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Rosin: Time for an Alberta Police Force?

It’s been a tumultuous last month for Canada’s energy sector and for our rule of law.

Despite having the full support from five out of six democratically elected governing band councils of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and the vocal support from 85% of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation’s people who want nothing more than to work and raise an honest living in peace, seven hereditary Chiefs chose to oppose construction of the Coastal Gas Link Pipeline, and as a result our entire country was effectively shut down. Individuals falsely claiming to represent the Nation in protest – many of which were dropped off at the picket lines by busses sporting American license plates - filled Canada’s streets, dominated our media headlines, and blockaded rail networks for over two weeks. All our country needed was leadership from our federal government and police force, but instead we received utter inaction from the RCMP, the arrest of an innocent trucker who attempted to drive around the protests to get to work, and an order for the police to actually stand down and remove their presence from the protests. As a result, thousands of undeserving workers were laid off by rail companies who could not afford to keep them while their shipments were blocked, and commodity based economies like Alberta’s that rely on rail transport for market access felt exacerbated pain. This, all while the duly elected officials and citizens of the Wet’suwet’en Nation tried to remind us that the protestors did not represent them or their interests.

As Canadians we are absolutely allowed the freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. But nowhere in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms are we given the freedoms to shut down economies, barricade private property, and harass private citizens attempting to simply do their jobs. In the Canada that I thought I knew, we have laws for a reason and we uphold them. Yet this past month I found myself scratching my head and wondering what had possibly become of the safe, law-abiding country I live in.

Over the past two months, I have travelled all across our incredible province with the Fair Deal Panel – hosting townhalls and gathering feedback from Albertans on what measures they believe our government must do to ensure Alberta is as self-reliant and prosperous as possible. One recommendation that has been resoundingly received all across the province is the desire for the establishment of a provincial police force. With rural crime continually on the rise, and in light of these recent events where the rule of law could not be upheld by the RCMP because an order was not given to them by the federal government, our Panel has heard loud and clear that Albertans want and need a police force that operates close to home and is accountable to them – not Ottawa.

The termination of an RCMP contract requires 24 months notice, which would give a provincial government two years to budget for, plan, and establish their own force. It sounds exciting, and while I cannot definitively comment on whether our Fair Deal Panel will be recommending the creation of an Alberta Police Force to the government in our report of recommendations at the end of the month, I can promise that we have heard loud and clear what Albertans want, we have seen loud and clear in the news what Albertans need, and we do our best to be a government of the people.

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