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Alberta

Red Deer to have a drug treatment court to help break the cycle of crime and addiction

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From the Province of Alberta

Supporting recovery and combatting drugs in Red Deer

A new drug treatment court in Red Deer will help support addiction treatment and recovery, while increased support for law enforcement will target drug traffickers and suppliers.

Red Deer will have one of five drug treatment courts outside of Edmonton and Calgary as part of government’s four-year investment of up to $20 million toward expanding the program across the province.

The government is also providing Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) with a $50-million budget increase for initiatives to disrupt and dismantle organized crime. A portion of this new funding will allow ALERT to expand regional organized crime units across the province, including the addition of three new investigators to the regional unit based in Red Deer.

“Our government will be opening a drug treatment court in Red Deer to reduce crime by offering treatment to those struggling with addiction to help get their lives back on track. We are also ensuring law enforcement in central Alberta have the resources they need to disrupt and dismantle the organized crime groups that traffic and supply the illegal drugs that fuel addiction and take a terrible toll on our communities.”

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

“Our government has made several important investments in mental health and addiction services across the province over the last year to ensure all Albertans have access to the supports they need to get on the road to recovery. This announcement is no exception. Drug treatment courts are an important way to help Albertans on the road to recovery. We are committed to ensuring people everywhere, including in Red Deer, get the support they need now and in the future.”

Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

“I am pleased that our government has chosen Red Deer as one of the locations for five new drug treatment courts in Alberta. This provides a new avenue for Albertans struggling with substance abuse in central Alberta. I look forward to seeing the positive impact it has on its participants, their families, and our broader community.”

Adriana LaGrange, MLA for Red Deer-North

“The City of Red Deer welcomes news that the Government of Alberta has selected our city for a drug treatment court. With the significant public safety and health issues our community and region are facing, this will help to break the systemic cycle of addiction and crime as a much-needed alternative legal mechanism, as well as alleviate backlog pressures currently facing our justice system locally. Additional capacity in the local justice system will also help support the interests of victims of crime.”

Tara Veer, mayor, City of Red Deer

Expanding drug treatment courts

Drug treatment courts help break the cycle of crime motivated by addiction by giving people who commit non-violent offences access to judicially supervised treatment and recovery. Treatment is supplemented by frequent drug testing, incentives, sanctions and social services support.

“A drug treatment court in Red Deer will be an integral part of a positive, fundamental course correction in the public interest, providing opportunities for us to support individuals choosing to forsake crime, make restitution, and seek freedom from addictions, while respecting businesses and families in our wonderful community. Better days are ahead.”

Jason Stephan, MLA for Red Deer-South

“Rehabilitation of offenders is part of the sentencing regime courts must follow. Those people who are motivated to commit offences because of their addiction to drugs are often most in need of rehabilitation. A drug treatment court serving Red Deer and surrounding areas will assist the court in meeting this objective and we very much look forward to this addition to the court in central Alberta.”

Assistant Chief Judge James A. Hunter

“Drug treatment court is the reason I am alive today. I was facing four years in jail for trafficking methamphetamine in Camrose and was so sick and deep into my addiction that my life was falling apart. My children and I were near death. Today, I am proud to say that I continue my life in recovery and advocate for others who struggle with addictions and mental health.”

Pamela Spurvey, 2007 graduate, Edmonton Drug Treatment Court

“Drug treatment court was an integral part of my recovery journey. Like many, I caused a tremendous amount of harm while in active addiction. Without this program, I might not be alive today and I certainly wouldn’t be living a quality life in recovery. I am grateful for this government’s continued expansion of this program so others get the same opportunity for recovery that it gave me.”

Sheldon Bailey, participant, Drug Treatment Court

“Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) has built a strong partnership with the drug treatment court program over the years. This innovative program and the partnership we’ve built has meant that participants and their families are supported through their long-term recovery. We are excited to hear about the expansion of this program across the province and look forward to seeing its positive impacts.”

Lerena Greig, executive director, Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) Society

“The announcement of the Red Deer Drug Treatment Court is an indication of the innovative and progressive work that Minister Schweitzer has undertaken to combat rural crime in Alberta. Drug treatment courts have proven success in creating the opportunity to change the lives of those who are caught in this cycle of addiction and crime.”

Grace Froese, director, Provincial Drug Court Expansion and Development, Edmonton John Howard Society

New funding will be used to establish drug treatment courts in five locations outside of Calgary and Edmonton. The court in Red Deer, along with a new program in Lethbridge announced earlier this year, is expected to be operational by late 2021. Three additional sites have yet to be determined.

Drug treatment courts have been operating in Edmonton since 2005 and Calgary since 2007, and part of the $20 million in additional funding is also being used to double the total combined capacity of the two existing courts to about 80 participants a year.

Expanding ALERT

As part of a build-up of regional organized crime units around the province, ALERT is adding three positions to an existing team of 15 investigators based in Red Deer.

“The added resources, and enhancement of our ALERT team in Red Deer, will create more opportunities for collaboration, intelligence sharing, and provide a more versatile response to serious and organized crime in the central Alberta region.”

Supt. Dwayne Lakusta, chief executive officer, ALERT

This move will expand ALERT’s geographic reach in rural areas. It also creates opportunities for investigators from smaller law enforcement agencies to gain experience working on complex cases, which they take back to their respective organizations.

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Alberta

‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

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CALGARY — One child asks for a coat for her dog in case her family gets evicted. Another girl hopes Santa can bring her pet medication he needs. Another wishes for enough dog food.

A charity that provides subsidized pet care, including food hampers and medical treatment, for low-income residents is receiving Christmas letters from children asking for help for their furry friends.

Parachutes for Pets in Calgary has delivered 2,000 pet food hampers since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March. But demand, especially during the second wave of the pandemic, is taking its toll on both the organization and those receiving help.

“Instead of Santa I wanted to write to you guys. My dog Badger is really cute and my best friend. He needs pills or he gets really, really sick. Could you bring me his pills for my Santa gift? I’ve been really good and so has he,” reads a letter signed Hanna and Badger.

The organization says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week that normally would have gone to Santa.

“My Christmas wish this year is a coat for my dog Max. Mom says we can’t pay rent after this month and I want Max to be warm if we have to stay in our car,” wrote Kaylee.

“I have a warm coat and I think one would be good for him to stay warm. Please tell Santa this is my only wish. Merry Christmas.”

Melissa David, who founded the charity, said the messages from the kids are heartbreaking.

“Instead of writing to Santa, they’ve written to us. Their Christmas wish is either for their dog to get medication and their dog to get food, so they don’t have to share their meal with them.”

David said the charity referred Kaylee’s mom, who was at risk of being evicted, with an agency to deal with her rent arrears.

She said the charity made it through the first wave of the pandemic, but the resurgence of COVID-19 in the last months has resulted in demands coming at a “fast and furious rate.”

“This second wave is going to cripple us. The amount of additional homeless with pets and domestic violence incidents involving pets is astronomical,” David said.

People are still donating food items, she said, but there’s also a need for cash, which is in short supply.

“This (pandemic) in addition to everyday challenges that are still here, such as cancer and illness, is really making it difficult for people to keep their pets at a time they can’t afford mentally to lose them.”

David said she is reaching out in desperation since there are limits on what help the charity can arrange.

“We were passed over for most COVID grants because animals were not considered essential.”

There are also messages asking for help from physically abused women who are afraid to leave their pets behind.

“They want to take their pet with them. They’re at the lowest of lows and they don’t leave with anything but the clothes on their back. And if that pet stays, statistics are 80 per cent that it will be tortured or killed or used as some sort of revenge by the abuser.”

The head of the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter said crisis calls between April and September were up nearly 65 per cent compared with the year before.

Shelter CEO Kim Ruse confirms many women stay where they are for fear of their pets being harmed. 

“Not having a place for pets to go often stops women from leaving abusive and dangerous situations,” Ruse said. “Many are unaware that there are options for keeping pets safe while finding safety for themselves and their children.”

She said the agency does have pet-friendly rooms to accommodate small animals.

“Allowing pets in the shelter will help provide emotional and healing support for women and their children during their stay.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020

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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Hydrogen’s future remains murky despite home heating projects in Alberta and Ontario

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CALGARY — It seems like a no-brainer to use clean-burning hydrogen to offset the environmental negatives of natural gas for warming homes, but pilot projects to do just that starting next year illustrate nothing is simple about this trendy new energy source.

As companies consider ways to commercialize hydrogen as a cleaner alternative fuel and projects advance in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., and Markham, Ont., most observers concede it will take time and government support to overcome its cost competitiveness issues and lack of infrastructure.

“All hydrogen is not created equal,” says Tahra Jutt, director of the clean economy program for B.C. with environmental think tank The Pembina Institute and co-author of a hydrogen primer published in July.

“If you blend the lowest carbon hydrogen, you’re going to get a much better outcome in terms of climate benefit.”

Hydrogen has many advantages as an energy source. When it burns it leaves only water behind — no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. It can be used for high-energy-intensity applications such as trucking, shipping and steelmaking. It can be compressed for energy storage and transportation. It’s non-toxic and dissipates quickly when released.

But there are disadvantages, too. Its low ignition temperature and nearly invisible flame when burning pose potential safety issues. Concentrated hydrogen can damage metal, requiring enhanced protection for pipelines. 

The act of creating hydrogen requires energy, whether to tear apart water molecules with the electrolysis method or breaking down natural gas molecules through thermal processes which themselves create greenhouse gases.

“The economics in our view for blue and green (hydrogen) are challenged right now but support will increase, costs are bound to come down, so (it’s) another good opportunity for us to capitalize on our infrastructure,” said Al Monaco, CEO of pipeline company Enbridge Inc., on a recent conference call, echoing the cautious stance taken by many industry leaders.

Almost all of the hydrogen created in Canada today is considered “grey,” created by burning fossil fuel and then used in industrial processes such as refining petroleum or producing fertilizer. Pembina estimates it costs between 91 cents and $1.42 per kilogram to make.

If the carbon dioxide and other pollutants from making grey hydrogen are captured and stored, it becomes “blue” hydrogen, but the cost jumps to between $1.34 and $1.85 per kilogram.

“Green” hydrogen is separated from water using only renewable electricity and, while it is the most environmentally benign, it is also the most expensive at between $3 and $5 per kilogram, according to Pembina.

Utility subsidiaries of Enbridge and Atco Ltd. are embarking on plans to inject hydrogen into the natural gas stream leading to home furnaces and water heaters in Markham and Fort Saskatchewan. 

Electricity can’t be stored as is, but at Enbridge’s power-to-gas facility in Markham it is used to create hydrogen from water that can be stored until eventually being turned back into electricity with Enbridge’s 2.5-megawatt hydrogen fuel cell when needed.

Markham’s hydrogen is considered green because it is made with intermittent renewable electricity. The facility opened in 2018 after investments of $4.5 million by an Enbridge partnership and $4 million by the federal government. Its operation is supported by a three-year contract from Ontario’s electric system operator to supply surplus renewable power.

The system works to level out energy availability but when more hydrogen is created than can be stored, it has to be vented, says Cynthia Hansen, president of gas distribution and storage for Enbridge.

A partial solution is to blend the surplus at about two per cent into the local natural gas stream to reduce its overall GHG emissions, a $5.2-million project (with $221,000 from the federal government) expected to begin for about 3,600 customers starting next summer.

Atco, meanwhile, is building a $6-million hydrogen blending project backed by $2.8 million in Alberta provincial grants and expected to be operational in early 2022. 

It is to deliver about five per cent hydrogen in the gas stream to about 5,000 homes in Fort Saskatchewan, a small city just northeast of Edmonton, with the hydrogen coming from an unnamed local supplier.

“When it starts up it will be grey and then it will transition to blue as the supply in the area builds out,” said Jason Sharpe, Atco’s general manager of natural gas, estimating it will take two to three years for blue hydrogen to become available.

The Fort Saskatchewan area, with its refineries and petrochemical facilities, is ground zero for carbon capture and storage in Alberta.

Shell Canada’s Quest project, opened in 2015, has injected more than five million tonnes of carbon dioxide into underground storage from its oilsands upgrader.

The recently completed Alberta Carbon Trunk Line is a pipeline system designed to collect CO2 from industrial sites in the region and take it to mature oilfields where its permanent storage also results in enhanced oil recovery.

The global market for hydrogen could easily triple from current levels of about $200 billion per year by 2050 as countries adopt its use as a decarbonization strategy, according to GLJ, a prominent Calgary energy resource consulting firm.

Canada is well-positioned to become an exporter into this growing market because of its current and potential production, GLJ said.

Pembina’s Jutt, however, says hydrogen usage should be targeted. While it may make sense to use it for home heating in some regions, that application doesn’t necessarily make sense in B.C., where energy from renewable hydroelectric sources is potentially more environmentally friendly.

Much is riding on promised federal and provincial government regulatory, strategic and financial commitments to hydrogen, as well as other alternative fuels that can help Canada meet its goal of net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, she added.

“Businesses will do what’s right for them from an economic perspective but I think everyone’s looking to government for signals that it’s good to invest in these things — hydrogen being one of many fuels that we’ll need to reach our 2050 goals.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:ENB, TSX:ACO)

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press

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