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UCP demand Lethbridge cops shut down drug injection site

The pop-up drug site operates on a nightly basis in a park that is the centre of the opioid abuse in the southern Alberta city.

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The provincial government is demanding Lethbridge police shut down an illegal safe injection site being operated in a tent.

The tent sprung up after a controversial Lethbridge safe drug consumption site shuttered its doors on Aug. 31 after the Alberta government cut its funding after an independent audit discovered a litany of problems including “financial irregularities.”

Now the pop-up drug site operates on a nightly basis in a park that is the centre of the opioid abuse in the southern Alberta city.

“Alberta’s government provides a legal, sanctioned overdose prevention site a block away from this location, with adequate capacity for the community, said associate minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan in a statement to the Western Standard.

“This illegal site contravenes the Criminal Code of Canada and we expect the City of Lethbridge and the Lethbridge Police Service to enforce the law.”

ARCHES received up to 800 visits a day – one of the busiest supervised consumption sites in the world. Lethbridge, a city of 100,000, has the highest per-capita rate of opioid overdose deaths in Alberta.

The pop-up site is being run by the newly formed Lethbridge Overdose Prevention Society, CBC reported.

The tent offer services for a couple of hours before packing up for the day. There is enough room for two people to inject drugs at a time.

ARCHES had received more than $14.4 million in taxpayer dollars over the past two years.

The government announced in July the accounting firm Deloitte found:

  • $1,617,094 unaccounted for due to missing documentation for expenditures from 2017 to 2018.
  • $13,000 of interest off ARCHES bank accounts was used to fund parties, staff retreats, entertainment and gift cards.
  • A senior executive’s compensation totalled $342,943 for calendar year 2019. This includes $70,672 in overtime for fiscal year 2019-20. The grant agreement allows for a salary of $80,000.  
  • The Everyone Comes Together (ECT) program staff salaries and benefits also exceeded the amount allocated by the grant agreement by $16,000.
  • The number of ARCHES employees is greater than allowed by the grant agreement.  ARCHES maintained up to 126 employees. However, the exact number could not be verified.
  • $4,301 spent on European travel for management to attend a conference in Portugal.
  • Thousands of dollars in unverifiable travel expenses, including trips charged to company credit cards but not recorded in the ledger.
  • A senior executive’s family member was hired, earning $9,900. The auditors could not locate a resume or personnel file to verify any qualifications.
  • $7,557 for management retreats, including meals and mileage where documentation for spending was unclear.
  • The grant agreement requires the organization to maintain the funding received from Alberta Health within a separate bank account; however, the audit revealed that it was comingled with other funding sources. As a result of ARCHES comingling their accounts, the auditors could not verify thousands of dollars of expenses.
  • Proper personal conflict of interest declarations were not recorded when related individuals or vendors were hired or utilized.
  • Vendors were repeatedly secured in secrecy with a lack of transparency and accountability.
  • No petty cash reconciliations have been completed.
  • $1,129 was used to buy gift cards for board members for The Keg, iTunes, Boston Pizza, Earls, Gap, Shell, Chapters, Cineplex, Amazon, Starbuck’s, Tim Hortons, MasterCard, and Bath and Bodyworks. The expense was recorded as “Gift cards – Board Members.”
  • $2,100 was spent on gift cards to The Oil Changer – a business owned by a senior executive’s spouse.
  • $2,205 was spent on a television with no receipt documentation to support the purchase.

The report has been passed on to police.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard and the Vice-President: News Division of Western Standard New Media Corp. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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Vulnerable Albertans 18+ can receive fourth COVID booster

Eligible individuals can begin booking fourth dose appointments beginning January 20 with AHS or at participating pharmacies by using the Alberta vaccine booking system or by calling 811.

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Those 18 and older who have specific immunocompromising conditions can now book their fourth booster five months after receiving their third dose, said Alberta Health.

The decision announced on Tuesday in the provincial COVID-19 address is in line with recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and the Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization (AACI).

“We remain committed to protecting Albertans from the Omicron variant, and vaccinations continue to be our best tool in preventing severe outcomes,” said Premier Jason Kenney in a statement.

“We continue to rely on the latest research to guide our decision-making, and with evidence showing immunocompromised individuals benefit from a fourth dose, we are pleased to provide them.”

Eligible individuals can begin booking fourth dose appointments beginning January 20 with AHS or at participating pharmacies by using the Alberta vaccine booking system or by calling 811.

“I know that the approximately 80,000 Albertans who live with immunocompromising conditions will be relieved to receive these additional doses,” said Minister of Health Jason Copping.

“At the same time, the best way for all of us to protect ourselves and one another is to continue getting whatever dose we are eligible for. I encourage all Albertans to continue to sign up for their booster doses as soon as they can.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the fourth COVID-19 dose will help “individuals with certain immunocompromising conditions” and will provide “additional protection” against the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Qualifying conditions include:

  • Transplant recipients, including solid organ transplants and hematopoietic stem cell transplants.
  • Individuals with malignant hematologic disorders and non-hematologic malignant solid tumors prior to receiving or receiving active treatment (chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy or having received previous COVID-19 vaccines while on active treatment), excluding individuals receiving solely hormonal therapy, radiation therapy or a surgical intervention.
  • Individuals being treated with an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody such as Rituximab.
  • Individuals with chronic kidney disease on dialysis.
  • Recipients of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T-cell therapy.
  • Individuals with moderate to severe primary immunodeficiency (e.g., DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome).
  • Individuals with Stage 3 or advanced HIV infection and those with acquired COVID-19 immunization.
  • Individuals undergoing immunosuppressive therapies (e.g., anti-B cell therapies, high-dose systemic corticosteroids, alkylating agents, antimetabolites, or tumornecrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors and other biologic agents).
  • Individuals on certain medications for autoimmune diseases, including rituximab, ocrelizumab and ofatumumab.

“Youth ages 12 to 17 with the preceding conditions continue to be eligible for third doses. Fourth doses have not yet been approved for this age group,” said the release adding, “third doses have not been approved for youth under the age of 18.”

Hinshaw said the province has recorded 3279 new cases within the last 24 hours while 8995 tests were recorded for a positivity rate of 39%. Hinshaw has earlier stated actual cases are likely 10 times higher due to lack of testing.

Hinshaw also confirmed 1,089 are currently in hospital — 51% of those hospitalized are due to COVID-19 while 49% are cases with COVID-19. Currently, there are 104 people in ICU — 74% due to COVID-19 while 26% are cases with COVID-19. Nine deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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AHS uses undercover agents to bust restaurant for accepting dog photos instead of QR codes

The test shoppers entered the restaurant at different times on January 11 and were permitted access after showing a photo of a dog and their personal identification.

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Alberta Health Services (AHS) has shut down a Red Deer restaurant for allowing patrons to show dog photos in place of proof of vaccination.

The Granary was ordered closed to indoor dining on Friday after complaints to an AHS executive officer resulted in two test shoppers busting staff for accepting photographs of a dog instead of scanning vaccine passport QR codes.

The test shoppers entered the restaurant at different times on January 11 and were permitted access after showing a photo of a dog and their personal identification. It was reported a staffer pretended to scan QR codes with a tablet.

The owners have been told the indoor dining area is to remain closed until they produce a written plan on how they plan to implement the restriction exemption program moving forward.

The owners will also have to provide confirmation they have trained staff about the program and will be required to attend an administrative hearing with Environmental Public Health.

The restaurant took to its Facebook page on Friday to explain the circumstances to its patrons and offered up free coffee for all to-go orders throughout the weekend.

“To our valued guests, we had an unfortunate circumstance at our front door which involved one of our underage hostesses, and the requirements for the REP program.  We are taking the weekend to retrain and regroup,” it said.

“We look forward to serving you again as soon as we are ready to reopen.  In closing, we would like to remind everyone of the tremendous pressure being placed on front staff, and please remember to be kind.”

The restaurant has since opened again and is currently offering free rapid testing on site.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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MLA Barnes demands greater punishment for corrupt politicians

“This suspension is a staggering under reaction designed to shield one of the Premier’s cronies,” said Barnes.

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Independent Alberta MLA Drew Barnes is outraged that Justice Minister Kaycee Madu was only being suspended after he called Edmonton’s police chief about a ticket he received.

That action led to Madu being suspended Monday night by Alberta Primer Jason Kenney.

“This suspension is a staggering under reaction designed to shield one of the Premier’s cronies,” said Barnes, the MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.

“It is inexcusable that any minister’s first instinct upon receiving such a ticket is to swing influence in an attempt to get his ticket fixed. It’s just another indicator that the culture of Redford-era cronyism remains alive and well within Premier’ Kenney’s inner circle.”

After being fined $300 for speeding in an Edmonton playground zone, Madu phoned Dale McFee, the city’s chief of police, to discuss the ticket with him. 

“It is particularly galling that this minister is currently overseeing changes that will deny procedural fairness for thousands of Albertans when they face similar traffic fines,” said Barnes.

This follows the removal of traffic courts in Alberta, the previously most accessible part of the justice system now no longer available to citizens.

“Under this minister, you are considered guilty until proven innocent, unless, of course, you happen to have the local police chief on speed-dial,” said Barnes.

“It seems the minister, like the Premier, considers himself above the law. Albertans deserve better. The real question is, why hasn’t he been fired yet?”

“Over the past year, Premier Kenney has repeatedly punished both ministers and MLAs for daring to question his leadership, but when a real case of misuse of power comes along concerning one of his handpicked cronies, the fix is in. That’s not justice; that’s cronyism.”

McFee said he received the call about the ticket from Madu, saying Madu brought up the issue of racial profiling by police to stop drivers.

“This is the Minister who continues to encourage legal action against pastors and small business owners for allegedly violating the very same health restrictions that the Premier and his cronies violated on the Sky Palace patio,” said Barnes.

Ewa Sudyk is a reporter with the Western Standard
esudyk@westernstandardonline.com

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Petition: No Media Bailouts

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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No Media Bailouts

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