First responders from across southern Alberta joined with the community of Lethbridge the morning of Feb. 1 to take a chilly plunge into the waters of Henderson Lake for the eighth annual Lethbridge Polar Plunge.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run organized the Lethbridge Polar Plunge as one of their many efforts to help raise money and awareness for Special Olympics Alberta athletes. Throughout the day, dozens of pledgers took the plunge into the icy waters, to then run to a warm hot tub to celebrate their efforts in fundraising.
“What we are doing is freezing for a reason and taking a plunge into Henderson Lake to raise money for Special Olympics, and this is through the Law Enforcement Torch Run,” says Mathieu Champagne, lead event organizer, Taber Police Service.
“It is a group of law enforcement officers from different agencies such as Taber Police Service, Alberta Sheriffs, Alberta Corrections, Lethbridge Police Service, Blood Tribe Police Service, everyone is involved here to help organize this event.”
Community groups and businesses teamed up to raise thousands of dollars to help support local special olympic athletes, from World Financial Group, The Watch and different enforcement agencies. This year’s number of participants was the largest in Lethbridge’s history, surpassing its 120-person record last year.
Dog poisonings investigated
Lethbridge Police are investigating a report that two dogs died after being poisoned in a southside yard.
On Sunday, Feb. 2, the owner of two large-breed dogs reported the animals had been poisoned in their yard along the 400 block of 28 Street South sometime during the night, police said in a news release Feb. 3.
Police say the dogs began howling that morning and acting strangely before they collapsed. They were taken to a local vet and later died.
Police have seized suspicious food from the backyard of the home and the investigation is ongoing.
All members of the public, particularly those who live in the area, are advised to be extra vigilant if they have young children or pets. Police say to watch out in yards or common areas for any strange items that dogs, cats or children could ingest.
Anyone with information about this incident, or has experienced a similar incident of a pet becoming ill where poison is suspected, is asked to contact police at 403-328-4444 or Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-8477. Anonymous tips can also be submitted online at http://www.p3tips.com.
Building code plan attacked
Firefighters across the province and in Lethbridge are voicing their concerns with the Kenney government’s plans to overhaul the Alberta building code to allow for construction of 12-storey wood-frame buildings.
“Our concern is the safety, not only of the community, but of the first responders going into those buildings in a fire event,” says Brad Readman, president of the Alberta Fire Fighters Association.
The AFFA and Readman are calling for a halt to changes to the provincial building code regarding 12-storey wood buildings until a national building code review is completed by the federal government later this year. The current maximum in Alberta allowed for wood-frame structures is six storeys, and Readman says while it might be positive for the forestry industry to double that number it is not necessarily good for the safety of first responders and residents if a fire breaks out in such a structure. Readman says the provincial government has, thus far, not been taking into account firefighters’ legitimate safety concerns.
Plans on track
Lethbridge city council received more confirmation from consultants Modalis Infrastructure Partners Inc. that the City is on the right track with its proposed upgrades and expansions to the airport.
“You have good fundamentals,” stated Modalis Infrastructure Partners Inc. president and CEO Curtis Grad. “You have good, strong traffic growth you have seen with both Air Canada and WestJet. It’s not as seasonal as you see at a lot of other airports. There’s a good base, but a place to grow.”
Grad told council during Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting that its top two priorities should be the replacement of the 40-year-old airport ground lighting system, which is getting harder and harder to upkeep, and necessary upgrades to the terminal building itself to make it more passenger, business and airline friendly.
Grad also warned council that as it seeks to develop the airport and the land-base around the airport it has to be cautious in ensuring it sets up the airport for long-term success rather than just trying to score more revenue now in any way it can.
“There is always a balancing act with airports,” stated Grad. “If there is a development opportunity at the airport that isn’t fitting the long-term strategy of the airport, but it’s a five-year lease and provides some sort of turnover in revenue — it would be something you would consider. But you might think twice about a 40-year lease for something that could be built across the road.”
Grad said council should think of runway access as being akin to something like waterfront property development in other cities.
“You only have so much waterfront,” he explained, “and in the case of an airport your waterfront is runway access. So the balancing act is short-term for uses that aren’t ideally aligned with the airport, and longer-term leases for activity that needs to be at the airport.”
Kilt Skate celebrates heritage
The City of Lethbridge, in partnership with The Scottish Society of Ottawa, welcomed the Scottish community and others to the second annual Kilt Skates recently.
Starting in Ottawa in 2015, the annual Kilt Skate was a way to combine Scottish and Canadian culture to make an inclusive event for their community. A few years later, the Kilt Skate is now in 13 different cities, including Lethbridge as they celebrate their large Scottish community.
“Today we are having Lethbridge’s second annual Kilt Skate Day, which is essentially one of our public skates but we have themed it around Scottish culture,” says Lori Harasem, recreation and culture development officer with City of Lethbridge.
“We have bagpipers here and we encourage people who have kilts to come on out and wear their kilt and we are doing this here today and it is also happening in Boston and New York City.”
Throughout the event at the ATB Centre, bagpipers from Bridge City Highlanders played through the afternoon as families skated in their kilts. Organizers of the event say the first run of Kilt Skate last year was successful, as many people grew curious about the event.
“People love it, there is a lot of Scottish people here that are excited about anything Scottish, and this is their time of year,” says Harasem. “We get a very good response from people in kilts and we get a few people who are curious to come and see bagpipers at the arena.”
Creators work through game jam
A local group of game developers, designers, students and hobbyists spent 48 hours at Lethbridge College over a recent weekend, developing a video game from scratch as part of the Global Game Jam.
Participants from all over the world take part in a simultaneous challenge to take a theme and come up with a concept, then develop the game as far as they can in 48 hours. Global Game Jam not only challenges the creators’ skills, but also brings together all levels of expertise to teach and learn.
“This weekend we are running a Lethbridge site for the Global Game Jam which is an international event. We have 119 participating countries this year, and what happens is people come together at a local site to create a game within 48 hours,” says Allyson Cikor, organizer of Lethbridge Game Jam.
“It’s great because we get a lot of returning people, but we also get a lot of new people and a lot of those are students as well so it is a great chance for them to take what they have been learning and apply it, along with meeting some people in the field.”
Lethbridge College’s Civil Engineering Technology program has been granted national program accreditation by Technology Accreditation Canada (TAC).
The accreditation means graduating students will now have more advantages to begin their careers, earn higher wages and have flexibility to work anywhere in Canada. The new accreditation means all three programs in the college’s School of Engineering Technologies have now received TAC accreditation, following the Engineering Design and Drafting program in October 2019, and Geomatics Engineering Technology program in April 2019.
“Accreditation is important for a number of reasons. First of all, it does validate the educational experience the students have here at the Lethbridge College in Engineering Technologies,” says Bill Smienk, chair for the School of Engineering and Technologies, Lethbridge College. “We have known for a long time that many of our students have been extremely successful in the industry and so this is another way of validating that they have that credential that is recognized.”
The college applied for the accreditation process and provided TAC with plenty of information to review, along with the in-person audit and inspection of the program. Through the process they looked at a variety of factors including program functionality, outcomes, as well as interviewing everyone from current students and faculty to alumni.
“We look for some institutional information and look at the policies that are in place and that they are being implemented,” says Richard Stamper, executive director of Technology Accreditation Canada.
University of Lethbridge PhD student Leila Armstrong is launching a new urban wildlife survey as part of the ongoing Backyard Wilderness project.
The survey asks 51 questions ranging from if you are a bird watcher to whether or not you are afraid of being sprayed by a skunk. Armstrong’s previous survey, conducted three years ago, yielded interesting results which she hopes to continue to build upon.
“The original Backyard Wilderness survey was able to gauge what animals visit people’s yards, what attractants they have on their property, and how they feel about animals visiting,” says Armstrong.
Armstrong reports preliminary results showing deer, skunks, and rabbits and hares are the most commonly reported wildlife in Lethbridge, where attitudes are generally positive.
The new survey will be able to show if there are any relationships between age, location, education and multiple other factors not included in the original study.
“Eighty-one per cent of Canadians live in urban centres,” says Armstrong. “In the face of those numbers I think it is important to understand our relationship to urban wildlife. Wildlife isn’t just out there in some rural local, it’s here in our backyard, in our alleys and parks.”
School earns LEED award
Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School has been awarded a gold level rating for environmental footprint and energy efficiency through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
“LEED is an independent program of the building industry, and the Alberta government has instituted policies where the new builds should follow this system,” explains Lethbridge School Division director of Facility Services Daniel Heaton, who received word of the LEED gold award rating about a month ago. “It’s a points rating system, and it starts all the way down from certificate all the way up to Platinum. On each one of those levels you have to reach certain amounts of either energy efficiency or energy harvesting, and so forth. The more points you gather through the whole process will insert you into whatever level you are at.”
“They saw to it to give us gold standard here,” he adds.
Heaton said it was the whole mix of efficiency systems designed into Senator Fairbairn school which led to the gold rating.
“It’s never one thing, it’s a combination of things that you put together to make the building. It’s like baking a cake: you put the best ingredients in, and you put it all together, you get a superior result.”
Some of those ingredients include clerestory lighting and adjustable LED lighting with automatic dimmers so when the natural light level is brighter the artificial dims to use less power. The classrooms also have independent banks of lights each with their own dimmer.
Blood donors recruited
The University of Lethbridge student recruitment teams joined Canadian Blood Services the morning of Feb. 4 to encourage more students to learn their blood type and sign up to become a regular donor.
Over 110,000 new blood donors are needed in Canada this year to keep up with the current demand. Blood recipient Kate Potts wanted to share her story with her fellow students to help put a face and experience to where the donations are going and why they are so desperately needed.
“When I was four years old, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, which is a very rare and aggressive form of cancer found in children,” says Potts. “Throughout that I was in the hospital for seven months, received four intense rounds of chemotherapy and received over 70 blood transfusions, and those blood transfusions were really what saved my life. The doctors did what they could on the medical side, but without that blood there really is nothing that they could have done.”
Thanks to the support of the community when Potts was younger, she has been able to live 17 years cancer-free. Throughout the day, she shared her story and helped convince students to at least find out their blood type and get them to get started on donating.
“Today we are blood typing, so if you don’t know your blood type, you can come on down,” says Potts. “We have tons of snacks and games, we are doing a selfie booth today, and you are also able to book an appointment to donate blood today.”
Program gets boost
The University of Lethbridge’s new CIBC Navigator Program is designed to empower students with disabilities by giving them employment opportunities, and is now ready to launch after a large donation from CIBC.
The CIBC Navigator Program is a five-year project made possible by a $250,000 donation. The goals are to support the development of co-operative education placement positions for students with disabilities, provide comprehensive supports to enhance student success upon placement, and encourage all students within the university’s Accommodated Learning Centre to participate in volunteer or co-op education opportunities.
“This is very important work, it is about finding co-op placements for students with disabilities,” says Eileen Sowunmi, third-year sociology student and co-operative education student who helped develop CIBC Navigator Program. “Knowing a few students that I am friends with that have disabilities, it is very important that they are included and are able to find accessible work placements and amazing work environments, and being a co-op student myself, the benefits of the program are immense and so it is very important that the benefits of the program are accessible to all students.”
Co-operative education combines real-world work experience with academic studies, with many added benefits to the experience. Benefits include allowing students to explore a variety of employment sectors, develop valuable research skills for future work experience or graduate school aid in the transition to a career upon graduation, and increase students’ marketability after graduation.
Pertussis outbreak over
Alberta Health Services has officially declared this season’s pertussis outbreak in the South Zone over.
AHS originally informed the public of the local outbreak on Oct. 15, and confirms this most recent event had 34 confirmed cases and two probable cases of pertussis, with no hospitalizations or deaths. The cases were located in Raymond, Lethbridge, Purple Springs, Picture Butte, Nobleford, Bow Island, Taber and Diamond City.
AHS reports 63 cases of pertussis in the South Zone altogether in 2019, up from 45 confirmed cases the year before.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a bacterial infection that causes severe coughing that may last for weeks — and can impact all age groups; however, infants one year of age and younger are at greatest risk of serious complications, including pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and even death.
Food drive broke record
With the help of Lethbridge residents, Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills and Real Canadian Wholesale Club locations across Alberta are celebrating a record-breaking 2019 Holiday Food Drive.
Since the start of the initiative 10 years ago, stores across the province have exceeded expectations, collecting the large amount of food poundage and cash donations to date. To date, the Holiday Food Drive has raised over $365,661 and 159,913 pounds of non-perishable food items.
“Real Canadian Wholesale Club has a long history of colleague-led initiatives supporting those in need here in Alberta,” says Jim King, store manager. “The food drive is a great example of this community support, and we want to thank our customers and colleagues for making the 2019 Holiday Food Drive so successful. They have really gone above and beyond this year.”
Local stores in Lethbridge were able to generate $12,400 and over 1,600 pounds of food, contributing to a victorious year of supporting the Interfaith Food Bank Society of Lethbridge and Lethbridge Food Bank Society.