24 Mar -

Fulfilling Christmas wishes for the homeless in Calgary

For the homeless, holidays are hard. But a heartfelt concept that’s been running for the past decade is helping make their Christmas a little brighter in Calgary.

The Drop-In & Rehab Centre Society profiles homeless clients on their website in hopes of matching them with a generous donor. There are dozens of wishes left to fill on the Calgary Christmas WishList.

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    Tracy Korobanik, 47, has been living at the DI for four years. He spends his days volunteering in the shelter’s laundry room. He spends 12 hours a day there, seven days a week.

    “I like to give back to the DI. They house me, feed me, clothe me.”

    He says he’s grateful for the little he does have, because it’s not the material things that bring him comfort through his struggles.

    “Down in laundry, it’s quiet–a safe haven,” Korobanik said. “It’s like a family. It’s like going home.”

    His wish? A USB stick that allows him to save a cherished comfort in the chaos.

    “I put on the headphones and I escape, watch a movie.”

    The executive director of the DI said she’s humbled hearing what little so many of the clients have asked for.

    “To ask for something non-monetary–that every homeless person be safe or that everyone be cared for,” Debbie Newman said. “It goes beyond what we normally think about.”

    “There’s the gifts that nobody would ask for, right?”

    But it’s what those gifts represent that’s invaluable.

    Korobanik feels that knowing someone cared enough to wrap a present just for him to open Christmas morning is special.

    “It makes me feel like a kid again. Everyone should get one gift at Christmas.”

24 Feb -

Randall Enright sentenced to 10 years in prison for death of Matt Flitton

Randall Enright was given 10 years behind bars Tuesday for what Justice Rodney A Jerke called a brutal and senseless act. He added Enright killed Matt Flitton in a violent knife attack in September 2015. Enright stabbed Flitton 14 times.

Enright was given a day-and-a-half credit for each day he was behind bars prior to sentencing. He has eight years and 287 days left to serve.

Flitton’s sister, Dalayna Taverner, felt the sentence was not stiff enough.

“Matt opened his house up to him and this is what we get,” she said.

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    “We get to live without Matt for the rest of our lives and he gets eight-and-a-half frickin’ years. What a joke. It’s unbelievable.”

    Enright was originally charged with second-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

    READ MORE: Randall Enright pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of Matt Flitton

    Flitton’s wife Kaylee said no sentence would ever be justice for Matt. With a 10-year sentence, Enright has the ability to still have a future that Matt will never have.

    “He’ll get a chance to have a family. He’ll get a chance to meet someone and we have to deal with this loss forever,” Kaylee said.

    “There is no amount of years that they could have given that would ease the pain that each and every one of us feel. There is no amount of years.”

    Defence lawyer Greg White said his client agrees with Flitton’s family and accepts the sentence he’s been given.

    “There’s never been a case of a stabbing in Alberta that has gone above nine years and so this is the highest sentence somebody has ever got for a stabbing in Alberta,” he explained.

    “It’s in the range, so it’s definitely an appropriate sentence. Again, that is no consolation for Mr. Flitton’s family.”

    Originally, the Crown had asked for a sentence of between 12 and 16 years. The defence had said seven-and-a-half to 10 years would be appropriate.

    White added his client plans to enrol in a drug and alcohol treatment program while he is in federal prison.

24 Feb -

Syrian refugees in Saskatoon fear for family still living in Aleppo

When Intisar Dagheli fled Syria with her husband Jihad Mohamad, they didn’t have time to bring any pictures of the loved ones they left behind.

As Syrian rebels once again evacuated the war-torn city Wednesday, it was those family members they feared for.

“I’m very sad about everyone now leaving Aleppo,” Dagheli said.

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  • UN to send monitors as buses resume evacuating remaining civilians, rebels from Aleppo

    READ MORE: Aleppo evacuations resume as Syrian government regains control of city

    Her father, his wife and three siblings cannot leave the city that has seen brutal fighting between rebels and the regime of President Bashar Assad since the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

    Images of people fleeing east Aleppo in buses have refocused international attention on the Syrian humanitarian crisis.

    But Mohamad takes little comfort in seeing people leaving their homes.

    “They invested in their houses a lot and their houses [are] just destroyed and they don’t have a home or shelter, so where is the hope here?” Mohamad said through an interpreter.

    Since arriving in Saskatoon in February, the couple has had to explain to their three elementary school-aged children the horrors witnessed on television news.

    Their 11-year-old son asked his father if they would ever return to Aleppo.

    “God willing. We can’t do anything about it so far. So just hope that we will go back one day,” was Mohamad’s response, according to the interpreter.

    READ MORE: Bana Alabed, Syrian girl with viral 桑拿会所 account, safely evacuated from Aleppo

    The boy’s uncle, Ismat Mohamad, arrived in Saskatoon three weeks ago.

    The family asked that people in Canada do what they can to help Syrians and to keep the country in their thoughts.

    Learning English and finding suitable housing are among the biggest challenges for refugees, according to Ashfaque Ahmed, manager of settlement and family support services at the Saskatoon Open Door Society.

    But emotional trauma is also a common and serious issue.

    “We provide some counseling,” Ashfaque said. “We have resources where we provide them the referrals to different places to go and get the right support and help.”

    The Saskatoon Open Door Society has welcomed 485 Syrian refugees in the past year.

24 Feb -

Witnesses describe ‘nightmare’ of deadly Mexican Christmas blast

Three times Celso Monroy has witnessed Mexico‘s San Pablito fireworks market erupting into a fireball of pungent smoke, blinding flashes and ear-splitting explosions.

On Tuesday, Monroy again escaped with his life, but for the first time there were bodies strewn about as he rushed to rescue his family from the scenes of carnage emerging from shattered stalls that had bustled with Christmas cheer moments earlier.

At least 32 people died and dozens were injured when the huge fireworks bazaar on the northern fringe of Mexico City exploded in a dazzling array of lethal pyrotechnics that razed the marketplace to a blasted plain of smoking rubble.

WATCH: At least 32 people have died and dozens others have been injured in a massive explosion at a fireworks market in Mexico Tuesday.

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In little over a decade, the country’s most celebrated fireworks market in Tultepec has blown up three times, with the latest massive blast raising serious questions about why the festive public was again exposed to such deadly risks.

“This was the biggest and the worst,” Monroy, 41, decked out in a cowboy hat and boots, said after his last escape. “It was really loud, like a bomb. Lots of people were running and looking for help, and those we could get out, we got out.”

“There were lots of colors, I can’t say it was beautiful because of the sadness and loss,” said Monroy, who has spent more than a decade making rockets and fireworks at the market. “There are no winners here. There’s nothing here.”

WATCH: Widespread devastation after massive explosion that killed 32 at fireworks market in Mexico

As the wind kicked up around lunchtime, tiny funnels of wind whipped through the wasteland, lifting trash, dust and burned fragments into a series of dancing columns.

Alan Jesus Chavez, a local medical student who rushed to the scene as the blasts went off and the market stalls blazed, worked to pull people out of the burning ruins.

While handing out milk and water, a woman came to his side to ask him to free her baby, who was trapped under rubble.

“But when we got everything off and found the baby, it was already dead,” said Chavez, who felt the pulse of five of the people who lost their lives. “When I got out of here and got home, I cried because of all the dead people I had seen.”

WATCH: Mexico’s president holds minute of silence in tribute to fireworks market victims

CRIES FOR HELP

The government has yet to say what sparked the tragedy, noting only that there were six separate blasts. Federal investigators pored through the wreckage for clues on Wednesday.

Local resident Ivan Perez, 23, whose girlfriend works at the market, said there was a rumor that the explosions began when a woman accidentally dropped a “brujita,” a kind of banger.

Such was the economic importance of the bazaar to locals, he said, that bribes were sometimes paid to sell fireworks not permitted by official regulations, Perez said.

WATCH: Explosion at Mexico fireworks market recorded from kilometres away

But after the third tragedy in just over a decade, the market’s prospects looked grim, he added.

READ MORE: Explosion at fireworks market in Mexico leaves 29 dead, injures dozens

“I don’t think it will get back on its feet,” he said.

In 2005, fireworks maker Monroy was just leaving when the explosions broke out; nearly a year later, he was standing on a bridge overlooking the market when the sky lit up again.

On Tuesday, Monroy had gone outside the surrounding fence to fix his bike when the sudden, rapid blasts began propelling huge clumps of concrete through the air. Fear gripped him because his family were still inside along with hundreds of others.

They escaped with only a fright. Others were not so lucky.

“I saw a lot charred bodies and dead. It’s a nightmare that in time you forget,” said Monroy. “The children were crying, shouting, asking for help.” (Editing by Dave Graham and Lisa Shumaker)

24 Feb -

Offshore ban in Arctic will hurt northern economy: NWT premier

A federal decision to stop issuing offshore oil and gas licences in the Arctic was made without consultation with the people whose economy stands to pay the price, Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod said Wednesday.

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The leader of the territory south of the oil-rich Beaufort Sea said he heard about the new policy just two hours before it was made public Tuesday in a joint statement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama.

McLeod said he is disappointed by Ottawa’s “unilateral” move, which he said has set back recent initiatives by Ottawa to give Canada’s territories more autonomy.

“We need to have northerners making decisions about the North that affect them,” McLeod said in an interview.

READ MORE: Liberals to ban offshore oil and gas licenses in Arctic waters

“We live here, we want to protect the environment. … In order to appease opposition to resource development in the south, they’re looking at using the North to put in protected areas and stopping development.”

Trudeau defended the decision Wednesday while in Calgary, saying the measure represents a “historic” moment that will protect the Arctic for generations to come from a devastating oil spill under sea ice.

“We have been engaged in significant northern consultations over the past months,” he said.

“We have had Mary Simon (a special representative from Indigenous and Northern Affairs) and a number of top people engaged with consultations on economic development in the North.”

READ MORE: Obama administration bans new offshore drilling in Arctic Ocean

Trudeau said he called the territorial premiers and northern indigenous leaders “over the past few days” to tell them about the licence ban, which would be reviewed every five years, and explain federal commitments to invest in marine infrastructure while providing opportunities for fishing, science and other economic activities.

There is no drilling or production currently in Canada’s Arctic waters, nor is any planned in the near future, so the economic impact of the ban will be muted, he added.

But Cory Vanthuyne, chairman of the legislative economic development committee for the Northwest Territories, said the decision could impede new investment into the region’s economy.

“We want to make sure that when times do take a more positive turn that we’re doing the right things to indicate to investors that we’re the right place to come and put your dollars,” he said, pointing out that mining company Dominion Diamond recently decided to move its Yellowknife head office to Calgary.

READ MORE: Report: huge gas resource in B.C., Yukon, NWT

Imperial Oil is also trying to sell its 11,000-barrel-a-day Norman Wells oilfield after nearly a century of operating in the Northwest Territories.

McLeod said the licensing ban cuts off the territory from a potential bounty of seven billion barrels of oil and 92 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. He said he will continue to press Trudeau for economic solutions during a promised meeting with him and other territorial premiers early next year.

Steven Rowe, a spokesman for the National Energy Board, said there hasn’t been any drilling in the Arctic offshore in the past 10 years.

He added, however, that several companies including Repsol, Chevron, Imperial Oil, Husky Oil, Suncor Energy and BP Canada have “significant discovery” licences, issued after drilling programs in the past found oil and gas pools.

He said those licences don’t have expiry dates and would in theory allow the company to re-enter the oilfield with a development drilling program.

24 Feb -

MD Ambulance paramedics recover after call volumes surge through the roof

Saskatoon paramedics were left running off their feet Tuesday after call volumes went through the roof. Responders with MD Ambulance required back-up and attended over 100 calls in a 24-hour period.

On Wednesday, call volumes were steady but paramedics were finally breathing a sigh of relief after running ragged the day before.

“It felt like the wheels fell off the bus,” Gerry Schriemer, chief of EMS for MD Ambulance, said.

“The call volume we did by 2:30 was about 60 to 65 calls, that’s a normally crazy day in 12 hours.”

READ MORE: MD Ambulance at peak capacity, delays expected for minor emergency calls

Let alone in a seven-and-half hour time frame and the calls kept coming in, said Schriemer.

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    “By the time 24 hours rolled around we hit the 100 mark and it stayed busy right up until midnight, one o’clock and then it started to slow down.”

    The last lateral transfer from one facility to another by paramedics was at 4 a.m. CT on Wednesday.

    According to Schriemer, response times to the most dire of situations were done in timely fashion but as less severe cases stacked up, so did the need for back-up.

    READ MORE: Flu cases expected to peak in Saskatoon during holiday season

    Rural centres chipped in where they could and MD Ambulance utilized the fire department to respond to calls they usually wouldn’t attend.

    “On top of that we had our normal capacity of 12 ambulances on street, two supervisors in rovers, we brought back crews to staff ambulances so at the peak we were running 15.”

    Local emergency departments managed the volumes just fine but were in constant communication with first responders.

    “As an emergency department we work very closely with our EMS partners to ensure we’re freeing up EMS units to get out and get to those next calls,” Graham Blue, director of emergency services for the Saskatoon Health Region, said.

    According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information in 2014, 80 per cent of Saskatoon’s population had a regular doctor they went to.

    At times, Schriemer said a non-emergency can feel like a true emergency to a person and without placing blame on anyone told Global News that of all the calls taken on Tuesday – 40 per cent of those calls were categorized to be lower acuity and could have been handled in another manner.

    “The ER triage patients as we triage patients so if you come in by ambulance but if you’re low acuity, you’re going to be waiting.”

    “Whether you wait three or four hours in the ER or three to four hours in a clinic, if you have that ability and it’s not a serious situation don’t tie up the ERs, go the clinic that’s available to you in your community.”

    READ MORE: Infection risk for heart surgery patients in Saskatoon Health Region

    According to Blue, of 42 multi-physician clinics surveyed in the region, 80 per cent said they would have a doctor on-call during the holidays.

    “With a family physician, they know the whole every complexity that a patient may or may not have. When you’re coming in to see an emergency physician we just get a snapshot of last three hours for that person or family so a family physician really knows the whole care needs of that person.”

24 Jan -

High cost of living plays into drop in charitable donations by British Columbians: Report

For more than a year, the cost of living in British Columbia has been dominating the headlines.

From housing to personal income, the impact of affordability is causing a ripple effect that is now hitting charitable donations.

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According to a new Vancity report, charitable donations by British Columbians have dropped 25 per cent over the last five years and the majority of the people attribute the decrease to plain old economics. They just can’t afford it whether it’s due to the situation of fixed or low incomes, the increased cost of living or the current state of the economy.

Included in the survey, which looked at emerging trends in charitable giving, 81 per cent of British Columbians reported the affordability of housing in their area has gotten worse in the past three years and 69 per cent said their family’s income is falling behind the cost of living.

Personal finances are worse than four years ago, according to 43 per cent of the respondents and 38 per cent attribute their decline in wanting to donate to housing costs.

“Basically it comes down to the affordability crunch, they’re really feeling the pinch,” said Linda Morris, senior VP at Vancity.

“Home, paying for the mortgage, salaries haven’t kept up with the cost of living and they’re finding it tough… the paycheque only stretches as far as it can.”

While the report suggests a marked decline in charitable giving, 58 per cent said they intend to keep their commitment to charities they care about. And in terms of giving in the New Year, only a small percentage plan to give more while roughly one-third plan to give the same or give less.

Government support, which offers 21 per cent of the revenue in the core charitable sector and 51  per cent in areas like universities and hospitals, has been decreasing since the 1990s.

The decline in government investment ends up placing a greater importance on individual contributions.

But Morris said people are giving in other ways even though their dollar isn’t going as far.

“They give their time, they donate materials, they look at other ways to help,” she said. “There are other ways of looking at it… perhaps among your family you say this year we’re going to donate.”

24 Jan -

Canada-US trade running smooth so no need for Donald Trump to fix it: Chrystia Freeland

Donald Trump has pledged to fix a lot of broken things when he becomes U.S. president.

But Canada’s trade minister says the world-leading trade relationship between Canada and the United States need not be on the president-elect’s to-do list.

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“I think the reality is the trading relationship with Canada is the farthest possible thing from being broken. It is very balanced and mutually beneficial,” Chrystia Freeland told in an interview Wednesday.

READ MORE: Chrystia Freeland says TPP deal dead unless US remains on board

That’s the message she said she has been actively spreading to Republicans and others in Washington during the current presidential transition period.

WATCH: How will Trump’s stance on climate change affect Canada?

Freeland visited Washington last week and met with some senior Trump advisers and Republican senators.

She had get-acquainted meetings with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, now a Trump adviser, and Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of the Blackstone Group investment firm, who was appointed earlier this month to lead the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

Trump has said the collection of 16 CEOs and business leaders will provide him private-sector expertise on what it takes to create jobs and drive growth.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau discusses Donald Trump, pipelines, climate change at Calgary event

Freeland also met with the Republican chairs of two powerful committees – Sen. Pat Roberts of the agriculture committee and Sen. Orrin Hatch of the finance committee.

Freeland reminded them the $2.4 billion a day that crosses the 49th parallel is good for both countries. She hauled out some other well-worn statistics: nine million Americans depend directly on exports to Canada while 35 states have Canada as their top customer.

“Those are some big numbers,” she said. “And that’s a trading relationship and those are jobs that are precisely answering the question – which I think is the core issue for the new U.S. administration and frankly is a core issue for us too – which is middle-class jobs.”

WATCH: Justin Trudeau: What is Canada’s place at the table with Putin and Trump?

She has also been urging Canadian business leaders with U.S. connections to issue some vocal reminders of their own.

Freeland said the transition period is “a very useful time” for business leaders to be emphasizing the deeply integrated Canada-U.S. economic relationship.

But she said Ottawa is taking a wait-and-see approach with another Trump pledge that could have a major economic impact on Canada – his promise to pull the U.S. out of the lucrative 12-country Pacific Rim trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

READ MORE: Donald Trump bump? Americans seeking refugee status in Canada jump in November

Japan, the second-largest TPP country, has called on Canada to join it in pushing Trump not to scrap the deal, which would cover 40 per cent of the global economy.

Freeland refused to say whether Canada has taken Japan up on the offer to pressure Trump’s team.

During the fractious U.S. presidential election campaign, Trump also said he would withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement or renegotiate it. But Trump did not repeat the NAFTA commitment after the election as he did with the TPP.

Canada has since said it would renegotiate NAFTA to make it stronger. Freeland said the pact is a “living agreement” that has undergone 12 significant amendments in its 22 years.

She made no attempt to minimize the ongoing effort to reach a new agreement on softwood lumber. Teams of negotiators are meeting this week, but Freeland said she needs a crystal ball to predict whether the two sides can strike a deal by Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

The ongoing softwood saga predates Trump’s arrival in politics.

“This is something that we have been quarreling over for decades, even by some people’s count for centuries,” said Freeland.

24 Jan -

Over 100 people unable to return home to Long Plain First Nation for Christmas

LONG PLAIN FIRST NATION, MAN. —; There are still over 100 people who are unable to return home to Long Plain First Nation following the series of tornadoes that ripped through the community in late July.

At its peak, 800 people were left displaced following the tornadoes that tore through Long Plain in July. According to Chief Dennis Meeches, around 700 have been able to return home so far.

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READ MORE: Tornado touches down in Long Plain First Nation, causes major damage

But, more than 100 people will remain in hotels, with friends or in unfamiliar territory during the holiday season as work continues on their damaged or destroyed homes.

Meeches said there were well over 170 homes that were damaged, and construction is ongoing until the return date of March 31, 2017 is reached.

“We’re shooting for March 31 to have everyone home,” said Meeches.

WATCH: Global News video coverage of tornado aftermath at Long Plain First Nation

RAW: Aftermath of tornado that tore through Long Plain First Nation

01:00

RAW: Aftermath of tornado that tore through Long Plain First Nation

01:10

RAW: Global’s Skyview-1 over damage caused by tornado near Long Plain First Nation

01:22

Clean up after tornado in Long Plain First Nation could take months

01:57

Tornado touches down in Long Plain First Nation, causes major damage



Eunice Assinboine’s family is among those that will not be able to return for the holidays, but she said she’s remaining optimistic about her next chapter.

“I’m very excited, I’m so happy. After three months I’ll be home,” Assiniboine said.

But, paired with the optimism there has been struggle for her family as they remain displaced five months after the tornadoes.

“We had to stay in a hotel for over three months, maybe four months. Then we finally rented a little small house in Portage,” said Assiniboine.

Meeches said it has been a collective effort to get everyone back on their feet. The Red Cross, insurance coverage and band assistance have all played a role in getting roofs back on homes, and rebuilding all that was taken away by the July 20 tornadoes.

RELATED: Clean up after tornado in Long Plain First Nation could take months

24 Jan -

Edmonton police chief says 100 new officers needed to police online crime

In a wide-ranging year-end interview, chief Rod Knecht proudly spoke about the work Edmonton police have done in 2016.

However, in computer crimes, Knecht acknowledged there’s work to do.

“We as a police service, we’re a little bit behind in that area,” Knecht said.

“We could invest another hundred people in just online crime. I think we’re playing catch up in an extreme way right now.”

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    Knecht pointed out every crime perpetrated in the real world can and does happen in the virtual one, too.

    For example, in September, fraudsters used the internet to sell fake tickets to the inaugural Rogers Place concert.

    READ MORE: Edmonton police warn of fraudulent Keith Urban tickets

    This summer, hackers took control of nearly 10,000 University of Calgary email addresses. They asked for, and received, $20,000 in order to return control to the owners.

    Police in every city are used to rental scams and puppy scams. In each case, thieves use the internet to lure victims and convince them to send money for a product or service they never intend to provide.

    In Edmonton, officers police this world as best they can but the criminals often evolve faster than police do.

    READ MORE: Kijiji scam uses golden retriever puppies to lure prey

    Knecht said it’s time for that to change.

    “I think we’re at a tipping point in policing,” Knecht said. “The future of policing is certainly going to be in the cyber world. You’re going to see us evolve more and more with technology.”

    How they evolve may look different than the current model. Knecht said he wants 100 more people, not police.

    “A lot of those we don’t necessarily have to hire a police officer to do those investigations. We’d probably be better off hiring a 15 or 16-year-old. They’re good at that stuff.”

    Computer hacker and cyber security expert Brad Haines said hiring 100 more people to help police the internet would be a good start. Even more is needed.

    “Law enforcement in general is woefully and most hilariously unprepared for the next wave of computer crimes.”

    Haines said all police need to better understand the cyber world.

    Evidence isn’t just weapons and photos. He said police need to better understand the ones and the zeros and how to investigate those.

    Haines recommends more staff and more training for officers in all departments because computers are everywhere.

    READ MORE: Edmonton police to close more community stations, expand online reporting 

    Haines also notes there are many more jurisdictional problems created in computer investigations. Often the criminal is in a different part of the world from the victim. It’s hard to find them and if they do, it’s hard to do much about it.

    It’s possible, but it takes more work and, therefore, more resources.

    “This is the new reality,” Haines said. “We can’t put that genie back in the bottle. We can only adapt to that brave new world that we have.”

    These policing problems are not limited to Edmonton.

    The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has highlighted computer crimes as an issue for all services.

    In August, the association put forward a controversial proposal that, if adopted, would give the courts the power to compel suspects to provide passwords to electronic devices.

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