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Three chuckwagon horse dies at Calgary’s Stampede

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Chad Harden wins the first heat of the Rangeland Derby chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede on Monday, July 8, 2019.

 

Three chuckwagon horse deaths at this year’s Calgary Stampede have prompted weekend protests which call for an end to the sport, but drivers say the animals’ safety is paramount as they continually look for ways to reduce risk of injury.

On Thursday, a horse belonging to driver Evan Salmond died and three more sustained minor injuries. Stampede officials say driver Chad Harden impeded the wagon of Danny Ringuette, causing it to collide with Salmond’s outfit.

Earlier in the week, a horse belonging to Obrey Motowylo was euthanized after breaking a leg during Wednesday’s races. Another chuckwagon horse died of “a serious internal medical condition” in what’s considered a suspected heart attack after falling to the track during Monday’s races.

Calgary Animal Rights Effort, a group which says it aims to educate the public about industries using animals for profit, plans to hold demonstrations Saturday and Sunday around noon near the Victoria Park CTrain station.

It says it’s time to put an “end to animal abuse through chuckwagon races and other rodeo events.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also sent a letter earlier this week to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney urging him to call on the Stampede to ban the races immediately.

But chuckwagon drivers insist the care of the animals is their top priority.

“Every time we go out there, we’re always about horse safety. The horses come first,” said driver Chance Bensmiller.

Calgary's Stampede

Chance Bensmiller with his horses in the chuckwagon barns at the 2016 Stampede.

“(Thursday) night was an unfortunate incident and it’s just like anything in the world. Sometimes bad things happen and we’re going to figure out what we can do as drivers and associations to do better.”

Horses are examined by veterinarians at the start of Stampede and before each of their races. They must pass that inspection in order to run in the chuckwagon races.

“Horses are a lot like humans,” said Bensmiller, who has been racing since 2002.

“Anybody knows you could see a 400-pound man that’s 70 years old and still kicking and somebody’s 28 years old and dies of a heart attack.

“It don’t matter what you do in the world. Nobody can ever say that there’s such a thing as 100 per cent safe.”

Harden, cited by the Stampede for “driver error,” was disqualified from racing for the rest of the 2019 Stampede and fined $10,000. The disqualification — a first in Stampede history — means Harden faces a potential lifetime ban from the Stampede, although he has the option of applying for reinstatement.

He must also pay an additional $10,000 to Salmond for the cost of his fallen horse.

It’s a punishment that has rattled some members of the chuckwagon community.

“If you could prove it was on purpose, I agree with a lifetime ban,” said Luke Tournier. “He never did it on purpose. He misjudged, yes, but there’s a little bit of misjudgment with the other drivers too.”

Tournier said a 30-second penalty, effectively ending Harden’s chances of winning this year’s Rangeland Derby, and the hefty $10,000 fine would have been sufficient without the disqualification.

“He should drive again tonight. It’s not like he’s had a record of doing this,” Tournier said. “He’s been a safe driver. He’s an asset to the sport. I mean he screwed up there, whatever. Any one of us could screw up.”

Calgary's Stampede

Chuckwagon driver Luke Tournier said the punishment handed to Chad Harden was too harsh.

Azin Ghaffari /

Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Calgary

Tournier’s son Lane, a demonstration driver at this year’s chuckwagon races, said the “extreme” penalty will put unnecessary added pressure on drivers who might now worry that a small mistake could permanently land them in the sin bin.

“Am I going to be barred? That doesn’t just ruin my chuckwagon career, that ruins part of my life,” he said. “It’s spooky in that sense.”

Lane Tournier said Harden, a Stampede champion in 2009, deserved more leeway due to his clean track record.

“We all take risks when we drive to work. It’s more dangerous on the highway than it ever is on the track,” he said.

“Stuff happens fast sometimes. It’s just one of those things. It was an accident.”

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Cloverdale pastor found guilty on one sex charge

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A Cloverdale pastor has been found guilty on one count of sexual assault, while his wife has been acquitted on all counts.

Samuel Emerson was a pastor at Cloverdale Christian Fellowship Church for eight years.

Emerson was being tried on five counts of sexual assault, two counts of touching a young person for a sexual purpose, and one count of sexual interference.


What did church know about B.C. pastor accused of sexual assault?

His wife Madelaine was charged with two counts of sexual assault, one count touching a young person for a sexual purpose and one count of threats to cause death or bodily harm.

A publication ban was in effect to protect the identities of the victims.

“I was kind of overwhelmed by it all, I know everybody involved, and its the first time to hear a lot of the circumstances,” said Emerson’s father, Randy, the church’s senior pastor.

“So, it’s been a long two and a half years for us, and lots of hurt all the way around.”

Many members of the church were in attendance at the Surrey court room where the verdict was delivered, some of them expressing disappointment with the result.

Emerson will be sentenced at a later date, and remains free from custody on court-ordered conditions.

The offences were alleged to have occurred between 2015 and 2017.

Randy Emerson told Global News in a previous interview the incidents were alleged to have taken place off church grounds.

Randy also previously told Global News that Samuel resigned his position upon his arrest.

He said the family’s five children had been living with their grandparents after their parents’ arrest.

With files from Catherine Urquhart

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Ron MacLean ponders his future

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He’s been called Judas. Pontius Pilate. Brute, too.

But while Ron MacLean has heard these references, he said there is only one truth when it comes to how he feels about Donald S. Cherry.

“I love Don,” he said.

You can tell from his voice these have not been easy days for MacLean. He’s worrying about the well-being of his close friend and the criticism he has faced for his response after last week’s controversial Coach’s Corner broadcast.

They have, after all, been partners for 35-years on Coach’s Corner until Remembrance Day when Cherry was fired by Sportsnet for saying “you people who come here” should wear poppies to honour the troops who provided this way of life and freedom.

MacLean took to Twitter, as well as appearing on the Sunday night Hometown Hockey broadcast, to apologize.

But he had no idea he would never appear with Cherry on Coach’s Corner again.

“It all happened so fast. I wish we could have had another day,” he said.

And now he is faced with trying to figure out what comes next?

He spent Wednesday at CBC headquarters meeting with Sportsnet brass and producers to work on just that.

“I am doing some thinking,” MacLean said Wednesday. “I am taking these days to sort and order what I will say Saturday.”

It’s going to be interesting to see how Hockey Night in Canada is going to handle that first intermission. It’s a massive hole to fill.

My suggestion is for everybody to stop trying to sink this ship.

I am hoping saner heads will prevail and we can get Coach’s Corner back where it belongs.

Forgive Don for a minor faux pas. Forgive Ron for his reactions in what was clearly a difficult time.

Make amends to those who feel hurt by what they think Cherry was trying to say.

And then get back to entertaining the audience on Saturday night.

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Why Alberta is considering severing ties with the RCMP

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One of the major bullet points emerging from Premier Jason Kenney’s speech in Red Deer on Saturday was a proposal to establish a provincial police force.

If the measure were to find support, Alberta would join Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador as the only provinces to operate a provincial police force outside of the RCMP.

“We will invite the panel to explore the feasibility of establishing an Alberta provincial police force by ending the Alberta Police Service Agreement with the Government of Canada,” Kenney said during his speech.

Like much of what was announced Saturday, establishing a provincial police force is part of a bigger strategy to give Alberta greater autonomy from Ottawa.

“As Canada, at various times in history, has moved in the direction of having [provinces] who are looking for a bigger stake in their own governance, taking control of policing is important for those governments,” said Michael Kempa, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa. “It’s a key component of the administration of justice, and something they would prefer not to leave to the federal government.”

But beyond a larger strategy of seeking to move powers from federal to provincial jurisdiction, how would police services be impacted in the province were this move to occur?

More control

Outside of municipal police services in Alberta like those in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta contracts its provincial police services from the RCMP.

As a federal police force operating across all of Canada, the responsibilities assigned to the RCMP are numerous — and that’s a challenge for any police service, Kempa said.

One agency may not be able to do all of those policing functions particularly well.– Michael Kempa, University of Ottawa criminology professor

“There’s been a raging debate around the RCMP for more than two decades as to whether or not they can continue to focus on federal policing issues alongside contracted provincial and sometimes municipal policing issues as well,” Kempa said. “One agency may not be able to do all of those different policing functions particularly well.”

Part of the appeal for a province seeking to distance itself from Ottawa is the centralization of police administration, according to Robert Gordon, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University.

“It results in significant improvements because you’re working with a single system. Theoretically, it doesn’t involve Ottawa … there is far, far greater levels of control and accountability where everything is being dealt with out of Edmonton, or if you wanted, Calgary,” Gordon said. “Whereas at the moment, policing, priorities and standards are all driven by Ottawa.

“And of course, that is the last thing that an independent Alberta will want to have.”

RCMP representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Higher costs

Any move to establish a provincial police force is likely to cost more, especially in its initial stages.

“It would cost more money, no doubt about that,” Gordon said. “And I’m not talking about startup money. You’re talking millions to transition over because you have to repaint the cars, change the uniforms, all that sort of stuff.”

Ongoing costs would also likely be higher than contracting policing out to the RCMP, Gordon said.

“They will be higher partly because provincial and municipal police services and non-RCMP are paid more highly,” he said. “[Here in British Columbia], if we were to switch over it wouldn’t be a hugely complicated thing to do, and we’ve got the resources and the infrastructure in place, but I don’t know about Alberta.”

It would cost more money, no doubt about that.– Robert Gordon, Simon Fraser University criminology professor

Despite those initial costs, Kempa said the presence of a local force could provide a return on investment.

“Even if you end up spending a little more, the hope would be that if you have it under provincial jurisdiction and directly accountable to local provincial police accountability bodies, you’re going to get a policing service tailored to the preferences, needs and standards of your territory,” he said.

Alberta has had its own police force before — the Alberta Provincial Police operated in the province from 1917 until 1932. It was replaced by the RCMP in 1932 as a cost-savings measure during the Great Depression, according to the Archives Society of Alberta.

As part of Kenney’s speech on Saturday, he reiterated a campaign pledge to create an Alberta Parole Board and take over responsibility for inmates from the Parole Board of Canada.

In such a scenario, existing correctional facilities would likely be restaffed, Gordon said.

“What you would find is that most of the existing federal staff would be staying in those facilities, and you could come to some kind of cost-sharing arrangement with the feds to ensure that there’s adequate coverage,” Gordon said. “I don’t see that as being a huge issue at all, in comparison with the policing side.”

Other measures the new Fair Deal Panel will study include:

  • Establishing a provincial revenue agency by ending Alberta’s Federal-Provincial Tax Collection Agreement.
  • Withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan and establishing a provincial plan.
  • Opting out of federal cost-sharing programs.
  • Seeking an exchange of tax points for federal cash transfer.
  • Establishing a formal provincial constitution.
  • Appointing a Chief Firearms Office for the province.

The panel is set to hold a series of consultations between Nov. 16 and Jan. 30, before completing a report to government by March 31.

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