A group of local photographers, editors, printers, hair and makeup stylists and other volunteers gave families throughout the community the chance to have a professional family photo taken to take home for the holidays.
In its ninth year, Help-Portrait Lethbridge brings professionals together to give back to individuals or families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to obtain a family photo. Help-Portrait is an international movement that has gained popularity in many communities who see that a picture can last a lifetime, and in Lethbridge, the event has grown as families have seen the value of a printed picture.
“Help-Portrait is an organization dedicated to giving to families or individuals who wouldn’t otherwise be able to obtain a family portrait during the holiday season,” says Steven Layton, director of Help-Portrait Lethbridge.
“This is a global movement, it started in 2008 from a celebrity photographer, Jeremy Cowart, and he posted about it and people all around the world asked if they could join and he put everything out there so if someone wanted to do it they could.
“When I first took over, we averaged from 80-90 families a year and last year we broke our record at 132 families, with over 330 individuals coming through the building in just six hours.”
Families or individuals who attend the event get greeted and moved to a waiting area where they can decide if they want to have their hair and makeup done before the photo. Once that is complete, participants move over to one of four photo studios where they are directed and positioned to capture the perfect moment.
New policing unit proposed
Lethbridge Chief of Police Scott Woods effectively saw city council’s suggestion to look into hiring eight new frontline police officers, and raised it one brand new policing unit, at council’s final public meeting of the year on Monday with a $4-million bill attached to it for taxpayers to foot.
Woods proposed going forward with forming a special Crime Suppression Team (CST) made up of eight veteran officers starting in January 2020.
“They are going to be an overt and covert unit focused on the behaviours associated with some of things we are seeing around the city, particularly low-level drug dealing, property crimes, break and enters, residential,” explained Woods.
Three million of $4 million would come attached through next year’s budget ask, said Woods, and would be to hire eight new police officers to backfill the vacancies opened up by moving the eight veteran officers to the new unit. An additional $1 million would also be needed over the next four years to administratively support the CST officers with civilian staff and resources.
Woods felt having eight veteran officers form what is essentially a vice-squad within the LPS would have an almost immediate impact on crime in the community. Woods also felt just simply adding new bodies to the front lines wouldn’t change the equation much on the streets when it is the service model itself which needs to change.
“I truly believe it’s a Band-Aid approach,” he said. “We need to focus on the (underlying) issues, and putting more staff on the front lines, although we do need more staff on the front lines, is not going to solve anything. It’s not going to address what we need to address, and in my opinion that is the problem behaviours and the increase in crime we are seeing within the city.”
Funding to continue
City council voted to approve $1.7 million over the next three years to fund the City’s Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy at Monday’s regular meeting.
The Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy includes funding for 12 programs, including the Clean Sweep Program, DOT and the Main Street Program, among others, implemented to help deal with the secondary effects of the drug crisis. The program is popular with business owners and other organizations based in the downtown, but had only been funded for one year after being implemented in 2019.
Monday’s 6-2 vote ensures the program continues for at least the next three years.
Coun. Rob Miyashiro was absent for the vote. Councillors Blaine Hyggen and Joe Mauro voted against renewing the funding. Hyggen said he would prefer to direct more resources toward law enforcement rather than continuing to pay taxpayer money toward these types of programs. Mauro said while he was in support of some measures like the Main Street Program, he felt the other measures covered by the Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy were largely a consequence of the supervised consumption site’s location downtown, and were properly a provincial responsibility which it should be paying for.
Coun. Jeffrey Coffman agreed, but reminded Mauro while these problems may not be within “our jurisdiction” as a city, they certainly were “our problem” to deal with.
Downtown urban revitalization manager Andrew Malcolm thanked council for its renewed support of the Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy.
“As one councillor said, it was money we don’t want to spend, but it’s money we need to spend,” said Malcolm. “I think that’s how everyone in the downtown feels. We would love to see this type of money go into other things. But at this point in time, the downtown needs this type of funding to ensure that people still feel safe and comfortable coming downtown in the time it takes for some of those bigger (social) programs to come down and actually address the root causes of the (drug) issue.”
City manager resigns
City council has formally accepted the resignation of City Manager Bramwell Strain “with regret.”
“Mr. Strain served city council in a manner which exceeded our expectations,” said a solemn Mayor Chris Spearman during a press briefing in city council chamber Tuesday afternoon. “He was a decisive manager, a great communicator, who won the confidence of employees, organizations and citizens.”
Strain will be leaving Jan. 13 for personal reasons, confirmed Spearman, and council has allowed him the privilege of appointing his own acting city manager designate as he prepares to depart. Spearman admitted council had known of Strain’s intention to resign Oct. 15, but had asked him to keep it under his hat while they completed Phase One of the KPMG operational review and got Phase Two underway so as not to distract from the process.
“We remain committed to our strategic plan and the operational review process during this time of transition,” confirmed Spearman.
Spearman said council had been “shocked” and “surprised” by Strain’s decision to resign, and credited Strain for helping the community and City take several necessary steps forward in his 16 months of service. Spearman and councillors Joe Mauro, Belinda Crowson and Jeffrey Coffman will be part of the transition committee seeking to hire Strain’s replacement.
Spearman perhaps paid Strain the highest compliment when asked by reporters what that transition team would be looking for in their new city manager.
“We are looking for an individual with many of the same skills as Mr. Strain,” he said simply. “We want someone who is focused on change management. We feel the City still needs to have that external view.”
Farmers looking to rebound
Farming Smarter’s annual winter conference kicked off Wednesday and ends today at Exhibition Park.
Under the dark clouds which have hung over the industry for much of the past year, Ken Coles, general manager for Farming Smarter, said the annual conference was trying to present to participants some potential silver linings which they could take away with them as they begin to plan their 2020 crop year.
“It’s a good opportunity to get together and share what we have learned over the past growing season, talk politics, talk markets, and try to share as much information as we can, and get some good networking going,” stated Coles. “There has been some big market issues over the past year, trade issues with China and other countries, so this is the time of year when we think about what we are going to be growing and where for the next year. Even though it was a really tough year, sometimes those are the years we learn the most. I think there is a good opportunity to pick up on what went wrong and try to tweak management practices for next year.”
Keynote speakers on Wednesday included former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, respected agricultural advocate Alanna Koch and veteran market analyst Mike Jubinville.
Jubinville said he wished he could share better news with those in attendance.
“There are always a number of market drivers for grain prices,” he explained. “It could be weather, supply and demand issues, oversupply in various parts of the world that help drive things, but in the 30 years I have been doing this the influence of politics and political interference into commercial grain marketing activities has probably been as significant an influence in the grain markets as anything I have ever seen.”
Jubinville pointed to President Trump’s “America First” policy and subsequent tariffs as having given permission for other countries to also interfere in the normal flow of grain markets for their own me-first political agendas as well.
Family gets support
Southern Albertans are coming to the aid of Mountain View parents whose two-year-old daughter is fighting stage four cancer as nearly $12,000 was raised in one day.
Last week, Sydnee and Tyrel Smith, parents of three children, heard complaints from their middle child Bo.
“Last Friday, me and my husband were getting ready to head to his Christmas party and Bo, who is very verbal for a two-year old, just said she was sick,” says Sydnee, Bo’s mother. “First we played it off as a tummy ache, but then she would get sensitive when we would pick her up, it was causing her pain, so I took her to the Cardston Hospital and the doctor said she just had a tummy ache. Something felt off so we kept taking her back, and she just kept getting a lot more sensitive when we touched.
“The doctor on Sunday, on my fourth visit, sent me to Lethbridge and that is where the ultrasound tech noticed a tumour on her kidney.”
The ultrasound images were sent to a radiologist at the Children’s Hospital in Calgary, where they realized the tumour looked cancerous. Through various screenings and bloodwork, doctors were able to diagnose Bo with Stage 4 Wilms cancer, also known as nephroblastoma.
“She has already had her first surgery where they placed a central line in so that she could get her chemotherapy,” says Smith.
Five facing charges
Lethbridge Police have charged five people, including three young offenders, in connection with an incident last week where a 16-year-old male was swarmed, assaulted and sent to hospital with serious injuries.
Last Thursday at approximately 11:30 p.m., a citizen heard a commotion in the alley along the 200 block of Mayor Magrath Drive North and observed a group of people running away. The citizen heard someone call for help and after going outside to check, called 911 upon locating a young male who had been stabbed. Police and EMS attended and the victim was transported to hospital. He was later transferred to Calgary for treatment of serious injuries.
“Through further investigation, an 18-year-old female was identified as a person of interest and police also obtained video surveillance of the assault,” says LPS Criminal Investigation Division acting Insp. Pete Christos. “During the early morning hours police attended the female’s home and located multiple people inside. Eight occupants, including three additional people who arrived in a vehicle, were arrested.”
The investigation determined that earlier in the evening the 16-year old victim had made arrangement to meet an 18-year-old female. Unbeknownst to the victim, the female made plans for a group of her friends to accompany her and confront him. The female led the male down the alley past where the group was hiding and they subsequently came up from behind and assaulted him. The victim was punched, kicked and ultimately stabbed multiple times in the back before the assailants fled the area. The victim remains in hospital with significant injuries, but his condition is stable.
Man sent to penitentiary
A 35-year-old man who assaulted a police officer, then led police on an early morning chase near Vulcan last year, has been sent to a federal penitentiary.
Tyrone Michael Emblau was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison, after Judge Eric Peterson found him guilty Monday of assaulting a peace officer, fleeing from police, two counts of possession of stolen property and two counts of breaching conditions of a recognizance.
On March 21 of last year Vulcan RCMP responded to a report that a snowmobile had been stolen from a location near the Village of Champion at about 5:15 a.m. Court was told during trial in October that the truck Emblau was driving, and the trailer he was towing, were also stolen.
Residents who witnessed the offence directed an officer to the area in which Emblau had fled, and after the officer pulled him over, Emblau refused to be handcuffed and fought with the officer, eventually throwing him to the ground before fleeing.
Additional RCMP officers followed the truck until it became stuck in a field, but Emblau took off on the snowmobile and was chased by other officers, also on snowmobiles.
A Calgary police helicopter finally pilot spotted the snowmobile stuck in a stand of trees several kilometres from the abandoned truck and trailer, and after Emblau again refused to surrender and still tried to get away, a police dog took him to the ground. He was then taken to the hospital and treated for the dog bite and a possible concussion.
Contest winners honoured
The winners of the second annual #YQL Expressions of Reconciliation Art & Media Contest were announced Monday morning, where participants shared their concepts and collected their winnings.
The art and media contest is co-organized by United Way, the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Council and the Lethbridge Indigenous Sharing Network. Up until the start of November, judges gathered submissions from the community and selected the four winners. The first-place prize went to Melvina Brave Rock, for her piece, “In Transition.”
“I feel very honoured and surprised that my piece was chosen,” says Brave Rock. “This is the first time in my life that I have ever entered an art show or a competition. I have done this all of my life ever since I got out of residential school. When I had gotten my roots back, I learned that I was an artist, so I did a lot of artwork.”
Other winners included the People’s Choice award to Donovan, Tyson and RT for their song “At Ease,” where they also took home third place overall.
Intox facility gets funds
Lethbridge city council has unanimously supported spending $300,000 to help complete renovations on the Lethbridge Shelter’s intox facility.
Council made the decision to allocate the funds during Monday’s public meeting. The $300,000 will be drawn from the City’s Municipal Block Fund reserve, which was formed based on a grant first received from the province back in 2009.
“We have requested of the province intox,” explained Coun. Belinda Crowson, who put forth the motion on council’s behalf, “and as part of that they have asked us to contribute some of the money towards it.”
The money will be used to build a perimeter fence around the new facility and to help complete other renovations on what will eventually be a 30-bed centre. The province will contribute annual funding to run the centre, but has asked the City to submit its share of what it proposes to pay for the new facility by January.
It is hoped the new intox facility, which currently has 12 beds to help keep those publicly high on drugs in a safe place to stay until they can sober up again, will have all 30 beds fully-up and running by next year. The intox centre will also serve as the first contact point toward further drug treatment and recovery programming for those who use it.
High expectations for water tower eatery
As chef on an Atlantic Ocean cruise liner, Ram Khanal learned how different foods and cultures combined to create a daily feast for the ship’s passengers.
Khanal later brought those recipes and tastes to Canada. Five years ago he opened his own restaurant, offering southern Albertans some of his Mediterranean specialties alongside menu favourites enjoyed by all.
Now that’s his plan for the Water Tower Grill and Bar, opening Jan. 2. For lunch and dinner, he’ll be featuring daily specials as well as crowd favourites like sandwiches and hamburgers.
Khanal is describing the new menu as “gourmet-meets-casual.”
“Combining the inexpensive food prices of a small city with recipes from around the world, the Water Tower will offer a delicious meal for everyone and for every budget,” he pledges.
Those tastes, he says, will range from butter chicken to Ukrainian borsht, Mediterranean to Thai. Entrees will run from $15 to $25. While meals will be “internationally inspired,” Khanal says they’ll showcase the products of local farmers and ranchers.
That’s the approach he’s taken since opening his first restaurant in Picture Butte, then following that up by taking over operation of the Telegraph Taphouse in downtown Lethbridge.
Council votes to freeze wages
City council voted unanimously to freeze wages for mayor and councillors and non-unionized employees for 2020.
“There are things we (on council) disagree about,” said Coun. Belinda Crowson, who sponsored the motion to bring in the wage freeze during Monday’s public meeting, “but finding efficiencies and making it better for all residents of Lethbridge is something I know we are all very keen on. I was not at all surprised everybody supported this.”
Besides council members, the wage freeze would apply to administrative staff and management-level employees at city hall. Prior to council’s decision on Monday, a two-per-cent wage increase was expected to take effect in 2020. Crowson acknowledged freezing council’s wages would have a minimal impact on the City’s bottom line and the real savings would come from the wage freeze to employees, but said she and her fellow councillors felt it was important to lead by example in a new era of fiscal review and restraint.
“We cannot ask other people to take cuts and make changes as we are doing the operating reviews unless we are actually planning to lead as councillors,” she stated. “Our salary (on council) right now is about $60,000. You take that two-per-cent increase — it will not be a huge savings as a council. But it will be considerably more when you are looking at 235 administrative staff. It is a saving we will reuse as part of our priorities, but it is also sending a message to everyone else that council is serious about moving ahead with finding efficiencies.”
’Canes brighten the day
Several members of the Lethbridge Hurricanes brought some Christmas cheer, an arm full of Teddy bears, and even a few hugs on Thursday for some kids stuck in the pediatric ward at Chinook Regional Hospital during the holiday season.
“It’s a pretty good feeling,” said Hurricanes right winger D-Jay Jerome. “It’s pretty cool to come visit young kids that maybe don’t have much. It makes you feel pretty good for not doing a ton.”
Jerome said he and his teammates were happy to come out and spread some warmth and holiday cheer, and he hoped it made the day of some the kids in the ward who would rather be home with their families than where they were through no choice of their own.
“As a team, we’re kind of the face of the community, and all these kids look up to us,” he said. “It’s a big thing in their lives just coming out to watch us, and when they see us they kind of think we’re stars, even though we may not be. It’s a cool feeling for us, and just a chance for them to see something new.”
Resignation surprises MP
Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder said she was very surprised by Andrew Scheer’s decision to step down as Conservative leader.
“(Thursday) morning a special caucus committee was requested and Andrew announced he was stepping back as leader,” said Harder from Ottawa. “All of us were quite surprised by it.
“I was surprised and saddened by the announcement. Andrew Scheer has served with a great deal of integrity. He wanted to serve all of Canada. He served with humility and was entirely selfless, looking out for everyone, all Canadian citizens.”
Harder said it’s too early to look to the future about a possible leader, but says there will be great interest.
“I’m not aware of anyone looking at the leadership race, but I definitely see people putting their name forward.
“I’ll be looking for someone with great character who is committed to unifying the party and also unifying the country from coast to coast.”
Youth camp seeks support
Camp Carmangay founder Brian Nimijean is looking for public support as the camp transitions to year-long programming to help troubled youth in southern Alberta.
“We’re going all year long, but we need $60,000 to fund a position,” he says. “It’s an incredible resource to the kids who have nothing to do in this barren wasteland called southern Alberta in the middle of winter. There is no camp attendance from October through to April, but our kids are a part of a peer group which will be attending events. That way we can keep them going and keep them talking, and give them some place they still can go to keep them out of the basement at home and out of those dark (psychological) corners.”
Camp Carmangay is a registered charity which provides outdoor activity, horse therapy and an environment of safety and support to help troubled youth find ways to de-compress and emotionally dysregulate.
“The purpose of Camp Carmanguay is to provide an emotional retreat for youth struggling with a myriad of mental-health challenges,” states Nimijean. “We try to create an aura of acceptance.”
While the camp’s regular activities are largely suspended in the winter months, Nimijean believes its crucially important the youth who attend his camp remain in touch throughout the winter months to continue the journey of greater well-being.
To get in touch with Camp Carmangay, or to make a donation, call Brian Nimijean at 403-915-4199 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAEA lends helping hand
Dozens of volunteers helped cook and serve a hot Christmas dinner to people who might go without this holiday season, for the 21st annual Community Christmas Dinner held Saturday evening by the Southern Alberta Ethnic Association.
Twenty-one years ago, the SAEA saw a need to provide a free Christmas dinner for those in the community who may not be able to afford one for themselves or their families. The SAEA wanted everyone in Lethbridge to receive a warm meal and to feel included and valued.
“Today we have the 21st annual Community Christmas Dinner where we invite community members to come and eat for free,” says Anastasia Sereda, co-ordinator with SAEA. “We have all of these volunteers here that have spent time cooking, and we have several food donations so that we can feed people who might not be able to get a Christmas dinner of their own this year.”
Last year, over 200 people including individuals and families attended their annual dinner. In addition to the free meal, the SAEA also held a coat drive to hand out coats and winter apparel to keep them warm during the cold winter.
“It is great, it is a nice way to give back to our community so that people can come in from the cold during the day and just have some Christmas cheer,” says Sereda. “It has been really good. The other day I had someone come and ask when the community dinner is going to be, because a lot of people just know about it and we have re-occurring visitors. We have also done a coat drive, so there is coats and warm winter apparel for families or individuals who are in need.”
Teen arrested after LCI lockdown
Lethbridge Collegiate Institute parents, staff and students were breathing a sigh of relief Friday, Dec. 13 when a lock-and-hold incident at the school ended peacefully after the arrest of a lone suspect.
On Friday at approximately 10 a.m. Lethbridge Police School Resource Officers attended Lethbridge Collegiate Institute (LCI) to investigate a threats complaint made toward a group of students at the school. Staff at the school had called police and requested that they attend.
Police determined the threat had been made by a 17-year-old who was not a student at LCI. Staff at LCI made the decision to lock the outer perimeter doors of the school while police investigated and classes continued to operate normally during this time.
The suspect was quickly arrested at his place of work in the north end of the city, and Lethbridge police confirm there was no immediate threat to either the students or the school.
Lethbridge Public School Division associate superintendent Morag Asquith said the division takes all potential threats to student and staff safety seriously, and felt the lock and hold was appropriate in this instance. The lock and hold lasted for about an hour until being given the all clear by the Lethbridge Police Service.
Community Foundation gives 286K in grants
The Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta handed out over $286,000 in grants to various community projects through the Henry S. Varley Fund for Rural Life and Community Priorities Granting Program on Thursday.
About 37 projects in total benefited from the funds this year, many of which were based in nearby rural communities. Lethbridge schools were also prominent among the recipients, including Fleetwood-Bawden Elementary School, ($5,000 for a new sensory room), Galbraith Elementary School, ($6,600 for a new sensory room), Mike Mountain Horse School, ($5,000 for a new makers’ space), and the University of Lethbridge, ($15,000 to complete a study area in the Science Commons building).
The Interfaith Food Bank Society of Lethbridge and the Lethbridge Community Band Society both received grants of $10,000. The largest donation on the day came from the Henry S. Varley Fund for Rural Life — $25,000 to fund critical-care skills training sessions with STARS’ Mobile Education Unit in the communities of Coutts, Milk River, Picture Butte and Warner.
For a complete list of this year’s fall-winter grant recipients visit the Community Foundation’s website at http://www.cflsa.ca.