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Last print issue, now online... www.calgaryjournal.ca



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>In this issue


4-5 > European phone app designed to curtail domestic violence 6-7 > Grassroots activist, Jordan Ledyit, creates an anti-racist racist organization 8-10 > Photographers strive for better presentation of Black communities


11-13 > Memorial tattoos help to cope with the lost of loved ones 14-15 > Champion powerlifter reveal his game plan 16-17 > High demand for dogs during the pandemic 18-19 > Life long love of plants becomes a thriving business

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20-21 > Happy hiking trails, far from Covid 22-24 > Indigneous wildlife conservation leads the way 25-27 > Tracking ticks with technology


28-30 > Bug bite sickness turns into voiceover stardom 31 > The supernatural saga of serial killers


32-35 > The Calgary Journal looks back on 49 years of publishing in print Cover Art: CHLOE CHAPDELAINE

PRINT MASTHEAD WINTER 2021 Lead Editors > CHLOE CHAPDELAINE & ANGELA LACKEY Photo and Design Editors > HALEN KOOPER CORRECTIONS An article in the March/April issue of the Calgary Journal, titled Calgary’s Jae Sterling is helping to guide and protect with his art, contained incorrect information about the timeline of Sterling’s involvement with the Black Lives Matter mural project. A corrected version of the story is available online. We regret the error.


An article in the March/April issue of the Calgary Journal, titled Downhill skiing for mental health faces uphill battle, contained incorrect information about the size of a COVID-19 outbreak in November at Lake Louise. A corrected version of the story is available online. We regret the error. An article in the March/April issue of the Calgary Journal, titled Mural artist keen to keep the conversation on racism going, contained an incorrect a photo credit. The photographer’s name, Tina Amini, was corrected in the version online. We regret the error.

Contributing Editors > MADASYN KOST CHRISTIAN KINDRACHUK CHOLE MACEACHERN Managing Editor > ARCHIE MCLEAN: damclean@mtroyal.ca Faculty Editor > SEAN HOLMAN: sholman@mtroyal.ca Production Supervisor/Sales > BRAD SIMM: bsimm@mtroyal.ca 403-829-7424 CALGARYJOURNAL.CA

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RAPID RESPONSE Domestic violence has been a big problem during the pandemic, but but this powerful European app offers hope for those in need MACKENZIE MASON mmason@cjournal


Screenshot of the App-Elles app displaying the alert screen. PHOTO: APP-ELLES


HANNAH PAPKE hpapke@cjournal

s Alberta’s second mandatory lockdown continues, many women and children will be victims of domestic violence as numbers of reported instances continue to climb throughout the pandemic. However, one app that’s widely used in Europe is working to protect those at risk by providing a quick, easy and discreet way for those in danger to get help. A new study by the University of Calgary found that women were mentally struggling more than their male counterparts while in isolation. Veronica Guadagni led an online study from March 23 to June 7, in which 573 Canadians participated. The study revealed that women had reported a decrease in mental health and sleep quality while also reporting an increase in stress levels. “[Both genders] symptoms worsened over time and with greater length of the isolation period, there was a progressive increase in anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality and trauma for males and females. But it was greater for females over time,” explains Guadagni. The Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter is one place that is seeing the mental and physical effects the pandemic and isolation has had on women first hand. Kim Ruse, CEO of the shelter, says that the needs of women are growing and the shelter is seeing the severity of situations women are experiencing worsen. “We’re seeing that the levels of danger in families are increasing, so we use a tool called a danger assessment that rates [the levels] of lethality that women are facing in their situations and those numbers are climbing,” Ruse says. In addition to the rising rates of domestic violence, she also sees that women are facing multiple problems at once right now, which is adding to the stress and danger within the home. “We’re also seeing the complications of this economic situation and the pandemic situation begin to overlay so that is adding to the family violence. For example, someone that’s dealing with family violence is now dealing with financial implications from the pandemic,” she explains. “Or they have other costs around child care, or situations that have shifted in their family, so it’s creating new obstacles and barriers.” These are all factors that Ruse believes is causing the increase in emergency calls being made to the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter. Ruse said that during the first six weeks of quarantine, emergency calls to the shelter dropped. She believes this wasn’t because the need went away but instead that those in unsafe situations lost the opportunity to be alone and call for help. In the weeks following, they reported up to as high as a 34 per cent increase compared to the same time the previous year. Comparing the number of emergency calls fro April 2020 within the same period last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that emergency calls being made by women who were victims of violence by a partner have risen by 60 per cent worldwide. Because domestic violence is a problem faced by so many people worldwide, many groups are looking for new innovative ways to help women who find themselves as victims of domestic violence.


In France, an app called App-Elles has been created that allows women to alert three contacts when triggered. This gives women a discrete way to alert others without provoking further harm or drawing attention from their abusers. The app can also be set to send out a GPS alert to three people and call the police if necessary. Diariata N’Diaye, an artist and feminist campaigner, invented the app in 2015 to keep women safe from abuse. “It’s a tool for women who are victims of violence to discreetly alert someone. We’re often told that women can call the police if they are being attacked, but they can’t. Often they can’t speak freely and it’s not possible to make a call,” explained N’Diaye in an interview with The Guardian.

“We’re often told that women can call the police if they are being attacked, but they can’t. Often they can’t speak freely and it’s not possible to make a call.” > Diariata N’Diaye

The app works through a patented technology using an IP communication protocol that is supposed to make the process more efficient than a phone call. App-Elles also has real-time geolocation and monitoring and audio recording from the second the app is alerted. This app is free to everyone with an Android or Apple device and a bracelet can be purchased as well that can send out an alert using Bluetooth without having to pull out a phone or device. The former president of France, François Hollande, backed the app in May of this year after he voiced concerns over the WHO’s release of domestic abuse cases during the pandemic. While the app has had success in France and Europe with over 10,000 downloads, App-Elles still has work to do with global expansion and perfecting the app for different locations. Regardless, with the pandemic continuing in Alberta, “any tool that helps women be and feel safer is a great addition,” Ruse says, referring to App-Elles. She cautions though that the victim and their emergency contacts must have a safety plan. Ruse also suggests ensuring their informal supporters are properly equipped to respond safely to provide that support.

Photo of Diariata N’Diaye. PHOTO: @ DIARIATANDIAYE





Lethbridge activist stands on guard against racism Creates the Group United Against Racial Discrimination

MEGAN CREIG mcreig@cjournal.ca


ordan Ledyit is no stranger to racism. However, she says her most striking experience with discrimination took place at an establishment that, like herself, is distinctly Canadian. It happened at a Lethbridge Tim Hortons where Ledyit and family, visiting from Strathmore, were treated quite differently than many other Canadians. As she approached the counter, Ledyit says the woman behind it called out to them: “We don’t serve your kind here.” They were told to “get out.” And so Ledyit and her family returned to her home instead of risking further conflict. Ledyit says her family didn’t wish to comment further on the incident. The location’s current owner says he had taken over after the incident occurred and as the previous owner never mentioned it, he didn’t know of it. The current owner declined to provide the previous owner’s contact information but promised to pass along a request from the Calgary Journal for comment. The Journal did not receive a response, nor did Tim Hortons respond to three separate requests for comment. This situation might be hard to imagine happening if you’ve never been discriminated against because of your race. But Ledyit, who is Black, and her visiting family, who are Indigenous, certainly have. And Ledyit is no longer willing to standby and let it happen. So she is using her voice to counter prejudice, having recently organized a protest against discrimination in Lethbridge. That city became her home after being adopted from Penticton, B.C., soon after her birth. Her adoptive parents are white but, despite the differences, Ledyit has always felt a connection to her roots. Ledyit believes her mother, who has Indigenous siblings, was good at making sure she understood her background because she was also adopted. “My mom is amazing. She took the time to learn how to do my hair which is a huge thing,” says Ledyit. “She learned how to do passion twists.




Group United Against Racial Discrimination organizer, Jordan Ledyit. PHOTO: COURTESY OF JORDAN LEDYIT She learned how to wash [my hair] properly. When I was little, she was always doing my hair, she would put me in front of a movie once a month and she would twist my hair.” Although Ledyit was raised to appreciate where she had come from and who she was, not everyone would be as kind as her family had. The opposite was true. As a visible minority, Ledyit can remember being treated differently by her peers from the moment she began kindergarten. “There was me, the Black kid, and my best friend was First Nations,” says Ledyit. “Nobody would play with us. Nobody would talk to us.” Still quite young, Ledyit didn’t understand the differences between herself and others. These differences

were made clear by a white classmate who had only been part of Ledyit’s class for a matter of days. Ledyit wanted to befriend her, so she approached the girl and attempted to do just that. But the girl stated that she did not “like Black people.” “I went home that day crying. Looking back on that, we were in kindergarten. There’s no way a little girl in kindergarten would say that unless they were taught to say that from their family. It’s ridiculous,” says Ledyit. She experienced much of the same small-minded behaviour as she grew up. For example, she would enter a store and, from that moment on, she would be followed by its employees. “They don’t do it unless you’re a

person of colour,” says Ledyit. ”When I worked [in retail], anytime a First Nations person came in, [my boss] was like: ‘Keep an eye on them, get them out.’ It made me livid.” Ledyit also faced difficulty finding a job. She says there have been several instances where she has made it into an interview only to be turned down almost immediately upon entering the room. “The applications are online, and they might like my resume, but as soon as they see me, it’s like the demeanour changes. ‘Oh, you’re Black,’” says Ledyit. “I’ve gone into an interview and I can see that they’ve already made up their mind just by looking at me.” Even on a day-to-day basis, the


“Canadian people like to pretend we’re biologically diverse, that we aren’t racist, and we don’t treat people of colour differently. It is completely false.” > Jordan Ledyit

A photo the Group United Against Racial Discrimination used on their Facebook page. PHOTO: COURTESY OF FIVE 15 behaviour is much the same. People will approach her to ask where she’s from with little context. Ledyit says this kind of question can be okay if the inquirer cares about her and wants to know her story out of genuine curiosity. But, too often, this is not the case. “That’s an ignorant question. I get it all the time and it’s not enjoyable for me.” Ledyit advocates for others to take responsibility for their ignorance and do their research. She says, “If you’re asking a question you wouldn’t be asking someone else, don’t ask a Black person, don’t ask any other person of colour.” “Canadian people like to pretend we’re biologically diverse, that we aren’t racist, and we don’t treat people of colour differently. It is completely false,” says Ledyit. Yet, regardless of the way she was treated for most of her life, it was the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that were the final straw for Ledyit. “It just horrifies me that could have easily been me. I’m just living my life, I’m married, I have a child, I go to church on Sunday. I’m just living my life but my existence isn’t as valuable.” Choosing not to stand by any longer, Ledyit created a space to talk about racial issues, calling it the Group United Against Racial Discrimination (GUARD). From there, she got together with a few

of her friends and organized a protest. The protest took place at Lethbridge’s City Hall and hundreds of people were in attendance. Ledyit says that the response was amazing and validating. “It has changed me quite a bit. I’m a lot more vocal because I’m at the point where no, I’m gonna call you out. Why are you saying that?” says Ledyit. But as soon as the protest had ended, Ledyit was again confronted with racism. She was doing an interview when an Indigenous man who had been nearby joined in. Ledyit could tell the man was someone who was addicted and vulnerable, but this wasn’t an issue for the group, and the interviewers began to pose questions towards the man as well, gaining an interesting perspective on his life. “[Then] this guy from city hall comes out like a thug,” says Ledyit. The man from city hall began to ask her and her interviewers whether the Indigenous man was bothering them and if he should remove him. The group said no since he hadn’t been bothering anyone but as “It was clear as day that he had issues, [he] profiled him and decided he was causing a disturbance.” The man from City Hall “ruined some of our footage because he was standing there and wouldn’t leave. It was so frustrating,” says Ledyit. “We’re doing an interview about racism and you’re

being racist right now.” In response to a request for comment about the incident, the City of Lethbridge said, “We do not have a record of any incidents at the event you mention below. As such, we are unable to comment on the statements that have been made.” Ledyit acknowledges that there is a greater issue at hand; she says that people who don’t deal with racial discrimination are often unwilling to acknowledge their privilege and biases. Even if the issue doesn’t affect you directly, Ledyit advises allies to “post on [social media], talk to your racist relatives, say something” and that “If you feel uncomfortable using your voice, there are still things you can do.” Yet, Ledyit still fears that even with mass attention on these issues, nothing will truly change. “It’s not going to, it’s just not,” says Ledyit. “I think it might get less and less in your face; it might get less and less brutal; it might be a little more equal, but I don’t think it’ll ever be the same.” But the doubts that she has do not keep her from pushing against what she knows to be wrong. I want it to gain momentum. I want the future to be brighter for our children so that they can grow up in a way that we didn’t.”





TIME FOR A NEW LENS The hidden racism behind photography

SOLAYA HUANG email@cjournal.ca


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n the 1960s and 70s, photography giant Kodak started to look at ways to accurately capture darker skin tones. It wasn’t, however, the diversity of the people around them that inspired this change. Instead, it was furniture and chocolate manufacturers complaining about how they were struggling to capture the different tones of brown in their products. Colour photography has always been biased against Black people and people with darker skin. For decades, developing film relied on a “Shirley card,” an image of a white woman that was used by technicians to tone and colour balance images. Calgary photographers Shenda Chimwaso and Samuel Obadero understand just how biased the camera can be. But with education, awareness and representation in front and behind the camera, the stories and voices of the Black community can be better heard. Chimwaso has learned how to take her own self-portraits to ensure her dark skin is accurately shown on camera. “I stopped having photographers shoot me because I was like ‘they just don’t get it,’” says Chimwaso. “I would get the pictures back and I would look gray — I experienced that a lot and that’s why this is really important to me being a photographer, especially a Black female photographer, being able to represent and being able to shoot people who look like me.” Chimwaso was first introduced to photography with the pinhole camera, which is essentially a light-proof box with a small hole on the side, that she made for a Grade 10 photography class. “I was just so amazed that I was able to take a picture out of a cardboard box,” says Chimwaso. Through that class, she also learned how to work with film, which she says “just grew my love for photography.” Although Obadero now lives in Calgary, he started his journey as a photographer in Nigeria, where one of his relatives gifted him a film camera. “I was going for a one-year compulsory service in my country, the paramilitary service,” says Obadero. “As it is with the film camera, it takes all of the photos, as much as it can in the film, but you never get to see it.” But after his service, he was finally able to develop the film and see the end result. “Then I saw, and when I saw, I was blown away.” Obadero has also struggled with having his skin tone accurately represented on camera. “All the times that I’ve been photographed by my lighterskin colleagues, they’ve had issues representing me properly. Sometimes it’s going to be a blue shade on it. Sometimes it’s going to be too reddish.” The difficulty of representing darker skin tones is not isolated to photography, Obadero also noticed this issue in television, citing the early episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. “You could tell how they struggled in scenes where they had different skin tones on the same set,” says Obadero. In contrast, he also realized the bias towards lighter skin tones on the show. “It’s almost like it was meant to be there. It’s just this perfect match of when the light comes on, like the camera was meant for that skin. But it takes a little bit more effort to light a darker skin in the same situations.” Chimwaso recognizes that same racial bias behind the camera as well. In 2018, Tyler Mitchell became the first AfricanAmerican photographer to shoot a cover for Vogue in their 125-year history. “I think that’s crazy because obviously there are many talented Black photographers out there,” says Chimwaso.

Two photographers that have stood out to Chimwaso in terms of Black representation are Kamyiis and Joshua Kissi. When photographing Black people, she emphasizes the importance of light to reflect their natural skin tone, and to not edit with the same presets that usually be used on someone who’s white. PHOTO: SHENDA CHIMWASO “There are tons of Black photographers that Vogue could have found.” It was Beyoncé, who as the subject of the cover, chose Mitchell as her photographer. “If it wasn’t for her, who knows who would’ve been chosen,” says Chimwaso. “And after that, they didn’t have any [Black photographers] again until last year.” “It’s almost like it was meant to be there. It’s just this perfect match of when the light comes on, like the camera was meant for that skin. But it takes a little bit more effort to light a darker skin in the same situations.”

That person was then 21-year-old Kennidi Carter, the youngest cover photographer in British Vogue history, who was also chosen by their cover subject, Beyoncé. Black representation behind the camera is also important as it comes with an understanding of the model — the depth and reality of their skin tone won’t be changed. Chimwaso suggests that this lack of understanding and experience could create a challenge in the editing process as well, “You may edit them in a way that makes us look ashy or gray. It takes away like the richness from our skin tone and it just looks flat.”





Obadero named his studio Motif Photography after studying the concept in fine arts. Motif in art is essentially the repetition of patterns, a theme echoed in much of his work. He wants his studio to be a platform for newcomers that don’t have access to the right tools. PHOTO: SAMUEL OBADERO “There are photographers out there who aren’t Black, who can shoot Black,” says Chimwaso. “But I find that a lot of the time people don’t understand how to shoot them, especially with certain things like with our hair.” “There could be a piece that’s out of place, but because you’re not aware of that and you don’t know, you’re like, ‘Oh, okay. That’s probably natural — then the model gets it back and it’s like, ‘Ooh, my hair was not right. Why didn’t you correct it?’ But people don’t know,” she says. According to Obadero, the popular saying that ‘Black don’t crack’ gives the “notion of Black being hard and rugged.” “Black do crack. If you don’t manage Black properly, Black skin is a very, very sensitive skin. It’s a very sensitive skin in every level of it, even more on a feminine body,” he says. “Not to say softer or not to say it’s less, but the chemical melanin itself should be catered to properly.” Obadero addresses the difference in how Black men and Black women are shown on camera. “In all the digital mediums [and] media, the Black woman needs even stronger representation. Even in the storylines. How you cast them, how you film them, or photograph them or recut them needs more attention.” Similarly, Chimwaso suggests that the main difference in the portrayal of Black men and women is that “Black men are usually shown more as very angry and like thugs and I guess gangsters, whereas Black women — it’d be more so showing them in a provocative way than anything, the sexualization of Black women.” The history of photography has caused a lot of harm to the Black community, but it has also helped in many ways by telling the Black story. “Some of the biggest revolutions or the biggest change we’ve seen in the world started because of one picture, started because somebody was bold enough to go above and beyond to document a certain moment, which the rest of the world saw and stopped and paid attention,” says Obadero.

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“Photography is a tool that we cannot put value on. It has shed light to the deepest of darkness,” he says. Obdareo recalls watching a documentary on the Maasai people, an ethnic group in Kenya and Tanzania, taking notice that they used a photograph of a boy with flies in and around his mouth. “I was like, of course — they would definitely take a picture of a Black young boy with flies in his mouth,” he says. “I remember the early days of the United Nations adverts of sending money to Africa, because somebody is hungry, there will always be some Black young boy with flies in his mouth.” Images like these he says can shape people’s perspective on Africa and “Afrocentric missions” in a way that isn’t necessarily true. He adds, “We all know a picture says a thousand words, what am I saying? A picture says a billion words — so somebody [who’s] only window to Africa is that photo will think that Africa is a place full of kids that cannot chase flies out of their mouth.” “But there is the other side,” he says. “The beauty of it too, that doesn’t become as mainstream.” Going forward, Obadero suggests to creatives to “take a second to reconsider, knowing fully well that a picture or a video or a one-second clip says a billion words, how will this image project or tell the story of these people — how does it reflect on them?” That reflection is something that Obadero takes seriously. “I’m very emotional about this because it’s a culture that I belong to, a community that I represent, and I have seen so much damage done because of a photo.” The damage includes women, who’ve had their stories told “by people who don’t even understand the very first things about them and the world misconstrues this based on the lens of who told their story.” “[It’s] not usually joy, happiness or even hiking,” says Chimwaso on the images used to represent the Black community. “Like Black people, we hike. But if you were to look for even stock images of someone hiking you wouldn’t see any Black people.” “That’s why there’s this Instagram called Black Travel Feed,” she adds. “It basically just highlights Black people travelling — cause we do all these normal things as well.” She also notes how photography has helped the Black community “realize that we need better representation of ourselves.”

“I think that’s why I’m finding a lot of Black photographers tend to, especially in the States, focus a lot more on photographing Black people to better represent us and show we are not these people that the media has been sharing and showing all these years,” she says. “We’re starting to use our voices again and get our voices back.” Photography has come a long way since the 1960s, but there is still a long way to go, and that progress can start with the photographer.

“Some of the biggest revolutions or the biggest change we’ve seen in the world started because of one picture, started because somebody was bold enough to go above and beyond to document a certain moment...” > Shenda Chimwaso “Educate yourself by going on YouTube,” says Chimwaso. “There are many Black photographers who have YouTube channels who also teach you how to edit and shoot for Black people.” “The onus lies on us, all stakeholders, to do better,” says Obadero. “We must take a second to see what things we’ve left unknowingly behind, then we should catch up on those things.” It’s a conversation that Obadero says needs to keep happening in order for there to be a solution. “Every negative story I see out there reminds me of the role that I play [to] counterbalance whatever story that I find to be negative until a different story of my people, of my culture, of my colour [is] put out there on the table.”

For photography to be more racially inclusive, Samuel Obadero says the responsibility lies with both the users and the producers of camera technology. PHOTO: SAMUEL OBADERO

Inked in grief LIFESTYLE

How memorial tattoos have become a trendy way to commemorate lost loved ones: art and memories come together to help individuals cope with loss

MADASYN KOST mkost@cjournal.ca


t’s a guarantee that you will experience loss in your lifetime. Grief over a loved one can cause pain, sorrow, anger and stress. Isabella Gauvin, who’s only 17, recently got her first memorial tattoo. A memorial tattoo is exactly what it sounds like. Simply put, it’s a tattoo that represents a person that is no longer alive. Quite often, people choose to get images or items that remind them of their loved ones. It’s also common to have a piece of their handwriting replicated as a tattoo. Memorial tattoos are becoming increasingly popular. A 2014 study done by psychology student Kaitlyn Burden at Memorial University found that out of 306 participants, 18 per cent reported having a memorial tattoo. The same study (whose respondents were 18 to 75 years old) also found that perceptions of memorial tattoos were more positive than non-memorial tattoos. Memorial tattoos are a way to keep the memories of loved ones alive. Many people believe this type of tattoo helps heal and repair them. Gauvin, who attends high school here in Calgary, recently lost her great-grandfather Bruno. He meant so much to her and her mother Rainey that the pair decided to get matching tattoos, a first for both of them. The tattoo, which reads Bello, is a tribute to the nickname he had for the women in his life. “Right before he passed away he was in a hospice, and he didn’t recognize anyone and couldn’t even open his eyes really, but the last time I saw him he recognized me and he called me Bello,” said Gauvin. Bello, which means ‘beautiful’ in Italian is something Gauvin remembers her great-grandfather calling her often. Even at the end of his life, that nickname and bond was strong. She wanted her first tattoo to be meaningful and luckily for her, her mom agreed this was a good choice. “My mom wasn’t sure about my age, being under 18, but we both agreed that this was something very special to us and she knew that even if we waited a year until I was 18, I would get it anyways,” she said. The two had a shared appointment when they got their tattoos which provided a nice bonding experience for the mother-daughter duo. There is no “legal age” to get a tattoo in Alberta however, most tattoo shops require customers to be at least 18. Some shops will allow underage tattooing but many require a parent’s consent. When deciding where on her body to place the tattoo, Gauvin says she wanted it near her heart which is why she chose to have it done on her ribs. The tattoo itself is black and white, a rose with a stem that reads Bello in soft script. While she hasn’t had the tattoo for long, Gauvin says she

LEFT: photograph of Danielle Schulmeister and her grandmother Heather picking Saskatoon berries off a tree in her grandmother’s backyard. RIGHT: Tattoo replication of the photograph. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DANIELLE SCHULMEISTER already feels closer to her great-grandfather. “I had a really hard time after he passed and I still haven’t really gotten over it. But having it with me [the tattoo] just makes me feel like he’s with me more than I already did,” she said. Memorial tattoos mean something to the artists too Kaylie Heschel, a tattoo artist at Atticus Tattoo, has been doing memorial tattoos as long as she’s been tattooing which is nearly six years. “I believe people get tattoos because they want to feel a stronger connection to loved ones, a stronger connection to friends and just help them remember that they’ve lived life, they’ve had adventures,” Heschel said. In her line of work, Heschel meets new people almost every day and says she loves hearing their stories and helping them create lasting memories of their loved ones.

“It makes me so happy that as a tattoo artist I can give that feeling to someone who’s lost an important part of their family or important friends.” There are many types of memorial tattoos. Some people pay tribute to their pets, some are for dear friends and others represent a loss of people they may have never even met. Heschel recalls one of her most emotional memorial tattoos was for a couple who lost their child to miscarriage. The parents gave her a sealed envelope with the baby’s footprints, something they hadn’t even opened themselves yet. “It was probably the moment I realized how much trust, how much people are putting to me to create something special for them,” Heschel said. “I had to take a moment away from the couple because I got quite teary just looking at the size of these little footprints.”





Kaylie Heschel working on a tattoo at the Calgary Tattoo Festival in 2020. PHOTO: KAYLIE H.

Brogan Mueller’s tattoo of her grandmother’s handwriting done by Calgary tattoo artist Stephanie Speer. PHOTO: MADASYN KOST

Isabella Gauvin’s memorial tattoo which reads Bello was done by Kaylie Heschel at Atticus Tattoo in Calgary. PHOTO: ISABELLA GAUVIN

“It makes me so happy that as a tattoo artist I can give that feeling to someone who’s lost an important part of their family or important friends.”

Deborah Davidson’s memorial tattoo in honour of her two babies (pictured as butterflies) and other family members. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DEBORAH DAVIDSON

> Kaylie Heschel The tattoo itself was the footprints of their baby with wings. Healing by commemorating This sort of connection to dead loved ones is what many people are looking for, according to a 2009 master’s thesis study done at Smith College. “The majority of participants spoke about their tattoos as functioning as tools for connecting with the dead,” wrote Elizabeth Schiffrin, the study author. “Half the participants identifiedho w the tattoos have created gateways to talk about their grief experience. More than half of the study participants said they think of the tatoo as a physical embodiment of their loved one and the same number say they physically “touch,” “rub” or “look at” to embody a connection with the deceased, or when they are in need of “grounding.” If you ask people who have memorial tattoos, they’ll tell you that they’re not meant to be sad. In fact, memorial tattoos often bring joy and peace to people who receive them.

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“For some reason when it becomes a tattoo it’s not as sad, it’s more of a happy memory, which I think is something really special that happens,” Heschel said. Memorial tattoos often tell a story of a loved one, whether it’s a favourite flower, a cherished memory or just a simple word that reminds the person of the departed. “When that gets translated into a tattoo and you look at your tattoo on your arm, there’s a happy feeling, there’s a I’m not alone feeling, there’s a even though she’s gone, I know I’m always loved kind of feeling.” Every tattoo tells a story Danielle Schulmeister, 20, a student at Alberta University of the Arts in Calgary, says two of her tattoos are very sentimental. Schulmeister has one of a sea turtle hatchling on her ribs to commemorate her time in Costa Rica, where she volunteered with the Sea Turtle Conservatory. Her latest tattoo however, serves as a way to keep her grandmother’s memory alive.

“My tattoo is a re-creation photo of my grandma and myself, when I was one in her backyard, picking Saskatoon berries off her tree. That photo just evokes a very strong memory of her to me.” Schulmeister decided to get her tattoo on her right bicep where she could see it. A lot of people are frightened by the permanence of tattoos, but Schulmeister says she chose a tattoo for that very reason. “What I like about it is, it’s more permanent than a photo because as we go into this new century, physical photos are going to start becoming obsolete. Those probably won’t last forever; this thing will,” she said. Sadly, Schulmeister’s other grandmother also passed away this year, and she is planning on getting a memorial tattoo for her as well. She says she’s thinking of getting a piece done with her grandmother’s favourite flowers as well as her mom’s. Something special that will connect her to her family forever.


“When people ask us about our tattoos, we not only continue our bonds with them, but we share our bonds with other people.” >Deborah Davidson

Jonathan Delorme’s wolf tattoo that he got for his father. Jonathan Delorme’s memorial tattoo for friend Dylan Somers. Two steins cheersing in commemoration. Both tattoos were done by Roland Owec at 3DE Tattoo. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF JONATHAN DELORME Deborah Davidson, a professor of sociology at York University in Toronto, has been researching memorial tattoos since 2009. She was working with bereaved families of Ontario when she discovered that many of the people she was getting to know had memorial tattoos, most of which she said were people she wouldn’t have expected to have tattoos. “I noticed the people that I thought weren’t likely to have tattoos based on my biases and my stigmatizing with people with tattoos did have tattoos, did have tattoos in memory of their loved ones,” said Davidson. She says her research has shown that memorial tattoos are an excellent way to keep our bonds with lost loved ones. “When people ask us about our tattoos, we not only continue our bonds with them, but we share our bonds with other people.” It’s not uncommon for people to get memorial tattoos to serve as a reminder of what happened to the people they’ve lost. After the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash, many of the survivors got tattoos to pay tribute to the 16 people who died. Broncos player Tyler Smith of Leduc, Alta., got 16 birds tattooed on his left shoulder blade to honour those who died. Davidson created The Tattoo Project, a website that discusses the research behind memorial tattoos. It also looks at trauma tattoos and how tattoos seem to help the healing process in victims as well. The website also serves as a place to showcase memorial tattoos and share stories of love, loss and healing among people. When Davidson began her research back in 2009, she had no tattoos, but as her work continued, so did her appreciation for them. Along the way she began getting her own memorial tattoos. Davidson says her tattoo is for her two babies who died shortly after birth [represented by the butterflies], which grew to visual representations of other family members, both deceased and living. “The name Deborah comes from the Hebrew meaning ‘bee.’ The bee among the other images represents me looking over my family,” she said.

Davidson also has an elephant tattoo to commemorate her time working on the project. “The tattoo that’s the logo for The Tattoo Project, the elephant tattoo is actually tattooed on my arm as well. As commemorating the tattoo project and commemorating my research and my relationship to this kind of work,” said Davidson. Memorial tattoos are often well thought out and are very specific to an individual. Based on Davidson’s research, regret is rarely an issue for people. “Some people have said, you know, thinking about it later I might have done it like this or I might have done it like that. You know I’ve added to it, but no one has ever regretted the decision,” she said. The number of tattooed people is increasing A 2012 Ipsos poll showed that 22 per cent of Canadians had at least one tattoo on their body, and the numbers are even higher for women and young people. The evolution of tattoos, a timeline Brogan Mueller, 27, a manager at MNP, got her first tattoo at the age of 25. She says she wanted her first tattoo to be special, something meaningful. Mueller visited her grandmother over summer break while growing up. “All my summers, me and my brother would always go to Vancouver Island and spend so much time with my grandma, she was so involved and that really shaped how we grew up,” said Mueller. ueller says her grandmother always wrote letters to her growing up; it was their main communication. “She would always send things in the mail. Anything she was doing, she’d always write a letter or anywhere she travelled we’d always get postcards from her,” she said. Every letter always ends the same way, reading, Much Love, Grandma. So what better way to honour her grandmother than to get those three little words tattooed on her forever? While Mueller’s grandmother is still alive, she is dealing with multiple health issues.

Mueller says the tattoo is very important to her and she’s extremely happy to have a piece of her grandmother on her forever. Jonathan Delorme, 27 had a rough 2016. In January he lost a childhood friend to cancer, several months later he lost another friend to suicide and at the end of the year his father passed away. Delorme said he really struggled with the passing of his friend Dylan which led him to get a memorial tattoo to honour him. He said at first the decision was really based on guilt and regret. “He was diagnosed in August and then after that, I didn’t go see him in the hospital while he was sick. I was just busy with school and life, and then all of a sudden I got the call,” said Delorme. Now, almost four years later, he says his tattoo helps him through his grief and allows him to remember his friend daily. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t see that thing on my arm. I also think it’s a reminder to just keep people close and take time for people,” said Delorme. “As for the grieving process it definitely helps, it almost feels like he’s a part of me just because I have his name there.” When Delorme’s father David died later that year, it was a tough blow. He had spent months taking him to cancer treatments, sitting at his bedside. Since he already had a memorial tattoo for Dylan, Delorme knew he wanted something to pay tribute to his father’s memory. He chose to get a wolf which was his dad’s favourite animal, on his chest, where he could see it every day. Memorial tattoos come in all shapes and sizes, from silly cartoons that remind people of their loved one’s favourite TV shows, to paw prints from furry family members. While some tattoos are more detailed than others, they all start and end with the same goal: To heal, to cherish and to keep loved ones close to our hearts.




Heart of a champion LIFESTYLE

Calgary powerlifting champion finds new strategies for staying competition ready

Bryce Krawcyzk is a Calgary-based championship powerlifter, former IPF world record holder, trainer and owner at Calgary Barbell. PHOTO: IPF WORLD 2016 RECAP/YOUTUBE HALEN KOOPER hkooper@cjournal.ca


algary-based championship powerlifter Bryce Krawcyzk has had to put many athletic plans on hold due to the pandemic. He’s still managed to remain in shape by training at home. But COVID-19 has forced him to change who he’s competing against and how he’s helping others bulk up. Krawczyk started to powerlift when he was 24 years old because he felt he was too skinny and wanted to put on some weight. However, bodybuilding never interested him as much. “The prospect of competing in bodybuilding really 14 MARCH/APRIL 2020 CALGARYJOURNAL.CA

didn’t appeal to me very much. And powerlifting was one of the other sports that was a part of the whole strength world,” said Krawczyk. In the nine years since then, Krawcyzk has amassed a number of accolades. He is a three time Canadian Powerlifting Union national champion, an International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) silver medalist and a former IPF world record holder. Krawczyk also now runs his fitness coaching company Calgary Barbell out of Andrew Bolinger’s Strength’s Edge powerlifting and strongman gym and hosts regular powerlifting competitions. However, the pandemic put an end to those competitions.

“I know there’s some that are still going on, but I don’t know that myself or Andrew are comfortable forcing the issue when the regulations are still pretty grey,” Krawcyzk said. Krawcyzk did a local competition last June and got to see firsthand just what is necessary to have these competitions up and running. “It was a very interesting experience in terms of rotating volunteers, and social distancing and sanitizing everything in between every flight, the number of lifters allowed to compete,” said Krawcyzk. “Even if you were coaching for the whole day, you’d have to leave between sessions every time and sign back in. There was a lot of tracking.”

LIFESTYLE In terms of his own training and competition, Krawcyzc had been planning on competing at a couple different meets before the lockdowns of last year. But, because of the need to qualify in lower meets and pandemic-related scheduling problems, he believes those plans are now a few years away. “I had planned to go to Norway for the world championships last year and obviously that was postponed. I was supposed to be competing in the world games this year and that’s postponed,” said Krawcyzk. “The plans that I had have been pushed back up to two years.” The pandemic has also meant Krawcyzk hasn’t had access to the amount of equipment he normally does. But has been able to make space in his basement for a squat rack and deadlifts. “I was able to train almost as normal,” Krawcyzk said. “I own a decent bit of the equipment and I live in a condo where we have an unused basement space, so the condo board allowed me to put in a squat rack and some mats to deadlift on down there.” With the ability to train in his basement, Krawcyzk never saw a drastic decrease in his strength, while also staying in competition form by competing locally last year. “My numbers were probably a little bit shy of what they were at the last meet, but not by much and I think that’s a result of a drastically different training and competing environment,” Krawcyzk said. Krawcyzk recognizes powerlifters that can’t train are going to have to work hard to get back into competition form. However it will be the travel that poses the biggest hurdle for any strength athlete looking to compete at international levels.

“Like, how many people is it going to be ok to have in a certain area and are we going to be wearing masks when we compete?” Krawcyzk said. As a result of his concerns about travelling, Krawcyzk decided to change some of the parameters around how he trains in order to compete more often at regional and national levels during pandemic conditions. “I’ve actually changed weight classes and I’m going to go from competing equipped to competing raw for the foreseeable future because there are more people who do it that way,” said Krawcyzk. By competing raw, Krawcyzk will no longer wear deadlift or squatting suits and perform the lifts with regular gym attire. Typically, this would lead to a slight decrease in numbers. However, this isn’t a concern Krawcyzk has, since a lot of his training is done raw anyway. “For me I started my career training raw, and even when I’m competing equipped, I still do three quarters of my training raw, so it won’t impact things very much I don’t think,” said Krawcyzk. “Equipped lifting and equipped training are a lot of fun but it’s all pretty much the same stuff.” For the foreseeable future, Krawcykz is mostly focusing on the coaching aspect of his business that includes workout plans you can buy online instead of hosting competitions. “We’ll be releasing a big program library in April which I’m pretty excited about,” he said. “Hopefully as regulations lessen across the world we’ll see things pick back up and we’ll see growth in terms of the business that we can do.”


“My numbers were probably a little bit shy of what they were at the last meet, but not by much and I think that’s a result of a drastically different training and competing environment.” > Bryce Krawcyzk

Bryce Krawcyzk performing a squat at an IPF competition in 2019. PHOTO: COURTESY OF BRYCE KRAWCYZK





Increased loneliness due to the COVID-19 pandemic creates dog adoption problems Some people forced to search for adoptable pets in all the wrong places

MADASYN KOST mkost@cjournal.ca

Dogs, especially large breeds are being left unadopted amid a small dog boom during the COVID-19 pandemic. PHOTO: SASHA SASHINA/UPSPLASH


he coronavirus pandemic has meant a new level of loneliness for many people, causing a spike of dog adoptions around the province. Unfortunately, with the increased interest in adoption, the availability of dogs, especially small ones has become limited. This is causing intense frustration and forcing people to search for pets from less reputable places, as the prices for those animals are jacked-up. The lockdowns and new rules restricting people from seeing friends and family has caused an increase in depression and anxiety for a lot of people. According to a report by CAMH “several studies have linked the experience of quarantine to symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress, sometimes with long-term effects.”

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In fact, Statistics Canada states 52 percent of participants in a survey conducted between April 24 to May 11, 2020, “indicated that their mental health was either ‘somewhat worse’ or ‘much worse’” due to social distancing. In this environment, increased pet adoptions aren’t surprising. A recent study by researchers at the University of York and the University of Lincoln “found that having a pet was linked to maintaining better mental health and reducing loneliness.” The study also stated 90 percent of respondents felt their pets gave them a sense of comfort and 96 per cent felt that having a pet allowed them to get outdoors and stay active. Moreover, Gail Groeneveld, who runs Prairie Doodles and has been breeding Australian Labradoodles since

2004, says the pandemic has created excellent conditions to get a dog. “For the puppy stage, this is a real Win Win, because as the dog gets older, they’re okay staying home while you go to work, ” said Groeneveld. Jessica Bohrson, senior manager of communications at the Calgary Humane Society, says they’ve seen a wide array of animals being adopted. “We’ve had all kinds of guys going home in the last month, snakes and gerbils and mice and hamsters, cats, dogs, birds, fish,” said Bohrson. But, among all these animal adoptions, the rate of dogs being adopted has skyrocketed. According to Debra Therrien, founder of BARCS Rescue, the amount of dog adoptions almost doubled from 2019, with 220 adoptions in 2019 and a whopping 401 in 2020.

LIFESTYLE From January to March of this year there have already been 93 adoptions. While these numbers are seemingly high, there’s still a ton of people requesting a pet and not being able to get one. “We get between 300-500 applications for little dogs. Out of that, 95 per cent of those applications are perfectly fine, there’s nothing wrong with them whatsoever, we just don’t have enough dogs for everybody,” said Therrien. Lately people have also been getting angry, asking why they aren’t being chosen for the adoption process. For her part, Groeneveld says they’ve had to close adoptions until 2022 because there is such a high demand for puppies and that it’s not uncommon for people to wait anywhere from four to eight months or up to a year to get their dog. Therrien says not only is the demand higher than normal but the borders being closed has created a real challenge in getting dogs. Many of the dogs BARCS fosters are from places like Mexico, Texas and Los Angeles. Before the pandemic they could easily go down to these places and pick the dogs up, but now there are very few options in transporting the animals. It also used to be easy to find small dogs because breeders and shelters know how popular they are. But, if you look at different animal shelter sites, you’ll probably notice the lack of such dogs up for adoption something that’s impacted shelters all over Canada and the U.S., A large number of people are only interested in dogs of that size, whether it’s because they live in an apartment and have a weight limit or because they’re older and just can’t lift a large dog. This desire for small dogs has impacted shelters all over Canada and in the U.S. “It’s almost impossible to find small dogs, because everybody wants a dog. The pandemic has made it almost unbearable mentally for a lot of people,” said Therrien. Therrien says she gets lots of calls from seniors looking for very specific dogs. “They’re often under a size restriction because they live in a condo or an apartment. And they’re seniors so a lot of them physically can’t handle an 80-pound dog or a 60-pound dog,” she said. The saddest thing about the increased desire for small dogs is that large dogs are sitting alone in shelters and foster homes with no one wanting them. BARCS gets most of their dogs from high kill shelters which means those unlucky dogs who don’t get picked usually don’t end up making it. “We find that there’s a real super shortage of little dogs and there’s still quite a few big dogs that are still being euthanized daily down in the States,” said Therrien. Along with her concern of the dogs being put down, Therrien worries the lack of availability of dogs at her shelter is “forcing people to turn to breeders and backyard breeders and paying a fortune for a dog when there’s lots of really adoptable dogs sitting in high kill shelters waiting to be adopted.” She says she’s seen a lot of breeders, both certified and not, increasing the prices for dogs due to the demand. Some breeders are asking $2,000 to $10,000 per dog. Not only is the price tag extremely high, Therrien says there’s a danger of non-certified breeders becoming more prevalent.

“A lot of them are breeding to kill the genetics out of the dogs and putting their own in and these dogs are not healthy because of the way they’re mixing two wrong breeds together,” said Therrien. Another big problem that’s surfaced are puppy scams. According to Calgary Police in 2020 there were “33 reports of online puppy scams where buyers provided payment but did not receive their pet.” It’s important to make sure the seller is reputable, not only for your sake but also the dogs. Police remind individuals to do research on the organization, avoid paying upfront and to always meet in person. While there are obstacles surrounding dog adoption, it’s important to remember that there will always be animals to adopt and it’s important to keep your options open and be patient. Bohrson says the Humane Society is continuously bringing in surrendered pets from around Calgary that desperately need new homes. “We have seen consistent numbers with respect to animal surrenders this year compared to previous years,” said Bohrson. A dog from the Calgary Hume Society in Calgary, Alta looking for a forever home. PHOTO: JESSICA BOHRSON

“We don’t have the dogs to adopt out, forcing people to turn to breeders and backyard breeders and paying a fortune for a dog when there’s lots of really adoptable dogs sitting in high kill shelters waiting to be adopted.” > Debra Therrien

Gail Groeneveld and Elmer, one of her Australian shepards. PHOTO: GAIL GROENEVELD





BUSINESS IS BLOOMING How a passion for plants turned into Seicho Plant Co. CHLOE MACEACHERN cmaceachern@cjournal.ca


ailey Koyata has loved plants since she was just a child. When Koyata moved out, she began collecting more plants in her home. This helped her realize just how beneficial they were. But it took that pandemic and a job loss to turn her passion into a business: Seicho Plant Co. While the business may only be a few months old, Koyata’s love of plants began early. “My grandparents were really huge gardeners and then my grandma was really huge into flowers and indoor plants so I’ve kind of always been around plants,” says Koyata. “They pretty much transformed their entire backyard into a garden.” In particular, Koyata can remember “walking through all the slats of everything and just like walking in between all the rows of vegetables and stuff and being like, ‘This is so cool. They just have everything here.’” Despite a strong attachment to plants early on, Koyata says she didn’t start keeping her own plants until after she moved to Calgary from Lethbridge. She adds that she “just started getting them more for the aesthetic.” Eventually, Koyata began noticing her plants were affecting her mood and mental health. “It’s actually crazy how much plants can really help with your stress and anxiety,” she says. “It’s definitely helped with the stress and anxiety of COVID, having yourself surrounded by plants.” That’s because working with her plants lets her “focus on something that I can actually control which is watering the plants and taking care of them and watching them flourish even if I’m not.”

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Koyata says her plants have helped her cope with the challenges brought on by COVID PHOTO: BAILEY KOYATA


“It’s definitely helped with the stress and anxiety of COVID, having yourself surrounded by plants.” > Bailey Koyata Koyata (right) has had a lifeling affinity for plants, beginning in gardens like this one PHOTO: BAILEY KOYATA

“That was my main source of anxiety relief was just being able to actually do something that I can control and enjoy, and being able to actually see something come out of it.” These benefits led to Koyata increasing the size of her own planet collection, which now stands 95 plants. She says that it takes her “hours to water everything.” Koyata’s idea of turning that hobby into a business began when the pandemic was still in its beginnings stages. She says her and her co-workers spent a lot of time discussing what would happen if the salon they worked at, Swizzle Sticks, got shut down because of COVID-19. When that happened, plants also played a role in easing Koyata’s “stress of ‘how am I going to make a little bit of extra money?’” and no longer having a full-time job. Selling plants from her townhouse in north Calgary “was just something that I felt like I could continue to do throughout the pandemic and not feel too overwhelmed.” And she eventually turned that idea into a full-fledged business: Seicho Plant Co.. Now Koyata says plants are just “scattered throughout my house.” Seicho Plant Co. offers both shipping and pickup options, as well as stocking some in Chantal Maier’s spa, Lunar Energy Esthetics. “Honestly if COVID had never happened I don’t think that I would be doing this today.”

Maier had previously worked with Koyata at Swizzle Sticks and credits Koyata and Seicho Plant Co. with helping her own plant journey. “She’s just always been somebody that’s super knowledgeable….when she’s passionate about something, she’s passionate about it and she takes it very seriously,” says Maier. “It’s like I have a place to go. I can message her anytime, I can look for a post that talks about a subject that I’m wondering about,” adds Maier. Maier has also felt the effects plants ave on her mood, saying, “The more I get my plants together, the more I get me together, my goal in this house is to just fill it with plants because that’s just how much complete calmness it’s given me.” Indeed, Koyata suspects that COVID-19 has helped increase the public’s interest in plants. “A lot of people who have never really either had time for plants or didn’t think that they could take care of them, they’re actually having the time to have plants and realize that it’s really not that hard,” she explains. However she does think that as life returns to normal, sales will drop off slightly because of people returning to their busier work and travel commitments. In the meantime, Koyata will focus on growing her business and guiding people into the world of plants. “New businesses coming out the other COVID is pretty rare but I luckily picked one that really boomed in the COVID era.”

Lunar Esthetics Spa also carries a handful of Seicho Plant Co. plants PHOTO: CHANTAL MAIER






Your guide to staying safe outdoors

Simple tips to stay safe while hiking and camping ETHAN WARD eward@cjournal.ca


ast summer, my dad and I trekked out to Shadow Lake along the Redearth trail in Banff National Park. We felt the sun beat down on us, but rather than feeling unrelenting, the heat was pleasant. Perhaps that was because we had been stuck inside for so long. The sun was now a welcome relief to the artificial lights of our home. Despite the pandemic, the parking lot was full of day hikers and backpackers, undoubtedly attracted by the moderate, flat trail. The number of people on the trail made me wonder if backcountry camping was as safe for social distancing as I had originally thought. It’s especially worth considering since national park reservations began this month April. Last summer, many people escaped into the outdoors after being shut in during the spring COVID-19 lockdown. Our provincial and national parks saw an increase in domestic visitors, with many going camping for the first time, looking for a safe way to get outside during the pandemic. This surge has continued through the winter and even led to a global demand for things such as backcountry skis. The influx of people going into the backcountry has presented a problem, challenging the assumption that backcountry camping is immune to social distancing obstacles. Dave Stark, the manager of operations at Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, says these problems changed interactions between backcountry campers over the past summer - in particular, hikers who didn’t share the same household. “Camping itself was a big issue for us. The easiest way to deal with it was that everyone got their own tent, which led to issues of campsite availability. Cooking is also an issue that we looked at. Often it’s a very communal activity with one pot shared among everyone. This year we had

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The trail at Lillian Lake (pictured) leads to Galatea Lakes in Kananaskis Country. With 17 tent pads, this is a large well travelled backcountry campground. PHOTO: ETHAN WARD to have the guides handle everything,” says Stark, whose touring service offers backpacking and other guided outdoor adventures, The cooking problem was dealt with by the guides, as they managed the prepping, cooking and serving. Guests were responsible for their own dishes, rather than the typical communal approach. However, meals were not the only issue they faced. “Simple things like taking pictures with each other had to be limited. It was all a lot of things we don’t really think about,” says Stark. The first step that needs to be planned for is packing, which has changed drastically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cleaning equipment is now vital, even in the outdoors. My first assumption in regards to camping is that people are going to get dirty, and cleaning wouldn’t be as much of an issue as it normally is at home. Instead, it’s essential to bring sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to clean surfaces and equipment others have touched, along with any garbage carried in. Booking ahead and making sure you can actually get a spot is more important than ever, as most sites don’t have a lot of tent pads in the best of times, which is further intensified by the pandemic.

Even the simple acts of sleeping and cooking requires meticulous planning when backcountry camping. Sharing a tent with someone outside your household is now off-limits, increasing the amount of tents needed to be carried in for each individual hiker. This means more weight and less room to pack other essentials such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. This domino effect further complicates backcountry camping in the time of COVID-19. How everyone is spaced out along the trail is also a normally unimportant issue that now needs contemplation. In order to reduce instances of contact, it is necessary to identify and avoid places where others may frequently stop along the trail and any potential popular points of interest. Crowd size is also an issue. Narrow mountain trails are not great for facilitating social distancing, often requiring people to step off the trail to avoid oncoming traffic. This is something I’ve encountered on many busy backcountry hikes before COVID, that now adds a whole other dimension to hiking. To properly social distance, “Knowledge of the space and how you can use that to your advantage is vital,” says Rhonda Scheurer, president of the Calgary Outdoor Club. “The ways we are mitigating contact between people is through what trails we chose. We’re spending less time on narrow trails where people feel compelled to get close to

OUTDOORS one another,” says Scheurer, “or when you’re passing another group, you would be passing closer to one another. The larger the group is, the harder it is to stay spaced out. Wide trails allow people to still be a group, but to do so safely.” However, social distancing is not the only issue. Stepping off the trail also causes trail braiding, which ruins the surrounding environment. Scheuer suggests avoiding busy locations with narrow trails, such as the popular Berg Lake trail in B.C., which is consistently booked. Despite the necessity of social distancing, it poses another concern, as pointed out by Scheurer. “Bear safety and COVID safety are in direct conflict with one another.” “With group sizes, during the summer, the recommended group size has been five for bear safety. Your group of five or more people is supposed to be relatively close together,” says Scheurer. “By the time your group has split to two or more metres apart, you’re not really together anymore. Bears won’t perceive you as one big entity if you are too far apart.”

“Knowledge of the space and how you can use that to your advantage is vital.” > Rhonda Scheurer Although, bears and social distancing are not the only concern to be wary of when setting out on the trails. It is essential to remember the basics of backcountry safety, such as informing someone where you are going and making sure you aren’t doing more than you can handle.

There were many news stories this past summer about deaths and rescues in the mountains. Despite these concerns, my dad and I still went out confident in our social distancing abilities. Thankfully, the Redearth trail on the way to Shadow Lake was wide and the limited number of campsites meant crowding wasn’t an issue. The trip was a huge success and after having spent so much time in our house for the months before our trip, being able to explore the outdoors was a freeing experience. Even so, we still made mistakes when we set out for our much-needed escape to the backcountry. Forgetting to pack our firestarter, we had to stop in Canmore to pick a new one up. Not the end of the world, but when you are trying to avoid public spaces as much as possible, it’s less than ideal. This oversight certainly contradicts the advice I’ve given on being mindful of packing the essentials, however, lessons like these can inform backcountry explorers on how to safely get outdoors during COVID-19.

Depending on the route taken, Upper Twin Lakes can be near the entry or exit point of the popular Bow Valley Highline Trail. PHOTO: ETHAN WARD





Indigenous GROUPS HELP CONSERVE CANADIAN WILDFIRE Indigenous involvement and innovation could save animals from extinction L

JAZMINE CANFIELD jcanfield@cjournal.ca

ast fall, Parks Canada announced that one of the caribou herds in Jasper National Park has gone locally extinct, with the other two not far behind. In response, they are investigating a captive breeding program, which is a potentially invasive and expensive effort. But while it might be too late for the Japer herds, conservation partnerships with Indigenous communities are already showing success elsewhere and might offer lessons for future efforts. The federal government recently signed an agreement with two BC Indigenous communities to help protect caribou habitat there. The Heiltsuk First Nation has created a system that allows them to observe grizzly bears from a distance, so they can manage their land to accommodate the animals. Parks Canada says on their website that the Maligne herd has gone extinct and the Tonquin herd has approximately 45 caribou left, while the Brazeau caribou have fewer than 15 individuals left. Carolyn Campbell, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association, said that Parks Canada had not done enough to protect the Maligne herd and their extinction is the result of a lack of immediate action. “When we are talking about Jasper, that’s totally within the federal government’s mandate and we feel there’s even a stronger reason for them to manage those ranges responsibly because they don’t have to look to the province.” Campbell explained that Parks Canada did make changes to protect the caribou in managing the elk, wolves and implementing seasonal closures but “it was a little too late.” Parks Canada stated that from November to the end of February, access to occupied caribou ranges are closed to prevent people from creating packed trails that could give wolves access to the caribous habitat. One of the key decisions that hurt the caribou population was that the government did not close the Maligne Lake road in the winter. “They continued to plow it, which was a big mistake in the early 2000s that enabled wolves to really draw down the Maligne

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The Grizzly Bear Monitoring Project began to see how many bears were in the area and how their activity changed over time. PHOTO: RICHARD LEE


William Housty of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department collects bear fur from barbed wire, part of the research to better accommodate bears on their land. PHOTO: MARK GODFREY population, to the point where there were much fewer of them,” Campbell said. She explained that because they continued to allow access in that range from March 1 onwards, it became “a stressor on the caribou to have humans in their primaries of their range.” With the decrease of the caribou, Parks Canada announced a new preliminary project proposal to rebuild the caribou herds in Jasper National Park through conservation breeding and herd augmentation program. However, Campbell is not totally convinced that this program will work because of the lack of details that Parks Canada has provided so far and because of their inaction on access issues. To save the caribou, Parks Canada may want to expand their partnerships with Indigenous people. In BC, one Indigenous group has helped conserve grizzlies simply by observing them. Coastwatch is a Heiltsuk-driven scientific research initiative that provides the Heiltsuk people with the skills and knowledge to be proactive in resource management and conservation planning in their territory. The program is located in Bella Bella, also known as Waglisla, the home of the Heiltsuk Nation. Coastwatch started a grizzly bear monitoring project in 2007 to understand how many bears are in the area and how their numbers change over time in response to salmon run size, human activities and forest management. William Housty, the chair of the board of directors for the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department, said the inspiration for the project was the “unknown.”

“We wanted to know more about how many bears were there, where they came to and from, what times of the year they moved the most, and how were they utilizing the salmon.” By asking these questions, Housty explained that they were able to manage the land better so they could accommodate the grizzly bears.

“Let nature take its course and let them breed themselves because that’s the way it’s always been and as soon as we step in and have a hand in something, it can have a negative impact on them and the natural world.” > William Housty “Because we understood more about their ranges, their food sources, their denning areas, we were better able to assist them in creating this big picture ecosystem,” he said. Housty explained that they gathered data through noninvasive barbed wire snares at every kilometer so bears could go under or over the wire leaving behind tufts of their hair.

The Heiltsuk people gathered the hair and were able to pull out DNA samples so they could create a map of “whose siblings were whose, who were the parents, who are the grandparents and how bears were moving on the landscape,” Housty explained. Housty said that they were also able to speak to Elders and people who spent a lot of time on the land, to gather more information about the bears. “We gathered data from both sides and then put them together and the output of that was a grizzly bear habitat map.” The main outcome of this project, Housty explained, was that they were able to manage themselves when it came to grizzly bears. “We’ve been able to create these habitat maps, so when there might be a small scale logging operation, or an application for a license of occupation for something, we can now say, ‘No, they can’t go there because that’s the grizzly bear habitat.’” Housty believes this project has given them a powerful tool to protect the land for grizzly bears, as well as protecting other mammals that also live in the bears habitat. Coastwatch wrote a research paper on their findings, and saw a big difference between their habitat maps and the government’s version. “When you overlay the province’s habitat maps with ours there was huge discrepancies. And so, the province was reluctant to rely on our model because it encompassed so much more area than theirs.” Housty wants others to understand the importance of Indigenous knowledge and science and that they tell the same story. “It’s important to consider both when it comes to land management and species management.”


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OUTDOORS Campbell also believes it would be beneficial in Alberta to include Indigenous leadership and participation in wildlife and habitat management. It has been an ongoing trend in Canada to partner with Indigenous groups for conservation, and it can be seen happening in Alberta today. The Government of Canada signed a conservation agreement with the Cold Lake First Nations to protect woodland caribou (Boreal population) in Northern Alberta. The agreement was signed in 2019, in hopes to provide a framework for the collaboration of the parties (Cold Lake First Nation and The Government of Canada), to support the achievement of a self-sustaining population in the Cold Lake Boreal Caribou Range. The Government of Canada also has recently reached two final conservation agreements with British Columbia and the West Moberly, and the Saulteau First Nations to advance the recovery of Southern Mountain Caribou. The agreement is going to stabilize and recover populations of the caribou. The Government of Canada outlines on their website that the two agreements represent a historic collaboration

between all levels of government and Indigenous partners. The agreements measures include commitment related to habitat protection and restoration, herd planning, predator management, primary prey management, hunting, science, Indigenous knowledge, recreation management, maternal pens and captive breeding and monitoring. “It’s important to consider both when it comes to land management and species management.” Jasper park sits on the traditional territory of a number of Indigenous groups, including Cree and Metis people. But they were forcibly removed from the land for the park’s creation, so there are fewer Indigenous people living there now to do this kind of work. Although Jasper is in a difficult position with its caribou, Housty believes that “everything’s best left to do naturally.” “Let nature take its course and let them breed themselves because that’s the way it’s always been and as soon as we step in and have a hand in something, it can have a negative impact on them and the natural world.” Carolyn Campbell of the Alberta Wilderness Association says that while Parks Canada took measures to protect the caribou, the measures came too late. PHOTO: ANOSHA KHAN

The bear fur collected by Housty tells the DNA of the bears and allowed them to create habitat maps. PHOTO: MARK GODFREY

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As hitchhiking ticks make the warming praries their new home—a new app is soon to reach Alberta, during provincial submit-a-tick freeze. ANGELA LACKEY alackey@cjournal


he pandemic has led more Albertans to enjoy the great outdoors in record numbers while simultaneously shutting down Alberta’s submit-a-tick program. This is unfortunate timing because the Lyme diseasecarrying black-legged tick is a growing problem in Canada, even in places that would traditionally be considered uninhabitable such as the Prairies. But the good news is a new tick tracking service, eTick, will be launching in Alberta in late spring. ALBERTA SUBMIT-A-TICK Over the past three years, Alberta monitored ticks through the submit-a-tick program, where ticks could be mailed in or dropped off at the Alberta Health Services Environmental Health Office for testing and identification. Since starting, it had seen increased submissions of ticks to be tested. Last year, the number of ticks increased to 2,870 from the 960 sent in 2013. Of those, 63 were capable of carrying Lyme disease and

CHRISTIAN KINDRACHUK ckindrachuk@cjournal

three tested positive for the bacteria. “All available resources and staff at Alberta Health are helping to manage and monitor the pandemic, and the tick program was paused,” read a statement by Zoë Cooper, a spokesperson for Alberta Health. Cooper’s statement notes that Albertans are still able to physically submit a tick to their health care provider for identification and assessment in the meantime. GOING OUTSIDE But that process can sometimes take months to complete. And that delay will take place against the backdrop of growing numbers of campers and hikers in the spring. A statement by Alberta Parks read, “last year was the busiest camping season in Alberta to date, and we’re expecting similar numbers in 2021.” Dr. Maarten Voordouw, an assistant professor of veterinary microbiology at the University of Saskatchewan

with 10 years of tick and tick-borne disease research under his belt, said if more people are out camping and hiking, they’re more likely to encounter ticks. TICKS IN ALBERTA One place you’re likely to stumble upon ticks in Alberta is in the Edmonton River Valley, where it’s warm and relatively humid, according to Janet Sperling, who is involved with the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation. And according to an interactive map from the Government of Alberta, several ticks in the Edmonton River Valley were submitted in 2019, with one testing positive for the Lyme virus. But the problem is we can’t rely on these numbers because we don’t really know the tick populations or how many Albertans have been bitten. “We know a lot of people get a tick bite, but we don’t know exactly how many people because nobody’s keeping track,” Sperling said.


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OUTDOORS Humans can transmit Lyme disease through Tick bites. Still, it can take up to 48-hours or longer until the bacteria can be transmitted from the tick to a person, according to Dr. George Chaconas, a network member of the Canadian Lyme disease research network. Chaconas notes ways to prevent getting bitten from ticks like wearing light clothes to draw ticks out, tucking pant legs into socks so they can’t get onto your legs, as well as doing a tick check as a way to take preventative measures from having the tick on someone for long periods.

And, just because black-legged ticks, the species of tick capable of carrying and transmitting Lyme and other diseases to humans, have not been shown to reproduce in the Prairies, doesn’t mean they’re not here.w “We’re still trying to determine in Saskatchewan, and I think the same is true for Alberta, whether there are established black-legged tick populations,” Voordouw said. THEY’RE COMING BY ANIMALS There are a few theories to explain the tick population in Alberta. Studies have been conducted that show ticks travelling to Canada and the Prairies on migratory hosts. Canada’s Public Health Agency reported somewhere between 50 million to 175 million hitch-hiking blacklegged ticks landing in Canada from migrating birds flying north each year. Black-legged ticks live approximately two years, so a week-long flight and a meal—is no big deal. “The ticks are hearty, and they can survive. And then they’ll quest the following year looking for blood. Besides migratory birds, Sperling said deer might be one reason black-legged ticks are popping up more in Alberta. “The deer could start off in, say Winnipeg, and then as they walk across through Saskatchewan, they’re coming through the river valley,” Sperling said. Ticks are also showing up in new Canadian locations, as they warm due to climate change. According to Dr. George Chaconas, a member of the Canadian Lyme disease research network, “As our winters are getting less harsh there’s no question there that it’s easier for the tick to set up.” “I think it’s just a matter of time until the moister areas in the province begin having stable populations of infected ticks. It can certainly happen,” Sperling said. ABOUT ETICK Given the changing locations and populations of these potential eight-legged disease-carriers, an effective, active tracking method is important. And that’s where the four-year-old Quebec-born federally-funded program called eTick comes in, allowing citizens in partnered provinces to snap photos of ticks they found. This differs from traditional mail-in methods and Alberta’s submit-a-tick program, where ticks must be physically submitted in order to be identified.



Photo of Dr. Maarten Voordouw doing active surveillance in Saskatchewan, a process of dragging a rope with a white cloth on a dowel at the end. The fabric mimics an animal moving through the vegetation, causing the ticks to grapple onto the cloth with their hook-like feet. PHOTO: DR. MAARTEN VOORDOUW

OUTDOORS Citizens can send images through a handy smartphone app or online and receive species identification within 24-hours, even over weekends. This is a far cry from the weeks or months worried Canadians would wait long periods after being nibbled on by an unidentified insect. Although eTick does not test for diseases, like Lyme, the vast majority of ticks submitted are not species which are capable of transmitting Lyme and other diseases, eTick efficiently updates the user with either information that quickly sets their mind at ease. If it is a black-legged tick, or is suspected to be, the user will be given direction on how they should follow up, enabling them to be informed and act fast. Dr. Pierre Chuard, a biologist and adjunct professor at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and project manager of eTick, said the program’s main benefits are tick awareness, passive surveillance of tick presence, a triaging effect for the local health care system, and near-immediate results to the user.

“I think it’s just a matter of time until the moister areas in the province begin having stable populations of infected ticks. It can certainly happen.” > Janet Sperling

PASSIVE SURVEILLANCE Although this new tool makes submissions and responses to and from the user easier than it’s ever been before, there are a few challenges with relying solely people submitting ticks they found to determine the prevalence of those insects This passive surveillance is different from active surveillance—a more hands-on approach, Chaconas said. Active surveillance gives a better understanding to tick populations as researchers would head out to where ticks are and gather information, instead of relying on passive surveillance from the general public. With a passive method, you will get more submissions at times and in places where people are. Higher numbers may appear in provinces with higher human populations—obviously, this does not entirely reflect the tick population. With eTick being a novel, new service it’s likely that will also cause an influx in submissions. So researchers such as Chuard are looking for proportions of ticks growing or moving to new locations, not the density. WHY IT’S STILL A GOOD CHOICE It’s also important to note that, right now, the app only tracks ticks, not Lyme disease. However, this gives researchers a fast and detailed view of new or changing proportions of black-legged ticks, identifying candidates for active surveillance. Voordouw has used coordinates provided through eTick to conduct active surveillance of black-legged ticks in Saskatchewan. He’ll go into the field with a rope tied to a dowel that has a large white cloth draped off of it. The dragging fabric mimics an animal moving through the vegetation, causing the ticks to grapple onto the fabric with their hook-like feet. The captured ticks provide researchers information about species, disease, density, reproduction and more. ETICK LAUNCH With the increase in campers in Alberta’s parks, and the absence of the submit-a-tick program, there is a need for eTick, although it’s not here quite yet. But, understanding the pressure COVID-19 puts on the healthcare system, Voordouw said he’s grateful for programs like eTick in Saskatchewan, where it launched just under a year ago. Cooper writes, eTick will be launched later this spring and all updates to the tick surveillance program are available on the Alberta Health website.

Photo of Diariata N’Diaye. PHOTO: @ DIARIATANDIAYE

For those wondering what these creepy-crawlies look like, black-legged ticks have black legs (no kidding), the females with a distinguishing rust brown and black dorsal shield, the males are mostly black with a creamy coloured outline. As with all ticks, they have eight legs past the larvae stage, a small rectangular-shaped head atop an oblong dorsal shield. Once engorged (full of blood), they look more like a small jelly-belly. CALGARYJOURNAL.CA






Sean Gurnsey set up a studio space in his house and is able to work remotely. PHOTO COURTESY: SEAN GURNSEY

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CHLOE CHAPDELAINE cchapdelaine@cjournal.ca

fter After getting bit by ticks and physically carry him to the car and then developing a myriad of strange actually drive him home, and then carry symptoms that resulted in him him from his car to his room so he could lie losing his livelihood, Sean Gurnsey was down and try to just wait out the cramps diagnosed with Lyme disease. Despite and just wait out the locking of muscles,” how difficult it was to get that diagnosis, he says. Gurnsey eventually received treatment Gurnsey’s symptoms also affected his and found a new path for his life as a voice brain. He developed brain fog, which made actor. it difficult to remember things like names, It all started after he returned home in places, and at times he would forget where 2012 from a paintballing trip to Oklahoma he was. where Gurnsey had unknowingly “It really diminished how I was able to contracted some ticks. do any of the work that was put in front of “I picked them off and really didn’t think me physically, and then the mental work too much of it,” he says. was really being diminished too because However, over the next two weeks, he my brain capacity wasn’t there anymore,” started developing symptoms, starting Gurnsey says. with a bumpy rash. Ultimately, the symptoms impacted “It looked like bugbites really, which I more than just his body. Despite previously assumed it was, and they were there for being happy as a program director at Joe’s probably two weeks and then disappeared. Place, a youth centre in Moosejaw, he was I didn’t think anything of it, and then a forced to give up his job in January 2017. few months later, I started getting really “I watched my resume get stripped fatigued.” line by line. I looked at everything that Gurnsey’s I thought I symptoms got could do, and worse with time. really none of it He developed was applicable headaches and anymore.” Adam was by fatigue, which his side during progressed to the point where his changes, and doctors were adds, “To see him go from being this investigating > Sean Gursney active guy who whether he had just connected a stroke or brain with the youth at tumour. the youth center However, the symptoms suddenly stopped on their own. to days where he couldn’t walk, he couldn’t move, he couldn‘t hardly think, your heart Gurnsey continued life as normal, until a goes out to him and it just hurts to watch year later when they returned. him.” Dr. Rebecca Risk, a doctor of chinese “I was wondering if I was going to even medicine who also has Lyme disease, survive 2017,” says Gurnsey. says this isn’t uncommon for someone in Amidst his myriad of bizarre symptoms, Gurnsey’s position. Gurnsey refused to give up hope and was “It could turn into a relapse down the determined to find out what was wrong road, it could be caused by stress, or just with him. be coming out on its own and for some “I went and got checked out again, and people that doesn’t happen and some they didn’t really know what it was, they people it does,” says Risk, who is also a were looking all over the place,” he says, registered acupuncturist and supplement after receiving various testing like MRIs and consultant who has clients with Lyme CT scans. disease. After realizing that the tick bites could When Gurnsey relapsed, his symptoms be the culprit for why he was having were much more intense. symptoms, Gurnsey conducted his own “My face, my eyebrows, and my lips research on Lyme and was finally given were kind of like sagging and drooping a diagnosis after getting in touch with a on my left side like a palsy,” he says. This doctor through the Canadian Lyme Disease progressed to the point that he needed to Foundation. However, it didn‘t come walk with a cane, and on bad days would without challenges. end up in a wheelchair or not able to move “It was hard to find treatment because at all. so few doctors knew anything about Lyme. “On some days it would be like I was fairly normal and then halfway through the My own doctor had said they ‘skimmed over it’ in med school,” says Gurnsey. day, I would fall apart.” “My GP was willing to refer me, but the Jesse Adam is one of Gurnsey’s friends infectious disease doctors didn‘t want to and was there to witness these changes. accept the Lyme diagnosis.” “There came points when we’d have to

Gurnesy underwent various forms of treatment, including IV injections, in order to help his Lyme Disease symptoms. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SEAN GURNSEY

“I watched my resume get stripped line by line.”

Sean Gurnsey (left) was first introduced to voice acting by his friend Jesse Adam (right). Little did he know it would turn into his career. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SEAN GURNSEY


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“He did a great job embodying all the things you need to do to be a freelancer and also a voiceover artist.” > Julianna Lantz

It was after returning home from a paintballing trip in Oklahoma that Gurnsey first realized he had been bitten by ticks. Although they were picked off, he still contracted Lyme disease. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SEAN GURNSEY According to Risk, this is something she’s experienced during her own battle with Lyme disease. “Doctors don’t look at this as a possibility for the weird symptoms you’re having. And in my case, and in a lot of other cases, you actually get labelled as having anxiety or as crazy,” Risk adds. Risk puts part of the blame for the situation on the public healthcare system for not actively sharing updated information on Lyme with doctors. For example, in June 2020, Alberta Precision Laboratories informed health professionals that a small number of ticks infected with Lyme causing bacteria were collected off dogs through an on-going passive surveillance program across Alberta, yet the Government of Canada did not update their website to reflect this. “It’s really hard for somebody who’s sick to be treated that way, and I think we need to start educating not only the doctors, but higher up.” In addition, in a province such as Alberta where most ticks don’t have Lyme disease, Risks says finding treatment centres and doctors educated about the infection can be difficult. However, Gurnsey was able to look outside of his province and finally receive help. After getting in touch with Dr. Ernie Murakami, a big name in the Lyme world, he

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was able to track down a doctor for treatment in Calgary. “Interprovincial care was a bit of a gong show process,” he says. “I ended up doing a variety of antibiotic treatments, as well as weekly IV injections through a naturopath.” Because of this process and his inability to work, Gurnsey and his family were struggling financially. This is when Adam, who was a voice actor, suggested the idea of voice acting. “He said, “You need to try and do this, even if you’re in a wheelchair and having a rough day, if you can read, then you can audition. And who knows, maybe this’ll turn into something for you,”” says Gurnsey. Gurnsey took that advice and built a studio in his basement to work from. “I got onto voices.com, it was probably only a month in, and I had already landed my first job. It was an amazing turnaround and it all came out of not being able to do anything,” he says. Within a month, he was able to land his first jobs, with one of them being a voice for Nintendo. This job made up for his lack of income in the last year. From there, his profile expanded to working with clients like Budweiser, Marvel, video game companies, children’s toy characters, and more.

“These are all these bucket list items that I never knew I had,” says Gurnsey. “Oh my goodness, I have been exceptionally lucky to have been able to work with some of the companies that I worked with.” Julianna Lantz is also a voice actor on voices.com, and commends his ability to make the most out of a difficult situation. “He did a great job embodying all the things you need to do to be a freelancer and also as a voiceover artist,” she says. “What makes his story so unique is his ability to triumph over something that he could have let take his life.” As Gursey’s voice acting career took off, his health improved alongside it, and now he is able to do the things he once wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to. “I‘ve been able to get back out hunting, and hiking, hanging out with youth as youth pastor, and even been able to work on building our family a house! Hard to believe only a few years ago it was a huge victory to walk with the aid of a cane to the bridge by our house and back,” he says. Gurnsey has not had any relapses since, and hopes things stay that way. “With every day that I am able to do something, there is also a gratitude that comes with it,” he says.



Historian looks at the evolution of serial killers through the ages


oronto-based journalist, Peter Vronsky, spent his life studying history in the fields of international relations and espionage. However, a chance run in with mass murderer Richard Cottingham led Vronsky to writing books about serial killers and the disturbing history that surrounds them. Before writing books about serial killers, Vronsky spent his career working in television as a news producer. “I already worked a lot in investigative television from W5 to Fifth Estate. I’ve worked for CNN overseas. I kind of had some chops on how to investigate a story and how to research a story.” What began his interest in serial homicide was meeting convicted Cottingham on Dec. 2, 1979 at about 8:45 am in a hotel elevator.

“I had randomly encountered a serial killer who had not been identified and not been apprehended as he was fleeing the scene of a double murder he had committed at a hotel I was trying to check into,” he says. Cottingham had just decapitated two women, setting their bodies and his hotel room on fire. “Once that fire started and the fire department arrived, I didn’t stay in that hotel,” he says. “It was the next morning that I read that there were two torsos on fire there and what had actually happened but I didn’t think at all about the guy on the elevator. Zero. Nothing.” It wasn’t until almost a year later, when Cottingham was being charged and Vronsky saw a photograph of him in the paper, that it came to him.

“It was when I saw his photograph something like eight months to a year after that event, when he was finally charged with those murders,” he says. “Once I saw his picture in the newspaper when he went on trial, I went, ‘Oh my god this is the guy.’” Since then, Vronsky started to read everything he could on serial killers out of personal interest, even though none of the television work he did was about serial killers or crime. But Vronsky, who got his PhD in criminal justice history and espionage in international relations when he was in his 50s, decided to get out of television in the ‘90s and write a book on his studies of serial killers. “You know what they say, ‘write what you know,’ and that was one of the things I knew,” he says. “I wrote that book Serial Killers: The Methods and Madness of Monsters.” “Every few years I kind of assemble what I’ve been looking at and reading primarily as a historian,” he says. “I don’t claim to be an expert on serial killers or a profiler. I would extend my expertise only to the history of serial homicide and it’s investigation.” As to why people are interested in serial killers, Vronsky points to old myths and legends as evidence that society has always had an interest in the morbid psychology of monsters. “I think the first major, popular, true crime text was the bible. The Bible is just full of these horrific murders, their detection and their punishment,” he says. “It’s a deeply scripted theme in JudeoChristianity.” Vronsky sees similarities to the mythology of serial killers and monsters of folklore, western religions and the witch hunts carried out between 1450 and 1650. “During those witch hunts, they also were arresting werewolves,” he says. “People were accused of not only communing with the devil to become a witch but also communing with the devil to become a werewolf.”

After learning about the werewolf trials, Vronsky started to look into what these supposed werewolves were being accused of. “They were being accused of abducting, raping young women working in the fields,” he says. “There was one case where an individual had a small store in a village and he was luring children to his store and killing them there and dismembering their bodies.” For Vronsky, the descriptions of

HALEN KOOPER hkooper@cjournal.ca take a different approach to their murders. “They end up blitz attacking their victim with brute force. And that’s the vampire and werewolf model.” Vronsky suspects that our folklore monsters were just active serial killers who were given supernatural qualities because psychiatry wasn’t invented at the time. In fact, Vronsky says if you look at

“I suspect our vampires, our ghouls, our werewolves were actually human beings, active serial killers who we gave these super natural qualities to because psychiatry had not yet been developed.” > Peter Vronsky how these werewolves are similar to the profiles of twentieth and twenty-first century serial killers. “They were in their human form, lived in the community and were good neighbours, and assisted in the search for these missing children,” he says. “The only difference between these werewolves and John Wayne Gacy is they were imbued with a supernatural transformation.” Vronsky also sees similarities in the former FBI profiling system of serial killers – the organized/ disorganized dichotomy of offenders – and how we look at vampires and the werewolves. “Your organized killer has social charm, he seduces his victim into vulnerability, just like the vampire,” he says. “The vampire has to be invited into your home, in some vampire legends. So the vampire charms his way in.” On the other hand, Vronsky says the disorganized serial killer doesn’t have the charm and persuasion of the organized killer, so they often

Netflix, all of those documentaries on serial killers remind him of the same old horror bedtime stories being retold, this time a new generation. “Of course, when we used to hear those things for the first time, oh my God. We had never heard that kind of thing,” he says. “People today who don’t know those stories and were raised in an era of the last 20 years in a kind of non-serial killer era. Those stories are as new to them as they were to my generation.” Vronsky believes our fear of the supernatural monster has now been replaced with the modern monster - “the secular serial killer” - but to him they’re the same monsters. “I suspect our vampires, our ghouls, our werewolves were actually human beings, active serial killers who we gave these super natural qualities to because psychiatry had not yet been developed.”





Calgary Journal becomes an online-only publication

The very first edition of the Calgay Journal, published Friday November 3, 1972 just after the Lincoln Park Campus opened. PHOTO: CHRISTIAN KINDRACHUK

CHRISTIAN KINDRACHUK ckindrachuk@cjournal.ca

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The Calgary Journal began publishing 49 years ago, chronicling stories big and small about campus life and events across the city. While that endeavour continues online, this is the final edition of the print Journal published by Mount Royal University’s journalism program. In 2022, it will be replaced with a national human rights magazine called Justice. Looking back, here’s how the Journal started and became what it is today.


Editorial meeting between John Balcers (on the left) and students circa 1990. PHOTO: PAUL COATES


he Calgary Journal began in the fall of 1972, the same time Mount Royal College opened its Lincoln Park Campus doors . Back then it was the Journal 3009, named after the number on the newsroom door located up on the third floor of MRC’s modern campus. John Balcers, at the helm of the program, was responsible for bringing the Journal and its pragmatic philosophy into existence. “We decided we’d teach journalism differently, from simply making it an academic thing, I wanted to make it a real thing,” said Balcers, who was at the Calgary Herald when he started teaching at Mount Royal in 1965. Part of making that real journalism experience was having the Journal 3009 publish content on a weekly basis for the campus community. “We were just experimenting – will this work? And so we wanted to make sure that as much as possible [it was] a real-life experience but, at the same time, make sure that we covered all the fundamentals of journalism.” While a weekly publication schedule offered experience to students, it also meant more work for everyone involved, including the instructors. Ron MacDonald was hired to

help in 1984 after being the news director for CKUA radio for Calgary and Edmonton. “The idea of having the newspaper at the center of all of that, was that there was concrete practice to discuss. So it wasn’t a discussion of theory, it was a discussion of concrete practice theorized,” MacDonald explained. Putting in extra work was necessary for students to meet publication deadlines, something they weren’t always happy with. “The students oftentimes would hate me,” recalls Balcers. “We would have 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. meetings for putting out the paper, outside of classes. And anybody who was on that editorial board would have to be there. “We were making them [students] jobready in just a two-year timespan. So that meant they really had to hone their skills as far as reporting, as far as writing, editing, then also doing layout,” said Paul Coates, who has been Mount Royal’s part-time photography instructor since 1987, in addition to working for several publications across the province. During the first few years, it was just Balcers and MacDonald, acting as editors, along with Coates teaching the journalism program. “Answering questions and doing critiques

of stories and encouraging people, and once in a while making people cry, was a central aspect of the whole program. I think it’s safe to say that the program revolved around the production of the Journal,” said MacDonald, now retired. Jose Rodriguez, a graduate from 1993, felt it as a busy time and underestimated the demand and effort needed. “I always remember the first story I ever submitted to Ron McDonald. He used to have this grading method, which was for every mistake you made, you get 10 points taken off. So you start with 100 points, you know, 100 per cent if you have the perfect story. “And the very first one I did for him, I got it back, and my score on it was minus 270. Which means I would have made 37 mistakes in there, and so you know it wasn’t a soft ride.” Despite the rigour, Rodriguez says they were good instructors, even when MacDonald placed him at the Calgary Sun for a practicum he didn’t want. “I told Ron, ‘Hey, can you just put me anywhere except for the Sun, and he put me in the Sun. Which, as soon as I got there, the city editor figured, ‘You know what, this kid’s working his butt off, let’s bring him in for $25

a story to cover our weekend coverage, etc.’ “And so they brought me in on weekends past my practicum and then that summer. They just kept calling me and then by October of the year that I graduated, they basically offered me a full-time job.” Rodriguez later became the editorin-chief of the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald. While it may not have been easy, the learning experience he got from the Journal over the years helped him. Those experiences weren’t only for students, teachers too had their own epiphanies. “The biggest learning moment for myself probably came one day when I tore up somebody’s story, “ said MacDonald. “And she came back to me the next day with a piece of writing that was really beautiful, and said, ‘You know, the way you do the criticism of what I’m up to isn’t helpful because I’m already able to do this, which I think is pretty good.’ “So I read it, and I said, ‘It’s better than pretty good, and I really need to think about how I’m doing this.’ The result was that I was a lot less assertive, and a lot less confident about my critiques and much more interested in dialogue and discussion. And I was much happier thereafter, and so were the people I was working with.”


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MEDIA MacDonald said his teaching evolved over his 32 years at Mount Royal. It started with a “strict newsroom-type learnfrom-your-mistakes grumpy-editor-to-beginner-reporter,” to a more considerate approach involving one-to-one tutoring. The Journal itself also went through a series of changes over the ‘80s and ‘90s that included dropping 3009 from the Journal’s name, then starting to run on a bi-weekly publication schedule. Around that time the program expanded from being a two-year degree to a three-year applied degree program. Balcers, who launched the Journal and held his post for 35 years at Mount Royal, retired in 2000. Shauna SnowCapparelli, formerly with the Los Angeles Times, came in to take his place in 2001. To form a new teaching team, she joined Robert Bragg, who came from the Hearld, and Terry Field, a broadcast producer that had been with the CBC. “I think it’s fair to say that the Journal morphed as well over that period,” said Field, noting that Bragg brought up the idea of expanding it to a city paper. “And in the context of that we altered the distribution, started printing more copies, bought some newspaper boxes to put on street corners and racks to put in restaurants and coffee shops. We started distributing about 8,000 to 10,000 copies a month, or per-print issue.” Having that broader focus and readership allowed students to report on stories from different communities around the city. Covering a variety of different stories expanded over the years, but production never really changed for students. According to Field, having students work together helped foster a collegial group environment and allowed them to coordinate all the moving parts that come with putting a paper together. “Just being there all day or over a couple of days, putting in the time and watching everybody work hard, and play and laugh, and so on. That was always good. My favourite part was afterwards when everybody would go for a beer.” That sense of community and collaboration of putting a paper together was something that also stuck with Emma Gilchrist, a former student who graduated in 2006. “I remember some late nights and the camaraderie, people getting takeout for dinner and just working away, getting to see the invisible work that goes into making a publication happen, which I think is really important. A lot of times, people don’t see the work that goes on, like underneath the hood to make a publication possible.” Having students put in that effort, take the initiative and grow was always something that Snow-Capparelli enjoyed. “Seeing them from where they started, or even in second year, to where they end when they graduate and watching that path, it’s just really cool.” Gilchrist, who went on to be the co-founder of an awardwinning not-for-profit environmental news service called The Narwhal, remembers being assigned stories from sports to city hall meetings, and to finding a story by approaching people on the street – doing a “streeter.” “We had to do every type of story, and I’ve always remembered that. I just thought, in hindsight, it was such a rigorous way of just throwing you in the deep end. I think that was a really cool thing about Mount Royal and about the Journal, is that it really threw you in the deep end. And there’s no better way to learn than doing.” Janice Paskey, a professor since 2008, remembers how producing a print edition was something students really wanted to do, even as the Calgary Journal website was starting up.

34 MAY/JUNE 2021


Student writing on the Macintosh classic computer to for an assignment. PHOTO: PAUL COATES

A student using a small darkroom that was located in Q310. PHOTO: PAUL COATES


Going clockwise from the top left, past supervising faculty editors for the Calgary Journal: John Balcers, Ron MacDonald, Robert Bragg, Terry Field, Janice Paskey, Archie McLean, Sean Holman and Shauna Snow-Capparelli. PHOTOS: TOP ROW PHOTOS COURTESY OF PAUL COATES. BOTTOM ROW PHOTOS PROVIDED BY SOURCES RESPECTIVELY. “I would say the print journal was still kind of considered the premier product. And if students didn’t get their stories in the print product, they felt very disappointed.” Paskey recalls that the content was good and allowed students to tell a range of stories that were meaningful, quirky and no one else was covering. The content still speaks for itself. The Journal has won awards from the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association, the Associated Collegiate Press and Emerge Media, to name a few. In 2004, it became the Calgary Journal reflecting its city-wide coverage. When Mount Royal became a university in 2009, the journalism program became a four-year degree and the Calgary Journal changed its publication schedule to a monthly and then a bi-monthly newsmagazine distributed across the city. In the last 50 years, hundreds of students have worked on the Journal and in the process acquired reporting skills that, according to Paul Coates, are applicable anywhere they went after graduating. “It used to be that Kathy [Coates’ wife] and I would travel somewhere, and I’d pick up the paper and there’d be somebody that I recognize. And it was from when I worked on newspapers or former students, and that’s pretty cool. She’d always say, ‘Yes, I know, you got to find a paper.’” While the tactile days of putting a paper together might be different, it doesn’t mean that journalism isn’t any less important, notes MacDonald.

“We had to do every type of story... it was such a rigorous way of just throwing you in the deep end. I think that was a really cool thing about Mount Royal and about the Journal, is that it really threw you in the deep end. And there’s no better way to learn than doing.” > Emma Gilchrist

“I think that the motivation to be a journalist is a noble one. It’s an impulse to be of service in a really important way, and that kind of thing is great. And I expect it to continue, and I expect people to continue to be creative and clever and find ways to continue to do journalism in spite of all of the things that stand in the way of getting it done and getting it done well, and doing really good journalism.”

This, the final story of the print issue, doesn’t mark the end of journalism at Mount Royal University. The Calgary Journal will still have its online presence, and in the fall of 2021 the print edition will evolve into a new nationwide human rights magazine called Justice. Sally Haney, chair of MRU’s journalism program, states: “Justice is a powerful vehicle for change. Using evidence-based reporting, our student journalists will have a platform in which to expose social, political and environmental inequities, while also searching and reporting on solutions. Our intent is to encourage stories that help audiences better understand how systems undermine the rights of equity-deserving groups.” Sean Holman, the faculty editor for the new publication, adds that, “Fundamental rights are under threat around the world – from the right to a healthy environment to the right not be discriminated against. And we believe Justice will help safeguard them.” Justice will have a bi-annual publication schedule and still be a student-run publication. The first issue will be published in January 2022.




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Profile for Calgary Journal

Calgary Journal May-June 2021  


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