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Saskatoon news: Top 5 news events in Saskatoon for 2019

Remembering the Humboldt Broncos and sentencing of the semi-truck driver involved in the crash was the the top story making news in Saskatoon during 2019.
Remembering the Humboldt Broncos and sentencing of the semi-truck driver involved in the crash was the the top story making news in Saskatoon during 2019. Nicole Stillger / Global News

Sentencing in a tragedy that touched a nation, a record number of homicides and a celebration 25 years in the making highlighted the year that was in Saskatoon and area.

Here are the Top 5 news stories for Saskatoon in 2019.

5. Tiki Laverdiere’s death

Tiki Laverdiere travelled to Saskatchewan in April for the funeral of a homicide victim. She ended up becoming a homicide victim herself.

The mother of two had travelled from Edmonton to North Battleford, Sask., for the funeral of Tristen Cook-Buckle — another homicide victim.

Laverdiere’s family last heard from her on May 1 and police put out a plea on May 15 for tips on her whereabouts.

READ MORE: Mother of murdered Edmonton woman reacts to charges

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Two days later, police ruled her disappearance suspicious and said in June that her death was the result of foul play.

Her remains were found outside North Battleford on July 11. Police have not said how she died.

Eight people have been charged in her death.

Five women — Soaring Eagle Whitstone, Shayla Orthner, Danita Thomas, Nicole Cook, and Nikita Cook — are charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, improperly interfering with a human body and vehicle theft.

Nicole Cook is Tristen Cook-Buckle’s mother.

Another woman, Mavis Quinn Takakenew, and two men — Jesse Sangster and Brent Checkosis — were accused of accessory after the fact to murder.

READ MORE: Tiki Laverdiere homicide suspect pleads guilty to accessory after the fact

Checkosis pleaded guilty to his charge in late December and is scheduled to be sentenced in February 2020.

Trial dates for the others have not yet been set.

4. Saskatchewan carbon tax kicks in, sets off court fight

A political battle between the provincial and federal governments ended up in Saskatchewan’s highest court.

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Ottawa imposed a carbon tax in Saskatchewan on April 1 after the federal government said the province’s climate plans did not meet the federal backstop of $20 per tonne of CO2.

The province opposed the tax and took the battle to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to determine if Ottawa has the constitutional power to impose the carbon tax.

READ MORE: Federal carbon tax is constitutional - Saskatchewan Court of Appeal

The case was heard in February and in a 3-2 decision released in May, the court said the carbon tax falls within the legislative authority of Parliament.

In a 155-page decision, Chief Justice Robert Richards wrote that establishing minimum national standards for a price on greenhouse gas emissions falls under federal jurisdiction.

The two dissenting justices said the federal government’s actions were not a valid use of the Constitution that states Parliament can pass laws in the name of peace, order and good government.

The case is now heading to the Supreme Court of Canada in the new year, along with a carbon tax challenge from the Ontario government.

As part of the federal carbon tax, residents of Saskatchewan are getting a tax rebate to offset the tax.

READ MORE: 2019 carbon tax rebate decreases in Saskatchewan

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The federal government said in December that the rebate in the province will not be as large as first forecast by the federal government.

Earlier this year, Ottawa’s model had a family of four collecting a carbon tax rebate of $903 on their 2019 income tax return.

That has now changed to just $809.

3. Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital opens in Saskatoon

A dream was realized in September when Saskatchewan’s first children’s hospital opened in Saskatoon.

It started 25 years ago when two Saskatchewan doctors believed children deserved a place where they could receive specialized medical treatment without leaving the province.

READ MORE: Dream realized as Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital opens in Saskatoon

The Children’s Health Foundation (now the Laverdiere Foundation) was created in 1992 to raise funds towards a hospital.

The Saskatchewan government committed $200 million towards the project in 2009 and construction of the hospital started beside the Royal University Hospital in September 2014.

Vancouver-based businessman and philanthropist Jim Pattison, who is originally from Luseland, Sask., made a $50-million donation to the new hospital that now bears his name.

READ MORE: Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital result of decades of advocacy

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The $285.9 million Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital officially opened to patients on Sept. 29.

More than 72 full-time physicians in over 20 specialties will staff the hospital and number of pediatricians in the province will double from 62 to 122.

2. Saskatoon crime/homicides

The Saskatoon Police Service saw a roughly two per cent increase in calls for assistance in 2019 compared to the previous year.

There were more calls for violent crime that Chief Troy Cooper said used up a lot of additional resources.

By mid-December, Saskatoon had recorded 16 homicides, breaking the record of 13 set the previous year.

Cooper said addictions and mental health issues are widely accepted as contributing factors in crime.

A report release in July found that Saskatoon had the fourth-highest crime severity index in the country for 2018, but said violent crime was down slightly, along with vehicle thefts and robberies.

The report also found meth-related offences accounted for 16 per cent of all police-report crime that year, a trend that continued in 2019.

READ MORE: Saskatoon police combat violence, homicide record and call increase in 2019

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Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said violent crime in Saskatoon is being driven by drugs.

“We’re seeing more and more weapons out on the street,” Clark said in November.

“And the evidence is clear that this is driven by a rise in addictions and the trafficking of crystal meth and fentanyl.”

1. Humboldt Broncos crash sentencing / anniversary

The semi-truck driver involved the Humboldt Broncos bus crash was sentenced in March for dangerous driving causing death in the April 6, 2018 crash.

Sixteen members of the Saskatchewan hockey team and 13 others were injured when a semi ran a stop sign and collided with the team’s bus at a rural intersection.

At a sentencing hearing in January, court heard that Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was going between 86 and 96 km/h when he passed four signs warning him about the upcoming intersection before he came up to an oversized stop sign with a flashing light.

FULL COVERAGE: Humboldt Broncos tragedy

Sidhu apologized to his victims following four days of proceedings that included 90 victim impact statements and hours of arguments from lawyers.

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He took full responsibility for the crash and stated the tragedy happened because of his inexperience as a driver.

Sidhu pleaded guilty in January to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

READ MORE: Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos bus crash sentenced to 8 years in prison

In March, Melfort provincial court Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Sidhu to eight years for each count of causing death, and five years for each count of bodily harm, to be served concurrently.

In making her decision, Cardinal said nothing was blocking Sidhu’s view, he failed to see the signs, the bus or the intersection.

Weeks later, Humboldt marked the one year anniversary of the tragedy.

Hundreds gathered at Elgar Peterson Arena for a memorial service.

Rows of yellow banners were hanging across the main entrance with the names of all 29 people on the bus.

A moment of silence was observed at 4:50 p.m., the exact time of the crash.

READ MORE: Humboldt and the Broncos continue to heal 1 year after crash

Crash survivor Kaleb Dahlgren penned an emotional letter he wrote to his teammates who lost their lives that was shared at the service.

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“It’s been a year since I saw your beautiful faces and they still cross my mind daily,” Dahlgren wrote.

“I wonder what all of you have been doing… maybe celebrat[ing] the year ender bender we never had? Or all playing pond hockey with Elgar? I just really hope you are doing well and supporting each other!”

Many people also stopped at the crossing of Highways 35 and 335 near Tisdale, Sask., where the crash occurred.