Alberta RCMP members demoralized over proposal to form provincial police service
August 23, 2022 By The Canadian Press
Aug. 22, 2022, Calgary, Alta. – The head of Alberta’s RCMP says a proposal by the provincial government to form its own police service has been a distraction and harmful to its members.
Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said the potential move has been hanging over the organization’s head for nearly two years and is having an impact.
“Quite frankly it’s been very disruptive and distracting for all our employees. Our staff are concerned about their futures and the futures of their partners and their families,” Zablocki said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“I’ll say it’s impacted the morale of the Alberta RCMP as well and I will say it has also impacted the trust and confidence that we see from our communities in those relationships, which is very critical.”
The United Conservative Party government recently outlined its blueprint for more police in rural Alberta. Under the plan, 275 front-line police officers would be added to the 42 smallest detachments.
As it stands, said Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, there is no minimum number of officers at RCMP detachments. He said a made-in-Alberta police force would provide better policing for all regions, including improved response times with the use of community detachments and larger hubs.
But Zablocki said the Alberta government’s proposed model is very close to what the RCMP already provides with its roughly 3,500 members.
He said support from the public, as well as from most municipalities, shows how well respected the RCMP is and he hopes Albertans will have a say in any final decision, but he stopped short of calling for a plebiscite.
“Their positions on this should be the most important consideration of any decision,” Zablocki said.
Earlier this year, the Rural Municipalities of Alberta said it supported keeping the RCMP and opposed the idea of a provincial police force because the government has failed to demonstrate how it would increase service levels in rural areas.
Alberta Municipalities, formerly known as the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, also outlined concerns about the costs, whether there has been enough consultation and whether the idea has been driven by real public safety needs rather than by politics.
An Alberta government webinar Monday on the future of policing in the province featured experts supporting the idea of replacing the RCMP.
Richard Fadden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and national security adviser to the prime minister, said he doesn’t believe a long-standing organization like the RCMP can provide the full range of police services Canadians expect into the future.
He said the key problem is that, although the provinces are responsible for policing, the RCMP gets its orders from Ottawa.
“It doesn’t matter who delivers the service – the province carries the can. I think the example of what’s happening in Nova Scotia with regard to the inquiry regarding the mass shooting there is a good example of that,” Fadden said, referring to the probe into the 13-hour shooting rampage in April 2020 that resulted in 22 murders.
“It confuses accountability in a time that such things are much more important than they were 30 or 40 years ago.”
Former British Columbia attorney general Wally Oppal said the public is demanding police forces be more accountable, especially at a time when every major event is captured by cellphone video. He said that doesn’t happen with the RCMP, which takes its orders from Ottawa.
“Policing is far too important to be left to the police. I think that the RCMP needs to become accountable to provincial oversight provisions, but we know that’s not going to happen,” Oppal said. “For that reason, I think Alberta’s on the right track of establishing its own police force.”
The Alberta government is deciding its next steps after the release of a third-party analysis last fall of the proposal for an Alberta-run provincial police force to replace RCMP in rural areas and some smaller cities.
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