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Good morning, and welcome to the weekend.

Grab your cup of coffee or tea and sit down with a selection of this week’s great reads from The Globe.

In this issue, Jana Pruden observes as followers of a group some say is a cult mysteriously buy up land in Fort Assiniboine, Alta. The legion was first described to Pruden as a “local curiosity” when she moved to Edmonton in 2011. She said it was known to conduct “staring sessions” with residents. While an open secret, Pruden said it was incredibly difficult to find people willing to speak with her. Many of the group’s members have been devoted to its leader, John de Ruiter, their whole lives. What was evident, Pruden said, was the tension between long-time Fort Assiniboine residents and group members. “This question of why is this happening and what’s going to happen was really striking to me,” she said. “It’s a beginning, not an end.”

Erica Alini and Rachelle Younglai, meanwhile, take the temperature of Canada’s housing market and find that, across the country, there are signs it’s roaring back to life with the approach of spring.

And Rachel Brady catches an entirely different version of Canada’s national sport.

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As self-styled spiritual leader John de Ruiter’s followers buy land in rural Alberta, uneasy locals ask why

This note and string were tied to the gate of a local in Woodlands County.Amber Bracken/Amber Bracken

When followers of a Messianic spiritual leader began buying up large tracts of property around Fort Assiniboine and moving to the isolated area, long-time residents said it happened so slowly, it was hard to notice. But soon, it was undeniable. The influx of buyers was traced to numbered companies and individuals connected to John de Ruiter, a 63-year-old former orthopedic shoemaker who, for 30 years, has commanded a legion of dedicated followers from around the world in a group some say is a cult – and is facing multiple counts of sexual assault. In recent months, residents around Fort Assiniboine began to suspect what property documents now prove: John de Ruiter was coming to the area, and his followers were moving with him. Uneasy locals are asking why, and wondering what comes next.

Big mortgages, few listings and fierce competition: Welcome to the spring housing market of 2023

Jasmine Lorimer bought a condo in Whistler, B.C., in December, as her way into a housing market that had previously been utterly out of reach despite her solid income and six-figure savings.JENNIFER GAUTHIER/The Globe and Mail

Winter’s thaw won’t herald the return to the feverish bidding of the COVID-era housing boom. Demand, whether from investors or wealthy out-of-towners, has waned in many markets. Yet, as Erica Alini and Rachelle Younglai report, sellers are once again entertaining multiple offers. Buyers are being lured back into the market in part after the Bank of Canada signalled that it would hold off on further rate hikes as it waits for the impact of higher borrowing costs to work its way through the economy. Growing concern about the stability of some corners of the financial sector after Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse may only add momentum to the housing market.

Japan’s largest military budget since Second World War exposes ‘serious concerns’ about China

A Japanese self-defence force pilot (foreground) and ground crew check over an F-15 fighter as it is refuelled following a flight.The Associated Press

Beginning next month, Japan’s military budget will be the largest it has been since the end of the Second World War and will double from around 1 per cent to 2 per cent of GDP over the next five years, with a total budget during this time of 43-trillion yen – $439-billion – for expanding capabilities and shoring up defences. This will make Japan the world’s third-largest military spender, behind only the United States and China. Reading between the lines however, security experts say there is little doubt as to the primary driver. James Griffiths reports on the impact China’s decision-making around a potential invasion of Taiwan could have in Japan.

Analysis: Lessons from a bank run

Customers and bystanders form a line outside a Silicon Valley Bank branch location, March 13, 2023, in Wellesley, Mass.Steven Senne/The Associated Press

It’s easier said than done: Control your fear and all will be well. But what if the threat is coming from the fear-driven actions of thousands of others, as we saw with the sudden fall of Silicon Valley Bank. In the “wild stampede” of a bank run, Tony Keller writes, the rational thing is to sprint in the same direction as the stampeders. As SVB’s demise continues to reverberate in the banking sector, Keller reports on the perils of the hive mind.

A hockey game where hearing is believing

Chaz Misuraca moves the puck forward during the Carnegie Cup elite Blind Hockey Series in Toronto.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

Rachel Brady heads to Toronto’s Mattamy Athletic Centre for a blind hockey game, played by blind or partially sighted people. As an oversized hollow metal puck glides across the ice, she listens as the ball bearings inside jangle, making a cowbell-like noise. Acting both as viewer and participant, Brady reports from a showcase event with the world’s best – everyone has 10-per-cent vision or less, and the goalies are completely blind.

The salt sorceresses of Bush Island

Sea salt farmers Onya Hogan-Finlay, left, and Kim Kelly, who own and operate OK Sea Salt, have been in a business for a year, and are already making waves.DARREN CALABRESE/The Globe and Mail

It can be a grind, but there’s an uncomplicated art to crafting sea salt: once it hits a level of supreme saltiness, that’s when magic happens. For the salty dykes, the couple behind OK Sea Salt, there’s particular “no recipe for success.” Instead, the two are fine-tuning their process along the way, with some help from other East Coast salt makers who have offered up tips and hacks. The approach has paid off – they’ve brought buzz to a sleepy Nova Scotia community of lobster fishers.

AI is upending the fashion industry

Chris Nicholls/Chris Nicholls

The era of machine-made fashion spreads may be upon us, and for artists, it’s stirring a lot of conflicting emotions. Using prompts such as “dramatic lighting,” “baroque dress,” “lobster carapace” and “beautiful woman,” Canadian fashion photographer Chris Nicholls directed AI platform Midjourney to create stylized images of a Scarlett Johansson doppelganger donning a red crustacean on her head. All it took was 15 minutes and few text descriptions for Midjourney, which is capable of generating images that have an uncanny resemblance to real photographs, to produce 30 visuals by scanning its vast database. Nicholls says he’s both in awe of its ability and outraged that its work is built on the shoulders of unnamed artists and photographers whose art it downloads for free.

Opinion: Can Bill C-11 save my son from sounding like Peppa Pig and Bluey?

British cartoon pig and Australian anthropomorphic animated dog household favourites in Kelly Nestruck's home.WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Peppa Pig is leading Kelly Nestruck’s three-year-old son astray linguistically. Dash was born and raised in Canada, but calls almost everything “cheeky” and asks whether he can “have a go” rather than a turn. Visitors ask Nestruck where Dash got his Australian accent from. He wonders if the accent is here to stay, or if the British cartoon pig and Australian anthropomorphic animated dog – and the very popular and bingeable short shows they star in – will cause problems for his son in the future. Nestruck reports on the challenges of modern screen time and whether Bill C-11 can help.

Drawn from the Headlines

Silicon Valley Bank collapse: What’s next for banks and investors?Illustration by BORIS FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL