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Alberta wildfire evacuees get special graduation ceremony

After fleeing the wildfire that continues to plague northern Alberta, a group of high school students from the evacuated community of Anzac were given a graduation ceremony in Edmonton Thursday evening.

The community, located about 45 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray, was evacuated the evening of May 4. Prior to that, an evacuation centre had been set up at the local recreation centre to house those who had been displaced by the wildfire widely dubbed ‘the beast.’

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  • Fort McMurray wildfire nearly as big as PEI, crosses Saskatchewan border

  • Phased re-entry into Fort McMurray after wildfire to begin June 1

  • Fort McMurray residents forced out by wildfire long for the comforts of home

    Community members rallied, helping to provide food and shelter for Fort McMurray residents before they were forced to flee themselves.

    This year, nine students were poised to graduate from Bill Woodward School. The wildfire abruptly halted the school year, leaving them without a venue and without a way to honour the accomplishments of the students.

    READ MORE: Fort McMurray school inspections start as crews check air quality, structural integrity 

    The graduation ceremony was spearheaded by teachers Ashley Ethier and Anna Petley-Jones, along with valedictorian Emily Czibere.

    “They [the students] just seemed down and what can we do to raise the morale? And we felt down, everybody felt down,” Petley-Jones explained.

    “It started as a dinner and then we called Ruth’s Chris [Steak House] and they were amazing and very accommodating.”

    The downtown Edmonton eatery served as the venue for a small ceremony and dinner for the students and their families.

    “It’s for the teachers, it’s for the staff. It’s for the parents, it’s for the siblings. It’s really for our whole community,” Ethier said.

    Education Minister David Eggen addressed the graduates and their families before helping to hand out diplomas.

    “As it happens, it’s the first set of diplomas I’ve handed out as education minister,” he told Global News.

    “And I think it’s very appropriate that it’s during this time when Albertans were tested with these fires and we proved just how resilient and what a strong sense of community we really have.”

    Eggen said the province has not yet had a chance to evaluate the physical structures of the Anzac schools, though there are daily discussions to set out plans going forward.

    “We’re meeting everyday, not just with affected school boards, but with the 61 school boards that absorbed about a third of the students that are now going to school in other parts of Alberta too,” he explained.

    VIDEO: Premier Notley says students won’t return to Fort McMurray schools until September 

    While the last couple of weeks have been tainted by uncertainty, the students and staff took a moment to inject humour into the occasion.

    Speaking at the podium, Czibere addressed her classmates: “A couple of weeks ago, if you asked me if we’d be having our grad ceremony at a restaurant in Edmonton because we’re all refugees, I’d probably question your sanity.”

    With her parents watching attentively from the front row, she and her fellow graduates took their next steps. Czibere will attend post-secondary schooling in Calgary, with hopes of becoming a teacher and helping others.

    “When everyone got evacuated from Fort McMurray, there was no one that I didn’t see at the rec centre helping out any way they could and my classmates – we’re all family – and family works together and that’s definitely what our community and our school is.”

Surrey’s mayor trumpets new projects at annual address

Helipads. Film studios. Clean technology centres.

While talk of a surge in shootings continues to lead the daily media discussion around Surrey, mayor Linda Hepner used her annual ‘State of the City’ address to highlight some of the projects coming to her city.

“We’re a very different city than we were just a generation ago,” she said to a packed crowd at the Guildford Sheraton.

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“In those days, we were really a bedroom community, a place where people slept but not necessarily a place where people worked. In the space of 20 short years, that important demographic has changed dramatically.”

Hepner announced the creation of a new “Global Innovation Zone”, developed with Kwantlen University, Simon Fraser University and Cleantech Accelerator Centre, along with a Children’s Safety Village, allowing children “to learn about safety in a hands-on environment.”

But the most outside the box proposal for growing the city’s economy came in her statements on helipads.

“Surrey is currently discussions with a consortium of private helicopter companies to create a network helipads across the city,” she said.

“We’ve created a demand for helicopter service between Surrey and other centres such a Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna.”

A film studio operated by Skydance Media was also announced for the former site of Pacific Newspaper Group’s printing plant.

“They’re the people who brought us most recent versions of Mission Impossible [and] Star Trek,” trumpeted Hepner.

“They’re putting in five sound states to accommodate a production staff of up to 400 as they produce programming for Netflix.”

You can watch the entire speech here.

How much do you spend on tax at the pump?

If you drive you probably paid over $600 in taxes on gasoline last year.

That’s according to the the Canadian Taxpayers Federation 2016 Gas Tax Honesty Report released Thursday.

On average, Canadians pay some 37 cents tax for every litre of gas at the pump and $654 in gas taxes each year. But it could be more if you live in major cities like Montreal or Vancouver.

The report says Montreal pays the most tax per litre on gasoline, though gas in Vancouver is still the most expensive in the country.

READ MORE: Inside Vancouver gas prices

The report states on average, drivers in Vancouver pay $1.15 per litre, with $0.48 of that going to taxes. Montrealers, on the other hand, pay around $1.07 per litre, but nearly half of that($0.50) is in tax.

Alberta continues to have the lowest prices (at an average of $0.87) and the lowest taxes ($0.27), but the report warns these numbers will increase next year when the carbon tax will be introduced.

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All these taxes mean around $20 billion are given to our respective governments. The report says $13 billion of those taxes stay in province, while the rest goes to Ottawa.

To help lower the financial burden on Canadians, the CTF is recommending the federal government cut gas taxes by five cents a litre and cut diesel taxes by two cents a litre, as well as stop charging GST on top of applied federal and provincial gas taxes, a process known as tax-on-tax.

They also recommend that the federal government be “legally required to spend all revenue collected through gasoline and diesel taxes on roadway related infrastructure and maintenance.”

With files from Global BC’s Jill Slattery.

Raptors lose to Cavs in game 2 in Cleveland

CLEVELAND – With two-and-a-half minutes to go in the first half Thursday night, Toronto’s all-star guard Kyle Lowry beat a hasty exit for the locker-room.

He’d just missed a pair of three-pointers, and wanted to “decompress” for the second half.

Turned out, the second half was too late. It would be game over for Toronto by then.

The Raptors dropped a 108-89 decision in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference final debut.

With the game tied at 46-46, a woeful three-minute stretch late in the second quarter proved lethal, and now the Raptors head back home facing the seemingly impossible task of digging out of a 2-0 hole against the hottest team in the playoffs.

“What’s the old saying? The series doesn’t start until you lose at home?” coach Dwane Casey said, hopefully. “The first game was ugly, tonight was not pretty. But still we’re not quitting.”

WATCH: Toronto Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey discusses Game 2 loss to Cavaliers

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The TV cameras followed Lowry as he headed for the locker-room “to relax my body, relax my mind, knowing we had a chance . . .I wanted to get myself going, and get my teammates going and get the team going. It was nothing more than just decompress, breathe and get back out.”

Lowry, who was so solid down the stretch of the semifinal series against Miami, had a rough shooting night en route to just 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting.

“I got a game on Saturday, to turn it around and be more effective, and I will be more effective on Saturday,” Lowry vowed.

Cleveland’s mountain of a man LeBron James had a triple double with 23 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds, and passed Shaquille O’Neal for fourth on the all-time post-season scoring list.

DeMar DeRozan topped Toronto with 22 points, while Terrence Ross, Cory Joseph and James Johnson chipped in with 11 points apiece.

Two night’s after a humiliating 115-84 loss in Game 1, Casey said the Raptors would have to “out-work and out-scrap” the Cavaliers. They did for the better part of a first half that saw the lead change hands 11 times.

But over the final 3:25 of the first half, the Raptors let the game slip from their grasp. They chucked up nine misses and fell behind by 14, and would never make up that ground again.

WATCH: Global Toronto’s Alan Carter in Cleveland

Alan Carter longboards through Cleveland


Alan Carter longboards through Cleveland


Alan Carter visits Raptors practice and talks with Corey Joseph.


Alan Carter visits Raptors practice this morning ahead of tonight’s game 2.


Alan Carter finds out what people in Cleveland know about Toronto

Casey got his back up when a reporter in the post-game news conference suggested his team looks defeated.

“I don’t see that,” Casey shot back. “I think they’re hurt because they lost the game. If you don’t look like you’re upset that you’re getting beat, I don’t think that means you’re defeated, unless you’re mind readers or something.

“I don’t think our guys have quit. I refuse to believe that.”

Cleveland couldn’t miss down the stretch and when James threaded a bounce pass to Channing Frye with six minutes to play, the Cavs led by 18. A J.R. Smith three-pointer two minutes later had the home team up by 19, sending fans headed to the exits to beat the traffic.

The Raptors allowed the Cavs to shoot 50 per cent on the night, and Cleveland went to the free throw line a whopping 37 times compared to Toronto’s 18.

The post-season has been a roller-coaster for Lowry, who seemed to have refound his all-star form late in the Miami series. But he didn’t make a three-pointer in Game 1 against Cleveland, and went 1-for-8 from long distance in Game 2.

DeMarre Carroll said they’re sticking behind “the head of our team.”

“We still believe in him. . . (and) it’s not all on one person. He’s very confident. He’s just missing some shots, the same shots he hit in the season. I don’t think he’s struggling mentally. I believe once he gets back home he’ll knock down those shots.”

It was the first time the Raptors had lost back-to-back games in these playoffs, and the first time since mid-March.

DeRozan is hopeful that being back home for Saturday’s Game 3 can provide a spark.

“We’ve got to go home and protect home court, we’ve played well at home when we get the energy of the crowd behind us,” DeRozan said.

While the Raptors won two-of-three games versus Cleveland in the regular season, the Cavaliers are the overwhelming favourites to win a series that Charles Barkley described as “guppies versus sharks.”

The Quicken Loans Arena, painted in gold “All In” T-shirts, included New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and six-time NBA MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The Cavaliers raced out to an eight-point lead and it looked like the Raptors were in for another long night, but a three by Ross capped a 9-0 run that put Toronto in the lead. Cleveland led 30-28 to end the first quarter.

The wheels fell off midway through the second, as the Cavs ended the quarter on a 20-5 run. Cleveland led 62-48 at halftime.

Game 3 is Saturday while Game 4 is Monday at Air Canada Centre.

Victim of Polson Park attack speaks out

VERNON – RCMP say two people have been charged in connection with an attack earlier this month on a man camping in Vernon’s Polson Park.

Now the victim is speaking out, saying he doesn’t want violence against homeless people to be ignored.

Michael Brett says he was camping in the back of the park with his brother when he was attacked by people he knew.

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“I was sleeping…they came in and my brother was bear sprayed. I woke up wondering what was going on when I was struck in the head by a machete. I was bear sprayed and hit the ground,” says Brett.

His brother was able to get him to a local shelter where 911 was called, and he was subsequently rushed to hospital.

The local John Howard Society says attacks on people sleeping outside aren’t common, but violence is a real risk faced by the homeless.

“Any time someone doesn’t have a home of their own or they are not staying at a registered campground your risk becomes quiet high…you become far more at risk of sexual assault, of being violently physically assaulted,” says Kelly Fehr with the John Howard Society of the North Okanagan/Kootenay.

Brett wants to tell his story publicly because he feels violence against homeless people doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

“Anything that happens to us out here is always just swept under the carpet. Nobody ever hears about it whether it be the physical assaults or the sexual assaults on the women out here nobody every speaks of it,” says Brett.

Brett suffered severed tendons and a severed artery along with his scars, and will require more surgery. He’s now staying in a shelter.

Although two people have already been charged in connection with the incident police say the matter is still under investigation.