Headlines: Feb. 5, 2024

· The Pulse
  • Hundreds of Edmontonians rallied over the weekend to protest the UCP government's proposed policies affecting transgender and non-binary youth. Rowan Morris with Trans Rights YEG said the policies will harm trans youth. "What I'm feeling right now is a complete rollback on trans and queer rights," Morris said. During an announcement last week, Premier Danielle Smith said the government will introduce legislation this fall that would include restrictions on gender-affirming surgeries and therapies for minors and require parental consent for students 15 and under to change their pronouns or names at school. A proposed restriction on transgender women's participation in women's sports leagues has drawn criticism from athletes and advocates who say there is a lack of evidence for any competitive advantage. "I don't believe that the government has any place in legislating the actions of sporting leagues, beyond ensuring that they're adhering to human rights laws," said Finn St Dennis, a queer researcher and co-founder of an Edmonton climbing collective for LGBTQ people.
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and some Edmonton city councillors and municipal staff will return to work at city hall on Feb. 5 after an attack in January forced the building's closure. While city hall remains closed to the public amid ongoing repairs and a security review, staff are being offered a voluntary, phased return. Council and committee meetings, which were cancelled last week, are being held online for the week of Feb. 5. No one was injured in the Jan. 23 attack, which saw a gunman fire bullets and throw a Molotov cocktail in the city hall atrium.
  • The Alberta government says the navigation and support centre it opened in downtown Edmonton has helped 145 people and facilitated more than 500 referrals to housing programs, emergency shelters, and employment services. The province opened the centre on Jan. 17 as the city grappled with its response to homelessness and increased its efforts to dismantle encampments around Edmonton. Mental Health and Addiction Minister Dan Williams and Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee highlighted the centre's success in connecting vulnerable people to supports. The province said it will do a review after 30 days to determine the centre's effectiveness.
  • EPCOR has lifted the ban on non-essential water use in Edmonton and surrounding areas after completing repairs at its E.L. Smith water treatment plant. During the ban, which began on Jan. 29, water consumption decreased by about 109 million litres from typical levels. EPCOR said it will conduct a review of the incident and plans to provide an update to city council's utility committee on March 4.
  • About 25-30% of Edmonton's population lived in tent communities more than a century ago due to a tight housing market and high prices, mirroring the current situation with the city's unhoused population. The figures were uncovered through archival research done by Harvey Voogd with the North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society and reported by Postmedia. Some responses to the tent communities at the time were similar to recent actions taken in Edmonton against encampments, including evictions. Historical accounts reveal that tent living was not uncommon for early settlers in Alberta, and Voogd said that many Edmontonians today are descendants of those who once lived under such conditions.
  • Glass Bookshop, a popular independent bookstore in Edmonton's Ritchie neighbourhood, has announced its permanent closure. The bookstore was known for supporting 2SLGBTQ+ and racialized authors since its inception in 2018. "This turn of events is beyond our control and not a decision we made ourselves; we tried everything we could to keep this little bookshop going," it wrote in an online post. Customers with outstanding orders will be contacted for pick-up or delivery arrangements.
  • Edmonton's condominium market is experiencing a resurgence, with apartment-style condo sales increasing by 50% in January compared to the same time last year, according to new figures from the Realtors Association of Edmonton. The benchmark price for apartment-style condos increased by 5%, year over year, at the end of 2023 for the first time in nearly a decade, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. High interest rates are pushing buyers towards more affordable properties with Edmonton's condo prices remaining significantly lower than in other major Canadian cities, said real estate agent Sara Kalke. Interprovincial migration and rising rental costs are also driving the trend.
  • Edmontonians gathered in Churchill Square on Feb. 4 to rally in support of Palestine and to protest the Canadian government's support of Israel. The Gaza Health Ministry says 27,000 Palestinians have been killed and a significant portion of the population has been displaced due to Israel's military operations in the territory. Rally organizer Fatmeh Kalouti urged Canada to support the International Court of Justice's ruling for Israel to prevent further destruction and loss of life in Gaza. "We're calling on the Canadian government to stop the trade of weapons between Israel and to uphold human rights and justice," Kalouti said.
  • Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid won the NHL all-star skills competition Feb. 3 at Scotiabank Arena, taking home the $1-million prize. McDavid dominated the competition, winning four of eight events, including the stickhandling challenge, accuracy shooting, fastest skater, and obstacle course.