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A Timeline of Federal-Buffalo Relations

A brief history of the West’s struggle with Ottawa from 1879 to 2020.

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1879: Manitoba joins the Dominion of Canada as a province and elects a minority Conservative government. 

Louis Riel (source: Wiki Commons)

1885: The Northwest Rebellion is launched by Louis Riel against federal power in the Northwest Territories over treatment of the Métis peoples and several First Nations. Ottawa sends a militia to crush the rebellion and hang Riel.

1904: Northwest Territories Premier Frederick Haultain petitions Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier to create a unified province of “Buffalo” with the same rights as other provinces over natural resources.

1905: Ignoring Premier Haultain, the federal government creates the separate provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan with direct control over natural resources by Ottawa. All other provinces are allowed to control their own resources.

Alexander Rutherford, Alberta’s first premier, forms a majority Liberal government.

Walter Scot, Saskatchewan’s first premier, forms a majority Liberal government. 

1920: The Progressive Party is founded, winning 21 per cent of the vote in its first election and sending 58 MPs to Ottawa, mostly from the West.

1921: The upstart United Farms of Alberta sweeps to power in its first election. The Liberals never form government in Alberta again. 

1926: The United Farmers of Canada is founded, sending large numbers of MPs to Ottawa from the West and rural Ontario.

1929: The Great Depression hits the Prairie provinces hardest, leading many major Eastern Canadian business interests to pull out of the region. 

1930: Alberta and Saskatchewan acquire at long last dominion over their own natural resources, a right that had been denied to them but not to the other provinces. 

Bill Alberhart

1935: The Social Credit League comes to power with a massive majority government just months after being founded, and without an official leader. “Bible” Bill Aberhart becomes premier. The new party is dedicated to fighting Eastern control over the Alberta economy and a radical monetary policy.

The federal government creates the Canadian Wheat Board, forcing Western grain farms to sell their harvests exclusively to the state monopoly. Eastern farmers are exempted from the monopoly and are allowed to sell on the open market.

1938: Aberhart establishes the Alberta Treasury Branch (ATB) as an alternative to the Eastern banking interests that had largely pulled out of the Prairies. A constitutional crisis ensues when the federally-appointed Lt. Governor threatens to fire the elected government. 

1943: Aberhart dies and Earnest Manning becomes premier, moving the Social Credit League away from radical monetary reform and toward a more orthodox conservative outlook. 

Tommy Douglas

1944: Tommy Douglass leads the socialist Canadian Commonwealth Federation (precursor to the NDP) to its first victory in Saskatchewan, largely on a mandate of fighting against Eastern business interests.  

1957: John Diefenbaker of Saskatchewan becomes prime minister on a populist wave. The Liberals never again attain major federal support on the Prairies. 

1968: Pierre Trudeau becomes prime minister and goes on to win a majority Liberal government, and achieves a limited breakthrough in Alberta.

1969: The federal government passes the Official Languages Act, alienating many Westerners. 

Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau & former Premier Peter Lougheed

1971: Peter Lougheed becomes the first Progressive Conservative Premier of Alberta, ending 36 years of unbroken Social Credit rule. 

1972: Pierre Trudeau is returned with a minority government, and with no MPs from Alberta. The Liberals would never again elect a significant number of MPs from Alberta until his son Justin Trudeau’s first election in 2015.

1980: The Liberal federal government imposes the National Energy Program with the support of many Eastern Progressive Conservative politicians. The Alberta economy collapses. 

Western Canada Concept

1982: The sovereigntist Western Canada Concept Party elects Gordon Kesler an MLA in a by-election, signaling the rise of mainstream support for independence. Premier Peter Lougheed calls a snap election and the WCC loses its only seat, but comes in third in the popular vote. 

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau successfully patriates the Constitution. Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed wins provincial control over natural resources, but concedes any reform of the Senate. 

1984: Brian Mulroney becomes prime minister with a massive Progressive Conservative majority government, with a coalition of Western conservatives, Eastern business interests and Quebec nationalists. 

1985: Prime Minister Mulroney hesitates in dismantling the National Energy Program, but finally ends it in 1985. 

1986: Prime Minister Mulroney intervenes to award a major C-18 fighter jet maintenance contract to a firm in Quebec over Manitoba, despite the Manitoba firm’s lower price and better quality offer, in the name of national unity. 

Stephen Harper and Preston Manning in the Reform Party era (source: Vancouver Sun)

1987: The Meech Lake Accord is signed by the prime minister and all provincial and territorial leaders with the support of nearly every political party in Canada. The accord would entrench special status for Quebec in the Constitution.

The Reform Party of Canada is formed with the slogan, “The West Wants In.” Preston Manning is elected the new party’s first leader. 

1988: Mulroney is returned with a majority Progressive Conservative government. The Reform Party attracts significant early support, but is shut out in the free-trade “referendum” election. 

The federal government passes the Official Multiculturalism Act against the objections of many Westerners.

1989: Deborah Gray wins a federal by-election in Alberta to become the first Reform Party MP. 

Stan Waters wins Canada’s first non-binding Senate election on the Reform Party ticket in Alberta, showing early signs that Progressive Conservative support was in danger of collapse in the West. 

Brian Mulroney at the Meech Lake Accord discussions

1990: The Meech Lake Accord collapses from small but growing provincial opposition in Newfoundland and Manitoba. 

Federal Environment Minister Lucien Bouchard resigns from the cabinet and forms the Bloc Quebecois with Progressive Conservative and Liberal MPs from Quebec. 

1992: Despite having the support of most major political parties, the Charlottetown Accord on constitutional reform goes down to defeat in a national referendum. All four Western provinces, Quebec, and Nova Scotia vote “no”, while Ontario and the rest of the Atlantic provinces approve. The Charlottetown Accord went too far in appeasing Quebec for many as echoed by the upstart Reform Party, and didn’t go far enough, as stated by the Bloc Quebecois. 

1993: The Progressive Conservatives suffer the worst defeat of any governing party in modern democratic history, collapsing from 196 seats in 1988, to just two. The Jean Chretien becomes prime minister with a majority Liberal government, while the Bloc Quebecois win 54 seats, and the Reform Party 52. The Progressive Conservatives will never again win significant support in Western Canada until their merger with the Canadian Reform-Conservative Alliance in 2003. 

The Liberals create the long-gun registry, upsetting many Westerners and rural Easterners who view it as an attack on them. 

Ralph Klein becomes Premier of Alberta with a majority Progressive Conservative Government, and would go on to chart a somewhat more independent course from Ottawa than had his predecessor. 

1995 Quebec Referendum “Unity Rally”

The federal government refuses to appoint any more elected Alberta Senators-in-Waiting to the upper house. 

1995: Quebec votes by a razor-thin margin to remain in Canada after a massive political and financial effort by federalist forces to convince them to stay.

1997: The Reform Party’s attempts to break into Eastern Canada fail, as it loses its single seat in Ontario that it won in 1993. The Progressive Conservative re-emerge as a largely Atlantic and Quebec-based party in the House of Commons. 

Four Progressive Conservative and four Liberal MLAs unite to form the Saskatchewan Party and challenge the NDP’s hold on power. 

1998: Alberta elects Stan Waters, Bert Brown and Ted Morton as Senators-in-Waiting. Jean Chretien refuses to honour the election and appoints his own nominees. 

Preston Manning stands with new Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day

2000: In attempting to break into Eastern Canada, the Reform Party dissolves and is folded into the new Canadian Reform-Conservative Alliance. Prime Minister Jean Chretien calls an early election in which he paints the Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day as the stooge of Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

2001: Stephen Harper and several prominent conservatives publish the “Alberta Agenda”, which proposed that the province “build firewalls” to keep out a hostile federal government from areas of provincial jurisdiction. The Alberta government strikes a committee to study the proposals, but rejects them all.

2002: The federal government signs the Kyoto Protocol, which many Westerners fear will hurt the energy industry. 

PC Leader Peter Mackay and Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper announce an agreement to merge their two parties into the Conservative Party of Canada

2003: Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay agree to merge the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative Party into the Conservative Party of Canada. Stephen Harper is elected the new party’s first leader. 

2004: Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin calls a snap election in which he is reduced to a minority government, while the Conservatives make gains on their Western base in the East. 

Albertans elect Bert Brown and two other Senators-in-Waiting. Prime Minister Paul Martin refuses to honour the election and appoints his own nominees. 

2005: Alberta Premier Ralph Klein launches his “third way” healthcare reforms that include limited private sector involvement. Under pressure from Ottawa, Klein aborts the reforms. 

2006: The Liberals are defeated and Stephen Harper forms a minority Conservative government. On election night, he proclaims from Calgary, “The West is in.” 

Stephen Harper on election night 2011 (source: CBC)

The federal government outlaws “income trust” corporate structures, causing significant financial panic in the Alberta energy industry. 

Ralph Klein is succeeded by Ed Stelmach as Premier of Alberta and Progressive Conservative Party Leader.

2007: Brad Wall defeats the NDP to become premier with a majority Saskatchewan Party government. Wall quickly becomes the leading Western voice after Stephen Harper. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appoints Bert Brown as the second-ever elected Senator from Alberta.

2008: Under threat of a Liberal-Bloc-NDP coalition, the Conservatives introduce tens of billions of dollars in “economic stimulus” and bailouts, targeted mostly at Eastern Canadian industries. 

Two small rightist parties merge to form the Wildrose Alliance in Alberta. They fail to win any seats in their first election, as Ed Stelmach increases the Progressive Conservative majority.

2011: With a collapsing Liberal Party and surging NDP, Stephen Harper is returned with a majority Conservative government. 

The federal government ends the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly over Western farmers. Eastern farmers were never brought under its control. 

Allison Redford succeeds Ed Stelmach as Alberta Premier and Progressive Conservative leader. She charts a course of close federal relations. 

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith in 2013 (source: CBC)

2012: The federal government withdraws Canada from the Kyoto Protocol, and repeals the long-gun registry.

The Wildrose Party breaks into the Alberta political arena and its leader, Danielle Smith becomes the Leader of the Official Opposition. The Progressive Conservative majority is reduced, but faces a new, Ottawa-skeptic party on its right.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appoints Doug Black and Scott Tannas as elected Senators from Alberta. 

2014: Two-thirds of the Wildrose Party caucus defect to the Progressive Conservatives under its new leader Jim Prentice. 

Alberta Premier-Elect Rachel Notley, 2015 (Source: CBC)

2015: Alberta Premier Jim Prentice cancels Senate elections which were supposed to take place in conjunction with the next provincial election. 

Rachel Notley forms a majority NDP government in Alberta, while the Wildrose Party rebounds to official opposition, and the Progressive Conservatives collapse to a distant third place.

Rachel Notley officially discontinues Senate elections.

Justin Trudeau defeats Stephen Harper and forms a majority Liberal government, with four seats in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan. 

Former Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (source Flickr)

Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau form a close alliance, agreeing to a carbon tax and strict regulations on the Alberta energy industry. 

U.S. President Barack Obama rejects the Keystone XL pipeline without major protest from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. 

The Wildrose Party begins to agitate for Equalization reform. 

2016: The federal government cancels the Northern Gateway pipeline without major protest from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. 

Jason Kenney leaves federal politics to attempt to unite the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties in Alberta. 

Brad Wall retires as Premier of Saskatchewan and is succeeded by Scott Moe, who is re-elected with a majority Saskatchewan Party government. 

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and PC Leader Jason Kenney announce an agreement to merge into the new UCP

2017: The Energy East Pipeline is canceled after failing to win federal and Quebec support without major protest from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. 

The Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties merge to form the United Conservative Party of Alberta. Jason Kenney defeats Brian Jean to become the new party’s first leader on a platform of confronting Ottawa and holding a referendum on Equalization. 

2018: Facing major court setbacks and strong protests from environmental groups, Kinder Morgan announces that it is pulling out of the TransMountain pipeline expansion. The federal government nationalizes the project with the support of Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney. 

Anti-Kinder Morgan pipeline protestors

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again ignores Alberta’s most recent elected Senators-in-Waiting, and appoints his own nominees. 

The sovereigntist Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta is founded and gains its first MLA with former Wildroser Derek Fildebrandt. The party calls for “Equality or Independence”. 

2019: Jason Kenney becomes Alberta premier with a majority United Conservative Party government on a promise to fight Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, turn the economy around, build pipelines, and hold a referendum on Equalization. The NDP is reduced to official opposition. The Alberta Party, Liberal Party, and the new Freedom Conservative and Alberta Independence parties are shut out.

Premier-Elect Jason Kenney on election night 2019

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney repeals the consumer portion of the carbon tax, but strikes a bargain with Ottawa to leave it in place for large industries. 

The federal parliament passes Bill C-48 (dubbed the “No More Pipelines Bill), and C-69 (West coast oil tanker ban).

Source: Facebook

Justin Trudeau is returned to power with a reduced minority Liberal government, relying on support from the Bloc Quebecois, NDP and Green Party. The Liberals lose every seat between Winnipeg and Vancouver.

A new group calling itself “WEXIT” is formed, gaining huge overnight support on social media. 

Wheatland County passes a motion calling for an Alberta independence referendum if constitutional reform is not achieved within a year. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney commissions a “Fair Deal Panel” to explore ways in which Alberta could assert more control over its affairs within Canada.

A conference debating independence is held in Red Deer attracting several hundred delegates. 

2020: Michelle Rempel-Garner and three other federal Conservative MPs issue the Buffalo Declaration, laying out demands for constitutional reform. The document says Albertans “will be equal, or they will be independent.”

Federal Liberal cabinet ministers and MPs speak openly about canceling the $20 billion Teck Frontier oilsands mine project, and propose an economic aid package as a consolation. Days before the approval’s deadline, Teck walks away from the project citing the uncertain policy environment.

The Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta and Wexit Alberta announce an agreement to unite into the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta.

Features

Black Friday: The day that changed policing in Canada

That terrible day saw one officer lose his life, and left seven others wounded.

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On the morning of Dec. 18, 1974, convicted rapist and drug addict Phillipe Laurier Gagnon quit his job at Pinecrest Foods in Calgary’s northeast and went to the garage he called home. Two days later — after sniffing more than 35 tubes of model airplane glue — the ex-con armed himself with a pair of rifles and sparked the biggest gun battle in Calgary’s modern history. When the smoke from more than 1,000 bullets and gas canisters cleared, one cop was dead, several officers were badly wounded and Gagnon was face up on the ground, his lifeless eyes staring into the winter afternoon sky.

“There was no way he was going to get out of there alive,” recalled one of the 130 cops who were at the scene. “Even if he came out with his hands up, it was too late for him.”

Forever known as “Black Friday,” it was the sobering day Calgary police and cops from around the country were blasted into the modern world of urban warfare.

Phillipe Gagnon was a loser. It was a fact the 26-year-old accepted and even immortalized on his body. In tattooist’s ink across his belly in bold words: Born to Lose, But Out to Win.

Born in 1948, Gagnon grew up on a farm outside Edmonton, but had little contact with his family after he grew out of his teens. A drifter and a loner, he quit school long before graduation because, as he later told a prison shrink, he loathed authority.

Gagnon’s first real brush with the bad side of the law came when he was busted for causing a disturbance at age 20.

A scant three years later, Gagnon graduated to the ranks of the serious criminals and joined them in a federal pen when he received a three-year sentence for two counts of rape and one count of common assault. It was there a prison psychologist described Gagnon as having “resentative (sic) hostilities” towards all officials and as a “possible sociopath.”

Despite those qualities that would normally hold a con in good stead with other prisoners, life behind bars wasn’t easy for the convicted sex offender — it rarely is for rapists, those disdainfully dubbed as ”skinners” by other inmates. In the strange prisoner hierarchy, skinners are the lowest of the low, jailbirds hardly worth the saliva it takes to spit at them.

Gagnon felt the heaviness of that mantle when his weight dropped drastically in Alberta’s federal Drumheller pen. The reason was brutally simple: his life was threatened in the prison kitchen and he never ventured back for meals.

He was nothing but “skin and bones,” said Otto Sautter of the John Howard Society.

“Having no friends, nobody would bring any food back to him,” he said in a 1975 interview with an inquiry board.

Life wasn’t much better for Gagnon outside the joint when he was released on June 23, 1974. Going from job to job, co-workers repeatedly and stereotypically described the killer-to-be as a quiet man, something of a loner. Gagnon was often seen sitting alone during breaks, laughing and giggling at some unheard joke.

Fast-forward to Dec. 20, 1974, when an obviously deranged Gagnon, foaming at the mouth, walked into the Ideal Grocery store at 1048 8 St. S.E. and attempted to buy six tubes of Testor’s model airplane glue. During the two previous days, Gagnon purchased more than 35 tubes of the same adhesive and Ideal’s owner, Rose Demelanaere, refused to sell him any more. She called the cops when Gagnon became aggressive.

Const. Harvey Gregorash was at the scene an hour later, just in time to spot a red-nosed Gagnon walking the street on unsteady legs. Gregorash asked Gagnon to get in his cruiser so he could talk to him. “No way I’m getting into your f•••••• police car,” replied the ex-con. “I’m going home.”

The cop called for backup and followed the glue-head to the place he called home, a garage facing the back lane of 1034 9 St. S.E., which had been crudely converted into a suite. What police couldn’t have known at the time was a two-metre pit sat in the centre of the garage. It was an unknown fact at the time that would have deadly consequences.

Gregorash knocked on the door of the garage, but got no response. Two others, Const. Mel Linn and Const. Tom Dick, soon joined the officer at the scene. The trio went into the garage after Gagnon.

Once inside, the cops split up and Linn was the first to spot Gagnon.

The drug-addled ex-con held a bag of glue over his mouth and nose with one hand. He held a rifle in the other.

Never dropping the bag, Gagnon had a goofy grin on his face as he leveled the 30.06 hunting rifle at the startled cop and pulled the trigger.

Click. A misfire.

“He’s got a gun,” Linn bellowed in warning before diving for cover.

Gagnon then pointed the rifle at Dick.

Click.

Dick squeezed four quick shots at Gagnon, and then dove for cover behind a fridge while Gregorash ducked behind a table.

That’s when the uninjured, crazed gunman trained his rifle and squeezed another shot. The slug hit the top of the table, furrowed through the top layer of wood then lifted off and smacked Gregorash in the head, temporarily stunning the officer.

”Harv, can you get out?” Dick yelled. “Yeah,” said Gregorash, his voice small and strange.“Let’s go for it,” Dick yelled.

Linn, who’d made it outside the garage, came through the door and helped Gregorash to his feet and out the door to safety.

Dick, in the first of many police acts of bravery that day, ran in the opposite direction to draw Gagnon’s fire.

“I wasn’t trying to be a hero — I just wanted to give Mel and Harv a chance to find cover,” Dick later recalled.

Dick fired the last two shots from his .38-calibre revolver and jumped over a fence. That’s when he felt a bullet smash into his butt. The slug lodged in the cop’s wallet, stopped by the thick leather and wad of cash — greenback protection provided by a recently cashed paycheque.

Soon, the entire area was crawling with cops.

As live reports boomed from the kitchen radios throughout Calgary, people were stunned.

This was 1974 — no city police officer had been killed on the job in 40 years. Calgary was a society where people simply didn’t shoot police officers. But this guy, this Gagnon fellow, he meant business.

Setting up a crude perimeter, several cops took turns on the bullhorn.”C’mon fella, it’s useless. Give it up.”

No response.

“Come on out with your hands up and you won’t be shot.”

No response.

Yet another try. “Come on out, son. Come on out and you won’t be hurt and you’ll be out for Christmas.”

No response except for the loud report of the glue-sniffer’s rifle.

Tragically, Gagnon’s volley of shots left Det. Boyd Davidson, a 43-year-old father of five, dead, shot in the head.

Davidson was hidden behind a garage adjacent to the one where Gagnon was holed up. The officer would occasionally poke his head and shoulders from around the corner and fire several rounds from a shotgun in an attempt to blow holes through Gagnon’s garage door. Police weaponry just wasn’t powerful enough to penetrate the walls of the garage that had been constructed from the hardened timber of an old train box car.

Few bullets actually went through the garage walls, and Gagnon avoided those that did by simply ducking down into the grease pit.

The eventual openings in the door created by Davidson’s blasts were used by other officers to fire tear gas into the building. In all, 67 canisters of gas were fired. While red, teary-eyed cops outside felt the effects, it didn’t faze Gagnon. (Medical experts later theorized “touluene,” the active ingredient in the 40 tubes of airplane glue Gagnon inhaled, had an anaesthetic effect on his tear ducts and membranes, making him immune to the gas).

Gagnon must have seen Davidson because when the cop retreated to safety behind the garage, the killer fired. The high-powered bullet from the deer rifle went through the two corner walls of the garage and struck Davidson in the head, killing him almost instantly. The force of the slug lifted the 350-lb cop into the air and dropped him about three metres from where he originally stood.

A fragment from the same slug hit another officer, Kit Sylvester, in the neck. The cop fell to the ground, his life’s blood pumping in staggered bursts from the wound.

Another Calgary officer, Roy Evans, saved Sylvester’s life when he rammed his forefinger directly into the hole, effectively stopping the blood flow until medical help arrived.

Yet another shot and another officer was shot in the head.

Falling, Det. Nick Graham thought: “Well, if this is dying, at least it doesn’t hurt.”

A high-velocity bullet fired by Gagnon had blasted through two police cruisers and taken out part of Graham’s skull. Moments earlier, the seasoned police officer was carrying tear-gas canisters, boxes of shotgun shells and more ammunition to two officers directly in the line of fire behind their cruisers.

When he got behind the car, Sgt. Ben Robinson looked over.“For Christ’s sake, Nick, keep your head down.”

“Don’t worr—”

At that moment a bullet went through the four windows of both police cars before it hit Graham in the front of the head. Graham fell face down in the dirt, more than half his body now exposed to the gunman.

Realizing Graham could easily be shot again where he lay, Robinson instantly covered the fallen cop’s body with his.

”Nick,” pleaded Robinson.“Nick, please don’t die on me.”

Robinson’s tears drenched Graham’s exposed neck while Robinson used his own body as a shield.

“Benny.” Graham’s voice.”Get the f••• off my back, you’re killing me.”

Surprised Graham was alive; Robinson and a rookie cop pulled the injured cop to his feet and walked him away.

“Jesus, Nick, you’ve got a terrible hole in your head,” Robinson said. No one had bandages, but a rookie helping support Graham offered his clean T-shirt, which was ripped into a large strip and wrapped round Graham’s head.

By the time trio reached the ambulance, the gunman was shooting at it.

Less than a football field’s length away, a crowd gathered near a seedy downtown hotel. They too had radios and every time another cop was reported shot, a cheer went up from the throng.

In a span of moments, one highly respected veteran officer lay dead, seven others were wounded, and all the police firepower into the gunman’s garage hadn’t silenced him.

More officers crowded the scene, wanting to help fallen colleagues, taking up positions round the garage, adding to the firepower. Cops were hiding behind telephone poles, garages, cars and buildings, all firing their sidearms at will into the backyard and garage of the hideaway’s house. Many brought deer rifles from home.

The scale of the gun battle was incredible: Gagnon fired at least 70 shots, his high-velocity bullets going through walls and police cruisers to kill and wound officers who were quickly learning they had nowhere to hide. It was later established more than 60 officers had been directly in the line of fire, and at least 40 had emptied weapons, shooting 976 bullets at Gagnon’s garage.

Police knew they were in a battle that might take days to finish and cause more casualties or death. Finally, feeling they had few other options, cops called in the Canadian army. After a hurried telephone call to DND in Ottawa, an armoured personal carrier (APC) with three soldiers inside was dispatched from Calgary’s Currie barracks in the city’s southwest.

With Gagnon’s bullets pinging off it, the APC systematically began destroying the garage, taking out one corner, and then another. In the chaos, the military machine drove over and flattened police cruisers and filled with tear gas after crushing canisters under its tracks. But it flushed Gagnon out.

With a knapsack of ammunition on his back and a blazing rifle in each hand, the gunman made a mad dash from the garage. He ran only a few steps before he was cut down in a fusillade of police bullets.

An officer ran over to Gagnon’s still body and put his service revolver to the gunman’s head and began to squeeze the trigger.

A sergeant grabbed the officer’s hand.“Forget it,” he said.“It’s over.”

That terrible day saw one officer lose his life, and left seven others wounded.
The entire episode played out in just two short hours, but following Black Friday, Calgary police instituted the the elite Tactical Unit, a Canadian version of the U.S.’s SWAT.
Other police services across the country took note and instituted their own changes.

Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.
mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

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EXCLUSIVE: Pickton survivor tells her story for the first time

Lenore is one of three women known to escape killer Robert Pickton, and she’s telling her story for the very first time exclusively to the Western Standard.

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She was raped numerous times before she reached the age of 10, became a hard-core drunk and is one of the few women who survived an encounter with Canada’s most heartless serial killer.

All in all, Lenore said she feels lucky to be alive.

Lenore – who asked that her true identity not be revealed – is one of three women known to escape killer Robert Pickton, and she’s telling her story for the very first time exclusively to the Western Standard.

Robert Pickton Courtesy CBC

“I was so scared – I had no one to tell this to,” said Lenore, from her Cowichan Valley home on Vancouver Island.

Abandoned by her mother as an infant, Lenore said she was in and out of “one too many” foster homes and had been raped or otherwise sexually abused numerous times before she was 11 years old.

“I was told I would never amount to anything, I won’t be nothing,” she recalled.

By the time she was in her late teens, Lenore was alone, a hardcore alcoholic living on the streets of downtown Vancouver.

One night while in her late teens she said she became extremely intoxicated and ended up walking aimlessly in the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver’s notorious neighbourhood known for drugs, prostitution and the extremely high HIV rate of its citizens.

“I was very, very drunk,” she told the Western Standard.

It wasn’t long before  a “white old van” pulled up next to the wobbly woman and a lone male driver wearing a ball cap offered Lenore a lift.


The eyes of Lenore – lived to tell her story of an encounter with multiple murderer Robert Pickton. Photo my Mike D’Amour, Western Standard

She got in the van and said she noticed all the rear seats had been removed, leaving only cargo space.

Lenore said it didn’t take long for her street smarts to permeate her drunken state.

“I got in the van and almost immediately had a funny feeling,” she recalled.

It was already well known on Vancouver streets that women were disappearing, a fact that caused Lenore’s misgivings to become full-blown fear.

“He said he was taking me to a park or something but I just said ‘no I want to go home.’”

The driver asked where she lived.“I said ‘no,’ just drop me at Commercial Drive and I’ll walk from there.”

The man made it clear he was not going to stop.

“I grabbed the door handle and I don’t know how fast he was going, but I just jumped out,” Lenore said.

Uninjured, Lenore began walking, and noticed the driver circling to intercept her.

Walking into crowds and into alleys, she was able to give him the slip.

“I went home and just sat there – I was scared  ****less – I was scared to go outside at all,” Lenore said.

“I didn’t tell no one, not the police, not my friends or family.” 

The very next week Lenore said she learned yet another woman disappeared and was later found dead.

Much later, when Pickton was arrested and pictures of the murderer were widely seen, Lenore realized how lucky she had been.

She could have been Pickton’s third, seventh – or God knows what number – victim.

After his 2002 arrest, when he was charged with the murder of 26 women, Pickton was convicted five years later of killing six women, mostly prostitutes working the Downtown Eastside.

Pickton’s victims. Courtesy CBC

Twenty charges were stayed by the Crown because of the low possibility of convictions in those cases.

But the killer said the numbers were higher, much higher.

“I was gonna do one more, make it an even 50,” he told an undercover police officer as the pair sat in a jail cell while the pig farmer awaited his day in court.

“That’s why I was sloppy, I wanted one more. Make… make the big five-O.”

The pig farmer’s M.O. was that he preyed upon drug addicts and prostitutes whom he’d pick up in Vancouver’s red-light district before driving them to his nearby Port Coquitlam farm, where he had sex with the women before murdering them in a number of grim and ghastly ways, reportedly feeding some of his victims to his hogs.

Pickton was sentenced to life behind bars with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

Lenore is one of three women able to meet Pickton on the streets and live to tell her story.

In 1997, for the promise of a hundred bucks, a woman got into Pickton’s vehicle and ended up at his farm.

After they had sex, she testified at Pickton’s preliminary hearing, he came up behind her and slipped a handcuff onto one of her wrists.

The woman managed to grab a knife and cut the pig farmer’s arm and neck before escaping the farm.

A year earlier, another woman, said she found herself in Pickton’s trailer. 

She said he pulled out a knife and accused her of swiping his wallet before he drove her back to Vancouver.

While her encounter with Pickton never became a violent situation one, Lenore said she considers herself lucky.


Lenore, exults in the knowledge she survived foster homes, sexual abuse and an encounter with one of Canada’s most prolific murderers. Photo by Mike D’Amour, Western Standard

“I quit drinking and started a job,” she said.

Now Lenore has been clean for decades, has steady work and loves her life on Vancouver Island.

“I really am grateful.”

Mike D’Amour is a former investigative reporter for Sun Media, and the Western Standard’s B.C. bureau chief

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WESTROCK: ‘Crown Lands’ the next big band to break out of Canada

Ernest Skinner interviews Kevin Comeau of the up-and-coming Canadian duo Crown Lands. Check it out for a special preview just for WS readers.

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Crown Lands are a two-time Juno nominated duo based out of Oshawa, Ontario. In a short time, the lineup has received accolades from many of the music industries toughest critics.

Rolling Stone Magazine had this to say; “The multi-part, three-years-in-the-making suite ‘Context: Fearless Pt. 1’ may well be one of the most overt Rush tributes ever, and last year’s self titled debut album from the hirsute young Canadian rock duo Crown Lands, is an accomplished, chops-heavy take on blues-rock, produced by roots mastermind Dave Cobb, which won them critical praise and two Juno nominations.”

Kerrang Magazine raved, “familiar musical motifs blended into something fresh and distinctive, delivered with a combination of indignation, intelligence and forest-dwelling spirituality. It’s also a hell of a debut.”

The list goes on and on, with Guitar World, the BBCCBC, and Hockey Night in Canada, which we’ll get to later.

The band consists of Kevin Comeau on guitar, bass, and keyboards while Two-Spirit (Cody Bowles) takes care of the vocals and drums.

A friend of mine and one-time skeptic Mark Kniahnicki told me, “I was blown away when I saw them live a few years ago. I didn’t think you could get that kind of full sound out of just two guys.” 

With three medium length plays (EPs) to their credit since they formed in 2015, they finally released their self-titled debut album in August of 2020.

The obvious Rush and Zeppelin sound will make you look down at your bell bottoms while you are enjoying the psychedelic trip these two bring you on. 

End of the Road is a deep song about the missing and murdered indigenous women along the infamous Highway of Tears (Yellowhead Hwy. 16 in British Columbia.) This song showcases their mature songwriting and intelligence, and the video for this track is downright haunting. Go and check it out via YouTube.

Early last year, these (hopefully) soon-to-be Juno recipients teamed up with three former Rush producers (Terry Brown, Nick Raskulinecz, David Botrill) to record Context: Fearless Pt.1, which was released alongside Right Way Back, penned as a tribute to the late Neil Peart.

Upon arrival in Nashville to cut and mix these songs, producer Raskulinecz stunned the band by bringing out the drum kit that the late Peart used on the 2007 Snakes and Arrows album for Cody to use.

According to Cody“This was one of the most spiritual experiences in our lives.”     

Both songs can be listened /to back to back on YouTube. 

I was lucky enough to chat with Kevin on Friday. He was down to earth and very humble for an up-and-coming international musician. 

I mentioned that my favorite song of theirs was End of the Road and would be in the article.

“Our band mission statement is about talking about these kinds of things and how the indigenous are being treated.”

I also asked them how they became affiliated with Hockey Night in Canada

“Our label Universal Music Canada and our rep Allison Phillips, are so great and they have a tight relationship with the NHL. In the past they have played a couple of our songs during the intro of some playoff games.”

If you are curious about Kevin’s guitar style and main influences growing up, he offered this up.  

“As a slide player, Duane Allman, he was the master. No one before or after him measures up; and then you have Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac who is another hero of mine with his right hand technique.” 

Instead of working on recording a full album, the duo is doing something I think will be catching on. 

“We are going to focus on releasing a of couple songs at a time so we can really spend a lot of time making them masterpieces”, said Kevin. “These days, a lot of albums have three great tunes and the rest are just fillers. We want our fans to love everything we put out.”

Get ready Canada. These two from Southern Ontario are going to break out internationally through Universal Music Canada, and you’ll know why after listening to their new material. 

Ernest Skinner is the Westrock Music Columnist for the Western Standard

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