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Alberta legislation would set up independent agency to investigate police complaints

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The Alberta government has introduced legislation aimed at making police forces more accountable and responsive to the communities they serve.

The Police Amendment Act introduced Thursday would establish an independent agency called the Police Review Commission to receive complaints, carry out investigations and conduct disciplinary hearings to do away with the idea of police investigating police.

Mike Ellis, the minister of public safety and emergency services, said the province has been consulting with Albertans since 2018 to come up with the first major overhaul of the Police Act in 34 years.

“One thing that came up consistently was the need to change how complaints against the police are investigated to end the system of police investigating police,” Ellis said.

“The legislation answers those long-lasting calls to reform the public complaints process by establishing an independent agency to handle complaints against police.”

The Alberta Serious Response Team will continue to handle all cases involving death or serious injuries, as well as serious and sensitive allegations involving all police services. Its mandate would be expanded to include peace officers employed by provincial organizations as well as community peace officers at the municipal level.

The legislation would also require all jurisdictions with a population above 15,000 currently policed by the RCMP to establish civilian bodies to oversee policing priorities.

The United Conservative Party government is deciding next steps following the release of a third-party analysis last year of a proposal to create a provincial police force instead of using the RCMP in rural areas and some smaller communities.

“No decisions have been made regarding the provincial police service,” Ellis said. “This is about ensuring that the rural municipalities have a say at the table under our current model which is the RCMP, who is the current provincial police service provider.”

Ellis said it could be another 18 months before the Police Review Commission is up and running. He said negotiations are underway with the RCMP to see how they would fit in under civilian oversight.

“Right now K-Division has expressed they’re supportive of this, however, we’re still having discussions with Public Safety Canada because it still falls technically under the RCMP in Ottawa,” he said.

“We’re going to continue to negotiate with the RCMP because we believe the independent body is the right approach and we can continue going down that path.”

The proposed changes would also require police to develop diversity and inclusion plans to reflect the diverse and distinct communities they serve and to better understand local community needs.

The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police supports the changes.

“Changes to update our Police Act are long overdue,” said Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld, president of the association in a statement.

“We have advocated for several years that the act needs reform to bring it more in line with the realities of the modern police workplace,”

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee said the changes “will provide an additional layer of public transparency” that will benefit both the public and police.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary

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Alberta

Premier Smith uses First Ministers’ meeting to catch up with Quebec Premier Legault and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe

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Premier Smith’s update from the Ottawa

Premier Danielle Smith participated in the First Ministers’ Meeting on health care in Ottawa and provided the following update.

Alberta is leading the country with major reform to health care. After 2.5 years of requests from Canada’s premiers, today, the federal government presented their plan. While this is a start, overall, this is significantly lower than the premiers anticipated. Premier Smith will take this information back to her team in Alberta in advance of meeting with Canada’s premiers again in the coming days.

Premier Smith also met with premiers François Legault of Quebec and Scott Moe of Saskatchewan in Ottawa in advance of today’s first ministers’ meeting.

Premier Smith and Premier Legault committed to a desired outcome for a health-care deal that recognizes and respects provincial jurisdiction over health delivery and leads to better outcomes for Albertans and Quebecers. Premier Smith stressed the importance of Alberta’s energy sector, advocating for the importance of natural gas exploration and development both for the growth of the Canadian economy and to provide energy security for Canada’s allies. Premier Legault reiterated his desire to invest in clean energy like hydroelectricity to fight climate change. Both premiers expressed concern about federal overreach and the need for the federal government to respect provincial autonomy in areas of provincial jurisdiction to better meet the needs of their citizens.

Premier Smith and Premier Moe expressed a need for flexibility in the delivery of health-care services, especially those that Alberta’s Healthcare Action Plan commits to, such as reducing surgical wait times, improving ambulance services and reducing emergency room wait times. Premier Smith emphasized Alberta’s progress on recovery-oriented care to support those struggling with mental health and addictions challenges and invited Premier Moe to Alberta to visit the province’s recovery-oriented treatment centres. The premiers also discussed the mutual importance of the energy sector to their provinces for job growth and export to Canada’s allies and a desire to work together on establishing economic corridors for trade and energy export.

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Alberta

Premier Smith asks Prime Minister to halt “Just Transition” legislation

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Premier Smith meets with the Prime Minister

Premier Danielle Smith met with the Prime Minister for approximately 30 minutes primarily discussing Alberta’s request for the federal government to halt the introduction of its proposed ‘Just Transition’ legislation and other emission reduction strategies.

The Premier asked the federal government to instead work collaboratively with the Government of Alberta on developing a plan and partnership to attract energy investment and workers into Alberta’s conventional, non-conventional and emerging energy sectors while reducing Canada’s and Alberta’s net emissions.

The Prime Minister expressed a willingness to explore this strategy with the Premier through their respective ministers and the Premier will be following up with further correspondence regarding proposed next steps in the near future.

The Premier used today’s discussion to outline Alberta’s expectations as to what must and must not be included in any future federal legislation, targets or policies as it relates to Alberta’s energy sector. These expectations included:

  • Abandonment of any references to ‘just transition’ or any other terminology or policies that signal the phaseout of Alberta’s conventional or non-conventional energy sector or workforce.
  • Increased workforce training and participation in all of the conventional, non-conventional and emerging energy sectors.
  • The need for formal consultation and collaboration with Alberta before the federal government announces or implements legislation, targets or policies that materially impact Alberta’s energy sector.
  • Substantial increase in LNG exports to Asia through the lens of meeting targets through replacement of higher emitting fuel sources with clean Canadian LNG.
  • Joint federal-provincial initiatives to facilitate increased private investment in nuclear, hydrogen, bitumen beyond combustion, geothermal, lithium, helium, zero-emission vehicle, CCUS, petrochemical and other emerging technologies and fuels that make Alberta’s conventional and non-conventional energy sector increasingly carbon neutral.

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