The Pulse: Jan. 12, 2024

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  • -33°C: Sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 33. Wind chill minus 44 in the morning and minus 39 in the afternoon. Frostbite in minutes.(forecast)
  • $330 million: One estimate says Albertans experienced more than $330 million in property damage due to severe weather in 2023, in which Canada saw its fourth-highest year for insured losses due to hail, fire, wind, and flood. (details)
  • 3-2: The Edmonton Oilers (22-15-1) defeated the Detroit Red Wings (20-16-5) in overtime on Jan. 11 for the team's ninth straight win. (details)
  • 5pm, Jan. 13: The Oilers (22-15-1) play the Montréal Canadiens (17-18-6) at Centre Bell. (details)

A man in a blue sweater and blue jeans is sitting in a wheelchair as he speaks to a woman with blonde hair, wearing a blue blazer

How one advocate pushes docuseries to next level

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

CBC Gem's PUSH is set to return for a second season on Jan. 14 and Zachary Weeks has worked behind the scenes to ensure all the marketing for the docuseries is at the forefront for digital accessibility. It's a detail that's often overlooked, he said, but something that's part of his larger work to "move the needle" on accessibility in Edmonton.

Weeks said attention to detail is what makes PUSH unique and powerful. "It's truly a show that follows through on what it preaches in terms of the disability slogan that many of us have come to know in the community of, 'Nothing about us without us,'" Weeks told Taproot. "It's fresh and really exciting to see that sort of authentic representation being performed."

The show extends its ethos of representation beyond the screen by hiring production staff like Weeks, who is an advocate and a wheelchair user and has been a consultant for PUSH since it started. Although the show focuses on people who use mobility aids, Weeks said the production hires staff with a variety of disabilities to help diversify its perspective.

"There's a variety of people with a variety of different types of disability, which really helps to inform the creative moving forward in terms of having authentic representation," he said. "You're making sure that you know the show is true to form in terms of the type of stuff that we deal with on a day-to-day basis."

As a media consultant, Weeks's role is to ensure that all the promotional materials for the show have accurate captions, and to craft image and video descriptions with care.

He emphasized that he composes these features in a way that "actually provides value" to viewers, as many organizations fail to include the needed details in these elements. Weeks said the elements also play a role in "making sure we're representing our community with pride and accuracy."

PUSH spotlights Edmonton's Wheelie Peeps, a group of mobility-aid users, and their daily lives as well as the accessibility challenges they face in the city. Season one introduces us to the group's leader, Benveet "Bean" Gill, and other members as they travel, perform, navigate the new waters of motherhood, advocate for their rights, and more. The show is primarily filmed in Edmonton, though characters travelled to the United States in season one, and will travel to Italy in season two.

The second season, which begins releasing episodes as of Jan. 14, will be eight episodes long.

"Hopefully this sets a precedent for other shows, other films, and movies, to keep on carrying the torch for authentic representation," Weeks said.

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Headlines: Jan. 12, 2024

By Kevin Holowack

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada issued an extreme cold warning for Edmonton and the rest of Alberta, with low temperatures and wind chills expected to continue into the weekend. Temperatures are currently forecast to rise slightly by early next week. The Alberta Motor Association reported long wait times to assist people whose vehicles are affected by the cold, and some flights out of the Edmonton International Airport have been delayed. The city's extreme weather response, which is intended to keep vulnerable Edmontonians safe, took effect Jan. 8.
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi announced that he has called a special council meeting on Jan. 15, during which he will make a motion to declare a city-wide housing and homelessness emergency. If the motion is approved, Sohi said he will call an emergency meeting with federal, provincial, and Treaty 6 representatives. The mayor's statement says the number of people falling into houselessness "exceeds the capacity of the system to respond," and that there are barriers to unhoused people accessing shelters, including many existing shelter spaces not meeting the city's Emergency Shelter Standards.
  • In response to Mayor Amarjeet Sohi's announcement, Deputy Premier Mike Ellis issued a statement pointing to the existence of the Edmonton Public Safety Cabinet Committee, which was created in November in response to "the issue of crime and gang-related activity within encampments" and is working on an action plan with various partners. The cabinet committee is chaired by Premier Danielle Smith and also includes Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee, and Cody Thomas, Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon said it is "completely inappropriate and dangerous for the mayor, or anyone, to suggest Edmonton is out of capacity in our social services sector or our emergency shelter systems."
  • The City of Edmonton is attempting to dismiss a lawsuit from the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights challenging the city's removal of homeless encampments, arguing in court this week that the nonprofit does not have a genuine stake and lacks experience. The coalition argued it is well-positioned to challenge the city's policies because it doesn't receive government funding. Court of Kings Bench Justice Jonathan Martin is expected to decide on the coalition's "public interest standing" on Jan. 16. The coalition is seeking an injunction to stop the city's encampment removals, arguing they endanger vulnerable individuals and violate constitutional rights.
  • Brandi Morin, an award-winning Indigenous journalist and author, was among three people arrested by the Edmonton Police Service as officers dismantled the eighth and final "high-risk" encampment on Jan. 10. Ethan Cox, Morin's editor with Ricochet Media, said Morin was interviewing someone when police arrived, and she refused to leave an exclusion zone after police surrounded it with tape. Cox said he is "very concerned that the Edmonton police would arrest somebody who identified themselves as a journalist." Police held Morin for five hours and charged her with a criminal offence for obstructing a police officer. After her release, she questioned the city's commitment to reconciliation in light of its choice to remove the encampments.
  • NiGiNan Housing Ventures and Enoch Cree Nation are receiving a combined $5.3 million in provincial funding to open up to 200 Indigenous-led emergency shelter spaces in northeast Edmonton. NiGiNan is opening new pallet homes at its Pimatiswin location at the site of the former hotel off Fort Road, and Enoch Cree Nation is opening new spaces at Maskokamik, which runs out of the former Coliseum Inn at 118 Avenue and Wayne Gretzky Drive. NiGiNan CEO Keri Cardinal Schulte said the organization appreciates the provincial funding, but continues to face challenges connecting people to Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped to help them afford permanent supportive housing.
  • CBC News gathered various perspectives on why some people experiencing homelessness choose to camp outside downtown and core neighbourhoods. People who spoke to CBC said their reasons had to do with safety, avoiding crowds, unpleasant conditions in shelters and encampments, or a preference for being alone. Assistant professor Marta-Marika Urbanik from the Centre for Criminological Research, who visited several remote camps as part of her research in 2023, said avoiding gangs and violence downtown was a common reason to camp further out. Staff Sgt. Eric Stewart of the Edmonton Police Service said gang members have embedded themselves in some downtown encampments.
  • Coun. Aaron Paquette shared his personal connection to the issue of homelessness during an appearance on Ryan Jespersen's podcast on Jan. 10. He appeared alongside Renee Vaugeois from the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights to talk about causes, symptoms, and solutions to homelessness.
  • The Globe and Mail obtained emails between Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health, the department that governs the provincial health system, regarding the use of acetaminophen the province imported from Turkey last winter. The emails show officials determined the drug could clog feeding tubes and lead to a complication in newborns called necrotizing enterocolitis. AHS issued a release to "provide some clarification" around the use of the drug, which it says was approved for import and caused no infants to become injured or ill. However, The Globe and Mail says the sources indicate the medication resulted in children gagging, refusing to take medication, and other adverse effects. AHS said the Turkish acetaminophen was used for about two months before staff went back to the usual medication. The Alberta NDP called on the province to discard the remaining bottles of Turkish acetaminophen.
  • Friends and family mourned the deaths of two long-time Edmonton sports media personalities, journalist and broadcaster John Short and Oilers beat reporter Robin Brownlee. Short died at the age of 86 on the morning of Jan. 11. Brownlee died of a heart attack the same day at the age of 65.
A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: Jan. 12-14, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening today in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.