Since her teens, Kari Matchett has felt a resonance with the late 1960s, an emotional connection that was illuminated by a high school drama teacher at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute.
Matchett, the star of such American TV series as “Invasion,” “24,” “ER” and “Covert Affairs” is now starring in the CBC Television drama “Fortunate Son,” airing Wednesdays.
The series premiered on Jan. 7 and seven more episodes are scheduled to air.
Matchett, a native of Spalding, Sask., who lived in Lethbridge from Grade 2 until she graduated from LCI in 1988, was drawn to the starring role of Ruby Howard because of that connection made in Grade 11 and 12 thanks to teacher Shirley R. Steinberg, who taught for one year at the school.
Steinberg, now the Research Chair of Critical Youth Studies at the University of Calgary, had her class do a re-enactment of the Kent State Massacre on May 4, 1970 in which the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed students during a protest of the bombing of Cambodia by the U.S. during the Vietnam War.
Four students died and nine others were wounded when guard members sprayed about 67 rounds in a mere 13 seconds at the protesters. The shootings have prompted many cultural references including the classic Neil Young-penned song “Ohio.”
“It hit me in a deep, personal way,” said Matchett in a phone interview on Wednesday.
“It was an incredible time of social and political change,” said Matchett, who still speaks with Steinberg, a graduate of Penn State University and the University of Lethbridge where she earned her Bachelor and Master of Education degrees.
“She was an incredible drama teacher,” said Matchett.
In “Fortunate Son,” which is set in 1968 British Columbia, Matchett plays an American activist named Ruby Howard living in Canada who is being pursued by the FBI. She helps smuggle draft dodgers and deserters across the border from Washington State into the B.C. community of Ladner, which is part of the city of Delta.
City strikes out
Mayor Chris Spearman is expressing his disappointment on behalf of city residents after receiving confirmation from the provincial government it will not be funding a SCAN unit in Lethbridge in the near future.
Spearman informed both city council members and the public at the end of Monday’s council meeting that he had received a letter from Solicitor General and Minister of Justice Doug Schweitzer’s office stating the UCP government would not fund a dedicated Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Office of the Alberta Sheriffs in Lethbridge.
“Under the current budget circumstances, they can’t provide an additional SCAN unit in the City of Lethbridge,” said Spearman, summarizing the government’s stated reasons for refusing. “That is disappointing, because we believe shutting down drug houses is an important part of the war on drugs. We put together a business case that was submitted back in October, stating that we had at any one time 12 to 14 active drug houses and about 125 properties under surveillance in the city. We offered to provide additional services if a SCAN unit were to come here, for example space in municipal buildings, to try to facilitate it.”
Lethbridge currently falls under the jurisdiction of the Calgary SCAN office. The City, on the recommendation of the Lethbridge Police Service, had hoped the province would agree Lethbridge’s ongoing drug crisis might warrant more dedicated attention to the issue of local drug houses.
“When you see the reaction that a drug house is closed, people automatically say they will just move down the street,” explained Spearman. “Having a SCAN unit monitoring on an ongoing basis would be much more effective than having them here on an occasional basis.”
Appeal to be heard in June
The Alberta Court of Appeal has confirmed a date to hear the Crown’s appeal of David and Collet Stephan’s acquittal following their necessaries of life trial last year.
The appeal, which has been expected ever since Justice Terry Clackson acquitted the couple in September, is scheduled to be heard in Calgary on June 11.
The couple was found not guilty in the death of their 18-month-old son after Clackson ruled Ezekiel Stephan did not die of bacterial meningitis as alleged by the Crown, and his parents did not know how sick he really was.
“The Stephans did not know that Ezekiel had meningitis but were alert to the possibility and monitoring for symptoms,” Clackson said during his decision, Sept. 19. “The meningitis Ezekiel had was viral and he did not die from meningitis but from lack of oxygen.”
The Crown maintains the judge based his decision on “irrelevant considerations” and erred by insisting prosecutors must prove that had the Stephans taken their son to a doctor before he stopped breathing in March 2012 after a brief illness, he would have survived.
Suppression team launched
The Lethbridge Police Service’s new Crime Suppression Team hit the streets on Wednesday for this first time, and Chief Scott Woods is eager to see results as six veteran officers prepare to go after certain criminal behaviours largely associated with the drug trade in a more proactive, intelligence-led and targeted way.
“They are going to be targeting the unwanted behaviours we have seen in Lethbridge for a substantial period of time,” says Woods. “One of the top stories for Lethbridge in 2019, if not the top story, was a lot of the issues we are seeing with spin-off crime as a result of the drug crisis. The team was formed to target the behaviours we see within our community, specific to violence, assaults, thefts — and we have seen a drastic increase in commercial break and enters and other unwanted behaviours within certain areas of the city where we have seen a spike in these activities.”
The CST will use both covert and overt methods to also target repeat offenders who engage in these negative behaviours.
Cold causes busy towing week
Extreme cold weather across the province led to a very busy week for tow truck companies across Alberta.
From dead batteries to collisions and tows, teams of dispatchers, drivers and other workers have dedicated their days to help drivers get their cars back on the road safely. The Alberta Motor Association reported as of Wednesday morning, they have received over 30,000 calls for roadside assistance.
“AMA has all available call-takers, dispatchers, contractors and service vehicle operators working to help people as safely and quickly as possible,” the association states in a release. “It’s all-hands-on-deck across the province to get motorists and their vehicles to safety.”
Locally, roadside-assistance providers sawa large backlog of calls from drivers waiting to be helped. With wait times beginning at two hours, drivers hadto be patient while waiting for help to get to them in a priority sequence.
“Right now we are seeing a lot of people in need of battery boosts, a lot of boosts and unlocks, so if somebody is warming up their car and then they lock their keys in the door, that kind of thing,” says Chris Johansen, driver supervisor with TnT Towing. “Wait times for someone to come out are right around two to four hours, depending what is going on elsewhere throughout the area. Today alone we have about 50 holding right now at a time.”
Ideas flow at irrigation conference
The two-day 2020 Irrigated Crop Production Update conference concludes today at the Sandman Signature hotel in Lethbridge with about 400 attendees hearing the latest research associated with irrigation technology and agronomy from leading scientists in the field.
“The conference was started in the late 1990s by Dr. Ross McKenzie, and the idea was to provide a place where research scientists with Alberta Agriculture could meet face to face with farmers, and provide them with research results and new and innovative information in irrigated agriculture,” explains Shelley Woods, director of the Irrigation Management Section of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry who also sits on the Alberta government-sponsored conference’s planning committee.
“It gives farmers an opportunity to see the scientists who are doing the work, to speak with them, and to learn what is coming out next. Often times people are able to present here at the conference before they officially publish their reports elsewhere.”
Woods says often residents in southern Alberta do not understand the full scope of the impact irrigation has on agriculture in the region.
“In Alberta we have 70 per cent of the irrigation that occurs in Canada, and most of that is in southern Alberta,” she explains. “So we’re a big player in irrigation nationally and globally. Many crops, such as potatoes, we wouldn’t be able to grow under dryland conditions here in southern Alberta. With irrigation, we are able to produce reliable yield and quality year after year.”
Investment scams prompt warning
Investing your money can be one way of preparing for the future. But some people selling those “investments” are dishonest.
Alberta’s securities watchdogs say people who’ve been laid off are proving particularly vulnerable. But Alberta Securities Commission investigators report there’s a number of scams currently trapping would-be investors.
For newly retired or laid-off Albertans, they say, pitches to “cash out your traditional retirement savings” and put the money into something promising higher returns are one of the traps.
“Be wary of any investment promising high returns that are marketed as ‘low risk,’” officials say.
That’s a “red flag of fraud.”
So are claims of an “exclusive opportunity,” some kind of private, high-risk investment promoted as low risk, available for a limited time. The number of complaints related to that kind of promotion is on the rise, officials add.
There’s also been an increase in complaints about “emerging industries,” including cannabis and “cryptoasset” investments, as well as foreign exchange schemes.
“Scam artists capitalize on new and emerging industries, as there is often limited information and history available, making it easier to spread false information,” officials warn.
Health sessions offered
Living with chronic pain is a challenge many people face. So volunteers who have learned to manage that condition are joining health-care professionals to present no-charge workshops in Lethbridge through the year.
Their next session will run to Feb. 19 and registration is open to southern Albertans who experience ongoing pain.
The Better Choices, Better Health workshops are designed to help participants take control of their health and improve their quality of life. Instructors share ideas on how participants can increase their confidence and learn new skills, helping them to better manage their health condition — and enjoy a better quality of life.
The 2.5-hour sessions are led by Alberta Health Services professionals or trained volunteers, many of whom live with a chronic disease. They offer a supportive, welcoming environment and an understanding of the challenges participants face.
Because people living with chronic conditions often face the same day-to-day challenges, the program offers tools and techniques common to all chronic conditions.
This year’s first sessions will be held Wednesdays from 1 to 3:30 p.m., starting Jan. 15 at Alberta Healthy Living, 424 5 St. S. Registration can be handled over the phone at 403-388-6654 or toll-free at 1-866-506-6654.
Meanwhile anyone living with chronic pain or a chronic condition who is interested in leader training can call to inquire about the next training session, which takes place in April.
April resolution possible for case
A 63-year-old Lethbridge man charged more than a year ago in the drunk-driving death of a Piikani Nation councillor, may finally resolve his case this spring without going to trial.
Douglas Wilbur Bagnall, who faces charges of impaired driving, impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving, was in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench Monday, where an agent for his lawyer said the charges would be resolved and an agreed statement of facts would be presented to the judge on April 16.
Bagnall, who appeared in court by closed-circuit TV from the Lethbridge Correctional Centre, was scheduled to have a detention review Monday, but it was waived in light of the decision to wrap up the case.
Bagnall was committed to stand trial following a preliminary hearing in September in Lethbridge provincial court, and a trial date was to be scheduled during a subsequent hearing. That all changed last month, however, when defence announced it would likely take a different step.
Barnaby Provost was killed in June 2018 after a vehicle driving on the wrong side of Highway 3 collided with his vehicle. Provost’s 12-year-old daughter was also in the vehicle and sustained minor injuries.
Sex assault sentencing date set
A 51-year-old Raymond man sentenced last June for sexually assaulting three underage girls when he was a youth more than three decades ago, will be sentenced later this spring for sexually assaulting two of the girls when he was an adult.
Following a trial in November, Madam Justice Johnna Kubik convicted the man — who can’t be named to protect the identities of the complainants — on two counts of sexual assault in relation to the two girls, who are now adults, but found him not guilty of sexual assault and sexual interference in relation to a third girl.
Sentencing was adjourned until the new year, and Monday during a brief hearing in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench a sentencing hearing was set for April 21. In the meantime the accused, who did not attend Monday’s hearing, remains out of custody.
The man previously admitted he assaulted one of the women multiple times after he turned 18 in August 1986, but before he left on a two-year mission for his church in 1987. He denied he assaulted the second woman around the same time, and denied he assaulted the third woman, who testified during trial he sexually assaulted her up to one week before his wedding in 1993.
Lethbridge lawyer Robert Bissett invited the judge during his closing arguments in November to convict his client on one count of sexual assault in relation to one woman, but he said the other two women were simply confused about the dates of the assaults, which actually occurred when the accused was a youth, not an adult.
More funding OKed for library security
Lethbridge Public Library requested and received $90,000 per year additional funding to pay for a third security guard at the downtown Main library branch from city council during Monday’s public meeting.
The funding will remain in place for the next two years, and helps the library avoid service or hours cuts if forced to fund the third security guard position internally. Library CEO Terra Plato said an increase in incidents at the library over the waning months of 2019 prompted the move to hire more security in response to staff safety concerns.
“We did see an increase in incidents in the last few months in 2019 at the library so that really spurred us to take a really hard look at how our security model was working,” Plato confirmed. “We are following the model of best practices in other public libraries by adding security in this way. In total, we will have three security guards at all times at the Main branch. The $90,000 funds approximately one of those guards, and we will be funding two internally.”
Plato said the last four years at the library have mirrored closely what has been going on in other areas of the downtown, where the effects of the drug crisis have come under intense public scrutiny.
“Like the rest of the city, we continue to see a lot of public drug use and related things in the downtown,” stated Plato. “The problems we see happening in the city are also happening in the library.”
Art installation unveiled
Two local artists are helping bring downtown Lethbridge together through the city’s latest public art installation in front of the Multicultural Centre, at the northwest corner of 5 Street and 6 Avenue South.
Last Tuesday afternoon, Coryn Kempster and Julia Jamrozik welcomed the public to learn more about the installation of their piece, “Together,” which they refer to as a visual representation and a social infrastructure for community making.
“I am here today with my partner Julia Jamrozik and we are going to give a talk about the recent artwork that has been installed on the corner of 5th and 6th, in front of the Multicultural Centre,” says Kempster. “It is a sculpture called ‘Together,’ and we are hoping that it represents community, but it also helps foster it by giving people a place to sit and interact with one another. It was fabricated by Punch Clock Metal Works and installed by North Contracting.”
Composed of 26 chairs, the artwork references the universal and anthropomorphic qualities of the chair, while at the same time blurring the boundaries between the individual seats through aggregation and a use of colour to bring out Canada’s multicultural identity.
Writing conference expanded
The city’s conference for writers, WordBridge, is expanding to two days this year.
A series of events will be held Feb. 7 at the Good Times Comedy Club, followed the next day by author presentations and “slush” sessions at the Lethbridge Public Library.
Co-ordinator Alicia Visser says opening-day sessions will include a memoire-writing workshop with Lethbridge author Elizabeth McLachlan in the morning and an afternoon workship focused on writing for teens, led by local author Danica Stone.
Later in the afternoon, “how to” sessions will explain how writers can arrange book launches, selected readings and book-signing sessions.
Opening day will end with an “Artsy Fartsy Fest” where conference participants may mingle.
Break-out presentations as well as further “live action slush” sessions are planned for Saturday morning, concluding with a Skype talk on self-publishing by Mark Leslie — considered Canada’s leading authority on the process.
Insurance rates increasing
For Alberta drivers, it’s a double whammy. The temperature’s gone down, but the insurance rates are heading up.
Motorists opening their mail are seeing renewal offers with auto insurance coverage jumping as much as 30 per cent this winter. Some other insurance companies’ offers are less demanding.
But they’re coming at a time when a number of tax increases are in the works, and Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips says her office has been fielding many calls complaining about the hikes.
Before last spring’s election, she explains, the New Democratic government had limited increases to five per cent a year. Retired people, students and young working families are now feeling the pinch, she says.
“People are shocked and surprised,” Phillips says. “It’s a real issue that is affecting a lot of people.”
A recent report from the province’s Automobile Insurance Rate Board shows almost every company in the market filed for rate increase approval after the previous government’s rate cap expired at the end of August.
The report shows one company, Peace Hills General Insurance Co., was granted increases of 27.9 per cent for basic insurance and 8.5 per cent for additional coverage. The impact on typical premium quotations was not shown.
Hikes like that are unheard of in neighbouring provinces, where public insurance plans cover all drivers — and proposed changes are subject to government approval.
The report also shows some major underwriters like Alberta Motor Association Insurance and Allstate Insurance Company of Canada did not file for increases during the fourth quarter (October to December) of 2019 — though they may have filed in September.
But clients of some Alberta insurers report a $1,200 premium last year has suddenly jumped to $1,600.
Snowpack good news for irrigators
Local mountain snowpacks and good water levels in southern Alberta’s reservoirs to start 2020 bode well for irrigators in the year ahead.
Dennis Matis, manager of water operations with Alberta Environment and Parks based in Lethbridge, gave the good news to 2020 Irrigated Crop Production Update conference attendees at the Sandman Signature Hotel on Wednesday. Matis was the closing speaker for the two-day event— an acknowledgement that local irrigation supply comes mainly from Mother Nature in the form of good snowpacks, and has very little to do with the human infrastructure that manages that runoff at the end of the day.
Snowpack data is collected through 10 “snow pillow” stations located throughout the mountains, which are basically large bladder sacks about three metres in diameter filled with antifreeze, explained Matis.
As snow accumulates on the pillow, the weight of the snow pushes an equal weight of the antifreeze solution from the pillow up a standpipe in the adjacent instrument house which gives the measurement.
In Waterton-Akamina the reading his team is getting from the snowpack is a fulsome 110 per cent of normal for this time of year, said Matis.
“Right now we’re about 110 per cent of normal, and a year ago at this time we only had 60 per cent,” he explained to a rapt audience at the irrigation conference. “It’s looking pretty good right now; although we’re early on here. We still have about another three months to go before the peak snowpack.”
He said another key snow pillow at Glacier-Flat Top reveals a reading of 140 per cent of normal.
Guns, ammo stolen
Several guns and ammunition were stolen Monday from a residence in Pincher Creek.
RCMP reported thieves broke into several gun safes and stole ammunition, numerous magazines, two Glock 40-calibre pistols, three Remington 870 12-gauge shotguns, two Tikka 30-06 rifles, one SKS rifle, two police duty belts with OC spray, handcuffs and batons. A large ring of keys were also stolen.
A marked conservation officer truck was stolen, as well, and is believed to have been used to transport the stolen property out of town. The truck was abandoned on Cowley Ridge after the light bar and winch were removed.
City hires consulting firm
With little success to show for its advocacy efforts with the UCP provincial government over the past year, city council opted to give a new avenue a try at Monday’s council meeting by officially hiring consultants Crown Strategic Consulting Inc. for a six-month trial period.
The consulting firm will help spearhead a new approach to lobbying the provincial government on the City’s behalf, stated Mayor Chris Spearman, who sponsored the council motion which passed unanimously.
“I think it is about priorities,” he said after the vote. “I think we are recognizing, and I think everyone recognizes, that the drug issue and drug-related crime are challenges for cities right across Alberta. Lethbridge being Alberta’s third-largest city, we seem to be missing out on programs that are available in the two larger cities. We need to find a way to make sure our needs are being paid attention to.”
The consulting firm would be paid $5,000 a month in fees and up to $1,000 a month for expenses during this six-month trial period.
Renovated library unveiled
Lethbridge College officially unveiled its renovated Buchanan Library space at a special media event on Thursday.
The $3-million project opened up more space, created a more comfortable Learning Commons area, added a 3D printing station, incorporated a learning cafe, and integrated the college’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Innovation into the library space. The project also added a permanent gallery display area where the college’s valuable collection of Canadian art from the library’s namesake Buchanan Collection, including works by the Group of 7, will be publicly displayed on a rotating basis.
Elder Peter Weasel Moccasin gave a Blackfoot name to the library to celebrate the occasion, calling it “Niitsitapi’ksimpstaan” which translates as “Real Thinking.” Weasel Moccasin explained to the Blackfoot people real thinking is the kind of thinking you do that allows you to adapt and survive no matter the challenges which come your way.
Lethbridge College president and CEO Paula Burns said the newly renovated library and learning commons reflects a fundamental shift in the paradigm going on in the post-secondary realm.