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Alberta

Prospect of forgiveness stirs complex feelings among residential school survivors

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By Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

Residential school survivor Rod Alexis remembers his late father telling him: “Son, I don’t know how to be a parent.”

“I lost the gift that was given to us by the Creator because I was all alone in the residential school,” the member of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation recalls his father, also a residential school survivor, saying. “Many times I wanted to say ‘I love you,’ wanted to give you a hug, but I didn’t know how.”

The Pope’s upcoming visit to Canada is evoking complex feelings among many Indigenous people. Some residential school survivors and those living with the intergenerational trauma the institutions caused are ready to forgive the Roman Catholic Church for the brutality it inflicted on Indigenous peoples.

For others, the ongoing pain makes it hard to let go of the anger.

“They killed our spirit,” says Alexis. “Some of those wounds are too far gone. We see our young generation today dying of drugs, alcohol, a lot of them in jails because of the effects of the trauma that they went through.”

Canada forced an estimated 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children to attend residential schools over a century, and the Catholic Church ran about 60 per cent of the institutions. The last residential school closed in 1996.

The children were punished for speaking their languages and practising their culture. They were separated from their families and, in many cases, were subjected to psychological, physical and sexual abuse.

Pope Francis is to land in Edmonton on Sunday before going to Quebec City on Wednesday and Iqaluit on Friday. It’s expected the pontiff will deliver an apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools near the site of the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School in the community of Maskwacis, Alta.

Fernie Marty, who attended a residential school in northeastern Alberta, says he’s willing to forgive.

“I had the opportunity to start my personal healing journey a few years back. I didn’t want to carry that guilt, shame, resentment and hatred in my heart. I wanted to let go of all that,” says the 73-year-old Papaschase First Nation elder.

But many don’t feel the same way, says Marty.

“There’s some that I don’t know what it would take for them to let go of the traumas that they have experienced in their lives.”

The chief of the Ermineskin Cree Nation, one of the four communities that make up Maskwacis, says an apology would be a fundamental step toward forgiveness.

“It’s time to get uncomfortable for many average Canadians,” says Chief Randy Ermineskin.

“I will tell you: my brother was 16. He came home (from residential school). First thing he did is he hung himself. So those are some of the truths that need to be revealed.”

Ermineskin says he will be watching peoples’ faces carefully as an expected 15,000 people listen to the Pope’s apology.

“It’s a time where you’re gonna feel like this is such a good feeling. Or, it might go the other way around.”

For many, forgiving is an important step toward reconciliation, adds Grand Chief George Arcand Jr. of the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations.

“Though these harms can never be undone, in order to forget, I do believe there has to be forgiveness.”

But Arcand says sometimes he feels Indigenous people are too forgiving.

“We accept forgiveness and welcome people to our homes, because that’s the way our parents taught us. Traditionally, those things are still done today,” he says.

“But there needs to be justice.

“There needs to be an opportunity for the wrongs that were done to be fixed. We just see this as a first step. It’s not the only step.”

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2022.

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

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Alberta

Hot rental market makes search ‘stressful’ for many — and it won’t get better soon

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Marissa Giesinger is pictured in Calgary, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. On the hunt for a rental home in Calgary over the last six weeks, Giesinger and her boyfriend trawled through listings morning, noon and night, only to find most come along with dozens of applications and a steep price tag. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

By Tara Deschamps in Toronto

On the hunt for a rental home in Calgary over the last six weeks, Marissa Giesinger and her boyfriend trawled through listings morning, noon and night, only to find most come along with dozens of applications and a steep price tag. As an added difficulty, many landlords are unwelcoming to the couple’s brood — dogs Kado and Rosco and a cat named Jester.

“We made the tough decision recently to house our dogs with someone else until we can find a place that’s affordable and we can take both of them,” said Giesinger, a 23-year-old Mount Royal University student.

“It’s definitely been stressful.”

The competitive rental market Giesinger has encountered in Calgary is being seen across the country as multiple factors combine: high interest rates deter buyers and add to rental demand, still-high inflation is squeezing renter budgets, there’s an undersupply of purpose-built rental units and population growth is fuelling demand.

These conditions have left prospective renters feeling even more frustrated than usual by sky-high rents, the frenzy of interest that surrounds any affordable listing and the litany of demands landlords can make when so many people are interested in their home.

Giacomo Ladas, communications director for Rentals.ca, calls it “almost a perfect storm” — and it isn’t likely to ease up any time soon.

“What this does is create such a burden on this rental housing market that even though we’re out of the (busy) summer rental season, there’s so much demand that (these conditions are) going to continue like this until the fall and into the winter,” he said.

Data crunched by his organization and research firm Urbanation.ca shows average asking rents for newly-listed units in Canada increased 1.8 per cent between July and August and 9.6 per cent from a year earlier to reach a record high of $2,117 last month.

Between May and August, asking rents in Canada increased by 5.1 per cent or an average of $103 per month.

When Giesinger rented a two-bedroom basement unit with a roommate a few years ago, the duo paid $1,000 per month, but now she routinely spots “super tiny,” one-bedroom places for $1,350 a month.

“If you want a basement suite or an apartment, you’re looking at minimum $1,200 and that doesn’t include any utilities or anything like that unless it’s a super rare listing,” Giesinger said.

Rentals.ca data show newly listed one-bedroom properties in Calgary priced at an average $1,728 per month in August, up 21.6 per cent from a year earlier. Two-bedroom homes have climbed 17.4 per cent to $2,150 over the same period.

The picture in Vancouver and Toronto is far bleaker. Rentals.ca found the cities had the highest rents in the country.

Newly-listed one-bedroom properties in Vancouver averaged $2,988 in August, up 13.1 per cent from a year earlier, while two-bedroom units hit $3,879, an almost 10 per cent increase year-over-year.

Newly-listed Toronto one-bedroom homes averaged $2,620 in August, up almost 11 per cent from the year before, while two-bedroom properties had a 7.1 per cent rise over the same time frame to $3,413.

It’s numbers like these that have convinced Kanishka Punjabi to abandon her hopes of moving in the near term.

“Two days ago, I gave up on my search because the rental market is that bad,” she said.

The public relations worker has been living in Mississauga, Ont., but felt it was time to find a home in downtown or midtown Toronto, closer to where she works.

However, few of the two-bedroom homes she spotted in her two-month search were within her $2,800 budget.

For example, one apartment she liked at the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton streets had 25 offers in just over a week.

“Some people actually just sent in their offer without looking at the apartment too because there are so many people who are in desperate need of rental units,” said Punjabi. “There’s just not enough.”

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has projected that the country needs to build 3.5 million additional homes beyond what’s planned before the market reaches some semblance of affordability.

It also calculated that the annual pace of housing starts — when construction begins on a home — edged down one per cent in August to 252,787 units compared with 255,232 in July.

Despite the nudge down, Rishi Sondhi, an economist with TD Bank Group, said it has been a strong year for starts because the industry is responding to elevated prices by building at a robust pace.

But between population growth and rising interest rates, he said, “supply is struggling to keep up with demand” and that’s bound to weigh on renters for quite some time.

“In the short term, it would be unrealistic to expect too much of a reprieve simply because population growth is likely to remain strong through the duration of this year — and that’s really one of the big fundamental drivers,” he said.

“In addition, it’s unlikely to expect affordability in the ownership market to improve too much either because we think the Bank of Canada (key rate) is going to be on hold for the remainder of the year, but there is some risk that they take rates even higher, especially if inflation doesn’t co-operate.”

For renters like Giesinger that message puts even more pressure on her to settle on a place soon.

“Now I’m scrambling to find the money for a deposit and we’re still never really sure like what kind of place we’re going to get,” she said.

“And when you’re battling dozens of other people for a rental it can be super stressful.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2023.

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Alberta

Alberta is getting serious about nuclear power

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Image from CanadianMiningJournal.com

New funding to study small modular reactors

Alberta has approved funding for a multi-year study that will explore how small modular nuclear reactors could be safely, technically and economically deployed for oil sands operations.

Alberta is investing $7 million from the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Fund to help Cenovus Energy study how small modular reactors could be used in northern Alberta, and what additional information might be needed to pursue regulatory approval in the future.

As outlined in the province’s Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan and A Strategic Plan for the Deployment of Small Modular Reactors, Alberta is committed to responsible and innovative energy development, and small modular reactors have the potential to provide zero-emissions energy and further reduce emissions from Alberta’s oil sands in the years to come.

“A few years ago, the idea of expanding nuclear energy use was on the back burner – that is no longer the case. In Alberta, small modular nuclear reactors have the potential to supply heat and power to the oil sands, simultaneously reducing emissions and supporting Alberta’s energy future. This funding is the foundation for that promising future. I want to thank Cenovus Energy and Emissions Reduction Alberta for their leadership in this work.”

Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas

Small modular reactor technology involves scalable and versatile nuclear reactors that could potentially supply non-emitting heat and power to the province’s oil sands. Provincial funding delivered through Emissions Reduction Alberta is supporting the work needed to determine how this technology could be effectively used in Alberta.

“Small modular reactors have great potential to supply non-emitting energy in many different applications, including the oil sands. Further studies like this are needed to see if the technology is suitable for those industrial applications. If so, it could be transformational for the in-situ oil sands sector and other sectors in Alberta.”

Justin Riemer, chief executive officer, Emissions Reduction Alberta

“This enabling study is a great example of the collaborative approach we’ll need to help us reach our ambition of net-zero emissions from our operations by 2050. We’re exploring multiple technologies that would help significantly reduce our emissions, and small modular reactors show potential. This study will help us understand if this possible solution is economical and technically viable.”

Rhona DelFrari, chief sustainability officer and executive vice-president, stakeholder engagement, Cenovus Energy

Cenovus Energy’s $26.7-million enabling study will look at whether small modular reactor technology could be applied to steam-assisted gravity drainage projects in the oil sands, which drill into the reservoir and inject steam to soften the oil. Alberta Innovates recently released a study on the feasibility of using small modular nuclear reactors in steam-assisted gravity drainage operations, which is an early step to see if this technology could be part of Alberta’s long-term solutions to reducing emissions from industry operations. While there is currently no project being planned, this study frames the discussion around what is possible in the years ahead.

“Building off the work previously supported by Alberta Innovates, the success of Cenovus’s small modular reactor ERA-funded enabling study could provide substantial economic and environmental advantages throughout Alberta’s industrial sector, helping to advance a clean energy future for Canada.”

Laura Kilcrease, chief executive officer, Alberta Innovates

Quick facts

  • Funding for this project comes from Emissions Reduction Alberta’s Industrial Transformation Challenge.
  • Any future adoption of small modular reactor technology in Alberta would require an extensive regulatory and engagement process. The province is currently working to ensure the regulatory framework is in place and ready should private industry pursue this technology.
  • On Sept. 12, an Alberta-Ottawa working group on emissions reduction and energy development met for the first time. The working group agreed to commence the development of a regulatory framework for small modular reactor technology and continue work on federal and provincial incentives for CCUS, hydrogen and other emissions-reducing technologies.
  • Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick released A Strategic Plan for the Development of Small Modular Reactors in 2022. The plan commits the Alberta Utilities Commission and Alberta Energy Regulator to deliver findings on areas of overlap, uncertainty and duplication between the federal and provincial regulatory systems to Alberta’s government in 2023.
  • The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regulates all stages of life of nuclear power plants in Canada, starting from the initial environmental assessment to decommissioning. The approval process takes several years and offers opportunities for public participation.
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