Living, Working, and Wasting Time in Southern Manitoba

Month: November 2018

Presidential Alert? But I’m in Canada!

Yesterday was the second national test of the Alert Ready public alert system in Canada. This time, unlike the last test, both my wife and I received alerts on our phones which are on Telus’ Koodo prepaid network.

There’s a couple things to keep in mind for these tests. They only work with compatible devices on an LTE network. Also, all alerts are sent out at the “Presidential” level so that they cannot be blocked. Many phones will just show ‘Emergency Alert’, but some like mine will show ‘Presidential Alert’ in the header.

Let me expand on that.

The system that has been put in place by Pelmorex Corp (owner’s of the Weather Network) on behalf of the federal and provincial governments is the same one used in the United States. In the USA there are three levels of alerts:

  1. Presidential Alerts – cannot be blocked unless device taken off network
  2. Alerts involving imminent threats to safety of life
    • Extreme threats
    • Severe threats
  3. Amber Alerts

In Canada we use the same system, but alerts are only sent out at the Presidential level**. So, if you had your phone on, it is a LTE capable device compatible with the Wireless Public Alerting system, and you were connected to your provider’s mobile network (not WiFi), you should have received an alert yesterday. Hope that clears things up.

**  I personally think it is a mistake to send all alerts out at a Presidential level.

Amber alerts should be sent out as ‘Amber Alerts’. A couple of months ago an Amber Alert was sent out to all users in Manitoba after midnight. There was no need to wake me up for that. One twitter user called me selfish for saying so, but they misunderstand my point. I consider Amber Alerts as important, and my phone is set to receive that level of alert, but there is no need to wake me up for it. If I am asleep at 1:55 AM, there is exactly a zero percent chance that I am going to come across a missing child. If I am awake at that time and out in the community, I will look at my phone and get the message.

The danger here is that if there are too many Amber Alerts waking people up in the middle of the night, users will start putting their phones in airplane mode when they go to bed, not receiving ANY alerts even when they themselves may be in immediate danger. There are different alert levels for a reason, they should be used.

No, not Chicago! The answer is Winnipeg.

“But… Chicago!”
”Chicago, Chicago, Chicago!”

There is a mass shooting almost every day in the United States of America now.  Every day! It happens so often that we don’t even hear about all of them anymore, just the most egregious  ones. In the last two weeks we’ve had two of those. In one, a crazed individual walked in to a synagogue and started shooting; 11 dead. The other happened in a California bar where 12 patrons are now dead. Even more insane, one of the dead in California was a survivor of a Las Vegas attack that killed 58 people. It is so bad now that if you escape one massacre, you cannot be sure you won’t die in another anyway.

America has a problem. Guns.

Yes, America has other problems, healthcare, mental health, income inequality, an opioid epidemic. Hell, some of these probably help contribute to the mass shooting problem. Here’s the thing. All other Western Style Democracies have these same problems. All of us have an opioid issue of some kind. All of us struggle with healthcare and mental illness. Many of us have an income inequality problem, perhaps to a lesser degree. I’ll even admit that some of us have higher gun crime than we would like. What we do not have is an epidemic of gun violence. Only the United States has that, and only the United States doesn’t employ what most countries would consider “common sense” gun control measures.

Of course, gun control opponents have all sorts of arguments. “Gun control doesn’t work!”, except it does in every country that establishes national standards. “The Second Amendment!”, except nobody interpreted it that way before the seventies. “But a person will just find something else, like a knife!”, except we never hear of mass casualty knifings. (Non-fun fact: The same day of the Sandy Hook massacre in the United States, a man in China walked into a school with a knife and ended up injuring 24 but nobody died). “Chicago! Look at Chicago! It has the toughest gun control yet it is the most dangerous city for guns in the United States!”, except it doesn’t have any effective gun control at all. This is the one that really pisses me off.


When people bring up the Chicago example it scares me in two ways. First, some actually believe that it’s an effective argument, which means they are idiots. Second, the others know it’s a bogus argument, but use it anyway. And it is a bogus argument.

Last time that I checked, Chicago was simply a city in Illinois in the United States, and not a city-state with well defined and enforced borders. Even assuming that Chicago and Illinois have stricter gun laws than nearby states (some have been rescinded), there is nothing to stop people from buying firearms in a nearby state and driving them into Chicago. Chicago isn’t an argument for how gun control doesn’t work, it’s an argument for establishing national gun control laws that a person with a car and a few hours cannot circumvent.

That brings us to Winnipeg.


The capital city of the Canadian province of Manitoba is a good example of how national gun laws can and do work. Winnipeg is a Midwestern North American city with a history very similar to Chicago. So much in fact that it was once known as the “Chicago of the North.” I’ve lived in Winnipeg for two years now and overall I like my new city. I will however admit freely that this city has a violence problem. What we do not have is a gun violence problem. Yes, there are guns in the city, some illegal that are used in crime, but it is not a daily or very common occurrence. Could a mass shooting happen here? Yes it could, but the chances are much lower because we have common sense gun control. To own a gun you need to go through multiple checks and take a safety course. To transport a gun you need to follow strict rules. If you wander through a neighbourhood open-carrying a rifle they are going to arrest you. If you drive to Minnesota and buy a bunch of guns at a show, they are going to confiscate them at the border, and most likely arrest you if you tried to sneak them in. If you are a law abiding citizen you can buy certain classes of firearms as long as you follow the legal requirements. Every Winnipegger that wants a firearm for a legitimate reason has a firearm unless we have found a common sense reason why they should not. It’s not a perfect system, but it works to keep us a lot safer.

So no, not “Chicago, Chicago, Chicago!”

The answer is Winnipeg.