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Proposed cattle feedlot threatens popular but fragile Alberta lake, residents say

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EDMONTON — Thousands of Alberta cottagers and homeowners are waiting anxiously to see if a provincial regulator will allow a large cattle feedlot to be developed near a popular and environmentally fragile recreational lake.

Pigeon Lake, about 100 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, is home to about 5,800 seasonal and permanent residents and attracts about 100,000 visitors a year to its leafy setting, beaches, boating and fishing.

But many say that’s threatened by a proposal before the Natural Resources Conservation Board. G&S Cattle of Ponoka, Alta., wants to pen 4,000 cattle about four kilometres west of Pigeon Lake in addition to its existing operation of more than 1,000 animals.

Those new animals would produce an estimated 36 tonnes of manure a day, which would be spread on about 1,000 hectares — almost six per cent of the lake’s entire watershed.

“I’ve never seen so much concern in the time I’ve been at the lake,” said Don Davidson, mayor of the summer village of Grandview, who has been in the community since the 1980s. “Everybody is concerned about this.”

Greg Thalen, head of G&S Cattle, declined an interview request.

Pigeon Lake sits in a valley like tea in a half-full cup, filled by runoff from surrounding land and drained by one small stream. Studies have shown its waters linger for up to 100 years, making it highly vulnerable.

In the past, runoff nutrients from fertilizers and sewage fed foul-smelling algae blooms so bad they clotted shorelines and made headlines.

“We were getting almost yearly algae advisories,” Davidson said.

Since then, he said, residents have cleaned up their act.

Cosmetic fertilizer use has been banned. Septic fields have been replaced. South shore municipalities have spent more than $30 million on wastewater treatment. Local groups have spent millions to manage runoff, earning two provincial environmental awards.

In 2018, 12 summer villages, two counties and four First Nations endorsed the Pigeon Lake Watershed Management Plan, which attempts to limit nutrients such as phosphorus seeping into the lake and specifically says feedlots aren’t appropriate.

Because of the lakewater’s slow turnover, progress is slow. But it’s there.

“We’ve seen a reduction in the number of algae warnings and the severity of the blooms,” Davidson said.

“We’ve reduced the nutrient loading. We’re looking to see long-term improvement in the lake.”

The feedlot expansion threatens that, said Dave Labutis, whose family has farmed in the area for three generations.

“Most of the people who live in the area are farmers or ex-farmers,” he said. “Our hearts support farming.

“Our problem is with the intensivity of this. There are small farms everywhere in that area but none of them number those kinds of cows.

“It’s just way too close to the lake.”

Jeannette Hall, a former Alberta Environment conservation officer for Pigeon Lake who has studied the area, linked cattle operations and nutrients in the water.

Research conducted for the management plan concludes that, while about five per cent of phosphorus in the lake comes from residential development, about a quarter comes from stream runoff.

Creeks flowing from parts of the watershed that don’t have such operations carry up to about 50 kilograms of phosphorus into the lake every year. The two creeks that do bring about 1,000 kilograms, Hall said.

“It just jumps right off the page. The feedlots are the highest contributor.”

Those creeks empty near two popular beaches, a provincial park and a conservation area.

The Pigeon Lake Watershed Association has filed a statement of concern with the regulator. So have more than 300 residents.

The County of Wetaskiwin, while acknowledging the primacy of agriculture in the area, has asked the regulator for an environmental assessment of the project.

The board doesn’t normally require environmental assessments, said spokesman Andy Cumming. Applications are judged against standards intended to ensure feedlots won’t contaminate groundwater, have adequate runoff controls and are far enough from water bodies and neighbours.

Once a decision is made, those judged directly affected by it may appeal. A review board may then call a public hearing.

The board is expected to rule to G&S’s application in mid-May.

Catherine Peirce of the watershed association said the rules for how Alberta evaluates large livestock operations need to change.

“I think they do get an easier ride,” she said.

“In Alberta, beef production is valued and has a significant place in our economy. But there needs to be some revision to the legislation to better understand how to manage these types of impacts.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2022.

 

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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Montreal sauna suspected origin of Canada’s monkeypox outbreak: doctors – Global News

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Monkeypox cases in Canada are suspected to have originated from a local sauna in Montreal, doctors have told Global News.

The country’s first two cases were reported by Quebec public health officials on May 19.

Dr. Robert Pilarski, a general physician in Montreal, who treated one of those patients last week, said the individual likely got the virus from a sauna he recently visited.

“He actually got it from G.I. Joe. So this is the suspected epicentre of the epidemic,” Pilarski told Global News.

Read more:

Quebec to start vaccinating monkeypox contacts, confirms 25 cases

Another doctor, who did not wish to be identified, also said the source of Montreal’s monkeypox outbreak was Sauna G.I. Joe.

Government officials have so far stayed clear of confirming the origin of monkeypox in Canada due to concerns of privacy and stigmatization.

“As it was the case with COVID-19, we never confirm publicly outbreaks for both privacy and identification matters,” Jean Nicolas Aubé, a spokesperson for Montreal public health, told Global News in an emailed response.

“Rest assured that we always intervene directly with businesses or settings where an outbreak occurs or where our investigation could lead us,” Aube added.


Click to play video: 'Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine'



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Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine


Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine

Despite multiple attempts and inquiries from Global News about health regulations and tracing measures, there was no response from Sauna G.I. Joe by the time of publication.

Recent cases of monkeypox around the world have researchers scrambling to find out how the virus is spreading in countries that typically don’t see it.

Monkeypox, a rare zoonotic infectious disease, is usually found in certain parts of Africa, where it is endemic.

Read more:

More monkeypox surveillance needed, WHO tells member countries

What started out as a small cluster of cases in Quebec is now being called a “serious outbreak” of the virus by provincial health officials.

As of Thursday, 25 cases have been confirmed in the province and about 20 to 30 suspected cases are under investigation.

The majority of confirmed cases in the province are tied to men aged between 20 and 30 years, who have had sexual relations with other men. There has been one case in a person under 18.

Monkeypox is not considered a sexually-transmitted infection, but the virus can survive on surfaces such as bedding and is transmitted through prolonged close contact.

“It’s not sexual activity as such that transmits it. It’s skin-to-skin contact that transmits it as far as we know at this moment,” said Dr. Michael Libman, a tropical disease expert and professor of medicine and infectious disease at McGill University.


Click to play video: 'Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada'



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Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada


Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada

Stigmatization and transparency

Cases of monkeypox started emerging in Europe earlier this month.

Montreal public health said it had alerted physicians about a week before the first cases were confirmed. It also contacted “local actors” and communicated advice on hand hygiene and environmental cleaning procedures, Aubé said.

According to social media posts, Sauna G.I. Joe hosted a sex party on May 19, the same day Canada confirmed its first cases of monkeypox.

Read more:

Monkeypox likely spread through sex at 2 raves in Europe, expert suggests

During a press conference on Thursday, Quebec public health officials said they do not think it’s necessary to single out locations over fears of “stigmatization,” adding that there are now measures in place.

“The enemy is the virus, not the people affected,” said Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim public health.

However, experts stress that there should be greater transparency and omitting key public health information can be problematic.


Click to play video: 'Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says'



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Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says


Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says

David Brennan, research chair in gay and bisexual men’s health at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN), believes not disclosing information can have a negative impact on the community.

Hiding information could be interpreted as “men having sex with men is bad,” said Brennan.

There needs to be a culture shift and harm-reduction approach as has been the case in the past with sexually-transmitted infections, such as HIV/AIDS, added Nolan Hill, gay men’s health specialist at the Center for Sexuality in Calgary, Alta.

“I think it really does speak to this broader culture where we’re uncomfortable with the idea of sex and we’re uncomfortable talking about sex,” he said.


Click to play video: 'What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?'



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What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?


What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?

Outside of Quebec, only one other case of monkeypox has been confirmed in Toronto.

On Saturday, Toronto Public Health (TPH) identified two locations connected to possible cases of monkeypox: Axis Club and Woody’s bar.

Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto, said these details matter, especially when it comes to higher risk settings.

“I would argue it is important to identify where it is coming from because if you don’t then people are not in a position to protect themselves,” he said.

Read more:

Physical distancing recommended amid monkeypox spread in Canada, Njoo says

However, disclosing that information comes with the “added responsibility” of not feeding into any prejudice, Bowman added.

Federal public health officials are working to finalize and release guidance on case identification, contact tracing, isolation as well as infection prevention and control.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says this updated guidance will be released in the next few days.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said Thursday mass vaccinations are not yet needed, but people can avoid infection by maintaining physical distance, masking and hand hygiene.


Click to play video: 'Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing'



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Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing


Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Supreme Court of Canada to rule on sentencing for Quebec City mosque shooter

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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is slated to rule this morning on the sentencing of a man who went on a deadly shooting spree at a Quebec City mosque.

The high court decision in Alexandre Bissonnette’s case will determine the constitutionality of a key provision on parole eligibility in multiple murder convictions.

Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six charges of first-degree murder in the January 2017 assault that took place just after evening prayers.

In 2019, Bissonnette successfully challenged a 2011 law that allowed a court, in the event of multiple murders, to impose a life sentence and parole ineligibility periods of 25 years to be served consecutively for each murder.

A judge found the provision unconstitutional but did not declare it invalid, ultimately ruling Bissonnette must wait 40 years before applying for parole.

Quebec’s Court of Appeal struck down the sentencing provision on constitutional grounds and said the parole ineligibility periods should be served concurrently, meaning a total waiting period of 25 years in Bissonnette’s case.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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‘Always hope’: Remains of Cree woman sent home to Alberta decades after disappearance

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Violet Soosay’s search for her missing aunt began four decades ago.

The pursuit took her to parts of Alberta and B.C. and down paths of uncertainty as weeks, months and years passed without word of Shirley Ann Soosay.

On Friday, about 43 years after she was last heard from, the body of Shirley Ann Soosay is expected to be returned to her home community of Samson Cree Nation, south of Edmonton.

Her remains had been buried in a California cemetery in 1980 under the name Kern County Jane Doe. Last spring, the county sheriff’s office identified the remains as belonging to 35-year-old Soosay.

Violet Soosay has worked since then with the county coroner’s office and the California cemetery to transport the body back to Alberta.

“Now there’s closure. There’s healing that can start happening,” Violet Soosay said in a phone interview.

The website for the American non-profit group DNA Doe Project says the Jane Doe’s body was found in an almond orchard near Bakersfield, Calif., in July 1980. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed.

Wilson Chouest was convicted of killing the Jane Doe, along with another unidentified woman in 2018.

Violet Soosay said she last saw her aunt in 1977 at a family funeral. She remembers her as caring, supportive and a free spirit.

“That was my constant memory that I kept because it gave me that sense of connection,” she said.

Shirley Ann Soosay was close with her mother and had maintained regular  contact with her, whether it was through holiday cards or letters, said Violet Soosay. The last correspondence came in 1979.

“After that, she just disappeared. Nobody knew. My grandmother was very frantic and heartbroken. She knew something happened.”

A few years later, Violet Soosay said she promised her grandmother she would bring Shirley Ann Soosay home. Her grandmother died in 1991.

In early 2020, Violet Soosay said she came across an artist’s rendering of the Jane Doe on a Facebook post from the DNA Doe Project. She believed the woman was her aunt.

The volunteer organization formed in 2017 to help identify unidentified deceased persons using forensic genealogy. The Kern County Sheriff-Coroner Division contacted the project in 2018 hoping to determine the identity of its Jane Doe.

Dawn Ratliff, the coroner division chief, said her office set up tip lines and worked with media to broadcast stories hoping to identify the woman, but every effort led to a dead end.

“In all the years that we had her, we never received a single inquiry. And at that point I just knew she wasn’t local. But I just didn’t know where she would be from.”

Ratliff said when she eventually heard from Violet Soosay, she asked her to submit a DNA sample. It was processed and compared to DNA they had from the remains. The two were a familial match.

Violet Soosay said that when she got the call with the results, she was flooded with years of emotions, including frustration, anger and elation.

“It was a crazy moment when I found out that she was my aunty.”

The family is planning to bury Shirley Ann Soosay in a cemetery at Samson Cree Nation.

Violet Soosay said bikers are supposed to follow her aunt’s casket from a funeral home in Wetaskiwin to her final resting place. There will also be a wake with traditional drumming.

Before the body was disinterred in California, the Tule River Tribe performed a ceremony there with prayers and drumming, added Ratliff.

“To be able to restore her name has really been tremendous,” she said.

Violet Soosay said she is grateful for the support and work of Ratliff, investigators and those involved with confirming the identity of her aunt’s remains.

She said she also has a message for Indigenous families with missing loved ones: “There’s always hope. There’s always some way to bring them home.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

 

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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