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Update 12: NW AB Fires 6:30 pm, June 2 – Re-entry plans announced for northwest Alberta communities.

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June 02, 2019 

Beginning Monday at 10 a.m., residents can return to High Level, the surrounding areas of Mackenzie County and the Dene Tha’ First Nation communities of Bushe River, Meander River and Chateh.

Returning residents will be under an evacuation alert and should be prepared to leave on short notice if conditions change.

The following communities remain on evacuation alert:

  • Town of Slave Lake
  • MD of Lesser Slave Lake, including Old Smith Highway, Mitsue, Poplar Lane, Fawcett Lake, Eben Road and Bayer Road
  • Peerless Lake area of Peerless Trout First Nation
  • Town of Manning and some surrounding areas
  • Mackenzie County, north of the Peace River to Township Road 1110, west of Range Road 120, and east of Highway 35 south of High Level; and south of the Peace River to Township Road 1040, west of Range Road 120 and east of Steep Hill Creek

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for:

  • Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement
  • Keg River, Carcajou, and all residents from the northern border of the County of Northern Lights to Township Road 922 (Notikewin Road)
    • Bigstone Cree Nation
      • Wabasca No. 166
    • Parts of the MD of Opportunity No. 17
    • Hamlet of Wabasca – Desmarais
    • Hamlet of Sandy Lake
    • Chipewyan Lake Village
  • Steen River
  • The Trout Lake area of Peerless Trout First Nation
  • MD of Lesser Slave River
  • Hamlet of Marten Beach

Current situation

  • Chuckegg Creek wildfire, southwest of High Level, is about 280,000 hectares.
  • Jackpot Creek wildfire, approximately 11 km north of Lutose, is about 24,700 hectares.
  • McMillan Wildfire Complex, southwest of Bigstone Cree Nation, is more than 212,386 hectares.
  • Battle Wildfire Complex in Peace River is about 53,900 hectares.
  • Provincial resources on the ground include more than 2,300 wildland and structural firefighters and staff, approximately 228 helicopters and 28 air tankers and heavy equipment.
  • Residents should check Alberta Emergency Alerts for more detailed and frequently updated information.
  • Approximately 11,000 people have been evacuated.
  • People driving in fire-affected areas should carry enough fuel, as it may not be readily available.

Visit emergency.alberta.ca for detailed and frequently updated information.

Air quality

  • Smoke is causing poor air quality and reducing visibility.
  • Much of northern Alberta is under a special air quality statement.
  • Individuals may experience symptoms, such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.
  • If you experience breathing difficulties, find an indoor place that’s cool and ventilated.
  • Alberta Wildfire recommends checking FireSmoke.ca to find out where the smoke is coming from.

Financial supports

  • Evacuees should check alberta.ca/emergency for updates on evacuation payment eligibility.
  • Evacuees in need of financial assistance for immediate needs can apply for an Income Support program emergency needs allowance. This benefit may cover your accommodation, clothing and other urgent needs. Please call 1-877-644-9992 for more information.
  • You may qualify for the evacuation payment if you were:
    • living, working or vacationing in the affected area
    • forced to leave due to an evacuation order
    • forced to leave your residence (primary, working or vacationing) due to a mandatory evacuation order – current communities include:
      • High Level
      • Paddle Prairie
      • Bushe River
      • Chateh
      • Meander River
    • paid for most of your costs to evacuate
  • Albertans who qualify will receive $1,250 and $500 for each dependent child under 18 living in the same home when the evacuation order was given.
  • Applications methods:
  • If you are visiting an Alberta Support Centre, please bring:
    • Photo identification
    • Proof of residence or presence in the community
    • Identification for partner/spouse and/or dependents children if claiming for them 
  • If you have questions, contact Alberta Supports: 1-877-644-9992.
  • More than 6,600 individuals have received evacuee support, and more than $6.8 million has been distributed.

Reception and call centres

  • Reception centres are open at:
    • Slave Lake Legacy Centre (400 6 Avenue NE)
    • High Prairie Gordon Buchanan Centre (5413 49 Street)
    • Grande Prairie Regional College (10726 106 Avenue)
    • Peace River Misery Mountain Ski Hill (10408 89 Street)
    • La Crete Heritage Centre (25411 Township Road 1060, south of La Crete)
    • Fort Vermilion Community Cultural Complex (5001 44 Avenue)
    • Dene Wellness Centre (In K’atl’ Odeeche First Nation, 17 kilometres east of Hay River)
    • Calling Lake Recreation Centre (2870 Central Drive)
    • Back Lakes Arena (249 Red Earth)
  • Evacuation reception centre hours can be found at emergency.alberta.ca.
  • Government’s call centre at 310-4455 will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 

Highway updates

  • To stay informed on all road closures due to the wildfires, visit 511.Alberta.ca or download the mobile app.
  • Highway 35 from High Level to the Northwest Territories border is open at this time. Emergency management officials are monitoring highway and wildfire conditions closely. Authorities may close the highway without warning if conditions change.
  • The following highways are closed:
    • Highway 35, south of High Level to 2nd Street within the Town of Manning.
    • Highway 692 near Hawk Hills.
    • Highway 695, East and West, including Keg River.
    • Highway 697, from Highway 35 to Range Road 185, west of La Crete.
    • Highway 813 from Wabasca to Sandy Lake closed.
    • Highway 754 from Highway 88 to Wabasca.
  • The La Crete Ferry is closed.

Insurance information

  • Most home and tenant insurance policies provide coverage for living expenses during an evacuation.
  • Evacuees should retain all of their receipts for food, accommodation and other related expenses to provide to their insurer.
  • Albertans can contact the Insurance Bureau of Canada at 1-844-227-5422 or by email at [email protected]. Information about insurance coverage is available online at ibc.ca/ab/disaster/alberta-wildfire.

Justice and legal matters

  • All High Level, Fort Vermillion and Chateh court matters will be heard in Peace River. Call the Peace River court at 780-624-6256 for inquiries on matters scheduled for this week and next. Matters will be held by phone, if necessary, but you must register to do so.
  • In many cases, tickets can be paid online. For any other inquiries requiring direction from the court about Peace River and High Level court matters, call the Peace River court at 780-624-6256.
  • If you have an appointment with a probation officer in an evacuated area, report to the community corrections office nearest you. Please call 780-427-3109 (to call toll free, first dial 310-0000) for information.
  • If you are an intermittent server in an evacuated area, call the Peace River Correctional Centre at 780-624-5480 (to call toll-free, first dial 310-0000).

Education

  • School officials in fire-impacted areas will address the impacts of disruption on the academic program and school year. Students or their guardians should watch for online or direct communications from local school authorities about specific changes.

Provincial park closures

  • Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park, Twin Lakes Provincial Recreation Area, Moose Lake Provincial Park and Notikewin Provincial Park are closed.
  • Calling Lake Provincial Park campground is closed to accommodate evacuees from the M.D. of Opportunity. Any campground reservations will be refunded. The boat launch is available for public day use, including for anglers participating in the fishing season starting June 1.

Boil water advisory

  • Boil water advisories remain in place for Meander River (Dene Tha’ First Nation) and North Tall Cree (Little Red River Cree Nation). Although power has been restored, the boil water advisories will remain in place until water testing is complete.

Health

  • Mental health support is available by calling Alberta’s 24-hour help line at 1-877-303-2642.
  • Alberta Health Services is providing support to the reception centres. These supports include addiction and mental health, Indigenous health liaisons, nursing, emergency medical services, public health and home care.
  • Alberta Health Services has relocated acute patients and continuing care residents from La Crete and Fort Vermilion to health facilities in Edmonton and surrounding communities.
  • The emergency department at St. Theresa General Hospital in Fort Vermilion remains open. 

Pets and livestock

  • High Level animal control has collected household pets that have been left behind. For questions regarding your pets, please call 780-926-2201.
  • For evacuees in the Wabasca area, please fill out an online form on the Alberta Animal Disaster Response Facebook group, or text 403-869-4964 and provide your name, contact number, number of animals missing, where they were last seen, and a brief description of your pet.
  • The County of Northern lights will allow residents to enter property to look after livestock between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Residents must first go to the County Office to register for the temporary access pass.

Electricity and Natural Gas Billing

  • High Level and area residential, farm, irrigation and small commercial electricity and natural gas customers affected by the evacuation will not be billed for the period covered by the order.

Donations and volunteers

  • High Level is not accepting donations or volunteers at this time.
  • The Town of Slave Lake has set up an online form for offers.
  • Check the Mackenzie County Facebook page for an up-to-date list of donations needed and drop-off locations.

Canada Post

Mail service has been suspended in:

  • High Level, Meander River, Chateh, Paddle Prairie, Keg River
    • High Level evacuees can pick up mail from the Slave Lake Post Office
    • Chateh evacuees can pick up mail at the Fort Vermilion Post Office
    • Meander River evacuees can pick up mail at the La Crete Post Office

Mail service has been restored in:

  • Fort Vermilion, La Crete, Rainbow Lake, Zama City

If you require urgent access to critical items, such as medications and passports, please call 1-800-267-1177. You may be able to arrange for pick up at the Slave Lake Post Office (100 2 Street NE).

Mail will be held at the Edmonton depot until mail service resumes.

Income Support, Alberta Supports and AISH

  • Evacuees receiving the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped or the Income Support program by cheque rather than electronic deposit can pick up their cheque at their nearest Alberta Supports Centres.
  • If you are in La Crete, you can pick up your cheque at the local reception centre. If you receive your benefits via direct deposit, your payment will be deposited as usual.
  • For information on child intervention and child care, call 1-800-638-0715
  • Persons with developmental disabilities, their families or contracted service providers can call the nearest Alberta Supports Centre for assistance.
  • For additional information on social benefits, or to find a list of Alberta Supports Centres, call 1-877-644-9992 province-wide between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., Monday to Friday.
  • Employment insurance: evacuees can visit Service Canada online to apply at www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei.html. Use code 4812014812201900.

Health card, driver’s licences, ID cards, birth certificate

  • To get a replacement Health Care Insurance Card call 780-427-1432 or toll free at 310-0000 and then 780-427-1432 when prompted. Your Alberta Personal Health Card can be mailed to a temporary address.  
  • If driver’s licences, identification cards, and/or birth certificates were left behind during the evacuation, replacement cards and certificates can be ordered free of charge at a registry agent.

Public information

  • You can call 310-4455 for more information.

Related information

President Todayville Inc., Honorary Colonel 41 Signal Regiment, Board Member Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award Foundation, Director Canadian Forces Liaison Council (Alberta) musician, photographer, former VP/GM CTV Edmonton.

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Alberta

Alberta government says jobs, economy, COVID to be focus of fall legislature sitting

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EDMONTON — The Alberta government plans a busy fall legislature sitting aimed at adding jobs and diversifying the economy while focusing on tamping down the renewed surge of COVID-19.

Government house leader Jason Nixon says this will include proposed legislation on recognizing professional credentials to address labour shortages. The bill will be introduced by Premier Jason Kenney.

“Our focus will be on Alberta’s workforce, a couple of bills around diversifying the economy, a big focus on building infrastructure for our future, (and) growing our resources, particularly on the energy side,” Nixon said in an interview Friday.

There will also be new initiatives on environmental protection and conservation.

Nixon said there will be 18 to 20 bills for the sitting, which begins Monday and is scheduled to run to the first week of December. 

“It’s a very robust fall agenda,” he said.

Nixon said the government will continue to take steps to reduce COVID-19 cases, which have severely stressed the health system.

No COVID-19-specific bills are planned, he said, noting they were passed in previous sittings. 

“There’s certainly other stuff to be done to manage the pandemic … but we’ll stand ready if Alberta Health needs us to pass any legislation to deal with the pandemic.”

He said debate in the chamber is expected to return to some semblance of normalcy.

In the spring sitting, both the United Conservative government and the Opposition NDP reduced their numbers in the chamber to prevent the spread of the virus. 

This time, with all NDP members and all but one on the UCP side vaccinated, all will be allowed back in for debate.

The lone UCP member has a medical exemption and will be tested regularly, said Nixon.

He said there are still masking rules and members will try to maintain distancing where possible.

The NDP said it plans to hold the government accountable for what went disastrously wrong on COVID-19.

“This fall sitting of the legislature will be laser-focused on getting answers from the UCP on why they’ve failed Albertans so miserably in managing the devastating fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Christina Gray, the NDP house leader.

“Since July 15, more than 85,000 additional Albertans have been infected with the virus and 700 have died.”

Gray said the NDP will call for an all-party inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic with the power to compel documents and testimony.

Nixon said the government will not agree to such a motion. He said it would be wrong to redeploy vital health resources right now and that Kenney has promised an eventual review of how the province handled the pandemic.

Kenney has also promised to bring forward a motion to ratify and act on the results of Monday’s provincewide referendum on Canada’s equalization program.

Final results aren’t in from Edmonton, but figures from Calgary and other cities suggest the referendum will pass with about 60 per cent in support of urging the federal government to remove the principle of equalization from the Constitution.

Kenney has said the issue is not about removing equalization, something no province can do unilaterally, but about getting leverage to negotiate other issues surrounding federal transfers to attain a better deal with Ottawa.

Political scientist Jared Wesley said Kenney will likely continue to focus on initiatives such as the equalization referendum, if only to change the narrative on his low popularity ratings.

“The premier will be spending most of his time, if he has anything to say about it, outside the province, stumping for this fair deal,” said Wesley, with the University of Alberta.

COVID-19 numbers have been trending down in recent weeks. But Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, say the situation remains precarious.

On Friday, there were just over 10,000 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta. And there were 191 COVID-19 patients in intensive care. 

Alberta’s fourth wave troubles began after Kenney lifted almost all COVID-19 related health restrictions as of July 1, boasting that the pandemic had moved to the “endemic” phase and there was no need to plan for a renewed case surge.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

'You're looking at it:' Undercover officer says suspect led them to burial site

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CALGARY — A Calgary man who killed his girlfriend and is on trial for the murder of her young daughter took undercover officers in the middle of the night to a remote, snow-covered area where they were buried.

Robert Leeming, who is 36, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Jasmine Lovett and not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson. 

The mother and toddler were reported missing in April of 2019 after they didn’t show up for a family dinner.

Court heard this week that Leeming was befriended by two undercover officers, who told him they had retrieved a bag of evidence from a nosy neighbour. 

They offered to help him with his problems — including removing the bodies of Lovett and her daughter, who were in a shallow grave under a pile of mulch and branches in a day-use area west of Calgary.

One of the officers testified that Leeming knew exactly where the bodies were.

The officer said they went to the area in the early morning of May 6, 2019, and walked a short distance on foot.

“I said, ‘OK, where to?’ And (Leeming) goes, ‘You’re looking at it.’ And he points down. And underneath and against my left foot were branches and a pile,” said the officer.

“(Leeming) goes and he grabs a branch and lifts it up as if to prove what’s underneath all these branches. As he does that, I see a small bit of blue that I believe to be the moving blankets.”

Investigators previously testified that the mother and child were doused in gasoline and wrapped in blue blankets before they were covered in dirt, mulch and branches.

The trial also heard that Lovett had skull fractures and was shot in the head. Aliyah died of blunt force head trauma.

The officer said Leeming boasted about steps he had taken to hinder a possible police investigation — including hiding wads of raw bacon around his house to throw off cadaver dogs and filling the back of his car with mulch.

“Well, mulch is death, right? So it smells like death,” Leeming told the officers in a tape recording played in court.

“You cleaned that car up good?” asked the undercover officer. 

“Oh, yeah,” he replied.

The officer said Leeming also expressed relief that his 2014 Mercedes seized by police was an older model.

“It’s funny ’cause they were telling me the Mercedes, they pretty much can hook up to the computer in the car and know exactly where I’ve been,” Leeming said with a laugh. 

“It’s too old a car. If it was an ’18, then I’d be in jail.”

The prosecution was expected to wrap up its case Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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