The Pulse: April 25, 2022

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 19°C: Mainly sunny. Wind southeast 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 19. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • 54.5%: More than half of all COVID-19 public health order violations in Alberta were withdrawn, CTV News reports. (details)
  • 2-5: The Oilers (46-27-6) lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets (36-36-7) on Sunday afternoon. (details)

Anne Stevenson at a podium

Police accountability should take place in public, councillor says

By Mack Male

More discussions about police accountability should take place in public, says Coun. Anne Stevenson, one of two city councillors serving on the Edmonton Police Commission.

Stevenson told Episode 175 of Speaking Municipally, Taproot's civic affairs podcast, that when she started her term as a police commissioner she was surprised at how quiet the public meetings were. "I wasn't hearing a lot of questions," she said. She soon learned that the way information is shared — first with private committees of the commission, then later at public meetings — means that there aren't many questions left when an item finally comes before the public.

"I see the accountability, I see the questions that come up. I think they're good questions, they're the right questions to be asking. But again, the public doesn't get to see any of that," Stevenson said. "In my mind it's a real shame that that's not happening in public."

"I think that the absence of seeing the act of accountability can work to undermine the confidence that people have in that."

Stevenson also suggested that increasing the number of Edmonton Police Commission staff might strengthen the commission's ability to provide oversight. Having more staff would allow for dedicated resources to review reports, provide feedback, and draft recommendations, she explained.

"So instead of the (Edmonton Police Service) providing recommendations to commissioners, it would be the commission staff providing those recommendations," Stevenson said.

No discussions about increasing the number of commission employees have taken place yet, but Stevenson said she thinks there's appetite for the idea. "It's a conversation I'm keen to have," she said. "I think that's something we can move toward."

According to its latest financial report, the commission has an annual budget of about $1.4 million, 56% of which is spent on personnel costs.

A third idea from Stevenson to "rethink" the commission is to consider making city council members non-voting. "It is very complicated to govern two separate organizations which have such a close relationship with each other," she said.

In March, city council approved amendments to the Edmonton Police Commission Bylaw to allow for one additional public member, expanding the maximum size of the commission to 12 members. Currently, two of the commissioners may be city councillors or employees of the city, but they serve as full members.

"I think it's worth exploring...having non-voting members of council on the commission, I think there's real value in that."

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By Mack Male

  • Edmonton's homeless population has doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic began while calls to 311 about encampments increased from 790 in 2016 to more than 6,200 last year. "There's approximately 2,800 people in our city with no permanent home, and we estimate that approximately 700 to 800 of those folks are sleeping outside on any given night," said Christel Kjenner, director of affordable housing and homelessness at the City of Edmonton. Administration recommends against both creating a city-sanctioned homeless encampment and allowing encampments that pop up this summer to stay, Postmedia reports.
  • Edmonton police officers used force 18.9% more frequently last year compared to 2020, according to the Edmonton Police Service's 2021 annual report. That follows a 10.9% increase from 2019 to 2020. Staff Sgt. David DeMarco told the Edmonton Police Commission that a training program and new policy aimed at improving reporting, approved in early 2021, "is likely a driving factor in the increase," Postmedia reports. He explained that although the number of times officers drew their weapons increased by 34%, the proportion of incidents in which physical force was actually used fell somewhat. University of Alberta criminologist Temitope Oriola said he believes the numbers suggest an "over-reliance on force," Global News reports.
  • Police have charged six boys — two 14-year-olds, two 15-year-olds and two 16-year-olds — and a 17-year-old girl with second-degree murder for the stabbing death of 16-year-old Karanveer Sahota outside McNally High School earlier this month. The girl is also charged with attempted obstruction, and no further charges are expected to be laid. Hundreds of friends and family attended Sahota's funeral on Sunday afternoon, where Mayor Amarjeet Sohi spoke. "Your loss is felt by the community, your loss is really a loss for this city, the loss for a potential young man who could have grown up to give back to build a better city," he said.
  • The city's Summer Streets program, which converts some vehicle lanes into mobility lanes to support active modes of transportation, is returning again this year. The first lane will be setup this week at Victoria Park Road, with mobility lanes along Saskatchewan Drive and 104 Street coming early next month.
  • A new report called Action Alberta from the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights recommends that education districts establish system-wide policies on anti-racism, hire more teachers and assistants from diverse cultures and backgrounds, and provide consistent and stable funding for anti-racism initiatives. Edmonton Catholic Schools and Edmonton Public Schools are both developing anti-racism strategies, CBC News reports.
  • The Edmonton Valley Zoo has transferred its birds indoors or to outdoor habits protected by mesh to help keep out wild birds that could spread the deadly avian influenza subtype H5N1 that arrived in Alberta earlier this month.
  • Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, who currently serves as a member of the Edmonton Police Commission, has announced her nomination campaign to be the NDP candidate for Edmonton-Rutherford. MLA Richard Feehan, who was elected in the district in 2015, announced Friday that he won't seek re-election.
  • Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish told Postmedia that the plan to modernize Alberta's health care cards will have to wait until after next May's election due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "We need to make our motor vehicles registry systems able to talk to Alberta Health Systems and that sounds simple but it actually requires an enormous amount of technology work and upgrades," he said. The project's budget is still $20 million over three years.
Machines involved in snow and ice control in Edmonton parked on the street

Coming up at council: April 25-29, 2022

By Emily Rendell-Watson and Mack Male

Community and public services committee meets on April 25, while urban planning committee is scheduled for April 26, and executive committee is on April 27. Here are some of the key items on the agenda this week:

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Aerial view of Kinistinâw Park featuring a bright red canopy

Coming up this week: April 25-29, 2022

By Mack Male

This week's calendar includes the inaugural Canadian Hydrogen Convention which is expected to attract more than 4,000 attendees over three days. The event, co-hosted by Edmonton Global, will explore Edmonton and Canada's role in the developing hydrogen economy.

You'll also find annual general meetings, anniversaries, and a guided tour in The Quarters:

Find even more listings in Taproot's weekly roundups.

Photo: Aerial view of Kinistinâw Park featuring the park's bright red canopy. (City of Edmonton)