The Pulse: Oct. 19, 2022

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

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  • 12°C: A mix of sun and cloud with 60% chance of showers. High 12. (forecast)
  • 1944: Edmonton has had more 20°C days in October this year than any October going back to 1944. (details)
  • Blue/White: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue and white for Global Day of Dignity. (details)
  • 2-4: The Oilers (1-2-0) lost to the Buffalo Sabres (2-1-0). (details)

Leanne Brownoff on a bridge with two dogs and Danielle Bragge in the snow with two dogs

VR Pathways offers virtual way to manage real-world stress

By Karen Unland

An Edmonton-based startup is working on a way to combine therapy with virtual reality to help more people access the help they need in a way that sticks.

VR Pathways delivers cognitive behavioural therapy in virtual reality sessions via an app called VRBrain. It's pre-revenue but has received positive feedback from those who have tried it, and co-founders Leanne Brownoff and Danielle Bragge are working on the next steps with the help of the TELUS Community Safety and Wellness Accelerator.

"We definitely have a very exciting future moving forward with all things VR and mental wellness," Brownoff told Taproot. "We just want people to be able to put it back into their own hands and not have to feel like they don't have any control."

VR Pathways emerged in part from observations Brownoff was making as a business coach.

"The businesses that I was coaching, they were hiring me to help them meet their ROIs and to help them with strategies. But when I looked at it, the teams themselves were really struggling just to show up," she said. "Everything (at home) was a struggle. And then they walk in at eight o'clock in the morning, and they're already stressed. And the day hasn't even really started."

Bragge was noticing the same thing in her recruitment practice. But the help people needed so they could get into a place where they could be productive was scarce and hard to ask for.

Their search for answers pointed to the benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy for counteracting the brain's tendency to get stuck on the negative. VR also kept coming up as a powerful way to encourage the retention of messages. So combining CBT and VR seemed to have promise. VR Pathways was born to see what that promise could lead to, just as the pandemic was about to make everything even more mentally challenging.

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Headlines: Oct. 19, 2022

By Kevin Holowack

  • Organized crime groups in Edmonton are increasingly using firearms, but shootings are generally targeted, according to Staff Sgt. Eric Stewart, who leads the gang suppression unit and the firearms unit of the Edmonton Police Service. So far, 2022 is following a trend similar to that seen in 2021, with 127 shootings recorded as of Oct. 16 and 84% believed to be targeted. The police have been expanding their firearms investigation unit to speed up gun-related court proceedings, but Marta-Marika Urbanik with the Centre for Criminological Research at the University of Alberta told CBC she would prefer to see resources invested in keeping people away from gang life. "We know that preventing crime is much cheaper and much more beneficial to our society than responding to it through policing and burdening our justice system, which is both expensive and onerous," she said.
  • Connections & Exchanges: A 10-Year Plan to Transform Arts and Heritage in Edmonton earned an award at the Creative City Summit in Waterloo, ON. The document, released in 2018, was called a "shining star model" by the jury. "With all the challenges of today, some may ask why we continue to prioritize efforts like this," said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi after announcing the award. "First of all, it drives economic growth. Every year, the arts brings millions of dollars into our local economy and many hundreds of quality jobs."
  • The Edmonton South Soccer Centre celebrated the completion of a six-year expansion project, which has doubled the facility's space for concrete sports like ball hockey, roller hockey, and lacrosse. The $30.1-million expansion, largely funded by the city, includes new hard surface and artificial turf fields, eight accessible locker rooms, space for 450 spectators and players, and an accessible lift to the second floor. Adrian Newman, CEO of the Edmonton Soccer Association, said the space will be used seven days a week year-round, and leagues have already booked up prime hours to the end of March.
  • Housing starts in both Edmonton and Calgary have increased by about 20% since the start of 2022, according to the latest Housing Supply Report by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi joined CBC's Edmonton AM to talk about his first year in office, addressing issues such as downtown safety, the police budget, and delays in transit construction.
  • The UCP constituency association for the riding of Edmonton-West Henday put forward a draft resolution (see p. 21) that aims to ban teachers from teaching anti-racist concepts like "critical race theory, intersectionality, anti-racism, diversity, and inclusion," which the authors think are "ideological." Bridget Stirling, a former Edmonton Public School Board trustee, said the policy would make teachers afraid to discuss key historical and current events. UCP party members will vote on this resolution and others on Oct. 22, but there are further steps before a resolution becomes policy.
A newspaper clipping showing a drawing of a stone structure with classical columns under the headline "Proposed Memorial Mausoleum"

A moment in history: Oct. 19, 1929

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1929, plans were underway for a mausoleum at the Edmonton Cemetery.

The city's oldest official graveyard was initially set up by a private company in 1886 on land donated by the Hudson's Bay Company. At the time, the location near 118 Street and 107 Avenue was on the city's outskirts. Two years later, St. Joachim Parish set up a twin cemetery directly to the south of the original for Catholic burials. One can tell which section of the graveyard one is in based on the orientation of the graves: east-west in the Edmonton Cemetery and north-south in St. Joachim's.

The Edmonton Cemetery Company claimed that it had no business for the first year of operations, a testament to the health of those living in the area. At some point, however, people did start dying. By 1920, after the First World War and the ensuing influenza pandemic, there was little room left for more arrivals. The cemetery expanded, including a section for military veterans known as the Field of Honour.

The mausoleum pictured here was built in 1930 by the creatively named Canada Mausoleum Company. The original plan called for an "imposing structure" that could house 400 dead and would cost around $160,000 at the time. Somewhere along the way, however, that idea was scaled back to about 260 crypts.

The cemetery serves as the final resting place of many well-known Edmontonians, including Frank Oliver, Gladys and Merrill Muttart, and Malcolm Groat (who donated the land for the Catholic cemetery.) Emily Murphy was interred in the mausoleum after her death in 1933.

The City of Edmonton eventually took over ownership of the graveyard in 1964.

Cemeteries have a way of being home to legends and stories just as much to the deceased. There are tales told of a caretaker who once entered the mausoleum and saw something so frightening that he quit on the spot and never spoke a word of what he witnessed. There are also rumours of the building being used in initiations for the Hells Angels.

Our collective fascination with cemeteries is resurrected every October, unsurprisingly. But the wealth of history and information about those who called Edmonton home in life is the subject of interest year-round. The Edmonton Cemetery is the site of historical walking tours. And earlier this year, a local funeral company began running graveyard tours of it and other cemeteries around the city.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.