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“Keep Alberta RCMP” public engagement tour sees show of support in Lethbridge

Posted on January 25, 2022 by Sunny South News
RCMP carPhoto by Nikki Jamieson

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

In February 2020, the Fair Deal Panel began drafting a report to the Province summarizing what the panel allegedly heard from Albertans with respect to what a fair deal in Confederation looks like for Alberta. One portion of the report concluded, “based on feedback from various stakeholders, Alberta communities would benefit greatly from having a provincial police service.” However, some reports suggest 84 per cent of Albertans are content with the RCMP in Alberta.

The PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC) LLP was contracted to prepare a study on the cost implications and operational requirements of a transition process in response to the Fair Deal Panel’s recommendation to transition away from the current RCMP to an independent Alberta Provincial Police Service (APPS). The PwC report found that in addition to the $366 million it would cost to transition to the APPS, the cost to run the new independent force would total $735 million per year.

The Reeve of Lethbridge County, Tory Campbell, expressed that Alberta municipalities have not been given the opportunity to speak on this issue.  He said, “it is Lethbridge County council’s position that Alberta municipalities have not been adequately consulted on this matter. Lethbridge County council and a majority of other rural municipalities do not support this proposed transition to an APPS. We have regularly lobbied our MLAs and provincial ministers, but to this point, our concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears.”

Coaldale’s Mayor, Jack Van Rijn agreed adding, “there has been little consultation with the municipalities and the counties. I totally agree with (Campbell) that we need to have to sit down (and have) frank discussions before they move ahead with this.”

Van Rijn also noted that the transition wouldn’t necessarily mean current RCMP would make the switch to the APPS, “no one says, they’re going to do that, and if we’re all of a sudden, short, half of them, or 75 per cent, of them, who are they going to find to replace them? Not to mention the fact that there would be upwards of 2500 positions they need to fill in four years, and they’re having trouble filling them right now.” Referring to how many policing organizations recruitment effort’s now target officers in the UK to satisfy the demand for officers, in cities like Calgary or Edmonton. “I do not think that this is the best deal at all. I think, you know, why fix it if it’s not broken,” said Van Rijn.

The Fair Deal Panel Report said, “Albertans also felt that Alberta controlling its own law enforcement would send a message to Ottawa that Alberta was in charge of its destiny,” a point which Michelle Boutin, Vice President of the National Police Federation, said is inaccurate. During a recent stop in Lethbridge on the “Keep Alberta RCMP” public consultation tour, Boutin said the comments alleging that, “Ottawa controls the RCMP, and Alberta needs to have more say is just not true.”

“The Province, the minister himself, sets the policing priorities here and he gives those marching orders to that commanding officer, and it’s his job to right the ship. That is not controlled by Ottawa. It is well, within the minister’s control, as is the increase and capacity to handle the judicial system,” she explained.

Boutin, expressed skepticism over claims that a provincial police service would, “simply be able to replicate the relationships the RCMP has built within the communities they serve.”

“I think that anybody that works in these particular units should be a little bit insulted. These relationships are not created overnight. It takes many, many years to develop the rapport within those groups and to build them. so that they support the communities they are in,” she said.

Premier Jason Kenney recently said, the proposed APPS has the capacity to provide, “a much stronger model of community policing, with closer integration of social services and the involvement of Indigenous people in governance.” However, Boutin pointed out that the scope of PwC’s study according to the report itself, “was not too directly engage with municipalities, citizens, communities, or Indigenous peoples.”

The federal government typically picks up 30 per cent of the tab for RCMP costs, but the Town of Coaldale remains the only municipality between 5000-15000 people responsible for paying 100 per cent of the cost of the RCMP. A continuing concern for Coaldale’s council is the fact that the RCMP is, “costing Coaldale residents over and above what they should be paying,” for policing. But Van Rijn added this concern is something the municipality is discussing with the divisional headquarters to work toward a resolution.

Van Rijn said, “there are a few concerns as far as the policing levels that could be tweaked a little bit as far as the number of officers or boots on the ground is concerned,” referring to how some rural areas have less officers in a larger geographic boundary, but added, “ that’s something that can be fixed. We don’t have to replace the whole model for a few problems they need to tweak.”

Campbell suggested a, “greater input on service from municipalities, stronger communication, and increased levels of service continue to be issues raised when we meet with RCMP representatives. We have had a long and beneficial relationship with the RCMP and look forward to building on that relationship in the future.”

Staff Sergeant of the RCMP in Coaldale, Mike Numan added that, “we are working, as best we can, with the Province,” to find solutions, but added that he was unable to expand upon this comment.

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