Alberta announces intention to create organization with ‘police-like services’

Further consultation with Indigenous communities to follow

The Alberta government announced Bill 11 which would allow for the creation of a new police agency on Wednesday that would take over the responsibilities of Alberta sheriffs.

“Residents have a right to feel protected in their everyday lives,” said Mike Ellis, minister of public and emergency services, at a news conference.

Ellis tabled a new bill to create the Public Safety Statutes Amendment Act, 2024, It would establish a new body to perform “police-like functions.”

The legislation was tabled in the legislature Wednesday afternoon.

The announcement took place alongside a slew of others on police and public safety measures, such as the creation of a new ankle bracelet monitoring program for repeat and high-risk offenders.

The idea for a provincial police agency can be traced back to the Fair Deal Panel, a review initiated in 2019 by former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

The panel recommended the government take steps to “create an Alberta Police Service to replace the RCMP” but Ellis would not confirm to reporters this was the long-term plan in the province.

“I am taking no sides on this but it would be negligent on my part if I didn’t prepare for any type of scenario,” said Ellis.

He blamed the federal government for the need to create more policing.

“The federal Liberal-NDP government has created an environment where organized crime has been able to thrive with little to no consequence,” said Ellis.

He said a change to current legislation is needed to keep pace with the issues Alberta is facing.

“When someone calls 911 I expect someone to show up to the call, regardless of what uniform they are wearing,” said Ellis.

He said the present legislation that governs Alberta sheriffs under the Peace Officer Act was not designed to “encompass the full scope of police-like functions the sheriffs carry out today.”

Ellis did not elaborate on what will happen with the current Alberta Sheriffs.

First Nations policing

APTN News asked Ellis what sort of consultation was done with First Nations and Métis communities in the creation of a new police agency, and how this announcement affects communities such as Siksika First Nation and Enoch First Nation, two communities in Alberta that have been exploring the idea of having a First Nations police force in their community.

“Alberta’s government will take further steps to determine the scope, size and structure of the new agency, and the perspectives of Indigenous communities will be an important part of that process,” Arthur Green, press secretary for the Minister told APTN in an email following the news conference. .

The legislation is about the creation of the police agency and does not yet include details about the police agencies role

In 2022, APTN Investigates reported how First Nations communities were not in favour of moving to a provincial police force.

 Read more
First Nations police chiefs in Alberta say no to a provincial police force

Instead, they wanted better funding and jurisdictional authority to establish their own policing agencies.

The federal government has said it hoped to introduce legislation to declare First Nations policing an essential service in 2023. They have not offered a new timeline for the legislation.

The funding of First Nations police services is the subject of a human rights complaint recently launched by nine police services in Ontario.

Crime in Alberta

Alberta does have a higher crime rate based on criminal code violations compared to the rest of Canada, according to data gathered between 2018 and 2023 by Alberta Justice.

During the same time period, Alberta saw property crime decrease dramatically in 2020 and 2021, but increase nine per cent in 2022. Some of the increase may be crime numbers returning after a dip during the COVID19 pandemic, said the report released by the province.

Ontario and Quebec are the only provinces in the country that have a provincial police force. The Sûreté du Québec was formed May 1870 and the Ontario Police Force was formed in 1909.

Ten jurisdictions: British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and the Yukon have electronic monitoring programs that use ankle bracelets.

Correctional Service Canada also uses ankle bracelet monitoring.

With files from the Canadian Press

This article was updated to include remarks by Arthur Green, the press secretary for public safety and emergency management. 

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