Alberta man has brand new house demolished after court finds he built it without proper permits

A brand new house in the village of Carmangay, Alta. was torn down in just hours Thursday morning, after a court order was issued to demolish the home.

The village claims the Carmangay man who built the house did so without the correct permits.

READ MORE: Readers react with acceptance, vitriol after town tears down Alberta man’s house

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    Kym Nichols, the mayor of Carmangay,  said a development permit was taken out, as was a building permit, but the building permit was for a garage, not a house.

    “He just figured he could build however he wanted, to build wherever he wanted to build,” Nichols said.

    The homeowner was then issued several stop work orders in addition to orders from bylaw officers and RCMP to cease construction.

    After the homeowner failed to comply, Nichols said she felt she was left with no other choice than to take the matter to court.

    “We went to court to get a court order to get him to stop building,” she said.

    “He continued to build and continued to ignore the court order.”

    Members of the community told Global News the man built the house himself.

    A new house in Carmangay is reduced to rubble after the town issued a court order to demolish the home.

    Christina Succi / Global News

    “He was hand-digging the basement at first, then I seen him slowly put the concrete up, the walls up, the roof go on,” village resident Jan Haake said.

    Neighbour Wyatt Dahl sympathizes with the property owner, but agrees with the town’s decision.

    “It’s a shame that his hard work and money went into this,” Dahl said. “But the law is there for a reason.”

    Nichols said the homeowner was given ultimatums to move the structure or dismantle it. The court order stated three separate deadlines were set to comply, none of which were met.

    “This was absolutely the last resort,” Nichols said. “None of us wanted to see it come to this.

    “We were hoping he would comply at some point.”

    Global News was unable to speak to the homeowner and he was not on the premises when the demolition began.

    Carmangay is about a 45 minute drive northwest of Lethbridge and about an hour and 45 minutes southeast of Calgary.

Ziferblat’s ‘coffee office’ model charges for time, not food

On a Monday afternoon, the narrow street outside the Ziferblat cafe is quiet; but inside, the 6,000-square-foot coffee shop is packed with dozens of customers.

The cafe first opened in Manchester, England in 2014, and now serves around 12,000 customers per month. Part of its recipe for success: all of the cafe’s food, drinks and 100 MB of wifi are free.

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“When we first opened this, we were terrified,” recalls Ben Davies, the cafe’s marketing manager. “But I think this is something that isn’t currently provided.”

Here’s the catch: The cafe’s name, Ziferblat, is Russian for “clock face.”

Ziferblat’s customers only pay for the time they spend: six pence, or around 10 Canadian cents, per minute.

READ MORE: Addicted to coffee? Your DNA may be to blame, study suggests

They check-in and check-out, like a hotel. And during their stay, customers can eat and drink as much they like.

An array of fresh, locally-baked cakes, cookies and sandwiches are spread across a table buffet-style. There’s also tea, espresso and coffee machines, and customers are encouraged to help themselves.

“We have had some people who come in here with a spoon and eat two full chocolate fudge cakes. But generally they’re few and far between. And normally they don’t come back,” Davies laughs.

He says their average customer spends 83 minutes here. And most consume far less than you might expect.

“The fact that you have the free choice makes you not want to ‘take the mick,’ or take the entire jar of biscuits,” says customer Luke Halliwell, while sipping a latte and playing a board game with a friend.

“I just have a few (biscuits), because I’m here to relax and enjoy my time.”

Ziferblat’s real secret to success isn’t the customers who play cards or catch-up with friends; it’s the people who come here to work.

Web designer Mark Butler’s head is buried in his laptop. He comes here five days a week; He used to work from home, he says, but “you get cabin fever and you miss human contact.”

So he tried working in traditional cafes; “In a coffee shop you tend to get that vibe where the staff, after half an hour, are glaring at you, waiting for you to buy something else. Whereas it’s a lot more relaxed here. And the wifi is better.”

READ MORE: Caffeine doesn’t tamper with heartbeat, study suggests

Unlike some coffee shops, Ziferplat has no minimum spend. And once you’ve paid for five hours, the rest of the day is free.

In the United Kingdom, around 16 per cent of workers are self-employed. In Canada, freelancers represent around 10 per cent of the workforce. And the number continues to rise.

“You see a lot of people working freelance nowadays,” says Davies, who estimates that half their business comes from customers who use it as an office.

“We’re trying to solve that coffee shop office problem. And people do treat us like a co-working space.”

And that “coffee office” — or “coffice” — business is booming. The Ziferblat cafe is now opening branches throughout the U.K. And the business model is being adopted across Europe and North America, feeding the growing appetite from self-employed workers.

World AIDS Day: Saskatoon’s HIV rates more than twice the national average

In conjunction with World AIDS Day taking place on Dec. 1, the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) released a report that reveals the city’s HIV infection rates and what is being done to decrease the numbers.

The Saskatoon Health Region’s updated ‘Better Health For All’ report shows the city’s 2015 HIV infection rates were more than twice the national average, breaking a five-year downward trend:

Saskatoon: 14.6 in 100,000 in 2015Canada: 5.8 in 100,000 in 2014 (latest national data available)

READ MORE: World AIDS Day put spotlight on high Sask. HIV rates

Deputy health officer Dr. Johnmark Opondo said there was a 55 per cent increase in reported cases this year.

“We had come down to about 31 cases a year but last year, we went up to 51 cases,” he said from the Saskatoon Health Region office.

The increase in reported cases is mainly due to people not using clean needles for injection drug use and unprotected sex:

Injection drug use (IDU) accounted for 65 per cent of transmission in 2015Heterosexual sex accounted for 16 per cent of HIV transmission in 2015Male sex with other males also accounted for 16 per cent of transmission in 2015

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    According to the SHR, the key to decreasing infection rates is to educate the public on the importance of regular testing and providing those in need with access to ongoing treatment.

    “You can imagine if we’re able to do this across a large number of individuals who are HIV-infected, we’re reducing the amount of HIV that’s circulating in the community,” Opondo said.

    “This combined effort in testing and treatment probably explains the downward trend in the Saskatoon Health Region.”

    Seven out of 10 HIV-positive individuals identify as First Nation or Métis in Saskatoon, with contaminated injection drug use as the number one cause of infection.

    “We look at the mental health of the people and what is happening to them. Why are they self-medicating and using drugs?” All Nations Hope Network CEO Margaret Poitras asked.

    “It’s all (part) of the trauma that’s come from the residential schools and from colonization.”

    READ MORE: South African HIV vaccine trial could be ‘final nail in the coffin’ for the disease

    She has been working to find the root causes for the high rates of HIV among indigenous people for 17 years.

    However, HIV rates are now decreasing. Only 35 cases of new infections have been reported in 2016 and the Saskatoon Health Region said it believes that is due to an increase in testing, education and long-term treatment.

Tap water safe to drink after ‘chemical’ taste reported in east-end Toronto: officials

City officials are advising residents in east-end Toronto that their tap water is safe to drink after a number of residents complained of a chemical taste Thursday night.

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“There are no issues with the safety of the drinking water. In some parts of the east end, there was a slight increase in chlorine levels but tests have shown the water is safe and the levels are within MOECC regulatory ranges,” city spokeswoman Jackie DeSouza said in a statement on Friday.

DeSouza said crews are continuing to monitor the water supply and have put a message on 311 for people who are calling to inquire.

READ MORE: Unsafe levels of lead in Toronto tap water: report

City officials said the strange odour and taste were attributed to system upgrades at the R.C. Harris Treatment Plant.

“As part of the normal water treatment process, Toronto Water uses aluminum sulphate (alum).  The alum generated a gas called hydrogen sulphide (H2S) that resembles the smell of boiled eggs,” Toronto Water said in a media release.

“This gas entered into some of the treated drinking water when the basin was put back into operation. Toronto Water has taken the settling basin out of operation this morning and the taste and odour will dissipate by the end of today.”

Resident Ely Lyonblum said he and his family noticed something was “a little off” at around 9 p.m.

“We could taste something that was maybe a little salty or there was a bit of chlorine or something like that and we immediately looked online,” he said, adding he went online to check east-end community Facebook groups that he is apart of and found other families were talking about the water quality.

“All of the parent groups were chiming in with, ‘Something’s off with the water. We’ll call 311.’”

Complaints about the chemical-tasting water began to flood Toronto’s 311 桑拿会所 account throughout the evening as residents noticed the water smelling like chlorine.

“Within half an hour or 45 minutes, there were a lot of people who had reached 311 and it said either, ‘Don’t drink the water’ or, ‘Just take caution and we’ll let you know more as soon as we can,’” Lyonblum said.

“There was a bit of uncertainly so we did something that we hate to do. We had a little bit of bottled water and we used that sparingly.”

In addition to east-end Toronto, reports of the bad taste and smell of the tap water have also come from the Bloor Street West and Bathurst Street area, as well as near Church and Isabella streets.

According to the city’s website, chlorine and aluminum are two chemicals regularly used in the water treatment process.

“Before the water is pumped into homes, sulphur dioxide is added to reduce the level of chlorine to 0.9 milligrams per litre,” the city said.

Meanwhile, aluminum sulphate is used to remove harmful micro-organisms and particles by making them clump together into larger particles so they can be filtered out of the water supply.

Mark McAllister and Nick Westoll contributed to this report.

Saskatoon Transit routes disrupted Friday by ATU 615 job action

Saskatoon Transit has cancelled over 30 buses for Friday afternoon service due to job action by members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 615.

Three of those buses are on high school routes:

Route 311 – servicing Holy Cross, Aden Bowman and Walter Murray leaving at 3:33 p.m. Students will have to catch Route 81.Route 331 – servicing Holy Cross, Aden Bowman and Walter Murray leaving at 3:30 p.m. Students will have to catch Route 81.Route 352 – servicing St. Joseph High School leaving at 3:25 p.m. Students will have to catch Route 45 and transfer at 104 Street and Central Avenue to Route 18.

READ MORE: Both sides stand firm in Saskatoon Transit contract dispute

At least 30 buses on regular routes have been cancelled:

Route 10 – Pleasant Hill leaving downtown at 1:31 p.m., 2:31 p.m., 3:31 p.m., 4:31 p.m. and 5:31 p.m.Route 10 – City Centre leaving Confederation Mall at 2:01 p.m., 3:01 p.m., 4:01 p.m., 5:01 p.m. and 6:01 p.m.Route 20 – South Industrial Special from Melville Street and Brand Road to downtown at 5:06 p.m.Route 22 – Montgomery from Confederation Mall to Montgomery at 3:29 p.m.Route 22 – Montgomery via Confederation from the Downtown Terminal to Montgomery at 3:31 p.m., 4:01 p.m. and 5:01 p.m.Route 23 – from Shaw Centre to Confederation Mall leaving at 3:15 p.m., 3:25 p.m., 3:35 p.m., 3:45 p.m., 3:55 p.m., 3:57 p.m., 4:35 p.m., 4:45 p.m. and 5:05 p.m.Route 23 – Blairmore from Confederation Mall to Shaw Centre leaving at 3:47 p.m., 4:24 p.m. and 4:54 p.m.Route 101 – University Direct from Campus Drive and College Drive to Lakeview at 2:40 p.m.Route 102 – University Direct from Campus Drive and College Drive to Lakeview at 2:35 p.m.Route Abilities Special #1 – from Abilities Council to downtown at 4:15 p.m.

Transit officials said higher passenger volumes can be expected on a number of routes, including some from the University of Saskatchewan, which could result in full buses:

Route 2 – Meadowgreen from downtown between 3:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.Route 4 – Willowgrove Square from the U of S between 3:20 p.m. and 5:20 p.m.Route 6 – Market Mall from the U of S between 3:07 p.m. and 5:07 p.m.Route 17 – Stonebridge from the U of S between 3:11 p.m. and 5:41 p.m.Route 18 – College Park from the U of S between 3:07 p.m. and 5:37 p.m.Route 40 – Evergreen from the U of S between 3:17 p.m. and 5:17 p.m.Route 45 – Kenderdine from the U of S between 3:02 p.m. and 5:02 p.m.Route 50 – Lakeview from the U of S between 3:20 p.m. and 5:20 p.m.Route 55 – Lakeridge from the U of S between 3:05 p.m. and 5:35 p.m.Route 60 – Confederation from downtown between 3:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.Route 65 – Kensington from downtown between 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.Route 82 – Centre Mall via Main Street from the U of S between 3:14 p.m. and 5:44 p.m.Route 81 – Centre Mall via Taylor Street from U of S between 3:05 p.m. and 5:35 p.m.

City officials said drivers are refusing to work overtime and with the current work to rule campaign, delays, cancellations and overcrowding on other buses is possible.

READ MORE: Sick calls during Saskatoon Transit labour dispute force major cancellations

Transit officials said they are reducing bus frequencies on some routes in response to the refusal of transit drivers to work overtime.

Riders can see service alerts on both the Saskatoon Transit and the city’s websites, using the transit app and by following Saskatoon Transit on 桑拿会所.

Access Transit is not affected as it is an essential service.

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Average price for detached home in Toronto hits $1.35M as prices soar: real estate board

TORONTO – The Toronto-area real estate market continued to see strong sales volumes and higher prices in November.

The Toronto Real Estate Board says there were 8,547 sales through its system last month, up 16.5 per cent from November 2015.

The average selling price for all types of housing was $776,684, up 22.7 per cent over the same time last year, while the industry association’s home price index was up 20.3 per cent.

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READ MORE: Toronto real estate prices continue to soar, while suburbs work to catch up

Prices in the 416 area code, which includes the City of Toronto, were generally higher than in the 905 area code for surrounding areas served by GTA realtors.

The average price for full-detached house in the 416 area was nearly $1.35 million, up 32.3 per cent from the same time last year while the comparable type of house in the 905 area had an average price of $957,517 – up 25.5 per cent.

READ MORE: Price of new homes continue to edge up on strength of Toronto, Vancouver markets

TREB says a chronic shortage of property listings contributed to higher prices and frustrated some would-be buyers.

The strength in Toronto came as sales in Vancouver told a different story.

Home sales in the Vancouver region totalled 2,214 in November, down 0.9 per cent 2,233 sales recorded in October and 37.2 per cent lower than November 2015 when 3,524 homes sold.

READ MORE: Toronto home sales stay hot in October despite soaring prices: TREB

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said sales in November were 7.6 per cent below the 10-year sales average for the month.

“While 2016 has been anything but a normal year for the Metro Vancouver housing market, supply and demand totals have returned to more historically normal levels over the last few months,” Vancouver board president Dan Morrison said.

Toronto FC no longer wasteland for players as club just one win away from MLS Cup glory

TORONTO – Bill Manning remembers having to sell defender Drew Moor on Toronto FC while trying to recruit him as a free agent last winter.

Manning, who joined Toronto as president in October 2015, knew where Moor was coming from. He had watched the ups and many downs of Toronto FC from afar during his eight seasons as president of Real Salt Lake.

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“I’ll tell you TFC had a bad reputation with players for many, many years,” Manning said. “Guys didn’t want to come here. … I remember when we were recruiting Drew Moor, he had a lot of questions about what this club used to represent and we sold him on a vision of what we wanted to be and where we wanted to go.”

With help from Moor and others, Manning, GM Tim Bezbatchenko and coach Greg Vanney are delivering on that vision.

READ MORE: Toronto FC top Montreal Impact in OT thriller to advance to MLS Cup final

On Wednesday, Toronto dispatched the Montreal Impact 5-2 on the night and 7-5 on aggregate to complete a memorable Eastern Conference final. The series, a showcase for exciting soccer, drew 97,004 fans over the two games, as well as a an average TV audience of 1.4 million for the final leg according to TSN.

One win from the MLS championship, Toronto is now a very desirable soccer landing pad.

“Nights like this is what I was hoping for when I visited here almost a year ago,” said Moor, a 12-year-MLS veteran. “Obviously having been in the league as long as TFC’s been around, I know their history well and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of what we’re doing this season.

“We’ll enjoy this tonight but we’ve got bigger fish to fry as well.”

That would be upstart Seattle, on Dec. 10 at BMO Field. Toronto gets to host the MLS Cup final by virtue of finishing five points ahead of the Western Conference playoff winner.

READ MORE: Concerns raised over capacity of Exhibition GO station tunnel due to BMO Field events

The Sounders have come a long way from July 26 when they parted ways with longtime coach Sigi Schmid. At the time the team was 6-12-2 in ninth place in the 10-team Western Conference. Seattle has gone 12-3-4 since with Brian Schmetzer at the helm.

Toronto, meanwhile, is 12-3-5 since July 16.

Michael Bradley calls Toronto an ‘unbelievable’ sports city


Michael Bradley calls Toronto an ‘unbelievable’ sports city


Michael Bradley not concerned about cold weather in the MLS Cup


Greg Vanney says MLS Cup final is the culmination of his journey

The teams drew 1-1 when they met July 2 at BMO Field in a game that saw Toronto field a lineup that featured perhaps just four starters due to injuries and a crowded schedule. Seattle was without striker Clint Dempsey, who remains out injured, and had not yet signed Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro.

The Sounders are 7-2-2 all time against Toronto FC, including a 3-1-1 record at BMO Field.

The two teams share some common ties.

READ MORE: Montreal Impact-Toronto FC playoff game delayed by penalty box marking snafu

Goalkeeper Stefan Frei spent his first five seasons in Toronto before joining Seattle in 2014. Defender Eriq Zavaleta was drafted by the Sounders in 2013 and appeared in five games before being traded to Toronto in January 2015. Seattle midfielder Nathan Sturgis (14 games in 2011) and forward Herculez Gomez (seven games in 2015) also spent time in a Toronto uniform.

Unlike the past, the current Reds are happy right were they are.

“Just about across the board, every single guy who’s at this club has chosen to be at this club,” said captain Michael Bradley. “And we’ve chosen to be here for a reason.

“Because we look around and we see unbelievable potential in terms of a city, a market, a fan base, a stadium, a training ground – every box gets checked. You look around the league and there are other clubs that check a lot of boxes. I’m not sure there’s another club that checks every box. This club checks every box.”

But “the stuff on the field – ultimately the most important thing- up until recently hasn’t been right,” Bradley acknowledged.

It is now.

READ MORE: Toronto FC beats NYCFC setting up Eastern Conference final with Montreal Impact

Under former boss Tim Leiweke and current CEO Michael Friisdahl, owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment has spared no expense in turning the franchise around. TFC is the best team money can buy in Major League Soccer.

Star striker Sebastian Giovinco’s US$7.12-million salary this season is more than the entire Montreal team combined.

Credit Vanney, who took over with 10 games remaining in the 2014 season after Ryan Nelsen was fired, for helping right the ship and keep all the talent happy – although the ultra-focused Bradley clearly plays a huge part in keeping the players on point.

Vanney finished the 2014 season with a 2-6-2 mark but his coaching record in Toronto now stands at 35-33-17. To put that in context, Toronto’s all-time record is 95-146-89.

The 42-year-old American admits he has learned on the job. Today, he is an astute tactician who is good with people.

Vanney showed that on the pitch Wednesday and then after when he made a point of thanking his entire roster, including those who didn’t make the matchday 18.

“I give a lot of credit to the guys who weren’t in the 18 because they played like crazy this week to get these guys ready,” said Vanney as Bradley, sitting next to him, nodded in agreement. “They were excellent all week in training and really gave us things to think about to help us get prepared.”

WWII survivor accused in wife’s death mentally unfit to stand trial: psychiatrist

Loved ones of an 85-year-old man accused of murdering his wife of 56 years say they are relieved Siegfried van Zuiden has been deemed unfit to stand trial.

But close family friends said Friday they won’t feel fully at ease until they know where the senior —; who they say has long suffered from dementia —; will spend the rest of his life and what quality of care he’ll receive.

READ MORE: Memorial held Monday for Audrey van Zuiden: ‘none of her family bears ill feeling towards Fred’

Defence lawyer Alain Hepner told the court that psychiatrist Ken Hashman, with the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre, has determined van Zuiden is mentally unfit to stand trial. A letter from the doctor was presented as an exhibit.

Van Zuiden, a WWII survivor, was charged with second-degree murder on Oct. 4 after he called 911 and police officers found his 80-year-old wife, Audrey, dead in their home. Van Zuiden underwent two months of tests to assess his mental state and whether he understood the legal process.

Watch below from Nov. 4: Fred van Zuiden ordered to undergo more psychological testing

A fitness determination can be reversed if at any point the patient improves with treatment.

A psychiatrist told court in October that he believed van Zuiden had a moderate to severe case of dementia.

FILE: Fred van Zuiden promoting his book, Call Me Mom.

Obtained by Global News

Van Zuiden’s case is due back in court on Dec. 13.

Vince Walker, the van Zuidens’ godson, said he doesn’t have closure yet.

“We’re really interested in what facility he’ll be in or what level of security he requires, what our visitation’s going to be like, what is his quality of life going to be like,” he said outside court.

At the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre, where van Zuiden has spent the past two months, visitors are separated by a pane of glass and must speak through a phone, said Walker.

“It’s not the ideal way to go visit somebody and I know it frustrates him on occasion.”

READ MORE: Court hears WWII survivor charged with wife’s murder ‘likely suffering from dementia’

He, and another close family friend, Gordon van Gunst, said they’d like van Zuiden to be in a facility where it’s possible for visitors to play a game of chess or listen to music with him.

Van Gunst said van Zuiden has good days and bad days where he is now.

“He’s loved by everybody in the facility. He’s well taken care of, but we always like a little bit more. He’s doing well, considering.”

Watch below from Oct. 5: The tragic case of 85-year-old Siegfried van Zuiden is raising questions about dementia, and the care available. Bindu Suri spoke to one family personally touched by the story.

Van Zuiden, who goes by the first name Fred, was born in the Netherlands to a Jewish family. He chronicled his flight from the Nazis during the Second World War in his book “Call me Mom: A Dutch Boy’s WWII Survival Story.”

He came to Canada in 1952 and later settled with his wife in Calgary, where he founded a sailboat business.

Loved ones have said the couple did everything together in their marriage and were soulmates.

Walker said he’d like to see the Crown drop the charge.

“You don’t want someone with the legacy that Fred has, living with an outstanding criminal charge. It would be wonderful if we could make that go away.”

The victim’s siblings, who live in the United Kingdom, have said they bear no ill feeling toward van Zuiden and blame a hideous disease for their sister’s death.

The couple had no children. Audrey van Zuiden had been caring for her husband in their home as his condition deteriorated.


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  • WWII survivor charged with murder after wife found dead in Calgary home

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VPD’s toughest canine cheated death twice before and after retirement

“He means the world to me.”

That’s how Sgt. Derrick Gibson describes his bond with ‘Teak’.

Teak is a legend within the ranks of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) and at age 12, he hasn’t lost his fight. “He’s probably one of the toughest dogs we’ve ever had here,” said Gibson of his former canine partner.

Teak is living out his retirement with Gibson’s family after his six-year VPD career saw him nab some 300 suspects.

Teak while he was with the VPD.


Gibson will never forget Teak’s toughest arrest on Jan. 11, 2013.

“I’m getting emotional now. It’s still pretty hard to think of, your partner and your best friend has been hurt and might not make it.”

On that night, the pair was called to what should have been a routine armed robbery at a gas station in East Vancouver.

The suspect ran when Gibson threatened to send Teak. Teak gave chase and managed to take the 20-year-old down after about 50 metres.

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That’s when Kyle Scott Martin began to attack Teak. At first, Gibson and his colleagues thought Teak was being punched.

“As myself and my cover officer got closer, we noticed he was being stabbed. He had a box cutter in his right hand.”

Despite being stabbed repeatedly and sustaining a gaping 25 centimetre stab wound, Teak never let go of his attacker.

“He didn’t stop. He fought through, did everything I asked of him until I released him from the suspect,” recalled Gibson, who said the stabbing only stopped when his partner tasered the suspect.

Bleeding from the neck, Teak was rushed to the vet for emergency surgery.

“The vet told me if it was a centimetre deeper or a centimetre longer it would have caught his jugular, so someone was watching out for him that day,” said Gibson.

Less than two days and two surgeries later, Teak was released to recover at home. His attacker, Kyle Scott Martin, would eventually receive a suspended sentence of two years probation for harming a service animal.

For his bravery in the line of duty, Teak retired from the force as the 2013 Purina Service Dog of the Year. That title was just one of many awards Teak received during his crime-fighting days, including the VPD Chief Constable’s Commendation and provincial meritorious service award he received for taking down a violent sex assault suspect in 2009.

Weeks into his long term recovery, Teak was dealt another blow. What the Gibsons at first thought to be either a complication from the anesthetic or a stomach blockage turned out to be a cancerous growth in his bowels. Some six months and six gruelling rounds of chemotherapy later, Teak had beat bowel cancer.

“He’s a three year cancer survivor now,” said a proud Gibson.

But Teak’s struggles weren’t over. In the summer of 2014, he was playing at the park when he planted his left front leg and spun on it. Amputation was recommended as veterinarians were unsure any surgery on the spiral fracture would withstand Teak’s athleticism.

“They figured if they put it back together just the way he is, he would have blown anything they did surgery wise. He’d just blow it apart within a week or so,” said Gibson.

More than two years later, Teak seems to be loving life on three legs. “It hasn’t stopped him, not at all. He still has the drive. I think he still thinks he has four legs,” said Gibson, who has a tattoo on his left arm that reads “Teak Strong”.

“When I look at it, I get motivated and strength from thinking about him and our partnership together.” Teak’s motto, if he had one, said Gibson, would be “Never give up. Always keep fighting. Never lose the will to live.”

Contentious parents committee meeting highlights growing divide at LBPSB

An extremely contentious meeting of the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) parents committee is highlighting a widening rift at the board.

Two factions are forming in the wake of revelations that UPAC, Quebec’s anti-corruption squad is investigating.

READ MORE: LBPSB chair Suanne Stein Day admits she breached ethics code

It was also recently revealed that chairperson Suanne Stein Day was the commissioner who committed breaches of ethical standards – something that was known to board members for months.

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  • LBPSB chair Suanne Stein Day admits she breached ethics code

  • EXCLUSIVE: Calls for resignation of LBPSB chair Suanne Stein Day date back to at least December 2015

  • After school-saving vote at LBPSB, the hard work begins for parents

    The committee leadership said it wants to move on and suggested at the meeting that dwelling on the investigation was siphoning time away from the board’s educational mission.

    READ MORE: Calls for transparency at the Lester B. Pearson School Board

    Another group, including Verdun committee member John Ranger, is accusing the board of trying to wash over the matter.

    READ MORE: Lester B. Pearson commissioners hold second closed-door meeting in one week

    “For me to come here and agree with a process that shoves a very serious issue under the carpet is ridiculous,” he said, adding that the board is passing on an opportunity to prevent a similar matter from happening again.

    Ranger referred specifically to a letter drafted at the meeting that sought to amend how the board handles ethics violations.

    The committee leadership disagreed with the assertion that it is sweeping the matter under the rug, and insisted repeatedly that there is a process for complaints.

    READ MORE: Calls for resignation of LBPSB chair Suanne Stein Day date back to at least December 2015

    Parents with strong opinions should “use that energy to express themselves in different subcommittees,” said Shane Ross, committee chairman.

Cats survive months in the wild following Fort McMurray wildfire

Alyssa Hueser may have lost her house in the Fort McMurray wildfire but six months after evacuating, her family is finally back together.

On the day of the evacuation, she raced home to the Waterways neighbourhood from work in a panic.

“I had time to grab my kids, grab the dog and the cats went one way and basically we went the other way and I didn’t have time to chase them,” she said.

As fire raged around her, she was tormented by the decision she had to make.

“What do I do? I can’t just leave them. But my kids were obviously more important than going back for my cats.”

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When the family found out their house and much of their neighbourhood burned down, Hueser tried to remain optimistic.

“I just kept hoping that they weren’t there. That they did make an escape to somewhere else and they were smart enough to get away from the fire.”

Once they were safely evacuated, Hueser tried to use social media to find her beloved cats, Ellie and Minnie, to no avail.

“We didn’t hear anything back at all. We had lost hope.”

Then, out of the blue, hope returned.

“Two-and-a-half months after the evacuation, I did get a phone call saying they thought they found Ellie. The cat they found had six kittens with her,” Hueser recalled. “I thought, ‘No way!’”

“I was in denial until they showed up in my driveway and they opened up their truck and there she was. I didn’t have to open the cage or anything, I knew it was her.”

Ellie was in good health, but wouldn’t let any of the volunteers touch her until she saw Hueser.

“I was so happy. I was in the driveway crying and everything.”

Ellie’s kittens were given to families who lost their cats to the wildfire as well.

Hueser decided to keep one for her girls.

“We had lost hope. My kids wanted their two cats back. It was nice to have him so Ellie wasn’t lonely anymore,” she explained.

They named their kitten Pheonix, after one of the companies that helped with water bombing to save Fort McMurray.

Months later, on Halloween, Hueser got a phone call she’ll never forget – a volunteer looking for lost pets said she’d found Minnie, alive.

“I was like, ‘Are you serious? Are you sure?’ Because I couldn’t believe it because it had been a really long time and Minnie was only seven months when she went missing. So I just lost hope.”

It turns out Minnie, like Ellie, had also given birth to a litter of kittens. Minnie was relatively unscathed after spending half a year fending for herself.

“I’m very grateful. I’m happy they’re all home,” Hueser said. “They’re all my babies.”

She has one message to anyone else from Fort McMurray that might still be missing a pet.

“Just never give up hope. Because the worst thing you can do is give up hope. I gave up hope and ended up with another kitten and now I have three cats!”

MLA Sandra Jansen honoured for stance on bullying by group that advocates for abused Alberta women

WARNING: The following article and videos contain language some readers might find offensive.

Calgary – North West MLA Sandra Jansen has been named an honorary member of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) because the organization says she shone a light “on the dark reality of how women are treated in politics – and the courage that it takes to address it.”

Late last month, just days after leaving the Progressive Conservative party to cross the floor and join the New Democrats, Jansen delivered hard-hitting speech in which she outlined the type of abuse she had received since switching parties.

READ MORE: New Alberta NDP member Sandra Jansen urges colleagues to fight harassment

Watch below: In a member statement to the house on Nov. 22, 2016, new Alberta MLA Sandra Jansen recounted some of the comments she said have been directed to her since she crossed the floor to the NDP from the Progressive Conservatives last week. Jansen said she’s been called some terrible things, which she listed.

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    “Dumb broad. A good place for her to be is with the rest of the queers,” were among the disturbing messages Jansen read in the Alberta legislature on Nov. 22.

    She also said she had been labelled “dead meat,” a “useless tit,” and was told that she should stay in the kitchen.

    “If you are stunned by the words you have heard in the last few days, if you reject the inherent violence behind them, and you know that harassment and abuse – even if it’s verbal and even if it’s online… let us be strong and clear in our resolve that no matter where we sit along political lines we stand together against this,” she told her fellow MLAs that day.

    A day after Jansen’s impassioned speech, it was revealed the MLA would be given a security detail as a result of ongoing threats made against her.

    READ MORE: Alberta MLA Sandra Jansen given security detail after threats

    On Wednesday, the ACWS bestowed the honour on Jansen and said the decision to make her an honorary member was a unanimous one by the board made on Friday.

    “Rarely does violence erupt from nowhere, it usually starts with words. Not harmless words, but put downs that often progress to daily humiliation,” the organization said in a statement. “These insults can come from a loved one, your boss or in the case of Sandra Jansen, your colleagues and fellow citizens.

    “Unfortunately, Ms. Jansen’s experience is not new; far too many career women and politicians have tolerated mean-spirited and misogynistic language on the job.”

    “She is an excellent role model for any woman or girl who has been subjected to bullying, verbal abuse and threats to her safety,” Brenda Brochu, the ACWS board president, said in a statement. “She courageously revealed to her colleagues, her constituents, and the electorate, squarely in front of the camera lens, the malicious comments communicated to her.”

    READ MORE: Alberta youth say online attacks aimed at female politicians won’t deter them

    “In this instance, the bullies have met their match,” Jan Reimer, executive director of the ACWS, said in a statement.

    November was a tumultuous month for Jansen. Prior to crossing the floor, she had recently dropped out of the PC party’s leadership race citing harassment and a”hostile takeover” of the party by factions not accepting of centrist views. She said “insults were scrawled on my nomination forms” and that the experience had left her “shaken.”

    READ MORE: Sandra Jansen withdraws from Alberta PC leadership race citing ‘hostile takeover’

    Watch below: Two women running in the leadership race in Alberta have pulled out. As Tracy Nagai reports MLA Sandra Jansen said the last straw came at a leadership forum in Red Deer.

    The ACWS says it awards an honorary membership to people “who have made outstanding and long-term contributions in assisting women and families in abusive situations, and to the activities of the ACWS.”

    The organization acts as an ambassador for women’s shelters in Alberta.

Leduc Country Lights back for another Christmas season

After misbehaving guests broke displays last year, Leduc Country Lights threatened to stop putting on their annual holiday display – but now, they’re giving people another chance this holiday season.

For the Ruel family, who’s been putting on the massive light display for a dozen years, the event is a labour of love.

It’s also their way to give back to the community.

“It’s one time of the year they get together and they can have their pets, their children, their grandchildren – whatever. It’s a whole family thing,” Douglas Ruel said.

Last year, a handful of Grinches stole the family’s Christmas spirit.

“There’s only so much people can take before we’re pushed past our limits,” Neil Ruel explained at the time. “It’s even gotten to the point where we’ve seen people hanging and sitting on our decorations.”

Nearly 100 strands of light were broken and one misbehaving family had to be kicked out.

“I can never blame children because they love it so much,” Douglas said. “But parents, they’ve got to know what their children are doing.”

The Ruels talked about shutting down their annual display.

“I wanted to get people’s attention,” Douglas said. “Stay on the walkways, quit touching stuff. This is for everybody to enjoy – not just a few.”

But Douglas said he didn’t have it in his heart to keep the lights in storage when October rolled around.

He just loves seeing the smiles on children’s faces as they wander through his yard. He just hopes families can follow a few simple rules.

“Do not touch rope lights, do not play with the ornaments, do not abuse Christmas characters – and the last one is have fun. That’s the important one.”

This year, the Ruels added a hot chocolate shop, expanded Santa’s workshop and made a new lane of lit-up trees behind their house.

Leduc Country Lights kicked off for the season Thursday and will run through until New Year’s Day.

Admission is free but volunteers collect donations for the food bank each year.

In 2015, they raised $30,000 and donated 43,000 pounds of food – the biggest single donation to the Leduc & District Food Bank.

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