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Sharing the story of a century ago


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A local author will share a unique perspective on the Battle of Vimy Ridge at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery, Sunday. Sigmund Brouwer’s recently released book, Innocent Heroes, is a fictionalized account of the role animals played in the pivotal battle that many say helped establish our country’s national identity.

“As Canadians we tend to underplay our accomplishments; this was such an incredible victory against all odds that it’s very appropriate for us to look back on it with pride,” Brouwer wrote. The battle, synonymous with sacrifice and national pride, accounted for more than 10,000 Canadian casualties, including nearly 3,600 dead. It marked the first time when all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force participated in a battle together.

Brouwer focuses on the use of animals in Innocent Heroes, partly to soften the rigors of war for the book’s youthful audience, and to provide context. “I decided that inspiring animal heroes would be appropriate for that audience. They can still learn about the war in the battle without a focus on the horrible things that happened,” he adds.

The book focuses on three young Canadian soldiers and their experiences in the trenches at Vimy. Their bonds to the innocents, the animals they employed in helping their platoons take Vimy Ridge, are at the heart of Brouwer’s story. Released earlier this year, Innocent Heroes is already starting to appear in Canadian classrooms, and benefits from a comprehensive study guide, developed by teachers.

Extensive research into the history of the iconic battle and the letters of soldiers involved, formed the foundation for the fictional accounts in the book. While the characters, both human and animal are fictional, the story is accurate and reflects the tone and atmosphere of the great war a century ago. It’s not entirely coincidence that the author chose the timing and subject of Innocent Heroes. “While the aspect of amazing animal stories intrigue me, I would’ve written the story anyway, I was aware that 2017 would raise awareness of the battle,” he shares.

Each of the stories within the book is followed by a non-fiction section that details the experiences of animals and Canadian soldiers in the conflict. Many readers will be amazed at the sheer number of animals that participated; technology has largely replaced animals in warfare, although there are still roles played by dogs in military conflicts around the planet.

“Most Canadian historians and military people point to this as the moment that defined our national identity. My sense is that we are often taught the facts and the information. I will happily argue that story is the best way for us to absorb important lessons and understandings,” Brouwer tells us.

His multimedia session at MAG begins at 1:30 p.m. and is recommended for ages 8+.
To learn more about Innocent Heroes including an accompanying song and video, CLICK HERE.

Innocent Heroes is available at Chapters and online at

For details on the MAG event CLICK HERE.

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Empowered, Happy and Healthy

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Michelle lost a kidney to cancer 20 years ago. Her blood pressure has been challenging to keep in a healthy range since. A busy life with little focus on healthy got her in trouble. In late December 2020, she ended up in emergency with extremely high blood pressure in the 200/150 range and a blood sugar of 25. She was very sick. She had a second similar episode in January. At that time, she was let go from her job. This turned out to be the best thing that happened as she now had time to focus on her health.

The RDPCN family nurse recommended she attend Diabetes the Basics as well as providing her with ongoing one-to-one support for several months. She also got connected to a weight management program, supervised exercise and Heartwise.

Fast forward to 18 months, she has decreased her clothing size from 20 to 14. Her blood sugar is now 7 and her blood pressure is in the range of 138/95. Great improvements!

She is back to work. She walks about an hour per day and she feels amazing! She has used the portion control plate to help improve her eating habits. She is eating way better and enjoying it. One thing she could not give up was Pepsi. She used to have at least 3 cans per day. Now she uses Diet Pepsi in much smaller volumes, but she cannot get by without some Pepsi. Long-lasting insulin and using the Libre sensor have been great tools to help her live healthily. She feels very empowered, happy and healthy!!

Learn more about the Red Deer Primary Care Network. Click here. 

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Red Deer Recovery Community will offer hope for residents from Central Alberta and around the world

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Central Albertans won’t be the only ones paying close attention to the official opening of the Red Deer Recovery Community next month. According to Marshall Smith, Chief of Staff to Premier Danielle Smith, jurisdictions from across North America will be looking to the Red Deer Recovery Community for potential answers to their own issues. Red Deer Recovery Community will be the first of 11 the province is opening over the coming months.

Cities across North America and beyond have been battling an addictions crisis, and losing. As the number of homeless people and the number of fatal overdoses continues to rise, cities are looking for new solutions. After years of slipping further behind, Alberta has decided on a new approach to recovery and Marshall Smith has been leading the charge.

Smith is a recovering addict himself.  A political organizer from BC, he once worked for former Premier Gordon Campbell.  His own crisis started with alcohol, then moved to cocaine dependency before he eventually succumbed to methamphetamine use.  The successful political operative found himself without work and living on the street for over four years. Eventually he benefited from a 35 day stay in a publicly funded recovery centre in BC.

Former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney brought Smith to Alberta to head up the UCP’s addictions and recovery file.  His personal experiences and incredible comeback story are at the heart of Alberta’s new approach.

While the success of recovery programs vary, Marshall Smith and Dr. Christina Basedow of the Edgewood Health Network (operators of Red Deer Recovery Community) say with the right treatment and the right amount of time, they expect a very high rate of successful recoveries.  Smith says the province won’t give up on patients, even if some have to go through more than once.

The Recovery Community is central to this new approach, but patients who will be able to stay for up to a year, will need somewhere to go when they leave. This week the province also announced the Bridge Healing Transitional Accommodation Program in Edmonton.  This “second stage” housing will ensure former addicts have a place to stay upon leaving addiction treatment centres. This will be their home in the critical days following treatment when they need to reestablish their lives by finding work or educational opportunities.

Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston feels the 75 bed Recovery Community will be transformation for Central Alberta. Mayor Johnston says all Central Albertans will play an important role in helping former addicts when they leave the Recovery Community.

Construction of the Red Deer Recovery Community is all but complete.

Thursday, municipal and provincial politicians toured the facility and were introduced to the operators of the new facility. Dr Christina Basedow, Western VP of Edgewood Health Network teamed up with Nicholas Milliken, Alberta’s Mental Health and Addiction Minister, to take questions about operations.

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan, Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston, Dr. Christina Basedow, Minister Nicholas Milliken, Red Deer North MLA Adriana LaGrange

Premier Danielle Smith made the trip to Central Alberta to offer support for the project and see the facility first hand.

Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston and Premier Danielle Smith listen to Chief of Staff Marshall Smith 

Marshall Smith explains aspects of the Recovery Community to Premier Danielle Smith, Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston and Red Deer MLA’s Adriana LaGrange and Jason Stephan

In the days leading up to an official opening expected in February, Edgewood Health Network is finalizing the admission process which will see the first batch of up to 75 people suffering addictions moving into single and double occupied rooms.

Typical double occupancy room at Red Deer Recovery Community

The new 75-bed facility, will begin accepting residents battling addictions in February.  Those residents will stay for up to a full year accessing medications, programming and developing life skills.

In the meantime the province expects a recovery industry will be developing in Red Deer including second stage housing opportunities and counselling.

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