Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs (SACPA) was founded in 1968. It is an independent forum, moderated by volunteers, meeting Thursdays at noon some 40 weeks a year and at occasional special evening sessions, to debate local, provincial, national, and international issues of concern to the residents of Lethbridge and Southern Alberta.
What are the Possibilities and Challenges of Virtual and Augmented Reality?
People increasingly spend a lot of time looking at screens and particularly so during these past two years of the Covid pandemic. Social media chatter and news on computers, phones and other devices have become a big part of our lives. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two technologies that are changing the way we use screens, while creating new and exciting interactive experiences.
Virtual reality uses a headset to place you in a computer-generated world that you can explore. Rather than transporting you to a computer-generated world, augmented reality overlays digital content on top of the physical world using a wearable headset of mobile device. The speaker will explain the exciting world of VR/AR and discuss the consequences of this ever-expansive technology.
Speaker: Michael McCready
Mike McCready is educator and researcher with a focus on immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality. He has over 20 years of development and is driven to explore new technologies and understand their application within business and society. He introduced one of the first VR development course at Lethbridge College in 2016 when he taught students to develop mobile VR games. One of Mike’s focuses is the social interactions made possible with VR and has planned and facilitated numerous social VR activities that have garnered national and international attention, included the world’s first full-day conference held in VR – Merging Realities.
Mike is also the Program Research Chair of the Spatial Technologies Applied Research and Training (START) centre at Lethbridge College. In this role he works with organizations to integrate immersive technologies to their workflow to improve organizational effectiveness.
Colonialism and COVID-19: The Effect of Public Health and Anti-maskers on Vulnerable Populations with Kathleen Mah
Kathleen hopes to illuminate the ongoing colonial agenda and its extension into COVID-19 and public health relations. Particularly, she will focus on how anti-mask groups- who refer to themselves as Freedom Fighters have interacted with formal institutions like public health, and vice versa, to create expendable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. She hopes to demonstrate how Freedom Fighters and public health alike perpetuate colonialism through a new arena of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will provide a perspective critical of both public health and groups like Freedom Fighters’ role in the erasure of lives and ways of knowing. Most importantly, this presentation will ask viewers to reflect upon their positions in society and locate how they may contribute to colonialism knowingly or unknowingly.
Speaker: Kathleen Mah
Kathleen Mah is a recent graduate of the University of Lethbridge with her BA in Anthropology and a minor in Women and Gender Studies. She originally comes from Calgary Alberta, but has made a home in Lethbridge for the past five years. Her research is based around drawing attention to, and fostering conversations around structural violence. Her focus is on critical public health and anti-masking groups, known as Freedom Fighters. Kathleen plans on continuing her work within medical anthropology at Carleton University in the fall as she enters the masters of arts program there. Kathleen locates herself as a settler on Treaty 7 territory, Métis Nation Region III, and Blackfoot Confederacy. She wishes to pay respect to these peoples, past, present, and future and hopes to continue to learn from these peoples.
How are Albertans likely to be Affected by the recent UCP Leadership Review? Duane Bratt
The United Conservative Party (UCP) members voted by mail-in ballots from April 9 to May 11 whether or not they have confidence in their leader and on May 18, 2022, the result was scheduled to be announced. Originally, a special general meeting was planned to be an in-person voting event in Red Deer, but because of soaring attendee numbers, it was decided by the provincial UCP board to move the vote to a mail-in ballot over a five-week period.
Plenty of questions have surrounded the leadership of Premier Jason Kenney and his UCP government since being elected in 2019 and even before, in 2017, when Kenney won the UCP leadership race ahead of Brian Jean in a contest still being investigated by the RCMP. The speaker will look back on the past few years of notable controversies involving Kenney before the leadership review and as well, analyze how the result of such, may affect the UCP, Albertans and Alberta politics.
Speaker: Dr. Duane Bratt
Duane Bratt is a political science Professor in the Department of Economics, Justice, and Policy Studies at Mount Royal University (Calgary, Alberta). He was educated at the Universities of Windsor (BA 1991, MA 1992) and Alberta (Ph.D. 1996). He teaches in the area of international relations and Canadian public policy. His primary research interest is in the area of Canadian nuclear policy.
Recent publications include: co-editor, Orange Chinook: Politics in the New Alberta (University of Calgary Press, 2018), co-editor, Readings in Canadian Foreign Policy: Classic Debates and New Ideas 3rd edition (Oxford University Press, 2015) and author of Canada, the Provinces, and the Global Nuclear Revival (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2012). Current projects include the risk assessment of Canada’s nuclear waste site selection process. Duane is also a regular commentator on political events.
The Difficult Journey out of Afghanistan after the Taliban Takeover with Mahdi and Jennel Taheri
Mahdi will share his journey crossing the gate as Afghanistan fell and the events leading up to it. He will also cover current events, what to believe and what not to believe as well as his process times and integration into first, the United States and now into Canada. He still has a brother stuck in Abu Dhabi that has been left behind from the NGO that brought him out. There is lots to cover and much to be still resolved. Jennel will share her own journey of desperation in finding ways to get Mahdi out of the country via Canadian Politicians, as well as her involvement with the evacuation of other Afghans and their procurement of special immigrant visas.
Speakers: Mahdi and Jennel Taheri
Mahdi and Jennel Taheri met six years ago through a high school friend who deployed four times to Afghanistan for the United States Military. It was through a friend of a friend on social media, that brought this unlikely pair together. Mahdi spent many years serving as a combat Interpreter and Cultural Linguist for the US Special Forces after serving 11 years in an Afghan Special Forces Unit referred to as Commandos for the Afghan National Army. After narrowly escaping the Taliban’s initial attempt to take over his hometown of Herat, Mahdi was able to secure a seat on the last flight out of his city for Kabul. Jennel worked in safety for the oil and gas industry for many years. She also owned a gym in a small town in BC. Mahdi and Jennel are now married, and he is in Canada having crossed the border on April 11th and learning to settle in life in northern BC with friends, family and a community that has pulled together to support him. Jennel is in the process of hiring on with BC ambulance as a paramedic and Mahdi will be opening a small engine repair shop once all his paperwork goes through.
Canadian Red Cross – An Overview and Update on Current Responses with Mark Holzer
The Canadian Red Cross has played a significant role in Canadian society for over 120 years, helping people and communities in Canada and around the world in times of need and supporting communities in strengthening their resilience. The speaker will provide an overview of the Canadian Red Cross’ membership in the IFRC (International Federation Red Cross), as well as discussing their mandate, mission and fundamental principles and how they work in Canada and around the world. Additionally, the speaker will reflect on the Canadian Red Cross’ work and learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic; and provide an update on the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis.
Speaker: Mark Holzer
Mark began his career in Emergency Management with the American Red Cross, prior to returning to Canada and joining the Canadian Red Cross in 2018.
While in the U.S. Mark supported many local responses in Southwestern Pennsylvania, as well as Hurricane Sandy and the Haiti earthquake.
Now based in Edmonton, AB Mark supports the Alberta Emergency Management team to plan and prepare for all hazards...everything from single family house fires to community wide impact fire and flood events.
Why Did Russia Invade Ukraine in 2022? The Historical and Contemporary Causes of the War
On February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine by Russian armed forces that for weeks had been gathering along their border. The invasion also included attacks across the Belarus-Ukraine border and was followed by targeted airstrikes on military and civilian buildings in Ukraine. Chris Burton will analyze the conflict in Ukraine in light of the development of Putin’s regime over the years and the longer history of Ukrainian relations with Russia.
Speaker: Dr. Chris Burton
Chris grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, taking his B.A. in History at Memorial University, followed by an M.A. from Carleton University. He worked in the Soviet Union during the glasnost’ years, then studied with Sheila Fitzpatrick in the 1990s at the University of Chicago for his PhD. He is Associate Professor of History at the University of Lethbridge and has been teaching Russian History there, and Modern European History more generally, for the last twenty years. His research interests include the medical profession under Stalin, social policy in the Soviet Union, and the Soviet science of environmental health, including their understanding of air and water pollution.