The Pulse: Sept. 13, 2023

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

Sponsored by:

Want this in your inbox? Sign up to get The Pulse by email. It's free!


  • 21°C: Cloudy with 60% chance of showers early in the morning. Clearing in the morning. Widespread smoke. Wind becoming west 20 km/h gusting to 40 near noon. High 21. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Pink: The High Level Bridge will be lit pink for World Sepsis Day. (details)

A large crowd of people is gathered at Churchill Square for Cariwest Festival.

Summer festival safety measures evolve, but not out of fear

By Colin Gallant

Security at summer festivals evolved this year, but not because of a fear of violence, despite a general narrative that the city is less safe.

Organizers of Cariwest, the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, and K-Days say security is an ever-changing consideration.

"I don't think there was an added pressure to increase security for our events," Fringe executive director Megan Dart told Taproot. "I think that something we prioritize as event producers is an evolving, integrated approach to safety. And it's a focus for us every year."

Safety certainly garnered a lot of attention heading into summer festival season, as police released crime statistics suggesting growing violence downtown and urged hypervigilance because "you can literally end up with a knife in your chest."

But all three organizers interviewed by Taproot say the threat of violence wasn't a core concern for adjustments made to their safety plans. Cariwest was most concerned with protecting its vendors from vandalism or theft; K-Days was focused on efficiency and guest experience; and the Fringe wanted security to contribute to its overall hospitality.

"As we operate and run events, every year we're looking for ways to make tweaks to our approach," said Arlindo Gomes of Explore Edmonton, who oversees K-Days. "That might just be adding more people to a certain gate for access, and we might even look at it from a customer-experience perspective."

Staff Sgt. David Goodkey works directly with festivals in his role with the Disaster Emergency Operations and Planning Section for the Edmonton Police Service. He said police presence generally did not increase at summer festivals this year, and fears for personal safety are relatively low when it comes to events.

"The feedback that we have been getting is that the events are fantastic," he said in an interview. "It would contradict the perception that's out there that the city is unsafe, and there's some aspects that I would agree with that."

Each festival in Edmonton is unique and takes its own approach to safety and security. With this in mind, here's a look at how security and festivals typically interact.

Continue reading

Headlines: Sept. 13, 2023

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • Boyle Street Community Services (BSCS) is moving out of its current location near Rogers Place when its lease ends on Sept. 30. In a statement, the Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG), which owns the building, said it offered a lease extension "at the same nominal rate", but BSCS spokesperson Elliott Tanti said "it no longer remains financially viable to stay at this location." He said the agency is working with the city to find a new location so it can continue providing services after its move. BSCS is currently fundraising for the construction of a new facility called the King Thunderbird Centre, but it won't be ready until fall 2024. The agency has so far raised $28.5 million for its construction, and Tanti called on all levels of government to provide the remaining $5 million needed. In 2021, the agency sold its existing building to the OEG, which has plans to eventually redevelop the site as part of the Village at Ice District.
  • Former Conservative Party cabinet minister Lisa Raitt and former Edmonton mayor Don Iveson are co-chairs of the new Task Force for Housing and Climate, which aims to address Canada's housing shortage and climate change effects. The independent group, backed by the Clean Economy Fund, will propose ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the construction of sustainable homes. As part of its launch on Sept. 12, the task force released polling numbers showing that 80% of Canadians want new housing built to withstand climate change impacts. The group's recommendations, including tax measures and building codes, will be delivered in early 2024, before the release of federal and provincial budgets.
  • Ward pihêsiwin Coun. Tim Cartmell wrote an opinion piece for Postmedia arguing that the city can avoid a housing crisis by increasing the housing supply, attracting new business investments, coordinating infrastructure projects, effectively delivering core city services, and prioritizing the concerns of Edmontonians. "Building our city and region to welcome more people and attract investment in smart and thoughtful ways is critical," Cartmell wrote. "It will require all orders of government and the private sector pulling together in the same direction."
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi told reporters that city finances are in "a very tough position" as city council prepared to discuss a $73.8-million budget deficit on Sept. 12. "The city itself is in a very tough budget going into November. We are going into a deficit already, and we would be forced to tap into our own reserves to make up for that shortfall," Sohi said.
  • Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee appeared on CBC's Edmonton AM to discuss police efforts to target drug use and violence on city streets. "It is a serious issue," he said, adding that random violence has escalated over the past 18 months. He said the police will use a variety of approaches as part of the new Safer Public Spaces strategy, including arrest, drug seizures, and channelling people into safer environments such as supervised consumption sites or the Integrated Care Centre, which the police service operates in partnership with Radius Community Health and Healing.
  • With the Valley Line Southeast LRT expected to open this fall, CBC News looked at parts of the route that drivers have had the most trouble navigating. Since November 2022, Valley Line trains have been in 10 collisions, including six that happened after drivers illegally turned on a red light, and two with pedestrians. The low-floor LRT line moves with traffic, and has no crossing arms or gates at intersections, unlike the city's existing high-floor lines.
  • Edmonton Public Schools announced that a new high school in the city's southeast will be named Elder Dr. Francis Whiskeyjack School, after an Indigenous elder and residential school survivor. Whiskeyjack, a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, has been an advisor at amiskwaciy Academy and an elder with First Peoples' House at the University of Alberta. The school, located near 17 Street and 23 Avenue, is set to open in September 2024.
  • Edmonton encampment residents shared their experiences of being unhoused and their interactions with the city and police in interviews with APTN. The piece describes the sense of community developed within encampments and how some of their residents came to live on the streets. "People act like I was born into homelessness like I didn't make $80,000 last year," said Tyler Kamahkoostayo, who said he ended up on the streets because of a bad relationship and family troubles. According to the By Name List from Homeward Trust, 3,050 people were experiencing homelessness in Edmonton as of Sept. 3.
  • The Canadian Museum of Nature has announced the finalists for its 2023 Nature Inspiration Awards, which celebrate people and organizations that connect Canadians with nature. Among the finalists is Edmonton-based Goodwill Industries of Alberta, recognized for its sustainable practices in diverting used clothing, furniture, and other goods from landfills. The winners will be announced at a gala on Nov. 16.
  • The Edmonton Elks signed offensive lineman Mark Korte to a three-year contract extension, keeping him with the team until the end of the 2026 season. Korte, who is from Spruce Grove, has played 30 games with the team and was nominated for Most Outstanding Lineman last season.
  • The Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) opened its first Asia office in Singapore's central business district. The move is part of AIMCo's strategy to diversify its portfolio globally and tap into growth opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region. The Singapore office is the third international location for AIMCo, which also has offices in London and Luxembourg.
Nate Glubish, Cam Linke, and Bill Flanagan stand in front of banner for Amii and the University of Alberta

Amii and U of A launch AI literacy course for all

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

Students of all disciplines at the University of Alberta will be invited to take an AI literacy course online starting in January.

The course, called Artificial Intelligence Everywhere, is also a foundational step toward an AI-focused certification for undergraduate students, a project the university is developing in partnership with the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute.

"In a world where AI's impact is everywhere, we need to have AI literacy be everywhere," Amii CEO Cam Linke said at a news conference on Sept. 12.

Taught primarily by Amii's Adam White, "AI Everywhere" is a three-credit course that can be taken alongside any degree. Although it is launching first at the U of A, Amii and the university intend to open the course to other institutions in the future.

"Being one of the world's leading research institutions on AI, this is an opportunity for us to share that knowledge," said U of A president Bill Flanagan. "Not only with our students at the University of Alberta — the students from across Alberta, Canada, and around the world."

Amii and the U of A will extend that AI literacy to parents as well by hosting a free webinar about "Parenting in the era of AI" in early November.

Athabasca University also has an online micro-credential that focuses on AI ethics in relation to data, machine learning, and roboethics. Both professionals looking to implement such technology and individuals who are curious about the subject can take the course.

AI technology is making its way into every industry, and Alberta is a big player in that innovation, Technology and Innovation Minister Nate Glubish said at the event.

"We're very fortunate to live in Alberta at a time when technology is evolving at such a rapid pace," he said. "We have some of the smartest minds on the planet in these spaces living right here in Alberta."

Photo: Nate Glubish, minister of technology and innovation (left), Amii CEO Cam Linke (centre), and U of A president Bill Flanagan (right) spoke at the announcement of the university's new AI literacy course at Amii on Sept. 12. (Michel Feist/Amii).

A newspaper clipping of a story with the headline "Rat Said Seen Near City's Heart"

A moment in history: Sept. 13, 1954

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1954, someone saw a rat in downtown Edmonton. Police were dispatched to track down the rogue rodent near 109 Street and Jasper Ave, but came up empty-handed, according to a newspaper account of the incident.

For most other cities, newspaper articles and police aren't the typical response to someone seeing a rat. But Alberta claims to be one of the few inhabited places on the planet free of rats. That status didn't come naturally, however — it's the result of a 73-year-old war on the creatures.

Norway rats have made their home in North America for hundreds of years, having likely stowed away on ships arriving from Europe. However, the first confirmed sighting of the animal in Alberta didn't happen until 1950. A rat's nest was found on a farm near the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

The news brought fears of disease and economic destruction if the rats spread further. So, the provincial government began an all-out blitz. The Norway rat was officially declared a pest under the Agricultural Pests Act of Alberta, which required every person and municipality in the province to eradicate and stop the spread of rats.

The government even established a 600-km "Rat Control Zone" along the border with Saskatchewan. Cities and towns within no-rats-land were provided with funding, poison, and other supplies to eradicate nests wherever they popped up. Between 1952 and 1953, the province used 63,600 kg of arsenic tracing power to treat buildings in the zone (a practice that was later changed because it was deemed too expensive and dangerous.)

The province also employed pest control officers to work within the Rat Control Zone, inspecting farms and other places attractive to rodents. And then there was the massive public education campaign: town meetings, posts, and pamphlets that would teach people how to identify, report, and destroy rats and rat nests. Scores of anti-rat posters carried the same feeling as the wartime propaganda posts from the 1940s: KILL RATS ON SIGHT, one proclaimed, while another example shows a giant, menacing beast with Alberta in its sights, quite literally.

The province's crusade against the Norway rat was zealous but effective. During the 1950s, hundreds of rat infestations were confirmed every year. That started to decline sharply into the 1960s. These days, there might be a couple of official sightings annually. When rats are found, it makes headlines, like when dozens of rats were discovered and killed in the Medicine Hat landfill in 2014.

It is worth noting that "rat-free" doesn't actually mean Alberta has no rats: they are frequent travellers on trucks, trailers, and even airplanes, so keeping them out completely is impossible. Instead, Alberta claims to have no breeding populations. The animals that do hitchhike into the province usually die before mating. It is also illegal to keep rats as pets in the province; universities and labs can use them for research, however.

This August did see a spike in rat sightings at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. Rat Academy, a play depicting the survival strategies of the last two rats in Alberta, drew acclaim and was one of the four productions held over after the festival wrapped up.

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.