Social Issues

The hidden face of prosperity: In northern Alberta, a sharp rise in prostitution is a devastating downside of the boom
Alberta Views, November 2007, pp. 36-49

Six years ago, when RCMP constable Scott Hagarty moved to Grande Prairie, prostitution was almost invisible in the city of 31,000. Today, Grande Prairie’s population is pushing 50,000, plus a significant shadow population of resource workers. And prostitution is overt, complete with an identifiable stroll. Drive downtown with your eyes open, particularly at shift change in surrounding oil and gas operations, and you’ll see wasted youngsters with pasted-on smiles staking out corners outside the abandoned York Hotel or climbing shakily into throbbing 4x4s. Some do their business in the willows of nearby Muskoseepi Park, where drug deals dominate the skate zone and overnighters bed down among the trees. Still others frequent certain hotels where rig pigs use drink and domination to punctuate yet another day far from home.

“The massive impact of the Alberta boom in our area has certainly had an effect,” Hagarty says….

© 2007 by Cheryl Mahaffy. All rights reserved.
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Safeway, or the Highway
Alberta Views, January/February 2005, pp. 13-14

When we moved into Edmonton’s Highlands district two decades ago, shopping for groceries meant a neighbourly wander to the local Safeway, with a quick duck into the public library outpost across the street. Modes of transport progressed from frontpack to trike to toddling feet as our trio of offspring grew, but the pull-behind grocery cart remained a constant. …

…[But] the pull-behind cart and all it signifies of walkable community seems to have met its match in the mighty corporation that is Safeway.…

© 2005 by Cheryl Mahaffy. All rights reserved.
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Over the Rainbow: A new wave of immigrants struggle to make a home in Alberta
Alberta Views, March/April 2002, pp. 22-27 and 12

It’s a night of laughter, celebration and long-stemmed red roses as Edmonton’s Multicultural Health Brokers unveil Support from the Heart, a 20-minute film about the whys of their work. Lights flick on, and the women of the cooperative take the stage to thank those who’ve stood with them. In Vietnamese, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, French, Cantonese, Tagalog, Somali, Spanish, English, the women form a chorus that speaks to me of the Alberta we have become: A multi-hued, multi-rooted landing pad for people from afar.

Indeed, each new, increasingly diverse wave of immigrants challenges our stereotype of settled whiteness….

© 2002 by Cheryl Mahaffy. All rights reserved.
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Crisis in Alberta Daycare: How has the care of our children become such a low priority?
Alberta Views, January/February 2001, pp. 32-36

As usual, some families hoping to put their children in day care with the Red Deer Childcare Society ended up on a waiting list last fall. But for the first time ever, their disappointment was caused not only by lack of licensed slots, but by lack of staff. Needing 13 new staff members, Executive Director Noreen Spencer could find only nine; within three weeks, five more had resigned.

What’s worse, the staffing gap is part of a pattern. Increasingly, Spencer is forced to hire caregivers with less than the two-year diploma her society requires, only to watch them leave in search of more money and less stress. “Staff soon realize the work here is draining, and the economy has picked up all over Alberta. So even people who really want to work with children are soon saying, ‘I don’t need this amount of responsibility for just $6 or $8 an hour; I can go to Sears or Wal-Mart for that money,’” Spencer says.

Inevitably, the revolving door impacts…

© 2001 by Cheryl Mahaffy. All rights reserved.
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Amiskwaciy Academy: Honouring Traditions, Achieving Excellence
Legacy, Spring 2003, pp. 12-16

You’ll find Cardinal Rules at Amiskwaciy Academy—non-negotiables regarding student learning and conduct laid down by Dr. Phyllis Cardinal, the high school’s principal. Since signing on to create a Native-focused academy within Edmonton Public Schools, Cardinal has held fast to a rule of her own: in this school, students will not make do with second-rate.

Amiskwaciy (pronounced a-MISK-wa-chee) Academy began in 1999 as a gleam in the eye of public school leaders who read the message behind abysmal academic scores and 75 per cent drop-out rates among Aboriginal students, and made it a priority to serve those students better….

© 2003 by Cheryl Mahaffy. All rights reserved.
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