While technically called the Executive Leaders Coalition on Opioid Use, it wasn’t opioid concerns that were top of mind for most of the presenters at the Community Issues Committee meeting last Monday at city hall.
“We have seen an increase in meth use in the downtown, and in the city in general,” reported Insp. Jason Walper of the Lethbridge Police Service. “But it has been something which has been prevalent for the last number of years. It’s certainly something we have been dealing with on an ongoing basis. It just seems to be getting out (to the public) more.”
Walper confirmed most drug seizures by officers in the downtown are mostly related to methamphetamines these days. And given the violent tendencies which can be associated with the drug, Walper said there was cause for concern.
“Methamphetamine use creates erratic behaviour, and sometimes violent behaviour,” he said. “And certainly, if those individuals are leaving the supervised consumption site and moving into the community while they are still under the effect of those types of drugs, it does create a risk for those in the community. It creates a risk for police and other first responders having to deal with these individuals.”
This conclusion prompted Mayor Chris Spearman to ask ARCHES representatives at the CIC meeting if something couldn’t be done to limit or curtail the use of meth at the SCS somehow. Spearman later clarified these comments for local media.
“What I want to do is ask a question the public is asking, and what some of our first responders are asking,” stated Spearman. “When we are hearing about rising crime rates. When we are hearing about increased violent activity, and when people are feeling threatened, I think I have an obligation as an elected member to ask those kinds of questions from the experts. How can we limit the exposure of the broader community in terms of personal safety? I want to understand why (people) would use inhalation. If it is primarily meth-related, how do we protect the public from that?”
The Kainai Transition Society Job Ready Program is thanking the City of Lethbridge for its contributions to helping 15 people with difficult backgrounds get much needed job skills training earlier this summer.
“I think our people are getting the experience,” said Kainai Training Centre Society spokesperson Charles Weaselhead, who took off his U of L chancellor’s hat to assume his former role as champion of the program during the Nov. 4 Community Issues Committee meeting. “They are getting the training to be able to be put into jobs. I think it is a good start for them. Our program is based on helping our people get trained, and after that hopefully we can place them in jobs throughout the communities, including Lethbridge, Cardston and Fort Macleod.”
Weaselhead said the 15 chosen were given temporary summer jobs with the City, and likely several of them would have had a difficult time finding such employment on their own without the support of the Kainai Training Centre.
“The idea was based on the premise with all the challenges we have, not just with employment, but with the opioid crisis,” he said.
College supports blood initiative
Lethbridge College has partnered with Canadian Blood Services for November’s Be Ready to Save Lives campaign, which encourages community members to donate blood.
Lethbridge College has been involved in the Canadian Blood Services’ partner for life program since 2008, and over the course of the year, the college has pledged 625 blood donations. Through the campaign, during November and December, they are hoping to bring in another 225 donations and 100 new donors.
“The students play a really big part in being the next generation of Canadian blood donors, so we are really excited to be partnered with Lethbridge College in the Be Ready to Save Lives campaign,” says Lisa Castro, territory manager, Canadian Blood Services. “The Be Ready to Save Lives campaign is to encourage not only the students and faculty, but the entire community of Lethbridge to get engaged in blood donation. Over the month of November, we are needing at least 800 appointments to fill, so hopefully Lethbridge College will take a big chunk out of that.”
Gaining life-long donors is the end goal for CBS as the need for blood is always high. People who are dedicated to donating regularly over the years have made an impact in people’s lives who are recovering from basic surgeries to people who are in life-threatening conditions.
“Our life-long donors mean so much to us, we are so grateful for their support and without them we can’t do the job that we do with patients and saving lives,” says Castro. “That is why it is so important for these students to be the next generation of blood donors. Over the next year we need at least 100,000 new donors to support the future needs of Canada’s blood system.”
Spelling bee staged
The Lethbridge Public Library hosted its annual spelling bee for students in Grades 4, 5 and 6 to compete against each other using their spelling skills.
Earlier last week, the library hosted its Spelling Mini-Bee for younger grades to start testing their spelling skills as kids in the community work on their literacy. The library offers the kids work packages and study groups to help them develop their skills.
“We do our spelling bee once a year, last week we had the Mini-Bee for the Grades 2 and 3 students and this week it’s the for the Grades 4, 5 and 6 students,” says Jenny Cofell, children’s librarian.
“We make a study guide for them and they can download it or get a hard copy from the library and then the older kids study on their own time and most of them have done it before because they keep coming back.”
Joining the spelling bee not only give the kids a chance to improve their spelling and literacy skills, but also gives them the opportunity to get comfortable with public speaking, competing against others through work, as well as learning to admit defeat when they don’t pass through to the next round.
Galt hosts festivities
Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican tradition that intertwines ancient aspects of pre-Hispanic culture with Christian beliefs to create a unique annual event of remembrance for the deceased.
Bringing the Mexican tradition to Lethbridge is the Galt Museum that hosted its second annual Day of the Dead celebrations with activities for families to take part in, as well as the observation of a large Day of the Dead altar display.
“Today we are acknowledging the Day of the Dead and we have an expert who is a certified altar creator who has set up a display to celebrate the Day of the Dead,” says Rebecca Wilde, museum educator. “Throughout the day, we are doing some crafts for families to make which are related to the Day of the Dead.”
Dia de los Muertos is a celebration to respect, honour and remember those in our lives who have passed on and to welcome them back with a variety of offerings through the altar that is created. In Mexico, the day is celebrated through music, food, dancing and coming together.
The Galt Museum brought in Sandra Juell, a teacher from Mexico and a certified altar creator who has been living in Canada for over a decade, to set up a Day of the Dead altar with all of the different elements it requires.
“We celebrate the Day of the Dead on November 2, and for us it is not a sad day, it is a party day where we celebrate and remember our dead family and people with this altar which is seven steps with all of the elements,” says Juell. “According to the tradition, they come this night and come to the altar and enjoy all of the elements that are here.”
MADD starts campaign
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada has launched its holiday Red Ribbon campaign to remind people and encourage them to drive sober this holiday season.
The red ribbon symbolizes the importance of always driving sober as well as honouring the innocent victims of impaired driving. Although great strides have been made over the years to reduce impaired driving, MADD Lethbridge & Area representatives say it continues to be a problem and they hope people will take part in supporting this year’s campaign.
“This morning we gather to kick off our Project Red Ribbon,” said Anita Huchala, president of MADD Lethbridge & Area, at an event Monday at Lethbridge Police Service headquarters. “During this time, members of MADD Canada chapters and community leaders will join together handing out red ribbons and car decals in our communities to display as a commitment to drive sober. The ribbons also serve as a tribute to the thousands of victims killed or injured each year in crashes, involving alcohol and or drugs.”
Lethbridge Police Service has been a long-time partner with MADD Canada and has marked all of its police vehicles with a red ribbon or window decal through the campaign. Police say impaired driving is a year-round occurrence, but around the holidays more people are encouraged to consume, resulting in impaired drivers.
Students help food bank
Every year, the University of Lethbridge students within the Dhillon School of Business’s Integrated Management Experience program assist local non-profit organizations in solving problems they face.
This year the class volunteered their time with the Interfaith Food Bank.
The IME program combines academics with a community assignment as a means to help students build practical, analytical and personal skills, all while solving a real need for local non-profits. With near completion of the projects, 16 students in the program spent their Monday morning assisting the food bank with tasks around the building.
“We have a group of Integrated Management Experience students from the University of Lethbridge Dhillon School of Business here today to help with Interfaith Food Bank with some of their pre-Christmas stuff. They are getting ready here for the coming few weeks,” says Mike Madore, IME director. “What I try to do is find a local non-profit that isn’t as well known in the community to give them a little bit more exposure, so that is what our focus is and this year we are working with Interfaith Food Bank. Last year we worked with Windy City Canine Rescue and the year before we helped with Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association.”
Madore says exposing the students to non-profits is critical since the responsibility of educators is to develop the next generation of industry leaders, and supporting people in need and having a social conscience are critical elements of the program.
Streets Alive seeks clothes
Snow is in the forecast, along with colder nights.
And at Streets Alive, volunteers are helping homeless people brace for the coming winter.
But the non-profit agency is always looking for more gloves, tuques and other protective clothing to allow them to meet that need.
“We’re always in need of everything,” says Ken Kissick.
And that includes warm socks, he adds.
Longtime director of the downtown mission, Kissick suggests southern Albertans check their clothes closets. Many people today have more items of clothing than their wardrobe can hold.
So every spring they store their winter clothing downstairs, he observes. And when cold weather returns, many people decide they need something new to wear.
“Take a hard look and see what you really haven’t used,” he urges.
And if you don’t expect to wear some of those items anymore, Kissick says there are people here who would really benefit when a jacket or coat is donated.
“We can always use cash,” he says.
But as warmer clothing becomes so important, Kissick says those items are the greatest need right now.
Hoodies and sweaters are welcome, too. With southern Alberta’s up-and-down weather in the fall, he says they allow people to layer their clothing and avoid getting too warm or cold.
As for gloves, Kissick says donating pairs of “one-size-fits-all” is helpful.
CRTC powers limited
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission regional commissioner for Alberta/Northwest Territories Linda Vennard met with local officials, business representatives and media personnel at the Culver City Room at city hall last Tuesday for a roundtable discussion on rural broadband in the region.
While Vennard praised the efforts of local communities in bringing the issue to the fore, she said the powers the CRTC have are actually quite limited to ensure this “essential service” is provided either by municipalities or corporate entities.
“The idea that broadband is a human right is not enshrined in anything, which is not to say it is not a good idea,” stated Vennard. “It’s certainly not part of our mandate. Should it be part of anybody’s mandate? I think that is up to everybody to decide if it should be a right or not … We don’t have a hammer.”
Vennard was asked by roundtable participants what kinds of powers the CRTC does have to compel companies or municipalities to provide this essential service even if the business case might not be there for them.
Vennard said the CRTC could set aspirational goals to meet such as saying every jurisdiction should have 50 Mbps download speed and 10 Mbps upload speed, but unless federal legislation changes to give the CRTC more teeth there was very little it could do beyond that.