Part of the wolf pack

A look into one of the only wolfdog sanctuaries in North America

Over March break, I visited Banff, Alberta. During my time there, I went to an interesting place called the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary.

Over the past summer, I had been seeing a lot of friends of mine travel to Banff and it was always at the back of my mind. So, I proposed we go there and Anthony, my boyfriend, was completely on board with the idea.

During my research for activities to do in Banff, I came across the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary visit, a center where you can learn exactly what wolfdogs are and what the sanctuary does. This trip was the first one I’ve ever planned on my own and I wanted to use it as a learning experience.

I was immediately enticed and bought two tickets for our first full day in Banff.

We left for our trip on Feb. 26, and waking up to our first day in Banff the day after was amazing; I was so excited to be there. It was a beautiful sunny day in the Canadian Rockies.

Upon arrival we were greeted by a scenic sanctuary entrance, accented by these huge gates that have outlines of wolfdogs on them. Wolfdogs, in a nutshell, are the result of mixing canine and wolf breeds together.

Alyx Harris, the operations manager at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, explained the sanctuary was started by founder Georgina De Caigny back in 2011. Harris said, “Essentially she got inspiration when she got a wolfdog of her own and she saw how challenging they are.”

According to the Yamnuska website, when De Caigny noticed a rise in wolfdog breeding, she felt the need to make a safe place for the wolfdogs to have a forever home.

In the intro tour, we were introduced to one of the packs. It featured a sibling trio: Grizz, Aspen, and Quinn.

The tour guide began to explain that the packs in the sanctuary are usually composed of two wolfdogs, or three at the most.

“The wolfdogs tend to have a lot of same-sex aggression and territorial behaviors. It is easiest for us to pair a male and a female together. Once we have that male and female pair it is very unlikely that we will have a new member join that pack,” Harris said.

An interesting fact that the tour guide told us was the three different types of wolfdogs that you can find living at the sanctuary.

“When we discuss wolfdogs, we always say it depends on the wolf content. […] So essentially, a low content, a mid content, and a high content wolfdog,”  Harris explained.

What these categories mean in a nutshell is how much wolf there is in a wolfdog. A high content wolfdog has more wolf characteristics than a dog, while a low content wolfdog has a higher percentage of canine characteristics than their higher wolf content counterparts.

After our very informative intro tour, we were free to walk around the sanctuary and visit the different wolfdog enclosures. It got me thinking: where exactly do all of these wolfdogs come from?

“We do have wolfdogs from essentially all around North America. The wolfdogs come from different situations. Most of the time, the owners surrender them, they come from transfers from other organizations, and sometimes cruelty situations like backyard breeding,” said Harris.

According to the International Wolf Center, people that own hybrids [wolfdogs] often have a difficult time caring for them. Due to their genetic composition, it leads to their behavior to be more inconsitent.

Visiting this sanctuary was one of the highlights of my trip and it was very surreal for me while I was there. There was a moment when all the wolves in the sanctuary started to howl and you could hear the howling sweeping through the sanctuary.

With the wolfdogs coming from all kinds of backgrounds, the sanctuary has future goals of becoming a resource for the conservation of wolves in the wild. I recommend visiting the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary if you are in the Cochrane, Alberta area.


Photo by Dalia Nardolillo


Poli SAVVY: So….what is Wexit exactly?

What started as a social media trend shortly after the federal election in October seems to be well alive a month later. And for once, Quebec is not the misunderstood child behind this separation movement.

#Wexit is the result of Alberta and Saskatchewan standing strongly for Tories in a mixed sea of orange NDP and red Liberals.

According to, a petition in favour of Alberta’s separation from the rest of Canada was created the very same night as the election’s results were unfolding. Now, it has more than 115,000 signatures. The VoteWexit Facebook group also reported as many as 40,000 new members only a few hours after the re-election of Trudeau’s government.

While the move comes as a Western alliance between Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, the latter is mostly the front leader. On Nov. 5, Wexit founder Peter Downing officially began the registration of becoming a federal political party with Election Canada. In a five-page, open letter to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Downing wrote that “we cannot remain passive spectators in the filming of our own economic and political destruction.[…] by separating from Canada, we will keep our $50 billion in taxes right here at home, making life better for the people who live here.”

“This is not about anger Mr. Kenney. It is about survival,” argued Downing.

But how much weight does this movement actually have? Historically, this is not the first time that Canada has been faced with western alienation. It is an ongoing pattern throughout the past decades. Both the Social Credit Party and the Reform Party were partly a result of western provinces feeling that Ottawa was not supporting their interests.

Yet, we have to be careful. The copious social media platforms that didn’t exist back then now allow for a quicker spread of social movements. In an interview with the CBC, political scientist Jared Wesley warned about the danger of taking this issue lightly.

“This is a different kind of movement,” Wesley said. “We’ve seen it generate success south of the border and in Europe. I think political elites ignore it at their peril but they have to be very careful when they provide legitimacy to what, right now, is a pretty fringe movement.”


Graphic by Victoria Blair 


“He’s not much of a friend, he’s like family.” Jeff de Wit and Ryan Vandervlis reunite as members of the Stingers

When you think of best friends that have played together on a hockey team, Jeff de Wit and Ryan Vandervlis probably wouldn’t be the first duo to come to mind.

“We work together, we spend almost every day in the summer together,” said de Wit. “We know each other really well. He’s not much of a friend, he’s like family.”

The two Red Deer, Alberta natives haven’t played together since they were 14 years old, back in their hometown as members of the Red Deer Rebels Black Bantam AAA. Seven years later, and 3600 km away from home, they are once again reunited as members of the Concordia Stingers.

Both players were looking for a fresh start and wanted to experience life outside of Alberta, figuring a new city and new experience would be good for them.

“If [Vandervlis] wanted to go to another school, it would’ve been something we had to talk about,” de Wit said. “But I knew for a while that moving away from Alberta would be the right decision for me.”

“I think there were five or six different schools that have reached out, but this is where I wanted to be,” said Vandervlis. “It’s so different out here. There’s a lot more European, a lot more culture.”

Head coach Marc-André Élement is excited about what de Wit will bring to the table, giving the rookie a large offensive role right from the get-go.

“He has a really good game,” said Élement. “He’s a big body, he’ll bring a huge netfront presence for us on the power play.”

De Wit played five seasons in the Western Hockey League (WHL), mostly for the Red Deer Rebels. He played for three teams in his second-to-last season and struggled to find his game, putting up 20 points in 43 combined games. After moving back to the Rebels and making changes to his off-season regimen, de Wit put up a career high 27 goals and 44 points.

The Concordia Stingers are the only school in Quebec to have players from the province of Alberta. The WHL is by no means an untapped market when it comes to recruiting, with most of their players playing in the Canada-West division. But with only four Alberta teams in the division and a load of talent to choose from in the WHL, spots on rosters are limited, so Élement decided to pounce on the opportunity.

“A lot of the schools say the same things to you, so it’s a feel-out process,” said de Wit. “One thing that made it better was [Élement] took time out of his life to fly out to Alberta to see some alumni but still made time to see me and Ryan. It was super nice of him, really personal and it really aided the process.”

The players are excited to play on the same team again. Vandervlis made his debut last Saturday night versus McGill; it was his first time playing competitive, contact hockey in over a year. In June 2018, Vandervlis was involved in a campfire accident where he ended up having approximately 50 per cent of his body burnt.

After the Stingers lost to the Carleton Ravens 2-0 on opening night, Élement decided it was time for Vandervlis to get into the action.

“It was a lot of fun, it’s been a long time coming,” said Vandervlis. “To finally get back out there was awesome.”

Before his accident, Vandervlis played in the WHL as well as a member of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. After struggling in the 2016/17 regular season, Vandervlis broke out in the playoffs scoring eight goals and putting up 14 points in 17 games. The following season was cut short but he still managed to put up 11 goals and 19 points in 19 games.

Last year, after waking up from a medically-induced coma and spending 11 weeks in the hospital, Vandervlis found himself back on the ice playing in the Heritage Junior B Hockey League (HJHL) as a member of the Red Deer Vipers. The 6’3, 212 pound centre was clearly one of the bigger talents in the league, putting up 21 points in nine regular season games, and 10 points in seven playoff games.

With stats like that, the Stingers may have very well found themselves a hidden gem. At first glance of his stats, its fairly evident that he is a big playoff performer. In his debut on Saturday night, Vandervlis looked like he did not skip a beat, slotting into the lineup on the second line and logging a good amount of ice-time.

“He’s an offensive guy so for sure he has to play on [a top] line,” said Élement. “He did a lot of the little things right. The game shape is gonna come, but [overall] he did really well.”

The two Albertans were not just brought in for their scoring abilities, though. De Wit said the best aspect of his game is that he’s a 200-foot player who has a nose for the net but can bring a physical presence when needed. Vandervlis says that his “Hockey IQ” is his greatest strength as it sets him up for success on both ends of the ice.

Vandervlis and de Wit were slotted together on the same line against McGill, but it remains unclear if they will be sticking together long term as they are both listed as centres. For now though, the two are enjoying playing together for the first time since their Bantam AAA day.

“In the summer time we talked about playing together [at Concordia] for a long time,” said de Wit. “It was super cool to see that come to life.”


Photos by Cecilia Piga


A gothic birthday party, UNzipped

Photo : Andrew McNeill

With the band’s biggest festival appearance yet just days away, UN’s Kara Keith was fretting over footwear before set lists.
“It’s all about the outfits, right?” reasoned Keith.
UN, a gothic rock/electro-pop duo featuring Concordia grad Jen Reimer on drums with Keith on vocals and piano, is jetting off to Austin, Texas to play POP Montreal’s showcase at the SXSW Music Festival.
Over 2,000 acts from all over the world flock to SXSW every year to mingle with music industry professionals, debut new material and wrestle for exposure. Buzzing reviews at this festival can change an artist’s life overnight. Just one year after her SXSW debut, former McGill student and electronic musician Grimes has gone from virtually unknown to posing for Vogue.
“I haven’t gone to SXSW before, but I’ve done a lot of crazy shit in my life,” said Keith. “It’s just another five-day-long party where I don’t have a home to go to at night.”
Keith and Reimer have been playing together in bands for over five years, but they first collaborated as UN in 2010 and have just released their debut album, Nu. Keith’s confidence on stage is magnetic, her voice deep, dark and borderline satanic. Backed by snappy synth, piano and Reimer’s fierce animalistic drumming, this is something you must dance to, entranced in your own world.
UN’s sound and stage presence has the ability to whisk the crowd away to a subterranean gothic birthday party, providing an escape from the mundane.
“It’s cathartic for me,” explained Keith. “That’s why it ends up being cathartic for other people.
All the melodies, lyrics and ideas are from my singular experience. I walk about with those songs all the time.”
Reimer and Keith left their families behind in Alberta before becoming Mile End inhabitants. They attended separate classical music conservatories in Edmonton and Calgary, but met at an artist residency program at the Banff Centre in 2007.
“We started jamming together in these little huts in the woods, spending night upon night playing music,” revealed Keith. “We instantly connected.”
At the time, Keith studied piano, while Reimer was perfecting the French horn. Reimer picked up the drums as recently as two years ago for UN’s first performance in New York City, though she had only been practising for three weeks.
“[Reimer] already had so much skill in her body from being a very accomplished classical musician,” explained Keith.
Keith found Alberta hostile to artists, as rent was skyrocketing and it was difficult to find space to practise or play.
“It wasn’t a very nurturing community, and we felt like outsiders,” said Keith. “There were no other women doing anything [like us].”
The pair clicked with producer Howard Bilerman, known for his work on Arcade Fire’s Funeral (2004), while at The Banff Centre. Keith wrote a record while in Alberta, but flew to Montreal in 2008 to record with Reimer, Bilerman and a band of 10 other people.
“That was our foray into Montreal. We were just going to come for two weeks and make a record,” said Keith, “but that record took six months.
“We quickly evolved, realized it was an amazing city, and now we are very happy here.”
Though the songstress was unhappy in Alberta, the record she wrote while living there is curiously upbeat, and became quite popular. Keith’s indie-pop single, “Kick this City,” caught fire in 2008 and was picked up by CBC for radio play.
Since moving to Montreal and forming UN, Keith’s songwriting has turned to gloom.
“What’s funny is that as I’ve gotten my life more organized, been happier, got really good friends, moved to a great new city, and started taking care of myself, I started writing really dark music,” said Keith.
Despite the drastic change in her musical tone, Keith insisted that it’s completely unintentional. She challenged herself to depart from her more complicated classical roots and produce music that was simple, strong and straight from the gut.
“I’m not trying to do anything, I don’t listen to music, and I don’t know what our ‘sound’ is,” said Keith. “Neither does Jen.”

UN debuts at SXSW on March 16 at Hotel Vegas in Austin, Texas.

To download their new album visit their bandcamp:

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