The Pulse: Jan. 17, 2024

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  • -20°C: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 20. Wind chill minus 29 in the morning and minus 24 in the afternoon. Risk of frostbite. (forecast)
  • 4-2: The Edmonton Oilers (24-15-1) defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs (21-13-8) on Jan. 16 for the team's 11th straight win. (details)

Three people pose seated on a square stool. The person on the left holds a camera.

New film series celebrates shorts

By Colin Gallant

The organizer of the new short-film series Cold Cuts, which takes place at The Aviary on Jan. 18, said he hopes to put more shorts in front of more audiences.

"Short film is an awesome format and it gets left by the wayside all the time," Dustin Chok, the organizer and curator of Cold Cuts, told Taproot. "There's almost no venue for people to watch short films."

Chok is a part-time filmmaker, house dancer, and city employee who has made three shorts. His work has screened at more than 10 festivals and has won two awards, including Best Editor (Documentary Under 30 Minutes) at the 2023 Rosie Awards held by the Alberta Media Production Industries Association.

Part of his love for the format comes from time spent at The Film and Video Arts Society, better known as FAVA. "I had an archiving job with FAVA a number of years ago and there's just hundreds of films that just sit there," he said. "If you just put them together we'll come and watch and support, and that's the whole point of film — for people to watch them."

Shorts are often the way filmmakers gain a foothold in the competitive film industry. They can offer the first hints of an artist's potential.

"I think short film is a nuanced format that gives us a raw insight into the filmmakers," Chok said in an email. "I believe you can get a close sense of who the filmmakers are and the direction they want to take their art through their short films."

Chok selected mentors and collaborators to showcase work at the inaugural Cold Cuts. All are men based in Edmonton.

"I wanted more diversity, for sure," Chok said. "It just kind of came together quickly and these were basically the people who were available." Future events will prioritize gender diversity and include films from beyond city limits, Chok said.

Planning for the event started after the Edmonton premiere of Chok's Wave Rider, a documentary about house dance culture, at CO*LAB on Nov. 11. The event included DJs playing house music and dance tutorials.

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Headlines: Jan. 17, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • Edmonton city council voted 9-4 in favour of Mayor Amarjeet Sohi's motion to declare a housing and houselessness emergency after two days of special meetings and passionate debate. Councillors Sarah Hamilton, Aaron Paquette, Karen Principe, and Tim Cartmell voted against the emergency declaration. Three other motions that passed unanimously call for the city to identify immediate actions to alleviate the housing crisis, a meeting with provincial, federal, and Indigenous representatives, and the creation of a task force with $3.5 million in funding. In response to the emergency declaration, Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver issued a statement calling it "disappointing" that the city would "issue a performative declaration suggesting an emergency and implying a lack of response from our government."
  • Provincial government officials privately briefed Edmonton city councillors on its housing and homelessness response before council met to continue its debate on Mayor Amarjeet Sohi's emergency declaration motion. Coun. Erin Rutherford said the meeting allowed councillors to have a "candid conversation with the province." Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said in a statement that the province shared an action plan the government is pursuing "in collaboration with Indigenous leaders to address the dangerous situation in encampments." The province is expected to publicly release more details about the plan in the coming days.
  • An Alberta court dismissed a lawsuit by the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights against the City of Edmonton regarding the removal of encampments. Court of King's Bench Justice Jonathan Martin ruled the coalition lacks the legal standing to represent the interest of Edmontonians experiencing homelessness. The coalition's lawyer, Avnish Nanda, said he believes its efforts have already influenced how the city handles its policy on encampment removals. The city said it respects the court's decision, and remains committed to balancing public safety and the well-being of unhoused residents.
  • The NAIT/Blatchford Market LRT Station will open Jan. 20, on budget and more than a year ahead of schedule, the City of Edmonton announced. The new station, which has a longer platform and can accommodate five-car trains, is located about 300 metres west of the temporary NAIT Station. Phase 1 of the Metro Line Northwest Extension was originally scheduled to open in 2025.
  • Edmonton city council is considering a new affordable housing strategy that includes creating a landlord registry, researching tenant protections in Alberta, and developing resources for landlords and tenants. Council is expected to vote on the plan during its Jan. 30 meeting. It aims to add 2,700 new affordable housing units by 2026, with a focus on accessibility and women-led households, to help reach the city's longterm goal of ending homelessness by 2050. Christel Kjenner with the city noted that one in eight households is struggling to afford housing and other essentials.
  • More than 400,000 2024 property assessments are on their way to Edmonton property owners, the city said in a release. The assessments reflect the market value of properties as of July 1, 2023. While council approved a 6.6% municipal property tax increase for 2024, individual taxes may vary based on specific property value changes. Tax notices will be mailed out in May after council completes its final budget review in April.
  • Cleanup is underway at the Muttart Conservatory after a cracked water line caused flooding in the tropical pyramid on Jan. 16. It's not clear when the facility will reopen. Meanwhile, water was shut off to part of West Edmonton Mall after a water main break.
  • Some South Asian business owners in Edmonton are on edge as the community is targeted by an extortion scheme and arsons of new and under-construction homes. The Edmonton Police Service has so far charged six people in connection with the scheme and is collaborating with police in B.C. and Ontario, where similar crimes have occurred. Edmonton Fire Rescue Services have responded to 11 fires between the beginning of November and Jan. 14. Of those, eight were ruled arson, while three remain under investigation.
  • Former Alberta premier Rachel Notley is stepping down as provincial NDP leader. She said she will remain in her role until party members select her successor in what is expected to be a competitive leadership race. During her tenure she led the party to victory in the 2015 provincial election that ended 44 years of Progressive Conservative governments. The party lost to the UCP in the 2019 election, but won 38 seats in 2023 to form the largest Official Opposition in Alberta's history.
  • The Alberta government says it did everything it could to prepare for electricity demand as a record-breaking cold snap strained the power grid, prompting an emergency alert to avoid rolling blackouts on Jan. 13. Critics say the province's decision to maintain an energy-only market, rather than transitioning to a capacity market as previously planned, may have contributed to the crisis. The Alberta Electric System Operator has issued four grid alerts in four days in response to Albertans using nearly all available power in the province. Affordability and Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf said the province is planning to add about 1800 megawatts of new power within six months.
A newspaper clipping that reads, "Plan New Test Here of Air Raid Sirens

A moment in history: Jan. 17, 1962

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1962, Edmonton tested its system created to warn residents of an impending nuclear attack.

The test made for what sounds like a stressful Friday morning. According to the Edmonton Journal, 28 air-raid sirens spread across the city sounded a "steady wailing tone" for three minutes starting at 10am. Fifteen minutes later, they let out another, different three-minute alarm.

The first air-raid sirens arrived in Edmonton in 1951. The Second World War was still fresh in everyone's mind. Images of devastation created by bombing raids in Europe and the nuclear blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, too. Military and municipal leaders thought a warning system that could alert people of an attack was needed in case war broke out again.

In the early '60s, more sirens were installed around the city. Today, 60 years removed, we might chalk these actions up to Cold War paranoia. But at the time there was a strong belief Edmonton was a top target if war broke out between the United States and the Soviet Union. The city had a strong military presence — Blatchford Field had been a major hub for pilot training and supply missions during the Second World War. During the Cold War, an agreement with the U.S. allowed that country to use the airfield to service heavy bombers and jets.

Aside from the military importance, many also worried Edmonton could be attacked to disrupt North America's access to oil. Edmonton prepared for that potential. In addition to the air-raid siren system, a civil defence force was established to protect people from a nuclear attack. That meant building shelters, including a command centre in MacKenzie Ravine, where people could hide from nuclear fallout. Civil Defence Edmonton also made guidebooks that taught people how to build survival kits and mapped out evacuation routes. There were even pre-recorded radio broadcasts prepared for the airwaves in the event of a nuclear attack on the city.

Luckily, none of it was ever needed. As the years rolled on, many of these relics of Edmonton's Cold War past disappeared. The air-raid siren system was largely dismantled in the '90s. The command centre bunker was sealed and abandoned, although there are hopes that it could be turned into a museum focused on Canada's civil defence efforts.

The possibility of a nuclear missile hitting the city probably is not a top concern for Edmontonians. However, emergency alert systems are still a part of our lives, though we no longer rely on wailing sirens. Cellphones have become one of the primary parts of our modern alert system. In November, Canada performed a nationwide test of its emergency alert system. And just this weekend, Albertans received urgent messages on their phones about the risk of blackouts due to electricity usage in the extreme cold.

This clipping was found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse of @VintageEdmonton.

Correction: This file has been updated to correct the history of Japanese balloon bombs and their connection to Edmonton.

A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: Jan. 17, 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.