By Dean Bennett in Edmonton
Alberta’s justice minister says people in Edmonton are not being kept safe from violent crime, particularly on public transit, and he’s ordering Mayor Amarjeet Sohi to provide answers.
Tyler Shandro has told Sohi he’s invoking his ministerial powers under the province’s Police Act to demand a report within two weeks on what the city will do to arrest a spike in serious crime.
In a letter to Sohi made public Thursday, Shandro cited an increase in downtown crime as well as in aggressive encounters and drug use on light-rail rapid transit.
He pointed to the killings last week of two men in the Chinatown district downtown.
“As the minister of justice and solicitor general, I have a responsibility under the Police Act to ensure the people of Edmonton receive adequate and effective policing,” Shandro said in the letter.
“It is quite apparent that residents feel uncomfortable and unsafe in the downtown core, riding transit and traversing the transit centre corridors.
“In short, the people of Edmonton deserve better than what this city council is delivering.”
Sohi called the letter an overreach by the provincial government, but added that he is glad the provincial government is finally paying attention.
“I share the same concerns about the safety in our downtown, Chinatown and on the LRT that he highlighted in this letter,” Sohi said Thursday. “The social issues that are causing these safety issues are nothing new.
“The disorder and crime that we are seeing in our downtown is directly linked to the lack of provincial investments in ending houselessness, the mental-health crisis, the drug poisoning and addictions crisis.”
Shandro’s letter said the United Conservative government is doing its part to address core issues that can lead to crime, including spending millions of dollars to fight drug addiction and homelessness.
Shandro did not make himself available to media to answer questions.
There was no comment from the Edmonton Police Service. Chief Dale McFee was to attend a city council meeting Friday.
Edmonton city councillors are currently debating whether to set this year’s police budget at $385 million, which would be a drop of $22 million if police could not secure extra funds from declining photo radar revenues.
Shandro said earlier this week he would be concerned if Edmonton’s police budget were to be cut.
The police budget has not been cut, said Sohi, who added that the city has invested more in transit officers, community action teams and in safety-related projects in affected areas.
“Council is investing in many issues that are the responsibility of the province and, frankly, they are falling short,” he said.
“The pandemic has brought to light so many social issues that are not being properly addressed or adequately funded.”
Sohi said he looks forward to meeting with the minister next week to outline his concerns and explain how the city is doing its part.
Irfan Sabir, justice critic for the Opposition NDP, said violent crime in Alberta’s capital is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. But, he added, the UCP government is choosing to off-load complex problems and pick fights instead of collaborating.
“People in Edmonton want a plan in place (so) they can be assured that they are safe in their homes and their communities. But in this instance, the minister is just passing the buck,” said Sabir.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.
— with files from Colette Derworiz in Calgary
Police arrest two more people following killing of eight-year-old girl in Alberta
An Edmonton Police Service logo is shown at a press conference in Edmonton, Oct. 2, 2017. Police in Edmonton have charged two more people following the killing of an eight-year-old girl whose remains were found on a First Nation south of the provincial capital in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Police in Edmonton have charged two more people following the killing of an eight-year-old girl whose remains were found on a First Nation south of the provincial capital.
Officers responded on April 24 to a welfare call about the girl at an Edmonton home but were unable to locate her.
Her remains were discovered five days later on the Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis.
Shayden Lightning, who is 21, and Raighne Stoney, who is 36, have been charged with being an accessory to murder and causing an indignity to a body.
Three others were initially charged in the case.
Police are not releasing the names of two of the accused in order to protect the identities of other children related to the victim, whose identity is under a publication ban.
A 27-year-old woman faces a charge of first-degree murder and a 25-year-old man faces charges of being an accessory to murder and causing an indignity to a body.
Edward Nievera, 67, was charged with being an accessory to murder and causing an indignity to a body.
Edmonton police Staff Sgt. Colin Leathem said in a release Friday that the recent arrests will be the last in the case and that the investigation has concluded.
“We want to thank the RCMP in Maskwacis and Wetaskiwin for their assistance with this investigation,” he said. “Needless to say, this was an exceptionally distressing investigation to work on, and they went above and beyond in helping to facilitate these final arrests and bring this file to conclusion.
“While nothing can change the horror of what occurred, we hope (the arrests) can provide some measure of justice to those who knew and loved this little girl.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2023.
Smith says despite difficulty with Ottawa, Alberta has allies in Trudeau cabinet
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks to business leaders at the Global Business Forum in Banff, Alta., Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. Smith told the conference that despite her concerns with the federal Liberal government there was some cabinet ministers she can work with. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
By Bill Graveland in Banff
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith told a business conference on Friday that despite her concerns with the federal Liberal government, there are some cabinet ministers she can work with.
Smith has been at odds with federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson amid concerns over Ottawa’s climate-change policies and transition plan for a net-zero emissions economy.
Guilbeault intends to publish draft regulations this fall to cap emissions from oil and gas, then force them downward overtime. Ottawa has also set a target to have the electricity grid be net-zero by 2035, but Alberta says it’s unrealistic.
Smith says Alberta won’t implement the emissions cap, nor will it follow the 2035 target.
The premier told delegates at the Global Business Forum in Banff, Alta., that Wilkinson needs to answer for comments he made earlier this week at the World Petroleum Congress in Calgary.
Wilkinson’s call for the industry to work aggressively to get to net-zero was basically telling them to “pack it up, because the oil and gas industry is winding down,” said Smith.
“You could just feel the energy leave the room and you could just feel the investment dollars leave the room.”
Smith said energy producing provinces such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador, can’t trust the Trudeau government to look out for their interests at international conferences.
“After hearing how the natural resources minister talks about our industry, after hearing how the federal environment minister talks about our industry, we can’t afford to let them carry our message,” Smith said.
“We can’t afford not to be there.”
Smith said she has been in discussions with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and intends to talk to Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey about joint presentations at conferences in the future.
Despite her disappointment with Wilkinson and Guilbeault, Smith said it’s not all bad.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland among the top allies, she said.
“Let’s give her credit for shepherding through all of the constant need to give more debt financing to Trans Mountain pipeline to get that to the finish line. That has not been easy,” Smith said.
She also praised Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc, Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan and Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault.
“I would say it’s not uniformly negative in the Liberal caucus. But for some reason they’re allowing Stephen Guilbeault to be a maverick and a renegade and quite offensive to those of who are trying to be reasonable and adult about this,” Smith said.
Smith said it’s time for the federal government to back away from setting “aggressive targets” in dealing with the provinces.
“Aggressive targets are not helpful. They’re not helpful to us. They’re not helpful to investors.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2023.
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