Weekly update: overdoses outpace 2022 deaths, East Clearwater is (kinda) back!

The news and events of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.

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Happy Friday, Fort McMurray!

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  • igNIGHT 2023: Explore igNIGHT, a free family-friendly public art exhibition at Kiyām Community Park. Enjoy captivating artwork by local and national artists, live performances, food and even a mini trainride. Opening ceremonies Friday at 6 p.m. and runs nightly from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Information is online.
  • Keyano Huskies volleyball: Friday and Saturday games against The King’s University at the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre. Men’s game at 8 p.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday, women’s game at 6 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday. $5 for everyone 18+, free for everyone younger.
  • Keyano Theatre presents Clue: Runs until Oct. 14. Tickets can be bought online.
  • After Hours with Dallas Smith: Featuring special guest JoJo Mason. Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. at the CNOOC Field House at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre. Tickets online.
  • Fort McMurray Oil Barons: Home games at Centerfire Place next week. Games against Brooks Bandits on Oct. 17, Calgary Canucks on Oct. 20 and 21. All games start at 7:30 p.m. Season schedule is online.
  • An Evening with Jillian Harris: Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at MacDonald Island Park, doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets online.
  • YMM Pumpkins & Planes Family Fun Event: Fort McMurray International Airport on Oct. 21 at noon. Tickets online.
  • Buffys 2023: Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards: Fort McMurray’s premier arts event is back! This year’s theme is Midnight at the Moulin Rouge. Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. at the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts. Tickets online.
  • Join a RMWB committee: The RMWB has 65 spots on 15 municipal boards and committees. Apply by Oct. 23. Information online.
  • Momentum 2023: Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development and Tourism hosts its annual conference on Oct. 26 at Shell Place. Keynote speaker Kendall Dilling, president of Pathways Alliance, and other provincial and local leaders will talk about innovation locally and in Alberta. Tickets are online.
  • Turn traffic boxes into art: Artists are paid $700 if their work is picked. RMWB accepting proposals until Oct. 27.
  • “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 Oct. 27 at the Kirschner Family Community Art Gallery.
  • 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.

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50 kg of methamphetamine seized on July 29, 2019 at the Coutts border crossing, photographed on Thursday, August 1, 2019. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Calgary

Fatal drug poisonings in Fort McMurray on track to exceed 2022 deaths

Drug poisonings killed 18 people in Fort McMurray between January and July, according to data from Alberta Health. Most deaths included opioids, as well as methamphetamine, cocaine and alcohol.

The same time period last year reported 12 deaths and 19 deaths were reported for all of 2022.

EMS in Fort McMurray have responded to 60 calls related to overdoses. They were called to 100 incidents last year.

Alberta reported 1,169 deaths from drug poisonings between January and July of 2023. Drug poisoning across Alberta killed 168 people in July.

With 194 deaths reported, April 2023 is the deadliest month for drug poisonings since the province began recording fatalities in 2016.

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Council has passed two motions to fight poverty in the community. One speaker warned council that the drug and alcohol abuse is worsening among Fort McMurray’s homeless population.

Protesters supporting Palestine rally on Franklin Avenue in downtown Fort McMurray on October 10, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Pro-Palestinian rally held in downtown Fort McMurray

Dozens of people rallied in downtown Fort McMurray to support Palestinians and the people of Gaza as the conflict in Gaza and Israel worsens.

For two hours on Tuesday afternoon, people waved Palestinian flags and held signs in support of Gaza outside the Jubilee Centre and along Franklin Avenue. They chanted “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “free Palestine.” Some drivers honked their horns in support.

There were no fights, shouting matches or confrontations seen at pro-Israel and pro-Palestine rallies in other cities.

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Protesters who were interviewed were split on the chances for peace in the region. They did not condone the violence on either side, although some said they did not believe civilians were intentionally attacked. They also argued Israel’s policies towards Palestinians provoked Hamas.

Workers from social profits and the municipality clear a homeless encampment on Manning Avenue on August 9, 2023. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Council passes motions fighting poverty in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo

Council was told at their Tuesday meeting that 1-in-11 people in the region experience poverty, including an estimated average of at least three children per classroom.

Fighting homelessness and poverty was a top issue for council at their Tuesday meeting as councillors unanimously approved two motions to fight the issues.

Council has ordered administration to work with the Poverty Reduction Network on an anti-poverty plan. The Homelessness Initiatives Strategic Committee (HISC) will now be a council-appointed committee.

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Since 2000, HISC was a community advisory board. This change brings stability to HISC, aligns it with the priorities of the municipality and offers more government resources.

A 2016 proposed route for the East Clearwater that would run parallel to Highway 63, connect to Highway 881 north and Parsons Creek Interchange. Cullen Bird/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Council keeps $5 million allocated for East Clearwater Highway

Reports of the East Clearwater Highway’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, at least in the eyes of most municipal councillors who originally voted to kill the project.

Council voted at their Tuesday meeting to reverse a July motion that killed the proposed East Clearwater Highway project. The municipality will keep $5 million set aside for pre-design costs of the project.

Councillor Keith McGrath, who proposed taking a second look at the July motion, argued council made a mistake last summer. He argued the project would make it easier to reach oilsands operations and would encourage transient workers to live in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.

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RMWB lawyer told council Premier Danielle Smith has shown no interest in pursuing the project. The province signed an agreement in April to connect Fort McMurray and Peerless Lake with a 218 kilometre, two-lane gravel highway.

Councillor Allan Grandison argued the project has no commitments from partners at the province, federal government and oilsands industry.

The Northern Lights Regional Health Centre in Fort McMurray, Alta. on October 14, 2020. Sarah Williscraft/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Woman missing from hospital found by police, is safe

A Fort McMurray woman has been found safe after she went missing from the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre on Sept. 27.

The woman is the third person this week to be reported missing after they were last seen at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre. Two other women who went missing last month were located by police. They are safe.

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Alberta Health Services says patients can leave hospitals unless they are certified under the Mental Health Act.

When a patient leaves a hospital before they are properly discharged, staff page the individual to return and begin a search of the building and premises. When it becomes clear they have left the hospital, emergency contacts are reached, and all staff and police are contacted.

Alberta Roundup

Cyclists on Edmonton’s High Level Bridge as it’s lit blue and white in support of Israel on Tuesday Oct. 10, 2023. Photo by David Bloom/Postmedia Network
  • Pay up: Lobbying the province and federal government for infrastructure funding is nothing new to Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo. Now mayors in southern Alberta say the Alberta government should increase funding for roads, recreational centres and other infrastructure projects.
  • Teaching moment: Quebec is frequently cited as an example for when considering a potential Alberta Pension Plan (APP). Less remembered are efforts by Ontario and Saskatchewan to establish more modest pension schemes to supplement the CPP.  Here’s what Alberta can learn from other provinces’ efforts at creating pension plans.
  • Sexual assault charges: Lethbridge police have charged four members of a high school football team in connection with the sexual assault of a 16-year-old male. The four teenagers are also charged with sexual assault with a weapon, assault with a weapon and unlawful confinement.
  • Panhandling bylaw: Council in Strathcona County voted explore more compassionate approaches to panhandlingafter debating banning the practice. Both Edmonton and Calgary have some of the harshest punishments in the country, serving up to $10,000 in fines for panhandling.
  • Medicine Hat debt eases:  Debt for the City of Medicine Hat dropped slightly, but its size in relation to a provincially mandated cap has shrunk dramatically. The revenue is the result of how the limit is calculated and booming revenue in the city’s power company. The RMWB has no debt.
  • Provincial police problems: The RCMP says Alberta’s proposed model for a provincial force is rife with problems. The report argues the model oversimplifies policing, requires a hiring blitz and fails to consider relationships with Indigenous communities. Justice Minister Mickey Amery says the idea is still being considered, but Premier Danielle Smith hasn’t mentioned the idea in any mandate letters.
  • 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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