by Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Proposed changes to the Police Act introduced on October 21, 2020 would formally recognize First Nations police services in legislation.
The Police Act, which is the primary legislation that governs the police in Alberta, does not currently recognize First Nation police forces despite the fact that First Nations have been operating forces in Alberta for more than two decades.
However, the UCP Government of Alberta has introduced Bill 38 — the Justice Statutes Amendment Act — which will allow First Nations Police to distribute tickets in order to enforce their bylaws and will allow police chiefs to be hired by the Nation.
The Police Act and the Provincial Offences Procedures Act amendments are part of the Justice Statutes Amendment Act.
Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said of the announcement, “The benefit would be that the RCMP would now see the First Nations police officers similar to municipal police officers,” he said. “By providing them an equal footing with those other municipal services they will now be able to sit at the table with those other police services.”
“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.”
Chief Roy Whitney Onespot of Tsuut’ina Nation said, “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.”
Inspector Farica Prince of the Blood Tribe Police force said: “Recognition under the Alberta Police Act empowers us to govern ourselves and it will provide a sense of stability and security, to the hard working people of our organization and community.”
Funding for First Nations police services will be unchanged, with 48 percent being paid by the provincial government and the other 52 percent to be paid by the federal government. The Police Act will also continue to be the primary legislation that the police adhere to.
Other changes to legislation include the Jury Act, which will see that a court summons will be able to be sent electronically rather than a physical copy. The Provincial Offenses Procedures Act will also be changed in order to comply with social distancing protocols and it includes the ability to participate in court through a video conference or phone call.