Mar 15

Palliser Regional Schools announces names of review panelists

The Board of Trustees of Palliser Regional Schools has announced the two individuals selected to conduct an independent, organizational review of the school system.

Dr. Terence Weninger resides in Lethbridge, while Dr. Kelly Williams-Whitt is from Calgary. The two have agreed to conduct the review, set to start June 1 at the latest, and end Oct. 31 at the latest.

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    Dr. Weninger spent many years working in the Saskatchewan education system.  He has also served as Vice President of Administration and Acting Vice President, Academic at Medicine Hat College.  He has lived in Lethbridge since retiring as President of Yukon College in 2011.

    Dr. Williams-Whitt is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Management at the University of Lethbridge.  She has both an MBA and PhD from the University of Calgary and has an extensive background in issues such as conflict resolution, human resource management and workplace diversity.

    The board-approved budget for the work can not exceed $74,500.

    Superintendent Kevin Gietz requested the review back in January. He asked the board to approve an independent review of the school system in order to reduce distractions caused by numerous online allegations and rumors about him.

    READ MORE: Palliser superintendent takes leave amid delayed review into ‘culture of fear’

    An online petition started by a concerned parent group that gathered over 400 names is what prompted Gietz to ask for the independent review of  the Palliser board.

    The board agreed and formed a committee to recommend candidates to conduct the review.

    More information on the review process will be provided as it becomes available.

Mar 15

Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder spends day in wheelchair to raise awareness

Chris Schamber suffers from a spinal cord injury and now relies on a motorized wheelchair to get around. He faces accessibility challenges on a daily basis.

“I had my [accident] 29 years ago, and when I was walking around I didn’t notice things people in wheelchairs faced,” he said.

The 4th Annual Chair-Leaders Event is hoping to increase awareness of accessibility, or lack thereof, for people living with mobility issues.

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    “Barriers can be as simple as a curb or a step,” Dylan Adkins, regional coordinator for Spinal Cord Injury Alberta said. “For someone in a wheelchair, that’s something that is really difficult to get around.”

    To increase awareness, community leaders have volunteered to spend a day confined to a wheelchair, including Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder.

    “I think for me, this is an opportunity to really put myself in their shoes, so to speak,” Harder said.

    “I have the chance to go out into the community and really experience Lethbridge through the eyes of someone who relies on a wheelchair to get around on a day-to-day basis.”

    Schamber said by getting policy makers, like Members of Parliament and MLAs involved, things are more likely to change.

    “If we can get the people in charge to recognize things that need to be adjusted in the future, then the whole society will benefit,” Schamber said.

    WATCH: Tetra society helping people with disabilities

    Schamber took Harder on a tour of the city in a motorized wheelchair to demonstrate old and new infrastructure that is both helping and hindering those with mobility issues.

    Harder said it is important for her and other community leaders to see firsthand what barriers people in the community are facing.

    “I don’t think the common person understands exactly all of the barriers that are in place with regard to mobility in Lethbridge,” Harder said. “[That prevent those from] being able to access those community resources, which allow people to participate and really feel a part of our community.”

Mar 15

Amid economic downturn, suicide attempts in St. Albert spike to 1 per day

EDMONTON – An alarming new statistic was brought to St. Albert city council earlier this week. In the first three months of 2016, there was an average of one suicide attempt every day in the bedroom community north of Edmonton.

The information was supplied through a report put together by St. Albert Community and Social Development. The information was compiled using a number of sources, including St. Albert RCMP, local counsellors and community partners.

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    While the number is shocking, it doesn’t come as a surprise to Nicole Imgrund, founding director of Rivers Edge Counselling Centre in St. Albert. She said the centre has experienced a spike in calls in recent months and receives a couple of calls per day from people who don’t have access to insurance or the finances to pay for mental health services.

    “A lot of our current clients have experienced job loss or underemployment because of the economy and we get a lot more calls every day from people who don’t have the resources to pay for private care services either,” Imgrund said.

    READ MORE: Tracking the layoffs in Alberta’s oilpatch

    In some cases, the loss of a job comes with the loss of a sense of identity and purpose, Imgrund explained. That can lead to feelings of helplessness, anxiousness and depression, she added.

    “Any major stressor like unemployment challenges people’s internal coping mechanism. Sometimes people just don’t have the internal resources to cope with that and when you put that together with not having high-quality relationships and support, and again that feeling of helplessness… it’s very difficult for people’s mental health and wellness.”

    READ MORE: 7 common suicide myths

    Chad Miller knows the struggle all too well. The father-of-three was laid off from his job in the oilfield last January. While he’s worked for a few weeks here and there, he’s really struggled to find steady work in Alberta’s current economic climate.

    “The downturn has affected me quite a bit for a number of reasons,” he said from home Wednesday as he tended to his 14-month-old daughter. “We’re sitting here at the end of the year and it’s time to pay the tax man: do you pay him or do you use it to live? And that’s when a lot of people are finding out how far in trouble they are.

    “There’s some trying times where you think, ‘you know what? Maybe the insurance on myself would be best and my family would be better off if something happened to me.’”

    READ MORE: One-third of Canadians at ‘high risk’ for mental health concerns: poll

    Knowing he couldn’t be the only one thinking these thoughts, Miller started the website oilfielddads长沙桑拿 in hopes of connecting with people in similar situations. He quickly learned he was not alone.

    “One of the first objectives for me, or first mission I guess, was to build a link for suicide prevention,” he said. “The realism is a lot of people think of that. Everybody in this situation has felt you know, ‘I might as well cash in.’ What’s the point in hanging around when you’ve got so much debt, so much taxes owed and there’s no way to get out of it?”

    READ MORE: Alberta suicide rate up 30%, province looking for answers

    In a video he put together on his website, Miller – now known as “oilfield dad Chad” – recognizes that everyone is fighting a battle. He hopes his website can be a place for people to come together and share their stories. Miller said he will make himself available to anyone who wants to talk about what they’re going through.

    “A lot of people might think they’re better off without them and nobody will notice. But you’re here for a reason,” he said. “It’s baby steps. It’s not like you’re going to come out of anything and just be 100 per cent.

    “Keep smiling and one foot in front of the other.”

    READ MORE: Laid-off oilfield dad becomes ‘Mister Mom’

    In a statement to Global News, Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne said “accessible, effective mental health supports for at-risk Albertans is so important.”

    “The feedback we received during the mental health review showed there is a lot of work to do in this area. We want to see better access and more seamless treatment for people suffering from depression and other forms of mental illness.”

    In 2014, there were 531 suicide deaths in Alberta. In 2015, there were 547.

    If you are in need of immediate counselling or support, please contact the 24 hour Distress Line at 780-482-HELP (4357).

    Follow @CaleyRamsay

Feb 15

Lawyer says B.C. serial killer Cody Legebokoff deserves new trial

VANCOUVER – A lawyer for a British Columbia man convicted of killing three women and a teenage girl says his client deserves a new trial because the judge made disparaging remarks about defence counsel that were only made public after a sentence was imposed.

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Cody Legebokoff was given life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years by a Prince George, B.C., judge, for the first-degree murders of 15-year-old Loren Leslie, 23-year-old Natasha Montgomery and Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas, who were both 35.

His lawyer Eric Gottardi told the B.C. Court of Appeal on Wednesday that despite the evidence against Legebokoff, the appearance of unfairness at trial means the case must be heard again.

“This is a horrific case with overwhelming Crown evidence. This is the kind of case that would be easy to dismiss an appeal. We’re saying there’s nothing wrong with the verdict. But that’s not what this appeal is about. This appeal is about the system and the public confidence in the system,” he told a three-judge panel.

“This was a slam-dunk Crown case. The judge should have bent over backwards to ensure the accused had a fair trial, and he didn’t. This verdict cannot be allowed to stand on that basis.”

His argument hinged on the judge’s rejection of a defence application in 2012 to have the trial moved to Vancouver. The written reasons for the ruling were only released after Legebokoff was convicted and sentenced in 2014.

Justice Glen Parrett said in those reasons that Legebokoff’s counsel had exaggerated and distorted evidence in the application to have the trial moved. He described the defence lawyer’s arguments as “misleading” and a “recasting of reality,” said Gottardi.

READ MORE: ‘I couldn’t be there for her’: Father of teen murdered by Cody Legebokoff speaks

He said his client should have been made aware before the trial that the judge thought his lawyer’s behaviour was unethical. Gottardi said he was not arguing that his client faced actual prejudice, but rather the appearance of unfairness amounts to a miscarriage of justice.

All three judges on the panel grilled Gottardi on his argument, questioning whether trial judges should be required to reveal every concern they have about lawyers’ behaviour.

“It seems to me for your argument to hold together, there must be an affirmative duty on a trial judge to express those concerns any time they arise,” said Justice David Frankel.

Crown lawyer David Layton said it’s crucial that Gottardi hasn’t asserted definitively that Legebokoff would have sought other counsel or brought a bias application to remove the judge if he had disclosed his criticisms earlier.

Layton said Gottardi’s argument is merely that Legebokoff was denied the opportunity to “consider his options,” and that doesn’t meet the high legal test for perception of unfairness.

“The trial judge didn’t have any duty to disclose this information any earlier than he did,” Layton told the court.

Legebokoff’s trial heard that there was considerable physical evidence linking him to the murders.

Legebokoff’s clothing contained the DNA of Montgomery and Maas, while DNA matching Stuchenko was found in Legebokoff’s apartment. The trial heard that identification belonging to Leslie and a blood-stained pipe wrench and knife were also found in the man’s truck.

Family members of Leslie and Maas listened quietly in the courtroom on Wednesday.

— Follow @ellekane on 桑拿会所.

Feb 15

5 things to watch for at upcoming Tory convention

OTTAWA – Hundreds of federal Conservative party members gather in Vancouver on Thursday for a three-day policy convention.

It’s their first meeting since the fall election that saw leader Stephen Harper leave his job after losing government to the Liberals.

Here are five things to watch for:

1) Harper’s speech

The former prime minister is set to address the convention on Thursday night. It’s his first public speech in Canada since he lost the election and stepped down as party leader. He’s kept a low profile in Ottawa since and is expected to do the same at the convention after his brief address. It may be the last time for the party to hear from him as an MP, as he is expected to resign his seat in the Commons in the coming weeks.

WATCH: Stephen Harper to leave the political scene 

2) Leadership candidates

The convention is a prime opportunity for people seeking to replace interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose at the party’s helm to make connections and for party members to get a measure of the candidates. Kellie Leitch, Maxime Bernier and Michael Chong are the only three candidates officially registered and are sure to have a high profile on and off the convention floor. But others thinking about a bid will also be making the rounds, including TV personality and businessman Kevin O’Leary.

Michael Chong on his Conservative leadership bid: There is a new Canada rising

01:11

Michael Chong on his Conservative leadership bid: There is a new Canada rising

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MPs Leitch, Bernier announce run for federal Conservative leadership

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Michael Chong announces he’s seeking the leadership of the Conservative Party



3) Rona Ambrose

While Ambrose has appeared to squelch a drive to get her to run for the leadership, it may not be dead yet. A petition seeking to change the party’s constitution to allow interim leaders to run for the permanent job continues to circulate. If there’s enough support, it could be brought forward at a constitutional workshop session on Friday and, if it passed there, handed over to the general membership for a vote.

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4) Party policy

There are dozens of proposed policy changes set to be debated. One that many are closely watching is a bid to drop language from the existing platform that says the party supports legislation defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Several riding associations are seeking to have that section deleted, arguing it’s no longer necessary to have a divisive policy on the books.

READ MORE: Guns, environment, other policies up for debate at Tory convention

5) Grassroots power

Many convention delegates are headed to Vancouver seeking to return more control over party affairs to the rank-and-file membership. Several constitutional amendments suggest a there is lot of tension over how Harper and party brass ran the show. Delegates are arguing for more transparency and oversight on how the party spends its money, elects its leadership and other issues.