The Pulse: May 15, 2024

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

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  • 16°C: Becoming cloudy in the morning with 60% chance of showers in the afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm late in the afternoon. High 16. UV index 3 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Orange: The High Level Bridge will be lit orange for the proclamation of the Sexual Exploitation Week of Awareness, which was marked with an event by the Sexual Exploitation Working Group at Edmonton city hall on May 14. (details)
  • 3-2: The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 of the second round of the NHL playoffs to tie the series. (details)

Seated people watch a speaker at a podium on a stage with signs reading "Upper Bound" and "Amii."

Amii aims for more "collisions" at Upper Bound

By Colin Gallant

In an effort to increase cross-pollination at the Upper Bound artificial intelligence conference, the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute is encouraging a bit more intermingling of its streams.

Each day was dedicated to a programming theme last year, but the themes will run concurrently at this year's conference, running from May 21 to 24, to encourage more overlap among attendees, said Amii CEO Cam Linke.

"Those collisions and conversations are what really makes the conference unique," Linke told Taproot. "It's really about having all of those things going on at once so that even more of those collisions happen between all those communities every day."

The Edmonton Convention Centre was one venue among several last year, but it will be the central hub for about 4,000 attendees this time around.

"I think we have over 160 events and different sessions this year," Linke said. "The sheer size of the conference has gone up a lot, and being able to centralize that, at least a chunk of it, in one venue was really helpful."

Upper Bound's programming is split between 17 themes related to how AI intersects with specific industries and hot topics such as responsible use and large-language models. Linke curated the Business of AI stream, including an executive AI summit aimed at equipping the C-suite and corporate board members with the information they need.

Linke based his programming choices on conversations with local and international business people on what challenges and opportunities they see, such as change management for businesses adopting AI, leveraging generative AI for customer service, and how to use AI responsibly.

"These are common themes whether you're here in Edmonton or Kansas City or wherever — all around the world," Linke said. "You're trying to figure this out as a company, as a board, and as executive leadership."

All conference programming has a technical proficiency rating from one (most accessible) to five (most complex). Linke has a few suggestions for Level 1 events. There's "Funny AI Fails and How to Avoid Them" on May 22, a session on debunking AI myths in cinema on May 23, and Upper Bound's signature party on May 23 at The Canadian Icehouse and The Banquet Bar.

"Thursday night is a great time to go out and meet a whole bunch of people, some whose technical level is going to be decades beyond yours, and some who have even less than what you may think you have," Linke said. "The ability to have conversations and just be out and interact with the very welcome and friendly community is always the best way to dig in and learn more."

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Headlines: May 15, 2024

By Kevin Holowack and Mack Male

  • The City of Edmonton is supporting the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo as thousands of residents evacuate due to a wildfire near Fort McMurray. Starting May 14 at 9pm, Edmonton began welcoming evacuees at the Clareview Community Recreation Centre, providing food, clothing, pet daycare, and health care. "Please know that the City of Edmonton's doors are open, and a safe space and support is waiting for you," said interim city manager Eddie Robar. The wildfire, consuming nearly 21,000 hectares, has prompted an evacuation order for about 6,600 people.
  • The University of Alberta and the Edmonton Police Service are under continued scrutiny for their handling of the dismantling of a protest encampment in the Main Quad over the weekend. Hundreds of protestors gathered on campus and at city hall to show solidarity and demand the resignation of university president Bill Flanagan. Art and design professor Natalie Loveless resigned as associate dean of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the Faculty of Arts, saying she "can neither protect students nor facilitate the difficult conversations that are needed to advance equity and justice for our community" in light of the events. Chelsea Vowel from the Faculty of Native Studies shared an open letter stating the university's actions violate treaty obligations. Faculty of Law professors signed an open letter asserting that the university's actions infringe on students' rights to protest.
  • The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has written to the Edmonton Police Commission, calling for an independent investigation of Edmonton police regarding their actions in dismantling the encampment, stating that the investigation should "shed light on the reasons why the Edmonton police felt entitled to shut down a peaceful protest and why such intervention escalated to the use of force that reportedly left some protestors injured." The province has requested an Alberta Serious Incident Response Team investigation into police actions related to the encampment clearings in Edmonton and Calgary.
  • Edmonton city council has unanimously voted to allow an entertainment district on Rice Howard Way on an ad hoc basis. The plan is to activate the district on Saturdays from 11am to 12am during the summer months. During these activation periods, the east-west road will be closed to vehicle traffic, allowing patrons to bring food and alcoholic drinks onto the street, with music and other forms of entertainment permitted. A What We Heard report summarizing the City's public engagement indicates that many businesses are supportive and optimistic, though some expressed concerns about loading zones, safety, and cleanliness.
  • The Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre will be renamed following a 9-4 vote at Edmonton city council in favour of the plan. The new sponsor, a local company, and financial details remain undisclosed. While some councillors expressed discomfort with the privatization of public spaces, the decision was made to address financial needs. "We need every dollar we can find — we're in the ditch," said Coun. Tim Cartmell.
  • The City of Edmonton has launched its second annual business census, aimed at shaping local economic development, investment attraction, and services. From May 15 to Aug. 31, summer students will collect data door-to-door in the proposed districts of Central, 118 Avenue, Scona, Jasper Place, Southeast, and West Edmonton. Businesses in other districts can complete an online questionnaire, available in multiple languages. Data from the 2023 business census are accessible on the City's open data portal.
  • CBC News visited several Edmonton businesses thriving with playoff-themed products, including Doughnut Party's "Connor McDoughnuts," Annie Rue's "Play La Bamba, Baby!" ice cream pints, and Sea Change Brewing Company's Joey Moss Man Crush mandarin ale. "There's community rallying behind the playoffs, behind local business, just having a lot of fun with it," said Annie Rue owner Tanya Rumak, who is selling the "La Bamba" pints to support the Ben Stelter Foundation.
  • Three Edmonton bars have been ranked among the top 50 in the annual list of Canada's 100 Best Bars. Judges praised Clementine, ranked 33rd, for its "bygone era" ambiance and extensive list of Try Before You Die classics. Bar Bricco, ranked 40th, was noted for its "superb antipasti-style share plates" and a rich selection of Italian drinks. Baijiu & Little Hong Kong, ranked 50th, is described as a "dark, casual Asian-inspired canteen" in ICE District with a "raucous" all-season patio and "intimate vibes" in its hidden speakeasy. Meanwhile, no Edmonton restaurants made the list of Canada's 100 Best Restaurants.
  • Alberta's health minister Adriana LaGrange has tabled Bill 22, which aims to "refocus" the health care system by dividing Alberta Health Services into four separate entities focused on mental health and addictions, acute care, primary care, and continuing care. These changes "represent a fundamental shift in how we approach health care in Alberta," LaGrange stated at a press conference. Bill 22 will also establish new roles for an "oversight minister," who will oversee the strategic direction of the health care system, and "sector ministers," who will oversee specific parts of the new system. Under the legislation, LaGrange, as the current health minister, will also serve as the oversight minister.
  • David Cooper, founder of the consulting firm Leading Mobility, appeared on Global News to discuss the province's plan to develop the first province-wide passenger rail system.
A newspaper clipping of an advertisement for McDougall & Secord, offering "$40,000 Worth of New Goods"

A moment in history: May 15, 1899

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1899, one of Edmonton's most enduring and influential businesses was advertising its wares.

The McDougall & Secord company got its start in 1897 as a partnership between two now-well-known Edmontonians — John A. McDougall and Richard Secord. McDougall had spent the previous two decades running a general store in the growing settlement. Meanwhile, Secord (who was the great-grandnephew of Canadian historical icon and chocolate mascot Laura Secord) arrived in the area in 1881 and soon became Edmonton's first full-time teacher. He spent time as a high school principal before going into business with McDougall.

McDougall already had extensive experience in trading furs, and that was a lucrative part of the new endeavour. But McDougall & Secord expanded to many different areas; in addition to furs, they sold supplies and goods to fur traders and Edmonton residents alike, as well as dealing in land speculation. Soon, they had the largest loan operation in the province, putting up the funds to finance new homes and businesses in the rapidly growing settlement. Much of downtown Edmonton was financed by investments by McDougall & Secord, including the city's first power company. In 1905, the company built Empire Block on one of the prime pieces of real estate in Edmonton, highlighting their financial success. The pair soon became known as "Edmonton's First Millionaire Teachers."

Given their importance to and influence on Edmonton's development, it's no surprise that both names are plastered all over the city today — both have schools, neighbourhoods, and various other things named after them. But that adoration hides the darker parts of their company's history. Much of the money they made came from Canada's notorious Métis scrip program.

The federal government created the scrip shortly after the 1870 Red River Resistance in now-Manitoba as a way of extinguishing Métis claims. Métis individuals could apply for the scrip, which would entitle them to their choice of a specific amount of land or money (160 acres or dollars to start, later increased to 240 acres or dollars). In the end, an absurdly low percentage of Métis people ever actually received the landthey were promised.

Some of the barriers were legal: applying for scrip could be expensive, cumbersome, and complicated, and was rooted in legal traditions unfamiliar to many of the Métis people involved. Other hurdles were downright criminal, as settler land speculators were eager to get their hands on the scrip to sell off for a profit. Many of them used trickery, obfuscation, intimidation, and outright fraud to gain ownership of the promised land. The federal government was, at best, uninterested in confronting the issues around the program (while some evidence suggests officials encouraged them).

McDougall & Secord were no exception in that regard. Secord, specifically, was accused of at least two cases of abuse of the scrip system. In one case that went to court, he was alleged to have obtained scrip from an 18-year-old Métis woman through coercion and threats to get her parents into legal trouble. The case went up to the Supreme Court of Canada but was dismissed.

In 1921, Secord was accused of hiring someone to impersonate a different Métis woman to fraudulently sign her land over to him. But before that case went to trial, the federal government reduced the statute of limitations for complaints around the scrip system and the case couldn't go forward.

The retail side of McDougall & Secord was sold off in 1907, and the company would focus on finances and land from that point on. Aside from their business success, both Secord and McDougall were involved in politics. Secord served as an alderman in Edmonton and was elected to the territorial government, where he served until Alberta became a province in 1905. McDougall was twice elected as mayor of Edmonton before being elected as an MLA for one term in 1909.

The McDougall & Secord company still exists today, focused on property management. That makes it one of the oldest companies in the province. The Empire Block, which the pair had constructed, was torn down and replaced by the Empire Building, an office tower, in 1962. Just last month, that building was purchased for an undisclosed amount. The new owners say they have plans to renovate the building and seek out new tenants.

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

A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: May 15, 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.