July 12th, 2024

Year In Review – 2021 Headlines October to December


By Lethbridge Herald on December 30, 2021.

Herald file photos - Blaine Hyggen celebrates as results come in showing his victory in the race for the mayor’s seat during this fall’s municipal election. Herald file photo Ghostbusters fan club members pose with ticket holders in front of a replica of Ecto-1 at the Canadian special screening of Ghostbusters: Afterlife outside the Empress in Fort Macleod. Herald file photo Protesters hold signs outside the Superlodge motel on Mayor Magrath Drive as residents expressed their frustrations with crime in the area, much of which, they say, involving tenants at the motel.

Concluding here on New Year’s Eve, the Herald presents a synopsis of the stories from Lethbridge and area that made headlines in 2021: 

OCTOBER

Former MLA Clint Dunford remembered “with huge respect” as Lethbridge loses “enthusiastic advocate for out city”

Retired Progressive Conservative MLA for Lethbridge West Clint Dunford died of a sudden and unexpected illness at the age of 78. Dunford was first elected to the Alberta Legislature in 1993, succeeding John Gogo, and retired after his fourth term ended in 2008 due to multiple myeloma which had afflicted him while in office.

Hyggen wins narrow race for mayor

Popping the cork off a champagne bottle surrounded by a large vocal crowd of supporters, Blaine Hyggen celebrated his election as Lethbridge’s mayor. Hyggen eked out a 508-vote win over Bridget Mearns, winning the election 11,973 votes to 11,465. Hyggen took 42.79 per cent of the vote compared to Mearns’ 40.97.

‘Saturn takes its place in the city’s solar system

The last installation of the Lethbridge Astronomy Society’s solar system model was installed earlier this week in front of Chinook High School. Saturn, which is the last planet to be installed was funded by the Lethbridge School Division, making Chinook High School the only school with a planet. “The installation of Saturn was much more complicated than the others, so we are very happy to see that it got completed,” said Tom Anderson, President of the Lethbridge Astronomy Society.

Picture Butte company fined after driver killed on worksite

A Picture Butte industrial and agricultural fabrication company as been fined nearly $200,000 after a delivery driver was killed at the worksite nearly three years ago. Hank’s Feedmill Service pleaded guilty last month in Lethbridge provincial court to a charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Act of failing to ensure the health and safety of a worker. The company was fined $175,000 and placed under a two-year regulatory supervision order to ensure it follows OHS regulations and other safety procedures. 

Train hopping results in hefty fines

The second of three men who were caught train hopping to eastern Canada during the summer, has received a hefty fine. Ivan Esparza-Luna was fined $1,000 after he pleaded guilty in Lethbridge provincial court to one count of entering land without permission under the Petty Trespass Act.

Court was told Esparza-Luna and the other men were caught July 7 at the Kipp rail yard, where they were attempting to jump on a train heading east. The men had been working in B.C. and were trying to get home to Quebec. 

New mayor and council officially sworn in

Lethbridge’s 26th mayor and city council were sworn in at the Yates Theatre in front of a substantial invitation-only crowd. Blaine Hyggen and eight councillors – four of them re-elected incumbents – took their oaths of office on the Yates stage then listened to taped addresses by MP Rachael Harder, Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips, Lethbridge East MLA Nathan Neudorf, Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

Irrigators vote to combine SMRID and TID

Irrigators along the Highway 3 corridor have voted in favour of amalgamating to create half-million acre district in stretching the length of Alberta’s rural south. Officials with the St. Mary River Irrigation District and the Taber Irrigation District announced this summer they were in talks to combine the districts. Voting that concluded showed SMRID members approved the merger by a count of 509 to 132, while the move passed by a slimmer majority among Taber Irrigation members, 126 to 104. 

NOVEMBER

Canadians head for the border as U.S. opens land crossings to non-essential travel

As the clock struck midnight on Monday land borders opened to non-essential traffic crossing the border for the first time since March of 2020 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Steadily, albeit slowly. In fact, at the Coutts-Sweetgrass crossing, vehicles were already cued up Sunday night as fully vaccinated Canadian vacationers and day-trippers staked out their place in line in anticipation of their return to U.S. Soil.

City motel draws protest as neighbours upset with crime

They’re mad as hell and want their neighbourhood back. Residents who live near the Superlodge Motel on Mayor Magrath Drive South across from Henderson Lake staged a protest in front of the building about the activity they say is directly tied to residents there. Organized by Sarah Villebrun, a former employee, the protesters carried signs expressing their frustration with crime they say has made their neighbourhood so unsafe, they don’t feel comfortable going out at night.

Fans get into the spirit as Empress screens Ghostbusters

They ain’t afraid of no ghosts. On Saturday night in front of the Empress Theatre, the question of “Who you gonna call?” rang loud and clear. The Canadian premier of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” hit the screen at the Empress Theatre, the location where scenes from the movie were shot. Tickets for the special screening went for $100 each with money raised going toward restoring the 109-year-old Empress Theatre.

Lethbridge man found guilty of contravening health order

A Lethbridge businessman who was ticketed under the Public Health Act for unlawfully holding a rally on the steps of City Hall in January, has been found guilty. Judge Erin Olsen found Mike Hoffman guilty of contravening a public health order that prohibited public gatherings, and said in Lethbridge provincial court she was satisfied Hoffman not only attended the rally, but helped organize it. 

Rob Miyashiro wins NDP nomination for Lethbridge-East

He spent two terms on Lethbridge city council and now Rob Miyashiro is looking to serve residents in the Alberta legislature. The executive director of the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization won the NDP nomination for Lethbridge East on the second ballot. Miyashiro was running against Kevin McBeath, Amanda Jensen and former Lethbridge East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick. 

Fire chief Rathwell retiring in February

Lethbridge Fire Chief Marc Rathwell is hanging up his axe. After close to three years at the top for Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services, Rathwell announced his retirement during a media event at City Hall. His final day with the City will be February 11, 2022. “The last couple of years have been very trying, on everybody, no more for myself than anybody else, but trying to work our way through all the crises, and COVID issues, and all the other components that are part of an active fire service,” said Rathwell.

Medicine Hat woman in custody on murder charge

A 26-year-old Medicine Hat woman accused of killing a woman whose body was found in a rural area south of Pincher Creek, has been arrested. Melissa Lynn Martens-Lagasse, who is charged with first degree murder and causing an indignity to a human body, remains in custody at the Lethbridge Correctional Centre while she waits to hire a lawyer. 

DECEMBER

LPS officers demoted in “MemeGate” scandal

The sentence for two Lethbridge police officers who previously pleaded guilty to professional misconduct charges under the Police Act and Police Service Regulation, has been determined.

Const. David Easter and Const. Matt Rilkoff of the Lethbridge Police Service have been demoted within rank for one year effective Dec. 1. The sentencing hearing was in regard to a 2018 incident involving the creation and distribution of memes determined to be offensive and against LPS policies, which became known at the time as “MemeGate”. 

Former U of L clerk accused of stealing $580,000 pleads not guilty

A Lethbridge woman accused of stealing more than half a million dollars from the University, has pleaded not guilty to three criminal charges. The pleas to charges of fraud over $5,000, theft over $5,000 and possession of stolen property over $5,000, were entered in Lethbridge provincial court by the accused’s lawyer, Rabie Ahmed of Calgary. Ahmed also pointed out his client has chosen to be tried by a Court of Queen’s Bench judge. Court, a former accounting clerk at the University of Lethbridge, was charged in April following a police investigation that began in 2018. 

Carjacker sentenced to 12 ½ years

A 42-year-old man found guilty earlier this year of several violent criminal offences, including kidnapping and robbery, has been sentenced to 12 1/2 years in a federal prison. Cory Ray Williams was sentenced in Lethbridge provincial court, after Judge Gregory Maxwell said Williams’ offences comprised some of the most “aggravating circumstances imaginable.” Following his trial in May, Williams was found guilty of kidnapping, assault with a weapon, flight from a police officer, dangerous operation of a vehicle, threats to cause death/bodily harm, robbery, housebreaking to commit theft, and possession of a weapon dangerous to the public. 

Threats cancel classes at LCI and Churchill

Threats made to two local high schools on prompted a police response which resulted in evacuations and closures for Winston Churchill High School and Lethbridge Collegiate Institute. Just after 8 a.m. police responded to a report that a threat was received electronically by Winston Churchill High School. Lethbridge School Division directed that classes be cancelled and the school closed. The building was subsequently evacuated and students and staff who were on site were all determined to be safe. 

Initial supply of rapid tests snapped up in under 10 minutes

The rollout of free COVID-19 rapid test kits in Lethbridge was not a resounding success for Alberta Health Services. By most accounts, AHS had run out of the 400 test kits they had available in less than 10 minutes after distribution commenced at 8 a.m., and many hoping to secure the free kits took to social media to express their frustration. Various Twitter posts suggested some citizens had lined up at the local health unit as early as 7 a.m. to ensure they received some test kits. 

MP Thomas draws criticism over vaccination comments

Lethbridge MP Rachael Thomas says people who choose not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 shouldn’t be vilified for their decisions and deserve compassion instead. In a Facebook Live post on Dec. 16, Thomas also claimed that more vaccinated people are being afflicted with COVID-19 and being admitted to hospitals than those who are unvaccinated. The MP further stated she stands with Canadians who feel they have been bullied or mistreated because of their choice.

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