The Enmax Centre was full of cheer and high spirits Jan. 18, as the fifth annual Imagine Cheer and Dance Championships took over the arena.
Thousands of people were drawn to the Enmax Centre as dozens of teams, of all ages, competed their way through their categories and divisions. Teams tested out their athletic and dance abilities against top-ranked teams from the area to hopefully take home the top awards.
“What we have going on here is the largest competition in southern Alberta, we have athletes ranging in age from three all the way to 55, just busting it out on that competition floor,” says Samantha Paradee, event producer and owner of Perfect Storm Athletics Lethbridge and Calgary.
“It is very southern Alberta, but we do pull from Saskatchewan and Edmonton and even into B.C., and next year we are anticipating a few American teams to come up as well. I have just over 750 athletes here today, over 100 coaches and 3,500 spectators that will be in and out of here today. This event brings out a lot of people in our community.”
From the high energy to the strength it takes to flip, throw, dance and hold poses in the air, Paradee says cheerleading is an intense sport that brings out the best in competition, as even the competitors of the performing group are cheering them on and showing them support.
“Cheerleading is a sport like no other, it was born in sportsmanship and as you watch every team perform today, every single one of their competitors are cheering for them and that is probably the best thing about cheerleading,” says Paradee.
“Cheerleading in Alberta and even in Lethbridge has gone from 50 athletes to over 250 athletes in just a few years, so it is growing exponentially. Alberta as a whole has 5,000 athletes, coaches and judges, it’s unreal.”
Study paints picture of disorder
A 13-month study commissioned by city council on the social impacts of the supervised consumption site validated many of the concerns people have expressed about increasing social disorder and anti-social behaviour in the immediate area surrounding the site, but also validated the City of Lethbridge’s mitigation strategy to help local businesses deal with some of these effects.
“When we knew consumption services were first coming to Lethbridge, a literature review was done,” explained City of Lethbridge Urban Revitalization manager Andrew Malcolm, who co-presented with U of L researcher Em Pijl during Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting. “And in that review, it identified that there were very few impacts to (opening) this type of thing. But the studies all related to Vancouver, Sydney … and other major cities. We weren’t comfortable with that. We figured the City of Lethbridge being a small to mid-sized city would have different implications, which is why we initiated the study before the consumption site opened. In hindsight, that was a great decision by the City of Lethbridge as well as the Heart of Our City Committee — because now we do have a baseline.”
The study ran between January 2018 and February 2019, but took longer to compile than previously expected because some of the data sets requested by researchers were not made available to them despite repeated requests. The Lethbridge Police Service, in particular, was singled out by lead researcher Pijl for not providing the crime data in the area of the SCS she needed to complete her comparison between what was heard and seen in her survey and actual crime statistics over the observation period.
Drug sites may close or move
Premier Jason Kenney says it’s possible Alberta could close or relocate some supervised drug consumption sites.
The United Conservative government struck a panel last summer to look at the impact of the sites on crime rates, social order, property values and businesses. It is not considering harm reduction, establishing new sites, provincial funding or housing.
Kenney said he has seen the panel’s preliminary report.
“It underscores the concerns that we have had about the negative impact on people and on communities as a result of at least some of the drug injection sites,” Kenney said.
“They’re now more than injections … they’re just illegal drug sites. I think we see pretty much everywhere a marked increase in crime in the area of those sites and social disorder and negative human consequences.”
A review of safe injection sites was a United Conservative Party election promise.
There are currently seven in Alberta — in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge — with proposals for one each in Red Deer and Medicine Hat and another one in Calgary.
Kenney was asked while in Calgary whether it was possible the sites could be abolished altogether.
“It certainly is possible that at least some will be relocated. It’s never been our intention to shut all of the sites but we’re taking a very close look based on the data,” he replied.
The panel is chaired by former Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht. Other members include an economist, three doctors, a real-estate agent and the mother of a young man who died of an overdose. She is now involved with an adolescent recovery centre.
Lethbridge NDP legislature member Shannon Phillips said closing the site in her city would be devastating.
“People would die,” Phillips said.
AUPE sends message
Alberta Union of Public Employees workers picketed outside of Chinook Regional Hospital over the lunch hour on Tuesday to express their anger with the Kenney government over job cuts within the public service.
“They are angry; they need to have their voices heard,” stated AUPE vice-president Karen Weiers. “This government, there is no doubt they are attacking public-sector workers, the frontline workers, that provide valuable services to their community. And there is no doubt these people are angry that their jobs are in jeopardy.”
And Weiers said everyday Albertans should be angry, too — not for AUPE members’ sakes, but their own.
“Albertans should be concerned about what this government is doing, because it is not only the loss of jobs, it is not only the loss of the livelihood, their jobs, their pensions, their benefits, it is the actual loss of services. And that will affect each and every Albertan. And not only here in Lethbridge, but also across the province.”
Weiers went on to state her members do not understand how the Kenney government can justify in its mind a $4.7-billion corporate tax cut while at the same time cutting 5,900 public-sector jobs, and cutting important services to every day Albertans.
“This government is not looking out for Albertans as a whole, and that is what we are demonstrating for here today,” she said.
More problems possible
Local community leaders are responding to Premier Jason’s Kenney’s speculation Jan. 21 that his government may consider closing some supervised consumption sites and relocating others in the province.
Mayor Chris Spearman said any potential closure of the SCS in Lethbridge, the busiest in the province, could bring even further problems to the city, especially if the government doesn’t add any new dollars for services like supportive housing, intox, detox and treatment.
“It has been a divisive issue in our city, for sure,” Spearman acknowledged. “We want to have solutions. We don’t think the problem of drug addiction and drug-related crime is going to go away by closing the SCS. The issue is we have people who are addicted, and we have to address the root causes. So for more than five years, we’ve have been advocating for adequate intox, adequate detox, supportive housing, and treatment and recovery facilities. Without those other supports, we just won’t ever solve this issue.”
Relocation of the existing site might also prove problematic, said Spearman.
“When it comes to a possible move, we don’t want to speculate on where they might put it,” he said. “But ideally, it’s in an area where people can access it if it is to actually fulfil its function of harm reduction. Most of the clientele are walking there, and if it is on the edge of the city or outside of the city, they won’t use it.”
Spearman acknowledged it was a provincial decision to make either way, but he hoped the province would take into account the other services the SCS provides to the city’s most vulnerable population.
“The supervised consumption site provides 16 other services in addition to supervised (drug) consumption,” he explained,” and so getting people referred into medical care, and on to other services, is important as well. I think that story doesn’t get told often enough; that the supervised consumption site has other benefits.”
Lethbridge East MLA Nathan Neudorf said Premier Kenney has been consistent in his views on harm reduction and supervised consumption services.
“I think the premier has been clear all along that our direction is going to be much more focused on treatment and recovery, and not strictly on harm reduction,” explained Neudorf. “I think (Tuesday’s) announcement and his comments emphasized that. I don’t know any specifics on any location, including Lethbridge, or what or if they have decided anything at this point yet. But obviously the direction is going to be on getting people well instead of on just management of an addiction.”
Neudorf pointed out the premier is not strictly opposed to harm reduction and supervised consumption services, and acknowledged they may even be needed and appropriate under certain circumstances. Neudorf said this reflects his own views on the subject.
More charges possible
Additional charges have been laid in relation to a fatal collision late last year on Highway 3 west of the city.
Wesley Brian Phillips of Lethbridge, who was initially charged with refusing to provide a blood sample, now faces charges of failure or refusal to comply with a demand resulting in a collision causing death; impaired driving causing death; dangerous driving causing death; and failure to comply with a probation order.
The charges stem from a collision about 7:15 p.m. Nov. 25 when a white VW Jetta westbound on Highway 3 collided with a red Ford Escape that was stopped at a stop sign on 51 Avenue in the town of Coalhurst where it intersects with the highway.
Police said the 66-year-old female driver and lone occupant of the Ford Escape was pronounced dead at the scene of the collision. The driver of the VW Jetta was taken to Chinook Regional Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Phillips, 36, is scheduled to be in court Feb. 14.
‘Coldest Night’ walk planned
Streets Alive Mission will hold its annual “The Coldest Night of the Year” walk on Feb. 22.
Walkers will be raising funds and inviting others to walk with them in teams. The mission is aiming to raise $60,000 to aid their life-recovery work with the less fortunate in Lethbridge. The Coldest Night of the Year will be hosted at E-Free Church on Highway 4. The walk will be a rotating circuit from the host location at 4717 24 Ave. S.
Walkers and teams from local businesses, churches and other community groups are encouraged to sign up now to start gaining support to help reach their fundraising goals. Interested walkers are advised to register as soon as possible at https://cnoy.org/location
There are also sponsorship opportunities available for local businesses and media who wish to support the event.
Lethbridge is one of 145 locations across Canada taking part in the annual walk. Across the country to date, there are 5,741 walkers signed up on 1,911 teams, with 8,226 donors and 1,619 volunteers helping out for the event.
For more information on the Streets Alive The Coldest Night of the Year walk call Marie McLennan, associate director of Philanthropy for Streets Alive, at 403-942-5644 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the Streets Alive Mission website at http://www.streetsalive.ca.
Axe throwers show skills
True North Axe Throwing Lethbridge is working hard to condition their team of 10 members who will be representing them at the International Axe Throwing Championships in Toronto this February.
Throughout the year, axe throwers from all over compete in various tournaments to be ranked locally, nationally and internationally. By the end of the tournament season, a group of local throwers qualified for round one at nationals, and 10 of them walked away qualifying for the international championships. Local throwers now have a chance to win the biggest cash prize in axe throwing history, along with competing against over 250 of the best throwers from around the world.
“The tournament in February is crazy because the prize is $50,000, biggest cash prize of axe throwing yet,” says Tanner Kenney, co-owner of True North Axe Throwing Lethbridge.
“There is over 200 throwers in it and the fact that we have 10 representatives from Lethbridge alone going out there is a pretty cool fact that our small local town can compete not just on a national scale, but on an international one as well.”
Since True North Axe Throwing Lethbridge opened three years ago, they have grown their community largely to welcome everyone into the lighthearted sport. Professional tournaments have drawn the attention of local axe throwing enthusiasts, and when placed to compete with high ranking players, they stood up to the challenge and helped create a name for Lethbridge throwers.
“We have some throwers here from True North that are ranked in the top 25 in the world, some of our throwers have gone on to perform very well in professional tournaments and won money,” says Kenney.
“We had 10 throwers from True North that did qualify to go to Toronto and they were qualifying against people from all around the world. It is something that we can be proud of, a lot of these people are in here practising for hours, they take it pretty serious, but they also reap the benefits of that practice.”
Sale returns to its roots
The annual Lethbridge Antique and Toy Show and Sale event returned to the city last weekend for people to explore through their childhood memories and find some classic antiques.
The Antique and Toy Show has been an annual event in southern Alberta for over 25 years, allowing collectors from all over western Canada to show off their collections and sell to the public. Organizers of the event say it’s a good way to find unique and hard to find toys for children, as well as for some people to reflect on the type of toys they had growing up.
“This weekend we are having our annual Toy Show and Antique Sale,” says Larry Samoleski, event promoter. “People like to come out to the show for different reasons, some people like to see and buy things that they used to have as a kid and that kind of stuff. Our vendors are from all over western Canada for the most part and people will find some older antique stuff that people have been collecting over the years and then a lot of farm toys, construction toys and trucks.”
Samoleski was brought into the world of collecting and refurbishing toys by his own doing, as he found interest in his childrens’ toys. Starting with a few, he would clean them up and make them look like new again, so they could be displayed.
“I collect mostly farm machinery, but I probably have between two and three hundred pieces of construction stuff,” says Samoleski. “I was originally a farmer, so my kids like farm toys and I got them away from them when they grew up and I painted them up and put them up on my shelves, and that is how I got started in collecting.”
The Lethbridge Antique and Toy Show and Sale has moved locations throughout southern Alberta and Lethbridge, as they started out in a Coaldale school basement and moved to Exhibition Park as they outgrew the space.
Endorsement falls short
The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce stopped short of endorsing the City of Lethbridge’s entry into the under-served digital market for business owners in the community at Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting, but didn’t stop too far short of it.
Currently, said Chamber of Commerce executive officer Cyndi Vos, business owners do not feel they are well-served by their internet providers, and too often it comes down to what part of the city you are located in.
“(There is a challenge) in having to decide where to locate in Lethbridge, and not being able to lease or buy in certain areas of town. That’s a restriction on where they can do business and how they can do business,” explained Vos. “So they are having to go into different areas just so they can turn their computers on. So is there some challenges from an economic development in placement, absolutely. Unless you are on the corridor where there is the magic (fibre optics) line, there’s challenges as to what you can do and how you can do it.”
To back up this perception, Vos and her colleagues presented survey results regarding Chamber of Commerce members’ feelings about local levels of internet connectivity for council’s consideration, showing only about 50 per cent of businesses are satisfied with their internet.
A 28-year-old woman who robbed a city gas station and convenience store last August and set fire to two residences a few days later, has been sentenced for arson.
Tila Bailey Scout, who pleaded guilty in October to two counts of arson, was sentenced Wednesday in Lethbridge provincial court to five months in jail. The sentence, however, will run concurrently with a 30-month prison term she received in December for robbing the gas station, so she will not serve any additional time behind bars.
The Crown had recommended Scout receive a six-month sentence, which would run consecutively to the other sentence, but Lethbridge lawyer Jeremy DeBow urged the judge to make the sentence concurrent.
DeBow argued Scout did not have a criminal record before the 2019 offences, and said an additional six months in jail would be unnecessary since she is unlikely to repeat the offence.
“She’s not an arsonist,” he said.
Groups making mark
They decide on a project, then go out and do it!
That’s the success story of four Youth DO Crew groups in nearby southern Alberta communities. After classes, high school students in Coaldale, Coalhurst, Raymond and Taber completed an impressive number of projects through the fall.
Now, says facilitator Kaitlynn Weaver, they’re ready for more.
“We have had great success with a variety of youth-led service projects,” she reports.
The teens have volunteered for events ranging from an outdoor movie night to a winter carnival. DO Crew members have also guided visitors through a haunted house, taken part in community forums and given out Christmas “care packages.”
Weaver says first steps toward creating the youth leadership and volunteer groups were taken early last summer, with activities getting underway when schools started their fall semester. She says the program is a collaboration between the Boys and Girls Club in Lethbridge and the locally administered Family and Community Support Services program, backed by a federal government grant.
DO Crew members identify community needs and volunteer opportunities, she adds, then contact people in their town who can help their project proceed. That can lead to a planning session with local officials — for some teens, likely the first opportunity to share leadership with adults.
Polar Plunge returns
The annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Alberta Polar Plunge is returning to Henderson Lake next weekend to help raise funds for Special Olympic athletes in Alberta.
On Feb. 1, more than 40 plungers will brave the freezing waters of Henderson Lake to support the athletes, with this year’s costume theme of superheroes. The event will run from 11 a.m., until the last registered plunger takes the frigid jump.
“We are challenging everyone to get out and make a splash in support of our athletes at this year’s plunge,” says Johnny Byrne, Special Olympics Alberta CEO. “This year, the event is open to all ages and it will be exciting to see new and familiar faces braving the cold, which makes a huge impact for our athletes every year. We are so thankful to Mr. Lube for jumping back as a platinum sponsor and we cannot wait to get freezing for a reason once again in 2020.”
Notable plungers will brave the cold in Lethbridge, including Canadian Olympic hammer thrower, Const. Jim Steacy. For the first time, people of all ages will be able to take the plunge, along with Special Olympic athletes.
In 2019, the Polar Plunge raised more than $180,000 with 450 plungers in the five cities where the event is held. Special Olympics Alberta has programs that cater to all ages and a wide range of abilities to over 3,300 athletes in 140 communities.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Alberta is looking to raise $250,000 in 2020 through the plunges across the province. Dedicated fundraisers earn incentives like gloves and hoodies and they can qualify for provincial awards if they reach top fundraising status.
Goodstriker left a legacy
Members from all First Nations Indigenous communities and other parts of the province joined together at the University of Lethbridge Saturday morning to remember and honour the life and legacy of Jason Goodstriker.
Goodstriker, Ootsimiohkitopi (Sorrel Horse Rider), Tasunka Duta Akanyaka (Red Sorrel Horse Rider) passed away in Slave Lake on Jan. 16 at the age of 47.
Goodstriker was a proud member of the Blood Tribe and of the L/Dakota People of Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation in Saskatchewan. Goodstriker was a well-respected leader, announcer, orator, educator and athlete, along with being a husband, father, son, uncle, and a great friend to many who knew him.
He was the Grand Chief of the Alberta Chiefs Assembly for a term and was instrumental with many national files that were impacting First Nations in Canada. Prior to being Grand Chief, he sat a term on the Blood Tribe Chief and Council, where he initiated new programs and services for the community. Goodstriker continued to be involved with issues that impacted Indian Country, as a spokesperson and resource person for various organizations and entities throughout the country.