RCMP charge Innisfail an after woman abducted

Victim passes note to Good Samaritan at CrossIron mall

Richard Hardisty, Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, March 31, 2012

Airdrie RCMP have arrested and charged an Innisfail man with abducting a woman and assaulting police officers on Wednesday.

While at CrossIron Mills mall, the female victim passed a note to a nearby woman asking her to call 911 because she had been abducted and assaulted. The Good Samaritan took the note to mall security, which then contacted police.

Two on-duty plainclothes RCMP officers attempted to arrest the suspect after he assaulted the victim in front of police.

He resisted, but police were eventually able to control and handcuff the suspect. The officers and the accused were treated for injuries they sustained during the fight and released.

The victim was also taken to the hospital for examination.

“It’s really nice to see everyone doing something which resulted in such a successful resolution to this serious offence,” RCMP Sgt. Patricia Neely said of the actions taken by the victim, Good Samaritan, mall security and RCMP officers.

Police say the victim and suspect had previously been in a domestic relationship, but the woman had recently separated from the man because of abusive behaviour.

The man had been arrested following an incident on March 15, but released on strict conditions.

Police say he violated these terms and went to the woman’s house, where he abducted and assaulted her and threatened the life of her dog.

The suspect cannot be named at this time to protect the victim.

He is in custody and will appear in court Monday on 15 charges including break and enter with intent, forcible confinement, choking to overcome resistance, assault, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.

Posted: January 26th, 2014
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Twitter complaints upset Calgary Transit bus drivers

Richard Hardisty, Calgary Herald
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012

With the rise of smartphones and social media sites like Twitter, information overload is becoming an issue, one that may now include Calgary’s transit drivers.

Concerns about the immediacy of Twitter are being raised among the members of Calgary’s Amalgamated Transit Union, union president Mike Mahar said.

Due to the accessibility of the popular site via smartphones, the concern for drivers is that complaints, in the form of tweets, are sent when tempers are still high.

“In the old days when you had to make a phone call (to make a complaint), in the time it took to make the call, emotions would have a chance to subside,” Mahar said. “The problem might turn out not to be a big deal, and only serious complaints would get through.”

Mahar said that over the last three or four months, he has been consistently hearing about the issue of tweets at union meetings.

When the complaints are made, transit officials will either relay them directly to the driver via radio or create a written report.

A written report may not reach a driver for a few days.

Mahar said the transit operators take it very seriously when they receive complaints, but sometimes it can be distracting if they are relayed while driving.

The union will continue to monitor the tweeting situation, Mahar said, and in the meantime hopes to discuss with transit management a way to develop a process that will produce positive results for both commuters and transit drivers.

Ron Collins, a Calgary Transit spokesman, said the Twitter account was set up to give customers another outlet to contact the company, whether for complaints, compliments, questions or comments.

“We didn’t set up the Twitter account to take complaints,” Collins said. “It was set up to give another option to reach transit, and to create an open dialogue with the client.”

Collins commended transit operators for doing a “fantastic” job and said that any complaint sent through Twitter is handled the same as it would be if the complaint via a phone call.

According to Collins, transit complaints have not increased recently.

The @calgarytransit account has more than 14,300 followers.

Posted: January 26th, 2014
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Diamond Jubilee medals awarded to 21 Albertans

Richard Hardisty, Calgary Herald
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Following a lifetime of accolades and achievements, Norman Kwong, Alberta’s former lieu-tenant-governor, can add another award to his record.

Kwong was one of 21 Albertans who were awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal at a ceremony held at the McDougall Centre on Monday.

“The award means a great deal,” Kwong said following the ceremony.

In 1948, and at age 18, Kwong be-came the first Chinese-Canadian to play in the Canadian Football League when he joined the Calgary Stam-peders.

That year Kwong also became the youngest player to win the Grey Cup, when the Stampeders defeated the Ottawa Rough Riders.

After three seasons he was traded to the Edmonton Eskimos, where he would win three more champion-ships before retiring in 1960.

Following his retirement, Kwong moved to the private sector, focused primarily on commercial real estate. However, he wasn’t completely finished with the world of sports.

From 1988 to 1991 he served as the president and general manager of the Stampeders, in addition to being a co-owner of the Calgary Flames from 1980 to 1994.

After the Flames won the Stanley Cup in 1989, Kwong became one of a select few to have their names on both the Stanley Cup and Grey Cup.

Kwong was awarded the Order of Canada in 1998 and was sworn in as the lieutenant-governor on Jan. 20, 2005.

He also holds a place in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, as well as the Canadian, Albertan and Edmonton sports halls of fame.

The awards were presented by current Lt.-Gov. Donald Ethell, who succeeded Kwong in 2010.

“He was a tough act to follow,” Ethell said of Kwong.

Ethell had told Kwong it was a great honour to present him with the medal during the ceremony.

The medal was created to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne.

Ethell said it was a great honour to present this award because it reflected both the Queen’s strong sense of duty as well as the extensive ser-vice of the recipients to Canada.

The award will be presented to 60,000 Canadians before the end of 2013.

Alberta has been allotted 101 of the awards, however, all members of the Order of Canada are automatically given the Diamond Jubilee Medal, and do not count against this total.

A request has been put in for more medals to be allocated for Albertans, Ethell said.

Ethell also said he felt it was important to present these awards in person and plans to continue to do so.

Among the other recipients at Monday’s ceremony were Spruce Meadows founders Ronald and Margaret Southern, Lt.-Col. Tom Doucette, Mary Hetherington, and Calgary businessman and Cantos Music Foundation creator Ronald Mannix.

Posted: January 26th, 2014
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Sports and wellness institute gets federal funding boost

Richard Hardisty, Calgary Herald
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012

SAIT’s Sports and Wellness Engineering Technology Institute received a boost Wednesday from the federal government.

The boost came in the form of $712,170 in federal funding for the institute, Western Economic Diversification Minister Lynne Yelich announced at the Bobsled Start House in Canada Olympic Park.

The bulk of the funding, $512,170, comes from Western Economic Diversification, with the rest coming from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

SAIT’s sports and wellness institute is designed to work alongside Canadian businesses and not-for-profit organizations to design and develop new materials and products.

The sports and wellness institute is continuing development on skeleton sled prototypes with Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton for future use by Canadian Olympic teams.

This year, all three members of the men’s skeleton team used SAIT sleds on the World Cup circuit, and the team had several top 10 finishes.

Claude Lemieux, a retired NHL player who won the Stanley Cup with three different teams, was also on hand to represent Graf Canada.

Graf manufactures hockey equipment and has been working with Kelly Lockwood, a Brock University associate professor and sports scientist, to develop a skate that will help reduce bone spur-type injuries resulting from ill-fitting skates.

Lemieux said they will now be working with SAIT, and are excited about the opportunity.

Other institute projects include a joint project with the University of Lethbridge to develop a bi-directional pedalling system for bicycles designed to allow athletes to ride longer, and a project with Marvel Wheelchairs to develop and test an off-road front wheel to allow wheelchair users to smoothly traverse varied terrain.

Alex Zahavich, SAIT’s director of applied research and innovation services, said the funding meant the institute would now be a complete venture, able to provide facilities to make equipment, do market assessments and manage intellectual property.

“Seeing this project come to light is a high in my personal career, and one that can only be topped when we win gold at Sochi,” Zahavich said, referring to the 2014 Winter Olympics hosted in Sochi, Russia.

The institute will have a home in SAIT’s new Trades and Technology Complex, slated to open in September.

Posted: January 26th, 2014
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Calgary Homeless Foundation president leaving to take message across country

Richard Hardisty, Calgary Herald
Published: Friday, April 06, 2012

The Calgary Homeless Foundation will lose its chief executive this summer, in the midst of significant strides in getting people off the street.

But Tim Richter isn’t leaving, in August, because of ideological differences or controversy. He’s leaving to become a key player in a new initiative aimed at spreading to other cities across the country the success that Calgary, and other Alberta cities, have had at reducing the number of homeless.

“On one hand, it’s quite a sad time because I love what we’re doing here, I love working with the foundation. It’s been a huge part of my life,” Richter said. “I think I could only leave for something that held in the promise of ending homelessness in Canada.”

The new organization, named the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, will work with municipalities across the country to get them to implement their own 10-year plans to end homelessness.

Richter said many cities, such as Victoria and Toronto, have already put “housing-first” plans into place, and mayors, like Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson, are committed to ending homelessness.

“There’s this growing movement of communities that want to move from managing homelessness to ending homelessness, and the Canadian Alliance is designed to help that,” Richter said.

The alliance’s board of directors will be chaired by Alex Himelfarb, director of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs at York University.

Stephen Gaetz, director of the Canadian Homelessness Research Network, and Michael Shapcott, director of housing innovation at the Wellesley Institute, will assume the roles of secretary and treasurer, respectively.

According to the Calgary Homeless Foundation, in the four years since the 10-year plan to end homelessness was put in motion, nearly 4,000 people were moved from the streets to permanent housing, with an 11.4 per cent decrease in the number of homeless in the same period.

Richter said the Calgary foundation has been fortunate to have significant support from the private sector, hundreds of staff working with them, and thousands of volunteers, as well as Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

“We’ve also enjoyed the support of the province of Alberta, with Premier (Ed) Stelmach first, and then Premier (Alison) Redford,” Richter said.

“It’s the only province in the country that’s committed to ending homelessness.”

Recent provincial budget announcements, promising a $13-million increase in funding for permanent housing programs, reflect the success of housing initiatives in Alberta, and the government’s confidence in them.

Richter also noted there has been support from the federal government, including Calgary South MP Lee Richardson, who sits on the foundation board.

Along with Thursday’s announcements, the alliance released a document called A Plan, Not A Dream, available on its website (www.caeh. ca). It details how to build a 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Richter said the organization hopes the document will help raise awareness about the efforts.

Calgary’s 10-year plan aims to eliminate homelessness by 2018. Other Alberta cities that are seeing success with “housing-first” programs include Edmonton, which saw a 21 per cent decrease in homelessness, Fort McMurray, with a 42 per cent decrease, and Lethbridge, with a 53 per cent decrease.

Posted: January 26th, 2014
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Spring temperatures attract more wild animals onto Alberta highways

Richard Hardisty, Calgary Herald
Published: Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Spring is here and that means drivers can expect more animals on Alberta’s highways.

The warmer temperatures will bring more elk, moose, deer and wolves onto the roads in the Bow Valley, Canmore RCMP say.

In the past year, RCMP in the region responded to 88 collisions with animals, nearly 25 per cent of the 356 total property and injury-related accidents they handled during the same time. Most of those accidents involved elk.

Const. Sabrina Clayton of the Canmore RCMP said most of the collisions happen around dawn and dusk.

The RCMP suggest that to avoid collisions with the animals, drivers should obey speed limits, drive according to both road and lighting conditions, and go slower when approaching animals as they might move without warning and enter the highway.

As well, motorists should be cautious when one animal is spotted as there may be more nearby.

Stopping on the highway to snap photos of animals is also a bad idea, RCMP say.

Clayton said if people insist on taking photos of wildlife by roadways, that they pull completely out of the driving lane and stay in the vehicle.

She said it can be hard to tell how many animals are around, or if there might be a defensive mother in the area.

“A lot of people come here to see the wildlife,” Clayton said. “To preserve that wildlife for everyone, we urge drivers to be cautious and respect the speed limit.”

A collision involving large animals like a moose can result in extensive damage to a vehicle, injuries to the occupants and in some cases death to people in the vehicle.

Liam Crotty of the Alberta Motor Association said 50 per cent of accidents on rural roads in Alberta involved wildlife.

In 2006, these collisions cost Albertans more than $250 million in property damage, road cleanup and insurance increases, he said.

Besides the Bow Valley, Crotty said Highway 3 through the Crowsnest Pass is another area where animals are frequently spotted by the highway.

He said the 44-kilometre stretch east of the Alberta-B.C. border, which ends near Lundbreck, saw an average of 155 collisions with wildlife per year over the last 10 years.

Posted: January 26th, 2014
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Police identify senior found inside charred minivan in Fish Creek Park

Richard Hardisty, Calgary Herald
Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The deceased person discovered in a burned-out minivan in Fish Creek Provincial Park on Sunday was a 72-year-old woman, say police.

An autopsy was conducted Monday, but the cause of death has not been released as the investigation continues.

Fire crews were called about 6: 30 a.m. to the park, near Bow Bottom Trail S.E. and Highway 22X, for a report of a vehicle fire.

As they doused the flames, firefighters discovered a body in the driver’s seat of the white 2006 Toyota Sienna, and called police.

Duty inspector Keith Cain said police are hoping someone may have seen the vehicle and can provide them with information about how it came to be there.

“The cause of this unfortunate incident is undetermined at this time,” Cain said. “Hopefully there will be some more witnesses that can come forward with some information and help the investigators.”

The charred van was high centred on a boulder at the side of the road.

Cain confirmed the minivan was off of the roadway, but said police were not sure why or how it got there.

They are still investigating the cause of the fire.

Investigators used an aerial truck to take photos of the wreckage. The van was later removed from the scene by a tow truck.

Police say they are not releasing the victim’s identity at the family’s request.

Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact police or Crime Stoppers.

Posted: January 26th, 2014
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Humane society to vet online breeder ads

Richard Hardisty, Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, April 14, 2012

A new partnership between the Calgary Humane Society and Kijiji Canada aims to bring a new level of certainty to online pet adoption.

The partnership will see the humane society inspecting and certifying breeder listings on the online classified ads site through the new Breeder Inspection Program.

Shawn McIntyre, the community relations manager for Kijiji Canada, said the program has been in the works for “quite some time,” and that the humane society has put a significant amount of work into developing the inspection checklist.

“This will provide our clients with that extra layer of confidence when searching for a companion pet on-line,” McIntyre said.

Customers will be able to see which breeders have been certified by looking for a badge on the classified ad.

The stamp of approval will add a level of assurance the animals are coming from a good home, humane society spokesperson Christy Thompson said.

The humane society hired an experienced animal health technologist to develop the checklist for inspections. The technologist will also conduct the inspections.

The checklist will include where the animal is sleeping, what type of shelter is available, the supply of food and water, the nutritional value of the food available to a mother nursing her pups, how many animals are living in the house, cleanliness, available space, and if a vet is inspecting the animals.

Posted: January 26th, 2014
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Drop-in centre cuts spark concerns about policing, homelessness

Richard Hardisty, Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, March 24, 2012

An Alberta government plan to cut funding from the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre has come under fire.

The Herald reported earlier this week that the provincial government plans to cut $575,000 from the homeless shelter come April 1.

Debbie Newman, executive director of the drop-in centre, said that she has been told no cuts will happen until the government has met with all shelter operators in Alberta.

If the cut goes through, Newman said she estimates 100 people will find themselves back on the streets.

“You can’t cut spending money to shelters when shelters are full,” Newman said.

The shelter had been granted additional winter funding to handle the extra demand during the colder months, Newman said, and that funding will run out April 30, leading to another estimated 100 homeless out the door.

If the plan is to save money, says Alberta Party member Greg Clark, it won’t work.

“Not only is this decision morally wrong, it just doesn’t make financial sense,” Clark said.

For the provincial government, the $575,000 is “peanuts,” he said, but the societal and collateral costs resulting from putting 200 people back into the community are much higher. Additionally, the situation would likely require more police presence to handle the increase in homeless people on the streets and may distract from more serious crime, a situation Clark calls detrimental to neighbouring communities.

Calgary MLA Kent Hehr also voiced his concerns about the cut, which he says not only has a humanitarian cost for the people who find themselves without access to the shelter, but also increased societal costs in policing, ambulances and social services.

Hehr has advocated for a higher police presence in downtown Calgary since he took office for the Calgary Buffalo riding in 2008, and he also feels that if the cut is carried out, it will lead to the police having to shift their attention away from crime.

He argues services currently being provided for intoxicated people by social services and drop-in centres will fall into police hands, and that isn’t a valuable use of their time.

Calgary police Supt. Richard Hinse told the Herald earlier this week that, as a result of an ongoing partnership with the drop-in and Alpha House, the number of intoxicated people arrested and placed in the drunk tank was only 451 in 2011, over a quarter of what it was in 2006. The drastic reduction in these arrests between 2010 and 2011 led to 70,000 fewer staff hours in court services and 20,000 police hours on the street.

Newman echoed these numbers and said she estimates because of the partnership between the police and the shelter, the city has been able to save around $5 million.

Alberta Human Services Minister Dave Hancock could not be reached for comment, but he said earlier this week a decision had not yet been made to cut the shelter’s funding.

He said the government is shifting its focus toward more long-term housing solutions, rather than shelter programs. Part of the reason was due to a reduced demand for beds, with more than 3,500 formerly homeless Calgarians now in permanent housing.

“The numbers have not drastically dropped here,” Newman said.

On Thursday, she said, the shelter had 1,104 people sleeping at its facility. Newman said it is the second time this week it has gone over its capacity of 1,070 beds.

Clark, who will run against Premier Alison Redford in the Calgary-Elbow riding in the upcoming provincial election, said he’s optimistic about the future of Calgary, and feels there should be continued support for the drop-in centre, a program he refers to as one of the best in Canada.

Clark points out the combined cuts over the last two years are roughly the same as the total payouts given to a now-contentious legislature committee that hasn’t met in the past four years.

The centre provides career counselling, carpentry courses, computer labs, clothing, furniture, nursing care, showers and other services, in addition to shelter beds.

Posted: January 26th, 2014
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ExxonMobil to appeal job-loss settlement

Richard Hardisty, Calgary Herald
Published: Friday, April 13, 2012

CALGARY – A new chapter is being written in an Alberta Human Rights saga that has unfolded over the past two decades.

ExxonMobil is appealing a decision made in 2010 that would see the company pay Delorie Walsh a settlement of $650,000.

Richard Steele, the lawyer rep-resenting ExxonMobil, said his client seeks closure in the matter, but hopes for a reasonable end to the case, which began in 1991.

It is their position that ExxonMobil should not be liable for either the entirety or a portion of the loss of wages from 1995 to 2000 that Walsh was to be awarded as part of the settlement.

Walsh was in a car crash in 1994, months before her termination from then-Mobil in 1995. According to Steele, it was this accident that was the primary cause of Walsh’s lost wages over the next five years.

Because the accident was work-related, Walsh contacted the Workers’ Compensation Board, Steele said, and later, with the help of WCB, there was a settlement reached with the driver of the vehicle who struck Walsh’s.

“In settling the motor vehicle accident, there was closure in loss (of wages) and who caused the loss,” Steele said.

He called the loss of wages section of the 2010 decision a “reviewable error.”

However, if the court did not agree to dismiss all of it, Steele felt he had sufficient evidence to show ExxonMobil was not liable for any wages lost after 1998 at the latest. That year, Walsh had been in another car accident.

Walsh, who has filed an appeal seeking higher compensation, said the crash was only one part of the picture. Initially she had filed a human rights complaint against ExxonMobil in 1991 because she was being paid significantly less to do the same job as a man. Then, in 1995, after being fired, she filed a second human rights complaint, saying the firing was retaliatory for the first complaint.

It was the stigma that was attached to her accident, being fired from ExxonMobil, the human rights complaints, and later, as a result of her accidents, the stigma of having an opiate addiction, that led to her loss of wages over those five years. Further, she said, were it not for the discrimination and retaliation she faced at the hands of ExxonMobil, she would have had the surgeries required to deal with the medical issues that arose from the first accident.

She said the ongoing trial, and surrounding events, had had an extreme and long-term effect on her life and her family’s life.

In 2008, the Court of Appeals said Walsh was a victim of both gender discrimination and retaliation. Within the $650,000 the tribunal then awarded Walsh in 2010, was $10,000 for the 1991 complaint of gender discrimination and $25,000 for the 1995 complaint of retaliation.

Posted: January 26th, 2014
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