The Pulse: Feb. 7, 2023

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  • 6°C: Clear. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud in the morning. Wind west 20 km/h gusting to 40 becoming light late in the morning. High 6. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Red: The High Level Bridge will be lit red for Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week. (details)
  • 5:30pm: The Edmonton Oilers (28-18-4) play the Detroit Red Wings (21-19-8) at Little Caesars Arena. (details)

Sara Awatta and Rochelle Ignacio at the Feed the Soul launch event

Feed the Soul highlights food and history of Black communities

By Sharon Yeo

Edmonton's newest dining week aims to increase support for Black food entrepreneurs, as well as raise awareness about some of the barriers they face.

The inaugural Feed the Soul Dining Week will run from Feb. 10 to 17, in the middle of Black History Month. The event will see 18 local Black-owned food and hospitality businesses offer deals during that period. For example, Jamaican eatery Flava Cafe will kick off festivities with $5 jerk chicken on Feb. 10.

Feed the Soul is the brainchild of Rochelle Ignacio of Enid Rose Collective, who separately manages the volunteer initiative Black Owned Market YEG. Ignacio is co-leading Dining Week with Sara Awatta, founder of YEG Services.

Awatta points out that the eclectic mix of participating retailers represents the spectrum of Black-owned businesses in Edmonton. "Our locations vary all over the city," said Awatta. "We have businesses like Allegro Italian Kitchen that have been around for more than 10 years and businesses like PhatBar Bakery that are opening just this week. Dine-in, take-out, online-only — this reflects the diversity of the Black food scene in Edmonton."

A volunteer-run event, Feed the Soul came about when Ignacio was housebound with COVID, and binge-watched a Netflix docuseries called High on the Hog. The show exposes the thread that links cuisines in Africa to those found in the United States, based on recipes adapted by enslaved people.

The idea of contextual changes to food resonated with Ignacio. "Both of my parents are from Trinidad, and growing up here, on Sunday we had traditional Trinidadian food," said Ignacio. "One of the dishes they served is red beans and rice. I thought it always came with onion and tomato and bacon. But when I went to Trinidad, I learned that they don't put bacon. My mom adapted the dish to ingredients she could find."

Ignacio found similar modification stories when speaking to Black restaurant owners during her outreach. But what she also found was a striking number of Black businesses that simply didn't make it through the pandemic. Her team consulted lists posted in 2020 by Linda Hoang and Ashley Otieno, and found that 14% of them had closed since then.

"Why aren't Black restaurants thriving the way their counterparts are? Why are these restaurants empty even though the food is good?" said Ignacio. "We want Feed the Soul to expose people to new restaurants and make them household names. Sometimes people are scared to try new food or need the invitation to try."

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Headlines: Feb. 7, 2023

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • Brendan Washbern, a local comedian, ate a chili pepper in front of city council to suggest that climate change is "not the end of the world" even if things heat up. Identifying himself as "Arun Tysily" (Aren't I Silly) Washbern pulled the stunt during a public hearing about zoning bylaws and later posted a recording to YouTube. Coun. Michael Janz referred to the incident as "a bit tedious because it wasn't that funny," and Coun. Sarah Hamilton offered to help aspiring comedians who want to "brigade council meetings" get to their punchline.
  • City council voted unanimously in favour of awarding a $26 million sole-source contract to Ledcor to build a pedway between Churchill LRT Station and Qualico's Station Lands development. The agreement required council approval because it wasn't put through the city's usual public tender process. City administration said hiring Ledcor directly for the pedway contract would be more cost-effective and minimize project risks because the company is already the site contractor for the Station Lands development.
  • Edmontonians with connections to Turkey and Syria are trying to make contact with friends and family after a major earthquake struck the region on Feb. 6, killing thousands. Sim Senol, president of the Turkish Canadian Society of Edmonton, said her group will begin collecting cash donations on Feb. 10 at the community's hall at 15450 105 Ave. "This is not going to be done in one day, this is a lot of devastation. We'll have to keep it up for a long time," she said.
  • Edmonton Fire Rescue Services is running its annual rooftop campout to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy Canada for the first time since the pandemic. Five firefighters are living on the roof of Fire Hall #2 on 107 Street just north of Jasper Avenue and hope to raise $80,000 by Feb. 10. The campaign is accepting donations online.
  • The Alberta Legislature underground pedway system, which runs below the east side of the grounds, has lost many of its features since it was installed in the 1970s as part of a plan to upgrade the grounds under then-premier Peter Lougheed. Once containing gardens, fountains, artwork, and a cafeteria, the pedway was stripped of its opulence during cost-cutting efforts in the 1990s and today makes for an "unremarkable stroll between government buildings," wrote Postmedia reporter Matthew Black.
  • Premier Danielle Smith returned to work on Feb. 6 after a week-and-a-half vacation, during which she continued to draw controversy over a CBC report that her staff emailed Crown prosecutors in an attempt to interfere with cases related to the Coutts border blockade. A spokesperson for Smith said the vacation was pre-planned but did not indicate when the premier's next media availability would be held. Smith has not appeared publicly to take questions since a Jan. 10 press conference in which she said she would be more accessible to journalists.
  • CBC News published a profile on Marshall Smith, who is Premier Danielle Smith's chief of staff and a key advisor to the UCP government's recovery-oriented approach to opioid addiction and treatment. The article is part of the series The Way Out: Addiction in Alberta, which is documenting a "fundamental shift" in the province's approach to addictions treatment.
Chief Dale McFee at a podium that says "Safer Communities" in front of an Edmonton Police Service backdrop, flanked by provincial minister Mike Ellis and Coun. Sarah Hamilton

Podcast scrutinizes plan to deploy sheriffs downtown

By Karen Unland

Episode 207 of Speaking Municipally takes a closer look at the province's plan to deploy 12 sheriffs to downtown Edmonton, billed as an effort to "help deter and respond to crime and social disorder."

For podcast co-host Mack Male, who lives, works, and raises his children downtown, sending a dozen sheriffs doesn't seem like it will have much of an effect on safety or even the perception of safety.

"I know that my perspective is not everybody's, and I don't profess to speak for everybody. I just personally can't see how an occasional spotting of a sheriff is going to materially change anything downtown," he said, agreeing with Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, Coun. Jo-Anne Wright, and Coun. Aaron Paquette that addressing homelessness, mental illness, and addictions would make a much bigger difference.

"Go to the Edmonton Public Library downtown, the Stanley Milner branch," Male said. "You don't have to stay there very long before you will see an ambulance show up. That is not going to get solved by having armed sheriffs ... walking around downtown."

The 15-week pilot project, which will assign the sheriffs to the Healthy Streets Operations Centre, is the first initiative to emerge from the Edmonton Public Safety and Community Response Task Force that the province created in December. Councillors Sarah Hamilton and Tim Cartmell sit on the task force, but their presence has not been approved by city council.

Male and co-host Troy Pavlek go on to explore the cleavages this issue has revealed on council, as well as the role the Edmonton Police Commission could play under new chair Erick Ambtman. Hear it all on the Feb. 3 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast, which also delves into safe crossings, budget motions, artificial intelligence, and the proposed health hub in Ritchie.

Photo: Chief Dale McFee speaks at a news conference on Feb. 1 about the deployment of provincial sheriffs to downtown Edmonton, flanked by Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis and Coun. Sarah Hamilton. (Government of Alberta/YouTube