Headlines: Jan. 19, 2024

· The Pulse
  • An Edmonton Police Commission meeting on Jan. 18 became heated as speakers in attendance criticized the Edmonton Police Service for its handling of encampments. Everyone who signed up to speak addressed encampment removals, despite receiving an email from the commission asking them to make complaints through an online form. Much of the criticism was directed toward Chief Dale McFee, and some called for his resignation. Deputy Chief Warren Driechel said at the meeting that police no longer need to provide encampment residents 48 hours' notice before tearing down their homes, a measure that had been required under a court-imposed temporary injunction. Driechel said "extreme advance notification" creates challenges because it allows protestors to organize and residents to fortify their tents. Police announced Jan. 17 they will begin removing encampments at an accelerated pace.
  • The chief administrative officers of 11 municipalities in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region signed a memorandum of understanding for a new regional transit framework. Regional municipalities have been considering a consolidated transit system for more than a decade, most recently through the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Transit Commission, which was dissolved in May 2023 after Edmonton city council chose not to fund it in December 2022. In their releases, the municipalities highlighted elements of the new MOU that distinguish it from previous attempts, including that they will retain control of assets and transit service decisions, have mutual respect for one another, and have their chief administrative officers be responsible for "achieving the desired level of collaboration."
  • Fort Saskatchewan city council is considering ending its commuter service from Clareview Station through Edmonton Transit Service and replacing it with a service to Sherwood Park through Strathcona County Transit. Mayor Gale Katchur said citizens have been asking for a transit route between Fort Saskatchewan and Sherwood Park for years, and that she is "very supportive" of the proposed change. Ridership on the Clareview route continues to decline, and the budget can't support funding both routes, Katchur said. Council will vote on the change on Jan. 23, and it could come into effect by June.
  • Marigold Infrastructure Partners, which is building the Valley Line West LRT, began construction on bridge girders for the new Anthony Henday Drive LRT Bridge, located at 87 Avenue. Construction is scheduled to happen overnight until Jan. 21. Exit ramps at 87 Avenue will be closed overnight and reopened at the end of each shift. Drivers can expect lane reductions and speed reductions in the area. The new bridge is one of two being constructed to accommodate Valley Line West. The other is the Stony Plain Road Bridge over Groat Road.
  • The Edmonton Police Service says an extortion scheme targeting the South Asian community, which has been tied to 15 arsons, seven firearms offences, and five extortions in the Edmonton area, is orchestrated by a criminal network in India. The scheme targets people over WhatsApp and involves demands for "significant" amounts of money. Most victims have been home builders, and six men have been charged in connection with the scheme.
  • The Coalition for Justice and Human Rights obtained Alberta Health Services data that shows unhoused Edmontonians accounted for 58% of health care visits for amputation due to frostbite in the last fiscal year, up from 39% the previous fiscal year. Chris Wiebe, a lawyer with the coalition, said it is important to quantify the impacts of houselessness and encampment evictions.
  • The Edmonton Police Service reported a 34% increase in "shooting occurrences" in 2023 compared to 2022. A total of 221 shootings were recorded last year, compared to 165 the prior year. Staff Sgt. Eric Stewart with the organized crime branch said police are trying to lower the number of shootings in 2024 through their guns and gangs strategy, which recently brought in a new gang suppression team and a new firearms investigation team.
  • Drone Delivery Canada has signed commercial agreements with the Edmonton International Airport and other partners to expand its drone delivery services, including to a medical clinic in Leduc owned by Montana First Nation.