving death or serious injuries, as well as serious and sensitive allegations involving all police services. Its mandate would be expanded to include peace officers employed by provincial organizations as well as community peace officers at the municipal level.

The legislation would also require all jurisdictions with a population above 15,000 currently policed by the RCMP to establish civilian bodies to oversee policing priorities.

The United Conservative Party government is deciding next steps following the release of a third-party analysis last year of a proposal to create a provincial police force instead of using the RCMP in rural areas and some smaller communities.

“No decisions have been made regarding the provincial police service,” Ellis said. “This is about ensuring that the rural municipalities have a say at the table under our current model which is the RCMP, who is the current provincial police service provider.”

Ellis said it could be another 18 months before the Police Review Commission is up and running. He said negotiations are underway with the RCMP to see how they would fit in under civilian oversight.

“Right now K-Division has expressed they’re supportive of this, however, we’re still having discussions with Public Safety Canada because it still falls technically under the RCMP in Ottawa,” he said.

“We’re going to continue to negotiate with the RCMP because we believe the independent body is the right approach and we can continue going down that path.”

The proposed changes would also require police to develop diversity and inclusion plans to reflect the diverse and distinct communities they serve and to better understand local community needs.

The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police supports the changes.

“Changes to update our Police Act are long overdue,” said Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld, president of the association in a statement.

“We have advocated for several years that the act needs reform to bring it more in line with the realities of the modern police workplace,”

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee said the changes “will provide an additional layer of public transparency” that will benefit both the public and police.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary

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Alberta

TC Energy shuts down Keystone pipeline system after leak in Nebraska

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CALGARY — TC Energy Corp. says it has shut down its Keystone pipeline after a leak in Nebraska.

The company says it has mobilized people and equipment in response to a confirmed release of oil into a creek, about 32 kilometres south of Steele City, Neb.

TC Energy says an emergency shutdown and response was initiated Wednesday night after a pressure drop in the system was detected.

It says the affected segment of the pipeline has been isolated and booms have been deployed to prevent the leaked oil from moving downstream.

The Keystone pipeline system stretches 4,324 kilometres and helps move Canadian and U.S. crude oil to markets around North America.

TC Energy says the system remains shutdown as its crews respond and work to contain and recover the oil.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:TRP)

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