Weekly update: OHV program for Abasand and the RMWB's wildfire costs are in

The news and events of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo

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Good morning, 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.
  • RENT: RENT plays at Keyano Theatre until Nov. 18. Swamp Rat Experience hopes the production will introduce theatre to new people. Tickets can be bought at Keyano Theatre’s box office.
  • 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.
  • 24-Hour Game Day: A 24-hour marathon of gaming for the Stollery Children’s Hospital. The event includes board games, video games, prizes and challenges. Admission is FREE but donations can be made online. Starts Nov. 18 at 9 a.m. at Keyano’s e-sports arena.
  • An evening with Leahy: Immerse yourself in the spellbinding melodies and exhilarating performances of Leahy, a multigenerational Canadian Celtic folk band. The 11-strong ensemble performs at Keyano Theatre on Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets online.
  • Fort McMurray Oil Barons: The team faces the Blackfalds Bulldogs on Nov. 21 and 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.
  • 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.
  • 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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An off-highway vehicle rider drives along a road close to the Horse River near Abasand on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia

RMWB pursuing pilot program allowing limited road use for OHVs in Abasand

The municipality is designing a pilot program to let off-highway vehicles reach trails in Abasand by using nearby public roads or other direct routes.

Administration has been directed to present a program to council by the end of March 2024. The program will let Abasand residents ride directly to trails. No one will be allowed to use them to shop or run errands.

Mayor Sandy Bowman, who proposed the ideam said Abasand is a prime location for a pilot project based on his own conversations with people in the neighbourhood.

He cited the neighbourhood’s proximity to trails, heavy OHV use in the area and its location at the edge of the boreal forest.

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Advocates say it will crack down on illegal OHV usage on walking trails, roads and sidewalks.

Firefighters from across Alberta pack fire hoses in Fort Chipewyan, Alta. on Thursday, June 15, 2023. Hundreds of firefighters from across Canada, the United States and Australia responded to a wildfire outside the community, which was evacuated on May 30, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

RMWB spent more than $4.1 million reacting to 2023 wildfire season, evacuations

The municipality spent more than $4.1 million responding to wildfires in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region last summer. Wildfires this year in the region burned more than 3,643 square kilometres, mostly around the Fort Chipewyan area.

Roughly 1,000 people were able to safely leave Fort Chipewyan when wildfires threatened the community in May. Everyone started returning three weeks later. Many people lost private cabins, but the wildfire stayed out of Fort Chipewyan and nearby reserves.

More than 350 people from Fort Smith, NWT and Fort Fitzgerald were flown to Fort McMurray in August and stayed in the city for more than a month.

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Jody Butz, fire chief for the region and emergency management director, did not know once the RMWB would be reimbursed fully through Alberta’s Disaster Recovery Program. He added the RMWB is still being reimbursed for the 2016 Horse River wildfire.

It’s hard to predict what next year’s wildfire season will look like locally, although federal and provincial officials worry dry fall conditions and minimal snowfall across much of Alberta will turn many of the province’s forests into tinder.

remembrance day
Pat Duggan and a member of the Canadian Armed Forces at Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Veterans honoured at Remembrance Day ceremonies

About 1,500 people attended Remembrance Day ceremonies at MacDonald Island Park and at the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Waterways.

The family of Gordon White, a local Indigenous man who died in the Vietnam War, was honoured as this year’s Memorial Family at local Remembrance Day ceremonies. After volunteering to take point, White was killed in an explosion in Vietnam’s Quảng Nam province on March 12, 1969.

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Mike Gray, president of the local Legion branch, reminded people that Canadians are deployed on 33 missions across the world.

“To properly take up the torch and honour those who have set themselves to the task of protector of our nation, both past and present, we must fully embrace our duty of healing our nation’s warriors,” said Gray.“Service under the constant threat of violence and the readiness to do violence when necessary takes an extreme toll on one’s soul.”

A gallery of the event is online.

Protesters in the ‘Save the Children of Gaza’ rally in downtown Fort McMurray on November 12, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Nearly 1,000 people march in ‘Save the Children of Gaza’ rally

Close to 1,000 people marched in downtown Fort McMurray on Sunday in solidarity with the children of Gaza and to demand a ceasefire so humanitarian aid can reach its people.

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Sunday’s march was called “Save the Children of Gaza” and happened on the same day as dozens of other rallies across Canada that support Palestinians.

Since the Oct. 7 attacks against Israel, there have been weekly protests in Fort McMurray calling for a peaceful end to the crisis. Wood Buffalo RCMP says all protests in Fort McMurray have been peaceful and without major incidents.

“You can condemn the actions of Hamas on Oct. 7 and also condemn the actions of the Israeli government and military, which is resulting in the worst humanitarian crisis that we have seen in our lifetimes, killing thousands of innocent civilians almost half of which are children,” said Naseem Abdo, one of the organizers of Sunday’s march.

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“How can anyone justify cutting off food, water and electricity which is collective punishment and against international laws?”

Protesters in the ‘Save the Children of Gaza’ rally in downtown Fort McMurray on November 12, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

RMWB council to ask federal officials to call for ceasefire in Gaza

The mayor and council of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) will send a letter urging Canada to push Israel for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Councillor Shafiq Dogar, who proposed the motion at Tuesday’s council meeting, said this would allow Hamas to release hostages and let humanitarian aid reach people. The motion was approved unanimously by the rest of council. The letter will be drafted in the near future.

“There was this horrific attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 and the reaction to that is Israel started heavy bombardment of Gaza,” said Abdulsalam Abdo, a resident who spoke in support of the motion. “The people who are suffering are not Hamas fighters, the majority who are getting killed are civilians and the majority of the civilians are children.”

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There have been weekly protests in Fort McMurray calling for an end to the conflict. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been criticized at protests for Gaza for not calling for a ceasefire.

Swamp Rat Experience’s production of RENT at Keyano Theatre. Nick. Photo provided by Nick Vardy of Moccasin Media

Swamp Rat Experience hopes RENT will bring new people into local theatre

Fort McMurray-based theatre company Swamp Rat Experience is bringing the musical Rent to Keyano Theatre this weekend.

Rent is a musical that premiered in 1996 and is based in Manhattan’s East Village amidst the backdrop of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States.

Jenny Price, the music director for the production, says Rent was chosen not just because of its plot, but because of its representation of 2SLGBTQ+ relationships and the diversity of the characters. Organizers believe the production will be well received. They also hope the process behind Rent will help future productions reach new audiences and encourage new people to join theatre.

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“We were very successful in bringing in people who hadn’t really done a lot of theatre in the community before,” said Price. “Theatre, by presenting different perspectives on life through stories told by characters, is a really good way to help people challenge their own assumptions and biases.”

Footage of a suspect in an aggravated assault case in Fort McMurray from Oct. 7, 2023. Image supplied by Wood Buffalo RCMP

Police trying to find suspect in aggravated assault

Police are trying to identify a suspect in an aggravated assault on the evening of Oct.7.

Police say an unknown male driving a red Mustang, possibly with a beige soft roof, approached a second vehicle and opened the door to assault the victim. The suspect drove off towards Parsons Creek.

Wood Buffalo RCMP say the incident took place at the intersection of Paquette Drive and Rainbow Creek Drive at around 7:42 p.m. A photo of the suspect has been obtained, but their identity is still unknown to police.

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Morning ice crystals and the rising sun created a stunning sun dog for commuters to enjoy along the Bow River pathway in Calgary on Thursday, November 16, 2023. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia
  • What’s in a name?: A faction of the Alberta NDP says their association with Jagmeet Singh’s federal party is hurting their prospects. A group calling themselves Alberta’s Progressive Future says the Alberta NDP should consider ditching its name to distance itself from the federal NDP.
  • Swoop’s demise: Swoop, the Calgary-based ultra-low-cost airline owned by Westjet, closed after five years last month. High flying costs,  passenger complaints and a labour dispute rocked the airline. The Calgary Herald looks at how Swoop collapsed and the tough future of cheap airfare in Canada.
  • Pandemic report: Preston Manning’s report on Alberta’s COVID-19 response calls for strengthened individual rights, a skeptical view of mainstream science and giving all authority over health measures to elected politicians. Columnist Don Braid speaks with Manning and looks into the report.
  • Holocaust education: Alberta’s new social studies curriculum will make Holocaust education a mandatory component.  Alberta Education is currently in the process of working with education partners and Jewish organizations to explore how to develop the new social studies curriculum.
  • Grave news: A University of Lethbridge project is using drones to find unmarked and lost graves in rural southern Alberta communities. Many of these towns have lost cemetery records over the decades and accidentally digging up existing graves have happened. The team uses drones to find lost graves with geothermal cameras and landscape surveys.
  • 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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