Blue Line

Alberta introduces bill to create new police force, but says won’t force out RCMP

March 14, 2024  By Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Mar. 14, 2024, Edmonton, Alta. – The Alberta government has introduced legislation to elevate its sheriff service department into a new stand-alone police force.

It was part of a twofold announcement by Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis, who says Alberta is also bringing in electronic ankle-bracelet monitoring.

Ellis says the new police force will be independent, subject to civilian oversight and will work alongside existing municipal and First Nations police agencies and the RCMP.

The RCMP will continue to operate as the provincial police service and there is no timeline on when the new police force will be created.


Ellis stressed the move is not about abandoning the Mounties.

“In the clearest terms possible, this legislation does not create a provincial police service (to replace) the RCMP,” Ellis told reporters at a news conference prior to introducing the proposed legislation in the house Wednesday.

“Our aim here is to bring the police-like functions that the Alberta sheriffs have taken on over time under the same kind of legislative framework and civilian oversight as Alberta’s police services.”

He said he is duty-bound to create contingency plans to handle staffing gaps being experienced by the RCMP and other municipal forces.

“They’re short on the number that they’re supposed to have,” said Ellis.

“The RCMP just do not have enough human beings to police Canada. Regardless of the amount of money that we give them, they’re having trouble from a hiring perspective. That’s a challenge. I get that. But I can’t wait for them to just figure things out. When somebody calls 911… I expect somebody to show up to that call. And sadly, in certain areas, that has been a bit of a challenge.”

Alberta’s sheriffs already handle duties such as court security and commercial vehicle inspection.

They have recently seen that work expanded to include handling fugitive apprehension, impaired driving and distracted driving cases, and helping police keep order in downtown Edmonton and Calgary.

Alberta’s United Conservative government has been working for years on revamping policing to better respond to crime, particularly in the downtowns of Edmonton and Calgary and rural areas.

Under former premier Jason Kenney and current Premier Danielle Smith, the UCP studied and long promoted replacing the RCMP with a provincewide police force.

However, the idea faced opposition — including from municipalities — over concerns on cost, implementation and staffing, while public opinion polls consistently suggested a majority of Albertans did not support a new provincewide force.

For the last year or so, Smith’s government has gone silent on dumping the RCMP.

Nevertheless, Opposition NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir characterized the move as a backdoor way for Alberta to squeeze out the RCMP.

“An Alberta police force would be extremely costly for Albertans. Municipalities made it loud and clear they don’t want it, Albertans don’t want it, but Danielle Smith, yet again, doesn’t listen,” said Sabir in a statement.

Ellis also introduced a bill Wednesday that will allow judges to order electronic ankle bracelet monitoring for violent and otherwise high-risk offenders.

The electronic monitoring will be directed toward violent and sexual offenders and those on bail deemed a risk to public safety. It will be up to judges to decide who needs to wear the monitors.

It will supplement existing methods of checking up on offenders, such as regular in-person reports to correctional service staff.

Ellis said the province is being forced to act.

“Our federal justice system is not holding criminals accountable for their actions, and letting the public suffer the consequences,” said Ellis. “Alberta’s government cannot sit idly by. Enough is enough.”

The ankle bracelets would have GPS tracking devices. The province promises around-the-clock monitoring to ensure offenders aren’t going to restricted areas, such as victims’ homes or their places of work.

The province has allocated more than $5 million for the electronic monitoring and notes many other provinces, along with Correctional Services Canada, already use some form of monitoring technology.

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