Weekly update: Reactions to proposed transgender policies, a local sports legend is honoured

The news and events of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.

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Happy Friday, Fort McMurray!

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  • Keyano Huskies Volleyball: The Huskies have a matchup on the volleyball court against the SAIT Trojans and Olds College Broncos at the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre. First serve is 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $5 for everyone 18 to 65, and includes admission for both games. Free entry for Keyano students and anyone under 18 or over 65.
  • Fort McMurray Oil Barons: Upcoming home games at Centerfire Place: Spruce Grove Saints on Feb. 9 and 10, Whitecourt Wolverines on Feb. 23 and 24. Bonnyville Pontiacs on Feb. 27. All games start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets and schedule.
  • RMWB Neighbourhood Engagement: RMWB staff will be at Frank Lacroix Arena on Feb. 15 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. to talk about what’s important in the community, including annual policing priorities. Enjoy a free hot chocolate and community skate between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
  • CMHA Charity Jam and Silent Auction: One of the biggest gatherings of local musicians under the same roof Fort McMurray has ever seen. Feb. 16 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts. Tickets.
  • The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy: Feb. 16-17, 22-24 at Keyano Theatre. Tickets and schedule.
  • Scotch tasting: Hosted by McMurray Malt Maniacs at Bear & Buffalo on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. Tickets and information.
  • Diner en Rouge: Under the Aurora: A red dress-themed fundraiser for the United Way promising an evening of sophistication, style and regional culinary fare. The venue, kept under wraps until the last moment. Feb. 24 from 6 p.m. to Midnight. Tickets.
  • WinterPLAY: Fort McMurray’s annual winter festival returns with classics like Shootout on the Snye hockey tournament, wagon rides, dog sledding and fireworks. This year introduces sled demonstrations, human curling, foam ball sling shot, fat bike races and snow skate demonstrations. All events are free and from Feb. 23 to March 3 at Snye Point Park. Information on events, volunteers, vendors and registration.
  • Randy’s Cheeseburger Picnic: 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.
  • 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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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

Pride YMM condemns Alberta transgender policies, schools wait for direction

Premier Danielle Smith said at a Thursday news conference that she hoped proposed policies regarding transgender minors and athletes would “de-politicize the issue as much as possible.”

But Pride YMM, an advocacy for the region’s 2SLGBTQI+ community, says the policies are “harmful and transphobic.” They have promised to support any legal challenges against the policies.

Zulkifl Mujahid, an organizer of local protests against gender and sexual education in schools, says the policies are too soft. Public and Catholic school leaders are waiting for direction from the province.

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The proposals ban gender reassignment surgery on anyone under 17. So-called bottom surgeries, which involves altering genitals, is restricted to adults in Canada.

Pride YMM says announcing a ban on a procedure that is not done on minors is designed to “police and politicize” transgender and gender-diverse youth.

The minimum age for so-called top surgeries, or mastectomies, is 16. In 2022-23, eight top surgeries were done on minors in Alberta with gender dysphoria.

Smith said Alberta is recruiting medical professionals specializing in transgender surgeries and health.

Parents must opt-in whenever a teacher gives formal instruction on gender identity, sexual orientation or human sexuality. Parents must consent for schools to alter the name or pronouns of a child under 15. Only notification is needed for 16 or 17 year olds.

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The province will work with sports organizations because of what Smith called “unfair disadvantages” faced by young female athletes. This includes ensuring female athletes can compete in a biological-only division and expanding co-ed or gender-neutral divisions.

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Curtis Phillips watches the Keyano Huskies Women’s Basketball team defeat the NAIT Ooks 64-57 at the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre on Saturday, January 13, 2024. Image by Robert Murray for Keyano College

Fort McMurray sports historian Curtis Phillips joins ACAC Hall of Fame

Fort McMurray sports historian Curtis Phillips has been welcomed into the ACAC’s Hall of Fame. He’s happy the honour is joining one of countless other honours he’s collected through years of promoting sports in Fort McMurray. But his memories are far more valuable than any award, he said.

“It’s always strange to be recognized for something that is part of who you are,” said Phillips. “Sports has given me more than anything I could give to sports, and the ‘thank you’ is being able to watch the athletes these last 36 years with the ACAC.”

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His career in sports began in 1982 when he joined the Fort McMurray Today as a sports reporter. His father told him to “treat the athletes like they’re in the NBA or NHL or NFL.”

It was a mantra he continued as a freelance writer, working for the Fort McMurray CONNECT until it closed in 2016 and YMM Magazine. It’s also a philosophy he’s kept while providing coverage and commentary to the ACAC and at countless games, championships and tournaments over the decades.

“I always have respected the athletes and I write the the same type of story I would at an NBA game or a college or high school game,” said Phillips. “It’s just the joy of sports. You see everyone up there trying their best and that’s what’s enjoyable about it.”

Phillips is spending his free time writing a sports history of Fort McMurray. Phillips says the book is also needed because the transient nature of Fort McMurray means memories are short.

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“There’s 3,000 sports in the world and the world of sports is changing constantly and drastically,” he said.

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A woman serves Ethiopian food at the Multicultural Expo at MacDonald Island Park on February 3, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Multicultural expo shows off Fort McMurray’s diversity, helps newcomers connect

About 4,000 people passed through a fieldhouse at MacDonald Island Park last weekend as 41 different cultures and nations showed off their food, art, music and fashion at the annual Multicultural Expo.

Only a fraction of the community’s diversity was on display, said Dango Gogo, president of the Multicultural Association of Wood Buffalo.

Space limited how many cultural groups could have a presence at the expo and some people had to be turned down. Gogo wishes all of them could have had room at the expo, but she says it’s an example of Fort McMurray’s diversity.

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The expo also had people offering financial literacy skills, English lessons and help navigating the different services of the region.

“This is a way for them to meet people from their own cultures and the different cultures here, to feel included and welcome to our region, but than they also see services they need like free English classes,” said Gogo. “We help direct them to what they need to thrive.”

Recent census data from 2021 shows the wide diversity of the cultures, languages and faiths in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo.

A photo gallery and summaries of this census data is in the story.

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A fuel truck drives down the winter ice road from Fort McMurray to Fort Chipewyan in Northern Alberta on on February 4, 2015. Ryan Jackson/Postmedia Network Photo by Ryan Jackson /Edmonton Journal

Fort Chipewyan Winter Road opens to heavy cargo loads

The Fort Chipewyan Winter Road is open to traffic weighing up to 45,000 kgs. The winter road connecting Fort Chipewyan and Fort Smith, NWT. has also reopened.

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Warm weather forced the municipality to close the Fort Chipewyan Winter Road briefly on Jan. 30. Traffic reopened on Feb. 2 to vehicles weighing up to 5,000 kgs. The 45,000 kg load limit began Monday at 4 p.m. This is the heaviest limit for the municipality’s winter road and there will be no more increases.

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said in an interview in December that an unseasonably warm winter and a chaotic wildfire season last summer has made a permanent road to Fort Chipewyan even more important to the community.

Adam has met with the mayors of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) and Fort Smith, and says there is agreement that an all-weather road is needed. Fort Chipewyan’s evacuation during last summer’s wildfire season shows a permanent route is needed for emergencies, he said, as well as resupplying the community.

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Heavy hauler trucks unload into a crusher at the Fort Hills oilsands project on Monday, September 10, 2018. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

‘Not be tolerated’: Alberta files formal response to proposed oilsands emissions cap

Alberta says a proposed federal emissions cap that would impact the oilsands “is not realistic or effective, will not achieve its grandiose emissions targets and will not be tolerated in Alberta.”

The province’s statement was echoed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Business Council of Alberta.

“There are other existing and proposed policies that will more effectively contribute to Canada’s long-term emission reduction goals,” wrote the association.

The council said those goals are “best accomplished through a robust and transparent price on carbon.”

Alberta’s formal response to Ottawa’s proposal says the cap would undercut the work that the province has been successfully pursuing “for decades” to reduce emissions. The document repeats arguments that Ottawa’s plan violates the Constitution.

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A forecast by the Conference Board of Canada estimates nominal GDP would be reduced cumulatively between $600 billion and $1 trillion from 2030 to 2040. Alberta’s GDP would decline by 3.8 per cent in that period.

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault was to meet with Alberta Environment and Protected Areas Minister Rebecca Schulz Monday.

Guilbeault has said Ottawa would bring in a 100-megatonne cap on emissions from the oilsands, the source of nearly eight per cent of all Canadian emissions and one of the few sources that is still increasing. Guilbeault’s plan would allow some flexibility for individual companies through the purchase of credits.

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Footage of a man in Fort McMurray police allege committed identity fraud. Image supplied by Wood Buffalo RCMP

Police in Fort McMurray investigating alleged identity fraud

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Wood Buffalo RCMP says that on Jan. 1, someone in a different province reported they had been a victim of identity theft. An investigation found footage of a man visiting the Bell store at Peter Pond Mall on Dec. 30.

An iPhone 15 was purchased for $1,448 using the victim’s identity. Staff say the suspect showed what appeared to be valid identification before making the fraudulent purchase.

The suspect is described as:

  • Short grey and white hair, possibly balding
  • Grey and white facial hair
  • Wearing a dark coloured suit
  • Brown shoes
  • Blue and white shirt
  • Black framed glasses
  • Wearing a ring on his left pinky finger
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Crews clear snow from the sidewalk in front of the Italian Bakery, 4118 118 Ave., in Edmonton Thursday Feb. 8, 2024. Photo by David Bloom
  • AJHL moves on: AJHL commissioner Ryan Bartoshyk says the league is moving on after its five best teams defected to the BCHL. There are now 11 teams with the AJHL, including the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. Bartoshyk dismissed criticisms the AJHL is now a weaker product. Growing back into a 16-team loop is a consideration for the off-season and beyond, but the focus for now is on hockey.
  • Chestermere chaos: Fired Chestermere mayor Jeff Colvin and his fellow ousted councillors must wait for a court decision that could see them back in office after the province ousted them in December. Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver fired them after a province-ordered municipal inspection. The report found the city was managed in an irregular, improper and improvident manner, and the city failed to meet provincial directives stemming from that investigation.
  • NDP race: NDP MLAs Kathleen Ganley and Rakhi Pancholi announced their campaign for leadership of the Alberta NDP. Ganley was light on specific details and says a platform will be announced soon, but she would implement policies resonating in both urban and rural ridings. Pancholi would push to ditch the consumer carbon tax and argues Alberta’s current industrial carbon tax for large emitters, which the UCP has continued, is effective fighting climate change.
  • Guilty pleas: Two men charged with conspiring to murder Mounties during the Coutts border protest have pleaded guilty to lesser weapons charges and will be released from custody. Two other accused remain in custody and are scheduled to stand trial in June.
  • Stampede lawsuit: The Calgary Stampede will pay $9.5 million in damages to complainants in a class-action lawsuit alleging the organization allowed a performance school staffer to sexually abuse young boys. Philip Heerema, who was given a 10-year prison sentence in 2018,  admitted he used his position to lure and groom boys between 2005 and 2014, as well as in 1992. More complainants.
  • 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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