Weekly update: Big wins for Huskies, Special Olympics and Fort McKay First Nation; AER gets sued

The news and events of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.

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It’s the weekend, Fort McMurray.

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  • Father Beauregard Spring Market: The school’s upcoming spring market on March 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Information on vendors and the event.
  • FMCSD trustee byelection: The Fort McMurray Catholic School division will hold a byelection for a spot on the board of trustees on April 8. Candidates have until March 11 to register. Information on voting and becoming a candidate.
  • The Irish Descendants: This four-piece band hailing from St. John’s celebrates the musical heritage of their Irish ancestors and honour the musical traditions of Newfoundland and Labrador. March 14 at Keyano Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are running out.
  • YMM Hareport Eggstravaganza: A family friendly day of spring-themed games featuring the Easter Bunny and friends. Funds support United Way Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo. March 16 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Fort McMurray International Airport. A sensory-friendly time slot is available from noon to 1 p.m. Tickets.
  • Randy’s Cheeseburger Picnic: A man’s gotta eat and Randy Bo-bandy himself from Trailer Park Boys is live at The Den on March 30. Doors open at 7 p.m. Obviously, 18+. Tickets.
  • Heart of Wood Buffalo Awards: The annual awards honour the achievements of leaders, philanthropists, volunteers and organizations in the community. Nominations are open until March 15 at 11:59 p.m. FuseSocial has information about the awards and categories.
  • Royal Wood & Jeffery Straker on The Piano Men Tour: Jeffery Straker and his rootsy storytelling and captivating melodies joins Royal Wood’s unique sound and heartfelt compositions. Keyano Theatre on March 26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets.
  • RMWB Public Art: The RMWB is looking for artists for its first Mural Fest, its banner program and social change grants. Information and deadlines is online. Arts, culture and heritage grants are open.
  • Wood Buffalo Regional Library hosts all-ages weekly events.
  • MacDonald Island Park updates its website with upcoming events and programs.
  • Wood Buffalo Volunteers has volunteer opportunities for different causes and non-profits across Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.
  • Obituaries: Obituaries, memorial notices and sympathy announcements.

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Some members of the Keyano Huskies’ Men’s Basketball Team after their ACAC gold medal victory at the Syncrude Sports and Wellness Centre in Fort McMurray on March 2, 2024. Photo by Robert Murray of Keyano College

Keyano Huskies named gold medal ACAC men’s basketball champions

The Keyano Huskies Men’s Basketball Team are gold medal champions after a 94-79 win against St. Mary’s University Lightning. Their Saturday night victory is the first time Huskies Men’s Basketball was named champions of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).

“It was a long time coming and came from a lot of hard work. But the way the city rallied around us and supported us truly made it an unbelievable weekend,” said head coach Jeremy Wielenga in a Monday interview.

Wielenga knew the team would end the year as one of the ACAC’s top teams when the season started. He credits their victory to lots of practice, an experienced team that meshed well with its new members, and some harsh lessons learned from past losses. Looking back, Wielenga realizes those losses shaped the team for gold.

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On top of gold medals, some athletes also took home their own awards. Evan Meyer won Tournament MVP honours. Omeechi Williams and DJ Haynes both earned Tournament All-Star honours.

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A tailings pond at Imperial Oil’s Kearl Lake oilsands operation north of Fort McMurray on February 25, 2023. Image by Nicholas Vardy for Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

Alberta Energy Regulator sued by ACFN over seepages from oilsands site

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is suing the Alberta Energy Regulator for their handling of recent spills at Imperial Oil’s Kearl facility.

Chief Allan Adam personally served AER CEO Laurie Pushor during a heated Tuesday meeting in Fort Chipewyan, following through with a promise made that Adam made last year.

ACFN’s statement of claim alleges the regulator’s responses to the spills, which happened between May 2022 and February 2023, were “sufficiently unlawful, negligent and reckless that they amount to bad faith.” The incidents themselves are “symptomatic of deficiencies” found within Alberta’s regulatory system.

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The regulator’s conduct allegedly violated treaty rights and prevented Indigenous people from practicing treaty rights. The claims have not yet been proven in court.

“We’re suing you for the damage that you’ve caused to the community of Fort Chip and we’ve had enough,” said Adam as he handed legal documents to Pushor. “We are one the first ones to be impacted by what happen upstream in our community and we need answers… you will answer in a court of law.”

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Chief Raymond Powder of the Fort McKay First Nation speaks at a press conference in Edmonton following the signing of a memorandum of agreement with Suncor on March 7, 2024. Image supplied by Suncor Energy

Fort McKay First Nation, Suncor sign MOU on developing oilsands lease

A partnership with the Fort McKay First Nation is allowing Suncor to develop a potential oilsands lease on the First Nation’s reserve land.

Chief Raymond Powder estimates that at full production, the project can generate $44 million in revenue and $2.25 million in royalties for the next five years. Suncor’s leadership believes it could potentially provide the company with enough bitumen beyond 2040.

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“This means we are really benefiting from our region and this new development is an opportunity for developing our programs, our services and our infrastructure,” said Powder in an interview. “Because the opportunities seem endless, this is a new way to say that we wanna grow. We will have full inclusivity of actually having control of our land and our resources. This is quite a blessing.”

Powder said development does not clash with the First Nation’s environmental stewardship goals. He compared the project to the Moose Lake Access Management Plan (MLAMP), which creates a 10-kilometre buffer around an area the community considers culturally significant.

At a separate press conference, Premier Danielle Smith said she hopes to see more Indigenous communities form similar partnerships with industry.

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“To see a proposal where a band is going to be in on the ground floor of production just warms my heart,” said Smith.

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Members of Special Olympics Wood Buffalo show off their medals won in bowling at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games between Feb. 27 and March 2. Image by Special Olympics Wood Buffalo

Fort McMurray Special Olympians bring home medals from national competition

Five Special Olympic athletes have returned to Fort McMurray with eight medals after competing in five-pin bowling at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Calgary.

The five local athletes won a bronze medal in the team category. A bronze, silver and gold medal were won by three athletes in the individual categories. This was the first time Special Olympics Wood Buffalo sent athletes to compete nationally. The success has been a sudden surprise.

Special Olympics Wood Buffalo closed in 2011 when the only bowling alley in Fort McMurray shut down. Bowling is one of the group’s most popular sports. When it ended, the rest of Special Olympics Wood Buffalo eventually closed, too.

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The opening of The Alley brought a renewed interest in relaunching Special Olympics. A new board was formed in January 2020, but the group went on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group travelled to provincials in February 2023, about six months after athletes resumed training. Every athlete returned home with gold, silver and bronze medals in bowling and floor hockey. This left Ford-Grant astounded.

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The Jubilee Centre in downtown Fort McMurray on March 6, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network jpg, FM

RMWB says eight oilsands companies owe roughly $38.8 million in taxes

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo says it is owed $38.8 million in taxes from eight oilsands companies.

For privacy reasons, a municipal spokesperson could not name which companies are accusing of owing taxes. However, a lawsuit from the RMWB alleges Sunshine Oilsands owes the municipality nearly $25 million. The company denies the allegations, which have not been proven in court.

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The money owed to the municipality has grown in recent years. At the end of 2022, the RMWB claimed roughly $30 million in unpaid property taxes from oilsands companies. In 2021, it was $24.6 million.

Oil and gas companies in Alberta owe rural municipalities roughly $251.8 million in unpaid property taxes, according to the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA).

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A handgun seized by Wood Buffalo RCMP in Fort Chipewyan on March 3, 2024. Image supplied by Wood Buffalo RCMP

Police in Fort Chipewyan charge Red Deer man with firearm charges

Police in Fort Chipewyan have charged a Red Deer man with multiple firearm charges after he was seen allegedly driving an off-road vehicle carelessly.

Wood Buffalo RCMP says that on March 3 at 5 p.m., police on patrol in Fort Chipewyan saw a man on Delta Road driving carelessly. Officers stopped the man and arrested him.

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During a search of the off-road vehicle and the man, officers say they found a 9mm handgun loaded with hollow-point ammunition.

Keanu Redbear, 19, of Red Deer has been charged with multiple firearm charges, assaulting an officer causing bodily harm and resisting a peace officer. He was also charged with driving carelessly and driving an uninsured vehicle.

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Skiers and snowboarders experienced fresh snow, minimal line-ups and Cold temperatures at Snow Valley in Edmonton on March 5. Photo by Shaughn Butts/Postmedia Network
  • Sow serious: Back in the 1980s, U.K. pigs were brought to the Prairies to breed “superpigs.” Many were freed when pork prices dropped. Now they’re wild boars weighing up to 630 lbs., sporting razor sharp tusks and reproducing quickly. U.S. border states worry about an invasion of “immigrunts,” while Alberta is fighting the pork panic with its “Squeal On Pigs” initiative.
  • Wild west shopping caper:  A former Strathcona County director got 12 months house arrest after pleading guilty to using public money to buy items for his personal cattle business. David James Churchill, the county’s former transportation and agriculture services director, was caught in June 2022 after the county hired a private investigator to look into his activities. More than $8,.600 was spent on items like a corral gate, used water troughs, a fence stapler and a solar pump.
  • Terrorism charges: The RCMP has laid terrorism charges against Bezhani Sarvar, the accused in the January attack on Edmonton City Hall. Nobody was injured or killed in the attack. Sarvar remains in custody at the Calgary Remand Centre.
  • Troop support: CFB Edmonton is getting $45.3 million from the federal government for infrastructure upgrades that cut energy costs and offer troops “more modern, sustainable and efficient facilities.” Much of the base’s infrastructure was built in 1995 and 1996. The garrison has 4,000 regular and reserve force members and 500 civilian staff.
  • Stampede ban: The Calgary Stampede has been banned from participating in this year’s Calgary Pride parade because of the decades of abuse some of its members experienced at the hands of a former performance school staffer. Calgary Pride said earlier this week it will also not allow provincial and federal political parties or figures to join the parade scheduled for Sept. 1.
  • Trashy news: About 11,500 tonnes of food waste in Edmonton went to landfills in 2022. A similar total is expected for 2023. The city’s green bin program is designed to keep food waste out of landfills. But 19 per cent of food waste picked up went to landfills because it was mixed with garbage or recycling, stuck to plastic bags or lost before composting.
  • Read up on the politics and culture of Alberta  with Postmedia’s subscriber-exclusive newsletter, What’s up with Alberta? Curated by the National Post’s Tyler Dawson every Tuesday and Thursday.

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