The federal government remains committed to providing contracted RCMP services to Alberta despite provincial government suggestions to the contrary, says a rural municipalities representative.
Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) president Paul McLauchlin was in Ottawa on Tuesday and met with federal Public Safety officials to talk justice reform, and rural crime and policing.
The UCP government’s proposal to replace its RCMP contracts with a provincial police force was discussed.
The RMA has come out strongly against the idea, believing it will be extremely costly and will do nothing to address rural crime issues.
McLauchlin said part of the province’s pitch for a provincial police force has been that the federal government is trying to get out of contract policing. The Alberta contract expires in 2032.
“There’s no indication that that’s the truth,” he said. “There’s a long possibility of the federal government getting out of contract policing. That is not an active file and not an active action by his federal government as it stands right now.”
McLauchlin said he remains confused why a provincial police force appears to be so important to the UCP government.
“We have yet to figure out who’s asking for this,” he said, adding he has spoken to many people, including pollsters, who are also baffled.
“All they can see is this is an anti-Ottawa gesture. It makes no sense. It is not the solution to rural crime.”
The RMA believes working with the RCMP on making improvements and making changes in legislation to address rural crime issues will be far more effective.
The association is lobbying to have useful changes incorporated into Bill C-5, which was introduced last December to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to remove many mandatory minimum penalties that made conditional sentences unavailable to judges.
It is meant to address “systemic racism” in the justice system that has led to an over-representation of of Indigenous peoples, as well as Black Canadians and members of marginalized communities.
There is room within the legislation to provide help and support for repeat offenders who are responsible for disproportionate share of offences to try to break the cycle of crime, the RMA believes.
“What we see in rural Alberta is the same 10 people are in that revolving door and they are continually causing crimes in rural Alberta.”
The RMA also wants to ensure police officers, who must arrest the same people over and over again, get the support they need.
McLauchlin said the RMA is committed to continue its lobbying efforts and hopes to join forces with other provinces to bring a louder voice to Ottawa.
“We’re trying to be apolitical about it and be solution-focused.”