Headlines: Jan. 12, 2024

· The Pulse
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada issued an extreme cold warning for Edmonton and the rest of Alberta, with low temperatures and wind chills expected to continue into the weekend. Temperatures are currently forecast to rise slightly by early next week. The Alberta Motor Association reported long wait times to assist people whose vehicles are affected by the cold, and some flights out of the Edmonton International Airport have been delayed. The city's extreme weather response, which is intended to keep vulnerable Edmontonians safe, took effect Jan. 8.
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi announced that he has called a special council meeting on Jan. 15, during which he will make a motion to declare a city-wide housing and homelessness emergency. If the motion is approved, Sohi said he will call an emergency meeting with federal, provincial, and Treaty 6 representatives. The mayor's statement says the number of people falling into houselessness "exceeds the capacity of the system to respond," and that there are barriers to unhoused people accessing shelters, including many existing shelter spaces not meeting the city's Emergency Shelter Standards.
  • In response to Mayor Amarjeet Sohi's announcement, Deputy Premier Mike Ellis issued a statement pointing to the existence of the Edmonton Public Safety Cabinet Committee, which was created in November in response to "the issue of crime and gang-related activity within encampments" and is working on an action plan with various partners. The cabinet committee is chaired by Premier Danielle Smith and also includes Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee, and Cody Thomas, Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon said it is "completely inappropriate and dangerous for the mayor, or anyone, to suggest Edmonton is out of capacity in our social services sector or our emergency shelter systems."
  • The City of Edmonton is attempting to dismiss a lawsuit from the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights challenging the city's removal of homeless encampments, arguing in court this week that the nonprofit does not have a genuine stake and lacks experience. The coalition argued it is well-positioned to challenge the city's policies because it doesn't receive government funding. Court of Kings Bench Justice Jonathan Martin is expected to decide on the coalition's "public interest standing" on Jan. 16. The coalition is seeking an injunction to stop the city's encampment removals, arguing they endanger vulnerable individuals and violate constitutional rights.
  • Brandi Morin, an award-winning Indigenous journalist and author, was among three people arrested by the Edmonton Police Service as officers dismantled the eighth and final "high-risk" encampment on Jan. 10. Ethan Cox, Morin's editor with Ricochet Media, said Morin was interviewing someone when police arrived, and she refused to leave an exclusion zone after police surrounded it with tape. Cox said he is "very concerned that the Edmonton police would arrest somebody who identified themselves as a journalist." Police held Morin for five hours and charged her with a criminal offence for obstructing a police officer. After her release, she questioned the city's commitment to reconciliation in light of its choice to remove the encampments.
  • NiGiNan Housing Ventures and Enoch Cree Nation are receiving a combined $5.3 million in provincial funding to open up to 200 Indigenous-led emergency shelter spaces in northeast Edmonton. NiGiNan is opening new pallet homes at its Pimatiswin location at the site of the former hotel off Fort Road, and Enoch Cree Nation is opening new spaces at Maskokamik, which runs out of the former Coliseum Inn at 118 Avenue and Wayne Gretzky Drive. NiGiNan CEO Keri Cardinal Schulte said the organization appreciates the provincial funding, but continues to face challenges connecting people to Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped to help them afford permanent supportive housing.
  • CBC News gathered various perspectives on why some people experiencing homelessness choose to camp outside downtown and core neighbourhoods. People who spoke to CBC said their reasons had to do with safety, avoiding crowds, unpleasant conditions in shelters and encampments, or a preference for being alone. Assistant professor Marta-Marika Urbanik from the Centre for Criminological Research, who visited several remote camps as part of her research in 2023, said avoiding gangs and violence downtown was a common reason to camp further out. Staff Sgt. Eric Stewart of the Edmonton Police Service said gang members have embedded themselves in some downtown encampments.
  • Coun. Aaron Paquette shared his personal connection to the issue of homelessness during an appearance on Ryan Jespersen's podcast on Jan. 10. He appeared alongside Renee Vaugeois from the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights to talk about causes, symptoms, and solutions to homelessness.
  • The Globe and Mail obtained emails between Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health, the department that governs the provincial health system, regarding the use of acetaminophen the province imported from Turkey last winter. The emails show officials determined the drug could clog feeding tubes and lead to a complication in newborns called necrotizing enterocolitis. AHS issued a release to "provide some clarification" around the use of the drug, which it says was approved for import and caused no infants to become injured or ill. However, The Globe and Mail says the sources indicate the medication resulted in children gagging, refusing to take medication, and other adverse effects. AHS said the Turkish acetaminophen was used for about two months before staff went back to the usual medication. The Alberta NDP called on the province to discard the remaining bottles of Turkish acetaminophen.
  • Friends and family mourned the deaths of two long-time Edmonton sports media personalities, journalist and broadcaster John Short and Oilers beat reporter Robin Brownlee. Short died at the age of 86 on the morning of Jan. 11. Brownlee died of a heart attack the same day at the age of 65.