More than one hundred people came together to pray for the safe return of a missing New Westminster mother in a special gathering in Stanley Park Monday night.
Thirty-two-year-old Florence Leung went missing on Tuesday, Oct.25. She was last seen leaving her home in New Westminster, alone in her white Audi Q5. Her car was found abandoned in Stanley Park the next day. North Shore Rescue searched for Leung in Stanley Park until Thursday afternoon before police suspended the search after finding no signs of her.
On Oct. 30, police released surveillance footage of Leung in a West End convenience store the night of her disappearance.
The footage, recovered from the City Park Express store on the 700-block of Denman Street, shows Leung purchasing Gatorade and a banana with cash on Tuesday, Oct. 25 at around 6:15 p.m.
WATCH: The family of a missing New Westminster mother is appealing to the public after new surveillance video surfaced showing Florence Leung hours after she disappeared last Tuesday
New Westminster Police say they don’t suspect any foul play.
However, investigators looking into Leung’s disappearance say she may be experiencing postpartum depression and they are concerned for her well-being.
Postpartum depression is a condition that may start during pregnancy or at any time up to a year after the birth of a child.
It is estimated anywhere from six to 13 per cent of moms in Canada experience the condition.
WATCH: Understanding postpartum depression
Leung is described as Chinese, approximately 5’6” tall, with a slim build, long black hair and black eyes. Officers are actively investigating locations where Leung may be and are following up on all possible leads.
Rally organizers say dozens of family, friends and complete strangers have come together to canvass for Leung over the past two weeks.
Leung’s husband, Kim Chen, spoke at the rally and thanked the community for its support, adding the past two weeks have been the hardest time of his life.
“I miss Florence terribly,” said Chen. “We want to let Florence know that so many people care for her, love her and want her to be safe and well.”
Kimi Nomura Schwab, one of the rally organizers with Vancity Mom Squad, says she didn’t know Florence or her family, but being a mom to an 11-month-old boy, she wanted to help out any way she could.
“I am just out there to help support the family. It completely hits home,” said Nomura Schwab.
She says the Vancity Mom Squad held a postpartum depression awareness event in July.
“That was right around the time when Florence had her baby,” said Nomura Schwab. “If we only had been able to reach out to her, have her there and listen to other moms share their stories and say it will get better, we feel this would have been a different outcome.
A list of candidates for the upcoming Blood Tribe Chief and Council election was released over the weekend.
Five people are running for chief:
Roy FoxJordan Mathew HeadWallace Mountain HorseChristopher ShadeShannon Anndrea Wells
Current Chief Charles Weaselhead isn’t seeking re-election after being elected to three terms in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
Election day is Nov. 22, with an advance poll in Calgary on Nov. 15.
READ MORE: Chief and council election coming soon for Blood First Nation
There are 115 candidates for the 12 councillor spots.
Cory Francis BeebeFloyd Peter Big HeadStanley Big Sorrel HorseLeslie Bruce Big SwallowDarryl Thomas Black PlumeFrankie Black PlumeJoshua Wayne Black PlumeAlbert Black WaterAloyuisius Black WaterKyle Lonnie BlackwaterArnold BottleRoseanna Marie BottleRaymond Henry BrewerDexter Daniel Bruised HeadMicheal Dean Bruised HeadMyles Michael Bruised HeadNina Mary BuckskinAndrew Bull CalfRita CalfGloria Loraine Chief MoonSean Jason Chief MoonVernon Joseph Jr. Chief MoonOscar Nelson CottonRoland CottonMary Adelaide CreightonShirley Crop Eared WolfCalvin Floyd Cross ChildJustin James Cross ChildKyla Deann Crow Spreads His WingsSteven Gabrielle Crying HeadJoshua Edward Curly RiderMarion Sharon Curly RiderRobert Rex DavisAndrew Kelvin Day ChiefBarney Larry Day ChiefBella Day ChiefCaroline Day ChiefDarryl Grant Day ChiefGuy Joel Day ChiefMike Day ChiefSheldon Day ChiefMickey Anthony Jr. Day RiderBeth Ann Beatrice DaychiefLevena DevineMyron Eagle SpeakerDorothy Theresa First RiderRod Edward First RiderAlex FoxDerrick George FoxEugene Carlo FoxKendrick Anthony Woodrow FoxLambert FoxHarly Gregory FrankMichael Sean FrankJeffrey Ross GladstoneAlex Harvey Andrew Good StrikerSally Ann Good StrikerGeoffrey HealyIvan Murray HealyLeslie Leonard HealyRobert Frank HealyMartin Heavy HeadShawn Kelly Heavy RunnerVanessa Jewel Heavy RunnerTerry Edward IvinsJoanne LemieuxEdward Shane Little BearLeanne Robin Little BearNolan Ryan Little BearThomas Little BearJohn Robert MansonEdmond Many BearsRicky Louis Many FingersAnthony Many FingersCalvert Many FingersKirby Dean Many FingersWallace Many FingersWilliam Scott Many FingersDalbert Charles MillsDaniel Craig Mistaken ChiefDuane Phillip Mistaken ChiefDominc Alvin No RunnerSylvia Old ShoesRoger Prairie ChickenJacqueline Red CrowWilliam Camille RussellJames Henry RussellIrwin Brent ScoutSheryl Natalie ScoutHenry ShadeJustin ShadeMarie ShadeArnold ShoutingLeon Anthony SoupRoy SugaiAdeline SweetgrassBlaine Ira Tail FeathersKelly Tail FeathersLance Allen Tail FeathersTimothy Allen TailfeathersJeffrey TallowNeal Anthony Thunder ChiefRonnie Vern Thunder ChiefWilliam Lucius WadsworthWilliam Fredrick Weasel FatCharlotte Tracy Weasel MoccasinMarcel Patrick WeaselheadMelvin WellsRobert WellsMichelle Rea White Man LeftFranklyn White QuillsTeresa Mae White Quills- KnifeCalvin WilliamsAllen Wolf TailRandolph Young Pine
UPDATE (Nov.7, 2016): Christopher Malloy was handed a prison sentence of two years less a day in court Monday morning for causing a crash that left a Surrey dad paralyzed in 2015. He will also face a three-year driving ban after he completes his prison sentence. More to come.
Sentencing decision has been adjourned on Wednesday for the impaired driver who left a Surrey hockey dad paralyzed following a serious collision.
Gurb Aujla was driving his 10-year-old son home from a hockey practice in January 2015 when another vehicle, driven by a drunk driver, slammed into his car from behind while fleeing from another accident.
The impact of the collision spun Aujla’s car into oncoming traffic, where it was struck on the passenger side by another vehicle.
Aujla was left paralyzed from the chest down and was told he will never walk again. His son escaped with minor physical injuries.
The driver involved, Christopher Malloy, pleaded guilty to three counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm and one count of failing to remain at the accident scene.
At a sentencing hearing earlier this month, the court heard Malloy’s blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was more than three times the legal limit.
Court also heard Malloy has struggled with alcohol addiction since he was 17 years old. He’s now 52. Malloy’s lawyer said he has sought counselling since the crash and has not gotten behind the wheel of a vehicle. He’s also been sober for the past 18 months — the longest stretch of sobriety to date.
Crown is asking for 12 to 18 months in prison on the bodily harm convictions and 60 days for failure to remain at the scene, as well as a three-year driving ban.
Today, the judge made the decision to adjourn the case because he was concerned the sentencing range recommendation was not appropriate.
But Amy Aujla, Gurb’s wife, wants to see a tougher sentence.
“I am very disappointed that they’re asking for a lower sentence,” Amy said.
Through tears, members of the Aujla family read victim impact statements in court. Amy described how their four children have struggled to cope with the diagnosis. While their son suffered only minor physical injuries in the crash, Amy said his spirit was crushed, describing him as withdrawn.
Their youngest child — the Aujla’s only daughter — has struggled the most.
In his own statement, Gurb said he’s been given a life sentence.
“Because he chose to drive like a speeding bullet, I’ve lost three-quarters of my life.”
A long history of offences
Malloy’s driving record shows convictions for careless driving and speeding in the past, as well as six prior 24-hour driving prohibitions, three of which involved alcohol.
As far as MADD Metro Vancouver’s Bob Rorison is concerned, Malloy’s licence should have been revoked years ago.
“He just simply didn’t care and what he did that night, he’s done it repeatedly,” Rorison said. “He was heading down the highway at 150 kilometres an hour – 100 miles an hour – and it was only a matter of time, you could see.”
Crown said his driving record is a key aggravating factor in the case.
Defence agreed with Crown’s sentencing submission, but is asking for a sentence on the lower end of the spectrum.
Speaking in court, Malloy apologized for what happened.
“I can never say or do anything to repair what I’ve done,” he said. “This has been most difficult for not just me but for everyone involved.”
~With files from Nadia Stewart
OTTAWA – A bid to stop the federal government from revoking Canadians’ citizenship without a hearing has failed.
Federal Court Justice Russell Zinn has dismissed a case brought by the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
READ MORE: Senate looking to change controversial citizenship law
The two advocacy groups had sought a stay of a section of the Citizenship Act which allows the government to revoke the citizenship of anyone deemed to have misrepresented themselves – a provision which they argued could potentially ensnare Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef.
Monsef last month discovered that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan as she’d always believed.
The law is being challenged as unconstitutional but until that case is settled, the Federal Court has since January been systematically granting stays to individuals who apply for them.
The advocacy groups had argued that not everyone is aware or can afford a lawyer to seek a court-ordered stay of proceedings; they asked Zinn to impose a blanket stay for everyone who receives a notice of citizenship revocation.
READ MORE: Maryam Monsef could be stripped of citizenship due to Iran revelation
But Zinn ruled Monday that a blanket stay can only be ordered if the harm caused by the law is unavoidable.
In this case, he said it is avoidable because any individual can apply to the court for a stay.
“The failure of a person, for whatever reason, to take advantage of the de facto stay available, does not change the fact that it is available to them and that it will avoid the harm,” he wrote.
The advocacy groups said they are disappointed with the ruling.
WATCH: Afghan cabinet minister Maryam Monsef’s refugee story changes
“We brought this application to prevent people from falling through the cracks and finding themselves stripped of their citizenship without due process. We’re disappointed the court did not see the urgency of the situation,” Lorne Waldman, who represents the refugee lawyers, said in a statement.
“However, we will continue to fight for fairness in revocation proceedings and we’ll be back in court again next week to argue that the process is unconstitutional.”
The Liberals had denounced the law when they were in opposition and, since forming government, have promised to change it to provide for a proper hearing and appeal process for those believed to have misrepresented themselves to gain citizenship.
However, the government has so far refused to stop enforcing the law in the meantime.
The father of a man shot and killed by Winnipeg police told an inquest examining the death that he still carries memories of police lights and the body of his son outside their home.
“I kept saying, ‘Is he all right? Is he breathing?’” Brian McDougall testified Monday from a wheelchair.
McDougall told the court he remembers someone waking him up in the early morning hours of August 2nd, 2008, saying they heard a shot.
But he didn’t remember much else until he was outside looking at the body of his son, Craig McDougall.
“From then on, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he said.
READ MORE: Inquest into Winnipeg Police shooting begins
McDougall said he ran toward his son but was tackled by a police officer, who put his knee on the back of his neck. He ended up in a cruiser and was taken to police headquarters. It was only much later that he learned his son was dead.
But much of what happened before and after the incident was beyond recall eight years later. There were long pauses after questions from family lawyer Corey Shefman, which often had to be repeated to elicit any response at all.
“It’s very confusing when you try and remember everything all at once.”
Later, when Crown attorney David Gray suggested it was his voice on the first 911 call that brought police to the house where the shooting occurred, McDougall denied it.
“I don’t think so,” he said after listening to the call where a voice like his said Craig McDougall and another man were trying to break into the house after being kicked out.
McDougall’s testimony was interrupted when he became ill in the early afternoon and was taken away by family members. It was unclear when he might return.
Craig McDougall, who was 26, was shot outside his home after police responded to a report of an altercation. Police said McDougall had a knife in his hand and refused repeated orders to drop it.
McDougall’s relatives have said he was only carrying a cellphone and was talking with his girlfriend, who heard four shots fired; three of them striking McDougall, who was also shot with a stun gun. Police later said they recovered a knife at the scene, but did not provide any further details as an investigation was launched.
Brian McDougall had arrived back in Winnipeg the evening of Aug. 1, 2008, from a visit to the Wasagamack First Nation, about 600 kilometres north.
He said he went to his house briefly, then went to a restaurant where he said he had a few beers and stayed until closing time.
McDougall went home and eventually went to bed, after asking others in the house to be quiet. He said he didn’t remember asking anyone to leave and was awoken by others who heard the shots.
This inquest, unlike some others in Manitoba, has been given a broader mandate to look at whether systemic racism played a role in the indigenous man’s death.
At the time, the shooting was criticized by Manitoba indigenous leaders.
One said police appeared to be on ‘killing sprees’ in the wake of two other deaths of young indigenous men: Matthew Dumas in 2005 and Michael Langan in 2008. Dumas was shot by police after he refused to drop a screwdriver. Langan died after being shocked with a police stun gun after he refused orders to drop a knife.
Inquests into both cases found police acted appropriately.
The inquest into McDougall’s death was called in 2013 and was delayed this summer just as it was about to get underway. At the time, it was said the delay was the result of a witness who had changed their statement from the time of the shooting.
The inquest is scheduled to continue all month and closing arguments are to take place in mid-December.
The Canadian rodeo scene and the glitz of Hollywood seem to be two contrasting worlds, but those are worlds that Katie Garthwaite has managed to merge.
The Merritt, B.C. resident has been participating in rodeo activities ever since she was a young child, helping her parents out with the animals on their ranch. But now Garthwaite also works as a stunt woman on the set of major films like The Revenant.
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Her husband, Mike Garthwaite, worked on movie sets before she did and discovered her ability to do complex stunts through him.
“He was working on the movie called Warcraft and texted me and asked me if I could fall off my horse.
“At the time he was making quite a bit of money so I thought, ‘for sure I can fall off my horse and get paid too.’ So I went down to the coast and I worked for four days and it ended up being not a free-fall off the horse, but it was when they hooked me up with a cable and yanked me off my horse,” she said.
READ MORE: Alberta animal trainer on challenges of ‘The Revenant’ movie
Her ability to manoeuvre the complex move paved the way to her undertaking other, tougher stunts.
“I actually have been yanked off my horse. I’ve been ratcheted off, that hurt actually. I did that on Warcraft,” she said.
“I’ve done a couple of tackles and dives off the horses. The other day I got stabbed in the belly and fell off my horse… A lot of the times I do a lot of fast running on the horse.”
But despite her talent as a stunt woman, barrel racing has been her main focus. She’s participated in the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) for the last three years. She was the 2013 finalist for the CFR in barrel racing and is also a two-time Columbia River Circuit Champion, among others.
“This is my third year here, this year, and I feel more at ease because I know what’s happening, and that kind of stuff. I’m excited for sure.”
Her 10-year-old daughter, Gracie, is just as passionate about riding and she is, and is learning how to ride just like Garthwaite did – from her own mother, something that she is grateful for.
“Me and Mike, we always talk about our lives and the things that we get to do. I’m so fortunate and I’m so blessed in everything and to be able to ride my horses and enjoy what I do… We live in an extraordinary kind of life.”
The CFR begins on Wednesday, Nov. 9 and runs until Sunday Nov. 13 at Northlands in Edmonton.
After another horrific crash, the mayor of Leduc County is calling on the province to prioritize upgrades at a notorious intersection.
“Based on what’s happened… last night, this has to get pushed ahead of the queue,” John Whaley said. “There’s no two ways about it.”
Whaley said the intersection of Highway 39 and Highway 60 has been a problem for years. He said he’s been urging the province to make changes in the 10 years he’s been mayor.
“Two people got killed there last night and it’s just the latest severe accident that’s happened in that intersection. This is our scariest intersection in Leduc County at this moment in time and it is time something got done to it.”
READ MORE: 2 people killed in highway crash south of Edmonton
“We have a lot of stats,” Whaley said. “We have pages and pages of stats on this intersection and so does the RCMP… It’s nothing new, everyone knows about it. It just has to get booted to the front of the queue.
“A lot more people are going to die there. I don’t want that on my conscience or anybody else’s. We’ve got to do this now.”
The intersection is currently controlled by stop signs for traffic on Highway 60. Whaley said there are plans to replace the intersection with a roundabout, but no date for construction has been set.
Alberta Transportation said it hopes to have the roundabout built at the location by the end of 2017.
“Roundabouts are the safest way to convey a large amount of traffic with the least amount of traffic delays for users,” Jamie Friesen, a spokesman for the ministry, said.
“A roundabout reduces right angle, so-called T-bone collisions, it also reduces high-speed collisions and head-on collisions.”
Friesen said the province is already in the process of relocating utilities and plans to issue a tender next spring.
“I’ve received a lot of texts, a lot of emails from residents and people that live in this county and… who travel that road on a constant basis,” Whaley said. “They’re all saying the same thing: do something about this.”
Three days after asking anyone who witnessed or took video of an officer-involved shooting in the community of Dover to come forward, the Alberta Serious Response Team (ASIRT) says it’s expanding its investigation.
ASIRT said Monday it has started a separate probe into the actions of two other Calgary police officers involved in the incident, in addition to the officer who shot the suspect.
ASIRT investigates officer-involved shooting in southeast Calgary
READ MORE: Alberta police watchdog seeks witnesses to latest officer-involved shooting in Calgary
ASIRT said they became aware of an “additional use of force incident involving CPS officers” while investigating the officer-involved shooting on Nov. 3.
“ASIRT is investigating the circumstances surrounding the force used on the 20-year-old man who was driving the stolen Honda Civic after he was removed from the vehicle while being taken into custody,” reads the latest statement from ASIRT.
“It is not believed that the use of force caused any additional injury to the man who remains in hospital as a result of gunshot wounds received from the officer-involved shooting.”
Watch below from Nov. 4: As Gary Bobrovitz reports, the police watchdog ASIRT is asking for witnesses.
Police arrived in the area of 30 Avenue and 36 Street N.E. at around 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 for reports of a stolen vehicle driven by a man.
While officers on scene waited for a HAWCS chopper to arrive, police said the stolen Honda Civic drove into an alley in the 3800 block of 30 Avenue S.E.
Watch below from Nov. 3: Calgary Police Chief Constable Roger Chain briefs media on an office- involved shooting in Dover
The police watchdog said when officers pulled up beside the Civic in a police car, it “reversed and struck the left front side of the police cruiser.” One officer went to the Civic’s driver’s side window to talk to the man and reached into the car to try to put it in park, ASIRT said Friday.
The statement said an unspecified “altercation” then occurred, during which the man put the Civic in motion while the police officer’s upper body was still inside the car. The officer was ultimately “dislodged,” ASIRT said.
READ MORE: Calgary police officer fires at truck stopped west of city
ASIRT said Friday while the altercation unfolded, a second officer went to the passenger side of the Civic as it moved and fired his gun. The bullet hit the driver, who lost control of the car and crashed into a garbage bin. The suspect was taken into custody when more officers arrived on scene.
The suspect suffered “serious” injuries, according to the investigative body. One officer was treated for minor injuries but has since been released from hospital.
Investigators previously asked anyone who witnessed the incident and/or took video to contact ASIRT at 403-592-4306.
ASIRT investigates Calgary police shooting in Dover
Hundreds of frustrated southern Albertans gathered at Galt Gardens in Lethbridge this weekend to protest the NDP’s new carbon tax.
“Your presence here proves that the often used quote, ‘most Albertans support the climate leadership plan,’ is ill-conceived at best and arrogant at worst,” rally organizer Davey Wiggers said to the crowd Saturday.
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“I came to the rally out of total frustration with the NDP policies,” protester Jill Skriver said. “From the very start, they have brought in bill after bill and they have shoved it down our throat and they do not care that the majority of Albertans are against it.”
READ MORE: Protesters call for referendum on Alberta NDP carbon tax
On Jan. 1, a carbon levy will be imposed on all greenhouse gas emissions and will increase the price of gasoline, natural gas and propane.
“If we have a particularly bad winter, it could mean the difference between choosing whether you pay for your groceries or whether you pay for your home heating bill,” Wiggers said.
Many protesters at the event questioned the timing of Bill 20.
“To tax it [carbon] is a draconian measure, especially when we’re suffering,” Paul Hinman, former Wildrose party leader, said. “This is equivalent to a cripple saying we need to put 10 pounds on your back – it is just wrong, she needs to postpone this tax.”
The rally organizer said he isn’t opposed to reducing emissions but more public consultation is needed.
“We’re not against renewable energy but we need to transition responsibly, smartly, slowly, carefully,” Wiggers said.
Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said the bill was developed through consultation with energy officials, local communities and environmental groups. The goal of the bill is to curb greenhouse gas emissions and reduce Alberta’s carbon footprint.
READ MORE: Alberta fall legislature sitting to focus on climate change plan
A province-wide petition is calling for the bill to be put to the people in the form of a referendum.
“I’ve been beside Rachel (Notley) in the house many times and she brought petitions about concerned Albertans on what needed to be changed and spoke very adamantly that we need to be listening to these petitions,” Hinman said. “Well I hope Rachel that you’re paying attention premier.”
The chief of Saskatchewan’s Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) said he supports bands that want to exile criminals.
Bobby Cameron, who represents 74 of the province’s First Nations, said he backs banishment if it means getting rid of drug dealers or protecting young people from drugs and alcohol.
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“We’re talking about some communities here that have drug dealers that are selling to 10-year-old kids. What would you guys do? Honestly. You got a 10-year-old kid that’s doing crystal meth. The next day, they kill themselves. Are you going to let it continue or are you going to banish these drug dealers?” Cameron said Monday at the provincial legislature.
“Something has to be done.”
READ MORE: Police charge 55 in massive drug ring targeting Ontario First Nations communities
Cameron said the RCMP has a big role to play, too, working with chiefs, band councils and First Nations people who know who the drug dealers are in their communities.
“It’s about improving and combating these problems before they escalate to the point where there’s full-blown usage of drugs and then suicide happens.”
Cameron spoke after reports that Chief Richard Ben and the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation banished six non-band members and gave warnings to more than a dozen members because of a crystal meth problem.
Muskoday First Nation, Mistawasis First Nation and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band have also banished people to help control crime.
Muskoday Chief Austin Bear said his community held a referendum at the end of October and just over 80 per cent of about 180 people who voted supported a banishment law.
“I see that as our membership supporting their leadership, but more importantly … (they) are concerned about issues in our community with respect to the illicit and illegal trafficking of drugs and how that is impacting on our families, our children and our community,” Bear said.
Five non-members suspected of dealing such drugs were kicked out, he said.
The law could also apply to someone convicted of murder or a known pedophile, he suggested.
“We’re not out on a witch hunt here; however, when the situation arises, we have ways and means of challenging our members who choose to be drug pushers,” Bear said.
“The outcome for these people may be exclusion or banishment, but it’s not an automatic banishment. Every situation has to be considered … on its own.
“But it’s not by any means an intention to have a blanket banishment or exclusion. There’s much more to it than that.”
Other First Nations communities outside of Saskatchewan have also tried banishment.
In 2012, the crime-troubled Samson Cree band in Maskwacis, Alta. – then known as Hobbema – voted to give community leaders the power to evict suspected gang members.
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada said in 2009 that Manitoba’s Norway House First Nation didn’t have the power to enforce a bylaw banishing troublemakers. A government spokeswoman said at the time that the bylaw submitted to the department attempted to regulate activities that were outside the bylaw-making powers of the Indian Act.
Bear said the law on Muskoday is stronger than a bylaw and falls under the First Nations Land Management Act.
OTTAWA – Two months into her second maternity leave, Karine Beauchamp would love to spend extra time at home with her son Maxime – but she can’t afford to.
Among her friends, the new mothers with financially well-to-do partners support the Liberal government’s proposal to extend maternity leave to 18 months from its current 12 months, allowing new parents to work periodically during that longer time frame – but without any increase in benefits.
Then there is a handful of new mothers who are breadwinners in the house and need to get back to work.
“We are already tight on mat leave. I can’t imagine getting less and getting less for another half a year,” Beauchamp said.
“We would all take more time with our children … but it’s the financial aspect. It’s the No. 1 complaint I hear.”
It is one of several complaints the government has heard over the last month of consultations on the plan, with the Liberals under pressure from employers and labour groups to scrap the proposal amid concerns from both sides that it wouldn’t help many parents and would be problematic for small businesses.
READ MORE: Grieving parents urge Ottawa not to stop parental benefits after sudden infant death
Instead, 25 groups – child care, poverty advocates and labour organizations – in an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ask the Liberals to increase benefit payments to new parents over 12 months, add eight weeks of dedicated time off for non-birthing parents regardless of gender and lower the benchmark for new mothers to qualify for maternity leave to either $2,000 of earnings, or 300 hours of work to receive benefits, instead of the current 600-hour requirement.
Employers and labour groups worry the proposal as-is leaves out single and low-income parents the government says it wants to help.
“Moms work 20, 30, 40 years. There’s no reason why they can’t extend that (benefit) amount over six more months to give us better time with our kids to ease the burden of finding child care. It would make more sense,” Beauchamp said.
Morna Ballantyne, executive director of the Child Care Advocacy Association, said the proposal seems to want to address concerns about a lack of child-care spaces for children under 18 months, but falls short of the need to create more affordable spaces nationwide.
Employers and labour groups are also concerned the proposal to let new parents work periodically during the 18 months would put undo strain on small businesses to back fill a position.
“What we’ve always asked is that government gives some thought as to how these things are going to affect employers and to date I don’t think there has even been a notion of that factored in,” said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
READ MORE: Mothers denied benefits while on maternity leave say Liberals dragging heels on $450M lawsuit
Kelly said the proposal doesn’t help new parents, nor their employers.
Any increase in benefits would require an increase in employment insurance premiums, said Angella MacEwen, an economist with the Canadian Labour Congress. The Liberals first budget forecast a drop in premiums, but that didn’t take into account new benefit spending like extended parental leave or compassionate care benefits, she said.
“There is probably going to be some resistance there because premiums will have to go up to pay for any expansion even though they have gone down,” MacEwen said.
“That’s one of our concerns in that there was no room left in the EI budget.”
The Lions Festival of Lights is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The Calgary winter favourite is located at the Confederation Park Golf Course and consists of over 300,000 lights and three kilometres of power cords.
The Festival of Lights is the largest free drive-by Christmas lights showcase in Calgary and requires hundreds of volunteers to make it happen.
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“At 91 you mostly just stick to doing lunch,” chuckled Otto Strand, who was busy on Sunday feeding the dozens of volunteers setting up lights. “But I do come and check light bulbs. They all have to be checked. Every year they have to be checked and if there’s any burnt bulbs they have to be replaced.”
Strand was recently honoured with a nomination for the Lions Hall of Fame in Alberta.
The Calgary Lions Club took over the light display at Confederation Park three decades ago, according to the Lions member who got the ball rolling.
“The lights used to be here and then they were gone for a number of years. So for the Olympics, I wanted to get them reinstated and so I did a lot of letter-writing and canvassing of the Olympic sponsors and they didn’t come through with any money,” said Otto Silzer, chair of the Lions Festival of Lights. “I eventually contacted Sunshine Village and they said yes. The Scurfield family just lives up here in Foothills Estates. They were quite familiar with the old lights that were here before and so we just continued on from there.”
The light display relies on sponsors, funds raised by casinos and electricity supplied by Enmax.
The display has doubled in size since the Lions started. Enmax volunteers with trucks now help to reach the huge scaffolding, which is a big change from the earlier days.
“We are far more safety conscious now than we were 30 years ago,” Silzer said. “On Saturday, Enmax was out here with 14 bucket trucks. We used to do the same amount of work, but we used to do it with scissor lifts and it used to take us weeks to do what they could accomplish in about four hours. And they did it much more safely than we did it.
“We once had a van and a half-ton van with a little bucket on the top of it and we were using that and one of the fellows knocked the whole truck and everything over on its side,” laughed Norman Weismose, a long-time volunteer.
“But we’re not allowed to do that anymore.”
The Festival is now nearly 100 per cent green, powered by LED light bulbs. But with the growth in the display, comes the need for a lot more volunteers.
“We’re always looking for more. We can use people of any age,” Silzer said.
“We had a person out here who is totally blind helping us with the Christmas lights. We can find something for everyone to do. Even if they can’t stand very long, we can find something where they can sit so it’s really quite amazing.”
Judy Vaillancourt was walking through Confederation Park on Sunday morning when she saw the Lions members hauling out the displays.
“Every year it gets a little bigger and it gets a little bit better,” she said. “I love the fact that people will do this just on a volunteer basis and so many people drive by and it makes their Christmas a little bit better.”
She was so impressed by the work the Lions have been doing, she decided to take a detour from her walk and volunteer with the group.
“When people that are over 90 will help do this display, you know that it’s a good thing for the city and you know how much it means to everybody.”
It’s been a lot of work for the Lions members who have done this for 30 years. Many recall setting up lights on -30 degree C days and sorting through hundreds of boxes of lights and stacks of displays. But they keeping doing it because of the happiness it brings to people in Calgary.
“It’s great for the community; it’s great for the city. There’s so many children and families that walk through here every day. It’s unbelievable,” said Strand, who at 91 years old, says he has no plans to retire from his volunteer work.
The big reward for everyone involved comes when the lights finally go on after months of hard work.
“Satisfaction,” Silzer said. “It’s just so pleasing to have that happen. And everybody’s here and enjoying themselves and I know that it’s bringing hope and comfort to a lot of people because they really need that.”
The light display begins on Nov. 26 and runs nightly until Jan. 8. This year, the Lions are adding an ambitious new 14-metre tall display for Canada’s 150th birthday.
For information on how you can get involved, you can check out the Festival of Lights website here.
Lethbridge police have named two people charged in Friday’s ”high-risk warrant” executed on the city’s south end.
READ MORE: Lethbridge police charge 2 people after execution of ‘high-risk warrant’
The warrant was issued in the 1000 block of Elliot Road South.
Shortly after 7:30 p.m., police asked people to avoid the area until further notice. After 10 p.m., they said three people had been arrested.
Police said three search warrants were conducted at three different locations in Lethbridge in relation to stolen property, which included four rifles with ammunition.
Officers said the people inside the home on Elliot Road refused to leave the house when police asked them to, so the Critical Incident Response Team was called in to assist. After “some time,” according to police, the people exited the home.
The four firearms had previously been stolen during a break and enter, police said.
Chance Bodan Nordean, 31, of Lethbridge, is charged with break and enter to a steal firearms, possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of an offensive weapon dangerous to the public, unauthorized possession of a firearm, knowingly possessing an unauthorized firearm, knowingly possessing a prohibited/restricted firearm, possession of a firearm obtained by the commission of an offence and breach of a recognizance. He has been remanded in custody.
Jocko Slade Trotter, 28, of Lethbridge, is charged with possession of a firearm obtained by the commission of an offence, unauthorized possession of a firearm, knowingly possessing an unauthorized firearm and fraud with intent to avoid arrest.
He has been released on a recognizance and is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 25.
Police say they continue to investigate this case and said further charges are anticipated.