Weekly update: Fire watchtowers are still around, homicide in Janvier and no skate park yet for Gregoire

The news and events of Fort slot McMurray Wood Buffalo.

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Good morning, Fort McMurray!

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  • Turn traffic boxes into art: Artists are paid $700 if their work is picked. RMWB’s deadline is TODAY.
  • “Raining on Dreams” exhibition: Raining on Dreams, an exhibition featuring original art work by local resident Lasha Barbosa. Lasha has overcome extraordinary challenges to forge a unique creative path. Her journey encompasses a triumphant battle against brain tumors, chronic pain, and mental health hurdles. Runs until TODAY at the Kirschner Family Community Art Gallery.
  • An Evening with Mary Walsh: A night of mature-rated comedy at Keyano Theatre on Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets and information online.
  • AHS health fair: Expectant and new parents can meet one-on-one with health care professionals from Alberta Health Services. People can learn about childhood immunizations; infant feeding and nutrition; infant safety; local AHS prenatal classes; sexual, pelvic and mental health; and other local AHS services. Free event on Oct. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Fort McMurray Community Health Services at 113 Thickwood Blvd.
  • Council’s Excellence Award: Nominations for outstanding citizens are open until Oct. 30.
  • Feedback on recycling and garbage services: The RMWB wants feedback for their Solid Waste Management Plan. Complete the survey by Oct. 31 for a chance to win prizes. Information and the survey is online.
  • Brett Kissel headlines Keyano Gala: Keyano’s annual fundraising gala is Nov. 4. Alberta country music star Brett Kissel is headlining an event inspired by Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. Funds from the black-tie affair go towards Keyano programs including academics, sports, theatre, trade programs and capital projects. Tickets online.
  • Remembrance Day Ceremony: The Royal Canadian Legion is hosting an indoor ceremony at MacDonald Island Park and an outdoor ceremony outside its Waterways branch on Nov. 11. A reception will be held after the ceremonies. A schedule of events is in our story on this year’s Memorial Family.
  • Christmas poinsettia fundraiser: Poinsettias, wreathes and planters are being sold with all funds going towards the Autism Society of the RMWB. Orders can be made online. Deliveries will be on Nov. 23.
  • Festival of Trees: The annual fundraiser for the Northern Lights Health Foundation returns to MacDonald Island Park from Nov. 17-19. The trees can be enjoyed for free during the day, but tickets are limited for the Festival Gala and Tree Auction, the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party and Daddy/Daughter Sugar Plum Fairy Ball. Ticket information is online.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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Brett scans the horizon for smoke from a lookout tower south of Fort McMurray on September 21, 2023. Photo by Emily Smith for Postmedia Network

In fight against wildfires, Alberta’s lookout towers are reliable, low-tech protectors

Satellites, A.I. and cameras are some of the newer tools used to fight wildfires. Alberta is no exception in adopting this technology, but the province insists its lookout towers are just as reliable as the latest tech.

With 100 towers across Alberta and eight in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region, Alberta has more towers than any other province. Some provinces scrapped their programs decades ago.

But towers have proved reliable in Alberta, even during heavy wildfire seasons. If you’re mentally and physically fit enough, it can also be a peaceful job (provided you can cope with the isolation).

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“I don’t know what this job will look like in the future, but I know you can’t beat it,” said Brett, a lookout observer who spent the summer at a tower south of Fort McMurray

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An RCMP office in Janvier, Alta. on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. Cullen Bird/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

RCMP investigating homicide near Janvier; region’s fourth homicide of 2023

Police are investigating the death of Rico Wilson Janvier, 33, of the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation as a homicide.

At around 1 a.m. on Oct. 16, Alberta RCMP’s Major Crimes Unit says officers were told of an unconscious man outside Lot 6 on the Janvier reserve of the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation, which is adjacent to the municipal hamlet of Janvier. Police say Janvier was found with life threatening injuries.

A ground ambulance rushed him to a nearby airstrip and he was flown to the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, then to the University of Alberta Hospital. He remained on life support and in critical condition until his death on Tuesday.

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This is the fourth homicide to occur in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region this year. It is also the first homicide of 2023 to occur in the region’s rural areas.

A counter-protest supporting sexual and gender education in schools, organized by Pride YMM in downtown Fort McMurray on Saturday, October 21, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Counter-protest outnumbers protesters against gender, sexual education

No more than 30 people protesting how sex and gender are taught in classrooms spent Saturday afternoon near the Fort McMurray court house on Franklin Avenue.

But they were met with dozens more counter-protesters who organized after learning about the rally.

The people opposing sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) education in schools are part of 1 Million March 4 Children, a nation-wide protest movement that has rallied in dozens of cities and towns across Canada.

A Fort McMurray rally against SOGI in September brought hundreds of people who marched from the Jubilee Centre to the Catholic and public school divisions. Pride YMM, which advocates for the region’s 2SLGBTQI+ community, did not organize a counter-protest to that rally.

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This time, Pride YMM called the turnout a success. There were no violent clashes or arrests between either side.

A flooded TaigaNova Eco-Industrial Park in Fort McMurray on April 27, 2020. Image supplied by McMurray Aviation

Council approves $13.9 million for flood mitigation of TaigaNova’s northern portion

Flood mitigation of the northern portion on the TaigaNova Eco-Industrial Park will cost roughly $18.5 million. An extra $13.9 million in additional funding will be needed and the remaining $4.6 million will come from the existing flood mitigation budget.

Municipal administration made the request to council at their Tuesday meeting. Funding needed to be approved immediately so procurement could begin quickly, as opposed to waiting for council’s 2024 budget talks in December.

Procurement requests will be posted next week and administration hopes to award contracts soon.

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Most flood mitigation will be done by 2026. A final barrier will be finished by 2027 or 2028.

Greely Road
L-R: Bryden Andrews, Chase Proulx, Kirby Cardinal, Jada Clarke, Helina Halie, Jesse MacLean and Connor Andrews in their Greely Road School classroom on April 4, 2023. The students put togehter a proposal for a skate park in Gregoire that was presented to council in March. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Council asks for review of skate park proposal pitched by Gregoire students

After pitching a skate park to council last March, the children of Gregoire will have to wait longer before learning if the RMWB will build a place to skateboard, bike and roller blade in their neighbourhood.

Council unanimously had administration continue reviewing the project, including the size, design and costs of any park proposals.

Councillors balked at costs of the options they were shown at Tuesday’s meeting. Administration said inflation and supply chain problems had driven up construction costs.

Last March, the Grades 5 and 6 students of Greely Road School asked council to build a park in the neighbourhood. During an April visit to the school, the students told Fort McMurray Today that Gregoire needs more municipal investment for families and young people in the community.

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Gordon Glenn White
Lance Corporal Gordon Glenn White of Fort McMurray died in Vietnam in 1969. Image supplied by Royal Canadian Legion

Family of Fort McMurray man killed in Vietnam to be honoured on Remembrance Day

The family of Lance Corporal  Gordon Glenn White will be honoured as this year’s Memorial Family at local Remembrance Day ceremonies.

White was born in 1945 in Fort McMurray and worked at Great Canadian Oil Sands (GCOS). His father served in the Second World War and in May 1968, White enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. On March 12, 1969, White was killed by a landmine in Vietnam.

Remembrance Day ceremonies often feature the family of a veteran who died serving their country in war. White’s family will be represented at this year’s ceremony by his youngest sister, Penney Fedora, and his nephew, Rick White. A fellow Marine and Vietnam veteran will also speak at the ceremony.

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Details for this year’s ceremonies are in the story.

Wood Buffalo RCMP’s Fort Chipewyan detachment on Thursday, January 16, 2020. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network SunMedia

Mountie justified in failed ‘suicide by cop’ shooting in Fort Chipewyan: ASIRT

Alberta’s police watchdog says a police officer was justified to fire his weapon at an intoxicated man he believed was about to draw a weapon on him.

An intoxicated Fort Chipewyan man was banging and kicking the RCMP’s detachment’s door when he was approached by an officer. The man yelled at the officer to shoot him and had his hands in his pocket. The officer shot the man once in the leg when the man pulled a black object from his pocket. It turned out to be a broken TV remote.

The man survived the shooting and did not remember the incident. He apologized to the officer for his behaviour.

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Sage Morin, also known as “The Matriarch,” works with Melisa Dawn at Monster Pro Wrestling on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023 in Edmonton. Greg Southam/Postmedia Network
  • Wrestling with grief: After a decade of trauma and heartache, Sage Morin has found purpose and peace inside the squared circle. Wrestling for Morin, also known as “The Matriarch,” has become her life; it’s also become a huge part of her healing journey from a traumatic past. As a wrestler with Monster Pro Wrestling, Morin recently appeared in Fort McMurray.
  • Pension fight: Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is encouraging Albertans to stay in the Canada Pension Plan, and is blaming Liberal economic policies for division on the CPP. Ontario’s finance minister argues Alberta could cause “serious harm” if it leaves CPP. Premier Danielle Smith says a referendum on the issue won’t happen without more information on what assets Alberta is entitled to.
  • Out of this world job: Edmonton-raised Charity Weeden has been sworn in as NASA’s associate administrator for NASA’s office of technology, policy, and strategy. Weeden’s office provides NASA’a leadership with advice on everything from sending people to Mars and back to the Moon, to clearing space junk. Weeden took her oath on the Carl Sagan novel Contact.
  • Sick deal: Alberta hospitals used Turkish children’s pain medication for six months before being ordered to switch back to standard dosage domestic acetaminophen. The Alberta government spent $80 million last December importing the medication. Widespread shortages in Canada had left parents scrambling.
  • ‘Systemic lapses’: Seven inmates at the Edmonton Remand Centre were given substandard care that caused hospitalization and even death, ruled Alberta’s Public Interest Commissioner. The centre has previously faced allegations about subpar medical care. A 2019 report compared its workplace culture to a high school.
  • 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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