Alberta Attorney General invokes Police Act and directs Edmonton to take action against downtown violence

Alberta Attorney General Tyler Shandro, pictured in 2021, said in a letter to Edmonton’s mayor that the capital is failing to keep its citizens safe.Todd Korol/The Canadian Press

The Alberta Attorney General has invoked his powers under the provincial Police Act to force the City of Edmonton to strengthen policing and develop a public safety plan to address violence in the downtown area and on public transportation.

In a letter to Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said the capital city is failing to keep its citizens safe and has given him two weeks to follow provincial orders. Critics have called Shandro’s action an overreach and said he is evading responsibility for himself.

But Mr. Shandro said the people of Edmonton deserve better. “They deserve to be able to ride public transportation, visit restaurants, attend events and browse stores in a safe and welcoming environment,” he said in the letter. “Under the Police Act, I have a responsibility to ensure that the people of Edmonton receive the police protection they deserve.”

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Mr. Shandro pointed to data from the Edmonton Police Service showing that violent crime downtown was up 11% in 2021 compared to 2020. He also mentioned the recent deaths of two men, Ban Phuc Hoang, 61, and Hung, 64. Trang, who were randomly killed in Chinatown last week. This is on top of other incidents of violence, frequent and open drug use and what Mr. Shandro called “irrational behaviour”.

Edmonton police declined to comment on the province’s action.

The minister’s directive comes the same week thousands of Edmonton residents packed city council chambers calling for action after the Chinatown killings. During this time, around $300,000 was allocated to support the community. A debate on local police funding is expected to take place on Friday.

Mr. Sohi said the city was given no indication that the province was concerned about public safety issues in Edmonton until the letter was published. He said he finds it a “little bit rich” that the government is pointing the finger at Edmonton when “they haven’t lived up to their responsibility to make our communities safe.” He said underfunding by the province is driving certain problems, such as homelessness and drug intoxication and mental health crises.

“Since I was elected, I have been raising these issues with the provincial government and asking them to step up to help solve them,” Mr. Sohi said. Up to this point, has neglected these queries, he said.

He added that the two levels of government need to find ways to better communicate with each other and said a meeting has been set for next week.

The overall crime rate in Edmonton has dropped by 17 percent, but certain areas of the city are seeing an increase in crime, Mr. Sohi noted.

Under section 30(1) of the Police Act, Mr Shandro has the power to apply to the city council to take such action as it deems necessary where “a municipality which is responsible for providing and maintaining police services it is not providing or maintaining adequate and effective police services.” police services”. It is unclear what the minister requires the ordered security plan to include.

Temitope Oriola, a professor of criminology at the University of Alberta who served as the province’s special adviser on the Police Act, said Mr. Shandro is within his authority to lead changes in policing in Edmonton, but that this directive is an overreach, calling it “political theatre”.

He said that the solution put forward by Mr. Shandro does not adequately address the many intersecting issues such as homelessness, addiction and serious mental health issues. It is not strictly a police problem, Professor Oriola added, and requires collaboration above conflict.

“At a time of tremendous public engagement and council debate regarding police funding, he appears to be taking sides on the issue,” Professor Oriola said. “This moment demands a sober, objective, non-partisan and collaborative commitment from leaders at all levels. Let’s end political theatrics and performativity and focus on helping people.”

Political scientist Keith Brownsey of Mount Royal University agreed that the province is overstepping its authority, adding that the “hypocrisy here runs deep” considering Alberta is legally challenging the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act. when convoy protesters took over Ottawa.

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