Headlines: Jan. 25, 2024

· The Pulse
  • The Edmonton Police Service said the man who fired a gun in Edmonton city hall on Jan. 23 is facing six charges related to firearm use and possessing incendiary material. Police identified him as 28-year-old Bezhani Sarvar. Commissionaires, which provides security services at city hall, confirmed that Sarvar worked as a security guard for the company since 2019, but that he was never assigned to city hall. Before the incident, Sarvar posted a now-deleted "manifesto video" to social media. John McCoy, executive director of the Organization for the Prevention of Violence, suggested the video is an example of a phenomenon called "salad bar extremism," which often takes the form of a "mishmash" of grievances layered with mental health issues or disorders.
  • Stories have emerged of City of Edmonton staff whose actions likely prevented violence on Jan. 23, including staff who contacted police and brought others to safe areas. A class of Grade 1 students was on a field trip at city hall when the shooting started. One staff member successfully kept a group of kids safe and calm and Stanley A. Milner Library staff looked after children as police filled the area. The unarmed security guard who detained the shooter until police arrived "went above and beyond his normal duties," Commissionaires said in a statement. "We are very proud of him, and thank him for taking such bold and brave action to protect the public."
  • The city signed an agreement with Varme Energy, under which the company will build a privately funded and operated waste-to-energy facility about 40 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. The parties say the agreement will produce green electricity and industrial heat while diverting approximately 150,000 tonnes of residential garbage from the landfill each year. Varme says it will complete construction as early as 2027, and the city will send residual garbage waste for a period of 15 years. It will be Canada's first industrial-scale waste-to-energy facility that integrates carbon capture and storage.
  • Edmonton Public Schools are experiencing higher-than normal class sizes in most grades, according to a report to board trustees. Grades 4 and higher are also seeing a larger proportion of English language learners, and all grades are seeing a higher proportion of students with disabilities. School board chair Julie Kusiek said trustees expect a larger increase next year and continued growth over this academic year. The board wants the province to fund the construction of new schools in the upcoming spring budget, Kusiek said.
  • Christopher McDonald, a captain with Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, was arrested on Jan. 16 and charged with three child pornography-related offences. In a release, Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams said it began investigating McDonald last October following reports of him sharing "high volumes of child sexual exploitation materials online," and that various electronics were seized during a search of his Morinville-area home on Dec. 28. McDonald is also charged with two counts of unsafe storage of a firearm. He is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 15 in Morinville.
  • The city's Winter Patio Grant program has awarded grants to 27 businesses to spend money on heaters, furniture, blankets, and lighting for the 2023-2024 winter season. The city said it invested more than $50,000 into the program this season and provided grants of up to $2,000.
  • Sofina Foods says it will be conducting safety tests at two Edmonton plants on Jan. 25. Residents can expect to hear emergency siren tests at the company's 7727 127 Avenue NW location at 10am and at its 9620 56 Avenue NW location at 4pm.
  • The province released an online feedback form as part of a broader engagement effort around "refocusing" health care in Alberta. A series of in-person engagement events are scheduled across the province in the coming months, including in Edmonton on Feb. 20.