Right now, the Police Act does not contain any recognition of First Nations policing services despite the fact First Nations have operated police services for more than two decades. The amendments would ensure First Nations police services are recognized, and that they benefit from any outcomes from the Police Act review taking place in fall 2020.
One critical change would see an amendment to the Provincial Offences Procedures Act that would also authorize First Nations police services to use tickets to enforce their First Nations’ bylaws.
The Police Act and the Provincial Offences Procedures Act amendments are part of the Justice Statutes Amendment Act.
“With this legislation, the Government of Alberta acknowledges the valuable role First Nations policing plays in keeping their communities safe. These changes will ensure First Nations police services and the communities they serve can benefit from our efforts to modernize policing in Alberta.”
“The Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service has operated since 2004 and meets all provincial policing standards and duties. I commend the minister and his government colleagues for fully recognizing the Tsuut’ina and all First Nation police agencies in the amended Police Act.”
Also included in the Justice Statutes Amendment Act are proposed changes to the Jury Act, the Queen’s Counsel Act, the Referendum Act and the Victim’s Restitution and Compensation Payment Act. Some of the proposed amendments would help modernize Alberta’s justice system, while others are housekeeping in nature.
Amendments to the Jury Act would update Alberta’s jury selection process by allowing greater use of technology. This includes allowing the court to send juror summonses by electronic means, like email, and eliminates specific juror summons form. Courts will be better able to adapt to changes as a result and streamline the juror selection process.
Amendments to the Provincial Offences Procedures Act would authorize the courts to let Albertans participate in trials and hearings by videoconference or teleconference. Changes would also let the courts deal with routine court matters, like entering pleas and setting trial dates, by email, telephone or videoconference.
To help deter a larger variety of crimes, amendments to the Victims Restitution and Compensation Payment Act would expand the offences eligible for civil forfeiture. They would also allow the government to recover civil forfeiture program costs from forfeited property instead of relying on taxpayer dollars. The program will still continue to fund crime prevention and victims of crime initiatives.
Amendments to the Queen’s Counsel Act would expand qualification requirements. Those eligible for a Queen’s Counsel, more commonly know as QC, would include individuals who practise in any other jurisdiction within the Commonwealth that uses common law as the basis, in whole or in part, for its legal system. As well, there would be a requirement to have practised in Alberta for at least five years. This allows the government to appoint other deserving Alberta lawyers.
“The changes to the QC requirements are a critical measure to ensure our justice system reflects the diversity of today’s Alberta, while recognizing the contributions of those who have valuable experience outside of Canada.”
Minor changes to the Referendum Act would make sure referendums and senate elections can be held during the same municipal election. This would create efficiencies to cover costs.
- Additional changes as part of the Justices Statutes Amendment Act include the following:
- Amendments to the Police Act would also change the census data source that the government uses as part of calculating policing costs for municipalities of more than 5,000 people. This ensures the government uses the same source for all census data throughout all departments.
- Changes to the Queen’s Counsel Act would also reduce red tape by automatically revoking a Queen’s Counsel designation if a lawyer is disbarred or resigns in the face of discipline and is deemed to have been disbarred.
- As well, to be considered for a QC designation, a lawyer would now have to practise for at least 10 years in a Commonwealth jurisdiction with at least five of those years in Alberta.
- Amendments to the Provincial Offences Procedures Act would also allow tickets for more types of offences to be served by mail, freeing up time for law enforcement.
- Changes to the Victims Restitution and Compensation Payment Act would help reduce red tape by getting rid of never-used portions of the act, and reflect supports to victims now being provided through the Restitution Recovery Program.