Community News, Published Articles

Waste challenge unveils recycling stockpile

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

Crystal Metz Insurance Agency has recently taken up the mantle of the Zero Waste Challenge and is looking for other local businesses to hop on board.

To that effect, owner Crystal Metz and account manager Mandy Friess went to the local CanPak recycling plant to see their options for reducing waste.

“The issue we’re dealing with really needs to come not just from consumers, but … a huge start would be with companies and businesses where they can make an impact,” said Metz.

They began their initiative on Aug. 27 after going to the CanPak plant on Aug. 24, where general manager Randy Wong took them on a tour of the facility.

“We wanted to go to CanPak just to see actually what happens,” Metz said. “When we’re doing recycling here at the office and our own homes, are we doing it properly? Is it going where we think it’s going?”

They learned many Hatters have been putting items in their blue bins that are not meant for recycling, a phenomenon Friess referred to as ‘wish-cycling.’

“When you put something in your blue bin it makes you feel good, because you’re doing good for the environment, but you don’t think about what’s happening to it at the end,” said Friess.

For example, they saw some old car parts at the plant.

“They’re metal, which is OK, but they’re not something that someone should be putting in their blue bin,” Friess said.

“You’re just wearing down the system,” added Metz. “You’re actually causing them more work and using more power.”

There’s also a surplus of recycled plastic the plant is having trouble selling, which Friess referred to as a nation-wide “crisis.”

Recycling is not a single magic bullet to reduce waste, as recycling plants only have a finite amount of space, Friess explained.

“It’s literally being bailed up and stored in the CanPak yard for potential future sales, because right now nobody wants it,” she said, adding that the plant is doing all it can to ensure the plastic isn’t taken to landfill.

“We all know that plastic does not biodegrade,” said Friess. “It just sits there underground … or it goes into our waterways.”

According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, microplastics are increasingly becoming part of people’s drinking water and disturbing fish habitats.

The Zero Waste Challenge has five ‘R’s for reducing plastic consumption — refuse, reduce, re-use, recycle and rot.

“There are very, very small changes that everyone can make,” said Friess, such as composting food waste, or taking tupperware to a restaurant to package any leftovers, as opposed to using their styrofoam.

But ultimately companies must cut off the supply if they want to most effectively assist the planet.

“Our economy is based and has grown on supply and demand,” Metz said.

“If we demand products, then companies are going to supply them. And that’s why I want to get companies on board in Medicine Hat, so they will stop supplying it based on the knowledge of what it’s doing to our environment.”

Crime, Published Articles

Former police commission member charged with fraud

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

A former member of the Medicine Hat Police Commission was arrested Tuesday after a six-month fraud investigation alleging he stole more than $1 million from the Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education.

Rolf Traichel, 45, was charged with three offences — one charge each of fraud over $5,000, possessing proceeds of crime and money laundering.

In a statement to the media, the school board confirmed Traichel’s employment, but wouldn’t comment further.

“As this is a legal matter before the courts, no further details will be disclosed at this time,” the statement said.

Police say Traichel worked for the board’s IT department.

Insp. Tim McGough says that although the offences allegedly occurred between 2010 and 2016, and Traichel sat on the police commission from 2012 to 2017, he is not suspected of any wrongdoing against MHPS.

“Based on the investigation to date, it is believed that the alleged fraud was isolated to one organization,” a release from the police read.

The investigation into Treichel began in January, and the Catholic board has co-operated with police investigators.

Like the school board, McGough was unable to provide much information beyond what was written in a release, such as how much of the funds have been recovered by police.

“That’s before the courts, so I can’t get into that,” he said. “That will come out in the court proceedings.”

Traichel was released on his own recognizance with conditions.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 11 at Medicine Hat Provincial Court.

Crime, Published Articles

Medicine Hat police lauded for arrest, charges of inciting hate

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

Two national organizations have praised Medicine Hat Police Services for the arrest of a local man for inciting hatred after discovering in his residence anti-Semitic literature and a cache of guns with the serial numbers removed.

Richard Warman, a lawyer and board member of the Canada Anti-Hate Network, says this arrest is of particular interest to his organization, given the potentially lethal combination of hate literature and illegal firearms.

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that hate propaganda has a purpose, and the purpose is to isolate and demonize the target communities and make them seem as legitimate targets,” he said.

“The last thing Canada or the world needs is another Alexandre Bissonnette who walks into a mosque and starts shooting. Although, in this case, I understand that the material was largely anti-Semitic, rather than anti-Muslim.”

According to the 2016 federal census, there are 115 Jews in Medicine Hat out of a population of 62,935.

Warman says it’s common for some racists and anti-Semites to have limited contact with the community they target.

“They call that ‘Platonic anti-Semitism,’ which is where the person has very little or no connection with the Jewish community … but they have this irrational hatred or fear of the target community,” he said.

“There’s this real rise in xenophobia, and suspicion and fear of people who don’t look like white or … what’s perceived as traditional Canadians. I think the political climate has contributed to that a great deal.”

Daniel Koren, a spokesman for B’nai Brith Canada, a Jewish advocacy group, says his organization has also witnessed an increase in racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents across the country in recent years, which are often framed in xenophobic terms.

“We’re seeing a bit of a resurgence of anti-Semitism on the far right-wing, and this is normally the type of messaging you hear from promoters of such hatred,” he said. “This doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident.”

B’nai Brith puts out a yearly audit of anti-Semitic incidents, which Koren said shows a steady increase over the past five years.

“It does seem that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are feeling more emboldened now to come out publicly and promote their ideologies,” he said, adding the Internet has fueled this confidence.

“The Internet certainly enables people to be able to come out and express their views, whereas before it was always on the fringe … People are feeling that they’re able to say whatever they want.”

He adds that Medicine Hat Police Service charging an individual with willfully promoting hatred should serve as an example to other police forces across the nation.

“This person had a cache of weapons and ammunition,” he said. “God knows the type of potential tragedy that could have taken place had he not been apprehended.”

Loki Hulgaard, 35, faces 14 charges, including one count of inciting hatred.

In addition to the guns, ammunition and hate literature, police seized numerous computers and USB drives from his residence, which they’re in the process of examining to determine a connection, if any, with similar incidents across the city.

In July, posters were found at the Westminster United Church that read “Immigration = White Genocide.”

The church’s Rev. Jan Stevenson also expressed her gratitude to MHPS.

“I’m glad they found him. I hope they can help him and at least keep him from spreading hatred,” she said. “When you put that mindset together with weapons, it is not a pretty picture.”

Crime, Published Articles

Hatter charged with inciting hatred

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

A Medicine Hat man has been charged with inciting hatred, as well as firearms offences, after a local business owner reported to police on July 31 seeing him in possession of Canadian currency with anti-Semitic slogans printed on it.

Police found several $5, $20 and $50 bills with “Jewish white genocide” and “ZOG” marked on them in a backpack.

White genocide is a conspiracy theory that immigrants are being brought to Canada to eliminate the white race, while ZOG stands for “Zionist Occupied Government,” which posits that a cabal of Zionist Jews secretly control the government.

Upon arresting Loki Hulgaard, 35, and executing a search warrant, police found numerous computers, USB drives, white supremacist literature, four firearms, two of which were high-powered rifles with serial numbers removed, more than 1,200 rounds of ammunition, high capacity magazines and stickers that read “Immigration = White Genocide.”

Police also found the stamps used to mark the currency with the anti-Semitic slogans.

Posters with that slogan were found this summer at the Westminster United Church, which the reverend promptly reported to the police.

MHPS Insp. Tim McGough says police will be looking through the computers and USB drives to see if the two incidents are connected.

“This doesn’t just happen on a whim,” he said, adding the investigation is ongoing.

“We’ve also been investigating numerous stickers that have been posted throughout the city, so we’ve been trying to locate this individual and trying to figure out who he is and what he was up to.”

Hulgaard faces 14 charges in total — one count of inciting hatred in public, two of possessing a firearm with the serial number removed, four of unsafe storage of a firearm, three of possessing a prohibited device and four of unathorized possession of a firearm.

He was released Aug. 2 on $4,000 no-cash recognizance with numerous conditions, and is scheduled to appear in Medicine Hat Provincial Court on Thursday.

Anyone with further information is urged to contact Const. Eric Marshall of the Priority Street Crimes Unit.