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RCMP recruitment failure has Alberta advocacy group calling for Provincial Police Service

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News release from Free Alberta Strategy  (A Strong And Sovereign Alberta Within Canada)

“Make no mistake, we are paying for these services that we aren’t receiving. Alberta’s taxpayers are paying tens of millions of dollars for nearly 400 vacant RCMP officer positions – for boots that are not on the ground.”

A recent report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)’s independent Management Advisory Board had findings that are nothing short of alarming:

“Federal policing has now arrived at a critical juncture of its sustainability, which present risks for the national security and safety of Canada, its people, and its interests,” says the report.

After over a year of diligent study, the Board has been tirelessly firing off flares, signalling to all who will listen: the very foundation of our national public safety apparatus may be at risk of faltering.

This is doubly problematic because, as you well know, the RCMP is also responsible for boots-on-the-ground policing in large parts of the country, including many rural and remote areas – including in Alberta.

Rural crime has been a longstanding issue in Alberta, and social disorder continues to make headlines nightly.

Alberta Minister of Public Safety, Mike Ellis, took to social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter) to express his opinion:

“The independent report finds the RCMP has struggled in recent years to recruit and retain regular members, a problem that’s particularly acute in federal policing. This is not about the hard-working men and women on the frontline: they are doing everything they can. The reality is the RCMP do not have enough officers to police communities in Canada effectively.” 

Ellis has been ahead of this story for months now.

In March, Ellis stated that:

“… on average, Alberta has an RCMP officer vacancy rate of 20 per cent. This means that Alberta is only being served by 1,522 of the 1,911 RCMP officers that the federal government has authorized for Alberta.”

“Make no mistake, we are paying for these services that we aren’t receiving. Alberta’s taxpayers are paying tens of millions of dollars for nearly 400 vacant RCMP officer positions – for boots that are not on the ground.”

The consequences of this capacity crisis are far-reaching.

Not only does it jeopardize the safety of Albertans, but it also undermines the credibility of Canada’s federal police force on the international stage.

With limited resources and personnel, the RCMP’s ability to address pressing national and global security concerns is severely compromised.

The Management Advisory Board, created in 2019 by the federal government to provide external advice to the RCMP commissioner, set up a task force in the fall of 2022 to study the federal policing program.

Overall, the report says budget and personnel shortfalls have left the RCMP “operationally limited,” restricting the number of cases it can take on annually.

Here are some more highlights from the report:

“Canada and its people have already begun to see the repercussions of the federal policing program being stretched thin.”

“Federal policing’s overall eroding capacity may have implications for the credibility of Canada’s federal police force and its investigations on the international stage.”

“Ultimately, this may influence Canada’s overall approach and standing in international politics, including its ability to advance global priorities.”

Clearly, we cannot afford to wait any longer.

Municipalities can ease the burden on our national security services by establishing municipal policing.

Several cities in Alberta already have their own police authorities, and the provincial government is providing funding for others interested in exploring this option.

Grande Prairie is already in the process of establishing their own municipal police service.

No word on how many other municipalities have taken the government up on their offer.

Unfortunately, President of Alberta Municipalities Tyler Gandam (also Mayor of Wetaskiwin) is featured prominently on the National Police Federation’s “Keep Alberta RCMP” website.

Interestingly, the Keep Alberta RCMP website doesn’t mention the fact that the advisory board even exists.

It doesn’t mention the report.

The notion that our federal policing infrastructure teeters on the brink of instability while Gandam appears to be asleep at the wheel, is deeply disconcerting.

The safety and security of Albertans must remain our top priority.

We cannot afford to wait any longer.

The time has come for the province to take swift and decisive measures to bolster policing capabilities in Alberta.

It’s time for Alberta to seriously consider the establishment of an Alberta Provincial Police Service.

It has been one of the core tenets of the Free Alberta Strategy.

If you agree, please reach out to your municipality and ask them to take steps to protect your community.

Together, we can keep Alberta safe.

Regards,

The Free Alberta Strategy Team

P.S. We’re hoping you’ll consider contributing to our cause. Your generous donation helps us make a positive impact in our community. No need to worry about any hold-ups or threats here. We’re just passionate about making a difference, and your support goes a long way in helping us achieve our goals.

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Weaponizing human rights tribunals

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From the Macdonald Laurier Institute

By Stéphane Sérafin for Inside Policy

If adopted, Bill C-63 could unleash a wave of “hate speech” complaints that persecute – and prosecute – citizens, businesses, or organizations while stifling online expression.

Much has already been written on Bill C-63, the Trudeau government’s controversial Bill proposing among other things to give the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal jurisdiction to adjudicate “hate speech” complaints arising from comments made on social media. As opponents have noted, the introduction of these new measures presents a significant risk to free expression on many issues that ought to be open to robust public debate.

Proponents, for their part, have tended to downplay these concerns by pointing to the congruence between these new proposed measures and the existing prohibition contained in the Criminal Code. In their view, the fact that the definition of “hate speech” provided by Bill C-63 is identical to that already found in the Criminal Code means that these proposed measures hardly justify the concerns expressed.

This response to critics of Bill C-63 largely misses the point. Certainly, the existing Criminal Code prohibitions on “hate speech” have and continue to raise difficult issues from the standpoint of free expression. However, the real problem with Bill C-63 is not that it adopts the Criminal Code definition, but that it grants the jurisdiction to adjudicate complaints arising under this definition to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Established in 1977, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is a federal administrative tribunal based on a model first implemented in Ontario in 1962 and since copied in every other Canadian province and territory. There is a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, just as there is an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and a British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, among others. Although these are separate institutions with different jurisdictions, their decisions proceed from similar starting points embedded in nearly identical legislation. In the case of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, that legislation is the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Tribunals such as the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal are administrative bodies, not courts. They are part of the executive branch, alongside the prime minister, Cabinet, and the public service. This has at least three implications for the way the Tribunal is likely to approach the “hate speech” measures that Bill C-63 contemplates. Each of these presents significant risks for freedom of expression that do not arise, or do not arise to the same extent, under the existing Criminal Code provisions.

The first implication is procedural. As an administrative body, the Tribunal is not subject to the same stringent requirements for the presentation of evidence that are used before proper courts, and certainly not subject to the evidentiary standard applied in the criminal law context. But more importantly still, the structure of the Canadian Human Rights Act is one that contemplates a form of hybrid public-private prosecution, in which the decision to bring a complaint falls to a given individual, while its prosecution is taken up by another administrative body, called the Human Rights Commission.

This model differs from both the criminal law context, where both the decision to file charges and prosecute them rest with the Crown, and from the civil litigation context, where the plaintiff decides to bring a claim but must personally bear the cost and effort of doing so. With respect to complaints brought before the Tribunal, it is the complainant who chooses to file a complaint, and the Human Rights Commission that then takes up the burden of proof and the costs of prosecution.

In the context of the existing complaints process, which deals mainly with discriminatory practices in employment and the provision of services, this model is intended to alleviate burdens that might deter individuals from bringing otherwise valid discrimination complaints before the Tribunal. Whatever the actual merits of this approach, however, it presents a very real risk of being weaponized under Bill C-63. Notably, the fact that complainants are not expected to prosecute their own complaints means that there is little to discourage individuals (or activist groups acting through individuals) from filing “hate speech” complaints against anyone expressing opinions with which they disagree.

This feature alone is likely to create a significant chilling effect on online expression. Whether a complaint is ultimately substantiated or not, the model under which the Tribunal operates dispenses complainants from the burden of prosecution but does not dispense defendants from the burden of defending themselves against the complaint in question. Again, this approach may or may not be sensible under existing anti-discrimination measures, which are primarily aimed at businesses with generally greater means. But it becomes obviously one-sided in relation to the “hate speech” measures contemplated by Bill C-63, which instead target anyone engaging in public commentary using online platforms. Anyone who provides public commentary, no matter how measured or nuanced, will thus have to risk personally bearing the cost and effort of defending against a complaint as a condition of online participation. Meanwhile, no such costs exist for those who might want to file complaints.

A second implication arising from the Tribunal’s status as an administrative body with significant implications for Bill C-63 is that its decisions attract “deference” on appeal. By this, I mean that its decisions are given a certain latitude by reviewing courts that appeal courts do not generally give to decisions from lower tribunals, including in criminal matters. “Deference” of this kind is consistent with the broad discretion that legislation confers upon administrative decision-makers such as the Tribunal. However, it also raises significant concerns in relation to Bill C-63 that its proponents have failed to properly address.

In particular, the deference granted to the Tribunal means that proponents of Bill C-63 have been wrong to argue that the congruence between its proposed definition of “hate speech” and existing provisions of the Criminal Code provides sufficient safeguards against threats to freedom of expression.

Deference means that it is possible, and indeed likely, that the Tribunal will develop an interpretation of “hate speech” that diverges significantly from that applied under the Criminal Code. Even if the language used in Bill C-63 is identical to the language found in the Criminal Code, the Tribunal possesses a wide latitude in interpreting what these provisions mean and is not bound by the interpretation that courts give to the Criminal Code. It may even develop an interpretation that is far more draconian than the Criminal Code standard, and reviewing courts are likely to accept that interpretation despite the fact that it diverges from their own.

This problem is exacerbated by the deferential approach that reviewing courts have lately taken towards the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to administrative bodies such as the Tribunal. This approach contrasts to the direct application of the Charter that remains characteristic of decisions involving the Criminal Codeincluding its “hate speech” provisions. It also contrasts with the approach previously applied to provincial Human Rights Tribunal decisions dealing with the distribution of print publications that were found to amount to “hate speech” under provincial human rights laws. Decisions such as these have frequently been criticized for not taking sufficiently seriously the Charter right to freedom of expression. However, they at least involve a direct application of the Charter, including a requirement that the government justify any infringement of the Charter right to free expression as a reasonable limit in a “free and democratic society.”

Under the approach now favoured by Canadian courts, these same courts now extend the deference paradigm to administrative decision-makers, such as the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, even where the Charter is potentially engaged. In practice, this means that instead of asking whether a rights infringement is justified in a “free and democratic society,” courts ask whether administrative-decision makers have properly “balanced” even explicitly enumerated Charter rights such as the right to freedom of expression against competing “Charter values” whenever a particular administrative decision is challenged.

This approach to Charter-compliance has led to a number of highly questionable decisions in which the Charter rights at issue have at best been treated as a secondary concern. Notably, it led the Supreme Court of Canada to affirm the denial of the accreditation of a new law school at a Christian university in British Columbia, on the basis that this university imposed a covenant on students requiring them to not engage in extra-marital sexual relations that was deemed discriminatory against non-heterosexual students. Four of the nine Supreme Court of Canada judges would have applied a similar approach to uphold a finding by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal that a Quebec comedian had engaged in discriminatory conduct because of a routine in which he made jokes at the expense of a disabled child who had cultivated a public image. (With recent changes to the composition of the court, that minority would now likely be a majority). This approach to Charter-compliance only increases the likelihood that the proposed online hate speech provisions will develop in a manner that is different from, and more repressive than, the existing Criminal Code standard.

Finally, the third and potentially most consequential difference to arise from the Tribunal’s status as an administrative rather than judicial body concerns the remedies that the Tribunal can order if a particular complaint is substantiated. Notably, the monetary awards that the Tribunal can impose – currently capped at $20,000 – are often imposed on the basis of standards that are more flexible than those applicable to civil claims brought before judicial bodies. An equivalent monetary remedy is contemplated for the new online “hate speech” provisions. This remedy is in addition to the possibility, also currently contemplated by Bill C-63, of ordering a defendant to pay a non-compensatory penalty (in effect, a fine payable to the complainant, rather than the state) of up to $50,000. This last remedy especially adds to the incentives created by the Commission model for individuals (and activist groups) to file complaints wherever possible.

That said, the monetary remedies contemplated by Bill C-63 are perhaps not the most concerning remedies as far as freedom of expression is concerned. Bill C-63 also provides the Tribunal with the power to issue “an order to cease the discriminatory practice and take measures, in consultation with the Commission on the general purposes of the measures, to redress the practice or to prevent the same or a similar practice from recurring.” This remedy brings to mind the Tribunal’s existing power to under the anti-discrimination provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

It is not entirely clear how this kind of directed remedy will be applied in the context of Bill C-63. The Bill provides for a number of exemptions to the application of the new “hate speech” measures, most notably to social media platforms, which may limit their scope of application to some extent. Nonetheless, it is not inconceivable that remedies might be sought against other kinds of online content distributors in an effort to have them engage in proactive censorship or otherwise set general policy with little or no democratic oversight. This possibility is certainly heightened by the way in which the existing directed remedies for anti-discrimination have been used to date.

A prominent example of directed remedies being implemented in a way that circumvents democratic oversight is provided by the Canada Research Chairs (“CRC”) program endowed by the federal government at various Canadian universities. That program has recently come under scrutiny due to the on appointments under the CRC program. In reality, those implementing the quotas are merely proceeding in accordance with a settlement agreement entered into by the federal government following a complaint made by individuals alleging discrimination in CRC appointments. That complaint was brought before the Tribunal and sought precisely the kind of redress to which the government eventually consented.

Whatever the merits of the settlement reached in the CRC case, the results achieved by the complainants through their complaint to the Tribunal were far more politically consequential than the kinds of monetary awards that have been the focus of most discussion in the Bill C-63 context. As with the one-sidedness of the procedural incentives to file complaints and the deference that courts show to Tribunal decisions, the true scope of the Tribunal’s remedial jurisdiction presents significant risks to freedom of expression that simply have no equivalent under the Criminal Code. These issues must be kept in mind when addressing the content of that Bill, which in its current form risks being weaponized by politically motivated individuals and activist groups to stifle online expression with little to no democratic oversight.


Stéphane Sérafin is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and assistant professor in the Common Law Section of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. He holds a Bachelor of Social Science, Juris Doctor, and Licentiate in Law from the University of Ottawa and completed his Master of Laws at the University of Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Ontario and the Barreau du Québec.

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Tax Freedom Day – Canadian families face larger tax burden than last year

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From the Fraser Institute

By Grady Munro and Jake Fuss

According to a recent poll, nearly half of all Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque. While inflation has cooled and the steep growth in grocery prices has abated, taxes remain the single largest expense for Canadian families, and their tax bill continues to rise.

Canadians pay many different taxes and it can be hard to know how much you pay in total. We pay income taxes, sales taxes, health taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes and many others as part of our total tax bill. But while some of these taxes are visible—for example, you can check your income tax return to see how much you pay in personal income taxes—many others are hidden.

To help Canadians understand how much they pay in taxes, each year the Fraser Institute calculates Tax Freedom Day—the day of the year when the average Canadian family has earned enough money to pay all taxes levied by the federal, provincial and local governments. In other words, if Canadians were required to pay all their taxes up front, each and every dollar they earned prior to Tax Freedom Day would be paid to the government.

In 2024, the average Canadian family (two or more people) earning $147,570 will pay an estimated $65,766 in total taxes—or 44.6 per cent of its income. So, if you paid all your taxes for 2024 up front, you would pay the government every dollar you earned until June 13. After working the first 164 days of the year for the government, you now get to work for yourself.

Arriving on June 13, this year’s Tax Freedom Day comes one day later than last year—meaning the average Canadian family must work one day extra to pay off its total tax bill—because while the average family saw its income rise by 3.1 per cent, its total tax bill rose by 3.9 per cent.

And all signs point to rising taxes in the future.

This year the federal government expects to run a $39.8 billion deficit. Moreover, cumulative provincial deficits are projected to equal $30.1 billion, meaning total federal/provincial government debt is expected to increase by $69.9 billion in 2024/25. Future generations of Canadians will undoubtedly face tax increases to pay off this debt and few governments are demonstrating any fiscal restraint. Several governments (notably the federal government) have no plans to balance their budgets in the foreseeable future.

To help illustrate the size of the debt burden we’re passing on, we also calculate a Balanced Budget Tax Freedom Day, which reveals the hypothetical tax burden on Canadians if governments across the country had to raise taxes today to balance their budgets. This year, Balanced Budget Tax Freedom Day would arrive on June 23—10 days later than Tax Freedom Day.

With Tax Freedom Day falling one day later than last year, the burden of taxation is increasing for Canadian families. Unfortunately, governments are demonstrating little to no fiscal restraint, meaning Tax Freedom Day will likely arrive later in years to come.

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