Weekly update: Angel Flights for patients and Fort McMurray can't get enough baseball

The news and events of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo

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Happy Friday, Fort McMurray!

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  • Stuff-A-Bus Toy Drive: A partnership between RMWB Transit, Santas Anonymous and Rock 97.9 and Country 93.3, this annual campaign encourages people to donate for local families new unwrapped toys, gift cards for local businesses and monetary donations. Information and how to donate is online.
  • Fort McMurray Oil Barons: The team faces the Grande Prairie Storm on Nov. 24 and Nov. 25. All games at 7:30 p.m. at Centerfire Place. Tickets and schedule online.
  • Black Friday Indigenous Urban Market: More than 20 vendors will be at the market. Market will open with a ladies drum group. Lisa Marie Bourque, owner of the Urban Market, will teach the 7 Sacred Principles of the Cree. Roxy Woodward of Fort McMurray 468 First Nation will teach classes on making dreamcatchers, birch bark canoes and an Indigenous Christmas ornament. Market is open to all, instructions on reserving a workshop spot are online. 9713 Hardin Street from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 24.
  • RCMP Regimental Ball: Wood Buffalo RCMP is hosting a regimental ball open to the public. All funds go towards the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 165 and the Centre of Hope. Gala includes dinner, dancing, door prizes, a 50/50 draw and raffle, and live entertainment by the Kitchen Party. Each guest gets a commemorative Challenge Coin. Tickets are $150 and can be bought via etransfer at [email protected]. Include name and phone number in the etransfer comments. Nov. 24 at Shell Place.
  • Emo Night feat. Wade MacNeil of Alexisonfire: Nov. 24 at The Banquet at 9 p.m. Ticket information online.
  • VEX Robotics Tournament: Father Mercredi High School is holding the northernmost VEX Robotics tournament in the world on Nov. 25. 16 teams will be competing from four local high schools. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Event will also be broadcasted live.
  • KD Gala for the Centre of Hope: Local chefs will create their own spin on macaroni and cheese at this fundraiser for the Centre of Hope. 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 26 at the Golden Years Society. Tickets are online.
  • The Summer Canada Burned: Postmedia’s new book about the 2023 wildfire season—The Summer Canada Burned—is in bookstores Nov. 27 and is available online now.
  • RCMP career fair: Wood Buffalo RCMP invites anyone interested in a career with the RCMP to attend their upcoming career presentation. Registration is required at [email protected]. Keyano College on Nov. 28 at 5 p.m.
  • Keyano Huskies Holiday Camp: Coaches from Keyano’s soccer, basketball and volleyball teams will be present along with some special guest stars. Ages 6-13. Entry is by food or cash donation to the Wood Buffalo Food Bank. Register online. Dec. 1 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre
  • Santa Claus Parade and Starry Night Holiday Party: Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year at Council’s Starry Night holiday party from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. and the Santa Claus Parade at 6 p.m. Dec. 2. at Kiyām Community Park. Information and parade route is online.
  • Mean Girls: The Musical: Dec. 14-16 at Ecole McTavish High School. This totally fetch show is $15 for adults and $10 for students.

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ryan abel
Ryan Abel poses with his plane outside a hanger near the Fort McMurray International Airport on Oct. 25, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Sky’s the limit for volunteer medical ‘Angel Flight’ pilots

Medical issues can be costly when rural Albertans consider costs of food, travel, hotels and lost wages. But a network of volunteer pilots is making it cheaper and faster for rural Albertans to reach medical appointments.

“More people honestly need help reaching their appointments than need to get flown out of here for emergency stuff,” said Ryan Abel, a pilot who volunteers with YMM Angel Flight.

“I’ve also had situations when people need help getting back. I had someone who was flown out of here to be treated for tuberculosis, but they had no way to get back to Fort McMurray. I was able to do that really quickly.”

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YMM Angel Flight is in its infancy and is limited in what it can do. For now, the volunteer service is a labour of love for pilots, many of whom balance careers and personal lives. Abel says one pilot recorded 250 hours of flying time alone between Grande Prairie and Edmonton for Angel Flights.

He hopes to expand the program’s availability in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.

allan adam
Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) speaks to media from Acden’s main office in Fort McMurray on March 2, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Chief Allan Adam looks towards upcoming challenges facing ACFN after reelection

As Chief Allan Adam starts his fifth term as leader of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), there are no shortages of crises facing his community and projects to finish.

A major priority will be a closer relationship with the different governments and industry groups in the region, since Fort Chipewyan’s problems are not limited to the northern community.

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“We need to all sit down and talk and work together and towards a better future here,” Adam said in an interview. “Otherwise we’ll just keep looking at problems and think ‘why can’t we get this done?’”

Fort Chipewyan needs more doctors and health specialists. Improvements to local school and more teachers are also needed. ACFN wants to push for a permanent road to the isolated, fly-in community.

The community is also recovering from the trauma of last summer’s wildfire evacuation, which forced more than 1,000 people to find safety elsewhere. Fort Chipewyan’s leaders must help people recover while planning for the next wildfire season.

The fire has also worsened an existing mental health and addictions crisis in Indigenous communities that include Fort Chipewyan.

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“It’s not going to be an easy task. We need to continue following up with governments and agencies to make sure they understand our position,” said Adam.

An aerial view of Kearl Oilsands Project north of Fort McMurray, Alta. on June 18, 2013. Ryan Jackson/Postmedia Network

Regulator investigating release of treated water, sediment at Imperial Oil’s Kearl site

The Alberta Energy Regulator is looking into an accidental release of water and sediment from Imperial Oil’s Kearl operation.

The water was considered clean and was to be released back into the environment, but the company also accidentally released roughly triple the legal limit of total suspended solids.

Imperial Oil spokesperson Lisa Schmidt said sediment levels have dropped in the area and testing is ongoing. Kearl has been the site of two large releases of toxic wastewater, though.

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Nearby Indigenous communities were furious and accused the province, regulator and company of keeping them in the dark for months. Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has vowed to pursue the issue in court.

On Wednesday, Energy and Minerals Minister Brian Jean said he raised concerns during a visit to Kearl that happened two days after the spill. Jean said he was satisfied with the response to this recent incident and dismissed it as “just muddy water.”

McClelland Lake, top right, just east of the Athabasca River, 90 km north of Fort MacMurray, Alta. on September 28, 2010. Ryan Jackson/Postmedia Network

Regulator won’t reconsider approval for Suncor expansion into wetland

Alberta’s energy regulator ruled it won’t reconsider approvals for Suncor to expand an oilsands mine into a wetland once considered for environmental protection.

The decision opens the door for expansion of the company’s Fort Hills mine that has been before the regulators for more than two decades. It unlocks an estimated billion barrels of bitumen.

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“This is part of Fort Hills moving forward,” said Suncor spokesman Leithan Slade.

But scientists say it’s also likely to doom a unique patterned fen — a peat-producing wetland featuring long strings of trees and shrubs separated by narrow pools that is host to 20 rare or endangered plant species and more than 200 species of migratory birds, including endangered whooping cranes.

“We’re disappointed and frustrated,” said Phillip Meintzer of the Alberta Wilderness Association, which had asked the regulator to reconsider the approval it granted last September in light of new scientific information it presented.

Team Fort McMurray celebrate their victory over Team Alberta at the 2023 18U National Baseball Championships at Ross Hennigar Park on Sunday, August 20, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Fort McMurray hosting Baseball Canada championships for next three summers

Baseball Canada is hosting championships in Fort McMurray during the next three summers. The organization has already hosted four national championships in the city, with the most recent competitions happening last summer.

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The 2024 Baseball Canada Cup, 2025 Baseball Canada 18U Championship and 2026 Baseball Canada 18U Championship will all be held in August of those years.

Fort McMurray athletes must earn spots on Team Alberta for 2024. As host city, Fort McMurray is guaranteed a local team for the 2025 and 2026 18U competitions.

Fort McMurray hosted the 13U national western championship and 18U national championship this past summer.

Those tournaments included more than 10,000 spectators. Another 17,000 people watched the 18U games online from across Canada. The 13U games were not live streamed. There were 10 teams for the 18U tournament and eight teams for the 13U championship.

Encouraging local sports tourism has been named a priority for the municipality and Fort McMurray’s athletic community. The past year has also included the Arctic Winter Games and council is pursuing the Alberta Summer Games for 2026.

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Three suspects that police in Fort McMurray say attempted to kick open front doors of homes in Timberlea on Nov. 20, 2023. Image supplied by Wood Buffalo RCMP

Police in Fort McMurray investigating attempted break and enters in Timberlea

Police are investigating attempted break and enters into homes in Timberlea.

Wood Buffalo RCMP say that in the early morning hours on Nov. 20, officers were called to these homes after an unknown number of people attempted to kick open front doors. They were successful in some cases. In all cases, the suspects ran away shortly after. Security footage shows at least three people at one of these homes.

Police say they are aware of a social media trend that shows youth filming themselves “either banging aggressively or kicking down doors to businesses or homes.”

Anyone with information about any missing people or criminal activity is asked to contact Wood Buffalo RCMP at 780-788-4040 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS). Tips to Crime Stoppers are always anonymous and can be sent to tipsubmit.com.

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L-R: Martin Gore and Dave Gahan perform during Depeche Mode’s Memento Mori tour at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Tuesday Nov. 21, 2023. Photo by David Bloom/Postmedia Network

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