Alberta briefs – August 23

RCMP have charged a central Alberta man after shots were fired at Mounties and two police cruisers were rammed. Police responded to a report early Thursday morning of a distraught man armed with a rifle near Didsbury.

Man charged after shots fired

DIDSBURY — RCMP have charged a central Alberta man after shots were fired at Mounties and two police cruisers were rammed.

Police responded to a report early Thursday morning of a distraught man armed with a rifle near Didsbury.

When the Mounties arrived the man sped off in a pickup, rammed two cruisers and fired several shots at officers.

Rather than return fire, officers surrounded the man until tactical squads arrived , when he surrendered.

Christopher Ryan Morrill, 31, of Elkton Valley, is charged with discharging a firearm at police, uttering a death threat, criminal flight from police, dangerous driving, careless use of a firearm and possession of a dangerous weapon.

Morrill is being held in custody and is to appear at Didsbury provincial court on Monday.


Syncrude sentencing delayed

ST. ALBERT — Syncrude Canada will have to wait longer to hear what sentence it will face after being found guilty earlier this summer in the oilsands-dead ducks trial.

The Crown and defence asked Friday to have sentencing put over until Oct. 22.

Syncrude was found guilty on June 25 of breaking Alberta and federal wildlife laws in the deaths of 1,600 ducks in one of its huge oilsands tailings ponds.

Lawyers for Syncrude are arguing the oilsands giant should not have been found guilty twice for the same offence.

The Crown and defence are also talking about creative sentencing, which may include forcing Syncrude to improve or increase the monitoring of its tailings ponds.

Images of the tar-fouled and suffering ducks in April 2008 flashed around the world and have become a focal point for oilsands critics, who say the environmental cost of the oilsands is too high.


Teens charged after high-speed chase

BANFF — Charges have been laid against three teenagers after a high-speed pursuit that ended with an Alberta RCMP officer being injured in a rollover.

Police allege a 19-year-old man and two 16-year-olds were in an Audi that was chased by a female officer before her cruiser rolled Tuesday morning near Banff.

The car, which had allegedly been stolen in the mountain resort community, was later ditched near a ski hill.

Police believe the suspects then hitchhiked and were picked up by a Calgary-area resident, who is being urged to come forward and provide information to investigators.

The three males are also accused of stealing items from other vehicles in Banff.

The injured officer is recovering in hospital.


Judge tosses elephant lawsuit

EDMONTON — An Edmonton judge has punted a legal application by animal rights activists upset over the fate of Lucy the elephant.

Well-known Toronto-based lawyer Clayton Ruby argued earlier this year on behalf of Zoocheck Canada and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that the 34-year-old elephant is sick, isolated and being treated inhumanely at Edmonton’s Valley Zoo, which contravenes provincial legislation.

John Rooke, associate chief justice of Court of Queen’s Bench, ruled Friday that the notice filed on behalf of those groups is an abuse of the legal process and threw out the case.

He stated there is a “comprehensive legislative and regulatory scheme for the care of controlled animals in a zoo, such as Lucy.”

In throwing out the argument made by the animal rights groups that there’s nobody else who can bring the issue to court, Rooke said there are officials who have the “duty to take steps or lay charges when required,” under provincial legislation.

Those rules also provide an “effective mechanism” to bring the issue of alleged breaches before the courts,“ the judge said.

A PETA spokeswoman said the ruling proves how little legal protection captive animals have in Alberta, calling it “despicable.”

“This is a technical, procedural setback. But we fully intend to pursue other legal action on behalf of Lucy,” said Lisa Wathne, a Seattle-based spokeswoman with the group.

She said enforcement officers in Edmonton have not taken any steps to thoroughly examine the aging elephant’s situation or demanded that the zoo make improvements or even get Lucy out of the Valley Zoo altogether. Working to change legislation governing captive animals isn’t the cards, Wathne said.

“Legislation, as most people know, is an incredibly lengthy process that, frankly, Lucy is not likely to live through.”