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Alberta Sheriffs Branch

Crown appeal against acquitted peaceful protestor Evan Blackman back in court June 19


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News release from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms announces that a hearing date for Evan Blackman’s summary conviction appeal has been set for June 19, 2024. The hearing will take place at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa.

The Crown’s evidence against Blackman at his trial consisted of a 14-minute drone video, with no sound, and the testimony of one officer from the scene. For nine minutes of that video, Blackman is seen as part of a group of protestors standing across from a line of police officers on Rideau Street in downtown Ottawa. Blackman is shown de-escalating the situation by holding other protestors back and putting his hand up to stop them from confronting the officers. He is then seen kneeling in front of police for the five minutes prior to his arrest. At one point, while on his knees, he takes off his hat, puts his hands on his chest, and starts singing Canada’s national anthem.

The Ottawa Crown Attorney’s Office is appealing Blackman’s acquittal on charges of mischief and obstructing the police relating to his participation in the Freedom Convoy protests, specifically on February 18, 2022, the day police conducted an “enforcement action” – clearing Ottawa city streets following the invocation of the Emergencies Act by the federal government four days prior.

Blackman was acquitted after a one-day trial on October 23, 2023. The Justice Centre provided lawyers for Blackman’s defence at that trial and continues to support him throughout this appeal.

At trial, Mr. Blackman pled “not guilty” to all charges. The judge dismissed the case against him due to limited evidence and the poor memory of a police witness on key elements of the criminal offenses.

After his February 18, 2022 arrest and release the same day, Blackman discovered his three bank accounts had been frozen pursuant to the Emergency Economic Measures Order.

Chris Fleury, lawyer for Blackman, notes that if his client had been convicted, his intention was to bring an application for a stay of proceedings under section 24(1) of the Charter, seeking a remedy for the freezing of Mr. Blackman’s bank account. If Mr. Blackman’s acquittal is overturned on appeal, he intends to file this application.

Chris Fleury says, “The limited evidence available at Mr. Blackman’s trial showed Mr. Blackman attempting to de-escalate a volatile situation between police and protestors on February 18. He pled not guilty to the criminal offences that he was charged with, and the trial judge ultimately agreed and found him not guilty. This appeal is an attempt by the Crown to reframe findings of fact that they disagree with as legal errors. Mr. Blackman and I are looking forward to our day in Court at the appeal hearing.”

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Alberta’s government creating an independent police agency

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Keeping Alberta families and communities safe

Public safety and policing needs have evolved in the province and sheriffs play a vital role in working with police to support safer communities. If passed, the Public Safety Statutes Amendment Act, 2024 would update current policing legislation to establish a new organization that would work alongside police services across the province. Officers in the new agency would take on responsibility for police-like functions currently carried out by the Alberta Sheriffs.

These changes will improve the government’s ability to respond to communities’ requests for additional law enforcement support through a new agency that can operate seamlessly alongside local police in the policing environment. The new agency would be operationally independent from the government, as all Alberta’s police services are now.

“These changes are part of a broader paradigm shift that reimagines police as an extension of the community rather than as an arm of the state. Having a new police agency perform these functions under the legal framework of policing legislation will ensure they’re carried out with the transparency, accountability and independence which Albertans should expect from law enforcement.”

Mike Ellis, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services

The proposed amendments would underpin the government’s ongoing work to strengthen the current policing model. The new, independent police agency will have the authority and jurisdiction to support the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), municipal police services and First Nations police services in Alberta.

This work builds on previous work done by the province to expand the role of the Alberta Sheriffs to increase public safety. The new agency would follow best practices, which include being subject to a civilian oversight board to increase public confidence and accountability. This board would have a role similar to local police commissions, which provide independent civilian oversight of municipal and First Nations police services in Alberta.

The creation of a provincial agency that can perform specialized law enforcement functions will enable police services across the province to spend more of their time focused on core operations and frontline duties.

Quick facts

  • Alberta Sheriffs expanded duties include fugitive apprehension, surveillance and Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence (RAPID) Response, which gave the Sheriff Highway Patrol added authority to investigate impaired driving and other criminal offences in July 2021.

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