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‘A transformational decision’: Alberta requiring body cameras for all police services


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An RCMP officer wears a body camera at the detachment in Bible Hill, N.S. on Sunday, April 18, 2021. Alberta plans to require all police services in the province to wear the devices.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Edmonton (CP) – The Alberta government is planning to require all police services in the province to use body cameras.

Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis said Tuesday that officers often respond to complex calls and make split-second decisions.

That can raise concerns from the public about officers’ actions and whether appropriate force was used.

“Mandating police to wear body-worn cameras is a transformational decision that will ensure all interactions with officers are objective,” Ellis said.

“Police are responding to complex calls that may involve vulnerable Albertans, that are experiencing mental health crisis, suffering from addiction or having difficult moments in their life that is clouding their decision-making skills.”

Ellis said the provincial government will be working with the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police on funding, logistics and when the cameras will roll out. He said the association is to develop a mandate over the next few months to “swiftly get body cameras onto the streets as soon as possible”.

He said Alberta would be the first province to mandate body cameras.

“Police will know that taking appropriate action and using the right amount of force is required in every incident, and police officers who use excessive force will face proper discipline thanks to body camera footage,” Ellis said.

The vice-president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police said the group supports the move and police in Calgary have already implemented the devices.

“Never before has there been such scrutiny on policing and rightly so. We are provided with powers of detention and are held to a very high standard,” said Camrose police Chief Dean LaGrange, the association’s vice-president.

“The cameras are a good source of protection, not only for the public but for the police officers wearing them.”

Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said details of the cost and how the cameras will get to all police services is to be done in short order.

The cameras will help ensure the public gets the entire story, he said.

“If you don’t have this transparency what happens is you get snapshots of video, whether it’s off a cellphone, whether it’s off of different cameras, that only portray a  picture of it. That takes the toll on everybody, because sometimes the devil in relation to the details is a lot more than a snapshot in time,” McFee said.

Dunia Nur, president of the African Canadian Civic Engagement Council, said he will be watching closely “to ensure that the implementation of police body cameras includes anti-racist policies and practices, and that gaps identified in other jurisdictions have been addressed to create a more just and equitable society.”

Ellis said the mandate does not cover the RCMP but the federal government has indicated it will be moving toward more body cameras in the future.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2023.

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Canada under pressure to produce more food, protect agricultural land: report

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Canada’s agricultural land is under increasing pressure to produce more food as demand grows domestically and internationally, while the industry grapples with limited resources and environmental constraints, a new report found. 

“We need to grow more food on less land and in a volatile climate,” said Tyler McCann, managing director of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute.

The report by the institute released Thursday looks at the pressures on Canada’s agricultural land to produce more food while also mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, said McCann. 

Despite Canada being a big country, it doesn’t have as much agricultural land as people might think, said McCann, with the report noting that agricultural land makes up only around seven per cent of the country. 

Because of that, we can’t take what we do have for granted, he said. “We need to be really thoughtful about how we are using our agricultural land.” 

In 2020, Canada was the eighth largest country in terms of cropland area, the report said, with that cropland decreasing by seven per cent over the previous two decades. 

Canada is a major producer and net exporter of agriculture and agri-food products, the report said, exporting $91 billion in products in 2022, and one of the top 10 exporters of wheat, canola, pulses, pork and beef. 

In the coming years, Canada will face increased demand from countries whose populations are growing, the report said. 

“With population growth on one side and climate change on the other, Canada will be amongst an increasingly smaller number of countries that is a net exporter,” said McCann, noting that Canada’s own population is growing, and farmland also needs to be protected against urban sprawl. 

The wildfires clouding Canadian skies this week are a “vivid reminder” of the pressure that extreme weather and the changing climate are putting on the agricultural sector, said McCann. 

“We need to clearly mitigate … agriculture’s impact on climate change. But we also need to make sure agriculture is adapting to climate change’s impacts,” he said. 

One of the ways the world has responded to demand for increased agricultural production over time is to create more agricultural land, in some cases by cutting down forests, said McCann. But that’s not a viable option for Canada, which doesn’t have a lot of land that can be sustainably converted into farmland — and even if it could, doing so could have a variety of adverse environmental effects, he said. 

Some of the practices used to reduce emissions and sequester carbon in agriculture can also improve production output on existing farmland, the report found, such as precision agriculture and no-till practices.

However, intensifying the production of current agricultural land also comes with potential environmental downsides, the report said.

For example, McCann said fertilizer is an important part of sustainable agriculture, but there’s a balance to be struck because excessive use of fertilizer can quickly turn food production unsustainable. 

“We need to be a lot more thoughtful about the inputs that we’re using,” he said, adding the same can be said about the use of technology in agriculture and the policies and programs put in place to encourage sustainable intensification of Canadian agriculture. 

The report recommends that Canada adopt policies that provide financial incentives and technical assistance to farmers and develop regulatory frameworks promoting sustainable land use, as well as promoting education and awareness campaigns, so that the country can “ensure the long-term sustainability of its agricultural sector while protecting the environment.”  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.

Rosa Saba, The Canadian Press

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Lawyer tells Alberta’s highest court review board biased in de Grood’s case

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